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Neil Sowerby's Wine Wisdom - January 2012

Our roving oenophile gets his nose stuck in

Published on January 8th 2012.

Neil Sowerby's Wine Wisdom - January 2012

DE-TOXERS, look away now. Heads should be clear enough after New Year for serious wine tasting to recommence. One 2012 resolution I’d recommend is: trade up. That is drink fewer bottles, but drink better. The £7-£10 bracket is where you’ll find the bargains. Pay a little more and you get more character for your money.

In the city centre wine shop and merchants, Hanging Ditch, were up 35 per cent on December 2010, while Cheshire mini-chain Corks Out saw December sales up 15 per cent.
Pre-Christmas was gloomy. Wine and Spirit Trade Association figures showed shop sales of wine down three per cent by volume in the 12 months to 26 November and down four per cent over the previously  quarter.
Then the ‘let’s cheer up for the festive season factor’ kicked in. Wine sales in supermarkets were up with Sainsbury's proclaiming it their “most successful Christmas ever”. Sparklers flew of their shelves, while sales of the premium own-label Taste The Difference range grew by 40 per cent. Similarly Waitrose’s Champagne and sparkling wine sales were up 26 per cent year on year in the last 13 weeks of 2011, while Asda sold a quarter of a million bottles of Champagne in the week before New Year’s Eve.
Local independents report a good December, too. In the city centre wine shop and merchants, Hanging Ditch, were up 35 per cent on December 2010, while Cheshire mini-chain Corks Out saw December sales up 15 per cent.
Now it’s New Year sales time and much better than storming Selfridges (legally, of course) is to splash the cash online on some serious wine bargains. Heading the field, as usual, is that grand old London merchant, Berry Bros & Rudd. Their atmospheric St James’s showcase shop may look like Dr Johnson is still imbibing in some paneled nook, but the mail order business operates out of state of the art premises in Hampshire.



Details of their January sale can be found on www.bbr.com/sale (free UK delivery for all orders of £100 or more, mostly single case but some mixed deals available). I’ve been tasting a range that has vanquished my Seasonally Affected Disorder within a few mouthfuls. 
Clos des Combes Rouge, Chatue de Lancyre, Languedoc Pic St Loup. Single bottle £10.95, case £90 (saving £41.40). A tank-aged 50-50 blend of Syrah and Grenache, this is a bright garnet-red, herby southern red with a berry fragrance. I saved half a bottle in the fridge and it quaffed well lightly chilled.
Savigny les Beaune Vieilles Vignes Domaine Potel. £23.50, case £198 (saving £84). I’m a fan of Nicolas Potel’s wines, either from his Burgundy negociant business, or like this handsome dose of pure pinot, his own domaine. In this his old vine cuvee (some dating back to 1913) half the blend is made of declassified premier cru. Its bright red fruit has slight smokiness, which is most appealing.
2009 William Fevre Don Victor Chardonnay Gran Reserva, Maipo Valley, Chile £11.75, case £105 (saving £36). The Chablis house of William Fèvre was one of the first European wine companies to make wine in Chile. Don Victor comes from panoramic vineyards in the high Maipo Valley, and the grapes have been hand-harvested and matured for six months in both French and American barrels. This very un-Chablis-like  Chardonnay yokes strong toasty oak to some ample peachy fruit. Lovely salmon accompaniment.
Berrys’ Chablis Domaine du Colombier £13.95 single bottle. Case £117 (saving £50.40). For something completely different –  affordable Chablis, smelling enticingly of flowers and yet on the palate decidedly flinty and mineral without being austere.
When Great Western Wines of Bath come north for tastings I’m invariably impressed by their offerings, particularly the Italians. A generous red (down from £26.50 to £20 in their New Year Sale) is Umani Ronchi, Pelago 2007. From the Marche region, it is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and late-ripening Montepulciano. Impenetrably ruby red in colour, black pepper, licorice and tobacco dominate the nose, while you encounter vanilla traces and strong tannins on the palate. 
Lawson's Dry Hills 'The Pioneer' Sauvignon Blanc 2009 is a more complex and concentrated Kiwi Sauvignon than some, primarily down to the malolactic fermentation. It’s initially a rich tropical example but the lemon sherbert and passionfruit richness are tempered by a crisp acidity. It’s down from £13.55 to £10. For sale details visitwww.greatwesternwine.co.uk/
I’ve not made it down yet to EH Booths’ new MediaCity food store, their first urban venture. It was a canny move by the highly regarded (by foodies) Lancashire chain. I’ve shopped with them for years up at their Clitheroe outlet, often buying beer there – their bottled range has won awards. Yet the presence nearby of one of the nation’s great wine shops, D Byrne, means I’ve mostly neglected their wine offering.
I’m assured they are still very serious about wine from entry level up despite their decision last autumn to close their comprehensive online arm, www.everywine.co.uk.
Booths kindly sent me a batch of their mid-range bottles, from Chile and South Africa respectively – Emiliana’s Carmenere Reserva 2010 and Chardonnay Reserva Chile 2011 and Post Stones Shiraz Mourvedre 2011 and Chenin Blanc/Viognier 2012. All cost £9.99 and were solid, fruity wines for the money.


I found more character in Chateau La Garelle Puits Rasat St Emilion Grand Cru 2007 (£19.99) and Tour de la Roche Pouilly Fume 2010 (£14.99).
The La Garelle is from a tiny estate in St Emilion. The Merlot shows in its ripe plummy aromas. Oak is well-integrated with the fleshy, slightly spicy fruit. The Pouilly offers restrained well  rounded nettley/gooseberry flavours. Lovely.  


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ChBJanuary 9th 2012.


John JonesJanuary 10th 2012.

Interesting recommendations, but some recommendations from excellent local independents like D Byrne and Corks Out would be good also!

RayJanuary 18th 2012.

Totally agree on the trade up idea. We bought wine at £3 and £4 in the early 1990s; inflation and cost increases make their mark. At under £7, I'd rather drink beer.

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