My base for this week is Dow’s Quinta do Bomfim, a property I know well thanks to the Symington family who offered me accommodation here when I was writing the first edition of my book in 1998. I am here on my own today so I have time to peruse the bookshelf and my eyes settle on a copy of the Which Wine Guide from 1985. This was about the time I joined the UK wine trade and, flicking through the pages, it is striking just how much it has changed. Among the big names listed 27 years are Argyll Stores (1,100 branches), The Victoria Wine Company (800 branches), Ashe and Nephew (320 branches), Augustus Barnett (875 branches), Cullens, Arthur Cooper and Roberts Off Licences (420 branches), Davisons (85 branches), Peter Dominic (460 branches), Fine Fare, Gough Bros (155 branches), Lennons (115 branches), Oddbins (57 branches), Arthur Rackham, Thresher (400 branches), Unwins (285 branches). All are consigned to history. Among the fledgling companies that have taken their place are Majestic (just 6 branches back then) and Morrisons (34). A number of well known independent wine merchants have bitten the dust since then among them: Dolamore, H. Allen Smith, Thomas Baty (Liverpool), Buckinghams, Christopher & Co. Greens, John Harvey, The Hungerford Wine Company, Quellyn Roberts (Chester), La Reserve Henry Townsend, Willoughby’s (Manchester). All these were names to be reckoned with when I joined the trade. Some things move on for the better: The Wine Society, Tanners, Berry Bros and Rudd, Adnams and Farr Vintners (a new boy on the block back then) have gone from strength to strength.
19 - 20 An outstanding wine (*****)
17 – 18 An excellent wine in its class, highly recommended (****)
15 - 16 A good wine, with much to recommend it (***)
13 - 14 An enjoyable but simple, straightforward wine (**)
10 – 12 A very ordinary wine without faults but with no great merit (*)
8 - 10 Disagreeable (no stars)
Below 8 Faulty