Beverage Report: Rules of the waiting game

All in good time: a lesson in the noble practice of laying down wines

CHRISTMAS comes but once a year, and this year it made up for its infrequency by lasting for a couple of weeks. Too long! It was all I could do to scrape the cobwebs off the tasting apparatus and shimmy on down to the year's first tasting. As always, that distinction belonged to The Bunch, six independent merchants of high quality who show a selection at the Groucho Club. As always, it was worth the effort. I found a foursome worth adding to my list of reasonable wines for laying down.

If you didn't see the idea first mooted in these pages, the rules are simple: buy non-classic wines costing pounds 7 to pounds 13, which will improve greatly if kept for one to three years, from a merchant who will store the wine for you. The aim: to encourage the drinking of mature wine.

The foursome in question was found on the table of Yapp Brothers (01747 860 423), the Wiltshire Rhone and Loire specialists, and comprised two reds and two whites. The most drinkable now is a relative rarity, Jasnieres, Clos Saint Jacques 1996 (pounds 10.75). This has the hallmark Chenin Blanc peachiness, already with a honeyed edge, and loads of fine acidity to keep it fresh for years. The same qualities, but with extra crispness and wonderful depth, can be found in Savennieres, Domaine du Closel 1995 (pounds 8.75). Both these whites could probably last almost forever, though even just an extra year in bottle will see their lively flavours form a more perfect union.

Of the two reds in the group, I'd keep Saumur-Champigny, Domaine Filliatreau 1997 (pounds 7.25) for a little bit longer than this. It's incredibly enjoyable at the moment, mind you, but there will be much more complexity arising in time from the ripe-raspberry flavours and soft tannins.

The greatest longevity of the bunch may belong to Brezeme, Eugene de Monicault 1995 (pounds 11.25), made by Jean-Marie Lombard. This tiny, anomalous appellation, south of Valence between the northern and southern areas of the Rhone, barely gets a mention in guides. I was tipped off about it years ago by a French chef and now seize every opportunity to drink it. M Lombard's name is almost synonymous with Brezeme and attaches itself to big, dense, chunky wines made from 100 per cent Syrah. Wait two years or more for the smoky fruit flavours to emerge from the tannic clouds.

If you're not thinking about your cellar, you should be thinking about the January sales. Most are nearly over, but a few gems remain in various precincts, including some of those belonging to Bunch members. One of the best is Seresin Sauvignon Blanc 1998, Marlborough, John Armit Wines (0171 727 6846), reduced from pounds 106 to pounds 90 a case (pounds 8.84 to pounds 7.50 a bottle). On a recent trip to New Zealand, this winery impressed me greatly; and this wine, in a Sauvignon vintage that lovers of euphemism would call "mixed" at best, stood above nearly all the competition. There's a bit of Semillon in there, and around 10 per cent sees some oak. All of which breeds a wine with more complex fruit than most, and with wonderful richness to offset its abundant acidity. Amazing, especially when you consider that Seresin sold its first wine in 1996.

There's another good reason to buy this Sauvignon: it's made with similar methods to those used for Cloudy Bay, and in quality gives that ridiculously scarce wine a good run for its money. But far less money is required here - and there's no allocation system to make you feel like a privileged soul if you lay your hands on half a case. Indeed, you have to buy three unmixed cases to take advantage of the low price. Sale ends 29 January, so don't dally.

In the space remaining, here are a few snapshots taken with the Beverage Report Bargain-Hunter camera. CLICK: Laytons (0171 388 4567) for Bourgogne Rouge 1996, Domaine Jean-Luc Joillot (pounds 5.10), better-than-basic-Burg at a basic price. Sale ends 31 January. CLICK: Lay & Wheeler (01206 764446) for two 1995 clarets at amiable prices: Chateau Saint-Bernard, Fronsac (pounds 4.95) and Chateau Les Hauts-Pontets (pounds 11.95). Or for another great Burgundy bargain, the Macon-Villages Blanc 1997 from Olivier Leflaive (pounds 5.35). Sale ends 31 January. CLICK: Fuller's (0181 996 2000), the London mini-chain of mega-quality, for a raft of offers including Bonterra Organic Chardonnay 1996, Mendocino County (pounds 6.99 from pounds 7.99), previously described here as "a richly oaky, all-singing, all- dancing Chardonnay of the big, fat, buttery school". Sale ends 22 February, happily. CLICK: damn. Out of film.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Word master: Self holds up a copy of his novel ‘Umbrella’
books
Arts and Entertainment
Hare’s a riddle: Kit Williams with the treasure linked to Masquerade
books
Arts and Entertainment
The man with the golden run: Daniel Craig as James Bond in 'Skyfall'

TV
Arts and Entertainment
'Waving Seal' by Luke Wilkinson was Highly Commended in the Portraits category

photography
Arts and Entertainment
The eyes have it: Kate Bush
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Art
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard, nicknamed by the press as 'Dirty Diana'

Bake Off
Arts and Entertainment
The X Factor 2014 judges: Simon Cowell, Cheryl Cole, Mel B and Louis Walsh

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace was caught by a camera van driving 32mph over the speed limit

TV
Arts and Entertainment
books
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor and the Dalek meet
tvReview: Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Arts and Entertainment
Star turns: Montacute House
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Iain reacts to his GBBO disaster

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Outlaw Pete is based on an eight-minute ballad from Springsteen’s 2009 Working on a Dream album

books
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012

film
Arts and Entertainment
Simon Cowell is less than impressed with the Strictly/X Factor scheduling clash

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Gothic revival: artist Dave McKean’s poster for Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination
Exhibition
Arts and Entertainment
Diana Beard has left the Great British Bake Off 2014

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live

TV
Arts and Entertainment
TVDessert week was full of the usual dramas as 'bingate' ensued
Arts and Entertainment
Clara and the twelfth Doctor embark on their first adventure together
TVThe regulator received six complaints on Saturday night
Arts and Entertainment
Vinyl demand: a factory making the old-style discs
musicManufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl
Arts and Entertainment
David Baddiel concedes his show takes its inspiration from the hit US series 'Modern Family'
comedyNew comedy festival out to show that there’s more to Jewish humour than rabbi jokes
Arts and Entertainment
Puff Daddy: One Direction may actually be able to use the outrage to boost their credibility

music
Arts and Entertainment
Suha Arraf’s film ‘Villa Touma’ (left) is set in Ramallah and all the actresses are Palestinian

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

    'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

    US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
    Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

    Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
    Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    James Frey's literary treasure hunt

    Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

    What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

    Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
    Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

    The big names to look for this fashion week

    This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
    Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

    Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

    Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Al Pacino wows Venice

    Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
    Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

    Neil Lawson Baker interview

    ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

    Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
    The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

    The model for a gadget launch

    Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
    Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

    Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
    Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

    Get well soon, Joan Rivers

    She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
    Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

    A fresh take on an old foe

    Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering