It’s fair to say that they let their hair down a bit in the Spectator offices on a Thursday afternoon, the magazine having gone to press, and it could have been a rash move to hold a wine tasting in the boardroom. As it was, everyone behaved impeccably and went about the task of tasting 18 different wines on behalf of the Wine Club with commendable attention and diligence.
We all took notes and gave the wines marks out of ten. The following six wines were our favourites and they did well to shine amid some pretty stiff competition.
The 2013 Wide River Viognier (1) from Robertson in South Africa was the first to get a unanimous thumbs up from the Spectator tasters. It was adjudged to be delicate, fragrant, creamy, floral and gratifyingly easy to drink. It certainly has delightfully delicate touches of apricot and peach, coupled with hints of citrus. Made in the modern Robertson winery in the warmer inner Cape, this is a great example of sound South African winemaking at a truly enticing price. £6.75 down from £7.49.
The dry white wines of Bordeaux don’t always get the attention they deserve and it’s true that far too many of them can be bland and characterless. The 2013 Château Madirac Bordeaux Blanc (2) is anything but, however, and was roundly cheered at our tasting. Comments included ‘crisp and fresh’, ‘spring-like and refreshing’ and ‘really super’. Made from Sauvignon Blanc with a hint of fleshy Sémillon, it is the anti-thesis of New Zealand or South African Sauvignon, being bone dry and restrained with a long, firm finish. £7.75, down from £8.99.
The 2013 Mâcon-Villages, Vignerons des Terres Secrètes (3), was my pick of the whites, a fresh, honeyed and stylish Chardonnay from a highly regarded, medal-winning co-operative of 35 growers in the village of Prissé. It went down very well at the tasting, with everybody giving it high marks. Two professed Chardonnay-haters also gave it their surprised seal of approval, applauding its freshness, delicacy and vibrant citrus notes, and the lack of heavy-handed oak. £8.75 down from £9.99.
The 2011 Corbières Rouge, Les Forts de Boriés-Azeu (4), is a Languedoc-Roussillon blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan, and I was expecting it to be darker, earthier and much more intense and brooding than it proved to be. Instead, what might have been a right Gordon Brown of a wine turned out to be light(ish), elegant, silky smooth and supple, albeit with noticeable tannins. The Speccie team really enjoyed its elements of cherry, liquorice, bramble fruit and its keen acidity. £7, down from £7.99.
A stalwart of Cahors, where it makes the region’s so-called ‘Black Wine’, Malbec is otherwise all but ignored in France. In Mendoza, Argentina, though, it thrives, thanks to 330 days of sunshine a year blazing down on high altitude vineyards. It’s sunny but cool, leading to gloriously ripe but not ‘overcooked’ grapes, great for colour, structure and silky tannins. There hasn’t been a duff vintage since 1998. The 2011 Gouguenheim Malbec Reserva (5) encapsulates everything that is great about Mendoza and was a huge hit at our tasting, scoring several 9/10s. We all loved its hints of chocolate, coffee, tobacco, violets, spice, blackcurrants and blackberries, and several of those present assumed that it was at least another fiver more expensive. £9.25 down from £10.49.
Finally, the 2012 Cabaletta, Tenuta Fiorebelli (6), a delicious curiosity from the the Veneto. A blend of Corvina, Rondinella and Cabernet Sauvignon, it is produced by ‘appassimento’, using a portion of dried grapes whose concentrated and intense flavours add real character and backbone to the wine, along with mouth-filling flavours of plums, prunes, damsons, cloves, spices, raisins and cherries. ‘Excellent!’ said classified ad manager Paul Bentley, tucking into a large glass. ‘I’d definitely buy a case of that.’ It’s a real autumn beauty and we all agreed it would be perfection with a steaming bowl of spag bol. £8, down from £8.99.
There’s a sample case containing two of each bottle and delivery, as ever, is free.
All prices are correct at time of publication, but we may alter prices at any time for any reason.
To view all other offers, visit new.spectator.co.uk/wine-club.