The budget has hit wine merchants and drinkers quite hard. Those of us who like a sophisticated slurp are paying the price for those who drink themselves senseless on Friday and Saturday nights, and turn our town centres into a hellish version of the passagio. But it is important to keep standards up. If we can’t drink as much, at least what we do drink should be worth drinking. One way to manage this is to buy wine through a company called FromVineyardsDirect.com. It’s run by an enterprising publisher, David Campbell, who relaunched Everyman Books in 1991 to the same principle — the best, but at affordable prices. His partner is Esme Johnstone, one of the founders of Majestic.
As the name implies, they buy their wines straight from the makers. By cutting out the middleman, and with minimal overheads, they are able to sell at prices about 20 per cent less than you’d expect to pay at other wine merchants, sometimes less. They have also reduced prices further for Spectator readers, making these four French classics even greater bargains. I heartily recommend them all.
The Muscadet is quite sensational, being every bit as magnificent as its name: Comte Leloup de Chasseloir 2003 (1). It is made from old vines by Bernard Carre. This is rich, round, lustrous, yet still has that tang of the Atlantic which makes it ideal with seafood. It is utterly delicious, and an amazing bargain at £7.07.
The Saint-Véran Merloix 2006 (2) is another superb wine, slightly lighter and zestier than most white Burgundies, with pleasing peach and apricot flavours, but a flinty undertone many people like. It is perfect as an aperitif, but dry enough to work extremely well with food, such as veal and poultry. A very modest £8.13.
Now the reds. Still in Burgundy, Chorey-les-Beaune is one of those appellations which produces wine as good as many better-known names, but hasn’t got the same cachet. This is a 2005 from Marvine (3), a tiny vineyard that produces only 600 cases a year. It is a great Pinot Noir, delicate and fragrant, so you should snap up your share now at £11.35 a bottle.
Finally, this claret may be, according to the label, a generic Margaux 2004 (4) but the secret is that it is overproduction from the fabulous Château Palmer — not the estate’s second wine, but made by the same team from grapes grown in the same vineyard. Under strict French laws, it shouldn’t be possible to tell you this, but here in UK I can. I can also add that, at £14.20 a bottle, it is very, very good, and will go on improving for some years.
There is a sample case of three bottles each, and delivery as ever is free.