Years ago, during what had become an intolerably hot summer, we found ourselves in a pub garden in a village near the Thames. We were all dressed in minimal clothing — shorts, T-shirts and sandals. Even so we felt suffocatingly hot. At a table nearby a group were waiting for guests, who turned out to be Roy and Jennifer Jenkins. He was wearing the full country fig — cavalry twill trousers, a tweed sports jacket, and of course a necktie. I thought we might watch him melt before our eyes, though he seemed perfectly comfortable. His host then disappeared into the pub and returned clanking three bottles of Berry Bros’ Good Ordinary Claret.
A risky choice, I thought. Roy would like the ‘good’ bit, but would be dubious about the ‘ordinary’ tag. However, he glugged merrily away. There have, however, been mutterings in the wine trade that Berry Bros GOC is more ‘O’ than ‘G’. No longer. They have switched suppliers, and the new GOC (3) is exceedingly good — better, I think, than some generic wines from specific appellations. One of the great wine brands is now restored.
Teamed with a white wine at a similar price, Berry Bros’ own Pinot Grigio from the Veneto (1), it makes a splendid Christmas box, just perfect if you have a party, or two dozen for Christmas dinner. It is several cuts above the thin fluid often found in Italian restaurants, being packed with flavour and with great finesse. You can buy each by the case, or have six of each, at the reduced price of £90.
I’ve added two more expensive but splendid New World wines. These are chosen very much with an eye for festive meals with the people you like most. The Craiglee 2005 (2) from Victoria is a classic Australian Chardonnay, with the smooth, buttery, hazelnut and vanilla fragrance that the best growers manage. At £17.50 they are not giving it away, but it is well worth it, utterly delicious and powerful enough to go with turkey or goose.
Finally a quite superb wine at the same price. This is the Pulenta Gran Corte 2004 (4), made in Mendoza. It is a blend of four grapes, largely Malbec — with which the Argentines work such magic. It has a tremendous flavour, but it is no ‘fruit bomb’ (the dismissive phrase for over-extracted wines) being soft, silky, velvety and with real backbone. It is a little like a fine claret at its peak, for a far, far lower price. Thoroughly recommended. The mixed cases are all discounted, and delivery, as ever, is free.