In January 2013, Susy Atkins, award-winning wine writer and regular wine expert on BBC 1's Saturday Kitchen, published a great of review of James Nicholson Wine in the Sunday Telegraph. Susy visited us in October 2012 and tasted a number of wines during her time here. There were three wines that really stood out for her - Biberius Temperanillo 2011, Domaine Bellier Cheverny 2011 and Massaya Classic Red 2009.
Last year, it would be fair to say, went pretty well for James Nicholson Wine. As he and his team notched up 35 years of business, they took the 'Northern Ireland merchant of the year' title at the International Wine Challenge awards – for the 20th time, which is surely an IWC record. The determinedly independent wine merchant is surviving recession, but then it survived years of far worse troubles in the region. And trade isn't only local – national mail orders roar out of its strikingly modernist HQ in the otherwise tranquil, rural village of Crossgar, County Down.
Taste wines with Jim there and he volunteers a story about each and every one, its background, the people and places that produced it. This is a proper questing wine explorer, someone who travels continually, rooting around to find rare gems, rather than buying in vast vats of bland blends. He started trading French wine in the 1970s – 'the days when Mateus was considered sophisticated' – then swiftly took on Australian and Californian wineries in the 1980s. Right now I sense Italian, Spanish and Lebanese wines interest him most.
Top-end bordeaux and burgundy trading is key to the list, and the approachable Jane Boyce (Northern Ireland's only Master of Wine) is newly installed as 'fine wine manager', overseeing these and cult releases such as Ridge (California), Artadi (Spain) and Boekenhoutskloof (South Africa), which sell for up to £250 a bottle. Here are three of my favourites from the JN list that are more in line with a January budget. 028 4483 0091; jnwine.com
Biberius Temperanillo 2011, Ribera del Duero, Spain (£9.99, or £8.99 when you buy as part of a case)
Great-value Spanish red from Rioja's neighbouring region. Smacks of fruitcake and plum, with a note of mocha. One for lamb, slow braised or roast.
Domaine Bellier Cheverny 2011, Loire, France (£10, or £9 when you buy as part of a case)
Better than many cheap Sancerres, this is fresh and succulent sauvignon blanc, with a bright note of tangerine and a dry finish. Fish-friendly.
Massaya Classic Red 2009, Lebanon (£12.75, or £11.48 when you buy as part of a case)
Mingles ripe red berries with spicy, savoury, leathery hints. Soft and mellow, it shines with sweet-tasting meat tajines or duck with a fruity sauce.
Original Article here