Kirsty from our Stockport team has just returned from a short getaway to the South of France. The Languedoc is blessed with tremendous scenery, great weather and many fantastic wines to enjoy. We caught up with her to hear about one of the highlights.
My friends and I recently visited the South of France on holiday. We were staying in a town called Lavalette, near Carcassonne, and so we were in the heart of the Malpere wine region.
You may have heard us recommend the Begude Etoile to those of you after a great quality Chardonnay at sub-Burgundy price, so how could we resist a little jaunt to Domaine Begude, one of our favourite Sud de France producers, when staying so close by?
We arranged with James of Begude a suitable time to visit and hot footed our way there in our hired Fiat Panda. James and his fluffy companion Charlie greeted us and immediately walked us towards his Chardonnay vines. We’ve all studied vineyard management and pest control, but Begude are certified organic, and so seeing the small vials of pheromones hanging at the end of their vines warding off moths was definitely a point of interest- nothing better than learning about wine in situ!
We ambled up and down the undulating vineyards and enjoyed hearing about the trials of organic vineyard management – the family’s cherry tree had recently lost a limb in a fight with a canopy cutter! We looked across the vineyards where teams were weeding by hand in the scorching heat and didn’t envy them too much as we traipsed towards the shade of the press area.
As I say, we’ve studied wine making from a book, but to see the process in front of us clarified any murky points we couldn’t get our heads around. James was more than happy to answer our questions, then simplify the answers with four bewildered faces looking back at him!
We were very fortunate to then be led by James and Catherine (and Charlie and Louis, their shade-hunting dogs) to their tasting room, sampling some of their brilliant wines from cask, including their Terroir 11300 Chardonnay, an expression of their location in Cépie.
We’ll shortly be getting the Esprit de Begude, a lovely fruit driven Pinot Noir, arriving in store along with a little more Etoile. Look out for Etoile’s new medal of honour, it is very much deserved! This wine is definitely one to try! Top tip from the producers themselves: Some of these wines were only bottled as recently as last Thursday, so it may be worth keeping one or two back to try later in the year to enjoy the best characters of the wine
We are very grateful to James and Catherine for their hospitality and patience with our lengthy list of questions! I can imagine it would be rather odd to have to answer so much about your job and life, but what a lovely ideal they promote, earning a living from something so natural and enjoyable.
If you find yourselves holidaying close to Limoux, I would highly recommend getting in contact with Begude. James’s contact details are below. Visits are by appointment only, I’ll keep my fingers crossed you get to go!
Keep your eyes peeled and an ear to the ground – there are a fair few wines in the Domaine’s portfolio not currently available at Majestic. We really hope to see more of them here in the future!
You can arrange a visit to Domaine Begude in Limoux by getting in touch with James on +33 6 86 05 73 74 or by e-mail email@example.com.
Wine Travel: Domaine Begude, Limoux, France
The humble corkscrew is an essential piece of any wine-lover’s toolkit. That and really expensive glassware that smashes if you even look at it too hard. These devices have a singular purpose – to draw the cork from a bottle of wine and free the liquid from its glass prison for our enjoyment. It probably says a lot for wine that you need a specialist tool to get to it.
The Simple Screw
No frills here. A simple ‘T’ shape with a handle and a helix screw. You can use the sharp end of the screw to cut the foil in a pinch, though for intransigent corks you’ll need some strength to free your wine from its prison.
The Wing Screw
Probably the first image that pops to mind when you say corkscrew. Depending on how sturdy it is either a very effective tool – screw down, use the levers to pull the cork free – or a fiddly and uncomfortable device that hurts your hands when you push down the levers and is liable to snap in the face of a stiff cork. Often has a bottle-top remover as the turning key.
The Clever Screw
Simple in its genius. A small catch at the top flips when you screw, reversing the mechanism so that you keep turning the same direction to remove the cork. Elegant and effective. Keep turning it to ‘unscrew’ the cork for disposal once removed from the bottle.
The Engineered Corkscrew
Impressive looking bits of kit that can whip a cork out in short order – a design improvement on the traditional lever screw with elements of the clever screw built into it, only bigger. Not exactly portable, but very easy and quick to use – at its best when you have many bottles to open and not a lot of time, though they tend to get jammed on synthetic corks.
The Waiter’s Friend
This little chap is, in the humble opinion of many a bartender, waiter and wine professional, the only corkscrew you’ll ever need. It has a small blade to cut the foil, a lever to help pull the cork from the bottle, and has a beer bottle opener on the reverse of the lever. All in a package so tidy you’re liable to forget its in your pocket when you go through airport security.
The Oversized Monstrosity
It works. It’s huge. Bit like using a sledgehammer when a scalpel would do, but hey! It’s fun! Keen eye’d amongst you will notice this example is made by cycle manufacturer Campagnolo.
Perhaps the most simple and elegant solution of all. Ask your butler to open it for you. He’ll pour it and clear away your glass when its empty too. The Fez option.
We say grab a waiter’s friend, but whichever corkscrew you choose, we suggest you avoid using them on screwcaps…
The Majestic Guide To Corkscrews
Summer continues. The weather is almost playing ball. In honour of the almost-sunny spell we’re almost having, we’ve picked a white and a rosé as our wines of the week for you to enjoy. Free to taste in store, as always.
The first of these delights is a white wine we’ve mentioned before: Hacienda Lopez de Haro Rioja Blanco.
Rioja wines come from Northern Spain. The region is best known for its red wines, loved by many for their red fruit and vanilla character. The white wines are much harder to find. Traditional White Rioja was aged for a long time in barrel before bottling, so it’s a very specific style: oxidised, rich, nutty and usually with a notable dried fruit character.
This is definitely not that. While Lopez de Haro are an unashamedly traditional producer, they’ve taken modern know-how to make a traditional style. It’s made from Viura – barrel fermented, then 3 months ageing in barrel to round it out. Soft citrus and pear fruit, a touch of toast and vanilla spice, and then really fresh in the mouth. This makes it a great alternative to oaked French Chardonnay, at a snip of the price.
Naturally, it’ll do the Fandango with tapas – grilled goats cheese with marmalade on sourdough springs to mind, or salt’n’pepper squid.
The second wine is a very splendid rosé from acclaimed French producer Gérard Bertrand. Former Rugby player. Accomplished winemaker. Owner of some seriously pretty properties in the Languedoc.
La Sauvageonne translates as wild woman, but the name isn’t for the wine, it’s for the scenery. Château La Sauvageonne sits atop untamed and breath-taking volcanic terraces, and this volcanic influence is key to the exceptional quality of the wine.
A classic rosé blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah (well, classic if you’re French. And in the Languedoc). The three grapes are vinified separately and allowed some time on the yeast lees to add body and character before the final wine is assembled. A small portion of the wine is aged in old oak barrels to further add complexity and character. Grenache, in particular, loves a touch of oak to tame it.
It’s a gorgeously inviting light pink colour, with lifted aromas of red fruit, roses and violets, and a whiff of gingerbread spice.
In short? Exceptional rosé. As Gérard Bertrand says in full Gallic hyperbole, “If Château la Sauvageonne was a person: an adventurer, independent and free like Indiana Jones.”
The bottle also features a Vino-lok closure – essentially a resealable glass stopper. I mention this only because it makes a very nifty bottle to fill with water and keep in the fridge once you’ve enjoyed the wine.
You can taste these delicious wines for free in all our stores from Friday this week. Buy the rosé here, and the white here. Check out our previous Wines of the Week here!
Craft beer is massive at the moment and here at Majestic we are joining in with the revolution. Andrew and the team at Majestic Newcastle have put together a list of some of their favourites, so if it’s beer inspiration you’re after, look no further.
The craft brewing culture is most established in the USA where, in 1978, a law was passed to deregulate the brewing industry and allow easier start ups of new, smaller breweries. The UK has a long history of brewing, with many local ales
Goose Island IPA
From Chicago, Illinois. Fruity aroma, set off by a dry malt middle, to ensure a long hop finish
Goose Island 312 Urban Wheat Beer
Another beauty inspired by the city of Chicago, and densely populated with flavor, 312’s spicy aroma of Cascade hops is followed by a crisp, fruity ale flavor delivered in a smooth, creamy body that’s immensely refreshing.
Anchor Steam is an old favourite from San Francisco, California. Deep amber color, thick, creamy head, and rich, distinctive flavor
From where else but New York? Dry-hopped, fresh, flowery, firm and flavourful.
Brooklyn Summer Ale
Brewed only for summer, this was a smash hit from the Big Apple last year. Refreshing and flavourful without being too heavy. Light crisp bitterness and a citrus/floral aroma, resulting in a beer with a very sunny disposition.
Flying Dog Easy IPA
A brew with style from Frederick, Maryland. Aromas of grapefruit and subtle spice meld into lemon and pine hop notes balanced with crisp cracker malt. Pair this with tailgates, mowing the lawn, and anything else that calls for a light, yet flavourful, beer.
Last on the list from the USA, Lagunitas IPA is brewed in Petaluma, California. Big on the aroma with a hoppy-sweet finish
Einstok Icelandic White Ale
As the name suggests, this is from Iceland. Made with pure spring water and infused with coriander and orange peel, it’s full textured yet light on the palate, with a refreshing citrus zing.
Einstok Icelandic Pale Ale
Another cracker from Iceland – it may not be top of the list when you think of craft beer brewers, but after tasting this you’ll change your mind. Robust hoppiness meets smooth malty undertones.
Innis and Gunn Toasted Oak IPA
Scotland has become a hotbed of fine craft brewers. This one comes from Edinburgh. A distinctly unusual India Pale Ale aged on oak for 41 days.
Innis and Gunn Original
Allegedly this Edinburgh beer came about when distillers asked to have their bourbon casks seasoned with beer before filling with whisky. The beer tasted so good, they decided to bottle it! Matured for 77 days from a blend of time in Bourbon Casks and Over Bourbon-infused heartwood in specialty “Oakerators”
Brewdog have just moved in to new digs in Ellon, Aberdeenshire. Hoppy and powerful ale in the American style, fragrantly fruity.
Camden Hells Lager
From London. Easy-drinking, crisp and dry with beautiful bubbles.Clean and refreshing with a dry hop finish. This is how a great lager should taste.
Camden Pale Ale
This American style pale ale is bright gold, big hops and white foam, it’s packed with citrus and tropical fruit, there’s a round body and a drink-me-faster bitterness.
You can browse our full range of craft beers online here. A minimum order of six bottles of wine applies when ordering online, however you can pick up beer in store without purchasing wine.
14 Amazing Craft Beers
Our New Zealand Tasting week kicked off on Friday in Majestic stores nationwide. We give the store teams a free hand to choose the wines they want to share with you. You’re sure to find some amazing Sauvignon Blancs, Pinot Noirs, and perhaps some Pinot Gris and Riesling open for you to enjoy.
Meanwhile, our Wine of the Week hails from the Leyda Valley in Chile. El Viajero Sauvignon Blanc is a cracker we picked out as a counterpoint to the explosive fruit of Marlborough wines. In fact, it’s much more akin to the wines of the Loire than to Marlborough. Where New Zealand tends towards big, bold citrus and tropical fruit (Robbie in our Aberdeen store famously described it as “Like being slapped in the face by a gooseberry bush”) this cool climate Chilean drop is more subtle. Citrus definitely, and a touch of apricot. It’s a nice halfway point in style between the delicate Loire and full-on Kiwi.
A big reason for that is the climate. Leyda Valley is south-west of Santiago, and the vineyards for El Viajero are only 10 miles from the coast. The Pacific Ocean has a cooling effect thanks to an ocean stream known as the Humboldt Current, so the winters are mild and the summers warm rather than hot – which Sauvignon Blanc loves.
Chile has long been recognised as a great spot for value; this wine shows that value can also mean great quality. A wine this good in the Loire would be twice the price.
Sauvignon Blanc is a natural pair for lighter dishes and salads, but the crisp character makes it a great foil for crumbly goat’s cheese as well. Or just pour a glass and enjoy.
El Viajero Sauvignon Blanc is open for you to try in your local store this week and you can order it online here.
Serve Well Chile’d
Brent Marris is one of New Zealand’s most successful winemakers. He has been involved in winemaking since aged 12, when he began helping on his father’s vineyards. That was in 1973. By 1978, Montana Wines – now Brancott Estate – had recruited the Marris family as their first contract growers.
From then on, Brent was hooked, and he soon began to show a flair for making award-winning wines. He cut his teeth as winemaker for Wither Hills, an early Majestic favourite, before going his own way and launching Marisco. Since The Ned Sauvignon Blanc first reached us, it’s become one of our most popular wines.
“In the early days I was selling the wine out of the boot of my car to restaurants,” shares Brent. “I gave two restaurants exclusivity, provided they gave me a mention whenever they won an award, and I did the same for them.”
Alongside The Ned series is the King’s series, a range of wines which draw on the ancestral roots of the Marris family in post-Norman England – then De Marisco. We’ve long been fans of the King’s Favour Sauvignon and King’s Thorn Pinot Gris, adding the King’s Legacy Chardonnay to the range just over a year ago.
“I’m confident for Marlborough Sauvignon; it’s not a trend,” he says. “It has that real freshness; that vibrancy, that’s what we try and bring out of all our wines. You can drink them whenever you want.”
Far be it from us to argue. There’s more to New Zealand than Sauvignon, though, and there is a huge interest in producing small parcel wines that give the winemaker a chance to flex their muscles and produce something very special. Marisco is no exception, and our latest Online Exclusive is a very limited parcel of two wines from The Craft Series – one of which is quite literally the Marisco Pride and Glory.
The Craft Series wines are made from small plots of vines which display unique characteristics, and Brent and his winemaking team have taken an artisanal approach to showcase their talent – and the terroir.
The Pride And Glory Sauvignon Blanc 2011 is at the apex of what Sauvignon can achieve in New Zealand. The vines sit on the soil of an ancient riverbed and the wine is treated to extended lees contact followed by some time in seasoned Puncheons containing Chardonnay lees – that makes this a very exciting wine to taste. Passionfruit, guava, a lick of feijoa and a deliciously creamy mouthfeel await, bolstered by a few years of bottle age.Our second exclusive is a real beauty, a storming wine which is an absolute expression of Brent’s passion for the vineyard. The Exemplar Viognier 2102. Dried apricot mingles peaches and cream and white nougat, with tremendously rich texture and mouthfeel while remaining tense, fresh and elegant. A touch of oak, like the best Condrieu in Viognier’s home – the Rhône – finishes the experience.
These wines are definitely in fine wine territory. Get yours and treat yourself while stocks last, and check out our range of New Zealand wines here.
Meet The Winemaker: Brent Marris, Marisco, New Zealand