Diary: No bottling it: the verdict on John Hegarty's first wine

Here at Campaign, we like to deliver our verdict on the big industry issues faster than the first Beaujolais Nouveau hits the coolest London bar. So we thought you should be the first to get a heads-up on Hegarty Chamans 2003.

You've never heard of it? Then clearly you don't know your Chardonnay from your shandy.

Hegarty Chamans 2003 represents the first output from John Hegarty's 125-acre vineyard in the Minervois appellation in the Languedoc. When he isn't being the chairman and worldwide creative director of Bartle Bogle Hegarty, wine-making now takes up a sizeable proportion of his time. Not to mention a sizeable chunk of his bank balance.

Indeed, Hegarty confesses that on each of his trips to his estate, he feels as though a vacuum cleaner is being applied to each of his trouser pockets.

So, has all Hegarty's hard work been worth it? We asked Richard Warren (pictured), Delaney Lund Knox Warren & Partners' strategy director and resident wine buff, to taste the results and do his best Jilly Goolden impersonation.

"The first thing you notice about Hegarty's three wines from Minervois is the Hegarty name and black sheep on the label. This overt 'branding' is far more New World than France, where vineyard location or terroir is always assumed to be the hero.

"As a sometime planner and full-time wine-lover, the big question for me was which part of the Hegarty brand equity would he be looking to extend? Would it be the exquisite refined elegance of early Hegarty or the more populist, commercial recent Hegarty? Mark Roberts, the founder of Decorum Vintners, Kimberley Eyre Varnier, a huge domestic and commercial wine buyer, and I sat down to test.

"The good news is it is the latter. These wines are unashamedly big, blockbusting crowd-pleasers; think Woolworths and KFC. All three wines are massive on the nose or, as Roberts put it, 'whack the punters over the head'. Pure blackcurrant concentrate, bags and bags of upfront fruit, Ribena and Opal Fruits.

"On the palate, too, these are big, powerful wines with rich, spicy fruit and alcohol very much to the fore. While they would go well with rabbit, lamb or a cassoulet, they are designed to be drunk on their own. Of the three, Cuvee No 1, at £9.99, is the smoothest and most integrated.

"As the wine merchant at the table rather ruefully concluded: 'These are exactly what the punters like.' What did we expect?"


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