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April Wine: 63 Degrees And Mischief

Neil Sowerby showers us with April's MCR wine choices

Published on April 2nd 2013.

April Wine: 63 Degrees And Mischief

EXCESSIVE mark-ups on restaurant wine lists, grrrr.

In the UK they are routinely 300 per cent of retail price, often more. And, of course, restaurateurs are usually sourcing at trade prices. Now I’m not advocating universal BYO – the profit margin on wine is often the only thing keeping an individual eaterie afloat  just a less grasping approach.

An affordable bottle may well lead to a table purchasing a second (or if Confidential are in the house, a fifth).

The wine is matured in small oak barrels for 12 months before being bottled unfiltered. Gorgeous vanilla aromas are matched by a silky, surprisingly complex  palate
That’s why I so warmed to a £65 bottle of a Premier Cru Chassagne Montrachet the other day at 63 Degrees, Manchester’s most doggedly excellent French eaterie. Now this is not a modest spend, but it was a Domaine Ramonet La Boudriotte, Chassagne-Montrachet 2007 from one of the appellation’s finest domaines.
Alex Moreau of 63 Degrees suggested you could expect to pay up to £200 for it in one London restaurant and the Wine Searcher website calculates you can spend anything from £43 to £103 a bottle retail, excluding GB tax, on this wine.
Whatever, this elegant 2007 white Burgundy is perfect for drinking now with its honeyed floral nose and discreetly oaked white fruit flavours packing an underlying power.
As befits a restaurant run by a French family the wine list is exclusively French. What is surprising is the typicity (New word for me there, Neil, , typicity. Interesting. Ed) of so many French wines whose character has been blurred by shoddy interpretations – Chablis, Sancerre and Pouilly Fume.

Not to mention the Pandora’s Box that is much Claret. All the prices below are what you pay in the restaurant at 20 Church Street, Northern Quarter.


A 63 Degrees' line-upA 63 Degrees' line-up

All are similarly gentle on the wallet for the quality.
Pouilly-Fumé ‘L’Ammonite’, Domaine de Maltaverne 2011 (£32): 
So often a dull sauvignon cousin to Sancerre, PF here shakes off the shackles in a smoky, flinty, minerally triumph. I suspect this is down to the hands-off approach and dedication to naturally occurring yeasts of winemaker Gilles Maudry.
Sancerre ‘Aujourd’hui comme autrefois’ (Domaine Daniel Brochard 2011 (£38):
The translation 'today like yesterday' says it all. Producer Brochard follows tradition in avoiding fining, filtration or temperature control. The result a real intensity from its nettley nose to crisp palate and lingering fresh finish.
Condrieu ‘Les Grandes Chaillées,’ Domaine du Monteillet 2010 (£58):
Viognier’s unbiquitous these days, its vibrant apricot perfume often betrayed by flabby fruit. Hard to believe 40 years ago this white grape was confined to the Condrieu appellation in the Northern Rhone. Here’s proof it still reigns supreme there. Les Grandes Chaillées refers to the walls that hold up the terraced vines on the steep granite slopes –reponsible for the mineral structure behind the lush fruit.
Savigny Les Beaune 1er Cru ‘Champ Chevrey’ (Monopole), Domaine Tollot Beaut 2007 (£50):
Tollot Beaut are among my favourite Red Burgundy producers, producing elegant, pure examples of red and dark fruit pinot noir at less than stratospheric prices. Older vines from an exclusive vineyard produce a benchmark example.
Côte-Rôtie ‘Fortis’, Domaine du Monteillet  2009 (£58):
A 10 per cent dose of viognier here adds beguiling floral scents to a powerful yet stylish example of Northern Rhone Syrah, which won gold for winemaker Stephané Montez (also responsible for the Condrieu).
Bordeaux – especially a canny selection of second wines from top properties – figures strongly on 63 Degrees’ list and I particularly admire their two St Estephes (Ch Valrose Cuvee Alienor and Ch Haut Marbuzet) but for the Claret virgin on a budget I’d recommend:
Margaux, Chateau La Tour de Mons ‘Cru Bourgeois’ 2007 (£36):
Grapes on this estate dating back to the 15th century are hand harvested to ensure premium selection and the wine is matured in small oak barrels for 12 months before being bottled unfiltered. Gorgeous vanilla aromas are matched by a silky, surprisingly complex  palate.
It goes without saying that all these wines perfectly complement the canny and much admired French cuisine of 63 Degrees chef Eric Moreau.
Mischief And Mayhem may sound like a night out with Sleuth and Gordo, but it’s also the name of a innovative Burgundy operation in Aloxe Corton, run by three friends, Michael and Fiona Wragg and Michael Twelftree (click here). Their aim to demystify Burgundy with each wine, across the sub-regions, exemplifying its terroir.
I tasted a couple of their White Burgundies during the Northern Restaurant and Bar Show – at the Robinsons stand. Prices quoted are what tenants par for them before adding  (here we go again) their mark-up.
First up was the generic Mischief and Mayhem Chardonnay Bourgogne 2009 (£12.59). It was a beautiful pure expression of chardonnay. Pale straw coloured, aromas of melon, peach and honey are  followed by a lovely creamy mouth-feel with an abundance of apple and lime flavours.

Mischief And MayhemMischief And Mayhem

Mischief and Mayhem Puligny Montrachet (£27.59) had all the previous bottle’s attributes but more exotic scents (quince, butter, maybe banana) and a brioche and vanilla richness on the palate.
Robinsons’ exclusive Champagne range offered similar delights from Le Noble, a family house whose holdings consist entirely of Premier and Grand Cru plots. The Cuvee Intense NV and the Rose are delightful, but Le Noble Cuvee Nature Zero Dosage (£18.99) was the eye-opener – from its ethereal tight mousse to its delicate, pure peachy, figgy fruit.
Sancerre Blanc Laloue (£11.99) was another Loire charmer, combining cut grass and nettle with a tight minerality.
The whole range of wines, indeed, was a revelation from an operation I associate with its beersMy host at the stand was Mark Dent, once of Hanging Ditch, now freelance, but the wines had been sourced by the Stockport brewery’s wine buyer, Noel Reid.
Its clutch of gastro pubs aside, Robinsons’ outlets won’t attract fine wine spends, so it was good to find much to savour among the bargain reds 
Chile’s Urmeneta Merlot (exclusive to Robbies, £4.42) was a soft, spicy raspberry and cherry cocktail of a red, while Zorita Tempranillo Roble (£4.89), from Leon in Spain, offers a typical garnet red colour and some attractive, oaky fruit.
The Languedoc is the source of superb value reds and the Co-operative has one of the best at a terrific price of £12.99. Domaine Les Grandes Costes Pic Saint Loup 2009 is a blend of 75 per cent syrah and 25 per cent grenache. Half the wine is aged in French oak for 16 months, producing a wine of great intensity and structure. It has the terrific 'garrigue' herby nose followed by a complex, velvety palate of damsons, black cherries and huge licks of spice.
This product of old vines and hand-picked low yields comes from an old Languedoc Domaine of just 14 hectares, which has been family-owned since 1868. It shows that the Co-op can still spring fine wine surprises beyond an often workaday range.
Workaday is not  a phrase you’d use about the Wine Society’s list and for such an august institution (you have to be a member) it is surprisingly adventurous. It is vigorously promoting Corsican wines, rarely seen over here.
One exception is Corse Rouge, Terra Nostra Nielluccio, 2011, made from 100 per cent nielluccio (sangiovese). This co-operative-made red shares those wild herb characteristics and shows plenty of body despite being only 12 per cent (£7.25 click here).
The Wine Society also has a white bargain from the Languedoc, Les Pierres Bordes Marsanne Viognier 2012 (£5.50), an unoaked blend of grapes from two contrasting terroirs. The marsanne brings smoothness, the viognier typical tropical fruit flavours and there’s a distinct, unexpected minerality.
The same winemaker makes an even more affordable Languedoc red for Waitrose. Cuvée Chasseur Red 2012, Vin de France (£4.79) is a blend of 60 per cent carignan, 30 per cent grenache and 10 per cent merlot, mostly from 40 year old vines on dry, low yielding soils between Béziers and Carcassonne. Tank aged, Chasseur offers upfront easy drinking but exhibits that mediterranean herbiness that is so appealing.
Let’s close where we came in with Bring Your Own. Cheshire’s New Moon Pub Company is offering BYO nights every Tuesday from 6pm at their foodie pubs, The Lord Binning in Kelsall, Old Sessions House in Knutsford and The Hanging Gate in Weaverham. Limited to one bottle per two persons dining. Booking essential. It’s the kind of initiative more places should attempt to put bums on seats on quiet nights.

St Estephe double delightSt Estephe double delight

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NoelApril 2nd 2013.

Hi Neil,

Thank you for taking the time to look at our wines from Robinsons at the NRB recently. We have worked hard to revitialise our wine offering and to bring real value to the customer in an increasingly difficult market. Customers are increasingly quality focused and have a real understanding of value.. It is true that you will always find mark up on any on trade operation but we agree that this must be fair and that the final price delivers real satisfaction to the consumer. We tend not to work on the city centre margins that so often price wines out of reach, but on what we feel to be fair, dependant of course on the operation itself. Typically this would see no more than £10 ( more often £6-8) on a bottle of house pour or by the glass wine unless of course the wines were far more expensive. This would not seem to us to be excessive but very fair indeed, even when considering corkage charges some places may operate.Please also note that the prices quoted do not include VAT which adds a further 20% to the purchase price.Again that you for taking the time to highlight the quality of the range.

Mr JokeApril 2nd 2013.

That man in the top picture clearly has a drink problem

Neil SowerbyApril 3rd 2013.

"Typicity (French typicité, Italian tipicità) is a term in wine tasting used to describe the degree to which a wine reflects its varietal origins, and thus demonstrate the signature characteristics of the grape from which it was produced."
Added today to Schofipedia.

Carol RibchesterApril 26th 2013.

Try it and smell it hope its a good wine.

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