Mark Slaney on five wines to try when the sun shines and the barbecue comes out this Summer…
The supermarkets have got all the BBQ accessories prominently displayed and the garden centres are packed with shoppers as we all gear up for Spring then Summer and hope for endless days of sunshine and balmy evenings when the BBQ and al-fresco dining beckon. Here’s hoping at least.
Living in Scotland I have grown to believe that Winter can re-emerge as late as April almost effortlessly and in fact there’s still snow on the high hills within sight of where I live. Nevertheless, I dusted down the BBQ last week and whilst we have eaten in doors it has been mild enough for me to happily cook outdoors, on a couple of occasions now, glass of wine in hand. First time I had very slow roasted a leg of lamb which I then finished on the BBQ. I’m quite happy to roast lamb so it’s very rare in the middle but crisp on the outside (a good vet could probably get it back on its feet) but this time to please my partner I went for the slow cook method so the meat was, to use a friend’s phrase, melty, melty. Covered in rosemary and enough garlic to see safe passage through Transylvania, the lamb was wrapped up in tin foil, stuck in the oven at 100 degrees and ignored for close on three hours. It was then unwrapped and joined some echalion shallots and red peppers for a final blast on the BBQ.
What to drink with rustic roast lamb with rosemary, I wondered? Domaine de Trevallon – fabulous and perfect but too damned expensive. Bandol…. Yes, a bit pricey but again ideal. Bandol hails from the south of France and is a modestly sized commune on the Mediterranean coast. The Phoenicians planted vineyards here two and a half thousand years ago and the Romans shipped local wine out of the little port here two thousand years ago, so it’s safe to say that Bandol wines have been appreciated for some time.
Most Bandol is red but some is rosé and both are good. The red is mostly mourvèdre and must by law be aged for at least 18 months in oak. It is historically a big wine with great character and a generous level of alcohol. If you have watched the film A Good Year you may recall a reference made to the wine by Albert Finney? My favourite Bandol, Domaine Tempier.
The vineyards of this property are in a truly spectacular setting, high in the hills looking down to the Mediterranean. There are four reds made each with a disconcertingly similar label but each rather different and all worth trying. The “Classique” sees mourvèdre blended with Grenache, cinsault and a drop of carignan and can be drunk from around five years old. “La Migoua” is from vines grown on an elevation around 800 feet above sea level on chalk and clay over rocks that are 200 million years old. “La Tourtine” has a high proportion of mourvèdre and “Cabassaou” which is made in the smallest quantities has the highest proportion of mourvèdre of the lot at around 95%. Give the wine ten or 15 years to mature.
Having decided upon Bandol I went and bought some. I’d planned on a few bottles as there were a few of us gathering for dinner but when I saw the price tag that Domaine Tempier now commands I thought, bother it, this is getting pricey, I’m sure it was a lot a cheaper when I last drank it. Then, I realised that was probably 20 years ago so that’s really no surprise. Well, what the heck, I decided to buy one bottle of Bandol and two bottles of something else with a more modest price tag.
So to go alongside, or rather precede the Bandol I opted for a Vacqueras “Carmin Brilliant” Clos de Caveau. This property makes two wines: a “Fruit Sauvage” – uncomplicated and satisfying wine; quite full bodied, very fruity but with some nice tannin and acidity to balance it. Nothing flash but thoroughly enjoyable. The other labelled “Carmin Brilliant” has two years more bottle age and is altogether more noteworthy. It costs a bit more and you get what you pay for.
Vacqueras and Gigondas are two wines I like and close neighbours (to each other – not to me) that offer a lot of flavour for a relatively modest price. Think of them as a shrewd investment alternative to a Chateauneuf du Pape. Both can have lots of bouquet, rosemary and pepper, plenty of tannin and body. They’re robust wines from grapes that have been drenched in Mediterranean sunshine. Anyway, we had the “Carmin Brilliant” with the BBQ lamb and it tasted… well, brilliant, actually. We followed it with the Bandol – what a wine! As Albert Finney, playing Uncle Skinner in A Good Year mused; “Excellent choice. Tempier Bandol, 1969, the kind of wine that’ll pickle even the toughest of men. I once saw a Castilian prize-fighter collapse in a heap after drinking just a single glass. Perhaps my knee landing squarely in his testicles may have been partly to blame…”
Another wine I’d recommend is La Chapelle de Mayran, Domaine Duseigneur, 2012. This bio-dynamically made Cotes du Rhone is from a vineyard just outside the illustrious Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation. Domaine Duseigneur was established in 1967 but I’d not come across it until last month when I chanced to have a bottle with dinner in a French restaurant in Edinburgh. Bags of flavour with a modest price tags, sums it up neatly.
Domaine de Trevallon is available from Berry, Bros and Rudd, London and other fine wine specialists and also comes up at fine wine auctions. It is expensive.
Bandol Domaine Tempier (around £20 – £35) is shipped by:
A And B Vintners Ltd, Tonbridge.
Lea Sandeman Company Ltd, London.
Reid Wines, Bristol.
Savage Selection Ltd., Northleach.
The Wine Society, Stevenage.
Vacqueras Carmin Brilliant Clos du Caveau (about £17.50) is shipped by Vintage Roots, Hook, Hampshire.
La Chapelle de Mayran, Domaine Duseigneur (about £11.45) is available from L’Art du Vin, Dunfermline.
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Mark Slaney has been a commercial wine buyer for hotels and restaurants for over 30 years. He has written a book on wine, which includes a collection of insider tips for the wine buying enthusiast. Tasting Notes, published in paperback is available from Amazon. He is also General Manager at the Horseshoe Restaurant with Rooms, Eddleston, By Peebles, Scotland, EH45 8QP