A package arrived in the post last week, containing half a dozen dinky little bottles, each containing 50 ml of wine, with an exhortation to taste them as soon as possible. The bottles had been carefully filled, without contact with oxygen, so the contents were in good condition. They came from Justin Howard-Sneyd MW, the owner of the Roussillon vineyard, Domaine of the Bee, situated in the Agly valley.
All the cuvée names are an amusing play on words.
2019 Field of the Bee, Côtes Catalanes - £16.00
A blend of Grenache Gris and Grenache Blanc, the classic white varieties of Roussillon. The vineyards for this wine belong to Jean-Marc Lafage, one of the big producers of Roussillon, and a good friend of Justin’s. Twenty percent of the wine spends four months in barrel, but any oak flavour is is barely perceptible. A light colour. The nose is fresh and youthful, some delicate floral fruit and un joli amer, a nice bitterness - bitterness can be a compliment in French - and some pithy fruit on the palate, with a little weight on the finish. I felt that it needed to fill out a little, which it doubtless will with some bottle age.
2019 Bee Pink, Côtes du Roussillon - £15.00
A blend of Grenache Noir, Grenache Gris and Syrah. A very pretty palate pink colour. A rounded nose, but a touch amylic. Some weight on the palate with some dry fruit. Again I thought it would benefit from a little longer in bottle.
2018 The Bee Side, Grenache, Côtes Catalanes - £22.00
Half the Grenache is whole bunch pressed and half destemmed, and all fermented in barrel, and then aged for 14 months. Medium colour. A dry nose but with lovely ripe Grenache fruit on the palate, with a firm streak of tannin on the finish. Essentially lots of cherry fruit on palate; quite ripe and fleshy, and very Grenache.
2018 Carignan, Côtes Catalanes - £18.60
From 80-year-old vines. Aged in 500 litre barrels, one new and one three years old. Deep colour. Compared with the Grenache, a much firmer fresher nose, with a nicely structured palate, with some rounded ripe berry fruit. Nicely rounded and balanced. A lovely example of Carignan, with some great potential.
2018 Domaine of the Bee, Côtes du Roussillon Villages - £25.00
This is the wine for which this estate is known. A blend of Carignan, and Grenache. Some of the Carignan is fermented in stainless steel vats, and the rest in demi-muids, with their tops taken off, along with the Grenache, and then all the wine is aged in 500 and 250 litre barrels for 18 months. Medium colour. A youthful nose; lovely fruit with a hint of well-integrated oak. A rounded palate, with fruit and balancing tannin; good depth and weight, and plenty of ageing potential. More elegant than some earlier vintages that I have tasted. Justin attributes this to more whole bunch pressing which helps restrain the alcohol levels and retain freshness.
2018 Les Genoux, or the Bees’ Knees, Côtes Catalanes - £40.00
A field blend of old vines, from the 100-year-old Coume du Roi vineyard. Grenache Noir with 10 – 15% Grenache Blanc and Gris. The grapes are handpicked, destalked, lightly crushed and fermented in 500 litres demi-muids, with some hand-plunging. There is a three-week post fermentation maceration and then the wine is aged in demi-muids – one third new – for 14 months. The colour is lighter than the domaine wine. And the wine is altogether more elegant and subtle, in other words Grenache at its most elegant, with delicate red fruit and silky tannins. The oak is very well-integrated and the flavours very harmonious. A lovely glass of wine.
NB I have given the full retail prices, but if you join the Club of Domaine of the Bee, there are some serious discounts available.