What I most admire about FromVineyardsDirect (apart from the quality and quirkiness of their wines and the ease of ordering) is the brevity of their list. There’s no messing about with any unnecessary padding; no wines bought simply to fill a gap because a particular grape, region or producer is under-represented. Every bottle stands on its merits and although the list does inevitably grow a little every year, it is pretty much cut to the bone.
As FVD’s co-founder Esme Johnstone (who has decent form in the trade, having also set up Majestic) says, ‘Why have 20 different and — in some cases — indifferent Chablis when all you need is one or maybe two first-rate ones?’ Good point, Esme, and on the evidence of the one you’re offering us, I see what you mean. The 2011 Domaine de la Motte Chablis 1er Cru Beauroy (1) is quite the wiggle-hipped charmer. There’s the taut minerality that’s typical of the region but there’s an unexpected and really rather seductive honeyed richness to it too. It fills the mouth with supple, subtle citrus flavours and is utterly delicious. It’s great with oysters or creamy fish dishes and is a snip at £15.95.
The 2009 Les Loges Vieilles Vignes, Montagny 1er Cru (2) is similarly well-crafted and also a complete bargain at £13.75. Made from old Chardonnay vines in the Côte Chalonnaise by a British winemaker, Emma Serjeant, it’s buttery, citrusy and clean as a whistle. It’s got a nice bit of bottle age too, making it textured and rounded, and it could easily pass for something much grander.
The first of our reds, the 2010 La Réserve Claret (3), was noisily applauded at Esme Johnstone’s Bordeaux masterclass at the Spectator Wine School the other week. Made largely from Merlot, from a first-rate vintage, it’s super-soft and silky-smooth with elegant tannins and buckets of brambly fruit, chocolate, cedarwood and tobacco. The bottles boast rather chic labels too — if such things matter to you — and you would be hard-pressed to find another house claret of such panache for £9.75. Little wonder the wine school spittoons remained unsullied. Try it, as I did last weekend, with homemade corned-beef hash.
La Réserve is made for FVD by Jonathan Maltus, who is also responsible for our next wine, the 2010 Château Teyssier, Saint Emilion Grand Cru (4) — as well as the Robert Parker 100-point Le Dôme.
Ninety per cent Merlot, with a dash of Cabernet Franc, it boasts extraordinarily rich dark fruit and is intense, spicy and concentrated. There’s tannin here too, of course, but give it a year or so to calm down or simply double decant it and knock it back with something robust like oxtail stew and you would never notice. £21.95 is a great price for a wine of this quality but I’d be seriously tempted to shell out just shy of £100 to grab it in a double magnum — that’s four bottles (5). These will last at least another quarter of a century (claret just loves maturing slowly in large formats) and make wonderful anniversary or birthday presents. And what better statement of intent at a long, rambling Sunday lunch than slapping one of these on the table?
Finally, we’ve a brace of Rhônes made by Francois Meffre with help from Patrick Leon, former winemaker of Ch. Mouton-Rothschild.
The 2011 Château Saint-Jean, Plan de Dieu, Côtes du Rhône Villages (6) is all too easy to drink with abandon, being ripe, juicy, spicy, peppery, soft and – well – gluggable. I reckon it’s an outdoor wine rather than an indoor wine, best consumed on sun-dappled terrace, garden or riverbank. Grab a case now and wait for the sun to come out. It’s £10.95.
Its big brother, the 2010 Château Raspail from Gigondas, at £15.95 (7), is a wonderfully dark Grenache/Syrah/Mourvèdre blend. With bold hints of blackstrap, liquorice, stewed plums and prunes, it’s surprisingly forward and extremely drinkable. There’s no point having several Gigondas when you can have this one.
There’s a sample case containing two of each wine, and delivery, as ever, is free.