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Lay and Wheeler

by Tom Cannavan, 12/2001

Colchester based fine wine merchant Lay and Wheeler have an annual sale that is a little bit different, in that it happens in "real-time". When the sale commences at 8.00 am on Monday 2nd January, 500 different wines will be put up for grabs at savings of up to 25% on their usual price. 20 telephone lines will be manned on the day, as well as teams who will begin to process fax and email orders from 8:00 am. It is a case of first come; first served. Hugo Rose MW, a Director with Lay & Wheeler told me: "Half the wines were sold on the first day last year, and we are expecting even higher demand for this sale", so if you fancy any of these, don't hang around. You may submit your order at any time, for processing on the 2nd of January.

Lay and Wheeler sent me a half case of samples from the sale, which I have reviewed below. I've also included a short-list of other wines from the sale that I thought looked particularly interesting. Sale prices are given in pounds sterling, with the original price shown in brackets


Albert Mann (Alsace) Pinot Auxerrois Vieilles Vignes 1998
I recommended this in Oddbins at £6.95, so a very good buy here. Fairly neutral straw and light apple nose. Better fruit on the palate, with a herbaceous quality and then a good quality of sweet nectarine and tropical fruit, with hints of pineapple and lush guava sweetness, lychee and a dry, grapefruity finish. Very good. £5.95 (£7.45)

Lawson's Dry Hills (New Zealand) Riesling 2000
Quintessential mineral and lime Riesling from Marlborough in New Zealand. Lawson's Dry Hills is a fine producer, and this crisp, juicy, tantalisingly fresh wine has good quality on the nose, with clean, pure fruit and flower aromas. The palate is dry and well-balanced, with good length and ageing potential. Very good indeed. £5.95 (£7.50)

Alta Vista (Argentina) Chardonnay 2001
This Chardonnay is made in Argentina by a French winemaker, and in some ways does strike a middle ground between New- and Old-world styles. It has a light, pale straw colour and a very appealing nose of honeysuckle and butterscotch. On the palate there's a little buttery roundness to the medium-bodied character, and finely-wrought apple and pear fruit. A little bit of creaminess adds weight to the finish, but this is a fairly restrained, elegant, food-friendly style of wine. Very good. £6.25 (£6.95)


Howard Park (Australia) "Mad Fish" Shiraz 1999
Deep, dense purple/black colour. Inviting nose suffused with vanilla, cherry and a deep, mulberry, plum and clove spiciness. On the palate it is quite brightly-styled, with plenty of zippy cherry and spice flavours, a note of Chinese dried-plums and a little hot kick of alcohol (14.5%). The wine is medium-bodied and approachable, with crisp tannins and a savoury, long finish. I found it a little volatile as in many fruit-driven Aussie Shiraz, but it will please fans of this punchy style. Good/very good. £5.95 (£7.95)

Dom. La Roquette (Rhône) Châteauneuf-du-Pape 1997
1997 was an average year for the southern Rhône, and totally over-shadowed by the excellent vintages which followed. But this is very much an up and coming estate, now under the same ownership as the famous domaine of Vieux-Télégraphe. They have produced an attractive wine, with a bright ruby colour, just lightening at the rim. The nose is redolent of cherries, with a silky background of vanilla and hints of herbs and spice. On the plate there is a dry, light, elegant fruitiness with kirsch cherry notes and plenty of cleansing acidity. For drinking now and over the next few years. Very good. £10.95 (£13.75)

Marchand-Grillot (Burgundy) Gevrey-Chambertin 1998
Lovely clear, bright, light cherry red colour. Attractive nose with lots of fresh raspberry and fragrant, floral character; just a little background of subtle oak. On the palate there is good balance with plenty of lively raspberry and cherry fruit, a sweetness of vanillin underpinning, and good balance of tannins and acids. Drinking nicely now and over the next few years, this is very well made and characterful village Gevrey at a modest price. Very good/very good indeed. £13.95 (£16.95)

Some other wines that look interesting:

Contino (Spain) Rioja Reserva 1996. £35.95
This wonderful single-vineyard Rioja is £51 at another London merchant. Tasted this year I wrote: sweet, full, almost New Worldy nose of blueberry, mulberry and minty intensity. Some beefy, meaty nuances and plenty of rich tobacco spice. On the palate it is mouthfilling and plush, dense with a savoury grilled-meat quality and all the time a great push of sweet fruit. The finish has fine tannins and moderate levels of acidity, and it is very long. Very good indeed, excellent potential.