Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Wine: Wine Club 10 December

Magazine article The Spectator

Spectator Wine: Wine Club 10 December

Article excerpt

Tricky time of year this, with the festivities hoving into view. Never easy for anyone, least of all those of us who suffer from Christmas Affected Doom, Depression and Despondency (CADDAD), a ghastly affliction about which I've written at length elsewhere so won't bore you with now.

Suffice to say that it is a dreadful burden, often hereditary (invariably passing down the male line with females rarely affected), often undiagnosed and rarely properly treated.

Symptoms include a rise in blood pressure caused by the sight of supermarket Christmas puddings and mince pies in early September, a throbbing in the ears upon being invited to have a 'Cool Yule', a lurch in the stomach on being force-fed cold cardboard, toothpaste, tile grouting and gravy (known to some as turkey with all the trimmings) and itchiness caused by stray pine needles getting stuck in one's slippers (a gift from one's mother-in-law) or socks (from one's wife -- yet again).

I've found the only way to cope is to self- medicate at regular intervals with fine wine from a reputable source. And what better source than Messrs Corney & Barrow?

C&B boast two royal warrants as well as some remarkable exclusive agencies including such tip-top names as Champagne Salon, Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and Pétrus. But Corney's reputation rests as much on their own first-rate house wines as it does on any of the above which, basically, any fool could source and sell. Getting house wines right is a far trickier and I reckon Corney & Barrow have pretty much nailed it. They source from the finest producers possible and their buying team is deeply involved in the blending and ageing processes. The bottles are impeccably packaged (the current range is presented with strikingly elegant labels) and the pricing is reasonable in the extreme.

And if one takes advantage of the fabled Brett-Smith Indulgence (£6 off a case when buying two dozen bottles or more) there is a double discount on offer. This makes the wines very accessible indeed and ideal for Christmas stockpiling. The mixed case is only £115, an absolute steal in my view, thanks in part to a very benign rounding-down of the already double-discounted price by C&B's associate director James Franklin.

The Corney & Barrow Sparkling Blanc de Blancs Extra Dry NV (1) is made specially for Corney's by the century-old firm of Varichon et Clerc on the edge of the Alps in Savoie. A blend of Ugni Blanc, Colombard, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc, it's made using the Champagne method and aged for over a year on its lees. The result is a bone-dry, creamy, toasty sparkler with fine bubbles; although full-flavoured, it has a wonderful lightness of touch. It's way better than any supermarket champagne I've had and looks the biz too with its swanky gold-foil neck and gold label. Best of all is the price: just £11.38 a bottle with the Brett-Smith Indulgence, otherwise £11.88 down from £12.50.

The 2015 C&B House White (2) is a blend of 70 per cent Colombard and 30 per cent Ugni Blanc produced by the excellent Producteurs Plaimont in Gascony. Corney's buyer, Rebecca Palmer, visits the region each winter to oversee the blend and she's created a charmingly uncomplicated crowd-pleaser. Light, fresh, floral and hugely engaging, it's been Corney's runaway best-selling white wine for the past 20 years. £6.63 with the B-SI, £7.13 without down from £7. …

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