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Top Ten Most Expensive Champagnes

Posted by gen On February - 10 - 2015

Want to Splash out on Posh Bubbles? Here is a list of our suggested top (and most expensive) Champagnes….

There is no questioning the marketing genius of the major Champagne houses. They have ensured that the name Champagne continues to carry almost mystical properties for the vast majority of us, and it is undoubtedly true that the top Champagnes are wonderful wines – luxurious, delicious and extremely glamorous. But the magic, meticulous hard work and rigorous selection contained in a bottle of Krug or Cristal would be nothing without the promotional genius of these so called Grande Marques. They virtually invented the concept of the brand in winemaking and have ensured that their product remains a luxury commodity. And although supermarkets continue to discount leading brands, the top tier of luxury Champagnes have seen their prices remain buoyant, and indeed continue to rise.


Champagne has also increasingly been viewed as an attractive investment option, rather than solely as a superior choice for lavish celebrations. Indeed, over the past six years, the indices for top Champagnes have experienced price rises of over 30%. The net result is that collectors and consumers clamor over the most famous brands, keeping prices suitably high. The allure of luxury Champagne is undeniable: both as a source of pleasure and as a status symbol. We have listed the top ten most expensive Champagne bottles below, focusing on standard releases rather than special limited editions – Dom Perignon’s Karl Lagerfeld designed bottle for example – and jeroboams, etc, which can fetch in excess of £30,000 a bottle.


10.) Dom Perignon 2003 Rosé

There cannot be many of us who haven’t at least heard of Dom Perignon, arguably the region’s most famous brand and poster child for the luxury image of Champagne. It’s named after the famous 17th century cellar master and Benedictine Monk who first blended Champagne, indeed the wine has quite a history: it was chosen by Diana and Charles as their wedding Champagne of choice. They are joined by such fans as Marilyn Monroe, Leonardo Di Caprio and of course, Mr. Bond. The Brut is understandably the first reference point, but their rose is always far superior; a gorgeous mosaic of red summer fruits, underpinned by that classic Dom Perignon finesse, poise and minerality – the 2003 rosé averages a price of £250 per bottle. But, it is so worth it!

10 dom

9.) NV Armand de Brignac Ace of Spades Rosé

The King of Champagne kitsch. Armand de Brignac has usurped Cristal as the rappers sparkler of choice; frequently quaffed by the artist Jay-Z, who has tirelessly promoted the brand since it appeared in his music video. De Brignac is owned by Cattier, who introduced a very successful rose which has quickly become the finest of the brand’s range. Largely Pinot Noir dominated, it displays remarkable concentrated fruit, freshness and balance. Proof that this glitzy, friend of celebrities, world-wide Champagne isn’t just all style and no substance. Yours for about £315-450 on average.


8.) Salon 1996 Blanc de Blancs

A remarkable property, not least for the fact that they only release one cuvée, and one cuvée alone in the finest vintages. Whereas the vast majority of houses release a NV each year, Salon released only five wines from 1990-2000. The house was founded in 1921 by Eugene Salon, and today their exceptional Blanc de Blancs prestige cuvee vies with Krug’s Clos du Mesnil for the title of greatest Chardonnay based Champagne. But a comparison is not needed, they are totally different Champagnes and should be viewed as such. In contrast to Mesnil’s power and majesty, Salon offers unrivalled finesse, a super-soft mousse and exquisite fruit; the very taste and smell of elegance. Bottles are in high demand, but if you can secure some then expect to pay approx £300 for the pleasure of the 1996. Salon also greatly rewards cellaring, so there is never any rush to drink your precious bottles!

7.) Louis Roederer Cristal 2004 Rosé

A glass (or bottle) of Cristal is always a good idea, a wonderful wine that has unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your viewpoint become the ultimate symbol of luxury bling and stalwart of glamorous nightspots the world over. However, move beyond the hype and you discover a wine of significant historical relevance, first made for the Russian Tsar Alexander II in 1876 for the royal court. It remains the region’s most elegant and coveted Champagne, only surpassed by the rare rose version, which is as good as Champagne gets. First released from the 1974 vintage, it is undoubtedly one of the finest rose wines in the world: sublimely elegant, fruit driven, bright, pure and very moreish. A bottle can be yours for about £310.


6.) Krug 2000 Clos du Mesnil

This legendary Champagne house has been producing superlative Champagne for well over a century, founded in the 1840s by Johann-Josef Krug. Today, Krug is a powerful expression of luxury and glamour, but more importantly it is also an incredible wine that ages for decades. The yellow labelled Grande Cuvee is justly globally celebrated and recognized, however, it is Krug’s single vineyard Champagnes that attract the highest release prices. Their famous Clos du Mesnil vineyard, replanted in 1971 and first released in 1979 is arguably Champagne’s finest expression of the Blanc de Blancs style. Expect incredible finesse, balance and a gorgeous creamy richness, underpinned by stunning acidity. Yours for just under £500.

krug 2

5.) Jacques Selosse NV Les Chantereines Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru

A living legend amongst grower Champagnes, owner Anselme Selosse only releases minute quantities of his superlative, single vineyard Blanc de Blancs from the renowned Chardonnay village of Avize. It is the very pinnacle of luxury Champagne: rare, exquisitely complex and totally exciting to drink. Selosse use oak in all stages of fermentation and ageing of their wines, yet, the standout quality of this Champagne is its purity and intensity of fruit flavor, despite the obviously oxidative quality. However, the problem is that due to the scarce production and massive demand, bottles are very hard to come buy: yours for around £520, if you’re lucky enough to find some.

selosse cellar

4.) Bollinger 1996 Vieilles Vignes Françaises

A house that requires little introduction, Bollinger has long boasted plenty of dedicated fans, including James Bond, Queen Victoria and countless others who adore the rich, Pinot Noir dominated style of their NV Special Cuvee. But, it is Bollinger’s lesser known but exquisite Blanc de Noir Champagne – Vieilles Vignes Françaises – that attracts the sky high prices, due to its scarcity and quality. Only 250 cases on average are produced from rare ungrafted vines, from the Grand Cru village of Ay. It is simply like no other Champagne on the market: bright, very intense, vigorous and in great years massively concentrated. The 1996 is available for around £750 a bottle.

boll label3.) Krug 1996 Clos D’Ambonnay

Krug has long been the favorite tipple not only of the aristocracy (the 97-year-old Queen Mother famously smuggled a case of Krug into the hospital where she was being treated), but also among those who wish the world to know of their recent wealth.  And there can be no greater status seeking Champagne that Krug’s legendary 100% Blanc de Noirs cuvée, produced from the tiny Ambonnay vineyard, perhaps Champagne’s top Pinot Noir vineyard. First launched in 2007, the 1995 vintage shook the market with its hefty price tag, due to the tiny volumes of around 3,000 bottles. It remains one of the region’s rarest Champagnes, offering unsurpassed richness, power and depth of flavor – a ‘steal’ at £1,500 per bottle.krug 32.) 1996 Boerl & Kroff Brut (Drappier) Magnum

The ultimate connoisseurs Champagne, Boerl & Kroff is a prestigious brand dreamed up by the Drappier family and created exclusively for their most discerning clients. Its origins concern three unique vineyard parcels in Aube that were used to craft presidential champagne for the Elysee palace and its guests. In 1995, owner Michel Drappier decided to vinify separately the best fruit from this legendary terroir and release a new brand of luxury Champagne; only 3000 magnums on average are bottled in the best vintages. The result is a Champagne of incredible intensity and power; magnums can cost over £3,000.

1.) Gout de Diamants (Taste of Diamonds)

Welcome to the most expensive bottle of Champagne, if not wine in the world. An unashamed expression of rarified opulence, Gout de Diamants is the brainchild of Shammi Shinh, owner of a luxury retail outlet in London; Prodiguer Brands. The wine – which ironically is the least important aspect of the brand – is produced from Grand Cru grapes in Oger, by the Chapuy family of growers. But, what really got the rich and famous interested was the Swarovski crystal in the center of a diamond-shaped pewter designed bottle, the label made from pure white gold plate.  All this luxury comes at over 1 million per bottle, a cheaper version minus the diamond can be yours for only £147,000.

1 gout

Burgundy is France’s richest province,  historically, culturally, and, of  course, gastronomically. The region boasts an enviable and proud tradition of culinary excellence and grand winemaking traditions, with the highly sought-after flavors of both red and white Burgundy in ever-growing demand today. And where there are passionate vignerons, a plethora of fine restaurants soon follows. For Burgundians are extremely discerning in their food choices and despite the influx of tourism across the area in recent years, standards remain impeccably high. Moreover, new faces and a more avant-garde approach from the emergent Burgundian firmament have ensured that the region is in no danger of slipping into gastronomic inertia; both the traditional and molecular can now be encountered across the Burgundian landscape.

hotel dieu

The Cote d’Or region, and indeed Beaujolais continue to offer an impressive diversity of restaurants, from the Michelin-starred refinement of L’Edem, to the extreme comfort of local bistros, serving mouthwatering local dishes at attractive prices. But regardless of the venue, central to the local culinary philosophy is only using the freshest, seasonal ingredients locally sourced as much as possible. Resident chefs are fortunate to have access to some of the best produce and meat in France: Bresse chickens, Charolais beef, Epoisses cheese (and many more) wild game, the list goes on. Classical dishes include:  Boeuf Bourguignon, Coq au vin and Escargot de Bourgourne but this barely scratches the surface. So, in this remarkable part of France, which certainly doesn’t lack taste, prepare to soak up the riches and amazing flavors among our selection of top restaurants in Burgundy and Beaujolais. Bon Appetit 🙂

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maison colombier

Maison Lameloise

36, place d’Armes
, Chagny 71150


Arguably the region’s most lauded restaurant, Maison Lameloise is inseparable from Burgundian tradition. With a coveted three Michelin stars to its name, it has been offering unparalleled service, food and wine for many years, and was family run for three generations. Now presided over by the formidable Eric Pras, the restaurant’s reputation nonetheless remains firmly based on serving classic dishes using seasonal and regional ingredients. Pras transforms local produce into works of art; dishes that you almost feel guilty eating. We don’t want to spoil the feast ahead, but standout dishes include his marshmallow of foie gras and gingerbread tuile; scallops with Jerusalem artichokes, ravioli of snails cooked in their juices with mild garlic, and his pigeon breast served with fresh pasta and foie gras. The wine list is suitably grand and covers all the major appellations of the region, from Grand Crus to humble village wines. Service is also spot-on, professional and not remotely stuffy. An icon of fine-dining in Burgundy and a must visit for all overs of great food and wine.

Loiseau des Vignes

Loiseau des Vignes 2

31 Rue Maufoux, 21200 Beaune

A truly remarkable restaurant, Loiseau des Vignes was the first venue in France to offer an entire list of wines by the glass, with over 65 different labels to suit all budgets and preferences. Indeed, if one word sums up Losieau then its wine paradise. Ok then, two words. The list is long, diverse and braves the lesser known in addition to the famous Grand Crus of the Cote d’Or. Opened by Dominique Loiseau in 2007, it sits proudly in the historic centre of Beaune, 250 meters away from the site of the famous Hospices de Beaune wine auction. And as you’d expect, the wine list at this Michelin-starred centre of excellence compliments superlative cuisine, overseen by head chef Mourad Haddouche. His cooking is refined, playful and bold, making use of the finest local ingredients to spectacular effect. Signature dishes include the legendary seared foie gras, the “quenelle de sandre” (a fish ball with lobster sauce) lacquered duck and chocolate cassis bomb. Loisue also boasts one of the largest after dinner cheese selections in France.

L’Auberge du Cep

Place de l’Église, 69820 Fleurie

Auberge du CEP 2

It is quite fitting that one of Beaujolais’ most famous red wine villages should boast such a fantastic and great value restaurant. L’Auberge du Cep offers excellent home cooking with no unnecessary frills, lovely service and local wines on tap. The space is cosy –  a bright small dining room tended to by friendly and English speaking staff, who will put you at ease with your choices from the daily specials board. Perhaps start with the Terrine de Canard or the famous snails, followed by a carre d’agneau or Margaret du canard. Those with a sweet tooth will love the dessert of cassis avec and fromage blanc. The wine list is diverse, but with an understandable bias toward the local Gamay grape, in all its glory. Our advice is to stick to the top Fleurie, you can’t go wrong – Highly recommended.

Loiseau des Ducs

3 Rue Vauban, 21000 Dijon

fam 6

Top notch but decidedly unstuffy, Loiseau des Ducs is the latest venture from Bernard Loiseau which opened in Dijon in July 2013. Located in the heart of Dijon’s beautiful historic quarter, the restaurant was quickly awarded its first Michelin star this year and continues to offer mouthwatering cuisine, professional service and a multitude of wines by the glass, via the Enomatic machine. Head Chef Louis-Philippe Vigilant shows no interest in fashion, rather he adopts a precise, imaginative approach to his cooking without being over-wrought or conceptualized. A quick glance at their menu confirms this fact; lobster tails in a rich lobster bisque sauce, Charolais beef fillet with a port reduction, pan friend bream, Margaret du canard with foie gras and the legendary Cep ice cream, which has to be tried to be believed! In the warmer months there are alfresco dining options available and if this restaurant has a draw back, well we can’t see it.

loiseu dijon

Hostellerie de Levernois

Rue du Golf, 21200 Levernois

hostellerie Levernois

At the heart of Burgundy’s gorgeous countryside, you’ll find one of the most idyllic and charming country hotels in France. Expertly run by husband and wife team Jean-Louis and Susanne Bottigliero, this luxury small hotel has established a mighty big reputation for its food, service and surroundings. Not to mention a wonderfully long and varied wine list – over 800 labels –  including the great names of DRC and Le Montrachet. Bottigliero’s protege is Philippe Augé, who has ensured that Levernois has kept its Michelin star and will undoubtedly preside other a second star soon. His cuisine promotes the idea of celebrating classical Burgundian heritage and so the age-old dishes are all present and correct. Yet, a touch of the modern flows through the menu; foie gras ravioli with a mushroom infusion, fillet of Charolais with Pinot Noir jus, pigeon breast cooked three ways with white truffle infusion and the Grand Marnier soufflé are just some of the highlights. Our advice – arrive hungry 🙂

Hostellerie de Levernois

Le Benaton

25 Rue du Faubourg Bretonnière, 21200 Beaune

Le Benaton

Le Benaton 2

One of Beaune’s less touristy restaurants, Le Benaton serves refined, contemporary Burgundian cuisine in a relaxed and yet elegant setting. Awarded it’s first Michelin star in 2006, owner and head chef Bruno Monnoir’s cuisine has been described by critics as the “fruit of impeccable discipline, the rigours of which are overcome every time, and transformed into creativity”. Indeed, a quick glance at his menu reveals a very modern take on classical dishes, which are executed with flawless precision and presentation. So expect daring combinations, bold flavours and perfectly conceived dishes. Although there is an extensive list of dishes a la carte, we recommend you try one of the ingenious tasting menus. One menu, the market menu, is composed of dishes only using the seasonal ingredients purchased daily from the morning market in Beaune. The highlights are numerous, but our favourite dishes include: duck foie gras with smoked eel cassis, wild turbot and butternut squash and clementine reduction, Charolais beef fillet with red wine jus and the ultimate dessert – Gold Mountain in a hot and cold caramel sauce. We won’t spoil the surprise, but trust us; you must try this spectacular dish at least once! The wine list compliments the proceedings nicely and includes all the great names you’d hope for at such a prestigious address.

La Table de Lachassagne

850 Route de la Colline, 69480 Lachassagne

La Table de Lachassagne

If you’re curious to try some of the more avant-garde experiences in modern Burgundian cuisine, then make sure to book at table at Lachassagne. The view alone is worth the price of a meal here – in the summer, a gorgeously appointed terrace overlooks the beautiful Beaujolais landscape, where you can watch vignerons harvest their precious grapes over a leisurely lunch. Head chef Anthony Fusco’s divine tasting menu offers such specialties as veal with sweetbreads, salt cod served with celery puree and vanilla mascarpone with advocat sauce, and renders them so delicately that even the most hardened food critic will be seduced. The menu is purposely kept small, allowing Fusco to concentrate on bringing each dish to perfection. His wife, Maeva, runs the front of house and keeps the restaurant feeling relaxed, friendly and warm, in contrast to many Michelin-starred venues across France. Wine lovers won’t leave disappointed, as Lachassagne boasts a veritable plethora of local vintages as well as the famous Crus of the Cote d’Or. In a word – magnifique.

Restaurant L’ Ed Em

Chassange-Montrachet, 4, impasse Chenevottes, Chassagne-Montrachet 21190


No gastronomic journey through Burgundy can omit L’ Ed Em, a restaurant as mythical for its incredible selection of white Burgundies as its superlative cuisine. Head Chef Edouard Mignort is one of the greats, having studied in Paris and Burgundy under the tutelage of various 3 Michelin starred masters, he finally achieved his dream of opening a restaurant of his own with his charming wife Emilie last year. It quickly built a mighty reputation for warm hospitality, professionalism and precise, mouth-watering cuisine executed with flair. The whole experience feels slick and polished, but without the pretension that can so often plague fine dining establishments in France. The key to Edouard’s culinary flair is his unwavering obsession with only the finest, seasonal ingredients, “everything else rests on this foundation,” he says. With this arsenal of great produce, he crafts such delights as Breton lobster and octopus, Bresse chicken with a red pepper sauce and shallot cream, not to mention strawberry poached in red wine with Chantilly cream and mint sorbet. The cheese selection, including, of course, the legendary Epoisses, is one of the best in the Cote d’ Or, as is the generously well-stocked wine cellar, containing many of the region’s most famous names with prices to match.

Guy Lassausaie

1 Rue de Belle-Sise, 69380, Chasselay

Guy Lassausaie

The tables at Lassausaie are some of the most desirable in Burgundy; with two Michelin stars to its name and widely tipped for a third, if pays to book well in advance in high season. For owner and chef Guy Lassausaie is one of the local legends, celebrated for his extremely imaginative, inventive and downright delicious culinary art. In contrast the décor is relatively simple and restrained, make no mistake the meal is the headline act here. Major highlights include game when in season and the most delicious mushroom risotto that you’ll ever eat. Sorry Italy! You could start your gastronomic adventure with fillets of sole with truffles and a prawn emulsion, langoustine with vanilla infused butter from Madagascar, Rack of Lamb with braised shoulder and pea puree, and the legendary Pinot Noir chocolate fondant. The service is similarly impressive, ultra professional yet engaging at the same time. Moreover, Guy boasts one of the most extensive wine lists in the whole of Burgundy, so even long time Burgundy nuts are bound to discover a few surprises.

Le Clos du Cèdre

2 Boulevard Maréchal Foch, 21200 Beaune

Le Clos du Cèdre

Le Clos du Cèdre 2

This outstanding restaurant is housed in the charming Hostellerie du Cedre hotel in Beaune, which attracts both residents and visitors in search of mouthwatering local cuisine. They never leave disappointed. Head chef Christophe Canati, who was appointed in 2012, has quite a pedigree; he trained in the kitchens of Bernard Louiseau and Georges Blanc, earning his first Michelin star at Hostellerie de Plaisance in Saint-Emilion in 2002. His cooking is both refined and comforting, invoking a modern take on Burgundian gastronomic traditions. So expect such delights as white crab meat on a pool of broad bean velouté, ballotine of rabbit, stuffed with foie gras and apricot and mille-feuille, served with salted caramel ice cream and salted caramel. All of this served with, naturally, an extensive selection of both red and white Burgundies, with both the superstars and more affordable options available. Service is perfectly judged and the ambiance romantic and intimate, perfect for a special occasion with a loved one. Quite simply one of the best restaurants for miles around and richly deserving of its Michelin star.

Delicious Travels!

10 Best Restaurants in Paris for Wine lovers

Posted by gen On July - 12 - 2013

The Ten Best Restaurants in Paris for Wine lovers- Cellar Tours Selection

Paris is a city of over two million people, and is today the undisputed economic, political, artistic and gastronomic hub of France. Citizens of Lyon would undoubtedly disagree, but as far as we are concerned no other city in France offers as much variety of places to eat and drink: be it high-end haute-cuisine or brasseries off the beaten track. And of course, wine lists containing both country reds and the big names of Bordeaux and Burgundy have always been an honored part of at the Parisian high-end restaurant experience.

However, a revolution in the city’s gastronomic scene has been taking place over the last three years, as a new generation of bistros and bars are making the wines far more important than the food — which has to be up-to-scratch nonetheless, but now you choose the wine first and then the chef will match appropriate dishes.

So it’s a very exciting time to be a wine lover dining out in Paris. The classic Encyclopedia size wine lists at venues like La Tour d’Argent still exist for those who love freedom of choice, which is exactly what a top wine list provides for oenophiles. The other key factor, which elevates Paris above most cities is the sheer volume of educated sommeliers in Paris, who will help you navigate those giant-size lists with ease. These venues are joined by the new kids on the block, smaller restaurants that serve a wide section of good value wines by the glass, often specializing in one region or wine style, natural wines being currently in vogue. Their numbers are growing so we’ve done the hard work for you and selected the best below.

This was a hard list to make, but here are our ten favorite restaurants in Paris for wine lovers:

La Tour d’Argent

15-17 Quai de la Tournelle

Established in 1582, La Tour d’Argent has recovered its top-class status after a slightly shaky period following the death of Claude Terrail in 2006. The main event, other than Chef Laurent Delarbre’s exquisitely refined cooking is the 15,000 bin wine list, surely one of the largest in the world! Head Sommelier David Ridgway is a true professional and will guide you toward the perfect pairing as this list literally has a wine for every eventuality. A must visit for every wine lover once in their lifetime.


Au Bourguignon du Marais

52 Rue Francois Miron,

Sip a superior wine with your excellent meal here at barely above retail prices, in a fantastic atmosphere! This venue is a dream for locals and tourists alike — great food, polite, attentive service (not always a given in Paris) and a wide selection of affordable wines. The owners generally stay away from the big names, so expect to find unexpected and hidden gems in their fantastic list.



6 rue Bailleul

A wonderful restaurant — if you can get a table – Spring has been wowing the Parians food establishment since 2006 with American born Daniel Rose’s take on classic French cuisine. The wine list is a similar delight, carefully compiled by Joshua Adler and presented with aplomb by sommelier Sandra de Barros. Their selections are extensive without being unwieldy, well-chosen and include plenty of affordable options by the glass.

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Alain Ducasse au Plaza Athénée

25, Avenue Montaigne

One for the traditionalists, Alain Ducasse’s restaurant at the hotel Plaza Athénée serves 3 Starred Michelin cuisine as refined and mind-blowing as any you’ll find in Paris. The opulent, formal surroundings are complimented by a classically styled, elaborate wine list which is a Bordeaux lovers delight. Extensive selections of older Bordeaux vintages are on offer, as well as an impressive selection of vintage Champagnes. Sommelier Laurent Roucayrol can assist with your choices but make no mistake, this is a place for a wine splurge, not a place to go on a budget.



5-6 Rue de Nil

Blink and you’ll miss it, Frenchie is a tiny haven of great bistro style cooking and fantastic wine pairings from small domaines and family enterprises, no big names to be found here! Sommelier Laura Vidal likes to focus on non celebrities, so expect lots of natural wine choices and wines from regions you probably won’t have heard of. A great place to seek out the lesser known.


Le Grand Vefour

17 Rue de Beaujolais

A monument to the importance of Paris as a capital of Gastronomy, Le Grand Vefour is a 3 Star Michelin restaurant founded in the 18th century. It is considered to be one of the most beautiful in Paris and has a very long, extensive wine list to match. The bias to French wines is understandable, considering that every major region in France produces long-lived classics. Burgundy lovers are in for a particular treat, but we would head to the Loire for the best value.

grand 4

Epicure at Hotel Le Bristol

112, Rue du Fauborg Saint-Honore

Undoubtedly one of the finest hotel dining experiences in Paris, Epicure is a hard act to follow with chef Eric Frechon’s impeccably executed take on the French classics. Locals wait months to get a table at this coveted restaurant, which also houses an extremely fine wine list with a good mix of French and international wine choices. The sommelier is one of the most helpful and obliging we’ve ever met in this city.


Epicure 2

Le Porte-Pot

14 rue Boutebrie

Rising star Guillaume Dupre is as far removed from the sommelier stereotype as can be: warm, friendly and not at all intimating! He has opened a fantastic bistro and wine bar in the heart of St Michel that serves delicious fusion cuisine and some more traditional favorites. His wine list is a delight, imaginatively put together and reasonably priced, he insists on promoting the lesser known and less celebrated. His selection of Beaujolais is second to none.


Cafe Burq

6 Rue Burq

A real gem in Montmartre’s mass of touristy restaurants, Cafe Burq specializes in bringing you the best selection of organic wines available across France. The wine list isn’t massive, but every wine has been carefully chosen and offers exceptional value for money. Chef Laurent Cardillac creates superb dishes to accompany your wines and this venue is open to 2 am most nights. So there’s no rush to get a table!


Le Garde-Robe

41 rue de l’Arbre Sec

Let the sommelier duo Nathalie and Robin pair your wines with your food choices and you can’t go far wrong at this delightful bistro near the Louvre. They offer over 200 different wines from around the world, but no list. Instead you simply ask for a recommendation and they will be happy to serve any wine they stock by the glass. Wines are complimented by the ever-changing Plats du Jour choices and a selection of charcuterie and fresh cheeses.


Wine Tours and Tastings in the Loire Valley Part 1

Posted by gen On March - 18 - 2011

Wine Tours and Tastings in the Loire Valley

By Simona Piccinelli

The Loire Valley is a sinuous strip of vineyards running along the mighty Loire river in the heart of France, from the Massif Central all the way to the Atlantic Ocean. This beautiful region was declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2000  thanks to its beautiful landscape, gripping history (since Charles VIII moved here, it has been home to the French aristocracy) and literature (Rabelais, Balzac and Alain Fournier were all born here), lavish chateaux, historic towns and villages. We recently had the chance to go visit the region on site inspection and herewith some notes and photos from our trip.

Loire Valley

We took a trip to the wine country to learn about the more than 60 wine appellations (AOC) of the Loire Valley, from Sancerre to Nantes: 7 days, 750 km, 21 wineries, 14 restaurants, from Michelin starred to cozy bistros, 10 chateaux: a tough job, but someone had to do it 🙂

Photo credit: theeuropeanwinetable.blogspot.com

Photo credit: theeuropeanwinetable.blogspot.com

First stop was Sancerre, home of the same named great white wine, the greatest expression of Sauvignon Blanc. The appellation was created in 1936 (for white wine; for reds and rosés then it was later in 1959) and there are fourteen communes eligible for the appellation. One of them is Chavignol, better known for its famed goat cheese (Crottin de Chavignol). Here you can find the Domaine Henri Bourgeois estate. The Bourgeois family has produced wine for 10 generations; today, it is managed and run by the exuberant Mr. Jean Marie Bourgeois, who increased the estate vineyards up to 65 hectares and also launched a new winery in Marlborough, New Zealand (another Sauvignon Blanc hotspot). His detailed attention to the different terroirs can be easily found in all of his Sancerres. One of our favourite wines was La Bourgeoise, made with 50 year old vines.

Loire Valley Wine TastingLoire Valley Wine Tasting
Another very interesting wines estate  in the area is Daniel Chotard , in Crazancy en Sancerre.

After a quick stop in Gien, famous for its ceramics – and in Orléans – liberated from the English by Jeanne d’Arc in 1429 – we arrived in Blois, home town of Louis XII. We enjoyed a nice walk through the mediaeval cobble stoned alleys and a visit to the Blois castle. It is one of the most important castles in Loire Valley and it features 3 different architecture styles, one for each wing built by different kings: gothic for Louis XII, renaissance for François I and baroque for Gaston d’Orléans.

Finally lunch time!!! At Michelin starred «Au Rendez- vous des pêcheurs» owner -chef Christophe Cosme impressed us with pike perch with potatoes, celery and foie gras, paired with Les Veilleurs Blanc produced  by Michel Quenioux at Domaine de Veilloux.

Loire Valley Wine Tour

Loire Valley Wine Tour

We walked thought many vineyards and visited several wineries in this part of the Touraine and Cheverny appellations and we felt in love with an ancient grape: Romorantin. It is a traditional French white grape, that legend says was introduced to the region by King François I.

We particularly loved Romorantin made by Domaine de Huards and by Henri Marrionet. Domaine de Huards started with 4 hectares in 1950 and now owns 35 hectares thanks to vigneron Michel Gendrier’s energy and obstinacy. He produces natural wines, with biodynamic viticulture. So no chemicals at all in the vineyards, no oenological products (except for small doses of sulfites) and the use of natural yeasts in the cellar. We particularly loved the Cuvée François Ier A.O.C. Cour-Cheverny, made with 100% Romorantin grapes, from 50 to 83 years old vines. It has a fresh bouquet, it is rich on the palate and has an excellent balance. Long and elegant after taste.

Loire Valley Wine ToursLoire Valley Wine Tours

Henri Marrionet at the is one of the leading wine maker of the region. He loves to work with indigenous grape; in his 47 hectares he planted Gamay (and also a lost variety such as Gamay de Bouze) and Cot (known also as Malbec) as the main red varieties; and then Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc and Romorantin for the white ones. He planted also some ungrafted vines. His wife and daughter-in-law were excellent hosts, we spent a very delightful and interesting afternoon, walking in the vineyards, talking about their vineyard management and wine making philosophy and tasting their wine range.  We were fascinated by Cepages Oubliés 2008 (100% Gamay de Bouze), Vinifera (ungrafted Cot) and Provignage 2005 (100% Romorantin from pre-philloxera vines).

Our home for these days was Domaine Hauts de Loire, a hunting lodge built in 1860, in the middle of a forest with a private lake. It has a 2 Michelin starred restaurant, run by chef Rémy Giraud, who pampered us with his amazing cuisine and his impressive wine list. We really enjoyed the Veille Vigne 1998 Chateau Gaillard.

Loire Valley Wine Tour

Loire Valley Wine Tour
Part 2 Coming Soon…


Memorable Dishes of 2010in France, Spain, Italy, and Ireland

It’s become an annual tradition: we look back at the last year and consider what the best meals of the year were.  Last year we focused on Italy, and this year we are doing it across the board.

As we travel throughout the five countries where we offer our gourmet tours (France, Ireland, Spain, Portugal and France) throughout the year, between the whole team we get to try literally hundreds of restaurants throughout the year. These range from hole- in- the wall – family restaurants to gastro pubs to Michelin starred high end eateries.

We have selected some of our favorite dishes (as you can see we tended to favor simple preparations and top quality ingredients over complicated dishes)  this past year with links to where we were lucky enough to taste them.

May 2011 be a terrific year for all our readers, may you eat and drink very well!

1. Seafood platter, with delicious lobster and oysters, at Aherne’s in Youghal – county Cork, Ireland

Memorable Dishes 2010

2. Frog legs at Maison Lameloise in Burgundy

Memorable Dishes 2010

3. Pizzoccheri at Locanda Altavilla in Valtellina

Memorable Dishes 2010

4. Amazing Irish breakfast with wild smoked salmon and carragheen pudding at The Mill in Dunfanaghy – county Donegal

Memorable Dishes

5. Scallops at Le Coquillage of Chateau Richeaux and informal tasting of oysters (creuses and plates) in Cancale

Memorable Eating 2010


6. Pan fried eel and salad with shallot vinaigrette at 2 Michelin starred restaurant at Domaine des Hauts de Loire in the Loire Valley

Memorable Dishes 2010

7. Spring specialty with wild asparagus at La Subida in Friuli

Memorable Dishes 2010

8. Strawberry millefeuille at Venissa (owned by top Prosecco producer Bisol) in Venice




9. Grilled Rodaballo (Turbot ) at Elkano in Getaria, Spanish Basque Country

Memorable Dishes 2010

10.  Sole with Fennel, Bergamot and Med Flavors at Celler de Can Roca in Catalunya, Spain

Memorable Dishes 2010

Parlez-Vous Fromage??

French Cheese- Brie de Meaux melting

by Martina Hemm

Navigating your way through a mélange of French cheeses can be a bit daunting and leave you speechless, not in the least because there are over 1000 varieties to choose from. But before you walk away from your local cheese monger overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of creamy, milky, and smelly goodness that is French cheese, let me give you just a few names you would not want missing from your vocabulary, or table. After all, as the wise and clearly French lawyer and gourmet Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin once said, “A meal without cheese is like a beautiful woman with a missing eye”.

Most of the following cheeses have been designated with the Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée or AOC, which controls the production and origins of the cheeses affiliated with this status.

1.  Roquefort – AOC 1925

The oldest and maybe most famous cheese of France, Roquefort received its official designation of origin in 1925, but its patent dates back to 14th century.  This sheep’s milk cheese derives its signature taste and trademark green-blue veins from the mold that it forms while aging in the natural caves of Roquefort-sur-Soulzon. When it has reached its peak Roquefort will appear to melt— the semi-soft cheese becoming even softer in its prime. The French savor its strong, pungent flavor spread thickly on a slice of buttered bread. Now a bottle of Blanc de Blanc and you have yourself a meal.

2.  Bleu, de Bleu de Auvernia, de Bresse, de Sassenage, Bassignac…

As with Roquefort, blue and green veins of mold run through the semi-soft white cheese, marking it as a Bleu and lending a signature taste. However, since these cheeses are not aged in the caves of Roquefort, Bleu cheese neither has the same name nor flavor as a Roquefort, deriving their names from the individual villages they come from instead. Although Bleu cheese is usually made from cow’s milk, you can also find Bleu de Chevre, made from goat’s milk, or Bleu de Brebis, produced with sheep’s milk.

French Cheese Bleu d'Causses

3.   Camembert de Normandie – AOC 1983

Recreated throughout the world, the true Camembert traces its origin to 11 century Normandie, but only officially became known as Camembert in the 18th century. To best conserve the velvety soft cow cheese, it is sold in small wooden boxes. Keep an eye open for Camembert de Normandie; this is a ladle-molded Camembert that is usually made with unpasteurized milk, which helps the true, mild and creamy milk flavor of this cheese unfold.

4.  Brie de Meaux – AOC 1980; Brie de Melun – AOC 1990

Proclaimed “the king of all cheeses” during the Congress of Vienna in 1968, this soft cow’s milk cheese has proven its popularity as a mainstay on menus around the world. In its prime the white rind of fungus should smell like a fresh, damp forest in the springtime, while the cheese itself must be soft and yellow. The cheese must be yielding through and through, if you cannot easily glide through the cheese with a cheese or even butter knife, it is not yet ripe. Be wary of Brie that has a slight smell of ammonia, it is probably past its prime.

5. Reblochon- AOC 1958

The story as to why this softer than Brie cheese is made with the milk of three different breeds of cow attests to the ingenuity of Savoie farmers. In an effort to evade paying their landowners high taxes on milk, 13th century farmers would only partially milk their cows, only to return to milking once the inspectors had left. This act of re-blochaient, or re-milking, is an integral part of the cheese’s production, as it offers a creamier milk that affords Reblochon its extraordinary consistency. A true Reblochon is produced from the second milking of Abondance, Tarine, and Montbéliarde cows. To facilitate the aging process, Reblochon is washed in whey and turned every two days as it rests in caves or cellars. The nutty, musky, and slightly herbal taste of the cheese meshes well with a fruity Beaujolais-Villages. Be sure to try Rebolochon when it is just ripe, any longer and its flavor turns bitter.

6.  Munster-Géromé – AOC 1969

Munster’s origins lay behind the walls of Benedictine monasteries situated in the Munster valley.  To escape the dull drum of their vegetarian diet, the monks invented this cow’s milk cheese, best enjoyed by breaking through its soft rind and scooping out its gooey center with breadsticks.  During its maturation the cheese is continuously turned and washed with water from the Vosges, which develops the cheese’s signature red, furrowed rind. Follow in the monk’s footsteps and savor creamy threads of Munster with a glass of chilled Riesling.

French Cheese Munster

7. Époisses – 2004

Yet another spoonable French cheese, Epoisses is for the lovers of a truly smelly fromage. This cow’s milk cheese originated during the 18th century in the midst of Burgundy at the Abbey de Citeaux. The cows that produce the milk for a true Epoisses graze for three months in the meadows of Burgundy, after which their milk is coagulated, washed with brine, and finished with white wine or brandy. The dark orange rind hides a silky interior rich with a salty and pungent flavor, which is great with sweet bread like a buttery brioche or deep-flavored walnut bread.

8.  Comte

From the region of Franche-Comte, this cow’s milk cheese melts in your mouth dissolving into a nutty bite that pairs beautifully with a dry white wine. The texture is firm but soft to eat, and the buttery yellow color of the cheese contrasts beautifully with its dark rind.

9. Chevre
Chevre, meaning ‘goat’ in French, refers to all cheeses made of goat’s milk. Chevres are exclusively made from goat’s milk and may be enveloped in herbs or leaves of their region, bathed in white wine, or coated in vegetable ash. The texture ranges from fresh, soft, semi-soft, and cured.

10.  Crottin de Chavignol – AOC 1976

One of the most famous Chevres, Crottin de Chavignol is produced in the region of Berry and derives its name from the town of Chavignol where it was first crafted. The goat’s milk cheese is refined in a bath of Sancerre wine, which is also cultivated in the region.

11. Tome des Bauges – AOC 2002;  Tomme de Savoie

Tommes are traditionally named after the towns in which they are produced and generally low in fat since they are made from the skimmed milk left over after making butter. We differentiate between Tommes made with milk from the summer and those composed of winter milk.  In the summer cows graze in mountain pastures, while in the winter they feed on hay. The summer milk lends a fruitier taste to the cheese, resulting in very distinct flavors between seasonally produced Tommes.

12.  Neufchâtel – AOC 1969

Known to many as a flavor of cream cheese, Neufchatel has much more noble platforms than bagels. Made in the Normandie from unpasteurized whole milk, this cow’s milk cheese is handcrafted by letting the coagulated milk hang in cheese cloth for 12 hours, after which the bacteria in the milk will form a layer of snow white layer of mold around the cheese while it ages for at least three weeks in damp caves. One of the most curious and traditional shapes this cheese comes in is that of a heart. Supposedly this began during the 100-year war when a young French girl gifted her future husband with her heart made of Neufchatel.

French Cheese Comte Vieux

The southwest of France is a treasure trove of bijoux villages, spirit lifting landscapes and superb food and wine experience. The Dordogne and Perigord in particular are simply breathtaking and magical places which we cannot recommend highly enough. You can sleep in fairy tale Châteaux, meander through the region’s spectacular rivers, visit picturesque hamlets and taste some of the best traditional cuisine in France. Best of all, this is an exceptionally friendly area where you will receive a truly warm welcome.

Most beautiful villages Dordogne

Here are just a few of the many reasons why you should seriously start planning your next vacation in Dordogne/Perigord:

1. Sarlat

Most beautiful villages Dordogne

2. Perigord Truffles

Perigord Truffles

3. Domme

Perigord villages

4. Wines of Cahors

Cahors wine country

5. Brantome- Venice of Perigord

Brantome, Venice of Perigord

6. Rocamadour

Spiritual Dordogne

7. Monbazillac wine country

Monbazillac wine country

8. Monpazier

Beautiful Monpazier in Dordogne

9. Saint Cirq Lapopie

Beautiful Dordogne

10. Ancient man- Perigord is full of prehistoric sites and caves such as the Gouffre de Proumeyssac

Ancient caves in Perigord

Where to stay in Dordogne/Perigord.  We love the classic Vieux Logis in gorgeous Tremolat, the stylish and refreshingly contemporary Les Merles, the  Château de la Treyne for its Michelin starred dining and unbelievable position over the river, the Château Vigiers for golf lovers, Château les Baudry for cozy French hospitality and Le Moulin de l’ Abbaye for a romantic escapade.

What to do: Go river rafting on the Dordogne, truffle hunting, take a private cooking class, explore medieval villages, go wine tasting and vineyard hopping, enjoy long walks in the stunning countryside, take a river cruise on a traditional gabarre boat at Beynac, pop into the wine museum in Bergerac (home of the literary Cyrano de Bergerac) and riverside picnics with foie gras and local wines.

Private chauffeured tours of the Dordogne/Perigord- contact Cellar Tours for a custom designed luxurious gourmet itinerary including unique food and wine experiences.

Beautiful Dordogne

Ten Best Things about Bordeaux

Posted by gen On August - 7 - 2009

We just spent a week in Bordeaux on a fabulous site inspection and can´t praise this graceful and friendly city highly enough. Called the “Mini Paris”, Bordeaux is an absolute must for wine lovers and equally interesting for foodies, architectural buffs and history lovers.

Here is a quick list of the top ten things you can´t miss while visiting Bordeaux:

1. The Regent Hotel- hot, new, very glam

Best of Bordeaux Regent Hotel and Restaurant

2. The Châteaux of the Left Bank

Best of Bordeaux Left Bank Chateaux

3. Romantic Saint Emilion

Best of Bordeaux St Emilion

4. Lunch at cozy La Tupina

Best of Bordeaux La Tupina

5. Cap Ferret´s shabby chic oyster haunts

Best of Bordeaux Cap Ferret

6. Thierry Marx´s 2 * Restaurant at Cordeillan Bages

Best of Bordeaux thierry_marx

7. Biking through the vineyards at Franc Mayne

Best of Bordeaux Franc Mayne

8. Dinner at Le St James in charming Bouliac- what a view!

Best of Bordeaux le-saint-james

9. Sand Dunes near Arcachon

Best of Bordeaux Arcachon peninsula sand dunes

10.Chapon Fin- an institution

Best of Bordeaux Chapon Fin

The Ultimate Foodie Vacation Dream Destination?

Posted by gen On March - 6 - 2009

So, fellow foodies- here is the magic question:

You win the lottery and can travel to the dream destination of your choice, all of these gourmet meccas in their own right.

Which of the following would it be?

1. Tuscany, Italy

Tuscany Foodie Vacation

2. Barcelona, Spain

Barcelona Foodie Vacation

3. Provence, France

Provence Foodie Vacation

4. Langhe (Piedmont), Italy

Piedmont Foodie Vacation

5. San Sebastian

San Sebastian Foodie Vacation

Place your vote here!