Simon Hoggart

March Wine Club | 28 February 2013

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An excellent selection of European wines this week from Private Cellar, the first-rate East Anglian merchants who sell loads of fine, established wines but always keep an eye open for less expensive bottles which often are as good, if not better, than their more famous neighbours. And with the pound down against the euro yet again — why can’t it go back up to €1.50, where God intended? — we do need to keep an eye on prices. Many growers are happy to keep them down to hold on to the market, but they can’t hold out for ever. To encourage you, Private Cellar have discounted almost all of them, in some cases very generously. Unusually, I have picked just two whites but four reds.

So, many of these wines are more than acceptable substitutes for the bigger names. Take the Les Rafelières Sauvignon Blanc 2012 (1). It’s made in the Loire, it has grass and gooseberries and is slightly flinty, thus it has the quality of a Sancerre for roughly half the price. Private Cellar have deducted £1 from each bottle to bring it down to £6.95, which makes it the perfect party wine. But it’s quite good enough to enjoy with dinner.

Our next suggestion caused me to open my copy of Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson and others, a scholarly and exceedingly heavy work containing notes on 1,368 different varieties, some world famous, others grown in a few back yards. Here I found Falanghina, a wonderfully aromatic, fruity and subtle grape which may have been grown by the Romans, and might — nobody is sure — have been cultivated in Greece 2,700 years ago. It was rescued from oblivion in the 1970s and is one of the stars of the great La Guardiense co-op in the south-west of Italy. This Antiche Torri 2012 (2) is top-notch and costs £7.25. It is luscious and fabulous value, I assure you. Buy it in the mixed case if you doubt me.

Now our reds. When the lines for Châteauneuf-du-Pape were redrawn, Château Beauchêne had the bad luck to be left outside the appellation. Which was tough, because its Le Pavillon 2011 (3) is, to all intents and purposes, a Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It’s soft and scented. When I had friends round for a tasting, it’s the wine everyone raved about and wanted to take home, except that we’d drunk it all. A £9 per case saving brings it down to an amazing £8.25 a bottle.

When people ask me where to seek good well-priced wines, northern Spain is one region I invariably mention. Ribera del Duero is home to some fabulously rich, full-flavoured Tempranillo wines. This Señorio de Bocos Roble 2011 (4) is superb, oak-aged, smooth and velvety. As the translated Spanish website tells us, it is ‘half-healing cheese, sausages and meats’ with ‘structure nice’ and I couldn’t have put it better myself. Gorgeous and with an £18 case discount, just £8.95 a bottle.

Beaujolais is storming back into popularity, in spite of and not because of the pretty awful Beaujolais Nouveau. This Fleurie La Cadole 2011 (5) is from one of the two or three top wine villages in the region, and it could not be more different from the raw Nouveau people unaccountably glug in autumn. It has real grace and style, and while it is made from the Gamay grape, it could easily be a first-rate Burgundy, at a very modest £12.45, almost a £26 case discount. If you liked good Beaujolais and wanted to return, this is the wine to guide you back.

Finally a magnificent Italian red. The Morellino di Scansano, Podere 414 2010, made by Simone Castelli, is voluptuous, with plums and sour cherries, like a Chianti Classico, only nicer. It’s grown on reclaimed marshland in Tuscany (Morellino is the local name for Sangiovese) and it is a very distinguished wine at £13.50 a bottle, a reduction of £15 a case.

Delivery, as always is free, and the sample case contains two of each bottle.

Prices include VAT and delivery on the British mainland. Payment should be made either by cheque with the order, payable to the wine merchant, or by debit or credit card, details of which may be telephoned or faxed. This offer, which is subject to availability, closes on 22 March 2013.

Click here to take advantage of this offer (subject to closing date)