Regular readers will know who I’ve been buying wine from in 2015, my favourite small merchants and wine shops. There is another group of people who maybe don’t get as much press, or coverage in social media, who are doing a spectacularly good job at bringing wine to our doors via the Internet. These are the web-based specialists. I thought I’d give them a mention because, late as it is to be ordering for Christmas (though I’m sure they’re still shipping), they will often have interesting offers and Sales after the festive season and are well worth a look for something you won’t find from the larger merchants.
These people work extra hard to offer something special, and they also invariably work on lower margins than larger merchants. Two of the three mentioned below are based in Yorkshire, the third in Nottinghamshire, but they’ll ship anywhere, and swiftly too. You can usually get them to accommodate you in pretty much any respect when it comes to delivery, because the service is as personal as you want. If you require more contact than their web site provides, tap into their deep knowledge via a phone call. You might come away with more wine, but you’re not likely to be disappointed.
I’ve mentioned Alpine Wines (formerly Nick Dobson Wines) several times on this Blog. They specialise not so much in just wines from the Alps (they stray into areas as diverse as Beaujolais and the Mosel, and I’m hoping they include more of the exciting work being done in Savoie during 2016), but they are very strong both in Switzerland (the company’s owner, Joelle, is Swiss) and Austria.
From their mis-named base of Idle, West Yorkshire, Joelle travels extensively to maintain her grower relationships. This is how small businesses like Alpine stay on top of who’s up-and-coming and keep their ranges dynamic. They do lots of offers, and mixed cases for those who want to try out some unusual wines and varieties. As with all of these small companies, service is friendly and efficient, in other words, exceptional. It has to be.
Producers to try: Simon Maye & Fils, Valais, Switzerland (Humagne Rouge, Syrah) Heidi Schröck, Rust, Austria (Ruster Ausbruch, Furmint, Blaufränkisch Rusterwald) Rainer Christ, Vienna, Austria (Wiener Gemischter Satz)
I’ve not mentioned Hand Picked Burgundy before, but they are a real find for those interested not only in the wines from this great region, but also for fine wines made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir (though not restricted to these) from around the world. When we think of buying Burgundy retail, we often think in terms of current, or recent, vintages. A specialist like HPB is the place to go if you want to find some older wines.
From Burgundy itself, the portfolio is long and deep. Nearly sixty producers are listed, and a good search will yield up hardly ever seen bottles like Fourrier’s Bourgogne Rouge 2009 and Roulot’s Clos de Mon Plaisir (from Les Tessons). You’ll even find some Chave Hermitage 1996, or some well aged Mellot Rouge Generation XIX. But for my recommendations here I’m delving into the New World section of Peter Sidebotham’s list. Plus just one Burgundy…unless it’s gone!
Producers to try: Dry River, Martinborough, New Zealand (Pinot Noirs) Rhys, California, USA (various) Coche-Dury, Meursault, Côte de Beaune (Monthélie)
The last of the three small specialists I’m profiling here is certainly last but not least. I haven’t bought wine from Leon Stolarski Fine Wines for a good while, yet I’m always wishing I had. Leon specialises in the wines of Southern France – Languedoc-Roussillon, plus a few regions nearby. He exemplifies why everbody should explore the wines of these small specialists – he has an ability, through diligence and hard work, to sniff out what is happening on the ground. He was the first to introduce me to all three of the recommended producers below. The first has, by coincidence, been all over Twitter this week and has certainly made it as one of her region’s top producers. The second seems to be finally gaining recognition not just in the UK, but in France too (where they are pretty slow to acknowledge the many outsiders making great wines on the south’s wild frontier). The final producer listed below is someone you just won’t find in any of the books on the region, or not in any detail, yet a sizeable group of UK-based wine lovers already believe these wines are stunning.
Producers to try: Domaine de Cébène, Faugères, Languedoc (to be honest here, just go for the discounted mixed half-dozen from Brigitte Chevalier’s outstanding domaine) Domaine Treloar, Trouillas, Roussillon (Tahi S-G-M, La Terre Promise dry white) Domaine Montesquiou, Monein, Jurançon (anything here, but the sweet Grappe d’Or is amazing value)
Okay, I’ve only picked three small businesses, and there are many more deserving of greater recognition. I’m pretty sure that none of them are making their fortunes, but they carry on because they are passionate about the regions, producers and wines they represent here in the UK. I have no commercial or personal connections with any of them, but if I can put just a few people in their direction, who might take a look at their web sites and perhaps even buy a few of their wines, I’ll be very happy. In a world where the choice of wine we have to drink appears to be growing by the month, these businesses, hidden away on the Internet, have been building up their regional expertise and knowledge over time. It’s there to tap into.