A band of indies that really rocks

By Richard Ehrlich, December 20, 2012
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If you read this column with any regularity, you have probably noticed that most of the wines recommended here come from national chains. Does this mean that I like those wines better than others? Not for a second.

Don’t get me wrong — the big outfits sell plenty of good wine. They allow us to buy it together with the food it’s going to accompany, which is how most people buy wine. And they sometimes bring us decent wine for astonishingly low prices. If you’ve ever tasted Tesco Corbières 2011 at £3.79, you know what I’m talking about.

But if I had my way, everyone would buy wine from independent merchants, whether in person or online. The good indies give something that big chains rarely provide — personalised advice and, at least some of the time, a selection based on personal zeal rather than a need to cater for all tastes.

I have my personal favourites, and in this first of an occasional series I am highlighting one of the newest. The Vintner (www.thevintner.com), just two years old, limits its list to 100 wines. Apart from a handful of fine wines, nothing costs more than £30 and around one third are under £10. There are few famous branded wines, and when they do brand names(eg Laurent-Perrier NV), it is with impeccable taste.

The rest of the list is a mildly eclectic selection featuring both familiar and unfamiliar names. Unfamiliar — Rueda Blanco 2011, Maria de Molino (£7.95). Rueda often produces characterless whites, but this citrus-fresh verdejo-dominated zinger is anything but and makes a good aperitif. Also unfamiliar — Main Divide Merlot/Cabernet 2009 (£12.95), a well-structured but opulent, even voluptuous blend from New Zealand’s South Island.

And familiar — Chateau Cissac 2008 (£16.99). Cissac is a Cru Bourgeois from the Medoc which delivers pretty consistent quality at prices commensurate with its status in the Bordeaux hierarchy. This vintage is drinking well. More structure than opulent fruit, but that’s the nature of the Bordeaux beast. And I love it. Just as I love a good indie merchant. Use ’em or lose ’em.

Last updated: 3:45pm, December 20 2012