Well, that’s January done and dusted. Phew! An immense relief, I’m sure, for all those clinging to the wagon by their fingertips. But pity the poor souls about to give up booze for Lent; it starts this coming Wednesday (10 February) and goes on all the way till 24 March.
Best get some decent wine in, then, and put a spring back in our step. And for those noble folk about to board the Lenten water wagon, why not give yourself something to look forward to in glorious, daffodil-dappled April?
Mark Cronshaw of The Wine Company heeded my plea for something cheering and presented a fine selection for us this week, one that I have whittled down to a particularly toothsome half-dozen. Not only that, Mark has been especially generous with the discounts (there’s a full £2.24 a bottle off one of the wines) and every bottle is under a tenner, with the mixed case an upbeat £109 (down from £126.88).
First, the 2013 Bourgogne Chardonnay (1). Made by the excellent Vignerons de Buxy — an 80-year-old collaboration of 120 Burgundian families — from grapes grown in Montagny, it’s a beauty. It’s fresh and instantly appealing on the palate, with soft, creamy orchard fruit and whispers of honeysuckle, citrus and spice. It really is impressive and could well pass for a grander ‘village’ or even a Premier Cru. £9.75 down from £10.99.
The 2014 Sauvignon Blanc, ‘Les Mariés’, Domaine de la Baume (2), comes in a heavy and really rather handsome bottle that hints at something rather grander than the modest price The Wine Company is asking. Made in the heart of the Languedoc at the 200-year-old Domaine de la Baume, it won the gold medal at the 2015 Concours des Grands Vins du Languedoc-Roussillon, and deservedly so. It’s vibrant, crisp and racy, with plenty of grapefruit and lime flavours and, thanks to the hotter climes here than the Loire or Bordeaux, there’s even an elusive tropical note. Delicious. £8.75 down from £10.99.
The 2014 Château Teulon (3) is a simple but immensely satisfying Syrah/Grenache blend from the Costières de Nîmes. The estate has been in the Teulon family for seven generations and was recently certified as organic. The wine is a Rhône in all but name (and price), with plenty of dark-berry fruit, spice and a meaty finish. Great value at £7.50, down from £8.49.
If you prefer your Syrahs unblended and a touch more intense and concentrated, then you’ll love the 2014 Syrah ‘La Jeunesse’, Domaine de la Baume (4). Shut your eyes and you could be drinking a Crozes-Hermitage or even an Hermitage itself. It’s a big, bold wine for sure, with no shortage of pepper and spice underpinning the warm, inviting, dark plum, damson and prunes. Although it’s absolutely ready to drink, I’d favour tucking it away for a month or so and bringing it out for the summer barbecue. £9.25, down from £10.99.
The 2012 Rioja Crianza, Sancho Garcés, Bodegas Patrocinio (5), from Rioja Alta, is quintessential Rioja made from 100 per cent Tempranillo aged for a year in American oak and then in bottle for a further six months before release. It’s rounded, smooth and supple with elegant red fruit and just a hint of vanilla and a gentle, palate-pleasing touch of ripe sweetness on the finish. It’s wonderfully accessible and just £9.50, down from £10.99.
Finally, the deliciously seductive 2013 Millefiori Rosso del Veneto (6) from northern Italy. Made from a blend of 30-year-old Corvina and Merlot grapes, a large proportion of which were dried for two months before crushing (the so-called ‘appassimento’ process), it has a remarkable depth of flavour hard to take in on first sip. There are hints of cherries, plums and mulberries along with vanilla, coffee and chocolate — and it makes for one deliciously heady and complex glass of wine. Top drawer! £9.50 down from £10.99.
The sample case has two bottles of each wine and delivery, as ever, is free.