Dudley and de Fleury Wines portfolio tasting – deftly made wines from off the beaten track

I’m always happy to receive an invitation to a tasting even though my lunatic tendencies add a degree of terror to the process of leaving the flat in order to attend them. However, when it comes to the unwavering furtherance of pleasure I view a horrific dose of perturbation as distinctly small beer and within my powers to subdue. This morning’s worrisome slog across central London was rewarded with tasting an array of wines that clearly demonstrated the laudable qualities resultant from vinifying quality fruit in a light, minimally-interventionist manner. I didn’t like them all, but most displayed their characters with appealing transparency.

As I read the tasting sheet I became charged with interest about what I was going to try – I’d never even heard of a single producer represented and I do relish new experiences. Such is the modishness of the vinous epithet ‘natural wine’ I was not totally surprised the two Richards hosting told me most of their wines are of that idiom. They did admit, with refreshing candour, this was more due to accident rather than any vehemently held beliefs on their part that we should be worshipping Earth goddess Gaia even when having a crafty glass of red. I think the ‘natural wine’-designation is somewhat misleading, but I am all for not messing around too much when making wine. Here are some highlights.

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What must be the youngest dry sparklers I have ever enjoyed were Proseccos from La Farra. The generic and single-vineyard 2009s were totally unlike Champagne in terms of being charged with a fresh fruitiness that conjured up the pleasures of lazy afternoons punting in Oxford. Wine of such down-right enjoyable character is sure to keep the rain away when drinking al fresco to celebrate an event such as the first croquet match of the summer or, better still, nipple day[ref]You’ve never heard of nipple day? It is that great masculine moveable feast that comes along on the first day of the year warm enough for ladies to forgo a bra but just chilly enough that their assets stand out with pert pride. As soon as you realise nipple day has hit your area tradition dictates that you slope off to a pub with tables outside next to a busy pathway and enjoy the view, and a couple of pints with lunch, in your own good time.[/ref]. I’ve never been a big Prosecco drinker, but mirth-infused examples like this would be a delight to imbibe.

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Similar surprises in the ‘wines I rarely drink’ model came from Closerie de Chanteloup. Their Touraine Sauvignon 2009 was far from the usual dreary, washed-out style one encounters with depressing frequency from this appellation. For a shade under a tenner per bottle I was impressed with its distinctly Loire personality that would not have shamed a bottle with a grander origin. Their Montlouis 2008, titled L’Essential, had a character rarely found in Loire Chenin Blanc: clean, fresh fruit. I found some minerality too. I’d be necking this whilst it shows that delicious fruitiness. Good stuff that is true to its origins for about a tenner.

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The Austrians continue their blitzkrieg across the international wine scene with the wines of Weingut Leth from the Wagram region providing characterful quality at reasonable prices. I rather thought the 2009 ‘Klassic’ range of Gruner Veltliner, Roter Veltliner and Riesling delivered not only an impressive depth of varietal character at around a tenner a bottle but also shades of pleasing Austrian peppery-spice complexity. If you drop a fiver more per bottle then you can secure their single vineyard Riesling and Roter Veltliner that flash with distinctly toothsome minerality making them worth the premium. I was taken with these two in terms of a satisfying price/quality ratio.

Leth also had some 2008 reds on offer and whilst two of these did not grab me so convincingly I did rather like the Blauer Zweigelt Klassic. It was a delightfully fruity quaffer of deliciously drinkable character that, once again, I feel would be top drinking when warm days come around again. I’ll admit it didn’t throb with dimension, but red wine at this price level rarely do and are rarely this enjoyable to drink.

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The reds from Mas de Gourgonnier, which come from the same region as the lauded Domaine de Trevallon, impressed me with their wrathful personalities. The two wines starting their range, Tradition 2007 (at a shade under a tenner) and Gourgonnier san Souffre 2009 (a few pounds more), strike me as best being drank when they are still livid with unconcealed youthful intensity. Their tannin levels are definitely as vigorous as a rottweiler in the mood for mauling the next toddler unfortunate enough to cross its path but I feel they not only strive for, but actually achieve pretty good balance; I am taken with the fruit character which there is enough of to prevent them from merely blasting your palate into a dried out, lifeless husk.

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A few pounds more will get your senses given a working over by their Mas de Reserve 2006. This was positively furious with tannin, ripe fruit and stony complexity – a structured, fighting wine of manifest manliness. Once again, I’d be tempted to drink this as soon as you buy it, that ripped and cut muscle character demands being consumed with good bits of beef that approach the suggestion of being cooked. Should you wish to try ageing some you’ll have to wait a while to notice any change as the 1998 I tried had lost little in terms of its ‘Mr Universe’ structure. Burly bruisers, perhaps, but whilst they may lean towards slapping you around with their Herculean structure there is pleasure to them that can be enjoyed by palates used to more refined pleasures than sadomasochism.

In a similarly strapping idiom were the Cotes du Ventoux from from Domaine Saint Jean de Barroux. Whilst I was taken with their vivacious energy I did think the lack of differention on the labels as to whether you are purchasing a ten pound ‘La Source’ or a ‘La Pierre Noire’ at double that was a poor move by the domaine. The wines certainly had more in terms of personality that the labels provided in information. Certainly the best Cotes du Ventoux wines I’ve had, which I would hope for at these prices.

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My absolute favourite producer in this tasting was, surprise surprise, from Burgundy. My first encounter with Fanny Sabre’s wines shows that, at the tender age of 26, she has a remarkable degree of maturity to her wine making. There is nothing over-worked or contrived here, both whites and reds are pure, confident expressions of their origins. The Meursault Premier Cru Charmes 2008 and Pommard Vieilles Vignes 2007 may have delivered flash and distinctly classy style but the wine that did it for me in knock-out bang for buck irresistibility was her 2009 Bourgogne Rouge. This was tumescent with the lovely, fleshy fruit one wants from 2009 but with a pleasingly intricate tannic structure that kept it feeling totally suffused with energy. Its harmonious flavours just went on persisting. I found myself thinking it might even mature and improve with a modest time in the cellar, a quality I rarely encounter in Bourgogne Rouge. At a limpit’s lewd bits over a tenner a bottle I would unreservedly recommend this to anyone after proper Burgundy at a price suitable for the hard of income; we keep trying Bourgogne Rouges in the hope of encountering wines such as this.

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This tasting increased my knowledge about producers and regions I rarely encounter and also provided more than enough vinous delights to satisfy my hedonistic tendencies – lots of good stuff indeed. However, this ‘rarely encounter’ rider is going to result in hard work for Richard and Richard. If I have little experience of the wines then the general wine drinker will have none, making the wines a more of a hard sell. No matter how good a £20 Cotes de Ventoux or Les Baux wine may be, such is their obscurity few wine drinkers would feel brave enough to pluck them from a supermarket shelf or restaurant wine list. Now I’ve tried the wines I’d be happy to drop contentment coupons on them, I really hope the two Richards are up to the significant task of convincing a lot more people to feel similarly.

Contact details: Dudley and de Fleury Wines, 2A Ledbury Mews North, London, W11 2AF Telephone: +44 (0)20 7036 9696