The other day I was chatting to Mimi Avery, of the famous Bristol wine importing firm. She said that she couldn’t understand how some supermarkets can offer bottles of wine at, say ‘£4.95 reduced from £9.95’. If the normal selling price was a tenner, how could they make a profit on a fiver?
Then by chance she found herself sitting on a plane next to a buyer from one of our biggest supermarket chains. She asked him. He replied with a chuckle that it was easy. The actual cost to the supermarket of the wine in the bottle would be around 87p. Everything else was extra: shipping, bottling, distribution, advertising, duty, VAT, and of course the mark-up. In other words, the wine was not remotely worth £9.95 in the first place; that was a way of clearing the way for a ‘half-price’ offer.
Since duty is £2 a bottle for still wine, whether it’s mass-produced rotgut or Château Lafite, and the other costs, apart from VAT, are more or less constant, the more you spend on a bottle the better value it is. (I exempt from this the ludicrously overpriced wines bought by Russian oligarchs and -Chinese billionaires.)
Which is why the wines offered here by Jason Yapp and Tom Ashworth are terrific value. You’re paying for handmade grog, the vines carefully nurtured, the grapes meticulously selected, and the wine created with extraordinary care, not shot off a production line like so much microwave lasagne. Three of these wines are from southern France, three from the Loire.
Take the lovely 2012 Viognier from the Ardèche (1) which at £9.45 is a fraction of the cost of the greatest Viognier wine, Condrieu. All right, it’s not quite as good as that, but it does have those lovely floral flavours, the evanescent scent of spring, and is a perfect aperitif. A real summer wine.
The Orangerie 2012 from Savoie (2) is from the Alps, grown high in the meadows, and with the smack of wild flowers as well as citrus fruits. This was a huge success when we offered it last time, and it is terrific with food — fish, salads, cold chicken, whatever you’re eating outdoors. £9.95.
I love the Chenin grape — sometimes. It can be weak and flabby, though it’s now grown with great success in South Africa, and of course is at its finest in Vouvray. This 2011 Vouvray Sec from the Domaine Aubert (3) has smashing apple and pear flavours, and enough acidity to go with rich, even fatty foods, such as pork rillettes — though as Tom and Jason warn, both are dangerously moreish. (I cannot think of a nicer meal than rillettes on a fresh baguette, with crispy, salty frites, all washed down with this wine.) At £11.30, a huge treat.
Also from the Loire is a Saumur rouge 2011 (4) in the bottle with the cartoon of General de Gaulle on the label. I do not know why the general — who was, unlike say Mitterrand, not famous for high living — is so featured, but I do know that the wine inside is excellent, with that nice slatey Cabernet Franc taste. This is light but full-flavoured, and I suggest you give it half an hour in the fridge door before drinking. £9.00.
La Ficelle 2012 from St Pourçain (5) is another jolly summer wine for fun drinking with friends. Give it the fridge treatment, too. They get a different comic artist to design the label each year, all on the theme of the ficelle, the piece of string waiters used to measure how much wine a customer had drunk from the bottle. But with its plump fruit flavours, there is no way you are going to leave any of this. £9.00.
Finally a superlative wine which I cannot recommend too highly, and at £10.40 a real snip. The Château Valcombe 2009 (6) is made just outside Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and frankly is quite as good as many in that under-policed appellation, and much better than most. A glorious wine, perfectly balanced, with that terrific evanescent perfume you get in the best C-du-P’s.
Delivery, as ever, is free and there is a sample case containing two of each wine.
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.
View all the wine offers here, or call 01748 832666