No matter how established your wine region is, every year is a battle not just to make the wines, but to then have your share of voice to sell them. For a region like Luberon, nestled in between the powerhouses of the Rhône to the north and Provence to the south, it can be hard to get the attention it deserves in France, never mind the UK. That was the challenge Wines of Luberon came to The Buyer with and, in particular, its desire to showcase its wines in an innovative and memorable way amongst key buyers, wine importers, merchants and sommeliers. It was proposed we did that by giving buyers the opportunity to taste, talk and discuss a wide number of Luberon wines together. But not just around one roundtable. But three of them. In different restaurants. Each with their own cuisine and food styles and flavours that would allow Luberon and its wines to show how they perform against a myriad of textures, spices, herbs and ingredients. Here is what the buyers discovered and got up to on The Buyer Luberon Restaurant Tour. Download the full PDF report below.
The Buyer Luberon Restaurant Tour, in partnership with Wines of Luberon, was the chance to shine the light on the different styles of red, white and rosé wine being made in the region and give buyers the chance to taste them in the type of restaurants where they want to be sold.
“I think this is delicious. It’s so rounded and got a lovely freshness to it, but also depth of flavour too. Another food friendly wine. I need to have another glass.”
“This wine has a nebulous softness to it. It’s pure, full of acidity and extremely gastronomic. It’s a wine that could be paired with anything.”
“It’s a super food wine. Nice and dry with lots of salinity, stone fruits and a real lusciousness to it, without being too friendly. A wine that will go with any food style.”
Three quotes from three different buyers on the potential of Luberon wines in the UK is a good place to start our review and report on The Buyer’s latest restaurant tour and the opportunity to introduce a wide range of wines from the region to a group of curious, and also thirsty and hungry UK wine buyers, commentators and consultants.
Even if you are not fully familiar with the Luberon and the wines it makes, you will probably have passed through it on the way to Provence or the south of France. This is the part of France made famous by Peter Mayle – he might have said he was based in Provence, but much of what he wrote about was in the Luberon – and most definitely by Ridley Scott and his wine cult movie A Good Year featuring Russell Crowe and Marion Cotillard about an investment banker inheriting his uncle’s chateau and falling in love with everything around it.
Sadly our restaurant tour could not make the trip to the region itself, but it was still an opportunity to show first hand to buyers how its wines perform in three very different restaurants: M Victoria, that specialises in US-style grill cuisine; Gaucho, which is still setting standards for steak and Argentine cuisine; and the breakthrough Italian restaurant, Bancone, centred around the kind of fresh pasta that Stanley Tucci could make a documentary out of. Our thanks go to all their restaurant teams for making our visits so efficient and professional.
We also raise our hats to our team of buyers, not only for their wine knowledge and expertise, but for being happy to be cajoled around central London, pushed in and out of taxis and told to eat and drink up as we had another visit to make.
Our buyers included:
Tim Killen: business development manager, Alpine Wines.
Tim and Alpine Wines are big supporters of Luberon wines and are a key part of its growing range of hand picked wines from across Europe.
John Chapman: managing director, Oxford Wine Company.
John Chapman is the beating heart of the phenomenal success story that is Oxford Wine Company that now includes its own wine merchant retail business, a major wholesale operation and a growing number of its own wine bars and venues.
Simon Lloyd: owner of Lloyd’s Wines.
Simon Lloyd is another big supporter of Luberon wines and has taken on a number of producers since taking part in the 2021 The Buyer Luberon zoom debate. Lloyd’s Wines is an independent wine retailer and wholesaler specialising in low yield wines based in the Chilterns.
Dan Whine: head of buying and operations at Petersham Cellars
Dan Whine heads up the wine buying at Petersham Cellars, that covers a wide range of independent, cult and fine wines in its range and represents a growing number of producers in the UK.
Joe Wadsack: broadcaster, wine judge and host of The Drinks Coach
Hugely experienced wine judge, broadcaster and buyer, Joe Wadsack brings his infectious character and personality to all the projects he works on and has built a large online following for his Drinks Coach YouTube programme.
Libby Brodie: Wine columnist City AM, The Wine Collective.
Libby Brodie has switched from a successful career as a theatre producer, to building a reputation as one of the most creative, and important new voices and communicators in wine, both with her weekly City AM column and work with The Wine Collective.
Mike Turner: co-founder of Feel Good Grapes.
Freelance wine writer, broadcaster and restaurateur, Mike Turner has started his own wine importer business, Feel Good Grapes, focused on the best in organic, biodynamic, natural, and sustainable wines from around the world.
Paul Belcher: owner of the Tapas Rooms.
Paul Belcher is an experienced chef and also founder and owner of The Tapas Room, a small chain of specialist Spanish restaurants in London.
Victoria Sharples: owner of Swains in North London.
Highly experienced wine buyer, former head of wine at St John restaurants and wine judge, Victoria Sharples has now opened Swains, her own wine bar and eatery in north London based on the Melbourne wine bar experience.
Mattia Scarpazza: head sommelier, Petersham Nurseries.
Mattia Scarpazza is one of the UK’s most respected sommeliers, heading up the team at Petersham Nurseries. He also runs is own successful wine podcast, Looking into Wine, that has built up a large international audience.
Michael Karam: co-founder, H&K Brokers.
Widely experienced national newspaper journalist and expert in Lebanese wine has now set up a new wine importer business with winemaker Harry Hunt to source interesting wines from along and around the Mediterranean.
Marina Diaz: head of wine at Rare Restaurant Group.
Marina Diaz heads up the wine operation for Rare Restaurant group that includes both M Restaurants and the national Gaucho chain of restaurants, in charge of ranging, wine lists and wine training for the staff.
Philippe Tolleret: chief executive of Marrenon and ambassador for Wines of Luberon.
Before you delve into the full report here are some background facts and notes on the Luberon region itself.
The Appellation of Luberon was officially created in 1988, but vines have been growing in the area for the last 2,000 plus years. What makes it stand out as a unique wine region is the fact the entire appellation sits within a natural park covering 36 communes with a rich variety of flora and fauna, with lavender, cherry, oak and almond trees.
The overriding influence is the mountain range that runs through the region and splits the vineyards grown to the north close to the Rhône – around a quarter of all vineyards planted – and those on the other side of the mountains towards Provence in the south – where the remaining 75% of vines are.
It means there is a wide difference in the altitudes that vines are grown at ranging from 200m and 450m. Each with their own distinct growing conditions and average temperatures with large swings in day and night conditions on both sides of the mountain range thanks to the cool winds that sweep down from the Alps and the respective Calavon and Durance valleys which helps brings freshness and acidity do the wines produced. It means maturity levels of the grapes and picking days vary considerably down the valley, from early in the east, in the Précoe area, to late in the west and the Tardive district.
There are four distinct soil types in the Luberon. On the mountain slopes either side of the mountain range the soils have distinct layers of stones.
To find out what happened and the views of all the buyers who took part you need to download the full report. But here’s a flavour of what to expect.
Wine broadcaster, Joe Wadsack said it was a great opportunity to revisit wines that he remembers his father listing and drinking in his restaurant in the New Forest when he was growing up. “This is such an impressive range of wines to taste. There is not one dud in there. All are bright, refreshing and packed with flavour, and fruits. What’s not to like?”
Victoria Sharples, owner of Swains Wine Bar, summed it up nicely when she said: “It’s France, but from a slightly less known area. For those consumers who are looking to try something different, then these are wines that can make them feel happy at price points that mean they will come back and say they want more of them.”
To read the full Luberon Restaurant Tour click here.
Thanks to M Victoria, Gaucho Piccadilly and Bancone for hosting our panel of buyers.