Stone, Vine & Sun

(by peter)

Simon Taylor SVSStone, Vine & Sun (SVS) is a small independent wine merchant based in Twyford, just a few minutes down the road from us. Note I say ‘is’ as opposed to ‘was’. With the economy as it is, merely to survive as a small merchant is quite an achievement. But I believe if anyone deserves to weather the storm it’s Stone, Vine & Sun and its owner, Simon Taylor.

If you’re wondering about the reference to Gandhi in the title, Simon had to cut a recent email to Pete short as he was due to deliver a case of wine to his local Indian restaurant and didn’t want to be late. This one incident speaks volumes. Simon freely admits that he’d rather supply a local Indian and stay in business than be choosy about who he sells his wines to, and on top of that he knows he must offer all his customers a level of personal service that is a cut above if his business is to survive.

Simon established SVS in 2002 with Andrew Shaw (who has since moved on to join the Waitrose wine-buying team) and from the outset awards came thick and fast for the company’s innovative and well-conceived list of hand-selected (mostly French) wines. Today the company still has a focus on France but also offers wines from around the world – see tasting notes below – and as Simon says they are ‘doing alright’ which is about as good as anyone can hope in the present climate. Much of SVS’s business is conducted online.

Here are a few highlights from their Autumn tasting held in London last week.

Domaine de l’Aumonier, Touraine Sauvignon, 2008, 13%, £8.25

A deeply-coloured, rich and honeyed style of Touraine Sauvignon, but still with good acidity and lemony appeal. The ripe fruit almost coats your mouth and there is an attractive note of Loire-style, herbal minerality along with a long, spicy finish. 7/10

Masson-Blondelet, Pouilly Fume, Les Angelots 2007, 12.5%, £13.75

A superbly stylish Pouilly Fumé with classic, gun-flint aromas. Very classy and with intense but refined flavours of grass and wet pebbles, it offers fantastic drinking now but will also keep and develop for a year or so. 8/10

Fryer’s Cove, Sauvignon Blanc, South Africa, 2008, 13.5%, £9.95

Pungent grassy aromas leap out of the glass of this concentrated, ripe and smoky Sauvignon. A real mix of ripe fruit and tongue-tingling, green grass flavours mean this wine hits the right balance, keeping its true Sauvignon character and not falling into the trap of becoming too soft, ripe and overblown. Punchy but stylish. 7/10

Etienne Bécheras, St. Joseph, Blanc, 2008, 12.5%, £14.50

This blend of Marsanne and Roussanne shows intense aromas of white flowers, blanched almonds and dried apricots. The acidity is fresh but only moderate, as expected, and there is an attractive breadth across the palate. Really interesting stuff. 7/10

Maurice Lapalus, Mâcon-Pierreclos, 2008, 12.5%, £8.50

A good example of a light, refreshing and leesy Mâcon with a touch of minerality and plenty of red apple fruit.  6/10

Domaine Saumaize-Michelin, Pouilly-Fuissé, Clos sur la Roche, 2006, 13.5%, £19.25

An expansive, ripe and spicy style of P-F with lots of fruit. Perhaps a touch sweeter than I’d ideally like but with impressive length. 7.5/10

Bernhard & Reibel, Riesling, Weingarten, 2005, Alsace, 12%, £15.95

Honeyed, light and super fresh this almost feels like a German kabinett in style. It would be delicious as an aperitif and has just enough of a leesy, mineral note to match with food – mildly spicy Asian fish dishes would work really well. 7/10

Kientzler, Gewürztraminer, 2007, 14%, £12.50

The nose on this is currently quite closed but the palate shows classic Gewürztraminer exoticism; lychees, pot pourri and roses. There is evident sweetness which lends a luscious texture to the palate but overall this is a serious and complex wine that needs to bit sipped and savoured. 7.5/10

Jean-Luc Meyer, Pinot Gris Vielles Vignes, 2008, 13.8%, £12.50

A delightful example of Pinot Gris that is intensely mineral and honeyed – compelling stuff. There’s plenty of sweetness and spice, helping to make this a wine that would suit many different types of food; try rich patés, creamy shellfish dishes or even orange-based desserts (nothing super sweet though). 7.5/10

Talamonti, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Moda, Italy, 2007, 13%, £7.50

This ripe and plummy Italian red is a bit of a bargain. Absolutely made for everyday drinking, it is soft, supple and seriously gluggable. 6/10

Cien y Pico, Manchuela, Tintorera, Doble Pasta, Spain, 2007, 14%, £9.95

Let’s get the bad bit over with first. The 14% alcohol in this wine makes it taste slightly bitter, though I didn’t try it with food and that might solve the problem. Other than that it’s a wine that is rich in the mouth and has a gorgeous note of crushed black pepper. 7/10

Yann Chave, Crozes-Hermitage, 2006, 13.5%, £13.75

A regular favourite of mine, the 06 Crozes from Yann Chaves is tasting as good as ever. Meaty and intensely dark, it’s like sinking into a comfortable old sofa with your best friend. 8/10

Bethany, Grenache, Barossa, Australia, 2006, 14.5%, £7.95

Terrible label! Are they deliberately trying to put people off? It looks cheap and nasty and really doesn’t do the wine justice. This is a smooth and spicy, New World Grenache with jammy red fruit flavours and interesting overtones of iron. 6/10

Belles Pierres, Coteaux du Languedoc Rouge, Clauzes de Jo, 2007, 14%, £10.25

A blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre that is dense and savoury. The palate is rounded and the fruit ripe and warming, making this a very engaging glass of red. 7/10

Château Pierre-Bise, Coteaux du Layon Beaulieu, Les Rouannières, 2007, 12.5%, £19.50 (50cl)

Deep golden and lusciously sweet, this is classic Loire Chenin. Although the nose is quite mute the palate is packed with honeyed dried apricot flavours, racy acidity and wet wool minerality. It’s expensive – but you don’t need very much. 7/10

Ramos Pinto, Qunita de Ervamoira, 10 year old Tawny, 19.5%, £15.95

If you’re looking for a port to drink on Christmas day then look no further. This is gorgeous tawny that seems older than its indicated age – and is all the better for that. Aromas and flavours of spiced fruit cake and raisins make this the perfect choice whether you’re looking for something to match to cheese or to serve with Christmas pud. 8/10