The short version is that we fixed on the idea of calling our wine ‘Domaine de l’Abeille’ at an early stage, because on inspecting the map around our first vineyard block, the nearest high point is called the ‘Roc de l’Abeille’ (or Rock of the Bee).
We then decided that we wanted to have a second label called Genoux de l’Abeille (the Bee’s knees). Then we got carried away with designing a label and applying for a trade-mark, but a Monsieur Abeille opposed our registration for ‘Domaine de l’Abeille, so we decided to revert to the English version ‘Domaine of the Bee’. We think it was the best decision we ever made!
Bees are hugely important creatures to the health of our planet, and throughout the ages, they have held a special place in our culture. We began reading more about the symbolism of Bees, and began to realise quite what an apt and relevant name it was, given the importance of bees to our ecosystem, and the precarious health of the honeybee population.
For those of you who might be interested in reading more about the weird and wonderful paths that researching Bee mythology has taken us down (Grail Legends, Napoleon, Mormons, Egyptian godesses etc) but for now we will content ourselves with directing you to Andrew Gough’s Arcadia
Here, there is no way round a short explanation of the concept of ‘yield’. It is the tiny yields achieved in many vineyards in this area that are the secret to why the wine is so good, but also why it can never be cheap to produce.
Most wine, made from relatively vigorous young vines in reasonably fertile soils with good access to water will produce approximately one bottle for every square metre of vineyard land. A hectare is 100 metres x 100 metres (a bit bigger than a football pitch). So – approximately 10,000 bottles. In an area like, say, Chateauneuf-du-Pape, where the lack of fertility and the absence of easy water give the famously concentrated (and alcoholic) style of one of France’s favourite wines, you might expect 4-5,000 bottles a hectare.
We have 4 hectares, so if we had yields equivalent to Chateauneuf, you might expect 15-20,000 bottles, but we only make around 4,000 bottles in a typical year. Imagine a square 4 metres by 4 metres. With one bottle sitting in the middle. That is roughly the yield that these ancient vines give us.
The flips-ide of this alarmingly small production is that the quality and concentration of the wine produced has the potential to be exceptionally good.
Make no mistake, this is a big red wine, and you have to be both brave and a bit wild-eyed to tackle it on your own. The first ideal ingredient is a friend with whom to drink it. With a lit barbeque on the go, or a crackling log fire, then even some crisps and cheesy nibbles will help to tame the wine’s youthful vigour.
However, this quite a pricey bottle to knock back as an aperitif, so we’d suggest starting with something light and white, and then serving Domaine of the Bee with the main course.
We are only just starting to experiment with food matches, and this is hardly a science. To slightly misquote Captain Barbosa in ‘Pirates of the Carribean’ (in a throaty pirate voice) “Food Matching Rules? – Ha Haaarrggh – we don’t think so much of rules as……… guidelines”
So, the first guideline is – hardly surprisingly – red meat. Steak grilled on the barbeque is perfect, but spit-roasted lamb or wild boar is equally delicious, and mammoth even better. Perhaps easier to obtain in your local store would be good meaty sausages. In winter time, roast beef, stews or casseroles would be equally good.
Second guideline – savoury and/or salty foods will help bring out the sweetness of the fruit, and will take the edge off the tannins. We had some ‘unearthed French Pave´ Peppercorn Salami’ from Waitrose, which was excellent, and a thinly sliced sliver of Parmesan goes very well too.
Third guideline is – avoid Chilli. Hot and spicy food makes the tannins harden, and suppresses the fruit.
Our white wine, ‘Field of the Bee’ is very versatile and is delightful as an aperitif, or with white meats, and vegetable risottos.
As time goes by, we will come up with some more felicitous matches, which we will share with you. We are also keen for you to tell us about any discoveries that you have made so we can share them with other Domaine of the Bee drinkers on our website.
No we don’t. There is a saying in the world of wine:
Q: How can you make a small fortune in the wine business?
A: Start with a large fortune and buy a winery.
In 2007 and 2008, our wine was made by Richard Case at the small winery he uses for his Domaine de la Pertuisane. But in 2009, a fantastic new winery was constructed in Maury by Californian Dave Phinney, who has bought 120 hectares of vines in the valley. Richard is his winemaker and manager, and all of the wines that Richard makes for himself and Richard made our wine for us in this winery from 2009 to 2011.
Dave’s success means that his winery is now full with his own wine, so we have moved down the road to Chateau St Roch where old friend Jean-Marc Lafage (who Justin worked with in South Africa) now makes our wine, and looks after our vineyards.
Jean-Marc is a multi-award-winning champion winemaker of the Roussillon, and his wines are regularly rated with scores of 90-95 by Robert Parker, so we couldn’t be in better hands.
When we started Domaine of the Bee, we just bought vineyards, and used to beg beds from friends when we went to visit. Then we found a lovely local gite, and spent more time in the area, getting to know the best swimming spots, and places to eat.
Then finally, in early 2013, we bought a beautiful little house which is part of an old ‘Mas’ or farmhouse, in a tiny hamlet in the middle of nowhere, just 5 minutes from our vineyards. We moved in over that summer, and now it serves as our home from home in the Roussillon.
Have a look at our facebook album here.
Our wine is absolutely delicious when young, but improves and softens with a few years in the bottle.
But to a large extent, as with most things in life, when you choose to drink it is down to what you personally prefer. So we will attempt to describe how our wine tastes at various stages, and you can make up your own mind.
0 to 1 years after bottling
Very fruity – exuberantly so, but with a lot of tannin and youthful vigour. Some oaky flavours noticeable, and not yet fully integrated. Great concentration, and the fruit flavour lasts a long time in the mouth.
1-3 years after bottling
The immediacy of the fruit will subside, and the tannins will start to soften. The oak flavours will become less obvious, and will start to meld with the tannins. More complex secondary aromas will start to emerge. Some sediment may start to appear as the tannins and anthocyanins (colour compounds) start to polymerise.
3-5 years after bottling
The fresh fruit apparent in the first year will have evolved into a more complex, seamless olfactory experience, and the palate should be smooth and satisfying. It will still be a ‘big’ wine, with noticeable tannin, and power.
5-10 years after bottling
Our first vintage, 2007, is still going great guns, but probably reached it’s peak in 2012. Our 2008 looks like it is built to last, and is currently tasting fabulous. We have no evidence to suggest that you SHOULD age our wine beyond 10 years, but we’ll keep researching, and will let you know!.
If you are not sure of your preference, our advice would be to buy a dozen bottles, drink 2-3 bottles in the first year, and then a couple of bottles every year after that. If, each time a bottle is opened, it seems to need more time, then I’d wait a bit longer before opening the next. If you end up drinking them quicker than intended, you can always buy some more!
Or if you are a trifle anally retentive (some of the best people are), buy 12 bottles, and drink 1 a year over 12 years, and plot the results on a graph.
At present, payment can only be taken through our online shop for delivery to UK destinations. We can take payment from non-UK credit cards.
We can also take orders for delivery in the USA and in Hong Kong. If you are based in either region and want to buy some of our wines, send an email to email@example.com.
Yes, currently Domaine of the Bee can be found at Manchester’s trend-setting ‘Hanging Ditch’, the Award-winning London merchant ‘The Sampler’, with shops in Islington and South Kensington, and East Yorkshire’s Hull-based ‘House of Townend’ with customers all over the North-East and Cumbria.
When very young, the wine will not have any significant sediment, but even so, we suggest you let it out of the bottle for a couple of hours before you drink it (a decanter, or even a jug will do fine) to allow it to open up and express its flavours properly.
If you are lucky enough to have some left in the bottle at the end of the evening, put a stopper in, and try it again the next evening – sometimes it tastes even better!
Domaine of the Bee is a deep-coloured, intense and powerful red made from a blend of Grenache and Carigan grapes from three different plots.
‘Les Genoux’ comes from just one of those plots, from our oldest vineyard, and the majority of the wine is made from Grenache Noir, although there are other grapes growing in the vineyard, and they all go in the blend. The style is softer, more perfumed, yet also more profound and complex.
Rather than use a metallic, or plastic ‘capsule’, we decided to seal our bottles of ‘Les Genoux’ with natural beeswax.
We round up blocks of raw beeswax from a variety of bee-keeping friends and customers, and warm it in a pan until it melts. Then we dip each bottle in the pan, and let the wax dry on the bottle.
When you open the bottle, there is no need to scrape the wax away, just pull the cork through the wax, and wipe away any flakes of wax that cling to the neck of the bottle.