OUR PRODUCERS IN FRANCE
Domaine Zind Humbrecht – Alsace
Olivier Humbrecht is one of the master white winemakers of the world, both in his Master of Wine qualification but principally in the incredible quality he brings to every wine in his range. A biodynamic fanatacist, his vineyards are as healthy, natural and “alive” as any vineyard you will ever see, and in combination with his winemaking methods – clean pressed juice, long slow fermentation in large old oak vats using only natural yeasts, and plenty of time on the lees – produce wines of incredible fruit intensity, complexity and minerality.
Every wine in his range, at every price point, is a stunning example of its individual terroir and grape. If you enjoy rich, complex, fruit-packed wines with minerality and wonderful balancing acidity, then these are the wines for you. His Rieslings are built to last for 20 years, Gewurztraminers are so full of flavour that they are a meal in themselves, and Pinot Gris are the benchmark throughout the world in this varietal.
Château Grand Puy Lacoste – Pauillac
Always one of my favourite Bordeaux wines whatever the vintage, you can guarantee that Château Grand Puy Lacoste will give you all the character and quality of a true Pauillac at the fairest price of any château in the region. Owned by the charming Borie family, this château is rare amongst the classified growths of the Medoc today in that it still has a true family feel when you visit it. This château has everything I look for in top quality claret; passion, a true sense of terroir, and a real “spirit”. And its second wine, Lacoste Borie, is always one of the best value wines in all Bordeaux.
Château Pontet Canet – Pauillac
One of our favourite Bordeaux château, since the 2000 vintage Pontet Canet has been producing magnificent wines. Located just over the road from the far more illustrious and expensive Château Mouton Rothschild, Pontet Canet now rivals this First Growth in quality and consistency. Fully biodynamic since 2009, the future looks green and bright for this rapidly-rising star of Pauillac.
Château Tertre Rôteboeuf – St.Emilion
This small property, situated on a south-facing amphitheatre on the St.Emilon côtes 2 miles south-east of the village, seems as far from the grand and opulent châteaux of the Medoc as it is possible to get. More Burgundian than Bordeaux, both in the simple underground cellars where the wines are vinified and in its graceful, silky-tannined wines, it is a quirky oasis in the sometimes-sterile Bordeaux wine industry. The owner Francois Mitjaville, is one of the most passionate winemakers you will meet, and cares far more about producing wines he considers great than what certain illustrious press commentators think; so much so that he apparently told Robert Parker never to come back when he rated his 2006 vintage too low!
The wines are, quite simply, magnificent; expensive, yes, but worth every Franc. Opulent, profound, packed with personality, and amongst the best Merlot-driven wines anywhere in the world.
Domaine (Marchand) Tawse and Mause by Domaine Tawse
Pascal Marchand is not your usual Burgundy winemaker. Originally from Quebec, he worked several vintages around the world – New Zealand, Chile and West Australia – before moving to Burgundy where he was appointed winemaker at Comte Armand in Vougeot. He was one of the very first biodynamic farmers in Burgundy. He started his own estate in 2006 in Nuits St.Georges and has gradually been buying carefully-selected small plots of land in several of the top sites in the Côtes de Nuits. As he buys them, he converts the vineyards to biodynamic viticulture, with the aim of releasing the potential of each individual terroir.
We tasted his 2010 vintage on a particularly cold day in February 2012 and were dazzled by the consistently high quality of all his wines. There is enormous potential here, and with the fantastic 2010 vintage you are benefitting from a truly superb winemaker, excellent plots of land, but still relatively low prices as he is yet unproven in the eyes of certain American wine journalists. Jancis Robinson MW however rates his Grands Crus 19 points out of 20, a score she otherwise reserves only for the very best of Burgundy such as Armand Rousseau, DRC or Comte de Vogüé – all of which cost at least 4 times the price of Pascal Marchand’s most expensive offerings.
We highly recommend you try these wines. They are all superb at their price.
Charles Heidsieck – Champagne
Charles Heidsieck is one of the most prestigious Champagne houses of them all, and we are delighted to be their exclusive retailers in Switzerland. The company was started 162 years ago by the original Monsieur Charles Heidsieck, a Frenchman who spent so much time selling his Champagnes around the USA that he affectionately became known as “Champagne Charlie”.
By the end of the 1970s Charles Heidsieck Champagne was the second biggest Champagne brand in the UK and 5th largest in the USA, with worldwide sales of around 3 million bottles. The brand was so respected in the UK that it was THE champagne served by Prince Charles and Lady Diana on their wedding day!
The house was purchased by Remy Cointreau in 1985 but sadly was never given the attention it deserved in amongst their huge portfolio. However in 2011 Charles Heidsieck was bought by respected French entrepreneur Christophe Descours and his family company. He has high aspirations and ambitions to revive the brand to its former glories, with absolute focus on delivering the best quality Champagnes possible. The future for “Charles” looks bright!
Every one of the “Charles” range of Champagnes consistently over-delivers at its price, and all have won huge awards from the International Wine Press.
Domaine Binet Jacquet – Faugères
Faugères is a beautiful, hilly region about 40kms north of Carcassonne in South West France’s Languedoc region. What makes it so special for vines is its ruggedly schisty, stony soils. Binet Jacquet work their vines 100% biodynamically which gives the resulting wines an unmistakable minerality and freshness.
Olivier Binet is a Swiss winemaker who is convinced of this wonderful region’s potential to make great wines. Together with his colleague, Pierre Jacquet, they purchased this domaine in 1999 and planted all the vineyards themselves between 2002 and 2007. Their first, small vintage was in 2005.
Their wines have a distinct freshness and vitality, particularly for this warm region. This is in part due to the fairly high altitudes of around 400 metres of their vines and the cool night time temperatures that result, and partly because of their practice of biodynamic viticulture, which gives the wines a distinctive liveliness and taste of their schistous, mineral soils.
Domaine d’Orfeuilles – Vouvray
This small domaine is situated on the famous flinty slopes of the Vouvray region just to the North of the Loire river. It produces long-lived, minerally dry white and exquisitely delicate sweet wines from very old Chenin Blanc vines. The soils are packed with flint and Silex – miniscule million year old sea fossils dating back to an age when this part of Northern France was covered by the sea. This gives perfect drainage in this classic, northerly, cool and fairly wet wine region which is renowned as the home of the finest Chenin Blanc wines.
The wines are delicious – perfect reflections of the noble Chenin Blanc grape in its different guises. If you like to try new styles, wines a bit off the beaten track, then these will fascinate you.
Domaine Garon – Côte Rôtie
I have read so much over the years about the greatness of the Syrah-based red wines of the Côte Rôtie but until my visit to Domaine Garon in February 2017 had never quite understood what all the fuss was about! Because in “average” vintages this small, granite-hilled appellation above the village of Ampuis produces rather cool, peppery, almost austere reds which can seem almost Burgundian in their lightness of body. But in warmer, sunnier vintages such as 2015, this region suddenly comes out of its shell.
Domaine Garon is a small (with 7 hectares of vines in total), family run, quality-driven winery with a long history of grape growing in this region, dating back to 1475! They only began producing and bottling their own wines in 1995 – with their original cuvée “Les Triotes”. They have now added 2 other vineyards to their portfolio – Les Rochins and Les Sybarines – from different parts of the Côte Rôtie.
If you would like to discover for yourself what great Côte Rôtie is all about, I urge you to try the very reasonably-priced examples from this small, up and coming domaine before their wines reach the stratospheric heights of their neighbours Guigal!
Yves Cuilleron – Verlieu / Condrieu
If you’re looking for something different in the world of white wine – something that’s not Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling – then the Viognier, Marsanne and Roussanne- based whites of the Northern Rhône Valley could be just what you’re looking for!
Yves Cuilleron is the master white winemaker of this region. His winery is based in the tiny village of Verlieu, about 5kms south of Condrieu on the right bank of the Rhône River. His “basic” single varietal Viognier and Marsanne grown in the hills just south of the appellation of Condrieu (les Collines Rhodaniennes ) are labelled “Les Vignes à Côté” and represent fantastic value.
Moving up a notch on the price ladder, his St.Joseph Blanc Lombard comes from Marsanne grapes grown on very old south-east facing vines just south of Condrieu. These sand and granite soils give the wine an intense minerality, whilst fermentation in barrel followed by 9 months on the lees adds complexity and richness.
He is most famous however for his selection of Condrieus – 100% Viogniers from steep, granite-based hillsides facing south over the Rhône river in one of France’s smallest, least well-known but highest quality appellations. His Condrieu Petite Cote is fantastic value – delicious peach and apricot fruit with some richness from 9 months on the lees and barrel fermentation. Slightly more expensive is his Condrieu Les Chaillets, sourced from the best-exposed and oldest vines of the domaine. Here the apricot and slightly floral Viognier flavours have a slightly richer, more serious underlying minerality. And at the top of his Condrieu tree is the Vertige, renamed Lieu dit Vernon. This tiny, top quality vineyard produces 4,000 bottles per year of the finest expression of Viognier you will taste anywhere; highly recommended!