Chatting to Patrick Sandeman at The Bunch's autumn press tasting, it was beyond anyone's worst nightmare that this most talented and popular of wine merchants would lose his life in a horrific skydiving accident a week later. A fixture of the London wine scene, Patrick, with his partner Charles Lea, transformed Lea & Sandeman's single Fulham shop into one of London's most impressive retailers.
Typically, Lea and Sandeman (leaandsandeman.co.uk) sourced unusual wines such as the 2011 Pulp Rouge Clos des Nines, £9.95, a spicily aromatic blend of syrah, carignan and alicante with a succulent, blackberry moreishness. Italy became another speciality and Patrick did a brilliant job in introducing wines from lesser-known grapes such as the 2010 Dolcetto d'Alba, Bric del Salto, Sottimano, £11.95, a cherry and plum thirst-quencher with classic sub-Alpine acidity.
Last year's decision by the Bunch's six independent merchants to show an under-£10 selection was repeated this autumn to good effect. Adnams' 2010 Selection White Burgundy, £9.99, was a model of a well-made, buttery chardonnay with a nutty aftertaste. From Mathieu Cosse, the 2010 Château la Coste Pentes Douces Coteaux d'Aix en Provence, £14.99, was zestily grapefruity, with barrel fermentation adding a textured creaminess (adnams.co.uk).
At under £10, Berry Bros' (bbr.com) 2011 Domaine La Salette, Côtes de Gascogne Blanc, £7.95, showed an exotic fragrance with a twist of citrusy fruitiness, while the 2009 Chianti Classico, Bibbiano, £14.50, displayed the classic sweet-red berry and herb aromas and sour cherry fruit of the sangiovese grape with a muscular, youthful grip.
Corney & Barrow (corneyandbarow.com) might not be your first port of call at under a tenner, but it managed it well, not least for a creamy-rich, herbal dry white in the 2009 Le G de Château Guiraud, £9.99, a classy white Bordeaux. For just £1 more, the excellent 2010 Côtes du Rhône Blanc Les Becs Fins from Tardieu-Laurent, £10.95, puffed out its chest in a ripe white Rhône blend whose peachy opulence was tinged with ginger spice.
Tanners of Shrewsbury (tanners-wines.co.uk) offered a vivid, plummy, autumnal Douro Valley blend of touriga nacional, touriga franc and tinta roriz in its 2010 Tanners Douro Red, £7.99, and a magnificent Rhône red in the vigorous, young, raspberry-spicy 2009 Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape, £42.30.
In the under-£10 category, Rhône and Loire specialists, Yapp Bros (yapp.co.uk) came up with a juicy, southern French red in the garrigue-scented 2010 Minervois Domaine Le Cazal Tradition, £9.75, while the moreish sweet-red berry and green-pepper fruit of the 2010 Domaine Filliatreau Vieilles Vignes, Saumur Champigny, £15.10, came as a fitting conclusion to the proceedings.