Never mind the faceless monolith of the supermarkets, head to your local friendly wine merchant for something special
There’s a lot of talk about supermarket wine being dead impressive these days with the likes of Co-op, Lidl and Aldi often wheeled out as key examples. But good luck finding a cork dork to guide you through the options, tell you the story of the grower or perhaps suggest a grape you might like in your supermarket's booze aisle. And can you even imagine an attempt to try before you buy? You'd feel a tap on your shoulder from security before you'd even had a chance to swirl.
The team at these shops are passionate about helping you to find the wines you will love without any of the stuffy elitism
If you have an interest in the kaleidoscopic and mind boggling world of wine, a good independent wine merchant can be the Mr (or Mrs) Miyagi to your carafe kid. The best fer-mentors will take great pleasure in guiding you through the whites, reds, rosés and even oranges of the world to find the perfect slurp for you. There is almost always the option to try at least some of the wines before you buy too, some even have a seating area and a bit of cheese or charcuterie to enjoy with an in-house tipple.
When we started compiling this list we found a blurred line between wine shops and bars. Is it more shop than bar or more bar than shop? As a result, we've divided our list into two. These are all ostensibly shops but most of them offer an area where you can drink wine by the glass or bottle. Part two covers bars that have a significant range of wine you can buy to take away but that are more geared towards a few hours spent drinking in.
Possibly the oldest shop on our list, this family owned, multi-award winning independent has been trading in the lush Ribble Valley for over 130 years. With a network of labyrinthine cellars beneath, this Victorian shop is like something out of Harry Potter with over 3000 wines piled high like tinctures on its shelves. Clinking bottles and creaking floorboards give it a fairytale feel that you just don't find in the fluorescent lit headache-fest of the supermarket. A multi-generational enterprise, some of the family have been learning about wine and helping in the shop since they were in primary school. It doesn't get more experienced than that.
12 King St, Clitheroe BB7 2EP
Presided over by the ebullient Marc Hough - Bez's mate - these two shops certainly win the prize for best name. Side-stepping tradition by organising bottles by grape rather than region, the team at these shops are passionate about helping you to find the wines you will love without any of the stuffy elitism which can be so off-putting if you're only just dipping a toe in. Each shop has a small bar area and hosts wine tastings at least weekly. There is a daily changing range of wines by the glass as well as hundreds by the bottle available along with an accompanying small menu of nibbles, pinchos, small plates and cheese.
104 Heaton Moor Road, Stockport SK4 4NZ
13 Northenden Rd, Sale M33 2DH
This beautiful little vinoteca opened in 2012 and things have gone so well that the owners have recently gone on to open Blossom Street Social, a 'more bar than shop' version in Ancoats (more on that in the next article.) Situated near the Cathedral, this is the first shop that most people will suggest if you are looking for a special bottle in the city centre. High ceilings are taken advantage of in order to accommodate shelves and shelves of the good stuff, many accessible only by ladder but all made accessible to customers no matter how confident you are about your wine knowledge. Don't miss the opportunity to pull up a stool and enjoy a glass with some nibbles on the terrace.
Britannic Buildings, 42-44 Victoria St, Manchester M3 1ST
Up in the hills in the pretty market town of Glossop, Harvey Leonard's Wine & Ale Tasters (to give it its full title) was established in 2013 in the old Conservative club. With a huge range of wines from all over the world - and beers too - the knowledgable and enthusiastic staff are there to guide you through the atlas. There are 27 different wines available to drink in store by the glass and over 400 by the bottle as well as pick 'n mix cheese and charcuterie boards and small plates. They also hold regular tastings and have a monthly wine club, boxes can be delivered locally.
22 Norfolk Street, Glossop, Derbyshire, SK13 8BS
You’d think the wine shop on our list most likely to be described as ‘for the Instagram generation’ might be in Ancoats or at least Altrincham but it turns out it’s in … Bury. Opening in 2015, the vision for this wine shop, which is housed in an old bank in Bury centre, was to create 'an organic, vibrant, stylish but natural environment that wouldn’t look out of place selling clothes or coffee'. Kwoff is a modern, accessible and welcoming space where the friendly staff encourage people to drop in for a natter. This family business started by David Jones with help from his father Peter and brother Rob, aims to find the middle ground between 'pretentious and stuffy' and 'pile it high and sell it cheap'. Exciting wines at a fair price sold by enthusiasts.
8 Silver Street, Bury, Greater Manchester, BL9 0EX
Owner of Reserve, Kate Goodman will be a familiar face as a 'straight talking drinks expert' if you watch BBC2's Food & Drink show. Kate set up Reserve wines in 2003 with a passion for the grape and a vision of making wine 'fun and accessible for everyone'. The Didsbury shop is now something of an institution and is packed with affordable gems as well as plenty for when you want to splurge. There are mini branches in Mackie Mayor, Alty market and Macclesfield's Picturedrome too.
176 Burton Road, West Didsbury, Manchester, M20 1LH
In 2013 a couple of ex-Oddbins workers opened up their own independent wine shop in Chorlton. It's still going strong after seven years due to a relaxed and friendly approach from the owners and a focus on providing an extensive range of affordable (£7-£10) bottles as well as the pricier stuff. The website features a blog which serves to recommend seasonal staff favourites with a dose of humour. There are regular, reasonably priced tasting events, a brand new tasting machine in store and a loyalty card which offers a discount when you have collected enough stamps.
510 Wilbraham Rd, Chorlton-cum-Hardy, Manchester M21 9AW
You won't find this one on social media and their website is... challenging, but this characterful little gaff has been serving all manner of alcoholic grape juice to happy locals for nearly 40 years. Prepare to be a bit overwhelmed by the sheer volume of bottles crammed into such a tiny space - some of the dustier ones date back to the early 1900s apparently - but the friendly family who run things will be happy to help you navigate your way to the perfect bottle. You can park round the back too.
63 George St, Oldham OL1 1LX
Multi-award winning shop including best local wine shop in the Decanter Retailer Awards and most recently, the best independent wine shop in the People’s Choice Wine Awards. This grown-up sweet shop in the hills was previously part of the Threshers chain before being taken over as an independent by 24 year old Tom Jones (no, not that one) who was actually working there when the chain went into administration. Now with nearly a decade in business, Tom says he and his team 'aspire to be part of a ‘new generation’ of wine merchants' with the aim to make buying fine wine more accessible and enjoyable for everyone.
63 King St, Whalley, Clitheroe, BB7 9SW