Critic’s Choice: DeFine Food & Wine, Sandiway

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Matt Walls is wowed by a comprehensive wine range, unbeatable brunch and a friendly team

I’ve chosen Define Food & Wine as they are the most impressive wine outfit I’ve visited in the past year. I walked out of there thinking, “yes – that’s exactly how to do it”. 

I visited them by chance last summer. We were driving up to the Lake District from London and needed somewhere to stop for lunch as we were approaching Manchester. A quick Google search en route pointed out they have recently started serving food, and having heard good things about their wine range, I booked a table. It was so good, we stopped there again on the way back down south.

 

You enter the shop and it’s a fairly classic layout with wines lining the wooden shelves, well-stocked but not cluttered. Follow it round past a deli counter and the building opens up into a bright new dining area. It’s a clean, white space with well-spaced tables and a line of Enomatics on the back wall.

My kids are typically picky with food but even they had plenty to choose from – they have put together an unbeatable brunch menu. The food was just as good as it sounded on paper. We had various takes on eggs Benedict and pancakes with fresh berries. Even the coffee was top notch. The evening menu looks just as good, packed with great produce and lots of wine-friendly options. A good excuse to go back.

What impressed me was the consistent quality throughout the range: Alsace, Italy, Australia, sweet wines – there was no obvious weak link. But what really caught my eye was the South African selection. In particular several older vintages of Eben Sadie’s Old Vine Series. The staff are professional and welcoming, but when I started asking geeky questions about which vintages to choose, they didn’t hesitate in calling for owner Jon Campbell to advise me. I also asked him to pick out a selection of interesting, good value weekday wines and he got a feel for my tastes straight away. With cigars available as well, it’s a one-stop shop for all your weekend treats.

One particular episode sticks in my mind. It was a hot, sunny day, and I was concerned about a case of wine that I’d bought elsewhere slowly cooking in the car outside. I mentioned it in passing and straight away they offered to place it in their cool storeroom during our visit. It always feels good to know you’re in the company of fellow wine lovers. Once you know that, you feel at liberty to really stock up. And I did!

Matt Walls is a contributing editor to Decanter magazine, and his latest book, Wines of the Rhône (Infinite Ideas), is now available from bookstores and online. Define wins a bottle of La Montesa Crianza Palacios Remondo 2017, courtesy of Bancroft Wines

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