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Past Offers

Domaine Pique-Basse, Au Coeur du Ventabren, Cotes du Rhone VIllages Roaix, France 2015

Domaine Pique-Basse, Au Coeur du Ventabren, Cotes du Rhone VIllages Roaix, France 2015

Olivier Tropet took over from his grandparents at Domaine Pique-Basse back in 2000 and since then has established the estate as one of the best in the up-and-coming Roaix region in the southern Rhône.

The vineyards are up around the 300m mark which brings a lovely freshness and tension to the wines, and the Syrah for this particular cuvée comes from a tiny parcel at the very top of the domaine. The vines here are over 40 years old so yields are small, but the quality of the fruit is exceptional, even more so in a stellar vintage like 2015.

The domaine is organically farmed, so no herbicides or chemicals in the vineyard, the harvest is all done by hand and intervention in the winery is kept to a minimum.

In his 2015 Au Coeur de Ventabren, Olivier has created something quite exceptional. A beautifully balanced, complex and fresh Syrah with raspberry fruit, and notes of prunes, tobacco, spice and garrigue. It is silky smooth on the palate and passes the more-ishness test with flying colours.

Offered: June 2017

Price was: £18.95

Alcohol: 14%

Vintage report: 2015 was widely hailed as an exceptionally good year: “truly sensational” (Jeb Dunnuck), “rare and exceptional quality” (Michel Chapoutier). Rhône expert, John Livingstone-Learmonth was also brimming with enthusiasm, saying: “What struck me from the outset was how grown-up the wines were. At six weeks, they tasted like more finished wines of six months old. After six months, they tasted as if they had already received two winters of cellar raising.”

Drinking window: 2017 - 2023

Food matching: Olivier recommends letting it breathe for a couple of hours before drinking and says that it would be a good match for wild duck, game with a sauce Grand Veneur (huntsman’s sauce), or pigeon cassoulet.

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Casar de Burbia Godello, Bierzo, Spain 2016

Casar de Burbia Godello, Bierzo, Spain 2016

Casar de Burbia is one of a handful of small, very high quality estates that is bringing the wines of Bierzo in north west Spain into the spotlight.

Owned and run by the Fernandez Bello family, the estate has 27 hectares of vines, most of which are at around 600m above sea level. Godello is the key white grape variety (Mencia makes up the red plantings) and under the exacting eye of winemaker Isidra Fernandez Bello, the results are superb.

The 2016 Godello is zesty and fresh, with a light citrus character, subtle floral notes and a slight minerality. The wine spent 8 months maturing on the lees (the dead yeast cells left after fermentation) to add complexity and depth of flavour.

Offered: May 2017

Price was: £12.50

Alcohol: 13.5%

Vintage report: Rain during flowering caused some problems in the form of millerandage (bunches with non-uniform grape sizes), this was followed by a very hot summer. Overall quality was very good though. The wines were described by one winemaker as having the “structure of continental vintages and the aromatic character of Atlantic vintages.”

Drinking window: Lovely and zippy now, I suspect it will be at its best 2018 – 2019, but will continue to drink well through to 2020.

Food matching: It is completely delicious drunk by itself, but would also go very well with seafood.

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Casar de Burbia Mencia, Bierzo, Spain 2014

Casar de Burbia Mencia, Bierzo, Spain 2014

Casar de Burbia is one of a handful of small, very high quality estates that is bringing the wines of Bierzo in north west Spain into the spotlight.

Owned and run by the Fernandez Bello family, the estate has 27 hectares of vines, most of which are at around 600m above sea level. Mencia is the key red grape variety (Godello makes up the white plantings) and under the exacting eye of winemaker Isidra Fernandez Bello, the results are superb.

Their red is 100% Mencia and aged in French barriques for 12 months, giving this rather opulent, soft, raspberry fruit red a subtle, well integrated toastiness.

Offered: May 2017

Price was: £13.95

Alcohol: 14%

Vintage report: A good, fresh vintage which should have seen large yields but harvest rains caused a certain amount of complications and producers were obliged to be very picky when it came to grape selection.

Drinking window: It is drinking perfectly now, with fresh acidity and soft tannins but will continue to age well through to 2021.

Food matching: An excellent match for barbecued meats, charcuterie or cassoulet.

Reviews: "Dense dark fruit with a joyous lift of red raspberries. Plump, fleshy and supple, with blueberry acidity. This scores highly for its bold, energetic character and beautifully balanced finish, culminating in a savoury sign-off. Great value." - 93 points. Sarah Jane Evans MW, Decanter magazine.

93 points in the Penin Wine Guide

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Domaine de Ribonnet, Comte Tolosan, France 2015

Domaine de Ribonnet, Comte Tolosan, France 2015

Domaine de Ribonnet sits in the heart of the Comté Tolosan, half way between Toulouse and the Pyrenees.

Previously owned by Clément Ader, one of the pioneers of mechanical flight (he is credited with “an uncontrolled hop of approximately 50m” in his plane Eolé in 1890!), the estate was taken on by Christian Gerber in 1974. His son Simon joined the team in 2015.

The family have 20 hectares under vine, and have been organic since 2001 (so no nasty chemicals in the vineyard), and they adopt a non-interventionist approach in the winery. This basically means that (as far as is practicable) they avoid any artificial additions in the winery.

As a result they make wines of stunning purity which are an honest reflection of the terroir. This Syrah from the superb 2015 vintage is a perfect example.

Offered: May 2017

Price was: £12.95

Alcohol: 14%

Vintage report: 2015 was an excellent vintage in south west France: good weather during the flowering season (crucial in determining the size of the harvest), a hot, dry summer; rains in August to help ripen the grapes, and to the delight of Christian and Simon, no hail damage or trouble from the cicadelles (leaf hoppers) - a bit of a problem during the previous vintage.

Drinking window: Although this will age well and develop more mature, savoury characteristics over the next 4 - 5 years, I would advise drinking it 2017 to end 2018 to take full advantage of the bright, youthful fruit.

Food matching: Young Syrah is a good match for charcuterie, but this would also go well with Comté cheese (incidentally, the cheese comes from eastern France, not Comté Tolosan just in case you were wondering). It would also be a winner with sausage and bean cassoulet.

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Chateau Margilliere, Coteaux Varois en Provence 2016

Chateau Margilliere, Coteaux Varois en Provence 2016

The hills of the Coteaux Varois produce some superb rosés. The extra height is the key. The cooler nights in the vineyard help the grapes to maintain their acidity, whilst also slowing their maturation. This means more ‘hang time’ on the vine (about two weeks compared to the lowland vineyards) and results in more characterful grapes.

Château Margillière is one of the most exciting estates in the appellation. They have been working organically since 1999 and their vineyards cover 25 hectares. The results are superb thanks to a combination of traditional vineyard techniques, top-spec winery equipment and painstaking attention to detail throughout the production process. 

Offered: April 2017.

Price was: £12.95.

Alcohol: 13.5% abv.

Vintage report: Good quality, yields a bit low due to frost in late April. Very hot, dry summer which made for challenging conditions. Quite a lot of vine damage due to particularly thirsty wild boar!

Tasting Notes: Beautifully balanced, crisp and elegant with soft, ripe red fruits, floral notes and a silky smooth finish.

Drinking window: At its best 2017 - 2018.

Food matching: Excellent as an aperitif but would also be a good match for grilled asparagus, Salade Nicoise, seafood risotto and cured meats (among others).

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Fie Gris by Eric Chevalier, Loire, France 2015

Fie Gris by Eric Chevalier, Loire, France 2015

I was tipped off about Eric Chevalier's operation in a little wine bar in Nantes when I was cycling through in 2016. He took over his family estate back in 2005 and since then has gradually established himself as one of the region's rising stars (or enfant terrible depending on who you ask).
Muscadet is the main wine produced in the area, but it is Eric's Fié Gris that has really thrust him into the spotlight. Sometimes known as Sauvignon Gris, this is an ancient Loire variety which combines the fruitiness and zip of Sauvignon Blanc with the lushness and aromatics of Alsace Pinot Gris.

 

There are only about 100 hectares of it left in the Loire (Eric has 2.5 of them), but it is sensational stuff and Eric has been winning awards left right and centre for his.

Further Details

Region: The estate covers 27 hectares in the Pays de Retz. A small area at the western, Atlantic end of the Loire Valley, just to the south west of Nantes. The wine is categorised as a Vin de Pays du Val de Loire. This being one of the 140 or so Vin de Pays regions found in France.

Offered: April 2017.

Price was: £14.95.

Alcohol: 13.5% abv.

Vintage report: 2015 was a good vintage. Generally thought to be about an 8 out of 10. Yields were a little low and Autumn rains caused a bit of trouble for growers in the western Loire, but a hot, dry summer across the region meant the wines have plenty of ripeness.

Drinking window: 2017 – 2019.

Food matching: Delicious as an aperitif but would pair well with seafood or summer salads.

 

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Falcata Casa Gran by Pago Casa Gran, Valencia, Spain 2014

Falcata Casa Gran by Pago Casa Gran, Valencia, Spain 2014

I have banged the drum before about the remarkable value that can be found in Spain's less famous regions and this juicy, organic red from the Valencia D.O. in the southeast is another wonderful example.

Made from a blend of Monastrell, Syrah and Garnacha Tintorera, and aged in French oak for 12 months, it is monstrously good for £12.95 a bottle. Surely the Spanish are going to start putting their prices up soon!?

Offered: March 2017.

Price was: £12.95.

Alcohol: 14% abv.

Tasting Notes: Ripe, dark cherry fruit, aromas of toasty oak, coffee, leather and a touch of peppery spice. It is medium bodied with easy tannins and a lovely freshness courtesy of the cool nights in these high vineyards.

Drinking window: It is perfect for drinking now, but will age well over the next 5 or so years.

Food matching: Delicious with hard cheeses (Manchego would work well), and essential with butterflied lamb.

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Chateau Juvenal, La Terre du Petit Homme, Ventoux 2015

Chateau Juvenal, La Terre du Petit Homme, Ventoux 2015

The Ventoux appellation lies just to the east of the southern Rhône proper and produces rich, Rhône-style reds from Syrah and Grenache, often with an extra level of freshness thanks to the influence of Mont Ventoux – bane of the Tour de France cyclists.

The region has started to produce some first-class wines in the last decade or so, but prices are in most cases still very reasonable.

Château Juvenal is one of the small estates leading the charge, producing a handful of highly-rated organic wines under the guidance of winemaking legend Philippe Cambie.

The La Terre du Petit Homme is the top wine made here. It comes from the best old vines on the estate and is matured in oak barriques to add depth and complexity. It is rich and fruity with the balance and complexity of something much more expensive and was awarded a huge 93 points on www.robertparker.com - a massive score for a wine at this price.

Offered: March 2017.

Price was: £15.95.

Alcohol: 15.5% abv.

Vintage report: Yields of Grenache a little low, quality excellent though. A punchy vintage with rich, ripe and relatively high alcohol wines.

Drinking window: Delicious now but will age well over the next 5 or so years.

Food matching: Steak, hard cheeses, hearty stews.

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Chateau Juvenal, Les Ribes du Vallat, Ventoux 2015

Chateau Juvenal, Les Ribes du Vallat, Ventoux 2015

The Ventoux appellation lies just to the east of the southern Rhône proper and produces rich, Rhône-style reds from Syrah and Grenache, often with an extra level of freshness thanks to the influence of Mont Ventoux – bane of the Tour de France cyclists.

The region has started to produce some first-class wines in the last decade or so, but prices are in most cases still very reasonable.

Château Juvenal is one of the small estates leading the charge, producing a handful of highly-rated organic wines under the guidance of winemaking legend Philippe Cambie.

The Ribes du Vallat is their entry-level red and it is stop-you-in-your-tracks delicious. The emphasis is very much on the fruit (raspberries, cherries) and no oak is used. It is full-bodied, ripe and fresh and a serious bargain at this price.

Offered: March 2017.

Price was: £12.95.

Alcohol: 15% abv.

Vintage report: Yields of Grenache a little low, quality excellent though. A punchy vintage with rich, ripe and relatively high alcohol wines.

Drinking window: Delicious now but will age well over the next 3 to 4 years.

Food matching: This is very much a food wine, and would be a great match for beef stews, chargrilled steak, and hard sheep’s cheeses such as Pecorino or Ossau-Iraty.

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