Food & Drink: Treasure Of The Indies

RICHARD EHRLICH'S BEVERAGE REPORT
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The Independent Culture
Last week we got supermarket wine-buyers to compile lists for "shopping by numbers". The requirements: three or four bottles to drink with the traditional Christmas meal. I wanted a list at pounds 20 or less, one between pounds 20 and pounds 30, and one - the fantasy list - for those able to spend more than pounds 30. This week, it's the turn of the independent merchants.

The supermarkets can't match the best independents in buying really unusual wines. Supermarkets have to look at what they can sell in large quantities. Indies, however, can take a chance on wines that may not have mass appeal, may not be to everyone's taste, but which are good of their type and just plain interesting for adventurous wine drinkers.

Here a few of them give their Christmas-menu selections. Four of these suppliers have just one or two retail shops, plus mail-order operations. The exception is London-based Fullers, which has 60-odd branches and therefore qualifies as a regional chain.

Not much more to add, except that it's nice to see so many fine Alsace wines and such a diverse bunch of choices for a single type of meal. Oh, one other thing: if you plan to buy by mail order from these suppliers, do it soon to be guaranteed delivery by the big day.

BIBENDUM

The first two lists don't include dessert wines. The Veuve Delaroy (pounds 30 list) is a bargain.

pounds 20 list

Cottin Freres Bourgogne Blanc 1995, pounds 6.50

La Piazza Rosso 1996, Tenuta Casalbaio, Sicily, pounds 3.95

De Trafford Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa, pounds 8.75

pounds 30 list

Champagne Veuve Delaroy Brut Reserve NV, pounds 8.99 (till 31 December)

Bernard Legland Chablis Premier Cru, pounds 8.75

Chateau Grand Lartigue 1993/4, Grand Cru St Emilion, pounds 10

Fantasy list

Champagne Pommery Cuvee Louise, pounds 49.99 (till 31 December)

Chateau L'Evangile 1993, Pomerol, pounds 49

Cottin Freres Chassagne Montrachet 1995, pounds 19.50

Chateau Climens Premier Cru Sauternes 1991, pounds 16 for 37.5cl

ADNAMS

Director Simon Loftus notes that the Fantasy List is for him a reality: he and his family will be drinking it at Christmas. His first choice for the pudding in that list is the Recioto, but knowing that it's "unusual", he has proposed a more conventional alternative.

pounds 20 list

Ernst Loosen Dr L Riesling Trocken 1996, pounds 6.20

Conti Contini Sangiovese di Toscana 1995, pounds 5.95

Brown Brothers Late Picked Muscat 1995, Milawa, pounds 6.75

pounds 30 list

Vina Godeval 1996, Valdeorras (Galicia), pounds 8.95

Saintsbury Garnet Pinot Noir 1996, Carneros, pounds 7.95

Chateau des Eyssards Saussignac Cuvee Flavie 1995 (SW France), pounds 9.95

Fantasy list

Riesling Vieilles Vignes, Schlossberg Grand Cru 1995, Domaine Blanck, pounds 15.95

Ridge Vineyards Mataro 1995, Santa Cruz, pounds 14.65

Moscato d'Asti La Spinetta 1996, Rivetti, pounds 7.95 or

Recioto Spumante Bertani 1987, pounds 12.50

LAYTONS

Chosen by Richard Berkley Matthews. Laytons Champagne, which always does well in tastings chez moi, is on special offer at pounds 9.95, but you have to buy five cases to be eligible.

pounds 20 list

Chateau Civrac Lagrange, Graves Blanc, 1995, pounds 5.95

Cotes-du-Rhone Rouge, Hand Picked, Domaine Charvin, pounds 7

Chateau Menots, Graves Superieur, 1995, pounds 7.05

pounds 30 list

Laytons Champagne Brut NV, pounds 11.95/pounds 9.95

Cotes de Beaune, Les Longes, Domaine Lois Dufouleur 1995, pounds 8.81

Warres Crusted Port, Bottled 1989, pounds 9.95

Fantasy list

Deutz Classic Champagne Brut NV, pounds 15.95

Chateau Gruaud Larose, St Julien, 1993, pounds 23.99

Gewurztraminer, Grand Cru Furstentum, Vendanges Tardives, Domaine Paul Blanck 1990, pounds 27.42

LAY & WHEELER

Chosen by Hugo Rose MW. The fantasy list looks particularly mouth-watering; the Italian red is a "super Tuscan" from Angelo Gaja.

pounds 20 list

Cremant d'Alsace, Meyer-Fonne, pounds 8.75

Cadet de Cazenove 1995, Bordeaux, pounds 5.98

Mavrodaphne of Patras, Cambas (Greece), pounds 5.83

pounds 30 list

Allan Scott Sauvignon Blanc 1997 (New Zealand), pounds 8.49

Domaine de Bourgneuf 1995, Pomerol, pounds 11.35

Lay & Wheeler Vintage Character Port (Smith-Woodhouse), pounds 9.23

Fantasy list

Lay & Wheeler Brut Extra Quality Champagne, pounds 14.24 each (pounds 12.10 by the case)

Promis 1994, Vino da Tavola, Pieve Santa Restituta, pounds 13.77

Gewurztraminer Grand Cru Steingrubler, Vendange Tardive, Albert Mann, pounds 18.88 for50cl

FULLER'S

Chosen by buying controller Roger Higgs. Note the special offers on some wines, especially the Brossault Champagne - completely irresistible at pounds 7.99 a bottle.

pounds 20 list

Le Pot Muscat, Vin de Pays Cotes Catalanes, 1996, pounds 3.49

Carato Barrique Chardonnay 1996, pounds 5.49

La Palma Reserve Cabernet Merlot 1996, pounds 4.99

Domaine de Brial, Muscat de Rivesaltes, 1996, pounds 3.99 for 37.5cl

pounds 30 list

Pinot Grigio Pecile Grave del Friuli Bidoli 1996, pounds 4.79

Oyster Bay Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 1996, pounds 6.49

Casa Lapostolle Rapel Merlot 1996, pounds 6.49

Champagne Brossault Brut, pounds 11.99 (pounds 7.99 if you buy 3 bottles)

Fantasy list

Hunters Sauvignon Blanc Marlborough 1996, pounds 9.49

Vavasour Single Vineyard Awatere Valley 1996, pounds 14.99

Don Maximiano Special Reserve 1993, pounds 9.99 (pounds 7.49 if you buy two)

Champagne Joseph Perrier NV, pounds 13.99 (till 12 December)

! For further details contact: Bibendum 0171 722 5577; Adnams 01502 727220; Laytons 0171 388 5081; Lay & Wheeler 01206 764446; Fuller's 0181 996 2000

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