Jonathan Ray

Wine Club: five wines you won’t find anywhere else

Wine Club: five wines you won't find anywhere else
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Hold on to your hats folks for this is one heck of an offer, nothing short of a good old-fashioned Spectator scoop. I humbly suggest that you must be either crazy or teetotal to overlook it.

We’ve five wines, all from Anthony Hamilton Russell in South Africa, of which two — the 2020 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay and the 2020 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir — are not available to buy anywhere else in the UK until Easter at the earliest.

Our old mates at Private Cellar have cannily sourced the initial UK allocation of both wines (50 six-bottle boxes of each) and Laura Taylor, PC’s marketing director, has generously agreed to offer first dibs to readers of The Spectator. Laura, thank you!

Anthony is the star of many a Spectator Winemaker Lunch/Dinner. Indeed, the last event we held before this wretched plague and pestilence overcame us was an epic dinner at Tate Britain a year ago to the very day this issue is published. As always, AHR and his wife, Olive, were on cracking form, as were their wines, and we drank long and we drank deep as the world around us crumbled.

Anthony owns three estates in the Hemel-en-Aarde (‘Heaven and Earth’) Valley in Walker Bay and we start with the 2019 Ashbourne Blanc (1), launched last year. A blend of 80 per cent Sauvignon Blanc and 20 per cent Chardonnay (both unoaked), it comes complete with a jaunty — not to say kitsch ’n’ camp — pastel-hued faux art nouveau label which sets the tone perfectly. Cut-grass-fresh, lively and zesty, it’s extremely easy-going. Unscrew, drink, enjoy. £11.95.

The 2019 Southern Right Pinotage (2) is named after the southern right whales that come to frolic in Walker Bay. There’s no better place in the world to watch these majestic creatures than from the shoreline of Hermanus — a couple of clicks from the vineyard — and there’s no better introduction to South Africa’s ‘own’ grape than this. Richly flavoured with dense plum and damson notes, it finishes with a touch of spice supported by fine tannins. £17.99.

The 2020 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay (3) is lip-smackingly fine. Aged for nine months in French oak, it’s resolutely Burgundian in style — though far from an imitation — with citrus, ripe white stone fruit, butter and even a hint of oyster shell on the nose. It’s beautifully textured, elegant and stylish and is a wine to tuck away and savour. £33.95.

The 2020 Hamilton Russell Vineyards Pinot Noir (4) is in a league of its own, surely the finest Pinot in all the Cape and nothing short of a grand cru if such a thing existed in South Africa. It’s not just the wonderful fruit, nurtured by long, hot days and cooling sea breezes; it’s the structure too. Like a fine Gevrey Chambertin it needs time but, goodness, it’s a belter. As AHR said at our Tate dinner: ‘I want my wines to be like fine literature that you go back to and revisit, rather than simply a cheap thriller that you read on the beach.’ I’d happily revisit this time and again and will indeed do so, having greedily nabbed some bottles of my own. £38.90.

Finally, the stunning 2017 Ashbourne Pinotage (5), one of my desert island wines. I never ‘got’ Pinotage until I tried a previous vintage and was instantly smitten. Aged for 16 months in barrels and foudres, it has richness, depth, power, concentration and succulent yet savoury fruit. Having seen how beautifully previous vintages have aged, I can’t wait to see it in a few years. Only 207 dozen made. £45.

The above keenly-priced wines are available by the six-bottle box and delivery, as ever, is free. Please bear in mind, though, that thanks to Covid-inspired chaos, South African red tape and a Brexit-related backlog at our ports, we won’t be able to deliver before the end of March.

Order today.

Written byJonathan Ray

Jonathan Ray is the Spectator's wine editor.

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