After the recent anti-alcohol rallying cry from the BMA, holding a wine tasting at its HQ could be thought of as akin to infiltrating Troy with a wooden horse. In this case, however, the footsoldiers of wine were there not to bury their enemy but rather to praise the endeavours of winemakers around the world making quality wines from boutique wineries. There's no precise definition as to what constitutes a boutique winery, but Judy Kendrick, who organised the event, explained: "In these days of the 'big brand', talk of minimum prices for alcohol and featureless bottles, it's essential to remember that we're in this business for the love of 'real' wine made by producers ... who are passionate about producing truly outstanding wines in limited quantities."
A first for the wine trade, it gave a number of the UK's less-heralded independent wine merchants a platform from which to show that they can offer small volumes of quality wines that the big retailers can't or won't touch. That may mean not just a walk or drive to your nearest store to pick up the wine, but the growing efficiency of the internet and mail order makes it every bit as easy and often more convenient to use an independent wine merchant. So, for Gauntley's of Nottingham (gauntley-wine.co.uk), for instance, it was a chance to showcase the excellent champagnes of their Ambonnay-based grower Eric Rodez, whose Blanc de Blancs, £34.95, is a chardonnay fizz of great finesse, while his Grands Vintages, £49.95, curiously semi-anglicised in name, is a magnificent blend of seven vintages from 1992 to 2000.
SWIG Wines (swig.co.uk) used the opportunity to show off growers from both Europe and the New World. Australian winemaker Tom Carson, ex Yarra Valley's Yering Station, was on hand to show his new brand Yabby Lake, whose elegant pinot noir from the Mornington Peninsula, £14.50, was matched by an exotic Yabby Lake Chardonnay, £21. Pyramid Valley is a tiny winery in New Zealand making excellent pinot noir, and its 2007 Eaton Vineyard Pinot Noir, £28, is a model of intensely flavoured mulberry and loganberry-filled fruit. Closer to home, a northern Rhône syrah stood out, the 2007 Les Hauts du Monteillet Syrah, £13.50, from Stéphane Montez, for the sweet peppery aromatic quality of its smoky-peppery Côte Rôtie-like fruitiness.
A new name to me, Colosanti (colosanti.co.uk) is a small wine merchant bringing in distinctive Italian wines. Among their small winery offerings, I was impressed by a polished, beautifully oaked modern dark cherry and damson-fruity barbera, the 2005 Tenuta Olim Bauda Barbera d'Asti Superiore Nizza, £16.25. From Le Marche, I loved the excellent 2005 Piantate Lunghe Conero DOCG Rossini, £20.65, an ultra-stylish red made from the montepulciano grape in Ancona's Monte Conero vineyards. It was full of vivid plum and mulberry fruit flavours with fresh acidity and oak bringing richness of texture.
If growers' wines of character excite you as much as they do me, I hope you'll come to the Wine Gang's Christmas Fair at London's Vinopolis on 7 November, timed to fulfil all your festive wine needs. I'll be on hand with my fellow tasters to walk you round to some personal favourites from over 600 wines and 50 exhibitors. The first five Independent readers to contact me at email@example.com will each get a free pair of tickets. See thewinegang.com/news.php or anthonyrosewine.comReuse content