Jonathan Ray

Wine Club 1 February

Wine Club 1 February
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So that’s January done and dusted. Phew! I don’t know about you, but the wretched water wagon — to which I clung by my fingernails as always – is but a grim memory and I’m raring to go.jonath

Happily, my abstinence proved to Mrs Ray that I’m not a complete dipso; my liver had a rest and, thanks to my patent diet of homemade lentil soup followed by Green & Black’s Organic Dark Chocolate (other fine chocolate is available), I’ve lost 12lb since New Year’s Eve.

Don’t laugh, it works. The soup is a doddle to make and gives me lunch for the week. Simply soften some chopped onion and celery in a whisper of olive oil; chuck in diced carrots, a bag of red split lentils, a tin of tomatoes, curry powder, paprika, Worcester sauce, a bay leaf and salt and pepper — then top up with boiling water and simmer for 90 minutes. And, as for the chocolate, I always crave it in January. I guess it replaces the sugar I’m missing from all that vino.

Anyway, the result is I’m feeling smug, slim — well, slimmer — and thirsty. Hurrah then for this delectable collection of southern Rhône wines I’ve selected from our chums at FromVineyardsDirect.

The 2017 Mas Carlot Blanc (1) is right up my street. A blend of Roussanne, Marsanne and Viognier from the heart of Van Gogh country in the Costières de Nîmes, it’s dry but creamy, with hints of peach, honeysuckle and apricots. Natalie Blanc-Marès is widely regarded as one of the finest winemakers in the region and this is a steal. £10.45 down from £10.95.

The 2018 Domaine Les Grands Bois ‘Le Viognier’ (2) is from an estate that FVD’s Esme Johnstone found quite by chance while in a café in Cairanne. So smitten was he by what he was drinking that le patron took him to the family-owned winery on the outskirts of the village and Esme spent a merry few hours tasting the range before flashing his chequebook and buying pretty much everything on offer. And who wouldn’t be seduced by this gorgeously heady, peachy, apricotty and yet refreshing white? I love it and you will too. £11.95 down from £12.95.

The 2018 Domaine Les Grands Bois ‘Les 3 Soeurs’ (3) is the estate’s entry level Côtes du Rhône, and ridiculously well-priced. Named in honour of owner Marc and Mireille Besnardeau’s three daughters, it’s lusciously ripe and concentrated with rich dark fruit, spice and herbs and blessed with a long, fresh finish. £10.95 down from £11.95.

The 2017 Domaine Les Grands Bois ‘Maximilien’ (4), highly rated by the great Robert Parker, is a step up in quality, being from Cairanne itself, one of the 21 Côtes du Rhône villages. A previous vintage even made the cover of Decanter magazine, so darn tasty is it. A rich, dark, intense, mellow blend of Grenache, Syrah, Mourvèdre and Carignan, it’s spot on. £13.95 down from £14.95.

The 2016 Ch. Raspail (5) from Christian Meffre is a Gigondas of real style. Blended from Grenache, Syrah and a touch of Mourvèdre, it’s big and brooding; rich, expressive and terroir-driven. If this doesn’t keep the February chill out, nothing will. £17.95 down from £18.95.

And talking of hearty fare, the 2016 Domaine de Pignan Châteauneuf-du-Pape (6) is all that and more. A blend of eight different varieties, it’s remarkably, delightfully complex and rewards a swift double-decant from bottle to jug and back to bottle. It’s still young and this allows air to soften the tannins and release the rich, ripe fruit and hints of liquorice, spice and, yes, even chocolate. I loved it, but fellow refugees from the water wagon beware: it’s a punchy 15.2%vol. Not that you’d notice, so elegantly balanced is it. £23.95 down from £24.95.

The mixed case has two bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.