2018 is the best vintage in living memory for some of Europe's, and especially France's, marginal wine-producing regions. Buyer Marcel Orford-Williams tells us why you should be paying attention.
Vineyards in the Savoie
Vintage reports tend to revolve around
the classic regions, those must-have
areas that throw wine collectors into
a spin, vintage after vintage. So 2018
in Bordeaux, for example, has already
been written about, scored, pored (and
poured!) over, rated by the wine world's
top scribblers in London, Paris and New
York and the top wines already sold en
primeur, while still in their barrels in
Bordeaux. Others will follow, but most
reports will fail to include the lesser
regions, those more on the periphery, the
Cinderellas of the wine world, if you like.
Who will speak up for Savoie, Auvergne
or even Beaujolais? The press reported
on English success in 2018 (and we did too
with our article by,Olly Smith), but we haven't seen much more
on other regions.
Success in these Cinderella regions does
not come easily; winemaking is often
at the limits of what is possible with
no guarantees and often the prospect
of a write-off vintage, as happened to
Nyetimber in England in 2012.
Though far from being a straightforward
year, the results in 2018 are very good and
there will be great wine made in all the
classic regions. But for me, your buyer for
the French country regions, the real story
of 2018 is Cinderella's; for once, she was
allowed to come to the ball in her finest
dress and will steal the show.
In many ways it will be the reds that are
the real stars in 2018 and most of these
we won't see until next year, when I
intend to put them firmly in the spotlight
of their own Cinderella offer. In the
meantime, here's my pick of the
success stories of the vintage that are
Fringe benefits of the 2018 vintage
Rural landscape in Aveyron where the Cros family are using the local fer servadou grape to revive this forgotten vinous corner of France.
From vineyards on the hillsides to
the west of Lyon on the fringes of the
Rhône to the south and Beaujolais to
the north comes this delightful gamay.
It's always a lovely fresh red-fruited
wine but is exceptionally good in 2018
when grapes ripened to perfection.
Wines from this tiny appellation are
mainly consumed locally, years like
2018 show just what it is capable of and
why we ship it out.
Devastated by phylloxera (the vine
louse that all but destroyed Europe's
vineyards in the 19th century) then war,
there were once extensive vineyards
in this out-of-the-way corner of the
Aveyron. Winters here on the edge of
the Massif Central are long and hard,
and so the warm summer of 2018
must have been especially welcome.
The 'blood of the land', as the name
translates, comes from the local fer
servadou grape and is all crunchy fresh
raspberry fruit. The Cros family are
leading the revival of this forgotten
vinous corner of France.
The 2018 vintage of Côte Roannaise Eclat de Granite, Domaine Sérol 2018 displays explosive fruit flavours of blackberry and raspberry fruit too
Not so much a Cinderella region but
a bit of an unexpected gem in this
vintage. Soft, round and easy-drinking
year-in, year-out, but in 2018 this
member favourite is a little cracker!
Ripe-tasting spicy plum fruit is given
that extra polish from the character of
the vintage which seemed to suit the
merlot grape particularly well this year.
Do try it if you haven't already.
Another resurgent region at the far
eastern end of the Loire where the
grapes grown high up on the granite
plateau take their chances alongside the
more lucrative cereal crops. Gamay again
is the main variety (it was once shipped
in bulk over the mountain to Beaujolais)
and in the hands of the Sérol family, who
have practically single-handedly kept the
appellation going, is always elegant and
fresh. Bring on the 2018 vintage and you
have explosive fruit flavours of blackberry
and raspberry fruit too.
Finally, some whites get to go to the
ball too this year and the fragmented
mountain vineyards of Savoie on the Swiss
border have produced this one. Usually
these Alpine wines don't make it out of
the ski slopes but we were pleased to
emancipate this one. Made from jacquère,
the most widely planted of the region's
grapes, it is flinty and dry, as fresh as a
mountain stream and showing the life-affirming, delicate appeal of these wines
more emphatically than in most years.
Marcel will release more Cinderella
wines in an offer to members next
year. Keep your eyes peeled.