One night in 2001, after a tasting session with Charlie Sichel in Cucugnan, in the aftermath of a delicious dinner under the stars accompanied with the smell of woodsmoke, Justin Howard-Sneyd realized he was left with an imprint for life. As he had understood in 2001, he along with Amanda and Sam returned in 2003. During their ride, they stopped at Jean Pla’s shop where they met with Richard Case, owner and winemaker of Domaine de La Pertuisane and his erstwhile partner, Mark Hoddy.
Along with a few bottles bought from Jean’s shop, the three of them left with bags of memories, completely smitten by the countryside and the wine. Justin and Amanda left Richard with an interesting message. They wanted to buy small blocks of vines and wanted Richard to manage it for them. Richard called back after a couple of months, and that was the start of their journey together as winemakers and wine growers. Today, Amanda and Justin are still based out of London but spend an increasing amount of time in France, at their vineyards.
Justin and Amanda at the annual barbeque, Source Facebook
The vineyards, however, don’t just have vines, they also have awards! At the 2021 Sommeliers Choice Awards, their 2017 Domaine of the Bee was awarded the Best Wine by Country for France. The wine was awarded a gold medal for its score of 93 points and was followed by the Les Genoux which was also a gold medal winner scoring 90 points.
The Sommeliers Choice Awards, one of the most trusted wine judging competitions in the world, brings together a combination of the best judges and consumer-oriented parameters to judge wines from all over the world. This year’s edition saw entries from 26 countries across 142 different varietals competing for the top prizes at the competition which includes the Best Wine by Country award.
The judges are drawn from a list of top sommeliers, wine directors and buyers who know a good wine when they taste one. The 2021 edition saw names like Jim Bube MS (General Manager of Mercantile Dining and Provision in Denver, CO); Rachel Lowe (Director of Beverage for Levy Restaurants, Chicago, IL); Koen Masschelein (Director of Food and Beverage at Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Yountville, CA) and other top wine experts from around the country.
The wines are judged on the parameters of quality (how well the wine is made, its aroma, body, taste and more); value (how well the wine is priced compared to the quality it offers); packaging (how well the wine is perceived by people); pairing ability (how well the wine goes with world cuisines) and typicity (how well the wine matches with the varietal profile). This allows the judges to rate the wines on all factors that a consumer will think about before indulging in a glass of wine and not only its quality which is the focal point of most wine competitions.
Picking Season at Domaine of the Bee, Source Facebook
Standing tall across all these parameters, the 2017 Domaine of the Bee from Domaine of the Bee trumped other wines from France to take home the honor of Best Wine from France and bring recognition to a journey Justin and Amanda embarked on at the start of the century.
2017 Domaine of the Bee
2017 was a good year for the winemakers at Domaine of the Bee. The conditions were so good that the wines had an exceptional quality to them which was further backed by an above-average production quantity. The 2017 Domaine of the Bee is a bright representative of a rare year that delivered on both of these factors. Ever since the grapes were picked at full ripeness, it was evident the wines were going to be fruit-forward.
The 2017 Domaine of the Bee Magnum, Source Facebook
The gold medal winner and the Best Wine by Country award winner is the biggest, most concentrated wine the Domaine of the Bee winery has produced. The nose of the 93 points scoring wine is vibrant with black fruits, with a spice box of vanilla, cinnamon and wafts of rosemary. The deep black red color on the pour is pleasing to the eye and the palate bursts with fennel, blackberry, dark damson and black cherry flavors. The wine is complex and lusciously rich with smooth tannins. It has a great intensity which makes it a great accompaniment for grilled red meat dishes, barbequed food, hard cheeses and hearty stews.
The wine had everything to please the judges at the Sommeliers Choice Awards which is why it took home the laurel of being the best French wine at the competition.
A rare single vineyard from wine, Les Genoux was the second wine from Domaine of the Bee to be awarded a gold medal at the 2021 Sommeliers Choice Awards. Only 628 bottles of this red blend of Grenache Noir and Carignan were produced by the winery. The blend makes it a little less colored than a usual cuveé, with the nose being more complex and more perfumed than the 2017 Domaine of the Bee.
Layers of raspberry, wild strawberry, fennel and rosemary give complex and spicy aromas to the wine. The mouth is lush and soft, unveiling an array of herbs, ripe plum, and damson flavors. Despite the softness of the wine, the Les Genoux retains a good tannin structure. A full-bodied wine, Les Genoux is a wonderful match for a fennel salami or a finocchiona charcuterie. The elegant style of the wine makes it versatile which was among the reasons why it was awarded a score of 90 points.
Apart from these two Sommeliers Choice Awards winners, the Domaine of the Bee collection is made up of three other wines, the 2017 The Bee-Side, the 2018 Bee Pink and the 2018 Field of the Bee.
The Domaine of the Bee Collection, Source Facebook
2017 The Bee-Side: A 100% Grenache and the winery’s second label wine, the 2017 Bee-Side has a beaming cherry red color. Notes of raspberry, bright cherry and a touch of local herbs on the nose. The palate has expressive red fruit, a distinct mineral freshness and notes of fennel that balances the wine perfectly. Pair it with a delicious pasta dish and enjoy.
2018 Bee Pink: A Grenache and Syrah blend, the 2018 Bee Pink is an attractive pale pinked Provence style wine. Citrus fruits, white peach aromas and a palate of summer red fruits, crispiness and mouth-watering freshness define the 2018 Bee Pink. Ideal to drink with a chicken salad or a salad nicoise.
2018 Field of the Bee: Refreshing yellow gold in color, the final wine from Domaine of the Bee is the 2018 Field of the Bee. Expressive and enticing on the nose, the wine is dry but soft and approachable. The Grenache Blanc and Grenache Gris blend packs the zing of a Sauvignon but is smooth like a Viognier.
Today, the team consists of Justin Howard-Sneyd, a Master of Wine and the chief wine person, his wife Amanda Howard-Sneyd, the chief worker who makes sure everything is in order and done correctly and Phillipe Sacredot, the chief financial expert who works around the financial matters of running the business. Domaine of the Bee now stands proudly as a representative of France’s amazing wine culture and heritage.