Magazine article The Spectator

Upper and Lower Case

Magazine article The Spectator

Upper and Lower Case

Article excerpt

The last offer of the year traditionally goes to Lay & Wheeler as a tribute not only to the high standard of their wine, but also to the excellence of their service, accepting and delivering wine for Christmas orders long after other wine merchants have slipped under the table. But try to get your orders to Colchester by 17 December or you may be unlucky.

The nine wines - five French, a Chilean, an Italian and two wonderful New Zealanders - can be divided into two samples or mixed cases. The lower case, containing two bottles each of the six cheaper wines, works out at 5.37 the bottle delivered, the upper case works out at 10.21- a colossal difference, particularly as three of the wines are the same. My great disappointment is being unable to include the Martinborough Pinot Noir(8) in the lower case. It is an entirely new experience in drinking, a revelation, which I would dearly love to share with as many people as possible. But even at the colossally reduced price of 9.45, it would discourage the real paupers, I fear.

The Arlequin 1996 Chardonnay(l) from Chile features in the upper case as well as the lower case because, before its generous price reduction of 80p down from list price, it was more expensive that the Terret Blanc (2). It is an entirely new label and will no doubt be more expensive when it becomes better known. The panel found it an excellent example of the unoaked chardonnay, not oppressively varietal (winespeak for not tasting too much like chardonnay) and without too many tropical touches. It opens up well, has good length and provides a nice, easy drink with nothing to worry the palate.

The Terret Blanc 1995(2) from Domaine La Fadeze, within sight of the Mediterranean at Agde, is a surprising wine to find in any Spectator offer, let alone at Christmas. Perhaps I should explain that 'terret' is the name of a grape no one has heard of. The wine smells and tastes exactly like those wines which people rave about on holiday in Provence and can never find again. Well, here it is - very pale, a touch astringent but stimulating in its astringency, never sharp or sour, wildly different from the usual run and beautifully made to go with oysters or other shellfish. It is quite an exciting wine for those prepared to open their minds to the taste.

The Moa Ridge Sauvignon Blanc 1996(3) from New Zealand was the most acclaimed of the whites -- utterly delicious gooseberry taste, pretty label, reduced by SOp from the list price of 5.99 and a bargain at 5.45. Produced at the next property to Cloudy Bay, it is slightly more assertive at this age but a lovely wine which everyone will adore.

My unending search for a reasonably priced burgundy takes us this time to the Javillier domaine, within the political but not the wine area of Meursault. …

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