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Thunevin-Calvert – Outstanding Wines from Roussillon

So what happens when the ‘bad boy’ of Bordeaux Jean-Luc Thunevin meets Roussillon ‘local boy’ Jean-Roger Calvet? They produce wines that are not only spectacular but are exceptional value. Read on if this sounds like your thing…

It’s been the year of southern France for me (sadly not in a travel sense) and although my list is bursting at the seams with wines from the region I was not going to let us miss out on these gems from Maury, a commune that sits at the foot of the Pyrenees. Jean-Luc Thunevin was one of the pioneers of St. Emilion ‘garage wine’ in the early 1990s with his Chateau Valandraud. The term ‘garage wine’ was coined due to the tiny plots they were produced from with some literally being made in a garage. The style of these wines were rich with plenty of upfront fruit and had little regard to the history of Bordeaux but were a huge hit with many international wine critics. Jean-Luc’s refusal to obey the rules gave him the reputation of an ‘enfant terrible’ with the local establishment, a tag that he probably relished at the time. However, time is a great healer and the former ‘Godfather of garagistes’ has been accepted and even received blessings from the establishment. And why am I telling you this? Well, all great wine has a history but let’s move to the modern day…

It’s Thunevin’s more recent project in Roussillon that has caught my eye and captivated my palate. He teamed up with local winemaker Jean Roger Calvet in the late 1990s, they bought a few hectares of vineyards with excellent ‘terroirs’ and they produced their first wine in 2001. The most recent vintage of their premium cuvée, 2016 Les 3 Maries, scores very highly in Wine Advocate and has been cited as “..unquestionably one of the finest wines to be produced in the Roussillon”. However, big points usually mean big price tags, so I think the smart money is on the more affordable entry level wines which have astounded me with their quality. There are three wines here, one white and two red, and if you’re looking for something classy for these chilly autumn evenings then look no further.

2019 Cuvée Constances Blanc, IGP des Côtes Catalanes @ £79 per case (6)

I’ve never tasted a southern French wine that has wowed me so quickly and assertively. It’s a blend of 50% Maccabeu and 50% Grenache Blanc from 60 year old vines and schist soil, but it’s the ultra-low yields that makes this something special. We are talking 25hl/ha (hectolitres per hectare) which is lower than Grand Cru Burgundy. Low yields give a wine extra concentration and viscosity as there are fewer bunches on the vine and so the quality and intensity of flavour is higher. As soon as I opened this the aroma told me it was something special. Touches of citrus, blossom and a light creamy touch. Lovely and full on the palate but with superb elegance and finesse. The finish is ripe, minerally and incredibly moreish. I had to restrain myself from overindulging. Think Chassagne meets Chablis. Fans of Rafa Palacios’ Louro Godello will love this, especially at the price. If you can find me a white wine under £15 that tastes this good then I’ll buy you a pint!

2018 Cuvée Constances Rouge, Côtes du Roussillon Villages @ £79 per case (6)

The red is wonderful too with superb elegance and balance. 50% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 20% Carignan and from vines of up to 45 years old. To me this had as much in common with wines from the other side of the Pyrenees (like one of the more modern styles of Priorat) than your more familiar southern French reds which is probably due to the schist soil. Either way there’s no hiding the class of this wine. All three grape varieties are doing their job here – the ripe, red fruit structure of the Grenache, the peppery dark fruit of Syrah with soft elegance from the old vine Carignan – and they are already harmonising like Crosby, Stills & Nash. The wine is aged for 14 months in concrete tanks and this keeps a purity of fruit and makes the wine incredibly drinkable. Lovely on first sip but it grows in stature after time in the glass.

2015 L’Amourette Rouge, Côtes du Roussillon Villages @ £105 per case (6)

Judging by the colour I was expecting this to be a bit of a bruiser but I was wrong. There’s a deep, inky purple shade to the wine but this betrays its finesse. 60% Mourvédre and 40% Grenache from 30+ year old vines. Intensity wise this is moving to another level. Ripe blackcurrant and plum with a hint of black pepper, liquorice and lovely minerality that will come from the schist soil. Judging from previous tasting notes, this is just evolving from a dormant phase and building up to its plateau of maturity and has plenty of life ahead. Delicious on the first day but quite stunning the next as it took on the characteristics of right bank Bordeaux from a ripe vintage. Drink the Cuvée Constance with your party of 6 and keep this for yourself.

These wines have been a superb discovery and are highly recommended. All three have their place in your ‘cellar’ so we are happy to mix and match if a case of each is pushing the weekly wine budget.

The wines are not currently listed in the on-line shop so email jonny@songbirdwine.co.uk for information on availability.


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