My Round: Cyber connoisseurs

It's a vintage year for websites with high-tech wine lovers offering great deals, wise words and the latest booze news
Click to follow
Indy Lifestyle Online

In 1997, this column began musing about the Internet's varied possibilities for buying and learning about drink. Since those ancient days we have seen a dotcom boom, a dotcom bust, and finally - prosaic but reassuring - a dotcom return to sanity. The current offerings for drinkers in cyberspace are generally marked by a sound grasp of what's possible and a sensible avoidance of what's not. What isn't possible: a transformation of every aspect of the wine business. What is possible: access to most major retailers, to a deep pool of knowledge, and to some interesting nooks and crannies.

In 1997, this column began musing about the Internet's varied possibilities for buying and learning about drink. Since those ancient days we have seen a dotcom boom, a dotcom bust, and finally - prosaic but reassuring - a dotcom return to sanity. The current offerings for drinkers in cyberspace are generally marked by a sound grasp of what's possible and a sensible avoidance of what's not. What isn't possible: a transformation of every aspect of the wine business. What is possible: access to most major retailers, to a deep pool of knowledge, and to some interesting nooks and crannies.

One welcome development is the wine e-newsletter, delivered free of charge. I subscribe to two, both of which are crisply written and to the point. One is Andy's Scribblings ( www.andys-scribblings.co.uk). This is a lively, unpretentious source of news, tasting notes and thoughts. Most of the coverage deals with wine, but there is some beer and a few spirits in the mix. Andy's palate is reliable, and you can't argue with the cost. My other fave is Route du Vin ( www.routeduvin.net) published from San Francisco. It describes itself as "a digest of the best wine articles from around the world. Our philosophy: no 100-point wine scores, no inside-baseball industry gossip, no nose-out-of-joint attitude - just a love of good wine". That's a fair description. It scans the world's wine press for meritorious articles, linking to its selection for the week. And it must have good taste, since it has featured at least one of this column's instalments.

A significant development is the massive expansion of on-line buying opportunities, most promisingly in specialised areas. One site, www.terroirlanguedoc.co.uk, I wrote of last week. Another, the German specialist www.thewinebarn.co.uk, offering a small selection of outstanding growers, bravely takes on a difficult area. Roger Harris ( www.rogerharriswines.co.uk), the indefatigable Beaujolais specialist, has added a select crew from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa to his range. And if these enterprising companies can make it, others will be encouraged to join in. Here's hoping.

The glug-net though still lags behind in the development of a specialised on-line forum to match www.eGullet.com, the US-based food forum. I know of just one, www.letstalkwine.com, and so far it hasn't become a hotbed of informed debate for a large group of imbibers. Where eGulleteers pile in on an hourly basis, the letstalkwine crowd don't seem to visit very often. If you want to talk about drinks on-line, eGullet's "Beverages and Libations" pages offer more to mull on. Maybe this will change. No evidence of it yet.

One of the most interesting developments, and a recent one, comes from an old favourite of this column. Tom Cannavan's www.wine-pages.com is one of the most useful on-line resources, with good contributors, lively writing and useful links. Now he has teamed up with some of the country's leading retailers to procure discounted cases selected by Cannavan himself. The retailers range from big nationals such as Majestic to small specialists including Seckford Wines and Domaine Direct. Among its current offerings, the "Burgundy Tasting Kit" from Domaine Direct looks really great: two bottles each of three red and three whites, all from small producers, at £132.50.

The Wine-Pages shop is a brave venture, as commercial link-ups can lead to accusations of editorial compromise. But it hasn't happened here, in fact Cannavan reports that the response has been "overwhelmingly positive" and merchants are "queuing up" to get in on the act. More proof that the drinking net has come a long way. It still has a way to go and I'm rooting for all of them.

Top Corks: Three springy whites

Tesco Finest Gavi 2003 £5.99 Gavi is notoriously difficult to produce at low cost, but this one's a honey: very typical citrus flavours and nice creaminess in the mouth.

Orangutan Limoux Chardonnay 2002, Comtes Cathare £8.49, Oddbins At Oddbins you'll learn why this nicely oaked, lemony-rich wine has such a peculiar name. Hint: it's in a good cause.

Torresoto Rioja 2002, Cuné £6.99, Marks & Spencer Traditionally made white Rioja is like oak juice seasoned with wine. This modern-style specimen keeps fruit and oak in balance. Impressive.

Comments