Thursday, 20 May 2010

Chinese Wine

In the last decade alone China has established 100 new wineries and Nick is looking forward to trying some Chinese Wine at Vinexpo ! A couple of years ago a restaurant near us started to stock Chinese wine and we became intrigued. The wine in question was Dragon Seal. The vineyard lies in the Hebei Province of Beijing and was established in 1987.

Dragon Seal wine first came into being from French vines imported from the Rhone Valley and planted in China. It's common in China to make wines from western grapes (if you would like to learn more about the native Chinese grapes check out Nick's Blog). However Dragon Seal uses a small proportion of native grapes in its red blends known as Dragon's Eye. The first bottle was launched in 1988, the Chinese Year of the Dragon. A French winemaker supports a French-trained Chinese team to help cultivate the grapes and advise on the best produce to use.

Most of central and southern Hebei lies within the North China Plain and its provincial capital is Shijiazhuang. Hebei borders the Bohai Sea on the east. The western part of Hebei rises into the Taihang Mountains while the Yan Mountains run through northern Hebei, beyond which lie the grasslands of Inner Mongolia. The Great Wall of China cuts through northern Hebei from east to west.

Dragon Seal wine can trace its roots back to 1910 when a French friar converted the Heishanhu Church's graveyard into a wine cave at Fuwai of Beijing. He hired a French oenologist to produce both red and white wines for the mass and daily drinking. In 1946, the Church officially registered the winery, named it "La Shangyi Cave de Pékin (Shangyi Winery of Beijing)" and began to sell its products in domestic market. Over the years the winery was acquired by the state and later evolved into Beijing Dragon Seal Winery.

Great Wall Wine also comes from Hebei and is one of the most well known wine brands in domestic market. It was served to Presidents Barack Obama and Hu Jintao at the visiting American's state dinner. The China Great Wall Wine Company is literally located at the foot of the Great Wall of China, with vineyards housing more than ten varieties of wine grapes. The company was established in 1983 and it's wines are currently being exported to 20 countries and regions around the world including Europe and Japan.

Dynasty Wine is a Sino-French joint venture established in 1980. The Joint-Venture was created by the Chinese government, in association with the French brandy producer, Remy-Martin, and Hong Kong International Trade and Technology Investigation Organization. While the winery is located in the city of Tianjin, the grapes are sourced from several vineyards in Tianjin, Ningxia, Hebei, Shandong and Xinjiang to ensure that the company’s supply of grapes is not affected by adverse environmental factors or weather conditions.

Noble Dragon Shandong is made by Changyu Pioneer Wine and is available in the UK. It is China’s oldest vineyard and winery. In fact, Changyu has the oldest cellars in Asia and has been called the “Oriental Bordeaux”. Changyu Winery was established in 1892 with vine cuttings from the Bordeaux region of France. In the l990’s, Changyu entered into a joint venture with The Castel Group, the largest grower and distributor of wine in France and the second largest beverage distributor in the world. Together they established the seaside Beiyujia Vineyard, which produces their Sino-French premium wines under the Chateau Changyu-Castel label.

Interestingly they make a wine from Cabernet Gernischt - a rare grape varietal that once grew in France during the 19th century. It is now extinct in France and Europe. Today Cabernet Gernischt is only found at the Beiyujia Vineyard, located in Shandong Province, China.
Changyu's vineyards in the Shandong province are on the same latitude as Bordeaux and have a similarly cool climate. Yantai, the city where Changyu Winery is based is said to be the birthplace of China’s modern wine industry. It’s located on the southern coast of the Bohai Sea and the name Yantai means “smoke tower”. It comes from the watchtowers constructed on Mount Qi in 1398 which served to raise the alarm against Japanese pirates.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Hong Kong – Wine Country?

Hong Kong has no vineyards – well, not ones in the sense that we would know them – but it is rapidly becoming wine country. It's the place where East meets West as far as wine goes. Two years ago Hong Kong scrapped its duties on wine and opened its gates as the wine hub to Asia, in particular to the giant consumer China.

Hong Kong does not produce wine due to its high humidity in the summer which makes it very difficult to avoid the grapes getting rotten. The principal rots are a downy mildew and also botrytis (which makes the great Bordeaux sweet wine, Sauternes). However in Hong Kong's climate the end result can be very mouldy grapes. Strawberries, which are not known as a Hong Kong crop, also have the same problem.

However Sun Hung Kai Properties has created a luxury residential development in Yuen Long, a far flung corner of the New Territories, called The Vineyard. It consists of 160 houses and a 100,000-square-foot vineyard . . . which the developer calls a "little Bordeaux in Hong Kong."
Crops of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes will be grown and each of the development's five streets are named for a famous French château: Lafite, Latour, Margaux, Mouton and Pétrus. Wine can be made from the grapes and residents can store their wines, at a charge, in the development's own cellar or they can install private cellars in their villas. The development's clubhouse will host occasional wine tastings, wine-themed meals and talks from wine experts, and residents will get special offers on hard-to-find vintages. The Vineyard's spa offers both red wine and grape seed treatments and the company sent 20 people from the management company that is running the property to Bordeaux to learn about wines, wine growing and wine storage, as well as French hospitality and etiquette . . . a 5 million dollar trip.

Another venture in Hong Kong claims to be Hong Kong's first winery – the 8th Estate Winery is unconventional in that since there is no space for vineyards in this city of 7 million, the winery buys its grapes once a year from another country. Grapes are imported from around the world and flash frozen. The trick is to freeze the grapes soon after they're picked from the vines. That means finding a flash-freezing facility within a half-day's drive from the selected vineyards. The winery is located on the third floor of an industrial building in southern Hong Kong island. You wouldn't guess that off the crowded streets of one of the world's most densely populated cities is a dark room of 340 oak wine barrels.

Lysanne Tusar established the 8th Estate Winery and chose Hong Kong because it is an isolated community as far as production goes. There is no wine production anywhere close by (the closest beings in northern China). The 2007 vintage was made with grapes from Washington State in the U.S. The 2008 vintage was from the Piedmont and Tuscany regions of Italy. The boutique winery is a small operation with a staff of four and produces about 100,000 bottles every year.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Vinexpo – Hong Kong

I hope you have enjoyed my Blogs on the Languedoc as much as I have enjoyed writing them but I am going to start looking at the exotic and fascinating East for the next few weeks. Nick is off to Vinexpo, which is to be held in Hong Kong 25th - 27th May this year at the Hong Kong Convention and Exhibition Centre (HKCEC),and I thought it would be interesting to write about the event, the wines, the culture and the food!

Vinexpo is an international wine and spirit exhibition that was created in 1981, by the Bordeaux Chamber of Commerce and Industry. It has established itself over the years as the key event for major international operators in the wine and spirits sector.

It's held in Bordeaux every uneven-numbered year and has grown tremendously. In 1981 there were 524 exhibitors (including 96 from outside France) from 21 countries and 11,000 professional visitors from 50 countries but in 2009: there were 2,400 exhibitors from 48 countries, 46,621 professional visitors from 135 countries and 1,367 journalists and writers!

It's a great showcase for products from all over the world, visited by buyers from every corner of the globe, and is a place for exchange and debate.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Blanquette de Limoux Recipe - Raspberry Smoothie

I have tracked down a recipe using Blanquette de Limoux and raspberry liqueur for a Frappé (a frothy smoothie). One of the most famous raspberry liqueurs just so happens to be French. According to legend Chambord Black Raspberry Liqueur is inspired by a raspberry liqueur produced in the Loire Valley of France during the late 17th Century. The liqueur was said to have been introduced to Louis XIV during one of his visits to the Château de Chambord. It is made from raspberries, blackberries, Madagascar vanilla, Moroccan citrus peel, honey and cognac.

Raspberry Frappé

250g raspberries
8 bunches of red currants
2 sprigs fresh mint
4 tsp castor sugar
1 tbsp icing sugar
½ lemon
10 cl of raspberry liqueur
1 bottle of Blanquette de Limoux

Mix finely the leaves of a sprig of mint with the sugar. Divide into 8 glasses. Reserve a few raspberries and blend the rest in a food processor with the icing sugar and the juice of half a lemon. Sieve to remove seeds.

Mix the blended liquid with the raspberry liqueur. Divide into glasses, then put a raspberry in each. Finish by filling the glasses with the Blanquette de Limoux – and froth with a fork. Garnish the rim of each glass with a sprig of fresh mint and a bunches of currants.

Serve chilled.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Languedoc Roussillon – Mauzac

Mauzac is the main grape variety used in Blanquette de Limoux but it is also one of the seven permitted white varieties in Bordeaux. It is referred to in Antiquamareto's Livre de Raison of 1525, but although once widespread, it is grown today only in two appellations: Limoux and Gaillac. Mauzac gives aromas of baked apple, white peach and pear and a spicy finish.

Mauzac buds and ripens late, and was traditionally picked quite late, when temperatures had dropped in Limoux. This allowed for slow fermentation which preserved residual sugar for a "natural" second fermentation in the spring, creating a sparkling wine.

While Mauzac almost always refers to Mauzac Blanc there are also Mauzac varieties with other skin colours; Mauzac Rose and Mauzac Noir. Both of these are very rare in cultivation

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Languedoc Roussillon – Blanquette de Limoux

Blanquette de Limoux are sparkling wines from the Pyrenean foothills, just south of the town of Carcassonne. This wine pre-dates the making of Champagne by about 150 years – in 1531 the monks at the Abbey of St. Hilaire near Limoux recorded the process when they noticed their wine went into a second fermentation. Local folk lore says that Dom Pérignon was a monk here before moving to the Champagne region and took the secret with him. However the wine may have even earlier roots - the Roman historian Titus Livius was lauding "wines of light" from Limoux two thousand years ago.

By the 19th century, Blanquette was enjoying worldwide popularity. One of its biggest fans was Thomas Jefferson , third President of the United States of America. At the time of his death, about 10% of the wine cellar at Monticello was filled with Blanquette de Limoux, the only sparkling wine kept there.

The name "Blanquette" comes from the Mauzac grape, which develops a white down on the vine leaves - hence "blanc" or white. Blanquette de Limoux must contain at least 80% of its primary grape, Mauzac, (also called "Blanquette"). Other grapes included in the blend are Clairette, Chenin Blanc, and Chardonnay; the later is increasingly used to embellish the wine.

The region's vineyards are higher and cooler than any other Languedoc Roussillon appellation, and further from the influence of the Mediterranean Sea. Within the region there are distinctly different climatic zones, according to factors such as altitude, soil types, and the influence of the Atlantic or Mediterranean. This variation leads Limoux and the surrounding area to produce a style of wines entirely distinct from other Languedoc appellations, even those very nearby. The Chardonnay vines planted here are particularly valued, as they are some of the oldest in southern France.

Blanquette is made using the Methode Champenoise undergoing a secondary fermentation in the bottle before final bottling at 9 months. The resulting wine is fresh and dry with a pleasant "yeasty" edge. It has a pale yellow robe, with flashes of green or yellow. Blanquette has a light, fruity flavour, reminiscent of green apples and cider, with a pleasant bouquet and fine bubbles. As a general rule, the smaller the bubbles the better the sparking wine.

In keeping with ancient traditions, wines are still made under the appellation Blanquette de Limoux Methode Ancestrale, which produces slightly sweeter, lower alcohol sparkling wines which are cloudy in appearance because they are left with their lees even after the secondary fermentation.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Languedoc Roussillon - Clairette du Languedoc

Clairette du Languedoc wines are made only from the Clairette Blanche grape and include a range of wines as wells vins doux naturels. This appellation is almost unique in France for its diversity - the appellation system's founding principal is the preservation and protection of individual wine styles. This is one of the oldest appellations in Languedoc, dating from 1948.

The vineyards cover just under 250 acres and there are 11 communes which are permitted to make these wines. The parishes of Adissan, Aspiran, Cabrieres, Ceyras, Fontes, Le Bosc, Lieuran-Cabrieres, Nizas, Paulhan, Peret and Saint-Andre-de-Sagonis are the parishes which may produce Clairette du Languedoc wines and add their name to the appellation title. Adissan is considered the cradle of Clairette. They are located just west of Montpellier, at the eastern edge of the Montagne Noire hills.

The vineyards lie on terraces of pebbles of quartz, flint and limestone in a sandy clay and the climate is Mediterranean though the vines are sheltered by the foothills of the Cevennes. The Clairette grape is native to the banks of the river Herault and makes wines with the flavours of almonds, peaches and apricot.

In 1471 Louis XI's sommelier bought picquardentz (white wine) and claretz (sweet white wine) from this area to the attention of the royal court. Picquardentz is the old French for the historical wine Picardan believed to have been produced from the varieties Clairette Blanche and Piquepoul Blanc. Claretz is the Old French for Clairette.

Clairette Blanche was often used to make vermouth, to which it is suited as it produces wine high in alcohol and low in acidity, and therefore yields wines that tend to oxidize easily. The white wines Clairette de Bellegarde and Clairette du Languedoc are made entirely from Clairette Blanche, while the sparkling wine Clairette de Die can also contain Muscat Blanc à Petits Grains. It is also one of the thirteen grape varieties permitted in the Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Languedoc Roussillon – Maury Recipe: Fillet of Pork with Paprika and Maury Cream Sauce

Paprika is a popular spice in Languedoc Roussillon cuisine and it's thought that Christopher Columbus introduced it to Europe having found it as a domesticated plant among the Native American people (the explorers named it ’Indian pepper’). Due to its outstanding adaptability, this tropical plant got acclimatized to the very different climate and conditions. From Spain it was introduced to Southern France and England, and it soon became Europe’s favourite decorative house plant.

The use of paprika as a spice was spread by the Turks who brought the ground dried fruits of these bell peppers to the Balkan Peninsula first, and later to Hungary. In Hungary it was also used for decoration, first. In 1570, it was mentioned in Margit Széchy’s garden as ’red Turkish pepper’, and in 1579, the French botanist, Clusius introduced it into the garden of Count Boldizsár Batthyányi.

Clusius is famed for the development of new garden cultures and cultivated plants, such as the tulip, potato, and chestnut, from other parts of the world. He was the director of the Holy Roman Emperor’s garden in Vienna (1573–87) and spent the later years of his life teaching in Leiden, where his cultivation of tulips in the botanic garden was the beginning of the Dutch tulip bulb industry.

I have found a recipe which uses the vins doux naturel Maury with paprika that is a great twist on the old favourite of pork in cream sauce. As Maury is hard to source outside France you could use a splash of Madeira instead.

Fillet of Pork with Paprika and Maury Cream Sauce

pork tenderloin
slices of streaky bacon
30 cl double cream
3 tbsp Maury

Cut the tenderloin into small sections of 2-3 cm. Using toothpicks attach the slices of bacon around the pieces of meat. Sprinkle with paprika and place in a baking tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes at 200 ° C. Turn over halfway through cooking.

To prepare the sauce mix the cream with the Maury in a pan and cook for 25 mins on low heat. Add to the pork in the baking try and mix with the juices at the bottom of the dish. Cover with foil and cook another 10 mins (max), basting the pork occasionally. Serve with rice.