Private Cellar is the Jack Russell of the wine trade, tiny but tenacious, nipping in and snuffling out first-rate everyday wines that others either miss or require in greater quantities than are available. Private Cellar, based in Newmarket, has no shop to speak of and a staff of just eight, selling online from a commendably concise list and at their brilliant countrywide tastings.
Private Cellar’s team are all graduates of such fine oenological finishing schools as Corney & Barrow, Armit and Lay & Wheeler, and the wines they unearth are invariably excellent value and great examples of both grape and region. It was no surprise to those of us who love them that in a competition conducted recently by the Great Jancis, Private Cellar was crowned best independent wine merchant in the UK.
Fine Prosecco is like the proverbial bus: you wait ages for one to turn up and then two come along, nose to tail. Having never offered a Prosecco in these pages before — I simply hadn’t tasted one good enough — we finally listed one only the other week, courtesy of FromVineyardsDirect.
But Private Cellar’s Prosecco Ca’Bolani NV (1) was just too good to ignore. It took their team eight years to find a Prosecco they were happy with and they finally hit the jackpot. Produced by the Zonin family in Cervignano del Friuli in north-east Italy, it’s apple-fresh, crisp, clean, light and racy and far removed from the bland, sugary rubbish one gets in all too many supermarkets these days. £11.45, down from £11.95.
They tell me that the 2013 Les Rafelières Sauvignon Blanc (2) is Private Cellar’s bestselling wine of all, and I can quite see why. A Sancerre in all but name (and price), it’s a whistle-clean Sauvignon from the Val de Loire that’s fresh, lively, zesty and full of the expected aromas of cut grass and nettles. A steal at £8, down from £8.50.
The 2013 Rocche Costamagna Arneis DOC (3) is a delightful white from Piedmont made from 100 per cent Arneis (whose name apparently means ‘twit’ in the local dialect). I first came across the variety in Australia, where Brown Bros were experimenting very successfully with it, but it very nearly died out in Italy. Happily it is enjoying a welcome renaissance and is quite Semillon-like in its creamy, slightly oily texture, with greengages, white flowers and herbs to the fore. Deliciously quirky and different, it’s just £11.75, down from £12.75.
The 2014 Château de Sours Rosé (4) will need no introduction, such a favourite is it with Spectator readers. Some argue — with good reason — that it’s the best rosé of all and it’s certainly hard to beat, especially with a quid lopped off the RRP. For the first time in at least a decade it’s made from just Merlot, beautifully ripe thanks to a sustained spell of sunshine towards the end of ripening. A glorious salmon pink, it’s dangerously refreshing with creamy, sweet, succulent fruit balanced by a keen acidity and a long finish. £10.90, down from £11.90.
The 2012 Pavillon du Château Beauchêne (5) is as good a Côtes du Rhône as you’ll find on any list anywhere. A blend of Grenache (mainly), Syrah and Cinsault from vineyards just north of Orange, it’s almost, but not quite, in Châteauneuf territory. It’s Private Cellar’s bestselling red and utterly seductive — full of ripe red fruit, spice, tar, violets, chocolate and goodness knows what else. It’s velvety soft, too, and a complete bargain at just £9.00, down from £9.50. This offer’s man of the match without a doubt.
Finally, the 2013 Pinuaga La Senda (6), a big bold blend of 80 per cent Merlot and 20 per cent Tempranillo from Castile in central Spain. An organic wine, it’s rich, meaty, intense and concentrated with a touch of sweetness to its lusciously ripe fruit, along with hints of liquorice, spice, damsons and prunes. I had it with venison and loved it. £9.95, down from £10.95.
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.