MW-run Vineyard Productions
The Master of Wine qualifications is perhaps one of the world's most rigorous; it is technically and physiologically demanding with very low pass-rates.
As well as assimilating knowledge about how wines is made, the exam also includes three blind tasting papers, each consisting of 12 wines. The challenge is not merely to identify them, but also assess quality levels and commercial potential.
Tasting wines with MWs is rarely less than a fascinating experience given their highly-trained palates and deep understanding of what makes a good wine.
Unsurprisingly, the best, most reliable wine merchants that I have come across always have an MW as a buyer.
Vineyard Productions boasts not one but two two MWs running the company and also includes two winemakers as well as, somewhat unexpectedly, a creative design team.
And yet the logic is inescapable: the business of making and selling wine does not stop once the juice is in the bottle. Given that all bottles of wine look pretty similar on the outside, with relatively minor variations around general themes, the label does all the heavy lifting of communicating the interest of the contents to a would-be buyer.
Anyone looking to make and sell wine therefore needs to give at least as much thought to presentational aspects as to actual contents.
I have written about this in some depth here, On Costly Signalling.
I first came across Vineyard Productions last year after a twitter discussion about a wine label led to them sending me a bottle to try. In short, I liked the wine a lot (it was my unofficial wine of 2020) and felt that the wine kept the promise of the labelling.
On the back of that, they asked me to try a further selection of their wines and I readily agreed.
As can be seen from the photograph, they are all handsomely and distinctively presented while remaining within conventional norms; lovely to look at in an understated way without being too quirky. Smart, sophisticated and classy.
The contents, I found, were no less enjoyable.
If there is a family resemblance, it is that they are well made from good fruit, balanced and complex with no rough edges and good underpinnings. And yet they also wear their sophistication lightly; with plenty of character, they are a joy to drink.
They are all impressive on first pouring, but open up with aeration and can be cellared.
Petite Immortelle Blanc, Côtes Catalanes, 2020 (around £12)
A blend of Vermentino and Grenache Gris, ripe fresh pears with white and yellow stone fruits; broad and savoury with a creamy-nutty richness; very adept and harmonious with excellent textured underpinnings. Very well made.
Drink as an aperitif or match with shellfish, scallops, grilled fish or goat's cheese.
Maia Rosé Côtes de Provence 2019 (around £18.95)
A blend of mostly Cinsault and Grenache Noir with some Syrah, Vermentino and Mourvèdre; delicate redcurrant and strawberry fruit with orange peel and fresh, linear acidity and minerality; broad and savoury with good underpinnings; very elegant and adept.
Drink as an aperitif or with Provençal style foods rich in flavours like olives, garlic and oily fish like anchovies or grilled sardines. Also serves as an ideal partner to fish, shellfish and white meats.
Immortelle Côtes de Roussillon Villages, 2019 (around £20.95)
A southern blend of 40% Syrah, 20% Carignan 20% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre; dark fruits, cassis, violets, garrigue and clove with minty eucalyptus; warming yet fresh and savoury with toasty spicy oak. salinity and supple, very fine tannins
Match with red meats, such as lamb with rosemary and garlic or venison steak.