By the way, please note that my wine of the week of 22 Feb is now available in the UK. Retailer Swig will take delivery of Belasco de Baquedano, Ar Guentota Malbec 2008 Mendoza later this month. You can order it for £18.50 here.
From €7.40, £8.50
I've been a fan of Sérol's Gamays ever since I encountered them as the house red at the Troisgros restaurants in and around Roanne. The Troisgros are famous not just for their stunning and always contemporary food and hospitality but also for their wine knowledge. None other than Lalou Bize-Leroy used to bow to Troisgros connoisseurship. What's good enough for them is good enough for me.
But this particular bottling from some of their oldest Gamay vines, nearly 40 years old, seems to me to reach new heights - as though the continuing and exciting improvement in the quality of Beaujolais is mirrored in this counterpart of it made in the upper, upper Loire Valley (way south and uphill of Sancerre and Pouilly-sur-Loire, for instance).
This is a quiet corner of France, getting quieter as Roanne's old textile industry shrivels and dies. The key to the quality of the Gamay grown on Domaine Robert Sérol's 24 hectares of vineyard is the granite and porphyry that they reckon is perfect for the local clone of Gamay they call Gamay St-Romain. Altitude helps extend the growing season too: 350-400 m above sea level.
Robert Sérol has long been the leading light of the Côte Roannaise, elevated to AOC status in 1994. It was he who converted from mixed farming to specialised wine production on land that has been in the family since the 18th century, but his son Stéphane has been running it with aplomb since 2000. Farming sustainably according to the standards of Terra Vitis, they bottle no fewer than nine different Gamays and in the last few years have added a Viognier-based white Vin de Pays d'Urfé.
Michel Troisgrois described the domaine to me as a long-established family business like his own, explaining that 'Stéphane has followed in his family's footsteps, putting his heart and soul into it. He has observed, modified and questioned the winemaking principles established by his father, and, without making too many changes to the style, produces wines that are lively and appetising'.
I came across this Dom Robert Sérol, Vieilles Vignes 2012 Côte Roannaise when tasting The Wine Society's spring collection recently and am delighted that members of this wine-buying co-operative can buy it for as little as £8.50 a bottle. In France the Vieilles Vignes 2012 can be found for only €7.40. But more mature vintages from this producer, whose Vieilles Vignes 2011 I can also strongly recommend, are well distributed in the US, Belgium, Switzerland and Norway. I'm sure the 2012s will make their way there.
The wine is only 12% alcohol but has no shortage of impact. It's that lovely combination of freshness and density with the zesty fruit that is Gamay's trademark, a red that can be drunk with or without food any time over the next two years. This would make a great house red.