Thursday, March 16, 2017

2016 Right Bank Bordeaux's + Margaux Silky Tannins

by Paige Donner

The first question I asked Oenoteam's Stephane Toutoundji after tasting some 40 of his 2016's-  primarily from Pomerol and St. Emilion - was, Are these silky tannins yours and your enologists' influence or is it the signature of the 2016's?

His quick response to me was that it's 2016's signature for Right Bank Bordeaux. And Margaux.

En Primeurs 2016 Bordeaux photo by Paige Donner copyright 2017
En Primeurs 2016 Bordeaux photo by Paige Donner copyright 2017
En Primeurs 2016 Bordeaux photo by Paige Donner copyright 2017
En Primeurs 2016 Bordeaux photo by Paige Donner copyright 2017

His associates, Julien Belle and Thomas Duclos, who complete the Libourne-based Oenoteam, concurred. Of course as enologists who consult to the 45+ chateaus tasted on a sunny spring morning at Paris' elegant La Dame de Pic, their style is going to come through. But that style is not so much as forcing a wine to mimic the consulting enologist's personal tastes as it is allowing the wine to express itself in the most harmonious of  ways.


Wine Allowed To Express Itself

When it comes to allowing a wine's inherent expression to shine forth,  I have to admit that I am an adherent to this religion, too. Maybe it's because my female palate, as they say, is sensitive to tannins. That may be so as personally I have never had an easy time judging the merits of a young Bordeaux. I seem only to be able to "taste" them after they've nicely settled in their bottles a few years. But even though these 2016s are full of flavor and not shy in alcohol (most hovering around 14% and even a bit higher) these were fresh and gentle and, above all, silky wines.

This En Primeurs tasting of these 2016's from Pomerol, St. Emilion and also Margaux was something altogether different. Silky. Supple. Approachable.

2016 Bordeaux: Expressive tannins that are amazingly well-mannered given their young age. Silky. Smooth.

With promises that they will only get better. This is true of the Margaux's such as Chateau Tayac's Or Norme as well as for their range of Pomerols like Chateau La Cabanne, Chateau de Valois and Chateau Mazeyres. It also holds for St. Emilion wines that have never disappointed me such as Fonroque and Chateau Soutard, but also ones that I've never tasted young like Muse du Val, Chateau Grangey,  Chateau La Serre, Chateau Larmande and Chateau Haut-Sarpe. There were even two from Fronsac that qualify for this descriptive of tame tannins for their 2016s, namely Chateau Barrabaque and Chateau Tessendey; as well as a Cotes de Bourg by Chateau Fougas (organic wine) that exhibited these silky tame tannins and also, remarkably, was a sleeper hit with 90% of the diverse tasters (male, female; young, old; smoker, non-smoker).


Surprisingly there were even a few 2016s I wouldn't be shy to recommend drinking in the coming months.Though of course all of them, as good Bordeaux wines, can be cellared for 3 - 20 years and more. Especially the Pomerols and Margaux but also the St. Emilions and a few of the Fronsac wines, also Bordeaux Superieurs like Chateau L'Escart and Chateau Grand Français as well as Lussac Montagne St. Emilion's Chateau Le Claymore.

In addition to these superstar, world-class appellations from which this En Primeurs 2016 tasting drew, there were also a few uniques thrown into the mix, just to jazz things up even more. One of these was a wine made by Olivier Malrieu with consulting enologist Julien Belle that is an IGP Comte Tolosan (near Toulouse). This 2016 from Domaine du Moulin de Montlauzin is 100% Cab Franc, Cuvée Petits Grains. Its nose is perfumed, perhaps by the fact that the 5 ha. estate has no nearby neighbors; the mouth exhibited the subtlety of smooth silk, even as young as it is. This is a wine that offers good value and a refreshing discovery. 

La Dame de Pic (Michelin-starred)

After the tasting it was encouraged that we choose wines from these same chateaus and domains but from earlier vintages, such as 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014 to accompany lunch. 

Kitchens at La Dame de Pic 1 Michelin Star Paris Restaurant   photo by Paige Donner copyright 2017


Kitchens (1) Signature Anne-Sophie Pic butter (2) at La Dame de Pic, Paris 1 Michelin Star  Restaurant  photos by Paige Donner © 2017

Anne-Sophie Pic, the Michelin-starred French chef, is one of France's culinary treasures and is, remarkably, self-taught. Her only guides she uses for inspiration in creating her inventive dishes are her highly-tuned olfactory sense and palate. When she speaks of her cuisine she often seasons her conversation with references to perfume, such is the delicacy of her alchemic offerings. 

I was intrigued to see how I could pair big, bold Pomerols, Margaux and St. Emilions with such delicate dishes as L'Oeuf de Poule, a poached egg served with green anise butter, verveine-infused oil and delicately grilled finely sliced green asparagus from Mallemort. Luckily I didn't have to because Stephane Toutoundji of Oenoteam suggested we sip the Chateau K white from Bergerac to start things off. This young fruity-nosed white that finishes on dry notes of its Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Gris blend served only to highlight the delicate balance of this dish. 


 La Dame de Pic Paris,  1 Michelin Star  Restaurant  photos by Paige Donner © 2017

Next up was pigeon which, we were reassured, would be served rare unless we really had a problem with that?  No one did. For this course the bold and knowledgeable at the table were given the task of finding a suitable wine to pair from our embarrassingly abundant selection. Chosen: Fonroque 2014,  Chateau Mazeyres 2010, Chateau Soutard 2009, Chateau Tayac 2010, giving us a comparison between classic vintage Right Bank St. Emilion and Pomerol and also a Margaux.

The pigeon had first been marinated in Geranium root and Cubébe pepper. It was served with red rhubarb puree, roasted celery that was then chilled and a dollop of puréed boudin noir (blood sausage) with Zacapa rum added. Testament to Chef Pic's delicate hand, it was the very first time I had been able to enjoy boudin noir. With the perfectly cooked pigeon and in such a small dose, perfumed with that hint of rum, it all paired perfectly with....well, for me, my top picks were Fonroque 2014, Chateau Le Caillou 2009,  and Chateau Tayac 2010 with the topper of Chateau Mazeyres 2010. But that was just my personal taste influences. Not everyone at the table agreed with me. 


Though I would say that wine tasting is, of course, all about that. A rose is  rose by any other name, but, the smell of a rose will evoke different sense memories in each of us. Hence different palate responses. I quite understand that the wine business is a business. Though I do appreciate the fact that it is a business that bottles earth, land, sunshine, a moment in time and the people who author all of that. In this sense, each bottle and each expression is deserving of the utmost respect. It's for each one of us to decide which we appreciate the most individually. 

Or as Anne-Sophie Pic would say:  "En toute chose, je recherche l'équilibre, la note juste, la précision...mon travail de création me donne l'impression d'etre toujours sur le fil."

(Transl. "In all things I look for balance, just the right note, creativity in my work gives me the sense that I am perpetually searching/walking a tightrope."


This team of three oenologists is based in Bordeaux's right bank Libourne where they have their own "laboratoire." They offer a variety of services, including: enological advice and consulting, detailed analyses, expertise in the cellar, vinification process and vineyards and more. "Each of our wines are unique, and each of our clients, too." 

The team's M.O. is that each wine be allowed to find its best expression with as little external influence as possible. There is a phrase that great wine consultants like to use in French that roughly translates to, "I elaborate wines, I don't 'make' wines." This is a phrase by which you can describe the Oenoteam. 


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Saturday, March 11, 2017

La Comtesse of Chateau St. Martin

by Paige Donner

Wines by the Comtesse Adeline de Barry of Chateau de St. Martin in France's Var, Provence.


  • Bubbly:  Bulles de Rosé - the color of pink raspberries you'll find this sparkling to have fine and regular bubbles with notes of red fruit on the mouth

  • White: Grande Reserve Blanc 2016 - pineapple, tilleul (linden blossoms) and exotic fruits 

  • Rose: Eternelle Favorite 2016 - color of wild peaches, notes of mango-passion in the mouth, very refined

  •            Grande Reserve Rosé 2016 - pink gold in a glass; notes of peony, complex and creamy 

  • White: Comtesse Blanc 2015 - elegant and complex with aromas of fleur de lys; on the mouth expressions of white fruits like pear and apple, silky

  • Red: Grande Reserve Rouge 2014 - licorice and pink pepper bouquet; continued on the mouth with sweet spice hints

  •           Comtesse Rouge 2014 - fine and molten in the mouth, this bold red tantalizes with its bouquet of black fruit and hints of spice 

  • Dessert Wine: Vin Cuit de Provence -  cooked for 10 hours in the traditional artisanal Provençal method, this is a dessert or aperitif wine that pairs nicely with foie gras or any chocolate/caramel dessert; smoky notes with quince accents

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In 1740 a French family from the nobility became the owners of Chateau de Saint-Martin in the idyllic setting not far from St. Tropez in the South of France. The same family still owns this beautiful winemaking estate and runs its vineyards, producing exquisite Grand Crus Classés  rosés, whites and reds. Wine production on this site dates back all the way to the 2nd c. AD.

The ownership of the estate has passed from mother to daughter throughout the centuries with the exception of Count de Rohan Chabot who was the man who successfully championed the estate to be classified as a Grand Cru Classé in 1955. 

The estate famously celebrates the wine lifestyle several times a year: Notably at Christmastime in the grand tradition of Provençal Christmas festivities. And also in the summer during their Rires dans les Vignes or "Comedy in the Vineyards" festival which will take place again this year in late July. 

The Wines: 

  • Bubbly:  Bulles de Rose
  • White: Grande Reserve Blanc 2016
  • Rose: Eternelle Favorite 2016
  •            Grande Reserve Rose 2016
  • White: Comtesse Blanc 2015
  • Red: Grande Reserve Rouge 2014 
  •           Comtesse Rouge 2014
  • Dessert Wine: Vin Cuit de Provence

 Route des Arcs – 83460 TARADEAU Tél : 04 94 99 76 76 – Fax : 04 94 99 76 77 Coordonnées GPS : 43°26'40''N 06°26'05''E


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Domaine de RocheVille, Loire, France

by Paige Donner

Le Page, Le Prince, Le Roi, La Dame et La Favorite - names that evoke pages from French history, a past steeped in aristocracy - Princes, Kings, and favored ladies from the nobility. The Loire Valley was for centuries the preferred leisurely resting place for France's aristocracy. The many chateaus that the region is famous for is testament to this.

Hence Domaine de RocheVille's estate owner Philippe Porché's naming of his wines after the royalty that once inhabited his region is not at all farfetched though indeed it is whimsical. His wines are made either with chenin blanc or cabernet sauvignon. According to Porché the chenin blanc varietal is one of the most versatile and expresive wine grapes yet still underappreciated. The region around Anjou is the only one in the world where over 9000 hectares of chenin blanc are planted in both shale (schist) and limestone. To achieve the varied expressions of his mono-varietal wines, he vinifies from select parcels on his 16 hectares of vineyards with help from his wife Agnes.




La Favorite - bubbly and very low sugar dosage, anywhere from 0 - 6 grams, Saumur Brut cremant noir

Le Troubadour - a rosé with notes of wild peach, some apricot and touch of ocean salinity; Saumur Rosé is now its own appellation

La Jouvencelle - Saumur dry white; fresh and full of youth, full of citrus and tropical notes

Le Clos de la Thibaudiere - delicate nose of citrus and white fruit, a pleasantly complex dry white

La Dame - Saumur dry white, white flowers and tropical fruit with a hint of vanilla; a wine to savor during the accompaniment of a meal

Le Page 2014 - its smooth and slightly astringent tannins make this a lively wine; ripe cherry aromas; fresh and fruity this is a good wine for shared meals with friends;  100% cab franc from the foot of Parnay's mediaeval church

Le Prince 2014 - Saumur Champigny 100% cab franc, notes of spice, velvety mouth

Le Roi 2010 - Harmonious and with notable power the mouth finishes with notes of oak and woodiness which contrast elegantly with the first tastes of dark red fruit; a long finish

Le Fou du roi 2011 - black fruits and toasty on the nose, this expressive wine finishes strong and velvety, nicely structured

The wine estate Domaine de RocheVille in Parnay, Loire region of France welcomes visitors.  DOMAINE DE ROCHEVILLE
Les Hauts de Valbrun 49730 Parnay
Phone 02 4138 1000


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Patisserie Sebastien Gaudard, Tuileries, Paris

by Paige Donner

Paris Food And Wine's pick of the week. This delightful patisserie and Salon de Tea just next to the Tuileries and across from the Louvre is the perfect place for tea, hot chocolate, a light lunch and, of course, the most delicate of French pastries. 

(all photos © Paige Donner 2017)



Sebastien Gaudard Patisserie & Salon de Thé

This Loire native has carried on the tradition of his father's pastry-making that he remembers so fondly from his childhood. Sebastien's first Paris patisserie on rue des Martyrs in the 9th arrondissement was a huge success, allowing him to follow with this one, situated on rue des Pyramides in Paris' 1st arrondissement. 

The pastries are some of the best in town - delicate and full of lightness. They are crafted by a true master's hand. And the location couldn't be more charming or more convenient. It's the perfect choice after a visit to the Louvre, just before or after catching the shuttle to Vallee Village shopping center or a taking a walk through the gorgeous Tuileries gardens. There are plenty of treats to tempt you on your way out too - chocolates and even jars of Baba au Rhum that you can just add Chantilly to and a fresh dollop of rum when you get home and - Voila! 

1 Rue des Pyramides, 75001 Paris


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Saturday, March 4, 2017

25: Paris GOOD food + wine - French Oysters and Tea

by Paige Donner


Gillardeau Oysters and French Tea Tasting

Ahhh yes, it's March once again and that of course means that spring is just around the corner. For this episode of Paris GOOD food + wine I'm letting you in on a couple of my secrets. These are French secrets to keeping in good health and good spirits during the long winter months, - namely oysters and tea.

The simple prescription is to consume both in generous quantities


First up is my interview with Véronique Gillardeau, otherwise known as the Oyster Queen. This charming Belgian married into the 3rd generation Gillardeau oyster farming family from France's Atlantic Coast several decades ago and has shared in the cultivation of this valuable resource ever since.

Ladies, take note, because oysters seem to be a secret ingredient to staying young looking and radiant.

Next up we hear from Olivier Scala whose father bought a tea company in the 70's called Thé Georges Cannon. Mr Scala has steered his family tea company toward growth and expansion his whole adult life. And now he even has his own son working with him.


Olivier Scala, Thé George Cannon, Paris Saint Germain des Pres,  photo by Paige Donner  copyright 2017

Tea consumption in France is markedly on the rise, with 4 out of 5 French people saying that they regularly drink tea. This interview takes place at the delightful Georges Cannon tea house in the very fashionable St. Germain des Pres district on Paris' Left Bank.

Music provided by "Missing u" by John Bannister

Thés George Cannon Tea House 

Gillardeau Oysters


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