‘Armand’ goes gallic

Château La Nerthe 2014

Châteauneuf-du-Pape Blanc

This month has proved, if nothing else, that it’s good to have acquaintances. One needs someone else to drink with, after all. I happened to mention to a pal of mine that I was quite keen to try white Châteauneuf, as I’d never previously had the chance. It accounts for a miniscule proportion of production in the region, although most of the great houses do put some time into making it. Like most regions in France outside Bordeaux, the best examples are never exported. I had bemoaned the fact that this nectar had never passed my lips. Lo and behold, two weeks later we cracked open a bottle of this delightful liquid which he had procured on a trip to London. I toasted his generosity. Well I might, because this is a delicious wine. La Nerthe have been making wine in Châteauneuf for pushing on 500 years, and the whites they make are slightly atypical of the region, being fuller in weight and fruit. On the nose there is a wonderful aroma of citrus fruit and a hint of pear, with the bouquet slightly offset by butter. A good amount of minerality is in evidence. On the palette there’s a touch of grapefruit, and it’s weighty without being cloying. The finish is not that special, but it does leave you wanting another sip soon. Do chill it properly, though – and drink with white fish.

Available at £37.95 per 70cl bottle at Berry Brothers & Rudd.


Bleu d’Argent London Dry Gin

There are two things you need to know about this gin. Point One: it has a French name because it’s French. Produced in the Alsace region, it comes in a bottle that you’d happily leave on the sideboard for your friends to see. I nearly fell over when I saw this, in my haste to see if our Gallic neighbours had produced anything palatable. Is this the first step against the British booze industry to punish us for producing world-class fizz? Or is it France’s first answer to Brexit? With whom should I drink it; and would we be struck down? That brings me neatly onto Point Two. I opened this with half-a-dozen friends, and we didn’t get up until it was all gone. To be fair, that didn’t take long. Given that this group know their gin, this was a sign that we’d tucked into something rather decent. This is a challenger to the British market – it’s seriously good stuff. A blend of 9 botanicals, it’s got a slightly atypical nose at first, which then gives way to plenty of juniper backed with a firm amount of spice. It’s not dissimilar to Opihr (ND, November 2016). The juniper is more obvious on the palate, with more citrus in the mouth than on the nose. Despite its smooth mouthfeel, there is a clean, crisp finish. This is recommended drinking for a gin fizz, and at least one stockist recommends using it in a White Lady. I’d recommend ice, tonic, and pals. Santé!

Available online at around £20 per 700ml bottle