Jonathan Ray of the Spectator recently reviewed wines from our tasting in October 2020:

“The Bunch, that loose coalition of seven of the UK’s finest independent wine merchants (namely Adnams, Corney & Barrow, Haynes Hanson & Clark, Lea & Sandeman, Private Cellar, Tanners and Yapp Bros), held their annual tasting in London last week and it was to their great credit they didn’t let some footling pandemic get in the way of their plans.

Each merchant showed just ten wines (they probably boast around 15,000 different wines between them and, incidentally, almost 700 years’ experience) and there were some absolute corkers on show, none of which you’ll find in the supermarket.

I tasted some cracking bottles and here below are my current favourites, one selected from each of the Magnificent Seven, all of whom deliver across the UK.”

2017 Adnams Nero d’Avola, 13%vol, (£7.49; Adnams)
Serious independent wine merchants aren’t all about grand cru classé clarets or grande marque champagnes. With their decades – and in many cases, centuries – of experience they are extremely well placed to root out some tip-top bargains, too, such as this little gem from Sicily. Made from 100 per cent Nero d’Avola, this is part of the Adnams own-label range and superb value. Soft, succulent and spicy with plenty of lusciously ripe dark berry fruit, it’s a quaffing red par excellence and ideal for uncorking in some quantity when the kids come back from uni.

2019 Domaine Saint Gayan ‘Argiles’, 13%vol, (£9.75; Yapp Bros)
The first sip of the first wine at any large tasting is a challenge and this passed with flying colours the other day, grabbing me in a trice: it was delectably fresh, lively, citrusy and creamy. A blend of Picpoul, Bourboulenc and Grenache Blanc, it was originally intended to serve as the simple house wine for the winemakers (the fabled Meffre family of Gigondas in the southern Rhône), but it proved so delicious that they expanded production and added it to the range. It’s extremely easy-going and very moreish.

2018 Yerevan Kangun/Rkatsiteli, Winemaker’s Blend White, Armenia Wine Co,12.5%vol, (£9.95; Tanners)
This was a first for me, never having knowingly tried Armenian wine before. They’ve made wine there forever, of course, with an ancient winery discovered in the Areni caves being dated to 6,000BC. Today there are hundreds of modern wineries such as the family-owned Armenia Wine Company, founded in 2006, which produce this fresh, zesty, dry blend of Kangun and Rkatsiteli, a medal winner at the International Wine Challenge. It’s very appealing in a herbal, grassy Sauvignon Blanc kind of way and makes for a fine if quirky aperitif.

2018 Campriano Chianti Colli Senesi, 13.5%vol, (£11.65 by the case, otherwise £13.25; Haynes, Hanson & Clark)
Ranuccio Neri founded his estate among the ancient farm buildings of his family home in Campriano, near Siena, in 1993 before going on to study winemaking in both California and Bordeaux. He knows his stuff and this hits the spot. An un-oaked blend of 80 per cent Sangiovese, 15 per cent Canaiolo Nero and 5 per cent Ciliegiolo, it’s crammed with mouth-wateringly fresh, bitter cherry flavours along with a touch of spice, silky soft tannins and a keen acidity. It’s friendly, appealing and just crying out to be knocked back.

2017 Zellenberg, Domaine Marcel Deiss, 13.5%vol, (£22.25 by the case, otherwise £24.95; Lea & Sandeman)
I adore the wines of Alsace and probably drink more of them than I do the wines of any other region in France. It’s to my eternal shame, then, that I had never come across Domaine Marcel Deiss before. This blend (a rarity in Alsace) of biodynamically-farmed Auxerrois, Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris is full of creamy peaches and pears, honey and lemon and yet finishes perfectly and refreshingly dry. I found it completely irresistible.

Champagne Henri Chauvet Brut Nature NV, 12.5%vol, (£30; Private Cellar)
We had a tasting of Henri Chauvet’s champagnes at the Spectator a year or so ago and readers positively hoovered them up. The domaine was founded in 1840 and third generation Damien and Mathilde Chauvet today specialise in traditional, artisanal champagne (they still riddle all their bottles by hand) noted for long ageing on the lees. This bone-dry fizz was added to the range last year and is a glorious example of so-called zero dosage or Brut zero champagne, being fresher, fuller and creamier than most. It’s a beauty.

2017 Domaine Jacques Prieur Beaune 1er Cru ‘Clos de la Feguine’, 13.5%vol, (£57.45; Corney & Barrow)
Ok, I know this isn’t cheap but if fine, perfectly crafted red burgundy is your thing, it will be worth every penny. Indeed, it would make the ideal treat for a Covid Christmas. From a 1.59 hectare single vineyard lying just below the Montagne de Beaune, it’s full of vibrant, sweet fruit with a delicious savoury edge to it. It’s still young, of course, with a long life ahead of it, but it’s in such great shape now you’d be daft not to crack it open immediately.

Article reproduced from the Spectator Life, here:

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