Wine and Musing in Soho with Le Petit Ballon
While at the Minute & Azimut watch launch, I bumped into Pauline from Le Petit Ballon, who was keen to introduce me to their new wine subscription service. Being the vinophile that I am, I couldn’t pass up this opportunity, so readily took the chance to join them at their tasting at Murdock in Soho.
It’s funny how amazingly different Soho seemed to me in the aftermath of the Orlando shootings. Only the day before, a séance of sorts had been held in solidarity of those who lost their lives in a town that would otherwise seem extremely far removed from London. None-the-less, I was proud to walk among the various openly LGBT shops, pubs and bars on my way to Murdock and think that while we may get a lot of things wrong in the UK, we are pretty liberal in this sense.
Now, granted, as a straight man I can hardly comment, and this may seem somewhat off-topic, but frankly I care little. I’m proud that we have this little microcosm within London, I’m proud that we can be so accepting that love is love, regardless of gender or otherwise; and so I felt even more strongly my disgust at the events in Orlando walking down Brewer Street on Tuesday.
Anyway – wine – yes. So, Le Petit Ballon started in France (quelle surprise) and have something like 40,000 subscribers to their ‘little’ service. They’ve decided to take it to the UK, and I can hardly blame them. They champion great wine, but do so unpretentiously. Their master sommelier (formerly of The Ritz in Paris) Jean-Michel Deluc is keen to take the pomp out of wine and tell it like it is, in layman’s terms – as I would put it.
Which is not to cheapen the idea, but simply to stop the generally inaccessible rabbiting on about terroir and other assorted esoteric wine bollocks. Excuse my French (ha!).
I recognise that I can be as pretentious as the next man, but sometimes you just have to call a spade a spade. If the wine tastes nice, it is nice. It doesn’t matter if it’s harvested by angels and steeped in unicorn tears. Indeed, The Decanter Magazine have just ranked a Chilean Malbec as the best in the world for under £15. From Asda.
They’re equally keen to support the little guy. Forget the massive vignerons – you’re unlikely to find Oyster Bay in their repertoire. For them, in some cases it’s the people producing the wine that are more important than the provenance. Their monthly Gazette is filled with pictures of the winemakers themselves, and stories of how they came into being, and you really do get the feeling that Le Petit Ballon are out to support these independent houses.
We were treated to a short tasting masterclass from Monsier Deluc, who took us through the 5 senses – sight, smell, touch, taste and sound (admittedly the latter may be somewhat redundant). We were educated in the difference between first and second nose, and what this means in terms of the capacity for ageing in the wine. He taught us how the taste of a wine varies throughout its life, and generally how to do that little bit more than simply throw it down your neck and give a knowing ‘mmmmmm’. I was thoroughly impressed, and my short description simply can’t do it (or him) justice.
At the end of the evening, the Le Petit Ballon team were kind enough to give me a couple of bottles to write about, and honestly, I can really understand what they’re doing. I’m fairly sure I would never have bought either of these wines of my own volition, and indeed wouldn’t have been able to find them in Sainbury’s or Waitrose even if I wanted to.
First off the Gaillac, an area in the south of France, not far from Toulouse, in case you’re interested. Upon pouring, the first thing that was immediately apparent was its deep honey colour – almost amber. It had a sweet, ripe fruit nose, with elements of red apple. It tasted magnificent – sweet, oily, with a nice mineral finish that lingered on the tongue.
Then, onto the Mâcon-Pierreclos. A much more acidic wine than the Gaillac, but more complex. It had an almost savoury nose – elements of vanilla and a biscuit-y aroma – with a little oakiness to it. The straw colour of the Pierreclos was less deep and intense compared to the Gaillac. I was really intrigued by this wine, and will do my best to find out a bit more about it – particularly how it was aged. The savoury notes on the nose (getting slightly more involved and pretentious here, sorry) seem to suggest to me that the wine was aged in more heavily baked casks than most, but of course I could be completely wrong…
Based on both of the wines the Le Petit Ballon team gave me to try I can draw two conclusions: firstly, they don’t mess about when it comes to good quality wine. Secondly, they’re happy to get you to step out of your comfort zone and try something you wouldn’t normally choose for yourself.
I can’t wait to see what Le Petit Ballon have in store. If you want to try their wines for yourself, head to www.lepetitballon.com. Since I’m feeling generous, you can get yourself a 15% discount on your subscription using the code MURDOCK-LPB.