Something rather wonderful is happening with wine retailing in the UK.
It didn’t begin well: Over the last 20 years, we’ve seen virtually all our mainstream wine merchants go bust – something catalogued by Tim Atkin in his recent article “The Fall of the British Wine Empire“. It’s been goodbye Unwins and Peter Dominic, adieu Thresher and Winerack, and on at least two occasions very nearly hasta luego Oddbins.
The almost total takeover of wine retailing by the supermarkets (Only Majestic remains as a serious challenger) has not been positive for choice and excitement on our shelves. However, the gaping chasm left on the high-street is slowly but surely being filled by a new breed of small, independent wine merchants. Generally, these establishments are opened, run and staffed by enthusiasts, and feature small-production, artisanal wines of the sort that will never be found on the shelves of Tesburys or Sainsda.
Last June, I wrote about Market Row Wines opening in my spiritual home, Brixton. I’m delighted to see Market Row going from strength to strength – I’ll be posting a full update shortly. But only months after that historic opening (the first time Brixton has ever had a wine merchant, as far as I’m aware), a second wine shop opened in what is technically a Brixton postcode (SW9). OK, to locals, Landor Road is Clapham North, but that’s splitting hairs.
I’ve been to Dvine cellars (the name is the weakest part of the proposition) on a few occasions. It’s a great place to buy wine, and drink it – The big secret being a comfortable enoteca-like basement where staff will happily serve you a bottle of anything on the shelves, for a miniscule mark-up. And with decent glasses too.
Dvine is the brainchild of ozzie Greg Andrews, a man with fire in his belly and pride in the wines of his home country. And why not. He is ably assisted by Olly (who shall be known only as “Olly” because I still don’t know his surname. Sorry, Olly), who provides the perfect foil to Greg’s New World passion. If you talk to Greg, you might just go home with a chunk of the Barossa Valley in your bag. If Olly’s on duty, you may find yourself purchasing Poulsard from the Jura or even a rather fine bubbly from Wales.
First of the summer wine
Not only do these guys know about wine, they can really organise a
party portfolio tasting. Last Wednesday’s event, to showcase their summer range, was one of the most unstuffy and enjoyable I’ve attended this year.
Dvine not only packed out their two floors with some 60 loyal customers, but also invited along some globe trotting winemakers and importers who were in town for Raw fair and LIWF. Notably, the irrepressible Tom Shobbrook was showing his wares, whilst dishing out hugs and kisses to all and sundry. The man’s enthusiasm for his wines (which are produced biodynamically, with the minimum intervention possible), and life in general, was infectious.
What really impressed me was the very high quality of Dvine’s range, across all price levels. Here are three picks which, bang for buck, I found particularly outstanding:
This South of France blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon and Sauvignon Gris packs a punch way beyond its price, with an attractive green pepper note and creamy texture. Bone dry, characterful and refreshing. Organically produced.
Nervy and vibrant, with a hint of Granny Smith and a lick of wet stones on the finish. A wine that’s so alive, it could wake the dead.
Muscular, leathery fruit, great structure – so nice to see a Chilean red which strives for elegance, over new oak or in-your-face ripeness.
And whilst Tom Shobbrook’s wines may require a little more outlay, they are unquestionably worth it. My notes are brief, I was tired and emotional.
Ripe, but without sacrificing freshness. Super elegant, hint of lime leaves and a refined mineral finish.
Very focused, pure dark fruit. Gorgeous texture and finesse, with just a soupçon of Mourvedre’s “animal” character.
Dvine offer 10% off the above prices, if you order at least 12 bottles online.
It’s great to see a small, local wine merchant turning their customers onto great wines, with such enthusiasm and unbridled joy. Cheers!
Dvine can be found at 74 Landor Road, London SW9 9PH – a short walk from Clapham North tube.