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Shout it out – Whispering Angel is back

It was back in 2006 that the owner of Chateau D’Esclans, Sasha Lichine, made the wise decision to hire Patrick Léon.

This world-renowned winemaker, who previously worked at Chateau Mouton Rothschild, was tasked with crafting a new generation of rosé from Provence using new and innovative techniques to produce a richer and more fruit-forward style of wine.

A fresh generation of rosé was born, and its name was Whispering Angel. They never could have imagined that rosé would now account for more than 30 per cent of all wine enjoyed in France and actually outsell white.

Their first release was 160,000 bottles and last year, I understand, this rose to 4.32 million bottles — yet they ran out in June.

Careful planning allowed us to keep bottles and magnums available until early October. Many producers, of any product, faced with such phenomenal demand would just increase prices to put the brakes on. At a meeting with their team last autumn, I was assured that this was not their intention and so all we have done is made a quite small adjustment to compensate for the stronger euro.

Now tucked away in our warehouse is a container of Whispering Angel from the 2017 vintage. If you may be wondering whether it can be enjoyed in its youth, let me quote from highly respected British critic Matthew Jukes: “As every year rolls by, Whispering Angel reaches out to thousands more palates. Nowadays, millions of bottles are made, but the remarkable thing about this wine is that while its fame grows exponentially, the quality in the glass continues to march forward too.

“Made from grenache, cinsault, rolle (vermentino), syrah and tibouren, growing in vineyards surrounding the winery in La Motte en Provence, this is another sensual, silky-smooth, enthralling release. Perhaps a little more forward than the dramatic 2016, and yet more succulent. I can tell you that in the last few days of 2017 this wine is already drinking beautifully. Only three months after harvest, Whispering Angel is casting its spell with unerring accuracy and it will continue to shine in the glass and impress allcomers throughout 2018.” Bottles are $26.50 and magnums $54.60.

If you would rather rock than whisper, then you should consider enjoying Chateau D’Esclans Rock Angel Rosé 2015 with your Valentine. We have managed to keep stocks of this wine although our allocation of the 2017 vintage is far less than we would like.

Let me share a few comments: “What a stunner it is. A refined, refreshing rosé” – The Wall Street Journal. “Beautifully balanced, lovely satin texture. Hugely appetising. A complex mouthful” – Jancis Robinson. “Fully textured palate and more than expected” – Steven Spurrier. $33.55.

If we wanted more Chateau D’Esclans Les Clans Rosé from the winery we would be out of luck as the newest vintage will not be released until this summer, but, fortunately for now, we do have some 2015 and 2016. If you were to ask me if this would appeal mostly to a rosé drinker, or to a red or white aficionado, my honest answer would be a simple “yes” — this wine would suit them all.

It so happens that it is very difficult to categorise except to say that it is remarkable. Although made mostly from old-vine Grenache and Rolle, I confess that at times I have confused it with a very fine, white Burgundy. I think that it is the ageing in temperature-controlled barrels that turns on the “is this excellent Chardonnay?” switch in my brain.

It is utterly unique. James Suckling, who rates it 94/100 comments: “Love the depth and intensity of fruit with very subtle cream, stone and light strawberry character. Hints of peach. Medium to full body, bright acidity and delicate layer of phenolics that give the wine tension and precision.” If you are thinking of a Valentine’s treat of local lobster, this wine will only make it better. $53.55.

Let me leave you with a few words from Chilean poet Vincente Huidobro: “What would my life have been if you were never born? A comet without its cape, dying of the cold.”

This column is a paid-for advertorial for Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. Michael Robinson is Director of Wine at Burrows Lightbourn Ltd. He can be contacted at mrobinson@bll.bm or 295-0176. Burrows Lightbourn has stores in Hamilton (Front Street East. 295-1554), Paget (Harbour Road, 236-0355) and St George (York Street, 297-0409). A selection of their wines, beers and spirits are available online at wineonline.bm