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Portland Wine review

Philip Hamer celebrates 25 years of a highly recommended independent wine shop

Published on April 1st 2009.


Portland Wine review

There is only one way to dislodge that sinking feeling you get in supermarkets these days when you see them offering bogus bargain deals on wine and that is to visit your nearest independent wine shop.

Portland Wines based in Hale celebrates 25 years in the business this year.

As soon as you enter you feel that, as with so many of the independents, you are in a unique cave of wines sourced shrewdly and often in small quantities from some of the most interesting of the world’s wine regions. You will also find staff that enthuse about wine and know what they are talking about.

Acutely wine savvy manager Paula Reeves points out that high street chains and supermarkets offer deals that are often downright deceitful. She also says that Portland’s massive strength is that collectively 150 years of staff retail expertise goes into the selection of the wines. Producers’ samples are tasted by a group of staff whose contrasting palates and ideas of value for money bear heavily on their choice of wines. You can spend anything here from a fiver to hundreds of pounds on a wine.

Among the rare, eclectic gems here is the grape that makes Chianti, Sangiovese 2003 from California’s Pepe vineyards (£13.99) and a Chateau Viella Village 2000 (£13.99) from Madiran in the South West of France. If you’ve never tasted a Madiran, a robust red that is made from the little grown Tannat grape, then this mature example from a great vintage will only whet your appetite for more. Ever heard of an Italian dessert wine from the usually utterly characterless Soave region? You can buy a stunning example here. Meanwhile £19.99 will net you a real rarity: a half bottle of arguably Australia’s greatest dessert wine Noble One 1996 from the De Bortoli vineyards.

Champagne is another of this business’s attractions and the prices are especially keen. The marvellous Dom Perignon 2006 is £79 per bottle. In most other outlets it’s at least 10 quid dearer.

For £22.99 you can try the highly acclaimed English sparkling wine from the Nyetimber vineyard in Sussex. This is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes from the 2001 vintage and often beats Champagne in blind tastings.

Paula makes two recommendations that best express the personality of Portland Wines.

First up is McNicol Shiraz 1999 (£15.99) from Australia’s Clare Valley. This is a rich, highly satisfying wine, drinking marvellously after 10 years in bottle. It will easily keep for another 10. Second on the list is the CJ Pask Unoaked Chardonnay 2007 (£7.99), a delightful New Zealand white. This is a revelation and poles apart from the flabby, over-oaked Chardonnays we once loved but now disdain.

There’s an excellent on-line ordering service too and loads of events.

Portland Wine
152A Ashley Rd
Hale
Altrincham
Cheshire
Wa15 95A
0161 962 8752
www.portlandwine.co.uk

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20 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

mark mApril 1st 2009.

Think i would rather drink my own urine

RayApril 1st 2009.

It's a great shop, and the champagnes are superbly priced. Mind you, I suspect that the Dom Perignon you are referrring to is the 2000; the 2006 won't be out for another five years! I'm also chuffed that you have focused on wines above £10; all too often this area is ignored, and wines from c.£8 - 15 frequently represent the best value for money you can get; sadly, most people equate minimum price with value for money which is assuredly not the case. You take more time with these wines, which means that you tend to drink less. Supermarkets and their anodyne watery industrial slop that they peddle to unknowing punters have artificially created an expectation of low prices in a similar way to people refusing to pay more than £5 for a chicken (which really should be £10 if taken care of properly). Places like Portland, Reserve, Winos and the like are gems, and will invariably be better value than buying from a big supermarket chain (or places like Threshers who aim to ape the false "high price then reduction" game).

GarethApril 1st 2009.

Fair points Ray - I just used the term narrow minded as I usually do to describe opinions which don't match mine!

RayApril 1st 2009.

£3 a bottle? Nope; no way. I can get two lovely bottles of real ale for that! If you like Chianti, try the Querciabella, Fonterutoli, Volpaia, Fontodi or De Brolio. They are...um....a tad more than £3 though! Anon is bang on the mark btw with his/her comments on the amount of duty / VAT / distribution etc costs. That's why a £6 bottle will destroy a £3 one; most of these costs are fixed.

CastlefieldApril 1st 2009.

Redrooster, Ray is entitled to his opinion and it doesn't make him a cock. You being a Redrooster are indded a cock. I'm sure you know that the term Cock comes from coch as used in many old languages and Welsh to mean red and the red on a red rooster. So you are indeed a Cock.

M30April 1st 2009.

Meanwhile, Tesco are offering a litre of Spanish white table wine for a very reasonable £2.89. The credit crunch has obviously not affected the oenophiles of Hale.

A RealistApril 1st 2009.

Well done mancon on reviewing a shop that everyone can afford to buy from.

Chris HApril 1st 2009.

Castlefield... you really think that French wine is easily the best? Sure, a lot of the prestige Bordeauxs are amazing, very prestiious and amazingly expensive, and most of wine's history, hence a lot of the rare stuff is from there, but I really disagree that its full stop 'better'.I know most about New Zealand wines, as I used to live there and did a lot of wine tasting at pretty much every vinyard, and NZ is a country which can hold its own against pretty much anybody in terms of recent quality.Sure, most people who dont really get wine prefer new world stuff, as they can read the labels and they tend to come with prettier and more modest stickers, but dont let this kid you into thinking that all new world wine is for amateurs.

Burt CodeineApril 1st 2009.

To me, a bottle of wine has to be French irrespective of the taste. A candle flickering against a bottle of french red on a table of food is part and parcel of the wine drama. Having French faced man Gérard Depardieu sat on your settee/sofa/couch whilst watching a Melville flick, or indeed a simple French farce (I recommend 'The Closet' today) and the wonderful circle is complete.A good wine shop is usually chilly to your cheeks like the very good Carringtons in Chorlton and Didsbury, and yes, Portland is a cracker too. Service is fantastic from all these wine indies....still can't bring meself to spend more than £4.50 on a bottle though...one day...

Chris HApril 1st 2009.

Apparantely, the Tesco value spanish white wine won a taste test on Market Kitchen the other week..... Supermarket wines can be alright, if you stick to the top 2 shelves, but they do tend to offer 'half price' bottles at a fiver, which are in fact only worth a fiver anyway.They sell commercial wines that they buy in bulk and make the most cash off. Wine merchants such as this obviously sell less, so have to have a bigger markup per bottle.I called into Hanging Ditch in Manchester the other week to find a bottle of my favourite 2006 Ata Rangi Pinot Noir from New Zealand. They didnt have any in, but 2 weeks later got the 2007, but were asking £40 a bottle for it. Its only £30 in Fortnum and Masons!So yeah, Tesco is great for value. Its just a shame that they always sell the same commercial and accessible bottles, from the same wineries. But then, how many people really care?

JoApril 1st 2009.

I bought 2 bottles of Cotes du Rhone from Tesco some time ago, one to cook with (less than £4 for the bottle) and the other was just over £6, guess what, the cheaper one was nicer!!

CastlefieldApril 1st 2009.

What irritates me about wine is why fly crap all the way around the world from Australia when European wine is miles and air-miles better. It's much hotter in Australia which makes the wine stronger and taste ****. You can get good cheap (£4.50-£6) French table wine that is far superior. Yet some will only buy wine if it has 'ridge', 'creek', 'hill', 'estate', 'ranch' etc in the name and 12-13% on the side! Reverse snobbery.

GarethApril 1st 2009.

Enjoyed the reviews.As for the reviews,you can still hunt down decent cheap supermarket plonk for midweek drinking. Asda's Chianti and Montelpulciano are unbeatable at just over £3 a bottle to pair with your Tuesday night pasta.Excellent points on the false discounting though, and independents remain the best way of enjoying wine.

redroosterApril 1st 2009.

Ray , youre a prat ! I can,t wait another five years ! I ,m going back to my Lambrini and white lightning cocktails and at week ends it,s Asti all round , no expence spared . £5 for one chicken ?? get to Aldi pal proper value for money there cock .

RayApril 1st 2009.

Gareth, I hear what you say and respect your viewpoint, but I am far from narrow minded. I try c.1,500 wines each year, and recently used a £5 wine (which is occasionally seen at c.£4.50) at a wine tasting I ran. I agree that there are £4 wines that are perfectly drinkable, but to me they lack any form of character and simply become for the most part alcohol with a hint of fruit. As I said, I'd rather have two real ales for the same money, or pay another £3 (the same as a pint of Stella) for a wine that is considerably tastier and better. I just don't have the inclination to drink what I perceive as bland wine. Fair play to those who do, but I don't buy wine from supermarkets; they are turning wine into an industrialised commodity instead of the real stuff (which does not have to be expensive at all, but tastes of where it came from, not of the temperature it was fermented at). I'll support the merchants instead. Chacun a son gout, as the Australians say...in Paris

RayApril 1st 2009.

nice one!

GarethApril 1st 2009.

Nope, disagree sorry Ray.Perfectly drinkable wines available for less than £4 if you have the balls to go out there and try them and take a slightly less narrow minded view Ray.Value for money is available in both Wine Merchants (I bought a 2007 Blue Slate Riesling from Dr L for £8 yesterday which will drink incredibly in 3/4 years time) and Supermarkets (the sub five quid promotion on the excellent Casa Mia Fiano).Pick and choose. And have fun tasting (and certainly not drinking less as you advise!)

foolish apeApril 1st 2009.

Mine's so booze-sodden that there'd be no difference...

foolish apeApril 1st 2009.

Cock fights are illegal in the UK, kids.

AnonymousApril 1st 2009.

of which £2.55 is duty & VAT and a litre bottle costs at least 20p so it must be a class act!

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