Jonathan Ray

Wine Club 27 November

Wine Club 27 November
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We’ve a really strong selection this week from Tanners of Shrewsbury. In fact, I was so impressed that it took a heck of a lot of swilling, swirling and spitting (well, not so much of the latter to be honest) to whittle the wines down to six.

Tanners’ Robert Boutflower even put up a deliciously tasty South African Pinotage, and that’s not a phrase I’m used to typing. Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, is a grape with which I’ve always struggled, but this example (from Doran Vineyards, since you ask) had none of those characteristic burnt-rubber notes; it was just joyously juicy and very drinkable. Anyway, it didn’t quite make the cut but is on the Tanners list if you’re interested.

The following wines, however, did make it, and a cracking bunch they are too. The 2015 Domaine Rives-Blanques Chardonnay/Chenin Blanc (1) from Limoux, in the deep south of France, is a delightful blend of 85 per cent Chardonnay and 15 per cent Chenin Blanc. Grown at an altitude of 750 metres in the shadow of the snow-capped Pyrenees (hence its name, Rives-Blanques), the wine is bone-dry and has a scrumptiously uplifting freshness to it, along with plenty of creamy, slightly peachy, rounded fruit. £8.75 down from £9.50.

The 2015 Tanners New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (2) from Marlborough is spot on, and just as classy as I would expect from Pask Winery and its incomparable head winemaker, Kate Radburnd. Born an Aussie, she has lived and worked in New Zealand for the last 30 years making exceptional wines, first at Villa Maria and, since 1991, at Pask, which she co-owns. Here she has made a wine full of passion fruit, mango, guava, herbs, cut grass and so on, but with restraint too. Kate is nothing if not stylish and that’s reflected in her wines. £9.25 down from £9.95.

The 2014 Dopff & Irion Gewurztraminer Cuvée René Dopff (3) was my runaway pick of the tasting. I adore the wines of Alsace and this is a first-rate example. In the wrong hands Gewurztraminer can sometimes be a bit over the top; too flamboyant and blowsy. This, however, is ideally judged. Yes, it has the hallmark roses and lychees on the nose and the hint of spice and fruity sweetness in the mouth, but it’s all kept beautifully in check and it finishes refreshingly dry. I could have drained the bottle in a sitting and will probably do so next time. £10.95 down from £11.95.

The 2014 Cucao CS Reserva (4) from the Colchagua Valley in Chile is extremely classy and if it were from France, Spain or Italy, it would cost half as much again. Chile continues to be extraordinarily good value for wine lovers and it’s daft this costs so little. Although nominally a Cabernet Sauvignon, there is an additional 15 per cent Syrah in the blend, which adds just a touch of dark plummy fruit and whisper of spice to the cassis notes of the Cabernet. Six months in French oak gives it character and the resulting wine is fresh, vibrant, spicy and really rather sophisticated. £8 down from £8.95.

The 2015 Tanners Rhône Valley Red (5), an AC Côtes du Rhône, is ridiculously drinkable, almost thirst-quenchingly so. A succulent, fruity blend of Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvèdre made by the Gonnet family of Domaine Font de Michelle in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, it’s simple, uncomplicated and utterly, utterly charming. It just makes you want to smile. £9 down from £9.80.

Finally, the 2012 Château Cru Cantemerle (6), a Bordeaux Supérieur which has to be a complete steal at less than a tenner. Of course, it’s not the mighty Château Cantemerle, the Haut-Médoc Fifth Growth (which sells for four times the price), but a little charmer from Fronsac on the Right Bank. 90 per cent Merlot and 10 per cent Cab Sauv, it’s plump, luscious, soft, mellow and fully mature. £9.95 down from £10.95.

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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