There are at least 8 major wine regions in France (but it varies depending on who you ask!), and over 380 appelations (a legally defined and protected geographical area). Many of these defined areas have strict regulations about the permitted grape varieties, and often even the methods of winemaking and ageing.
This is the first in our Wine Professionals series, where we ask non-winemakers (eg Sommeliers, Importers) with careers in wine about their work and thoughts on particular wine subjects. For this edition I had a chat to Liinaa Berry about French wine. Liinaa is Wine Director at Mount Lofty Estate in the Adelaide Hills.
I first met Liinaa about 6 years ago through friends and through going to wine events. The first time may have been at a bar on a night she was out with Sophie Button (of Commune of Buttons), and the first thing that struck me about Liinaa was her confidence and openness. Then it was her passion for wine and vast knowledge of all things vino.
Anyway, so I was happy when Liinaa accepted the invitation to answer a few questions:
What are your favourite things about being Wine Director with Mount Lofty Estate? (and what have you loved about being a sommelier in the past?
"As a somm on the floor, I always enjoy being able to taste new wines and sharing them with different people everyday.
Being a wine director means you have a sommelier team working with you - a group of likeminded passionate individuals - who I can both teach and learn from. Directing a wine program for the many venues in the property means making sure the department is profitable and that it secures guests satisfaction and develops a relationship & loyalty with them. We also take wine outside of the usual restaurant service where it becomes a daily activity to host tastings in the cellar with many different topics of all sorts from the luxury of having a cellar of more than 1000 wines to play with.
Always so nice to see our guests come back to try something new that we talked about with them previously. Searching for this new flavour… pursuing taste. It’s just never ending and the people you work with make it all the more fulfilling."
What is one French wine region or style of wine that you find most surprising for you, or for your customers/clients? (Or one that is different from what people may expect?)
"I am obsessed with the Jura at the moment, although Champagne is my consistent regular obsession. I am excited I get to visit this esoteric region this May. I will get to eat the local specialities like poulet de Bresse(AOC) vin jaune with morels amongst a few. Oh did I say I love wine because I love eating? It goes hand in hand. The wines of Jura sharpen the appetite with its saline lazer like beam. It energises your soul and enlightens your path towards the peaceful digestion of a beautiful meal.
Savoury, mineral inflected wines with depth, extreme length with this mouth watering acidity. Producers like Fumey Châtelain will rapture you in the right context. Jura whites like a Savagnin non ouillé is a wine which needs a mood. Whatever the situation, the wine will stand out.
Also think about the cheese that you can pair it with! Aged Comte yes we have heard but aged comte with an aged vin jaune is one pairing that evokes poetry.
Indeed a Vin Jaune is achieved with the help of time (6 years 3 months in barrel) where the precious liquid develops this distinctive flavour of saffron, curry leaf, turmeric, roasted hazelnuts, well developed walnut, dried white fruit, preserved lemon, dried figs, wild mushroom and spicy ginger-y poaching concoction.
Drink Jura, have a long lunch under the tree, take a walk and then have a nap."
What wine have you been enjoying recently or what are you most excited about at the moment (could be from any country/region)?
"Local wines inspired by Jura. Producers like BK wines and Damon Koerner's LEKO range [are] working with Savagnin and making some fine fine examples. We are lucky to live around so much talent."
Well, speaking of Savagnin from the Jura, we have a couple available at the moment from Fumey Chatelain and Francois Rousset-Martin. On the local scene we recently received the LEKO Blanc (Adelaide Hills Savagnin) and it's a cracker.
It was really interesting to hear Liinaa's perspectives and what French wine she's been into recently. Sound like I'm going to need to drink more Savagnin (doesn't sound like a terrible thing). In terms of the French wines I've been enjoying recently, it's all been about Burgundy and the Southern Rhone:
The Bourgogne Aligote is crisp, clean and bright with a soft acidity and notes of honeydew, citrus and oystershell with a nice minerality. Aligote has been living in the shadows as the 'other' white grape of Burgundy (due to Chardonnay's success and overall amazingness), but it's starting to get a bit more attention in recent years, and rightfully so.
The Coteaux Bourgignons rose is a bit a stunner if you like dry rose. I had the rose on new years eve with a friend who thought it might be his favourite rose ever. I was pretty impressed by its freshness and fruit characteristics while being bone dry and almost tart. Somehow the dryness of the fruit just made it feel really refined and serious but in a really good way, oh yeah, and it's made from 100% Gamay.
Domaine de Ferrand Cotes du Rhone is made mostly from old vine Grenache with a little Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault. Fantastic value on this one, with the parcel of Grenache being literally across an old country lane from the vines used in Ferrand's premium-price-point Chateauneuf Du Pape.
It's been fun having a bit of a focus on French wine and it's regions this week, but that's it for this edition, Juiceheads. The next Hump Day Hero will be on the fascinating topic of.... well, you'll just need to wait and see... now, where's that corkscrew....might just be time for a Savagnin xx