THE UK’s MOST UNUSUAL WINE LIST?
We certainly think this is, and we’re not alone. As the “Which? Wine Guide” put it some years ago:
“The Great British tradition of individuality carried to the point of eccentricity is represented by DHM”.
We took it as a compliment anyway.
Do you know of any other wine merchant who specialises solely in the lesser-known and under-represented areas of just two countries, 5,000 miles apart?
Who has in the past regularly listed 15-20 German RED wines, and sometimes even PINK EISWEIN?
Where you can compare varietal Lembergers from Württemberg and Washington State, or compare Ahr Valley Weissherbst and Württemberg Schillerwein with blush wines from the old Wild West?
No, nor do we.
Since we started in business over 20 years ago we have carved out a unique little niche for ourselves, as well as gaining a few places in the wine trade record books.
As Oz Clarke said in the introduction to the United States section of his 1989 Wine Guide:
“If you want to contact the importer of the largest-ever single shipment of American wine, the best place to ring is Rochester Cathedral. But don’t ring on a Sunday; the importer’s rather busy. He’s got three services and a choir practice to fit in.”
When one of our best suppliers in Texas went bankrupt, their bank (who had a lien on their stock) wanted to (forgive the pun!) liquidate their asset, and we were successful in a “sealed-bid” auction to secure all their remaining inventory – which amounted to about 6,500 cases, or thirteen 20ft containers. [The mention of Rochester Cathedral refers to what I do five days a week when not teaching German for a living, or dealing in wine for fun!]
We were Europe’s first importer of Texas, Virginia and Colorado wines, and to the best of our knowledge are still the only English firm dealing in the “Wild West” states. We were Britain’s second importer of wines from the Pacific Northwest (Oregon and Washington State). And so far as we know, we are still the only merchant in the country – and probably in Europe – specialising in American wines from states other than California.
First-time readers may well wonder why anyone in his right mind would want to produce such an idiosyncratic list. The answers are simple:
We see no point in duplicating what lots of other people are already doing.
We want to specialise in countries where we have special interests, and whose languages we speak.
We believe there are lots of exciting wines being made in areas that most people haven’t discovered yet.
Our philosophy could be summed up in two slogans we have often used:
“We fetch from the parts other merchants don’t reach.”
“If you have already heard of it, we probably don’t have it.
Not only do we boldly go where most other wine merchants haven’t yet ventured: we also have some rather unconventional ideas about what “good” wine is, and is not. For some people - particularly, dare one say, in the trade and press - “good” or “serious” wine has to be (a) dry, (b) high in alcohol (under 13% nowadays is for wimps, apparently), (c) full of tannin and/or oak and (d) French, Antipodean or South American. I beg to disagree. For me, “good” means (a) well-made, (b) enjoyable to drink, and (c) value for money. Where it comes from, and whether it is dry or sweet, are to me much less relevant.
I mentioned German red wines above, and will do so again because – as you might have gathered – I am a great fan. I like them for all the reasons one isn’t supposed to like that sort of thing: they are usually light-bodied, fruity, off-dry, low in alcohol, with little or no tannin, and very easy to drink (naughty, naughty – not “serious” enough!). Until a few years ago most of the British wine trade and press never had a good word to say for German reds: most standard reference books dismissed them with a couple of lines of contempt, if they deigned to mention them at all. Now I find it extremely ironic that the recent heightened interest, and the emergence of a few excellent winemakers with a cult following such as one finds “down under” or in California, has only arisen since these people started making their wines in “French” or “New World” styles – calling them “Pinot Noir” rather than “Spätburgunder”, ageing them in small new oak barrels, finishing them bone dry and putting them in Bordeaux or Burgundy-style bottles. What is wrong with German red wines as they were? Why can’t they accept that (a) not all wine has to taste like Claret and Burgundy and (b) there are actually consumers out there who prefer wines that don’t?!
Similar arguments could be applied to a lot of the “new-wave” German WHITE wines seen nowadays on supermarket shelves – with their made-up names and “designer” labels the marketing people seem to be doing everything possible to con you into thinking that you are NOT drinking German wine! What do they have to be ashamed of??
Forget the lakes of mass-produced sugar-water mediocrity masquerading under the once-famous names of Liebfraumilch, Niersteiner, Bernkasteler, Piesporter, etc. Not all German wine is like that. Oz Clarke once said that only approx 0.1% of the German wine sold in the UK was single-vineyard, estate-bottled wine, rather than factory-made blends. It is that 0.1% which interests us. Try some for yourself, and see what we’re talking about.