With the need to stock up for Christmas in mind, we have gone all trad this week with a brilliant selection of classic French wines from our old friends Berry Bros & Rudd.
And I’m delighted to report that having softened up Mark Pardoe MW, Berrys’ wine buying director, with a large, chilled glass of his very own Extra Ordinary White, he has lopped between 10 and 20 per cent off the list prices. This really does represent a substantial saving on what weren’t steep prices in the first place.
Berrys’ have been trading for well over 300 years and have built up rock-solid relationships with long-standing producers and suppliers, and I would argue that their own-label wines are as good as you will find anywhere.
Indeed, Berrys’ Good Ordinary Claret is rightly famous and has remained the firm’s runaway bestseller ever since it was launched in 1973. We used to drink gallons of it when I worked in the Berry Bros shop in St James’s Street all those years ago, although I would like to put paid to the vile slur that we were in the habit of using three bottles of GOC as the wicket during our in-store-lull-between-customers cricket matches. We used the house red.
The 2012 Berrys’ Extra Ordinary Claret (4) is the sophisticated, worldly wise elder brother of GOC. Made by the celebrated JM Cazes family at Château Villa Bel-Air in the Graves, it is soft and approachable thanks to a high proportion of Merlot in the blend, with added Cabernet Sauvignon for backbone and structure and a dash of Cabernet Franc for spice. It is certainly a claret of some considerable style and worth every penny. £11.50, down from £13.65.
Its sister wine, the 2013 Berrys’ Extra Ordinary White (1) is no less tasty, being the classic white Bordeaux blend of Sauvig-non Blanc (mainly) and Sémillon. This, too, is made by the Cazes family, whose properties, I should have mentioned, include Château Lynch-Bages. In other words, they know what they’re doing. The wine is dry but with plenty of refreshing, zesty fruit and it makes for a rather chic apéritif. £10.70 down from £12.50.
To call the 2012 Chablis, Domaine du Colombier (2) simple might seem to damn it with faint praise, but I don’t mean to: it’s beautifully made. What I mean is that it’s commendably unfussy with no frills. It’s just first-rate AOC Chablis. Taut, with a firm mineral character, it has the faintest of faint hints of honeyed apples lurking somewhere at the back and a long, classic Chablis finish. £12.00 down from £14.95.
I’ve enjoyed the 2013 Chardonnay de Pennautier (3) many times before and am delighted to include it in the offer here. From Cabardès in the Languedoc, it’s spicy, creamy and fruity, and because it’s un-oaked the fresh fruit character of the high-altitude vineyards is really allowed to shine, leaving the wine fresh and vibrant. It’s absurdly good value at £7.50, down from £8.45.
The 2012 Côtes du Rhône, Domaine Chaume-Arnaud (5) is a classic blend of Grenache (60 per cent), Syrah (20 per cent) and Cinsault (20 per cent), with great intensity and purity of fruit thanks in part to organic and biodynamic practices in both vineyard and winery. I do like this and tried it ever so slightly chilled and much enjoyed how the warm, spicy, herby notes grew in the glass. £10.30 down from £12.25.
Finally, the 2012 Clos La Coutale (6), a big, bold Malbec/Merlot/Tannat blend from Cahors. These days, Malbec is probably best known for producing the purple, violet-scented wines of Mendoza in Argentina, but its spiritual home remains firmly here in south-west France. The intensity of the Malbec and the muscle of the Tannat are softened by some plump, juicy Merlot and the result is a delight — full-flavoured for sure, but accessible and wonderfully warming. £8.00 down from £9.75.
Delivery, as ever, is free to mainland Britain, and there’s a sample case containing two bottles of each wine.