My colleague and friend the late Alan Watkins was for a spell wine writer on the Observer. Though I had not yet taken up the Spectator job, we disagreed on some important oenophiliac issues. I liked full, rich, strongly flavoured wines, often from the New World. He said they were all well and good, but you couldn’t enjoy more than one glass at a time. They rushed at you like your new best Aussie friend, -demanding all your attention, never letting up. The point about the French classics was that they were subtle, offering up their pleasures slowly, the third glass being even more satisfying than the first.
These days I enjoy both. And this offer, from Yapp Bros, combines the understated and evanescent, the massive and the powerful. They are all French (three from the Loire, two from the south, one Rhône) but then, as France has had to compete in the crammed world market, their growers too have started to produce wine with deeper, stronger flavours. In my view, these are all delicious in their different ways. The prices are discounted from Yapp’s list.
Our first white choice is in the subtle bracket. It is a Harmonie de Provence from the Domaine des Oullières, 2011 (1). Drink it too cold and you won’t appreciate the flavours of fennel and fresh fruit and herbs, nor will you get the pleasingly oily feel which makes the flavour linger longer. It’s made from three southern grapes, Rolle, Grenache Gris and Ugni Blanc, and I think you’ll enjoy it a lot. Reduced to £9.45.
Even more subtle is the Chinon from Château de Ligré, 2011 (2). This too requires a spot of coaxing — I would open it an hour or so early and let it breathe before you quaff. It’s made from Chenin Blanc, which creates some of the great Loire wines, and its mineral undertones make it perfect as a spritzy aperitif or an accompaniment to fish. Down to £11.85.
Finally a white classic, a Pouilly Fumé 2011 from Les Loges (3). Like Sancerre, this is a Sauvignon Blanc, but it is perhaps just a tad less dry than its neighbours across the Loire, and a shade richer and more full-flavoured. It’s a taste I like a lot, combining the flintiness of the French style with a richness you’d more closely associate with New Zealand. Just £13.25.
Now the reds. As I never tire of saying, the best-value French wines are to be found in the south and some of the very best come from the Côtes de Roussillon. This -Tradition 2009 (4) from the Domaine Ferrer Ribière is gorgeous — silky yet earthy, light enough to drink in quantity yet powerful enough to stand up to red meats, casseroles, game, or just to sip on its own. Down to £10.70.
The Domaine Filliatreau has produced one of Yapp’s most popular wines, the -Saumur Champigny 2011 (5). The Loire is one of the few places where they make pure Cabernet Franc, a grape which usually has only a bit part in claret. It is light, slightly slatey, but still packed with flavour. In some ways it’s a sort of red version of Sancerre, bringing the same flintiness combined with fruit. Try it in the mixed case, and I think you’ll want to order more. £10.95.
Finally a gorgeous Rhône red, a 1999 Gigondas from Pascal Frères (6) which really does leap out of the glass at you. Soft and perfumed, yet with great solidity and depth, a fruity fist in a velvet glove, if I may mix metaphors. Or, to put it another way, this is a wine that the late great Watkins and I would have both adored. Reduced to a very reasonable £13.75.
Delivery as always is free, and there is a sample case containing 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 Yapp Brothers, or by debit or credit card, details of which may be telephoned or faxed. This offer, which is subject to availability, closes on 8 November 2012.