Star quality from your armchair

Anthony Rose finds independent wine merchants often have more to offer than supermarkets - and no hint of stuffiness

Supermarkets have done such a thorough job in taking the stuffiness out of wine drinking, that wine merchants are finding themselves often bypassed. But although some wine merchants still deserve their old-school- tie image, those doing best in today's competitive market have jettisoned classism and ageism.

Without the resources of the giants, it is hard for today's new breed of independent specialist to spread the word that mail-order shopping is much more convenient than going out to buy your wines. Quality wines of character and personality are far less likely to see the light of day on a supermarket shelf than on one of their wine lists. Add to that the benefits of advice, regular offers, mouthwatering lists, and delivery, sometimes free, and it is surprising that everyone with a list of professionals to call on, from accountant to aromatherapist, does not include an independent wine merchant in their address book.

Thanks to Simon Farr and Willie Lebus' adventurous approach to buying (and selling) wine, Bibendum, based at Primrose Hill, north London, has become one of the country's leading independent wine merchants. Gradually building up a specialist portfolio of mainly grower's wines of character, but limited availability, Bibendum supplies private customers, and, increasingly, hotels and restaurants. At a recent tasting, Bibendum set out its Italian stall, which, for wine drinkers looking for an introduction to fine Italian wines, provides an ideal base from which to start.

At the bottom of the range, the Uvello Bianco, £3.49, is a pleasant enough spagbol white. The Brunori 1993 Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesu, £4.99, is a wine of real character, spritz fresh but with plenty of honeyed rich- ness and an unusual spiciness.

In a land in which star whites are rare, star soaves rarer, the 1993 Suavia Soave Classico, £5.25, is a model of aromatic fruit, nutty flavours and crispness, while the 1993 Villa Simone Frascati Superiore, £5.99, also has a surprising depth in a more buttery, almost chardonnay-like mould. The 1993 Montenidoli Vernaccia di San Gimignano, £6.95 is a rich, dry white with the characteristic vernaccia bite to it.

The 1993 Malvira Roero Arneis, £5.75 is a spicy dry white of excellent character. Quintarelli's quirky 1993 Bianco Secco, £6.75, is strictly for lovers of handwritten labels. From Friuli, Italy's top white wine region, come two interesting whites from Liende power-dressed in black. The 1991 Liende la Viarte, £ 10.99, mixes tocai, picolit, sauvignon blanc and riesling in a slightly smoky, sweet, but lively blend. Even more deliciously drinkable, the 1993 la Viarte Tocai Friulano, £ 8.99, is spicy and fresh, an excellent example of the native tocai friulano grape variety.

From its name, you could be forgiven for taking the 1991 Vallarom Chardonnay, vendemmia tardiva, £ 13.75, to be sweet. But it's dry, the late (October) harvest signalling super-ripe, richly buttery chardonnay. For sweet tooths, the 1991 Suavia la Boccara, Recioto di Soave (37 cl), £8.99, is almondy and sweetly fruity with an elegantly dry after-taste. Maria Borio's golden handprint adorns the the 1991 Avie' Moscato (50 cl), £12.49, bottle,with its Aqua Libra-like, melon and cucumber aromas and intriguing, stem-ginger- like fruit.

Three fine youthful reds: the 1992 Nebbiolo delle Langhe, Vino da Tavola, Malvira, £5.75, a wine full of ripe nebbiolo fruit and typically, for the variety, chewy tannin; the excellent, grassy 1993 Cabernet Franc, Friuli, Vigneti Le Monde, from Pistoni, £5.95, with its sweetly juicy, well-balanced fruitiness, and the velvet-textured 1993 Eraldo Viberti Dolcetto d'Alba, £6.99, a ripe, succulently fruity dolcetto. Talenti's Montalcino reds, too, are dangerously drinkable. The 1992 Rosso di Montalcino, £7.99, is an aromatic, sweetly silky Tuscan red with no hard edges at all, and the 1989 Brunello di Montalcino, £14.49, is a wine of intense aromatic power, gorgeously succulent fruit, and with the added backbonelacking in the Rosso.

Among a clutch of chiantis, my favourite is the 1992 Podere 11 Palazzino Chianti Classico, £7.65, with its herby sangiovese character and understated, elegantly soft fruit. The 1988 Roi la Viarte, £ 10.99, is rather sexy stuff, with a strong roasted coffee-bean oak smokiness, but good underlying fruit. But Viberti's 1989 Barolo, £ 14.99, although good on fruit concentration, is a mite over-oaked for my tastebuds.

Bibendum is at 113 Regents Park Road, London NW1 8UE. (071-722 5577). Minimum purchase is for one case of 12 bottles, which can be mixed. Prices include VAT. From this month, delivery is free nationwide in mainland England.

peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
Lewis Hamilton will start the Singapore Grand Prix from pole, with Nico Rosberg second and Daniel Ricciardo third
F1... for floodlit Singapore Grand Prix
Arts and Entertainment
'New Tricks' star Dennis Waterman is departing from the show after he completes filming on two more episodes
tvHe is only remaining member of original cast
Arts and Entertainment
tvHighs and lows of the cast's careers since 2004
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Fans hold up a scarf at West Ham vs Liverpool
footballAfter Arsenal's clear victory, focus turns to West Ham vs Liverpool
New Articles
i100... she's just started school
New Articles
Life and Style
Couples have been having sex less in 2014, according to a new survey
Arts and Entertainment
musicBiographer Hunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original manuscripts
New Articles
i100... despite rising prices
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    IT Administrator - Graduate

    £18000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: ***EXCELLENT OPPORTUNITY FO...

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    Day In a Page

    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam