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Past Offers

Fie Gris by Eric Chevalier, Loire, France 2016

Fie Gris by Eric Chevalier, Loire, France 2016

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.

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: June 2018.

Price was: £14.95.

Alcohol: 13.5% abv.

Vintage report: 2016 was a tricky vintage in the western Loire with frost and lack of water causing difficulties. September's excellent harvest conditions saved the day though and the end result was a decent sized harvest of ripe, concentrated grapes with good acidity.

Drinking window: 2018 – 2020.

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

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Legado del Moncayo Garnacha, Campo de Borja, Spain 2017

Legado del Moncayo Garnacha, Campo de Borja, Spain 2017

The Legado del Moncayo is an unoaked Garnacha from Campo de Borja, a little known region just to the south east of Rioja which specialises in the Garnacha grape.

It is made by Isaac Fernandez, a brilliant young producer from prestigious wine making stock (his uncle was winemaker at Vega Sicilia), who has set about rediscovering forgotten but exceptional terroirs around Spain.

His Legado del Moncayo 2017 comes from old Garnacha vines on the slopes of Mount Moncayo (an extinct volcano); it is beautifully balanced, vibrant, fresh and fruity; very smooth and an absolute bargain for under £10 a bottle.

Offered: May 2018.

Alcohol: 14%.

Vintage report: Quantities down on 2016 but overall quality very good thanks to a long, hot, dry spring and summer. As a result very few issues with disease and bunches were ripe and healthy.

Drinking window: 2018 – 2021.

Food matching: An excellent match for tapas, hard cheeses, charcuterie or lighter grilled meat dishes.

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Chateau Juvenal, Les Garrigues, Ventoux, France 2015

Chateau Juvenal, Les Garrigues, Ventoux, France 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 Les Garrigues 2015 is unoaked, rich and fruity but with a lovely mellowness and smoothness thanks to a couple of years in bottle. It has a more savoury edge than the Ribes du Vallat, is lighter in body and would be best drunk over the next year or so. 

Offered: April 2018.

Alcohol: 14.5% 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 2018 – 2019.

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Chateau Juvenal, Les Ribes du Vallat, Ventoux, France 2016

Chateau Juvenal, Les Ribes du Vallat, Ventoux, France 2016

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 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 for under £15 a bottle.

Offered: April 2018.

Alcohol: 15% abv.

Vintage report: Even better than the great 2015 vintage! Hot days, cool nights and a lengthy, warm September. Nigh on perfect conditions according to many vignerons.

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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Mollard et Fillon, 'Vu d'en Haut', Terrasses du Larzac, Languedoc, France 2015

Mollard et Fillon, 'Vu d'en Haut', Terrasses du Larzac, Languedoc, France 2015

The tiny Terrasses du Larzac appellation lies just to the north of Montpellier on the southern slopes of the Larzac plateau. It was carved out of the larger Languedoc appellation in 2004 in recognition of its unique terroir, and is now seen by many as one of the best spots in the region.

Sébastien Fillon is one of Larzac’s rising stars and together with his wife Béatrice and brother-in-law Nicolas Mollard, they produce the Mollard et Fillon, Terrasses du Larzac red. It is 100% organic and made from a combination of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan. The grapes are bought from a selection of the best vineyards in the area (all hand harvested) and vinified at Domaine Clos du Serre - the Fillon's much lauded Terrasses du Larzac estate. It is then aged for one year (partially in French oak barrels) before release.

The 2015 is a rich, juicy and impressively complex wine that punches well above its £14.95 price point. It is ripe and delicious now but has the structure to age well over the next 4 - 5 years. It will benefit from a couple of hours breathing before drinking.

Offered: April 2018.

Alcohol: 14%.

Vintage report: A great vintage in the Languedoc, generally thought to be on a par with the superb 2010. The wines are rich, deep and well structured.

Drinking window: 2018 – 2023.

Food matching: Nicolas recommends roast lamb or beef ribs with French fries.

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Domaine Vincent Ricard, Tasciaca, Touraine, Loire, France 2016

Domaine Vincent Ricard, Tasciaca, Touraine, Loire, France 2016

Vincent Ricard is the 5th generation of his family to run this excellent small estate in the Loire Valley, and since taking over has gained quite a reputation in the area and increasingly internationally.

Production is small but quality is excellent thanks to the age of the vines (30 – 40 years old); the excellent terroir (the same clay and limestone soil that creates the richest Sancerres); and Vincent’s meticulous attention to detail throughout the production process – including keeping herbicide and pesticide use to an absolute minimum.

The Tasciaca 2016 comes from the highest Sauvignon Blanc plots on the estate and is fermented and aged in old oak barrels rather than stainless steel tanks - a technique used by the top Loire winemakers which adds texture and complexity to the finished product. Not oakiness as would be the case if the barrels were new.

Offered: March 2018

Alcohol: 12.5%

Vintage report: Tricky weather conditions throughout but the vintage ended well with fine weather at the end of summer and the resulting Sauvignon Blanc grapes tended to be concentrated with excellent aromatics.

Drinking window: 2018 – 2021.

Food matching: This white has the weight to stand up to food well. It would be perfect with goats cheese or creamy fish and chicken dishes.

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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: February 2018

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: 2018 - 2019.

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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The Thirsty Cyclist, Beaujolais-Lantignie, France 2016

The Thirsty Cyclist, Beaujolais-Lantignie, France 2016

Like all good wines The Thirsty Cyclist began with a barrel. In 2015, Tom Keville-Davies, aka The Hungry Cyclist, was searching for a good, easy-drinking wine to serve to guests at his Cycling Lodge in Burgundy. Collaborating with good friends and local winemakers Chris & Lucie Santini, they made their first barrel of Beaujolais-Lantignié.

This juicy Beaujolais, from organic vineyards in the village of Lantignié, was soon lapped up by Thirsty Cyclists returning from a day on the road, and due to its success, and with supply soon exhausted, in 2016 Chris, Lucie & Tom decided to expand their project and introduce The Thirsty Cyclist to wine enthusiasts beyond the bounds of their village.

Just 8 barrels (just under 200 cases) were made and Neal Gower - wine enthusiast, cycling fiend and acclaimed graphic artist - was commissioned to design the label.

The wine itself is a beauty. Pure, fruity and easy drinking at 12.5% abv, but with real depth of flavour and balance too. It is typical of the wines that the Santinis produce – tiny production, unique terroir, and made with minute attention to detail - and shows why the new ‘micro-négoce’ movement that they are a part of, is shaking up the established order in Burgundy.

Offered: January 2018

Alcohol: 12.5%

Vintage report: A good year which produced reds with plenty of body and excellent aromatics.

Drinking window: 2018 – 2020.

Food matching: Perfect spring drinking (particularly with a slight chill on the bottle) and ideal for washing down a plate of charcuterie, shared with a grilled bavette or as a last bottle before bed.

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Castello Sonnino, Chianti Montepertoli, Italy 2016

Castello Sonnino, Chianti Montepertoli, Italy 2016

One of a pair of superb Tuscan reds imported from Castello Sonnino, a 13th century estate that I discovered when I was cycling south from Florence last October.

Their Chianti is classified as a Chianti Montepertoli DOCG - Montespertoli being the smallest of the Chianti sub zones. It is unoaked, made from 80% Sangiovese and 15% Caniolo with 5% of white grapes to give an extra lightness and freshness of character.

Offered: November 2017

Alcohol: 13.5%

Vintage report: A good year which produced reds with plenty of body and excellent aromatics.

Drinking window: 2017 - 2019

Food matching: Chianti is famously food-friendly and this would be a great match for tomato based pasta dishes, pizza, lasagna, or even roast chicken.

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Castello Sonnino, Cantinino, Sangiovese, Tuscany, Italy 2010

Castello Sonnino, Cantinino, Sangiovese, Tuscany, Italy 2010

The Cantinino is one of a pair of superb Tuscan reds imported from Castello Sonnino, a 13th century estate that I discovered when I was cycling south from Florence last October.

It is made from the best Sangiovese grapes on the estate and aged in French barriques for 14 months. 2010 was a superb vintage in the area and over the last 7 years this wine has matured into something really quite special - rich, fruity, spicy and complex and a bargain at £16.95 a bottle.

Offered: November 2017

Alcohol: 14.5%

Vintage report: An outstanding vintage despite a wet spring. Harvest was very late which meant the grapes were on the vine for an unusually long time. This long ‘hang time’ resulted in grapes of impressive character with the capacity for long ageing.

Drinking window: 2017 – 2022.

Food matching: Think local - Bistecca alla Fiorentina, sausage and bean stews, roast game, pappardelle al ragu di coniglio (rabbit).

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