Jonathan Ray

Wine Club 22 June

Wine Club 22 June
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Ah, how lovely! The sun’s out and the birds are tweeting. My boys’ wretched A-levels and GCSEs are finally over and, bless them, the chaps remembered Father’s Day unprompted for once. I’ve got my Ashes/World Cup cricket and Glyndebourne tickets and, well, everything seems to be coming up rosé.

And, goodness me, don’t we Brits get through a lot of the pink stuff? Sales show no sign of doing anything other than rocketing. Indeed, I understand that pink wine is still the fastest growing wine category of all. Of course, here in my home town of Brighton, we’ve been out and proud about our fondness for anything pink for yonks and knock back more than our fair share.

Yes, I know, one occasionally gets caught unawares in the pub or at a barbecue by a glass of crappy, sickly sweet, glow-in-the-dark muck, but in general the quality of pink wine is higher than ever. There are some corkers out there and many would argue that the best, the most sophisticated and most elegant come from Provence. Other wine lovers would be much more specific and say that they come from Ch. d’Esclans, the Provencal estate of Sacha Lichine who, along with his late partner Patrick Léon (former head winemaker at Ch. Mouton-Rothschild no less) has been on a simple mission: to create the finest rosés in all the world. See for yourself whether or not they have succeeded by taking advantage of the following selection courtesy of FromVineyardsDirect, whose head honcho, Esme Johnstone, has long been a vociferous fan.

The entry level 2018 Sacha Lichine Single Blend (1) is a classic Provencal blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah. It’s a delectably pale pink, crisp, clean and dry. It’s also bottled under screw cap for freshness and — crucially — for instant access when the moment strikes. I can’t understand folks’ antipathy to screw caps, especially with a wine as seductive and beguiling as this. I mean, surely you just want to get stuck in? It’s almost thirst-quenching in its drinkability and is perfect everyday fare. £10.95 down from £11.95.

The naffly camp 2018 The Palm by Whispering Angel (2) bottle might look as if it was designed by Compton Pauncefoot, the celebrated designer of 19th-century Parisian bordello wallpaper, but the wine inside is elegance itself. As with the above, it’s a blend of Grenache, Cinsault and Syrah, albeit in differing proportions, and what a seductive mouthful it is. There are buckets of wild strawberries, spice and herbs and a fine, cleansing acidity. It’s supple, subtle and deeply drinkable. £13.95 down from £14.95.

The 2018 Whispering Angel, Ch. d’Esclans (3) is the latest incarnation of the wine that made Sacha Lichine’s reputation and, sadly, the last that Patrick Léon oversaw before his untimely death in December. FVD’s Esme Johnstone reckons it’s the label’s best-ever vintage. A blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah, Tibouren (yep, new to me too) and the white grape Rolle (aka Vermentino), it’s deliciously complex and satisfying. It’s weighty, too, with plenty of wild strawberry fruit, hints of citrus and spice and the longest of long finishes. £17.95 down from £18.95.

Finally, the 2018 Rock Angel, Ch. d’Esclans (4), a blend of old vine Grenache and Rolle that’s rather more grown up in terms of style. This is a pukka food wine rather than an aperitif-by-the-sun-dappled-pool wine. Made from 90 per cent free run juice and 10 per cent gentle first pressing, it’s partly fermented in barrel and partly in stainless steel. A lot of work has gone into this and it’s remarkably sophisticated. Happily, it’s also a fiver cheaper than when we offered the previous — slightly less august – vintage in these pages. £24.95 down from £25.95.

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

Written byJonathan Ray

Jonathan Ray is the Spectator's wine editor.

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