Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Wine: Jonathan Ray

Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Wine: Jonathan Ray

Article excerpt

And so to our final Wine Club offer of the year, courtesy of Private Cellar, the small but perfectly formed wine merchant based in Newmarket and currently in the throes of great jollification.

For not only is Private Cellar celebrating its tenth anniversary this year, it is also marking the fact that no less an authority than Jancis Robinson recently declared it to be the finest independent merchant in the UK. Quite some accolade. They are a jolly lot at Private Cellar, never shy of a party, and it must be said that the corks have barely stopped popping since.

And Private Cellar's Amanda Skinner and Laura Taylor were certainly in high spirits and great form when they came to Spectator HQ the other day. Thirty lucky readers were invited to join us as we took over the boardroom and tasted our way through a dozen or so wines in order to whittle down the selection to the six you see here. Not so much readers' wives, more readers' wines, chosen by the readers for the readers.

And it was a tough selection process. All the wines showed extremely well and readers were asked to mark them as they tasted, adding comments if they wished, leaving us to tot up the scores. It being a Thursday, one or two Spectator folk with more time on their hands than is good for them drifted by, carrying a bit of a thirst, and did their best to muddy the waters. But we stuck firmly to our task and the following six wines are those that scored highest. There was only one spoilt ballot paper, that of the commercial director, Nick Spong, and this was rejected. Nick, you've been to tastings before. I would have thought you would have learned by now...

The Henri Chauvet Brut Blanc de Noirs NV Champagne (1) is something of a favourite at the Speccie , having featured in a number of Private Cellar's tastings with us. So-called grower champagnes are all the rage at the moment and this is a fine example from a family-owned eight-hectare property in the premier cru village of Rilly la Montagne. Made from Pinot Noir and a dash of Pinot Meunier, it is crisp, clean and fresh. There's also a nice touch of toasty biscuit in there too and a very fine mousse.

Sarah Bowden declared it 'very smooth, very drinkable', while Jane Towne said, 'I would definitely have this as my desert island treat.' Hamish Edsell was adamant that 'I wouldn't waste it on the in-laws.' That's them told. Matthew Mott gave it his unique 'Mott Gold Star'. Two readers deemed it 'robust' and I have to say that I loved it and loved the price too. £24.25 down from £25.50.

The 2013 Ique Torrontés Bodega Foster (2) is a real charmer that was the hit at Private Cellar's session at the Spectator Wine School. Torrontés has become Argentina's signature white grape and I must say that I delight in its delicate elderfloweriness. It is not dissimilar to an Alsace Gewurz-traminer, in fact, but without the oiliness and without quite so much spice. It is headily aromatic, though, and vibrantly fresh thanks to being grown in high altitude vineyards in Mendoza. Ben McGrail was moved almost to poetry, deeming it 'Exotic, perfumed, distant. Like a Spanish dancing girl, all polka dots and castanets.' Nearly all our tasters remarked on its teasingly floral characteristics and we agreed that it would make an excellent party wine this Christmas. It's certainly great value at £9.50, down from £9.95.

Readers were virtually unanimous about the 2011 Montagny 1er Cru Les Bassets Domaine Laurent Cognard (3). …

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