amarchinthevines

Learning about wine, vines and vignerons whilst living in the Languedoc


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Vermouth, Kina

En francais

It was interesting to see Oz Clarke* on James Martin’s Saturday morning TV show this week looking at the topic of vermouth. I wrote earlier in the year about the vermouth which Jeff Coutelou is now making and selling, Kina.


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Screenshot from the TV programme

The Languedoc is associated with vermouth since one of the most famous brands, Noilly Prat, is made in the lovely port of Marseillan. Vermouth was never a drink I enjoyed but Kina is changing that.

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According to specialist website The Fine Spirits Corner, “The Kina is a type of fortified wine that is made ​​from dry and sweet wines of high quality to which are added extracts of quinine. Produced mainly in Andalusia, was formerly used as a tonic, invigorating and during the appetizer to open the food.”

After mixing various herbs and spices with the base wine back in July Jeff left the kina to macerate in the cellar for a few weeks. Time for an update.

During vendanges he also prepared some more wine to be mixed with the kina. The wine was mixed with pure alcohol to stop fermentation (mutage) and retain some of the sugars from the grapes. This was then blended with the macerated wine to make Kina.

As the quote above says, supported by Clarke’s introduction, vermouth should be a drink with plenty of flavour and sweetness from the herbs and spices but with a bitter finish to cleanse the palate. I have tried other examples of kina drinks from the commercial, e.g. Lillet or Martini as well as another artisan vermouth from Carcassonne. I liked the latter though it was certainly sweeter than Coutelou Kina. I like the bitter twang of Kina though Jeff is also making a sweeter version if that is your preference.

With Christmas and New Year celebrations on the horizon Kina will definitely be featuring as my aperitif of choice. Vermouth may be the new gin (also made in Puimisson!) and, to my surprise, I welcome its return to the spotlight.

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Taking its place in the Coutelou range

*Oz Clarke is an English wine writer and broadcaster who certainly did a lot to spark my passion for wine

 

 

 

 

 


2 Comments

Wine whinges

 

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I read a lot of time reading about wine, books, blogs and many forms of social media. Too much time probably. Spending much of the last four years or so on a wine domaine, learning about vines, winemaking and wines themselves I have developed a thirst for more knowledge as well as a thirst for wines. However on many occasions I become quite irritated by what I read or hear. Time to stop my whinges from fermenting further.

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My biggest whinge is generalisation. I am undoubtedly guilty of this myself so when I criticise others, I am aware that I may well be hypocritical. By generalisation I refer to statements such as “I love Chablis”, “I don’t like Chardonnay” or “natural wines are full of faults”. This is palpable nonsense, sometimes said as a shortcut but just nonsense. There are great Chablis wines, there are very poor ones. There are bland, neutral Chardonnays but there are many great ones which would appeal to anyone who likes good wines. The latter is just nonsense. The importance of producers is often overlooked, give me a Macon from some producers to a Cote D’Or  from others.

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One Macon which I would certainly choose

I appreciate that nuance is too longhand for much social media comment but please, cut down simplistic generalisation.

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from Business Insider

Another whinge would be wine pairing. People get so hung up on this. If you know a wine goes well with a dish then great but, in my opinion, many wines will partner dishes, it’s a matter of personal taste. Of course there are some which will go better but if I like a wine and I want to drink it then I will, it doesn’t concern me whether it brings out certain flavours or not. Relax, enjoy the wine and the food.

One whinge which might upset some. Some producers get praise and an easy ride from Anglophones just because they are themselves Anglophone. I understand it is easier for some people to visit winemakers who speak your own language and there is a special interest in people from your own country making wine. And there are some excellent examples, the Cores of Mas Gabriel in Caux, Joe Jefferies in Caux, Jonathan Hesford and Rachel Treloar in Trouillas. I do come across others though who I think get an easy ride or too much praise simply because of who they are rather than their wines. Even some of the most famous critics are guilty of such bias in my view, and it is my view.

I could go on, please don’t get me started on wine competitions and judging, subsidised wine jaunts for journalists etc. So, if you have any wine whinges please let me know.

Or just whinge at me!

 


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The rise and fall of natural wines?

 

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I read an interesting article by Alice Feiring last week. Ms Feiring is perhaps the most high profile, long term advocate of natural wines but in this article she raised a number of issues which have also been troubling me in recent months.

There is little doubt that natural wines have become fashionable around the world. New producers, cavistes and bar / restaurants spring up weekly. Even the North East of England (my home region) now has a wine bar offering natural wines “for the adventurous”! So, a half hearted effort but a start.

During vendanges we had a number of visits from cavistes seeking wines from Jeff. Alas they would leave disappointed as there are few enough wines to meet the demand of existing customers after low yields in 2017. This year’s mildew attacks mean even more rationing next year. We have reached the stage where even supermarkets and major chains such as Majestic in the UK are wanting to stock natural wines. Supply, not just from Jeff, does not meet the demand.

As ever where there is demand we see some jumping in to meet it. Some so called natural wines are not organically produced for example, to me that means they are not natural wines. There are lots of younger, newer producers who want to make genuine wines but there are also some who are undoubtedly riding the bandwagon to make a profit.

Demand also means that some producers are taking shortcuts to get their wines to market quickly. Feiring refers to this and the ensuing faults which may arise, I have seen other references to mousiness being one flaw caused by premature bottling. Some wine drinkers are complicit in this by accepting flaws as part of the character and style of natural wines. This is a complex area, I am more tolerant of brett (farmyard, band aid aromas caused by harmful bacteria) than some but very intolerant of mousiness which 20% of people can’t detect at all!*

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However, I want to drink wines which taste of clean, healthy fruit not faults. I won’t buy from producers whose wines regularly exhibit such flaws, according to Feiring a lot of drinkers don’t see them as problems at all. To my mind there will be a reaction against natural wines, such is the nature of fashion. The wines which will still be in demand will be those of quality, made for easy drinking or for the long term.

 

Jeff Coutelou is certainly one producer of such wines. My advice is to drink Coutelou of course but also to seek out reliable, quality winemakers from around the world. Reliable merchants or cavistes will surely point you in the right direction much better than chains or supermarkets. For my part I shall also try to recommend wines and winemakers whom I trust. And, I hasten to point out, I have had more problem with conventional wines and faults than natural wines in the last year.

*Looking forward to reading the new book by Jamie Goode about wine flaws