Season's greetings

Enjoy a taste of the coming spring with February's wine club

Those who do not believe T S Eliot that "Midwinter spring is its own season/Sempiternal" will be grateful to Corney & Barrow for a collection of robust, vigorous and seductive wines befitting the occasion, all of them overflowing with winter-defying merriment.

A few weeks ago I lamented the Argentinian takeover of Malbec, more successful by far than the attempted takeover of the Malvinas, and a far greater contribution to world peace, but a cause of resentment and sadness to the villages of Cahors. The Chamuyo 2007 perfectly illustrates the scope of the disaster. The black grape of Cahors, reworked in the Andes foothills, shines in the glass with lovely violet edges; its colour is more nuanced, its blackberry aroma softer, its chocolate finish smoother than in its place of origin, and its tannins have conceded defeat after no more than months in the bottle.

Only a slightly cloying boiled-sweet aftertaste faults this wine, which is a snip at the price, and proof that there is room for a flexible outlook in the matter of terroir, one that naturally stops short of the garagiste heresy.

The South African Merlot is another young, fruity and sinuous wine, an excellent example of this versatile and easygoing grape, and a perfect accompaniment to pork chops, potato cakes fried in goose fat, oily ratatouille, etc. Those are the preferred winter fare in Scrutopia, and we found a perfect match for the Merlot in some confit de canard that had been lying in its own grease for half a year.

The two Australasian wines are, it must be said, in a different class. The New Zealand Pinot Noir beams from the glass, throwing bunches of perfumed kisses into the mouth. Few places outside Burgundy can bring forth the joy that lies too often concealed within this reticent grape. But the New Zealand climate, the pure air and well-drained soil of the Marlborough region, as well as the sheer energy and devotion of the local winemakers, have perfected the NZ Pinot, and made of it a force to be reckoned with among all lovers of Burgundy. The Eradus 2006 is a forward wine, with its fruit upfront, and none of the leafy subtleties of the French original; but it is none the worse for that and is a real foretaste of spring.

As for the Lane 2005 from the Adelaide Hills, this is one of those Hermitage imitations that make you wonder whether Hegel wasn't right after all, in thinking that the essence of a thing lies not in its origins, but in what it becomes. The blending of small quantities of white Viognier with the Syrah (called Shiraz in Australia, to draw attention to its balls) follows the pattern established over centuries on the hill of Hermitage, to similar effect. Only time will tell if this wine is able to develop the treacly allure of an aged Hermitage; meanwhile, it has an erotic opulence all of its own.