It’s now three years since I first reviewed a selection of wines from Jonny and Caroline Gibson’s company, Wine Discoveries, and their business goes from strength to strength as evidenced by this seriously good selection of wines which they have imported from small producers. Jonny still travels to the continent to source his wines (in fact you can read all about it on his web site), buying direct from small, high-quality producers. Though the South of France and Burgundy remain the two special areas of interest, the company is cautiously branching out, with wines like the Rioja featured here.
Clearly, the Gibsons are choosing their wines really well, and are putting a huge amount of effort into building a wine merchant business that offer a real point of difference. Wine Discoveries is a role model for independent merchants: more power to them.
Domaine de Mont d’Hortes (France) Chardonnay 2006
Having already picked up a ‘Coup de Couer’ from the Hachette guide, I had high hopes for this Languedoc Chardonnay and it did not disappoint. Pouring a bold, buttercup yellow tinged with emerald, It has a lovely nose: my style of Chardonnay, with just a suggestion of honeysuckle and fig, amongst otherwise pristine orchard fruit aromas. On the palate there is plenty of fruit ripeness here, and the initial impression is of quite tropical, guava and pineapple, before that lovely core of cool, composed, white fruit crunch and crisp, Mandarin orange acidity comes through. The discreetly-handled oak adds subtle spice and honey, in a marvellous Chardonnay at a bargain price. £6.29, Wine Discoveries.
Charles Baur (France) Alsace Pinot Blanc 2006
Picked by Jonny Gibson as one of his personal favourites, this Alsace Pinot Blanc comes from the house of Charles Baur. Current incumbent Armand Baur took over from his father, who began bottling his own domaine wines in 1946, though the family had grown grapes for generations before. This wine has a very pale, straw colour, and an immediately invigorating nose, with little notes of honey and hay amongst ripe pear fruit and a subtle ginger component. On the palate this has a bit of weight and ripeness behind it, with a sweet edge to the fruit making it a perfect aperitif wine, but the finish is dry and racy, leaving your mouth immediately ready for another sip. £7.89, Wine Discoveries.
Domaine Fèvre (France) Chablis Nathalie & Gilles 2006
A very interesting wine, made by young winemaker Nathalie Fèvre from fruit grown by her husband Gilles Fèvre, who can trace his family’s Chablis wine connections back to 1800, working variously as coopers, nurserymen, vineyard owners and winemakers. This Chablis has a very pale colour just tinged with lemony-green, and a nose that treads a nice line between lemon zest and crunchy apple typicity, and a suggestion of a little bit of extra ripeness and weight. On the palate the wine is very clean and crisp, but there is good fruit sweetness here, adding just a touch of nectarine before the cool, racy fruit and acidity shines through to the finish. £9.99, Wine Discoveries.
Domaine Bellegarde (France) Jurançon Cuvée Thibault 2004
I am a huge fan of the sweet white wines of Jurançon, and for me this is one of the stars of Wine Discoveries’ impressive portfolio. Hand-harvested in November, there are several ‘passes through the vineyard to select only raisined, but perfect grapes. It is vinified in barriques, about 40% of which are new. It has a simply gorgeous nose, flooded with nectarine, honey and marmalade, with nuances of leaf tea and roasted sesame seeds. On the palate it is medium-bodied, and has a beautiful balance between the sweet, honeyed and glycerine fruits, and a precise core of orange acidity. The subtle support of delicate oak just adds a layer of creamy texture and flavour. Exquisite stuff. £11.99 for 50cls, Wine Discoveries.
Hermanos Frias del Val (Spain) Rioja Crianza 2005
This 100% Tempranillo Rioja comes from a new name to me, Hermanos Frias del Val. It is matured in new oak barrels for 13 months, and pours a vibrant, medium crimson colour. On the nose it seems particularly fresh and appetising, with aromas of juicy raspberry and redcurrants superimposed on quite a subtle, elegantly smoky oak. There’s a sense of minerality and crispness here too. On the palate the pure, focused red fruit quality continues, underpinned by spices of clove and pepper, but all given a firm, liquoricy edge by taut, grippy tannins and that tightly-grained, charry quality of French oak (I assume). Impressive. £8.99, Wine Discoveries.
Domaine du Crampilh (France) Madiran Vignes Vieilles 2002
100% Tannat, this wine is as black a pitch, with a lovely nose that is muscular, dense and savoury, with a hugely solid plum and blackberry fruit character. There’s a glimpse of something high-toned and floral, like violet or kirsch, but that vinous, black-fruited character dominates. On the palate this is tight and chewy, with a deal of sinew and muscle to the character, as the deep, tight, black plum fruity and meaty texture fills the mouth. Tannins are spicy and dense too, and the lift of cherry acidity adds a freshening edge. This is really good stuff, that is such a point of difference amongst a sea of very good, but less distinct wine styles. It is real iron fist in a velvet glove stuff, and very good indeed. £12.49, Wine Discoveries.