I managed to join a tasting of a dozen wines with new MW Rob MacCulloch from Domaine Direct at Butler’s Wine Cellar in Brighton yesterday. It’s worth reporting because there were a few wines there that are well worth exploring.
The genuine highlights from those on show included a Sancerre, a couple of Fleuries, a tasty Bourgogne Rouge and four wines from Bill and Jane Easton in Amador County.
The Sancerre was from a producer I admit I’ve never tried before, Domaine Roger Chapault’s Clos du Roy 2011 (from Champtin, west of Bué). This was structured, fresh and mineral and it took a minute or two to come alive in the glass. The vintage surprised me as the ’11s are supposedly a bit softer in many examples, but this is no early drinker. A good wine with the backbone to age, and a food wine as well.
The Fleuries from Alain Coudert’s Clos de la Roilette were in some respects in the same mould. No hints of intra-cellular fermentation of any description here. When someone talks about how Gamay can age to resemble Pinot Noir just pull this pair out, they taste like it already. I’d call them traditional or even old fashioned, except that they’re not, really. Too good for that. The straight Fleurie (2012) is approachable but will keep. It develops a beautiful, haunting, scent and is definitely a food wine with tannins. A juicy steak required, maybe. The Vendange Tardive is a different beast. Actually an old vine cuvée, the antithesis of Nouveau, it’s built to age, and I’d be reticent to touch it for five years. But I reckon it’ll be worth it.
The four Amador wines tasted from the Eastons exhibit a real family likeness best exemplified in the Fiddletown AVA Viognier and the Easton Zinfandel – freshness. Amador is out east of Sacramento, not always known for quality but the big advantage here are the cool nights, all down to the influence of San Francisco Bay. The Viognier is a 2010, amazingly fresh with none of those parma violet notes (and overwhelming alcohol) you get on some Cali versions. It reminded me a little bit of Ogier’s Collines Rodaniènnes more than, say, La Jota’s barrel fermented version. The Zin likewise. If you are put off this grape by the big, jammy, monsters then try this, it’s totally different. The Tete-a-Tete is just like a tasty Cotes du Rhone, a very nice quaffer, lightish but not insubstantial.
The final wine we tasted from this Amador family was the Syrah “Les Cotes de L’Ouest” It’s slightly in the vein of Roberson’s Copain from Mendocino, as in elegant, restrained, but the Easton/Terre Rouge is a bit more evolved, more meat on the nose. For me, the top wine from this new addition to Domaine Direct’s portfolio, though if you do have a chance to taste the Cabernet Franc (not tasted yesterday), give that a go too.
And the Bourgogne? A Chantal Lescure 2009 with fruit from around Pommard. Structured for a 2009, touch of tannin, a pleasant surprise.
I can’t leave without mentioning another wine we tried this week, Spirit of London from London’s first Urban Winery, London Cru. It’s a blend of 2013 Cab Sauv and Barbera (for hopefully obvious reasons labelled as a “Wine of the European Community”). Dark fruited, touch of tannin, with a touch of tasty Barbera bitterness on the finish, a good effort, and well done to Marks & Spencer for taking this on. At £16 (UK retail) it’s in the realms of some of the wines above, so in pure value for money terms it would be hard to argue for it. But for what it is, and represents, it’s more than worth giving it a go. Snap it up. If there’s any left I shall certainly get some more.