Wines with Brian Elliot

This is seriously good syrah made by a top Chilean winemaker ' Marcelo Papa.
This is seriously good syrah made by a top Chilean winemaker ' Marcelo Papa.
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I f YOU have enjoyed a glass or two in one of Edinburgh’s top-notch restaurants, the chances are you will have sampled wine sourced by L’Art du Vin. The outfit was founded five years ago, with Frenchmen Philippe Larue as MD and Richard Bouglet as marketing supremo.

As both men are hospitality industry specialists, their initial focus was Edinburgh’s restaurant trade, but now everything is settled into the new base at Charlestown, Fife, they are keen to broaden their customer base. This was firmly endorsed last month when the International Wine Challenge declared L’Art du Vin Regional Wine Merchant of the Year for Scotland 2012.

As the orientation of L’Art du Vin’s list means most wines have been chosen with food in mind, how well will those selections play to a broader audience?

First up, 2011 Pinot Blanc Auxerrois, Domaine Albert Mann (£13.90), from Alsace, fires an opening salvo of grapefruit and lime. Because the overall acidity level 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 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 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.

Head 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. This floweriness complements mandarin flavours and hints of lemon on the palate to keep the whole thing fresh without intrusive acidity.

We stay in Spain for the reds, with 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. The wine has been given time in new French oak, which has added interesting touches of allspice to the finish, yet leaves the vibrancy of the fruit undiminished.

The next red is something of a surprise since the German region of Baden is not an obvious source of good pinot noir. The 2010 Bernhard Hüber Malterdinger Pinot Noir (£22), however, is a light-coloured, juicy red with soft tannin and vibrant flavours of strawberry, red cherry and raspberry, and a black pepper finish.

Although, L’Art du Vin’s list is probably strongest in Europe, it does have tasty New World components. One is 2009 Seven Day Road Shiraz (£9.05), from Pemberton, in Western Australia. This is a nicely balanced, undemanding red with depth and softness behind its surprisingly intense, spicy, blaeberry flavours, which are supplemented by touches of vanilla from the winemaker’s judicious use of oak.

It’s no surprise, really, that two Frenchmen should assemble a wine list that transcends food-friendliness to provide flavours and vibrancy that can actually synergise with the dishes they accompany. Test the quality for yourselves by calling in to the wine fair on 25 November at Edinburgh’s Royal College of Physicians, where 28 producers will present tutored tastings and cookery demonstrations. Tickets are available at n