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Provenance Wines, Edinburgh

by Tom Cannavan, 08/07

   Provenance Boutique Wines is a relatively new wine merchant, owned by Bordeaux-born Valerie Blanc, dealing exclusively in Appellation Contrôlée wines from classic French regions. But there is a twist to the tale here, because these wines from Bordeaux, Bergerac and the Loire come not only in bottles, but in three- and five-litre 'bag-in-box' formats too.

Valerie knows she has a battle on her hands to change the public perception of bag-in-box wines, but is convinced it is a battle she can win: "Forget the old stereotype - quality boxed wine is finally here," she says confidently.

Valerie goes on to say she set out to "import châteaux wines, from small independent wine makers," and the range has been sourced, selected and imported direct from the producers by Valerie. Her priority was to build a range of wines that come in a bag-in-box (as well as in bottles), but she carries other cuvées from her producers that are only available in bottle.

   At a time wine the 'carbon footprint' of shipping wines around the world is a hot topic, bag-in-box is certainly an environmentally positive option, with a five-litre box being the equivalent of six and a half bottles, which would weigh in with around three kilos of weight in the glass alone. Valerie also points out that it is easier to recycle bag-in-box packaging than green glass, and says the big bonus is that the wine keeps fresher for longer, claiming that once open, bag-in-box wine will remain fresh for four to five weeks.

Valerie sent me a selection of wines to try, both wines that are available in bag-in-box (though I tasted their bottled versions) and wines from her bottle-only range. The wines are all available from the Provenance Boutique Wines website.

There are some really good wines here, with the Orléans Blanc from Domaine Javoy catching my eye in bag-in-box, where the equivalent bottle price of £4.80 buys a very decent, crisp and delicious Chardonnay. In red bag-in-boxes, again Domaine Javoy provided a lot of interest, with their unusal blend of the two red Pinots - Noir and Meunier - at £5.70 per bottle equivalent.

In bottles, a wine like Domaine du Mortier's St Nicolas de Bourgueil from the Loire is simply delicious stuff, whilst some of Valerie's Bordeaux choices, like the Fronsac from Château Canevault or the Bordeaux Superieur from Château de Bonhoste are quite old-fashioned clarets, with a leaner, food-friendly character. These are wines that will appeal to those who'd like a change from the forward, ripe fruit and sweet oak formula of much of the world's inexpensive red wine, whilst some may find them a little austere.

white wines

Château La Rivalerie (France) Grand Champ Blanc 2005
This Premières Côtes de Blaye white is a typical Bordeaux blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, available in bottles and in a three-litre bag-in-box. It has a fresh and quite succulent nose, with a touch of melon and pear, and some gently exotic fruit. On the palate it is crisp and fresh, with more of those white fruit and citrus flavours, and a decent core of lemony acidity. At only 12.5% alcohol it is fresh in the mouth and easy to drink, and would partner seafood, fish or lighter dishes. £7.15, or £25 for a three-litre bag-in-box (£6.15 per bottle equivalent)

Domaine Javoy (France) Orléans Blanc 2005
From Orléans in the Loire Valley, this Domaine is a member of Terra Vitis, an independent certifying body that ensures its members follow an integrated farming approach to produce healthy, high quality grapes using ecologically sustainable methods. This 100% Chardonnay wine has a very appealing, crisp and fresh nose, with orchard fruit aromas and a spike of citrus. On the palate it is light-bodied, crisp and mouth-watering, with more of that crunchy apple and lemon fruit quality and a zipping acidity that adds a pithy, savoury quality in the finish. A very nicely made, crisp and elegant rendition of Chardonnay. £7.70, or £32 for a five-litre bag-in-box (£4.80 per bottle equivalent)

red wines

Domaine Javoy (France) Orléans 2005
This is an intriguing blend of the two Champagne Pinots, Noir and Meunier, made as a dry red. It has a light, crimson colour, and a nose that is pleasantly earthy and filled with a chunky, berry and warm, truffly quality. On the palate this is a smooth, nicely textured and mellow wine, with a fine berry fruit sweetness and a suggestion of plum and chocolaty richness to the tannins. It is robust and mouthfilling, but has some elegance too, in a well-balanced and unpretentious Pinot of very good quality. £7.80, or £38 for a five-litre bag-in-box (£5.70 per bottle equivalent)

Château La Rivalerie (France) Grand Champ 2004
Winner of a silver medal at the Decanter Wine Awards, this cuvée from Bordeaux's Côtes de Blaye is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It has a dense, deep crimson colour and a nose of solid plum and red berry fruits. There's a touch of something rounded and vanillin too. On the palate this has a full, creamy texture, and though there is a plummy depth and plushness to the fruit, a firm structure of tannin and acidity adds a freshening bite. Quiet long and savoury, this is drinking well and is very good. £7.85, or £41 for a five-litre bag-in-box (£6.25 per bottle equivalent)

Château de Bonhoste (France) Bordeaux Superieur 2004
70% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Cabernet Franc, this wine pours a very nice crimson colour, and offers creamy raspberry fruit aromas, a little cedar and earthy warmth and a hint of vanilla. On the palate the fruit is bold and powerful, with a rustic tannic grip adding plenty of chewy weight, and a very spicy, clove and cinnamon character coming through. This wine has plenty of presence in the mouth, powering through the mid-palate in a bold, confident style. Very good. £8.99

Domaine du Mortier (France) St Nicolas de Bourgueil 'Les Sables' 2005
This Loire red is a certified organic wine, made without Chaptalisation, from 100% Cabernet Franc. It has a vivid, lively crimson colour and a nose that is brimming with fragrant, ripe cherry and blackcurrant fruit, with a certain rose-hip floral note, some creaminess and spice in the background. On the palate the bold, vivid, fruit-forward character really asserts, with mouthfilling red fruits and a gentle but persistent core of refined tannins and crisp acidity to freshen the finish leaving this sippable and fruity, but savoury and dry. A very nicely styled wine, and very good indeed. £9.20.

Château St Jacques Calon (France) Montagne St-Emilion 2004
85% Merlot with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, this Bordeaux wine is from a property that has been in the same family hands for five generations, currently led by the youthful Frederic Maule. This wine has a ruby colour with some brightness and light at the rim. The nose is fresh and appealing, with bright fruit suggesting cherries and redcurrant, but there's a hint of minty dark chocolate too. On the palate this is bold and fruity, with plenty of vibrancy and life about it. It has juicy acidity and some grippy, liquoricy tannins and extraction, in a fresh, modern style with a lightly spicy finish. Very good indeed. £10.99.

Château La Rivalerie (France) Cuvée Majoral 1999
This Premières Côtes de Blaye is the estate's top wine, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, aged for 12 months in oak. From the fine 1999 vintage this has a solid ruby colour, but shows lovely maturity on the nose with a soft, earthy and gamy character, autumnal berry fruits and a background smokiness. On the palate it is savoury and quite powerful, with a muscular, chunky black fruit quality, and a firm and liquoricy backbone of tannins. Acidity is good, and the wine has a well-mannered and fresh appeal as well as classic style and structure. Very good indeed. £12.00.

Château Canevault (France) Fronsac Cuvée Salomé 2001
This Fronsac, a blend of predominantly Merlot, with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, is from an estate dating back to 1763, but acquired by the current owners in 1987. It has a solid, dark crimson colour, and a nose that offers subtle aromas of black plum and cedar, with a touch of earthy sweetness. On the palate this is very crisp and fresh, with a fairly lean structure showing plenty of orangy acidity and quite bright red berry fruits. The tannins are refined, and though this lacks a little flesh on the mid-palate for me, it has a savoury, structured appeal. Very good. £13.99.

Château St Jacques Calon (France) Montagne St-Emilion Grande Réserve 2001
Available only in sealed wooden cases of six bottles, this is St Jacques Calon's top wine, made from a similar blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc as their regular cuvée, but from selected parcels aged for 12 months in new oak barrels. It has a bold, deep colour, and a beautiful suffused with cassis, kirsch-like cherry and a sweet depth of coffee and vanilla. On the palate this has a lovely, bold fruit quality, with quite meaty, dense fruit and a fleshy mid-palate. The tannins and acidity give this some bite and savoury edge, though it stays focused and composed, with some spice and toast, into a long finish. Excellent. £110 for six (£18.33 per bottle)

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