THE MAILMAN COMETH

RICHARD EHRLICH'S BEVERAGE REPORT: Fine wines are only a phone call away - even if you live in the Hebrides

"I'M JUST popping out to the off-licence for a bottle of horse- piss." No one ever said it, but they sure did it often enough. In the bad old days, let's say 20 years ago for the sake of convenience, it was incredibly difficult to find a decent bottle of wine. Only those who lived near a dedicated independent - or had the dosh to shop at an up-market wine merchant - stood a chance of avoiding the last-minute dash for equine urine.

Now, of course, we are surrounded by good wine at every price level. And even if you live in the Hebrides, you can still drink well through the defining shopping technique of the age: mail order. To be sure, you lose part of the pleasure. Shelf-surfing can introduce you to many a new region or grape variety; it is enjoyable, educational.

But while I hope the shelves remain well stocked and well browsed, I also know that mail-order outfits are a good thing. And regular readers of this column will know that I recommend their wines often. My favourites in the field are a varied bunch, from specialists like the Australian Wine Club (0800 716 893) to generalists like Adnams (01502 727 222). Other specialists of note include Beaujolais supplier Roger Harris Wines (01603 880 171), whose list is a must-read for those who love this appellation, and the Wiltshire-based Yapp Brothers (01747 860 423), who cover the Rhone and the Loire better than anyone in the country.

Latest entrant into the mail-order biz is the "Oddbins Delivers" initiative from Britain's best nationwide chain. They had long sought a way to take the contents of their Fine Wine Shops to customers who didn't live near one, and to sell special parcels too small to roll out into the shops. This is the solution.

Oddbins Delivers' first offering is a case of six cheap but tasty whites: none sold through the shops, all (hurray!) sealed with Supremecorqs. The case includes two interesting blends, the Montesierra Macabeo-Chardonnay 1997, Somontano, from Spain, and a 60/40 per cent pairing of Chenin Blanc and Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa: Swartland Dry White 1998. It sells for pounds 36 plus pounds 3.95 delivery, so you will not be spending a fortune. They have a freephone number (0800 328 2323) for this case only. Other offerings (including a dozen mid-priced South Africans sold at a 15 per cent discount to shop prices) can be ordered from the main number: 0870 601 0015. And there's more to come.

In the meantime, two unrelated wines from another couple of my mail-order faves. Sometimes a wine seems a mite pricey when I first see it but then turns into a bin-end and looks like much better value. This is what's happened to Lay & Wheeler's Macon-Fuisse Domaine de la Collonge 1996, Gilles Noblet (pounds 7.94, 01206 764 446). This has been reduced from pounds 10.73, and its fine nose and subtle biscuity fruit are well worth pounds 8. Another higher-priced white worth sampling: Soave Classico Superiore 1996, Stefano Inama (pounds 7.83, Layton's, 0171 388 4567). Big, full of character, and proving that excellence can be found in wines that one usually regards as bog- standard.

Mail order sales are starting around now, and next week I'll be drawing your attention to some of the juciest offers.

And finally ... Further to my deprecating remarks on the prices being charged for 1997 claret, and for the much more successful 1997 Sauternes and Barsac, here's some good news. When Majestic saw what was being charged in Bordeaux they decided to cut margins so they could sell the wines at prices reflecting their true value. Result: prices up to 25 per cent below those offered by some en primeur merchants. Worth a punt? If you think so, the offer list is on show at Majestic stores. Comparable prices can be found at David J Watt Fine Wines Ltd in Leicestershire (01530 413 953) and John Armit Wines (0171 727 6846). But seekers after the great Sauternes/Barsac wines should know supplies are limited. The latest mailing from Lay & Wheeler puts "SOLD" next to most of their Bordeaux sweeties. You have been warned. And I have placed my order.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Place Blanche, Paris, 1961, shot by Christer Strömholm
photographyHow the famous camera transformed photography for ever
Arts and Entertainment
The ‘Westmacott Athlete’
art
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tv Some of the characters appear to have clear real-life counterparts
News
Brooks is among a dozen show-business professionals ever to have achieved Egot status
people
Arts and Entertainment
A cut above: Sean Penn is outclassed by Mark Rylance in The Gunman
film review
Arts and Entertainment
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
James Franco and Zachary Quinto in I Am Michael

Film review Michael Glatze biopic isn't about a self-hating gay man gone straight

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the movie 'Get Hard'
tvWill Ferrell’s new film Get Hard receives its first reviews
Arts and Entertainment
Left to right: David Cameron (Mark Dexter), Nick Clegg (Bertie Carvel) and Gordon Brown (Ian Grieve)
tvReview: Ian Grieve gets another chance to play Gordon Brown... this is the kinder version
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman in the first look picture from next year's Sherlock special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Because it wouldn’t be Glastonbury without people kicking off about the headline acts, a petition has already been launched to stop Kanye West performing on the Saturday night

music
Arts and Entertainment
Molly Risker, Helen Monks, Caden-Ellis Wall, Rebekah Staton, Erin Freeman, Philip Jackson and Alexa Davies in ‘Raised by Wolves’

TV review
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
James May, Jeremy Clarkson and Richard Hammond in the Top Gear Patagonia Special

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Game of Thrones will run for ten years if HBO gets its way but showrunners have mentioned ending it after seven

Game of Thrones
Arts and Entertainment
Mans Zelmerlow will perform 'Heroes' for Sweden at the Eurovision Song Contest 2015

music
Arts and Entertainment
Elizabeth (Heida Reed) and Ross Poldark (Aiden Turner) in the BBC's remake of their 1975 original Poldark

Poldark review
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

    Promises, promises

    But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
    The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

    The death of a Gaza fisherman

    He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat
    Saudi Arabia's airstrikes in Yemen are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Saudi airstrikes are fuelling the Gulf's fire

    Arab intervention in Yemen risks entrenching Sunni-Shia divide and handing a victory to Isis, says Patrick Cockburn
    Zayn Malik's departure from One Direction shows the perils of fame in the age of social media

    The only direction Zayn could go

    We wince at the anguish of One Direction's fans, but Malik's departure shows the perils of fame in the age of social media
    Young Magician of the Year 2015: Meet the schoolgirl from Newcastle who has her heart set on being the competition's first female winner

    Spells like teen spirit

    A 16-year-old from Newcastle has set her heart on being the first female to win Young Magician of the Year. Jonathan Owen meets her
    Jonathan Anderson: If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    If fashion is a cycle, this young man knows just how to ride it

    British designer Jonathan Anderson is putting his stamp on venerable house Loewe
    Number plates scheme could provide a licence to offend in the land of the free

    Licence to offend in the land of the free

    Cash-strapped states have hit on a way of making money out of drivers that may be in collision with the First Amendment, says Rupert Cornwell
    From farm to fork: Meet the Cornish fishermen, vegetable-growers and butchers causing a stir in London's top restaurants

    From farm to fork in Cornwall

    One man is bringing together Cornwall's most accomplished growers, fishermen and butchers with London's best chefs to put the finest, freshest produce on the plates of some of the country’s best restaurants
    Robert Parker interview: The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes

    Robert Parker interview

    The world's top wine critic on tasting 10,000 bottles a year, absurd drinking notes and New World wannabes
    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    Don't believe the stereotype - or should you?

    We exaggerate regional traits and turn them into jokes - and those on the receiving end are in on it too, says DJ Taylor
    How to make your own Easter egg: Willie Harcourt-Cooze shares his chocolate recipes

    How to make your own Easter egg

    Willie Harcourt-Cooze talks about his love affair with 'cacao' - and creates an Easter egg especially for The Independent on Sunday
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef declares barbecue season open with his twist on a tradtional Easter Sunday lamb lunch

    Bill Granger's twist on Easter Sunday lunch

    Next weekend, our chef plans to return to his Aussie roots by firing up the barbecue
    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    Joe Marler: 'It's the way I think the game should be played'

    The England prop relives the highs and lows of last Saturday's remarkable afternoon of Six Nations rugby
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?

    Cricket World Cup 2015

    Has the success of the tournament spelt the end for Test matches?
    The Last Word: Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Justin Gatlin knows the price of everything, the value of nothing