Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Domaine G Berlioz Mondeuse Vin de Savoie 2004

One of the ways we've been exploring the further reaches of artisanal wine is by buying mixed cases from specialist wine merchants. This bottle, which is surprisingly bright in colour for a 2004, came from our local Bristol merchant Vine Trail (at £17.95) and is made from 50 year old vines. The producer Gilles Berlioz farms organically and biodynamically and only adds sulphur at bottling.

Vine Trail draws comparisons with a northern Rhone Syrah but in fact I found it more similar to a Teroldego from Northern Italy. Wild hedgerow fruit (I can pick up brambles and sloes) clean, dry, a little hard without Syrah’s more sensuous edge. The sort of wine you need to drink with food (it went very well with a pot-roasted mallard and root veg and I suspect would be good with pasta with a wild mushroom sauce and with charcuterie, especially rough-hewn patés.)

If I was putting it into one of the categories we discussed in my last post I’d say it was an amber wine. Slightly out of most drinkers’ comfort zones but not especially challenging. It’s OK though I’m not as enraptured as my colleagues The Wine Gang recently were. I expect my wines to have rather more personality for this price but, hey, it’s good to find a red that’s only 12%.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

How should I rate natural wines?

I've been wondering whether I should rate the natural wines I taste in some way. Not out of 100 Parker-style, obviously or even out of 20. Marking wines like this seems more to do with the world of wine competitions and other conventional ways of assessing wine that natural winemakers deliberately turn their backs on.

The most useful rating it seems to me would be one that placed the wines somewhere on the spectrum of natural winemaking which is a pretty broad church. On the one hand you have wines that taste like any other wine from that area or appellation, on the other ones where you're hard pushed to identify the country let alone the grape variety.

Doug Wregg of Caves de Pyrène gets round this at Terroirs by flagging up the more challenging bottles on the list with a wild horse. I'd quite like to see a three tiered ranking, maybe flagged green, amber and red, traffic-light fashion. Green being familiar territory, unlikely to phase a newcomer to natural wines, amber suggesting it might be outside your usual register and red an alert that this is a more extreme style of winemaking that may not be to your taste at all.

Or maybe I should simply carry on describing the wines and just say how I find them. What do you think?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Domaine des Tourelles

Following on from my last post on Musar the other Lebanese winery that falls within the remit of this blog is Domaine des Tourelles which is based in the town of Chtaura in the Bekaa Valley. Although not quite as cobweb-ridden as Musar it has similarly atmospheric features such as ancient concrete tanks, a basket press and some pretty dodgy wiring.

It dates back to 1868 when it was founded by a French engineer Francois-Eugene Brun who had come to the Lebanon to work on the construction of the road from Beirut to Damascus and is currently run by descendants of Brun’s Lebanese wife, Nayla Kanaan Issa-el-Khoury and Elie F. Issa. Elie’s son Faouzi E. Issa who trained in Montpelier and has worked at Chateaux Margaux is the winemaker (seen above (left) with his sister Christiane (middle) and Emile Issa-el-Khoury (right).

The trio have cannily decided to preserve the heritage of their wines, making it in the traditional way with the minimum of additions and no fining or filtering. “We don’t use any external yeast just the indigenous yeasts on the walls, ceilings and in the vineyards. And only a small amount of sulphur” said Faouzi.

We tasted the wines in the semi-dark sitting on low seating in the garden - hopeless for any considered appraisal but wonderfully romantic.

Domaine des Tourelles Blanc 2009
15% Muscat, 85% semillon, Unfiltered. Unfined. Fresh, aromatic, lots of semillon character, texture and character. Attractive but sadly not available in the UK

Domaine des Tourelles Rosé 2009
One of the best rosés I tasted on the trip. A characterful blend of Tempranillo, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cinsault: strong, dark, fruity and dry - “Rosé should be a wine not a watery beverage” said Faouzi. (The 2009 is available from importers Lebanese Fine Wines at an RRP of £11.60)

Domaine des Tourelles Rouge 2007
A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, aged in concrete vats for 12 months. Very slightly rubbery on the nose but with vivid, vibrant fruit - not unlike a Costières de Nimes. Again nothing is added except sulphur. The following vintage in 2008 apparently has 10% of Carignan added to the blend though we didn’t get to taste that. £11.99 Thos. Peatling. Borough Wines has the 2005 for £12.

Marquis des Beys 2006
A blend of Syrah and Cabernet from 20-25 year old vines yielding about 45 hl per ha. Spends 18 months in French oak, a third new, a third first use and a third second year and a further year in bottle. Good smooth, ripe, well-integrated fruit, well-structured but needs more time in bottle (as many Lebanese reds seem to do).

Marquis des Beys 2004
Although a couple of years older this was much richer and more intensely coloured with ripe plum and berry fruit and a far more typical Syrah pepperiness. Almost meaty. More elegant, substantial than the ’04. Quite expensive at £24.50 (hangingditch) £25 (Borough Wines)though Thos. Peatling is stocking it for £18.04

Syrah du Liban 2006
A powerful concentrated red made from low yielding 35 year old vines. Aged for 24 months in new American oak (to which some ‘naturalists’ might object). Won a Silver medal at the Syrah du Monde 2009. Rich, sweet and spicy but not over-extracted. Very ambitiously priced though at £45 www.hangingditch.com £49.95 Hennings Wine. I must say I preferred the Marquis de Beys.

If I have a criticism of the range, which I generally liked, it’s that the wines are expensive - with the basic red coming in at £12 and the Syrah at up to £49.95. Availability of recent vintages is also patchy.

Like most other Lebanese wineries Domaine des Tourelles also make arak.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

So Chateau Musar is natural . . .

I suppose I should have guessed it from its idiosyncratic character but Chateau Musar is a natural wine. In fact judging from the cellars (above and below), I saw on my visit to the winery in the Lebanon last week ‘minimal intervention’ extends to not removing a single cobweb.

The winemaking operation has been certified organic since 2006. The domaine still works with traditional grapes such as Cinsault and Carignan that other wineries have given up on and with indigenous white varieties (see below). “I am addicted to Cinsault - it gives the silkiness and femininity to my wine, Cabernet, the backbone and Carignan the shape and muscles.” said Serge Hochar - a well honed line you feel he’s trotted out more than a few times before.

Yields in his Bekaa valley vineyards are kept low. The vines are unirrigated though with the lack of water this year they haven’t ruled it out for the future. “The soils of the Bekaa give concentration, intensity and a unique aroma. It’s a biodiverse environment with over 200 different kinds of plants.”

They use concrete tanks to ferment the wine “We’ve tried stainless steel but for our palate concrete works best.” No yeast is added. “The yeast is there before us and without us. Like oxygen” says Hochar in a typically elliptical way

After fermentation each variety is aged in Nevers oak then they are blended at the end of the third year after harvest in roughly equal proportions though the blend differs slightly from vintage to vintage. The wine is bottled then aged for a further four years in that cobwebby cellar. Hochar deliberately makes his wine in an oxidative style. “It’s part of the life of the wine. Like acidity it promotes longevity. I like brett (brettanomyces), I like brett - who cares?” he says defiantly.

Sulphur is only added to prevent odium in the vineyard and at bottling - he estimates each bottle contains less than 10mg free sulphur. “We do not fine or filter so the wine tends to throw a sediment after 6-7 years.”

Hochar insisted we kept the wine in our glass as we walked around from one section of the cellar to the other and upstairs to the tasting room, retasting it at every stage. “Wine is never the same - never, never, never ...”

The longevity of Musar rather demolishes the idea that natural wines don’t age. Hochar recommends reds should not be drunk for 15 years. “This is my opinion. I might be wrong . . . ” Actually I think he was spot on. My favourite red of the line-up - and this is not to decry the remarkable 1961 we tasted - was the 1995. Exactly 15 years old.

Chateau Musar Red
‘Chateau Musar makes every effort at producing totally natural wines letting each one develop its own character’ says the website, a warning that every vintage - possibly every bottle - will taste entirely different.

They suggest decanting 30 minutes to two hours before service and leaving them 2-4 weeks to settle after transporting them.

The current release - with still 8 years to go before it’s ready to drink, according to Hochar but already full of rich dark dried fruit flavours - figs and preserved plums. A hot vintage. About £17.99-£18.99

Very sweet, exotic, almost floral, ripe figgy with high acidity - the quality that helps Chateau Musar live ‘forever’ according to Serge Hochar. I picked up the Carignan more in this vintage. Another 3 years to go till it’s ready to drink About £24.95

A classic Musar - slightly funky, silkily sweet, exotic, scented. Cinsault was the dominant grape in this blend. Although the older wines were impressively, fascinatingly complex this was my favourite wine of the line-up. Hard to get hold of. The Wine Society currently charges £50 a bottle.

The following two vintages were selected at random on the basis of the birthdates of two of our party

Nose slightly seaweedy. Leathery (fruit leather) notes on the palate, quite surprisingly spicy. Long finish though slightly faded and dry. Can’t really agree with Serge’s comment that his older vintages ‘are old but do not show signs of age’ in this case

Though faded at the edges still amazingly deep (garnet) in colour. We picked up a succession of flavours - root vegetables, at first, especially beets, sousbois (forest floor), shitake mushrooms, truffles, bacon, smoked Polish sausages, star anise, new leather (this came through after the wine had been exposed to air for a while) old Comté. A remarkable wine which helps to explain why Musar has developed its cult following

Chateau Musar whites
I’ve always had issues with the Musar whites which are a blend of Merwah and Obeideh (ancestors of Semillon and Chasselas respectively. but on this occasion I found them stunning. Possibly I hadn’t tasted an old enough vintage. Or I was so hypnotised by the way Hochar was talking about them I took leave of my critical faculties. “If you open a bottle of white Musar and drink it every day for two weeks it will be better the last day than the first. My biggest wine is my white wine. It ages longer than the red.”

Interestingly these were served at room temperature.

Characteristically waxy with an aroma of cooked apple (compote). Very spicy, high acidity. While more appealing that previous whites I’ve tasted it’s still not particularly rewarding to drink at this age. £16.50 a bottle from the Wine Society. (A few years ago you could have bought it for half that).

Surprisingly rich in colour. Lush, opulent, waxy, nutty, honeyed but with that ever-present acidity. Grilled pineapple and a long spicy finish. Reminded me of Vina Tondonia aged white riojas. (Serge says it reminds him of the 1993 Haut Brion Blanc) Apparently he participated in a tasting of 26 cheeses with the famous French affineur Bernard Antony and this wine went with more than 12 of them. He also suggested it would go with lamb cooked with mint which I can imagine.

Had suffered a fair amount of ullage. Very dark, rich colour. Spectacular nose - truffles, white flowers. Waxy, lanolin-like texture. Almost Sauternes-like, I note then Hochar compares it with Ygrec of d’Yquem) Still amazingly fresh. “Wines of this age can talk for hours” he says, mystically. My favourite white of the line-up

Extraordinarily lush, opulent and rich for its age though more so on the front palate . Slightly thinner on the mid-palate with a slight note of bitterness on the finish. More quince than pineapple. Apparently it goes with caviar. I believe him.

What do you think of Musar. Does it appeal to you or do you think it’s overrated. If you like it what’s your favourite vintage?

To arrange a tasting at Chateau Musar call 00961 9 925056 or 00961 9 925127 or email info@chateaumusar.com.lb.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Emmanuel Giboulot’s Côte de Beaune Les Pierres Blanches 2008

If you’re sceptical about natural wine this is the perfect bottle to try. It’s also the perfect bottle if you’re disenchanted with Chardonnay. It’s very clean, pure and mineral - like a premier cru Puligny Montrachet with a touch of apple (an old heritage variety with a delicate flavour and not too much sweetness) and citrus. As the evening wore on it opened out to give richer creamier notes that I imagine it will acquire with more age. The last bottle we tasted also had a markedly honeyed note.

So who’s Emmanuel Giboulot? Well, he’s an organic (since 1985) and biodynamic producer with a cellar in the outskirts of Beaune - one of the winemakers we met on our recent French trip. His view is that biodynamic viticulture "changes your whole attitude to wine and to the people working with you. Since we went biodynamic in '96 we've really noticed the difference in the structure and purity of our wines."

We drank it last night with our friend, food writer Andrea Leeman’s creamy courgette soup and a homemade chicken and pistachio terrine and it was brilliant with both but would of course be a perfect wine to drink with fish and shellfish and, I think, with Japanese food.

The only downside is that this particular cuvée seems not to be available in the UK though you can buy Giboulot’s other wines, notably La Combe d’Eve, from slurp.co.uk, Novum Wines and apparently from Graham Gardner of Folly Wines in Gloucestershire ((01453 731 509) though he doesn’t appear to have a website. His basic burgundy is stocked by Vinceremos. We found the whites, which are particularly fine, more appealing than the reds by the way. Amazing from such a humble appellation.

(Given the price and the scarcity it would be worth picking up direct from the domaine if you're in France: Emmanuel Giboulot, 4 rue de la Seurre, 21200 Beaune. Tel: 00 33 (0) 3 80 22 90 07)

Since writing this I've discovered a fascinating interview with Giboulot here on vinomaniac.tv

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Mark Haisma’s Gevrey and other burgundies

It’s not every day you have a Gevrey Chambertin producer sitting round your kitchen table showing you his wines but I can honestly recommend it. Far more fun than sitting with a line up of 20 supermarket samples.

You’ve spotted, of course that Haisma is not a French name although turns out his mother was French and his father an Australian who ‘pioneered the use of biodynamics in Australia’ (I find out from his website). We didn’t manage to get round to how he ended up working for Dr Bailey Carrodus at Yarra Yering but for the past 3 years he’s been making wine in Burgundy and has lived there since 2009

The fact that he is unapologetic about using sulphur may disqualify him in the view of some from inclusion in this blog but as I say at the top of the page it’s about the whole package and his attitude to winemaking is both thoughtful and thought-provoking.

Not having his own vineyards yet he buys grapes from growers including Pierre Naigeon which is where he makes his wine. He admits it can be a frustrating process. “They never agree anything until the last minute. With the Clos de Bèze we were told we could have it the night before they picked.”

He aspires to growing grapes organically but ‘at the moment it’s about finding someone with really good fruit. If the vineyard’s like a billiard table without a blade of grass I think I’ve been around long enough to know it’s pretty suspect.”

A monoculture gone beserk
“There are a lot of problems in Burgundy at the moment. There’s a lot of dead soils out there. It’s a severe case of monoculture gone beserk. There’s a lot of homogeneous stuff coming out. Chemical companies keep coming through and telling winemakers you need that and that. The soil is treated with contempt - a base to plant vines in. If you find any kind of live organism there you’re lucky.” He pauses. “Sorry that was a bit of a rant. Pierre is fortunately very progressive, he uses a lot of compost.”

He tries to keep his winemaking simple. “I’m a very boring winemaker. Once the wine goes to vat I want to walk away from it and leave it. I don’t use artificial yeasts. I will chill the fruit if it’s coming in warm because I want a slow ferment. It does its own thing - I don’t plunge or pump over then the wine goes into barrel for a year - 3-4 year old ones for the Bourgogne, 1-2 for the Gevrey and Bonnes Mares and new for the Clos de Bèze. It comes out very clean so I don’t need to filter but if I saw a problem I’d consider it. I’d also fine if I found the tannins excessive but I don’t.”

But he does use sulphur. “It’s an important part of winemaking. I use it in the fermenter but not till the malo’s over and at the end of the winter then nothing until bottling. Sure. I’m interested in making wine without sulphur but I’m not quite ready for that yet.

He showed me five wines starting with his 2007 and 2008 Bourgognes (£13-14). The ‘07 was still quite tight, the ‘08 brighter, juicier and more expressive but both were pure and well balanced - lovely wines to drink with food. “I guess I was trying to make a bit of a statement with my first wine. It took a long time to open up. I want wines to be forward drinking when they're young but capable of going the distance. There’s a lot of dull wine at the Bourgogne level. If I’m trying a new producer I go straight for his Bourgogne.”

Gevrey-Chambertin 2008 (£27-30)
A classic Gevrey with lovely pure fruit and silky tannins but the same freshness and vitality you find in his less expensive wines. “You don’t need your better wines to be heavier and denser, you need them to be more elegant.”

Morey St Denis Premier Cru La Riotte 2008 (£44)
“I love Morey it’s really misunderstood. There’s a Gevrey side and a Chambolle side and then a fine strip which encompasses the village in the middle and this is where this wine comes from.” This was my favourite of the wines. It had a pronounced minerality but opened up on the mid-palate in the most sensuous way. “Why does ’08 need to be thought of as an austere meagre year?” asked Haisma rhetorically

Saint Joseph 2008 Vincent Paris 12.5% £16
A wine that Haisma is supplying to the restaurants he deals with. A real curiosity. I don’t think I’ve ever tasted a more peppery syrah - not only white pepper but green and szechuan pepper with even some capsicum character. “Also very mineral. It comes from vines that are not swamped with grass. It’s a wine that’s alive and vibrant, one that grabs you in the face.”

I didn’t get to try his 2009s but there’s certainly enough evidence on the basis of this tasting that Haisma is a man to watch. His wines are already in a number of top restaurants including The Ledbury, the Glasshouse and the Harwood Arms and stocked by distributors including Caviste, Philglas & Swiggot, the Huntsworth Wine Company, The Sampler, Vinoteca and WoodWinters.

You can also buy from him direct though he was a bit vague about delivery arrangements and what that would cost. The answer is obviously to get in touch with him direct. The minimum order for the burgundies is 6 bottles and an unsplit case of 12 for the Rhones (there's also a Cornas from Vincent Paris).

Having tasted the wines which were far more Burgundian than Australian I wondered if people came to his wines with the wrong kind of expectations. He paused for a minute. “I don’t think anyone who knows I worked for Bailey would think that. He taught me that If you recognise the beauty of the world around you in art, architecture and so on you have a chance to make something beautiful in a bottle of wine not something dense, inky, fat and alcoholic which defeats the purpose of wine.” And on that robust note he left to catch his train.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Rare Tea Lady gets into natural wine

There's a great new video on the Guardian website today of Henrietta Lovell visiting one of the iconic figures of the natural wine movement Thierry Puzelat. A tad rose-tinted admittedly - no hard questions asked - but beautifully shot. Lovell, whose videos about tea you should also watch, is a TV natural. Someone should - and probably will - give her a series.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The UK wine press on natural wine

The subject of natural wine is preoccupying us all at the moment. Here are recent articles from Jancis Robinson, Antony Rose
and a trio of videos from Simon Woods of Drinking Outside the Box. And a link to my column in yesterday's Guardian.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Sulphur in wine

The most controversial issue about natural wines - and the reason why they're of interest to so many people - is how much sulphur is used in the winemaking process. Purists say none should be used at all - although there is naturally occurring sulphur which will be detectable even in unsulphured wines. Many others reserve the right to use a small amount at bottling to stabilise the wine.

The problem is we have no idea how much sulphur winemakers are using - and won't unless the regulations change or someone decides to break ranks and put the amount they've used on the label (which I wish they would). The phrase 'contains sulphites' covers everything from miniscule to massive amounts. No help to those who react badly to sulphur and have maybe given up the pleasure of drinking wine as a result.

If you want to know more let me recommend this excellent post on morethanorganic.com which explains the issues with admirable clarity though they obviously have an agenda.

For a more technical approach check out my colleague Jamie Goode's site Wine Anorak here and here.

It's a subject I'm sure I'll be returning to but what's your view about sulphur in wine? Do you think a wine needs to be unsulphured to be classified as 'natural'? Should winemakers put the sulphur content on the label and can this be done in any meaningful way? Do you yourself suffer from allergic reactions to sulphur?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Natural f*****g wine

I came across this clever, quirky video by chance last night and thought I'd share it with you. It actually explains what natural wine is pretty well - if you're not offended by the odd F-word.

What else to say? Nothing really, just watch it and let me know what you think . . .

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

. . .and now biodynamic wines at Harvey Nics!

If you had any doubts that there was a natural wine bandwagon rolling just check this: Harvey Nichols has put a list of biodynamic wines into its revamped flagship restaurant in Knightsbridge.

According to a press release I've just received:

The extensive wine list at Fifth Floor Restaurant now features a brand new range of 30 biodynamic wines and Champagnes . . . In recent years, some of the internationally renowned estates have started producing biodynamic wines with great success and Majorie Cropp [the Fifth Floor sommelier] is excited to be able to present these wines to Harvey Nichols diners. Champagnes include Jérôme Prevost, La Closerie Les Béguines, Pinot Meunier; whites include Meursault, Domaine des Comtes Lafon, Burgundy, France, 2005 and reds Flor de Pingus, Ribera del Duero, Spain, 2008.

Not sure what I think about this. Great that more people will get a chance to drink biodynamic wines but not sure I want them to be chic. And will there be enough genuinely naturally made wine to satisfy this new demand?

The greening of Oddbins

I’m old enough to remember when Oddbins was the most exciting wine store on the high street. Back in the seventies when supermarket wine ranges were terminally boring and wine merchants the pompous, pin-striped suited caricatures of legend Oddbins shone like a beacon of light with its offbeat listings and quirky Ralph Steadman-illustrated wine lists. It put Australia on the map and then Greece (remember the Greek wine range?) And then it all went horribly wrong ending up under the ownership of Castel Frères, owners of the nondescript Nicolas.

When it was rescued a couple of years ago by Henry Young and Simon Baile whose father had run the business in the early days I must admit I still wasn’t convinced about the direction the chain was going in. The shelves were still pretty dull. There was a half-hearted flirtation with natural wines which no-one in my local branch had ever heard of but suddenly - judging by yesterday’s press tasting - Oddbins has a spring in its step and is stocking the sort of wines that made its reputation. And believe it or not almost half of them are organic or sustainable.

It’s obviously a personal passion for head wine buyer Richard Verney (above) who sees it as his mission to make this the point of difference between the company and their rivals. And is clearly sincere about it rather than seeing it as a marketing ploy. The difficulty he sees is how to present it to their customers - whether to talk about organic, sustainable or natural wines.

"It’s not always straightforward" he admitted to me yesterday. "Some of our producers are effectively organic but not certified. I was talking to a Muscadet producer the other day and she said ‘Look, we’re in a marginal area. I need to reserve the right to use sprays as a last resort.” You can understand that - they've got to make a living. And there are certain aspects of the organic movement I’m not 100% happy about if it means organic stops as soon as the grapes are picked. We need to think what our attitude is to additions of sugar and acid and what is acceptable and unacceptable. How wine travels to us - the stuff that comes in on a truck from Europe may be more ecologically unfriendly than wine that comes in by container."

But he’s convinced that ‘greening’ Oddbins is the right move. "The next thing in wine has always been a new region but I think it’s now going to be a new attitude."

"I go to Borough Market every Saturday and see people who are obsessed with the food there and wonder where they’re buying their wine. Most people still see wine as a factory produced product rather than an agricultural one - we’d like to change that."

The detailed notes on each wine presented at the tasting illustrate that Verney is serious about his intention. The return of the old ‘odd bins’ philosophy means that many of the most interesting bottles will only be available in selected branches and small parcels. Which is fine - you'll just need to get in quick. I’ll post a couple once I’ve checked availability.

December 21st: Sadly for Oddbins it's just been announced that Verney has left "to pursue new challenges" so I wonder if they'll sustain this momentum.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Patrice Lescarret’s Dencon

Dencon sounds a bit like a DIY product - not the most appealing name for a wine but it’s named for a reason. The producer Patrice Lescarret of Domaine Causse Marines isn’t allowed to call this wine Gaillac because it’s made solely with the local grape Ondenc which isn’t officially recognised in the appellation. He therefore had to call it a vin de table but couldn’t put the vintage on the bottle so had to number it 7002. The hoops natural winemakers have to go through . . .

It’s unsulphured, unfiltered, unfined, made with natural yeasts and without insecticides or herbicides - in other words uncompromisingly ‘natural’

We picked it up a couple of years ago when we were in Cahors just as we started to get into natural wine and it’s been down to the Languedoc and back to England, finally sitting in our cupboard for about 15 months. Not ideal, we now realise though it’s survived remarkably well as we discovered when we opened it on Saturday night.

It has the typical richness of an artisanal Gaillac white (quince seemed to me the predominant fruit) with the minerality that is characteristic of many natural wines - a lovely wine to drink at this time of year. I seem to remember an extra lushness when we tasted it in Cahors though. I suspect it would have been better if we’d drunk it sooner after we brought it back however it didn’t need to be decanted.

In the UK Green and Blue sell the 2006 vintage for £20. In France it is stocked by VinNatural.fr and Vin Etonnants and in Australia by Terroir Wines. In London you can drink it at La Trouvaille.

Suggested food matches include foie gras (inevitably in that part of the world, though it hardly seems very natural) tagines, curry (which I think would have to be quite mild) and matured goats cheese. I like the idea of trying it with skate - or other fish - with brown butter . . .