Vine Trail - a wealth of good value 25 Nov 2011 by Julia Harding MW

I cannot recall writing the initials GV (good value) quite as often as I did at a recent tasting of wines from Vine Trail, a specialist importer of small-domaine French wines based in Bristol, south-west England. Almost exactly a year ago, Jancis wrote a glowing report of Vine Trail's approach to sourcing distinctive, hand-picked wines. Nothing has changed in that respect but it was encouraging to see several new wines in the range as well as a handful of older vintages - the Bandol and the Cahors, for example - for current drinking. For me this selection defines good value: the wines are not necessarily inexpensive but they are overwhelmingly worth every penny (although note that you do have to buy at least 12 assorted bottles, delivery is free only in the Bristol area and, partly because most of their business is with restaurants rather than individuals, they don't accept credit cards). This was a tasting of wines that I would have been happy to go home and drink.

Vine Trail's website is also a model of clarity, packed with useful information on each wine and producer - though they thoughtfully restrict the amount of detail you see initially, allowing the detail-hungry to click for more. Website prices exclude VAT.

See also Tamlyn's enthusiastic notes on Vine Trail's exciting range of grower champagnes (A Sparkling Line-Up) below


Jacques Lassaigne, Les Vignes de Montgueux Blanc de Blancs Brut NV Champagne 17 Drink 2011-2013

70% of the wine is from the 2007 vintage, 30% is oak-aged 2006 reserve wine. Just 5 g/l dosage. Fragrant apple and brioche. Fine bead, and manages to be rich even after the Dirler-Cadé Kessler Pinot Gris tasted immediately before. Full but tastes relatively dry. Gentle finish. GV (JH) 12%
£28.50 Vine Trail

Georges Laval, Cumières Premier Cru Brut Nature NV Champagne 17 Drink 2011-2013

50% Chardonnay, 25% Pinots Noir and Meunier. Pretty and rich on the nose. Victoria plum fruit. Full and appley on the palate. Fine tension on the finish. Very long with a good grip. (JH) 12%
£39.50 Vine Trail


Dirler-Cadé, Kessler Pinot Gris 2007 Alsace Grand Cru 17.5 Drink 2010-2015

Hint of spiced pear but not very open. Then a burst of flavour on the palate. Rich but lively too. Some sweetness (26 g/l RS) but finely balanced. Intense and rich without any fat. GV (JH) 14%
£19.50 Vine Trail

Bertrand et Lise Jousset, Singulier 2007 Montlouis-sur-Loire 17 Drink 2010-2015

Ripe peachy apricot nose, lightly honeyed but offset by a hint of quince sourness. Rich but not heavy, creamy in the middle then fresh and lively on the finish. Aftertaste of sweet/sour apricots. Delicious. (JH) 13.5%
£18.95 Vine Trail

Dirler-Cadé, Riesling Spiegel 2007 Alsace Grand Cru 17 Drink 2010-2018

Fabulous nose: lemon, mineral, creamy, grapefruit, then mineral again. No petroleum yet but you can see it might go that way. So so pure and taut. Very long and the purity sustained. GV (JH) 13%
£21.95 Vine Trail

Dom Marc Colin, Fontenotte 2008 St-Aubin 17 Drink 2011-2013

From a tiny vineyard next to Champlots. Aged in oak (2/3) and tank (1/3). Delicate lemony nose. Very very slight (attractive) smoky reductiveness, hint of cedar from the oak. Good intensity, lovely creamy lemon freshness and a mineral edge to add sophistication. Youthful, delicious. (JH) 13%
£20.15 Vine Trail

Caroline Morey, Les Combes Premier Cru 2008 St-Aubin 17 Drink 2012-2015

A little more obviously oaky on the nose than Marc Colin's Fontenotte, even though it is fermented and aged in 350-litre barrels (only 20% new). Certainly more reductive and seemingly more lean. Definitely tighter. Great tension and good length. (JH)
£24.75 Vine Trail

Caroline Morey, La Comme Premier Cru 2008 Santenay 17 Drink 2011-2015

Pretty restrained on the nose. Lemon and grapefruit zestiness. Smoky, struck-match reduction is delicate and attractive on the palate. Elegant and refined and fresh. Delicious with a creamy but lively mid palate. (JH) 13%
£23.25 Vine Trail

Christophe Blanc, Les Vallins 2010 Condrieu 17 Drink 2011-2014

Intense Viognier aroma - absolute classic combination of apricot and apricot kernel. Intense. Lots of orange and apricot on the palate too and nicely fresh. Rich and full and long. Benchmark. (JH) 13.5%
£27.95 Vine Trail

Gérard Boulay 2010 Sancerre 16.5 Drink 2011-2013

Stony lemon freshness on the nose. Touch of grapefruit pith. Then more grassy and herbal on the palate. Lively, pure and long without any weight. Finely balanced and mineral, plus quince at the end. Refined Sancerre. (JH) 12.5%
£15.70 Vine Trail

François Pinon 2009 Vouvray Sec 16.5 Drink 2011-2015

Lovely pure Chenin nose - quince and baked apple. Excellent balance in this dry wine between fullness of flavour and zesty acidity. Pure, intense and long and particularly fresh for 2009. GV (JH) 13%
£12.25 Vine Trail

Ch Haut-Nouchet 2008 Pessac-Léognan 16.5 Drink 2011-2015

Benchmark young white bordeaux on the nose: citrus, grapefruit, a little grassy and then the cedary creaminess of oak. Well balanced, still very youthful. Sophisticated, dry and good length. (JH) 12.5%
£23.50 Vine Trail

Gilles Berlioz 2009 Roussette de Savoie 16 Drink 2010-2012

100% Altesse. Fragrant and almost exotic - apricot, baked apple, but apparently no botrytis. Aromatic and full on the palate but not a huge amount of depth. The 2008 seemed, if I recall, to be more sustained. Finishes fresh and peachy. (JH) 12%
£15.40 Vine Trail

Montesquiou, Cuvade Préciouse 2010 Jurançon 16 Drink 2012-2015

Light and citrusy on the nose. Then much more intense on the palate, lemon and orange zest, very crisp and refreshing. Pretty sour on the finish. Extreme wine. Long - from that acidity. I think this might benefit from a little longer in bottle. (JH) 13%
£11.75 Vine Trail

Pattes Loup, Vent d'Ange 2009 Chablis 16 Drink 2011-2015

Correct, fresh, quite delicate, well priced given that Chablis is rarely inexpensive. Clear, bright lemony finish. Lovely restraint. (JH) 12.5%
£15.25 Vine Trail

Bernard Gripa, 2009 St-Joseph 16 Drink 2011-2013

80% Marsanne, 20% Roussanne. Complex notes of spice and honey over apple and almonds. Quite a shock after the crisp white burgundies - rich and rounded, almost fat, though perhaps not in another context. A little sour on the finish but that does help the freshness. (JH) 13.5%
£21.75 Vine Trail


Gourt de Mautens 2007 Rasteau 17.5 Drink 2011-2017

70% Grenache, 15% Carignan, 15% other, biodynamically farmed. Dark greyish crimson. Lovely sweet fresh cherry fruit, pure and lively. Sweet fruit balanced by dry tannins. Very firm grip but it has the flesh to fill. Wonderfully classic Rhône Grenache blend. Full and long and savoury. A big wine but not at all brash. Not cheap but worth the premium. (JH)
£35.95 Vine Trail

Château Ste-Anne 2005 Bandol 17 Drink 2011-2015

60% Mourvèdre, 20% Grenache, 20% Cinsault. Very low yields. Mid to deep ruby - still such a youthful colour. A touch of sour-cherry volatility. But it is slight enough to be attractive and to lift the fruit aroma. Firm grip and lovely meaty Mourvèdre flavour with a richness to balance the tannins. And a nicely chewy finish. (JH)
£19.75 Vine Trail

Roucas Toumba, Les Restanques de Cabassole 2008 Vacqueyras 16.5++ Drink 2013-2018

60% Grenache (60-80 years old), 25% Syrah, 10% Mourvèdre, 5% Viognier/Clairette/Grenache Blanc. Dark crimson. Dusty, peppery nose. Cassis, black cherry and a touch of vanilla sweetness. Fragrant. Then firm and tense and pretty tight on the palate. Not very come-hither right now but has lots more to express, just a bit of heat on the finish, not surprising given the alcohol. (JH) 15%
£21.50 Vine Trail

La Bérangeraie, Cuvée Maurin 2006 Cahors 16.5+ Drink 2011-2016

Colour of black cherries. Perfumed cherry fruit. Intense, dark and very slightly floral though the overriding impression is the pure, dark, lightly spiced fruit, touch of cigar box. Firm, classic Cahors but with the right amount of maturity to start drinking now with food, though there's more complexity to come. Still has lovely fruit to balance the tannic grip. Very very long. GV (JH) 13%
£11.25 Vine Trail

Labranche-Laffont, Vieilles Vignes 2008 Madiran 16.5+ Drink 2012-2018

Very dark, almost black at the core. Rich ripe dark mocha-laced plums and damson. Noticeable oak sweetness on the nose at the moment. Very fragrant under that - lavender and violets as well as pure fruit. Dense and a pretty firm grip. Dry, highly structured but not hard tannins. One year in oak, 25% new. Mostly 50-year-old vines but some are much older - pre-phylloxera. Amazing intensity and length but with a European dryness that adds to the pleasure on the finish. GV (JH) 13.5%
£13.85 Vine Trail

Gilles Berlioz, La Deuse Mondeuse 2010 Savoie 16.5 Drink 2011-2013

Lightish crimson. Fragrant, stemmy, fresh red fruit and a hint of beetroot. Lovely wild small-berried fruit. Very very fresh, light and so refreshing. Bright and lingering. Juicy, scented mid palate. Lovely though the opposite extreme from a winter warmer. (JH) 10%
£19.95 Vine Trail

Daniel Bouland, Cuvée Mélanie 2009 Côte de Brouilly 16.5 Drink 2011-2014

Mid crimson. Pure expressive red fruit, a little medicinal, but also a mineral edge and a hint of pepper. Full, fluid and packed with pure Gamay fruit. Very fresh but not in the least lightweight. Soft but fresh. Energetic and a good example in a good vintage. GV (JH) 13.5%
£12 Vine Trail

Dom Thierry Mortet, Vigne Belle 2007 Gevrey-Chambertin 16.5 Drink 2011-2015

Lightish crimson. Aromatic sweet wild strawberries. So fragrant. Silky but still with a very light grip to give structure. Finely balanced and elegant. Pure Pinot. Mouthwatering finish and good length. Just a little hard at the very end. (JH) 13%
£31.50 Vine Trail

Coston 2010 IGP St-Guilhem-le-Désert 16.5 Drink 2011-2012

30% Carignan, 30% Grenache, 30% Cab Franc, 10% Merlot, 10% Cinsault from chalky-clay slopes in Puéchabon, 50 km north west of Montpellier. Packed with peppery dark fruit and a touch leafy. Pure and lively and piercingly clear fruit flavours. Just a touch of smokiness. Crunchy fruit and dense but very smooth fruit tannin. Medium bodied and fresh. VGV (JH) 14%
£8 Vine Trail

David & Benjamin Duclaux, La Germine 2006 Côte Rôtie 16.5 Drink 2012-2015

Mid crimson. Nose currently (still) dominated by sweet, oaky spice. Dry but fine tannins. The oak seems to be blocking the fruit at the moment. But you can still sense some Côte Rôtie perfume under the oak. Needs more time. There's lots of dark fruit to emerge, peppery and fresh. (JH) 13%
£31.95 Vine Trail

Ch Pont St-Martin 2007 Pessac-Léognan 16.5 Drink 2012-2017

80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. Deep bright crimson. Intense and perfumed with dark fruit and cedar. Oak spice and a touch of minerality though it is mostly intense dark fruit. Then that lovely cool mineral freshness of Pessac and a surprising amount of rich fruit for the vintage. Dry, almosty dusty tannin finish. Lots more to come but would be good now with food. Fairly GV (JH) 13%
£17.95 Vine Trail

Le Conte des Floris, Basaltique 2007 Coteaux du Languedoc 16.5 Drink 2012-2017

80% Carignan, 10% Syrah, 10% Cinsault and Grenache. Dark greyish crimson. Notably aromatic - dark fruit mixed with orange zest, wild herbs. Very firm tannic grip but also a strong mineral streak. Savoury, dry and proud of it. Herby mid palate and the tannins add freshness. It's a bit of an assault on your palate and would be better with food. (JH) 14%
£12.20 Vine Trail

L'Oratoire St-Martin, Réserve des Seigneurs 2007 Côtes du Rhône-Villages, Cairanne 16.5 Drink 2011-2015

A bit of a shock to the palate after the Conte des Floris Basaltique, which was so dark and minerally and wild. Just can't quite put the aroma into words. Maybe red cherry and a touch of fig/dried fruit. But it is also meaty and red-fruited and full of garrigue. Complex and balanced. Just fresh. Very long. GV (JH) 14%
£13.15 Vine Trail

Gérard Marula, Le Haut Midi 2009 Touraine 16 Drink 2011-2013

Mid darkish crimson. 50% Cabernet Franc, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Grolleau. Tiny yields from 60-year-old vines, foot trodden daily. No oak, no sulphur. A surprising combination of perfume and meatiness. Possibly a touch of brett but I'm not sure because the mouthfeel is soft and rich. Maybe it's the Grolleau? Smooth, fine tannins and finishes fresh. Extreme and pretty dense. (JH) 13%
£13.80 Vine Trail

Champ Morel 2009 Crozes-Hermitage 16 Drink 2011-2013

Deep, dark crimson with a purple hue. Pure, peppery and dark, a little bit meaty, more so on the palate and slightly drying on the finish, which makes me wonder if there is a touch of brett. Fine-grained tannins. Not sure about that meatiness, hence the conservative drink dates. But quite rich given the very moderate alcohol. (JH) 12.5%
£14.60 Vine Trail

Ch Les Gravières 2006 St-Émilion 16 Drink 2011-2016

100% Merlot. Pure Merlot nose - sweet plum and cherry fruit, just a touch of savouriness, hint of oak spice. Much more evidently oaky on the palate and tannins have a thickness and grip to them even though they are smooth. Pretty dense. More flavour than elegance at the moment. (JH) 13%
£21.50 Vine Trail


Henri Lapouble-Laplace, Clos Thou 2009 Jurançon 16.5 Drink 2011-2016

100% Petit Manseng shrivelled on the vine and not picked until December. Only 1,500 bottles produced. Intense orange and apricot, sweet (RS 80 g/l) and lively. Very pure. Taut and finely balanced. VGV (JH) 13%
£12.95 (50 cl) Vine Trail