Peter Ranscombe gets excited about three organic wines from France imported by Séverine Sloboda, the former sommelier at Glasgow’s The Gannet restaurant.
THE closure of bars, restaurants and other hospitality venues has been one of the cruelest results of the coronavirus lockdown – with social distancing making it virtually impossible for many venues to reopen, even in the medium term.
Yet the pandemic has brought one unexpected silver lining for wine lovers – the ability to enjoy restaurant-quality wines at home.
Over the past two weeks, Brown has teamed up with Séverine Sloboda, who worked as the sommelier at The Gannet restaurant in Glasgow before setting up Sevslo Wine, her import business, just six months before the lockdown began.
Brown has partnered with a range of Scottish independent wine merchants for her online tastings, giving a boost to businesses that would normally supply restaurants but are now beefing up their off-trade sales to consumers at home.
Sloboda was born in the Loire valley in Northern France and her first wines came from her home patch, before she expanded into Burgundy, Beaujolais and Rhone.
She focuses on smaller producers, which has also been one of the themes of Brown’s tastings.
After last week’s white, rosé and sparkling wines, tonight’s trio were all reds – and they were among the most exciting wines that I’ve tasted during the lockdown.
All three were organic, and so had that clarity and definition in their aromas and flavours that I believe only comes when grape farmers care for their vines by improving the health of their soils.
The 2018 Le Clos du Caillou Le Caillou Cotes du Rhone (£16.30, Sevslo Wine) is the perfect example – its complex and concentrated nose was full of raspberry and strawberry from the 85% grenache and 2% cinsault in the blend and then blackcurrant and blackberry from the 8% syrah and 5% mouvedre.
It’s a baby Chateauneuf-du-Pape in disguise; Brown explained that the vineyard hadn’t been classified as Chateauneuf back in 1936 because the owner wouldn’t let the necessary inspectors onto his estate.
Its tannins were soft and round, making it ideal to sip without food – although it sounded from the tasting’s participants like it was going down very well with a selection of cheeses from IJ Mellis.
Sloboda clearly has an eye for a bargain from the Rhone because her 2017 Chateau Juvenal Les Garrigues Ventoux (£12.20) – a blend of 90% grenache and 10% syrah – was equally as impressive.
The tannins were more assertive, yet still really well integrated, and would lend themselves better to food.
While Brown suggested the Cote du Rhone would sit well with vegetarian dishes involving ingredients such as aubergine, Sloboda opted to pair her Ventoux with lamb barbecued with herbs – a delicious combination.
Indeed, wines from the Rhone were among my own matches for lockdown lamb back at Easter.
For her final wine of the evening, Sloboda took us on a trip to her old stomping ground in the Loire with the 2018 La Grange aux Belles Cuvee ’53 (£17.10), named for the year in which the cabernet franc vines used to produce the wine were planted.
It’s so hard to find a cabernet franc from the Loire – or other places, for that matter – that retains its classic pencil lead, raspberry and vegetal aromas and flavours without venturing into green and unripe territory, but the combination of organic farming, older vines and gentle winemaking means this bottle is bang on the moeny.
Enough tannin for food, but with plenty of concentrated fruit flavours to provide balance and make it a delicious glass on its own.
Sloboda’s next delivery of wines from France is due to arrive in about 10 days and she will be the guest at two more of Brown’s tastings on 16 and 23 July – it’s so exciting to see a young importer bringing such excellent wines into Scotland.
For more of Peter Ranscombe’s wine reviews, check out his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.