Indie Wine Merchants – #1, Wines With Attitude
I’ve meant to start reviewing Independent Wine Merchants for some time. These specialist wine businesses may be bricks, they may be clicks, or they might be both. The first to feature here is a young company, Wines With Attitude.
But first, a preamble.
Why Independents are worth your time and money
It has long been my belief that the independent wine retail sector is best for high-quality, interesting wines. Usually, these are also accompanied by excellent customer service. I say this in the knowledge of once being Contributing Editor for the ASDW magazine and buying from many. It’s how I prefer to buy wine in the UK.
Obviously, some are better than others. All independents must have a talent for uncovering exciting wines and be friendly and approachable. Otherwise, they won’t survive, never mind thrive. Additionally, many of their wines come directly from the winegrower. It often means such wines would otherwise never be available. Hence I think independents are sources of far better and far more interesting wines. These are the places to discover quality, flavours and memories. Supermarkets democratised wine and helped turn us into a wine drinking nation in the past. Now they have too many mass-produced bland brands, and their ranges have shrunk considerably. At an indie, you’ll taste the difference (if you’ll pardon the pun).
I don’t intend to cover every indie merchant as there are now, according to Wine Intelligence, some 750 independents in the UK, many of which are listed here. Indeed, the number of independents has grown in the last ten years by 50%, mainly thanks to the internet. No longer a dying breed, this is once again a vibrant sector worth your trust and hard-earned. Some are traditional with a long history; some are young mavericks. All seek to offer a better alternative to the Big Four supermarkets and their ilk.
Time to be clear about my motivation for these reviews. These reviews are without financial rewards from those independent merchants. Rest assured that I’m writing because I’ve bought wine from them with my own money and enjoyed the customer experience. So any review is on merit, not because they paid me or wanted some specious advertorial.
With that in mind, please read on.
Wines With Attitude
I first met Lindsay Cornelissen, who set up Wines With Attitude Ltd., while judging at the IWSC. While still working in financial services in the City, Lindsay became WSET Diploma qualified. That parallels my wine career, so I found a kindred spirit.
Lindsay created Wines With Attitude in March 2014. It was born out of her disappointment when buying wines in supermarkets and via mail-order wine clubs. She finds the frequency of poor quality one-dimensional wines shocking. I do too. She has eighty or so wines online, mostly in the £12-£45 price range, mainly from artisanal wine producers. The idea is to help wine-lovers drink better, though not necessarily more expensively.
Hence I thought I’d try Wines With Attitude out with my own money and without asking for any favours. It wasn’t mystery shopping, but the proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating.
Firstly, the Wines With Attitude website is easy to navigate. The wines easy to search for by country, region, grape, and style. Most importantly, there’s plenty of great wines too; from classic styles to curious grapes. Importantly, all are ready to drink, though many will continue to improve. Each has good descriptions, customer reviews and hints on food matching. The minimum order is six bottles, but you can mix and match them. There’s even a single-bottle gift service for that special someone.
The road test
My advice is not to be put off by delivery costs. London City Bond keep all the wines in storage. Not only does that guarantee that wine storage conditions are top-notch, but it also means a high-quality delivery service too. Beware online merchants that keep stocks in their spare bedroom and cut delivery charges by skimping on quality. It won’t seem like a bargain if you need to deal with breakages or rubbish delivery times.
I received my tracked wine order the next day. That exceeded my expectations, and I didn’t get any special treatment. My bottles were also reassuringly well wrapped. I’ve had crummy experiences with damaged orders from others in the past, but not here.
Wines With Attitude also have a weekly Newsletter, (a good way to keep up with new wines coming in and regular offers), a Blog, and even an App coming soon; Android on the Google Play Store and iOS for Apple.
And finally, the $64,000 question. Would I buy again from Wines With Attitude? The wines were excellent, and Lindsay’s earnt my trust, so absolutely. Do check it out.
Three wines to try from Wines With Attitude
Bodegas Altanza is an excellent example of the modern style Rioja emerging from Spain’s most prestigious wine region. Their Reserva is 100% Tempranillo, perhaps Spain’s most famous grape variety, and indigenous to Rioja. Le Altanza wines emphasise fresh fruit flavours rather than oak. Nevertheless, oak is a hallmark of any Rioja. Maturation is 18 months in mostly French (rather than US) oak casks. There then follows four months in French oak vats and 18 months in bottle before release.
The result is a pure expression of Tempranillo fruit. Strawberry, raspberry and cherry flavours have good depth and concentration. Underlying hints of a meaty, savoury taste appear before some milk chocolate, and coconut notes round things off. This wine opens up in the glass after a few minutes, when attractive smoke notes appear on nose and palate. Lamb heaven. Muy Moderno! £16.00
Some will know that I find good white Burgundy entrancing. Indeed, it’s the apogee of all things Chardonnay. However, as prices on the Côte d’Or continue to escalate, so my Burgundy drinking looks for value alternatives. One such is the Mâconnais. Decades ago, this beautiful area made mostly cheap dull wines. Now there are superstar producers and great white wines. Areas like Pouilly-Fuissé, Pouilly-Vinzelles, Saint Véran and Viré-Clessé are making outstanding examples. Unlike other white Burgundy appellations, there are no Premier Cru wines. The appellations have lagged behind the quality improvements. Now, this is now changing, and the first of these should be available from 2018. They will include the Les Longeays vineyard.
Sandrine and Christophe Thibert focus on terroir. Their aim is to bring a sense of place to your glass. As you might expect, Les Longeays is a buttery Chardonnay, with class and elegance. Restrained use of oak allows the citrus pear and marzipan flavours to shine through. Delicious stuff – Roast Chicken it is then! What I also like is that this wine is mature, so you don’t have to wait. It will improve over the next five years too. £19.00
Several years ago I had the pleasure of visiting Man O’War vineyards. It’s a rising star located on spectacular Waiheke Island, just a boat ride from Auckland in New Zealand. Bellerophon is a combination of 96% Syrah and 4% Viognier. Syrah from the best sites in New Zealand is spectacular. Especially when made in the Côte-Rôtie style by co-fermenting it with a small amount of white Viognier. The co-fermentation adds an apricot kick to the aromas and flavours. However, the Viognier also fixes the red colour from the Syrah grapes. It’s a classic combo.
What you get is elegance, great balance, and gorgeous perfume. Then the raspberry and blackcurrant fruit has an undertow of pepper, soft tannins and a lovely smoked meatiness. A real treat that’s been hard to find in the UK until now. Best decanted, it’s drinking now or will improve over the next 2-3 years. What a treat! Roast Beef is a classic match. £37.50
Perhaps you already use independent wine merchants? Why not let me know your experiences, good and bad?