Esme Johnstone, the genial boss of FromVineyardsDirect, is the past master at rootling out tasty little parcels of this and that and at unearthing vinous treats from past vintages. I’m delighted to say he’s done it again this week with six very stylish French wines including two fully mature, extremely well-priced clarets and one steal of a Bergerac. There’s much to enjoy here, so fill your boots!
The 2016 Château Virgile Blanc (1) comes from Costières de Nîmes in the Gard, where they’ve been making wine for over 2,000 years. The estate of Château Virgile itself dates from the 18th century and is home to brothers Serge and Thierry Baret, producers of wines that offer what Robert Parker calls ‘mind-boggling value’. For once, it’s hard to disagree with Uncle Bob for this little gem — blended from Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier — is a complete joy. Delightfully aromatic (think lemons, pears, peaches and apricots), it’s fresh and lively, with a fine mineral finish and a very modest price. £8.25 down from £8.65.
The Graves in Bordeaux is rarely my go-to place when it comes to decent white wine. Not that there aren’t great wines made there, of course — it’s just that they rarely catch my eye and when they do, they prove to be more than a little bland and uninteresting. The 2016 Château Les Clauzots (2), however, is a glorious exception. Made from 70 per cent Sauvignon Blanc, 20 per cent Sémillon and 10 per cent Sauvignon Gris (and that’s not a grape you see very often), it’s lemony-fresh with hints of grapefruit and peach and a long, creamy, dry finish. £12.95 down from £13.95.
The 2016 Les Loges Vieilles Vignes Montagny 1er Cru (2) is an instantly appealing white burgundy of quite some panache produced at the highly regarded, 120 families-strong, Vignerons de Buxy co-operative in the Côte Chalonnaise. One sip — well, gulp — and I was completely smitten. Only old vine Chardonnay grown in the finest vineyards of Montagny is used, and it’s beautifully textured with decent weight, bright, fresh, zesty, citrusy fruit and a long, clean, really rather exhilarating mineral finish. If you like fine white burgundy and you like a bargain then this will be right up your street. £14.45 down from £14.95.
The 2009 Château Calet (4) is a cheap ’n’ cheerful red Bordeaux from a great year and a great stable (the Sichel family no less) and I really can’t see what’s not to like. Yes, I know it’s nearing the end of its drinking life, but pop it in a decanter and relish its soft, mellow, ripe Merlot (mainly) and Cabernet Franc (just a splash) fruit and its silky, savoury finish, and congratulate yourself on having nabbed a bargain. £9.95 down from £10.95.
Anything that has a wild boar on its label, such as the 2014 Sang de Sanglier (5), gets my vote. I adore wild boar and have done ever since as a boy on holiday in France I was presented by the chef with the tusks of the beast he’d just cooked and I’d just eaten. And this, from Château de Fayolle in Bergerac, would be the perfect accompaniment. Rich, robust, fruity yet savoury, it’s made from 100 per cent oak-aged Merlot and makes a hugely rewarding mouthful. £11.95 down from £12.95.
Finally, from the Médoc, the 2010 Château Les Moines (5), a more than worthy successor to the 2009 vintage which we offered so successfully at the end of last year. As you know, both 2009 and 2010 were 10/10 vintages, and this 70 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon/30 per cent Merlot Cru Bourgeois is showing plenty of class as it leaves adolescence and enters maturity. There is plenty of ripe damson/plum/blueberry fruit in the mouth, a touch of spice and a long, almost meaty finish. It’s spot on. £15.95 down from £16.95.
The mixed case has two bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.