Tony’s Diary: This simple wine is, I’m sure, going to be a ‘star’

I am delighted and encouraged by the early uptake for what I’m hailing as my personal ‘Wine of the Year’ ….and extremely happy to see the great reviews beginning to come in for the Charles Cros. This simple wine is, I’m sure, going to be a ‘star’ and I can already see I’m not alone in thinking this.

Whilst I do of course enjoy grander wines, my focus throughout my long wine-hunting career has been on the best, good, honest and simple wines that my customers can enjoy by the regular case-full.  To me that was a greater challenge than finding great wines. In fact, to the annoyance of many wine buff friends, I often deny myself and them, the pleasures of a great wine, preferring to open a bottle of the wine my customers drink most of. Ensuring that my simple wines were and remain a joy is my challenge… and of course it makes commercial sense to focus on the bread-and-butter wine. 

So, such wines occupy most of my thinking and drinking hours. And there’s always one in particular. Once, I might have called this wine my ‘everyday’ wine, but I gather that these days, using that term could get me locked up. Because we are now not supposed to drink wine every day, are we? Despite the current situation. 

The Charles Cros – which the French pronounce ‘Sharles Crow’ has just become my current ‘star’…my ‘three-days-a-week wine’?

My ‘wine-you-can-drink-frequently-and-find-simply-delightful-every-time’ has come in many shapes and sizes over the years and from many places. It has changed to suit the times, opportunities and trends. I may find these wines but of course, it’s the customers who elect which gets to the top spot.

Me in Arch 36… with hair!

One of the first was the Bergerac rouge that my rugby teammate Popol would find for me. He ran quality control for the United Wine Coops of the Dordogne and picked me out the best single vat every year. Customers came to ‘Bordeaux’ Direct at Arch 36 mostly for regular cases of my…. Bergerac! Michael Parkinson was an early fan, I remember. Sound Yorkshire sense. Then, following my first jaunt south of the border, customers switched to a Spanish country wine from Jumilla called ‘Monte Alegre’. They loved the soft, garnacha of ‘El Monty’, which came from Spain in bottles, and that, believe it or not, was a ‘ground-breaking’ idea back in the ‘70’s. Volumes seemed huge to us. Containerloads out of Bilbao. But they were eventually dwarfed by the next wine to take the crown; the great ‘Balkan Vine’ Cabernet Sauvignon from Bulgaria was, relative to the size of our Company, the most colossal ‘hit’ we ever had. Juicy, soft Cabernet S. available to us in barter exchange for just a few cases of one of the famous American Colas. Wonderful thing for us; Communism. Glasnost, alas, meant in the ‘90’s we had to look elsewhere for our every-occasion red, finding it in Chile; another Cabernet Sauvignon called Canepa. Then, as everyone knows, Australia hit us with its powerful black, juicy wines, particularly ‘The Black Stump’, from that Italy-down-under, Griffith. The Stump has ruled our roost for almost two decades, in great rivalry with France’s rich and succulent Cabalié. So, we have come full circle?

With the Charles Cros wine from Fabrezan that I am betting will be our next top seller, we will have come EXACTLY full circle. Because what I haven’t mentioned is that the very first wine I ever found that every customer seemed to want cases of was from that same little village called Fabrezan. It was a wine made in a strange way… Methode Maceration Carbonique, perfected, they say, by local inventor, poet and genius… Monsieur Charles Cros.

Having abandoned the methode for many years (because it is a costly, labour-intensive method), the village are making it again today. It’s a dry red wine that just has this apparent and immediately loveable sweetness about it. Beaujolais is made in a similar but not totally similar way. But down south in the Corbieres, Fabrezan gets much more sun and Grenache and Carignan grapes give us an altogether richer 14.5 dark, velvety wine. My Wine of the Year and …if you agree – probably the favourite of us all for years to come.

Here’s what our customers have to say:

“Excellent wine”

5-star customer review

“Laithwaites at it’s best”

5-star customer review

“Exceptional value”

5-star customer review


About Tony Laithwaite

Tony Laithwaite, founder of Laithwaite's, whose passion for wine is still going strong!

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