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Wednesday 27 July 2011

Hedonist Wines - Cambridge's New Internet Start-up

Cambridge is sometimes jokingly called Silicon Fen, a reference to the number of technology start-ups we have here.

Someone may soon also need to coin a term for the number of independent wine merchants we have for, as I have written elsewhere, there are no fewer than seven independent outlets in a city of around 100,000 people as well as a fine wine trader and now a new start-up internet retailer called Hedonist Wines.

It is somehow appropriate that with all the cutting edge technology we have being developed in the city, our newest wine offering is internet based. However, that may merely be a co-incidence as the man behind the business, Anthony Jenkins, is really just looking for a way to keep his overheads down.

Based in a village just outside Cambridge and with a day-job totally unrelated to selling wine, Anthony is looking to make the phased transition into selling wine without the high up-front costs of renting a shop and fitting it out by keeping a limited range which he sells through his well laid-out, but somewhat functional, website.

So, it is more of a self-sustaining hobby at this stage, as Anthony uses family holidays to France and Spain to identify suitable producers whose wines he can sell.

If it sounds idyllic, it probably isn't - holding down a job and bringing up a family is hard enough at the best of times. Telling your other half "Just one more chateau and then I'll take the kids to the beach" on the annual family holiday is an unenviable task - however good the wines are.

Anthony recently got in touch with me and asked if I'd be prepared to try some of his wines, give an honest review and also talk about arranging some promotional activities. We decided to start with an easy one - a review of two of his wines, a white Bordeaux and a Rioja.

Chateau Valrose 2008, Entre-Deux-Mers £10 - with no information on the back label, I am expecting a Sauvignon Blanc - a rounded and weighty version with perhaps some waxy fullness. It is a golden colour in the glass but not at all herbaceous on the nose - initial impressions are positive, it's really rather nice, but not quite what I was expecting.

Realisation then comes in waves as I taste further and it opens up with some air - it's oaked and it's mainly Semillon.

Fairly neutral on the nose, with just some toasty aromas, the palate is weighty and smooth with layers of oatmealy, buttery toffee. The acidity is ripe and rounded with a touch of lifted tropical sweetness on the mid-palate whilst the finish is balanced, long and toasty. It is mouthfilling and deliciously more-ish and we almost finish the bottle before we know it.

Complex with good structure, it has lots of up-front appeal, but also subtlety and restraint. In fact, it increasingly opens out with a bit of air and I wish I'd put it in the decanter to see it develop fully. It proves to be a great match for the salmon with a creamy sorrel sauce that we have with it.

Caecus Rioja Crianza, 2008 £11 - pale in the glass, there are cherries, red berry fruit and coffee beans on the nose, lovely berry fruit on the palate with good rounded, juicy acidity and some soft tannic grip on the finish.

It's quite light and not overly complex, but feels very well-made and enjoyable.

Re-sampled the next day, it has gained a little in complexity and I also appreciate its elegance a bit more - it's still quite light but with lovely, bright cherry fruit acidity, but there are some minty liquorice notes and a touch of funkiness and spice.

Low in tannins, the finish is still gentle, but has become a little more assertive. It's light enough to make a lovely quaffer, but would also match well with salamis or pasta with tomato sauce, but it does not seem to go particularly well with the traditional match of roast lamb that we have with it.

Checking the website later on, I am a little surprised at the price for this one - £11 seems a little toppy for a fairly straightforward wine like this; at that price I'd like to see a bit more oomph.

Neither wine was quite what I had expected given the region it had come from - certainly neither was very typical of its origin - but perhaps that's the advantage of being a start-up; you can just sell the wines you like yourself without the need to provide a comprehensive and typical range.

Recommended Wine

Both wines were good and well-made, if slightly atypical, examples but for me the beautifully-oaked fresh Bordeaux was much the more interesting of the two.


Hedonist Wines - http://www.hedonistwines.com/

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