As readers know, The Spectator is a famously broad church. All manner of opinions are held and expressed here, and it’s impossible to find common ground, be it on Brexit, Trump and May, or even on the relative merits of Marmite and Bovril, say, or how to pronounce ‘controversy’ correctly. No one agrees about anything.
What a shock, then, to find total unanimity among thirsty members of Spectator staff who joined me and Laura Taylor from Private Cellar to taste wines for this offer. Never were spittoons so redundant.
The following six wines were the favourites. Actually, I lie: there was one dissenting voice about just one of the wines. In the interests of dictatorial democracy, though, said voice was made to reconsider his position and naturally ended up agreeing with the majority.
The 2016 S’Elemè Vermentino di Gallura (1) had everyone purring. Indeed, Helen and Scarlett said ‘Ooh, lush!’ in almost perfect unison. Made from 100 per cent Vermentino grown high in the wind-battered, granite slopes of northern Sardinia, it’s vibrantly fresh (thanks to cool nights), generous and ripe (hot days). It’s also gloriously citrusy with just a hint of peach on the long finish. £10.95 down from £11.95.
The 2016 Château Argadens Blanc (2) is a blend of 65 per cent Sauvignon Blanc and 35 per cent Sémillon from the Entre Deux Mers. Given that the estate is owned by the Sichel family, there’s a touch of Château Palmer stardust here and it’s beautifully made. Alex loved its hint of almonds; Scarlett admired its typical Sauvignon grassiness, and I liked its subtle use of oak and its long finish. £11.25 down from £12.95.
The 2016 Mallory & Benjamin Talmard Mâcon Uchizy (3) is a Burgundian beauty. ‘We should definitely offer this one!’ declared Declan. Made on a family-run property that straddles the Mâconnais villages of Uchizy and — rather delightfully — Chardonnay, it’s 100 per cent, erm, well, Chardonnay, and full of creamy, lemony flavours with a satisfying richness in the mouth. £12.90 down from £13.90.
The 2015 Jean-Pierre Moueix Bordeaux Rouge (4) is outstanding and that’s not a word I use lightly. Everyone in the room applauded its quality and everyone thought it absurdly underpriced. A blend of 80 per cent Merlot and 20 per cent Cabernet Franc from a first-rate vintage, it’s fabulously concentrated with blackcurrants, blackberries, herbs and spice. The finish goes on forever and is just so damn juicy. Helen reckoned it was the wine of the tasting and one to be savoured by the fire in a winter wind-blown country pub. £10.95 down from £12.95.
The 2015 Podere 414 ‘Il Badilante’ (5) comes from the Maremma, that marshy region of Tuscany bordered by the Mediterranean in the west and forest-covered hills in the east that’s home to such fabled wines as Ornellaia, Sassicaia and Solaia. Made by Simone Castelli from 100 per cent Sangiovese, it’s effectively the second wine of Castelli’s much-loved and hugely sought-after Morellino, and is full of sweet, ripe Tuscan fruit and warming herbal notes. ‘It’s not just yum, it’s yummy,’ was one of the more technical comments in the room. £12.50 down from £13.75.
Finally, the 2015 Rocche Costamagna Barbera d’Alba (6) a deep, dark, intense red from Piedmont made by Alessandro Locatelli. Nowhere does Barbera quite like Piedmont and this is a belter. It has chocolate and coffee on the nose and rich cherry and spice on the palate. Although high in acidity, it’s welcomingly soft and smooth, and Ryan in particular was completely won over by its complexity and concentration of flavours. Lovers of fine Italian wine will understand completely why we all loved it so much. £12.75 down from £13.75.
The mixed case has two bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.
Jonathan Ray’s Drink More Fizz! (£14.99, Quadrille) is out now.