Three delicious autumnal reds for under £20

by Andrew Hooper
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It has been observed that £20 is the new fiver. It’s a psychological thing – you know, where once having a crisp £5 note in your wallet meant that you had money on you; things only had expense if they cost more than £5, anything less was just change; £5 was a suitable amount of money to spend on something. Nowadays, if you see a fiver, it’s likely to be somewhat grubby, somewhat torn, and with more creases than Keith Richards’ face on a particularly worrying day. It’s become a thing of less consequence, something to stuff into a charity box or give the kids for mowing the lawn. Its place as the arbiter of casual wealth has been superseded by the £20 note. With a portrait of Adam Smith in your pocket, you know you’ve got enough to see you through; you’d put £20 of petrol in the car; top up your Oyster by £20; £20 is an OK amount to spend on something – a book, lunch, some flowers, or (and why not?) a bottle of wine.

So behold a fine trio of French red wines to warm the spirit, all of which will yield the faintest hint of change from a twenty and also make an ideal accompaniment to autumnal cooking:

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Château Cambon la Pelouse 2009 Haut-Médoc

£19.95 per bottle (case price discount £18.50)

Just south-west of Macau you will find Château Cambon la Pelouse. Pretty much along the northern edge of the estate runs the parish boundary that separates Macau from Labarde, on the other side of said boundary is the well-known Margaux estate of Château Giscours; Château’s Monbrison and du Tertre are mere brisk walk away. But for a few metres or the idle slip of a cartographer’s pencil, Château Cambon la Pelouse would be a Margaux, but it isn’t, so you can buy a bottle for less than £20!

We have been following Château Cambon la Pelouse for a few years now and remain impressed by its ever improving standard. The 2009, an excellent vintage in the region anyway, is superb.

‘Another of my favorite estates from the southern part of the Medoc, Macau, this Haut-Medoc cru bourgeois is a blend of 54% Merlot, 42% Cabernet Sauvignon and 4% Petit Verdot. The alcohol was 14% and the wine bottled unfined and unfiltered by its consulting oenologist, the brilliant Claude Gros. Wonderfully dark ruby/purple in color, with loads of sweet berry fruit as well as hints of licorice and charcoal, the wine displays a lush texture, medium to full body, and the vintage’s tell-tale ripeness, high glycerin and silky texture. Drink it over the next 5-6 years.’
90 points, Robert Parker

‘Lightly and attractively toasty aroma with a rich core of black fruit underneath. The Cabernet Franc makes it presence felt on the palate rather than on the nose – fine tension and length. Well-judged structuring of the vintage’s generous fruit. Very good.’
17 points, Julia Harding MW

Jancis Robinson MW, writing in the FT last year, talked of a Cru Bourgeois tasting she attended, “my colleague Julia Harding MW and I tasted nearly 200 of them last September and found several that outperformed some of the classed growths. One of my personal favourites was Ch Cambon La Pelouse 2009 Haut-Médoc”

Drinking well now with a hunk of roast beef or venison, or with some serious English cheddar, a few bottles left in a darkened and cool place will continue to improve over the next 5 years or so – it’d be perfect on its 10th birthday, which is not something  you can say about most £20 bottles of wine.

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Lirac Cuvée de la Reine des Bois 2008 Domaine de la Mordorée                  

£19.95 per bottle (case price discount £18.50)

Châteauneuf-du-Pape has long enjoyed a faithful following, from aficionados and non- aficionados alike, but with prices veering steadily north of £30 a bottle, it has become the stuff of very special evenings and gifts for those that you are most keen to impress. In its wake, however, there are a number of other Southern Rhône villages whose wines offer a similar bold plump fruit and spice combination but at more affordable prices. Step forward Lirac.

Five miles or so to the west of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, on the other side of the River Rhône, is the small village of Lirac. Here Christophe Delorme grows the grapes for his superb Lirac. It is built along very similar lines to Châteauneuf-du-Pape, indeed Christophe makes one of the regions finest and most sought after Châteauneuf’s too, with dense dark brooding black cherry fruit and fistfuls of earthy spice. Described by Will Lyons in The Wall Street Journal as “sensational”.

“The 2008 Lirac Cuvee de la Reine des Bois is a very strong effort in this challenging vintage. Composed of equal parts Grenache, Mourvedre and Syrah (from 40-year-old vines), it exhibits surprising density for the vintage along with abundant red and black fruit, licorice, truffle and loamy soil notes. Full-bodied with admirable fruit purity and a long, heady finish.

Domaine de la Mordoree has done such a great job over the last 15 years that winemaker and owner Christophe Delorme and the Mordoree name are essentially synonymous with high quality, whether it’s Cotes du Rhone red, Cotes du Rhone white, rose wines, or their flagship offerings from Lirac and Chateauneuf du Pape. Even in challenging vintages, Mordoree is usually among the finest wines of the year, a tribute to their meticulous viticulture and winemaking.”
89 points, Robert Parker

This hearty affair calls for some hearty food – rich stews, rustic sausages, a late Summer/early Autumn BBQ, even a pizza piled high with all manner of naughty delights.

And, what’s more, it’s from organically grown grapes so you can drink it with a clean conscience.

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Marsannay 2010 Domaine Huguenot                           

£19.95 per bottle (case price discount £17.95)

It is one of the more depressing facts of life that Burgundy continues to get ever more expensive.  It’s not fair, but that’s the way it is – small production, huge demand, and export eyes set rather too firmly on China. The days when mere mortals like you and I could down a bottle of Gevrey Chambertin, even “only” a village Gevrey, without fear of poverty are sadly at an end. This is where knowing a decent wine merchant is essential, especially a decent wine merchant with a bit of a penchant for Burgundy, and an experienced buyer who knows where the bargains are to be found.

To the north of Gevrey Chambertin, just where the Côte de Nuits begins to give way to the city of Dijon, is the village of Marsannay-la-Côte, a place where Pinot Noir thrives as nobly as is in more famous villages to the south. Charles uncovered Domaine Huguenot a couple of years ago and the wines have been a great hit with our customers, especially so when they offer the stunning value offered by Philippe Huguenot’s Marsannay. Bright, crisp and delightful exhibiting red berry and cherry fruit; there are allusions to the silky velvet texture of Gevrey Chambertin (indeed, Philippe produces some beautiful Gevrey too), but it’s a more refreshing and fruit-led affair. As with most red Burgundies, despite the lightness of approach, this will work well with most red meats, even the rarest of steaks, but will do justice too to fowl offerings too. But it really comes alive with some cracklinged-up pork. Or just cork out, in the garden, enjoying what’s left of the good weather with some crusty bread and pleasant company.

Another wine brought forth from organically grown grapes (Philippe Huguenot completed the estate’s conversion to organic production with the 2010 vintage).

Order on-line or drop by one of our London shops. We deliver next day to Central London postcodes and as quickly as we can beyond for all orders over £100 – see our delivery page here for details. All our wines are hand delivered ensuring the least disturbance possible of the bottles in transit.