Where To Find The Best Restaurant Wines To Drink At Home Wine
SSome wine merchants have fared well from the pandemic. Among them were big guns like Waitrose and Majestic, which saw their online sales increase by 300% last year. Even the smallest stores were exceptionally busy: on average, sales (many delivered to homes) of independent specialist wine merchants increased by 65.6% in April 2020 alone, according to a survey by the trade magazine le Wine merchant. But, for the kind of trader whose life is largely based on importing wine to sell to restaurants, dealing with Covid-19 has been as difficult as it has been for the businesses they supply.
During the first waves of panic and uncertainty, many restaurant wine suppliers searched for the silver bullet of rebranding as retailers. A flurry of online pop-up shops of varying degrees of professionalism emerged, all attempting to fill the space where UK retail was located. Most of these efforts lasted as long as a locking leaven starter, ending with the first lifting of restrictions.
A couple, however, have proven to be much more resilient, adding something new to UK wine retailing. For me, the star is the Sourcing Table, which emerged from importer Indigo Wines at the end of last year. It was founded by South London-based Ben Henshaw, who describes the pandemic as the “catalyst” for committing to an idea he had been playing with for years: to make the consumption of trendy and consumer-friendly wines easier. sommeliers who “usually disappear in restaurants” at home.
These are wines with a very particular style. They usually come from outside the traditionally renowned areas and are made from local grape varieties, often from old vines, by small winemakers inspired by the ideas and oenological practices associated with the natural wine scene. In the glass, red wines will tend to be paler; whites could be more textured. They are brilliant with food.
Wines are the star, but the website itself is also a cut above, with articles and producer bios from acclaimed wine writer Jamie Goode. In addition, the members’ club offers wines selected by some of the world’s leading sommeliers – including Paris-based American Rajat Parr and Paz Levinson, who handles wine for Michelin-starred French chef Anne-Sophie Pic – for £ 120 (six bottles) or £ 240 (12 bottles) per month. The business was a success, with Henshaw opening a Sourcing Table boutique and wine bar in South London later in the fall.
It has followed a similar trajectory as another newcomer catalyzed by a pandemic, Shrine to the Vine. In fact, the selling point of Mark Andrew and Dan Keeling’s growing Noble Rot empire, Shrine to the Vine is a central website and boutique, the vibe of which is somewhere between a record store and a tailor from Jermyn Street.
As with everything Noble Rot has done – it started in 2013 as a magazine, before adding two London wine-run restaurants, a critically acclaimed book and a wine supply business – Shrine to the Vine is brilliantly presented. But basically, it’s the same style of wine as the sourcing table, a style that may have grown up around restaurants but which these two companies believe can work just as well at home.
Six restaurant wines to drink at home
El Risco Calatayud, Spain 2019 (£ 13, thesourcingtable.com)
Taking full advantage of owner Ben Henshaw’s many contacts in Spain (Indigo Wine started as a Spanish specialist), this is a gloriously supple and fragrant Spanish red from old high altitude vines near Zaragoza: fabulously gourmet .
Tetramythos Malagousia Natur Peloponnese, Greece 2019 (£ 18.50, thesourcingtable.com)
Rare local variety (Malagoousia) cultivated with very old vines and at high altitude on the slopes of Mount Aroania in the northern Peloponnese. Absolutely bursting with richness of stone fruit, honeysuckle and leafy herbs.
Heinrich Pannobile Burgenland, Austria 2017 (£ 29.50, thesourcingtable.com)
An extremely satisfying red, somewhere between the peppery and spicy flavor of northern Rhône Syrah and blackcurrant fruit and the straight structure of classic Bordeaux. The intensity of the flavor belies its meager 12.5% alcohol.
Domaine la Pépie Cot la Pépie Vin de France 2020 (£ 15, shrinetothevine.co.uk)
Malbec from vines cultivated in the cool west of the Loire, where the grape variety is known as cot. It’s all about sap and drinkability with crunchy fruit, a burst of raspberry and blackberry with a hint of violet scent.
Morgadio da Calcada Branco MC Douro, Portugal 2019 (£ 16, shrinetothevine.co.uk)
From the brilliant Portuguese winemaker, longtime favorite sommelier Dirk Niepoort – a shimmering example of the original white quality of this famous red wine (and port) region. Exotic fruity but so bright and lively.
Camillo Donati Lambrusco Emilia Romagna, Italy 2019 (£ 19, shrinetothevine.co.uk)
Premium dry, sparkling lambrusco like that of Camillo Donati – as opposed to the sickly bottom supermarket produce – has been a feature of the trendiest wine bars for quite some time, delivering a dramatically crisp, intensely tangy, flavorful antipasto. black cherry. friendly sparkling red.