Christine Austin lets her taste buds tingle at two of Yorkshire's leading wine merchants.

It was sensible to arrive early at the Martinez Wine extravaganza in Ilkley. With more than 200 wines available to taste I was keen to get round as many of them as possible. Clearly many others thought the same so there was an enthusiastic crowd keeping the wine-pourers busy throughout the day.

This annual event is a splendid opportunity to taste many wines that you may not have encountered before, and if you like them you can buy at a discount on the day. The wines come from all points on the price list, so there were bargain basement Sauvignons and top-notch Riojas, all available to taste.

This is not the kind of event that a supermarket could ever organise, and that is the great advantage of an independent wine merchant. Here in Yorkshire we have some of the country’s best independents and usually the man (or woman) behind the counter has selected the range so they can steer you towards a bottle you will enjoy.

The real joy of independents is that the price you see is generally the price you pay, apart from the usual 10 per cent case discount. There is none of the supermarket nonsense where you don’t know whether the price on the ticket will be doubled or halved next week.
So, out of the 150 wines at Martinez, which ones really made my taste buds tingle?

Among the whites I liked Domaine Octavie Touraine Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (£10.99) for its crisp, minerally style, citrus-driven but with balance and length. If, perish the thought, you are getting a little tired of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc then a switch to a Loire Sauvignon will bring a different aspect of flavours.

I was also deeply impressed by Gavi di Gavi La Giustiniana from Lugarara 2014 (£16.99). This version is certainly not the cheapest around, but it is definitely the best I have tasted in a long while. La Giustiniana comes from a small estate and the wine has light, elegant, lime-zest and almonds notes with just an edge of creamy depth across the palate. If you have a creamy asparagus risotto in mind, then Gavi di Gavi would be a perfect match.

I was delighted to find the unique flavours of López de Heredia Gravonia Blanco Rioja 2006 (£18.99). This comes from a family-owned estate in Rioja where they mature their wines in the traditional way, all wax and lemons and a serious whiff of old school desks. Grill a fillet of sea bass with olives, fennel and lemon and pair this wine with it – it will be fabulous.

Among the reds I was blown away by the ripe blackberry fruit and soft peppery tones of Domaine la Bouïssiere 2013 Gigondas (£23.49). Once again this is small-estate winemaking, with the Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah grapes coming from a high altitude vineyard. Buy one bottle and taste it soon, then go back and buy more to tuck away for the next year for so.

Also Grenache-based is Floris Legere 2013, Alaviana (£11.95) from Calatayud in Spain. Lighter than the Gigondas, it is made in a crunchy, fruity style with a touch of oak and soft tannins. And if I could take just one wine away with me from it would be Tomás Postigo’s Crianza 2013 Ribera del Duero (£32). Tomás has made some of this region’s best wines and now he has established his own label and the result is spectacular. This wine has that dark-chocolate richness and a layer of cherry fruit that defines good Ribera.

When you have visited Martinez Wines in Ilkley (01943 600000) it is just a short drive over to Skipton where one merchant, the Wright Wine Company (01756 700886), has what is likely to be the best collection of whisky in the UK. Try to get someone else to drive you to this Tardis-like shop, since there are 1,100 different whiskies lined up on the shelves, with 400 of them open for tasting at any time.

There are whiskies from all around the world, naturally enough from Scotland, but from Wales, England and Ireland, Japan, India and even New Zealand. If that isn’t a sufficient attraction there are 290 gins, and again, samples are open for a taste.

The Wright Wine Co was started in 1982 by Bob Wright who sadly passed on to the great distillery in the sky four years ago. Now it is run by Julian Kaye who worked with Bob for over 20 years and he is somewhat of a whisky specialist but he also likes his wines. The business has doubled in those four years while the range and the shop have expanded dramatically. There are 1,500 wines available and one speciality is the range of magnums which always look good at a party. Starting at just £18 for Carlos Reynolds Portuguese red to Premier Cru Burgundy at £125 for a magnum, these will serve a table of 12 with style.

Both merchants hold regular tastings and both offer advice if you want it. Try telling them what you are planning for dinner and see what they suggestions they come up with.

About The Author

Christine is a wine writer, broadcaster and a wine judge for several international wine competitions. She has a technical background and spent five years as a buyer for a major supermarket before moving to wine writing.She writes for The Yorkshire Post Magazine and organises the York Festival of Food and Drink. She has won both the Lanson and the Roederer prizes for wine writing.

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