Friday, 25 May 2012

May Sampling Club Wines

We return to Spain for a deliciously original pair from the north east, one from Toro, the other from Rueda, regions which, collectively, are bisected by the road between Zamora and Vallalodid. The more westerly of these districts is Toro, a rugged place of cold winters and very hot summers producing equally characterful red wines of weight and authority. The grape variety is Tinta de Toro. Have we unearthed a rare, little known, local berry here? Nah, it’s good old Tempranillo with yet another regional name. It does very well here, too, vinified in a utilitarian complex that looks like any anonymous large, out-of-town retail unit from the outside. Inside it gleams with stainless steel and all mod cons and, though you might expect a degree of rural laissez-faire regarding cellar hygiene from the surroundings, actually you could eat off the floor.

This is hearty wine for cold weather comfort or robust cooking outside; it will take on spicy marinades, garlic and rubs and the flavours of the charcoal grill, just as it works well with a slow-cooked braise or stew. Toro borders Rueda, a larger area than the former and, with subtle changes in climate and a tradition largely of growing white wines, it produces some delightfully fresh, leafy examples. The two indigenous varieties grown here are Viura and Verdejo, the latter being regarded as the senior partner with its sappy character providing delicious, individual wines. Although the two are frequently and successfully blended, your May white is a pure Verdejo made without oak which is the usual way here. It’s a versatile glassful: a super aperitif or the perfect partner to a Caesar salad; just the job with fish and lovely with a chicken sandwich with a splurge of curry mayo. Seasonal tip… Try with asparagus, it’s a great match!

Price per bottle: £6.95
Punchy red of warmth and youthful vigour with plenty of nicely rustic character and
aromas of baked plums with a touch of spice.

Price per bottle: £7.25
Crisply green, grassy fruit provides zingy freshness and nettley scents remind us of
Sauvignon plus a note of grapefruit citrus.

For the last few years we have put out a selection of wines which, with a little help from a supplier and by reducing our margin, allows us to make a donation of £5 per every 6-pack purchased to charity. Our
chosen charity remains the Cancer Campaign in Suffolk which provides support to cancer patients and
their families. What they raise in Suffolk stays in Suffolk - it is a truly local charity dealing with a disease that, sadly, touches most of us in one way or another. When you need a few bottles - and you might with the various bank holidays coming up - please consider this half-case. Just by steering your purchase in this direction you can do a tremendous amount of good.

2009 Bordeaux

There is still considerable excitement surrounding the quality of the 2009 Bordeaux vintage.  American wine guru Robert Parker has pronounced and every serious broadsheet newspaper has carried articles celebrating the glories of what is undoubtedly a very fine year.  Long warm days over the vital ripening period of July and August combined with cooler nights prevented the grapes from over-ripening and brought a sophistication and elegance to the vintage not seen for many decades.  Denis Dubourdieu, director of the Bordeaux Institute of Vine and Wine Sciences and a renowned winemaker, reckons that you’d need to go back as far as the 1940s to find comparable climatic conditions where a perfect summer gave way to a glorious autumn resulting in a harvest that retained all the colour, body and fruit of a truly great vintage.  These wines are now arriving in the UK following bottling and we have stocks of several 2009 Bordeaux available for sale in the shop, either in whole case, mixed case or single bottle quantities.

There is a minor downside to all this.  Beyond the glowing reports of balance and ripeness, harmony and power - all the aesthetic miracles that combine in such a favoured year - the only cloud that might spoil the show is price.  At the top end, in the wines made by millionaires for millionaires bracket, where the first growths, super seconds and other privileged estates shine resplendent, opening prices were up to 80% more than the 2008s and 50% more than the most excellent 2005s.  Furthermore, prices are continuing to climb.

The good news for you though is that, like 2005, quality appears to be evenly shared across the spectrum which means that there are delicious wines to be had among the less well-reputed ranks and at prices which actually reflect good value.  Our modest selection is for wine lovers rather than investors; a concise collection of cracking wines from good estates, all known to us, all with excellent track records and all with a sensible approach to pricing.  These are wines with heart which will provide joyful drinking for the next 2 to 10 years and beyond, wines to bring smiles to the dinner table, wines that should not be treated with silent reverence but consumed with gusto and pleasure.  Stocks are limited

Red Bordeaux

Under the same ownership as Château Haut-Chatain and made with all the same care and attention by the experienced and canny team at the senior château.  Merlot dominant, fruit-filled and big in body, this shows just what a minor property can achieve in the right hands.  Super value.  Drink 2013-2017

Owned and run by Martine Rivière-Junquas, who has been joined in the business by her son, this is a property we have followed for years.  It has been constantly upgraded and it shows in the wine which is better than ever: generous and fleshy with plummy depths and a note of spice.  Drink 2014-2020

A terrific estate which consistently boxes above its weight.  The Revue du Vin de France marked it as “an exceptional success”.  Dominique Haverlan bought this in 1988 and  has renovated and replanted ever since; it is now one of the rising stars of the Graves.  Drink 2014-2022

José Bueno, one time cellarmaster at Mouton and winemaker at other Rothschild properties, created this vineyard by stitching together little parcels of mature, prime St. Estèphe real estate into a single vineyard.  It has a little less of the St. Estèphe iron and rather more ripe black fruit and does it in beautifully balanced, full-bodied style.  This property is destined for fame - buy now before it gets out of reach. Packed in wooden cases of 12 bottles. Drink 2015-2025

One of the smallest estates in Margaux at just 11 hectares, but compared to the great  names of the commune, this is tremendous value.  Eric Léglise makes fragrant wine with Margaux’ celebrated femininity, expressing its fruit in prettier, silkier style than the firmer Pauillacs or grippy St. Estèphe.  Drink 2015-2025


Although we do not drink much Sauternes these days, no serious diner should overlook the opportunity to put a few bottles of this to one side.  The Revue du Vin de France reckons this to be one of the top wines of the vintage, ranking it above Rieussec, La Tour Blanche and Rayne Vigneau.  Decadently rich but in fine balance with correct acidity, it will live for decades.  Drink 2015-2050