Jonathan Ray

Wine Club 16 November

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Reports of the demise of our old chums at FromVineyardsDirect are grossly exaggerated. Indeed, those many readers who expressed concern as to their health will be delighted to learn that Esme and David are alive and kicking as part of the Wine Company stable along with that other Speccie partner, Mr Wheeler. And here they are gracing our pages once more with a timely offer comprising their celebrated ‘defrocked’ clarets (and one Sauternes).

Readers love these wines with reason, for they boast impeccable pedigrees and provenance, at knock-down prices. As I’ve mentioned before, they are the over-production— from younger vines and newer plantings — of some of the finest châteaux in all Bordeaux. And I mean the finest. And although they might not boast the complexity, the intensity or the longevity of the estates’ grands vins, they are made by the same winemaking teams, in the same facilities and cellars, with the same care and attention, and boast the same Bordelais je ne sais quoi. And although I can’t name said châteaux, I can hint at them…

The 2014 Pauillac (1), for example, comes from that lauded and fêted icon that entrances (come on, now, think!). A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot, it was memorably approachable when first released — with plenty of succulent Merlot to the fore — and much enjoyed by readers when we offered it. The extra bottle age has given it softness and a touch more complexity and it’s pretty much now hitting its straps. £23.95 down from £24.95.

The 2014 St Julien (2) comes from that celebrated château known for the beauty of its pebbles, not to mention the beauty of its wines. (Oh stop dithering, you know the one I mean! Goodness, you’d be hopeless in a pub quiz.) Anyway, it’s from a cracking vintage and currently on great form, a classic Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend that’s full of dark, ripe fruit, backed by an appetisingly savoury finish. £21.95 down from £22.95.

From the same commune but a different producer and a different (even better) vintage, we have the 2015 St Julien (3). Students of Greek mythology will know of the Harpy sisters and the vile Aello classes (come on, dig deep!) undergone by poor, abducted wretches on their way to Tartarus, and those also versed in fine claret will now know from which great estate this wine hails. This is pukka stuff indeed (even the bottle itself is imposing), and although more than drinkable now, could still do with some time in bottle. £21.95 down from £22.95.

No prizes for guessing where the 2016 Margaux (4) comes from. Sorry, put your hand down, I said no prizes. 2016 was a stellar vintage and this is a wine to savour. Richly flavoured with damsons, plums and blackcurrants, it’s juicy and soft and although a tad young still, it should come into its own before long. I suggest decanting it some hours before drinking and enjoy with a fine Sunday roast. £21.95 down from £22.95.

As befits a Right Bank wine, the 2017 St Emilion (5), sourced — delightfully enough — from The UCAA Gun Sale, is a Merlot-rich blend, bolstered by a splash of structure-giving Cabernet Franc. The newest so-called declassified claret on FVD’s list is way too young, of course, but is surprisingly precocious – full of supple, juicy fruit – and will last for yonks. Think ahead and lay some down for next Christmas. £21.95 down from £22.95.

Finally, the 2016 Sauternes (6) from the greatest of all Sauternes producers (again, no prizes, sorry). No, it doesn’t boast the depth, richness and concentration of the grand vin itself, but then it’s not £130 a half bottle. Dammit, it’s not even £15. Added to which there’s plenty here to enjoy — luscious, honeyed fruit and a long, citrusy, barley sugar finish. I loved it. £14.95 per 37.5cl down from £15.95.

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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