Our Spectator Winemaker Lunches are extremely cheery affairs, held in the boardroom at 22 Old Queen Street. There are never more than 16 of us — a dozen or so readers plus the winemaker and your humble correspondent — and, during a cold, four-course Forman & Field lunch, we enjoy around six or seven different wines.
Spittoons are scoffed at and consumption runs at an average and rather impressive one bottle per head, despite which I’m delighted to report that we’ve never run dry. We do sometimes resort to flicking the lights at meal’s end, though, just to remind readers they have homes to go to.
The following six wines were all huge hits at recent lunches and it dawned on me and Laura Taylor from Private Cellar that we’d be failing in our duty if we didn’t offer them to our wider readership. I’ve bought a number of these bottles myself and cannot recommend them highly enough.
Bodegas Pinuaga is a family-owned estate near Toledo in central Spain and we were delighted to welcome Esther Pinuaga to the boardroom a few weeks ago. The 2015 Pinuaga Nature (1) is made from organically farmed Tempranillo grown at high altitude, meaning plenty of hot sun during the day and cool temperatures at night. Its fresh, vibrant, pure, dark berry fruit disarmed us all and what it perhaps lacks in complexity it more than makes up for in sheer drinkability. £12.60 down from £13.60.
The 2014 Pinuaga Colección (2) is more profound and intense, a single vineyard wine produced from one fine Tempranillo clone. It’s fermented in stainless steel to ensure freshness and aged for nine months in oak to give weight, character and body. It’s rich, dark, concentrated and utterly delicious. £15.95 down from £16.95.
The 2016 Valserrano Rioja Blanco (3) was a complete revelation. I’ve never ‘got’ white Rioja — I have now! This is a little beauty, made from 100 per cent Viura. It’s whistle clean and fresh with hints of fennel, quince, honey and herbs with an appetisingly salty tang to the finish. It was a massive hit at lunch with Pablo de Simón of Bodegas de la Marquesa. £13.95 down from £14.95.
The 2014 Valserrano Rioja Crianza (4) — made from Tempranillo with a splash of Mazuelo — is cold-fermented and then aged for 16 months in oak. 2014 was a cracking vintage in Rioja and this is spot-on — rich, succulent, concentrated, with notes of cherry, pepper, spice, vanilla and a whisper of dark liquorice. If modern, well-made Rioja is your thing, you’ll love it. £13.95 down from £14.95.
Our lunch with the ebullient Tariro Masayiti, South Africa’s leading black winemaker, was one of our jolliest and his 2012 Springfontein Wild Yeast Chardonnay (5) delighted us all with its restrained tropical fruit, its juiciness and its sophisticated minerality. From Stanford, Walker Bay, it’s a wonderful wine, slow-fermented in oak with wild yeast. There’s melon, lime and creamy vanilla on the palate with a hint of nuts on the finish. It’s an absolute corker. £16.95 down from £17.95.
The 2012 Springfontein Terroir Selection Pinotage (6) stopped everyone in their tracks. I’ve always loathed Pinotage and its notorious burned rubber flavours and have avoided it. This, though, is fabulous. None of us could believe its provenance for it’s the absolute antithesis of the Pinotage of yore, being fresh, clean and absurdly luscious. There are red and black cherries, herbs, spice and even hints of dark chocolate and delicate vanilla. It got a resounding thumbs-up at lunch as it does whenever I serve it at home. I love it. £15.50 down from £16.50.
The mixed case has two bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.