I'm still awaiting a case or two that I'm owed from different sources, so I didn't want to buy too much. The perfect opportunity to stop by a (not local enough) local establishment to pick up an interesting bottle. Admittedly, I've not been in Marlow much lately, having spent all of December based in central London. And with the recent flooding, this seems unlikely to change. I now have one less reason to visit.
Alfred the Grape is no more.
This cute little store with over 1000 wines in stock had been open since November 2010 but closed suddenly in the run up to Christmas. I didn't know. I'll admit that I didn't shop there on a weekly business but I will miss it. Whenever I was looking for something interesting, or a wine gift, it was the first place I would look. So where does this leave us? On Marlow's Spittal Street, we are left with Sainsbury's, Waitrose and M&S. There are still a couple of chain wine stores around the town, but for how long...
Sadly, it's not just a local issue. We were once a nation of shopkeepers, but with positive businesses with great service like this one closing, I fear that choice is dead, and homogenisation is the way forward for our UK high streets. It's not new for wine shops to suffer (think Oddbins which closed a third of it's remaining stores in 2011), and the independent of-licence is far from the only loser to the supermarkets. Every time I walk down my local high street there are more and more shops with the shutters down. But with increasing tax hits in every budget, the gross sales of wine in the UK have declined over 5% from their 2008 level, according to the International Wine and Spirits Research statistics to a little over 143 million (12 bottle) cases in 2012 and this has been accompanied by an increasing likelihood for us to disguise our booze spending by popping a bottle or two into the trolley with our weekly shop.
By all means, use the supermarket special offers to experiment with new regions and grape varieties. But remember that if it's for sale in every Tesco/Sainsbury's/Asda across the country, this is most likely a bulk produced wine, which may lack complexity. I encourage you to use independent wine stores where you can still find them. In fact, I hope to be offering some wine for sale myself in the very near future, and I hope you'll come and buy some. I'll be sticking to tasting events and online sales for now. The High Street just has too much tumbleweed blowing down it these days.
I'd love to hear your views. How and where do you buy your wine? If you buy online, what's missing from the experience for you? If you've never bought online, why not? What encourages you to try new things? And of course, is there are wine you'd like to learn about here, or one you think I should be reviewing for my readers?
Join the discussion!