Jonathan Ray

May Wine Vaults

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Despite being the old man of St James’s, Berry Bros & Rudd is anything but stuffy. Yes, of course Berrys is traditional, selling plenty of cru classé claret, vintage port and so on, but it’s imaginative too, championing neglected regions as much as it does emerging ones. It has over a dozen wines from long-ignored Greece, for example, and was the first major merchant to list serious Chinese wine.

They have done us proud here, not least because the wine buying director, Mark Pardoe MW, being the soft-hearted, easily persuaded, Spectator-loving chap he is, has lopped up to 20 per cent off the RRPs.

The 2012 Domaine Lyrarakis Dafni (1) from Crete is typically off-piste, Lyrarakis being the producer and Dafni the grape (yep, it’s new to me too). It shares its name with the bay laurel thanks to its heady, bay-like aromas and oily texture. It’s quirky but supremely fresh, thanks to high--altitude vineyards, and beguilingly exotic with touches of mint, thyme, eucalyptus and orange zest. £9.95 down from £11.95.

The 2013 Château Villa Bel-Air (2) is much more mainstream, a white Graves of substance and style from the inimitable Bordeaux legends that are the Cazes family. Jean-Michel Cazes bought Villa Bel-Air in 1988 and the estate has since thrived. This 65 per cent Sauvignon and 35 per cent Sémillon blend is their best yet, with crisp, clean citrus fruit and a rounded, supple finish touched with hints of vanilla. £9.95 down from £12.75.

The 2013 Jakì Nero d’Avola/Cabernet Sauvignon (3) is a big, beefy red from the small co-operative of Valdibella south of Palermo, Sicily. It’s organic and biodynamic and I found it utterly toothsome, and fair wallowed in its expressive, fresh, ripe blackberries, blackcurrants, spice and downright succulence. £8.60 down from £9.95.

2012 Château Tour de Biot (4) is spot on. A modern, Merlot-dominant, Right Bank claret produced from old vines. It’s soft, it’s supple, but there’s power here and weight too with plenty of complexity. In fact, it’s a little gem and with Mark Pardoe’s generous discount bringing it in under a tenner, it’s a true bargain too. £9.30 down from £10.65.

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Written byJonathan Ray

Jonathan Ray is the Spectator's wine editor.

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