A wonderful offer from Berry Bros & Rudd, this. Wine-loving readers will know that once or twice a month we hold Spectator winemakers’ lunches at 22 Old Queen Street. A well-known winemaker will bring some wines and chat about them to a maximum of 14 readers over lunch in the boardroom.
These entertaining affairs must surely be the best value in town: just £75 a pop for four courses of jolly fine grub and as much wine as you can drink; not to mention the chance to chat to some of the world’s leading winemakers and to meet like-minded Speccie readers. Little wonder that we always have to flick the lights to turf folk out as afternoon turns into evening.
Anyway, the point I’m getting to is that Mark Walford was our most recent vigneron and brought with him wines from Le Soula, the remarkable organic/biodynamic estate high in the Fenouillèdes mountains of south-west France. All of us present were blown away by the wines’ freshness, by their individuality, their concentration, their complexity and their, well, downright tastiness. I just knew we had to offer them here.
The 2011 Le Soula Blanc (1) is a blend of nine different low-yielding, hand-harvested varieties (Sauvignon, Vermentino, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Chardonnay, Macabeu, Malvoisie du Roussillon and Grenache Gris), from centuries-old vineyards where no herbicides, pesticides or chemical fertilisers are used. Thanks to high altitude (sunny but cool) the wine has a freshness to it, as well as a touch of oak. £21.00, down from £24.95.
The 2011 Le Soula Rouge (5) is a blend of the traditional southern French varieties of Carignan (mainly), Syrah and Grenache, aged for 22 months in both tank and oak. Poor soils mean low yields, and low yields mean concentrated fruit. And as with the white, high-altitude vineyards mean lusciously ripe fruit coupled with a refreshing acidity. £21.00, down from £24.95.
Le Soula Blanc Maceration No. 14NV (2) is like nothing we had tasted before, an orange wine made from Macabeu and Vermentino. Treated like a red wine, it has 12 days’ skin contact and is then aged in oak casks for 18 months. It’s extremely resistant to oxidation and can be left open for days — weeks even — without deteriorating. There are notes of mandarin peel on the nose, and plenty of citrus and crunchy apples on the palate. £21.00, down from £24.95.
As Le Soula’s wines are in short supply, we’ve added four others to make up a corking southern French mixed case. The 2012/13 Mas Champart Blanc (3), made from 80 per cent Terret (late-picked from 110-year-old vines) and 20 per cent Grenache Gris — two trad Languedoc varieties — is a belter. Dry but with honeyed, slightly spicy fruit and hints of fresh and poached pears, it has a long, almost savoury, finish. £15.50, down from £18.25.
The 2012 Mas Jullien Terrasses de Larzac (6) is a punchy, concentrated and intense blend of old vine Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan from the Coteaux du Languedoc, some 25 miles north of Montpelier. There is plenty of dark fruit here, along with minerality and a liquorice-like backbone. It’s gracefully balanced and hugely sought-after and Berrys’ have made a particular effort with the price. £19.50, down from £29.95.
Finally, we’ve a brace of first-class, well-priced Languedoc varietals from the ever-reliable Ournac brothers at Domaine Coudoulet.
The 2016 Domaine de Coudoulet Viognier (4) is absurdly enjoyable, full of apricots, peaches and honeysuckle with a long dry finish. £10.00, down from £11.70. The 2016 Domaine de Coudoulet Pinot Noir (7) is impressive: succulent, plummy and blackberry-ripe with a whistle-clean finish. £10.00, down from £11.50.
The mixed case has two bottles of each wine, except wines 2 and 3, of which there is one each. Delivery, as ever, is free.