Thursday, June 10, 2010

Academie Internationale du Vin

Vanya Cullen and I are the two Australian members of the Academie Internationale du Vin, drawn from wine professionals (most with winemaking background) from around the world, Europe providing most of the membership. Mid-year it makes a trip to a wine region, and in December meets in Geneva for a symposium at which learned papers are delivered (in French) by its members.

Three sun-filled and decidedly hot (plus 30˚C) days in Chateauneuf-du-Pape (above) and Gigondas greeted the 120 members of the Academie du Vin de France and of the Academie Internationale du Vin in a rare joint summer convocation. The first day began in the late afternoon with a ‘gaudineto’, a Provencale multi-course dinner at the Auberge de Cassagne, where most of us stayed (below). Visits to (and tastings, of course) Domaine des Bosquets and Chateau St Cosme in Gigondas (plus obligatory dissertations in rapid-fire French, covering all manner of things including the complicated geology underpinning the terroir of Gigondas) were leavened by a high quality lunch at Restaurant L’Oustalet on the main square of Gigondas under massive plane trees providing total shade. The afternoon (Palais des Papes) and dinner (Hotel de l’Europe) in Avignon were play-time events, the dinner made serious by the even better food.

The next day was largely given to Chateau de Beaucastel, with more dissertations, before a fascinating tasting of the components of Beaucastel Rouge: mourvedre (30%) providing tannin structure, grenache (30%) the core of the fruit flavours and drive; counoise (15%), a surprise packet liked by all for its intensity (nervosity), elegance and length; syrah (10%) giving colour and acidity; cinsaut (5%) mid-palate fruit and spice, the remaining 10% equally split between various white and red varieties. Lunch followed in a very large and very stylish white-tented outdoor setting before a visit to Domaine de Vieux Télégraphe (four vintages back to 1985). A costume change into best plumage was followed by hors d’oeuvres and Billecart-Salmon before a dinner in the Beaucastel Cellars, highlighted by 1987 Vielles Vignes (70 year old) Reserve Reserve Roussanne (golden and nutty), then 1980 Beaucastel Rouge, a glorious wine in exceptional condition.

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