Jascots: Serving restaurant-quality wine at home

Jascots at Home is a wine club delivering bottles to the doorstep that are usually only found in restaurants, as Peter Ranscombe discovers.

FLITTING from wine tasting to wine tasting, there are names that come up again and again.

Names of the mainstream wine merchants, names that will be familiar to professionals and consumers alike, names such as Berry Bros & Rudd, Corney & Barrow, Justerini & Brooks.

Then there are the lesser-known names, the legends whispered about in hushed tones in dark corners, the wine merchants that traditionally only supplied high-end restaurants.

Jascots is one of those names.

Revered by wine critics, it was one of the suppliers that was only accessible to the restaurants and hotels in the wine trade, and to a select number of private clients.

That was until the launch of Jascots at Home in 2020.

One of the few upsides for the hospitality industry from the pandemic – if there have been any upsides at all – has been the opportunity for trade-facing business-to-business brands to launch direct-to-consumer operations.

For many, it was a matter of survival during the darkest days of lockdown, when restaurants, wine bars, and all other on-trade outlets were closed.

Yet names such as Alexander Wines’ Wine Line Scotland and Berkmann became staple fixtures in many wine fans’ cellars, opening the door to wines normally only found on top restaurant wine lists.

Given Scottish Field readers’ love of wine clubs, I was excited to try one of the services that has continued post-lockdown – Jascots at Home.

Trading up

Jascots’ client list reads like a Who’s Who of London’s restaurant scene, from Frog by Adam Handling and The Glasshouse – the one near Kew Gardens, not the one next to the Omni Centre in Edinburgh – through to the National Theatre Restaurants and the Science Museum.

Its wine club costs £20 to join, with the membership fee being donated to Hospitality Action, a charity that supports people working in the hospitality industry.

Looking through its list of wines, I believe these are bottles that will appeal to people who have cottoned on to a home truth – when it comes to the UK, paying a wee bit extra for your wine can make a huge difference to the quality.

Given that excise duty is charged at the same rate on a £5 bottle as on a £15 bottle, if you pay a little more then it’s going towards the grapes rather than the taxman.

People appear to be making that connection by showing a willingness to spend a wee bit more on the wines they enjoy at home.

It’s a theme that’s been repeated to me again and again by wine merchants at their tastings over the past few weeks and months, since Scotland emerged more firmly from its lockdowns.

Wholesalers have reported rising average bottle prices due to customers trading-up, both in restaurants and at home.

If that trend continues then I can see a bright future for services like Jascots at Home.

Its appeal is not simply the novelty of accessing the same stocks as restaurants, but also accessing the quality that’s often only been available when people are prepared to spend a wee bit more to treat themselves while they’re out.

If people are indeed now prepared to pay a wee bit more to treat themselves at home too then the wine industry’s recovery from the pandemic might become just a wee bit easier.

Tasting notes

Jean Collet et Fils Organic Chablis Les Truffières 2018 (£23.18)
Chablis is one of the first bottles for which white wine fans will reach, whether it’s on a restaurant wine list or at home. This one is a bit of a chameleon – on first inspection, it was all about the lemon and grapefruit flavours, with some stoney minerality. But, returning the next day, it was the classic green apple flavours that were coming to the fore. It’s not textbook Chablis for me, with a tiny drop of cream on the finish, but still hugely enjoyable, and – in a world in which it’s becoming harder and harder to find minerality in Chablis below the £20-mark – decent value too.

Churton Natural State Organic Pinot Noir 2020 (£22.27)
Pinot noir is another go-to bottle on many wine lists. If you like your pinot to be fruit-driven then this is the wine for you. Hailing from a family-run vineyard in New Zealand’s Marlborough region, this pinot demonstrates the power of organic farming, with the fruitiest raspberries you ever-did-smell on the nose, wrapped up in red cherry, spun sugar, and a crunch of blackcurrant. It’s just a baby and I’d love to see how those elements develop over time, but fruit flavours like these are all about the here and now. There was even enough tannin to stand up to Easter’s soft roast lamb loin.

Juan Carlos Sancha Pena El Gato Viñas Centenarias Organic Garnacha (£22.97)
Readers with long memories will remember professor-cum-winemaker Juan Carlos Sancha’s awesome single-vineyard wines from Rioja. His organic garnacha – made from grapes harvested from 102-year-old vines – is another masterpiece. It wears its 15.5% alcohol by volume very lightly, with a focus on freshness that even many wines a degree or two lower in alcohol fail to master. On the nose, it’s full of raspberry, redcurrant, violets, and some of those garrigue herbs from across the border in France. The organic fruit’s purity again shines on the palate, where the emphasis moves to darker blackcurrant and bitter cherry to balance the ripe yet well-integrated steak-taming tannins.

Don’t miss more of Peter’s wine, beer, and spirits reviews on his drinks blog, The Grape & The Grain