Christmas is looming and ‘tis the season of goodwill, so I am taking a more light-hearted look at the wines you should be devouring over the next few months in order to take the heat out of the ‘discussions’ which were stirred up by last month’s column!
This month I have found three wines which are elite in their flavour delivery but which are also relatively easy to get hold of. My intention is that my beloved reader might share this copy of Vineyard with a wide range of friends and neighbours in order to not only spread the word about this fabulous magazine, but also to prompt the masses to follow my picks and drink easily accessible, epic wine over the Christmas and New Year period.
Good distribution is not a particularly sexy subject to be mulling over on these pages, but it is a fundamental part of the success of a winery and during the silly season it can be the difference between a juicy, plump, perfectly cooked turkey and a dried out, pale saw-dusty disaster.
While committed wine lovers are sometimes prepared to order by the case over the internet most people simply cannot stretch to this level of expenditure, especially given that our sparkling wines are big ticket items in the first place. It therefore follows that if your wines happen to be available on the High Street, by the bottle, you stand a much greater chance of moving stock.
A few lucky wineries have jumped through the supermarkets’ demanding hoops and fallen in line with their punitive margin requirements and they find themselves in the biggest shop windows in the land.
I am thrilled that some of our top flight wines can be bought from the likes of Waitrose and M&S and quite right, too. I hope to see many more of our wines on the High Street shelves, but for now the independent specialists are the torchbearers for our trade and they are doing a great job.
I will focus on their efforts in the New Year but for one month only, here are the best three wines I have found, all under £30 and all available, by the bottle, on the High Street. If this is not a reason to get into town and breathe life into our flagging city centres I don’t know what is. By definition, these wines are the potential best-sellers of the year, but you have to show this page to everyone you know to make it happen!
2016 Pinot Noir Rosé Brut
143 branches of Waitrose
Whisper it, 2015 Camel Valley Pinot Noir Rosé picked up an indecent number of trophies and it is a genuine tour de force, but this 2016 is an even finer creation. In fact, in my notes it gets a whole point more out of twenty – which for hundred point slaves means it sports a mighty 96.
This is undoubtedly the most delicious and magnetic sparkling rosé wine I have tasted this year. Sam and Bob Lindo know exactly how to coax the most scintillatingly juicy and ripe tones from their Pinot noir grapes while retaining exquisite freshness and levity on the palate. The finish alone makes you stand back and admire the wine in the glass.
The free run juice is only allowed to reach 13°C during fermentation and then a brief 12 months on lees completes the picture. This wine is all about Pinot’s purity and delicacy but underneath its magical exterior beats a heart crammed full of dynamic flavour and succulence.
When I taste I very rarely take more than two sips of any wine no matter how stunning. With 2016 CVPNR I wanted to finish the bottle!
2014 Blanc de Blancs Vintage Brut
Marksman by Ridgeview
Marks & Spencer branches
Ridgeview has always been one of the most reliable performers in our vinous Premier League of wineries. Never dropping the ball, the wines here have a grandeur and precision which appeal greatly to my palate. A long-standing supplier to M&S, Ridgeview’s Marksman has always been a shockingly good and very fairly priced wine and I have written up every vintage since its inception.
In 2014 this wine has elevated to a new level of excellence. I know that the 2014 vintage was a fine one with a relatively early harvest thanks to the warm September evenings and this ripeness and smoothness of fruit is evident on the palate.
Instead of a sharp, linear, electrifying flavour, which is often part of a Blanc de Blancs allure, this wine has a silkiness and buoyancy which is built into its presentation. I cannot think of another Blanc de Blancs at this price which rewards in the same way as Marksman. I tasted it blind the other day with a room-full of clued up professionals and consumers – they were unanimous in their praise. This is a terrific wine and it ought to be front and centre of any festive celebration.
NV Brut Classic
6 branches of Waitrose
I greatly admire the work that Plumpton College does and while this is a small production wine of around 2000 bottles it is a genuinely refreshing and honest approach to the classic, tri-varietal blend. Leading with 44% Pinot meunier, balanced with 38% Chardonnay and 18% Pinot noir, all taken from its Rock Lodge and Ditchling vineyards, this is a bargain-priced creation given that it hits the immediately appealing button squarely on the head.
Plumpton does not strive for a yeasty, autolytic, rich style, preferring to load the wine with freshness and vivacity. It does this without bringing too much tart acidity to the fore and this is the key trick in this wine.
Many strive to make forward-drinking sparklers and yet the acid levels in youthful fizz brings a sour tone to the finish. Plumpton has carefully polished this wine such that the acidity is in prefect harmony with the exuberant fruit.
I can tell you that, having just done a comprehensive tasting of own-label supermarket Champagnes, in the low twenties price point, this is streets ahead of all but a handful of international competitors.