Our Spectator Winemaker Lunches are famously entertaining. Held roughly every fortnight in the boardroom at 22 Old Queen Street, they are catered by our old friends Forman & Field and are hosted by your humble correspondent and a leading winemaker, proprietor or brand ambassador.
We can fit a maximum 16 around the table so the events are intimate and casual and everyone gets to meet fellow readers, chat to the winemaker, ask questions and, well, paddle in plenty of vino.
Indeed, no matter how many wines we have on show, we always seem to get through a hearty and utterly commendable one bottle per head. Nobody ever leaves thirsty although it’s not unknown for further post-prandials to be enjoyed at the Blue Boar just round the corner.
Laura Taylor, of Private Cellar, has been especially supportive of these lunches, introducing some first-rate winemakers, and she and I thought it would be apt to offer a selection of wines that have been enjoyed round the table recently.
The 2017 Springfontein Terroir Selection Chenin Blanc (1) from near Stanford in Walker Bay, South Africa, was a huge hit with our lunchers, as was the immaculately attired, charmingly self-deprecating Tariro Masayiti, South Africa’s leading black winemaker, formerly of Nederburg. Fermented for four months in oak barriques followed by eight months’ ageing therein, the fully organic wine is gloriously peachy, buttery, toasty, nutty and lightly honeyed with along, rounded, dry finish. It’s really fine. £15.25 down from £16.50.
The 2019 Glenelly Glass Collection Unoaked Chardonnay (2) is South African too, from vineyards on the lower slopes of the Simonsberg mountain in the heart of Stellenbosch. Owned by May-Eliane de Lencquesaing, the indefatigable former owner of Ch. Pichon-Lalande, Glenelly is fast making a reputation for beautifully made wines and this is a delight. Fermented in steel and left on the lees, it’s crisp, clean and mineral with abundant freshness of ripe fruit. £13.50 down from £14.50.
The 2018 Aristea Chardonnay (3), the last in our triumvirate of South African whites, is an absolute corker. Owner Martin Krajewski and winemaker Matt Krone made a memorable double act at lunch and readers were completely seduced by their Chardonnay. Barrel-fermented and oak-aged, it’s elegant, stylish and reserved with enticing citrus notes, honeysuckle, nuts and an exuberant freshness on the finish. £24.50 down from £26.95.
I’ve lost count of the number of times that I’ve recommended the 2017 Le Pavillon du Ch. Beauchêne, Côtes du Rhône (4), both here and elsewhere. I love it so much that I bought a case to get me through dread Christmas, which it did, handsomely. Amandine Bernard’s family have worked their vineyards near Orange for 11 generations and her father — Michel — is the former head of the confederation of Rhône producers so knows his stuff. This is textbook Côtes du Rhône: herbal, juicy, smoky, spicy and ever so drinkable. £9.95 down from £10.95.
The 2016 Bodegas Pinuaga Colección (5) is from a family-owned estate near Toledo, central Spain. Esther Pinuaga was a wonderful and witty host and readers lapped up this organic, old vine, single vineyard Cencibel. Stainless steel-fermented for freshness and oak-aged for weight and character, it’s rich, spicy and succulent and great value. £15.50 down from £16.95.
Finally, the 2013 Ch. Tour Baladoz (6), a Grand Cru Saint Emilion that we enjoyed on our notoriously bibulous Clays, Claret and Cognac Cruise down the Thames last autumn. Soft, smooth, mellow Merlot has here been blended with touches of Cab Franc and Cab Sauvignon for backbone and character and the result is seriously fine, grown up claret at a very fair price. 2013 is an early drinking year and this is bang on song. £21.25 down from £22.96.
The mixed case has two bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.
For details of our next Winemaker Lunches, go to www.spectator.co.uk/wine-club or call Rebecca Owen on 020 7961 0015.