Friday, 26 June 2009

Some great new Southern Rhone wines just arrived - La Ferme du Mont and Domaine Saint Etienne

I am very excited about some great new wines that have just arrived in stock, from two excellent (but very different) growers.

Michel Coullomb at Domaine Saint Etienne is a grower whose wines have featured on our list for 2 or 3 years now and the quality of the wines he produces is consistently high. He has some excellent terroir, with vineyards situated in rolling hills in the extreme south-west of the Cotes du Rhone appellation. The soil is loaded with the same type of stones ("galets roulés") found in the soil of Chateauneuf-du-Papes, about 15 miles up river. Moreover, I have rarely seen better-kept vines and healthier grapes. Monsieur Coullomb is a tall, gentle, hard-working man, who is passionately devoted to his vines and the art of fashioning honest-to-goodness wines that speak strongly of their Southern Rhone origins. And there is certainly no let-up in quality with these new wines, with 2 lovely 2008 reds and an absolutely delicious 2008 white (which went down very well at Nottingham Wine Circle the other evening).

Although the majority of the growers on our current list are there because I found them, a few are there because they found me. Stéphane Vedeau is based at La Ferme du Mont in Courthézon in the Southern Rhone, around which he farms in various appellations, from Cotes du Rhone through to Chateauneuf-du-Papes. He also has family winemaking connections in the Northern Rhone, as well as Provence, Languedoc and even Spain. So it seems perfectly natural that all of these family members should combine to offer a central point - or "point de collection" - from which their preferred market (i.e. small merchants like us) can choose from a large selection of wines from several different wine regions.

It is a slightly different take on the concept of the cooperative. Whilst old-style village cooperatives are built around the concept of buying grapes from many small farmers and producing wines at a central point, La Ferme du Mont's concept involves taking wines from various estates in different regions and marketing them all from a central point. Wine merchants like me generally have two ways of buying stock; (a) Buy wines from UK agents - whose often high margins make it difficult for merchants to make a decent margin themselves or (b) Buy direct from the grower - which is what I prefer to do. It ensures that I can offer quality wines at fair prices, whilst also ensuring that I'm not selling the same old stuff as every other merchant in the country.

I have only tasted some of the wines from La Ferme du Mont itself, plus a couple of the Northern Rhone reds. And they are almost all of a very high quality. So much so that I am very much looking forward to tasting some of the Provence and Languedoc wines in a week or two, when I visit La Ferme du Mont. For now, though, I cannot recommend the four wines I have selected from La Ferme du Mont highly enough - they are simply brilliant!

Full tasting notes of all the new wines are now loaded onto my website (use the links above to navigate to the individual grower pages).

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