A new online retailer run by award-winning blogger Mike Turner is demystifying sustainable bottles, writes Peter Ranscombe.
THERE’S always an awkward moment when a friend asks me to taste the wines that their business stocks.
But, when it comes to the bottles that Mike Turner has chosen for Feel Good Grapes, I needn’t have worried because Mike has exceptional taste.
His latest venture is Feel Good Grapes, a website selling organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines, which he set up with his business partner, Toby Flood, who played rugby union for the “auld enemy” and who is also a wine enthusiast.
Wine drinkers are more and more interested in how their favourite bottles are made – are producers caring for their vineyards, are they using water responsibly, are they spraying chemicals or farming organically?
It can be a minefield trying to decipher the differences between organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines – and that’s where Feel Good Grapes comes into play.
Mike’s website unscrambles those confusing terms – he’s done his homework and made sure that each wine he stocks is up to scratch and fulfils its environmental credentials.
He’s also walking the walk as well as talking the talk; he’s pledged to offset the carbon dioxide emissions caused by his business by planting a tree for each bottle sold – “one bottle = one tree”.
It’s a topic that’s close to my heart too, which is why last year I began paying Trees for Life to plant Scots pine and other native species near my birthplace in the Highlands to offset the carbon dioxide emissions caused by my wine press trips.
Mike has laudable aims for his new business – but it’s all just hot air unless the wines live up to their promise.
Fortunately, they do; and boy, they really do.
The 2016 Monfaucon Estate Pétillant (£25, Feel Good Grapes) is the perfect case in point; it’s made by British hairdresser Dawn Cooper-Jones on her estate in Bordeaux.
It’s great value for such a well-balanced wine, combining baked apple flavours with a scrape of butter – no wonder it earned a place on this year’s inaugural Bordeaux Hot 50 list.
Mike’s interest in sustainability isn’t limited to the environment either – he’s a bit of a social justice crusader too, especially when it comes to raising awareness about mental health issues.
He’s stocking the 2018 Forty Hall Bacchus (£17), made from grapes grown by a social enterprise in London that helps people recover from mental illness.
Bacchus is often likened to sauvignon blanc and – as I’ve mentioned before – often scares the bejesus out of me.
Yet Forty Hall’s incarnation has a much warmer nose than I had expected, with a touch of lemon rind in amongst the classic asparagus, elderflower and damp hedgerow smells.
It’s got impressive fruit concentration too, with plenty of elderflower cordial and green pepper to moderate its crisp acidity.
Mike’s other talent is finding a bargain – well, he is from Merseyside, after all.
His nose for a good deal is epitomised by the 2018 Matthiasson Tendu Red Blend (£19.90).
Snaffling a Californian wine of this quality at this price is virtually unheard of – it’s made in the lesser-known Dunnigan Hills region from a blend of Italian interlopers aglianico, barbera and montepulciano, along with southern French stalwarts carignan and cinsault.
It’s a bit funky on the nose – with damp fur, fruits of the forest and brighter redcurrant – and definitely comes in that crunchy or “smashable” modern style, which far cooler people than me pop it in the fridge for half an hour on a hot summer’s day.
That doesn’t mean there’s anything unbalanced about it though; there’s a mix of sweet raspberry jam and spun sugar alongside the sharper redcurrant and cranberry to balance the fresh acidity.
It’s the perfect example of what Mike and Feel Good Grapes are all about.
Read more of Peter Ranscombe’s wine, whisky, gin and beer reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain.