As you settle down to read this over your boiled egg and soldiers, three dozen or so hardy Spectator readers will be messing about in a boat during our annual ‘Clays, Claret and Cognac’ cruise up and down the Thames.
They will be aboard Thames sailing barge Will, blasting at clays (which, fret not, are biodegradable) with a variety of weapons including blunderbuss, musketoon and elephant gun, before repairing below for claret and cognac, served alongside a shirt-popping lunch.
We are running the cruise in cahoots with our chums at Private Cellar, and marketing director Laura Taylor and I are so smitten with the wines we are showing that we just couldn’t refrain from offering them here to the wider Spectator readership.
We will start with the Langlois-Chateau Brut Crémant de Loire NV (1), a refreshingly crisp, clean, faintly honeyed, traditional method sparkler from Saumur. A blend of Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc which spends two years on the lees, it’s part of the Bollinger stable and the winemaking is therefore immaculate. It’s the perfect aperitif on land or foam and I adore it. £14.50 down from £16.00.
The 2018 Ashbourne Sauvignon Blanc/Chardonnay (2) also boasts impeccable pedigree, coming from Anthony Hamilton Russell in the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, South Africa. AHR is famed for the exquisite Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays he produces and exactly the same dedication goes into this scrumptious 80 per cent Sauvignon Blanc/20 per cent Chardonnay blend. Delicious! £11.50 down from £12.50.
The 2014 Ch. Tayet, Cuvée Prestige (3) is a Bordeaux Supérieur of real style from vineyards mere inches outside the Margaux AOC. It’s extraordinarily complex and profound with lengthy pre-fermentation maceration, a generous seasoning of Petit Verdot and deft use of new and old oak. I can’t think of a better value claret on the market. £13.50 down from £14.50.
The 2015 Ch. Tour Baladoz (4) is from the same ownership, that of the De Schepper family, and same winemaker: the supremely gifted Jean-Michel Garcion. A Merlot-dominant Saint-Emilion Grand Cru that neighbours Ch. Le Tertre Roteboeuf, it’s rich, intense, concentrated, succulent and seductively approachable. From a classic vintage, it’s quintessential Saint-Emilion and will keep for yonks. I know it’s pricy but I blagged £3 off a bottle and you’ll thank me in years to come. £25.95 down from £28.95.
The 2018 Señorío de Bocos Verdejo (5) isn’t on our cruise but I include it here simply because I like it so much, a multi-award-winning Verdejo from Zamora in north-west Spain that’s simple, fresh, creamy and slightly citrusy. £9 down from £9.50.
Its sibling, the 2016 Señorío de Bocos Roble (6) is similarly tasty, a 100 per cent Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero. Crammed with vibrantly fresh red and dark fruit (think raspberries, blackberries and blueberries), it’s lusciously fresh and delightfully uncomplicated. £10.90 down from £12.50.
And that would have been that, except for two stunning, irresistible bin-ends which Laura showed at the Spectator Wine School’s start of term last week. Produced by the legendary Dave Hohnen (founder of Cape Mentelle and Cloudy Bay, no less) in Margaret River, Western Australia (a region which produces 1 per cent of Australia’s wines, yet 20 per cent of its premium wines) the 2016 McHenry Hohnen ‘Rocky Road’ Chardonnay (7) and 2017 McHenry Hohnen ‘Rocky Road’ Shiraz (8) stopped us all in our tracks. Private Cellar has only a few dozen left, but I can’t recommend them highly enough and have already nabbed some myself. Both wines look to Europe in terms of sophistication and elegance and to the New World for sheer joie de vivre and approachability. £14.70 a bottle, down from £17.95 and £17.25 respectively.
The mixed case has two bottles each of the first six wines and delivery, as ever, is free.