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Tuesday 5 July 2011

Steve's Grenache - and The Grape Escape‏

Many men of a certain age approaching their mid-life crisis often start thinking of ridiculously powerful sports cars and pretty young girls.

But for Steve Hovington - briefly a synth pop star in the 80s with B-Movie and now manager of the Cherry Hinton Road branch of Cambridge Wine Merchants - things were a little different.

Instead of a trip to a Porsche dealership, he went to the south of France to the Languedoc and arranged to have use of four rows of vines for a season from Chateau Viranel and to make one single barrel of his own wine, with the assistance of the estate's winemaker Nicolas Bergasse.

The overall plan was to sell the wine at a later date after writing a book about the experience, but it turned out that it took rather longer to write the book than to make the wine and so now Steve is only just releasing his 2007 "Steve's Grenache" to co-incide with the launch of his book, The Grape Escape.

I stopped by the launch party last week to catch up with Steve, meet Nicolas and try a couple of the wines.

First I tried Nicolas' Chateau Viranel Viognier - with lots of varietal peach and apricot on the nose and palate and good rounded acidity it was very well made and enjoyable. It has the fruit and instant appeal of a warm-climate wine, but is also sensible and food-friendly enough to maintain interest beyond first impressions.

Nicolas explained to me that his family has been involved in farming in this part of the world for over 500 years and that they started making wine more as something to have with family meals rather than as a purely commercial venture.

I rather suspect that it was this "art for art's sake" approach that appealed to the creative musician in Steve, but in any case he made several trips over to the vineyard during his year's tenure to prune and tend the vines himself, arrange picking and work on the blend with Nicolas.

And so we moved onto "Steve's Grenache", a blend of local Syrah, Grenache and Mouvedre varieties.

With lots of ripe plummy fruit, good balanced acidity, a soft texture and long finish, it is a very impressive wine - especially for a first attempt.

Like the Viognier, it has plenty of warm up-front appeal, but is also restrained, sensible and noticeably "European" in style.

The one barrel Steve has made equates to around 300 bottles, so supplies of the wine are fairly limited. It is available either from Cambridge Wine Merchants on Cherry Hinton Road or via the B-Movie website, in both cases for £12.

Steve's book, The Grape Escape, is available from Heffers in Cambridge, the B-Movie website and on amazon.


Cambridge Wine Merchants - http://www.cambridgewine.com/

Steve Hovington on Facebook - http://www.facebook.com/steve.hovington1

Chateau Viranel - http://www.chateau-viranel.com/

B-Movie (official site) - www.b-movie.co.uk

The Grape Escape on amazon - http://www.amazon.co.uk/Grape-Escape-Steve-Hovington/dp/1848765975

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