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Posted by David Eley on 15-07-2009
João Brito e Cunha of Quinta de S. José is making some of the finest wines in northern Portugal. He epitomises all that is best in the new Douro D.O.C. movement and his youthful aspiration, unencumbered by old world baggage or fortified inhibition, permeates every step of S. José's winemaking adventure.
The Brito e Cunha's could not have picked a finer location in the Douro for their delightful wine tourism estate and in the increasingly rarefied atmosphere of international D.O.C. ascendancy, their respective wines, S. José and matched red and white pairing of Ázeo, have drawn critical acclaim within the international press. João Brito e Cunha has made a giant leap, not only of faith in this select slice of noble terroir, but in his ability as a winemaker. His self-confidant approach, strongly bolstered by father Ruy, has paid off with a string of well-crafted, complex wines. The most recent vintages of S. José and Ázeo have clearly demonstrated thoroughbred potential. Only time will tell, but the 2005 S. José red and 2007 Ázeo white offer definitive proof of true Douro quality.
This modestly proportioned estate is gloriously situated hard by the River Douro, comfortably sandwiched between the legendary Quinta de Roriz and the rising star of Frenchman François Lurton's Beira Douro. S. José produces wine of complexity and individual character - all wines are entirely hand-crafted and offer a clear glimpse of Douro authenticity.
To receive further details of S. José part 2, including vineyard profile and Vindima pictorial essay, please subscribe to our e-Newsletter .
Important Note: all 'new Douro' navigation is in red at the bottom of each respective Quinta page.
Posted by David Eley on 09-04-2009
If seeing is believing, Portuguese star chef Rui Paula really can walk on water; as evidenced by the extraordinary image adorning the dust-jacket of his first ever gourmet cookbook: ‘Douro Cuisine'. Rui's iconic, ultra modern restaurant, appropriately named ‘D.O.C.', sits on aqueous stilts just metres above the mighty River Douro's surface. It is two years since D.O.C. opened and Paula has created a huge success in northern Portugal's Douro valley. This upscale canteen for celebrity winemakers and international gastronomes is filled with warm enthusiasm and a unique brand of joie de vivre served by Rui and his gregarious brother Pedro, whose own commercial acumen and personality complement the quality of cuisine.
The setting is ‘typical' majestic Douro: situated in the tiny hamlet of Folgosa, midway between Régua and Pinhão, with breathtaking riverside views and surrounded by towering terraced vines. In the kitchen, Rui Paula has taken traditional Portuguese staples and transformed them: with imagination, wisdom and flair. Streamlining the wholesome and good, into modern, elegant and refined; in the process he has breathed life into the local community while gradually creating an epicentre of excellence for those who love to eat and drink.
Beneath beautiful cobalt skies and amid this topographical tapestry of vineyards, there is now a distinct touch of the Riviera; D.O.C. provides a 'dock' or floating pontoon for luxury speedboats and many passing river-craft moor alongside the restaurant when stopping off for a relaxed lunch atop the sun drenched steel and wood promenade.
Portuguese cuisine is beginning to gain international headlines and there is no doubt entrepreneurial chefs like Rui Paula are making a substantial contribution by changing tired perceptions and stimulating awareness of all that is good beyond Iberia. Rui Paula is punching above his geographical weight, and in so doing, brings the culinary mountain to Mohammed. The Douro valley may be off the beaten tourist track, but given the number of satisfied diners departing D.O.C. every week, the Douro is starting to build a serious international reputation for fine dining in addition to great Port and table wines.
Note: refreshingly, Rui Paula's beautifully illustrated and award winning book ‘Douro Cuisine' is available in English, affording a superb opportunity to discover unfamiliar dishes from a stunning corner of arguably our most spectacular European vineyards.
Posted by David Eley on 24-01-2009
The Bergqvist family have a distinguished Port wine history dating back to 1815 and the past seventeen years have provided an invaluable opportunity to evolve an impressive portfolio of stunning table wines to rival any in the Douro valley of northern Portugal. A combination of determined effort, fastidious attention to detail and great winemaking skill have placed Quinta de La Rosa at the pinnacle of Portuguese winemaking.
Since 2002 Jorge Moreira has been in charge of making La Rosa's wines; this quiet man of the Douro, whose own star wine ‘Poeira' has gained many international plaudits, shed new light on a noble and precipitous terroir. Before Jorge, the wines of La Rosa were very good indeed, though, to paraphrase comedic genius Eric Morecambe, ‘the estate had all the right notes but they were not necessarily being played in the right order.' Since joining forces with the Bergqvist family, Jorge Moreira has lent a considered and thoughtful approach to their winemaking; by combining subtle expression with a liquid refinement, his intelligent bottles offer an authentic snapshot of La Rosa's great terroir and micro-climate. Moreira is a man of understatement and comprehends how to create wines that sit comfortably on the dining table. He discards the obvious and blousy for the balanced and harmonious - wines which will age and are designed for food... not showmanship and the tasting arena.
To receive further details of La Rosa ‘Part 2', including a full vineyard profile and vindima pictorial essay, subscribe to our e-Newsletter .
Important Note: all ‘New Douro' navigation is in red at the bottom of each respective Quinta page.
Posted by David Eley on 08-12-2008
Peter Gordon is the famous New Zealand chef known as the godfather of fusion cooking: from the Pacific Rim to Romney Marsh, he is credited with inspiring more cross-over culinary creations than Kiri Takanawa has warbled arias, and by putting the word chef before celebrity, his benign gastronomic Haka has displaced the tired twin-set bluster of antipodean TV cooks. He really knows about food, its origins and how flavours work together. Peter is coming to Auberge Basque to see his good friends chef Yoshiaki Takazawa and wife Akiko before enjoying a dinner on Saturday evening.
Peter has known Akiko for over ten years, when as a young woman she worked at London's Sugar Club. Being head chef at this noted restaurant provided Peter Gordon with a platform for international recognition and since those early days he has become a familiar ambassador for fine New Zealand produce, but most significantly, an evangelist for fusion cookery. As a prolific author and contributor to numerous publications Peter travels far and wide - he also shares ownership with Michael McGrath of two wonderful restaurants; The Providores and Tapa Room in London's Marylebone High Street.
Throughout the weekend Auberge Basque has been a hive of activity, though the kitchens remain an oasis of calm. No expletives or angry gestures and barely a bead of perspiration. There is something entirely Zen like about Auberge. These brief pictorial entries preview the new gastronomic journal of Cédric Béchade coming soon to A Good Nose.Com. To receive further details of this and other original content, do subscribe to our e-Newsletter Picture Post .
Posted by David Eley on 04-12-2008
Yoshi Takazawa the exciting and enigmatic Japanese chef has arrived at Auberge Basque in south west France and he is already creating a stir.
Together with ever smiling wife Akiko, Yoshi will spend four days working alongside dynamic French chef and hotelier Cédric Béchade in the ultra modern kitchens of his stylish boutique hotel. This unique opportunity will feature in a new online culinary journal of Auberge Basque starting soon. To receive details of this and other gastronomic stories subscribe to our e-Newsletter 'Picture Post'
Posted by David Eley on 19-11-2008
The first section of a two-part comprehensive profile on Quinta da Gaivosa has been added to our New Douro micro-site and is now online . Father and son winemakers Domingos and Tiago Alves de Sousa have established a fine reputation for their stunning portfolio of authentic Douro D.O.C. wines. With no less than six separate estates and an impressive array of award winning vintages, Alves de Sousa epitomize the dynamic face of Portuguese winemaking. Each of their premium wines is authentic and provides pure expression of Gaivosa's unique parcels of terroir.
The beautiful estate of Quinta da Gaivosa is situated in the Baixa Corgo region of northern Portugal's Douro Valley, a place of steeply terraced vines, lichen covered schist walls and abundant fruit trees. Many of the vineyards are small and contain very old vines, by identifying and expressing the individual qualities of each, Alves de Sousa have created a fascinating and eclectic mix of superb bottles, including Vinha de Lordelo, Vale da Raposa and the fast-forward cult cuvée ‘Abandonado'.
To receive further details of Gaivosa ‘Part 2', including a full vineyard profile and vindima pictorial essay, subscribe to our e-Newsletter.
Important note: all 'New Douro' navigation is in red at the bottom of each respective Quinta page.
Posted by David Eley on 08-11-2008
I am delighted to announce that marvellous Marcel Swaghoven, the Meester Gastrenoom, bon viveur and mischievously funny Dutch sommelier is our brand new Wine Spy from Holland. Marcel is larger than life, passionate about fine wine and runs a highly regarded Michelin starred restaurant, together with his chef brother Eric. Based in Venlo, close by Maastricht on the Netherlands/Belgium frontier, Marcel welcomes visitors from all over Europe.
His first four wine recommendations have now been posted, with many more to come. Marcel has a first class palate and deals with great wines every day of his life... both professionally and for pleasure. His articulate descriptions and ability to define the wine in his glass will be a major asset to A Good Nose as we travel in Marcel's company, to private tastings and gourmet dinners at some of Europe's finest restaurants.
Posted by David Eley on 28-10-2008
The world's most enigmatic chef will be visiting Europe during late November and early December this year. Yoshiaki Takazawa is a culinary phenomenon: his cult Tokyo restaurant Aronia de Takazawa has only two tables, and three to six month advance booking is de rigeur... his food is original, intelligent and offers a unique vision of culinary creativity - he is an inspiring, exciting and dynamic Japanese chef.
Cédric Béchade, Akiko & Yoshi Takazawa
A Unique Dining Opportunity
After making a presentation at the renowned LMG Chef Congress in San Sebastian, northern Spain (from 24th - 27th November), Yoshi and his charming wife Akiko, will remain in the Basque country, crossing the frontier from Spain into France and for just four days he will appear as celebrity guest chef in Cédric Béchade's temple like kitchens at l'Auberge Basque, near St Jean de Luz. For European food lovers and gourmets, this is wonderful news. Rather than flying all the way to Tokyo, it will be possible to enjoy a splendid set lunch or dinner prepared jointly by Yoshi Takazawa and Cédric Béchade in the South-West of France.
Dates for 'Yoshi Takazawa at l'Auberge Basque' are: 4th, 5th 6th and 7th December 2008 - at the democratic price of €85.00 plus wine, advance booking will be essential!
Auberge Online Diary
I will be covering Yoshi Takazawa's week in France as part of a new Auberge Basque online diary, an illustrated essay will appear on these pages during the winter months, offering a privileged backstage glimpse and descriptions of special Takazawa dishes created for the occasion. To receive further details of this and other gastronomic stories, subscribe to our e-Newsletter .
Posted by David Eley on 16-10-2008
I am back from the glorious land of topographically terraced vines known as the Douro valley: three and a half weeks of searing Portuguese sunshine, fine wines and heavy perspiration, climbing amid the vertiginous schist slopes. So many memories filed and stored without any real opportunity to reflect, before moving on to the next location. Ervamoira, Noval, Nápoles, Vesuvio, Malvedos, Roriz, Bom Retiro, Crasto... the list of great winemaking Quintas visited is endless, my mind is full of edited highlights and the minutiae of vindima. The Douro at vintage time is mesmerizing and full of vinous details, providing a visual lexicon for wine-lovers to savour. The cobbled streets of careworn Pinhão strewn with tumbled blue-black berries and congested by winemaker's camions, heavily laden with a rich harvest - coloured the deepest Touriga purple to a translucent Rabigato green. Driving along the dizzyingly precipitous roads high in the valley, the asphalt surface is frequently striped by violet stains - a snail like trail left by grape laden trucks as the dense juice regularly leaks from onboard metalled or plastic containers; the muffled rumbling of tyre treads upon undulating cobbles and the miraculous acoustic illusion of swallowed sound, as vehicles vanish from view along gargantuan hillsides, only to reappear and disappear time and again, as they slowly wend their way into the distance; waiting at remote railway halts and listening for the tell tale whistle of an approaching train, its advance ping-pong echo bouncing across the valley affording time to shake the ochre dust from your trousers and take an extra gulp of mineral water before ascending the high steel carriage steps, in the baking midday heat.
My last day was spent at Quinta do Vesuvio, high above the river, with vindimadores picking grapes for Symington's premium red table wine, Chryseia. Temperatures throughout my near month long stay were solid, varying between mid to high 20's and rising periodically to the low 30's, with cool nights. My first week of image gathering was diluted by a somewhat delayed harvest but I manically made up time later, though my headless chicken routine rarely afforded much time for sleep. Late dinners peppered with wine conversation ensured drooping eyelids every morning as I rose at 6am to catch the early light.
This year's Douro vintage looks extremely promising for table wine producers: the juice I tasted over three long weeks had good acidity and all winemakers, with whom I spent any appreciable time, declared their belief in the likely freshness and balance of the resultant wines. 2007 will be a tough act to follow, but there is no doubt the two consecutive vintages will contrast sharply and provide satisfaction for differing camps. Those who love fruit and immediate gratification might find some of the 07's perfect for their palates and the 08's could well turn out to be buttoned-up keepers, offering a wholly different vinous perspective, occasionally cloaked in elegance and with a touch of greenness on the palate... we will have to wait and see.
The autumn valley looked stunning beneath deep cobalt skies scattered with errant cumulus: the Douro is a place like no other - with a variety of vineyard plantings, flora and fauna to defy description. Wild Partridge scurrying for dusty cover, bristled and be-tusked boar, shaggy goats of differing hues, exotically coloured snakes and heavy river bass wallowing and swatting flies in the heated shallows. In addition to fish and game, Quinta grown produce plays a vital part in Douro life - originally born of self sufficient necessity during tougher times, the valley's vegetable gardens are a sight to behold and provide a wonderful contrast to the regimented vines - vibrant multihued peppers, noble potatoes, verdant cabbage patches, benign onions and luscious vine tomatoes - flavours so richly intense and vivid to the taste. This stately Douro of our modern age might have been tamed by hydroelectric dams, but it continues to course through an inspiring landscape whose undulations and folds are defined by manmade terracing and stonework to rival anything on our beleaguered planet - this region stands as a living, breathing monument to how man might enhance the natural landscape and leave his mark in a truly positive way, in this particular case, over three turbulent centuries.
Posted by David Eley on 12-09-2008
Cédric Béchade is a dynamic French chef and Samuel Ingelaere a first class sommelier: together they are developing a wonderful gastronomic centre in the heart of the French Basque country, close to Biarritz and St Jean de Luz. The concept is ‘Cuisinier-Sommelier' and their welcoming boutique hotel, l'Auberge Basque, is a place of the highest culinary standards and warm hospitality. Until two years ago Cédric was running the Michelin three star kitchens of the Plaza Athenée in Paris and Samuel spent five years as head sommelier working alongside legendary Michelin three star chef Marc Veyrat.
Auberge Basque: 21st century design blends with 17th
Auberge Basque is a place where great chefs from around the world simply drop by, and though only in its second year, has played host to the culinary elite: Paul Bocuse, Peter Goossens, Martin Berasategui, Pedro Subijana, Michel Guerard... from these great established names to cutting edge stars of the 21st century, including Tokyo top toque Yoshiaki Takazawa - the world's most enigmatic cook whose cult ‘two table' restaurant has recently generated many column inches.
Gault Millau nominated Cédric Béchade as Discovery of the Year 2008 and TV and press are fascinated by this modest, self-effacing young chef whose life is dedicated to pleasing his guests, partnered by a fine sommelier whose eclectic and intelligent wine list offers a breath of democratic international air. Cuisinier-Sommelier gives equal billing to fine wine within the restaurant environment, redressing the balance and helping diners with sound professional advice from only trained sommeliers.
Auberge Diary: later this year A Good Nose will launch its own occasional journal following the fascinating gastronomic life at Auberge Basque. We will meet Cédric and Samuel's producers and suppliers, sharing in some of their culinary adventures while gaining a true flavour of the glorious Basque country. To receive further details of this exciting content, subscribe to our electronic Newsletter .
Posted by David Eley on 06-09-2008
Yet another Douro grape harvest is under way and I will soon be in northern Portugal to record this year's frenetic activity amid the extraordinary vine-clad terraces. This seems like a good moment to announce the publication of our very first Symington Family Estates feature within the New Douro microsite. In this two-part illustrated essay, Rupert Symington provides a frank assessment of wine making in the world's oldest demarcated wine region and his cousin Charles reveals something of his immense viticultural responsibilities in managing nearly 1000 hectares of premium vines. S.F.E.'s steadily expanding stable of high quality D.O.C. table wines encompass the classic ‘Chryseia', a well-established Franco-Portuguese partnership with Bruno Prats and the much anticipated single Quinta wine ‘Vesuvio', to be launched early in 2009.
Given this summer's unpredictable weather in France and the UK, I am keeping my fingers crossed for some blue skies and clement conditions, all images and stories from this year's vindima will go online later in the autumn, for full details and regular updates subscribe to our electronic newsletter ‘Picture Post'.
Posted by David Eley on 03-09-2008
I am absolutely delighted to welcome John Stimpfig of Financial Times and Decanter fame to the pages of A Good Nose.Com. As an occasional contributor to our online features and the gradually expanding Wine Spy, he will share informed and direct observations on an assortment of vinous topics. John's Nose debut takes the form of a Champagne feature on the world's most exclusive and prohibitively expensive fizz, Clos d' Ambonnay made by Krug. John clearly likes to do things in style and is starting his professional relationship with A Good Nose at the very top of the bubbly ladder, though this comes as no surprise to me. In his other life, John Stimpfig frequently rubs shoulders with the wine world's most illustrious names, as a partner in the bespoke corporate and wine events company ‘Taste In'. Wine writers and experts including Jancis Robinson MW, Tim Atkin, Andrew Jefford, Robert Joseph and Charles Metcalfe comprise a veritable vinous spiterrati who regularly join forces with John and his business partner Sophie Jump, to share their vast wealth of experience and guzzling knowledge at privately hosted city and provincial functions. Wine-lovers might now cautiously aim at the same spittoon as their favourite wine heroes and heroines while having a splendidly bibulous time. The perfect way to educate your palate, in erudite and hopefully articulate company.
Posted by David Eley on 29-08-2008
The Cote d'Azur, best known for Brigitte Bardot, minor monarchs with small principalities and an excessive use of Ambre Solaire - is not a natural home for one of Europe's most celebrated cerebral winemakers. Dirk van der Niepoort is a man whose personal interpretation of dressing for dinner extends to wiping the daytime dust from his beloved pair of Crocs . He is the winemaker's winemaker, a man who eats, breathes and sleeps fine wine while eschewing visible excess, except, that is, when it comes to his own state of the art schist-clad winery in the heart of northern Portugal's Douro valley. Niepoort is a professional wine Guru whose family firm, Niepoort Vinhos, commands great respect in the world of Port and table wine. His opinions on making and marketing fine wine really count - he is one of those inspirational people who create the vinous zeitgeist by exploring every nook and cranny of innovation and invention.
Nose to Nose in Nice
Dirk values quality and elegance: usually in the form of bottled liquid expression, emblazoned with the iconic labels of his winemaking heroes from Burgundy or other classic regions. The French Riviera and its environs would seem an unlikely location for him to conduct serious wine research... unless, you are teaming up with a famous ‘Nose' from the perfume business whose ‘industrial' heart is in the small southern French town of Grasse.
Mona Diorio is an esteemed French ‘Nose' and perfume creatrice who just happens to love fine wine. At age 17 Mona became the young protégée of one of the 20th century's truly great perfume Noses - Edmond Roudnitska. He was the genius responsible for creating a whole generation of legendary 20th century fragrances encompassing, Eau Sauvage, Dior Dior, Diorella and Eau d'Hermès. When Edmond passed away in 1996 Mona continued his work and she now runs her own successful perfume company ‘Mona Diorio Parfums '. Mona and Dirk met in the city of Nice, the simple idea was to compare a Nose from the world of perfume with a Nose from the world of fine wine, discovering if there are any similarities. The setting was a small restaurant in the capital of the Cote d'Azur, Dirk takes up the story, "I met Mona through wine writer Andrew Catchpole, she likes wine a lot and in her past had worked as a wine waiter ... the idea was to make a tasting of two Port wines showing how the blend is made, I chose the wines to taste. This selection comprised the component parts of a ten-year vintage Port followed by the final blend. Thereafter, we tasted the backbone of Niepoort's 2007 vintage with 5, 10, 15 and 20% of another Port to discover how the two wines behaved in relation to one another"
Dirk Niepoort seems very happy with his first sniff around the world of scents and perfumes; "in my opinion, there were some very interesting conclusions - Mona's background, having work closely with Edmond Roudnetska, echoed my own working experiences with master blender Sr. José Nogueira at Niepoort Vinhos in Gaia. Sr. José is the third of four generations from the same family to blend for Niepoort - father to son. Within these two respective disciplines I believe the mental approach is very similar ... i.e. in our world two plus two does not necessarily equal four."
Who knows where this ‘Nice' nose encounter might lead? Dirk Niepoort certainly views his experiment as the first of many and looks forward to more comparisons in the future. Given his creative originality, who would bet against a possible Eau de Niepoort... and just imagine the scope for all those floral notes on the back label... any humorous suggestions?
Posted by David Eley on 22-08-2008
Cheese is a wonderful and endlessly fascinating subject for those who love food: in many ways it offers a striking similarity to fine wine. The tremendous array of nuanced flavours and tastes, slowly evolving with time or exposure to air; the removal of the cheese rind and elevation of ambient temperature permit flavours to evolve, providing many points for comparison with wine appreciation. In addition, there are many distinct and carefully defined local appellations for cheese, with each region proudly defending the honour of its own cheesy identity. This standard and narrowly defined typicity is seldom diluted and with particular cheeses, is upheld and protected by individual A.O.C. denominations in a very rigorous fashion - the list of revered regional cheeses is endless; Roquefort, Stilton, Parmesan, Brebis, Comté, Cantal, Manchego, Queijo da Serra etc...
The finesse and subtle eloquence of a great cheese can contribute handsomely to dining and drinking pleasure, indeed, for many gastronomes it is undoubtedly the highlight of a meal. For a man whose entire life was dedicated to fine wine, this is precisely what drew the Michelin class French sommelier Frédéric Minvielle into this pungent and odiferous world. After several years practising his vinous profession in France's finest restaurants, Frédéric decided to pursue his great passion for cheese by establishing a fine cheese company in Anglet, Fromage & Compagnie at the heart of the French Basque Country, between Biarritz and Bayonne.
Frédéric Minvielle is not only a purveyor of fine cheese but a highly skilled affineur, aging and maturing cheese under controlled conditions, before offering them to clients when perfectly ready to consume. Most professional fromagers do not come from a wine oriented background and it might well be that Frédéric is unique. Certainly, his approach to cheese is founded upon the subtle understanding of flavour necessitated by his previous vinous profession. He runs a business which not only stores and ages fine cheeses from all over France, but also helps local cheese-makers to adjust and refine their artisanal products to suit the requirements of leading chefs.. Frédéric's skills are so appreciated by restaurateurs, his finely cured cheeses find there way to distant places. One of his most loyal customers is the acclaimed Paris based 2 star Michelin chef Hélène Darroze, recently appointed to preside over the restaurant kitchens of the newly refurbished (at a cost of over 70 million pounds) Connaught Hotel in London's Mayfair, so it seems that Frédéric's wonderful cheeses will now be available in London.
Knowing about cheese, food and wine pairing and understanding the complexities of the flavours required by culinary stars, are Frédéric's key to gaining their confidence. One particular star chef is Ducasse protégé Cédric Béchade at l'Auberge Basque , the stylish food-centric boutique hotel near St Jean de Luz. Cédric works alongside the world-class sommelier Samuel Ingelaere and they both have immense respect for Frédéric. At Cedric's request, Frédéric worked with a local sheep farmer and cheesemaker in the village of Itxassou - to develop a revolutionary haute-couture Brebis cheese with a much softer interior than the norm, it has proved a great success in the restaurant and provides the perfect example of why this dynamic fromager is making a distinct impression within the world of gastronomy.
Frédéric's fabulous cheeses will shortly be contributing to an occasional series of cheese ‘postcards' at A Good Nose.Com - each photographic cheese portrait will carry with it a brief description from the specific cheesemonger. In addition, we will be featuring cheese-makers within the online journal on Cédric Béchade to be launched soon. In order to receive details of this and many other fascinating food and wine topics, subscribe to our electronic Newsletter ‘Picture Post '.
Posted by David Eley on 15-08-2008
Driving back across an arid yet brightly hued Spain from northern Portugal's Douro valley, to my home in St Jean de Luz on the French-Spanish frontier, is usually uneventful. On the last occasion I made this journey from Pinhão, the high Douro's rustic capital, via Alijo, Bragança and on to Vallodolid, the autumn weather was simply perfect. By-passing Alijo and heading due north, the winding and quite narrow road breaks through an area of bracken and coniferous woodland, eventually meeting the main IP4 and the highway home. Entering the Vale de Cunho I witnessed a most extraordinary sight; as the road traversed a well worn woodland crossing, a surging mass of slate grey goats, issued forth from a gap in the trees on my left; braking hurriedly, I drew to an abrupt halt and an unbelievably enchanting sight unfolded before me...
It was like a dam-break: the goats moved so quickly across the road, and their goatherd, draped in vivid blue and carrying a wooden staff, vanished amid the seething grey mass of hair and hooves comprising more than 200 lyre-horned beasts, before entering the darkening woods beyond. The image was positively biblical and came as such a surprise. Having parked my car off the road I had to move very quickly and ran frantically into the woods pursuing the writhing sea of horns, punctuated by occasional pale coloured sheep and benignly kept in check by two substantial farm dogs. Goat meat ‘Cabrito' is a very important part of the Portuguese diet, so too is goat's milk, used to make local cheeses and many artisanal products. Do click on the image above to see the full set of photographs from this fairytale scene and visit page 2 of the Vale Meão section in the New Douro microsite, to see even more goats in a breathtaking Tolkien location.
I am now off to visit Frédéric Minvielle, the jovial fromager and affineur based in the French Basque country. Four years ago he miraculously metamorphosed from professional sommelier into an artisanal master of cheese working with star chefs, including Ducasse protégé Cédric Béchade and Michelin 2 star Hélène Darroze in Paris - also supplying London's newly refurbished Connaught hotel ... more of this story next week.
Posted by David Eley on 09-08-2008
Quinta do Vesuvio, owned by Symington Family Estates and famed for its iconic Port wine, is to release a premium D.O.C. table wine in late 2008. This legendary estate has an impeccable Ferreira Port pedigree dating back to the nineteenth century. Since the late 1990's, Vesuvio has been contributing premium grapes to the elegantly styled Chryseia and Post Scriptum, a successful joint venture with Bruno Prats of Cos d'Estournel fame. These two limited production red wines, made by French winemaker Stéphane Point, sell in the manner of a fine Cru Classé via the Bordeaux place. They sit at the apex of an S.F.E. portfolio of red table wines, whose combined annual sales already exceed 2 million Euros. The first large scale foray by Symington into table wine was Altano, a now well established brand whose commercial life began in early 2001.
Symington's Douro hectares under vine now approach nearly 1000 (2,500 acres) and encompass historical brands Warres, Dow's and Graham's. The company have ample modern facilities to handle volume production as well as hand-crafted single estate wines made with indigenous varietals after the classic French model.
Though Symington's core business remains fine Port wines, they see D.O.C. table wines as a very important element in their impressive portfolio. Until January 2008, Symington Family Estates enjoyed a successful partnership with João van Zeller at Quinta de Roriz, another of the Douro's single Quintas with a fabulous reputation. Rupert Symington, a senior director of the family firm, recently declared "when we introduce the new Vesuvio wine we believe it will coexist comfortably with Chryseia. Vesuvio is actually a separate company and will stand on its own, like a third leg... along with Altano. We have sorted out production facilities where we can combine our full range of premium wines, without conflict - the decks are clear for producing a great Vesuvio"
This exciting development has made it possible for A Good Nose.Com to build an illustrated micro-site dedicated to the Vesuvio D.O.C. wine, within our New Douro section. The first illustrated material on the birth of Quinta do Vesuvio D.O.C. will launch later this summer and I am delighted to confirm we will have a full harvest report and Vesuvio ‘vindima gallery' online in October. A Good Nose is extremely fortunate to have this privileged access - to receive further news of this historic development in the Douro, register for our e-Newsletter 'Picture Post'
Posted by David Eley on 29-07-2008
A Good Nose.Com was established in 2003. It is a name inspired by a distinguished and valued friend, Gerry Casey. As Berry Bros & Rudd's man in Bordeaux for nearly a quarter of a century, Gerry had an excellent ‘nose' in every sense. Wellingtonian in proportion and so finely tuned, it seemed he could identify a bad wine before its cork was lifted. Fifty years in the wine trade had honed his senses, sharpened his wits and evolved an invaluable capacity for simply knowing good wine. The launch of this new weblog and gastronomic portal owes a great deal to my dear friend, who tragically passed away in May this year, after a short untimely illness. His bravery at the end of a very complete life was exemplary. He faced the conclusion of his time on earth by sharing the same directness, pragmatism and humour with which he had lived... just ten minutes short of precisely four score years, a miniscule ‘shortcoming' of which he undoubtedly would have seen the funny side. Gerry Casey was a unique Englishman, an over-used adjective I know, but entirely apposite for a gentleman who knew ‘something about everything' and wanted to share it. He entertained and filled the lives of so many with incisive thought, commonsense and above all, love and conviction. When we lose someone this precious it is important to mark the loss, however inadequate the words.
Posted by David Eley on 07-07-2008
As many of you will know, building a website can take over your life and for the last year or so, A Good Nose.Com has done just that. As a writer and artist I enjoy the idea of discovering new and original concepts within fine wine and gastronomy, through the construction of AGN I have met so many wonderful people, encountered so much that is new and have hardly known where to begin when choosing the first dynamic subjects to upload in time for our much postponed launch.
I hope visitors to A Good Nose.Com will understand it is something of a work in progress, and though many elements are complete, there is much more to be done. Therefore, I seek the indulgence of first time visitors and hope you will value and support our objectives in presenting innovative and exciting new chefs, winemakers and food producers alongside the well established Michelin stars, great chateaux and domains. Through the privileged access, creative prose and special images I hope you will find our pages entertaining and informative. I am not a critic and intend only to present those whose work I admire and respect, I hope you might recognize the inspirational qualities of those featured within our diaries and online features and communicate your own thoughts, criticisms and comments to the Nose Blog. In order to receive regular updates on brand new Micro-sites, diaries, features and paintings, do please register for our e-Newsletter ‘Picture Post'.
I believe what will be particularly interesting to wine lovers is the rapidly expanding Micro-site ‘The New Douro’ – for me this is a truly exciting wine adventure. The Douro valley in northern Portugal is a place unlike any other and the new classic table wines from this region provide an authentic vinous snapshot of great terroir and an amazing people, underpinned by a noble wine heritage. In addition, we plan to bring you new stories from modern gastronomy, including the youthful Ducasse protégé Cédric Béchade - pushing the boundaries of the French New wave in the Basque country, to the world’s most enigmatic chef Yoshiaki Takazawa in Tokyo, we will launch our Micro-site ‘Going Dutch’ in the autumn/winter and the modern Indian movement will follow soon after – it is a busy year ahead!
Finally, I must mention ‘The Wine Spy’ (please see navigation box on the right), this section of AGN will bring regular news and inside stories of wine discoveries from around the vinous world, sourced from local experts. This cumulative knowledge will, I hope, enlighten and inform readers, while placing great emphasis on value for money fine wines – our dedicated section launches online July 2008.
Thank you for visiting A Good Nose.Com
David S. Eley
St Jean de Luz, July 2008.