10 FEBRUARY 2001, Page 58

torn - rom


IT is always a pleasure to visit Yapp Brothers of Mere, but never more so than as the temporary custodian of The Spectator Wine Club, for which Robin Yapp has a strange affection — something made manifest by the generous discounts which he always insists are our due. Nobody knows more about the Loire and the Rhone than Robin, and, once again, he and his son Jason have compiled a selection which manages to be both quirky and conventional.

The Wine Club has featured the Coteaux de l'Ardeche: Les Terrasse0 on at least two previous occasions — albeit from different vintages — with great success, and the 1999 version, made from a blend of ligni Blanc. Clairette and White Grenache, more than lives up to the quality of its predecessors. Clean, fresh and dry, it has appetising hints of sweetness on the nose and plenty of good fruit on the palate. If the wine is a tad short on the finish, who are we to nitpick when it comes in at only £4.15 a bottle after the Yapp discount? Easy drinking doesn't get easier than this.

Muscadet is rather out of fashion nowadays, not least because there are so many lousy ones on the market. Only last week I was ambushed by some rubbish which not only robbed me of my tooth enamel, but also somehow managed to give me a hangover mid-sip. A great treat, then, to savour the 1999 Muscadet de Sevre et Maine: Domaine de la Mortaine") with its jolly Quentin Blake-designed label. Robin Yapp has known the Chereau family since 1972, and his unswerving belief in their wines makes this the 27th successive vintage that he has purchased from them. The wine has been allowed to sit for several months on its lees (the yeasty sludge left over after fermentation), during which time it has picked up deep flavours and wonderful vivacity. This is how Muscadet should taste: bonedry, clean and uncomplicated, with just enough zip and zing to ginger up the tastebuds while still managing to leave the tooth enamel intact.

Made entirely from Chenin Blanc, the 1998 Montlouis"' is utterly charming. Restrained aromas of citrus fruit, apple and melon tease the nose, and, although the overall sensation in the mouth is of a fullflavoured dryness, a pleasant, gentle sweetness creeps up on the sides of the tongue. The wine was a great success when offered to readers in June last year, and the extra six months in bottle have served only to make it even more of a peach.

On to the reds. Jason Yapp, himself breeziness personified, declared the 1999 Saumuro) to be 'excellent breezy drinking'. We tried it lightly chilled and found that it did indeed slip down a treat. Made from unblended Cabernet Franc — which thrives