I cannot imagine anyone who looks less like Father Christmas than Adam Brett-Smith, the managing director of Corney & Barrow. Adam is slender instead of fat, his face clean-shaven rather than covered in a fluffy white beard, and he would no more wear a red fur-lined suit and a silly hat than you or I would go to work dressed as Ronald McDonald. On the other hand, he can be every bit as generous as Saint Nicholas, combining in this Yuletide offer not only some lavish discounts, but also applying the celebrated Brett-Smith Indulgence, whereby you can knock £6 off every case if you buy two or more inside the M25 (C&B’s van delivery area) or three cases outside.
The plan behind this offer is to provide classy and appropriate drinking throughout the festive period. (Yes, I know it’s early, and we all hate shops that get out the decorations in September, but there are delivery times to bear in mind.) We start as usual with C&B’s house white (1), zingy and lemony, and the house red (5), which is round, plump and soft. They are both reduced, and with the extra discount, come in at under £4 a bottle. As I’ve said before, quality wines at supermarket prices; also a good way to bump up your order and qualify for the Indulgence.
For parties you might want something just a cut above. A party wine should be not too dry, and certainly not acid or tannic. It should have plenty of fruit and be drinkable in quantity with continuing pleasure. Our white is a Heywood Chardonnay-Colombard 2006 (2) from south-east Australia, and it fills the bill perfectly. My notes say, ‘honeyed, meaty and tropical’. Reduced by 10 per cent to £4.77.
The next wine is astounding value. It is Chablis Les Deux Rives 2004 (3) from Olivier Leflaive, one of the great names of Burgundy, and it’s gorgeous. Chablis must be one of the worst-policed appellations in France; you can pay large sums for stuff which has little more flavour than Badoit. So when you find one that combines Chablis austerity with ripe, rounded, luscious fruit, you should grab it. Especially when it has been reduced by £3 a bottle to a nugatory £8.22 — before the Indulgence.
Christmas requires Champagne, of course, and this delicious Guy de Chassey NV (4) is from Louvois, one of only 17 villages in the area to have the grand cru rating. It is two-thirds Pinot Noir, plus a third Chardonnay for extra finesse, and Marie-Odile Chassey adds 20 per cent older wine to add some more of that toasty complexity. Yum. Pretty fantastic value for £15.29.
Now the reds. Our party wine is the Taja Monastrell 2005 from Jumilla, Spain (6). Monastrell can be a little on the stringy side, but this is a smashing drop, full and deep, packed with lovely dark flavours, and reduced by 20 per cent to just £4.99.
Crozes-Hermitage is one of the finer names from the northern Rh