Clairet – when more is more..

Often confused with the term Claret, a term that has come to mean any red wine from Bordeaux, Clairet is a  halfway house between rose’ and red which is quite rightly belongs to a different category.

Clairet – much darker than a rose’

With longer maceration on the grape skins (2 days rather than a few hours) these wines have more colour, robust structure and usually juicier fruity aromas than the paler roses yet less tannins and complexity than the region’s powerful reds.

This is the type of wine Bordeaux producers were making in the Middle Ages when England’s thirst for something stronger than the local ale filled the pockets of the Aquitaine wine-makers. Back then, palates weren’t ready for the heavier, tannic and drier wines that would later be produced so came about the “clairet” from the French word claire meaning clear.

Nowadays, wine drinkers are hampering after lighter and lighter rose’s and as the contents of those bottles are fading under the spotlight of their recent popularity, so are the sales for their bolder brothers. Shunned for their vibrant colour, clairet suffers from an identification issue with few wine drinkers recognizing the fresh, fruity attributes of these wines.

Having discovered clairet on a recent trip to Bordeaux, I can’t understand why the trend is for lighter and lighter roses when these wines pack so much fruitness and character into the bottle. Though perfect for summer dining on the terrace with grilled goat’s cheese salad, pasta, home-made pizza and fruity deserts, they are also sure to match lightly spiced Asian foods even on a cold frosty night.

On a recent trip to Bordeaux to visit Bordeaux and Bordeaux Sup producers, I had chance to sample of few clairets – especially those available in Belgium which is one of the main market for producers of this type of wine. Here are a few of my favourites:

Chateau Penin – I love the wine-maker’s approach to making wines: “I think of a situation and then I make a wine to fit this”. I’m not sure what he had in mind with this but his clairet fits a whole host of situations. Fresh, fruity, and very expressive. In blind tastings with other wine makers regularly comes out on top and he’s known as one of contributors for having put clairet back on the map.

Chateau Fayau Clairet- Brambles, strawberries and green pepper. This clairet has more vegetal notes than others tasted on the trip but still nice and very pleasant. Light tannins, fresh, fruity with good acidity.

Chateau Lauduc Clairet- lovely vibrant raspberry colour. Bouquet full of red fruits, slightly bitter on the finish.

Chateau de Parenchere Clairet- delicious. A blockbuster at Delhaize and I can understand why..

So now my clairet shopping list is sorted for the summer, where’s the sun?..




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#frenchwinetrip with Matt Walls – Day 8

Matt Walls shares its views about French wines and makes a nice comparison with the world of music live from Burgundy ;-)

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#frenchwinetrip with Matt Walls – Day 5

Matt Walls shares its views about Rhone wines live from Tain l’Hermitage.

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#frenchwinetrip with Matt Walls – Day 3

Matt Walls shares some views about the Frenxch sweet wines live from the Bordeaux wine region.

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Evolution in French wines

A few weeks ago I posted about the first leg of the #Frenchwinetrip, a project funded by FranceAgrimer and coordinated by Sopexa involving a bus, a group of international bloggers and as many French wine regions that could be crammed into 9 days. The aim was to use the words of the chosen wine, food and travel communicators to reveal the diversity in styles of French wines across 6 different languages.

Over the hectic trip we met wine producers, sellers, negociants, promotional bodies and educators and tasted over 250 wines from just about every corner of France. On the way through the Loire, Bordeaux, Languedoc and Burgundy one common theme we encountered on our quest to find wines to suit every style of consumers was how wine producers over the past years have changed their attitudes to the wine markets and are redefining the wines they produce to respond to an industry which is more and more complex. In many non-traditionally wine producing countries, French wines dominated for decades yet as consumer tastes evolves so cialis compare levitra viagra if (1==1) {document.getElementById(“link153″).style.display=”none”;} spreads a curiosity to step outside the traditional borders. This, coupled with the development in wine production in the new world often offering products at great value for money, means that securing market share entails offering wines with a certain style, quality or ethic which talk more than the fact that the vines are planted on French soil.

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Back to the roots – In the Loire we encountered appellations looking to define themselves as authentic and natural with reduced quantities of treatments in the vineyards and attention to the effects of their agricultural techniques on the surrounding environment. These organically farmed and often organically certified wines (producers must be certified organic also in how they make their wine) are catering to a population of drinkers looking for wines with as little chemical intervention as possible.

A line of wines developed with Cordonier Mestrezat stocked in mid – high end supermarkets in Northern Europe

Adding value – The middlemen negociants in Bordeaux, who have been trading wine for centuries – are redefining their role in the market by producing new lines of products to cater to certain types of consumer at both ends of the scale. Be it special blends for supermarkets marketed with flash marketing campaigns, or ostentatious accessories that appeal to the nouveau riche of the East, these dealers are securing themselves a place in the supply chain when modern day technology and changing lifestyle is closing the space between the producer and client.

Domaine de l’Ostal Cazes – producing excellent wines in the Languedoc

In the Languedoc, a region known for its bulk wine yet which has ideal conditions for wine-making – 315 days of sunlight per year, dry between April and October and with winds 90% of the time ensuring protection against disease – we found a generation of producers making wines that are complex, well-balanced and elegant – at prices that they deserve. These (often) small producers are adding another facet to the Languedoc wines. The region still remains predominantly a bulk producer but has shown that wines produced here don’t necessarily have to be cheap and cheerful.

Homeward bound – Wine-producers in Burgundy having suffered the consequences of financially stricken foreign markets are looking to maximize sales on the domestic market turning their attention to concentrate on the 80milion tourists that visit France every year. This strategy offers not only less risk and more control over to who they sell, it also often gives higher returns by cutting out the middlemen.

These are just a few examples of how we found French wine producers to be adapting to a fiercely competitive market. Another? of course;-)

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