While the availability of a good choice of wine on the high street continues to suffer from the dominance of the supermarkets and the big off-licence chain(s), the internet has allowed a number of enthusiasts to set up as wine merchants, often with limited, specialised ranges. Some of my favourites are German Riesling specialists French & Logan (for my notes on a mixed case from French & Logan, click here), and Bernard Caille's Original Wine Company (who import the excellent Boulard champagnes): some, such as Edencroft in Nantwich, have shops, others are essentially run from the owner's back bedroom. Other longer established merchants, such as Berry Brothers & Rudd, Lay & Wheeler and Bibendum also now use the web as an important shop front.
I was interested to discover that one of the newer of these internet merchants (in this instance of the shop-less variety), was coincidentally also based in Lancaster. There is no other connection between us, however.
French Regional Wines (for their own website, click here) are currently only listing a handful of clarets, though these will be joined by a small selection from Alsace, and they intend to add further regions to their portfolio in the future.
2002 Château Peyredoulle, Premières Côtes de Blaye, Bernard & Thierry Germain, 13% abv, £7.69
Mid ruby with a hint of youth in appearance. Corked.
2002 Château Charron, Premières Côtes de Blaye, Bernard & Thierry Germain, 13% abv, £7.29
Bright young ruby, but this is another corked wine from Germain.
2001 Château Segonzac, Premières Côtes de Blaye, 12.5% abv, £7.99
Very dark mulberry in appearance, with some youth at the rim. Soft, plummy black fruits on the nose, though overall the nose is a bit closed. Lightish, quite fresh flavoured attack. Quite restrained, with a very good balance of fruit, acid and tannins. A little thin and unexceptional, lacking character, but also rather young. A good luncheon claret. Good.
1998 Château Monconseil, Premières Côtes de Blaye, J.P. Baudet, £8.99
An even ruby colour, starting to show some maturity. A lightish nose with some mint and black fruits. Good clean attack. Nicely rounded fruit with some soft tannins, turning quite spicy on the finish when they give way to some greenness. Fruit seems a little underripe and dilute - if I remember rightly, the 1998 harvest was affected by rain. But a nice straightforward claret nonetheless. Good.
2002 Château Mercier, Côtes de Bourg, 12.5% abv, £7.29
A bright young ruby colour. Very pleasant youthful nose with lots of soft plummy black fruit, a touch of crème de cassis richness and fresh mint. A light, fresh attack leads to a very young, crisp tasting wine. Unfortunately it doesn't quite have the same fruit in the mouth as it did on the nose, but it is soft, clean and well made. There is a certain raw green-ness to the fruit. A good tannic structure comes to the fore towards the finish, growing and adding a bitter touch on the finish. This seems almost like a barrel sample, and it would be interesting to try again in 6-12 months time to see if it has knitted together more. As it is, it's promising with some good structure and a youthful elegance. Decanting a few hours in advance and giving it a good exposure to air will undoubtedly do this wine nothing but good, making the tannins recede a little and the fruit show through more. Very Good.
2002 Château Peychaud, Côtes de Bourg, Bernard & Thierry Germain, 12.5% abv, £7.29
Very clear, very bright purplish ruby. A little stinky initially, but that blows off to reveal leather and cedar, slightly masking light, elegant fruit. Good, fresh, clean attack.. Light and elegant, with soft easy tannins growing on the middle and finish. Nice structure and good character. A very good light everyday claret for drinking in the next year or two.
2002 Gewurztraminer, AC Alsace, Domaine Joseph Scharsch 13% abv, £9.95 (projected price)
Very light lemon yellow. A classic soft gewurztraminer nose dominated by sweet turkish delight. Really very sweet on the attack. Ripe, rich tropical fruit on the palate. This wine definitely has a marked sweetness to it, but it is a very nicely balanced wine. Fortunately, this is a gewurztraminer that avoids the trap of being too powerful and, and despite the dominance of turkish delight on the nose, it does not appear at all over-extracted. However, give it some time (I left half the bottle overnight) it develops a truly massive, almost excessive, power of gewurztraminer flavour. Really quite simple, but none the worse for that and certainly not below expectations. A very nicely made basic Alsace gewurztraminer. Very Good.
2002 Riesling de Wolxheim "Réserve", Domaine Joseph Scharsch, 12.5%, £8.25 (projected price)
A pale lemon colour. The nose is very light indeed - crisp, fresh creamy citrus with a slightly confected note. Light, fresh and clean on the palate. Nice crisp fruit and lots of stony minerality: absolutely bone dry. Very clean and elegant and very well balanced. Good crisp finish. Very Good - were it not labelled as Réserve, I think it would easily merit a Very Good Indeed: I would expect a bit more weight and riesling character from a wine labelled "Réserve".
2001 Riesling Altenberg de Wolxheim, AC Alsace Grand Cru, Domain Joseph Scharsch 13%, £10.99 (projected price)
Mid gold. A very full, rich, ripe riesling nose with some honey, plenty of minerals and a slightly odd touch of scent. Superb attack - rich, smooth and rounded with a luscious mouthfeel. It fills into a very ripe, quite fruit-driven wine, but with excellent balance. Lots of ripe riesling fruit on the palate, balanced by some acid, with a lovely spiciness on the finish. It feels sweeter than it is, and I find it really quite dry overall, with very fine acidity towards the finish and lingering in the mouth afterwards. Very good length. Very Good Indeed.
2001 Tokay Pinot Gris, Vignoble d'Epfig, Domaine Schaeffer, 13% abv, £7.99 (projected price)
A bright mid gold colour. Glorious rich pinot gris nose laden with spice and bags of tropical fruit, especially banana and sugar mango. Very rich and full on the attack, such that one is led to believe it might be quite sweet. Lots of fragrant tropical fruit on the palate with a nice creaminess and spice building towards the finish. Very ripe fruit, but a lovely, acidic streak comes through on the finish, lightening the wine and balancing the power of the fruit. A really lovely approachable Alsace pinot gris, though probably not one for long-term keeping.
2002 Klevener de Heiligenstein, Domaine Philippe Schaeffer, 13.2% abv, £8.95 (projected price)
This is made from the true Klevener (three e's), as opposed to the Klevner (two e's), which is a synonym for Pinot Blanc/Auxerrois. It is a rare grape, with only around 25 hectares planted in Heiligenstein and the surrounding area. Klevener is believed to be related to the savagnin rosé or the traminer.
A mid gold in appearance. A very rich, perfumed nose, somewhere between a pinot gris and a gewurztraminer, with lots of tropical fruit and a honeyed richness. Big, full attack. Lots of ripe fruit. But it's really rather simple and doesn't seem to go anywhere - very uniform and unidimensional. Also one for early drinking. A really interesting curiosity for anyone interested in less mainstream grape varieties though, and a cracker for blind tastings. Good.
2002 Muscat, Fleith, 12% abv £8.99 (projected price)
Palish lemony straw. Very delicate, floral muscat nose. Light and fresh on the attack. Crisp and very clean. Delicate muscatty, grapey fruit on the palate. A lovely soft, very dry muscat with nice balance. An excellent Alsace muscat. Very Good Indeed.
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