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The Domaine by Lidewij Van Wilgen, pt.2

At the height of her career, Lidewij Van Wilgen gave up her job at Saatchi in Amsterdam to start a new life in the French countryside and become a wine maker, producing the beautiful Mas des Dames. She wrote a book about her experience, Het Domein (The Domaine), which became a best seller in The Netherlands. In this excerpt from Chapter Two, Where I'm From, Lidewij discusses her growing sense of dissatisfaction with her pre-Mas des Dames life in Amsterdam. Read chapter one, First Impressions, now. Two years previously: I am sitting at a large glass desk complete with arty aluminium lamp and mandatory stack of files. I am thirty-two years old, a director of strategy at an advertising agency in Amsterdam, and with eight years of experience almost a veteran in my chosen field. At twenty-five I got married to Adrien, a young copywriter. For our honeymoon Adrien and I decide to hire a yacht in Greece. We set sail from Athens for the island of Hydra and in the days that follow we drop anchor at islands where the only inhabitants are families that look after the local lighthouse or who scrape a living from the sea in their small fishing boats. We navigate our way through fierce storms and fall into bed every night thoroughly exhausted but also with a feeling of intense satisfaction. Every evening we manage to find a ramshackle restaurant where we can eat with our feet in the sand. The menu is the same everywhere. Greek salad. Chicken. Sardines. Swordfish. We drink retsina in the blissful awareness that this is all we will ever need and are ridiculously happy. The shock is enormous when we return to the Netherlands. Was it really this busy when we left? --- Marijn is born in our bedroom on the Westerhout Park and takes her place in our world without fuss or complaint. She has not yet turned two when our second child arrives: Fiene. Effortlessly, I find another bottomless well of love from which to draw and Fiene expends equally little effort in finding her place next to Marijn. I am now a member of the colourful brigade that fills the narrow streets of Haarlem: the army of Trendy Young Mothers. Can life be too perfect? Maslow's hierarchy of needs: when the essentials are fulfilled you will inevitably move on to the next set of needs. Suddenly, there it is again, the restlessness we felt when we came back from our honeymoon. It's like having a ticking clock in the room. You can go for hours without noticing it, but once the sound gets into your head there's simply no getting rid of it. I make friends with a few of the women in the area. They are all very nice but I can't help thinking how alike we all are. We all have a university education, work in the creative industry, have two or three children and drive a Volvo. We drink cappuccino and rosé and discuss our work, our children, our spouses and families – the world is our oyster, and we intend to eat it. A mere two years later I will find myself desperate to have just one of these women living near to me. But right now one thought in particular occupies my mind: my life is not something I have created myself but rather a perfect replica of the lives of everyone else around me. Back in the office I read through my latest assignment for the fourth time. I start planning the campaign. How many strategies can I come up with? Ten? Twelve? I know them all inside out by now and could commit them to paper in my sleep. I find that I am unmoved these days when I receive a compliment at the end of a presentation. It wasn't that difficult, after all. In the meantime, Adrien is having to deal with his own problems at work. In the evenings, when the children are in bed, we draw some small comfort from engaging in conversations along the lines of: ‘What if we decided to do something completely different?’ ‘Like what?’ ‘I don't know. Move abroad or something, find some space, follow the sun.’ It feels good to entertain these fantasies every now and then. Lots of our friends do the very same thing. It's a kind of hobby for young and spoiled people like us. As Mas des Dames' UK importer, we're publishing a series of excerpts from Lidewij's book. Read chapter three: First Weeks at Mas des Dames now.

25/07/2017

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Roberson Wine

The Domaine by Lidewij Van Wilgen, pt.1

At the height of her career, Lidewij Van Wilgen gave up her job at Saatchi in Amsterdam to start a new life in the French countryside and become a wine maker, producing the beautiful Mas des Dames. She wrote a book about her experience, Het Domein (The Domaine), which became a best seller in Holland. In this excerpt from Chapter One, First Impressions, Lidewij comes face to face with the harsh reality of living the dream. A narrow road winds its way up into the hills. Under the dark oak trees the tarmac is almost pitch-black, forcing my eyes into a squint each time a sharp beam of sunlight breaks through the cover. A bend in the road, an ancient stone wall, and then everything brightens up. The view becomes expansive again. Behind the vineyard, the burning sun colours the rocky plateau a bright yellow ochre. The road becomes a rough track. A cloud of dust trails in my wake as I drive towards the tall cypresses in the distance. I park the car and get out, the slam of the door breaking the silence and leaving behind only a startled emptiness. This is the image I have presented over and over to my friends back home: a large, sandy-coloured house standing in the shade of a sprawling ash tree. No one had any trouble filling in the rest of the picture: the long table outside on the gravel where we would sit drinking glasses of our own wine, happy children playing around us. It would always be summer. --- I leave the house and walk back to my car, the same dark blue Volvo that I used to drive on the busy roads of Amsterdam. Now it is parked in the shade of several tall cypresses, surrounded by nothing but an emphatic silence. ‘There’s no companion so companionable as solitude…’ I quote cynically in the direction of the vines that stare back at me without compassion. I have never felt as alone as in these past few interminably long weeks in this vast land. So, this is the 'Peace and Quiet' that had seemed so attractive to me back in Holland; that tempted me with the prospect of finding Buddhist-like harmony and truth somewhere deep down inside myself. The harsh reality, however, is that I often start my day now with a rising sense of panic when I throw open the shutters and see all that empty countryside stretching out before me. The utter emptiness, the all-pervading silence, the complete absence of human interference – they do nothing but intimidate me. Sometimes I exchange a few words with the local handyman or the boy who looks after our vineyard. But they have their own lives, their own routine, while my only role is to be here, a mere physical presence that is neither requested nor desired by anyone else in these parts. The locals treat me with a mixture of friendliness and pity; they toss a greeting in my direction and then return quickly to whatever was keeping them busy. So, this is what it's like to be nobody. We'll be publishing a series of excerpts from Lidewij's book over coming weeks. Read chapter two: Where I'm From now.

28/06/2017

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Year-Round Rosé?

It's late February, or early March, and the weather turns unexpectedly warm. A wave of optimism sweeps the country as stuck windows are forced open and spider-infested barbecues are excavated from behind the shed. People everywhere suddenly remember summer, and at Roberson we feel an unstoppable urge to promote rosé. Everything is ready. The coals are heating up nicely, the summer playlist is just getting into its stride, and we hit send on our carefully crafted campaign... Thirty minutes later the wind is up, the rain is coming down, windows are slamming and even the most enthusiastic barbecuer is saying, 'You know guys, I honestly think you can achieve almost equally pleasing results with a combination of griddle and oven. Is the heating on?' Soon the spiders will return. It's a familiar pattern, and one reason we have banned the expression 'With summer just around the corner' from our marketing. But rosé is no longer just for summer. Years ago, it was overpriced and sickly, a cynical by-product of the winemaker's real business - making red wine. You would drink it on holiday, in the sun, with the exchange rate being so favourable (those were the days), but like Retsina it didn't travel. Now, Provence in particular is focused on making rosé for its own sake. There are some very good wines. Dry, with weight and layers of flavour, and delicious all year round, they work with a very wide range of foods, and not just (but certainly including) things you would eat on the beach.* So is there any reason why the best rosé should be more seasonal than, say, white wine? It seems not. Last year we sold very nearly as much pink as white. In January/February we sold more rosé than in July/August. Next time you're sitting inside watching your newly cleaned barbecue slowly fill with rainwater, a bottle of Provence's finest might just provide the lift you need.   *In Hugh Johnson's Pocket Wine Book 2017, rosé features as a suggested match with 26 foods. It makes a pleasing list: aïoli, avocado and tiger prawns, crudités, escargots (or frog's legs), chilled goats cheese, mayonnaise, pipérade, salads, tapenade, salade Niçoise, curry, paella, prawns with garlic, snapper (when cooked with Mediterranean flavours), barbecue (with Asian flavours), barbecue (Middle Eastern - cumin, mint), Chinese food (Cantonese), Indian dishes, Indian dishes (Sri Lankan), Moussaka, rabbit, tongue, couscous with vegetables, dhal with spinach, root vegetables, cheese (fresh, no rind - cream cheese, crème fraîche, mozzarella).

24/03/2017

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Exiting Dry January

How has your Dry January been? I stopped drinking a couple of hours into New Year's Day and I have to say, I've never felt better. I am radiating self-satisfaction. Of course, my professional obligations meant I had to make some exceptions. Wine, for example. And because I am unfortunate enough to live in a hard water area, beer is necessary for hydration. Then there was the Roberson Christmas party, which always takes place in January, and a handful of other special events - lunch, Sunday, the successful delivery of a new dishwasher - that sort of thing. Overall, it's been tough, but the good news is it's over, and unlike last year when we all had to cram half a year's alcohol consumption into just ten days, this year we've got four full weeks until Lent starts on the 1st of March. After a period of abstinence, the first glass always tastes much better then usual. Your brain has almost forgotten how delicious wine is and is surprised and delighted to rediscover it. So make it a good wine - it will never taste better. I'm going for something by Marcel Deiss. These Alsace wines have such crystal clarity, beautiful balance and piercing flavours, they're the perfect way to jolt you into the new wine year.

31/01/2017

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What to cook with your Grüner Veltliner

In our email this week, Megan from our Online Department picked the Grüner Veltliner from Ebner-Ebenauer as her wine of the week. As you might expect, Grüner Veltliner works very well with many Austrian classics. Its crisp acidity makes it a refreshing accompaniment to anything coated in breadcrumbs and fried. Wiener Schnitzel or Backhendl (Viennese fried chicken) would be appropriate. Tafelspitz is the Viennese version of boiled beef and is always served with a glass of Grüner. Take a piece of topside and gently simmer (not boil) it in water with roughly chopped root vegetables, herbs and peppercorns. When it is soft (two to three hours) the most trying stage arrives, so for reassurance I quote Édouard de Pomiane: "Lift the beef from the saucepan and remove the string. The meat is grey outside and not very appetising. At this moment you may feel a little depressed." The key to overcoming this psychological barrier is to discard the vegetables and replace the meat. Overnight it will absorb some of the liquid and become more flavoursome, while you simultaneously recover your appetite for it. Reheat it gently and serve it sliced, with the juice poured over, apple and horseradish grated in equal amounts, rosti potatoes, creamed spinach and a sauce of egg yolk and oil flavoured with chopped chives. Alternatively, if you've just got in from work and don't have time for all that, the full, fresh flavour and peppery edge of this wine also go brilliantly with Kedgeree.

28/04/2016

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How to taste wine

Our first Introduction to Quality Wine tasting of 2016 was last night, and with the new year came a new guide to the tasting, full of useful information for those just starting out in wine. If you're thinking of coming along to a future date, or if you're just looking for some guidance on how to taste wine, here's an extract you may find useful. A very brief guide to wine tasting Tasting wine is easy. All you need is to concentrate and use all your senses. Look at the colour, swirl the wine in the glass and inhale the aroma, then taste it carefully. Colour Red wine fades from purple to tawny with age, while white wine darkens. Aroma & Flavour Sometimes it's helpful to compare the aroma and flavour of a wine with other things you are familiar with - lemons, apples, game, earth, pepper, for example. With practice, you’ll learn what ‘Pinot Noir’ or ‘Bordeaux’ taste like on their own terms and be able to contrast different examples. Taste & mouthfeel As well as thinking about the flavour, when you taste a wine think about these basic elements and how prominent each of them is: Sweetnesss - Can you taste sugar or is it dry? Acidity - Does it taste crisp and fresh? Does it make your mouth water? Alcohol - Does it taste or feel ‘hot’? Tannin - If it’s a red wine, can you feel mouth-drying, grainy tannins? Balance & body Are the basic elements in harmony? For example, if there is sweetness, is it cloying, or is it matched by a refreshing acidity? This is balance. If a wine is powerful, with lots of alcohol and flavour, it’s full-bodied. If it’s delicate, it’s light-bodied. Your opinion If you don’t like something, try to be objective. Is it a good wine anyway? Judge each wine by the standards it aspires to. A £10 Beaujolais will not be as grand a wine as a £100 Burgundy, but either can be good, bad or sensational in its own way.

22/01/2016

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