Anything but Ordinary

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Our Good Ordinary and Extra Ordinary Claret are some of our best-selling wines – but what is the difference between these two red Bordeaux? Bordeaux specialist Philip Moulin explains

Good. Ordinary. Claret. Three words that our customers probably associate with us more than any other. “GOC”, as it is known affectionately, has been our best-selling wine for decades now, and it’s more modern elder brother Extra Ordinary Claret (EOC – launched in 2002) is not far behind. But what, you might ask, is the difference between them and why is one cheaper than the other?

Although both wines are blends of different grapes varieties, the key thing to understand is that GOC is also a blend from several different vineyards. Each year, we taste a selection of samples, which are vinified and blended for us by the Bordeaux négociant (merchant), Dourthe, which was founded in 1840. The samples will vary according to their “assemblage”, or blend of grape varieties, as well as the percentage of old or new oak barrels used on each wine. Eventually we narrow down the selection to the blend which we feel best represents the style we hope to achieve every year with GOC.

As well as owning some extremely fine châteaux themselves, Dourthe also has contracts with many smaller vineyards, and each year they select the best fruit to go into the blend for GOC. The ability to select fruit from the best terroir, in any given vintage, is a huge bonus in a region as influenced by the weather as Bordeaux. It means that if the Merlot fails, for example, then they still have access to fully ripe Cabernet Sauvignon, or maybe Petit Verdot. The wines are all vinified separately in Douthe’s own winery, using traditional methods, with the best lots matured in new French oak barriques.

By contrast, EOC is a single-estate wine, coming entirely from Château Villa Bel-Air, in the Graves. The property is owned by the Cazes family (of Château Lynch-Bages fame), with whom we have a close relationship. The château sits on a splendid gravel outcrop, surrounded by its own vines, and these free-draining vineyards are ideal for growing Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, which together make up 60% of the blend. The remainder is planted to Merlot, which adds flesh and generosity to the blend. Here the attention to detail is second to none, and from vineyard to winery, no expense is spared. It is very much a boutique sort of affair, and the scale of production is modest, but crucially, the taste of EOC will always reflect the unique terroir of the château.

So, both GOC and EOC are made from blends of the classic Bordeaux varieties, and both are the product of a single vintage. Both are traditionally made, and although scales of production are different, they are both made with quality as the driving factor. Ultimately the difference lies in the style of wine. GOC is blended to produce a consistent style, year after year. It is generous, full-bodied, modern Bordeaux, which we trust can be relied on to taste consistently lovely, whenever you open a bottle. EOC is a more artisanal wine, reflecting in each vintage a sense of place, with its own, classic Graves complexity and style.

Each one showcases a different side of Bordeaux; both are far from ordinary.

2017 Berry Bros. & Rudd Good Ordinary Claret, Bordeaux

“GOC” has long been our best-selling wine, and the current vintage admirably demonstrates why. With notes of cassis and wood-smoke o the nose, this expands on the palate with glorious ripe fruit, finely judged structure and a moreish savoury finish. A classic Bordeaux blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, it is a medium-bodied, gently rounded style of wine, designed to suit most food.

2018 Berry Bros. & Rudd Extra Ordinary Claret by Château Villa Bel-Air, Graves, Bordeaux

For almost 20 years, “EOC” has come from the same single estate in the Graves. The 2018 vintage is a great one, and the wine perfectly captures the warmth of that summer. A 50-50 blend of Merlot and Cabernet, finished with careful oak maturation, this is full of ripe blackberry and cassis flavours. The result is a typically plump, rounded Claret, suitable for all occasions.

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Category: Bordeaux Wine

10 of the best bottles in our Sale

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As our Sale goes live, with discounts of up to 40% on fine wine and spirits, we pick 10 of the most interesting and best bottles on offer

2018 DeSante, L’Atelier, Napa Valley, California, USA

The DeSantes are incredibly talented – a tiny producer run by husband and wife team, Katherine and David, they make fresh, elegant expressions of Napa. This Bordeaux-inspired white blend – of Sémillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Sauvignon Vert – is delicate, moreish and perfect for summer sipping. (Was £24.95, now £14.97)

2017 Au Bon Climat, Pinot Gris & Pinot Blanc, Santa Barbara Valley, California, USA

You might know Au Bon Climat (run by California’s wild boy Jim Clendenen)for their elegant Pinot Noir and Chardonnay – wines that combine the elegance and restraint of Burgundy with California’s natural generosity. But he works with other grapes too – such as this Pinot Gris-Pinot Blanc blend (60-40). It’s a rich, textural wine (thanks to some time on lees) with a mineral line, wonderful freshness and a citrus and saline profile that is especially food friendly. (Was £21.95, now £15.36)

2014 Le Soula Blanc, Côtes Catalanes, Fenouillèdes, Roussillon

Le Soula is an organic and biodynamic estate based in the hills of the Roussillon, working with parcels of old vines scattered in amongst the local garrigue. The white is a complex blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Macabeu, Grenache Blanc, Vermentino, Marsanne, Roussanne and Grenache Gris – offering layers of citrus, stone fruit, florals and freshness, with a waxy texture, developing honeyed, nutty layers with time. (Was £35.00, now £21.00)

2014 Ramey, Ritchie Vineyard Chardonnay, Russian River Valley, Sonoma County, California, USA

David Ramey is rightfully one of California’s most respected winemakers – known in particular for his voluptuous yet balanced Chardonnays. From one of the Russian River’s best vineyards, this is full of vibrant lemon, stone-fruit and butterscotch, with a pithy edge to balance the round, creamy texture. Simply superb. (Was £85.00, now £59.50)

2017 Gris, Pinot Grigio, Lis Neris, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, Italy

Forget thin, insipid Pinot Grigio – this is a totally different beast. More reminiscent of Alsace Pinot Gris, this single-vineyard example offers delicate fruit and minerality, with a textural richness and nutty complexity. Try it with frico for an authentic Italian pairing (our recipe is courtesy of this wine’s maker). (Was £33.00, now £19.80)

2018 Zweigelt, Josef Ehmoser, Wagram, Austria

Zweigelt is a crossing of St Laurent and Blaufränkisch – all three of which may be grapes you’ve never heard of, given they’re rarely found beyond Austria’s borders. But all you need to know is that this red is full of red cherry fruit, spicy notes and juicy acidity that makes it moreish to say the least. (Was £16.50, now £11.55)

2018 Chinon Rouge, Domaine de la Semellerie, Loire

Because of the region’s fabulous expressions of Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc, it can be easy to forget about the Loire’s reds – but you shouldn’t. They’re particularly good in summer, often offering – like this Chinon – crunchy red fruit, delicate aromatics, a herbal edge and plenty of fresh acidity. (Was £12.25, now £8.57)

2017 Bourgogne Rouge, Domaine Tollot-Beaut, Burgundy

There’s a reason you’ll find Tollot-Beaut featuring on wine lists around Burgundy – they are wonderful wines and offer excellent value for money. This Borugogne Rouge from the superb 2017 vintage has oodles of charm and is delicious right now (especially with a 30% discount). (Was £25.00, now £17.50)

2016 Recanati Winery, Wild Carignan Reserve, Judea Hills, Israel

Full-bodied, rich with dark fruit, fleshy, spicy, and kosher to boot, this Judean Carignan is a delicious surprise. It works particularly well with rich red meats; in fact, it would be superb with our chef’s Moroccan-style barbecued lamb. (Was £32.50, now £19.50)

2017 Côtes du Jura, Pinot Noir, En Barberon, Bénédicte & Stéphane Tissot, Jura

Tissot is one of the Jura’s most famous names, with Stéphane and Bénédicte’s wines listed on many of London’s most fashionable wine lists. This Pinot Noir comes from a single plot of old vines, producing a complex and supple wine that is delicious now, but will evolve further over the next 15 years. (Was £45.00, now £31.50)

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Category: Miscellaneous

What we’re drinking

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Photograph: Jason Lowe
Every month, we ask a handful of our team to recommend a wine or spirit they’ve particularly savoured: here’s what they said

2017 Bourgogne Blanc, Eclat de Calcaire, Pierre Girardin, Burgundy

Not being one to stray far from the path of predictability, my white wine of choice tends to be whatever Burgundy my budget allows – which is not as much as I would like, I hasten to add. What has become a bit of a revelation over recent years is the quality and affordability of Bourgogne Blanc, especially from excellent vintages. Over the last few months I have been thoroughly enjoying, albeit surreptitiously, Pierre Girardin’s 2017 Bourgogne Blanc, Eclat de Calcaire. Just 22 years old, Pierre-Vincent Girardin is a tremendously talented vigneron who is forging his own path as one of Burgundy’s leading young winemakers. His aim is to produce mineral-driven, focused, terroir wines which doff their cap to Jean-Marc Roulot and Jean-François and Raphaël Coche-Dury. This is a name to watch out for. His 2017 Bourgogne Blanc, Eclat de Calcaire is sourced from fruit in the lower part of Meursault and Volnay. The nose offers aromas of white pear and a smattering of citrus oil, with gunflint adding complexity and intrigue. The palate is medium-bodied, nicely concentrated and energetic. The salinity and minerality are the perfect foil to the pure fruit character. The acidity is well-judged offering a zippy, fresh finish. Give this a try or indeed most other 2017 Bourgogne Blancs in our range.

Simon Herriot, Private Account Manager

2018 Berry Bros. & Rudd Australian Shiraz by Hewitson, Barossa Valley

Ask me the same question in a week’s time and the answer will be the new vintage of our own-label Beaujolais-Villages, of which I’ve just ordered a case (forgive the shameless plug) – but it’s another Own Selection wine I’ve turned to repeatedly over the past couple of months: our stunning 2018 Barossa Shiraz made by Dean Hewitson. In many ways, of course, the Shiraz is a very different proposition, but hardcore Beaujolais fans like me will find much to admire in its lifted aromas, cooling acidity and sheer drinkabality. Dean’s wine has all the power you’d want from the Barossa – the palate densely packed with black berry fruit and velvety tannins – but is light enough on its feet to quench the thirst on a warm summer’s evening, with or without food.

Will Heslop, Burgundy (and Beaujolais) Buying Assistant

2018 Mellifluous Elements, Riesling, Eva Fricke, Rheingau, Germany

This fantastic wine is one of many examples of Eva Fricke’s mastery of the Riesling grape in Germany. Fricke is widely considered one of the rising stars of German winemaking, having worked in some of the most famous wine regions around the world, before returning home to start producing wines of her own. I would recommend trying every single one of her wines, but my personal favourite at the moment is the enigmatically named Mellifluous Elements Riesling=. It is slightly off-dry with lots of orange blossom, peach and pear on the nose, and bursting with fruit on the palate. Juicy and mouth-watering with refreshing acidity, I’ve found it perfect as a summery apéritif, however it would go equally well with some delicious seafood with a hint of spice.

Henrietta Gullifer, Events & Education Executive

2016 Crianza, Cillar de Silos, Ribera del Duero, Spain

During the heatwave of May, I found myself living in my garden with the barbecue as my best friend, and I’ve been barbecuing non-stop since. I’m a huge fan of Cillar de Silos, a talented family operation based in the heart of Castille, in Ribera del Duero. The other weekend, their 2016 Crianza called to me from the wine rack. Sufficiently structured with knitted ripe tannins, juicy black and blue fruit at the core, its seductive manner leans perfectly to easy drinking on a summer’s day, but is even better to wash down some aromatic flame-grilled lamb koftas, given its crunchy acidity and gentle spiciness on the finish. Need I say more, it’s à point for the next 12 months – make the most of it come rain or shine. Reassuringly, we have some remaining in stock, a great buy at £23 per bottle (I went straight in for a few more bottles following this experience).

Chris Lamb, Private Account Manager

Berry Bros. & Rudd Fino by Bodegas Emilio Lustau

If you work in the wine trade, it’s almost a cliché to declare your love for Riesling and Sherry. We tend to will customers to drink more of these wines, while selfishly also wanting to keep them all to ourselves, with their off-trend pricing making them joyously affordable. Case in point is our own-label Fino Sherry: just over a tenner and you get a wine of extraordinary complexity and freshness, evoking salty seascapes, freshly baked bread just out the oven, citrus and crisp apple. I try to always have a bottle on hand, but it never lasts long – being a devilishly moreish apéritif. The most recent bottle was guzzles alongside Friday’s deliciously indulgent fish and chips from down the road. Absolutely glorious.

Sophie Thorpe, Deputy Content Editor

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Category: Miscellaneous

Your guide to Scotch whisky

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A view across Speyside from The Glenrothes

Scotland is whisky’s spiritual home, and the vast majority of our range comes from north of the border – but the nation produces a huge array of different styles. From Lowland to Highland, malt to grain, here’s our quick guide to Scotch whisky

STYLES OF SCOTCH WHISKY

To be classified as Scotch whisky, a spirit must be made in Scotland from cereal grain, then aged in oak for a minimum of three years.

Scotch falls into four broad categories, depending on how it is made:

Single malt whisky: Made only from malted barley, a single malt is the product of one particular distillery.

Blended malt whisky: A blended malt is – as one might guess – a mix of two or more single malts.

Blended whisky: Blended whiskies are a mixture of grain and single malt whiskies. While sometimes subject to snobbery, a blend can truly be more than the sum of its parts.

Grain whisky: With a long history of being overlooked, the best grain whiskies have their own distinct character, often adding flavour and texture to blends.

SCOTCH WHISKY REGIONS

The region in which a spirit is made has a distinct impact on the resulting flavours and aromas. There are five key regions in Scotland that produce whisky, and – while it can be dangerous to generalise – below is a guide to the styles each produces.

Lowland: Today the Lowlands are best known for producing remarkable quantities of grain whisky for blends, although a few select distilleries still make single malts, reminiscent of the region’s glory days. The best are light and grassy in style.

Highland: The Highlands produce a broad range of whisky styles, reflective of its equally dramatic and varied landscape – from peat-edged smoky drams to elegant, floral spirits.

Speyside: This is the heartland of whisky distilling in Scotland, given historical importance thanks to its plentiful, pure water supply from the river Spey. Elegant, fruit-driven spirits with floral and nutty depth reign supreme here.

Campbeltown: With only three working distilleries today, Campbeltown is the least well-known whisky region, but its spirits are truly distinctive – malts which incorporate notes of wet wool, smoke and salt with fruit, vanilla and toffee.

Islay: The small Hebridean island of Islay is famous for its heavily peat-flavoured malt whiskies. Undoubtedly the most easily recognisable Scotch whiskies, they are intense and smoky (think lapsang souchong) with a medicinal core.

FINISHING

The process of “finishing” is increasingly being used to impart additional flavours during the final stages of maturation. The whisky is removed from conventional casks and transferred to newer casks that have been specially prepared with a fortified wine such as Sherry, Port or Madeira; or a spirit such as rum, Cognac, (peated) whisky, or even fine wine.

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Category: Spirits