Simon Hoggart

Spectator Mini-Bar Offer | 5 May 2007

Stone, Vine and Sun, a modestly sized operation near Winchester, keeps winning awards as the best independent wine merchant, and I’m not surprised.

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Stone, Vine and Sun, a modestly sized operation near Winchester, keeps winning awards as the best independent wine merchant, and I’m not surprised. There’s a nimbleness to these smaller companies; chaps (or chapesses) whizz off to investigate some little half-hidden vineyard, and because they need less stock than the giants,

they can snaffle undiscovered treasures without the fear of running out during the life of the list. And it helps having people who really know their wine and can sniff a bargain like a pig finding truffles.

This month’s Mini-bar contains four of their best parcels. Three come from southern France which, as I have often said, now produces some of the most delicious and best-value wines in the world. Take M. Fontaneil’s Côtes de Roussillon Blanc 2005 (1). It is gorgeous. It’s made from old Grenache Blanc vines (some planted 99 years ago) plus Roussanne and Maccabeo, and the result is a lovely, heady, fruity, spicy wine, perfect for summer drinking and powerful enough to accompany many foods. First-rate value at £8.75.

Menetou-Salon is one of my favourite appellations. It’s a Sauvignon Blanc from the area next to Sancerre, and has many of the same characteristics. I happen to enjoy them slightly more; there’s a richness to this 2006 from the Domaine Chavet (2) which I find extremely appealing. Like the price: not having the world renown of the Sancerre label they have to charge less, which is our gain.

Now the reds. One of the most popular estates S,V&S markets is the Domaine du Météore, near Cabrerolles, so named because a meteorite crashed into the land leaving a vast crater — happily some eons before anyone started growing vines there. All their wines are named after meteor showers, such as the Faugères Les Léonides 2004 (3) which is a lovely silky wine with a luscious cherry flavour, to say nothing of minerals and herbs. A wine that will whisk you to southern France in a trice, so perfect for summer drinking.

Finally, the Clos du Serres from the Coteaux de Languedoc, Les Maros, 2004 (4) is a very fine, very graceful bottle. Between them the makers and the

merchants say they detect blackberries, raspberries, pears and prunes. And more cherries. And spices. Gorgeous drinking now, and it will improve even more over the next two years.

Delivery as ever is free, and there is a sample case containing three bottles of each. There is a handsome discount of £12 if you buy two cases, plus a further £8 off each additional case.

Order you wines online.