For a Child’s Smile

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Chateau Haut Blanville is a family owned winery in the Languedoc region of southern France. The winery sources its fruit from a number of vineyards and sub regions in the area, taking advantage of the differing soils and terroirs in the region, all of which they own and tend to themselves.

The stony, chalky vineyards of the Les Peyrals, overlooking the Etang de Thau, (the region’s largest saltwater lake) and surrounded by scented fields of citrus, rosemary and thyme produces wines of immense character and typicity with these minerals and aromatics coming through in the even the boldest reds.

The Clos des Légendes is a 3ha plot planted on a hill top overlooking the Hérault river valley. The vineyard sits at 200 meters above sea-level in free draining soils full of large chalkstone rocks and pebbles, it produces wines that are dense and robust but with fine structure and a sense of elegance.

The tasting is held with the Chateau owners, Beatrice and Bernard Nivollet, at the new Khema restaurant in the recently completed Arunreas Hotel on the corner of streets 51 and 228. Along with the Chateau owner’s I am joined by the lovely, Gnean Eden from the Cambodian Sommeliers Association; Eden is a bright young star in the Cambodian wine service industry and it is always encouraging to see her and the Association’s enthusiastic involvement in such tastings.

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The white wine, which consists mostly of Grenache Blanc, is clean and shows some structural finesse, early harvesting and barrel maturation in mostly older but importantly, clean barrels, important because the time in oak merely softens the texture without allowing old barrel aromas and flavours to lessen the freshness. It is an enjoyable and interesting wine that would undoubtedly be delightful with a piece of river fish.

However; tonight it is the reds that will really shine. First up is the Peyrals, it was a little reductive at first but opened up nicely with a bit of working the glass to get some air into the wine. A medium bodied red and a blend of seventy percent Syrah, considered younger wines at only a dozen years old but, fully mature at that age and offering notes of plum and raspberry. The rest of the blend is made up of Carignan, which adds depth, and notes of black olive and coffee grinds, this is a meaty wine given minerals and aromatics by its site selection and soils, the palate has a long and driving line of minerality through its core and a certain restraint and elegance, it is a dry, savory wine with fine tannins.

The Clos de la Plenitude is a medium bodied red made from 100% Grenache; a robust, jammy wine with raspberry and notes of herbs and nettles adding complexity. The finish is dry with good, fresh acidity and fine slightly leathery tannins.

The Clos des Legends is 98% old vine Syrah with the remainder Grenache, it is a full bodied, dry red wine with a great deal of finesse, showing intensity of flavour and a good expression of dense, ripe fruit, the flavours are of black fruits and forest berries with notes of vanillan oak, fruit mince spice and hints of bramble and underbrush. Tannins are fine and persistent with the wine showing commendable structure and length.

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The event was a wonderful evening; I thoroughly enjoyed the wines, the extensive offering of magnificent cheeses and charcuterie and the camaraderie of good friends in the industry. The Nivollets are lovely people and I am at first intrigued, then moved to learn that one of their daughters had come to Cambodia some years ago to work as a volunteer at the the association ‘Pour un Sourire d’Enfant’, (For a Child’s Smile), an institution set up some twenty years ago to help the child scavengers of the infamous Stung Meanchey rubbish dumps.

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The Nivollet’s daughter ended up marrying the program director of PSE Cambodia, Mr Pin Sarapich and Beatrice and Bernard now also have a couple of young grandchildren living in the Kingdom, which is an added incentive to keep up their yearly visits.

On the 13th of November the PSE Association -which helps under-privileged children with diet, health, education, vocational training and career assistance- held a gala dinner to raise funds for their school and other programs. The wine for the event was donated by Chateau Haut Blanville, a wonderful gesture, greatly appreciated by the guests who attended as well as the thousands of children that PSE assists.

If you would like to learn more about PSE, please follow this link: http://www.pse.ong/

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