And so to our final Wine Club offer of the year, courtesy of Private Cellar, the small but perfectly formed wine merchant based in Newmarket and currently in the throes of great jollification.
For not only is Private Cellar celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, it is also marking the fact that no less an authority than Jancis Robinson recently declared it to be the finest independent merchant in the UK. Quite some accolade. They are a jolly lot at Private Cellar, never shy of a party, and it must be said that the corks have barely stopped popping since.
And Private Cellar’s Amanda Skinner and Laura Taylor were certainly in high spirits and great form when they came to Spectator HQ the other day. Thirty lucky readers were invited to join us as we took over the boardroom and tasted our way through a dozen or so wines in order to whittle down the selection to the six you see here. Not so much readers’ wives, more readers’ wines, chosen by the readers for the readers.
And it was a tough selection process. All the wines showed extremely well and readers were asked to mark them as they tasted, adding comments if they wished, leaving us to tot up the scores. It being a Thursday, one or two Spectator folk with more time on their hands than is good for them drifted by, carrying a bit of a thirst, and did their best to muddy the waters. But we stuck firmly to our task and the following six wines are those that scored highest. There was only one spoilt ballot paper, that of the commercial director, Nick Spong, and this was rejected. Nick, you’ve been to tastings before. I would have thought you would have learned by now…
The Henri Chauvet Brut Blanc de Noirs NV Champagne (1) is something of a favourite at the Speccie, having featured in a number of Private Cellar’s tastings with us. So-called grower champagnes are all the rage at the moment and this is a fine example from a family-owned eight-hectare property in the premier cru village of Rilly la Montagne. Made from Pinot Noir and a dash of Pinot Meunier, it is crisp, clean and fresh. There’s also a nice touch of toasty biscuit in there too and a very fine mousse.
Sarah Bowden declared it ‘very smooth, very drinkable’, while Jane Towne said, ‘I would definitely have this as my desert island treat.’ Hamish Edsell was adamant that ‘I wouldn’t waste it on the in-laws.’ That’s them told. Matthew Mott gave it his unique ‘Mott Gold Star’. Two readers deemed it ‘robust’ and I have to say that I loved it and loved the price too. £24.25 down from £25.50.
The 2013 Ique Torrontés Bodega Foster (2) is a real charmer that was the hit at Private Cellar’s session at the Spectator Wine School. Torrontés has become Argentina’s signature white grape and I must say that I delight in its delicate elderfloweriness. It is not dissimilar to an Alsace Gewurz-traminer, in fact, but without the oiliness and without quite so much spice. It is headily aromatic, though, and vibrantly fresh thanks to being grown in high altitude vineyards in Mendoza. Ben McGrail was moved almost to poetry, deeming it ‘Exotic, perfumed, distant. Like a Spanish dancing girl, all polka dots and castanets.’ Nearly all our tasters remarked on its teasingly floral characteristics and we agreed that it would make an excellent party wine this Christmas. It’s certainly great value at £9.50, down from £9.95.
Readers were virtually unanimous about the 2011 Montagny 1er Cru Les Bassets Domaine Laurent Cognard (3). Quite simply, it’s a belter of a burgundy, crammed with full-flavoured Chardonnay with the gentlest of gentle touches of wood. We offered it in February and readers couldn’t get enough of it, so I’m delighted that Private Cellar has managed to grab some more on our behalf.
Ben McGrail called it ‘the real deal, a smoking, southern, salty powerhouse,’ while Karen Whelan said ‘it just got better and better the more I tasted it, definitely my favourite of the tasting’. Tom Witherow applauded its ‘stunning finish’. If it was a Meursault — which it strongly resembles — it would cost a heck of a lot more than the £19.25 Private Cellar is asking, down from £20.25.
The sister wine to our delicious Torrontés, the 2013 Ique Malbec Bodega Foster (4) also scored highly. A deep purple in colour and with the typical Mendoza Malbec notes of violets on the nose, this is a juicily delicious wine whose approach-ability belies an intriguing complexity. It was Jane Towne’s favourite wine of the evening and Gerald Bowey declared it: ‘Wonderful! I could drink it on its own or take my time on the second bottle with food.’ £9.50 down from £9.95.
The 2011 Château Tayet Bordeaux Supérieur Private Cellar Selection (5) is great stuff too and just right for Christmas, a simple yet classy claret at the very fair price of £12.85, down from £13.50. From a ten-hectare property near Macau (Château Cante-merle country), on the border with Margaux, this is as supple and smooth a claret as you’ll find for the price. Made up of 60 per cent Merlot and 40 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, it has spent a year in oak and despite its youth is more than ready for action.
‘Oh yes,’ said Mick Hubbard, ‘hits the spot beautifully!’
‘Stays long on the palate,’ said David Nossiter. ‘Body with flavour.’
Ben McGrail also enjoyed its full–bodied curves. ‘A veritable Kim Kardashian of a Bordeaux,’ he announced.
Finally, as we neared the end of our tasting, we clustered round the excellent cheese boards provided for us by Forman & Field and tucked into the 2002 Croft Quinta da Roêda Port (6) which, just so you know, will arrive in rather fetching individual wooden boxes when you order them. Ideal for easy wrapping. Croft is the oldest of all the port producers, having been founded in 1588, the year of the Spanish Armada, and Quinta da Roêda is the jewel in its crown, one of the Douro Valley’s finest vineyards. Single quinta ports such as this are always ridiculously low-priced, a fraction of that charged for fully declared vintages, and I reckon provide the best possible value to port lovers.
Ben McGrail congratulated himself on having made it through the tasting as far as the port (‘an achievement in itself’) and he loved its rich, liquorice notes. Tom Witherow said, ‘It’s exactly the sort of port I love, I do hope it makes the cut.’ It did, Tom, it did. And it’s only £19.95, down from £21.95. A must for the festive stilton.
There is much in this offer to enjoy and Amanda and Laura, still giddy, no doubt, from Private Cellar’s celebrations, tell me that the first thirty customers who buy two cases or more (for delivery to one address) will receive two extra bottles of the 2013 Ique Malbec, free of charge. Happy Christmas to one and all!
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.