We were honoured last week when distinguished Rhône expert, author, journalist and creator of www.drinkrhone.com John Livingstone-Learmonth and his wife Fiona called in at our shop in Mere to pick up some Clape: Cornas (1995 and 1999 as you ask) that we have been holding for them in our customer reserves. Fortunately John had phoned ahead which gave me a chance to gather up a few bottles from newly-shipped vintages as it is always a pleasure to taste with ‘le prof’. John and Fiona were looking nicely bronzed having just returned from a marathon Rhône tasting in the Maldives in the company of Marcel Guigal and the frères Perrin.

We kicked-off with a white Lirac: La Fermade 2010 which John deemed ‘sound’ and ‘versatile’. He thought it would work well as an aperitif or with food. We then tasted the white Chave Hermitage 2008 which he thought was ‘unformed’ and ‘oakier than anticipated’ but had good potential and might develop well over the next 5-10 years. The Costières de Nîmes ‘Cuvée Prestige’ Rosé 2010 was well received ‘a touch of sweetness but does the job’ was John’s matter of fact verdict but it was trumped by the Tavel: La Forcadière 2010. John liked that so much he bought a case which I suppose is the highest praise a wine can get unless, of course, he’d bought 2 cases. We then moved onto taste a red Lirac and red Costières de Nîmes both of which were bien classique before rounding things off with the red Chave Hermitage 2008 which we both concurred is an understated and deftly-made wine in a challenging vintage.

After I had arranged an impromptu ‘goodie bag’ for Fiona replete with Glen Baxter posters, T-shirts and ‘Yapp’ mugs my other great mentor, my dad, arrived and they adjourned to the Red Lion in Kilmington to sample the Butcombe Best Bitter. What John thought of that I don’t know but I doubt they keep a better beer in John’s neck of the woods in Bexhill-on-Sea. They haven’t got the terroir!