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Sunday 14 May 2023

One of Australia's best bistro wines now has a sibling

For over 30 years leading Barossa winery Torbreck has paid tribute to the wines of the Rhone Valley with its Cuvée Juveniles red blend, one of Australia's most notable - and affordable - food-friendly wines.

The Cuvée Juveniles blend was created by former Torbreck winemaker Dave Powell for Tim Johnston, the jovial expat British proprietor of Juveniles wine bar in Paris. It was one of the first Australian wines to be enjoyed by French wine lovers.

Johnston has spent decades in France, and partnered Mark Williamson at the famous Willi's around the corner before opening Juveniles, where he has championed smaller producers, particularly from the Rhone.

Powell was one of many Australian winemakers to befriend Johnston, making Juveniles - initially exclusively for the wine bar - in the last 1990s.

I have a special affinity for this wine as Juveniles was my watering hole for the five years I lived in Paris - just around the corner from my office on Place de la Bourse on Rue Richelieu. 

Juveniles opened in 1987 and to this very day is where you'll bump into the likes of Jeffrey Grosset, Chester Osborn or Vanya Cullen when they are in Paris.

I have spent many happy hours at Juveniles exploring wines at Tim's recommendation.

Now Cuvée Juveniles has a sibling: Cuvée Juveniles Blanc pays homage to the fresh and energetic Cotes du Rhone white blends enjoyed in wine bars and bistros across France.

A blend of roussanne, marsanne, clairette, grenache blanc and viognier, it is a racy white designed for immediate enjoyment with minimal ceremony. The 2022 vintage has a very reasonable RRP of $29.

Meanwhile, to the original varieties of grenache, mourvedre and shiraz, current Torbreck winemaker Ian Hongell (ex Peter Lehmann) has added two other grape varieties to the popular red Juveniles blend: counoise and carignan. The current 2021 vintage is bursting with juicy fruit and is also just $29 RRP.

Nowadays Tim Johnson has stepped back from day-to-day operations at Juveniles.

It is now run by his daughter Margaux and her chef/partner Romain Roudeau. It is as much a bistro now as a wine bar, but it remains a port of call each time I visit Paris.

I'll have to ask Tim what he thinks of the new vin blanc. I reckon he'll like it.  

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