Scotland on Sunday wine columnist Brian Elliot finds out how discerning diners cut out the middle men.

It was an agreeable lunch for two Scots that provided the genesis of From Vineyards Direct. Esme Johnstone was co-founder of Majestic Wines and once top man at Château de Sours. David Campbell was a successful publisher – having revived the Everyman’s Library and been the leading light with France’s Guide Hachette des Vins.

Parallels between book jackets and a well designed website excited Campbell in particular and offered the pair an excellent, modestly priced, vehicle to help UK consumers up their average spend per bottle by 50 per cent, yet increase its quality exponentially. As the name implies, avoiding middle men helped contain costs. So, drawing on their contacts across France, Italy and Spain, they sourced classy, well-made wine that they sell here nowadays in the £8-£20 category – with some declassified wines representing particular bargains.

So let’s select a few highlights – starting with whites. Although the mellow, lime, apple and mango-based 2015 Pont de Gassac (£11.95) from Herault is hugely impressive, my star white is from Spain. Godello produces really classy wine in Galicia and 2015 Ondas del Alma Godello (£9.95) is one of the best versions I have tasted this year. It has fresh, floral, greengage fruit given richness by sweeter spices and apricot-centred depth, yet enlivened by citrus acidity.

For a great red (from an excellent vintage) opt for 2010 Château Jos (£9.95) – an aromatic and textured, 50:50 merlot cabernet blend. Its fruit combines elderberry and black cherry without much tannin to obscure its delights, but those flavours are splendidly embellished with suggestions of mint, aniseed, cloves and hints of graphite.

Over the Pyrenees, we find another classic. Dark and intense 2009 Rioja Vega Gran Reserva (£14.95) supports its bramble and sour cherry fruit with rich mocha and nutmeg elements, a mineral edge and surprisingly vibrant acidity for a gran reserva, but remarkably soft tannin.

BEST BUYS

2014 Taste the Difference Douro
Portugal, 14 per cent

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Although – predictably – classic port grapes are
at work here, it is actually Touriga Franca that takes the lead and, therefore, adds extra power to the wine’s sizeable Touriga Nacional contribution. The overall result is an attractive cherry and mint-based red with pronounced acidity, balanced tannin and a gentle cinnamon finish.
£8 at Sainsbury’s

2014 Domaine des Forges Savennières
Loire Valley, France, 13.5 per cent

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Faint-hearted drinkers should look away now, but this chenin blanc, partly fermented in oak, is sensationally different. Distinctive and perfumed, it is centred around mellow red apple flavours with touches of sweet spices and liquorice but – courtesy of those oak influences – appealing hints of butter too.
£10.49 at the Co-op

• For regular recommendations on good value wines go to www.midweekwines.co.uk

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Brian Elliott

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