The Wine Society can always be relied upon to come up with interesting and unusual wines. I may be biased as I joined the wine trade with the Wine Society – blame a glass of champagne at the job interview. Last week they were taking advantage of the evening AGM, meaning that all the buyers would be in the country, to host a tasting, where each buyer had selected eight or so wines from their particular areas. I always enjoy their tastings and their South of France buyer, Marcel Orford Williams has a keen nose for an interesting bottle or two.
I was particularly struck by the first natural wine they have put on their list, namely Corbières Le Hameau des Ollieux Nature, from a leading Corbières producer, Château Ollieux Romanis. £9.25. Medium depth of colour, with a vibrantly fresh nose, and packed with refreshing red fruit on the palate. It was lighter and fresher and more elegant than more conventional Corbières, and quite delicious. However, if there is one thing that I reproach natural wines, it is that they all, irrespective of provenance, have a tendency to a similarity of style. The best have that delicious mouth-watering freshness, but that somehow seems to mask their origins. And Marcel agreed with me.
I have long had a soft spot for Corsica and was delighted that Marcel had two wines from Corsica in his line-up. 2012 Domaine Arena from Patrimonio, Biancu Gentile - £22 Not cheap, but wines from Corsica are very rarely cheap. Vermentino is the more usual grape variety of Corsica, but efforts are being made to revive some of the other varieties that are in danger of disappearing. This Bianco Gentile has some delicately fragrant fruit on the nose, with more texture and weight on the palate, with an elegantly rounded finish. Antoine Arena is indisputably one of the leading producers of Patrimonio.
And there was another Patrimonio, from a producer who was unknown to me, 2013 Clos Alivu. - £12.95. The grape variety is Nielluccio, otherwise known as Sangiovese, and the wine had some fresh sour cherry fruit on both and palate. Elegant with a streak of tannin and a fresh finish.
The final Midi wine came from Domaine du Bosc, a 2011 Petit Verdot, Pays d'Oc. This estate is owned by Pierre Besinet, who was one of the pioneers of the region in the 1980s – he is now in his 80s. For £7.50 it makes a jolly nice glass of wine, offering easy drinking, with some rounded fruit and ripe tannins, but not too heavy or sturdy.
And there were all sorts of other delights I could enthuse about, but since they come from elsewhere, I shall refrain.