Independent London wine producers The Bunch offer long-rewarding delights
PUBLISHED: 10:00 10 January 2016
Exploring smaller merchants this year can reap rich rewards for wine lovers, says Liz Sagues.
If you make just one wine resolution for 2016, let it be this: explore. I’ll guarantee that when you step outside the familiar the discoveries you make will be a long-rewarding delight. Where to start? There’s no need to go further than your phone or computer screen, or – to handle real rather than virtual bottles – the nearest independent wine merchant.
Here’s one recommended grouping of independents to start that voyage of exploration. The Bunch numbers six members, three based in London but all operating efficiently on line. Individually and collectively they have reputations as fine as the wines they sell, but customers don’t have to rely on that. The guarantee they offer is key to confidence: “If you don’t like any wine that you buy from us, for whatever reason, you may return it within a month of purchase and we shall refund your money without question or delay.”
Their selling point is “less ordinary wines”. Chairman Charles Lea argues that Bunch members “are not being esoteric for the sake of it, but because they are selling the products of small farms which are making very individual wines”. Such estates are too small to supply mass-market companies and need instead a long-term relationship with supportive importers.
As Lea so rightly says, “Bunch members offer a whole new world for the interested wine drinker to move on to.”
The group’s last tasting for wine writers gave a snapshot of that world. Below are some of the wines I liked best, from London-based members first.
Top picks from independents: The Bunch
Berry Bros & Rudd offered wines from Sardinia, Germany, Canada, Chile and Australia as well as European classics Burgundy and Piedmont. There were also two fine, intriguing wines from France’s small but splendid Jura region – Arbois Trousseau Singulier 2013, an elegant, sensual fresh red (£27.50) and the impressive, fascinating white Arbois Savagnin 2011 (£31), both from the much-respected biodynamic grower Domaine Tissot. The Savagnin might be a Marmite wine for some, but I love its fino-like character – it develops flor just like the driest sherries, though there’s more fruit here.
From Corney & Barrow, Producteurs Plaimont Folie de Roi 2013 Pacherenc du Vic-Bihl Sec, (£9.95) is a splendidly aromatic, expressive and totally different rounded yet dry white wine from grapes native to south western France. And don’t think of pink for summer only: Petal de Rosé Château La Tour de l’Eveque 2014 Côtes de Provence (£15.95) is a mouth-watering food wine, lovely year-round.
Lea & Sandeman also has great French bottles from non-classic regions, from Domaine Treloar, the hands-on Roussillon estate of the English/Kiwi couple Jonathan Hesler and Rachel Treloar. La Terre Promise 2014 (£15.50) is a complex, local-grapes naturally-made white, Three Peaks GSM 2012 (£12.95) an aromatic, tasty, sweet/savoury red.
More great value at Adnams, in Moro Bianco 2014 from the Carpineti winery in Lazio (£14), multi-flavoured and immensely long, and Le P’tit Spencer 2013 Corbières (£7.50), red essence of maquis herbs; and at Tanners, Martinfort Malbec Sélection Belles Vignes 2014 Pays d’Oc (£7.40), juicy and so quaffable. Finally, two more French stars at Yapp Brothers: Domaine Jean-Maurice Raffault chenin blanc 2014 Chinon (£13.50), perfect expression of a great grape, and Château Milhau-Lacugue Les Truffières 2012 Saint-Chinian (£13.75), dark, rich and ripe. Bon voyage!