Inexpensive wines from Berry Bros & Rudd

This was a tasting of six wines from Berry Brothers & Rudd. Though BB&R are best known for their ancient St James wine shop and unbelievable fine wine cellars, they have also built up a regular following for their mail order scheme called “Like Clockwork”, which delivers pre-selected cases of “everyday” drinking wines to thier customers. I was intrigued to see what was on offer within their current portfolio, all priced under £10.

Dry white

Cantine Sociale del Gavi (Italy) Gavi La Maddalena 2002 – £8.45
I’m a bit of a fan of Gavi, the unoaked powerful wines from northern Italy made from the Cortese grape. Some can be rather anonymous, but when allowed to really ripen – especially with old vines – it can be a terrific wine. This fine example comes from a single vineyard of 50-year old vines planted on volcanic tufa soils. It has a lovely mineral nose; slightly sherbetty and suggesting white flowers and delicate honeysuckle nuances. The fruit on the nose is reminiscent of crisp asian pear. The palate has the poise and clarity of a really good Australian riesling, with focused lime and citrus flavours and that apple and pear crunch. Good acids, and a long, quite powerful finish. Very good indeed. (£8.03 equivalent by the case)

Red wine

Corte Rugolin (Italy) Valpolicella Classico 2001 – £6.95
This estate is an offshoot of the highly-regarded Bruno Coati’s, run by Bruno’s son and daughter. They farm just five hectares in the heart of Valpolicella Classico, and are making serious wines, with very low yields and maturation in small oak barrels. This has a gorgeous nose; very polished and deep, with sinewy, muscular, but vibrant cherry fruit and hints of chocolaty depth. There’s a hint of something terrifically sweet about this: parma violet or mint perhaps. The palate is very pure and concentrated, with firm red fruit and fine-grained tannins. Acidity is bright and focused, and this has only a background suggestion of warming oak. Delightful stuff and very good indeed/excellent. (£6.60 equivalent by the case)

Domaine M. Gaget (France) Morgon Côte de Py 2001 – £7.45
Slowly but surely I am becoming an immense fan of quality Beaujolais. After years of paying these wines lip-service whilst rarely actually buying them, there has been a string of cracking efforts from 2000 and 2001 that are utterly convincing. This, from the granite-based slopes of the Côte de Py in the Cru Morgon, has a terrifically elegant, yet quite sumptuous perfume of cherries, floral notes, delicate strawberry pulp and a core of something harder and more mineral. The palate is delightfully sweet with the ripeness of summer fruits and fine, silky tannins, and a lovely tugging acidity that keeps it totally fresh and long on the finish. A lovely, lovely wine and excellent. (special offer: £5.96 equivalent by the case)

Le Clos du Caillou (France) Côtes du Rhône 1998 – £7.45
It is great to still find wine from the terrific 1998 southern Rhône on the shelves. This estate is a neighbour to Château de Beaucastel, and this is a typical blend of grapes based around Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre. The nose is cedary and spicy, with distinct cracked black pepper notes, and a crisp quality of black fruit. It is aromatic, with little floral nuances, and a touch of peanut shell. The palate has lots of juicy, vervy, punchy raspberry and black fruit, with some deeper bramble qualities and a crisp tannin/acid balance. Lip-smacking and well-framed by tannins, this has a few years improvement in it yet in my opinion. Very good indeed. (£7.07 equivalent by the case)

Giuseppe Cortese (Italy) Dolcetto d’Alba Cru Trifolera 2001 – £9.75
I talked to Berry Bros buying team last Christmas when I attended their winter tasting, and got the impression they were more excited by their recent Italian portfolio than just about any other part of the extensive range. With wines like this I can see why: it has that purity of inky dark, glossy bitter dark cherry fruit that no other country seems able to match. The colour is an opaque purple/black and the compact, svelte nose offers up an aromatic blend of chocolate, cherry and a little schisty, mineral quality. On the palate a savoury blackness of olive and bittersweet plumskins is joined by that sweet cherry edge and a grippy, dusty tannic core. This has fine balance, with crisp acidity and, whilst that hint of sweet chocolate depth adds a velvety touch, this is an uncompromisingly savoury food wine, and it is excellent. (£9.26 equivalent by the case)

Avila (California) Pinot Noir 2001 – £9.95
From San Luis Obispo County, I visited a whole bunch of wineries from here and nearby Santa Barbara County two years ago, and Pinot Noir was without a doubt the grape making all the headlines from producers like Au Bon Climat and Sandford. This medium density, garnet-coloured wine has an inviting nose with floral and strawberry notes underpinned by smoky oak and typical Pinot nuances of brackeny undergrowth and damp earth. The palate has a very sweet edge of ripeness to the red fruits, and lots of cherry and raspberry zip. Spicy wood and tannic components tug away and add depth to an otherwise lighter style of wine, adding tobacco notes and clove into a long finish. Crisp acids keeping this very light and fresh in style. Very good indeed. (£9.45 equivalent by the case)

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