The Romance of Wine

It was after visiting a tiny vineyard in Faugeres that I decided to sell my flat in London, buy some land and make wine. Domaine Sarabande consists of  an Australian/Irish couple Paul and Isla Gordon, four hectares of vines and a garage with some basic equipment. This couple for me personified the romance of wine. They’re young, they’re in love and they make wine in what looks like a big dustbin. ‘We could do this’ I said  to my wife as we left. She just smiled.

Later that week we visited another couple, Simon and Monica Coulshaw, working in the same region. Their facilities were on a bigger scale but they both had the same air of barely suppressed excitement that they were finally doing what they have always dreamed of. It may have been the wine, it may have been the Catalan feast prepared by Monica or it may have been the sunshine, but I drifted off into a reverie imagining my life as peasant farmer communing with nature. I snapped out of it when Simon started telling me about the difficulties he had finding the right property. He looked at over 100 and was about to give up and go back to his to his previous job in IT when by chance he found Domaine des Trinites. Almost immediately disaster struck. His second vintage – 2008 – was obliterated by hail. He lost over 90% of crop and nearly went bankrupt.

As we left my wife turned to me and said ‘you’ve decided against your little dream, haven’t you?’

I was beginning to have my doubts but it was a later visit to Domaine de Montazellis that clinched it. If any couple reflected the romance of wine then it was these two. I’ve mentioned them in my previous post. They have a picturesque estate in the Languedoc complete with an artfully decrepit pre-war Citroen van and a ruined church. Sadly the ruins were recent. The Collettes had been planning to convert the church into a guest house to bring in some much-needed income. It had collapsed only a few days before we visited. A setback like his would have finished me off but they seemed to take it in their stride.

It was then that I realised quite how all-consuming this life is. It looks superficially glamorous but without the drive, knowledge and talent of these couples it would be a recipe for disaster. It’s no life for an impoverished dilettante like me. A rich dilettante on the other hand? That might work.

Some wines from committed couples:

Fortunately for them but not for me the Gordons at Domaine Sarabande had sold out of their Faugeres. Instead I tried a vin de pays called Misterioso which is a blend of Grenache and Mouvedre. It was almost  black in colour and had a dense chewiness about it. Great stuff now but I’d love to try it in a year as it had just been bottled and was a little uncommunicative. I also tried a very fruity rose and some cask samples of the 2010 vintage. They were very powerful and needed time. The 2010 Grenache, however, which was sitting in a stainless tank was already delicious. I can’t wait to try the finished wine. An estate to watch.

Everything I tried from Domaine des Trinites had a rare fragrance and freshness which I found very appealing. These two stand out:
Faugères, les Maurels, 2007
– £9.99 or less from the cellar door. This one had a nice funkiness on the nose that brought to mind some of the wilder wines from this appellation. On the palate it was smooth, round and elegant. This is a grown-up, beautifully-poised wine and I feel a little childish  for preferring the next one.

Pezenas/ Coteaux de Languedoc, La Dèves,  2007  – It’s just so moreish and may be to blame for my earlier bucolic revelry. There is a taste of raspberries but it’s not at all jammy or sweet. If I was making my own wine I would want it to taste like this. It’s also absurdly cheap at 8 euros a bottle.

About Henry

Henry Jeffreys was born in London. He has worked in the wine trade, publishing and is now a freelance journalist. He specialises in drink and his work has appeared in the Spectator, the Guardian, the Economist, the Financial Times, the Oldie and Food & Wine magazine. He was a contributor to the Breakfast Bible (Bloomsbury 2013) and his book Empire of Booze: British History through the Bottom of a Glass was published in November 2016.
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4 Responses to The Romance of Wine

  1. Philippa Chandler says:

    I like the idea of “wine by couples”! Nice post, Mr Henry!

  2. Pingback: Venturing out | Henry's World of Booze

  3. Chaz Folkes says:

    It still surprises me that anyone actually makes any money at all out of small business, but I’m glad someone is doing it. I’m also glad it’s not me! The wines sound great, I’ll have to look out for them.

  4. Pingback: Wine interview: Caro Feely | Henry's World of Booze

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