Wine tasting dinner at the Riverside in Cambridge, part of the Cambridge Food Festival so I had a chance to taste half a dozen of the wines and get reactions from around 60 diners. Some really liked one white but not the other one or vice-versa so I was pleased. Better to have a strong opinion and find wines worth buying than just have a neutral reaction to everything because it's bland. Started with Liebart-Regnier's Rosé Champagne which I really like because of the slug of Pinot Noir they use to get the colour. It gives a lovely Pinot sweetness to the final wine and gives it a structure which makes it particularly good with canapés (although at my niece's wedding earlier this summer it was just as good after the canapés ran out). The starters (confit de canard or goat's cheese) came with Domaine de la Tourade's beefy, perfumed Vacqueyras and Xavier Vignon's "Lili", the Viognier proving a particularly good match for the cheese and making an exotic, exquisite alternative to the more usual Sauvignon Blanc. Carrying on the Rhone theme for the rest of the meal, the beef demanded a Châteauneuf-du-Pape so Raymond Usseglio's 2001 was given a whirl. Classy and complex but still a little closed (unusually for CDP, Raymond's wines tend to close down for a while before emerging in outstanding form after another year or so). The white for this course (there was a mushroom-based vegetarian option) was Domaine des Anges' "L'Archange" Blanc, one of my very favourite whites: I am convinced that a well-oaked old-vine Roussanne is the red wine drinker's white wine and certainly every confirmed red wine drinker I know makes an exception for these wines. As always it didn't disappoint. For the tarte tatin I gave up the last few bottles of Domaine Bressy-Masson Rasteau Rancio, a vin doux naturel which comes with the explanation that, as the obscure appellation suggests, the wine has already gone off so if you should happen to open a bottle and leave it under the bed for six months or a year it will still be drinking well. That said, I have no real evidence as it never lasts more than a few days under my bed. It is a glorious wine with Madeira-like qualities but lighter in style. I am told it matched the food perfectly and it was very popular. I will have to go back for more! The only pity about the evening was that I didn't get to eat any of the rather gorgeous looking (and smelling) food.
The moratorium is over. Decanter’s December issue has been published and I can announce our successes in the recent tasting undertaken by their Rhône expert, Matt Walls who has recently returned from a year and a half in the region. If you look on Decanter.com today (November 2020), you will see a link to ‘Top Côtes du Rhône wines under £20’. What the article doesn’t tell you is that the brief of its writer was to taste and rate wines from across the valley in that price range and that the top scoring white wine was actually a Ventoux. No prizes for guessing that it was Château Juvenal’s 2019 ‘Ribes de Vallat’ Blanc , awarded 91 points, which, at £12.60 is also the best value of any of the white wines on the list: 'From 30- to 40-year-old vines grown on granite south-facing slopes; half of the wine is matured for six months in demi-muid leaving no overt oakiness to the aromatics. Full-bodied, rich and opulent style, very ripe and fulsome. Some mango and pineapple juice. Unmist