A French corner in Auckland

French corner in Auckland Where can you find a good selection of French wine, cheese and hospitality in Auckland? Jura wine too… In Nouveau Marché of course! Or, as it is known in New Zealand, Newmarket just to the west of the CBD. I discovered this French corner in Auckland at Maison Vauron. French corner in Auckland When you enter Maison Vauron you are regaled by a range of French cheeses and other French goodies; La Fromagerie is also a café where there are lunchtime specials as well as coffee and patisseries. It was very busy when I was there as was the wine shop upstairs. French corner in Auckland And what a wine shop!

With its vaulted ceiling and polished wooden floor it looks the business, with wooden boxes, shelves and the ubiquitous blackboards enticing you to explore and discover French delights in every nook and crannie!

French corner in Auckland

©Maison Vauron

Should you not find what you are looking for there is always wise help and guidance from Scott Grey (left) and Jean-Christophe Poizat as well as other enlightened assistants.

This French corner in Auckland, the Maison Vauron wine shop, offers nothing but carefully selected French wine, mainly from smaller producers, as well as beers and eaux de vie.

 French touches abound.

French corner in AucklandMagnums and berets from Tariquet, SW France.

However the main reason for my visit was to deliver copies of Wink Lorch’s Jura Book, which is on the shortlist of the Louis Roederer International Wine Writers Awards 2014. French corner in Auckland Within minutes of handing over the books a customer had snapped one up to read with his case of wine! French corner in Auckland And there was Stephane Tissot‘s Vin Jaune nestling on its shelf, a long way from home… French corner in Auckland

Before I left this French corner in Auckland I could do no more than react to this message, selecting a sparkler from the Loire.

French corner in Auckland

Monmousseau Cuvée J.M. Sparkling Touraine, Loire, France nv Pale gold, decent mousse, apples and floral notes. Dry, good acidity with appley notes pervading this supple sparkler.

French corner in Auckland

I join mes amis français in singing the praises of this French corner in Auckland!

Cracking Grahams Ports

Cracking Grahams Ports

Over the years I’ve enjoyed cracking Grahams ports so it was interesting to attend a small tasting to discover see the new style of their aged tawny ports – style of wine as well as the new classy packaging.Cracking Graham's PortsA small group of us gathered at the smart O’Connell Street Bistro in the centre of Auckland to meet Jorge Nunes, Graham’s Asia Pacific Representative, who presented the tawnies as well as a couple of older ports, one of them very rare and precious.

William and John Graham founded their firm in Porto in northwest Portugal to trade in textiles. In 1820 they accepted twenty-seven barrels of Port as payment of a debt. The two brothers decided then to devote their energies to making the best Port wines from the Douro Valley: and so the Graham’s Port house was born.

In 1970, nearly a hundred years after their ancestor AJ Symington left Graham’s to set up on his own as a Port producer, the important Symington family bought Graham’s.

Jorge told us that the usual production of a port house is 80% standard and 20% premium product, whereas it is the other way round at Graham’s: 83% Premium and 17% standard.

Cracking Grahams Ports

He introduced the new style of Aged Tawnies, a development made by Charles Symington when he took over from his father, Peter, who retired as MD in 2009. Aware that there was a good stock of fine old port (Graham’s have 17,000 barrels in their cellars!) the packaging was dramatically upgraded: heavier clear glass bottle packaged in smart cardboard tube – not dissimilar from Balvenie Malt Whisky presentation…

The port therein maintains the Graham’s richer style though with higher acidity adding an appealing freshness to the wine.

Cracking Grahams Ports

Graham’s 10 Year Old Tawny Port
Toasted red fruits, coffee and nuts. Sweet but with a bright acidity. A mellow palate shows rich fruit flavours, figs and honey completed by a long finish. Direct.

Cracking Grahams Ports

Graham’s 20 Year Old Tawny Port
Pale tawny, nutty, hazelnut and spicy red fruit. Sweet, good acidity, great swoops of delicious fruit, mellow touch of orange peel all with spicy yeasty sourdough notes. Long finish.

Cracking Grahams Ports

Graham’s 40 Year Old Tawny Port
Ochre tawny, demerara, savoury, dark red fruits, sweet but again balanced with good acidity still. Spicy with dusky herb notes – Christmas dried moscatel grapes… Great finish.

Cracking Grahams Ports

To show the versatility of these cracking Grahams Ports the chef produced three delicious little desserts which went so well with the wines.

We then had a change of focus, moving on to a Colheita Single Harvest 1969.

Recognising the 1969 wine as truly outstanding, Charles Symington, Head of Winemaking at Graham’s, selected it for a limited release.

Graham’s 1969 Single Harvest is a special bottling of only six casks from the 1969 harvest, each cask producing just 712 numbered bottles. Charles tasted each of the 21 casks of 1969 Port still maturing in Graham’s lodge and selected the six he deemed exceptional.

Cracking Grahams Ports

Graham’s Colheita Single Harvest 1969 Tawny Port
Pale bronze, toffee caramel with vanilla, dark stewed red fruits, sweet, concentrated rich fruits, crystallized citrus peel, allspice… Still fresh and full of life.

The event culminated in a very special treat – the merest sip of a  wine from 1882!

Cracking Grahams Ports

Ne Oublie

The Symington family has released 656 bottles of a Port that dates back to the arrival of their great-grandfather Andrew James Symington in Portugal in 1882.
The family have named this wine ‘Ne Oublie’ after the original  Graham’s family motto and for the company where Andrew Symington started his life’s work. The name reflects the respect with which the family regard their great-grandparents’ joint decision to commit themselves and their descendants to Portugal, to the Douro and to Port.
Now 130 years later his direct descendants have bottled one of the remaining three barrels. The other two barrels have been entrusted to the next generation of the family and it is they who will decide their future, in 2025 at the earliest.

We were provided with our drop from this elegant 10cl sample bottle.

And how did it taste? Very special – a taste of history!
Pale tawny, a very expressive bouquet of spice, caramel and honey as well as cooked strawberries and cinnamon. Sweet but with bright acidity. Spirity notes rich spicy deliciously complex with a long soaring finish, all still amazingly fresh.
Graham’s have made a charming little film about the timeless ethos of Ne Oublie which does give you a sense of place, the family and the wine.
This was a very special tasting with every wine a treat. It is encouraging to see how port is regaining its rightful place in the pantheon of great wines.

Sound wine in the Wine Loft

How pleasant on a wintry Monday evening in July to be invited to taste sound wine in the Wine Loft on Shortland Street in the heart of the CBD, Auckland.

Sound wine in the Loft

We’d been invited by Daniel Brennan, an American who owns, and in fact is, Decibel Wines. 

Sound wine in the Wine Loft

Daniel Brennan with a suitable quote by Louis Pasteur, a man of the Jura!

A much travelled man, Daniel has worked at a variety of jobs in the USA, Europe as well as New Zealand where he decided to settle in 2007 to make wine. He buys grapes from friends in Hawkes Bay and Martinborough to produce his handcrafted wines which he exports to the USA as well as selling in his adopted country.

Daniel had four wines to taste and we were impressed with them. It was pleasure to meet him and understand his philosophy as well as his enthusiasm.

Sound wine in the Wine Loft

Decibel Hawkes Bay Sauvignon Blanc, NZ 2013
Pale gold. Cooked lemons, touch grassy, gently dry, soft acidity, plump and juicy.

Sound wine in the Wine Loft

Decibel Hawkes Bay Amplified White, NZ 2014
Light gold, lime blossom, verbena, citrus, dry, good acidity, floral, herby cologne and fruity.
A tank fermented blend of 90% Chardonnay and 10% Viognier – intriguingly good!

 

Sound wine in the Wine Loft

.Decibel Martinborough Pinot Noir, NZ 2011
Pale ruby, spiced blackberry (sloe gin!) dry, ripening tannins, warm spicy direct fruit, with a rich finesse on the finish.

Sound wine in the Wine Loft

.Decibel Martinborough Pinot Noir, NZ 2013
Mid ruby, hot toddy blackberry, ginger, cardamom, dry, tight tannins but attractive ripe fruit burgeons.

It was our first visit to the Wine Loft, another of Auckland’s hidden gems. As well as a good range of wines from New Zealand and elsewhere they offer tasting flights, always an interesting way to explore and to try different wines, Their menu looks good too – we’ll be back very soon!

Sound wine in the Wine Loft

The list of Decibel wines to try at the Wine Loft

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A walk in the Seyssel vineyards

140427.113 Seyssel Visit, Savoie_blog

This weekend the seventh Balade Gourmande dans les Vignes de Savoie, a walk in the Seyssel vineyards. Seyssel is Savoie’s only single-village appellation, located on that mighty wine river, the Rhône, 32km south of Geneva on the western edges of the French Alps.

Balade dans les Vignes, Abymes

A walk amongst the vines is always a treat, especially in the summer when the plants are resplendent with leaves big enough to cover Adam’s shame and the bunches of grapes are showing through provocatively.

Last year we joined the sixth Balade Gourmande an organised walk through the vineyards of Savoie at Abymes with the magnificent back drop of Mont Granier.

Mont Granier towers ovver the vineyards of Abymes, Savoie

Mont Granier towers over the vineyards of Abymes, Savoie

We visited Seyssel in the early spring to learn what was planned for the walk in the Seyssel vineyards as well as visiting some vineyards and wineries. The producers, with the help of 250 volunteers, are proud and keen to show off their attractive but little known small region.

The port of Seyssel used to be very busy especially for the transport of salt.

 The vineyards looked barer than they will this weekend.

 Tasting with some of the producers.

Seyssel

Along the designated route the walkers (or trampers as ‘we’ say in New Zealand!) will be able to discover the local history, architecture, culture and the work in the vines, as well as strategically placed musicians!

Balade dans les Vignes, Abymes

But most importantly are the seven gourmet stops where you will be able to taste seven courses, all prepared using local produce by local chef, Michaël Arnoult of the two Michelin-starred restaurant Les Morainières. Each dish will be complemented, of course, by Seyssel wines.

Seyssel

There is an extra celebration for Savoie this year as it becomes the latest French wine region to be allowed to label its sparkling wines “Crémant”Historically, the most important sparkling Savoie has been from the Seyssel appellation and they will be allowed to continue using their own appellation. So that will put a sparkle in everyone’s step as they take their walk in the Seyssel vineyards this weekend!

Seyssel

The vignerons of Seyssel welcome you!

 

A tale of two beaches, part two – Piha

Winter has arrived in Auckland with a week of rain and fog although now there a couple of sunny but cold days. However when we we arrived here six weeks ago we were spoilt with mild weather so it is a pleasure to be reminded of our earlier visit to our second beach in New Zealand – Piha.

Piha map

Heather and Paddy, the owners of WineJobsonline, picked us up on Sunday afternoon and whisked us off west out of Auckland. Through the suburbs, past Wink’s office at Wine-Searcher, then through the ‘botanic garden’ of the Waitakere Ranges Park to arrive at Piha Beach.

Piha

Lion Rock is a natural formation dividing North and South Piha beaches

Our hosts were concerned that it would be too cloudy but when we arrived above the beach the sky cleared in preparation for sunset.

Piha is New Zealand’s most famous surf beach. Situated on the west coast of the North Island, 40 kms from the city of Auckland, this black iron-sand beach has a reputation for awesome surf which rolls in over the Tasman Sea. It can be moody, misty and mysterious, wild, wet and wind-swept. The power goes off, the phone lines come down, sometimes the road in (and out) gets blocked. Living here is not for the faint-hearted.

Piha

Last wave of the day?

Piha

Time to chat – remember this is winter in NZ!

Piha

Home time

Piha

The local custom is to buy fish and chips from Blair’s on the Beach to eat with your fingers watching the sunset from the beach.

Piha

Sommelier Paddy in action!

All enhanced, of course, with a good New Zealand wine…

Piha

Sacred Hill Sauvage Sauvignon Blanc, Hawkes Bay, NZ 2008 A barrel fermented and aged Sauvignon showing good complexity and mature fruit, underpinned, but not masked, by the oak.

Piha

PihaAll too soon it was time to go home.

Piha

Thank you, Heather and Paddy, for introducing us to one of the many very special places in New Zealand!