Dropwines Dinner

Last month I went along on a rainy sticky Monday night for a press dinner with new ish online wine company Dropwines at the Pembroke in Earls Court.

I was feeling pretty optimistic as I had been invited by the lovely Sophie McLean who’s been an industry pal for a few years now. Sophie (recently returned to the UK  after doing a vintage in industrial Riverina New South Wales) joined Dropwines this year to do comms, buying and a spot of video reviewing.Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 14.21.28

The latter being another reason for positivity, for along with Head Buyer Richard Varney(Ex Head of Buyer for Oddbins) they were producing some of the best video wine reviews I have yet seen. Which is quite a compliment coming from me. They’re fun, intelligent, engaged, unselfconscious & short! Most of them 2 minutes and a few coppers, which is exactly what they should be in my opinion.

The food was perfectly decent but really we were there to taste the 5 wines (1 fizz, 2 whites and 2 reds) they had chosen to showcase.Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 14.18.53

A sure fire way to impress hardened wine writers is to present something unusual, which is exactly what they did as we kicked off with Cote Mas Piquepoul Frisant NV. The fizz is made from Picpoul de Pinet, that superb white grape of the Languedoc(South France) that seems to be creeping onto every gastro pub list in London these days. Made in the Charmat(tank) method like Prosecco but instead of pear & flowers it’s fresh sea salty with tingling lime zest. A good start…

Next was award winning Bioca Godello Seleccion 2012 from a tiny region called Valdeorras in Galicia, northern Spain. An area better known for it’s Albarino (another white grape that is very popular at the moment), this Godello with it’s mojito nose, slight spritz & pine nut richness was a class act but seems to be out of stock at the time of writing.

The unusual theme continued with a Vinal Chardonnay 2012 from Levech, Northern Bulgaria. I found this wine quite intriguing with it’s subtle aromas of honeycomb & lavender, as if they were down a well. Then white melon, thistle, green cooking apple & sunflower palate. Not a wow wine but different and worth a punt as it was less than £7 a bottle.Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 14.19.50

Our first red was The Liberator, The Francophile Syrah 2012 from Stellenbosch, SA. It’s what you would expect, peppery rocket, cassis & white pepper spice. A generous leathery, coal dusted, dark berry beast. It had some fresh acidity as well. It was nice enough but came off a distant 2nd to our final wine…

My tasting notes on Cotes du Rhone Villages, Mas de Boislauzon 2011 say it all; “Deep dirty sensual nose. Velvet, spicy, plum & brandy snap, cigar, sparkling blackberries, unctuous mouth romancing stuff”. I loved it. Is exactly the kind of wine that makes me stand up and take notice. At very reasonable £12.99 a bottle no wonder it’s currently sold out.Screen Shot 2013-09-09 at 14.20.26

Dropwines have a slick looking website (though the search facility could use some tweaking), some interesting well priced wines(on their homepage select wines are offered for time sensitive deals. Perfect for the hardened Ebay “must get a deal” generation) and fun educational tasting videos that appeal to the modern day consumer. They also have a VIP Club which offers you a discounted price on all their wines as well as free delivery for £10 a month, which could work out a good deal if you buy wine regularly.

But the online wine trade is a brutal one and you have to be savvy with likes of those behemoths Majestic & Laithwaites out there. But there is room for smart, adaptable boutique web based retailers that have done their homework & understand what wines people actually want to drink.

So will they be around in a few years time?

I hope so.

 

Domaine of the Bee 2011 Launch

I had the pleasure of meeting Justin Howard-Sneyd MW a few years ago at a Laithwaites tasting when I first started out on my blogging adventure and we got to talking about our mutual love of Grenache. Later he would be the chief orchestrator in taking me on my very first press trip to the home of his Domaine of the Bee vineyards in Roussillon in the south of France not far from the Spanish border.

I was blown away by the landscape, the food, the people and of course the wines of this terribly special but under appreciated region. The trip and my wonderful memories of it remain, especially drinking Domaine of the Bee out of the bottle on a hilltop over looking vineyards and hills beyond.182203_10150152057415429_686745428_8719101_4877958_n

A few years have passed but Justin and I remain in touch. I bought some of the 2009 last year so jumped at a chance to come to their open house to try the new 2011 along with some of their older vintages.

Greeted like old friends at the door by Amanda, Justin’s wife and co conspirator in their “Four Hectares of Nectar” plots of very old vine Grenache Noir & Carignan Noir located near the village of Maury. We made out way into their lounge come tasting room with Justin starting us off with the aforementioned 2011 which is showing bright, jazzy vibrant dark berry fruit with liquorice and some grey stony notes. This wine is happy in your face juicy fun right now but imagine it will evolve a great deal over the coming years.

Next we tried the Les Genoux 2011, Genoux being French for knees. The Bees Knees! Who said people with doubled barrelled surnames don’t have a sense of humour?!

Taken from their best vineyard and made in tiny quantities from the top fruit. This is classy stuff, very floral, nuanced, delicate and feminine in structure. In stark contrast to the blasting fruit of it’s sister wine of the same vintage. They have been making it since 2009 and it usually sells out very quickly indeed.Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 11.04.48

The 2010 Domaine of the Bee was much more subdued but broodingly so. Gamey, earthy stewed dark forest berries, leathery animal and drier southern Rhone in style.

I was overjoyed that we still had a few bottles of the 2009 at home because the wine is a knock out. Fresh acidity but round generous almost lewd berry fruit. That black schist soil of the Maury really coming through all smoky and magical.

The 2008 promised much on the nose, a dark mineral blackberry beast. The first sip was all over you slathering wild berry & leather. But I found as I sipped more it settled down and became a bit tamer. Nice but not my favourite.

Finally it was the turn of their first official vintage the 2007 and man it did not disappoint. That black schist was back on the nose, smoky, ripe and inviting. Juicy blueberry leapt around my mouth getting into every pore, exciting my taste buds with it’s concentrated yet fresh dark fruit. A beauty of a wine and shows just how well this wine can age yet retain such vibrancy.

Justin, Amanda along with Philippe Sacerdot (The Business Brain) form a very strong trio that set up Arcadian Wines to market their incredible wine which is made for them by Richard Case (Owner of Domaine de la Pertuisane).

Great care, knowledge and passion go into making Domaine of the Bee and I highly recommend it to anyone who loves their wines bold yet nuanced, juicy yet complex, generous yet vibrant and above all who isn’t adverse to red wine mouth.Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 11.05.03

Now there was some lovely salami and parmesan but dinner was calling after a vertical tasting(sampling of different vintages of one particular wine) of such heavyweight wines. All the vintages weigh in at a hefty 14.8-15% ABV, but you can’t taste it. Which is a bit dangerous in itself.  So we bought 2 bottles 2007 & 2009 (somehow we had convinced ourselves that we had bought some of the 2011!) thanked our gracious hosts and floated home.

All of the vintages of Domaine of the Bee are available direct from Justin & Amanda @ £24 a bottle and £42 for Les Genoux. They are offering case discounts however so do get in touch with them.Screen Shot 2013-07-30 at 11.04.02