Episode 124 – Domaine of the Bee
31st August 2022
My old pal Justin Howard-Sneyd and his wife Amanda bought a small corner of the South of France 20 years ago. Rather than copy-and-pasting their story here, I urge you to visit their website to read it. They kindly sent me their new releases, and here are my favourites – one white and one red worthy of your serious consideration. This pair is elite with tiny production, exacting winemaking standards and they are as authentic and accurate as any wines I have tasted. Question – can you taste passion, dedication, commitment, vision and hard work? Answer – you can here.
NB – Only James Nicholson and Highbury Vintners show the correct vintages of my two featured wines. The other stockists are a year behind at the moment. This often happens with preview samples, so please shop accurately and, if in doubt, reserve the correct vintage with your chosen merchants and take delivery when it arrives.
2021 Domaine of the Bee, Field of the Bee, Cotes Catalanes Blanc, France (£19.90 (2020 vintage), www.thesampler.co.uk; £18.00 (2019 vintage), www.villeneuvewines.com; £18.50, www.jnwine.com).
This spectacular Grenache Gris / Grenache Blanc blend features fruit drawn from 100-year-old vines in the mix, and this adds immeasurably to the class and depth of flavour on display. What I find so enticing here is the balance. This white wine could so easily tip over into being a weighty, lusty main course style. Yet, the balance is pinpoint accurate with a supple chassis and invigorating freshness throughout. Clean, lithe and deliciously raspy with hints of honeysuckle and melon and green apple skin bite, this is a consummate dinner party wine with such a broad repertoire of talents it could conceivably be served as an aperitif. But don’t stop there because it could then continue through multiple, diverse starter and main course dishes given its panoply of fruit and mineral tones coupled with its bracing acidity and heroic length.
2020 Domaine of the Bee, Les Genoux, Maury Sec, France (£43.95 (2019 vintage), www.jnwine.com; £45.00, www.highburyvintners.co.uk).
In contrast to Field of the Bee, the ‘Bee’s Knees’ is a single vineyard field blend taken from 100-year-old Grenache and Carignan vines, and it cleverly employs 15% white and ‘gris’ varieties that freshen the entire experience beautifully. Justin writes that this wine is “only 13%, which is pretty light for us!”. I must agree. Previous vintages of Bee wines have been on the powerful side of the fence. So when one encounters a wine of these unusual dimensions – crazy-intense fruit with a super-low alcohol level, the game changes entirely. The nose alone is fascinating with rhubarb, raspberry, fennel and wild herbs, and this quickens the pulse. But it is a revelation when the palate follows suit and refuses to put on bulk and muscle but remains honed and silky. Tempered tannins complete the picture, and it leaves you panting with joy! This is a game-changer and a wine that demands to be tasted. It does the impossible – to balance phenomenal fruit depth and elemental power with nerve-tingling freshness and delicacy. Chapeau.