Il Grillo di Santa Tresa. Vittoria, Sicily, Italy.
Demand for prosecco continues to grow unabated. But here at BinTwo we like to introduce you to something different. Over the winter we found this stunning sparkling wine from Sicily made with 100% grillo grapes. On a dreary February morning this bright, clean fresh little fizz opened a brief window to sunnier places. Some wines we debate endlessly before deciding to order it. With this one Kate, Harriet and I exchanged nods of approval and uttered two words… “oh, yes”.
Don’t just consider this a prosecco alternative; it’s so much better than that. Pale straw coloured with hints of gold, this wine has fine, gentle bubbles and a fresh fruity nose with hints of citrus and floral notes. Dry and fresh with really well balanced acidity, this fizz will slip down easily on it’s own but would also go nicely with shellfish.
We’ve never offered a prosecco by the glass here at BinTwo. But we think this fizz might just have earned a place on the terrace menu this summer. That’s how much we love it and we reckon you will too. It’s even organic and vegan friendly too – you can feel positively virtuous about drinking it!
Already great value at just £16.00 or a steal at £14.40 to wine club members!
This month we gave free reign to David to choose a favourite wine from the shelves as our Wines We Love choice. And what a belter he’s gone for! A favourite of Kate’s and one of the best kept secrets in the shop hailing, as it does, from our cousins across the pond…
Qupé Syrah 2014, Central Coast, California, £24 (just £21.60 to club members)
California has much to offer the wine lover – and in the UK we only really scratch the surface of what’s on offer, with very few exceptions. In spite of this, at BinTwo we have always had a little corner of US goodness comprising a few carefully chosen bottles that complement our strengths elsewhere. As a part-organic and part-biodynamic winery, Qupé (pronounced kew-PAY) fits that bill nicely. I’ve described the open nature and texture of such wines in previous tasting notes – and this Central Coast Syrah reminds us of that warm and honest fruit delivery.
So what then of the history here? Qupé was established by Bob Lindquist in 1982 when he was working as a tour guide for Zaca Mesa winery in the Ynez Valley and it was there that he began to develop his winemaking skills. Qupé was always going to be Rhône led in terms of variety, with Bob’s love of the French Region’s wines, in particular Northern Rhône Syrah such as Cornas, St Joseph and Côte Rôtie. Such continuous improvement for over three decades is a great source of quality, and Bob picks up regular best-Syrah-in-category awards.
A taste then….and it’s a surprise from the word go: soft supple, jammy fruit; fresh but so ripe. But how so? I expected pepper and tobacco, something to chew on, but this is lush and plush. If we’re talking winter pleasures, this is the comfy, modern armchair, and not the firm button-back chesterfield, so will especially please those seeking a silky, comforting red. Overall style and softness is primarily due to the ripeness of the harvest in 2014. It became necessary to pick far earlier than usual, by 4-5 weeks in fact and even though the wine is fermented to dryness and aged for 12 months in French oak, it remains ultra-accessible. In variety, it is Syrah 88%, Tempranillo 7%, Grenache 4% and Mourvèdre 1%. I’m not sure I can taste each variety, but it’s fun to imagine isn’t it?
If you’re reading this over breakfast then I do apologise – no one should have to face the sight of me in my boxers and a climbing harness whilst choking on their muesli. But I think this partially-dressed moment was the point at which my love was confirmed and I knew that I’d found someone I had to bring home to introduce to you. I think you’ll love her too.
I need to backtrack. We’re often asked how we go about sourcing our wines. I’d love to be able to say that we visit every winemaker ourselves and that we buy direct from the vineyard – wouldn’t that be a fab way to live life? Although we do find some of our wines that way (in fact we’ve just sent Harriet off to search for wines in Austria), the truth is for the most part we work with trusted partners who import a range of wines from which we make our selection. Some of these partners are one-man/woman-bands who’ve developed a specialty within a particular country or region, and some are bigger outfits with a network of local experts who import wines from around the world.
Boutinot falls into the big boys category. In fact Boutinot is so big they’re the playground equivalent of that lad we all knew at school who was a foot taller than his mates and was shaving at the age of 12… they’re big. I guess we buy about a third of our range from them and they do an amazing job of sourcing interesting wines that also represent incredible value. They’re masters of their trade. But, and here’s where they’re unusual, they also make their own wine.
Now, I’m going to be really honest with you. I hadn’t paid too much attention to their own wines and, looking back, I’m not sure why that is. I think it’s maybe because psychologically I’d put their wines into an “own label” bucket. Somehow, without me consciously thinking about it, Boutinot wines had in my mind become synonymous with the mince that gets labelled as Tesco’s “Value”… well priced, and it might be alright at a push, but you wouldn’t have it as your first choice. So I was really interested when they invited me to their vineyard in the the southern Rhône to see how they make their wine up close. Shall I cut to the chase? I was wrong. I was very, very wrong.
Located in the South East of France, the Rhône produces over 4 million hectolitres of wine each year. Over 400 million bottles are sold each year and every 13 seconds someone in the world pops the cork from a Rhône wine. Some cracking white wines are made in the Rhône but it only accounts for 6% of their production. There are some interesting rosés to be found too (in fact in the Rhône apparently one glass drunk in every four is a rosé) but the region is of course best known for its red wines. Wines of Northern Rhône are best known for big reds made only from Syrah (think in terms of Crozes-Hermitage and Cornas) while the Southern Rhône is better known for blends from famous appellations such as Châteauneuf-du-Pape. But it was the lesser-known appellation of Cairanne that we were headed for. Pretty isn’t it?
Cairanne has just been elevated to a Cru – the highest classification for a Rhône wine. This is the classification that Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Gigondas and Rasteau fall into. Confused by the classification of Rhône wines? Me too. Here it is (I think…)
Côtes du Rhône: Entry level. Can be used by the whole Rhône region covering over 140,000 acres and 6000 producers. So there’s lots of variation in terms of style and quality.
Côtes du Rhône Villages: Formed in 1953 this appellation describes wines that come from a tightly defined region to the North and West of Châteauneuf-du-Pape covering less than an eighth of the land that Côtes du Rhône does. Stricter controls apply in terms of grape variety and maximum yields. Better land and tighter controls on production methods should result in better wine.
Côtes du Rhône Villages (named villages): Told you it was confusing. Since the named village appellation was formed in 1966, sixteen villages have been awarded their own appellations which, in simple terms, means that you’ll see the name of the village on the label. It also means that even tighter controls apply to their maximum yields which is intended to further improve quality. Some of these appellations are so small that you rarely see them outside of the region. Others have a density of increasingly well-regarded producers that means their reputation has grown. Cairanne was among this number before being elevated to a Cru…
Cru: Named villages which are thought to be capable of making the best wines in the region. Just to add to the confusion, a cru may have just the village on the label with no mention of the Rhône at all (like Châteauneuf-du-Pape, St-Joseph, Hermitage, Cornas, Gigondas and the newbie Cairanne)
Why…on…earth have I bored you with all of this guff (assuming that anyone has read this far). Well it’s because right now the wines coming out of the Boutinot winery in Cairanne are labelled as Côtes du Rhone Village but they’ve been using the same methods and controls that have just seen them elevated to a Cru. This means you’re getting an awful lot of wine for your bucks and I reckon you should snap some up before the labelling and pricing catches up with their new classification!
I‘ve seen first hand the sheer effort, graft and craftsmanship that goes into making a wine designated as a Cru. Take the fetching photo of me in my pants with my feet in a massive vat. That vast, 6000 litre oak vessel has been filled with grapes that have been harvested carefully by hand from rocky, hillside vineyards. No mechanical methods were used and only the best grapes were selected. Whole bunches were laid in the tank and left to ferment naturally using nothing more than the natural yeast on the skin of the grapes. After a few days fermentation starts and the grapes start to release their juice. CO2 from the fermentation forces the remaining grapes to the top of the tank to form a cap. Now you could use a mechanical method to force the grapes back down or, if you’re a Cru winemaker, you get someone lowered into the tank a couple of times a day to perform “pigeage”. Or, as you or I might say, to stomp the grapes back under the surface.
I can testify that pigeage is hard work… really hard work – I had the thigh burn and wine-stained legs to prove it. And, although behind the smirking French winemaking team there was a long, metal hand-held, pole-type tool that looked like it might be used to do the same job that an unwitting visitor had just done in his pants, the manual nature of the technique was indicative of the care shown for the quality of the wine from harvesting to bottling (incidentally what does a French winemaker do and the end of a long day crafting fine wine? Have a fag and a Heineken, naturally).
As is always the case when I visit a vineyard, I’m left wondering how they do it. There’s the sheer graft of the agriculture and the sheer craft of the winemaking. How do these wizards taste a murky old tank sample and discern how it’s going to taste when it’s been blended with five other grape varieties and aged in oak for up to a year then aged in bottle for a year or two? I don’t know. That’s the magic of the wine-making process and it always leaves me startled that this amazing product costs as little as it does.
So, of the any and varied wines I tasted on your behalf over a hectic two days (as depicted in the image to the right – you’re welcome) there were three of four stand out wines that we’ll be adding to the shelves. But the one I kept returning to (and the one I ended up drinking far too much of each evening) was the Les Six 2014. A blend of all six grape varieties (hence Les Six) that Boutinot grow on the chalky slopes above Cairanne (Grenache, Mourvédre, Syrah, Carignan Noir, Consult and Counoise).
It’s freshness and elegance comes in part, I am told, from the high chalk content in the soil (where just 2 inches of top soil sits on a deep bed of chalk and clay). It’s very smooth with peppery red and black fruits and just a hint of oak from the ten months spent in that vast oak vat.
It’s so good that Kate even made room for it in this month’s Select 6 case.
I found it very, very drinkable and incredible value at just £13.00 (or only £11.70 to club members).
So, that’s a wine that now sits up there with Châteauneuf-du-Pape for just £11.70 (for now). If this wine is an “own label” then it’s very much “Waitrose 1” rather than “Tesco’s Value” and I’ve been reminded that only an idiot judges a book by it’s cover. BUY NOW
Mike continues his love affair with his favourite Bordeaux winemaker…
Chateau Civrac Cabernet Franc 2014, Cotes du Bourg, Bordeaux.
£25.50 or just £22.95 to wine club members.
I’m off on my holidays soon. Mary and I will be camping in France for two weeks with our pair of boisterous sons. Joyful it is… restful it isn’t. So we give the joy a boost by choosing some treats from the BinTwo shelves to take with us. Generally I try to avoid taking French wines to France but I couldn’t help but slip in a bottle from my buddy Mark Hellyar.
As a Cornishman in Bordeaux, Mark’s been creating gentle waves by making contemporary style wines using very traditional methods since 2005. We’ve seen some stunning Grand Vins of various vintages, a cracking desert wine and more recently a punchy, tradition-breaking single variety Super Malbec from this hands-on winemaker. His single variety Cabernet Franc is his latest innovation. By co-incidence we were with Mark touring his vineyard in 2014 just after he’d discovered three hidden rows of Cabernet Franc. He was mulling over making another tradition-breaking wine and, after tasting the grapes fresh from the vine, we made encouraging noises.
Three years on it’s a genuine pleasure to see the finished product hit the shelves at BinTwo – the first varietal Cabernet Franc ever made in Bordeaux! Described as the Pinot Noir of Bordeaux, Cabernet Franc offers up delicate aromas of blackcurrant and vanilla. More delicate and fragrant and with fewer tannins than the better known Cabernet Sauvignon but with a bit more about it than a simple Merlot. Mark only made one barrel to produce a limited edition of only 870 bottles – I reckon it’s a winner.
Mainstream it isn’t. Interesting and unique it is. It’s rare that I can say this with confidence, but you won’t have tried anything like it before and, unless Mark decides to make another barrel in the future, you’ll never get to try a wine like it again.
Quirky, interesting, rule-breaking… I love it.
£25.50 or just £22.95 to wine club members.
David McWilliam sees in August with a beautiful Burgundy…
We’re coming to expect great things of the 2015 vintage in France. Having already seen some BinTwo belters from Beaujolais we can look forward to more Burgundian gems both red and white over the next few years. So while the 2014 Cuvée Classique from Marc Jambon was extraordinary, the 2015 vintage has knocked this little village wine out of the park.
In the glass, it really is a deliciously expressive white wine: fresh, white Burgundy, yes – but this little beauty also has depth of flavour worthy of finer Premier Cru sites. Ripe Chardonnay on the nose, vibrant like a Pouilly Fuissé, yet elegant like a Chassagne-Montrachet: oyster-shell minerality overlayered with ripe, fleshy white peach, more mineral freshness at the finish and a long, evolving, leesy aftertaste.
With June fast approaching it’s the time of year when Rosé comes into its own. A versatile drop… chilled to perfection it makes for a fab aperitif, a great partner to a picnic or barbecue.
Admittedly, my go-to rosé tends to be a pale, crisp, flavourful Côtes de Provence however the intriguing Spanish newcomer, Ontañón Clarete 2015 has taken pride of place this month. It ticks all of my favourite rosé boxes. A pretty pale pink wine with delicately fruity and vibrant aromas. The palate layers the softest, juicy red berries with a citrus freshness, minerality and a deliciously dry yet gentle finish.
Uncomplicated yet very appealing and dangerously easy to drink, it is just the ticket for a sunny Summer’s evening.
Clarete isn’t your average rosé, it’s particular to the Rioja region and though it may be similar to other pinks the main difference lies in the wine-making process. After carefully selecting and harvesting the ripest white and black grapes in this case, Viura and Tempranillo, all grapes are pressed and macerated together. Unlike other rosés, skin and juice contact is continued during fermentation, albeit for a short time, to obtain the desired character and colour.
So don’t be afraid to break away from your rosé comfort zone this month, you won’t be disappointed Ontañón Clarete is a great pre-dinner drink and even better with tapas!
Pick up a bottle for £10.50, 0a cracking £9.45 to wine club members
Coteaux du Vendômois “Le Carillon de Vendôme” Montagne Blanche, 2014.
Well there’s a mouthful for you. Just ask us for the musical red and we’ll know what you mean! Le Carillon de Vendôme is a nursery rhyme dating back to the 15th Century and is believed to be France’s oldest folk song. The song is connected to the city of Vendome on the banks of the Loir, a tributary of the Loire proper. It’s there that this fabulous wine is produced through a collaborative effort by 20 growers who harvest grapes to be vinified through a local co-operative under the appellation of Coteaux du Vendômois.
We discovered this wine at a recent tasting with one of our smaller, specialist suppliers. He likes finding unusual, interesting wines from smaller producers and that approach is right up our street too. What makes this blend of Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc unusual is the addition of Pineau d’Aunis – the signature grape of the area with a very distinctive flavour. It adds a hit of white pepper spice to the dark fruit notes of it’s companion grapes. We found it to be soft, juicy and spicy. A fabulous light and fresh summer red with light tannins and a dry finish. Think in terms of roast or barbequed chicken with a summery salad and you’re in the right zone.
I’m a huge fan of wines from the Loire – it’s one of my “go to” sections when grabbing a bottle for personal consumption at home . An often over-looked region that offers great value for money and this little cracker is no exception at just £11.00 a bottle – only £9.90 to wine club members.
So for under a tenner you have a wine that’s genuinely interesting on account of that white pepper hit and you’ll be supporting the “little guys” in the co-operative too. Definitely a Wine We Love and well deserving of it’s place in this month’s Select 6 case.
With Easter on the horizon and Spring in the air this month’s ‘Wines We Love’ just had to be a wine to enjoy with Springtime feasts, roasted lamb, a spring hot-pot, all that delicious veg and perhaps even your first BBQ of the year, bring on the sunshine!
A delicious, mid-weight Rioja was the answer. As staunch supporters of family-owned estate, Bodegas Artesa, the bottle has a familiar face but I can assure you it’s a fab new arrival… Meet the tasty Organic sibling of the Artesa Crianza that we know and love.
This flavoursome red is juicy, brambly and savoury. A vibrant 100% Tempranillo with bags of ripe fruit, a layer of comforting creamy vanilla, spice and black pepper in perfect measures and fine integrated tannins. Enjoyably dry, fresh and incredibly moreish, one bottle just won’t be enough!
Bodegas Artesa take top quality fruit from the best zones in Rioja Baja, an exceptionally warm and dry region favouring grape -ripening. Their best vineyards are at high altitude where vines are mature and low-yielding and conditions perfect for growing characterful fruit and organic production. Organic Rioja 2015 is certainly fruit-driven and fresh yet the clever folk at Artesa seek to create a rounded and complex wine, the 6 months of ageing in new American oak certainly does the trick bringing in layers of fine tannin and that sumptuous vanilla.
A lovely new addition at £9.50 a bottle, that’s £8.55 to our wine club members. Superb value for a Rioja that rocks!
Savoir-Faire d’Autrefois Mourvèdre 2013 Languedoc, France £10
‘Intriguing, luxurious and wild’… Now you’re talking! A wine that oozes all of the ingredients of a good time.
Intriguing… Well, that will be the fascinating combo of aromas and flavours, sweet spice and jammy nose joined with the dark fruit and savoury palate. All of which are effortlessly balanced by an unexpected and appealing freshness.
Luxurious… This red certainly has a suave ‘Savoir-Faire’- the ability to adapt to all social situations. Layer upon layer of rich and tantalising flavour, sumptuous dark cherries and chocolate lie in the mix. Silky in texture and with perfectly present tannins all thanks to the use of fine french oak.
Wild… Look no further than the grape variety…
You may not recognise the name Mourvèdre but I’m sure you will have met before! This black grape variety is grown in many regions around the world, Rhône, Provence, Valencia, South Australia to name a few. Often under a different guise, in Spain it is called Monastrell and in Australia, Mataro. And if you are still unsure of your acquaintance… In Côtes du Rhône this grape variety buddies up with Grenache and Syrah in a popular blend where it complements its friends with its deep colour, fruit, savoury character and tannin. Such is the popularity of this blend that winemakers in Southern Australia, California and Spain are producing some fabulous ‘GSM’ reds.
Mourvèdre takes a little taming and Savoir-Faire has certainly
succeeded in softening its unruly edges. The small and thick skinned berries produce deep coloured wine with bags of character, dark fruit, savoury, and fragrant but can also be incredibly punchy in tannin and alcohol levels requiring attention in vineyard and winery alike.
The winemakers of Savoir-Faire have given their Mourvèdre a little TLC. In the vineyard they have carefully managed 15 year old low-yielding vines, which worship the heat but need plenty of water, to produce tip-top quality fruit. Then in the winery the juice is divided into 22 fine French oak barrels and aged for 18 months, the barrels allow for subtle oxygenation which has a softening effect on the tannins and concentrates the aromas and flavours in the wine whilst adding a little toastiness.
Bold, sleek and downright delicious Savoir-faire is a great match for a hearty casserole or grilled red meats though i would be sourly tempted to enjoy a glass on its own first!
Great value at £10 a bottle and even more so at £9 for Wine Club members.
The Laughing Magpie 2010, d’Arenburg, McLaren Vale, Australia.
Working in hospitality generally comes with the pleasure of being on shift for at least some of the weekend and, true to form, I do work most Saturdays. For some it’s a chore but luckily enough for me it has its perks in the form of Decanter Saturday. Yep, every Saturday I have to go through the arduous task of scouring the shelves to pick a wine, get all creative and stuff taking photos of it for social media and then (the really tough bit!) taste it! It’s harder than you think…
There was one particular #DecanterSaturday recently that really stood out for me. It was on one of my favourite days of the year, Bonfire Night, and I was looking to find something that would represent everything I love about the celebration; the building excitement as you get wrapped up in your warmest clothes, groups of friends full of chatter and anticipation, warming flames dancing in the cold breeze, sounds of sizzling sausages and the waft of sweet toffee apples before the night sky erupts in a rainbow canopy of sparkles and light, leaving you in awe and with a happy feeling inside.
D’Arenberg’s ‘The Laughing Magpie’ is a blend of Shiraz and Viognier. I was intrigued to see what effect the Viognier had on the peppery, spicy qualities of Shiraz and the name of the wine instantly made me happy so I figured it had to be worth a try. Anyway, long story short, I LOVED it! With juicy brambly black fruit and savoury notes it’s a warming winter red for sure. It’s not overly big and hearty though, it’s actually really approachable with a nice freshness to it, robust but with an underlying minerality. The peppery spice is apparent but so nicely integrated amongst the fruit. It’s smooth, intense and has a pretty impressive length with silky tannins to boot. The Viognier seems to lift the wine in terms of perfume and colour, with a vibrant deep purple hue and a hint of ripe peach amongst the dark fruits, it’s a grape match made in heaven.
The wine does benefit from a little air but Kate and I couldn’t fill the decanter quick enough that Saturday and it was still going down a treat! Hearty enough to pair with a slow cooked beef casserole but also the perfect weight to match with lamb too – try it with apricot stuffing. Divine!
£19.50 or just £17.55 to wine club members. BUY NOW