I write this from my sick bed. Laid low with a vile lurgy, I feel far from well. And, sad to report, Mrs Ray is far from understanding. She says I should learn to be more stoical. I say she should learn to be more, well, sympathetic. It’s not my fault that I feel my ailments slightly more keenly than she does.
Laura Taylor at Private Cellar was a darn sight more solicitous, I can tell you, and on hearing my plight when sending me a dozen bottles to taste for this offer, strongly commended the Réserve de Sours Sparkling Rosé Brut NV (1). I was dosed up to the eyeballs on Day Nurse, Night Nurse, Any-Time-You-Like-Nurse, and alcohol was the last thing on my mind. But blow me, I took a tentative sip of the fizz, then another, then promptly drained the glass. It was utterly delicious and immediately I felt better than I had for days. Clearly, one should never underestimate the restorative and recuperative properties of a nicely chilled, mid-morning Champagne Method sparkling rosé.
Made at the celebrated Château de Sours in Bordeaux, it’s a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, full of red-berry fruit with touches of cream and baked pastry. It’s first-rate summer fizz; cheerful and approachable and as good as many a twice-the-price champagne. It fair put a spring in my faltering step, no joshing. £14.75, down from £15.75.
The 2015 Muscadet Fildefer, Domaine Sauvion (2) is the best Muscadet I’ve had in yonks; fresh, vibrant and uplifting. We’ve offered a Sauvignon Blanc from this exemplary Loire Valley producer before, but never this, and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It comes in a plain, clear glass bottle with a flip lid and is very retro. Think summer picnics of baguettes, pâté and cheese, bubbling brooks, old fashioned sit-up-and-beg bicycles, straw hats and straw panniers and you get the idea. £8.65, down from £8.85.
The 2015 Domaine de Montmarin Chardonnay (3) from a 500-year-old estate in the Côtes de Thongue, Languedoc–Roussillon, is delightful. We offered the 2013 a couple of years ago and it went down a storm. I believe this is even better. Made from unblended Chardonnay with just a touch of oak, it’s light and refreshing rather than full-on and buttery, and makes an excellent aperitif. £8.75, down from £9.05.
The 2015 Domaine de Laguille ‘Rouge de Plaisir’ (4), from Eauze in the very heart of Gascony, is charm itself. Understated and softly spoken, it’s made from juicy Merlot and is fresh, supple, succulent and full of wild briary fruit — ideal for knocking back on early summer evenings. I would even think about serving it lightly chilled, so easygoing is it. £8.40, down from £8.90.
The 2014 Domaine des Combiers ‘-Elégance’ Beaujolais-Villages (5) could also stand a bit of chilling. A 100 per cent Gamay from winemaker Laurent Savoye, it’s got real class and shows just how far the Beaujolais revolution has come since the dire days of Bojolly Nouveau and the dash across the Channel to get the latest vintage on to the tables of London. It’s beautifully structured with marked freshness and great depth of dark-fruit flavours plus fine acidity and gentle tannins. £10.35 down from £11.35.
Finally, the 2012 Private Cellar House Claret (6). Previous vintages of this have proved especially popular with Spectator readers. Made at Château d’Argadens by the Sichel family (also behind Châteaux Angludet and Palmer), it’s utterly scrumptious and corking value. A typical Bordeaux blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc from mature vines, it spent just over a year in oak and is impossible to fault — quintessential house claret. £11.35, down from £12.35.
The mixed case has two bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.