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Reader’s email: Wine of the Week

An interesting message from Winedoctor reader Philip Harvey, received shortly before my sojourn near Limoux. Philip writes with reference to my recent Wine of the Week, the 2006 Druet Rosé. Below his message is my response – do please add a comment if you disagree (or agree!).

Chris,

As always, I am enjoying your site and especially your comments on the Loire wines of which I am a fan. However, I do get frustrated sometimes that after you have written a page long piece saying how good a certain wine is, we can’t actually buy any. Case in point the wine of the week this week the Druet rose. Is there any point to telling us what your wine of the week is if none of us can actually buy any and share that experience? In fact if you put Druet rose into winesearcher for the UK, no wines come up, let alone the 2006.

Also your profile of Domaine Belliviere. You have previewed the domaine in detail and written extensive notes on five wines, none of which appear to be available in the UK.

Now I appreciate that you are not writing a populist column like say Johnathan Ray’s top 50 summer wines in the Saturday Telegraph last week, but all the same, are you not also aiming at increasing your audience and to a certain extent, educate us and encourage us to off piste every now and then into areas like the Loire and if that is the case, please at least write up wines we can actually buy.

I know if we really hunted around with specialist importers we could probably find a few of the bottles you recommend but personally, if it doesn’t come up on wine-searcher, I tend to give up.

So a suggestion therefore: by all means keep telling us about these small high quality Loire domains and one day, if I take a trip to Chinon, I may try and find some. But perhaps you could also write a piece once a week on a supermarket or Oddbins wine – something you liked and we can all try and only need to buy a bottle, not a whole case.

Best wishes as always Chris. Keep up the good work.

Philip Harvey

My reply:

Hi Philip

Thanks for your feedback. More feedback is why I started the blog, but I’m really happy to receive it by email as well.

On first read of your email I felt a real sense of defeat because I want to write pieces that are useful or informative. Nevertheless, as I have stated in my wine of the week introduction the weekly feature focuses on any wine that “holds my interest, for whatever reason….Expect wines both old and young (perhaps too old and too young, in the case of some!), aged cellar-orphans and wines plucked from recently delivered six-packs and cases…” and so on. It’s an informative and hopefully interesting weekly feature, but it was never meant to be a weekly recommendation to go and buy wine x/y/z (for this read received sample x/y/z) such as you might find in a Sunday supplement….so it might not be ‘useful’ in that respect.

Having said that, I did also write that I would comment on “off-the-shelf inexpensive bargains as well as the rare and the unusual from the depths of my cellar” and perhaps you would like more of the former, but in the past six months I have featured Huet’s 2001 pétillant Vouvray, Brown Brothers new Prosecco and Angeli’s 2008 Rosé d’un Jour, all brand new releases that are available in the UK off the shelf or mail-order.

So I went through what wines I have written up as Wine of the Week since the start of the year and it pans out as follows:

1. Readily available in UK through wine-searcher – 17 wines (including 7 from Loire)
2. Matching vintage not available, but other vintages are on the market – 5 (including 1 Loire)
3. Not available at all in UK, in any vintage – 3 (including 2 Loire, one of which was the Druet rosé)

The latter three includes a wine sent up from Roussillon as a sample by an ex-pat, so it is almost inevitable that it would be unavailable, but write-ups like these also serve a purpose for the producer in this case, gaining publicity for the wine and potentially opening up a market by switching on agencies to the wine’s existence.

Considering the wine featured are mostly plucked from the cellar, many of which are very mature (vintages include 1970, 1976, 1983, 1989, 1990, 1994 and so on since January), I think this is a remarkably good availability. Especially when you consider the esoteric Loire wines included here. Available in the UK – Marionnet’s 06 Provignage, Coulée de Serrant 98, the aforementioned 08 Rosé d’un Jour, Cotat Culs de Beaujeu 04, Morgat’s L’Enclos 05, and so on.

Now bringing in the issue of other write-ups, such as the Bellivière wines. There are several reasons for these wines being unavailable. In the case of the Bellivière wines, the 2007s don’t seem to have filtered through to the market yet. If you change the vintage in wine-searcher, you will see these wines are available in the UK in multiple vintages, but stopping at either 2006 and 2005. Despite their excellent quality, these wines aren’t cheap and I imagine they are not fast-moving stock for most retailers. I tasted them at the Renaissance tasting in Angers, which I flew down for in February, so they were still very young wines. I would imagine most of my notes from the Renaissance and Salon tastings (which were largely on 07 and 08 vintages) on that trip are for wines not yet on the market – that’s the whole idea. They will come, but you have to give them time. And a review too early is better than one after they have all sold out.

As for Druet rosé, you are right it just hasn’t hit the UK market – perhaps an allocation has been and gone, but the fact that there are no other vintages would suggest not. So you are right, it doesn’t look as though you could buy this to try it for yourself. But in my mind, in view of the many available wines above, that shouldn’t exclude it from a write-up. It’s a fascinating wine, made by a fascinating guy, I’m just sorry that these wines aren’t available in the UK as they should be.

Whatever I write here though, in part your frustration is one I share – the great wines of the Loire can be very difficult to track down in the UK, and when you find them they are (a) surprisingly expensive and (b) often in case quantities only. Very recently I have been looking at wines from Jackly Blot’s two domaines, la Butte and La Taille aux Loups, only to find the wine I want in case quantity only. It’s infuriating, but I have resolved in many cases (no pun intended) to either buy in the Loire or to buy case quantities in the UK and then split the purchase with friends. Also, sometimes looking further afield at the French merchants who deliver to the UK can bear fruit.

Chris Kissack
www.thewinedoctor.com

Any comments?

4 Responses to “Reader’s email: Wine of the Week”

  1. Chris – The Druet Rosé is in fact available in the UK – Yapp has it by the bottle or case. I haven’t tried it yet but have very much enjoyed Druet’s red Bourgueils that I’ve tried, especially the Vaumoreau.

    (No connection with Yapp other than as an occasional customer)

  2. OK, now how about complaints from an American about the inability to find the wines you write about. All it does is make me want to revisit the Loire.

  3. Gabriel

    Thanks for that information – absolute gold dust, I will pass that onto Philip.

    I have to declare some interest here, as Yapp have previously advertised on Winedoctor, but not at present, and I see looking around at the other popular UK sites that they seem to have withdrawn their online advertising from some (but not all, I note) of those locations also. I wondered whether they had also withdrawn from wine-searcher, which would be an extremely insular action that would surely damage their business. But it appears not – other wines on their list appear, so this would appear to be an inability to furnish wine-searcher with an up-to-date or complete list.

    The wines are pricy though, both the Vaumoreau and Rosé they list are more than twice what I have paid at the domaine. Nothing new there, I suppose.

    Thanks again.

  4. Bob

    Sorry about that! Still, there is no substitute for visiting the vineyards themselves, you know! :-)