Mark Hellyar – wine review

Chateau Civrac Wine and Honest Grapes

Chateau Civrac glass

What a kind invitation! A food and wine pairing evening at impressive Lutyens, off Fleet Street… and Cornish wine! Well, no, not really – the wine is French and very good too. The maker is Cornish and that, strangely, might give him some advantages: he has an appreciation of the British wine palate.

Cornishman Mark Hellyar changed careers a few years ago to start producing wine in Bordeaux. He is from Padstow where his family have farmed for a couple of hundred years, so he does indeed have a connection with land and cultivation. Cornishmen have long had a reputation for being independent and rebellious. With that genetic sense of adventure Mark sold the software company he was running in order to start a new phase of his life. Now the resulting wines are found at celebrated Michelin-starred restaurants and in the cellars of the discerning.

Mark Hellyar of Chateau Civrac is a Cornishman in Bordeaux. The wines are contemporary and made with the British consumer in mind. Mark’s wines are hand-made in small quantities thus giving the opportunity to tailor wines for individual and complex character and ever-changing nuances. There is nothing dull or banal from Chateau Civrac. Mark wanted to make wines that were different from classic Bordeaux. His wines have a New World quality about them, with more subtle tannins. They perhaps have more in common with those he discovered while working in California and South Africa.

Mark and Claire Chateau CivracChateau Civrac has developed a noteworthy Sauvignon Blanc called Wild White which isn’t a hippy-inspired vintage as the name might suggest. The ‘wild’ element comes from the French Sauvage and Blanc for white – a little linguistic toying. We tried this and several other outstanding wines at the Honest Grape food and wine tasting. Everybody was impressed by Mark’s offerings.

But what are Honest Grapes?

It’s actually more of a bunch of who’s rather than what’s. They are a group of wine enthusiasts, wine professionals, and friends who have created something of a one-stop wine site which offers suggestions and invitations to events. They hold regular pairing dinners and single-variety tastings which will excite anyone who enjoys good wine, and anyone wanting to learn more.

Lutyens fishHonest Grapes supports independent growers, small producers and importers, allowing their guests to taste wines that they won’t be able to find easily elsewhere. There are wines for quaffing with Sunday lunch and others suitable for celebrations and impressing the in-laws; there might even be a cheeky bottle or two appropriate for an evening in front of the television enjoying ‘The French Connection’ or ‘Julie & Julia’. This is a marketplace for interesting bottles, well-chosen vintages – and delicious diversion.

I am no wine expert and I am not a chef but I really enjoyed this pairing evening. Honest Grapes presents events that will appeal to food lovers. They will appreciate learning more about how wines not only accompany dishes but actually enhance them. But any dinner party is just as much about those folks sitting around the table as what’s on it. These evenings are convivial. One might not know the others but everyone has something in common – love of great food and excellent wine, as furnished by Lutyens and, in this case, the charming Mark Hellyar (whom I hope to interview in the near future).

Learn more about Honest Grapes here


Learn more about Mark Hellyar and his wines here

Wine review by Chrissie Walker © 2018