Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Interview with winemaker Luc Baudet from Chateau Mas Neuf

Your interest in the techniques used for aging wine was influenced by your stay in Ireland, would you say that those techniques are more or less important than terroir?

Terroir is a three fold concept: The most obvious first two are soils (and their interaction with vines...) and climate, the third one is the human effort and skill to influence the outcome of what the first two can offer.

In this acceptance, all actions including raising the wines before offering them to the public is part of terroir. They are all important, but the most difficult and long-to-achieve part is growing world class level grapes.

What sets Rhone apart from the other winemaking regions of France?

I think Rhone is not different from other great French terroirs. It has benefited from several centuries history of vine breeding and winemaking, and has the ability to grow in an unique way three fantastic grape varieties, the Syrah in the North, the Grenache and Mourvèdre in the South.

Why has the poularity of the wines of The Rhone increased in comparison to Bordeaux?

Maybe the uniqueness of Rhone is the ability to gather today a large public, from the very finest wine connoisseurs, to the newbies that are tired of the industrial rich fat New World, and want to be introduced to more truthful wines that express terroir.

I really think Bordeaux has a few exceptional terroirs, that can indeed produce outstanding wines, but the average terroir in Bordeaux is not adapted to produce ripe grapes in a regular way. As you know the whole of Gironde is classified as AOC ground. But not all soils in this area can produce great grapes.

In the Rhone, the climate is set to produce ripe grapes nearly every year.

And in the Rhone, a lot of icon wines are produced by small family owned companies. As opposed to big capitalistic operations in Bordeaux.

Describe your perfect meal and the wine you'd pair with it?

A perfect meal for me would highly depend on which season we are in and the available fresh products available. As a trained chef, I like to pop in a traditional food market, and wander around and pick whatever great things are on offer.

Of course, it depends whether I am near home or away.

Last but not least, the perfect meal is also made of perfect company, a party of 8 to 10 is perfect to try many wines, and share.

Let's say we are in May around our vineyards (fantastic season for fresh vegetables and nice seafood). We would have for a start a nice aperitif with a wide selection of local cold cuts, like Spanish Pata Negra, fresh green vegetables as a salad with Camargue salt and olive picholine oil, the famous brandade of Nimes toasted on Fresh bread.

This would be an occasion to sample some extra brut champagnes, from small producers. I would mention the Raymond Boulard house, as well as some marvellous vintage from Lallier, but also a nice dry Chenin blanc from Jacky Blot.

Then we would set up the plancha and have baby squids a la plancha with chorizo. This makes a terrific match with a dry Riesling from Alsace (or German from Mosel valley).

We could then have a fantastic Mediterranean seabass stuffed with fresh fennel in a salt crust. That could be the time from a Meursault Genevrieres from the Comtes Lafon, with reasonable age (10 to 15 years).

We would then switch on reds certainly sampling a wild duck fillet just ovened in a fig leaf, with a great Northern Rhône Syrah. I personnaly love the earthiness of Cornas, from Courbis, or Clape, but may others would do.

We could go on with a rack of lamb with fresh thyme, and search for a fantastic Grenache Noir, here the whole southern Rhone would do. From the unique style of Reynaud (Rayas or Fonsalette) to the smashing fruit of Clos du Caillou or la Janasse...

Then a cheese platter, mainly sheep and goat cheeses in this area, and you can dig into a Jura non oxidised white wine, or a very iodined great white from Grenache blanc and gris from Roussillon.

For desert, a nice white fruit soufflé would introduce us to great late harvests, which will range from Sauternes to Quart de Chaume, and trockenbeerauslese... not forgetting the fantastic Alsace grain Nobles...

For coffee, with dark chocolate, an old vintage port will lead conversations to last overnight... at least.

What's the most common misconception that people have about French wines?

I think a lot to do with perception of French wine and gastronomy is about too much complexity therefore it can scare people a lot.

French wines are very diverse, for sure, but what I always try to convey as a key message about wine is that it is all about enjoyment and sharing. Do not bother if you cannot make a 5 minute comment on a wine. Just think whether you like it or not, trust your own senses.

No expert can tell you what is good or not for you, the preference lies in each person own experience, so there should not be any social pressure built into the choice of a wine for an individual. Trust yourself and sample everything you will buy!!!

Is there a wine you've always wanted to try, but never had the chance to?

I would love to try all terroirs of la Romanée Conti, Burgundy reds can really be fantastic when made exceptional. And I believe this one is quite outstanding.

(For more info on Mr Baudet and Mas Neuf see: http://www.chateau-mas-neuf.com/en/winegrower.htm)

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