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UNCORK AND UNWIND


In late April, Peter Graham Wines invited four of our team members to the isolated yet alluring village of Cairanne, nestled within the Rhone Valley, located in the Southern region of France. We stayed at Domaine Boutinot, amidst the vineyards, winery and barrel cellar. With stretching views across to the aptly named church of Notre Dame de la Vigne et du Rosaire (church of the vine and the rosary).


We were accompanied by Wine Buyer and Account Director for Peter Graham Wines, Andy Gaskin and Ed Fancourt, Account Manager at Boutinot. Their expertise and passion for wine made our experience all the more enjoyable and informative.



WINE TOUR AND TASTING


On arrival at Domaine Boutinot we were introduced to Graham and Leslie who got our wine experience started with a chilled glass of Les Cerisiers, Côtes Du Rhône Rosé. No sooner had we finished our first glass, we were seated to tuck into a hearty steak dinner, accompanied by a classic La Côte Sauvage Cairanne, Côtes Du Rhône Villages. Several glasses and a few deep conversations later, we were ready to hit the hay.


We woke up to a freshly prepared breakfast complete with warm pastries, bread, and much-needed coffee. We of course took full advantage of this amazing spread to ready ourselves for the exciting day ahead.


Heading across to the winery, we met with Julien Dugas, full-time winemaker at Domaine Boutinot, whose passion for his craft was palpable as he spoke. He gave us an extensive tour of the winery, explaining how the grapes are carefully harvested and sorted to ensure that only the best quality fruit is used. Then, they are de-stemmed and crushed to release the juice. The juice is then fermented in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks with natural yeasts. This process allows for the natural flavours and aromas of the grapes to fully develop.


The Boutinot winery produces a range of wines, including red, white, and rosé, using a variety of grape varieties such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre. After touring the winery we started our wine tasting, trying a grand total of 10 wines. We tasted for specific flavours and characteristics in each sip.


Toast - The inside of the oak barrels used for winemaking are typically toasted; this is when the interior of a barrel is gently heated with an open flame . Toasting transforms the flavours of the barrel from raw wood to spice and vanilla notes. Toasting can help release new flavours into the wine and can give it distinctive flavour characteristics.


Oak - Storing wine in oak barrels can impart flavours of vanilla, caramel and toast, as well as notes of spice and smoke. A larger barrel allows for a stronger flavour as more wine comes into contact with the oak sides.


Tannins - Tannins are natural compounds found in the skins, seeds and stems of grapes used to make wine. They are also found in oak barrels used to age wine. Tannins give wine its characteristic bitterness which can make the wine taste dry or sweet in the mouth. They also act as a natural preservative. Tannins are more prevalent in red wines than in white wines, as red wines are made with the grape skins while white wines are made without them.



THE VINES


For lunch we headed from our accommodation to a small picnic spot overlooking Cairanne and the surrounding vineyards. As we walked there, Julien explained to us the differences in how the vines grow. He pointed out that the bush vines were pruned to grow without any support and allowed to grow freely, resulting in a lower yield but higher quality grapes. In contrast, the trellis vines were trained to grow along a support system, allowing for better management of the vine canopy, higher yields and better grape quality in cooler climates.


Both vines thicken with age and can live as long as 125 years, however their yield tends to gradually decrease once they've reached 20 to 25 years.



BRINGING THE RHONE HOME


During our short stay we even got the opportunity to mix and bottle our own red wine using a mixture of grape varieties to create our preferred balance. This was later brought back to the UK by Ed and promptly drank in the days following.


We finished our stay in Cairanne with a trip to Le Tourne Au Verre (The Glass Turner - in English) , a local restaurant offering traditional French cuisine and a huge selection of both local and regional wines. We tucked into a 3 course meal and of course washed it down with a few glasses to toast an excellent trip.


If you're looking for a taste of the Rhône at home, we recommend you try the Côtes du Rhône Reserve du Fleur from our selection of Spicy and Bold Reds when you next visit a Chestnut pub. Hailing from the Rhône region in France, this blend embodies a youthful and fresh flavour, with notes of bright fruit and hints of pepper and spice.



EXCITING NEWS!


Speaking of wine... Chestnut are proud to announce our recent acquisition of the well-known and respected specialist wine merchant Peter Graham Wines. Having worked very closely together over the last 10 years we are excited to embark on this new chapter. Both brands are very closely aligned and share similar core values. This is particularly evident in the desire to transition to a more sustainable business model and we already have plans in place to reduce our carbon footprint by optimising the logistics operations. After a wonderfully enjoyable and insightful trip, we are so looking forward to working alongside the team at Peter Graham Wines in the future.


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