I was recently introduced to Le Petit Ballon, a French wine subscription service who have amassed over 40,000 customers, making them the number one choice in the country. Since their 2011 launch, this success has seen them expanding in to both Belgium and the UK in 2015 and, in the current age of ‘time-poor’ consumers favouring convenience at every step, monthly subscription boxes are booming.
In the UK wine market things remain fairly uncrowded with perhaps half a dozen players vying for your custom, and so it is a ripe time to be offering a new option.
The no-commitment service operates at two different price-points to ensure that you stay in control of the types of wines that you’d like to try. Each monthly package consists of two full (75cl) bottles of wine and a full colour magazine (‘The Gazette’) telling you all you need to know about the wines you will be tasting. Membership also brings the added benefit of receiving at least 20% off the range of artisan wines offered in their online shop, and this ensures that should you find your dream wine on the scheme, you’ll be able to order further supplies no matter how rare the producer.
The first package on offer is ‘Grape Expectations’ which focuses on showcasing great value wines from artisan producers you won’t find on the high-street. The second, higher tier is the ‘Age of Raisin’ package, focusing on more prestigious labels.
All of the wines featured in the service have been personally selected by Jean-Michel Deluc, a former Sommelier Chef at The Ritz and a man with many other culinary credits to his name, so is a palate you can trust.
For summer 2016 Le Petit Ballon have just launched a new cache of Rosé wines, and I leapt at the chance to give one a try from producer Clos de l’ours. Ours translates as ‘bear’ which is a nod to the bear-like qualities of winemaker Michel (who would easily be able to give you a bear hug) and he is also referenced in the name of the blend ‘Grizzly’ (Michel has a big beard!).
Clos de l’ours was founded in 2012 (although the vineyards have been in operation much longer) and whilst they are still in the early years of business they have a clear philosophy of how they want to farm their land. Respectful of the existing vines being farmed organically since 2000, they continue to use minimal intervention in the wine-making process to allow nature to take its own course.
Clos de l’ours Grizzly Organic Rosé (blend) 2015, Provence, France, 14%, £13.90 (£11.90 to subscribers)
The colour of this wine is a pale-ish pink, conjuring up for me the colour of farmed salmon with hints of onion skin. It looks clear, clean, fresh and inviting, and the slate-grey colour of the label immediately sets off the pale colour of the wine superbly. The blend is a veritable compendium of the classic southern french red grapes of Syrah, Grenache, Mourvédre, Carignan and Cinsault, with the addition of the white grape Rolle to finish it off.
The nose was nicely forthcoming and full of various red fruits, but in the main strawberries and redcurrant. In addition to this there was a discernible dash of lemon citrus and a whiff of smokiness at the tail end.
The first thing I notice on the palate is the wonderful depth that the wine exudes, which is an instant hit of pure fruit and a silky creamy weight. Once again the red fruits are clean, nicely ripe and balanced with a medium fresh acid that is present, but happy to let the juicy fruits come to the fore. Once again we are mixing strawberry and redcurrants, with background notes of raspberry and pomegranate.
The finish is long and carried by the creaminess and the smoky salty minerality you always find in a decent Provence Rosé.
Even though this wine is all about showcasing well delivered pure fruit, there’s an inbuilt complexity that makes this absolutely worth the price. In my search for more words to describe its creamy rich body I kept returning to the glass time and time again and, although I failed to find the words, I was still amply rewarded with a well-realised wine.
I absolutely look forward to trying other wines in the range, and indeed, others offered by Le Petit Ballon. You can find out more, as well as getting more info on their subscription options by visiting http://www.lepetitballon.com/uk/
With thanks to Clementine Communications and Le Petit Ballon for the bottle used in this tasting.