20 OCTOBER 1984, Page 45

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Spectator Wine Club

Auberon Waugh

On a tour of the Loire this spring I was impressed by some of the white and red wines being made in the tiny appella- tion of Menetou Salon (1) next door to Sancerre. In fact they are precisely the Same as the Sancerres — the whites being made from Sauvignon, the reds from pinot noir — and until recently were treated as a Poor relation. In the past few years, a c°, al* of producers in Menetou Salon have been making stupendous efforts, us- ing the cold fermentation process on the Whites, until they are now every bit as good as the best Sancerres, and at two thirds of the price, lacking the cachet. When I returned I asked various wine merchants to produce specimens, of which the best value came from Chloe Woodhead. At £3.85 she has found a beautifully clean and crisp wine, full of the crushed gooseberry-leaves fragrance of the Sauvignon grape at its freshest and best. For a long time it has been fashionable to piss on Leoville-Poyferre (2) as being the least good of the Leovilles, a move- ment led by Hugh Johnson. But I have so alany happy memories of the wine that my ileart leaps up whenever I see its funny Llahel. Steven Spurrier, in his excellent new book (French Fine Wines, Collins Willow Books £5.95) agrees that its wines have shown great improvement sihce 1975 and are now very well made. I was amazed to find an example of any deuxieme cru Medoc at £4.80 the bottle. Spurrier prices Ldoville-Poyferre in his 'D' range, which Means between-£9.00 and £12.50 for a new vintage. Of course 1977 was not a great Year in the Medoc, despite the efforts of some wine merchants to reinstate it, and this example is not faultless. It has a beautiful, clean, fruity nose and there is enough elegance in the taste to prove that there is a really good wine there struggling to get out, but I found it unacceptably sharp for my effete, Burgundian taste. .,,!gh acidity is one of the bugbears of the ''77 vintage. Some mind it more than Ilters, and one of my panel raved about this .wine. I can see her point. It has unmistakable class — and it improved with the meal —. but I feelyou would have to be a committed claret drinker to be sure of being happy with it, even at the giVe-away Price of £4.80. But I have seen Wykeham- ists and others roll on their backs and kick their silly left-wing legs in the air over stuff which tasted to me of purest gall. They will 1_3e in the seventh heaven to have found sach a wine at such a price. Accepted drinking is that the 1977 vintage is for rilking now, and I doubt the acidity will ulsappear with keeping. The Lagrange 1979 (3) is a less interest- ing but also less controversial wine. When I started enquiring about these wines, the asking price for the Poyferre was £73.20 (£6.10 per bottle) and the Lagrange £81.00 (£6.75 per bottle). At its new price of £5.15 it is certainly cheap. It has a high merlot content which is probably what makes this '79 vintage exceptionally good. A thor- oughly smooth, bland and quite expensive- tasting wine of some distinction which everybody will like, even if it lacks the flawed heroism of the Poyferre.

My own favourite of the month, needless to say, is the Burgundy. Anybody who has been following Burgundy prices — or even looked at a wine merchant's listrecently will know that at £7.50 for a 1976 premier cru Nuits-Saint-Georges (4), clever Mrs Woodhead has found us a humdinger of a bargain. Spurrier (op cit) prices Nuits- Saint-George premier cru at high D-E, which means £10.75–£15.00 for a new wine. As all Burgundians know, 1976 was a terrific year in Burgundy, only now begin- ning to emerge from its adolescent dumb- ness and introspection. This example, bot- tied in Beaune by someone called Rocassel in the heavy, light green bottle of a really expensive wine, is a trifle paler than I like my Burgundy to be, with the slightest tendency towards the new-style 'honest' or `real' Burgundy. But it is a magnificent wine for all that, and the best bargain in 1976 Burgundy we are ever likely to see now. My only fear is that the trade will take advantage of this extraordinary price, and I shall try to monitor the applications to stop this happening at the expense of Spectator readers. All the wines so far have been extraordi- narily cheap for what they are. For the life of me, I do not see that the Château Grand Puy-Lacoste 1976 (5) can be a tremendous bargain at £11 the bottle, but I am assured that people pay much more than this for less famous clarets. It is excellently drink- able now with great reserves of strength and depth, which should let it develop surprisingly well for a 1976. I do not deny it is a thoroughly good Pauillac, although I do not think I would quite put it on a par with the Nuits-Saint-Georges Perdrix (1976 was a better year in Burgundy, anyway), but it costs £3.50 more. Although the claret cognoscenti praise Grand Puy-Lacoste sky- high, saying it should be deuxieme cru (Spurrier), `tres superieur a son classement' (Johnson) etc, Clive Coates found the 1976 vintage 'disappointing' and I do not think I would pay £11 for it if there was a chance of buying the Burgundy for £7.50.