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Posted: Tuesday, 26 November 2019 11:57

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Business France: Tasting France at the French Embassy

Nov 26: Business France organised an interesting wine tasting evening with Vignobles Boissonneau, Champagne Leopoldine, Chateau Franc Cardinal and Les Roques de Cana participating in the event with H.E. Emmanuel Lenain addressing the audience and mixing informally for a long time, writes Subhash Arora who loves such events at the embassies but is rather pessimist about their finding distributors with the present excise policy of the Delhi government, with the exception of perhaps Vignobles Boissonneau

The event Tastin France organised by the Business France at the Embassy of France and hosted by Ambassador Emmanuel Lenain in Delhi on November25 in Delhi and in Mumbai at the Trident BKC this evening, was highly successful, thanks also to the presence of a very approachable Ambassador and because of many importers present in Delhi. Here is a review of the wineries tasted:

Vignobles Boissonneau

The big crowd at the table where Nicolas Boissonneau and his right hand man Anvay Sawant from India, the winemaker and sales manager, were pouring away a range of over 10 wines enthusiastically, was an indicator of their popularity. The 180-year old firm being run by the 6th generation Nicola and his cousin Pascal (his  father retired a couple of years ago) has a big variety of wines, principally from Entre Deux Mers, the wide area between Dordogne and Garonne rivers in Bordeaux. It was known as the wine lake earlier but has improved its quality in recent times.

It also offers good value as one found at this table. Over 90% of the wines are exported with China and Germany as their major markets-India could be one of those countries soon as Nicolas said the fairly decent prices are negotiable. They produce about 250,000 bottles of which their own Chateaux- Chateau Moulin de Ferrand and Chateau de la Vieille Tour were the main participants for this tasting. They are also Negociants- buying and blending wines for sale. They make wine from their own 55 hA of land but also buy wine and process them further as was the case with Pivoine Vin de France which was also at display. I loved their 2 variants of Bordeaux white blends one with Semillon/ Sauvignon 50/50 and the other with a 10% MoscaMore details at www.boissonneau.fr. Nicolas may be contacted at Nicolas@boissonneau.fr

Chateau Franc Cardinal

The small property of 10 hA owned and run by Sophie Holzberg after her husband died a few years ago makes organic wines that are under the process of certification. The parcels are distributed in 3 locations; they have the opportunity to make the wines more complex and also face the nature’s vagaries better. The Chateau Franc cardinal 2016 – a Cotes de Bordeaux AOC was a very pleasant wine- fresh, elegant and with good balance and structure. Price is right for the quality. Unfortunately, In India the customer does not care for organic wines in that they are not willing to pay extra price and don’t even know what it represents. Hopefully, that is about to change in which case her wine would find a place in some importer’s portfolio.

During my recent visit to a restaurant in Mumbai selling only wines as the alcoholic beverage, there was an Italian Chianti that was a certified organic wine. But when I asked the server/sommelier about what the symbol in green (certification) meant he had no clue and did not know what organic wine meant. We need to educate restaurants and through them the customers about organic wines and platforms like this one are important to disseminate such information besides tasting.

She also had wines from other producers like Chateau Haut Philippon whose white blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Sauvignon Gris and Muscadelle was outstanding with beautiful aromas of Muscadelle and lovely freshness and fruitiness which Indian palates so adore. Visit www.chateau–franc-cardinal.com or write to sophie@chateau-franc-cardinal.com

Champagne Leopoldine

It is a well-known fact that Champagne market is difficult in India what with Moet Chandon, the undisputed leader also feeling the heat after they introduced Chandon from their Indian stable. Prosecco has been making the inroads-especially with the horrendous import duty structure and Indian sparklers getting better with quality. Champagne is of course, irreplaceable as the top dog. Until we can find people who have money in their pockets and fine taste on their palates, it is difficult to make consumer take out their wallets to splurge on a bottle of Champagne costing upwards of Rs. 10,000 a bottle in a restaurant. This is the scenario in which Champagne Leopoldine popped their 3 variants of Champagne with the help of a local French man with limited information.

Wines were no doubt excellent though he failed to stress that Both the Premiere fois Brut (with 80% Petit Meunier and 20% Chardonnay), and Exaltation Blanc de Blancs (naturally, only Chardonnay) were vintage Champagnes of 2013 vintage. Chardonnay was 100% Grand Cru! Both were excellent though I found the latter much more elegant. Rose Brut was also Petit Meunier, heavy with 60%- balance was Chardonnay and only 5% Pinot Noir. The Price of Rose was a bit on the high side- the other two seemed high priced too but for the specifications which were not emphasised, they are excellent value-for-money champagnes and a discerning importer or hotel would jump at the opportunity to seduce the select few discerning affluent with these lovely wines.

Visit www.champagne-leopoldine.fr or write directly to champagne.leopoldine@gmail.com for details.

Les Roques de Cana

This winery from Cahors, the well-known South Western French province of Lot named after river Lot, about 115 kms North of Toulouse was  represented by a young man with boyish look who said he was the owner-he did not have any business card or literature. Wines from Cahors are known mainly for its robust and highly tannic wines made from Malbec known as Cot here. They are dark in colour-almost black- nothing like those lush Malbec with the gentle sweet frontal attack, making them very popular in India, especially with Indian food.

The gentleman seemed to have a chip on his shoulder for some reasons, as if being forced to come for the event. He was lease forthcoming on any interesting information or stories-so important at such events. The Rose- La Fiancée 2018 was an IGP Cahors wine-Cotes du Lot (AOC Cahors does not allow making Rose and hence IGP). It was rather delicious even with alcohol at 13% and the tannic structure that of some red wines have. When I asked him wine, he looked at me disdainfully and pointed to the label that showed the alcohol at 13%. When I stressed again about the sugar content of the rather dry Rose, he said it was zero percent! And insisted so.  The bottle was extremely interesting as was the price. But most Indians used to 10-5 gms in their Rose would find it unpalatable, I am afraid though it is a well made wine.

Red wines were interesting-but I found them rather austere and puckering and lacking freshness- not palatable to most Indians. Another thing that was strange was that Sanguis Christi- a 100% Malbec made from vines older than 30 years old was rich, concentrated, fine and very well structured but did not feel fresh on the palate. And why would they price the 2016 same as the 2008 which has aged for 11 years and still going strong with maturing. At the same price, it would be a great wine to store and would perhaps last for another 10 years but I did not think I would get any answer on that one. So I might visit www.lesroquesdecana.fr at a later date or write to the gentleman at domainelesrocquesdecana@gmail.com to first ask him his name and then some details.

Perfect Venue and Service

The most impressive part was the venue- of late the French embassy has taken the lead role in promoting wine sometimes at the Residence, and other times at the Embassy which has a beautiful area where several important events like even the National Day are celebrated. It was very encouraging to see the new Ambassador, H.E. Emmanuel Lenain, not only go through the ritual of welcoming and introducing the wineries but mingles with the audience through the whole time- like a true wine connoisseur would. Not to forget the excellent service and Canapes served-very professional and adequate for such an event, I might add.

Organising such events in embassies is the best way of promoting wines from any country, especially because of the archaic laws in Delhi to promote new wines. Other embassies ought to take a serious  look at this route as it is a long and arduous journey to enter the Indian wine industry. Kudos to the Ambassador and Business France which has been making constant efforts to promote such products, the limited window of exposure for a couple of hours on a fixed date notwithstanding!

Subhash Arora

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