Wine Tasting Class at Le Vignoble - Bath
Yannick Loué and Ele Braund, founders of Le Vignoble, launched their second wine bar in Bath this spring. But just before they officially opened their doors in Milsom Place, I was treated to a behind the scenes show around of their trendy new abode. After my visit, I wrote a blog post detailing what I discovered about Le Vignoble; who they are and why they chose the location of Bath as their second venture outside of Plymouth.
If you are unfamiliar with Le Vignoble, I'd suggest having a read through my previous post, before returning here to find out what I have in store today...
The lovely team at Le Vignoble invited me to the launch of their first ever wine tasting event, which took place at their new residence in Bath a few weeks ago. A balmy summer's night calls for just one thing...
And to accompany a refreshing tipple? How about a delicious '15 Month aged Comté Tartine'? (£8.50) Toasted sourdough generously topped with creamy, nutty, molten French cheese, slivered pieces of dried apricot, a dusting of pistachio crumbs and a drizzle of warm honey. Mmm, yes please! Thank you Le Vignoble!
Our wine tasting class was hosted by Lisbon-born, António Maçanita, co-founder of Azores Wine Company, Portugal.
So what did I discover about the Azores Wine Company?
Firstly, the company was established in 2014 by António Maçanita, Filipe Rocha and Paulo Machado, from Insula Vinus, Lda. The trio, all profoundly connected to the Azores, had a singular vision; "We want to bring the world to the Azores, and take the Azores to the world'!
The Azores were first inhabited in the 15th century, and since then, the islands have developed at a far slower pace than their Atlantic siblings. Take the Canary Islands as a prime example - it's a hotspot for mass-tourism, as we all know. As a result, the Azores archipelago in the mid-Atlantic, has long been 'hidden' from the intrepid traveller. As one critic once summed up, these nine farming islands are effectively "the Hawaii of the Atlantic, lost in deep seas." So, it comes as no surprise, that António, had such an intrinsic drive and passion to promote and preserve Azorean wines. As he once put it, "we want the Azores to be tasted in a glass of wine… have you taste our land and our sea".
The Azores Wine Company are busy recovering c.100 hectares of vineyard on Pico Island - the second largest island in the Central Group of the Azores archipelago. The island's distinctive vineyards sit at the foothills of Pico Mountain (the highest peak in Portugal, and the third highest in the Atlantic Ocean). A complex labyrinth of rectangular pens (currais) dominates the land here, and it is within these stone walled currais that the plants thrive. They thrive on the mineral-rich lava soil and the volcanic rock (black basalt) which has a tendency to "absorb and give back heat, which leads to grapes ripe with sugar". Although the vineyards are exposed to extreme conditions given their proximity to the sea (between a mere 50 to 300 metres away!), the stone walled currais protects the plants from maritime winds, sea salt and spray. However, we discovered that "the sea works its way from underneath, blending with the rain´s freshwater in a combination of brackish water where the vineyards´ roots drink from".
It was mentioned that the best vineyards are those that are located close to the sea, where you can hear the crabs singing. So what better way to put this proposition to the test than with a sampling of António's fantastic wines? We sampled four whites followed by two reds...
First, we sampled 'Verdelho O Original Branco 2016' (£31.20) - As per its name, this wine is the only original Azorean traditional grape variety that grows on the islands of Pico, Terceira and Graciosa. A tropical aroma of Azorean pineapple and passionfruit reveals fresh, fruity and even salty notes! António recommends pairing this wine with grilled fish, fresh seafood and salads.
We then moved onto sampling 'Arinto Dos Açores Branco 2016' (£31.20) and 'Arinto Dos Açores Sur Lies Branco 2016' (£41.20) - Both unique grape varieties to the Azores Islands, and, although they share the "same name and good acidity of the mainland Arinto, the grapes are not related." The tasting notes were fresh, fruity and mineral. Planted so close to the ocean, the palette could definitely detect hints of their sea-born origin. The perfect partner in crime? Try with fresh oysters, we were told!
Our final white, which comes in as the priciest of the six we sampled on the night, at £52.65, was a superb savouring of 'Terrantes Do Pico 2016'. Its oceanic climate really comes through once more in the salty, acidic, fresh tasting notes. A completely unique experience.
Overall, I'd comment that the tasting notes of all four whites definitely transports you to the coast. The feeling of having the wind whip through your hair, the sea spray licking your cheeks, whilst leaving a salty residue on your lips!
Now for some vinho tinto!
The final two tipples of the evening we enjoyed were 'Vulcanico Tinto 2015' (£22.55) and 'Isabella A Proibida 2016' (£25.30) Two fresh, elegant, salty and spicy reds which pair well with seasoned red or white meats.
Meeting the winemaker, António, and having the opportunity to discover all about his winery in the Azores was a great experience and thoroughly fascinating. If you love the vine, then take a look at what upcoming events Le Vignoble have by either visiting their website here, or popping in to see them at their wine lounge on Milsom Place...
Many thanks to Yannick, Ele and António for a fun and informative evening! I look forward to returning again soon!