Now three months into my subscription with Le Petit Ballon, I’m persuaded that some things are better left to the experts. My appreciation for wine is now burgeoning, but it’s been effortless thanks to the deft hand of their resident Master Sommelier, Jean-Michel Deluc. By way of a refresher, he’s a former Head Sommelier at The Ritz Paris, so you couldn’t ask for a better instructor for your education in wine.
Guiding subscribers through the thorny world of wine tasting, Le Petit Ballon’s magazine, The Gazette, focuses on different aspects of wine production each month. For instance, June 2016’s issue explores how to serve wine to guarantee that its characteristics are enjoyed to their full potential, looking at temperature and storage. Their sage tips and advice will be the arsenal that will impress your colleagues and friends- all of this is in addition to enjoying two exemplary bottles that have been delivered to your front door.
Aimed at expelling the pretentiousness and jargon that permeates the enjoyment of wine, this box delivers on its promise, making drinking and understanding great wine a simple affair. Packaged in shockproof and robust cardboard, the bottles arrive without fear of breaking and ready to sample. The tasting cards included provide a comprehensive and accessible breakdown of the profile of the selection.
Le Petit Ballon: June 2016 Unboxed
- 1 bottle of Clos de la Condemine (Domaine de Pouilly, 2014)
- 1 bottle of Le Grand Verdus (2012)
- Issue 3 of The Gazette
- 2 tasting cards
In the warmer months, I always hear the siren call of a crisp white wine. I was immediately drawn to the Clos de la Condemine, a 2014 vintage Mâcon-Pierreclos from Domaine de Pouilly. Jean-Michel crows about this bottle on the tasting card, making it apparent why this bottle was selected- it’s a Chardonnay with some intriguing characteristics. My own impressions of the wine were equally as favourable, beginning with the attractive golden straw colour that emanated a bright, youthful greenish rim- something that I now look for in my glass in part to my ongoing education. Its aromas were clean and subtle: I detected some citrus and earthiness. Swilling the wine, the texture in particular appealed to me: described as ‘buttery’, I can’t think of a more apt adjective. The body glided around my palate effortlessly, coating it with a delicate hint of citrus.
Although subtle, there’s a pronounced complexity evident in this wine, which has a sharp but delicate balance. It’s perfect on its own, but the tasting card suggests pairing it with some diary-based dishes, including veal and chicken in creamy sauces and fish accompanied with tartar or mayonnaise. I can easily envision the marriage of this wine and a soft goat’s cheese or soufflé as suggested, making this a good picnic tipple with some crusty bread and a rich spreading of semi-soft cheese.
Moving on to the Le Grand Verdus, this 2012 vintage Bordeaux Supérieur is imposing. This style of robust red wine makes me apprehensive- I easily find myself out of my comfort zone with reds because of their explosive and rich characteristics. This blend of Merlot, Cabernet, Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes surprised me- I expected a dark crimson, tannic mouthful; instead, the wine demonstrated some youth around the edges and didn’t stick to the rim of the glass. Its ruby colour did tell of some depth and complexity, but the nose revealed an intense aroma of dark fruits and aniseed notes. Diving in, the palate was loyal to the bouquet- again, the dark fruits were dominant and rich with a surprisingly crisp and flavoursome finish. This is the closest example of a summer red wine, both fruity and refreshing without any claggy mouthfeel and only nuances of spicy or woody character that I attribute to winter-friendly wines.
The tasting card helpfully recommends both red and white meats, roasted or grilled, and even grilled tuna as complementary dishes. For desert, Camembert features and this sounds divine to me- again, perhaps lounging across a picnic blanket in the park, scraping up the gooey remains of the melting cheese. I’d be happy to drink a bottle of red wine in this context.
Le Petit Ballon’s charm extends to their brand and customer focus- they’re hosting wine tasting evenings in London and extend invitations to subscribers for instance and they’re active and engaged on social media. Keeping the image of wine tasting young, modern and accessible to all, they also make the learning aspect very easy. The Gazette is an enjoyable and pithy read that heavily relies upon infographics and visuals.
Subscriptions are available for three, six or 12 months and can be purchased as gifts. Both an Apprentice Box (£24.90 per month with delivery included) and a Master Box (£39.90 per month) are offered- the latter promising more exclusive and rare wines, but both include two bottles each month. As stated before, I feel that a price point of approximately £12.50 per bottle is excellent given the expertise relied upon. Jean-Michel is one of the most renowned sommeliers in the world, so you’re guaranteed that no bottle will be of questionable value.
Ideal for wine drinkers who already have a developed palate and those who aspire to becoming more conversant in the subject, Le Petit Ballon is a safe bet for anyone with affection for the nectar of the gods.