Top of the pile
LUCKY DIP: Christine Austin reclaims her hallway by delving into her latest deliveries in search of a hidden gem.
HE trip hazard has built up early this year. Normally it takes until the late summer when the mound of boxes in my hall gets too big to squeeze round, but this year I have been travelling a lot and so the pile needs some serious attention. These serviceable brown corrugated cardboard boxes containing bottles of wine provide endless amusement for the various delivery companies and postmen who knock on my door expecting to find me glass in hand and slurring my words at all hours of the day. They seem almost disappointed to find me sober.
As each one arrives, usually sent by a company in the hope of gaining some favourable comments, I am tantalised by the prospect of finding a real gem of a wine for a bargain basement price, but most of the time I am disappointed by unrealistic prices and less than interesting wines.
The procedure is simple. I open the boxes, dispose of the cardboard, tut about the ones that are encased in unrecyclable expanded polystyrene, and then check out the bottles. All of them are photographed, and all logged in my master file. Then some are parked in a corner waiting to be tasted, while others are grouped together so they can form the basis of an upcoming article. Then there are the waifs and strays – bottles which cannot be grouped together, ones that arrived too late for a particular article and wines that I have already tasted but which are sent again in the hope of catching my eye a second time around.
Just some of the boxes revealed wines worth writing about, and some should be positively avoided, so in no particular order, here is my selection of the best of the boxes, plus a few that have been in the “to be tasted” corner for far too long. By the way, just in case you are wondering what happens to all the leftovers, I have several well-supplied neighbours, but the most appreciative audience is the old folks in the residential home nearby who are developing quite sophisticated palates.
They may think I am being generous, but for one brand of wines generosity is already built in from the start. Piggy Bank is a relatively new range of wines which donates 50p from every bottle sold to a variety of charities. The wines come from Chile, Spain and the South of France and have been made by well-known winemakers who have squeezed another wine or two into their portfolios. Three charities have been selected to receive funds from the Piggy Bank and when the sum raised gets to £10,000 the money is divided between the charities. I like wine and I like charity, but I am never quite sure that the two should be combined, however I love the juicy, raspberry and liquorice fruit of the Grenache 2011 from the Languedoc; I enjoyed the deep black fruits and spice of the Tempranillo 2011 from Extremadura and the full rounded flavours of the Syrah 2010 from Chile. There is a zesty Chilean Sauvignon Blanc 2011 in the range which I have tasted before plus a Spanish Verdejo and a Grenache Rosé which I haven’t yet come across. All of these wines cost £7.99 from Waitrose Wines Direct and if you are holding a charity lunch they would be great wines to serve as well as providing a good talking point.
But charity doesn’t have to be so well organised. If you buy Cuvée Chasseur
CHRISTINE AUSTIN Mathieu has made
wine at several prestigious estates as well as at home.
2012 and Cuvée Pecheur 2012 (both £4.95 from Waitrose) you have two splendid wines and £3 left over per bottle which you can donate directly to your favourite charity. Both are classified as Vin de France which officially makes them fairly basic, but the flavours are right there in the glass – light, fresh and juicy raspberry fruit in the red and clean, zesty citrus fruit in the white.
Also crisp and zesty, but with considerably more depth of flavour is Domaine de Pellehaut, Côtes de Gascogne 2012. Owned by two brothers, Martin and Mathieu Béraut, this is a mixed farm with cattle as well as vines, and I have tasted these wines over several years and been impressed by their quality. Mathieu has made wine at several prestigious estates as well as at home, with St Julien’s Ch. Beychevelle and California’s Au Bon Climat on his CV. They are also marketed by Sichel, one of the major négotiant names in Bordeaux. The rosé has a soft strawberry style, definitely dry but easy-drinking in sunshine, while the red, made from Merlot, Tannat and Cabernets combines the structure of Tannat with the plush