We want all the components of the wine to be woven together in as seamless manner as possible. Balance can be achieved at 8% or 16% alcohol, or at 2 or 120 grams per litre of residual sugar, as long as the fruit, oak or extract are there to provide the balance needed.
A balanced wine grows on you, so that the last glass seems better than the first.
A wine must be clean. Some people say clean wines lack character, but we think that a wine that isn‘t clean is dirty, which means faulty, which means that the characters we are looking for - of the grape variety and the place - are masked.
Given that purity of fruit and expression of a sense of place are core elements of our buying philosophy, it makes sense that we look for wines that consistently preserve these characters.
Cork - due to taint and, because it is not a consistent seal, random oxidation - does not do this consistently enough. The failure rate is far too high, and wouldn‘t be accepted with any other product. So we look for alternatives, and the best so far is Stelvin. Given this, we try, where possible, to ship wines that are sealed under Stelvin.
As a result, about 70% of all the wine we sell is under screwcap.
This is one of the key factors for which we look.
Much as we love it when our wines get high scores from journalists, we would much rather have a wine that scored well but drank beautifully than a wine which scored superbly but left you feeling that one glass was more than enough.
Expression. A wine must be an expression of the grape variety or varieties from which it is made and the place in which it is grown. We look for wines that express these key characteristics, as a sense of place is, to us, a vital part of a wine‘s makeup.
We want the personality of the producer to come across in the wine. This is a tricky balance. Too much ego and the grape and place are subsumed. The winemaker is the conductor that brings together all the instruments in the orchestra. Too much oak and the subtle characters of the grape are drowned out.
The human factor is vital, for if you give two winemakers the same grapes from the same vineyard, they will make two different wines. The best get their personality across while exalting the character of the grape and the vineyard.
Contrary to what many people mean when they use this word, we think that value exists at £8, £15 and £30 a bottle.
A wine may be expensive, but it can still offer great value if it gives you everything we are looking for: grape, place, winemaker, drinkability, purity, depth, length and much else besides.
"Would we pay that much for this wine?" is something we ask about the wines of every producer we consider taking on. If the answer is yes, we‘ll add them to our list.