Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Food and wine pairing at Chateau Feely, Saussignac

We had an absolutely phenomenal day at Chateau Feely, in Saussignac, so I have to share it with you all.

Great wines, great company, great vineyard.
Check out the chicken tractor! We want one.
We were greeted by Dora, the farm dog, who was completely adorable and totally excited to have new people visiting her and her humans on this biodynamic, organic winery snug on the French hills overlooked by Saussignac castle. We were then met by South African-born Caro Feely, lady of the Chateau and all round awesome dude. It was a real treat to meet someone so passionate about her land, her vines and the concept of terroir.

At the start of the day we toured the vineyard, learning about the Feely family's journey into wine (you can read more about it in Caro's books - my copies are winging their way to me as we speak and one is currently on offer for 99p on Amazon). The area was lush and buzzing with life. Delicate wild orchids were beginning to push up their frail heads - they have only been present for the last five or so years as the effects of the organic and biodynamic methods have led to a balanced enough environment for them to thrive.

Look at my big French wine and cheese belly!
Caro talked all about their farming methods and the comparison between the lush beauty of their land compared to the neighbouring conventional farmer's was stark. I know where I'd prefer to live! The best bit for us was seeing Sean Feely, Caro's husband, weeding the farm by tractor, using a special hoe attachment which raked up the weeds and turned the soil, but very cleverly lifted up to avoid the vines. It took mere seconds to weed a full row, where hours of manual labour were previously necessary. Most ingenious.

After the tour it was time to get down and dangerous and taste a selection of Chateau Feely's wines, discuss their flavours and generally shoot the shit about wine making, tasting and enjoyment.




Sensualité: dry very pale rosé wine from cabernet sauvignon
A really light, almost salty nose - characteristic of the limestone soils on which it is grown - with a very delicate fruit scent - peach, perhaps something more exotic like guava. It is pressed quickly which gives it its distinctive super light colour and gives a zesty then crisp flavour which is light and fresh. With high acidity and medium alcohol it gives a burst of flavour which has a hint of residual sugar, just enough to turn the acidity into very faint notes of crisp green apples and frozen grapes. This is a red wine drinker's rose, should such a thing exist. We both loved it. A winner with a fresh, crisp goat's cheese.
Luminosité: sauvignon blanc sémillon dry white wine blend 
Scents of rosehip from the hedgerow, a dash of apple compote and a very light spice arise from this wine, which has a more traditional pale yellow colour. It is a more rounded flavour than the Sensualité, less dry with lighter acidity but that is not to deny its pleasant astringency. It feels thicker in the mouth, has a more luxurious texture. There is more alcohol and a light barrel age which gives it more richness. As such, it can cope with more powerful flavours, being surprisingly excellent with creme fraiche and smoked trout.
 
The tasting room
Mille Fleurs 2013: pure sémillon dry white wine (orange coloured wine) no sulphites added
The real surprise of the day for us and the most interesting with a variety of food - but complementing especially deep subtle flavours like the nutty notes along with the creaminess of the echourgnac - our first introduction to 'nun cheese' from Périgord. This wine is the colour of honey or a light beer, with just a tinge of pink. It has floral smells - but citrusy, like orange blossom water. It is deeper than that sounds though, like marmalade. In the mouth it is lighter still, but refreshing along with the complexity of a slight spice hint, perhaps cinnamon. It develops really slowly in the mouth, it is a mellow feel, with cidery honey flavours. It has a very long finish and leaves a light salinity on the roof of the mouth, again reflecting the composition of the Feely vineyards. A fascinating wine that can cope with even the strong flavours of a curry, go tarka dal - matched at last.

Considering wine with the goddess - possibly Demeter?
Haut Garrigue merlot: Bergerac AOC
From an earlier incarnation of the winery, this wine has a slight brown to the colour from the age. I didn't really know too much about this before Caro explained it, but have since found this excellent colour chart, which I am quite tempted to buy the poster of because it's rather cool... Anyway, the merlot is earthy, truffly and savoury on the nose, but still hints at something slightly sweet and even autumnal - we likened it to the forest floor. The flavour is smooth, light with a touch of fennel-like vegetal flavours, maybe even liquorice. There is a light tannin hit and as you would imagine the predominate fruit flavours are soft black fruits. This is also good with cheese, from the tangy goat's cheese to a more full and creamy camembert.

 I have to admit that my notes were terrible and for some reason I didn't properly note down the names or years of the wines. But the final hefty red was also amazing - a punchy smell, that was oaky and every so slightly acetony. It was full of body in the mouth, evoking barrel, cocoa and big, savoury tannins.
Fabulous, local food
We also tasted the dessert wine, by which point I decided I had more than enough to write about. And I was right. After the initial tasting and discussion, while we enjoyed a glass of the rose and browsed through the Feely's excellent wine library, Caro prepared lunch for us and gave us the opportunity to taste all the wines again with the foods - testing the matches she had suggested, seeing what suited our palette and seeing if there were any combinations we thought were good that she had not suggested. It was a fascinating experience, but if I wrote in depth about it, we would be here forever. There were endless good and bad combinations - some things we got right on, some flavour profiles just didn't match at all, but once one person had said 'don't have the smoked duck with that wine!' then the other just had to try it, just to see. 


It is always fascinating to see what combines well, and how different foods change the character of the wine you are drinking. It's well worth trying it out for yourself, especially with the expert guidance of someone like Caro Feely. I think it is completely possible that with the right food you would end up loving a wine that you would never drink on its own. 

The final wine, the dessert wine, was in many ways a real revelation for us, as I have never really dared to pair a very sweet wine with blue cheese before, yet it was absolutely excellent and took it really well. Then the dark chocolate gave a while different experience. Amusingly, since we got home, I saw a random old documentary of Heston Blumenthal where he made a dessert with blue cheese melted in to dark chocolate which was served with a sweet wine, so there must be something in it! After that we were treated to a homemade passionfruit sorbet and creme brulee ice cream which were completely to die for. I was totally blown away by the food and the sensory experience. And a little bit tiddly by that point as well.

Once we had finished, Caro took us down to another winery, Chauteau Jaubertie, where we took some more tastings and continued our discussions about flavours, textures and aromas. I had definitely got bored of writing notes by this point and just let myself enjoy the experience, sorry about that. But even wine bloggers have to let themselves go and just live in the moment sometimes, y'know?

So many, many thanks to Terroir Feely. I cannot recommend their wines, their tours and their food and wine pairing lunch enough. It is a truly awesome experience to meet somebody so knowledgeable and so passionate and you cannot help to be infected by that enthusiasm yourself. One of those days that makes you fall in love with wine all over again.

 

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