on Mar 17, 2011
by Majestic Commercial
By Alex Gittins, Regional Sales Manager for North England, North Wales, East Midlands and Scotland
To many people, Portuguese wine means Mateus Rose, unpronounceable and unrecognisable grape varieties and that thick sweet stuff you drink at Christmas. To say the countries table wine market is misunderstood would be an understatement! Portugal like its Iberian neighbour has perfect growing conditions for grapes, added to the warm climate the country also benefits from cooling influences from the Atlantic and the fabulous terrain of regions like the Douro.
Yes, we might not see the usual international varietals, but is that such a bad thing? As consumers become more aware and adventurous the prospect of another Kiwi Sauvignon or Chilean Merlot becomes a distinct turn off. And here we have the niche. Portugal has diverse regions with their own individual characters and the varieties which we can't pronounce actually make damn good wines with bags of ripe flavours and complexity.
Here at Majestic our Portuguese range is currently on offer. Here are my best buys from our range:
Pena de Pato 2007, Dao
£4.99* ex VAT
This inland region suffers cold and wet winters, but importantly a long warm and dry summer. The key varieties used here are Tinta Roriz and Touriga Nacional. This is fruit driven in style with lots of ripe red fruits with hints of minerality and savouriness, and a smooth finish. This really is stunning value and a wine that over delivers on any list in the key sub £20 price bracket.
Quinta de Azevedo, Vinho Verde, 2010
£4.50* ex VAT
'Green wine' from the Minho region of Northern Portugal - Vinho Verde wine region. The varieties used at Azevedo are Loureiro (70%) and Pedernã (aka Arinto) (30%), which both produce beautifully delicate and fragrant dry wines. With complex aromas of white and tropical fruits, citrus and white flowers. A lively wine with the typical spritz, good acidity, and an intense and fresh finish.
*Prices valid until 2nd May 2011
on Mar 10, 2011
by Majestic Commercial
by Mark Cooper, Business Development Manager for Central London
Spring is pretty much here! There I've said it, cue thunderbolts, lighting, rain and even frosts maybe! Typical English weather pessimism aside I feel it is the time of the year when your typical customer can be easily persuaded to trade up to a glass of fizz.
This has lead me to complete a number of staff training sessions with some of my clients to ensure their staff are fully equipped with the knowledge to take full advantage of the frivolity the onset of nicer weather inspires.
On the staff training session I devoted a lot of time going through different methods of sparkling wine production that I will leave out here (if you are interested let me know and I can email you my notes).
First up and arguably the most popular fizz of the moment, Prosecco.
Prosecco di Conegliano Valdobbiadene Extra Dry NV Italy
Lovely and light with notes of pear drops, will be great to drink on its own, but also fun to experiment with food matches to desserts.
Next up was a Cava I have a lot of affection for having met the winemaker. When you consider the amount of effort that goes into making a bottle of Cava I feel it is grossly underrated by the current market.
Codorníu Selección Raventos NV, Spain
Originally this cuvee was reserved only for the Raventos family; the founders of Codorníu. However they release it to the market to celebrate 125 years of Cava making. Lovely soft toasty flavours, balanced perfectly with mouth watering zestiness. It is a terrific wine for the money and will partner seafood just as well as any entry level Champagne.
Laurent-Perrier Brut NV Champagne
To complete the training we tried another wine I am particularly fond of; Laurent Perrier NV. Due to the high proportion of Chardonnay used in their blend to maintain their house style from year to year, this Champagne is beautifully soft, without the rasping acidity which I think often puts people off Champagne. This will taste great with all the classics, smoked salmon, oysters and prawns.
That was the end of the tasting session and there we go, staff equipped to sell fizz. All we need now is the spring weather.....
on Mar 03, 2011
by Majestic Commercial
Last October a small group from the Commercial team headed out to sunny Spain for a what turned out to be a thoroughly educational trip to the Codorníu winery. The group lead by Commercial Sales Director Mark Reynolds saw Business Development Manager Mark Murphy and Key Account Managers Jules Winepress and Matt Davenport meet with the winemakers at Codorníu but also venture out to various wineries to taste and learn about the wines in Codorníu's and associates range plus bring a new recruit to the Commercial on-trade exclusive range which is coming to us very soon...
Matt Davenport, Key Account Manager for North England, North Wales, East Midlands and Scotland reveals what they got up to and what they all learnt from their trip to Spain.
We arrived at Codorníu winery around 2pm (by this time Jules had just about got over the stress of the tube strikes and taxi trip to Heathrow) and straight away we were greeted by Julia Gomez, the Event Manager at Codorníu, who treated us to some much needed Codorníu Pinot Noir Sparkling Rose and Tapas, after all it was a Monday! We were then taken on an excellent tour of the winery by Winemaker Jaume Noto Aparico, and Australian born Arthur O'Connor, who is the group's most senior winemaker, overseeing all wine produced by the Codorníu Group. Our first stop was their brand new sorting bay where grapes are put into large stainless steel containers used to prepare the grapes for pressing. Whilst on our tour we were lucky enough to see the arrival of a trailer full of Parellada. We then headed for the cellars, where we hopped onto a mini train and were taken on a guided tour round some of the 30km web of underground tunnels. This was followed by a fantastic tasting of all of the Codorníu range, plus a few special edition Cavas that Arthur and his team have been experimenting with - including some single varietal sparkling wines using Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
After the tasting we headed 2 hours north to 'Raimat Castle', a beautiful building with fantastic hillside views... but quite obviously haunted!! Within six minutes the Raimat Brut Nature Cava was opened and that pretty much set the tone for the whole evening. It wasn't long before our meal in the castle was served; a 3 course meal washed down with Albarino Raimat amongst other wines. The main event for all of us was helping with the night harvest... well, I say helped, what I mean is watched! We were able to stand on top of the harvest machines and this allowed us to have a really good view of the vines being shaken and the grapes being thrown into the trailers that were being towed by tractors. Then it was time to head back to the castle where we sampled some more of Raimats wine. This was an excellent day because we were able to see first hand what is involved in the wine making process at both Codorníu and at Raimat.
After a somewhat creepy night sleep in the castle we all met for breakfast then headed 5 minutes down the hill to the Raimat winery. We were greeted by Monica Gonzalo, who is the Events Manager at Raimat, and Chief Viticulturist, Joan Esteve. He gave us an exceptional tour round the vineyards, explaining important viticulture techniques such as how to sexually confuse moths using special hormone filled plastic ties from Japan. Joan also explained how they use satellite images on aeroplanes and GPS technology on harvest machines to help them decide when to pick certain grapes at certain times, and where to grow vines to optimise grape quality. The tour followed with an interesting tasting hosted by Mark Nairn, the Head Winemaker at Raimat. This was held in a specially designed tasting room, and was followed by another fantastic tapas meal. Just as we were about to leave, we bizarrely discovered that they even had a vineyard above the main Raimat building.
We headed three hours west to Rioja where we stayed in the beautiful town of Haro. After checking into our hotel we all decided to have a Sherry in a café in the town square before heading back to the hotel for our meal. The hotel restaurant was simply superb with high ceilings, posh cutlery and more importantly a 35 page wine list. Adam treated us to some real gems, including Codorníu's Reina Cristina Cava, Raimat Chardonnay, Bodegas Bilbainas La Vicalanda Reserva Rioja, La Vicalanda Gran Reserva Rioja and a magnum of Vina Pomal Reserva Rioja. The quality of the food was exceptional and we had a fantastic night.
The next morning came round rather too quickly, but we were all looking forward to our tour around Bodegas Bilbainas. We were greeted by our tour guide, Mabel Oyono and Chief Viticulturist Natalie Olarte who took us around their vineyards. On our tour we were adorned with aprons and secateurs, and invited to pick some grapes - which isn't as easy as it sounds, because within each row of vines there are grapes of varying quality, so all of the grapes have to be handpicked and grouped separately. They group the grapes in three different quality categories; A, B and C. Category A is for the La Vicanda Reserva and Gran Reserva, Category B is for the Pomal Range and C is for the Vina Zaco and Crianza wines. The skill is to try and distinguish what is classed as an A grape and what is classed as B grapes and believe me, they look almost identical but they do taste completely different. Category A grapes are small but very concentrated and Category B grapes are slightly bigger and less concentrated. That's why it's so important that the right grapes are used for the right wines, and that’s why Natalie tries to have the same team of pickers year after year, because they really understand exactly what is required. Many of the pickers and winery employees have worked in these vineyards for years, and many are related which is why there is a real sense of community within Bilbainas. What's also interesting is the variation in soil types within such a small area. We found sand based soil in one area and right next to it will be a more gravelly, stony soil which inevitably affects the style of wine they produce.
After visiting a few more vineyards (and tucking a delicious Chorizo and Cava stew, washed down with a glass of Vina Zaco), we headed to the winery where we met Diego Pinilla, Head Winemaker at Bilbainas. He guided us through the winery where we were lucky enough to taste some grape juice (destined for their top wine, La Vicanda) which had only been pressed the day before, and therefore was alcohol free (because fermentation takes four days to begin). We were also able to try the same juice at 3 days old (and almost ready for fermentation), and then some which had been fermenting for 2 days which was 5% ABV, so this gave us the opportunity to compare and monitor the development. This was a fantastic learning experience as we saw wine being made before our eyes.
A quick tour of the cellars took us through to a tasting room where we sampled the range (including the new on-trade exclusive Rioja Crianza San Millan) then finished, naturally, with another excellent tapas lunch. Perhaps enjoying ourselves a little too much meant that we were suddenly a fair bit behind schedule, so we made a quick dash to the airport and luckily made it with 2 minutes to spare!
The whole trip was incredibly well organised and we all learnt so much. We'd like to say a big thank you to all the Winemakers, Viticulturists and Event Managers who spared us some of their valuable time. And last but not least we'd like to say a huge thank you to our host Adam Baggott at Codorníu, for all his hard work during our visit (and for all the driving he did!) This was one of the best wine trips we've been on and fun was had by all.
on Feb 25, 2011
The Wine and Spirit Trade Association met with Treasury Minister Justine Greening to present its Budget Submission 2011. The submission calls on the Treasury to abandon its alcohol tax escalator after retail figures for 2010 showed the UK wine market in decline with sales down 2% and sales of spirits flat.
The tax escalator threatens to deliver a tax increase on alcohol of between 6% - 7% next month. If it goes ahead it would mean that in just three years tax on wine had increased by 35% and tax on spirits by 30%.
The 2010 retail data shows that sales of wine and spirits fell in pubs and restaurants (down 4%) and shops (down 1%) as consumers reined in their spending. Against this backdrop the small increase in the value of wine sales (up 3%) reflects the impact of tax increases while industry has had to absorb rising costs of energy, transport and raw materials.
Click here to view the WSTA Budget submission
The Chancellor will make his Budget speech on 23 March 2011...
on Feb 23, 2011
by Majestic Commercial
By Nick Hillen, Key Account Manager for the South and South East.
I recently held a Confidence in Wine Course for The Orchard in Brockley, South East London and I am pleased to say it was a great success! The aim of the course is to increases sales of their full range of wines on their list through the education of staff and as the course name suggests, improve their 'Confidence in Wine'. The course allows staff to try out wines they have not tasted before and allow them to recommend wines to customers with an assurance they would not have previously held.
We tasted a range of wines throughout the course and I have selected a couple of wines which demonstrates the importance of educating staff in the wines on your wine list.
Tin Roof Chardonnay, South Eastern Australia
The much maligned Chardonnay grape carries a difficult reputation but one taste of this wine and the doubters were soon converted and sold on its merits. Many of the attendees were surprised by how light and fresh the wine was; a far cry from the unbalanced and overpowering oaky Chardonnay's of the 1990’s which gave Chardonnay its ill reputation. All of the participating staff said they would recommend Tin Roof Chardonnay to customers, where previously they would have shied away from it, purely because it said Chardonnay on the label.
Vieux Remparts Lussac St-Emilion, France
The Vieux Remparts is a truly classic Bordeaux. At first some of the attendees found the tannins to be a bit heavy and were unsure about the wine. However after a bite of cheddar cheese all were won over as the archetypal food match shone. The proteins in the cheese softened the tannins and transformed the Remparts from austere to smooth and silky. One participant was so impressed they promised to recommend it to every customer!
The courses are fun, educational and provide an excellent opportunity to improve sales, ask your account manager for more details today!
Ed from The Orchard says... “Selling a lot of wine means that it is very important that the staff know what they are talking about. The confidence in wine tutorial was a great way to get the staff more enthusiastic and knowledgeable about the wines on our list, especially the wines by the bottle that we normally wouldn't get to try all the time. Matching the foods to the wines really made us all think about what combinations work and what don't, and importantly understanding why this is the case. Overall, the experience has given the staff more confidence in selling the wines and has also shown an increase in sales of our higher end wines.”
on Feb 16, 2011
by Majestic Commercial
on Feb 11, 2011
Many of our Commercial customers are independent or neighbourhood restaurants so I thought it relevant to mention a recent report in Harpers Wine & Spirit Trades Review (28 January 2011) on independent/neighbourhood restaurants. Their research shows that despite this difficult time many of you are working really hard to maintain your customer base, which in turn means profits are up!
Gemma McKenna’s article ‘Independent and local restaurants uncovered’ suggests that “Eight out of 10 [independent or neighbourhood restaurants] have seen profitability stay the same or increase while the remaining 20% have seen profits fall. But any drop in profitability has been small, with almost two-thirds (62.5%) saying profits had only fallen by up to 10%. Almost all restaurants (92%) with expanding profits are experiencing growth of up to 10%, while the remaining 8% are growing between 10% and 20%.”
As you are more than likely aware of, wine can play a significant factor in your takings. McKenna quotes “...six out of 10 (57.5%) local restaurants saying [wine] makes up between 15% and 25% of their total turnover.” There were then two contradictory takes on this. Approximately a third of restaurants who participated in the survey said that wine accounted for less than 15% of sales but on the other hand 15% of those surveyed reported wine to account for up to 40% of their turnover. According to the stats, one in 3 local restaurants report that “wine sales are a growing part of the sales mix.”
Layout – it appears that structuring a wine list by price and style is the most popular (35% of restaurants favoured each method).
Grape Varieties - the report suggests that consumers remain in favour of their trusted grape varieties with Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinot Grigio in the lead (30% each) followed by Sauvignon Blanc (25%).
Country of Origin – the survey reports that 35% of drinkers request French wine, 27.5% request Italian and 20% request Chilean. The countries least in demand at 2.5% (each) are South Africa and Australia.
Responsible drinking – it appears that as a nation we are not specifically asking for wines low in alcohol when dining out. This might be because when consumers are dining out they are looking to relax, unwind and indulge whereas the demand for low alcohol wines for consumption at home would be much higher. Harpers also report that “when it comes to how much people want to drink, 17.5% of customers are looking to drink more, while 72.5% haven’t changed their habits and one in 10 is keen to cut back.”
Again I would expect that in this economic climate people may reduce their bottle price rather than the quantity consumed in attempt to keep costs down but their dining out experience comparable with what they are used to. Ultimately people dine out for the experience; familiarity is a key concept into ones personal enjoyment or satisfaction of an occasion such as dining out. In short, people do not like change... but that’s an entirely new subject to discuss! Furthermore if you can gain customer trust and give them a rewarding encounter then they are more likely to come back time and time again. As many of you will know a regular customer base is a key factor in achieving growth.
Quality – with the increase in VAT to 20% and the duty we pay in the UK, unfortunately wine is getting more expensive. Harpers research suggests that this is yet to be passed onto the consumer as 57.5% of restaurants surveyed said that they have kept the price of their cheapest wine the same, compared to a third increasing the cheapest bottle price and only 7% reducing it. McKenna writes “this was reflected in an increasing number of customers seeking wine-by-the-glass (up 35%) and a 37.5% jump in customers’ sensitivity about price.”
Price – the survey conducted by Harpers reveals that the average bottle price for half of the participating independent and neighbour restaurants is between £15 and £19. 25% of those interviewed had an average price between £20 and £30 and the remaining 25% had an average price under £15 but predominately all wines have a minimum price of £12.
Wine is an important part of your trade and at Majestic Commercial we offer training for your staff and can help you design a wine list full of suitable wines in a functional format based on your clientele. If you feel that Majestic could be beneficial to your business please contact us for further information.
For any existing Commercial customers who feel their wine list needs an overhaul to be in line with current trends, please speak to your account manager for more details.
on Feb 09, 2011
Business Development Manager, Joe Dewhurst shares his optimum must have wines for all Commercial customers this Valentine’s Day. Contact your account manager to order to ensure you are all stocked up for what we hope is a busy weekend for the trade...
Don't lose sleep! There's no need to panic this Valentine’s Day, here at Majestic Commercial we have an amazing array of wines, which will complement your wine list and add some great specials to your wine offer. I will only get chance to mention just a few of them here, but this mixture of personal favourites, must buys and hidden gems will hopefully assist you along your way and will add to your customer's special day!
Château Saint Roch-les-Vignes 2009 Côtes de Provence
We all know rose is always a well-liked preference for Valentine's Day, it would therefore be daft of me not to recommend a classy, elegant, French rose from the Côtes de Provence. The Château Saint Roch-les-Vignes is a delicious, mouth watering rose, oozing in class. The stylish, curvaceous bottle is pleasing on the eye, and the wine doesn't disappoint. At just £5.40* ex-VAT, not only is it a great buy but it is a marvellous match with salads or Mediterranean style foods and would be a fantastic start or finish to ones evening!
La Poda Sauvignon Blanc Verdejo 2009 Vino de la Tierra Castilla y León
Sauvignon Blanc has become one of the most fashionable and popular wines in the UK market today, with most people having heard of or tasted the crisp white wines from Marlborough, New Zealand. The next wine I would like to advocate should be on everyone's special's list, a Sauvignon Blanc/Verdejo blend called "La Poda" from the Castilla y Leon region, to the North West of the capital Madrid. Not only does this region offer great value for money, but it offers something slightly different. The Sauvignon Blanc is prominent and powers through with its citrus character but the Verdejo adds a further dimension. This local grape variety adds a peachy, apricot and citrus twist to the wine, making it the ideal accompaniment to fish, seafood and even sushi. An absolute bargain at £4.15* ex-VAT.
Rioja Reserva Vendimia Seleccionada 2005 Muriel
However, if rose or Sauvignon Blanc isn't for you or you simply want that added element of style, why not try a red wine from the famous region of Rioja in Northern Spain? The Muriel Rioja Reserva 2005 offers great value for money at just £4.99* ex-VAT. After 24 months of maturation in French oak and a further minimum of 24 months ageing in the bottle before its release, this wine would definitely appeal to most. The deep ruby colour, the softness of the vanilla and the hints of chocolate and mildly spicy tannic finish make this wine an ideal complement for tomato based pasta and tapas dishes.
Fill your boots, have the confidence that these wines will not only accompany your dishes and have that element of surprise, but most importantly boast that added dimension to Valentine's Day!
*prices are ex-VAT and based on buying a minimum of 2 bottles of each wine. Valid until 2nd May 2011.
on Jan 26, 2011
Mark Murphy, Business Development Manager of the South and South East recently organised a fabulous evening of wining and dining at one of his accounts based in Bletchingley, Surrey. Here he tells us about the success of the evening along with the wines chosen by Mark to compliment the superb menu...
A recent telephone call from one of my customers led to a fabulous evening of food and wine matching with the culinary delights created by recent Masterchef (BBC TV) Professional contestant Ben Piette. Ben is a very skilled cook for sure, and he made it to the semi-finals of the show where he ended up cooking in Tom Kitchin's eponymous Michelin starred restaurant in Edinburgh. Sadly he was knocked out at this stage by the eventual winner of the competition, but he received high praise indeed for his work.
Ben will shortly realise his dream in opening his first restaurant in Surrey (more of that very soon). Prior to his latest adventure he was hospitality chef at McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, Surrey, cooking for the likes of Jenson Button and Lewis Hamilton.
Ben provided me with a selection of starters mains and desserts which I duly paired with some cracking wines (see below). The evening proved to be so successful that the Red Lion pub in Bletchingley was in danger of being absolutely packed to the gunwales! The final head count numbered 95 and we could have sold double the number of tickets. Ben chose some interesting dishes with great flavours and I needed to delve into our huge range of wines to find some choice nuggets to partner them. For me there were many highlights but the grilled sardines paired with the Bastide Roussanne was a real hit for the entrée dish. Roussane is typically found in expensive Rhone whites such as Condrieu and Chateauneuf-du-Pape, but here we have a superb lemony fresh wine with crisp acidity to work well with the oily fish, delicious.
There were some classic pairings such as Rioja with lamb, juicy Argentinian Malbec with steak and the delightful Gruner Veltliner (from Austria) with baked fillet of salmon and pea purée. It was also nice to offer some more adventurous couplings such as the wild mushroom risotto with Barbera d'Alba from Forville.
The front of house team had a very busy evening as the guests arrived and then ordered their choice of three dishes. They certainly had to up their game to ensure that the dishes arrived on time and at the correct temperature. As we passed ten o'clock all the guests had been served and the food had been universally well received. Ben came out of the kitchen to receive a warm applause from the diners.
The evening was a great success and although we may not be able to provide a Masterchef contestant every time, gourmet evenings are proving a real hit for our customers. Showcasing great food with exciting and fresh wine ideas really does stimulate interest as well as bringing in welcome business. There are an endless number of possible themes to choose and I would urge you to speak to your local account manager to discuss potential ideas. Above all these evenings are great fun for both staff and customers alike and we certainly need a boost in the current trading climate!
Grilled sardines with watercress salad, extra virgin olive oil vinaigrette and capers
Wine match: Domaine La Bastide Roussanne 2009
Goats cheese and sticky red onion tart with lemon thyme pastry, baby leaves and aged balsamic
Wine match: Parcel Series Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Ham hock terrine with wholemeal and seeded home made bread and winter chutney
Wine match: Morgon 2009 Chateau de Pizay
Baked fillet of salmon with pea puree, broad beans and lemon hollandaise sauce
Wine match: Gruner Veltliner, Weingut Pfarre Weissenkirchen 2009
Grilled rib eye steak with confit shallots, fondant potatoes and poivrade sauce
Wine match: Gouguenheim Valle Escondido Malbec 2009
Lamb two ways (braised shoulder and roasted rack) with Mediterranean tomato compote and rosemary oil
Wine match: Rioja Gran Reserva, Gran Vendema 2002
Wild mushroom risotto with parmesan shavings,dressed rocket,pesto and a poached egg
Wine match: Barbera d'Alba delle Vigne Vecchie 2007/2008 De Forville
Pear and vanilla sponge with red wine and raspberry syrup and clotted cream
Wine match: Elysium Black Muscat 2007 Andrew Quady
Warm chocolate tartlet and orange sauce, bitter chocolate sauce and pouring cream
Wine match: Essensia Orange Muscat 2007 Andrew Quady
Ginger panna cotta with ginger ice cream, mixed berries and garibaldi biscuits
Wine match: Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Concha y Toro 2006
on Jan 18, 2011
To conclude the travel stories from the Commercial team's visit to the Haut-Lirou winery, in the Pic St Loup appellation, Business Development Manager Karim Ghazanfar talks to us about vinification in the Pic Saint-Loup...
To most in the wine trade The Languedoc represents good value wine that can offer a taste of France at a snip of the price of the supposedly more romantic wines of Bordeaux and the nearby Rhône Valley. The Francophile wine drinker has traditionally had to compromise on quality when exploring or experimenting with the Languedoc as the low prices are partially fuelled by large scale production. With wine there is a simple equation; the more you produce, the worse the juice!
What struck me as we entered the "caves" at Domaine Haut Lirou was the scale, or lack thereof. In front of me stood 4 rows of barrels, 20 barrels deep stacked 2-3 high. Having previously visited wineries in Penedes, Ribera del Duero, Rioja and Beaujolais where the cellars contained anything up to 40 times the number of barrels, I got the distinct feeling that quality was of central to this producers recent success.
Our proud host Valere explained the vinification and maturation methods. Staunchly traditional, the winemaker insists that the grapes are hand sorted, de-stalked and the vatted by gravity alone to preserve the freshness of the fruit. Each walled area of the vineyard and each grape variety are vatted and vinified separately, usually for between 4-8 weeks at a relatively low temperature. This allows fresh fruit flavours to prevail in the wine, whilst allowing sufficient time for complex flavours and structure to develop. During fermentation, the winemaker performs daily rack and return and punching down to facilitate the release of colour, polyphenols, aromas and tannins. Once fermentation of the red wine is complete, a light press is performed and the free run and press juices are blended before maturation.
Maturation is carried out in French oak barrels. Whilst some experimentation has taken place with American, Slovenian and Russian oak, unsurprisingly French is still considered the best! Different coopers are used every year depending on the expected quality and style of the vintage. Usually one third of the barrels are new every year and at over 600 Euros a piece, it's no wonder that some of Domaine Haut Lirou's wines sell for close to £30 a bottle! The wines are usually matured for 12-16 months to impart oak influence and complexity on the wine with barrels being topped up every 15 days to account for evaporation and leakage. After maturation is complete, the wines are blended and bottled. My pick was the L'Esprit du Haut Lirou 2006 AOC Coteaux du Languedoc Pic Saint Loup which is a blend of 65% Syrah, 25% Grenache and 10% the massively underrated Mourvèdre. Try it with freshly hunted, medium rare wild boar char-grilled on the barbeque.