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UK Wine Merchants


balex
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As a younger man, I was up for relationships in all sorts of contexts, but my experiences with the UK wine trade weren't particularly rewarding. Too often, "specialist" wine merchants - including some mentioned in this thread - seemed to be populated by pretty ignorant, ex minor public schoolboys, whose knowledge didn't reach much beyond what they were pushing that particular season. (Stop me at any point if you detect any personal prejudices coming through).

1. Me too.

2. Me too.

3. That is me.

I was thinking only yesterday that it's because we haven't picked up on proper jobs that the wine trade is so attractive as a drop-in to us thickies, and also that it is why we don't actually know anything about wine. You see, we don't actually know anything about anything. :wink:

slacker,

Padstow, Cornwall

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The big plus with the Wine Society is their tastings which are generally well worth the effort to attend. Typically 20 wines at an informal tasting, usually organised around a theme.

I disagree. I think they hold some interesting, although pricy, tastings in London. But if you are elsewhere in the country the WS tastings are not worth investigating. I can think of at least three in my area in the last two or three years, two showed off the 'buyer's favourites' - a mere eight or ten basic wines - whereas the other showed the Exhibition range. I attended none as I didn't feel I would learn anything at all from the tatsing, was quite certain that I didn't want to buy any of the wines, and didn't want to pay the admission fee which I felt exceeded the quality of the wines on offer.

There are a few benefits of WS membership, which include wide ranging en primeur offers (although there are problems with the en primeur system applied to the WS) and a good list for regional France, Rhone and other areas of Europe. The occasional offer from other regions such as Alsace and Germany can also be useful. The members reserve storage facility is also good, but it is flaws.

The problems with the WS include:

1. The en primeur offers are often over subscribed in top vintages. Having requested about ten cases from the Bdx 2000 vintage I was allocated two six-packs. And as the WS are usually last to release their offer if you rely solely on them you are stumped if this happens.

2. I don't think the Bordeaux or Burgundy lists are very good unless you are in the market for mature clarets at an appropriately high price or a very limited selection of Burgundy growers. Strange that what are two of the world's greatest wine regions should be so neglected.

3. Members reserves are fine, but where are the bonded facilities? I store my wine at Vinotheque, where at least I can avoid paying duty and VAT.

4. The supposedly co-operative society behaves more and more like a retailer as every year passes. The en primeur offers are a classic example of this, full of warm and glowing phrases even when the wines aren't up to scratch. I thought a co-operative society had it's members interests at heart, not profit? The Rhone 2002 offer was a brilliant example of ecomony with the truth - a horrible vintage - especially for the south - which the society passed onto it's members using mealy mouthed descriptions.

5. Although I have no personal experience of the committee, I hear and read from others that it is a very closed system, where the committee control who joins as new members, not the ordinary members. This is because when an ordinary members doesn't vote, the committee members can use that vote to elect their favoured candidate (whoever that might be) onto the committee. There are also some reports and suggestions, although I have no knowledge of this, that the committee members enjoy many fine vinous benefits. The society is reputed to have wondeful but small stocks of old vintages which never see the list.

Regards

Chris Kissack

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  • 1 year later...

A friend of mine, Abraham García, chef and owner of Viridiana in Madrid, is going to London next week for the Derby and asked me for advice about wine shops / merchants in the city. He's a wine lover, as his wine list proves, or the fact that he received a call on Tuesday about three bottles of Petrus 89 in Santander and was flying on Wednesday to buy them.

He'll be most interested in older vintages of French wines, particularly Burgundy, Rhone, Bordeaux and Loire, though he also has a keen interest in less known Appellations and the wines of the New Wolrd (he mentioned Penfolds).

Your help will be most appreciated.

PedroEspinosa (aka pedro)

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Here are two great ones:

BBR - AKA "Wine Merchants to the Queen" - awesome selection of fine wines; their London flagship has been trading for 300 years

Bibendum - wide variety of wine from everywhere, more aggressive pricing than BBR

Edited by ademello (log)
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When we lived in London, Nicolas was a favourite. there's one in Chelsea, Kings Rd, and one in Canary Wharf, under the tower.

Wine bar and wine shop. They're a French-based franchise. Good food too.

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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  • 2 weeks later...

This is more of a question...I'm from California and have been in London for 2 years and haven't been able to find anyplace that sells a good selection of California wines. As I live in Canary Wharf, don't know the UK internet wine sites, and don't have a car, I'm looking for places in London where I can find a good selection easily. Many thanks in advance for your responses.

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This is more of a question...I'm from California and have been in London for 2 years and haven't been able to find anyplace that sells a good selection of California wines.  As I live in Canary Wharf, don't know the UK internet wine sites, and don't have a car, I'm looking for places in London where I can find a good selection easily.  Many thanks in advance for your responses.

There may be the odd place that has a slightly larger selection but I don't think you are not going to find a specialist with a good selection. What we have over here is the big names from the major internationals, things like Gallo, Masson, etc., practically nothing of any real interest. The problem is probably historical, when the California industry first started exporting to the UK in any quantity, in the late 70's and early 80's the weak pound and strong dollar made them horrendously expensive for unknown wines so you tended to ship the stuff that could be sold in bulk, and even then the values were not great. The Australians pitched in with well made wines at better price points and latterly the South Americans are muscling into the market. Plus for the US the UK is a relatively small market, probably not worth the marketing effort unless you'r talking big numbers.

The only thing I can suggest is to ring the Wine Institute of California in London (020 7630 9101), it's a trade body but they might point you at an importer or, even better, specialist retailers.

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This is more of a question...I'm from California and have been in London for 2 years and haven't been able to find anyplace that sells a good selection of California wines.  As I live in Canary Wharf, don't know the UK internet wine sites, and don't have a car, I'm looking for places in London where I can find a good selection easily.  Many thanks in advance for your responses.

Bibendum's Californian list looks quite extensive (don't know much about Californian wine, I'm afraid). They're in Primrose Hill.

Berry Brothers in St James's might be worth a look, too.

Geoffrey Roberts used to be the main importer of good US wine, I think, but since he's died I don't know who's taken over. Clarke's restaurant and deli in Kensington Church Street always have a very good selection of Californians which they used to source from him.

Certainly no need to settle for Gallo. :smile:

clb

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This is more of a question...I'm from California and have been in London for 2 years and haven't been able to find anyplace that sells a good selection of California wines.  As I live in Canary Wharf, don't know the UK internet wine sites, and don't have a car, I'm looking for places in London where I can find a good selection easily.  Many thanks in advance for your responses.

Like I said earlier, do go check out Nicolas in One Canada Square, ie. the big silver tower at Canary Wharf. It's on the lower ground level in the 'tunnel' that leads out to the outdoor plaza before you get to the Tube station.

"Coffee and cigarettes... the breakfast of champions!"

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For some incredible rarities and bargains try ebay.

Listings on the UK site are few. To comply with eBay's rules auctions in the UK are for the bottle, and not the content which is assumed to have insignificant value.

No such problems with ebay France, on which you will likely find Petrus '50, Muscadet '04, and all in between.

Of course, you cannot be as confident of sound cellaring as with a wine bought from bbr, nor can you be certain of a refund or a replacement of a corked bottle. And I for one would steer clear of someone selling bottle after bottle of Petrus '50 at one third of its retail price.

However, I recently pulled together a collection of 1947 wines for a birthday dinner entirely from ebay.

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I have always found La Vigneronne (www.lavigneronne.co.uk) to be very helpful and they always have an interesting selection of wines (although mainly French). They also change their bins around often, so if you find something you like, you should get it immediately!

The other place that scrambling distance from me, and a little more upmarket but again with a fabulous selection is Lea & Sandeman (www.londonfinewine.co.uk/) who do have a selection from around the world and who I (albeit myself possessed of a limited amount of oenological knowledge) have always found helpful and clued up.

I also must add that I have never felt pressured into buying anything at either of these places (Berry Bros & Rudd intimidates me a little, but then I am 27 and still a student...this shops seems more for ppl who are 77 and with millions in the bank! But can't deny how much fun that shop is and what an awesome selection they have).

Thats my tuppence worth. Both these places are in Chelsea, La Vigneronne is near (2mins down the road) South Kensington tube station and Lea & Sandeman is a pleasant 10-15min walk (or a short bus ride).

Hope that helps.

Raj

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Thanks for all the suggestions regarding California wine. I'll try Berry Brothers in person.

On another wine related subject, I was skimming over past Champagne topics (OK, I'm a lady-who-lunches and when the Girls get together, only Bubbly will staisfy!) and am curious to try Jacques Solesse. I googled it up specifying UK and London, but can't find a supplier. I also checked out the Berry Brothers and the Bibendum wine sites and they don't stock it (ditto Majestic and Oddbins). Where, oh where can I easily purchase just one or two bottles of it (Don't wan't to commit to a case yet)?

Thanks.

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On another wine related subject, I was skimming over past Champagne topics (OK, I'm a lady-who-lunches and when the Girls get together, only Bubbly will staisfy!) and am curious to try Jacques Solesse.  I googled it up specifying UK and London, but can't find a supplier.  I also checked out the Berry Brothers and the Bibendum wine sites and they don't stock it (ditto Majestic and Oddbins).  Where, oh where can I easily purchase just one or two bottles of it  (Don't wan't to commit to a case yet)?

It's Jacques SELOSSE. I googled it and the second reply was Berry Bros again (no, I'm not on their payroll).

clb

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