EVERY day, the press gives further details of problems that retailers are having on the high street. The wine trade is no exception. Earlier this year, Oddbins announced that it was going into receivership; and Majestic has said that it is going to close some of its wine warehouses.
Where do we look for our wines, then? There are many good bargains to be found. Some shops, such as Marks & Spencer and Waitrose, seem to be making an effort to offer interesting wines, but the financial results of both of these might, sadly, lead to their wine buyers’ coming under pressure. Lidl has genuine bargains, but too often they are here today and gone tomorrow.
Around the country, however, there are fine-wine merchants committed to mail-order trade who have a broad range of wines. Over the past 50 years or so, Avery’s has passed through a number of owners, but now belongs to the Laithwaites/ Sunday Times Wine Club Group.
Whenever I visit its Culver Street Cellars in Bristol, I am amazed at the range of great wines stocked. Here are two recommendations: Los Vascos Sauvignon Blanc 2015, from the Casablanca Valley in Chile (£12.49), comes from a winery belonging to the Barons de Rothschild of Château Lafite, in Bordeaux. It has an appealing fruity crisp freshness. From the other side of the Andes is Fuzión Malbec 2018 (£8.99) from the Zuccardi family.
D. Byrne & Co, of Clitheroe, in the Ribble Valley, have a real treasure house of a cellar, but they do not hesitate to recommend as their “wines of the year” truly affordable wines. These include, from the Barossa Valley in South Australia, Wishbone Shiraz-Grenache 2018 (£7.99), and False Bay Slow Wild Yeast Chenin Blanc 2016 from South Africa (£5.99).
Another South African Chenin Blanc that I can recommend comes from Tanners in Shrewsbury. It is the Doran Vineyard Arya, Voor Paardeberg 2017 (£12.50). Tanners has many good wines under its own label, and I have enjoyed their Douro Red 2016 (£8.70).
In London, Lea & Sandeman always have some interesting wines, and, if you feel that you have advanced beyond Prosecco, why not try their superior Italian sparkling wine, bottle-fermented from Chardonnay grapes in Lombardy, Franciacorta Brut Corteaura (£19.95)? A full-bodied humdinger from Victoria is their Heathcote Hairy Arm Nebbiolo 2013 (£24.95).
Finally, to Ottery Saint Mary, in Devon, and Christopher Piper Wines. Mr Piper has long moonlighted at making wines at Brouilly, in the Beaujolais. It would be churlish, therefore, not to recommend his Château du Pavé 2015 (£13.98). I also like the look of their Rhône, Vacqueyras Cuvée Azalais, le Sang de Caillou 2015 (£21.62)
Do not despair: there will still be good wine somewhere near you.