South of France

Wed 25 Jan 2017

Reaping The Rewards Of En Primeur

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All the current excitement about the excellence of the 2015 vintage reminds me of my first year working at The Society back in 2006.

The talk then was of the brilliance of the 2005 vintage, which was similarly hugely successful across much of Europe. My first few tasks were to write about this ‘Vintage of a Generation’ and my capacity for superlatives was being tested to the limit.

This was my first exposure to the concept of buying wines en primeur, ie purchasing wines that not only were nowhere near being ready to drink but not even bottled or shipped.

Persuaded no doubt by the overwhelming pulling power of my purple prose, I decided to put my money where my mouth was and take the plunge.

And all I can think now is why on earth didn’t I buy more?!

Languedoc en primeur wines

Just before Christmas I withdrew one of the mixed cases I had bought from the 2005 Rhône & Languedoc-Roussillon en primeur campaign and had been keeping in The Society’s Members’ Reserves storage facility since.

The case in question was the 2005 Languedoc First Growth Case and includes a roll-call of the great and the good of the South of France. And it provided all the wow factor I needed over the Christmas period.

The wines

• The one I was keenest to try was the Coteaux du Languedoc, Prieuré Saint Jean de Bébian and it didn’t disappoint. Deliciously à point, this thrilling blend of syrah, grenache and mourvèdre confidently treads that fine line between power and elegance.

• I may have broached the cabernet sauvignon-dominant Mas de Daumas Gassac, Vin de Pays de l’Hérault a tad early; it was still mature and delicious but I think that I’ll leave the second bottle until next Christmas.

• Conversely, the Domaine de Perdiguier, Cuvée d’en Auger, Vin de Pays des Côteaux d’Ensérune may have been better last Christmas (the initial recommended drink date was indeed for 2015) but it was still a great taste experience.

Domaine Alquier’s Faugères Les Bastides couldn’t have been better: all velvety richness and concentration.

Domaine Madeloc Collioure Magenca was very mature and a tad raisiny, but I mean that as a compliment. The primary fruit flavours had all but disappeared to leave a rich, mineral, spicy, earthy complexity.

• The Roc d’Anglade, Vin de Pays du Gard was extraordinarily fine and elegant, and could easily have been mistaken for a very posh northern Rhône costing many times its price.

And let’s talk about the price, as that for me was the real bonus part of the whole experience and one I hadn’t really anticipated. I paid for the wines in 2007 and the duty and VAT in 2008. So long ago that, such is my head-in-the-sand attitude to personal finances, I felt that these fine wines were now, to all intents and purposes, free.

Sure I did have to pay for their storage in the interim but even so a little research online suggests that were I able to find these wines now (no small task in itself) it would have cost me a darn sight more than I had shelled out. Furthermore, if you factor in the pleasure of the anticipation of enjoying your purchases then I’ve had more than a decade of mouthwatering expectation!

That isn’t the point, of course, and it shouldn’t matter, but it does add to the rather smug satisfaction one experiences when you pull the cork.

I did my best to hide my self-satisfaction when sharing these special bottles, but even if I failed to suppress it then I’m not sure that anyone would have noticed. They were too busy enjoying the wines! I’m delighted to see that we’re expanding the range of wines we offer en primeur. In 2016 we offered wines from Ridge in California and the Cape’s Meerlust as well as the usual suspects from the classic French regions, and we have plans to continue to look further afield in 2017.

I for one will be buying as much as I can afford, including a good chunk of our 2015 Rhône and Languedoc-Roussillon allocation and I advise you to do the same. A decade or so down the line I’m certain that you’ll be very glad you did!

Paul Trelford
Head of Content & Communications

Our en primeur offer of the 2015 Rhône and Languedoc-Roussillon vintage is available until 8pm, Tuesday 28th February.

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Thu 01 Dec 2016

South-West France: A Buyer On The Road

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Reminiscences along the road in south-west France with buyer Marcel Orford-Williams.

I have never been to South America but in my imagination I see areas of wide, open spaces and in some places, the backdrop of the Andes. The south-west of France is also about wide, open spaces and in places the majestic Pyrenees provide a similar snow-capped backdrop.

The analogy can go further as there are strong cultural ties between many of the growers in Argentina and Uruguay with those from this side of the Atlantic. Malbec, so important in Argentina came from Bordeaux and Cahors, while tannat, the principal black grape in Uruguay, was brought there by Basque migrants from south-west France.

aquitaine

Earlier in the year I spent a week exploring this vast and disparate region of France searching out wines to offer to members and visiting some of our long-standing suppliers. This is a region that for a long time lived in the shadow of Bordeaux and then was almost wiped by phylloxera. The region is steeped in history with Romans, Gauls, Visigoths all leaving their mark. Not to mention the Angevins from the day in 1152 when Henry II of Anjou married Eleanor of Aquitaine.

The Romans probably brought wine culture to the region but it is the growth of monasticism that created the patchwork of vineyard areas that we have today. The link with Santiago de Compostela is very strong as the south-west of France is crossed by numerous pilgrim routes to that holy place in north-western Spain. As I was driving out of the border town of Saint-Jean-Pied-de-Port I saw numerous walkers marching along the roadside, with poles and rucksacks and some with tell-tale scallop shells around their necks.

Waymark in the south-west

If you want to read more about the pilgrim’s route to Santiago de Compostela, Anthony Gunn MW has written an article for our website.

My week was one of tasting, meeting people and assessing the 2015 vintage and in four days I managed to visit the majority of appellations. 2015, as I expect you will now have realised, was looking good, especially for the later-harvested varieties such as tannat and gros and petit manseng. That means outstanding wines from Jurançon and Madiran, and also the Basque Irouléguy.

Irouléguy with Pyrenees in background (photo by E Poupart)

Irouléguy with Pyrenees in background (photo by E Poupart)

The south-west, dominated as it is by Bordeaux and even to some extent the Languedoc, doesn’t sell by itself. It has always needed big personalities to bring these wines to the attention of consumers. As it happens such people have never been lacking here and many have become proud suppliers to The Society – the Grassa family of Château Tariquet, for example, suppliers of our Society’s Côtes de Gascogne, whose pioneering spirit we wrote about in Societynews some years ago.

The new generation at Château Tariquet]

The new generation at Château Tariquet

I have mentioned the strength of the 2015 vintage but in fact, most vintages have their strengths and that the grape varieties planted here are perfectly adapted to the vagaries of climate. That’s the exciting part of my job, travelling to these wine regions and tasting the wines alongside the winemakers, finding out exactly what has worked well and what hasn’t so that I can make my selection for members.

Château Aydie's father-and-son, Pierre and Jean-Luc Laplace

Château Aydie’s father-and-son, Pierre and Jean-Luc Laplace

This year I was bowled over by so many of the wines that I tasted and I can’t help feeling that members will want to share in my enthusiasm for these distinctive wines.

We have just released one of the largest offers of wines from south-west France that includes reds and whites from most appellations, and with Christmas in mind a few gratuitous treats for desserts. A selection from the south-west would not be complete without the spirit of the region, Armagnac.

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society Buyer

View the offer of wines from south-west France

If you enjoy reading about our buyers’ exploits in the field, visit our online e-publication Travels in Wine

Categories : France, South of France
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Wed 02 Nov 2016

Staff Choice: A Christmas Ritual

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Some of us are better at preparing for Christmas than others.

For our colleague Dave Collins, October is the time when the culinary pre-work begins; and this glorious sweet wine from the south of France plays a pivotal role.

You can find a full archive of Staff Choices on our website here.

Monbazillac, Château Pech la Calevie 2013

The ritual starts in October with a call to visit the in-laws to help stir the Christmas pudding mix and, of course, make a wish. I may be in my fifties but sometimes I have to just do my duty (and anyway, who hasn’t got the odd unfulfilled wish they would like to remind the gods about?).

The next time I see the concoction is just after a seafood Christmas lunch as it is removed from a pot of boiling water where it has just spent the last six hours or so. As this happens our glasses are charged with generous servings of Monbazilliac and our Christmas ritual, which we have followed for more than 20 years, is almost complete.

The observant visitor may notice that the bottle was already open as the first third was consumed with the pâté starter, but to my mind this strongly aromatic sweet wine works so well with Christmas pudding that I cannot imagine Christmas without it.

Dave Collins
Analyst/Programmer

£12.95 – Bottle
£155 – Case of 12
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Categories : France, South of France
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Buyer Marcel Orford-Williams celebrates our all-too-easily-overlooked Specialist Merchant Award for Regional France won at the IWC this month…

Charles Metcalfe of the IWC presenting the Regional France award to The Society's head of buying, Tim Sykes

Charles Metcalfe of the IWC presenting the Regional France award to The Society’s head of buying, Tim Sykes

The late Edmund Penning-Rowsell, chairman of The Wine Society from 1964 to 1987, was always keen that the buyers should look beyond the ‘classic’ regions and source wines from off the beaten path for members to enjoy. And so, as long as I have been at The Society, the Committee of Management has afforded buyers the freedom to roam the backwoods of France and elsewhere to source exciting wines for our range.

In all the excitement and rightful pride in winning Overall Merchant and Online Merchant of the Year at the IWC (International Wine Challenge), it was easy to overlook that we had also won prizes for our South American and Regional France ranges.

We were naturally thrilled to have received this last award. It is the result of a good deal of work over many years. While France’s classic regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône are historical passions for The Society, our range also makes plenty of room for other French wines which much of the trade has barely discovered.

MA2016_RegionalFrance_Winner

We have long championed the wines of Alsace and our range was recognised as the country’s finest by the International Wine Challenge for eight consecutive years to 2015.

During the last 12 months, we have visited Auvergne, Beaujolais, Alsace, Lorraine, the south-west, Provence and Corsica. A trip to the Jura will feature later in the year. There have been dedicated offers covering the wines of Alsace and Beaujolais and one for the south-west is also on the drawing board for release in the autumn.

It is not so long ago that many of these wines were for local consumption only. But globalism has changed all that. Growers from Savoie, Beaujolais or Corsica are as well travelled and skilled as any and keen to share the secrets of their terroirs with the rest of us.

We never forget though that it is thanks to members’ support that we can explore the wine world in this way. Members play a vital role in all of this by always being receptive to new ideas and new tastes. We hope that you enjoy the wines as much as we enjoy discovering and sharing them.

We salute you!

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society Buyer

Explore our range of French wines at thewinesociety.com

It is with great sadness that we report the passing of Aimé Guibert at the age of 91.

He was the founder of the iconic Mas de Daumas Gassac in the Languedoc and it would not be too fanciful a claim to state that he, more than anyone was responsible for putting the Languedoc on the map of fine wine.

Aime Guibert

He was born in 1924 in Millau in the département of the Aveyron. His first career had been as a tanner and then as a successful glove maker. His second career came somewhat unexpectedly and as a result of finding somewhere peaceful where he and is growing family could escape from the bustle and noise of Paris.

They bought a large farmhouse or Mas on a virgin, wooded hillside by a cold mountain stream called the Gassac. Then their world changed when a friend, professor Henri Enjalbert, a geologist specialising in wine, visited the Guiberts on their farm in 1971 and declared on examining the site that the soils and climate were perfect for growing vines. He went on further, proclaiming that with cabernet sauvignon, a great wine could be made.

And so it began.

Mas de Daumas Gassac

Mas de Daumas Gassac

Aimé with his wife Véronique put all their energy into creating a vineyard where none had existed before. Remarkably, and with the help of another academic, professor Emile Peynaud of Bordeaux, the first vintage was made in 1978.

Aimé’s vision was extraordinary and all encompassing. Making a wine was not enough. Daumas Gassac had to be a great wine that could stand shoulder to shoulder with the best. From his previous career he bought sales and marketing expertise that at the time was probably unique in the world of wine, at least outside Champagne and Bordeaux.

No appellation existed for the valley of the Gassac so his wines were labelled as mere vin de pays, becoming the most expensive non-appellation wine. But that didn’t seem to matter and Mas de Daumas Gassac gained a large and devoted following around the world.

From the start, Aimé and Véronique Guibert wanted to work as close to nature as possible. They were pioneers in creating an environment that promoted biodiversity. Though cabernet sauvignon is the principal black grape, others were planted with varieties coming from elsewhere in France, Italy and even Georgia. Plots of vineyard were kept small and surrounded by woods and hedges. Other wines followed including a viognier-inspired white.

That the Guiberts were sitting on a gold mine did not go unnoticed. Others moved in nearby with mixed success. Robert Mondavi became interested. An offer to buy Daumas Gassac was rejected and a plan to create a Mondavi estate vigorously and successfully opposed with the passionate Aimé very ably leading the local population in revolt. In the film Mondovino, Aimé Guibert is seen as the champion against what he saw as the industrialisation of wine.

His greatest achievement was to prove the notion of terroir. In creating Daumas Gassac, Aimé Guibert created the Languedoc’s first grand cru.

Many other vignerons would follow often with the same energy, spirit of enterprise, determination and individuality as the great man himself. The Languedoc owes him an awful lot and will miss him.

He is survived by his wife Véronique and his nine children including Samuel, at the head of the business.

My time as buyer for the Languedoc was greatly enriched by his wisdom and I shall miss him too.

Marcel Orford-Williams
Society Buyer

Categories : France, South of France
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Fri 29 Apr 2016

Sauvignon Blanc… With a Twist

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I could have sworn I saw a swallow earlier this week; and with the onset of darkness now retreating to past 8 o’clock I feel I can dare to dream of more temperate times to come. Indeed, in The Cellar Showroom this week I have noticed a marked shift towards white wine purchases. Society members appear to share my optimism.

For me, no grape screams spring and summer like sauvignon blanc. Fresh, herbaceous, citric, tropical… the styles from around the world all seem to have an affinity to the time of year when hats and scarves can be mothballed.

Healthy sauvignon blanc grapes.

Healthy sauvignon blanc grapes.

Lovely as these wines are, though…

Recently I have been particularly taken with a number of sauvignon blanc blends.

Adding another grape or two to sauvignon blanc can temper the variety’s natural acidity and can complement sauvignon’s flavour profile with a splash of something different.

Four Sauvignons With a Twist

Domaine du Salvard's Cheverny employs a splash of chardonnay to add depth

Domaine du Salvard’s Cheverny employs a splash of chardonnay to add depth

• Member favourite Duo Des Mers, Sauvignon-Viognier Vin de France 2015 (£5.95) benefits from the fattening and softening influence of the viognier grape’s texture, whilst also bringing the characteristic apricot and peach aromas to the wine.

•Another popular French choice, Cheverny, Domaine du Salvard 2015 (£7.95), employs 10-15% chardonnay in the blend to give greater breadth and depth, but without masking the herbaceous scents of the sauvignon.

Bleasdale Langhorne Crossing Verdelho-Sauvignon 2015 (£6.95) combines sauvignon blanc with another spring-and-summer variety: the vibrant verdelho, which introduces pleasant pear-like notes and tropical tones to the blend.

• In Spain, moscatel can add its floral aromatics and bring a more table-grape dimension to the fruit character, as is the case in Saleta Moscatel-Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (£5.95). This wine has excellent balance, with the sauvignon blanc moderating any of moscatel’s sweetness with its crisp acidity and ensuring the wine remains dry.

I don’t want to tempt fate but I shall be putting all of the above in the chiller in anticipation of the appropriate weather.

If not, I may just have to turn the thermostat up.

Conrad Braganza
The Cellar Showroom

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Wed 27 Apr 2016

Food Without Fuss: A Languedoc Hotpot

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These recipes, while hopefully of use and interest to all, were written with the spring selections of The Society’s Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind. Wine Without Fuss offers regular selections of delicious wines with the minimum of fuss. Why not join the growing band of members who let their Society take the strain, and are regularly glad they do?

Find out more about Wine Without Fuss in a short video on our website.

This recipe was inspired by poor stock control, although, in fairness, that doesn’t happen often. My very first wine-trade job involved reconciling book balances with bottles, some of which would be missing while others had reproduced, surreptitiously and parthenogenetically. That annoyed me immeasurably and I’m usually pretty attuned to the contents of my own cupboards.

Janet Wynne Evans

Janet Wynne Evans

My downfall is a siege mentality. Unable to procure an ingredient for a recipe I’m impatient to try, and immeasurably annoyed by that too, I tend to lay in vast stocks of it when I do manage to run it to ground.

In this case, the item is rouille, that lovely orange garlic and saffron goo you stir into proper Provençal fish soup. It’s not on most supermarket shelves, so when we offered a Wine Society Christmas gift pack containing a jar both of fish soup and rouille, I snapped up a canny few and stashed them away. I got through most of them, but two escaped my notice. By now, the soup was well out of date, with an irretrievably manky aroma that consigned it to the bin. The rouille, at least, was still a goer, but due for consumption by the end of the month.

Mulling over alternative uses s for my orange treasures, I came up with a sort of mediterranean fish pie, with a splash of pastis instead of vermouth and the usual dollop of cream replaced by the rouille. Buttery pastry or mash on top felt out of kilter in olive oil country, so the pie became a hotpot, topped with thinly sliced potatoes dipped in herby oil, and cooked to brown crispness.

Sort of Morecambe-sur-Med.

This is a recipe that makes satisfying use of everything, from parsley stalks to prawn shells. It’s also versatile.

The fish content should include strong flavours – monkfish, bream, mullet – to stand up to the sauce, but the choice is then yours. In fact the world is, quite literally your oyster, for which the Bassin de Thau near Sète is famous, just as it is for mussels. Use these by all means instead of prawns, just don’t serve the blighters to me. Do make sure, in the case of mussels, that you take the important precaution of steaming them first, just until they open , so that you can discard any wrong ‘uns that don’t. Or buy the labour-saving frozen and already shelled variety and defrost them thoroughly.

The obvious partner for this deeply fishy, garlic and herb-infused feast, with its glints of orange and whisper of aniseed, is a rich Languedoc or Rhône white with just a bit of bite. Marsanne, roussanne, grenache blanc, viognier and rolle (vermentino) are good options, and if there is some fresh but firm picpoul in the mix, so much the better.

A spicy shiraz or Portugese red would not come amiss either.

Janet Wynne Evans
Fine Wine Editor

LANGUEDOC HOTPOT
Serves four

• 800g fish off the bone, skinned and trimmed – a mixture of monkfish, bream, hake and red mullet
• A dozen large prawns, shelled and deveined
• Plain olive oil
• 1 banana shallot, finely diced
• Six anchovies from a jar or tin, rinsed and dried
• Six sun-dried tomatoes in oil, blotted on kitchen paper
• A generous splash of pastis, eg Pernod
• 300ml fish or shellfish stock (see below)
• 2 dried bay leaves
• 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, thyme and dill, leaves only, chopped
• 2 tubs rouille, about 180g altogether
• Some thyme sprigs, leaves removed
• Two large baking potatoes

NB Owing to the difference in surface area between baking dishes of the same volume, I err on the side of caution here and prepare far more spuds than I think I need. I can promise that there will be no leftovers.

If you buy your prawns whole, the heads and shells make good stock. Rinse them well, crush roughly and add to some diced celery, carrot, garlic and onion, browned in olive oil in a smallish, deep saucepan. Add a glass of white wine, the stalks from your parsley, above, a few white peppercorns and a couple of fresh bay leaves and let it all bubble for a few minutes. Cover with 500ml water and simmer for 30 minutes or so. Strain through a sieve lined with kitchen paper. Taste and if you want a stronger flavour return to the hob and reduce, but remember that it will be boiled down and further concentrated in this recipe. On no account bother trying this with mussel shells.

Ask your fishmonger nicely to prepare all your fish for you. All skin, bones, membranes and mucky bits will thus end up in his bin, which is already a lost cause.

Cut the fish into generous chunks and arrange in a baking dish. Wash the deveined prawns in salted water and dry thoroughly. Add them to the fish. Cover and refrigerate.

Peel the potatoes and cut into slices. A mandoline on its normally thickest setting (one up from gratins, two up from crisps) is perfect. Manually, aim for between the thickness of a 10p piece and a £1 coin. As you slice them transfer them to a pan of water and leave to soak for about 20 minutes to remove excess starch. Then rinse thoroughly, shake dry in a colander and finally wrap in a clean tea-towel. Leave for as long as you can.

In a saucepan that will hold the stock, heat some olive oil and when it’s hot, add the shallot. Lower the heat and let it become translucent. Using a pair of kitchen scissors, snip in the anchovies, along with the sun-dried tomatoes. The pieces should be quite small, so that they will melt into the sauce.

Now add the pastis and let it bubble and sizzle, stirring to deglaze the pan. Finally add the stock and herbs, and let it boil down to about half its volume. Take the pan off the heat and let it cool thoroughly. Fish out the bay leaves. Season with black pepper – the anchovies should contribute enough salt.

Once it’s cool, stir in the rouille and once it’s incorporated, add to the fish and coat it all well. You can now cover and refrigerate the dish until ready to cook, but remove it an hour before cooking starts to bring it to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6. Unwrap the potatoes and put in a large bowl with enough olive oil to coat. Strip the leaves of the remaining thyme sprigs and add, along with salt and pepper. Use your hands to ensure every slice is glistening with oil and flecked with herbs and black pepper. Arrange them in one layer on one or two baking sheets. I like to give them a start before adding them to the fish to make sure they cook thoroughly.

Cover loosely with foil, put them in the oven and set a timer for 10 minutes. This should be enough for them to soften without browning, but if not, give them just a few minutes more.

Let them cool just enough to handle, then lay them on top of the fish in overlapping slices, making sure the top of the dish is completely covered. Leave any remaining slices on the baking sheet and return to the oven, along with the fish, but on a lower shelf and without the foil.

Set the timer for 35 minutes, or until the fish is bubbling and the potatoes are browned.

When the hotpot is done, you may find that the potato topping has shrunk a little, leaving the odd gap. This is what your spares are for, so tuck them in as needed before serving.

Serve the hotpot with a simple green vegetable like tenderstem broccoli and hand round any remaining potatoes unless you have shamelessly nibbled them in the kitchen. And why would you not? They are a cook’s perk of the highest order.

Wine matches
Fine matches for this fishy feast include Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Maule Viognier Roussanne-Marsanne 2015 (Buyers’ Everyday Selection, available for sale at £6.95 per bottle), Domaine Magellan Blanc, Hérault 2015 (Buyers’ Premium Selection) or Collioure Blanc Tremadoc, Domaine Madeloc 2015 (Buyers’ French Classics).

Red wine aficionados need not panic – the rich, tomato and herb flavours here are lovely with spicy Med Reds: Australia Felix Swan Hill Victoria Shiraz-Sagrantino 2014 (£7.95, Buyers’ Everyday Selection) will do it as will the pescivore’s friend, Mouchão Dom Rafael, Alentejo 2012 (Buyers’ Premium Reds). Vacqueyras Domaine des Genêts, Delas 2013 (Buyers’ French Classics) is a real treat.

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Wed 09 Mar 2016

Staff Choice: A Chief Executive Red

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It’s that time again! March’s Staff Choice comes from our chief executive, Robin McMillan.

You can find a full archive of Staff Choices on our website here.

Robin McMillanThe Society’s Corbières 2014

This was one of the first wines I purchased after joining The Wine Society in 2012 and has been a firm favourite ever since. A classic blend of carignan and grenache, it has a deep, intense colour, a lovely nose of sweet fruit and a rich, intense and spicy palate.

So often, our preference for a wine is rooted in an experience or occasion well beyond the taste or enjoyment of the wine itself. In 2013, the same year this wine won a Gold medal at the International Wine Challenge awards, I along with buyer Marcel Orford-Williams and members of the Executive Team, was fortunate enough to visit the producer, Pierre Bories of Château Ollieux Romanis, who has been making this wine for The Society since the 2007 vintage. And what a revelation it was: the warmth and intensity of the wine clearly emanates from the passion and skill of Pierre – this is such a dependable wine that will never disappoint, whatever the occasion.

Robin McMillan
Chief Executive

£7.25 – Bottle
£87.00 – Case of 12
View Wine Details

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Tue 06 Oct 2015

Join us for a Virtual Tasting of Languedoc Wines

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You are cordially invited to join Society buyer Marcel Orford-Williams (and resident tweeters Ewan Murray & I) for a Society tasting in the comfort of your own home!

twstasteThursday 15th October sees the latest instalment of #TWSTaste: from 7.30pm-8.30pm UK time, we will be tasting two gems from Marcel’s current Languedoc-Roussillon offering.

The largest wine region in the world takes some getting to grips with, but with Marcel’s years of experience and keen finger on the pulse, our members are in good hands. Marcel will be tasting and tweeting as we go, sharing his impressions and considerable expertise. It promises to be a highly enjoyable hour!

The wines we’ll be tasting:
Both wines are currently available individually and will also be in the Everyday Languedoc Mixed Dozen Case (£85).

• The white will be Bourboulenc Domaine de Simonet 2014 (£7.50 per bottle). The bourboulenc grape thrives on the arid limestone hill of La Clape, and this example is a pure and delicious expression of its unique flavours.

• In red, we’ll be tasting Syrah-Mourvèdre Côtes de Thongue Domaine Condamine L’Evêque 2014 (£5.95). Knowing what to plant is one thing, but selecting the right vine stock can make even more of a difference. Here the Bascou family chose superb cuttings of the syrah grape from the northern Rhône. Their syrah is dark, fragrant and savoury, and they add a little mourvèdre here for extra depth and spice.

Members enjoying the last #TWSTaste in Leighton Buzzard

Members enjoying the last #TWSTaste in Leighton Buzzard

Why a virtual tasting?
More members are engaging with The Society via social media than ever before, and we are privileged enough to provide a service involving what must be one of the most ‘sociable’ of products! Previous editions of #TWSTaste have been a lot of fun – you can read some highlights from the previous session here.

How will this tasting work?
To join in, simply log in to Twitter from 7.30pm on the 15th October and look up twitter.com/thewinesociety, or search via the hashtag #TWSTaste.

In advance of the tasting we suggest following @TheWineSociety so that you will easily see when the tasting gets going.

All that remains is to remind anyone interested to make sure the white is nicely chilled! We look forward to talking to you on the 15th October!

Martin Brown
Digital Copywriter

Categories : France, South of France
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… seems to be the lot of this underrated grape.

But I have had a long-time love affair with wines made from this underrated grape: Rioja, Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Minervois, Banyuls, Gigondas, Priorat, all contain grenache (garnacha in Spain) and therein lies the reason, I feel, for the lack of due deference paid to this most versatile grape.  An important player in the assemblage of these well-known wines, its name rarely appears on the label, leading to its position of relative obscurity and under-appreciated status.

Grenache - always the bridesmaid, never the bride

Grenache – always the bridesmaid, never the bride

Other grapes that can command the spotlight, chardonnay, syrah to name two, are practically brands in themselves. But poor old grenache remains under the radar.

But this is a grape that can produce rosés, reds at all levels, and even sweet wines that can take on chocolate; not to mention the white mutations of grenache blanc and gris that produce a range of full-bodied whites which are now becoming more widely appreciated.

Well it’s time to put things right and this Friday 18th September, grenache gets to have its share of the limelight as it is International Grenache Day – a day where the grape can be celebrated by showcasing wines where grenache not only dominates but rules. My kind of wines!

If you’re looking for a place to start your love affair or reacquaint yourself with the glories of grenache then these would be my recommendations:

From Navarra in northern Spain, there’s Señorio de Sarria Rosado, Navarra 2014, a smooth and fruity rosado to try with marinated anchovies. A good insight into the grape in its white form would be the round and refreshing Grenache Blanc from Domaine du BoscDomaine Jones in Tuchan, close to the border with Roussillon, produces a full and herby grenache gris perfect for aperitifs or robust fish stews. Her ample red (Domaine Jones, Côtes Catalanes Grenache 2013)

Mrs, and now Mr Jones, in Katie's old-vine vineyard below Queribus

Mrs, and now Mr Jones, in Katie’s old-vine vineyard below Quéribus


from old grenache vines in the shadow of Cathar stronghold, Château de Quéribus, is overflowing with luscious fruit; a winter warmer to delay the central heating switch on as the nights close in.

For a lighter fragrant style which demonstrates grenache or garnacha’s versatility why not give Salvaje del Moncayo Garnacha 2014 a try? It’s made by self-confessed garnacha nut, Raul Acha whose parents’ ancient garnacha vines in Rioja inspired him to seek out interesting parcels to vinify across Spain. Both reds would suit hearty fare and serving the latter cellar cool introduces an appealing freshness, one of the hallmarks of good grenache or garnacha which also deserves to be better understood.So whatever you choose, let’s afford grenache the acclaim it deserves as the headliner and not just a support act.

Conrad Braganza
The Cellar Showroom

The wines mentioned above will all be open to taste in The Cellar Showroom on International Grenache Day this Friday 18th September. If you are in the area, do call in and try them.

Read more about the grenache grape in our online guide here.

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