Thursday, 27 January 2011

Dulwich Wine Society tasting

The Society's chairman, Colin Wagstaff, asked me to present a selection of Southern Rhone wines last night which, of course, I was pleased to do. The venue is the upstairs room of a pub in Dulwich Village with around 35 or so members present. They like to take a break half-way through for cheese etc and, having recently returned from the Rhone, I decided this provided a good opportunity to slip in a few "en primeur" wines.

Starting with a couple of whites, Domaine des Anges' regular bottling from 2009 was well received because of its tasty fruit but, perhaps even more, behind the fruit lay a good structure which, now Ciaran is moving towards organics, is more apparent. This was followed by Xavier Vignon's white "Debut" (or, simply, "Xavier") which is atypical, having a Chardonnay base (actually, it's not really a Rhone wine; rather a vin de table, originating from both the Rhone and the Languedoc. Impressive though but some of us felt it needed a little longer to mesh together.

The 2009 reds came next, first a simple Cotes du Rhone from Domaine Bressy-Masson. Actually, not at all simple; the fruit is superb and there is a good tannic structure too. The wine needs another year or two really, then it will be more Rasteau than CDR in style. Domaine de Cristia's old-vine Grenache VDP followed, the sweet oak better integrated now than a few months ago. Almost Burgundian in style, very pure and delicious. The third of the EP selection was, however, one of the stars of the tasting: Christophe Coste's first vintage in Chateauneuf-du-Pape at his newly created Chateau Capucine was a revelation of what old-vine Grenache can really be when not messed around with. Amazing texture and purity. Very drinkable already!

After the break, we went back a couple of years to 2007 with Domaine des Anges' red "Archange", from 90% Syrah, the blackest wine of the night. It still betrays some of Ciaran's New World start in the wine world although more cool climate Aussie Syrah than jammy Barossa Shiraz. Very good - the chap who helped me open bottles accidentally opened the spare I had brought along so this was enjoyed when I got home later on! Domaine des Coteaux des Travers' Rasteau Prestige from 2007 was the only wine that really needs to develop further to bring the alcohol in line with other structural elements. Domaine Brusset's 2007 Gigondas "Le Grand Montmirail" had a slightly farmyardy nose but opened up magnificently.

Back another couple of years, Domaine Grand Veneur's Lirac "Clos des Sixte" 2005 still seems quite youthful, a characteristic of the vintage, perhaps, but with a great future (and it was not exactly unenjoyable now!) and Raymond Usseglio's Chateauneuf from the same vintage showed its class, a superb wine with wonderful mouthfeel and flavours. Even more concentrated was Domaine de Mourchon's 2006 Seguret-Cotes du Rhone Villages "Family Reserve", a truly luxurious wine.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Christophe Coste, the winemaker

As I wrote a couple of weeks ago, Christophe has had a meteoric decade, from newcomer fresh out of college to president of his local syndicate (Signargues - and he was one of the reasons why this village was promoted in the first place), father of two and winemaker extraordinaire.

Whilst his Cotes du Rhone remains one of our very best sellers (it is, perhaps, the most versatile wine on the list - we have enjoyed it with seafood, curry and everything in between) and his new Chateauneuf is heading for the top table, the wines in between can get overlooked. A foolish thing to do.

Tonight, I am opening the 2007 CDR Villages "Cayenne" which could easily pass for an oaked Gigondas at around twice the price. That said, it has much more black raspberry character than many I tasted on my recent visit to the Caveau des Vignerons in Gigondas. It's bursting with fruit and has a nice layer of oak lurking in the background. This will become even more integrated in time but I doubt the wine will stay on the shelves much longer!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Restaurant mark-ups

Got into a bit of a scrap with someone over restaurant mark ups. First, as a supplier to a small number of restaurants, I have some insight to how and why they price wines as high as they do (much of it comes down to our unwillingness to set foot in an establishment that would charge us £40 for a steak) and, partly because of this, would rarely go for the house wine. I do like the idea of restaurants that impose a maximum mark-up per bottle so that the more you pay, the better value (ie. a £10 bottle for £25 or a £30 bottle for £45).

The debate highlighted the fact that most people calculate gross profit in different ways. For me it is this: assume the restaurant wants 70% (not unknown) and pays £10 for the wine. In that case the bottle will be listed for £40 (£40 less 20% VAT then take off 70% of this brings you back to £10). So, it is taken from the top price and not, as some think, a 70% mark up of the original price which would be a mere £20.40 including VAT - that way, the GP at £40 would be 233%! Ouch indeed!