Wine Gang on Vine Trail annual London tasting

Extracts from THE WINE GANG following our recent annual London tasting at which David Williams and Joanna Simon attended. Subscribe to for full report.

“Vine Trail tasting isalways a pleasure, the range of this importer, restaurant supplier and retailerbeing a carefully chosen pick of some of the most exciting small producers inFrance.” The focus at this tasting wason “low-alcohol reds and idiosyncratic whites of the Jura, but there was plentymore to inspire and intrigue”

Dry Whites

Domaine Macle Château Chalon 2005
Château Chalon (Jura), France, Dry White (Cork),14.5% abv

You have to love Vine Trail's indication of thedrinking window for this superb example of vin jaune: "now until2100" they say on the website. And you have to say they're probably right,given our (and their) experience of older vins jaunes which have anextraordinary capacity to age. Indeed, at the tasting, we were also told thatwe shouldn't really be drinking this for a good few years yet, but theflavours, while tightly wound, are still hugely impressive already: there'ssuch intensity of nuts, salt, Marmitey umami, just a hint of curry leaf, butalso some yellow plum and an electrifying nervy tension between that flavourassault, the full-body and the acidity. It leaves an impression that lingers onthe palate and stays in the glass long after it's been emptied and rinsed. (Theprice is for 62cl, the traditional bottle size for vin jaune.) £49.96

Rated 92
François Merlin Condrieu LesTerroirs 2012
Condrieu (Rhône), France, Dry White (Cork),13.0% abv

Exquisite Viognier thatbalances the variety's trademark luscious apricot fruit with a charming florallilt. The texture, too, is nicely pitched between opulence and gentle acidity.Utterly charming. £29.75
Goes with: Pork and other white meats

Les Granges Pâquenesses La Pierre 2011
Côtes du Jura (Jura), France, Dry White (Cork),12.5% abv

So good to see theintriguingly different wines of the Jura getting their due in the trendierparts of the wine market at the moment. Made from Savignin, this is an exampleof the fresher ouillé style, which means it is aged in barrels that are kepttopped up, and that it therefore doesn't have the oxidative, sherry-like notesof the traditional Jura whites. What you get instead is a fabulously complexrich but tensile mouthful of spiced and salted apple and grapefruit, blisteringacidity, even a touch of herb. £15.25

La Grange de 4 Sous Jeu duMail 2011
IGP Pays d'Oc (Languedoc), France, Dry White (Cork),14.0% abv

From HildegardHorat-Diop’s 8-ha domaine in the hills above Assignan, this blend of Vigonierand Marsanne has a lovely resinous and subtle herbal (fennel seed) twist to itspeachy stone-fruit and floral flavours, it feels generous, warm and embracingbut not at all excessive, with just a little grip and super length. £14.20
Goes with: Pork and other white meats

Rated 94
Domaine Garnier Chablis Grand Cru Vaudésir 2011
Chablis(Burgundy), France, Dry White (Cork),13.0% abv

Chablis at its finest –substantial but elegant, intense and long, with nutty, spicy, wheatmealflavours, hints of honey white pepper and salt and a mouthwatering, stony freshfinish. Drink any time this decade. £41.95
Goes with: Fish & Seafood,Smoked fish, Pork and other white meats.

Dry Reds

Domaine de la Biscarelle Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2011
Châteauneuf-du-Pape (Rhône), France, Dry Red (Cork),14.5% abv

An exceptionalChâteauneuf with a seam of pretty, unforced, fresh-off-the-bush brambly fruitand woody herbs to go with its creamy texture, sweet spice and meaty depths.There's lots of substance here - tannin, chew, body, alcohol - but it's not atall heady or overbearing, and it's crying out for rosemary-roasted lamb.£22.30
Goes with: Red meat & Dark game

Château des Graviers Margaux 2009
Margaux (Bordeaux), France, Dry Red (Cork), 13.5%abv

An old-style Bordeauxblend, in the sense that it includes a little Carmenère and Malbec alongsidethe 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and the dollop ofPetit Verdot. The wine itself is also classic Margaux, pretty and perfumed onthe nose, silky fine tannins and plush, pure black and red fruit through thelong, fine finish.
Goes with: Red meat & Dark game

Domaine de Cébène FaugèresBelle Lurette 2011
Faugères (Languedoc), France, Dry Red (Cork),14.0% abv

Around 70% Carignan fromvery old vines (70-to-10 years old) is blended with Grenache and Mourvèdre forthis intense but enchanting red, the liquorice-edged fruit beautifully renderedover ample, chewy tannin, but there's energy and freshness here too.£14.98
Goes with: Red meat & Dark game.

Domaine de Cébène Cuvée ExArena 2011
IGP Pays d'Oc (Languedoc), France, Dry Red (Cork),14.0% abv

Grenache from a sandyterroir (hence the name 'Ex-Arena' - from the sand) plus a little Mourvèdre,and made with great sensitivity by Brigitte Chevalier: there's real purity ofwild herb-inflected cherry, and brambly fruit, a seasoning of white pepper,great freshness and a framework of firm but not in any way aggressive tannin.£13.60
Goes with: Red meat & Dark game