Grapevine Archive for Exhibition range
Today was my first taste of the new Exhibition Crozes-Hermitage since it arrived in Stevenage and I have to say that I was quietly very impressed.
The trouble about the Exhibition range is that the wines chosen for it have to be better than just good and rightly or wrongly I felt that what we had done up til now was good but maybe not the benchmark that the Exhibition label demands. And so I kept on looking.
The ‘Eureka’ moment came inthe autumn during a meeting with Nicolas Jaboulet at his new office in Valence. Nicolas is the son of Michel Jaboulet who was last in charge of the family firm before the sale to Jean-Jacques Frey. Nicolas entered the firm and was quickly given responsibility of the UK market and with it The Wine Society account. Things didn’t go as planned. The Jaboulet family had invested big sums on new cellars and vineyard and there was not enough cash in the bank when two members of the family decided to walk.
All that is history now. For Nicolas there was a time for reflection, an unwelcome bout of illness and, since the 2007 vintage, a completely new direction, when he decided to go it alone and start his own négoce company. This wasn’t easy at first but luck was on his side. For a start he got technical and financial support from the Perrin family of Beaucastel. A joint venture was created adopting the compromise name of Nicolas Perrin. But also, Nicolas as a member of one of the most respected families in the Rhône Valley, suddenly found he had loads of friends and loads of people happy to sell him wine.
Back to my meeting in Valence. I tasted all the 2011s which were lovely but the Crozes was absolutely stunning. 2011 as a vintage could be good but not always, and over the weeks that I had been in the Rhône from September to November, I had tasted lots of indifferent Crozes. But Nicolas’ wine was exceptional. It comes from lots of growers, including all the top names. This wine I thought would be perfect for the Exhibition label and so we began talking. And then another bit of luck as an American customer pulled out. This was my opportunity to get my hands on something really quite special and fully worthy of the Exhibition label.
How does the new wine differ? Already just the aroma is different as Nicolas’ wine has more intensity, brightness and purity. The taste matches the smell: greater intensity and finesse and much better length.
Crozes- Hermitage is the most important appellation in the northern Rhône, accounting for well over half the production. A good Crozes is an essential requirement in any merchant’s armoury and I think this fits the bill to perfection. I would love to hear your views.
The new Exhibition Crozes-Hermitage is available now, priced at £12.50 per bottle.
Society Buyer for Rhône
Our final walk-around tastings of the year were in Lewes, Southampton and Chelmsford where we showed a range of our Exhibition wines.
Created for our 125th anniversary in 1999, the Exhibition Range is a group of wines blended and selected as flagship examples of the different regions and styles they represent: a ‘look-no-further-than’ wine list made by a roll-call of top growers with whom The Society works.
Perhaps most importantly, the wines showed well on all three nights. As always, there were huge differences between the winners at each tasting. We still don’t fully understand how it is a wine which is voted the favourite on one evening can be awarded the wooden spoon the next. Answers on a postcard, please!
In Lewes the favourite white was the Exhibition Hermitage Blanc, 2007: a real treat of a white from Jean-Louis Chave – rich, full-flavoured, creamy – the perfect accompaniment to the Christmas turkey. For reds, the vote went to the Mendoza Malbec, 2009: a big, rich and bramble-fruited wine from Catena, with hints of mocha on the finish – the perfect wine to warm you up.
In Southampton it was the Exhibition French Cabernet Sauvignon which came top, a lovely, un-prepossessing French red which provides great value for money and heaps of character. The Exhibition Martinborough Pinot Noir from Craggy Range came second, no surprise really as it was showing so well on the night: packed with the crushed summer fruits you might expect from good-quality New Zealand pinot, but with real structure and an almost French-style earthiness. It is worth noting that the noisiest vote, however, was for the Crusted Port!
Chelmsford’s overall winner was yet again the Exhibition French Cabernet, and the winning white was the Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. This is made for us by Jane Hunter OBE and encapsulates the zesty citrus and gooseberry fruit and feisty character one would expect from classic Marlborough sauvignon.
We hope all those who attended enjoyed themselves and the wines.
Tastings & Events Co-ordinator