Just in case you hadn’t noticed, the Rugby World Cup kicks off this Friday with England vs Fiji at HQ. The delicious prospect of six weeks of international rugby prompted sports-mad Laura Taylor and Amanda Skinner from Private Cellar to present a fine selection of wines for me to taste drawn only from those rugby nations that produce wine.
I whittled their original selection down to what I like to think of as a formidable wine/rugby half-dozen from France, England, South Africa, New Zealand, Argentina and Italy. Thank your lucky stars we’re not offering you kava from Tonga. The age-old, mildly narcotic national drink might — supposedly — calm nerves, ease stress and cure syphilis, gonorrhea, boils and stomach cramps but it can also lead to temporary paralysis of the legs if overindulged in. Oh that Spanish cava was blessed with such exciting properties.
Anyway, back to our offer. From France (currently 14/1 at Paddy Power) we have the delicious 2013 Domaine Montmarin Chardonnay (1) from the Côtes de Thongue, an up-and-coming Languedoc-Roussillon region expected to be given full Appellation Côntrolée status soon. A light oaking combined with Mediterranean-ripe fruit adds a gentle butteriness to a juicy citrus backbone, with the resulting wine being crisp, clean and refreshing. £8.50 down from £8.95.
The Italians (1,000/1) might be among the rugby no-hopers, but their wines remain resolutely on song. Indeed, the 2014 Antonio Fattori Pinot Grigio Gregoris (2) is an absolute peach and about as unlike everyday wine-bar Pinot Grigio as live music is to every-day wine-bar muzak. Vibrant and fresh, it’s gently aromatic on the nose and deliciously creamy in the mouth, with all the character that regular PG lacks. £8.95 down from £9.95.
The 2012 McNaught & Walker Sauvignon Blanc (3) from New Zealand (11/8) is a belter of a wine from a belter of a rugby nation. It’s a veritable All Black: big, bold and racy. There are all the gooseberry, tropical fruit, nettle and cat’s pee elements that one expects from Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, but with an additional underlying richness that one doesn’t often get. It’s also a fantastic price at £12.95 down from £14.80.
The 2013 Bodega Foster Ique Malbec (4) from Argentina (66/1) was a huge hit with Spectator readers at a tasting we held a while back and sold incredibly well when we offered it in May. The hot days and cold nights of the mountains of Mendoza ensure great colour, great purity of fruit and great depth of flavour. I really do enjoy this. £8.95 down from £9.95.
(NB: Amanda Skinner has also set aside a number of magnums of the equally seductive 2014 Bodega Foster Ique Malbec for us at just £17.90 a pop. Still needs a bit of time, but it’ll be gorgeous in 12 months or so.)
The 2010 Springfontein Terroir Selection Pinotage (5) from South Africa (11/2) is big-boned and hefty, coming in at a fearsome 15% vol. Think Springbok second row forward. Made from 87.5 per cent Pinotage and 12.5 per cent Petit Verdot, it’s full of damsons, plums and blueberries, with a touch of prunes backed by a long smoky finish. It’s uncompromising, yes, but much more accessible than most Pinotage and I blooming well lapped it up. £14.95 down from £15.95.
Finally, to celebrate England (9/2) lifting the Webb Ellis Trophy, we had to offer a fine English sparkler and what finer than the peerless Ambriel Classic Cuvée NV (6) from Pulborough, West Sussex? Winemaker (and QC) Wendy Outhwaite will be hosting our monthly Spectator winemaker lunch on the day this issue comes out, and I know the readers there will be disarmed by her wit and charm as well as by her exceptional fizz, which I never tire of recommending, so bloody good is it. £28.00 down from £29.50
There’s a sample case containing two of each bottle and delivery, as ever, is free. Enjoy the wines, enjoy the rugby and may your sweet chariot swing low. Oh, and c’mon Eng-er-land!