"Wine is not coca-cola." Those simple, seemingly self-evident words from Eugene Lismonde of Tour de Belfort, have been stuck in mind since I heard them. They have forced me to examine my wine buying habits honestly and I have realised that all those emergency wine purchases are probably from huge wine corporations dedicated to making their wine as much like coca-cola as possible: formulaic and over-processed. In contrast, at a recent tasting, Eugene shared his take on the wine-making process that embraces doing things the hard and slow way to produce individual wines of quality. To hear the story behind the wine was, for me, a wonderful reminder of what it is to realise a dream and a powerful lesson in selling your philosophy. Eugene's energy and enthusiasm for the wine shone through and I left the tasting vowing to never buy a big brand special offer again.
Not all producers have the luxury of producing wine in this way and Eugene was very honest about the advantages of selling a successful business and "retiring" to make wine. He also eloquently described the challenges involved in trying to find a market for wine on this scale. This is a family business and Eugene's daughter Muriel has come up with a creative way to try to solve this. In addition to selling direct on their website they now have a cookery school and wine shop hybrid Le Vin La Table in Cheshire where chef Jason Palin runs cookery classes with the food matched to Tour de Belfort wines. The wines themselves are worth all this effort. The business is only a few years old and already the medals and glowing reviews have been plentiful.
The wine tasting, organised by Cambridge Food and Wine Society, was fantastic fun. There was masses of wine (both the number of bottles and the volumes of each doled out). As an Irish woman I get a bit anxious at these events if it looks like the drink supplies are not up to scratch but I had nothing to fear here. We began by tasting their sparkling wine. A light biscuity taste, thankfully not too acidic and with delicious peach flavours as opposed to green fruit. I really loved this and in fact we bought an additional bottle at the end of the evening, at only £11.90 in seemed silly not to. We then tasted two white wines (the Cuvée Classique White 2010 and the Grand Vin Chardonnay 2011) followed by a vertical tasting of their three red wines from 2009 - 2011. Owing to those generous portions I mentioned my notes become a little hazy at this point. Eugene was kind enough to give me a bottle of the Cuvée Classique Red 2009 to take away and I was able to enjoy the inky purple wine in the comfort of my own home. This gold medal winning wine was fresh and full of blackcurrant fruit. It was just as enjoyable with food as on its own and its life affirming colour and flavour cheered a miserable April evening. I'm getting ready to order some wine from their website - no more emergency wine buys here.
Tom, the Cambridge Wine Blogger, has further detail on Tour de Belfort on his website.