Japan-based Guy de la Rupelle has fallen in love with Cloudy Bay wines. This is a Frenchman who, until he was invited to a blind tasting of chardonnays, had always believed that the Montrachet Chardonnay was the creme de la creme. ”I shamefully had to admit”, he tells me, “that Cloudy Bay’s Chardonnay was, well, amazing.”
Originally from the Dordogne in France, Guy describes himself as a wine co-ordinator who enjoys promoting wines from France’s south-east and who occasionally gives French cooking lessons. And it’s not only New Zealand’s Cloudy Bay that’s got him excited either. He was recently introduced to a grape variety from the country of Georgia. Called the Saperavi, he tasted it in a bottle of Telavi Satrapezo Saperavi 2009 from Kakheti, and pronounces it ”astonishingly good.” Apparently it is fermented initially in clay amphorae called quveri for six months before being transferred to, and aged in, new French oak. “It is a dense wine, feeling quite concentrated”, he tells me, “and yet is exceedingly sophisticated. Very nicely structured, it is a wine that begs to be discovered.”
Guy says that over the last ten years he has made so many similarly intoxicating discoveries that he has had to “toss out the window” that French notion of superiority, the belief that French wines ”are best in the world.” Indeed he is incapable of naming a favourite wine region, although a decade ago would have said it was Burgundy.
And yet, and yet. He cannot deny a patriotic pull, and so it is the 2010 Chateau La Branne (“a lovely Medoc wine…well-suited to the late autumn dishes I serve at present”) which he is currently loving, as well as Chateau La Renaudie Pe´charmant from the region north of Bergerac. Not to mention that “the Montrachet wines still tug at my sleeves…” Even his most memorable wine experience was a 1998 Chateau Margaux, to celebrate 22 years in Japan. “The colour, ruby-plum, velvety, the nose is a complex bouquet of caramelised herbs, blackcurrants, smokiness, saddles made of Russian leather, a fragrance of old stables and earth as well. Full-bodied, plum and wonderfully
rich, it tasted better hours later: an unforgettable drinking experience.”
Wine and food-matching is this man’s job – he could probably do it in his sleep. Effortlessly, then, Guy is able to rattle off several serendipitous marriages for other Code38 members to try – such as a 2010 Louis Latour Puligny-Montrachet (“chilled down to 12oC, not less”) with a plate of sushi. Salmon sashimi with Cloudy Bay’s Chardonnay. Boeuf Bourguignon with a Bourgogne Hautes Cotes de Beaune, or a simple Brouilly. Foie gras or roquefort or stilton alongside a Montbazillac or a Sauternes.
Guy still recalls the most exciting wine he has so far opened with his Code38 : it was a 1997 Opus One and “quite possibly one of the best I’ve ever had. A client brought that bottle as a gift to enhance the canard confit meal served that day and I would have been nervous with one of my other wine openers, but the Code38 performed flawlessly and elegantly…”
Flawlessness and elegance, but also the smooth fit and the design of Guy’s wine knife are the qualities he prizes. “It enhances”, he says, “the pleasure of opening wines.”