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Go Gamay Go!

The time, 4am, had come for me to go on my first wine trip. Feeling very lucky, I headed to HQ and hoped that my excitement about what Beaujolais had to offer was masking the obvious tiredness in my eyes and limbs!

Meeting up with my colleagues, we headed off to the airport to get all the boring, generic travel bits done and were greeted, upon arrival to France, by glorious sunshine as we collected our, unfortunately not gamay red, hire car. Setting off, we were soon surrounded by rolling hills and vineyards as far as the eye could see – the region is a classic portrait of southern France. As we settled at our accommodation for the trip, the old and classical Chateau Bellevue, I knew that I’d soon to be enjoying fantastic wine and food with the added bonus of two days off work!

After taking in the beautiful surroundings it was time for lunch (it’s a tough life). We were very privileged to be hosted by Xavier, current MD of Loron et Fils, who you could quite easily rename as Mr Gamay! As we chatted over lunch (whitebait freshly caught from the river next to our table) with Xavier under clear blue skies about Beaujolais, his knowledge, passion and enthusiasm for the region was infectious – I was desperate to learn and explore more.

Our first stop after lunch was Loron’s HQ. Xavier, who is the 8th generation of the family to run the business, showed us around and explained to us the extra care that they take with the wines – from vineyard to bottle. It was a remarkable place but I had my eyes firmly fixed upon the upcoming end of tour tasting!

The first wine was entirely new to me – a white Beaujolais. Made from Chardonnay, it had stone fruit on the nose with some lovely balanced acidity and a slightly honeyed finish. We then tasted some other whites from Burgundy that were all excellent but I was here for the full Gamay experience! Nine wines late, things started getting serious…Enter Chateau de Fleurie la Madone 2015. On the nose it was bright with fresh red fruit backed up by the smell of stewed back cherry and a touch of oak. On the palate the nose carried through but the fruit became much crunchier.

After this cracker, we tried a further six excellent wines but for me the Fleurie stood out – it  was a great example of how Beaujolais wines are great, not only for Summer, but also for the colder months thanks to their complexity. After being bowled over by the quality of the wines it was time to escape to the Chateau to eat dinner and reflect on a great first day in southern France

Wednesday greeted us with a classic French breakfast and, almost more importantly, the promise of more great wine! We headed off to the Beaujolais Cru village of Régnié to explore. Pulling over in the car, I was amazed at the way the soil changed – the top of the vineyard was almost like sand but as we walked down the vineyard, the erosion was so obvious, you could see the increased amount of granite in the soil. As we marvelled in our surroundings Oliver, our Beaujolais friend from Loron, had a surprise for us. Due to poor yields and a general lack of demand for Beaujolais wines, they believe that in as little as 15 years, Beaujolais and Beaujolais-Villages wine with be virtually non-existent. These vineyards will be replanted with the much more commercially viable Chardonnay and if you want to drink Beaujolais you’ll have to go for something from a Cru area. It’s a shame really because, as I was discovering, there is so much variety across the region that there is something for everyone here!

We then ventured to Brouilly and even got to visit the famous Cote du Brouilly and Mont Brouilly. Atop this extinct volcano, we were greeted by Beaujolais’ answer to Stone Henge! The incredibly passionate locals have constructed a ring of all seven soil types found within the region – they absolutely love their soil here and have carried out more research in recent years than almost any other wine region on the planet to show how unique and variable it is. Feeling a bit ‘soil-overloaded’ we visited two more of the Crus – St Amour and Julienas – each massively distinctive and different. There are 10 Crus in the region so I’m delighted to not have visited them all as it means I can return again one day!

As we drove back to the airport I realised that you should never judge a wine region before exploring all it has to offer and that it’s no reflection on quality if a region isn’t as well known or ‘in-demand’ as others. Most importantly though, Beaujolais isn’t something you just drink on the third Thursday of November, in fact, it has something to offer all year round.  

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The Grapevine 49

The Grapevine 49_cropped

There’s nothing like the opportunity to flex our vinous muscles with a stonking issue of our Summer Grapevine. We’ve been inundated with new wines over the last few months and have narrowed down quite a wide field of hopefuls into a few handfuls of delight. Zippy whites, crunchy reds and lots more besides have exceeded the grade – this promises to be our favourite issue yet. Here’s to Summer!

View issue 49 of The Grapevine

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The Grapevine 43

The Grapevine 43_cropped

our selection of wines for summer is every bit as consistent as the over-optimistic long range weather forecasts!

Well, here we are, the great British summer. Yes, it might be a touch chilly and overcast as I type this but, as always, I hear reports of the hottest July since 1976. As it’s mid-June now I’d say we’ve got about six weeks until that turns to an Indian summer instead. Thankfully our selection of wines for summer is every bit as consistent as the over-optimistic long range weather forecasts! Regardless of what the next few months bring we’ve got some brilliant wines to choose from including some party friendly magnums from Colombo on page 11, a pair of ridiculously good value Sicilians on page 14 and a ground breaking Gamay on page 19. Here’s to picnic blankets, sweet peas, potato salad, barbecues and the occasional ray of sun. Cheers from all at Hennings!

View the latest issue of The Grapevine 43

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The Grapevine 42

The Grapevine 42_cropped

The thousands (yes really) of wines the team have tasted over the last few months…

It was light last night when I left work – let joy be unconfined. This issue of The Grapevine is almost finished too, once this bit has been typed, so it’s time for a double celebration. We’ve worked tirelessly on this issue and couldn’t be happier with the result. The thousands (yes really) of wines the team have tasted over the last few months have been distilled down to a seemingly small number and a selection of them can be found within these pages. The rest will make their way into our shops over the next few months so everyone has something new and exciting to explore. The tastings haven’t always been easy (see pages 18 and 19) but they’ve always been fun. There are some brilliant wines in here as well as details of three upcoming tutored tastings so if you’re keen to experience the stories behind wine, why not book a ticket or two? Cheers!

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The Grapevine 41

The Grapevine 41

The Grapevine 41…an opportunity to wrap up and drink some richer wines…

Well, thank goodness that’s over. There’s nothing I like more than moving into winter and the opportunity to wrap up and drink some richer wines. The team here have been hard at work compiling our festive favourites into The Grapevine 41 for your vinous pleasure over the next couple of months and think we’ve cracked it. Obviously, with over 1,000 products we’ve got masses more available both online and in our shops so if there’s something else you’re after then peruse via your preferred method – I’m certain you’ll find it. All at Hennings would like to wish you well for the coming festive period and take the opportunity to thank you all for continuing to support the independent – we couldn’t do it without you.

View the latest issue of The Grapevine 41

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Chilled red wine | Natural born chillers

Chilled red wine might seem like heresy but it might be time to think again.

Before you wheel the barbecue out of hibernation this year, perhaps a little vinous preparation might be in order. No doubt your fridge will be well stocked with white and rosé in anticipation of a glorious summer, but  may I suggest a quick shift-about to make some room for a couple of bottles of chilled red wine as well?
Some of you may well have tried a wonderfully chilled Beaujolais, as indeed we have recommended below, along with some others. However there are lots of wines you could choose that can be enjoyed at a cooler temperature. Follow the five tips below and you won’t go far wrong.

1. Fresh and fruity. Beaujolais being the classic example of chilled red wine. Oonce chilled it becomes refreshing without losing any character.

2. Chilled, not ice cold. 45 minutes in a fridge should do it. Don’t treat it like a white wine and leave in the fridge all day as most of the delicate flavours will be muted and it’ll taste dull. The only exception to this would be a sparkling red such as Lambrusco, which is best served nice and cold.

3. Cool climate. Generally, coastal wineries or high altitude wines without too much weight or alcohol with good acidity are best.

4. Light not heavy. Heavier wines tend to lose too much character when chilled and become very clumsy. Choose lighter varietals like Pinot Noir, Gamay and Cab Franc, not Cab Sauvignon or Shiraz.

5. Have fun and experiment!



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