Phew, done it! Dry January, that is, and 31 whole days on the wretched water wagon, clinging on by my fingertips. Well, 31 whole days apart from a two-day, champagne-soaked trip to Pol Roger (about which more anon on our Spectator Wine Club website) and three days with the missus in the Loire Valley (ditto).
But having spoken to my legal advisers I understand that I’m in the clear. Apparently, because I was drinking outside UK jurisdiction, it doesn’t really count and I can still claim to have had a dry January in this country. Doncha just love lawyers?
As a result, I — and I’m sure scores of similarly virtuous Spectator readers — am raring to go now we’re in February, a dreary time, known appositely to our Anglo-Saxon forebears as ‘Mud Month’.
And what better way to ease oneself off the wagon than with this sextet of wines from Private Cellar? Private Cellar’s Laura Taylor, who put up the wines for selection, has been equally abstinent and if anyone understands our predicament, she does.
The 2015 Domaine Laguille (1), an Ugni Blanc/Colombard blend from the heart of d’Artagnan country in Gascony, is deliciously light, fresh and fruity with a welcome dry finish. It won a silver medal at Decanter magazine’s 2015 World Wine Awards and makes the perfect first drink of the year, being a mere 11.5 per cent alcohol by volume. £8.40 down from £8.80.
Goodness me, I loved the 2013 Château de Fesles (2)! An unblended old-vine Chenin Blanc from an 11th-century vineyard in Anjou, it’s full of quince, peach, citrus, honey and something savoury I couldn’t quite put my finger on. The wine spends a short time in large oak vats and then six months on the lees, which adds just a touch of body. It’s a grown-up wine and no mistake — a Chardonnay of this quality from Burgundy would be twice the price and no better. £12.85 down from £13.35.
The 2015 Marqués de Castilla Tinto (3), a juicy blend of Tempranillo, Syrah and Merlot from Cristo de la Vega in La Mancha, is all about easygoing affability and that crucial element to any wine: drinkability. It’s full of red-berry and dark-berry fruit and is succulent and moreish in the extreme. Readers who remember the oak-aged version we offered in October will enjoy its sheer exuberance. £8.25 down from £8.75.
The 2011 Private Cellar House Claret (4) was Private Cellar’s first foray into house wine and has been a success. In truth, it’s an estate-bottled claret from Château Argadens — a highly regarded Sichel family-owned Bordeaux Supérieur — rather than a bland blend made to a marketing manager’s recipe. It’s ridiculously priced in my view; if it were £15 a pop it would still be cracking value. £11.00 down from £11.25.
The 2014 Château Camp de la Hire (5) is a Côtes de Bordeaux from Castillon, a woefully underrated region on the fringes of mighty Saint Emilion. Made of 60 per cent Merlot and 40 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s full of ripe, luscious blackcurrant and mulberry fruit with whiffs of cigar-box and cedar. 2014 was a fine year in Bordeaux and although this is charmingly precocious and ready to drink, it’ll be even better this time next year. £11.75 down from £12.25.
Finally, the spectacular Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne Brut P100 NV (6). When we offered this before it flew out the door and it’s obvious why: it’s an absolute beauty! 100 per cent Pinot Noir, produced using the Champagne method, it’s from the only producer in Chablis to make fizz. I can’t praise it enough; it’s creamy, toasty, fruity and absurdly tasty. I’ve had champagnes three times the price that I liked three times less. It’s a copper-bottomed bargain at £15.50 down from £16.50.
The mixed case has two bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.