Simon Hoggart

Spectator Mini-Bar Offer | 14 October 2006

Stone, Vine & Sun of Winchester is one of my very favourite wine merchants.

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Stone, Vine & Sun of Winchester is one of my very favourite wine merchants. I’ve never tried anything of theirs that wasn’t first rate, and I was not remotely surprised when they won the Best Small Independent Wine Merchant award from Wine International this year. What they do brilliantly is fossick around for amazing bargains in unexpected places, and there are few discoveries more pleasing than a delicious wine at a price that allows you to buy plenty.

White wines need to breathe as much as reds, but generally people are afraid of them getting too warm — though they should never be iced. Probably you should decant any decent white some hours before drinking, then maybe give it an hour in the fridge. This isn’t always possible when you’ve just got home from work and all you want is a great, cold slug of something alcoholic. I think these two whites would work splendidly in either event.

The Domaine La Croix Belle, La Champ des Lys, 2005 is only a vin de pays but has terrific style, character and weight. It’s just under half Viognier, just over half Grenache blanc, so it’s rich and has an unctuousness neatly undercut by its fresh acidity. Yum. Perfect with food or as an aperitif.

The Domaine du Météore 2005 is from Faugères, a very recent appellation which has only just included white wines. This is a half Roussanne, half Marsanne blend. SV&S do much business with the estate, and you can see why: it has that wonderfully velvety, spicy, herbal quality that many wines from this hot and windy part of France possess. As David Cameron would tell us, it lets the sunshine win the day. I love it, and will be buying a lot. Get in ahead of me.

The same domaine produces the wondrous, best-selling Les Orionides 2003. To quote the SV&S people: ‘black fruit with a coconut edge ...milk chocolate, nuts and creamy, luscious tannins.’ I couldn’t have put it better myself. In fact, I wouldn’t dare. It is, however, very good indeed.

As is Thierry Navarre’s St Chinian, Le Laouzil, 2004. St Chinian is now climbing fast in popularity and you can pay a lot for the very best. This is, however, excellent at just £7.75 a bottle. Elegance, spice, mulberries and even a hint of port.

All deliveries are free, and there is a sample case containing three of each bottle. If you buy two cases there is a £10 discount on the pair; you can take £8 off each succeeding case (so £18 off three, £26 off four, etc.).

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