Wine merchants, wine schools, and...informative tea-towels. Leeds has everything you need to stop wasting money on bad wine.
Nobody wants to be a wine snob - those nerds with an atmospherically-controlled private cellar, from which they procure dusty vintages and pronounce the names of vineyards with an annoying affectation.
Then again, nobody wants to waste fifteen quid blindly picking a bottle from the second-to-top shelf in the supermarket, only to find they would’ve preferred their usual Campo Viejo Tempranillo (yellow label for regular drinks, orange label for special occasions…)
So, how do you find that bottle, the one that demonstrates your impeccable taste to friends and family, or one that’ll match a particular meal perfectly, or one for a special occasion that you don’t even mind dropping a bit of extra cash on, because it really is just that good?
As luck would have it, Leeds has exactly what you need to become more informed and get more enjoyment from the wine you buy.
Latitude Wine & Liquor Merchant
Choosing from a selection of hundreds of wines may seem intimidating, but with relaxed, friendly and knowledgeable service Latitude try to make this experience as easy and enjoyable as possible.
I popped in with my best mystery shopper face on to see what Latitude had to offer, and after browsing indiscriminately for a few minutes I was approached by Chris - Latitude’s resident vintner.
I set him to task finding me a bottle of wine for someone who knew nothing about wine, although after some subtle questioning Chris narrowed me down to something red and maybe something fruity. ‘New world wines tend to be more accessible’ explains Chris as he walks me towards some American Zinfandels full of blackberry and raspberry flavours, like theIronstone Old Vine Zinfandel “or there’s Australian Shiraz” he continues, as he lavishes praise on Peter Lehmann’s Hill & Valley Shiraz with flavours of forest fruits and chocolate.
“Once you've narrowed down the style and preferences of the customer you're left with a trade off between quality and cost.” explains Chris - I ask for recommendations under £10, and £10-£20 - the latter is more than I’d usually spend, and the former because there's no harm in scoping out a bargain.
Chris walked me to the Spanish Garnachas (a grape originally grown in France under the name Grenache and found in wines such as Chateauneuf-Du-Pape) introducing me to the Monasterio Old Vine Garnacha a fruity mix of raspberries and blueberries and the Pablo Old Vine Garnacha, a slightly more mature wine with blackberry flavours and smoky/spicy notes, both coming in at under a tenner.
For those willing to make a leap of faith Chris's favourite was the Borsao Tres Picos, another old vine Garnacha, but with mature red fruit flavours and a touch of florals that had great structure and balance from being aged in French oak, the priciest of the three at £13.99, but still only a little more than you’d pay for two large glasses of two-day-open house red from the local boozer.
For those thinking of making a habit out of this “buying better wine” thing, Latitude offers 10% off to customers with a loyalty card, which is free to sign up for. Latitude Wine & Liquor Merchant
Vinceremos Organic Wine
With 99% of their wines suitable for vegetarians, 83% suitable for vegans and 100% of them organically produced, Vinceremos provides an accessible range of wines for anyone who's particularly conscious about their diet or the environment.
Equally if you're just conscious about the flavour of wine there's plenty of reason to be interested too. Recent years have shown a surge of interest in 'natural' or 'biodynamic' wines, which Vinceremos have been a leading national distributor of since 1985, often sourcing direct from small family vineyards.
If you're interested in wines with minimal intervention or authentic flavours of terroir and provenance, Vinceremos have plenty within their stock that's worth getting excited about.
You can find them in Leeds at the likes of Dock Street's Cha Lounge or at Hansa's Restaurant on North Street, but for those of you wanting to drink a bottle or two at home you can also order from their online store. If you’re looking to save on postage you can collect your orders from their office on Sovereign Street. Vinceremos Organic Wines
Yorkshire Wine School
If you’re starting from a point where you haven't really tasted enough wine to know what you like yet, then Yorkshire Wine School offers by far the best and most enjoyable environment in which to learn more and better understand your tastes.
Yorkshire Wine School provides 'Introduction to Wine' courses where your teacher Laura gives you an 'introductory look at the wonderfully diverse and quirky world of wine'. Having attended one of these courses myself I can only speak positively about how Laura manages to be both passionate about wine while keeping the course both fun and interesting - all while you work your way through at least six glasses of wine, and what's left in the bottles when you've finished.
For an unpretentious guide to drinking wine these courses are as good as it gets, and at £25 per person you're practically getting the tuition for free, once you’ve honed your tastes and decided on a preference there are plenty of courses tailored to specific regions and varietals of grapes to continue your education beyond the introduction. Yorkshire Wine School
Learning to drink better wine and appreciate its subtle nuances is all well and good, but what about growing and making wine? Believe it or now, we do that in Leeds too.
The leafy suburb of Woodlesford was a far cry from the sun-drenched slopes of Sonoma wine country, but on a south facing slope at Leventhorpe, across the road from Swillington Organic farm, George and Janet Bowden continue in the footsteps of the Cistercian monks and the Romans before them, producing wine on Yorkshire soil.
With wines going back as far as 2010, Leventhorpe produce mainly white and sparkling wines with one red from 2011. You can see how it’s done for yourself - and bag yourself a bottle of award winning local wine - as Leventhorpe are open most days, you'll just need to ring ahead and book yourself in for a visit. Leventhorpe Vineyard
It might be unusual to include a shop that dispenses neither wine nor advice on it, but Alavit (Yorkshire for ‘I will have it’) are a Leeds based design store that happen to sell Stuart Gardiner Tea Towels - three of which provide the best visual crib sheets on wine and pairing wine with food.
You can subconsciously soak up wine information whilst cooking up a storm in the kitchen, as well as soak up some actual wine when the inevitable happens after a few glasses… Alavit