WHEN Tarquin de Burgh decided to start a business on his own, he promised himself it would be in distinctive, rather than purely functional, premises. Well, his establishment at Fordel Mains Steading near Dalkeith certainly ticks that box.
Despite being a minute from the A68, the buildings are more like those of a Burgundian winemaker than a modern warehouse.
De Burgh smiled at that analogy because those small-scale growers are exactly the folk with whom he likes to do business. After 20 or so years at the sharp end of what is now Inverarity Morton, the call to the boutique end of the market for him and his business partner, Will Nicolson, became harder and harder to resist.
Although they do not enjoy the economies of scale big players can access, the de Burgh list largely hits the same price points as many of Scotland’s independent wine merchants. On top of his sales to restaurateurs, De Burgh Wines is keen to encourage private clients too – even those only buying a case or so a year. Satisfaction for him comes from dealing with wine enthusiasts who enjoy talking about wine almost as much as drinking it.
None of that, of course, matters a jot if the wines are naff, so let’s have a detailed look at some of the wine he sells – starting with a sparkle. My antennae twitched meaningfully when I discovered that De Burgh Wines handled Henriot champagne. I always enjoy the toastiness that accompanies the vibrant lemon and red apple fruit of Champagne Henriot Blanc de Blancs (£33) and the luxuriously soft but floral Champagne Henriot Rosé (£44).
That good start was consolidated when I sampled 2013 Villa Blanche Picpoul de Pinet Carmel Joseph (£9.95). Like many versions of this increasingly popular grape variety, it offers fresh and fruity greengage-influenced acidity, but here there is impressive structure and complexity too that includes sharp, orange-centred elements with a textured pithy edge.
Even that was trumped, however, by 2013 Il Gruccione Lugana (£10.95) which is a personal Tarquin de Burgh favourite – and rightly so. It is made on the edge of Lake Garda using a local grape and combines concentrated ripe orange and lemon fruit with hints of sweeter spices, and some very stylish balance and smoothness.
Moving on to the reds, I also enjoyed the 2012 Altas Tierras Bobal Vinas Viejas (£10.50) from Spain’s Utiel-Requena region. Bobal flying solo is fairly rare, but this version is soft and light with fresh acidity, vanilla and herbs to underpin its juicy red plum flavours.
The New World wines are no less impressive. Chile’s 2012 Casas del Bosque Reserva Carmenere (£8.95) has appealing red cherry and damson influences along with carmenere’s typical chocolate finish but, in this case, those mocha touches are kept under control by the wine’s bright, vibrant acidity that also disarms most of its tannins.
Across the Andes, you will find the weighty 2012 Serbal Malbec (£12.95) where the fruit is more black cherry than red and is augmented by hints of mulberry. Arrestingly, it also has a smooth mint and mineral finish that is given verve and vigour by slowly evolving acidity. This is from Tupungato in Argentina’s Uco Valley, and it illustrates just how intense and succulent high-altitude malbec can be.
BRIAN’S PICKS OF THE WEEK
2012 Château David Bordeaux, France, 13 per cent
Claret based on merlot is usually more approachable early on than cabernet-dominated versions – and that is certainly true here. Its 25-year-old vines offer a fruity, straightforward introduction to the region, with limited tannin but attractive soft cherry fruit embellished with vanilla and cinnamon. £7.50 at Sainsbury’s
2013 Miguel Torres Days of Summer Muscat Reserva, Itata Valley, Chile, 12 per cent
If you are expecting a super sweet muscat, think again. For sure it has all the grape’s characteristic perfume and is indeed off-dry, but all that is brilliantly counterbalanced by lime-based acidity and crispness with delightful ripe melon and soft apple fruit. £6.99 at the Co-op