I take something of a head-in-the-sand approach to Christmas. Despite the bloody supermarkets and high-street stores trumpeting the forthcoming festivities pretty much from the August bank holiday onwards, I feel that if I ignore it, it might just go away. It never does, of course, but it’s worth a try.
We’re not even into Advent yet, but I guess we have to bite the bullet and prepare ourselves. And so it is that I am delighted to present to you a Christmas-appropriate selection of own-label vino from our sainted friends at Corney & Barrow.
Own-label wines are notoriously tricky to get right and if anyone has cracked it, it’s the C&B gang. The Corney & Barrow Sparkling Blanc de Blancs NV (1) is a perfect example. A fizz of great style and elegance, it’s a commendably complex blend of carefully selected parcels made under the watchful eye of the team at Boisset, based in the heart of Burgundy. It’s delightfully fresh and lively and, thanks to 12 months resting on the lees, creamy and slightly toasty, too. The bottle looks dead pukka and I’d rather have this than a green and acidic supermarket champagne any day of the week. It’s a steal and Corney’s wouldn’t put their name to it if it wasn’t first-rate. £11.66 down from £12.95.
Talking of bargains, the 2017 Corney & Barrow Blanc (2) is just such another. A light, fresh and disarmingly undemanding half-and-half blend of Ugni Blanc and Colombard made by the much-lauded Producteurs Plaimont co-operative in Gascony, it’s the perfect crowd-pleasing wine, ideal for when the neighbours crash in carrying a bit of a thirst. It might score low on depth and complexity, but it scores full marks for downright drinkability and modesty of price. £6.98 down from £7.75.
The 2017 Corney & Barrow White Burgundy (3) is made exclusively for Corney & Barrow by brothers Jean-Pierre and Michel Auvigue, whose family has been making wine in the Mâconnais, southern Burgundy, since the 1620s. Creamy, weighty with pure Chardonnay fruit, it’s a Mâcon-Villages of oomph and style. Fine white Burgundy can be expensive but, as this example proves, if you look in the right place it can be accessibly priced, too. £12.56 down from £13.95.
The 2015 Corney & Barrow Reserve Claret (4) is made by the Sichel family (they of Ch. Palmer and Ch. Angludet). A Merlot-dominant blend, using fruit from both the Right Bank of the River Garonne and the Entre-Deux-Mers, it’s succulently seductive, full of rich, ripe fruit with soft tannins and a firm backbone. The Corney crew like to refer to it as having a twinkle in its eye and I did indeed find it impossible to resist. £12.15 down from £13.50.
The 2014 Corney & Barrow Rioja Crianza (5) comes from Bodegas Zugober, a family-run concern in the Rioja Alavesa sub-region. Almost entirely Tempranillo, the wine also has added splashes of Graciano and Mazuelo. There’s richness here with buckets of ripe damsons, plums, cherries and mulberries, but there’s also subtlety and depth thanks to 14 months in American oak and a further ten months ageing in the bottle. If you like Rioja you’ll love this. £9.86 down from £10.95.
Finally, the 2012 Corney & Barrow Sauternes (6) a lip-smackingly scrumptious sweetie from the aforementioned Sichels. A blend of botrytis-affected Sémillon (80 per cent) and Sauvignon Blanc (20 per cent), it might not be as oily and unctuous as many a big-name Sauternes but it’s ridiculously tasty with a fine grapey freshness and delicate notes of exotic, warm honey. £12.56 per half bottle down from £13.95.
The mixed case has two bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.
Jonathan Ray’s That’s the Spirit! is out now.