One of the best things one of our local wine merchants can say to me is, “I’m sorry, Christine, I can’t talk to you right now, I have customers.”
Various competitions and awards have shown that Yorkshire has some of the best independent wine merchants in the country, and yet even they can be scarily quiet during the day. Thank heavens most of them trade on-line as well as dealing with people who walk through the door. Without their internet business and trade with local restaurants we might lose these emporiums which offer some of the best, individually chosen wines in the region.
If you are used to wandering down the aisle of a supermarket, reading a few back labels and looking for names you recognise, then a quiet shop with a man (or woman) behind the counter might be seen as intimidating. But think of it as an opportunity. He has probably got the best choice of wines in town, tasted, selected, bought and put on display and he can probably tell you ten times more about each wine than any back label ever could.
Because he has tasted every wine in the shop he will know which is the best choice to go with steak, chicken or whatever you are planning to eat next Saturday, and I don’t know any independent who will look down their nose if you need to stick to a budget.
In short, the man behind the counter would be delighted if you just put your head round the door to ask if he has a good bottle to go with tonight’s dinner.
With the festive season around the corner, now is the time to step across the threshold of your local independent and see what’s in store.
Here is my directory to the best of our independents and what you should buy.
Bon Coeur Fine Wines, 01765 688200, www.bcfw.co.uk
There is no actual High Street shop but this merchant has an excellent website and a regular programme of tastings around Yorkshire and London. Get on the mailing list for new parcel arrivals and updates from Bordeaux. Top wines: Morgon Chateau Gaillard, Potel Aviron 2009, Burgundy, France (£10.99); Macon Uchizy , Domaine Talmard 2011, Burgundy France (£9.99); Baron Philippe de Rothschild Merlot 2011, Languedoc, France (£7.21).
Chez Vin, Otley, 01943 466142, www.chezvin.co.uk
It is always worth going to one of David Lawson’s annual tastings, not just for the great wines and atmosphere, but also for the fantastic hog roast. Top wines: Hacienda Lopez de Haro Tempranillo 2011, Rioja, Spain (£6.99); Tacco Barocco Primitivo 2009, Puglia, Italy (£8.99); Domaine Cauhapé Chant des Vignes, Juraçon Sec 2010 (£11.99).
Flourish and Prosper, Howden, 01430 430006, www.flourish-and-prosper.com
The well-stocked shop run by Sean Welsh has a delicatessen at the back and just up the road is The Bridge Bistro where some of the wine shop stock is available by the glass. The whole package makes the delightful market town of Howden well worth a visit. Top wines: Squinzano Reserva DOC 2006, Italy (£9.95); Prios Maximus Verdejo 2011, Rueda, Spain (£10.99); Urbina Crianza 2006, Rioja, Spain (£11.50).
Field and Fawcett, York, 01904 489073, www.fieldandfawcett.co.uk
You have to head a little way out of town on the Hull road to find this shop, but with parking right outside this is well worth the journey. There is a delicatessen selling terrific cheese, hams and bread as well as two rooms crammed with wine. Italy is a real strength here but frankly, there isn’t a weak spot in the range. Top buys: Falanghina, Vesevo, 2011, Campania, Italy (£10.95); Shiraz Girt by Sea Cabernet Merlot 2009, Voyager Estate, Western Australia (£15.95); Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Morandé, Chile (£7.50 for 37.5cl).
Halifax Wine Co., 01422 256333, www.halifaxwinecompany.com
Nationally recognised for an extensive range of Portuguese wines including a fabulous list of old Madeira, Andy and Karen Paterson have stocks of well-chosen wines from around the world. Top buys: Quinta do Infantado Douro Red 2009, Portugal (£12.95); Domaine Chante Cigale Les Vignes D’Alexandre Blanc 2011, Southern Rhone, France (£9.95); Orballo Albariño 2011, Bodegas La Val, Rías Baixas, Galicia, Spain (£9.95).
Harrogate Fine Wine Company, 01423 522270, www.harrogatefinecompany.com
Tucked away in The Ginnel, this Tardis-like shop is run by Andy Langshaw who stocks wines from around the world, but has a particular skill in obtaining some of South Africa’s most sought-after wines. Get on the mailing list for newsletters and invitations to regular tastings. Top wines: Redoma Tinto 2009, Niepoort, Douro, Portugal, (on offer from £33.99 to £25.99); Moulin à Vent 2011, Jacky Janodet (£13.99); Rustenberg Unwooded Chardonnay 2010, South Africa (£9.99).
Hoults Wine Merchants, Huddersfield, 01484 510700, www.hoults.com
Sheer enthusiasm oozes out of Rob Hoult when he talks about wine and the range reflects this passion for good flavours at good value prices.
Look out for hand-picked wines from small French estates, all shipped direct to Huddersfield, but there are great bargains amongst bigger names too. Top buys: Minervois et Cetera 2010, Domaine Terres Georges (£7.99); The Liberator Episode 4 (£14.99); Gros Manseng Sauvignon 2010, Brumont (£9.99).
Latitude Wine, Leeds, 0113 2453393, www.latitudewine.co.uk
If you need any ingredient for a cocktail then this is the place to come. With a vast array of spirits and liqueurs on the shelves this shop acts like a supply hub for local bars. But there is an excellent range of well-chosen wines as well and regular tastings on Friday nights.
Top wines: Trinity Hill Syrah 2010, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand, (£13.99); Cave de Hunawihr Riesling Reserve 2010, Alsace, France (£11.50); Ayala Brut, Champagne (£26.99).