Say yep to Yapp

Serious drinkers would do well to try this Wiltshire merchant

The so-called “collapse of the pound” – by which is meant the pound’s return to earth after a period in fairyland – has unfortunately increased the price in Britain of the only commodity that matters. We winos are having to tighten, which is to say loosen, our belts.

Yet there are still merchants who have maintained their prices at a level that is affordable to serious drinkers (who of course don’t have time to earn the money needed by wine snobs). One such is Yapp Brothers, of Mere in Wiltshire, which specialises in the regional wines of France, and in particular in wines from the south.

We have all heard of the Languedoc Revolution. The good news is that it is not a revolution at all, but only a transition from active drinking to active exporting.

Yapp Brothers has, in its many pilgrimages to the shrines of Bacchus, explored the Languedoc and creamed off the best of it. It has staggered from côteau to côteau along the base of the Pyrenees, and sweated its way through the swamps of the Bouches-du-Rhône. It is an expert in the rich reds and zingy rosés of the Provençal slopes, and has a soft spot for the Ardèche. Who doesn’t, who knew the place before the tourists puked on it?

But its real glory, and the cause of this tribute, is the appellations of the Rhône itself. Yapp is not averse (as I would be) to offering those overpriced snob wines such as Côte Rôtie and Condrieu. But it also looks for the substitutes, which taste almost as good – and probably just as good, if you were into the old art of falsifying labels.

For some time now Yapp has offered a Viognier from the Ardèche which, while packaged as a vin de pays, has some of the apricot aroma and nitroglycerine oomph of Condrieu. What’s more, Yapp’s reds from the Rhône consistently achieve the best quality at the lowest price – mostly between six and 11 of those now down-to-earth pounds.

We tried a Côtes du Rhône from the producer called St Gayan. This was of a smoothness and ripeness that could not be bettered at the price – though diligent researches failed to reveal the existence of any Gayan in the Christian calendar of saints, and we were left wondering whether, in ancient times, the feet of the Hindu saint Gyan had trod the mountains, or at any rate the grapes, of the Rhône.

Yapp also does an excellent and very reasonably priced Vacqueyras, surely the best of the lower-priced Rhônes, and a wine that, since achieving its own appellation, has been improving from year to year.

I don’t say that everything that you buy from Yapp will please you – there are some xenophobic villages in the south of France that are determined to stick a knife in the guts of foreigners. But all serious winos should visit and find out for themselves.

Roger Scruton is a philosopher and countryside campaigner as well as an author and broadcaster. Widely regarded as one of Britain’s leading right wing thinkers, his publications include the Meaning of Conservatism. He has also written on fox hunting.

This article first appeared in the 13 April 2009 issue of the New Statesman, Easter 2009