Jonathan Ray

Wine Club 7 September

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A very tasty offer this week from guest partner Honest Grapes, the multi-award-winning online merchant founded five years ago by Nathan Hill and Tom Harrow, aka ‘Winechap’, celebrated as the nattiest dresser in the wine trade.

HG is the antithesis of the aloof, pin-striped wine merchant of yore and the boys are whatever the diametric opposite of fuddy--duddy is. The Honest Grapes’ mantra is Down with Elitism, Join the Revolution! Since these are volatile times, let me reassure you that they’re talking about revolutionising the world of wine, nothing more incendiary than that.

I met Tom thanks to a shared passion for Franciacorta, the sublime fizz made near Lake Iseo in Lombardy. He and I had a pleasantly bibulous trip there and I was struck not only by the titanic amount we drank but also by Tom’s knowledge about — and enthusiasm for — Italian vino. How appropriate, then, that this offer comes entirely from that beguiling country.

The 2018 Vette di San Leonardo (1) is a 100 per cent Sauvignon Blanc from Trentino and the ancient vineyards of the San Leonardo monastery in the Dolomite foothills. Produced by the Guerrieri Gonzaga family, it’s crisp, clean, fresh and lively and its quality is immediately apparent. There’s white stone fruit, herbs and citrus on nose and palate and, as Tom says, it has both the elegance of the Loire and the feistiness of Marlborough. £17.60 down from £18.60.

The 2018 Villa Sparina Gavi di Gavi (2) from Piedmont is as fine a G di G as I’ve had. Made from 100 per cent Cortese, it comes in a bottle based on Roman amphorae, the remains of which they stumble upon in the vineyards, and is delicately scented (honeysuckle, herbs and ripe pears) and full and rich on the palate. It’s bone dry, though, and Tom reckons it’s akin to Chablis on a vespa. £19 down from £20.

The 2015 Villa Sparina Montej Rosso (3) is made entirely from Barbera, a grape which originated in Piedmont and is now the third most widely planted red grape in the country. It’s high in acidity, low in tannin and deliciously fresh, juicy, soft and plummy. Laden with raspberries, it’s eminently drinkable and if you’re new to Barbera, think Merlot and you’ll love it. £14.30 down from £15.30.

I’ve lost count of the number of rubbish Chiantis I’ve encountered in my quest to find something halfway toothsome. I’d happily spend the evening with the 2017 Castello Romitorio Chianti Colli Senesi (4), though, a wine of real style from an estate owned by the great neo-expressionist painter and sculptor Sandro Chia and run by his son Filippo. Made from old vine Sangiovese grown in the hills around Montalcino, it’s gloriously rich, ripe and lively, crammed with redcurrants, blackberries and sour black cherries. £14.50 down from £15.50.

The 2017  La Giaretta Valpoicella ‘Volpare’ (5) proves that this much-maligned wine, the staple of many a 1970s wine bar, can be something special. Made by charmingly named husband and wife Francesco and Francesca Vaono in the heart of Valpolicella, it’s a light, smooth blend of Rondinella, Molinara, Corvinone and Corvina, some of which have been dried for added oomph. I loved its cherry ripeness and its easy-going charm. £15.50 down from £16.50.

Finally, the 2015 Terre di San Leonardo (6), sister wine to (1). A classic, oak-aged, Bordeaux-style blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carménère, it has impeccable pedigree, being a young vine version of the mighty San Leonardo itself, the wine that’s often referred to as the Sassicaia of the north and regularly voted the best red in all Italy. Enjoy a bit of stardust at a fraction the price the grand vin fetches. £18.10 down from £19.10.

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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