The outfit was founded five years ago with Frenchmen Philippe Larue as MD and Richard Bouglet as marketing supremo. As both are hospitality industry specialists, their initial focus was the restaurant trade, but now that everything is settled at the new base in Charlestown, Fife, they are keen to broaden their customer base. This decision was firmly endorsed earlier this month when the International Wine Challenge declared L’Art du Vin to be the Regional Wine Merchant of the Year for Scotland 2012.
As the orientation of the L’Art du Vin list means most wines have been chosen with food in mind, I dropped in to assess how well those selections would play to this broader audience.
First up was 2011 Pinot Blanc Auxerrois, Domaine Albert Mann (£13.90), from Alsace, with an opening salvo of grapefruit and lime. Because the acidity seems quite low, however, it quickly assumes rounded flavours of melon and peach yet the hints of fennel keep the overall effect savoury.
When staying in France, I remember visiting a well-known Loire producer, Didier Pabiot, who told me his son Jonathon had just taken over two troublesome hectares of the estate to make ‘biologique’ wine. These days that son (still under 30) runs the whole operation, producing superb wine such as 2011 Pouilly Fumé Domaine Jonathan et Didier Pabiot (£14.40). This delivers beautifully clean citrus fruit with touches of sherbet and a delightfully complex mineral-based undercurrent that almost replicates the effect of squeezing lemon on white fish.
Finally among the whites, to Spain’s Rias Baixas for 2011 Abadia de San Campio Albariño, Bodegas Terras Gauda (£15.45), with its terrific, light, herbal and blossom touches. The floweriness nicely complements its mandarin flavours and hints of lemon on the palate to keep the whole thing fresh but without intrusive acidity.
Beginning our review of the reds is 2008 Hacienda Valvares Rioja Crianza (£12.20). This is a single-vineyard tempranillo with textured raspberry and blackcurrant fruit and a backdrop of violets that is particularly noticeable on the nose. It has had time in new French oak, which has added interesting touches of all-spice to the finish yet leaves the vibrancy of the fruit undiminished.
The German region of Baden is not an obvious source of good pinot noir, but 2010 Bernhard Hüber Malterdinger Pinot Noir (£22) proves a surprise. A light-coloured, juicy red, it has soft tannin and vibrant flavours of strawberry, red cherry and raspberry, and a black pepper finish.
Although L’Art du Vin’s list is strongest in Europe, it does have tasty New World components. One is 2009 Seven Day Road Shiraz (£9.05), from Pemberton, Western Australia. This is a nicely balanced, undemanding red with depth and softness behind surprisingly intense, spicy, blaeberry flavours.
With so many centres of food excellence juxtaposed with areas producing high-quality wines, it’s no surprise that two Frenchmen should assemble a wine list that transcends food friendliness to provide flavours and vibrancy to synergise with the dishes they accompany. Test them for yourselves at their wine fair. n
Wine fair, 25 November, Royal College of Physicians, 9 Queen Street, Edinburgh (www.aduv.co.uk)