Let’s get something straight: bees are cool. Yes they are. I say this mainly as I am a big fan of the concept of ongoing life on Earth. Did you know there are 16,000 species of bee? I know. Awesome right? Did you also know that if you stacked up all the vinyl records ever produced they’d stretch to Jupiter and back? Actually I made that up but Nevermind…I should Definitely Maybe get to the point now. That would be a good Apoidea.
I was delighted this week to be asked down to Noble Green Wines to be part of the brilliant #drinkingwith with Bradley Horne (check out his twitter and insta at winetimelondon). After waffling on about my time in the trade and experiences of Argentina I had the opportunity to lose myself in the ocean of wines that flood their shelves For Your Pleasure. I was like a snooker fan at the Crucible; both filled with intense excitement but also silently reverent at what lay before me. If you ever hit The Wall in terms of what to drink, pop in here. Hidden in this Tapestry of phenomenal labels was Domaine of the Bee’s Bee-Side Grenache. I’d heard many Rumours of this wine but still not managed to get my tasting gear around it. Here was the perfect chance to do so and finally experience these Unknown Pleasures…
In order to do this propolis (one for the entomologists there) I should provide some background info on the estate. Domaine of the Bee started back in 2003 when Justin Howard-Sneyd MW and his family were staying in Corbieres. A place easy to fall in love with, they did just that and started looking to purchase to vines. Working with Richard Case of Domaine de la Pertuisane they found some and today they own nearly 4 hectares in the Maury Valley. Their first vintage was 2007 and the estate has quietly built a very good name for itself. They’re in a Different Class it’s fair to say.
I first learned of the Domaine when I was asked to be part of a panel with Sophie Jump, Robin Copestick and Justin Howard-Sneyd MW. We were tasked with talking to a group of Argentine producers and brand owners about opportunities in the UK market. It was a Sign O’ The Times as the category was really gaining traction. I know what you’re thinking…what on Earth were you doing there? I think Sophie got some money from the government for keeping me off the streets or something….Anyway, after the presentation we were treated to lunch at the magnificent Gaucho restaurant and Justin very kindly shared some of his immense knowledge, insight and Innervisions as well as talking about his own wines.
The Domaine is run by Justin, his wife Amanda and their friend Philippe Sacerdot. Between them they handle growing, making, marketing and selling. The Howard-Sneyd’s are based in London so travel to and from this part of the Roussillon frequently (always happy to help winks) so they also work with winemaker Jean-Marc Lafage who is in situ at the Domaine. Between them they’re in perfect Synchronicity.
When it comes to the vineyard I always want to know What’s Going On and I’m sure you do too. There are 3 vineyards owned by the estate which cover the obvious limestone and black schist soils of the region. La Coume de Roy stretches over 1.4 hectares and is planted mainly to Grenache. The vines here are over 100 years old. Bac de Genievres is 1.2 hectares of 60+ year old vines and the third vineyard, La Roque (n’ roll to continue the musical theme) is home to 80 year old Grenache.
This IGP Catalanes wine is made from fruit grown in La Coume de Roy and Bac de Genievres. Harvest is by hand. Fruit is then further hand sorted in the winery and the fruit is destemmed into 500L barrels with their heads removed. It’s common to have Sticky Fingers after this kind of work. After a cold soak fermentation begins. Pigeage is carried out 2 to 3 times a day before the wine is basked pressed into a couple of 500L barrels.
Over the last couple of years I’ve really been getting into Grenache. It’s not that Hatful Of Hollow that Cab Sauv often is nor is it the Spirit of Eden that we expect Pinot Noir to deliver constantly. Nor is it always just Raw Power. At its heart I think the Big G should be redolent of pure strawberry and raspberry. It’s not always the big, blousy, white pepper monster we expect. This example plays with the lighter side of things and really allows that pure red fruit to sing while there’s a subtle rhythm of dried herbs and an upbeat tempo of acidity. I’m not sure about how to fit the bass into this analogy but in my experience bass players are usually propping up the bar anyway (pretending they play a real guitar)
I think this is an absolutely Number One way to start the weekend and you should all Swarm to your local indie and grab a bottle. If you think Modern Life Is Rubbish it will certainly cheer you up. It will pair wonderfully with a Beggar’s Banquet or an Unforgettable Fire.
I think I’ve vinylly reached the end of my bee and music related puns.
Many thanks to Justin and his team for making this great bit of kit and to Noble Green for getting it on the shelf.