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I love Stone, Vine & Sun of Winchester.

6 February 2008

12:00 AM

6 February 2008

12:00 AM

I love Stone, Vine & Sun of Winchester. They keep winning awards for best independent wine merchant; they have a knack for finding delicious wines at excellent prices from places you haven’t heard about yet but very soon will. They’ve always been terrific on unknown France, but they’ve branched out into the New World, especially Chile and Argentina where, with the low US dollar, they managed to secure some gorgeous wines at great prices. None are particularly cheap, but I’d hazard that if you bought these varietals from the classic areas of France you would pay twice as much for the same quality. South America makes much good, gluggable wine, but these are quite outstanding.

And Simon Taylor of Stone Vine has knocked 15 per cent off the list price of them all! Take the Wild Ferment Chardonnay 2006 (1) made by Eduardo Chadwick at the historic Errázuriz winery in the Casablanca Valley. They use only natural yeasts (hence the ‘wild ferment’, which sounds like the start of a Latin revolution) and the result is very agreeably oaky, with rich, multi-layered aromas, fruity and creamy at the same time. A deeply satisfying wine. Reduced to £8.46.

The rest are reds. Tabalí was the first estate in the Limarí Valley to be planted, which means that they can draw, by Chilean standards, on quite old vines. The Shiraz Reserva 2005 (2) recently won Decanter magazine’s trophy for the world’s best Rhône varietal under £10. So it is as full and mature and as spicy as you’d expect. At my informal tasting, people said, with feeling, and I quote: ‘really, really nice’. The discount brings it down to just £7.60.

They were even more enthusiastic about the Monteagrelo Malbec 2005 (3), made by Walter Bressia. Gosh, this is good. Smooth, dark, lush, velvety and lustrous. Robert Parker, the sage of Maryland, gives it 91 points, which is why in the US it would cost you a great deal more than the under-a-tenner Stone Vine are asking. Scrumptious now, but will improve for another five years.

There are three great Pinot Noir areas: Burgundy, New Zealand and Oregon. You can pay a fortune for those from the north-western US, or you can buy this luscious, strawberry, juicy, peppery, scented 2005 from Firesteed (4), one of the state’s two main producers. The discount brings it down to a fraction over £10, which would make even Oregonians envious. Delivery as ever is free, and there is a sample case containing three of each wine.

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