Andy Kerr has a full-time job in Chester but moonlights as on-line wine merchant Artisan Wines (www.artisanwines.co.uk). And while his range isn't the largest in the UK, it's one of the more intriguiing, focussing as it does on (currently) exclusively French wines, with a distinct organic and biodynamic slant. Some of the wines in the selection will divide opinion - the Savennières from Nicolas Joly for example. Others will raise eyebrows - if you though biodynamics was bonkers, then the cosmoculture of Domaine Viret qualifies as totally deranged**. Overall, it's an inspiring selection that deserves a much wider audience. Here are some notes on some wines I tried from the range in April (all are biodynamic bar the Marionnet):-
Domaine de l'Ecu Muscadet Cuvée Classique 2007 (£7)
Clean, nutty, very waxy bruised apple style, nutty, almost flor-like note, rich and beautifully balanced with bite and finesse.
Domaine Philippe Gilbert Menetou Salon Blanc 2007 (£9.75)
Looking good for 2007, with crisp, tangy citrus and grass flavours, hints of herbs and a quite fleshy, almost honeyed finish - good honest Sauvignon.
Domaine de la Coulée de Serrant Les Vieux Clos Savennières 2006 (£16)
The entry-level wine from Nicolas Joly's Domaine de la Coulée de Serrant is alarmingly concentrated, but has a pronounced savoury, cidery style that takes some coming to terms with. Some will love it, others (me included) will say it's oxidised - are you tasting terroir or winemaking style? (Joly says his wines need time once opened to show at their best - I gave it 48 hours, and it remained in a similarly awkward state)
Domaine des Roches Neuves Saumur-Champigny 2007 (£9.75)
Joyful, fresh, sappy Cabernet Franc at its best, balanced and earthy with the classic raspberry and blackcurrant leaf edge, classic chillable summer red
Henry Marionnet Les Cépages Oubliées Gamay de Bouze 2006 (£9.50)
From a red-fleshed mutation of regular Gamay, this is like a rustic southern Burgundy, with spicy, smoky cherry and raspberry flesh, and rich, hearty finish
Montirius Gigondas Terres des Aînes 2005 (£13.50)
Bold and fleshy, with bumptious plum, herb and berry character and an earthy minerality comeing through strongly. Would be very good but for the level of brettanomyces, which takes the edge off the freshness of the fruit, and adds a barnyard-y character - which some will love.
** On the subject of Domaine Viret, here's a little something I wrote a while ago for Wine & Spirit International magazine (which merged with Harpers earlier this year)...
Never mind organic farming, on their estate in the commune of Saint Maurice sur Eygues in the southern Rhône, father and son Alain and Philippe Viret practice Cosmoculture. According to the Virets, it’s based ‘…on exchanges between cosmic and telluric [terrestrial] energies.’ Cosmoculture makes conventional biodynamic practices look positively mainstream. So for example you’ll find menhirs (the things that Obelix delivers, for Asterix fans) in the vineyards, placed so as to direct those telluric energy fields. The winery, sorry, ‘cathedral of wine’ is inspired by ancient Inca and Mayan cultures and aligned according to the position of the sun on Philippe’s birthday in 1973. The massive granite blocks used for construction are sized according to the Royal Cubit (~524 mm) and the shape of the cathedral conforms to the Golden Section. Add in mystic fountains, crystals, amphorae and more and you have one of the world’s weirdest wineries. But the wines are excellent, brimming with life and personality, and deserve serious attention. If you want to find out more about aspects of Cosmoculture such as Radionic Culture, Geobiology, Planetary Beacons and Water Memory, check out the Viret web site at www.domaine-viret.com. And if you want to try the wines, they’re imported by Artisan Wines (www.artisanwines.co.uk)