I think it’s fair to say that I overshot the runway at The Griffin the other day. So excited was I to be out and about, large glass in hand, mixing with much-missed mates on the East Sussex gastropub’s fabled ‘Serengeti’ terrace, that I foolishly didn’t keep as close an eye on the speedometer as I should have done. Bottle followed bottle and by the time the patron’s postprandial limoncello appeared, I was completely undone. Happy, but undone.
I slept through most of Mrs Ray’s finger-wagging in the cab on the way home but got the gist — ‘undignified’ and ‘at your age’ being the constant refrains.
The trouble is — as I pointed out before dropping off — I love the taste of wine. I love the effect and I love the way a fine bottle breeds bonhomie, fuels friendship and spawns tall tales, all of which have been sorely lacking during these dark days. Moderation, though, is the key and I’ll try to remember that next time.
Indeed, what gentler way to get back in the saddle than with the tastily restorative 2017 Thanisch Riesling Kabinett (1) from the River Mosel? I adore fine Riesling and this, from a celebrated 385-year-old producer, is gorgeous, full of apples, pears, zesty citrus and a touch of honey. It’s whistle-clean, thrillingly refreshing, dry to off-dry, and, at just 10.5 per cent vol, moderation incarnate. £17.06 down from £18.95.
The 2019 Quincy, Domaine de l’Epine ‘Une Promesse’ (2) is another bewitching riverside wine, from the terraced banks of the River Cher in the Loire Valley. The estate takes a lutte raisonnée approach and yields are kept low, leading to a Sauvignon Blanc of unexpectedly creamy, succulent and rounded style. You can spend far more in neighbouring Sancerre for something far less gratifying. £14.85 down from £16.50.
The 2019 La Source Gabriel Rosé (3) from the Côtes de Provence is just so drinkable. A typical Grenache-based blend, it’s soft, smooth, ripe and juicy with delicate strawberry notes and a long dry finish. I can’t imagine anyone not lapping it up. £11.93 down from £13.25.
The 2017 Belezos Rioja Crianza (4), from family-owned Bodegas Zugober, proves yet again what cracking value Rioja can be. A blend of Tempranillo with dashes of Graciano and Mazuelo, it spent 14 months in oak, six in bottle and is rich, spicy and full of ripe cherry fruit. £11.66 down from £12.95.
The 2019 Saumur-Champigny, ‘Les Villaises’ (5) from the excellent Cave de Saumur co-operative in the Loire is 100 per cent Cabernet Franc. It’s fresh and welcoming with vibrant hedgerow fruit and is surprisingly versatile for a red. I popped it in the fridge and enjoyed it with seared salmon steak and samphire. £11.93 down from £13.25.
The 2017 Achaval Ferrer Malbec (6), by contrast, shines most brightly alongside hearty barbecued ribs or roast spring lamb. From the mountain vineyards of Argentina’s Mendoza, it’s violet-hued and scented, richly flavoured with concentrated blueberry/damson fruit and hints of exotic dark chocolate on the finish. £19.13 down from £21.25.
We were going to leave it there but the fabulous 2017 Domaine Labruyère Coeur de Terroirs Moulin-à-Vent (7) demanded inclusion. Top class Cru Beaujolais is all the rage and, as C&B’s James Franklin says, this is proper, classic Moulin-à-Vent, which, given where the pricing is going in Burgundy, is a real steal. £20.93 down from £23.25.
The 2018 Psi (8) from the great Peter Sisseck (of Pingus fame), also shrieked ‘drink me!’. Made from old vine Tempranillo and Garnacha in Ribera del Duero, it’s velvety soft, full and spicy with rich, ample plummy fruit. It’s voluptuously inviting now but will only get better. £25.16 down from £27.95.
The mixed dozen has two bottles each of wines 1-6 and the Connoisseur’s Box has three bottles each of wines 7 and 8. Delivery, as ever, is free.