Jonathan Ray

Wine Club 27 April

Wine Club 27 April
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Something new this week, with our first-ever offer from Naked Wines, the online retailer that’s been much in the (wine) news thanks to the proposed rebranding of Majestic. Majestic — which, along with venerable, old-school merchant Lay & Wheeler, is part of the Rowan Gormley--led Naked Wines stable — will close some of its stores while renaming its remaining ones as Naked Wines. Watch this space.

Anyhow, it was Naked Wines that famously shook up the trade a dozen years ago with its novel concept, whereby so-called ‘angels’ stump up £20 a month and lob it to selected winemakers in return for decent vino, available at what NW claims to be knock-down, wholesale prices. The idea is that the middleman is sent packing and whatever might have been spent on marketing, advertising, agents, wholesalers or distribution instead goes into the wine. There are now some 200,000 angels backing hundreds of producers.

As for the wines themselves, well, here are six from three of NW’s best-known winemakers at prices below even that which the blessed angels pay.

Stefano di Blasi will be familiar to well-heeled wine-bibbers as the genius behind such Italian gems as Solaia and Tignanello. Thanks to Naked Wines, he’s making his own more economically friendly vino in Tuscany and beyond. The 2018 Stefano di Blasi Bianco Trevenezie (1) is a Garganega-based blend from near Lake Garda in north-east Italy. Fresh, clean and unassuming, it’s ideal summer aperitif fare and as easy-going as its price. £7.19 down from a RRP of £10.99 or the ‘angel’ price of £7.99.

The 2016 Stefano di Blasi Chianti Classico (2) is a Sangiovese-led blend that’s full of juicy, ripe and sour red-and-black cherries, a touch of spice and a succulent finish. It’s fresh and inviting and a wine to be drunk rather than agonised over and analysed. £10.55 down from £16.99/£11.99.

Richard Kershaw is a British-born Master of Wine who, having first worked as a chef, plies his trade making wine in South Africa (the only MW to do so). Based in Elgin in the Western Cape, Richard concentrates on making easy-drinking and approachable cool-climate single varietals and blends. The 2016 Richard’s ‘The Cutler’ Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon (3) is an equal blend of both varieties with the grassy, zesty notes of the former and the creamy, lemony notes of the latter. £8.09 down from £17.99/£8.99.

Barbera is best-known for its role in the wines of Piedmont in Italy’s northwest (Barbera d’Asti, Barbera d’Alba etc), but it’s slowly being taken up in the New World too. Until I’d tried 2018 Richard’s ‘The Cutler’ Barbera (4), I’d not come across it in South Africa. Deep red, the wine is soft and full of plums, damsons and cherries. There’s spice on the finish and a whisper of tannin and it’s designed for the earliest of early drinking. £8.79 down from £13.99/£9.99.

I first met Rod Easthope when he was weaving his magic as head honcho at Craggy Range, one of the finest of all New Zealand’s wineries. Rod makes great wine and with the 2018 Rod Easthope Pinot Gris (5) he shows that there’s life beyond the dreaded Pinot Grigio of wine bar notoriety. Fresh and creamy with baked apples and pears, it has a surprisingly lively acidity and an off-dry finish. £8.79 down from £13.99/£9.99.

Finally, the 2017 Rod Easthope Syrah (6) produced in the Gimblett Gravels in Hawkes Bay, one of my favourite of all wine regions — or rather sub-regions, since it’s so tiny. Syrah thrives here and Rod has fashioned a very accessible example full of soft, ripe, spicy dark fruit and a long, almost savoury finish. £12.74 down from £17.99/£13.99.

The mixed case has two 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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