Tuesday, 26 July 2011

...and at Number 4

Bryn continues his countdown of his top 6 favourite wines we have here at Averys. After two South African wines at numbers six and five, its time for something a little more classical.

Winemaker Olivier Cazenave
Olivier Cazenave was the first wine-maker I met after I started at Averys. For weeks before, the senior guys and our buyers were slowly getting more and more excited about his visit. I wondered to myself who he was? Was he going to appear out of some kind of elaborate fire show in a puff of smoke? Large gaggles of women crowding around fainting if he so much as turned his gnarly but Dolce & Gabana catalogue-worthy face in their direction? I wondered what kind of person could conjure such a hushed sense of excitement in the office. And then he appeared….not that I noticed mind you. No fire show, no screaming women. Just a normal bloke with a fairly rough t-shirt and jeans. I wondered where all the pomp and circumstance I had come to expect from Bordeaux lay. I’m glad to say that it never appeared.

What I did get however was an in depth tasting of brilliant wines from a winemaker who exudes passion and ‘savoir-faire’ in his subject. His outward, genuine friendliness as he took us methodically through his range really endeared me to him and his wines, and I started to see where all this excitement had come from. The particular wine that I enjoyed the most I actually didn’t get to taste the first time he was here, I had to wait until I got the chance to visit him on his estate last year to taste this excellent value St Emilion.

View of the estate from the drive

‘Aux Plantes’ St Emilion Grand Cru 2008 - £18.99 per bottle (currently just 10 cases in stock!)

Olivier owns Chateau de Bel, a small place comprising just 8 hectares of vines on the banks of the Dordogne river, just outside Libourne. It is ranked as Bordeaux Superieur, but if you had a good enough arm, you could probably throw your shoe into the St Emilion appellation. From this estate he makes three wines we stock, Chateau de Bel, Chateau de Bel ‘La Capitane’, and the outstanding Chateau de Bel Rosé. All three are well worth a go and priced well between £9 - £12, also available en primeur at exceptional prices!

A few years ago, a friend of Oliviers was looking to purchase a little land in St Emilion, so with partner in tow, he started to scout around. There were a few rumours that Chateau Grand Mayne (Cru Classé) were looking to sell off a few hectares of vines. Instead of buying, they decided to rent the land for the 2008 vintage. ‘That was the start of my St Emilion adventure’ grinned Olivier, with a child like excitement in his eye as I asked him about it. ‘We decided to do things very traditionally in the small cellar we had rented. The wine was fermented and macerated in open top oak barrels, with all punch downs done by hand and juice transferred by gravity. We then built the barrels again and use them for the ageing. In the vineyard, because we only have a couple of hectares to look after, I get to do everything by hand meticulously. This produces better grapes for me!’

The resulting wine is simply sublime and packs so much value in to the price. This ‘bang for your buck’ is the reason that it makes it into my favourites list at number four. You’re unlikely to find a better St Emilion for the price anywhere else.

Brilliantly fresh and beguiling nose of plum, blackcurrant, granary toast, and hints of woodsmoke and clay. The palate is balanced, fleshy, concentrated and abundant with layer upon layer of fruit. The tannin is starting to dissipate, and whatever tannin there may be left is silky smooth and sweet. Its weighted beautifully and has a good acidity that lifts the finish perfectly. Please see photo below as to what to drink this with… it is starting to drink well now, but would reward cellaring for the next few years.


I always wonder with wine, whether the surroundings make things better. Its something I like to call ‘the Manzanilla effect’. I have never liked Manzanilla sherry, especially on a dreary rainy day in the Westcountry, but when out in Spain on a baking hot evening, there is simply nothing better than a nice cool copita of sherry. For this reason, I always re-taste things when I get home to see if it was the quality, the surroundings or a combination of both that made the wine so special. In this case the wine tasted just as good at home as it did on that lovely afternoon on the banks of the Dordogne. A sure sign of quality!

We have around 10 cases of this in stock right now. The 2010 vintage was available en primeur (a different property, but no decline in quality!) but its all gone now I’m afraid. Keep an eye out for the 2011 vintage next year as this will be a wine that I have helped make!

If you are interested in this wine please give one of the wine advisors a call on 01275 812230.


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  2. Thankyou very much! His wines are brilliant! If you ever find yourself in that part of the world, he will be more than happy to do a tasting. Its probably worth calling ahead though...