Monday, 22 August 2011

Our departing wine advisor reveals his number 1 wine at Averys...

In Praise of Regional France by Bryn Stephens...

I have been thinking recently about all the wines I have tried whilst at Averys and at companies before, and of course thinking about my top 6, I cant help but think also about some of the utterly awful samples that have been sent to our tasting room. So I compiled a little black list of wines that I will actively avoid tasting again in the future I shall not list them of course as that would be very unfair to the dedicated winemakers and field hands that toil away to pour their heart and soul into these wines.

People of the world have very different palates and my criticism of certain wines really amounts to nothing in the grand scheme of things. This then got me to thinking about all the different regions that I have tasted and all the different grape varieties I have tried. One thing struck me straight away. Among the black list of wines, there wasn’t a single wine from Regional France. Pretty much every other wine producing region in the world was represented. Napa, Tuscany, Bordeaux, Mosel, Rioja, simply everywhere!

Now this could well be a result of the excellent buyers filtering out all of the rubbish before it graces our lips (and to be honest it probably is. There is no doubt that there are wines down there being made that are awful). Having said that, what always astounds me about wines from regional France is the value and diversity you get. Over the last two years I have tasted Cabernet Sauvignons like the Domaine de L’Oranger that rival decent Bordeaux Sups, elegant Rhone style whites like the Domaine Malves Marsanne Rousanne 2009, Pinot Noirs like Domaine Rudel that can rival Bourgogne Rouges and gloriously full on wines like the Domaine de la Madelaine ‘Les Grand Cailloux’ that take the style of Cote Rotie, and they are all massively lower in price than all these far more illustrious names.

All of the wines listed above are superb quality and way under a tenner… for the moment… Regional France has built its reputation on offering decent wines at a very affordable level. Often, were you to buy these types of wines from the regions they were imitating, you would spend double the price. But recently we have seen regional France slowly but surely raise their prices. There could be a number of reasons for this and every one of them justified. Rising cost of fuel, labour and equipment are all squeezing margins. In my humble opinion, what regional France needs to do is to start leaving behind its tag of being a place to buy cheaper imitations of more traditional French regions and start playing more on its diversity and individuality! There is so much good wine being made down there that it cant be long before the great wines from the Languedoc Rousillon AOC’s start taking a bigger share of the wine market than wines from the Rhone or Bordeaux (excluding the classified growths of course). It is wines like my number one wine from Averys that I hope will show the way forward for regional France!

Morillon Blanc 2009 by Jeff Carrel - £137.88 per case of 12 (£11.49 per bottle)

Jeff Carrel
Jeff Carrel describes himself as ‘an eclectic winemaker’. He is part of a new generation of winemakers springing up around the world that have neither vineyard or winery. They buy small parcels of grapes from growers, rent little parts of a cellar and make brilliant wines! Jeff currently makes around 40 wines including most recently a Priorat.

This became my top wine very quickly as the value for money you are getting here is simply immense. The grapes come from a tiny vineyard in between Carcasonne and Limoux and the story goes that the grower was simply selling them off to a local grape spirit producer. Back in 2005 he was unable to sell his grapes until Jeff turned up at his door wanting a look. This was after harvest and the grapes were starting to rot slightly on the vine, but Jeff realised there was great potential here and bought the lot. To balance off the slight hint of sweetness, he fermented the wine in new oak, then transferred the wine to more new oak for ageing, so in effect this wine has 200% new oak. Now I’m sure this method has calmed down over the last few years but that doesn’t stop this being a gloriously oaky, minerally, slightly sweet beauty of a wine!

The nose is full of walnuts, melon, peach, cream, hints of spicy pear and apple skin. It just keeps producing flavour after flavour and after time in glass, notes of sweet grapefruit and a hint of ginger and orange peel. It’s a bouquet I could smell for the rest of my days. The palate is even more of a conundrum, showing ripe pear, grapefruit and quince, with those creamy walnutty notes showing their heads. But this is all balanced off with a taut lemony acidity and just a touch of residual sweetness. The finish is simply superb and long. I ate a creamy fish pie with this and it went perfectly. Back in my scoring days, it was the first wine I gave a perfect score to. I would still give this a perfect score... but I don’t score any more... so I’ll just say ’Buy it. Now!’

If you would like to order any of this for your cellar please don’t hesitate to give one of the wine advisors a call on 01275 812230. They will be happy to help!

Cheers all!


  1. that to say otherwise thank you for these some words.
    I would like to underline that if you can drink this wine in England it is because the purchasers of Averyz course tirelessly vineyards to search these wines.
    Still thanks to you all of us give the chance to continue creating.

    Kindest regards,

    Jeff Carrel
    Eclectic Winemaker

  2. There is something to be said for (and I predict that we will see an increase of) the small wine makers. Men and women that have the vision to take something that isn't the status-qua and make it incredible.

  3. wise words indeed Jacob. hopefully we will see more of people like Jeff above! he is truly a character and makes some brilliant wines! in a world where a lot of wines do seem to be just carbon copies of others, it is good to know there are people making small lot, individual wines full of personality and a bit odd. i love wines like this, even if i dont like them...

    Bryn Stephens