It is quite a long time since I sold wine for a living, but I am well aware that I am often critical of how others retail wine – especially the supermarkets. With that in mind together with some nostalgic thoughts for the shop managing days of my youth, I was thrilled to be asked to create a wine range for a brand new wine shop. It is one thing to say how it ought to be, to rant and criticise, but quite another to do it yourself.
Of course as soon as I was asked to take this on all my clear-cut certainties went out of the window and I started worrying if I was doing it right and I had to keep reminding myself that the wine was not all for me, it must have wines that other people will enjoy too. If that means stocking Pinot Grigio, then so be it, but let’s make it one that is not totally bland!
My aim was to create a wine range that had something for everyone, offered good quality, great value for money and was exciting into the bargain. Of course what constitutes exciting can vary enormously, some wines are exciting by merely being whacky and unusual, some by being really great examples of what they are and some just by being amazing value.
We opened last week and I spent most of Saturday there talking to customers about the wine range and selling some too, which was a very satisfying feeling. It is early days, but from the reactions I was receiving it looks as though the good people of Stoke Newington liked the range that I put together – I must own up to being quite proud of it myself.
The shop by the way is Le Parc Delicatessen, 191 Stoke Newington Church Street, Stoke Newington, London, N16 0UL – Telephone: 020 7923 0200 and it is a lovely place. The ground floor sells coffee, pastries, pizzas, cheeses, grocery and a wonderful array of tempting gift items sourced by my friend Cengiz Caglar, but tucked away in the corner is a spiral staircase to the wine shop downstairs. It is a terrific space with lovely shelves made of old wood, from the moment I saw it I knew this was going to be a good wine shop – as long as I got my bit right!
If you find yourself in the area do drop in and see if something appeals to you, I have created a range of 170 wines that concentrates on the £6-£20 price range and offers loads of wines that I think really over deliver on quality at their price. The range includes many different highlights – lovely everyday drinking wines, wonderful more expensive bottles and some cracking wines that would be perfect for a dinner party.
Obviously I like, or appreciate them all, but I believe that a wine range should be exciting to look at and offer real points of interest – here are a few of the stand stand out wines for me:
Some of the white wines that excite me most:
I love Verdejo and want it to be more popular than it is and this example shows why I like it. This is an honest, fresh, lively dry wine, not unlike a Sauvignon Blanc, but a tad softer.
Stunning value at £6.99 a bottle – I am proud of this and if I lived nearby would down a bottle most days!
Sandford Estate Brut
A stunningly good fizz made from Chardonnay, elegant and stylish with real weight from the ripe fruit and lees ageing.
We have other lovely sparkling wines as well including Cava, Prosecco and Champagne, but this is a gem at £11.99 a bottle.
This is a delicious wine, Gros Manseng should be better known. In many ways this tastes like a really good Sauvignon Blanc that has just a little touch of sweetness. A delicious aperitif and perfect with melon or with spicy and Chinese food, or rich pâtés – or onion soup…
A great wine at £9.99 a bottle.
Gavi is made from the Cortese, another grape that should be better known! I have liked this wine for years, it is a single vineyard, dry, unoaked Gavi with creamy notes from lees ageing that gives it a lovely kiss of complexity.
Terrific wine at £8.99 a bottle.
Albariño is very well known, but can often really disappoint as too many are dilute and dull – this is lovely, dry and crisp with vibrant fruit and balanced acidity.
Great wine at £10.99 a bottle.
2009 Quinta de Gomariz Loureiro
Vinho Verde, Minho, Portugal
Loureiro is grown over the border in Galicia too and is a terrific grape. This is a gorgeous example, fresh and zesty with ripe pink grapefruit characters.
Perfect summer wine at £10.99 a bottle.
Grüner can be a mixed bag too, so I was thrilled to find this crisp, delicately spicy mineral example from a great producer – it is a lovely glass of wine at £11.99 a bottle.
Of course this is just a small selection of the slightly more unusual white wines on offer, you will also a host of other wines, including find a Pinot Gris, a Gewurztraminer and a dry Riesling from the wonderful André Scherer in Alsace; some really good Chablis, Sancerre, Touraine Sauvignon, Pouilly-Fumé and Pouilly-Fuissé as well as an array of Sauvignons, Rieslings and Chardonnays from New Zealand, Chile, South Africa et al.
Some of the red wines that excite me most:
2009 Corbieres Château Fabré Cuveée des Jumelles
A gorgeous, richly fruity and soft red wine made from Carignan, Grenache, Mourvèdre, Syrah and Cinsault, this shows just how good those places in the south of France can be.
I really think this is lovely stuff for £9.99 a bottle.
2008 Juan Gil Silver Label Monastrell (aka Mourvèdre)
D.O. Jumilla, Spain
This often forgotten bit of Spain is now a rising star and Juan Gil is one of the leading innovators here – this is a big, rich and spicy wine that also offers beautifully vibrant, almost pretty fruit – this great wine is fast becoming one of Spain’s most sought after and is just £13.99 a bottle.
Smooth, richly fruity and spicy with chocolate notes, this Southern Italian red is full of character and perfect with a pizza or pasta or barbeque.
Lots of character for £8.99 a bottle.
2007 Château Beausejour
I have long been a fan of Fronsac wines, the least famous of the great districts of Bordeaux. It makes Merlot dominated wines not unlike nearby Pomerol and this is a lovely supple, elegant example.
Stunning claret for £13.99 a bottle.
2009 Juliénas Domaine du Clos du Chapitre
Juliénas, Beaujolais, France
Finding value in Beaujolais is not easy, especially if you want good quality as well. This wine is not cheap, but it is so good, rich and fruity and is so good with charcuterie that I felt we must have it.
A perfect light red for chilling at £9.99 a bottle.
What a wine, it is so fruity and vibrant and pure with ripe velvety tannins and a freshness that make sit a joy to drink with almost anything.
Delicious and full of character and only £9.99 a bottle.
It is oddly quite difficult to get California right as it either consists of somewhat tedious branded wines – that most consumers know – or the hugely expensive boutique wines. Well this little gem falls into neither category and is a great example of Zin, bursting with raspberry fruit with a dusting of cracked black pepper.
It is delicious, I love the Mr Kite-like label and it is just £7.99 a bottle.
Vinas Altair, Cachapoal Valley, Chile
Another wine I have known for many years, it is one of the finest wines from Chile and can happily grace any dinner table.
A wonderfully elegant and fine red for £18.99 a bottle.
Of course there are many more wines than this, many of which should have appeared in this list and would have done on a different day – that is the nature of wine, it is very like a music collection really.
I am also excited that we are getting some stunning Northern RhôneSyrah wines from multi award winning winemaker Jean-Luc Colombo – they arrive any day now – the Côtes du Rhône-Villages and Cairanne are wonderful too, as are the wines from Domaine de l’Hortus in Pic-St-Loup and the Carmenères from Tres Palacios in Chile’s Maipo Valley and the Shiraz wines from Grant Burge in the Barossa Valley and…well you get the picture.
The range will not stand still, but will evolve and always be a work in progress, but I aim to make sure it continues to reflect what I think a wine selection should be – exciting, delicious and great value for money. It was a terrific experience to use my skill to put a range of wines together and I look forward to hearing people’s thoughts about it over the coming weeks.
Drop in for a chat, I will be there from time to time conducting tastings.
More information about Le Parc will soon be available from their web site.