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Grand Marquee Champagne and limited edition Hamilton Russell Pinot from Private Cellar

Wine club 19 September 2020

There are few finer places to be during these endlessly dark days than Bellamy’s in Bruton Place, London W1. And there are few finer folk to be there with than Chloe Smith, from strategic partnerships at The Spectator, and Laura Taylor, marketing director of Private Cellar.

Gavin Rankin, le patron qui mange ici, is as witty, charming and attentive as ever and our glasses of fizz — the strikingly fine Ayala Brut Majeur Champagne — are on the house. I mean how good does it get? Perhaps there is a God after all.

Ayala, founded in 1860, is one of the original Grand Marques and, part of the mighty Bollinger stable since 2005, is beloved by those in the know. So happy are we three to be out and about and so disarmed by the beaded bubbles that we have a rush of blood to the head and decide to offer the Ayala Brut Majeur NV (1) here to the wider reader-ship. Immaculate blending, low dosage and long ageing have resulted in an exquisite champagne at a fantastic discount and you’ll love it. £27.50 down from £29.99.

Not only that, Mr Rankin, full of Ayala-induced bonhomie, immediately declares that anyone booking a table at Bellamy’s until the end of November quoting ‘Spectator Club’ will get a welcoming glass of the stuff, gratis. Sadly, I can’t guarantee that Chloe and Laura will be there too.

For those who prefer an everyday fizz, do make a beeline for the perfectly poised, multi--awarding-winning Prosecco Ca’ Bolani (2) from the ancient city of Aquileia in Friuli. Fresh, zesty, citrusy, appley, yet bone dry on the finish, it’s impossible to stick to just one glass. £13.50 down from £14.50.

The 2019 Domaine du Montmarin Viognier (3), from a 450 year-old estate near Béziers, the great bullfighting town of the Languedoc, is a glorious expression of this most seductive of grapes. Apricotty, peachy and creamy, it’s fresh and lively too and deeply satisfying. £11.50 down from £12.50.

I absolutely adore the 2018 Le Pavillon du Ch. Beauchêne (4). I’ve often recommended previous vintages here and will never tire of doing so since it’s a copper--bottomed corker. A ripe, juicy, spicy Grenache-based Côtes du Rhône from the Bernard family, wine-makers near Orange for 11 generations, it’s one of the tastiest wines ever to grace these pages. £10.50 down from £11.50.

The 2016 Private Cellar House Claret (5) is a beauty too, a Bordeaux Supérieur from the Sichel-owned Ch. Argadens. This is serious wine for the price, with a nice bit of bottle age, and will enchant any claret lover minding the pennies. £11.90 down from £12.90.

The 2018 Domaine Watson Chablis (6) from Chris and Liz Watson is very fine and very rare. Only some 125 cases or so were made and, part steel-fermented and part barrel-fermented, it has weight, character and style with crisp, fresh fruit and the faintest hint of honey. £23.50 down from £24.50.

Finally — and I’m so excited about this — we’ve an absolutely rip-roaring offer for lovers of fine Pinot Noir, that of a limited edition of 20 wooden boxes (actually 19, as I’ve nabbed one for myself) comprising one bottle each of the 2015, 2016 and 2017 Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir from the Hemel-en-Aarde Valley, Walker Bay, South Africa.

Anthony HR, a host of many a Spectator Wine-maker’s Lunch, unquestionably makes the finest Pinot in all the Cape and these bottles, with specially commissioned artists’ back labels, give a glimpse of excellence. £156 per box.

The mixed case has two bottles each of wines 1-6 and the champagne is also available — generously discounted — by the six-bottle box when bought with any other case. The Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir is by the three-bottle box only and may be ordered on its own. Delivery, as ever, is free.