This week brings a welcome return of The Vintry, a sort of co-operative of wine-lovers who use communal buying to reduce prices. They then hold tastings in their own homes. If you’re lucky enough to live near one, you can sample and buy their wine on the spot, or they’ll deliver locally. Martin Knight, the ringmaster, is giving Spectator readers, wherever they live, free delivery for this offer (fuel prices mean that the cost of carriage is increasingly a nightmare; I only hope that we can offer free delivery for a while yet).
And the wines, all French, are very good indeed. The Domaine Rives-Blanques Chardonnay 2006 (1) from Limoux, where the famous sparkling Blanquette comes from, is gorgeous. It’s made by an Anglo-Dutch couple, Jan and Caryl Panman, it has a dash of Chenin Blanc to heighten the flavour, and it keeps on winning awards. La revue du vin de France has named it one of their wines of the year for the seventh time in a row. French standards are generally lower than ours — they have much less choice than we do — but here they’re spot on. Almonds, peaches, blossoms — lovely. Just £6.95 a bottle, and perfect for summer glugging or a dinner party.
The ne plus ultra of the Viognier grape is Condrieu, which few of us can afford. But this Domaine Vaubois 2006 (2) comes surprisingly close — astonishingly close, for the price of £7.95. A good Viognier has a richness and a depth as well as those zestful lychee and spice flavours. This does, in spades. It’s powerful enough to go with any number of foods, from fish to vegetarian dishes and even red meat.
Now for a terrific discovery. Corbières is not a well-known appellation here, but this Château Ollieux Romanis Cuvée Classique 2006 (3) should help change that. Like any great red wine it has plenty of flavours rolling round inside the bottle — blackberries, blackcurrants, pepper, herbs — but on top of that there is a heady perfume from four different grapes, expertly blended. A luxurious wine for a modest £8.50.
Finally, another really fine claret. Château Méaume Réserve 2003 (4) is principally Merlot, which gives it an approachable softness, but the one-fifth Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc give it backbone. It is virtually hand-made from old vines by Alan and Sue Johnson-Hill, a British couple, and I hope you like it as much as I do. At £9.95, excellent value.
Delivery is included, and there’s a sample case of three each which I recommend.