I’m just back from the United States where the local wine is ridiculously expensive, apart from the ridiculously cheap, and you wouldn’t want to drink an awful lot of that, since Diet Coke may be more subtle.
I’m just back from the United States where the local wine is ridiculously expensive, apart from the ridiculously cheap, and you wouldn’t want to drink an awful lot of that, since Diet Coke may be more subtle. The best Californian wine is superb, and priced to match. At the huge California tasting in London I tried a Cabernet Sauvignon which I thought first-rate. I asked the price. ‘Around 90 of your British pounds,’ the owner said. ‘That’s astonishing,’ I said. ‘Only £90 a case?’ ‘No,’ he said, ‘a bottle.’
All of which is a long way of telling you that all this month’s selections come from France which, in spite of the resurgent euro, still offers excellent value. They have been provided by Simon Wrightson, the admirable and adventurous merchant based in North Yorkshire, from where he makes forays into France looking for interesting, exciting and well-priced wines. All of these fit the bill.
Last year we offered two wines from the Pierre Henri estate. Normally I avoid mass-produced wines because they are made by technological efficiency rather than love and devotion. But these stand out. While the prices are those you might expect to pay in a supermarket, the quality strikes me as significantly higher. For example, the Pierre Henri Chardonnay 2007 (1) costs only £4.95 a bottle yet is ripe, mellow, and has a heady perfume due to the small amount of Viognier added to the mix. A nice spring party wine, good to glug all evening, and strong enough to go with any number of foods.
White Côtes du Rhône is much less well known than the red, and in the past you could see why — they made some undistinguished wines, almost as afterthoughts. But this C du R Villages Blanc Laudun 2005 (2) from the Domaine Pelaquie is exceptional. It is made from a blend of six different grapes, including the lovely Marsanne and Roussanne, and it too has a soft, lustrous, velvety flavour. ‘Fruit salad in a glass,’ says Simon, and while he may be biased he is right. At £7.10, unmissable.
You will need to get your order in quickly for the Macon Uchizy 2006 (3) from the Domaine Talmard, generally acknowledged as the finest of all Macon Blanc producers. I think this is a fabulous bargain, having all the honey and flowers of a fine Burgundy at a remarkably low price. It’s just £8 a bottle, and there are only 52 cases left. Order quickly. Indeed, for greater safety, order online, even if it means joining the morose Scandinavian students at your nearest internet café.
Now the reds. The strong euro has pushed up the price of Pierre Henri’s Cabernet Sauvignon 2007 (4), but it is still only £4.50, and thus a steal compared to any Bordeaux at the same price. Ripe, dark and fruity — an excellent wine to have around for pleasant everyday drinking, and certainly good enough to serve your friends.
I loved the Chateau Pechaurieux 2003 (5) from Bergerac. This is a typical Bordeaux blend from outside Bordeaux — roughly equal parts of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot — and shows off well the terrific strides being made in Bergerac. The vines are, on average, 35 years old, and for a French country wine this has been aged for an unusually long time. A nice wine for sipping as well as drinking with roasts, casseroles and so forth, but still only £6.50.
Spectator readers like their Côtes du Rhône, and have bought this Seguret from the Domaine de Mourchon (6) in great quantities in the past. This 2006, made from 40-year-old vines, tastes of cherries, black-currants, liquorice and spice. As well as being packed with all these rich, complex flavours, it is deliciously smooth. Perhaps surprisingly, it is made by a Scotsman, Walter McKinlay, who bought the estate ten years ago and swiftly improved its quality. Just £8.75 a bottle.
Delivery, as ever, is free. There is a sample case containing two of each wine, and one containing six each of the Pierre Henri white and red. If you buy three or more cases of any wine, there will be a further 5 per cent discount from the total.