Bordeaux 2016: thoroughly British

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Ch. Léoville Barton. Photograph: Jason Lowe

In his final post, Will Lyons reports on the last day of tasting, the nature of the 2016 vintage and highlights a few of his favourite wines

The port of Beychevelle sits at the end of a long road that snakes its way past the château down towards the muddy flats of the Gironde. In the 1600s, ships sailing past this stretch of water would lower their sails in salute to the Duc d’Epernon, an Admiral of France who owned the property. The expression was known as “baisse-vaille” meaning “lower sails”, and it is believed that is where the château derived its name. That’s the story anyway.

But it is here, in the heart of St Julien, midway through the last day of en primeur week, that seems a good place to reflect on the samples tasted and the vintage as a whole.

We started our day in St Julien, a commune which lies just to the north of Margaux and south of Pauillac. Here the soil is deep gravel with a little sand and clay. The Cabernet Sauvignon variety thrives here, producing wines that are poised, elegant and structured. They may not have the immediate, attractive perfume of Margaux or the power of Pauillac but their charm is somewhere in the middle.

In 2016 St Julien has produced lovely wines, perhaps the most consistent in style. Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou is a case in point. More subtle and delicate than in previous vintages, it has subtle floral notes of graphite, dark fruit and blackcurrant. Ch. Léoville Barton is back on form with a glorious, fresh vitality, while Léoville-Las Cases is deep and brooding with power, elegance and fine acidity. It will cellar for many generations. Ch. Beychevelle has power wrapped in a silky, voluptuous texture. There is a lovely tannic structure and it finishes long, with a persistent finish.

The 2016 vintage will go down as one suited to the British palate. What does that mean? Well, it means the wines have lower alcohol levels than in previous years, attractive fruit – but most importantly freshness and acidity, which makes them eminently drinkable.

It feels as if quality is fairly even across the communes this year, nevertheless the further up the Médoc we travelled, the more we enjoyed the wines. Ch. Lafite-Rothschild made a sensational wine this year – the embodiment of elegance and finesse; while Ch. Grand-Puy-Lacoste is suave and generous on the palate with very good length.

On the Right Bank there were a number of standouts. Marielle Cazaux, the new winemaker at La Conseillante, has got off to a flying start, producing one of the wines of the vintage; while Le Pin, although hugely concentrated, is amongst the finest we have tasted. Vieux Château Certan and Figeac are also very good.

There are some lovely wines in 2016 with vitality and freshness: something we have all grown to love and expect from decent Claret.

Find all our coverage of Bordeaux 2016 here

Category: Bordeaux Wine

On the table: Rochelle Canteen

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We’re always on the look-out for excellent BYO restaurants and, while Rochelle Canteen has been on our radar for a while, it has – until now – only been open for midweek lunches. We sent Sophie Thorpe to investigate its extended hours

A canteen – it doesn’t sound very… Berry Bros. & Rudd, does it? Luckily Rochelle Canteen’s name alludes not to self-service and trays of “slops”, but to its position within an old Victorian school. In fact, this corner of the school, just off Arnold Circus, used to be the bike shed, surely the location of many teenagers’ illicit activity over the years.

But, Shoreditch though it may be, ex-bike-shed or no, any place that offers a good bring-your-own deal tends to feature high on my restaurant wish-list. While last month’s feature on the delightfully wine-angled and white-table-clothed restaurant at Bonhams proved that there are establishments willing to offer corkage, it’s always useful to be able to pray on those lacking a licence. Clapham’s irresistible Counter Culture became a regular haunt for exactly that reason, and I can see Rochelle Canteen wooing me in the same way.

For years Rochelle Canteen has been eluding me, open only for midweek lunches – catering to Shoreditch’s casual freelancers and flexi-workers. But now, after years of wondering whether the rumours about this spot were true, nine-to-fivers have been granted access for evenings and even weekends.

Low-key this Canteen may be, but boy is the food good. Founded by Melanie Arnold and Margot Henderson (wife of nose-to-tail chef Fergus Henderson), Rochelle Canteen clearly shares some of its philosophy with St John; casual, comfortable, simple food and seasonal ingredients. It sounds easy, a little clichéd even, yet so many places miss the mark. Rochelle Canteen has been quietly going about its business for over a decade now, and you can see why it’s still keeping custom.

Duck rillettes melted away next to the crunch of wholemeal sourdough toast while pickled cucumbers pirouetted on the line between sweet and sour. Buxom Marinda tomatoes, bursting with juices and oven-roasted, countered the soothing, cool creaminess of goats’ curd. Barbecued mackerel sat alongside a salad of thinly shaved fennel and kohlrabi: pure, clean and elegant, perfectly suited to an early spring day. At the more indulgent end of the spectrum sat grilled onglet, white beans and grelots; seared slithers of beef were slathered in piquant gremolata, perched on a pile of meek beans.

And the puddings – while my heart cried for the trifle, my sensible stomach opted for a more measured option: tart rhubarb with bulbous meringue and thick double cream (undoubtedly one of my five a day…). Of course, I didn’t pass on the option of tasting ginger loaf, vanilla ice cream and butterscotch sauce, a dish that offered all the comfort of a school canteen with the class and quality worthy of the establishment.

But how did we take advantage of this licence-free lunch? Champagne to start, of course – the powerful yet poised Roses de Jeanne, Côte de Val Vilaine from Cédric Bouchard, followed by an exceptional bottle of 2003 Nuits-St Georges, Les Boudots from Nicolas Potel; a juicy voluptuous Pinot with a haunting nose, big enough to handle the food without losing its balance. With corkage of £8 for fizz and £6.50 for anything else, you can’t do much better elsewhere.

Rochelle Canteen isn’t perfect (the glassware being a little utilitarian for those vinously inclined), but it comes pretty close. This is scrumptious fuss-free food – the sort of thing that sings gloriously alongside most bottles, and for that I’m happy to handle the goblets. Rochelle is a canteen with true class.

What we drank:

Rochelle Canteen, Rochelle School, Arnold Circus, London E2 7ES

Category: Food & Wine

Bordeaux 2016: uniquely drinkable

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Ch. Pichon-Longueville-Baron. Photograph: Jason Lowe

On the penultimate day of our team’s trip tasting Bordeaux 2016 en primeur, Will Lyons journeys along the fabled D2 through the Médoc, finding a Cabernet vintage that is uniquely terroir-driven

There are few roads that can lay claim to being the most exciting on the wine route. The Silverado trail in Napa perhaps, the Route des Grands Crus in Burgundy has a genuine claim, and you could even mention the Avenue de Champagne in the same breath, but the D2, which winds its way up the northern Médoc, is something special.

We left early, just after sunrise, cutting through the vines on the outskirts of Margaux to pick up the D2 just on the northern side of the commune. From here it’s a straight drive through agricultural land. The road doesn’t get interesting again until you hit the corner of St Julien and then boy does it pick up. Nicknamed by the British wine trade as the “thirsty corner”, from here you drive pass Ch. Beychevelle before passing Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou standing majestically in the vines to your right, its terrace decorated with the fluttering flags of all nations. The road snakes on, past Ch. Léoville Barton before you hit the majesty of Léoville-Las Cases, Léoville Poyferré and then it is a clear run up to Pauillac past Latour, the two Pichons and into St Estèphe. For anyone with just a passing interest in wine, driving down this route can’t fail to quicken the pulse.

Tasting this year has been an absolute joy. The samples are quite simply some of the easiest we have tasted. The wines are hugely concentrated with ripe tannins but there is a purity of attractive fruit and, as a ribbon of acidity runs through nearly every wine, they feel fresh. By this stage of the week most tasters are feeling jaded but palates are in good shape. If I had to come up with a catch-all word to describe these wines I would say “drinkability”. They are drinkable and will appeal to those of us who like our wines slightly fresher.

As Jean-Michel Cazes of Ch. Lynch-Bages says, this is possibly the most unique vintage in his career. “In terms of colour, concentration and tannin I have never seen anything like it,” he said. “The acidity is good, which brings freshness.” He points to the Cabernet Sauvignon, which has performed well in the 2016 growing season.

Certainly the higher up the Médoc you taste, the more exciting the wines are. Basile Tesseron at Ch. Lafon-Rochet, to the north of St Estèphe, said he has never tasted Cabernet Sauvignon like this. “I grew up on the estate, I learned to walk in the cellar and ride a bike in the grounds. We think it is the best vintage in St Estèphe for 60 years.”

But let’s not get carried away: quality isn’t uniform. But the best wines are concentrated and not too blousy.

“This vintage has the ability to re-set Bordeaux,” says our Bordeaux Buyer Max Lalondrelle. “It is a return to the DNA of Bordeaux wine. You can taste the terroir, where they are from. It’s a very pure Cabernet Sauvignon vintage; the further north you go, the purer the Cabernet. If you had to describe to an outsider what Bordeaux tastes like, this vintage is the perfect representation of purity of the Cabernet. It’s pure but like crunching into fresh currants, it has this unbelievable freshness rather than power.” It is, in short, unique.

Read all our coverage of Bordeaux 2016 here.

Category: Miscellaneous

The world’s 50 best restaurants

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Enrico Crippa from Alba’s Piazza Duomo celebrates being placed at No.15

While the wine world is looking to Bordeaux, this week all foodie eyes are on Sydney, where the glitterati of the restaurant world convened for the annual awards ceremony announcing The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Here’s the full list

The top spot was taken by New York’s Eleven Madison Park, as last year’s No.1, Osteria Francescana, slipped to No.2. France, Spain and the USA all stole six spots in the top 50 – but the UK wasn’t forgotten, with three London hot-spots making it in: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (36), The Ledbury (27) and The Clove Club (26 – read our review from earlier in the year here). One of the newest additions to London’s bakery scene, creator of the Cronut and conveniently close to No.3 St James’s Street, Dominique Ansel was named The World’s Best Pastry Chef; while Heston Blumenthal walked away with the Diners Club® Lifetime Achievement Award.

The world’s 50 best restaurants
  1. Eleven Madison Park, New York, USA
  2. Osteria Francescana, Modena, Italy
  3. El Celler de Can Roca, Girona, Spain
  4. Mirazur, Menton, France
  5. Central, Lima, Peru
  6. Asador Etxebarri, Axpe, Spain
  7. Gaggan, Bangkok, Thailand
  8. Maido, Lima, Peru
  9. Mugaritz, San Sebastian, Spain
  10. Steirereck, Vienna, Austria
  11. Blue Hill at Stone Barns, New York, USA
  12. Arpège, Paris, France
  13. Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée, Paris, France (re-entry)
  14. Restaurant André, Singapore
  15. Piazza Duomo, Alba, Italy
  16. O.M., São Paulo, Brazil
  17. Le Bernardin, New York, USA
  18. Narisawa, Tokyo, Japan
  19. Geranium, Copenhagen, Denmark
  20. Pujol, Mexico City, Mexico
  21. Alinea, Chicago, USA
  22. Quintonil, Mexico City, Mexico
  23. White Rabbit, Moscow, Russia
  24. Amber, Hong Kong, China
  25. Tickets, Barcelona, Spain
  26. The Clove Club, London, UK
  27. The Ledbury, London, UK
  28. Nahm, Bangkok, Thailand
  29. Le Calandre, Rubano, Italy
  30. Arzak, San Sebastian, Spain
  31. Alléno Paris au Pavillon Ledoyen, Paris, France (new entry)
  32. Attica, Melbourne, Australia
  33. Astrid y Gastón, Lima, Peru
  34. De Librije, Zwolle, Netherlands
  35. Septime, Paris, France
  36. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London, UK
  37. Saison, San Francisco, USA
  38. Azurmendi, Larrabetzu, Spain
  39. Relae, Copenhagen, Denmark
  40. Cosme, New York, USA (new entry)
  41. Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet, Shanghai, China
  42. Boragó, Santiago, Chile
  43. Reale, Castel Di Sangro, Italy (new entry)
  44. Brae, Birregurra, Australia (new entry)
  45. Den, Tokyo, Japan (new entry)
  46. L’Astrance, Paris, France (re-entry)
  47. Vendôme, Bergisch Gladbach, Germany
  48. Restaurant Tim Raue, Berlin, Germany
  49. Tegui, Buenos Aires, Argentina (new entry)
  50. Hof Van Cleve, Kruishoutem, Belgium (re-entry)
Category: Food & Wine,Miscellaneous