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Chris Kissack
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Attended Douglas High School
Lives in United Kingdom
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Chris Kissack

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It is true I think that when one door closes another one often opens (even if sometimes we have to tug quite hard at the handle in order for it to do so). What really matters, I suppose, is that we see the opportunities unfolding before us, and have the courage to grasp them, and to run with them. I suspect that John Kolasa, manager of Château Canon for so many years, knows how to spot a door that has been left ajar, and I also suspect that now, as John nears retirement, he can look back over a career rich in Bordeaux experiences and be content that, at the right time, he made the right moves. John has, in short, grasped the handles of several doors in his time.

Over the past couple of months I have met up with John Kolasa three times, in Edinburgh, in London and in Bordeaux. Naturally wines were poured, and over a glass or two of Château Canon I learnt a lot about John's career, his arrival in Bordeaux, how he entered the world of wine, how he progressed from one château to the next and ultimately how he came to be managing one of the leading premier grand cru classé properties in St Emilion. This Château Canon Retrospective looks at John's story, as well as his work at Château Canon, illustrated in a most enjoyable manner by my tasting of a dozen wines from the estate, stretching back to the 2000 vintage. It is the first of two loosely connected reports as John nears retirement, as I will shortly publish a similar retrospective on John's work at Château Rauzan-Ségla, also illustrated by a tasting of recent vintages from that estate. First though, let's go back to the beginning.

Published today, a Château Canon Retrospective: A report on the work of John Kolasa as he nears retirement, starting from when he first arrived in Bordeaux, but focusing on Château Canon and the changes he has made there, with a new tasting report on vintages from 2014 back to 2000.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/tastingsformal/canon2015.shtml
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Denis Durantou needs, I suspect, no introduction. The proprietor of Château L'Église-Clinet, he is responsible for having lifted the fortunes of his Pomerol property to a level where it regularly challenges the very top châteaux in the appellation, including Petrus and Le Pin, for their crown. He makes giant-killing wines which should not neither be under-rated, nor overlooked.

An update to my profile of Château Les Cruzelles, where Denis Durantou turns out some great-value wines.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/bordeaux/cruzelles.shtml
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I recently overhauled my profile of Domaine de Bablut, and so it was a great pleasure to meet up with proprietor Christophe Daviau in Anjou recently to revisit his interesting portfolio of wines, and to check my opinions held true. Christophe tends to maintain a relatively low profile compared to some of the Anjou superstars such as Richard Leroy and Mark Angeli, and yet he works in a similarly fastidious manner. When he took over from his father in the mid-1990s he was quick to convert the entire domaine to organic viticulture, and more recently he has taken the next step, into biodynamics. The winemaking is precise, and so are the wines themselves. What makes the domaine doubly interesting is the fact the vineyards straddle the boundary between the 'white' Anjou, the limestone of the Bassin Parisien, and the 'black' Anjou, the schist and other volcanic rocks of the Massif Armoricain. This has an impact on the varieties planted, and therefore also on the style and range of wines presented.

I report on the latest releases from Christophe Daviau, of Domaine de Bablut, perhaps Anjou's most under-rated domaine.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/tastingsformal/bablut2015.shtml
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A visit to Anjou doesn't feel complete without checking in on Domaine Ogereau. This is one of the region's stalwarts, its reputation really established by Vincent Ogereau, who for more than two decades has been turning out a very fine array of wines from an increasingly broad range of appellations. This is one of the leading domaines in the region, but the Ogereau family are certainly not resting on their laurels. There is a new generation coming up though the ranks here, and there are - as I learnt during the course of this tasting - some interesting new developments in the pipeline too.

An update on Domaine Ogereau, with my latest tasting notes taking in many wines from the 2013 vintage, and exciting news on the expansion of the domaine.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/tastingsformal/ogereau2015.shtml
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The Loire is France's longest river, and no single history can be successfully applied to all its wine regions. The historical influences on viticulture to the south of Nantes, for example, are very different to those that have driven or shaped the planting of vines around Vouvray, or Sancerre, or Roanne. Many regions and indeed many individual vineyards have their own stories to tell. There are stories of disaster, like the frost that wiped out the vineyards of Muscadet in 1709, and there are stories of prosperity, of which the symbiotic relationship that developed between Sancerre and the bistro culture of Paris following World War II would be one good example. One thing all these stories have in common is that they deserve exploring in detail, and so rather than skip through them here I will come to each one in turn, as I work my way through the appellations and regions.

The second instalment (of many!) in my new guide to the Loire Valley, starting here with a little history. What the Romans, the Church, the Plantagenets and François I did for the vines. Guest starring Rabelais and Balzac.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/regionalguides/loire_01_history.shtml
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Although Montlouis has long been a hotspot for young would-be vignerons investing in vineyards and making wine for the first time, in recent years it has become increasingly clear that Anjou has, to some extent at least, served the same function. Partly it reflects the fact that vineyard land is not too expensive here (even if most still find themselves renting to start with), although the presence of several inspirational vignerons who are prepared to advise, mentor and nurture new talent must also have played some role. Richard Leroy is one, Didier Chaffardon is another, and let us not forget Mark Angeli. Unsurprisingly with this trio involved many of the incomers tend to work organically or biodynamically in the vineyards, and they often tend towards a more 'natural' philosophy in the cellars. Mai and Kenji Hodgson, previously profiled on Winedoctor, are prime examples. In their case Mark Angeli has been filling the role of the mentor.

Mai and Kenji Hodgson: three wines from this organic duo.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/tastingsformal/maikenjihodgson2015.shtml
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Chris Kissack

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We all know that today Bordeaux is a region dominated by red wines, and I suspect most reading this are also aware that it was not always this way, and that it was once a predominantly white wine region. What is surprising, however, is how recent the red varieties, in particular Merlot, have arrived at this dominant position, especially when we consider that the region's reputation seems to have been resting on red wines ever since the appearance of the New French Clarets in London in the early 18th century. Even as recently as the 1950s Bordeaux was still a white wine region, the white plantings outweighing red by two-to-one, Semillon the most widely planted variety. It was only during the 1970s that the balance between white and red reached a point of equilibrium, and of course since then red has completely taken control. Today Bordeaux has only one white vine planted for every nine that are red.

Les Champs Libres: the search for a new paradigm for right-bank whites?
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/weekend/grandvillage_champslibres_2013.shtml
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Weekend Wine: Château Grand Village Les Champs Libres 2013
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There are many ways in which the vineyards of Anjou could be likened to those of Burgundy, or other favoured wine regions, but one obvious common theme is that it is perhaps to the grower we should turn first when choosing what to drink. Appellation, terroir, vintage too, all these are of course important, but here as anywhere else good wines come from the cellars of good growers. Dedicated growers, who work hard in the vines, often in a very sustainable fashion, employing environmentally friendly or perhaps even organic practices (although they don't usually bang the drum as loudly as those who like to make this a defining feature of their work). No, because for these vignerons, it is the quality, purity and honesty of what goes into the bottle and then the glass that matters most.

I renew my profile of Domaine Ogereau, now expanded from two pages to six, with new historical detail, Vincent's story, the arrival of Emmanuel, detail on vineyards incuding the Clos le Grand Beaupréau, Côte de la Houssaye and Bonnes Blanches, and three pages of tasting notes back to 1989.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/loire/ogereau.shtml
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As is now almost customary my annual report on the latest releases from Domaine de l'Ecu takes in two tastings, the first with Frédéric 'call me Fred' Niger van Herck and Guy Bossard in Anjou, the second with Fred flying solo in London. As usual this means I have had the opportunity to taste one or two wines twice, in particular the Muscadets which for me have always been the real draw here. Some wines, however, I tackled only once, in particular the red wines, now part of an increasingly complex array of amphora-aged wines dressed up in kaleidoscopically coloured labels. Before I get to the wines though, a quick recap on the domaine, and my thoughts on these two seemingly quite distinct parts to the Ecu portfolio.

I check out the latest releases from Domaine de l'Ecu, including the 2013 Muscadets, and all th eother funky cuvées.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/tastingsformal/ecu2015.shtml
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Spend enough time visiting Bordeaux and the roads soon start to become familiar; châteaux are no longer famous names, known only from labels on bottles, or from the pages of a studious tome which, let's face it, is as close as the majority of us get to a bottle of Petrus or Le Pin. Instead they become familiar sights, landmarks for navigation. Turn right at Vieux Château Certan for Petrus, turn left just before Petrus for Château Lafleur, straight past Château Lafleur for Château Le Gay. Over time, the network of roads criss-crossing the Pomerol plateau have become old friends.

Of course, no matter how many times you visit a region, I think it is impossible to know every nook and cranny. There are a myriad undiscovered gems in Pomerol, small estates turning out interesting wines which are too often overlooked in favour of more famous names. Often these estates lurk in the darker corners of the appellation, on the vineyards of sand and crasse de fer that run along the railway line north of Libourne into the most south-eastern recess of the commune, or on the far side of the D1089, on the sandy soils that slowly decline towards the meandering course of the Isle, the Dordogne's Libourne tributary.

Not every under-appreciated name in Pomerol lurks in this manner though. One that sits proud, seemingly hiding in plain sight on the Pomerol plateau, is Château Bourgneuf......

Read on in my latest new Bordeaux profile, for Château Bourgneuf in Pomerol, an unsung source of some interesting wines.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/bordeaux/bourgneuf.shtml
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Is it just me, or did the days seem not just longer but also warmer when we were younger? I have memories of long, hazy summer days, the air warm and still and yet also fresh, heady with the sweet scents of summer. The playing fields adjacent to the primary school where I was held prisoner for seven years were guarded on one side by a huge earth bank, and a council worker would cut the grass on the bank using a mower attached to a long rope. From the summit he would let out the rope, thus rolling the mower down the slope, before then pulling it up again, one strip of grass duly cut. After taking one step to the right the process was repeated, until the entire bank had been shorn. It's not a very romantic image, but the aroma of fresh cut-grass that would waft down over us as he worked locked it into my brain forever. Even now, any hint of the same aroma, even just a little sniff of the greener side of Pouilly-Fumé, brings back this memory.

I reach for a summer wine, the 2009 Les Cent Boisselées from Druet. But does it fit the bill?
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/weekend/druet_lescentboisselees_2009.shtml
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Weekend Wine: Pierre Jacques Druet Bourgueil Les Cent Boisselées 2009
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Muscadet seems to have its fair share of characterful vignerons - just show me, for example, a winemaker anywhere in the world with a moustache to rival that of Jo Landron - and on first glance Marc Ollivier of Domaine de la Pépière would appear to be another such character. With a warm smile and bushy black-grey beard Marc always strikes me as having the look of a wise prophet or benevolent biblical king. If the late Didier Dagueneau could be described as messianic (and I certainly read such a description somewhere - and who would argue with it?) then I see no reason why I can't liken Marc to King Solomon.

Read on in my updated three-page profile of Domaine de la Pépière, amended today with new detail on Quatre, Gorges and Monnières-Saint-Fiacre cuvées.
http://www.thewinedoctor.com/loire/pepiere.shtml
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In his circles
345 people
Have him in circles
271 people
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Christian Schiller's profile photo
Dawn Montgomery's profile photo
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Lena Valet's profile photo
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Wine Writer
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  • Winedoctor
    2000 - present
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Chris Kissack is the author of Winedoctor.
Introduction
Chris Kissack is a British wine writer, creator and author of Winedoctor online, and the Pocket Guide to Bordeaux in print. Having launched Winedoctor online in 2000, Kissack was one of the earliest writers to adopt the internet as the main medium for his writings.
Education
  • Douglas High School
    2014
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