The other day I had one of those awkward moments. We were guests at dinner. ‘You’re a wine writer!’ said our host. ‘I’d like your opinion on these two!’ You’re still supposed to say, ‘Goodness, these are delicious! What did they cost? Only £4.99 a bottle! That’s amazing!’ Instead you cast round for words that won’t offend or actually lie. ‘Never had anything quite like that before!’ might serve. Your host presses: ‘But do you like it?’ The only reply is, ‘Well, wine is a very subjective thing. As I always say, “If you like it, then it’s a good wine.” ’
In this case the red was a thin, mass-produced plonk with a fancy label. The white did surprise me; it was the first awful Sauvignon Blanc I’ve ever had from New Zealand. You could have poured it into the washing machine to help tackle stubborn stains.
Of course the bottles came from one of the many giant mail-order companies that offer vast quantities of cheap wines, all allegedly ‘worth’ far more than they’re charging. It’s rubbish. You are certainly paying more for the publicity than for the wine in the bottle, before tax, duty, bottling, shipping and mark-up.
Which is why I always turn with relief to the real, delicious wines offered by our merchants, in this case The Wine Company of Colchester. These really are value wines, especially with Mark Cronshaw’s substantial discounts. The Robertson Chenin Blanc 2012 (1) from South Africa is fresh and spritzy, with hints of tangerines and melons and a perfect party wine. Or right for those first outdoor drinks in the spring. Reduced by almost a tenner a case to £6.50 a bottle.
Viognier is increasingly popular, and increasingly good even outside its home of Condrieu. This Domaine Gayda 2011 (2) is only a vin de pays, but a very good one indeed. If you like the heady, floral, scented flavour of the grape you’ll also enjoy the depth this one has. Excellent with fish, cheese and white meats, or again as an aperitif. Down by £12 a case to £9 a bottle.
Now a wine from Reuilly, one of the least-known Loire appellations, but one you should hear about. This 2011 ‘La Raie’, from the Domaine Claude Lafond (3) is, not surprisingly, a Sauvignon Blanc, and one of the best of its type I’ve enjoyed. (I tried another at a posh tasting the other day. It cost £5 more and wasn’t as good.) The grape’s usual grassy, gooseberry flavours are there, and so is its mineral quality, but there is also a smooth creaminess. Another £12 discount brings it down to £9.50, which compared to many Sancerres is fabulous value.
Now the reds. I have bored many times about the excellence of southern French wines, and I think you’ll love the Corbières Rouge 2009 from Les Forts de Bories-Azeau (4), which manages to be both an earthy, peasant wine and yet highly sophisticated at the same time. Not possible? Oh yes it is. Decant this at a dinner party and your friends will easily be persuaded that they are glugging a great southern Rhône. Or serve in quantity at parties and watch the happy smiles. A £15 discount brings it down to a mere £6.75 a bottle.
Portuguese table wines continue to amaze, and I was knocked back by this 2009 Boas Vinha from Dão (5). These are rich, dark wines which manage to be powerful without ever losing subtlety. This really is for enjoying with roast lamb, sides of beef, kidneys in mustard — you get the idea. Luscious. Another £12 off a case brings it to a very modest £8.00.
Finally, Mark has taken over £30 a case off a superb Kiwi Pinot Noir, the 2011 Moa Ridge from Marlborough (6). This is a classic example of this difficult grape, with all the perfume and delicacy of a good Burgundy at a ridiculous £12.50. An amazing bargain.
Delivery as always is free, and there is a sample case with two of each bottle.
Prices include VAT and delivery on the British mainland. Payment should be made either by cheque with the order, payable to the wine merchant, or by debit or credit card, details of which may be telephoned or faxed. This offer, which is subject to availability, closes on 17 May 2013.
Click here to take advantage of this offer (subject to closing date)