NW10- the new home of independent winemaking
Jacots is an example of the type of merchant on whom the future of the quality wine trade in Britain surely rests
NW10 is hardly a postcode where you’d expect to find a fine wine merchant. Wrong! I’ve just returned from a tasting of the wines offered to restaurants – and also direct to consumers prepared to make the very minor effort to order them on line or by phone – by Jascots. There’s a broad smile on my face, which has nothing to do with the alcohol levels in what I have, with regret, been spitting out.
Jacots is an example of the type of merchant on whom the future of the quality wine trade in Britain surely rests. It’s one of many such stars, though in terms of the bottles sold they can in no way match Tesco or the biggest trade wholesalers.
This particular business came about when Jack Scott left City merchant and wine-bar chain Corney & Barrow in 1990 to set up on his own. Then, as now, says sales director Miles MacInnes, the aim was to widen wine lovers’ experiences through offering lesser-known wines – both from smaller growers in well-known appellations and from unfamiliar places.
From its base between the railway lines of Willesden Junction and Acton, Jascots spreads its wares widely. Almost all it sells it imports directly, and 85 per cent of its wines are exclusives. Restaurants predominate over private customers, but MacInnes emphasises that there is plenty of focus on the latter – a willingness to talk, to build choices which match individuals’ palates, to sell even a single half-bottle (though it makes much more sense to select �100 worth and save the �10 delivery charge).
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The enthusiasm is patent. As I tasted through the ranks of bottles, Jascots people were encouraging sommeliers and other trade buyers to try particular wines, describing them with obvious knowledge as well as pleasure. MacInnes sums them up simply: “These wines are all heroes. They have to be fantastic in terms of value for money as well as quality.”
And that brings me to what you need, most crucially, to know. Independent merchants such as Jascots offer wines which are remarkably well priced, not just for posh bottles. Frequently, they offer far better value below �10 than big retail chains. Then there’s the relationship with growers. For many big importers, price and quantity are the most important factors. Smaller merchants are happy to deal with smaller producers, and don’t need to push them to cut-throat margins.
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Myriam Haag, now in her second year of supplying Jascots with wines from the three-generation family estate in a particularly privileged part of Alsace, confirms that, saying: “I’m very happy. I hope we can make a very long journey together.” From six hectares of largely south-facing vineyards, she and her husband Jean-Marie craft 24 different wines. Their commitment shows so clearly in the glass.
If you’ve been following these columns with any regularity, the chances are that your tastes are somewhat similar to mine. So allow me to suggest a case from Jascots, 12 wines I liked most at the tasting (prices per bottle, case discounts – see www.jascots.co.uk, 020 8965 2000).
Paolo Pizzorni Moscato d’Asti, fragrant happy bubbles, �9.35; Haag Vall�e Noble pinot gris 2010, ripe flavours, elegant spiciness, �15; Bolfan Primus riesling 2009, mineral-and-apples style from Croatia, �11; Domaine Laporte Le Bouquet 2011, true Loire sauvignon character, �11; Meursault Vieilles Vignes, Patriarche, 2010, seductively restrained, �28.30; Saint-Andr� de Figui�re Magali 2011, serious Provence ros�, �12.60; Solano Tinto 2011, great value, �6.30; Sotherton shiraz viogner 2007, fragrant Oz bargain, �8.85; Domaine Cheysson Chiroubles 2011, classic beaujolais, �12.60; two Rhone stars: Bertrand Stehelin Sablet 2009, �9.35; Chateau de Saint Cosme Les Deux Albion 2009, �16.20; Lignier-Michelot Chambolle-Musigny Vieilles Vignes 2009, a treat for Christmas, �37.80.