April 15, 2013

Reviewing the Wines of Chêne Bleu

By In Tasting Reports
There really is a blue oak tree in this southern Rhone wine estate. An ancient oak presiding over the 87 acre vineyard, restored medieval priory and forests in the foothills of Mount Ventoux. Its dead now sadly but imaginatively preserved.

“During the great drought of 2005, this mighty oak was rescued and transformed by Marc Nucera, a young Provencal tree sculptor of international repute. He protected and preserved oour majestic oak tree by treating its branches with bouillie bordelaise, the blue-green solution used to protect organic vineyards around the world. The tree’s blue extremities highlighted its beautiful shape, as well as the enduring inner strength of its architecture – thereby revealing a unique an arresting piece of natural art”

This majestic oak graces, in stylised form, the labels of the Chêne Bleu estates wines.

They produce just a few different wines making full utilisation of the high altitude of their vines to produce biodynamic wines in the southern Rhone region of Ventoux with more than a nod to the styles of the northern Rhone. The plantings of Grenache and Syrah have had smaller plantings of Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Clairette and Mourvedre added over the years; totally typical to this region of France.

chene bleu label detail

What isn’t so typical is the supreme quality and excellence of the wines. Expensive yes, but so worth sampling if you see them on a restaurant wine list. They are predominantly found in restaurants although one or two smaller independents might be lucky to secure a few bottles (Hedonism Wines were mentioned as one London stockist). Production is minuscule with no more than 600 cases of each wine produced each year.

Momo, the acclaimed Moroccan/North African restaurant just off Regents Street in London, lists one of the Chêne Bleu range. It was here I met up with one of the estates marketing team to sample the range and experiment in matching the wines with the Moroccan dishes.

It’s a fine place is Momo, elbow-crunchingly close tables, atmosphere and décor setting the theme and high prices for some of the wines. Online reviews were generally praise-worthy although service was mentioned as not being a strong point. Can’t say we had experienced any issues. The food can’t really be faulted.

To start a most interesting dish – a surprisingly sweet Wood Pigeon Pastilla (£9.00). “Fine filo pastry filled with sweet and lightly spiced wood pigeon, almonds and cinnamon, served with an orange confit”. Sweet enough to be a dessert! Most wines are going to struggle with the mix of meat and sweetness but, I have to say, the Chêne Bleu Heloise, the richest and sweeter-fruited of the two reds was a delightful accompaniment.

The white, Chêne Bleu Aliot 2009, and the rosé, Chêne Bleu Rosé 2011, were on the table during the opening food salvo. Tuna Tartare (£10.50) brought out some wonderful complex notes in the rosé and I thoroughly enjoyed matching it to the Octopus (with roasted peppers, smoked paprika and warm ratte potatoes £10.50). The Aliot also shone with the Octopus. This wine, a blend of Roussanne and White Grenache with a splash of Marsanne, has lovely flavours of tropical fruits and positively exploded with flavour when sampled next to the seafood.

The mains – the three of us generously shared our selections. Me first with a Lamb Tangine (£22.50), served under a traditional conicalled terracotta dish, meltingly good lamb tussled with pears, sweet prunes, almonds and onions. Such flavours are going to decimate a dry white but the rosé held it together nicely. More acceptable, perhaps, were the two red wines – the Heloise 2007, mentioned before, was the richer, sweeter of the pair. The Grenache/Syrah blend in the Abelard 2007 was also a grand match.

With my dining compatriots picking the Momo Grill (roast honey quail, lamb cutlet, merguez, chicken kofta with roasted veg £28) and Vegetarian Couscous (Barley wheat, stuffed spinach, artichokes, sautéed vegetables and split pea sauce) our sampling of the culinary delights of Morocco was complete.

The reds, rather obviously, were superb matches for the mixed meat grill with the Abelard, with a lighter more aromatic touch, revelling in the exotic spices. The vegetable dish saw the rosé coming into its own yet again and, while the cheapest of the range at around £15 retail a bottle, revealed a near perfect multi-dish accompaniment.

Many thanks to Lizzie for showing the wines and introducing me to Momo; a grand evening with some fabulous wines. From the versatile rosé through to the two stunning reds there wasn’t a disappointment in the line-up. Dougie-boy was there too.

Photo Gallery: Reviewing the Wines of Chêne Bleu at Momo Restaurant, London

The conditions in Momo – the darkness predominantly and the rather cramped positioning of our table, precluded the ability to take many meaningful photos. Hence the lack of any photographs of the food. [Although a photo of Wine Glasses at Momo was posted yesterday]

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1 Comment
  1. Lawrence B April 16, 2013

    My mouth literally started watering while I was reading this. I am long overdue for an outing to a really good restaurant and a great bottle of red.
    I won’t thank you for making me salivate!


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