I’m acutely aware that we rarely offer champagne in these pages, other than the occasional treat from our beloved Pol Roger (the Speccie house pour), largely because I’ve never found one that’s good enough or well-priced enough. Well, crikey, thanks to Esme Johnstone of fromvineyardsdirect I’ve finally now found one. The Arlaux Champagne Premier Cru, Brut Grande Cuvée NV (1) fair knocked my socks off.
Produced by the Arlaux family from insecticide-free Premier Cru vineyards in the Montagne de Reims, it’s first-rate fizz and no mistake. And don’t just take my word for it. Its gloriously honeyed, toasty notes and finest of fine mousses also caught the eye of Robert Parker, no less, who recently placed it top of a blind tasting of 50 non–vintage champagnes. Oh, and by the way, Bollinger was second and Taittinger third, both of which cost a heck of a lot more than this does at just £30.95 down from £32.95.
The 2017 Pouilly Fumé ‘Les Aveillons’, Domaine de la Loge (2) is a more than worthy successor to the previous vintage that we offered last year so successfully. Produced by the Millet family from 65-year-old Sauvignon Blanc vines, it’s complex and citrusy, with hints of white stone fruit, great depth of flavour and a tight mineral core. I found it deeply satisfying, as did Mrs Ray, who managed to knock off the rest of the bottle while I was overseeing our boys’ A level/GCSE revision, laying the table and cooking supper. Helpful round the house, that’s me. £13.95 down from £14.95.
And talking of said minx, she also has a distinct weakness for Gavi di Gavi, honed during many years of sitting by sun–dappled pools on holiday in Italy. She heartily approved of the 2017 Nicola Bergaglio, ‘La Minaia’ Gavi di Gavi (3) and I lapped it up too (what little she left). Made from 100 per cent Cortese in the heart of Piedmont, it’s stainless steel-fermented for freshness and spends plenty of time in bottle before release. It’s aromatic and peachy with mouth-filling fresh fruit and a long, silky finish. £14.95 down from £15.95.
The 2015 Château Cayla (4) is a gem of a so-called petit château claret from a corking vintage. An oak-aged blend of Merlot (mostly) and Cabernet Sauvignon from Cadillac Côtes de Bordeaux, it has won a sackful of medals at several pretty pukka wine competitions. And little wonder, for it’s hugely appealing with its soft, mellow fruit and long savoury, slightly inky finish. And, for lovers of well-made, modestly priced mature claret, it’s a snip at under a tenner. £9.95 down from £10.95.
Or for a few quid more, there’s the 2015 Château Croix-Mouton (5), a Bordeaux Supérieur from Jean-Philippe Janoueix in Lugon, north-east of Bordeaux. Made almost entirely from Merlot (there’s just 2 per cent of Cabernet Franc for structure), it’s fleshy, meaty, ripe and juicy, with plenty of plummy, fresh and sour-cherry fruit and a lick of liquorice. It’s nigh-on impossible not to like. £14.95 down from £15.95.
Finally, the 2005 Pergolaia (6), second wine of Caiarossa, the biodynamically farmed Super Tuscan that’s in the same owner-ship as mighty Châteaux Giscours and du Tertre in Margaux. (And just what is it about these wines that they all end in ‘-aia’? Sassicaia, Ornellaia, Solaia and now Pergolaia. Just asking…) Anyway, at almost 15 years old, I thought it’d be a tad over the hill but Esme insisted that it’s a cracker and, blow me, the canny old fox is bang on the money, for it’s absolutely à point. The Sangiovese, Merlot, Cabernet Franc blend is perfectly judged with delectable sweet fruit in the mouth and a fine, fresh, slightly savoury finish. A fully mature baby Super Tuscan at a very non-Super Tuscan price. Yes please. £15.95 down from £16.95.
The mixed case has two bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.