Episode 105 – A stunning sextet from Decorum Vintners
tel. 020 8968 6581
I loved themed tastings like the next wine nut, but a mixed bag bonanza occasionally results in extraordinary discoveries, and this is precisely what happened when I dropped in on Rupert, Mark and Maisie at Decorum Vintners last week. Here are six stunning wines, and every single bottle is worthy of serious consideration for wildly differing reasons.
2020 Pago de Tharsys, Vendimia Nocturna Albariño Requena, Valencia, Spain £18.50
I tasted this wine last year and wrote a somewhat muted note. Rupert told me that it needed more time to blossom and how right he was. Only 10990 bottles were made of this thrilling Albariño, and I venture that this is one of the most surprising Spanish whites of the year. Coming from the hills above Valencia, as opposed to Galicia in the country’s opposite corner, this is a bristlingly clean and vital wine. The Albariño grape’s trademark floral peachiness is strictly under control here. This zestiness and vitality perfectly tempers this grape’s exuberance and brings astonishing vitality to the whole. While it is beautifully refreshing and cleansing, there is plenty of depth and gravitas here, too, so this rare white performs elite aperitif duties while stepping up to complex dishes and gastronomic challenges with ease.
2020 Danie de Wet, Chardonnay, Robertson, South Africa £11.75, reduced to £9.99 each if you buy six bottles
The label on this classic Cape Chardonnay notes that it is ‘Unwooded’ and also ‘Lees Matured’. Given the perfect Robertson climate for growing this grape (the cool nights that result in perfectly ripe fruit and terrific bright acidity), this is a time-honoured and straightforward recipe for making nicely balanced, refreshing white wines. And while it is made by a very reputable winery, the price seems too cheap for a wine to seriously consider for top-flight entertaining. But no. This Chardonnay is shaped like a first-class Mâcon Blanc, and the last few words of my tasting note read – ‘absolutely delicious, with great acidity and more depth of fruit than one can possibly imagine at this price’. That was before I heard about the case discount. There may well be sceptics who still don’t quite believe me, so remember who is selling this wine – Decorum is not a South African specialist but a Burgundy expert, and this is the standard to which this wine is held.
2020 Domaine de Saint Cosme, Les Deux Albions Blanc, Principaute d’Orange, IGP Vaucluse, France £16.95
The new Domaine de Saint Cosme labelling indicates that the fruit used in this wine comes solely from Louis Barruol’s own vineyards. I wrote a suitably enthusiastic tasting note about this wine, and I found myself giving it a massive 18.5/20 score. I guessed the price and was only out by a factor of two! It follows that I cannot underline just how incredibly impressive this white Rhône is. The nose is reminiscent of a first-class White Châteauneuf-du-Pape, yet it is not marked by unnecessary oak and is also spectacularly long and dry. From the sensational exoticism on the nose to the stunning acidity and freshness on the finish, this is an inverted pyramid of flavour, starting magnificently and then tightening up to a dramatic stiletto point of minerality. It is epically good, and the price is entirely at odds with the grandeur of the flavour.
2018 Montagny, 1er Cru Le Vieux Château, Laurent Cognard, Chateau de Buxy, Burgundy, France £28.50
With all of the problems in Burgundy – adverse weather conditions, tiny stocks, global demand, there is a white wine crisis on the horizon. When I say on the horizon, the problem appears to be a year off, but the frantic buying on behalf of the on-trade and canny retailers means that we are most likely past the peak of this activity and into the slim pickings zone. White stocks will have to last you three years, assuming the 2022 harvest is plentiful and acceptable. I bought more 2020 white Burgundy than in 2016, 2017, 2018 & 2019 combined. This situation rather focuses the mind. It means that Australia should pick up a large number of prestige Chardonnay orders, and wines like the De Wet above will do a lot of everyday work on behalf of white Burgundy fans. It also means that rare parcels of seriously delicious white Burgundy are being snapped up on release, bringing me to a true beauty in the shape of this sublime Montagny. With a discreet hint of smoky oak over a lush, expansive mid-palate, there is a Meursault-like demeanour about this inexpensive creation, and it further underlines the terrific work done by Cognard in Montagny. Perhaps you can pull back on opening stop flight Côte d’Or whites, deploying them when the time is right, and fill in the gaps with De Wet and this wine – both will not let you or your guests down, and they will also save you a few pounds in the process.
2019 Barbera d’Asti, La Tota, Marchesi Alfieri, Piemonte, Italy £18.95
I know this wine extremely well, having bought large quantities of it from Decorum when I was consulting for Bibendum Restaurant’s wine list. It is, without doubt, one of the finest Barberas in the whole of Piemonte and, as every year passes, is it me, or does La Tota become even more regal and swaggering? In terms of value, there is nothing to touch this beauty as the serious Albese Barberas tend to come in at a £25+ price tag. Not that money is the point here. In a blind tasting with all but Aldo Conterno (Conca Tre Pile) and Giacomo Conterno’s (Francia & Cerretta) Barberas, this wine would surely triumph. Already delicious and plush, smooth and enticing, this is drinking perfectly, and the balance is sensational. It is also joyous. I say this because so many impressive red wines have a serious side to their characters (the next two most certainly do), yet La Tota is happy, gregarious, open, convivial and, like you, wants to have a bloody good time.
2017 Brunello de Montalcino, Sesti, Castello di Argiano, Tuscany, Italy £59.50
Undoubtedly, overexcited wine commentators who have given the 2016 vintage of this wine a cricket score will mark this gentlemanly 2017 down because it is civilised, cultured, impeccably tailored and not as shouty, muscular preening as the preceding vintage. Of course, I, too, like the 2016, and it will blossom in 5-8 years, but I must impress on you that this 2017 is jaw-droppingly delicious right now, and I cannot think of another five-year-old wine from this region that has this degree of class, composure and deliciousness. It is a classic case of a starry year overshadowing a quieter, more sensual and more emotionally engaging vintage. Decorum has a couple of cases, so sprint to secure yourself some stock. Or rather they have a couple of cases fewer than they did before I rocked up!