Appellation Wines is a new wine merchant based in Edinburgh, set up by its Director, passionate wine enthusiast Ashton McCobb. The name of the company expresses something of Ashton’s philosophy for Appellation wines: that each wine they sell should deliver more than a mouthful of fruity flavour, but should express the individuality of the place, grape and winemaker behind it.
Ashton’s introduction from the Appellation Wines web site neatly summarises the company ethos: “At Appellation Wines, we believe in selecting wines which hit above their weight in terms of value. We select wines that don’t just express primary flavours such as fruit or spice, but also provide secondary and tertiary flavours such as earthiness and minerality. A wine like this is truly multi-dimensional.”
Appellation wines sent me a mixed dozen of some of their most interesting wines to try for myself, and my notes on this impressive selection follow.
Paul Buisse, Loire
Buisse, Paul (France) Cristal Buisse Touraine Sauvignon 2005
This 100% Sauvignon Blanc was Appellation Wines’ single biggest selling win of 2006, and is also recommended in the French wine bible, the Guide Hachette. It pours a pale, almost transparent lemon, with a light and delicate nose of nettle and herbs, with some lemon sherbet fruit and a deal of cool minerality. On the palate this is fresh and vibrant. There’s an initial rush of crisp, crunchy apple, melon and firm gooseberry fruit, but then a steelier, very precise citrus starts to push through. This is not a sharp or thin wine however, as there is plenty of power and fruit (despite a modest 12% alcohol), and a sense of concentration with some lemon rind and pear skin complexity into the finish. £7.49 from Appellation Wines.
Buisse, Paul (France) Vouvray Cuvée Prestige 2003
100% Chenin Blanc, Buisse’s prestige Vouvray is an off-dry style. The colour is a very pale straw, and the nose offers an intense but quite subtle sherbet and pear fruit character, with a juicy red apple perfume emerging. On the palate this is perhaps medium-sweet rather than off-dry, with loads of concentrated, very ripe fruit sweetness that floods across the tongue. There’s a delicay and precision to this sweetness that is charming, and it is backed up by plenty of fruity weight on the mid-palate and then a fine lemon zest and slightly grapefruity quality of acidity that cleanses and lengthens the finish. A fine, balanced, very beautifully made wine with only 12.5% alcohol, and perfect as an aperitif or with fresh fruit desserts. £7.69 from Appellation Wines.
Buisse, Paul (France) Pouilly-Fumé Cuvée Prestige 2004
100% Sauvignon Blanc from Sancerre’s neighbour, Pouilly-Fumé. Bottled with a synthetic cork, this wine has a moderately deep golden colour, and an arresting nose that is thick with honey and dried apricot, almost suggesting a Sauternes. There’s a sweet, smoky depth to the bouquet of this wine, with plenty of juicy fruit and exotic lychee and guava nuances. On the palate a big backdrop of grapefruity tang and acidity immediateky makes its presence felt, washing over the palate with citrus flavours of orange and grapefruit. That suggestion of tropical fruit ripeness and honey does reassert slightly on the mid-palate, but this wine is all about the crisp, clean refreshment with a bit of aromatic drama adding to the pleasure. £11.99 from Appellation Wines.
Domaine Schwach, Alsace
Schwach & Fils, François (France) Riesling Muehlfurst 2004
Schwach’s Riesling Muehlforst is part of his ‘terroir’ range of wines, from special sites, in this case close to the Grand Cru Rosacker, where Schwach also has holdings. This very pale green/straw wine has a subdued sense of minerality on the nose. It is quite honeyed and luscious, with no real sense of the petrolly character of some, but a waxy lemony fruitiness. On the palate lemon and lime cordial flavours fill the mouth, with plenty of ripeness still just hinting at honey and glycerine, before quite a powerful mineral and lemon pith acidity kicks in. Medium bodied and clean, there is not amazing complexity here, but it is crisp and fruity, offering plenty of enjoyment. £9.89 from Appellation Wines.
Schwach & Fils, François (France) Muscat 2005
These wines are imported into the UK exclusively by Appellation Wines, from the house of Francois Schwach in the village of Hunawihr. Closed with a high-quality synthetic cork, the Muscat has an almost transparent colour, but an intensely perfumed nose of classic grape aromas, a hint of Turkish delight and plenty of exotic guava and lychee fruit. On teh palate this wine is dry, or perhaps just hinting at off-dryness, with lovely balance and a sense of refinement. A modest 12% alcohol means there’s no heat or excess astringency here, but just delicately ripe citrus and necatrine fruitiness, with that hint of the exotic, and a clean, precise finish with balanced acidity. Delicious. £9.99 from Appellation Wines.
Domaine la Rouviole (France) Firmament Vin de Pays de L’Hérlault 2004
Firmament is a nicely packaged, modern-looking range from Domaine la Rouviole in the Languedoc. The grapes are hand-harvested, with an “extreme attention to ripeness.” Classic grape varieties of the region – Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault & Carignan – are used, and this cuvée is 90% Cinsault with 10% Carignan. It has a dark, dense, crismson colour. The nose offers sweet, jammy scents of cherry and blackberry, with a hint of briar and something herbal. On the palate this delivers a very solid mouthful of ripe, soft, engaging berry fruits, with a bright cherry crispness, but also a layer of darker, earthier flavour that rounds it out through the mid-palate. It has chunky, robust, but ripe and easy-going tannins, and fine balance overall. A very nice little glugger this one. £5.29 from Appellation Wines.
Domaine la Rouviole (France) Firmament Minervois 2003
From the hot 2003 vintage, there’s a heady 14% alcohol here in a wine that has equal proportions of Cinsault, Syrah and Carignan. The colour is a dark, dried-blood red, and the nose offers very rounded, dense and creamy aromas of plum and dark chocolate. There is a certain pepper and spice, and just glimpses of a brighter cherry fruit quality. On the palate this has a rich-textured, solid, spicy fruitiness, with an extra layer of dense, thick tannin and plenty of stuffing into a long, spicy finish. A powerhouse style that needs food, but impressively concentrated. £6.29 from Appellation Wines.
Domaine la Rouviole (France) Firmament Minervois 2001
The 2001 bottling of Firmament’s Minervois is made from roughly equal proportions of Cinsault, Syrah and Carignan. It has quite a light ruby colour, just starting to show an edge of brick. The nose is lovely: very pure, with creamy red berry fruits, and just a background suggestion of a little spice and briar. On the palate this medium-bodied wine is resolved and harmonious, with a really solid underpinning of spicy, quite suple and chocolaty tannins, and good, sweet berry and plum fruit. This has good length, with a fresh acidity keeping it focused into quite a long, and again, harmonious finish. Lovely for drinking now whilst the 2003 edition lies in the cellar for another year or two. £6.29 from Appellation Wines.
Domaine la Rouviole (France) Firmament Minervois la Livinière 2002
2002 was a washout for much of the Southern Rhône and the south of France in general, but this top cuvée of the Firmament range, from the superior Appellation of Minervois la Livinière, shows that careful winemaking and presumably very carefully tended vines, can still produce fine wines in tough vintages. An oak-aged blend of 50% Grenache and 50% Syrah, only 420 cases are made. It has a promising deep crimson/black colour, and a hugely spicy nose, with clove and Sandalwood aromas and a sheen of vanilla. The fruit is glossy, bold and reminiscent of really ripe plums and blackcurrant jam. On the palate the intense pepper and spice melange dominates, with good fruit that is perhaps just a touch weak through the mid-palate, but the high quality, coffee and cocoa character of the oak supports, and the grippy tannins and acidity adds a liquoricy bite in the finish. This really is a great effort, and I can’t wait to see what this wine can do given a better vintage. Excellent stuff. £12.49 from Appellation Wines.
Domaine la Garrigue, Rhône
Domaine La Garrigue (France) Vacqueyras 2003
From Vacqueyras, just next door to Gigondas in the Southern Rhône, this beefy 14% alcohol 2003 pours a rich crimson colour and has quite a subtle nose of creamy raspberry and elegant cherry fruit, but with a distinctive white pepper note and background hints of both floral notes and a meatier substance. On the palate this lacks the plumpness and ripe opulence of the 2003 Gigondas from this producer, but there’s a fine, liquoricy edge to keen cherry and raspberry fruit, with a tugging weight of plum and chocolate and a toasty, cedary background. This has a life and vivacious quality about it, and is a meaty mouthful of Rhône wine showing power and some finesse. £9.79 from Appellation Wines.
Domaine La Garrigue (France) Gigondas 2003
From the super-hot 2003 vintage this Gigondas weighs in with 14% alcohol. It has a fine ruby colour, and the nose offers very deep, smoky, thick berry and plum fruit. There’s spice and a touch of gaminess, but the deep well of fruit and an elegant cedary sheen are predominant. On the palate this wine is full-bodied, rich and powerfully concentrated. There’s a fabulous sweetness of ripe, chocolaty berry fruit, and a massive backing of spices, toast and a charry espresso note. The alcohol is noticeable, but within this framework of intense fruit, gripping, peppery tannins and fine cherry acidity the overall picture is balanced as well as impressively long. Excellent stuff. £11.69 from Appellation Wines.
Château Langoiran, Bordeaux
Château Langoiran (France) Premières Côtes de Bordeaux 2001
Composed of 70% Merlot, 25% Cabernet Franc and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, this oak-aged wine from the very good 2001 vintage has a healthy ruby colour that is quite dark and dense, with light on the rim. It has a plush, yet elegant nose, with a very nice quality of charry oak adding coffee and cedar, and quite a deep, baked plum pie fruitiness. In the mouth it is medium-bodied and savoury, with an earthy character playing against the sweetness of the fruit, and a moderately spicy background of older oak and tannin. This is a wine for drinking now and over the next couple of years, with good balance and enough acidity to keep it fresh. £8.09 from Appellation Wines.