Not only are the supermarkets running out of bread, bananas and bog roll, the wine is taking a pounding too. And if you want anything delivered, well, good luck with that. Early May is probably the soonest you’ll get a slot.
Let us wine lovers thank heavens, then, that the independents are showing true Blitz spirit and are delivering across the UK every day during these strange times.
Tom Ashworth of Yapp Bros tells me that they’re up 200 per cent on this week last year and are busier in the warehouse than they were at Christmas. Tom Cave of Berry Bros & Rudd reports a brisk trade in consumers withdrawing fine wines from their private reserves whilst David Roberts MW of Goedhuis & Co says that their regulars are trading resolutely up and going for quality over quantity.
I strongly advise you do the same. Buying from independent merchants gives you access to wines that you simply can’t find anywhere else. They champion small, artisan producers who often make wine in such tiny quantities that they’re not viable for supermarkets or restaurant chains to bother with. You can find quirky, fascinating bottles that taste amazing and have a story to tell. And even in these dark days there is someone on the phone or email – working remotely – who can chat to you and advise you on what to buy.
They will deliver to your door or to a nominated safe place and won’t require you to sign anything if you’re in isolation. All they require is that you enjoy the wines:
N.D. John Wine Merchants, Swansea
N.D. John celebrate their 25th anniversary this year and find themselves busier than ever despite their on-trade customers having disappeared. They’re aiming for next day delivery, free for orders over £200 (or over 6 bottles in and around Swansea), otherwise £6.95. 01792 644688; www.ndjohn.co.uk
My pick: 2017 Mimosa Cabernet/Merlot/Malbec, 14%vol, £8.95. Named after the Mimosa clipper ship that took the first Welsh emigrants to South America in 1865 and produced by Bodega Patritti in Patagonia, this rich, ripe, dark, spicy blend is ideal for cheering us in our isolation.
Domaine du Grand Mayne UK Office, Overton, Hants
Not so much a wine merchant as a multi-award-winning artisan winery with vineyards in the Côtes du Duras near Bordeaux and a UK outlet in Hampshire, from where they deliver across the country. Readers who order and quote ‘Spectator’ get 25 per cent off the RRP. 01256 772898; www.domaine-du-grand-mayne.com
My pick: 2017 Domaine du Grand Mayne Reserve, 13.5%vol, £11.21 (down from £14.95). As enjoyed at a recent Spectator Winemaker Lunch, a succulent, ripe, oak-aged Cabernet/Merlot blend made just down the road from Bordeaux that knocks the spots off many a twice-the-price claret.
Private Cellar, Wicken, Cambs
Private Cellar (named the UK’s favourite independent merchant a few years back) have a cellar full of stock and self-isolating staff happy to advise and take orders by phone/email. They offer next day delivery (if you order by midday), free for 24 bottles or more, otherwise £15. 01353 721999; www.privatecellar.co.uk
My pick: 2014 Private Cellar House Claret, 13%vol, £11.40 (down from £12.65 until 12 April). The first wine of Ch. Argadens, a Bordeaux Supérieur of real quality owned by the fabled Sichel family, this is soft, fruity and mellow and joyously accessible and drinkable.
Berry Bros & Rudd, London SW1 & Basingstoke, Hants
The most famous wine merchant of all, family-owned and still trading from the very corner in St James’s in which they were established by the Widow Bourne in 1698. The Berrys’ list is famously wide-ranging and the website gratifyingly informative. Deliveries still going strong. 0800 280 2440; www.bbr.com
My pick: 2018 BB&R White Burgundy, 13%vol, £13.95. The Berrys’ house range is finer than ever and this is a peach. Produced in the Mâconnais by Terrier & Collovray, it’s beautifully balanced with white stone fruit, fresh citrus and a keen mineral core. It’s corking good value too.
Goedhuis & Co, London SE1
Goedhuis are well-known for the depth and quality of their list, the buying for which is led by David Roberts MW. Burgundy, Bordeaux and the Loire are the company’s particular strengths, classic regions that are proving especially popular during these strange times. 020 7793 7900, www.goedhuis.com
My pick: 2018 Domaine Bernard Reverdy & Fils Sancerre, 13%vol, £14.50. A beautifully focussed Sancerre from a small domaine in the village of Verdigny. Crisp, clean and precise, it’s bright, fresh and uplifting and is just the sort of wine we should be enjoying in these difficult days.
Yapp Bros, Mere, Wiltshire
Yapp Bros are the current International Wine Challenge Merchant of the Year for both Languedoc-Roussillon and the Rhône and boast a delectably esoteric list. They offer next day delivery (free for orders over £100) and plan to keep delivering until they’re told they can’t. 01747 860423; www.yapp.co.uk
My pick: 2018 Mas Bruguière ‘l’Arbouse’, 13.5%vol, £18.25 A cheery, herbal, spicy southern French red from Pic Saint-Loup, ideal for drinking in gloomy times. Producer Xavier Bruguière’s family has been making wine since the French Revolution. And so the world continues to turn.
Justerini & Brooks, London SW1 & Edinburgh
J&B were founded in 1749 and if not exactly independent (they are owned by drinks giant Diageo), they are run as if they are and have an enviable list of producers on their books. The warehouse is working round the clock to guarantee deliveries to all parts of the UK. 020 7484 6400 & 0131 226 4202; www.justerinis.com
My pick: 2017 Domaine Weinbach Pinot Blanc, 13%vol, £18.98. From the Clos du Capucin, near Kaysersberg in Alsace, first planted in 1612, a Pinot Blanc/Auxerrois blend that knocked my socks off. It’s fresh yet creamy and toasty and full of ripe melon and honeysuckle. Gorgeous!
Brunswick Fine Wines, Brighton, East Sussex
Founders Carlos de Haan and Jamie Graham are wine trade stalwarts and although BFW are primarily wine and spirit brokers, they have an excellent retail list too and thanks to their use of London City Bond are continuing to deliver across the UK. 01273 666375; www.brunswickfinewines.com
My pick: 2017 Frantz Chagnoleau Saint Véran ‘La Roche’, 13%vol, £163 per 6. Considered by many to be the best producer in all the Mâconnais, FC made just 80 cases of this (organic) beauty. Citrusy and concentrated, slightly toasty, incredibly pure, it’s nigh on perfect.