Simon Hoggart

November Mini-Bar

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Graham Mitchell, who calls himself the Wine Explorer, comes from one of England’s leading wine families. His great-grandfather had a watering hole in Fleet Street, and wanted to be Lord Mayor of London. But they told him that nobody who had his name over a pub could rise to an office of such magnificence, so he renamed the bar El Vino, after his sherry-importing business. He got the gig. Now with several branches, it is still owned and run by the family. One sprog leapt for freedom; Graham’s brother Andrew was the Chief Whip who resigned over ‘plebgate’.

Now Graham has come up with a Christmas case which demonstrates his ability to spot high quality wines others have missed. All are discounted. Take the Crémant de Bourgogne Blush (NV) from the celebrated Lamblin family (1). This is a pink Champagne in all but name, made on the edge of Chablis in the traditional fashion. It has more flavour than many rosé Champagnes I know — perfect as a pre-prandial sharpener, or to heighten the thrill of opening presents. ‘A foot spa, how, er, lovely!’ Reduced to £16.50.

For a fully flavoured white, I recommend the Cuvée Clémence 2012 (2) from Bordeaux. Made from the usual blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon, this also has a dash of Muscadelle to make it slightly more southern. Graham says he detects ‘creamy oak’, which sounds nice. It is nice. White Bordeaux has been on the wrong side of the tracks for decades, but is now thoroughly gentrified, with very good reason. £10.20.

Now the reds. The lighter is from Côtes de Blaye, one of the outer fringes of Bordeaux which are now producing wines to rival the better-known names of the Medoc. The 2009 Ch. Bellevue Gazin, Cuvée de Tradition (3) is gorgeous. That was probably the best year in memory for claret, drinking well from the moment the bottles hit the shelves. The extra time has given this a delectable roundness; the velvety Merlot is complemented by some punchy Malbec. £9.95.

Finally, a great wine from what many consider the finest area of Australia, Margaret River. It’s the 2010 Shiraz from Edwards Vineyards (4) (the original Edwards flew a Tiger Moth from the UK to western Oz). This is one of those flavour-sodden ‘great to meet you’ wines Australia specialises in, but with real sophistication. Like meeting a guy with corks round his hat who also quotes E.E. Cummings. Reduced to £17.50.

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All prices are correct at time of publication, but we may alter prices at any time for any reason.   Graham Mitchell’s new book The Wine Explorer was published in November 2013.