The French Renaissance was a focussed tasting held at London’s Ritz hotel by Enotria & Coe – aimed at getting buyers to sample the crème de la crème of the company’s French portfolio. Wine expert Harry Crowther went along for The Buyer and picks out eight wines and a spirit that he thought delivers exceptional quality for the price.
Among the wines Crowther picks are two ‘wine warriors’ from the Languedoc, the best organic and biodynamic, an old stalwart and an intriguing new spirit.
It’s always nice to walk through the doors of The Ritz on a Monday morning. My earliest memory of doing so was as a delivery driver dropping off a case of six to Room 31… something.
This time, however, it was straight past the concierge on the right. Down the hallway. Left at the second round table regally dressed with a bountiful bouquet of flowers. Through the second set of doors and on to the French Renaissance tasting – a showcase of the crème de la crème from Enotria & Coe’s French portfolio.
Regional-specific tastings are becoming more and more commonplace in recent times. By all accounts they are well received. There is nothing wrong with an holistic, traditional portfolio trade tasting, but it can sometimes become difficult to target and hone in on a shortlist of wines with a Bible-thick portfolio in your hands.
Tastings like this, however, allow us to gear up for one concept and get into one frame of mind. They give us the opportunity to really drill down into a given style, region or, in this case, country.
From French classics to more experimental and biodynamic styles and everything in-between, here is a roundup of my favourites from the Enotria & Coe French Renaissance tasting (pricing ex VAT):
A Pair of Warriors
Wine list warriors. Everyday drinkers that, according to Enotria & Coe, ‘excite the taste buds without breaking the bank’.
Les Mougeottes Chardonnay, 2017, Languedoc Roussillon, £7.31
The first of a value-for-money duo from the Languedoc. The nose with a touch of pear drop and vanilla oak; a nice weight and heat to the mouthfeel; bubbly, persistent acidity, with a fresh and clean finish. A versatile wine that would be right at home with a meaty fish dish.
Stick it on the list for seven or eight quid by the glass and you can’t go wrong… winner!
Les Mougeottes, Pinot Noir, 2017, Languedoc Roussillon, £7.31
The red counterpart to the aforementioned and a warm, ripe expression of Pinot Noir. A floral wine rich with cranberry and fresh cut greenery and sweet tannins. The grapes are picked early to retain freshness and hold back on alcohol levels… brilliant value for money. The labeling is worth a mention too – A smart, classic Burgundian look to the packaging across both wines, this range is a no brainer!
Chateau Laulerie, Sauvignon Blanc, 2017, Bergerac, £7.58
You could put this wine up against Sauvignons at double the price and this would give them a good run for their money. Wonderful freshness, notes of fennel and chervil – cool fermentation. Less of that key lime explosion I find with many of the savvy’s from the region. A fun wine with a good price tag as well!
I tried to come up with a clever sub-heading for this section, but instead I stole it right from Enotria & Coe’s booklet because it sounds so cool. For me, this was the most exciting table at the tasting.
Here is the best from the organic, biodynamic and sustainable offering.
Didier Champalou, Vouvray Sec, 2016, Loire Valley, £13.66
A complex and crisp expression of Chenin Blanc from a producer practising organic viticulture. Honeyed notes on the nose line up alongside pear and quince, there’s a slight touch of sweetness on the finish that rounds this wine off beautifully. Medium bodied with a lees-y weight across the palate.
Python-Paille, Anjou Blanc, NV, Loire Valley, £13.34
Another organic Chenin. A natural fermentation and a cross-blend of micro-oxidised vintages; that oxidisation delivers a bruised apple funk to the nose. This is a mineral-rich wine that takes the best from each parcel it brings into the bottle. Intriguing and, more importantly, just good fun to drink!
Charles Helfenbein, ‘Brezeme’, 2015, Côtes du Rhône, £13.94
A touch of controlled oxidisation again on this one. It’s a refreshing sidestep from that blue, bubblegum nuance I so often find with young(ish) Côte du Rhônes. That touch of age is starting to deliver smoke and meatiness; lovely structure and good depth and complexity. A pleasure to drink.
Wines that need no introduction to any wine list.
Domaine Yves Cuilleron, La Petite Côte, 2016, Condrieu, £36.88
A man whose wines need little introduction to many. For all of the connotations behind a Renaissance tasting, perhaps I was expecting less classic wines to be on show such as this one. But sometimes you just have to hold your hands up and say, “fair-play”. Fermentation and partial-ageing in French oak – a seductive Viognier from top to bottom. Herbal, yet ripe with tropical notes of pineapple and yellow pear, wonderful texture and complexity and a finish that is delivered in waves.
Getting into the spirit of things…
What French Renaissance Tasting wouldn’t be complete without finishing off with a taste of Armagnac or Calvados? Or, in this case, a rather intriguing, creation from the team at Audemus spirits, who take inspiration from Cognac and are probably better known for the successful Pink Pepper Gin.
Audemus Covert Liqueur, £27.01
A fig liqueur: notes of tea, herbs and roast leaf. Sweet and complex on the palate with a slightly bitter finish, this brings back memories of Christmas. A middleman between a Cognac and a liqueur, well worth a try on its own as a digestif or, for the more capable mixologists, an interesting ingredient for a cocktail.
All wines are available from Enotria & Coe