14 MARCH 1992, Page 51


Something to sing about

Auberon Waugh

Nethergate Wines, of Clare, formerly Redpath and Thackray of Cambridge, have given us some spectacularly successful offers in mixed French reds — from the Rhone, from Beaujolais and from the less- er famed areas of Bordeaux. This time, however, I would like first of all to sing about the only white on offer, a Pouilly Fume from Domaine des Bed;thiers shipped by Jean-Claude Dagueneau . Its price has come down from a hefty £7.32 to £6.45 on my insistence, arguing meanly that no Spec- tator punter will pay more than that for Loire sauvignon, however good. But I must say that it is as excellent a Fume as I have ever tasted: sweet nettles rather than gooseberry leaves, slight prickle but beauti- fully balanced rich fruit and acid, and utter- ly delicious all through with a wonderful fresh taste in the finish. It is a treat, this wine. Those who are in danger of forgetting how good a Pouilly Fume can be should rush to buy it. Now for the reds. The Chusclan 1990(2) from the Seigneurie de Gicon, whatever that might be, is priced much the same as many other C6tes du Rhone Villages perhaps a little cheaper than most — but is just much better. At the drier end of the Cotes du Rhone spectrum, it has a good, earthy, meaty smell and drinks so clean, decent and healthy one feels one could drink bottles of it with no ill effects something which is by no means always the case with these down-to-earth Rhones.

The 1989 Chateau (1,,a Rivalerie from the leres Cotes de Blaye pleased other mem- bers of the panel even more than it pleased me — a proper Bordeaux smell at the dry, leafy end of the spectrum, a quiet taste, alcoholic enough but without an enormous amount of fruit. It is what I call a left-wing claret, but I am probably out of date. Den- nis Skinner wouldn't have the faintest idea which end to approach the bottle from. Let us say middle of the road to right-wing Labour. Try it on the new Kinnock. But it is good for its class, and not excessively priced at £4.57.

Next a really high-class Beaujolais at the sort of price — £5.75 — you must expect to pay for high-class Beaujolais nowadays. My tastii notes on the Morgon C6te du Py 1990 read: 'Lot of good sweet leaves. The very best grass. Like it a lot.' Another member of the panel wrote: 'Smells of Stil- ton and sweetish loganberries; good fruit; really full; no tannin.' It may be hard to imagine we were experiencing the same wine, but the important thing is that we both liked it and marked it high. So did everyone else.

Both the Morgon and the next wine, (A Chateau St Christophe 1986 St Emilion, are for drinking immediately. The price of £7.07 seems to me very reasonable for a Grand Cru St Emilion. Its smell reminded me of good, high-class, old-fashioned wealth: cigars and tweeds and cedarwood smoke. The taste was well-rounded, ripe, with little tannin and massive fruit. Other members of the panel found blackcurrant, feet, chocolate and plums but once again we all liked it, and it scored 32 out of a pos- sible 40 points, which can't be bad. For those who want a rich, full, expensive-tast- ing wine for instant drinking, it should be perfect. If it came from the Medoc, I would guess it was eight years older.

Finally, cr exceptionally sturdy Chateauned which will keep for years: wonderful black,red colour, rich, deep, sweet, vanilla-like smell. The taste is drier than the smell, a good, hard, strong exam- ple, perhaps a tiny bit dry for my own taste, otherwise wonderful. Others found it warm and leathery with enough tannin for long keeping. I am afraid that £7.57 is the sort of price you have to pay for good Chateauneuf. (7) The mixed case works out at £5.93 the bottle. At least we managed to keep it under £6.