Competition – Chris Osborn


13 August 2018 Please note we have received so many entries worth publishing that, for a period, we are going to be publishing not just one entry a day, but two, seven days a week. 

Chris Osborn has entered this unedited entry in our seminal wine competition. He describes himself as, 'a public sector manager and young father in his mid thirties who likes to relax with a glass of something red and Grenache-based, his subscription and the less eye-watering end of a merchants' brokerage list.' 

My wife and I, almost total novices in the world of wine, went on holiday to Provence in the summer of 2012, staying in a small cottage near Mormoiron. At the start of the week we tentatively ventured into a couple of tasting rooms, but a combination of my rusty language skills and Provencal diffidence meant that we bumbled through and left each time with a bottle or two of something merely a bit nicer and gratifyingly cheaper than we might pick up in an English supermarket. Everything on sale was 2007, 2009 or 2010 so it was hard to go much wrong with Cotes du Rhone and Ventoux.

We had arranged to hire bikes for a couple of days. Optimistically, I decided we would go on a day long ride up to Dentelles de Montmirail and back, which I described as a 40 mile round trip – omitting to mention the ten miles to the start of the 40-mile route when securing agreement to this plan. Off we set on a warm, sunny June morning and things went well initially – coffee in Beaumes de Venise and lunch in Vacqueyras. Lunch did, however, include a glass or two of the local produce and when we got back on the bikes, with the heat of the day at its worst and storm clouds building over the Dentelles, neither bodies nor spirits were terribly willing to climb the hill up to Gigondas (pictured here). I, however, insisted I wanted to try more wine and that I would ride to the first tasting room I saw and then turn round. With mutiny in the ranks, off I went alone, and within a few hundred yards I came to a tasting room.

A young, elegant woman inside seemed slightly bemused and almost alarmed by a sweaty, half-exhausted and slightly inebriated young Englishman turning up and asking, in an appalling accent, to ‘faire un degustation’, but very politely obliged. It was the first wine of the three that they poured. I had known about the concept of terroir, in an abstract way; it seemed very French, slightly silly, designed to exclude the uninitiated. But this stuff brought the idea brilliantly to life; it was tarry, dense, black-fruited and with a strong taste and scent of garrigue. Each sip tasted slightly different from when it was taken to when it was swallowed; the concept of a wine being ‘long’ made sense for the first time. This wasn’t just a drink; it was an artists’s rendition of a place in bottled liquid form; fermented Cezanne, if you like. Something had clicked.

I hurriedly bought two bottles for what felt like the premium sum of 13 euros a bottle and stuffed them into an already bulging rucksack, to much eye-rolling from my wife who had walked up the hill to find me by now. We struggled back to Mormoiron in growing heat and humidity, the last three of our 46 miles for the day accompanied by a violent thunderstorm. Once recovered, we drank the entire bottle that night between us and, before we came home, drove back and bought three cases, clearing half their stock in the caveau and probably further reinforcing notions of English eccentricity. The last bottle is still with us – the penultimate one accompanied roast beef last winter and was still brilliant, still tarry and long, tons of life left and still capable of taking me back to a sultry afternoon on the road to Gigondas.

I started buying en primeur southern Rhone the following year and my collection has now grown beyond the Rhone and beyond France. At the heart of the collection, though, remains an ongoing love affair with Gigondas, especially wines which so brilliantly manage to convey that sense of the place – Cayron, Bouissiere, Santa Duc, Saint Cosme.

The wine itself? 2010 Domaine Grand Romane, Pierre Amadieu.

Only 16.5 points, apparently. Perhaps – but context is everything.