I attended a tasting earlier this week that featured the portfolio of wines distributed by Inverarity Vaults, a merchant that specialises in supplying the upper end of the Scottish and UK restaurant trade with fine wines. Amongst an array of interesting wines on show, was a name that was new to me, and turned out to have a fascinating story behind it.
Meaning ‘diamond’ in ancient Greek, Adamas is a brand new Burgundy label. That in itself is noteworthy, as new names in this ultra-traditional region are pretty rare, but even more intriguing, the man behind Adamas is not only British, but lives in a small country town in a remote corner of Scotland – as far removed from the slopes of the Côte d’Or as it is possible to imagine.
Englishman Dan Connolly is co-owner and founder of a négociant business called ‘The New Alliance,’ operating from the small town of Cupar in Fife. The New Alliance’s first project is the creation of the Adamas brand. Connolly’s partner in the business is Burgundian Manoël Bouchet, who operates out of Beaune, the city at the centre of the Burgundy wine trade. It was in Beaune that the seed of the New Alliance concept was sowed, but the story of Connolly and Bouchet’s friendship begins in neutral territory, on the pitches of Hong Kong’s rugby league, where the two played for rival teams when their respective careers took them to the Orient.
Three years later, their love of rugby brought them together again, but this time on a field in the city of Beaune. Their shared passion for wine and rugby led to the creation of Burgundy’s first Anglo-French négociant.
Connolly has spent 11 years in the wine trade, working for Bibendum in London, then Louis Latour in Burgundy, and finally as International Sales Director for the Port house of Quinta do Noval. Meanwhile Bouchet too had made his career in wine, working in business development for both wine and barrel makers in France.
Dan Connolly sees Adamas as representing an exciting and new approach to Burgundy. The choice of name for the Adamas project was not accidental: one of Connolly’s missions is to “concentrate light on the traditional winemaking region of Burgundy,” by simplifying the packaging of their wines, removing all unnecessary ‘clutter’ from the labels, and offering extremely consistent wines. He explains: “We have a broad range of wines available to us based on a barrel selection from some of the Côte d’Or’s best winemakers.” That he believes, will allow them to deliver that consistency.
Connolly goes on, “For example, our two entry level wines emphasise that they are ‘Chardonnay’ and ‘Pinot Noir’ on their labels rather than ‘Bourgogne Blanc’ and ‘Noir’, and though they are totally authentic vintage Burgundy wines, we have moved the vintage date to the back label. At this level, I do not believe most consumers know, or really care much about vintage, but they do know and care about quality and consistency, and that’s what we believe we can give them.”
I tasted six of Adamas’ initial release of eight wines, each in that striking minimalist packaging (though AOC rules dictate no grapes can be mentioned on the front labels of the Village-level wine and above). Connolly would not reveal the domaines that were the sources for these wines, but the quality was generally high, though for me the ‘basic’ Chardonnay in the whites, and the Nuits St Georges in the reds, where the stars of the line-up in terms of quality to price ratio. Adamas is a welcome new name, shining that light on the sometimes obscure world of Burgundy. I wish them every success.
Adamas (France, Burgundy) Chardonnay 2004
Nicely nutty and orchard fruited nose, with fine pear and gently tropical notes. The palate is quite mouthfilling and rich, with a fine quality of racy orchard fruits, and a lovely lemony acidity that is balanced and cleansing. Good length and style here in a very lightly oaked format.
Adamas (France, Burgundy) Puligny-Montrachet 1er Cru 2004
Toasted, buttery muffin and nutty notes dominate. Lots of nutty Cox’s Pippin fruit. The palate has lovely ripeness and roundness. There’s a touch of pear and waxy nectarine, before a really nice nutty background and fine, racy, lemon and mineral acidity. The minerality of this wine really wins through, with a lovely clarity and crispness in the finish.
Adamas (France, Burgundy) Meursault 2004
The nose here is much less toasty than the Puligny, with a creamy ripeness, but also a slightly cabbagy quality. The palate has some sweet fruit and a decent ripeness, but somehow lacks the definition and certainly the length and clarity of the Puligny.
Adamas (France, Burgundy) Pinot Noir 2003
Lightly schisty, kirsch-like cherry and sweet berry fruit. On the palate there is a ripe, sweet, very fruity character at first, with berries and ripe, juicy cherries. Some juicy acidity and a touch of rather raw oak comes through. This seems a little unknit, and lacks a little fat and generosity.
Adamas (France, Burgundy) Volnay 2003
There’s a very schisty, quite solid black fruit quality on the nose here, with some spice and touches of liquoricy darkness. Quite fragrant though, with just glimpses of more floral notes. On the palate there’s a very keen edge to this wine; the tannic structure has a dry grippiness, and adds charry, smoky notes that give it a dark, tangy character. There is decent acidity given the vintage, and though in need of some food to counteract a slightly hollow mid-palate, this has good quality.
Adamas (France, Burgundy) Nuits St Georges 2003
This has a bloodier, gamier, more attractive aromatic profile for me, with quite solid black fruit and a little animal character. The palate is quite full and generous, with a nice plush depth of black fruit, which is juicy and mouthfilling, like black cherry and retaining that slightly meatier, gamy edge that is so attractive. The tannins here are much better integrated and combine nicely with the mellow oak to leave this quite harmonious and moreish, though it has structure and a food-friendly dryness in the finish.
Initially, sales of Adamas are mainly through restaurants, but there are retail listings with independent merchants, and more being added all the time. Peter Green in Edinburgh and The Tasting Rooms in Dundee have just been added as this article was published. Prices range from around £9.00 to over £20.00.