wine merchant House of Townend
A good independent wine merchant will be able to get hold of interesting wines in relatively small quantities that you will not find from larger retailers.
There are a couple of ways to establish if the merchant is good 1) longevity 2) try a few wines at random.
Independent wine merchant House of Townend has something of a grand history dating back four generations to the early 1900s, so clearly they have been doing something right.
These days they have a couple of commendations from Decanter, but what really matters is whether the wines are any good.
These two wines were not selected at random, but they provide something of an introduction.
Below £10, you are generally not looking at "classic" regions and these two bottles are from areas noted more for value than for heritage. What this means in practice is that you get a modern style of mainstream wine with more of your money going into quality than badging for label-snobs.
They are both well made, sophisticated, fault-free and very easy-to-enjoy.
Le Charme Sauvignon Blanc by Christine Cabri, IGP Pays du Gers (£7.99) made by SW French heroes Producteurs Plaimont, Oz Clarke describes this as "one of the best value Sauvignons in Britain"; expressive, aromatic and zippy in a kiwi style, with fresh green apple and lime acidity, minerality and good, structured underpinnings.
Well made and thoroughly enjoyable.
Drink as an aperitif or match with light starters; goat's cheese crostini or prawns with coriander leaves.
Animado Malbec, Argentina (£9.49) from Argentina's Zuccardi winery, this drinks nicely straight out of the bottle but opens up with some air; juicy blueberry and black cherry fruit with soft strawberries and raspberries and some spice. Fresh, harmonious and easy-drinking with a supple texture. Very deft and elegant.
Fresh and juicy enough to quaff, match with pâté, salami or steak.