2
Jun 05

Oh to be in Clitheroe

Pumpkin PublogPost a comment • 597 views

…now that spring is here. Or any other season for that matter, as Clitheroe is home to my favourite wine seller, the legendary Byrne’s. Now, I would happily have arsed about with HTML and used their name as a link then, but Byrne’s is too retro for that.

That’s right, no website, no till, precious little in the way of light; just case after case of wine stretching back underground for three separate chambers as an adjunct to the towering shelves of the front (dominated by an ancient wooden ladder leaning at a breathtakingly steep angle). Step into the chambers and your mobile signal dies, we’ll have none of your modern faff here, boy.

They missed a trick though, the first room is dedicated to France, and would be more than a little intimidating to most buyers, including me. I suspect I’d struggle to tell a fifteen quid meursault from a forty quid one, though even to my untutored eye the chamber was particularly strong on the Alsace (and was it their little joke that tucked away in the corner was a small stand of English wines? No matter, there’s a bottle of Bacchus Reserve tucked in my fridge for later, 2002 was a good year for English wine and if no-one else wants to drink it then all the more for me). Rhone was also well represented, but my wallet wasn’t really up for much more punishment there (this isn’t to imply that Byrne’s is expensive, there’s plenty of sub five and sub ten bottles – just that the French section is dominated by top end, though there is a range of cheaper vin de pays out the front, of which the Grenache I tried was a pleasant example).

Get through the impenetrability of the french into the smaller rooms right at the back (and the temptation to lay a trail of breadcrumbs behind me was almost irresistible) and there’s all sorts of fun to be had. Though nowhere near as comprehensive as the dedication to france (indeed south america was downright disappointing) there’s all sorts of fun stuff to be had, and it was cheering to see a large amount of space reserved for portugal, which is often criminally underlooked, as well as case upon case of that gorgeous lebanese rocket-fuel, Chateau Musar.

Without wishing to burble on too much about the wines themselves (which, given half a chance I’d happily bore everyone to tears by doing) it was just so pleasant to be able to wander, to browse, without a helpful sales assistant popping up every five fucking minutes to steer me in the direction of heavily discounted crap (cheers Oddbins, you used to be good). The Byrne’s assistants limit themselves to the occasional handwritten sign, and tasting notes for varietals you may not have tried before. I think they spend most of their time hiding at the top of their huge ladder, myself.

So there you go. Byrne’s, it’s reasonably priced, it’s pretty comprehensive, there’s not a bottle of Lindemans in sight and you get to feel like you’re in a Harry Potter film when you’re wandering around it. What more could you ask for?

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