Notes below are on a dozen wines from Berry Bros & Rudd. Though BBR stocks the world’s rarest and finest wines, there is surprising depth to their portfolio at less lofty levels. There are many good value ‘everyday’ wines for under a tenner, but this selection concentrates on what might be termed ‘special occasion wines’, priced from around £10 to £20.
The average bottle price in the UK – even with all the cut-price supermarket deals – is now well over £5.00, so at last we see real signs that consumers are realising that buying cheap wine, does not mean buying value wine. And whilst the big supermarkets continue to dominate wine sales in the UK, more of us are turning to independent merchants in search of something more authentic and more interesting.
These wines are great examples of that. Standard delivery is £7.50, but free for orders of £100 or more. See Berry Bros & Rudd online
Champagne Janisson Baradon, Non Dosé NV, France
A zero dosage Champagne that is 50/50 Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from the 2007 vintage, blended with 30% barrel-fermented reserve wine from 2006. There’s a pale golden richness to the colour, and a mass of small, streaming bubbles. The nose is all about freshness, with apple and lemon, but really quite fat and juicy in a way, a lovely little bruised fruit oxidation just coming through. In the mouth the mousse is very crisp, little needle-point bubbles adding to the impression of racy freshness. Lime and lemon are the flavours, and of course it is bone-dry with grapefruit pith and a touch of saline freshness into a long finish. That little proportion of older, barrel-fermented wine probably accounts for the subtle nutty and impression that lingers. Delicious, and whilst pinging with clarity, it is not austere. 91/100. £31.00, Berry Bros. & Rudd (£27.90 by the case).
De Martino, Legado Reserve Chardonnay 2011, Chile
From the northerly Limari Valley, one of Chile’s newer and cooler regions, this carefully made Chardonnay was fermented with indigenous yeasts and spent 11 months in used French oak barrels. The nose has that delightfully flinty, complex sulphide character of quality Burgundy, taut and racy with apple and fragrant pear, but a touch of frangipane with its delicate nuttiness. On the palate it is admirably cool and restrained, with a modest 13.5% alcohol and the clean bite of apple and citrus driving the mid-palate. Balanced, fine, yet substantial, this is a really nicely balanced and distinctive Chardonnay. 90/100. £10.95, Berry Bros. & Rudd (£9.85 by the case).
Vincent Carême, Vouvray ‘Spring’ Sec 2012, France
100% organic Chenin Blanc from Vouvray in the Loire Valley, this pale coloured wine has instant mountain-stream freshness, with delicate notes of apple, blossom and citrus. There’s a hint of grassiness too. On the palate it is lemony fresh, but really quite intense, the merest hint of being off-dry soon swept up in a cleansing minerality. What lovely, keen and intelligent summer in the garden stuff with just 12.5% alcohol, but I can imagine this with Chinese and Thai food too. 89/100. £12.95, Berry Bros. & Rudd (£11.65 by the case).
Domaine Landrat-Guyollot, Pouilly-Fumé La Rambarde 2010, France
Strikingly pale in colour, this is all about minerality, saltiness and subtle orchard fruits and citrus, the polar opposite of the herbaceous and tropical style. In the mouth it is like a squirt of fresh lemon juice, as clean as a whistle and fantastically fresh: real rapier-like stuff, aided by only 12.5% alcohol and a light- to medium-bodied weight. There are subtle hints of riper, sweeter, more guava-like fruit qualities in there, but the determination and drive of this wine keeps it pin-sharp to the end. Sophie Landrat-Guyollot has fashioned such a delicate but decisive wine. 90/100. £16.95, Berry Bros. & Rudd (£15.25 by the case).
Ostler, Blue House Otago Pinot Gris 2010, New Zealand
Tucked away in the Waitaki region, I visited Ostler in 2011. The wines really impressed me – the 2009 vintage of this scoring 89/100, but the 2010 is even better. The honeyed fragrance adds a hint of cashew over quite fat, but ultimately citrussy and sharp fruit, with some quince and fresh pear. On the palate there is intense sweetness of fruit. A really incisive succulence of super-ripe pear and tropical melon, hinting at being off-dry with its texture and weight, but then delicious, freshening acidity kicks in, delicate and filigree, but decisive as it lengthens the finish. Terrific Pinot Gris. 90-91/100. £18.50, Berry Bros. & Rudd (£16.65 by the case).
Michael Hall, Barossa Valley Roussanne 2010, Australia
From the Stonewell Valley in Barossa, this wine came from a long, cool vintage resulting in a modest 13% abv. The grapes were whole-bunch pressed and fermented and aged for 11 months in French oak, 20% of which was new. It has a brilliant gold/green colour and a quite delightful nose: subtle jasmine and lightly smoky mineral notes overlay subtle but ripe nectarine and pear. There’s a hint of toast somewhere in there too. On the palate this has weight and richness, the full-bodied texture and layering of vanilla pierced by super-sharp lemony acidity and the core of cool, mineral-flecked apple and taut white fruit building. Very precise and focused stuff, this has a brilliance, a luminosity about it. 93/100. £26.75, Berry Bros. & Rudd (£24.07 by the case – limited stock).
Château Plantey Canteloup, Bordeaux Rosé 2012, France
For the past few years rosé fashion has all been about the very pale, almost white wine-like Provençal style. But this season I’ve really enjoyed a few more full-coloured, gutsy examples too such as this Merlot from Bordeaux, in a classic style of the region. It has soft red berry aroma, a fresh watermelon appeal and the merest nip of tannin in the crisp, zippy finish. Excellent summer in the garden stuff, or drink with a picnic plate of jambon, cheese and melon. 87/100. £7.50, Berry Bros. & Rudd, but this vintage out of stock).
Daniel Chotard, Sancerre Rosé 2012, France
My Wine of the Week earlier in June, this Pinot Noir pink has some depth of colour and fine Pinot aromatics. It is flooded with strawberries and cream, but also the hint of truffle and briar that is so Pinot. On the palate that sweet, summery berry fruit floods across the tongue, but true to its origins the finish is abundantly fresh, with minerals and juicy citrus streaking through. Watch the Wine of the Week video for more information and food matching suggestions. 89/100. £16.75, Berry Bros. & Rudd (£15.07 by the case).
Domaine de la Chevalerie, Bourgueil Peu Muleau 2010, France
Inky purple in colour and immediately seducing with its deep well of fruit, this is 100% Cabernet Franc from the Loire Valley and the biodynamic certified Domaine de la Chevalerie. The little lift of aromatic herbs and caraway seed is lovely over the creamy and ripe red and black berries. On the palate the silky texture and sweet ripeness of the fruit is delicious, licked with liquorice, a tart nip of plum skin acidity, and the typical Cab Franc sense of leanness into the finish, the roughening grip of tannins adding lots of savoury appeal to the creamy fruit openness. 90/100. £13.95, but this vintage out of stock.
Villa Calcinaia, Chianti Classico 2010, Italy
There’s a refined and very classical character to this Sangiovese (with 10% Canaiolo) its savoury, keen-edged raspberry and cherry aromas are edged with graphite and a light, ashy earthiness. There’s a hint of tobacco and something vanilla-like, but the aromas are always elegant. On the palate it bursts with a surprising volume of fruit and flavour, the juicy black cherry ripeness and hint of chocolate fills the mouth, with a hint of alcoholic heat (this says 14% abv on the label) but massively juicy acidity and lithe tannins power through giving this a nimble quality as well as that all-encompassing fruit sweetness. 91/100. £15.50, (£13.95 by the case).
De Martino, Las Águilas Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2009, Chile
A single vineyard wine from the excellent De Martino that I haven’t come across before, this comes from a prime south-facing slope in Maipo planted with ungrafted vines. Eighteen months in French oak barrels adds a smoothing layer of vanilla and graphite on the nose, but there’s an obvious ripeness and richness here, a touch of mint to juicy cassis, and really intriguing little garrigue notes of aromatic herbs and incense. On the palate it has a flood of fruit, but despite the obvious ripeness, this holds on to it supple, savoury side too thanks to a tight structure and a sense of something a little more light and airy about the tannins than you might expect: no hint of over extraction here, but of natural density and the sweet fruit pushing through a little more tobacco and coffee in the finish. 90-91/100. £18.95, (£17.05 by the case).
Churton, Marlborough Pinot Noir 2009, New Zealand
English-born Sam Weaver specialises in Pinot at one of Marlborough’s top estates. Farmed biodynamically, the wine is aged 14 months in French oak, around 18% of which is new. This has a deep garnet colour and a very engaging nose, with a gentle damp earth character and leafy briar over plum and cherry fruit, a touch of mint and something floral and rose-like in the background. In the mouth there is a supple, medium-bodied lithe appeal, very good freshness with a bite of cherry acidity, and a smooth, well-proportioned mid-palate where spicy berries and a touch of firm endive or liquorice add structure. This feels like a Pinot that, whilst elegant and unforced, has the structure and gravitas to age a few years too. 92-93/100. £24.50, (£22.05 by the case). See Berry Bros & Rudd online