I reckon Robert Boutflower of Tanners has the measure of The Spectator. He knows exactly what tickles our fancy. He put up a dozen wines for our tasting, any one of which I’d be delighted to recommend to readers. Price was ultimately the deciding factor, though, and — hooray! — we nailed the mixed case for a cheering, knockdown £108.
Yes, yes, I know there’s no longer an R in the month and we’re not to eat oysters until September, but I’m still jolly well going to recommend the 2014 Domaine Fief de la Brie Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine Sur Lie (1). Its classic partner is, of course, that fabulous bivalve mollusc, but the crisp, clean fruit and pure minerality also make it an excellent springtime aperitif or partner to grilled prawns now that the barbecues are being dusted off. And, unlike most Muscadets, it has plenty of oomph and zing, thanks to six months ageing on the lees and the fact that it comes — unusually for so humble an appellation — from a single vineyard, the Fief de la Brie. A snip at £6.99, down from £7.99.
And talking of bivalve molluscs, the 2014 Jackson Estate ‘Green Lip’ Sauvignon Blanc (2) is another perfect white for summer. Coming from Marlborough, New Zealand — home to the green-lip mussel — it has all the fresh citrus, gooseberry and tropical fruit aromas and flavours one expects, as well as being beautifully textured. I love Kiwi Sauvignon Blanc, especially at this time of year, and this is as fine an example as I’ve had in yonks. £11.00 down from £13.50.
The 2014 Journey’s End ‘Haystack’ Chardonnay (3) is an old friend I’ve long enjoyed. In fact, the 2013 was a huge hit with readers when we offered it a little over a year ago. For those who know South Africa, the Journey’s End vineyards are just past Sir Lowry’s Pass, halfway between Cape Town and Hermanus, where they get plenty of warm sun moderated by cool coastal breezes. The wine is luscious, ripe and creamy with hints of butter and vanilla. There’s nothing not to like — even love — about it. £9.80 down from £10.80.
The 2015 Los Coches Pinot Noir (4) from Chile’s Rapel Valley is bonkers value. Pinot Noir is a capricious so-and-so to grow and at the cheaper end can often be thin, weedy, acidic and lacking in character. Happily, this example from the family-owned, multi-award-winning Viña Luis Felipe Edwards is anything but, boasting buckets of soft, succulent ripe red fruit and silky tannins. The wines of Chile remain ridiculously underpriced — if this was from anywhere else, it would cost at least another four quid. £6.50 down from £7.50.
The 2014 Paso-Primero Tinto (5) jumped out of the tasting at me, yelling to be included. A fabulously soft, spicy, juicy black-fruit blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Tempranillo, it was impossible to ignore, especially at such a modest price. What they didn’t tell me until later was that it’s made by Tom and Emma Holt, who used to work in the Tanners shop in Shrewsbury. They got bitten by the wine bug, headed to New Zealand, learned to make wine and — cutting a long story short — found a vineyard in Somontano in the foothills of the Spanish Pyrenees and made this little beauty. You’ll love it. £6.99 down from £7.99.
Finally, back to South Africa, Journey’s End, and the scrumptious, unblended 2009 Journey’s End Cabernet Sauvignon (6). Made from fruit grown in Stellenbosch rather than from the estate’s coastal vineyards, this is intense and concentrated and full of blackberries, blackcurrants, plums and even hints of mint and eucalyptus, as well as something tantalisingly savoury. What a treat to have a Saffa wine at such a price with decent bottle age. That doesn’t happen so often. £12.45 down from £13.95.
The mixed case has two bottles of each wine, and delivery, as ever, is free.