One of the frustrating things about a career in the wine trade is that my family and friends are convinced that I spend most of my waking hours discoursing over fine wines in upmarket eateries while they are putting in hard graft at the rock face. It's very disheartening to return, exhausted, from a buying trip to be asked: How was your holiday? In mitigation, I do spend an inordinate amount of time browsing and sluicing under the guise of employment and I enjoy it wholeheartedly so thought I should share with you the six wines I've enjoyed the most recently.
1. IGP Pays d'Hérault: Domaine de la Grange des Pères Rouge 2013
Having long-admired this masterfully-crafted blend of Syrah, Mourvèdre and Cabernet Sauvignon from the hills to the west of Montpellier we were delighted to be offered a parcel of the newly-released, and terrific, 2013 vintage from source. My euphoric tasting note read thus: "The 2013 Domaine de la Grange des Pères rouge is an object lesson in wine-making finesse and restraint. The finished wine is emphatically not a blockbuster but a harmonious blend containing all the key components of a 'Grand Vin' in near perfect proportions. The bouquet of ripe garrigue berries with delicate wild herb notes marries beautifully with a palate of soft red and black fruits, game, leather and spice the whole offset by a fresh acidity and supported by a structure of fine-grained tannins. It is already surprisingly approachable but should provide rewarding drinking for a further 10-20 years. Delightful!"
2. Condrieu 'Terrasses de l'Empire' 2014: Domaine Georges Vernay
Our good friend Angharad Renshaw-Green, patronne of the marvellous Royal Native Oyster Stores in Whitstable, has a penchant for Condrieu so we thought it churlish not to bring along a bottle of Christine Vernay's cracking 'Terrasses de l'Empire' 2014 when we visited to host a staff training session recently. We enjoyed this superb peach-scented, fruit-accentuated and beautifully-balanced Viognier with hot oysters 'Rockefeller' dressed with spinach, Emmental cheese and breadcrumbs - a heavenly combination.
3. Cassis Rosé: Clos Sainte Magdeleine 2015 (magnum)
The Spectator's resident wine guru, Jonathan Ray, is both bossy and sociable and so when he demanded that I turn-up for dinner brandishing a seasonally appropriate magnum I jumped to with alacrity. My choice of a rosé Cassis was far from being the grandest wine of the evening but on a muggy mid-summer night it was wonderfully refreshing – brimming with bright berry fruit and offset by a fine acidity and inimitable Provençal herb notes, it was certainly well-received.
4. Rheinhessen: Appenheimer 'Spätburgunder' 2013: Jürgen Hofmann
Last year my mentor on all things Germanic, Alison Flemming MW, introduced me to this magnificent Pinot Noir from Appenheim and it was love at first sip. Earlier this month she went one better and took me to the cellar door to meet the man behind it and it was one of the most insightful tastings I've ever attended. You need skill, luck and the right raw materials to make great wine but above all you need enthusiasm. Jürgen has this in spades and he is a wine-maker whose future output we will be tracking closely. Stacked with juicy, summer berry fruit over a frame-work of supple tannins this wine is delicious lightly-chilled served with charcuterie.
5. IGP Alpilles: Domaine de Trévallon Rouge 2007 (magnum)
I think it's fair to say that Jürgen and I are kindred spirits in our appreciation of wine and no sooner did we get to discussing wine-makers we admired than he had pulled the cork on a magnum of Domaine de Trévallon in the marvellous 2007 vintage. I'm a big fan of Trévallon but it is very vintage sensitive and the 2007 must be a contender as one of the all-time best vintages. It's really harmoniously balanced with signature garrigue berry and forest floor scents and full, fruity palate supported by ripe tannins and a fresh acidity. Drinking beautifully now this should age well for at least another decade. Thanks Jürgen!
6. Arbois 'Vin Jaune' 2008: Domaine Jean-Louis Tissot (62 centilitre 'clavelin')
The restauranteur, print expert and keen oenophile Andrew Edmunds has a palate that is razor sharp and impossible to second guess. I tentatively gave him a glass of this barrel aged Savagnin to assay, unsure if he would love it or loath it – he is nothing if not opinionated. Vin Jaune can be a difficult wine for the uninitiated as it has a distinctive sherry-like bouquet and concentrated oxidative palate with a strong and persistent finish but happily it met with enthusiastic approval. Andrew averred that it would be 'terrific' with a chunk of 'well-aged, really crystalline parmesan' and I'm not going to disagree with him.