The UK market is saturated with wine, surprising really with the second-highest duty in the EU (behind Ireland) at £1.90 per bottle (an increase of 46% in the last 4 years). Add VAT and it totals £2.40 per bottle. It is a very difficult market to enter, particularly if you are a small producer on your own. The smaller independent vigneron makes up about half of all properties in Bordeaux (that is half of 7000). It is a percentage that is dwindling as many of the properties, unable to make ends meet selling soley via the Bordeaux wine merchants, are being bought out by banks, insurance companies or by overseas investors increasingly from Asia. Many of these S.I.P. (Small Independent Properties) have been in the same family for generations.
The most robust, taking advantage of the quieter winter months in the vineyards and cellar, try to secure new markets abroad. For many it is the first time. A hop across the channel, the UK is an established, traditional market for Bordeaux wines but difficult in this harsh climate and one that is already awash with established names (they are the only ones Britain’s wine writers talk about) and wine from all over the world.
Here are a sprinkling of those who braved it to London at the recent French Independent Winegrowers in London fair organised by Vigernons Independents on 15th January (along with the snow). These are the types of S.I.P. (Small Independent Properties) producers that I am interested in bringing to the British wine drinker direct via the SIP wine club and wine tourism (see below for more information).
It was a professional trade event held at the Royal Horticultural Halls but it seemed wine buyers who attended seemed to be more interested in doing market research for the wines they already stocked then seriously looking for new wines. With 63% of sales of Bordeaux wines on their doorstep and not the language barrier to contend with either, perhaps they are wiser to stay at home.
Here a a few of my favorites.
Château Lassalle, Graves www.chateaulassalle.com
Representing the 8th generation, since 2005 Fabien Lalanne and his wife have taken over this 16 hectare (9 ha white, 7 ha red) estate near to Labrede that produces fresh, fruity Graves wines with modern labelling. First try of vintage 2012, beautifully fresh, citrus white wines from Sauvignon and Semillon 50% oak.
Chateau Béard La Chapelle, St Emilion Grand Cru www.beardlachapelle.com
New blood also at this 18 hectare estate a stone’s throw from some of St Emilion’s finest growths (Tertre Roteboeuf, Bellefont Belcier, Larcisse Ducasse) run today by winemaker/owner Franck Moureau and his sister Laurence who represent the 9th generation of vignerons. Since taking over in 2008 he has started to produce some stunning wines with purity of fresh fruit and elegance. The voluptuous 2010 is a stunner worth more than its Grand Cru status. Majority of Merlot grown on ‘pied de côtes’ and deep sands, it had Decanter’s Stephen Spurrier singing its praises for its refined fruit and natural, pure flavours.St Jean de Béard, the other property owned by the Moureau family, is fresh, juicy and approachable providing a good complement to the more complex BLC.
Château Perayne, Reds – Bordeaux Superieur. Whites Côte de Bordeaux St Macaire www.chateau-perayne.com
Kurt Lueddecke’s parents bought Peryane some 20 years ago and focussed on export into Germany, Belgium, Luxembourg and Switzerland. This was the property’s first try at the UK market. Lovely white wines made, fermented in barrel and commercialised late – the vintage’s Kurt showed were 2008 and 2007. Thick and complex with still very fresh citric acidity from these wines made in the hills around St Macaire. The reds were also fresh with good cherry fruit and pleasant structure with a certain earthiness to them. Good smple food wines.
Château Le Sèpe Reds – Bordeaux. White – Entre-Deux-Mers. http://www.chateaulesepe.com
A range of well-made wines here at this 23 hectare estate set in rolling hills south of St Emilion. Two absolutely outstanding wines made by Dominique Guffond who bought the estate and totally renovated it in 2009. Previously an expert in risk management, the domain seems to be in safe hands. The white Chateau Le Sèpe, from the Entre Deux Mers apellation is fermented in 100% new oak and is 80% Sauvignon and Muscadelle. It is very ‘Sauvignon’ with its grassy green aromas which are beautifully balanced by the weight of ripe fruit in the glass. There is a hectare’s worth – shame there is not more.The red which was perfumed and sweet was their cuvée Initiale 2010 (60% Merlot, 15% Malbec and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon), cream and exotic spice from the Merlot. I am definitely a fan of the spicey twist a touch of Malbec gives. There is 3 hectare’s worth of this wonderful wine, about 6000 bottles. Hurry while stocks last!
These are the types of S.I.P. (Small Independent Properties) producers that I am interested in bringing to the British wine drinker direct via the SIP wine club and wine tourism (see below for more information).