For a long time I have been close to despair about the wines a great many UK consumers buy, where they buy them and how they are offered for sale. Nowadays the majority of wine is bought from supermarkets and in the main the ranges are pretty dull and reflect what sells rather than a desire to lead and excite the customer.
Well, perhaps there is the beginnings of hope that this could change. The demise of Thresher/First Quench two years ago was both a blow to the independent wine sector and a huge opportunity, which coupled with Oddbin’s double collapse could well transform the landscape of wine retailing in this country.
Thresher’s end meant that there were hundreds of places all around the country that were no longer served by a dedicated wine shop – of any quality. This was then exacerbated by Oddbins also going under which left Majestic as the sole multiple independent. However, many of the people who worked in these stores had a real passion for wine which it seems they want to share with the British wine buying public.
A huge number of truly independent wine shops are opening up to fill the gap left by the former multiples and it seems that many of them are run by former Thresher people. These vary in size from small groups, like the new Wine Rack to one off stand alone stores. Some of them are fine wine specialists, some specialise in specific regions, some have an interesting angle and some are good traditional general wine shops.
There might be something wonderfully perverse and British in dozens of people working for a company that falls in ruins around them and when they come out the other side think – I know what I’ll do, I’ll open a wine shop. Hope over experience? Let’s hope not.
I will report further on some more of these places soon, but thought I would start with my new local wine shop. One of the owners used to work for Threshers Wine Rack and the original plan had been to revitalise one of their sites, but life brought them to Worcester Park in Surrey where there had never been a Thresher or a Wine Rack, so they had to start from scratch.
Arét and Mislav Kapetanović appear an exotic couple for the area as he is Croatian and Arét is half Nigerian and half Hungarian. They met while studying law, but he was already into wine having worked for a bottling company in Croatia. Arét has a somewhat complex CV and she caught the wine bug while in bar management and running an events company, but her first love is singing and song writing and she continues to perform as well as running the Vinbin wine shop with her husband.
They are a delightful couple who are trying to do something that is very difficult and do it well. Their range is wide and covers all the bases from happy commercial wines – 3 for £10 – to more serious offerings – Errazuriz and Montes from Chile for instance – to their true love – quirky boutique wines. They have something to suit all pockets and tastes, but are most proud of the interesting and different wines they offer at £8-£12 a bottle.
Some wines from Vinbin that have impressed me are:
This is a 70% Alvarinho to 30% Trajadura blend – Trajadura is generally considered the more acidic of the 2 grapes.
The nose was rich, creamy and leesy with an underlying mineral and floral quality.
The palate was surprisingly fleshy and succulent with a juicy nectarine-like texture balanced by a seam of clean acidity and a lovely smoky leesy complexity.
It was a medium-bodied dry white with a long, pure finish beautifully balanced between crisp acidity and ripe green fruit. I really liked this – 91/100 points.
Extremely drinkable and very well balanced supple and well crafted blend of 25% Garnacha, 40% Syrah, 15%Tempranillo, 5% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Sauvignon.
It has just the right amount of weight,concentration and ripe fruit without being jammy – 89/100 points
A delightful example of this often underrated style – simple, but delightfully aromatic, fresh and elegant.
This is not fully sparkling, but has enough fizz to emphasise the lightness and balance the slight touch of crystalised pineapple sweetness – 89/100 points
So much for my favourites, but what about Arét and Mislav – which wines do they love?
Arét’s 2 wines were:
2009 Ranui Pinot Gris
Wairau Valley, Marlborough, New Zealand @ £11.99
2009 Domaine des Lauriers Picpoul de Pinet
A.C. Coteaux du Languedoc-Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc, France @ £8.99
Mislav’s 2 wines were:
Montenegro @ £9.99
2005 Rioja Fincas de Landaluce
D.O. Rioja, Rioja Alavesa, Spain @ £11.99
I always urge my students to buy at least some of their wine from a wine shop where they can be served by people with passion for what they do and where they can try something a little different – Vinbin is just such a place and I hope my fellow locals cherish it and make it a permanent presence here.
The Vinbin, 194 Cheam Common Road, Worcester Park, Surrey, KT4 8QW, United Kingdom
0208 329 9021