What's all this English then, you might be wondering? Bit of a giveaway but the name has a certain ring to it. The people behind the Bee are Justin Howard-Sneyd MW "biggest nose" (I quote from their website), aka former head of Waitrose wine buying then Direct Wines/Laithwaite's, and long-time enthusiast for south of France wines; Philippe Sacerdot "biggest brains" and Justin's wife Amanda "biggest hair." Back in 2003, a second family trip to the Maury area (so the story goes...) instilled a minor obsession to buy a few plots of vines, which now total nearly 4 hectares of old Grenache and Carignan, "about the size of 5 football pitches" (not being a soccer type, it never occurred to me to use that comparison to explain ha but it does the trick).
These exposed (big wind and sun) vineyard parcels are managed by Richard Case at Domaine de la Pertuisane, who also makes the wine at his / American partner's new mega-winery up the hill from Maury (more on that to follow...). I say 'wine' as there's only one so far, hence the single tasting note below on the promising 2007 vintage. Before that, the grapes went into various Pertuisane wines. There's a lot of blah blah said about yields in this area (and just about everywhere really), but they sum it up quite neatly on the site referring to quantity produced in 07: "Imagine a square 4 metres by 4 metres with one bottle sitting in the middle. That's roughly the yield that these ancient vines give us." Anyway, this translates as the wine costing £16-£20 a bottle depending on how many and whether you buy it in the UK or France. More details from www.domaineofthebee.com, where there's even an honest FAQ justifying "why is it so expensive?" I like your nerve!
Tasted in late October 2009:
2007 Domaine of the Bee vin de pays des Côtes Catalanes (Grenache, Carignan 15%) - a dusting of coconut oak layered with very ripe dark fruits; spicy and chunky mouthfeel with dry vs quite soft texture, rich and powerful yet balanced with fairly intense but not too huge finish. 87-89
UPDATE: November 2011. Click here for the latest buzzings-on at the Bee camp including a note on their recently released and rather tasty 2009 vintage red. More updates to follow e.g. the Bee has since moved wineries to Chateau Saint Roch just outside Maury.