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Offers from Corney & Barrow are always extremely popular with Spectator readers.

25 May 2006

10:14 AM

25 May 2006

10:14 AM

Offers from Corney & Barrow are always extremely popular with Spectator readers. They may be one of the poshest of all wine merchants — two very wealthy writers whose books you have seen piled high in Terminal 4 were tasting for their own cellars the day I popped in last month. Lunch in their airy new offices is superb (we had oysters, and wild salmon that had just been thrashing about in the River Tay).

I only tell you this to make you envious. But the thing is that C&B wines are not all that expensive. In fact, many are tremendous value. And here’s what makes this deal so remarkable: C&B’s Adam Brett-Smith has taken off 15 per cent from the list price of every one. What’s more, if you buy in quantity (two cases or more if you live inside the M25; three outside), the fabled Brett-Smith Indulgence kicks in, taking off a further £6 a case. This translates at the top end to a saving of £30 a dozen. All prices quoted are pre-Indulgence.

It’s worth laying in some of C&B’s house wines, perfect for everyday drinking. The white1 is crisp and elegant but full-flavoured too, so you can drink it with food or knock it back in the sun. The red5 is round and slightly smoky — again just right for sipping or glugging.

La Combe de Grinou 20042 from Bergerac is an old favourite of our readers. Basically made from the Sémillon grape, which goes into Sauternes, it is actually bone dry, but ever so slightly honeyed. A perfect summer wine, and great value at £5.39 — or under a fiver with the Indulgence.

When wine fans gather we often have the Cloudy Bay conversation, about how a perfectly respectable New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has managed to turn itself into one of the world’s most prestigious brands, selling in limited quantities at very high prices. It’s a nice drop, to be sure, but it would take quite an expert to distinguish it from this delicious Crossroads 2004 from Marlborough3. Cheaper Sauvignons can be raw, even faintly reminiscent of turps. This has the expected grass and gooseberries, but has a rich, round mouth-feel as well. Terrific value at £8.46.

The last white is a Burgundy from the celebrated négociant Olivier Leflaive — for less than a tenner a bottle! This is a Montagny premier cru 20044 and it’s lovely — flinty yet plump and flavourful. I have had bad experiences with Montagny. It can be — what’s the phrase? — flavour-free. And ‘premier cru’ is meaningless, since it applies to all the wines. But this is excellent — really good Burgundy at a fine price.

Now the reds: the Taja Monastrell 20046 from Jumilla in central Spain is stunning. Monastrell (Mourvèdre in France) can be too full, too fat and too alcoholic, so sometimes it has to be let down with less insistent grapes. This is wonderful: it is velvety, deep, rich, with flavours of blackcurrants and even chocolate. You’ll be astounded, especially at a mere £5.21 a bottle.

My quest for good-value Bordeaux reds continues, and this Domaine La Grave de Bertin 19997 is just the ticket. It’s pleasingly mature, easy drinking, soft and light. It’s a very clarety claret, made by Christian Moueix, who also makes Château Petrus — and it costs just £5.81. When I think of the rubbish you can be offered for substantially more — well, I need a glass of this to restore my spirits and my faith in the Bordelais.

Finally the Poggio al Moro 20038 is a thunderously good Tuscan from the town of Bolgheri, which is rapidly becoming one of the most fashionable wine areas in the world. It is biodynamic (which really does make a difference, I think) and it has a lovely intense berry flavour, perfumed, with lots of other notes; I jotted down vanilla and custard, which is less silly than it sounds. A glorious wine, and only £11.26. All deliveries are free, and there is a mixed case too.

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