After three and a quarter centuries in the business, Berry Bros. & Rudd is certainly trad, but it’s also reassuringly innovative. So it is that we have here a classic claret but also a Chardonnay from a part of France that doesn’t grow it, a blended single varietal from Chile (don’t worry, all is explained below) and a wine from Greece which is all but extinct. Best of all, Berrys’ buying director, Mark Pardoe MW, has knocked up to 26 per cent off the list price. Hooray!
The 2013 Domaine de Lansac ‘Les Quatres Reines’ (1) is a deliciously uncomplicated, unblended, unoaked Chardonnay from the tiny region of Les Alpilles in the Languedoc. Night-time picking and low fermentation temperatures allow the fresh fruitiness to shine. I enjoyed its citrus liveliness and its honeyed, faintly spicy finish. The name, incidentally, comes from the fact that the domaine-owning Sabran family boast of four queens in their ancestry. £8.95 down from £11.50.
I’m only just getting to grips with the remarkable renaissance of Greek wines and the 2013 Domaine Lyrarakis ‘Mistirio’ Dafni (2) was completely new to me. But what a treat! The deliciously named Dafni (it means laurel in Greek) is an ancient grape variety unique to Crete, indeed unique to the Lyrarakis family, who effectively brought it back to life. It’s marked by enticing herbal notes, a fine acidity and hints of mint, bay and eucalyptus — it’s a curiosity, all right, but a tasty one. £8.95 down from £10.95.
The 2013 Koyle Costa Sauvignon Blanc (3) is much more mainstream, a Chilean Sauvignon of real class from the Colchagua Valley. Actually, when I say mainstream, it isn’t, because the winemaking process is a bit bonkers. Coastal fruit from three different vineyard exposures is harvested over a number of days to ensure different levels of ripeness. The fermented juice is divided into three batches and aged in stainless steel, old French foudres and concrete ‘eggs’. Heaven knows what alchemy happens but the result is a wine of real style, texture and complexity. I loved it. £10.95 down from £14.95
The 2013 BB&R Own Selection Nero d’Avola (4) is the first of said grape to make it into Berrys’ house range, and jolly fine it is too. Produced by the small-Valdibella co-operative of seven mixed agriculture farms towards the central north of Sicily, it’s organically grown at high-ish altitude and is full of plummy, damsony, spicy, violet-scented fruit. Nero d’Avola is very modish and this is one of the best I’ve had. £9.15 down from £12.45.
I enjoyed the 2015 Domaine Coudoulet Syrah (5) from the edge of Minervois in the Languedoc so much that after the tasting I grabbed the bottle and necked the rest of it alongside my 28-day dry-aged ribeye steak from Aldi. (Marinade it in olive oil, Worcestershire and soy sauce for 20 minutes, then fry quickly over a decent heat. I’ve not had better steak from my butcher, and it’s only £4.49 a pop — and I haven’t been paid to say so.) Anyway, this Syrah was just so approachable — ripe, juicy, jammy, fruity, spicy and tannin-lite — that I downed it with ease. £9.50 down from £10.95
Finally, one of my all-time favourite standby wines, the 2013 BB&R Extra Ordinary Claret (6). As Mark Pardoe so beautifully puts it, ‘If we hang our hat on our Good Ordinary Claret, we hang our-fedora on our Extra Ordinary Claret.’ GOC is-Berrys’ bestselling wine by miles and quite right too. But this, as M.P. points out, has extra flavour, extra fruit, extra complexity and extra quality. Produced by the Cazes family of Ch. Lynch-Bages, it’s an absolute copper-bottomed belter and a steal at the list price. With an extra two quid knocked off, it’s a remarkable bargain worth filling your boots with. £12.50 down from £14.50.
The mixed case has two bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.