A couple of years ago, Justin Howard-Sneyd, who was then in charge of wine at UK supermarket Waitrose, told me he had bought a small vineyard in the Roussillon, as a sort of hobby project. Justin is a competent guy, so I was intrigued - what sort of style would he go for?
Then, a few weeks ago, Justin (who is now in charge of wines at Laithwaites) sent me two wines to try. His venture is called Domaine of the Bee (website here), and it has got to the stage where he has more wine than he and his partners can sell through their network of friends.
At 15% alcohol, these are big wines, made from old vine Grenache and Carignan. I liked the 2008 over the 2007 because it was fresher. They’re both very good, but I wonder whether picking slightly earlier might result in wines with more freshness and definition? But that’s a personal style issue, I suppose, and it seems a bit mean to criticise such impressive early releases.
Domaine of the Bee 2007 Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes
15% alcohol. Lush, brooding, sweet dark cherry and plum nose with a stewed plum character. Ripe and slightly baked. Nice savoury twist to the sweet fruit. The palate is lush and broad with liqueur-like richness to the plum and blackberry fruit. There are spicy, leathery, savoury notes, with dry tannic structure. Warm and broad. 89/100
Domaine of the Bee 2008 Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes
15% alcohol. Deep coloured. Vivid and powerful with dense blackberry and plum fruit and firm, spicy tannins. Concentrated and sweetly fruited but still fresh. It’s a bit like a dry vintage Port. The alcohol makes its mark, subduing the fruit characters on the nose a bit, but this is still a delicious wine in a modern mould. 91/100
They’re both available from the website, with the 2007 at £18 and the 2008 at £20, with discounts for multi-bottle orders.