Long-term followers will recall the release of our first edition “Jammy Git” – a fabulous Merlot made by our friend Mark Hellyar. Newcomers to BinTwo might quite be wondering why my head has suddenly appeared on a wine label and how I could consider naming a carefully crafted wine something as off-the-wall as “Jammy Git”. Allow me to explain…
In a moment of reflection I found myself pondering the circuitous route that led us into life in Cornwall and ownership of a rather nice little wine shop. Whilst it’s true to say that we’ve worked hard and been willing to take a chance here and there (to take the plunge if you will) we’ve also been very lucky. Lucky with some of the opportunities that arose at just the right moment and lucky with the people we’ve met along the way. And the development of our “Jammy Git” wine range is a case in point.
The name “Jammy Git” is a playful nod to the serendipity that led us into ownership of BinTwo five years ago and the general, all-round jamminess that we have broadly enjoyed since. Beneath the playful branding what Jammy Git wines have in common is a certain authenticity. By which I mean they’re wines that I feel we have a genuine connection with. We’ll have met the winemaker, visited the vineyard, understood their ethos. Maybe even have had a small part in the development of the wine.
I may not always be able to tell you that only one or two barrels of the wine was made and we have them exclusively (although that has happily been the case so far) but I will be able to look you in the eye and tell you that I haven’t bought a blank bottled, mass produced wine and slapped our label on it in order to maximise profits. They’ll always be good, honest wines. Wines that I love that I think you’ll love too. Wines priced fairly with no massive “own label” margins applied. Wines that have been made by winemakers I believe in with an ethos I can get behind. I wouldn’t put my name behind (or indeed my face on) anything else.
How do we find these wines? Some people make a career out of searching the globe for small pockets of extraordinary wines. We just seem to be lucky. With characteristic good luck our first contender for a BinTwo “Jammy Git” wine presented itself to us on our first visit to a Bordeaux vineyard. Jammy Git #1 subsequently flew off the shelves in just a few months. We found the contender for our second edition of Jammy Git much closer to home….
On a chilly January morning we visited Knightor winery, right here in Cornwall, to taste some new wines for the shelves. David the winemaker made an off-the-cuff comment about a blend of Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon that they had in development. My curiosity piqued I asked where they were sourcing the grapes as those ain’t varieties that are grown in UK. “Gloucestershire” came the dead pan reply.
Now, for context, I was born in Gloucestershire (just 15 minutes or so from where these grapes are grown). So I feel qualified and permitted to say that we can be an eccentric bunch. A lovely chap called Tim Chance grows these grapes under two enormous greenhouses in which he used to grow strawberries commercially. He now works full time as a builder and grows grapes instead just for fun. Because why not. He also collects and renovates German half track armoured vehicles from WWII. As I say, we’re an eccentric bunch.
Knightor, always up for a bit of an experiment, snap up all the grapes he can grow and have three vintages in different stages of development. The 2016 is already on release as part of their range but they were scratching their heads about which direction to take with the 2017 and 2018 vintages. Just for fun we started playing with blends in the winery taking samples of each vintage from barrel and trying different combinations. What started as a bit of a geeky wine fun took on a different air when we hit on a blend that led to collective shared look… “hang on… we’re onto something here”.
With a bit more tweaking and refinement we settled on a blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon using 42% of 2018 (which had loads of lovely fruit but was lacking structure) 40% of 2017 (which had structure but was a bit lean and mean) and 18% of 2016 which, having spent two years in oak, added a bit more body, structure and complexity.
Winemakers are often reluctant to blend vintages in this way because, in some parts of the wine loving community, there’s a bit of a stigma around non-vintage blends so they can be hard to sell. It’s ironic really as most Champagnes produced are non-vintage blends and are unarguably seen as premium products. Go figure…
With the Champagne approach in mind we’ve focussed on getting the Jammy Git blend right first and foremost. What’s the best wine we can produce from these three vintages was the exam question we set ourselves and we’re very happy with the results. Light to medium bodied, fresh, juicy, bursting with red fruit flavours and a little hit of spice on the finish. Just 12% abv and vegan friendly to boot! We’ll be adding it to our terrace menu as a lighter summertime red and, by happy good fortune, we think it’s rather lovely slightly chilled.
So there you have it. An English red wine made through chance and a spirit of fun using grapes grown in an eccentric manner vinified and blended into a vintage defying wine by curious innovators and brought to you by us because it’s fun to try news things. All in all it’s very much a Jammy Git story..
On Saturday 27th April, 7 – 9pm at BinTwo, Padstow we’ll be bringing you one Master of Wine, some fabulous wines and a menu of nibbles from the ARC Speciality Food Store. 18 lucky customers will be able to taste the wines, hear the stories behind them and meet the man who liberated them from a dreadful fate…
Richard Kelley, Master of Wine is the brains behind “the Liberator” range of wines. Under the guise of his alter ego (the Cape Crusader) Richard tours South Africa seeking our small parcels of wine that have been forgotten, abandoned or have simply been undiscovered. Great wines that, for a range of reasons, haven’t fitted into the winemaker’s plans for that year. It might be an occasional experimental batch, or possibly an interesting off-cut from some proud winemaker’s latest premium release. Whatever the reason they are great wines that are destined to be sold off to become part of a blend. Or worse, to languish in the cellar with no buyer at all – and that really would be a crime. Richard finds these small, one-off parcels and sells them on to better homes. He liberates them you see… and so a brand was born.
Achieving MW status is rather a big deal in the wine trade (bonus fact: more people have been into space than there are people who’ve achieved MW status). So when a Master of Wine goes searching for special wines that he’s happy to put his name to it’s a fair bet that they’re good ‘uns. Liberator wines always come in small batches and when they’re gone they’re gone – never to be repeated so don’t miss out!
The final line-up has yet to be finalised but will include 6 – 8 interesting and varied South African wines. Wines that aren’t widely available and that you won’t have the opportunity to taste again. Not to be missed… BUY NOW
On Saturday 23rd March, 7 – 9pm at BinTwo, Padstow we’ll be bringing you one Master of Wine, eight great new wines and a menu of nibbles from the ARC Speciality Food Store. 18 lucky customers will be the first to taste the wines, hear the stories behind them and meet the man who made them…
We’re always on the look out for new suppliers. People who get what we’re about and who bring us authentic, interesting wines. Wines with a story that we can get behind and sell to you with conviction because they’re wine’s that we love ourselves.
Liam Steevenson is such a man and his wines are the latest addition to the BinTwo line up. Liam is one of four Masters of Wine that we work with. Achieving MW status is rather a big deal in the wine trade and Liam is the youngest person ever to attain the qualification (bonus fact: more people have been into space than there are people who’ve achieved MW status).
Working in close partnership with local winemakers, Liam has produced a range of wines that we’re really excited to introduce to the BinTwo shelves: The line up includes:
£30 per person. Only 18 tickets available so don’t delay… BUY NOW
Friday 1st March, 7pm-9pm.
Cocktail Night in partnership with South Western Distillery.
We know that you, like us, are huge fans of Tarquin’s Gin & we’ve even converted some non-believers with a taster of his super-smooth Cornish Pastis. You already know that Tarquin’s gin with fever tree tonic is a winner and our “Bin and Tonic” made with Tarquin’s Blackberry Gin has been a huge hit. A few of you have even witnessed Mike’s inept shaker skills & have made generous noises about his Martinis.
But if the professionals offer to take over it’s time to step aside. When Rory, Tarquin’s chief mixologist, offered to host a cocktail evening we jumped at the chance.
The final menu has yet to be fixed but Rory will be mixing up a selection of cocktails for you to sample. On arrival we’ll ease you in gently with a Tarquin’s G&T followed by demos and tasters of five classic cocktails including Mike’s very own barrel-aged Sea Dog Negroni which is right now sat in our new mini barrel – gently aging and developing in flavour. How will it compare to an unaged Negroni? You’ll have to come along and see…
The price for the event is £25 per person which includes two cocktails. We’re not rationing you though – further cocktail delights will be available at extra charge if your juices are in full flow!
Numbers are limited to 18 due to the capacity of the shop (I think we’re not yet at the stage where we can enjoy a balmy evening sat out on the terrace) so don’t dawdle if you’d like to join us… Buy Now
Whether you relish or dread the approach of Christmas, we can all surely unite around one common ideal: You DO NOT want to run out of wine… Do you?
Of course you don’t. Below I’ve outlined the key information relating to Christmas orders.
That’s it. All incredibly simple which probably means I’ve forgotten something important. Don’t hesitate to ask if you have any questions and remember to order early and tick the most enjoyable Christmas “must do” off the intimidating and absurdly complicated “to do” list.
It’s time for a treat…We’ve selected a special case of splendid goodies tailored to the Christmas and Boxing Day festivities, choosing twelve bottles we know you will love, if you can’t do it at Christmas when can you?
Drappier Carte d’Or NV, Champagne, France £40.50 2 bottles
Indulge in Carte d’Or for the Christmas Day toast, the decadent sparkling and flagship Pinot Noir-lead fizz from the family-run Champagne house, Drappier. Richly aromatic with a generous, fruit-filled palate, a tantalising fine mousse, all wrapped in a long creamy finish.
Domaine Camille Paquet Mâcon-Lugny ‘Les Charmes’ 2017, Burgundy, France £15.50 2 bottles
A cracking white Burgundy which delivers on every level. A beautiful shade of gold in the glass, gentle aromatics, ripe yellow stone fruits, melon and honey notes are balanced by freshness and a hint of spice. Being un-oaked this 100% Chardonnay boasts elegance and purity of fruit however it also succeeds in delivering a moreish smooth texture, ripeness and body and is the perfect accompaniment for your Christmas Day feast.
Bodegas Roda Sela 2015, Rioja, Spain £21 2 bottles
The yuletide festivities call for a treat from one of our favourite Spanish producers, Bodegas Roda. ‘Sela’ is an incredibly smooth Tempranillo tempered by a lick of lively Graciano and a hint of Garnacha. In the glass this Rioja is a vibrant cherry red, the nose and palate brim with fresh red fruits and a little sweet spice. 12 months in French barrels leaves ‘Sela’ with depth, silky tannins and well-integrated oak characters. A satisfying drop indeed and a sure-fire Christmas crowd-pleaser.
The Liberator Episode 9 2016, Bishop of Norwich, South Africa £20.50 1 bottle
Whatever your post-lunch fancy this single barrel Cape ‘Port’ from Calitzdorp, South Africa, is a winner. Sipped alongside fruit cake, pudding or a good hard cheese the Bishop of Norwich is rich, velvety and full of spiced dried-fruit flavours, sweet spice and herbal notes all coated in jammy black fruits. This vintage style ‘Port’ pays homage to the said Bishop, Henry Bathurst, whose tendency it was to fall asleep at the end of dinner whilst decanters accumulated around him much to the consternation of others seated further along the table… This Christmas don’t forget to ‘pass the port’!
Château Partarrieu 2015, Sauternes, France 37.5cl £16.50 1 bottle
Why not try savouring a sweet wine with your blue cheese? The sweetness of Château Partarrieu is an excellent accompaniment for the savoury, salty and pungent flavours of a blue. This is a delicious mid-weight Semillon / Sauvignon Blanc with apricot, honey and a touch of lemon and savoury to balance. It is indeed liquid gold!…Ps. If blue cheese isn’t your thing, this wine is just as tasty with a fruit dessert.
Il Grillo di Santa Tresa Spumante Brut, Sicily, Italy £16 1 bottle
A favourite find this year and a superb Prosecco alternative, Il Grillo is how we’ll be kick starting our Boxing Day festivities. The pretty pale straw colour is flecked with gold, the bubbles are fine and lively and the palate is soft with bursts of zingy freshness and spectacular fruity notes. What’s more the Grillo grapes are all organically cared for in the vineyard and winery and this fun fizz is vegan friendly too.
Ciacci Piccolomini d’Aragona IGT Toscana Rosso 2015, Italy £13 2 bottles
Boxing Day with all its delicious leftovers, cold meats and festive snacks calls for a very versatile drop. This Sangiovese blend is the answer to the smorgasbord. A flavourful red to say the least, fruits enriched with herbal and savoury notes, ample body, soft and well-balanced. The little Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah rounding out the Sangiovese and making a superb pairing for all those tasty nibbles.
Prà Morandina Valpolicella Ripasso 2016, Italy £27 1 bottle
Time to relax, put your feet up and simply enjoy the festive feeling. And what better companion than this opulent and velvety Valpolicella Ripasso. Beautifully aromatic with red berries and plums to the fore. Followed by ripe dark fruit, herbal and sweet spice characters. A fine wine from world class Italian winemaker, Graziano Prà. Enjoy!
Our Christmas Cracker case contains £260 of delicious wine. This year this case is available to all of our customers at a cracking £221.
Local delivery is included in the price and national delivery of the Christmas case is just £10 to all of our customers.
A fabulous gift for wine-loving family or friends or the perfect treat to aid your Christmas preparations and festivities. Wishing you a Merry Christmas!
A lovely bunch of wines to celebrate the season and its fare. Juicy, warming reds, food-friendly whites and of course, a fun fizz to kick-start a get-together, like we need an excuse!
Château Los Boldos Tradition Réserve Carmènere 2016 £13
Cachapoal Valley, Chile
New to our shelves and just in time for the cooler Autumn evenings, a truly comforting Carmènere! Rounded and soft in texture with ripe dark fruit character a hint of spice and chocolate. Though intense in colour, a deep red, and full of flavour it’s not an overpowering wine. Fruits and tannins balance to a ‘T’…
Located in the foothills of the Andes the temperature in the vineyard is moderated by the cooler nightime air and the nearby river, as a result the fruit ripens to perfection whilst retaining fresh acidity. In the winery the wine spends 6 months ageing in French oak and a small amount in American new oak and then blended, softening the tannins and adding complexity.This tasty red calls for a hearty stew.
Classic Style Organic Zweigelt 2017 £12.50
Vibrant, fruity and organic! A great introduction to Austrian wine if you haven’t got round to exploring wines from this part of the world. The fragrance is blackberries followed by bright red fruits on the palate, all mingling with the white pepper and spice characteristic of the Zweigelt grape variety. Producer, Sepp Moser, is committed to the Organic and Biodynamic cause so every care has been taken in the vineyard to grow organically and diligently hand-harvest. Classic Zweigelt has seen no oak and delivers pure juicy fruit. It is a lovely mid-weight red perfect partner for tomato based dishes, pasta, pizza or light meats.
Peter Bayly III 2012 £14
Calitzdorp, South Africa
A wine borne from a spark of curiosity blending 3 Portuguese grape varieties to make a South African red table wine. And what a result! Peter bayly III delivers concentrated fruit, it has warm and welcoming plum and fruit cake characters reminiscnet of Port yet balanced by structure and elegance. Peter Bayly is living his dream in a secluded valley growing grapes to make mostly Port-style wines and the occassional red such as this, a very satisfying drop which he recommends with meats, hearty and Mediterranean dishes.
Wirra Wirra ‘Scrubby Rise’ Unwooded Chardonnay 2017 £11
McLaren Vale, Australia
Scrubby Rise Unwooded Chardonnay is all about pure fruit. Bursting with fresh citrus, sweet stone fruits and ripe melon, this white has bags of flavour whilst refreshing and crisp. The winemaking focuses on retaining all the flavour and freshness of the ripe fruit: night harvest, cool fermentation and not a hint of oak.
In case your wondering about the quirky name and label…‘Scrubby Rise’ was the name given many moons ago to the vineyard in front of the century-old cellars, a flat and barren landscape with beautifully rich soils. Wirra Wirra went on to build a viewing platform overlooking their sea of vines to be nicknamed ‘The Jetty’ hence the boat!
This wine is to be enjoyed with good food and company, roast chicken with all the trimmings would be just the ticket.
Jean-Luc Colombo ‘Les Abeilles’ 2015, £12
Côtes du Rhône, France
A soft-textured, fleshy white with a deliciously fresh finish. ‘Les Abeilles’ is vibrant and aromatic, peaches and white blossom come to mind. The palate has structure and a moreish full texture making it a great accompaniment for roasted and grilled white meats or a gooey Camembert. Jean-Luc pays homage to the crucial role of bees in his vineyard by naming this wine after these beautiful and clever insects.
Il Selvatico Cuvée Frizzante £9.50
Last and certainly not least, a Frizzante for all seasons! A lightly sparkling and dry style wine perfect for pre-dinner drinks or a lunchtime treat. Golden, light, fresh and fun with delicate floral notes, ripe pear and yellow stone fruits on the palate and a refreshing finish. A cracking value Prosecco alternative from Vinicola Tombacco.
If you’re a fan of The Wine Show and found yourself thinking “that Joe Fattorini seems like a nice guy”, then I’m here to tell you that he really is! We met Joe at a tasting last year, had a chat about the show and hung out for a while. Friendly, chatty, knowledgeable and generous with his time – yep… definitely a nice guy.
Of course, that was his error as I set about stalking him on twitter and bouncing a few ideas off him which somehow ended up with him making the offer for me to email him a few questions to answer. I can only assume he saw this as a cheaper alternative to taking out a restraining order. Anyway, such was the quality of his answers I’ve decided to spin them out over the course of five newsletters.
In our last four newsletters we asked for his pointers about hunting down the best value in 2018, we tackled the contentious issue of natural wine, how you can get the very best out of your wine and Joe’s biggest gripe with wine merchants. In this edition we talk about avoiding coded wine speak…
Here at BinTwo we try really hard to avoid using wine-bore jargon in the way we describe our wines. But we’re not immune to the odd “pencil shavings” slipping into our notes and sometimes I fear I may describe things too plainly. I know we could do better. Any top tips on striking the right balance between describing wines credibly but in a user-friendly way?
You SHOULD use pencil shavings in your tasting notes. Especially if it actually smells of pencil shavings. I had a Crozes Hermitage at a restaurant (Blandford Comptoir- owned by super-sommelier Xavier Rousset MS) last week that absolutely reeked of black olives. You need to highlight these things. But… when you ask people what they like about a wine they pretty much never say “well, I like a wine that smells of pencil shavings and black olive”. They say things like “I like a big wine” or “a smooth wine” or “zesty wines”.
Texture matters much more than aroma for most people when they’re thinking of preference. I like to see how I can expand my lexicon of textures. “Velveteen” “sandpaper tannins” “lissom”. Also it’s much more reliable. People are consistent in describing textures. But our ability to consistently name smells is much less reliable. It doesn’t mean we’re bad tasters.
There’s a fabulous new study by Asifa Majid at Raboud University in the Netherlands and Nicole Kruspe at Lund University in Sweden. They did work with a hunter gatherer trip called the Jahai in Malaysia. The found the Jahai could consistently name aromas accurately. But an agrarian group called the Semelai with a similar language nearby struggled. Much like people in the West. It seems like we lost the ability to make close assessments of smell when we started farming.
That’s the last of our “Better Ask Joe” series and I’m hugely grateful to him for taking the time out of his busy schedule to share his thoughts. I can’t help but feel that his excellent answers were deserving of far better questions. The lessons I’m taking away are:
1. Use terms and language that customers can easily relate to.
2. Match our level of “wine enthusiasm” to that of the customer in front of us.
3. Sell our wines with a genuine personal promise that we think this particular wine is right for the occasion the customer has described to us.
4. Natural wine – confirms my thinking that they can be great but are often awful. I think you deserve a better level of assurance that it’s all going to be alright when you hand over your money.
5. In the context of BREXIT and a tough 2017 harvest we’re going to have to work harder at sourcing great value wines for you. Luckily we enjoy that bit!
From our fourth edition of 2018:
Obviously at BinTwo we’re generally awesome in every way (ahem). But what would you tell our customers they should expect from us as a good independent wine merchant? And, put another way, what’s your biggest gripe with wine shops? (Careful now, Joe).
All wine merchants – and I’ve been one since the early 1990’s – have one HUGE problem. We love wine. We live wine. Wine runs through our veins almost as literally as it does metaphorically. And the same is true of some of our customers. But… there are an awful lot people who just want a nice drink. Most people just want a lovely drink. And wine nuts like us really struggle to understand that. Most people are not as naturally as enthused with wine as we are. Great merchants take a bit of time to understand their customers’ “enthusiasm level” and tailor their advice accordingly. It’s a bit like selling a car. Enthusiasts want to know what the horsepower and torque is. In the same way we want to know what sort of oak wine was fermented in. But a lot of valuable and brilliant customers want to know if the car comes in metallic blue and will still look good in a year. Just like some wine customers want to know if it goes with quiche and their boyfriend will like it. It takes a bit of empathy to get that balance right. Empathy. That’s the word. That’s what good wine merchants need.
Joe’s response to this question really struck a chord with me. As long term followers may recall, we sort of fell into the wine trade 5 years ago so we had to compensate for our relative lack of experience and knowledge. I think we’ve done that by speaking to people in plain English at their “wine level” – frankly we had little other choice in the early days.
We found that people responded really well – often with a palpable sense of relief. For some of our customers I think they’ve liked the sense that we’re on the learning journey too. I trust you all to let me know if we start losing sight of our roots!
It’s driven my recruiting decisions too. I always look for people who know how to look after other people and make them feel comfortable. It could be because we’re a hybrid merchant/bar, or it could be because we’re in Padstow. But those traits seem to be much more important than their wine knowledge. We can teach staff about wine but it’s hard to teach people to be nice, friendly and approachable.
From our third edition of 2018:
Even in spite of the general tomfoolery that some of us routinely display, our customers really do seem to trust us to help guide them to a great wine that they’re likely to enjoy (thank goodness for Kate and the rest of the team). What tips would you offer our customers to help them get the very best out of their wine when drinking at home?
Can I give you a weird one? It’s something that may help you guide people as much and people be guided. One of the great myths – and I absolutely believe this – is that people are on a quest to find the finest, grandest, greatest value-for-money wine they can. Actually, I think people are far more motivated by a fear of disappointment than a determination to maximise pleasure. Great tasting notes, analysis and food matching don’t help people in those circumstances. What really matters is a personal promise, a solemn oath that the human being in front of you endorses this choice. And that it’s right for the occasion. We match wine to occasion more than anything. Am I relaxing with my partner with this? Impressing a friend? Looking for a gastronomic treat? Seeking adventure? What’s really helpful is for someone – like you and your team –to say “in those circumstance, this is what I would do”. That really makes a difference.
Wise words from Joe. We completely buy into the concept of the “personal promise – a solemn oath” philosophy. It underpins the way we buy all of our wines – do we like them? Can we all get behind them? There’s no “padding” on our shelves – nothing bought in bulk even if the wine was a bit average but the price was right. No “manager’s special” against which the team have sales targets. Rather our philosphy is summed up by our Wines We Love approach. We give free rein to one of the team and ask them to pick a wine they love then write a bit about it so we can share it with you and give you an honest pointer. Authenticity is the word that has been rattling around in my head – that’s what I hope sets us apart.
From our second edition of 2018:
Natural wine – I’m deeply sceptical. Champions of natural wine say that it is the purest expression of the grape. I say a raw potato might be the purest expression of a spud but development over time has proven to my satisfaction that it tastes better when it’s baked and slathered in butter! Am I missing something? Am I a philistine? Guide me wise one…
“Some of the loveliest bottles I’ve had have been natural wines. And unquestionably most of the worst wines I’ve ever had have been natural wines. And that’s their problem. And their charm. If you’re an enthusiast – or at least a particular sort of enthusiast – there’s a great excitement about finding one of those magic wine moments. And when natural wine is good it’s quite extraordinarily good. But most of us want a basic level of assurance that a bottle of wine you’ve spent a half decent sum of money on isn’t going to take like a cross between horse urine and cider vinegar. And natural wine often can’t give you that assurance. I don’t belong to that sort of fundamentalist sect that necessarily believes that because it’s natural it’s good. And what really infuriates me is when people say, “you just don’t understand it”. Of course, I do you complete clown. It just tastes like I’ve been sick in my mouth.”
Unsurprisingly Joe puts it much better than me. He’s summed up nicely why I’ve found it hard to get behind natural wines in a big way. It’s just too much of a gamble for me to ask you to take when you’re spending a reasonable chunk of money with us. That variation from one bottle to the next, often variation in quality between bottles in the same case of six, is just a bit too much uncertainty for my liking. Biodynamic wines however… now that’s a different matter all together! But what does biodynamic even mean? Read more…
From our first edition of 2018:
Thanks for joining us, Joe. 2017 saw the double whammy of an historically poor harvest in most of Europe and the fall of the pound following BREXIT. We’re now seeing the associated price increases flow through from suppliers. We love a “new find” at BinTwo and relish getting behind wines from less well known origins. Any top tips on where we should look to find great value, interesting wines in 2018?
“This is an interesting one. It’s not a fashionable view, but I think the poor harvest is a bigger issue than the value of the pound. Volumes in 2017 are down 30%, 40%… more in some places. It was an extraordinary vintage. And so early too. I was meeting producers last year who’d harvested in July and August rather than September. That will push up prices, but more importantly, push us all into new regions.
The Pound feels low, and is lower than we’ve been used to it. But it’s not much lower than the average value against the Euro between 2010 and 2014. But the duty escalator and coupled with the rising pound between 2014 to 2016 means we’ve really felt the return to a that lower level with a serious bump. I blame government tax policy more than Brexit for that pain. What really matters is finding interesting wines now.
My gut feel is that Eastern Europe and Australia are two early winners. Those semi-aromatic whites like Furmint blends from Slovenia or straight Furmints from Hungary. New lighter and fresher whites and tamer premium reds from Australia too, filling in the gaps left by Chianti Classico or Macon where vintages have been rough. I suspect varieties to look out for are Verdejo, Vermentino, Bobal and all sorts from Aus. There are some great Fianos and fresh Chardonnays and I loved the different styles of Shiraz at the recent Australia Day Tastings in London.”
Footnote: we took this advice to heart at this year’s tastings and have some cracking finds heading to the BinTwo shelves including some knock-out (and great value) wines from Australia. Watch this space..
What a Summer it has been so far! We’ve selected a bunch of wines which encapsulate the last couple of balmy months at Bintwo…
We just can’t get enough of the rosé so we simply had to include our best-selling pink plus a delicious sparkling. We also had to share with you the highlights from our Langlois-Château tasting plus a couple of extremely food (and barbecue) friendly recent additions.
Langlois-Château Crémant de Loire Rosé NV £18
Loire Valley, France
Fresh, fruity and full-bodied sparkling rosé. Strawberry scented and bursting with ripe raspberries and a touch of blackcurrant. Simply delicious!
Made with Cabernet Franc grapes traditionally used to make Loire Valley reds. Top quality grapes are selected and hand-picked before going through the ‘Traditional Method’, whereby a secondary fermentation takes place in the bottle (just like for Champagne)
A fun summertime fizz, which is a perfect aperitif or could also be enjoyed with a summer fruit dessert.
Langlois-Château Muscadet Sèvre et Maine Sur Lie 2017 £12.50
Loire Valley, France
Everything you would want from a Muscadet! A fresh, fruity and friendly wine. Delicate aromas of stone and citrus fruit which continue in flavour on the palate. A refreshing drop with an enjoyable lasting finish.
To retain the aromatics and fresh character of the variety fermentation is carried out slowly and at low temperatures. The wine is left on its lees for a few months to develop further flavour and texture.
Calling out for shellfish or even whole fish cooked on the barbecue.
Revenant 2017 £10.50
Western Cape, South Africa
The winning blend of Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc once common-place in the Loire Valley delivers a bright white with uplifting citrus fruit aromatics. Revenant has a perfect balance of fruit, weight and texture making for a versatile and food friendly white.
Revenant demonstrates the re-birth of tradition in Western Cape winemaking, returning to natural ways in the vineyard and wineries with minimal intervention being key. It also celebrates their return to blending and re-visiting, once lost, Old World blends.
After 10 months of ageing on the lees this wine has developed plenty of texture. It can pair with so many different dishes from barbecued pork, roast chicken, creamy sauces and seafood.
Côtes du Rhône ‘Les Cerisiers’ Rosé 2017 £11.00
Côtes du Rhône, France
Mike came across this rosé on his adventures last year and fell in love and it would seem it has had the same effect on our customers! Pretty salmon -pink, beautifully and delicately aromatic with a full-flavoured ripe red berry palate. Soft and textured whilst elegant… very moreish indeed.
Meticulous selection of vineyards, specific plots and fruit is paramount to winemaker Eric Monnin in the quest to produce expressive, balanced and flavoursome wine.
Though extremely food-friendly, pop open with lunch, it is very content to be enjoyed on its own!
Langlois-Château Saumur-Champigny 2016 £15
Loire Valley, France
A delicious summertime red which we would suggest serving slightly chilled. A beautiful cherry red in colour, super juicy and medium-bodied. This Cabernet Franc is intensely aromatic with bright red fruits and violets prevailing followed by a fruity, rounded palate.
All care is taken to retain the fresh and juicy fruit flavours of the Cabernet Franc grapes. For example, the grapes are harvested in plots and all pickings macerated separately in steel tanks at low temperatures.
Fabulous with grilled white meats and fish.
Norton Porteño Malbec 2017 £12
Lujan de Cuyo, Argentina
A vibrant, un-oaked and fresher style of Malbec. One for summertime sipping naturally with a barbecue on the go. Don’t be put off by Porteño’s slightly lighter style, it has bags of aroma, flavour and smooth structure. Juicy black fruits, wild red fruits and some spice all rub shoulders in this medium-bodied red.
Though not certified as Organic the Norton vineyard and winery are run on organic lines. Minimal intervention, hand-picking and using natural yeasts are just part of the process.
Entirely reasonably you might be wondering why my head has suddenly appeared on a wine label and how I could consider naming a fabulous wine from Bordeaux something as off-the-wall as “Jammy Git”. Allow me to explain…
I’ve had cause to be a bit reflective of late. Call it age (my 50th birthday suddenly doesn’t feel too far away) but I’ve pondered about the circuitous route that led us into life in Cornwall and ownership of a rather nice little wine shop. When I break it all down it’s true to say that we’ve worked hard, we’ve created a few opportunities and we’ve been willing to take a chance here and there… to make a few brave choices… to take the plunge if you will.
But we’ve also been very lucky. Lucky with some of the opportunities that arose at just the right moment and lucky with the people we’ve met along the way. And the development of our “Jammy Git” wine range is a case in point.
The name “Jammy Git” is a playful nod to the serendipity that led us into ownership of BinTwo nearly five years ago and the general, all-round jamminess that we have broadly enjoyed since. Customers often comment about how lucky I am to do what I do. And, whilst it’s often hard work, I can’t disagree.
I suppose I’m also allowing myself to have some fun with the branding (call it my fifth “business birthday” present to myself). We could have produced something serious and austere… but that’s not really us. I’m also following a hunch that customers might enjoy something more playful than another label featuring a generic picture of a chateau or a horse pulling a plough. Time will tell…
Some people make a career out of searching the globe for small pockets of extraordinary wines. With characteristic good luck our first contender for a BinTwo branded wine presented itself to us on our first visit to a Bordeaux vineyard. It’s made by Mark Hellyar – a winemaker who’s become a good friend over the years – he’s our kind of people. He’s a Cornishman making some extraordinary wines in Bordeaux with a contemporary touch – he’s not been afraid to shake up tradition. As I said, he’s our kind of people.
In 2014 (our first year at the helm of BinTwo) we visited Mark’s vineyard, Chateau Civrac in Côtes de Bourg. It was the first vineyard I visited as someone “in the trade” and I was mesmerised. Mark had been playing with the idea of making a range of high-end, limited edition varietal wines and he had the very best of his 2012 Merlot gently maturing in just one large barrel. He drew me a sample from the barrel. We tasted it right there in his small winery – largely unchanged since the 18th century. It still had some aging to do but it was clear he was onto a winner. “I’ll have some of that when it’s ready” said I. And so my first purchase direct from the winemaker was made. In the end it was so good I took it all.
Aged for 14 months in a two-year-old French oak barrel this cracking wine has developed great character. Plummy, slightly smoky with a rich, soft texture and lingering finish. It’s a very easy-drinking wine that would go down well on it’s own or with a few nibbles. Equally it has enough about it to pair well with food. I like mine with barbequed meats, but to be honest, I love it so much I’d be happy to match it to a bag of Monster Munch – it’s a wine I’ll turn to whatever the occasion.
It’s my hope that this Merlot won’t be the last Jammy Git wine (customer feedback and sales will determine that!) What Jammy Git wines will have in common is a certain authenticity. By which I mean they will be wines that I feel we have a genuine connection with. We’ll have met the winemaker, visited the vineyard, understood their ethos. Maybe even have had a small part in the development of the wine.
I may not always be able to tell you that only one barrel of the wine was made and we have it (although that is the case with our Jammy Git Merlot) but I will be able to look you in the eye and tell you that I haven’t bought a blank bottled, mass produced wine and slapped our label on it in order to maximise profits.
Nope, they’ll be good, honest wines. Wines that I love that I think you’ll love too. Wines priced fairly with no massive “own label” margins applied. Wines that have been made by winemakers I believe in with an ethos I can get behind. I wouldn’t put my name, or indeed my face, on anything else.
When I returned from my visit to Mark’s vineyard in 2014 I wrote a blog, re-posted here, that might go some way to explaining more about why there could only ever really be one choice for our first BinTwo wine.
Why a Bordeaux Special you ask (& a two page bumper edition no less!)
For no better reason than the fact that Mary, the boys & I have just returned from a trip exploring this legendary winemaking region & I’ve fallen in love with the place. Who could blame me – just look at these luscious Merlot grapes at Château Civrac just begging to be picked & transformed into a Grand Vin. They’re so beautiful it’s positively indecent!
Bordeaux is, of course, the largest wine region in France both in terms of production (9000 producers making about 800 million bottles per year) & vineyard acreage (the region has a whopping 300 thousand acres of vineyards!) I was aware of these huge numbers but to be honest they meant little to me until I saw the seemingly endless landscape of pristine vines.
How lucky that the most prolific agricultural crop in Bordeaux also happens to produce such a mesmerizingly seductive landscape. You will have gathered by now that I have developed somewhat of a crush for the area.
Highpoints of this new romance would have to include the time we spent in St Emilion. Aside from producing some of the best wine in the region this perfectly-preserved medieval hilltop town is simply beautiful. So taken in was I that I made easy prey for fellow wine merchant Hugo Stefanski who shamelessly upsold me on a selection of wines including a probably over-priced Pomerol made by a tiny producer who’s managed to hold on to just 1 acre of land next door to Pétrus – the big boys in the region (they recently offered him 2 million euros for it apparently). You think I’d be immune to this kind of blatant sales patter but I was powerless to resist!
Eating fresh oysters from the Bassin d’Arcachon with a glass of white Bordeaux Graves at a beach shack on Cap Ferret will live long in the memory. But my fondest memories are of the time we spent at Château Civrac with Cornishman turned Bordeaux winemaker Mark Hellyar.
Many of you will know the story of how he rescued a neglected Château & vineyard near Bourg sur Gironde & you may have tasted his wines at BinTwo. Certainly it’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of Mark’s work but visiting his vineyard (& we were honoured to discover that we were his very first visitors) really brought his inspiring story to life.
Winemaking, as I witnessed, is blooming hard graft & Mark is right in the thick of it. The winery dates back to the late 18th century & remains largely unchanged. The early 20th century saw the addition of concrete storage tanks as used by Pétrus (fantastic for maintaining stable storage conditions) & Mark has grafted on the bare minimum of 21st century technology to improve electronic temperature & quality control. But otherwise his processes remain remarkably traditional – if a small-scale, minimal intervention, high quality artisan wine is your thing then stop looking.
Walking through the unassuming door to the winery at Château Civrac feels like taking a little step back in history & we feel very privileged to have been allowed to take it. Thanks Mark – keep up the good work!