Wednesday Wines – Episode 7

Episode 7 – 13th May 2020

 Will you please forgive me being 38p over a tenner, this week, for my sub-tenner wine choice?

2019 Jules, Rosé, Côtes de Provence, France  (£11.99, reduced to £10.38 each by the case, www.cambridgewine.com).  

Jules is the second label of Le Grand Cros, Brit Julian Faulkner’s Provence Rosé set up.  I tasted all three of his new releases last weekend, side by side, and it was clear to me that Jules would be the lead wine of the trio in this Wednesday Wines piece.   Before I write in more detail about Jules, I would like to point you in the direction of the top wine from this estate, 2019 Le Grand Cros, L’Esprit de Provence (£16.95, www.bbr.com).  While this wine is out of stock at the moment, more is on the way, so make a note in your diary to give Berry’s a buzz in a week or so.  L’Esprit is a silky, diaphanous wine with more depth of flavour than you might expect after the first sip or two.  It plays a rather clever game of deception with your senses, initially seeming demure and ephemeral, but this innocence hides a much more determined shapeshifter beneath the calm surface.  The fruit here is bright, clean, fit and gleamingly pure and this brings with it terrific depth and length.  For a fresh, light rosé, this is a serious creation.  It is great value, too, at a few quid cheaper than Whispering Angel, so I would certainly give it a whirl if you are a wine savvy, but also a rather thirsty type.  The third wine in the line-up, 2019 Le Grand Cros GC (£14.50, www.bbr.com), merits a brief mention, but this is the odd one out.  With more grunt and coarseness this wine’s job is to entertain the palate when you dive into meatier fare.  Leave L’Esprit for all of the seafood and crustacea and get GC out for rare roast beef and vitello tonnato!  It is not as free-flowing nor as aromatic as the other two but it knows its place in the team and it gets the job done.  Finally, my featured hero Jules.  Jules is, very simply, a lighter and nimbler version of L’Esprit and it might shock you to hear that I gave it only half a point less out of 20 in my scores, than its big brother.  OK, the packaging is simple and inoffensive but the flavour is anything but.  Melodic, enchanting and timid, but also long and soothing, this is a sotto voce rosé for all palates to relax with and, at a tenner, it is an absolute steal.

Rathfinny’s new releases – four this year, for the very first time! 

I was delighted to be invited to a Zoom tasting of these wines on Monday with owners Mark and Sarah Driver.  These wine all go on sale from 29th May, so this is an early glimpse of what I think about them and I hope that this gives you enough time to register your interest ahead of the launch date.  Mark and Sarah celebrated their 10th anniversary at Rathfinny this year and I am told that they are opening a new cellar door at the estate on the 29th May, too. For massive amounts of information on the estate and the wines, head to www.rathfinnyestate.com.

2016 Rathfinny, Classic Cuvée (£28.95, reduced to £26.95 each for a mixed case of 6 bottles, Lea and Sandeman tel. 020 7244 0522 & www.leaandsandeman.co.uk; £31.50, www.henningswine.co.uk; £26.00, www.riseandvine.co.uk; £29.50, www.elicite.com).

This is the first ‘Cuvée’ wine released at Rathfinny and it is the intention that wine will be the standard-bearer for the estate going forwards.  They will always release vintage wines at Rathfinny, so it is rather unusual, but also interesting, that while others will generally list an NV as the entry-level wine, here, this position will be filled by a vintage release, which should keep people on their toes if nothing else.  As Mark adores Pinot Noir, and they have 45% of the 60ha in production devoted to this grape, it was always going to form the backbone of this wine.  The Drivers are at pains to point out that they ‘age the wine for their customers so they are ready to drink on release’.  This is a rather odd philosophy for vintage fizz, but given the ripeness that they achieve on their estate and also the low dosages which they include in their wines, the wines always seem unusually forward and so perhaps this is not only a sales tool but it is also based in fact.  I haven’t tasted an older vintage (the first releases were the 2014s and I noted that they were not going to live particularly long at the time) but I expect them to at least make five years at the very least!  Anyway, this is a 57% Pinot Noir, 22% Chardonnay, 21% Pinot Meunier blend with only 5 g/L dosage and it carries a weighty, green-gold hue and a rather full-framed delivery on both the nose and palate.  There is a lot of wine here for a rather competitive price and if they have set out to make a Bolly-shaped-sparkler, for a tenner cheaper than the real thing, then they have done a good job.  There is a heady perfume and an apple and cinnamon compote theme here which is rather alluring and I feel that they have certainly managed to make a wine which suits both their site and their tastes.

2016 Rathfinny, Blanc de Blancs (£36.50, reduced to £33.95 each for a mixed case of 6 bottles, Lea and Sandeman tel. 020 7244 0522 & www.leaandsandeman.co.uk; £37.80, www.hedonism.co.uk).

Unusually for a Blanc de Blancs, this wine has 8% Pinot Noir and 2% Pinot Meunier on board.  I questioned Mark about this and the answer was that the Pinots are picked first and they are inoculated and fermentation starts and then when the Chardonnay comes in, a small amount of the Pinot ferment is used to kick off the Chardonnay – hence the red grapes crashing this white grape party.  Goodness knows what the legal situation is here if you state that this is a white wine made from white grapes and it is not, but I don’t care and nor should you because this is a cracker!  Edgy, chalky citrusy and dynamic on the palate there is a welcome toastiness to this wine, which breaks up the drama and it is the only one of the three which feels like it could actively develop with bottle age.

2016 Rathfinny, Blanc de Noirs (£39.95, Oxford Wines tel. 01865 301144 & www.oxfordwine.co.uk).

My favourite of the four wines is this terrific Blanc de Noirs.  I like this style of wine from several other English wineries, too, but no one else makes a bottle of wine like this!  Once again, they rather monkey around with convention but adding 3% Chardonnay to the 91% Pinot Noir and 6% Pinot Meunier engine and yet it is impossible to see this white invader in among the gorgeous red fruit notes.  The colour is ridiculously ‘pinkish’ and the flavour is decadent and lusty and if you would like to know what this winery does in just one glass, this is the wine to glug.  Forward, drinking perfectly already and not especially frothy, this is a mellow, soothing, luxurious fellow and I heartily recommend it.

2017 Rathfinny, Rosé Brut (£36.99, www.cambridgewine.com). 

This is the one wine in the quartet which I have not quite got my head around.  It is a 2017, so this is an obvious change of pace from the three exuberant 2016s and while this is a small but good vintage at Rathfinny, there is a lot of fruit here and I suspect that some might even confuse it for a Kir Royale if they were given its blind.  That is if you make your Kir from Crème de Rosehip!  Rich, full, cherry skin and hedgerow notes abound and while this is not an elegant wine I could certainly squirrel away a few glasses with a spicy lamb kebab or beef in black bean sauce!  That’s right, this is a foody number and it is brave enough and opinionated enough to launch itself at whatever dish you fancy and I venture it will come up smiling, too, such is the character and persistence of this strident rosé.