Bordeaux was the first wine region I fell in love with, no doubt influenced by the fact that I could visit several vineyards on a day trip from my parents’ home in the Charente Maritime. To this day there is a map of “Le Vignoble de Bordeaux” in my kitchen which I bought in Saint-Émilion over twenty years ago.
Founded in the heart of Bordeaux in 1983, Millésima is a fine wine and en-primeur specialist which sells directly to consumers in 120 countries. It is a family run company, now in the hands of second generation Fabrice Bernard who succeeded his father Patrick as CEO in 2017.
Before being invited to write this piece, I was already familiar with Millésima, both through online advertisements and their sponsoring of the Millésima Blog Awards (which my friends Michelle Williams and Mike Turner were winners of in 2016).
Looking further it appears to me that Millésima’s key strengths are:
- Selection: they have 2.5 million bottles to choose from. The emphasis is on Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne, then other French regions and ten other countries.
- Provenance: they source their wines directly from the producer so that their condition and (especially) their authenticity are guaranteed.
- Packaging and delivery: they pride themselves on speedy deliveries which arrive in perfect condition. The wines I ordered were picked and packaged in a double-layered corrugated cardboard box covered with a thick layer of shrink-wrapped plastic.
- Compliance: unlike some unscrupulous distributors I have heard of, they are fully compliant with the excise and tax regulations of the countries to which their wines are shipped. This is especially important in Ireland which (unfortunately) has the highest rates in Europe, and so puts Millésima on a level playing field with local importers.
So, when invited to try some wines from a Bordeaux-based fine wine supplier, what type of wine did I order? That’s right, some of my beloved Alsace wines from the far side of the country! But rather than being awkward, the decision was deliberate and common sense: it would show the breadth of Millésima’s range and would put me in an informed position when reviewing the wines.
To select a mixed case is simple: click on Special Offers on the far right of the top menu
then Create your own tasting case
and My own tasting case.
The wines I chose mainly feature my two favourite grapes from Alsace – Riesling and Pinot Gris – from three top producers, and both young and aged examples:
Domaine Zind Humbrecht Pinot Gris “Heimbourg” 1997 (14.0%, €55* at millesima.ie)
Heimbourg is a lieu-dit or named vineyard close to Turckheim, the home village of Domaine Zind Humbrecht. It receives a lot of sunlight as it faces onto the Munster Valley and hence isn’t overshadowed by the Vosges Mountains.
The wine pours bright gold into the glass – a combination of age, possibly some noble rot and the grape variety. The nose is highly aromatic, mainly showing rich honey notes (I’m not a honey connoisseur, but those bees have been feasting on some pretty tasty nectar) and stewed figs. One of the best noses I’ve ever experienced!
The palate reveals the wine to be mature with some rancio streaks, possibly just past its peak, and dry. Being dry is no bad thing in itself but is something of a surprise given the amount of honey on the nose. The fruit is subdued and mainly stewed, accompanied by walnuts and brazils. For matching with food, think of mature cheeses and nuts or even slow roasted beef.
Maison Trimbach Pinot Gris Réserve Personnelle 1998 (13.0%, €45* at millesima.ie)
Trimbach is arguably the most famous producer in Alsace and its wines are well distributed. Its main yellow label wines are often the default choice for Alsace, whereas its flagship Clos Sainte-Hune Riesling is regarded by many as the best wine of the region. Sitting between the two are the premium range of Riesling (Cuvée Frédéric Emile), Gewurztraminer (Cuvée des Seigneurs de Ribeaupierre) and this Pinot Gris (Réserve Personnelle).
The nose is clean with no oxidative notes, showing cumquat, apricot, exotic spices such as cinnamon and star anise, wrapped up with some light honeyed notes. The palate has medium flavour intensity and reflects the nose very well. This is a tasty, lively wine which isn’t going to improve further and would be best drunk sooner rather than later, but it would still be going strong in a year or two.
Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Pinot Gris “Herrenweg de Turckheim” 1999 (13.5%, €48 at millesima.ie)
The Herrenweg is the vineyard where Zind Humbrecht’s HQ is based, on a complex mixture of sand, silt, clay and alluvial deposits. Grapes here tend to ripen quickly and be very expressive.
When poured this Pinot Gris was an amazing amber colour – perhaps even burnished copper! The nose is primarily stewed and some fresh stone fruit, with spice and honey. It’s relatively subtle on the palate with the same notes but all of them are intertwined – the interplay between them is intriguing. There’s still a little sweetness on the finish to accompany the honey aromas and flavours.
Domaine Marcel Deiss Alsace Riesling 2017 (13.0%, €28* at millesima.ie)
Domaine Marcel Deiss is an estate founded on tradition, but tradition for a reason. Based in Bergheim, just a few clicks from Ribeauvillé, the Domaine is known for its focus on field blends – how wine was made in Alsace (and much of Europe) for centuries, before different grape varieties were properly identified and planted separately. This, however, is from the Deiss vins de fruits or vins de cépages range – more about their grape variety than the locality where they were grown. As with the entire range, this Riesling is Certified Organic and made following biodynamic principles from Deiss’s own vineyards only.
There’s a veritable array of citrus on the nose: lemon, lime, grapefruit and more. The first sip shows that it has a little more body that you’d expect from a dry Riesling. It’s young, fresh, citrus, mineral and steely with a long, dry finish. This is quite a serious wine, but then, Riesling is a serious business!
Domaine Marcel Deiss Langenberg 2013 (12.5%, €39* at millesima.ie)
The Langenberg is from Deiss’s Lieux-Dits range which consists of nine different named vineyards with their own distinctive terrior. They don’t have Grand Cru status but when Alsace Premier Cru is established I’d bet that many of these nine would be included. The Deiss website explains that Langenberg is a field blend of Riesling, Pinot Gris, Pinot Beurot, Muscat and Pinot Noir. To the best of my knowledge Pinot Beurot is simply a synonym for Pinot Gris, but as that is already listed it might be a particular clone.
This is a highly aromatic wine with a wealth of tropical notes: pineapple, grapefruit, guava, banana, coconut, passionfruit and exotic spices all feature. It has a silky, generous texture in the mouth. The enticing palate is full of the tropical fruits found on the nose (mainly contributed by the Pinots Grises and the Muscat) but brought round to a crisp conclusion by the Riesling component. A magnificent wine!
*Note: all prices include Irish Duty and VAT and are the relevant prices for individual bottles as part of a mixed selection.
Disclosure: this is a sponsored post, but all opinions remain my own.