Before I joined Goedhuis two months ago, I was aware that we were a firm that sought out lesser known producers and wine regions and had a canny knack of uncovering hidden gems.
As a new boy, when I have not been studiously working at my desk, making tea, handing over my lunch money to the directors and occasionally being beaten up behind the back of the BMW shed, I have had the opportunity to taste a few of these.
One that has really blown me away is Graham Nutter’s Château St Jacques D’Albas from Minervois in the Languedoc. Graham is a charming Englishman, whose dream of making wine started with an epiphany at Chateau Figeac in the mid-seventies. In 2001 that dream became a reality, and he produced his first vintage.
Directly north of the appellation of Corbières, separated from it only by the River Aude and its companion, the Canal du Midi, lies Minervois. It was awarded its AOC status in 1985. Carignan, Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedre are the most planted grape varieties and are all utilised in different ways to give Minervois a unique character. Red is the predominant colour and rose is following global demand and increasing production. Only a small amount of white is produced.
Like all great wine makers, Graham has tremendous respect for his terrior and an astute understanding that a healthy vineyard will produce the finest fruit. A vibrant, living vineyard must have weeds and birds singing he tells me. If he doesn’t hear the birds, something must be missing.
It is with this perfectionism and dedication that Graham has managed to make some of the finest wine in the region. His entry level Petit St Jacques 2007 has soft berry fruit. It is medium bodied, with a silky concentration, spicy, with a soft white chocolate finish. His Domaine St Jacques 2007 (to be shipped next year) is one of the finest wines for its price I have tried in a long time. It is fresh, with a palate of lingering crushed black fruits, beautifully lifted by cashmere tannins. A delicious wine.
Following on was a flight of his Château St Jacques. These are all very impressive wines indeed. 50% each of Syrah and Grenache, he has managed to harness the often intense heat of the area and create a fresh, complex, creamy and balanced wine with impeccable pedigree. This wine would be outstanding with food and make a great value alternative to Chateauneuf du Pape. A perfect winter wine.
Finally we tried a flight of his La Chapelle 2003-2005. This wine is made from 95% Syrah with a spoonful of Grenache. Taken from a tiny parcel of vines the La Chapelle exudes class. It has been described as somewhere between the northern Rhone and Margaret River (in Western Australia). However this wine is certainly not schizophrenic and has beautiful individual characteristics. I love this wine. It is rich, powerful and hedonistic, but not heavy, with a body of softest velvet.
You can taste some of Graham’s wines at our Rhone Tasting at the Saatchi Gallery on Tuesday 18th November. We currently have stock of the Minervois Domaine St Jacques d’Albas 2003 for £69 per twelve bottles ex-VAT and the Minervois La Chapelle Chateau St Jacques d’Albas 2003 for £140 per twelve bottles ex-VAT. Further vintages will be available in the coming months. Please call us on 020 7793 7900 for more information or if you would like to purchase these wines.