It’s a couple of years since I reported on the wines from the online retailer, Joie de Vin. Tim North and his wife Jill stepped off the corporate conveyer belt several years ago, Tim having spent almost two decades working for France’s largest exporter of wine, and spending much of his time getting to know the country’s wine regions well. Joie de Vin specifically set out to import the wines of small, usually family-owned estates that they loved, the wines often produced in quantities of just a few thousand bottles. The couple import the wines directly.
Tim says that all of their producers share his passion for the environment too, some certified as farming organically, but all working with sustainable techniques. Having started out with just a handful of producers from the Loire and Languedoc-Roussillon regions, the company has carefully and methodically branched-out, so today there’s a substantial presence of wines from the Rhône, Burgundy and Bordeaux too.
Though the event is already sold out for 2019, Joie de Vin will be pouring 12 of their wines at my London Festival of Wine (and offering an exclusive discount on purchases on the day), but meanwhile you can order from joiedevin.co.uk with a six-bottle minimum order and free delivery if spending £95 or more.
(2019) Made from 100% Chenin Blanc, this is a wine made by the traditional method with long secondary fermentation in individual bottles. It pours with fine bubbles, a pale straw colour, and immediately attractive nose; crisp and fruity but with enough creamy character from its time on the lees. In the mouth it's a lovely, easy-drinking style, very fresh and free-flowing with orchard fruits and a zippy lemony acidity that is delicate and summery, with no tartness, into a finely-honed finish.
(2019) A unusual Pinot Gris from vineyards in the Muscadet area of the Loire, and therefore classified as an IGP Val de Loire rather than Muscadet. Its 'flute' bottle gives it a rather Alsace look, and indeed the stuff inside has something in common with Pinot Gris from Alsace, including some residual sugar. And like Alsace, there's no way to tell that from the label which is a source of potential confusion for a thoroughly nice wine. Some floral, candy and citrus notes on the nose are attractive, a little stone-fruit, peachy character too. In the mouth there is good intensity here, definite sweetness, but a big rushing core of acidity sweeps the wine along to a balanced finish. For me, a banker for Thai or spicier Chinese cuisine.
(2019) What a lovely Sauvignon Blanc, and quite a different expression from the Loire big hitters of Sancerre and Pouilly-Fumé. Part of that is down to the 18 months this unoaked wine stayed on the lees, meaning that even with only 12.5% alcohol it has texture and creaminess as well as vivid fruit. There's a touch of honey and apricot to the otherwise pristine apple and citrus aromas and flavours, nuttiness from the lees ageing rather than anything grassy, and a rounded, balanced finish.
(2019) Made from old bush vines of 50% Grenache, 30% Mourvèdre, plus Syrah and Carignan, this is a substantial and meaty wine, deep in colour and aroma, with plum and tobacco, and yet a glimpse of something floral and violetty too. In the mouth there is terrific black fruit sweetness, an initial surge joined by grippy, firm tannins and tart plum-skin acidity to give this tension. Again that one dimension is soon expanded as a fresher red fruit character joins, though it is structure and a fair heft of alcohol that gives it a powerful finish.
(2019) Made from the classic old bush vines of the Roussillon, this is 50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Carignan and 15% Mourvèdre, with around one third of the blend aged in barrel for six months. With a hefty 15% alcohol declared, there is a touch of Porty quality on the nose, all black cherry, plum and a touch of violet, a smidgeon of chocolate and some Sandalwood spice and tobacco filling in. In the mouth it is a big wine with a little bit of alcohol heat on the back palate, but there's no denying the appeal of the copious black fruit, fudge-like smooth tannins and peppy cherry acidity to balance as the spice fills in the finish once more. A chunk of steak with this is the way to go.
(2019) From the fine Rhône appellation of Ventoux, not far from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, this is a blend of 70% Grenache with Syrah in a forward, fulsome style that lovers of Châteauneuf will certainly appreciate. But there's a beautiful violet and cracked black pepper elegance on the nose as well as copious black fruits, a real lift suggesting kirsch and blue/black intensity of fruit. On the palate the wine bursts with concentrated fruit intensity: tangy and dark plum and plum skins, blueberry and damson, definite ripeness and power, but again there is elegance in the fine but grippy tannins that add a pleasing roughening edge to all that smooth fruit, and plenty of acidity to balance and freshen, extending the finish and promising a bit of longevity for this if you can cellar for five to eight years. Watch the video for more information and food matching ideas.