Stop Press! 14 April, 2016: I'm delighted to report that these wines are now available at £19.95 per bottle from winesensations.co.uk
These two wines are not available in the UK or the US (stockist information at the end). I’m telling you about them simply because they express so much of what I admire about wine: integrity, authenticity, purity, flavour, character. Above all, even though I haven’t been to the vineyards or met the producers (we have corresponded and have a friend/contact in common), when I tasted Amistat Blanc 2014 and Amistat Rouge 2013 I was transported to the south of France, to Roussillon, to French Catalonia near the Spanish border, to the place, the soil, the climate, the living, breathing vineyard and the people who nurture it.
Are you with me or is this beginning to sound dangerously like purple prose? Either way, it’s probably best to let the wines take over at this point. Both are Vin de France (although the white could be Côtes Catalanes and the red Côtes de Roussillon) and they are a homage to old-vine Grenache (or Garnatxa) growing in Les Aspres in the foothills of the Pyrenees in, as the labels put it, Catalunya Nord. The white is Grenache Blanc and Gris with some Macabéo, the red is Grenache Noir, all from low-yielding vines rooted in degraded schist soils in the dry, sunny but Mediterranean-tempered climate. No herbicides are used and the grapes are all hand-picked.
“When I tasted the two Amistat wines, I was transported to the place, the soil, the climate, the vignerons who made them”
Both wines are full-bodied and texturally rich, but with a precision, clarity and freshness. The white, co-fermented and vinified in very lightly toasted, French oak demi-muids (600-litre barrels), smells of dried flowers and honey, with a delicate underlying nuttiness. The palate has an intense, citrus-curd richness and zestiness and a long, fresh finish with a twist of grapefruit. It shouldn’t be drunk too cold (about 12º).
The red, on the other hand, shouldn’t be served too warm (15–16º). Aged for the best part of a year in large (2000-litre) Slovenian oak casks, it has warmth and spice on the nose, but it’s much more about the red and black fruit purity and definition, supple tannins and a long, clean, softly peppery, tobacco-leaf finish
Very little sulphur is used and the wines are bottled unfiltered, so they are particularly susceptible to storage conditions. They have wax capsules (hand-applied) to guard against oxygen ingress through the cork but, even so, if they’re going to be kept, it should be in cellar conditions. I would drink them with almost anything savoury – and I’m someone who has written a whole book on matching wine and food (called, imaginatively, Wine with Food).
The people behind Amistat are friends Julien Ditte and Olivier Cazenave. There’s no website, but if you go to http://www.wine-searcher.com/ you can find stockists in France and Spain (18.50–20 euros per bottle). There's also a stockist in Singapore. I was introduced to the wines by Willem Voorhaart who makes Querubi, a wonderful extra-virgin olive oil, which is sold in the UK (more info at http://www.querubi.fr/)
A longer version of this blogpost first appeared at thewinegang.com http://www.thewinegang.com/blog/not-available-uk-keep-reading
Photograph by Joanna Simon