Ben’s wine blog: An ode to Begude

With three listings, Domaine Begude are taking over our online wine shop. And why not? They’re that good.

It’s been there for years, but Domaine Begude is largely the creation of Englishman James Kinglake. James and his wife Catherine took over in 2003. Although the estate had been biodynamic, it was all a bit old school farmyardy, and hadn’t had the TLC it needed. There was a lot of work to do.

I met James on a freezing Sunday in late January about five years ago. I’d teamed up with one of our wine suppliers, following up leads he’d got from an organic wine expo in Montpellier. We’d just spent a fruitless morning trying to track down a seemingly non-existent Corbières producer, and stopped for a picnic of sorts with a gale from the nearby Pyrenees whistling around our ears. It was an extremely quick pit stop, and half an hour later we were at Begude being regaled with a description of the roast lamb James had eaten for lunch. It was all a bit Good Life meets Year in Provence – but the wines spoke for themselves.

Back then, I wasn’t helping with the Riverford wines, so I was just enjoying the ride. We didn’t talk prices; it was only back in Blighty when I saw a couple in Waitrose as part of a so-called ‘Brit Pack’ promotion that I realised what a bargain the wines were. They say the only way to make a small fortune out of winemaking is to start with a big one, and a vineyard in Provence does seem to be an essential appendage for many a multimillionaire. Not surprisingly, they convince themselves that their wine is magnificent and should demand the kind of prices only they and their friends can afford. James, with his Begude wines, isn’t in that camp at all. He makes the kind of good, clean, modern wines that we (the British) want to drink. He handles the distribution and marketing himself, but it’s a business, not an ego trip. By cutting out wholesalers, he’s able to keep the prices down and control where it goes, and he’s been keen on supplying Riverford from the start. If we had a franchisee in Carcassonne, he’d be a box customer – and his in-laws in Yorkshire definitely are.

His love of the noble Burgundian grapes, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, took James to the hills around Limoux, south of Carcassonne. Slightly removed from the hot Mediterranean Languedoc, influenced by the cooling Pyrenees and Atlantic weather system, it’s perfect for discreet ‘Old World’ Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs; as good as, but half the price of their Burgundian counterparts. Jancis Robinson has been a fan for years and writes glowingly in her annual Languedoc/Roussillon assemblage reports. He’s been experimenting with other slightly cooler climate varieties – mainly Sauvignon, but also Gewürztraminer and Grüner Veltliner – but Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are what he does best.

Pinot NoirDomaine Begude pinot noir is on-trend, and sold well when we listed it last year. Sadly, that wasn’t the case with the Chardonnay. ABC (Anything But Chardonnay), that unfortunate condition bought on by over-exposure to the toasted-oaked, vanilla-heavy Antipodean version, seems to be the kiss of death for what is unquestionably the world’s finest white food grape. Call it Burgundy and it sells for £25 a bottle. Call it Chardonnay and it won’t sell full stop.

Domaine Begude chardonnayJames’s Chardonnay Terroir 11300 is 85% cool-fermented in stainless steel for zesty, citrus freshness, and 15% barrel-fermented in old 600 litre demi-muids. You can hardly taste the oak, but it adds roundness and body, making the wine more comparable to a Chablis or Burgundy than hotter climate, New World Chardonnay. The vineyard at 300 meters and the cooler weather mean the grapes don’t over-ripen, keeping a crisp minerality. If you’ve been to a wine tasting or been given the once-over by a pretentious sommelier, you’ll know that minerality is very, very good. Begude Terroir is good by itself, but even better with a wide range of food – from chicken to cheeses. I particularly like it with crab, but that’s probably just me.

Domaine Begude pinot roséTo make up the numbers, we’ve also added Begude’s Pinot Noir rosé. Salmon pink as a Provençal rosé, it’s a joy to drink. It was a last-minute decision and we could only get a relatively small amount, so buy now before it all goes.

James will be hosting a dinner in the Field Kitchen on May 18th. Click here to find out more and book your place for a special evening of wine-tasting alongside an unforgettable Riverford feast.

Order Domaine Begude’s Chardonnay, Pinot rosé or Pinot Noir from our award-winning shop for free delivery to your door.

One response to “Ben’s wine blog: An ode to Begude

  1. I did a bit of research on Biodynamics and released that it was nothing more than Astrology for plants!!! Here is what I found :-So how does this all relate to your garden? Well, in the waxing phase, the theory is that the water table rises and plants take up nutrients faster, making it an ideal time to plant.
    The waning phase is much better for pruning and weeding as the water table is lower and things like tree sap run much slower. Anecdotal evidence also suggests that harvests are larger and plants don’t go to seed as quickly if planted in the appropriate cycle.
    Quarter 2: The gravitational pull of the moon is less but the additional light theoretically aids leafy growth. Vegetables that respond well to being planted in this phase include those that form internal seeds like beans, peas, tomatoes and vine crops. The second quarter is also where vegetables should be harvested. This is when their moisture is at its peak.
    Exactly how all this Moon lore got started, no one seems to really know, but it has been around for a very long time and is spread throughout many cultures. Perhaps it is connected with the evidence that the moon attracts the tides, and causes them to rise and fall. (never mind this occurs every day, though they are larger during full moon.) Whatever the origins of these beliefs, there is no evidence to prove it true. I once tested the gardening theory by planting bean seeds from the same pack, half during the waxing moon and half during the waning moon. Both grew well and by harvest, there was no difference between the plants.
    Biodynamic methods are based on the heliocentric, or astronomical, position of the moon. This system is more complicated and also takes into consideration eclipses, trine, apogee and perigee as well as descending and ascending moons. (The Gardening by the Moon Calendar is based on the geocentric and astrological calculations.)
    Maria Thun (1956) after Reading Rudolf Steiner’s book was surprised to discover that the signs of the zodiac played their part as well. Thun experimented with a variety of crops: carrots and parsnips represented root crops; lettuce, spinach and corn salad as leaf types; beans, peas, cucumbers and tomatoes as fruit seed types; zinnias, snapdragons and asters were air crops. Crops responded well when planted in the appropriate sign for their type of plant. There were some exceptions, however. Some plants seemed to favour signs other than what would appear to be logical; for instance the brassica family, (broccoli, cauliflower, etc.) which one might consider flowering types, seemed to favour water signs. Cucumbers sown on leaf days had strong leafy growth, but did not produce many flowers. Their tests also seemed to indicate that responses to lunar planting were heightened when planted in organic soil that had not been treated with chemical fertilizer or pesticides.

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