I recently had the pleasure of dining with David Gleave MW, who heads up Liberty Wines, one of the UK and Irelands leading wine merchants. I always enjoy meeting and chatting with David, he is not only a fountain of knowledge (you have to be to attain the hallowed status of Master of Wine) but also a very personable and charming character.
David Gleave MW
David was using the dinner as a showcase for some of the French wines in Liberty’s portfolio – Liberty is renowned as a specialist in predominantly Italian and Australian wines.
With our main course of rump of beef, we drank Jane Eyre, Gevrey-Chambertin 2012, a delicious red from the Cotes de Nuits in Burgundy packed with dark cherry fruit and a little earthy character.
Now Jane Eyre is a name that most of us would be familiar with, but not as a winemaker! So what is the story?
David explained thus: There are so many good wines being produced these days, due to many factors – improved vineyard management, advances in technology to aid the sorting process meaning that only perfectly ripe grapes get used, greater understanding of the science of winemaking and the control of yeasts and bacteria etc.
So with so much great wine being produced, how to you decide which wines to choose? It comes down to the story behind the wine: does the bottle have something to say to you other than “drink me”?
Jane Eyre-Renard is originally from Melbourne. A hairdresser by profession, she asked a customer (who happened to be the wife of wine writer Jeremy Oliver) if she knew of any wineries where she could get some work experience. The Olivers recommended Burgundy and this is where her winemaking journey began back in
the late 1990s.
With a network of grower relationships that can only come from living in Burgundy, Jane has the charm and skill to source parcels of fruit that perfectly express their terroir.
Jane’s 2012 Gevrey-Chambertin is an impressive debut into this Northern outpost of prime Cotes de Nuits terroir.
David’s comments about the story behind your wine resonated with me and I got to thinking about the stories behind some of my favourite wines.
Fatalone, Primitivo, Gioia del Colle DOC Puglia 2011
What attracted me to this organic red from Southern Italy was the sheer depth of flavour: black cherries, touches of spice reminiscent of old leather, a sweetness at its core balanced with a lovely bitter cherry twist on the finish.
Then I found out about the story behind the wine. Primitivo has been produced by the Pasquale family for generations in the Gioia del Colle region of Puglia, an area that in prehistoric times lay below sea level. You can see marine fossils in the lime rich soils here, even though it is 350 meters above sea level today.
The name of the wine comes from the great grandfather of the family who lived to the ripe old age of 98 and was known as ‘Il Fatalone’, which in the local dialect means “irresistible heartbreaker”.
Now legend has it that Il Fatalone would breakfast every day on half a litre of milk and half a litre of Primitivo, maybe he might have lived to see 100 if he hadn’t consumed quite so much dairy!
Kershaw ‘Clonal Selection’ Chardonnay, Elgin 2012
This is a stunning Chardonnay in the vein of the great whites of the Cotes du Beaune in Burgundy. Fleshy stone fruit with touches of white flowers and beautifully integrated oak adding some toasty notes followed by a long honeyed finish.
The winemaker is Richard Kershaw, a former chef and Master of Wine who hails from Sheffield in Northern England. I had the pleasure of meeting and tasting with him last year when he visited Dublin.
Richard is a fan of great Burgundy (aren’t we all?) and the name clonal selection is a reference to the selection of Dijon Chardonnay clones that Richard has planted in his Elgin vineyards in The Western Cape, South Africa.
Richard Kershaw MW
The wine’s label also makes reference to Richard’s roots with hallmarks relating to the silversmith trade in his hometown of Sheffield, whilst the neck label bearing the wine’s vintage tips a nod to the great wines of Burgundy producer Meo-Camuzet.
So the next time you are looking to choose a wine, either in your local wine shop or a restaurant setting, ask the person advising you “What’s the story with my wine?”