Wine - Whinging and wining
IT HASN'T been a vintage year for news. If the many headlines splashed across our pages in 2008 had to be assessed as a wine, they would be decidedly iffy, not so much corked as infected with volatile acidity, sent back to the cellar in disgust, off.
"Why can't you tell us some good news," one exasperated reader wrote to me in November after a particularly black week on the financial markets. I pointed out that this column always enjoyed an upbeat tone, and promised to search out some encouraging information. I didn't need to look very far.
Douglas Wood, one of Scotland's youngest, brightest and most energetic wine merchants, has expanded his firm, WoodWinters – based in Bridge of Allan, Stirling – into Edinburgh.
Despite the recession, Wood, who set up the firm with his wife Cara in 2005, has opened a shop in the capital's Southside, and plans are afoot for similar ventures in Glasgow and Perth.
The first time I wrote about Wood was when he stocked a particular Chilean wine, Tabali, that I had tasted in Santiago but had never found in the UK. In that column, I said I nearly kissed him, so when I heard he was opening up just a few miles from our offices, I had to admit to Mrs Lyons that I had the same urge again.
WoodWinters is a wine-lover's dream. Packed with characterful, individual, expressive wines, it is the sort of shop in which you can happily while away a Saturday morning. It's as far removed as you can get from the aisles of dreary wine you struggle to comprehend in the supermarket.
Wood, who tastes more than 5,000 wines a year, is so convinced of the quality of his list that he doesn't do discounts. This quality has been noticed. After just eight months in business, the firm picked up the best Scottish Independent Merchant award at the International Wine Challenge. Last month, it was runner-up Independent Wine Merchant of the Year in the Decanter World Wine Awards.
"The blend of our business model, which is one-third wholesale, one-third retail and one-third private clients, has worked really well," says Wood, "and we thought that formula would fit Edinburgh.
"The next year is going to see a lot of changes in the way people buy wine and how they spend their money. But we see an opportunity, as we stock wines that have character and are not put on a shelf by an accountant with a fake half-price."
Wood has been clever in recruiting John Ritchie and Mike Billinghurst, who earned their spurs in Valvona & Crolla's wine department.
One idea WoodWinters is looking at is to install a Cruvinet system in its shops. This Willy Wonka-type contraption enables 24 wines to be served on tap, in much the same way as draught lager. When poured, the wine is instantly displaced with nitrogen. Oxygen never gets into the system, so the wine never spoils. This seems eminently sensible – after all, if you are spending more than 10 on a bottle of wine, why not try it first?
Bianchi Brut NV, Mendoza, Argentina, 12%, 8.75
A great-value New Year's fizz, this has plenty of meat on the palate, with a crunchy, yeasty, toasty kick and a satisfyingly long finish.
1997 Porto Krohn Colheita, 20%, 11.50
We really ought to drink more port. This is a wonderful example, packed with nutty, spicy Christmas flavours and dollops of ripe, black-cherry fruit.
2007 Les Monts Damns, Franois Cotat, Sancerre, France, 13%, 24
Just the sort of serious kit a good wine merchant should list. Cotat is one of Sancerre's most idiosyncratic vintners, producing wines of outstanding complexity and individual character. This is a super match with goat's cheese.
Stockists WoodWinters Wines and Whiskies, 16 Henderson Street, Bridge of Allan (01786 834894); 91 Newington Road, Edinburgh (0131 667 2760, www.woodwinters.com)
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Wednesday 19 June 2013
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