With supermarkets grabbing an ever-increasing share of the household wine budget it is always good to see how our local independent merchants manage to carve out their own sector of the market.
In many cases they offer a wider choice from selected producers and they can deal with much smaller estates which don’t make enough to supply a big chain of supermarkets. But the real joy of buying from an independent is that you can be sure that the price relates directly to the quality inside the bottle.
That isn’t always the case at supermarkets where a game of “price up to price down” is often being played. While you may feel that you are getting a half-price bargain in a supermarket deal, if the wine wasn’t worth its full price to start with then all you are buying is disappointment.
I went along to a tasting of a good chunk of the range stocked at Field and Fawcett, York’s largest and best independent wine merchant and found some excellent flavours that will be perfect heading into the autumn season for staying in and drinking at home.
Among the whites I enjoyed a particularly good Prosecco di Valdobbiadene from Domenico de Bertiol (£10.95). This is a sparkling wine produced from the Prosecco grape in the region between Venice and the mountains. The region has recently been reclassified and only grapes grown in the best area are allowed to use the grape name Prosecco whilst others have to get by with the rather undistinguished name Glera. Whilst it is perfectly possible to buy cheaper Prosecco, I rather liked the crisp, lively apple and citrus fruitiness of this wine with a touch of yeast and nuttiness on the finish. This would be perfect as a family-friendly aperitif and could carry through to starters.
Field and Fawcett is one of the few retailers to have a stock of Coates and Seely Brut Rosé (£28.95), an English sparkling wine from Hampshire. The Seely part of the name is Englishman Christian Seely who has been in the wine business for years and who currently heads up some of the top names in Bordeaux and Portugal while Coates is a financier who has time on his hands since the banking crisis. Together they have sourced top-quality Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes grown on the same stretch of chalk which disappears under the channel and crops up again in Champagne. The style is definitely English with crisp, light, strawberry fruit, and an elegant, long finish.
I was also impressed by Verdicchio 2010, Pallio di San Floriano, from Monte Schiavo (£8.95). This harked back to proper Verdicchio before the name was devalued by supermarkets slicing away the quality, one flavour note at a time. It is a single-vineyard wine, from a hill-side site and the wine is aged on its lees to develop more intensity with a peach and grapefruit tang as well as a stylish, nut-infused finish – hardly surprising that it won a Gold medal in the International Wine Challenge. Team this with creamy pasta dishes, grilled pork or risotto.
Howard’s Folly has featured on these pages before, Howard being an exiled Yorkshireman who has invested in a Portuguese wine business. With one of Portugal’s best (Australian) winemakers on the team, Howard’s Folly is now becoming a lot more serious and the new white wine (£12.50) is well worth a try. The grapes come from the Vinho Verde region in the north and so the wine must use that designation, but with 100 per cent Alvarinho in the bottle, aged on the lees, the flavours are more reminiscent of Albariño from Galicia. It starts off with floral, orange-blossom aromas then moves into crisp, spiced citrus fruit, backed by minerally crunch and a rounded mouthfilling texture. This is a great food wine, to pour alongside all kinds of fish and vegetarian dishes.
Among the reds I really enjoyed a simple, straightforward Tempranillo from Navarra. Tempranillo 2010, Villa de las Musas (£6.75) is made by one of the excellent co-operatives of the region, and the name recalls one of the many archaeological sites left from the Roman era.
This region may have an ancient wine tradition, but the region is now thoroughly modern with many new plantings and a serious eye on quality. Full of bright red cherry and raspberry fruit, this wine is uncluttered by oak and is perfect to sip as you decide what to have for supper and then it can accompany almost any pasta or grilled meat dish.
For Friday and Saturday nights, trade up to a lively, spice-driven Garnacha from the little-known region of Cariñena in Spain. I visited this dry, hot area close to Zaragoza earlier this year and loved the deep-flavoured wines but I couldn’t find any local stockists to recommend. Now Field and Fawcett have Garnacha, Pago de Ayles 2009 (£8.95) which is intense, ripe and full of herb-sprinkled damson fruit and while it has been oak-aged, the fruit is to the fore with the oak just providing structure and depth.
It was difficult to pick out a star of the show in this tasting but Les Cent Visage 2008 from Domaine Merieau (£13.45) in the Loire comes close. Made from the Côt variety, otherwise known as Malbec, it is miles away from the typical dense, tannic wines of Cahors which is where most French Malbec is planted.
Instead this is a soft, supple wine, intense in colour with blackcurrant and savoury, tobacco notes and it has a clarity of style that makes it ideal to pour alongside a couple of lamb chops or a beef casserole.
The Field and Fawcett shop is well worth a visit to browse the shelves and since they also have a deli, you can pick up some good hams and cheese to accompany your wine.
Field and Fawcett, 01904 489073, Hull Road, York.