Main (Home) page. USA 2017 Laithwaites, the UK's No.1 independent wine specialist.

Award winning wines.

To drink or not to drink?
What is the question...

Laithwaites is the UK's No.1 independent wine specialist in everything from award winning wines to wine tasting accessories.

Wine UK. Laithwaites's cool operator.

With their 30 years of expertise dedicated to finding the best wines from around the world, Laithwaites pride themselves on wines of quality and above all, character. The online store offers award winning, quality wines from around the world, mixed wine cases, accessories, special online promotions, expert's recommendations and much more. Laithwaites award winning customer service offers advice on everything from which wines to buy, to foods that will compliment each bottle and with 90% of all deliveries reaching their destination within one week, you can rest assured there is no better place to find the finest wines and expert knowledge.
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Laithwaites: 12 perfect wines to match your festive table. In one great value case. Save over 24 pounds!

Laithwaites prides itself on wines of quality and above all, character.

Our expert wine buyers travel constantly and taste tens of thousands of wines each year to pick you the best. Laithwaites has always had an innovative approach to wine. I began in the sixties introducing Britain to the first bottles to come from Bergerac, Duras, Madiran and other 'lost' regions of SW France.

In the seventies we pioneered Spanish regional wines, and then wines from behind the iron curtain. We also did our first shipments from Australia and California. In the 80's we were the top importer of wines from Chile, and we were the first to bring over star wine makers from the southern hemisphere to introduce New World energy and excitement to Old World regions... we created 'Flying Winemakers'.

Our buyers and I are constantly away, always on the look out for new producers and regions. We love the excitement of the hunt and we do all we can to pass on that feeling to you along with the wines. We also want you to share our delight in the classics from old grower friends ... in many cases we are now working with the grandchildren of the people we began with all those years ago. You'll also see on the site, that we offer a huge range from every day drinking to fine and rare wines - our Fine Wine team is waiting to hear from you if you would like to know more.

Laithwaites is confident you'll love our wines. So much so, we GUARANTEE them. So absolutely nothing to lose, come on in, the wine is great.

About Wine: Hints from Laithwaites.

Bottle of wine.
Bits in the bottle:

1. Crystals. Crystals in wine are not usually a problem. But there is a fundamental conflict here. Wine, naturally has bits in. Bits of grape. They are removed during the process of winemaking. But every bit removed results in some flavour being removed also. Customers generally like clear wine with no bits. You can see that a firm such as us is put in a bit of a dilemma. In order to make each bottle as tasty as possible we have to risk the bits.

2. 'There's sugar on my cork.' Is a frequent one... no, not sugar but crystals of tartar sometimes called 'wine diamonds' which look - but do not taste - like sugar. They upset people - unless those people know in advance that they can occur and are a GOOD sign. Tartaric acid occurs naturally in all wines. It can be removed but the process also removes a lot of wine flavour so we and most conscientious winemakers avoid using it. Crystals of tartar sometimes precipitate out and settle on the glass or the cork or at the bottom. Pour carefully and rejoice in good natural wine. If you get a permanent haze in the wine, that is still a natural thing, however it is much less pleasant visually; so return the wine. None of this means we are sloppy or careless in our buying - quite the opposite in fact. We intentionally risk the crystals... but we feel its our responsibility to replace bottles if they upset customers.

3. Sediment. Personally I think we should charge extra for sediment. Sediment in wine is never a failing. It is a sign of the courageous winemaker who refuses to de-nature his wine just because some supermarkets don't want the cost and effort of explaining sediment to their customers. Real Wine is a joy. Real Ale enthusiasts think the same way. Consider... like it or not, wine is 12 or so % alcohol, 80 something % water and a tiny amount of stuff called dry-extract which does all the flavour bit. It triggers all the romance, causes all the books to be written, the court-cases to be fought, the fortunes to be lost. Remove all the water and alcohol and what do you have... well it looks like sediment. So we are supposed to take this sediment out are we? I love old bottles of Hermitage or Chateauneuf where the whole inside of the bottle has become coated with tartar crystals... that's really real wine!

4. Insects in wine. It still happens... infinitesimally rarely, but still. And I sincerely apologise. Our suppliers do not intentionally put in free insects! But if I can add just one tiny 'but'. When I take customers to visit wine cellars, they love the old cobwebby places with barrels and little old fellers in clogs. They do not like neon lit shiny steel and glass factories. Now you have to ask yourself in which type of cellar are you most likely to get the odd little suicidally boozy fly? Remember we'll always replace without fuss. Fuss risks alerting those people in Brussels who dream of a sterilised future under their control; frightening people who have already had a go at real cheese and real beer, and would just love to stamp out real wine.

Corks from wine bottles.

Let's be honest! Corks aren't essential for most wines, only perhaps those venerable bottles that you want to keep for a decade or so. Most would be better serviced with a screw cap. But corks make wine different ... they are part of the romance, the courtship, the ceremony of opening a bottle.

Corks, however, can also bring with them unwanted musty flavours that spoil a wine, so there has been much research into finding an alternative. Headway has been made and you may, from time to time, find a synthetic cork-lookalike when you 'pop' open a bottle of Laithwaites wine.

For both natural and synthetic corks, a good corkscrew is essential. A poor one will tear the middle out of a cork and hurt your hand. How do you spot a good one? It will have a comfortable grip, use counter-pressure against the rim of the bottle and the screw will have an open spiral with a clear line of sight up the middle, to grip as much cork as possible.

The commonplace, folding 'waiter's friend' is often the handiest, simplest and most practical corkscrew to have at your fingertips.

Capsules. Nothing spoils the look of a wine more than a ragged-edged capsule, where the cork has been pulled through. To avoid this, simply cut a circle just below the ridge on the neck of the bottle and remove (a 'waiter's friend' is handy here, too). If there is any mould, wipe it away and don't worry about it!

OPENING SPARKLING WINES. Racing drivers pop them with alarming alacrity. However, if you want to keep the contents in the bottle, follow these few simple rules:
- Chill the wine well and don't shake the bottle - the wine will taste better and more will stay in the bottle.
- Once the wire cage is removed, keep your thumb over the cork at all times and never point it at anything precious.
- Twist the bottle and not the cork and remove it slowly so there is a sigh, not a loud pop, as you open the bottle.
- Finally, to serve with style, put your thumb up the 'punt' (the dimple at the bottom of the bottle) and pour slowly.

Bottle of wine.
When to drink.

The question of when to drink wine causes far too much worry. Age alone does not give you the answer. There are guidelines but wine is not a precise science - more a matter of personal preference. Ultimately, it is up to you to decide when you drink your wines - but here are a few useful rules of thumb.

How long should white wines be kept? Most white wines (particularly inexpensive bottles) are best drunk as young as possible - certainly within a year or two of the vintage. Their appeal is in their freshness and fruitiness. Leave them for much longer and those lovely fresh flavours fade away. There are exceptions however. Full-bodied whites like top-quality Burgundies, other big Chardonnays and fine Rieslings will usually gain complexity with age. Sweet Semillons (Sauternes and the like), Muscats and other dessert wines also reward keeping. Good Champagnes also evolve nicely in bottle. Chenin wines appear to last forever.

Don't you have to keep red wines for years? The simple answer is no, not these days ... though, again, it depends. They contain more tannin, the stuff that's also present in long-brewed tea. It comes from grapeskins and acts as the wine's perfect natural preservative. You know when tannin is present because of its uncanny mouthpuckering effect. Big traditional reds (like those from some of Bordeaux's greatest estates) can have masses of tannin and do need to be stored for many years before they are soft enough to drink. The fruit mellows and other strange flavours like leather, smoke and earth appear from Lord knows where. The myth that all red wines must be aged to be drinkable stems from these old traditional methods of winemaking. Personally, I prefer to drink even fairly tannic reds young. However I will always drink them with meat or cheese because they soften out the tannin (it is amino acids that do the trick - similar to milk 'softening' the tannin in tea).

Which reds are ready to drink straight away? Today we know how to make wine without much tannin and most is perfect for drinking quite soon after the vintage. The Australians are masters of this rounded, fruit-driven style ... but they are by no means alone. In France - Beaujolais, the Loire, the Rhone, and many areas of the south all produce lovely, early-drinking reds as do the more progressive estates of Spain and Italy.

So, there are no firm rules? Absolutely not. If a wine is well-made - and all of ours are - it will not fall apart at some pre-determined date in the future. To reassure you let me say that I enjoyed a bottle of Beaujolais from the 1920's not so long ago. Very rare, admittedly, but it's surprising how long a well-made wine will keep stored in the right conditions.

What if I open a bottle not quite at its peak? All is not lost. If the wine seems a little young, try a mouthful of meat first - or cheese - that will remove the bite, or try re-corking and leaving it a few days. This has worked for me on a couple of occasions. I've also 'refreshed' a bottle I thought just past its best by mixing with a younger vintage. Heresy ... but useful heresy.

Does all this help you? Not much, I suspect! But we do our best to let you know in our lists and features what we consider to be the 'ideal' drinking date for a wine. Please don't use these as exact 'best before' times but more as general guidelines. Establish your own preferred style (vibrant and fruity or soft and mellow) and 'aim off' what we say to please yourself. Wine is a very erratic business, and all the better for it.

Finding Wine you want on Laithwaites website.

Choosing that special wine couldn't be easier. At the top of the page a range of tabs allows you to view our current recommendations, customer favourites and special promotions. If you know the type of wine you like, or would like to browse our online wine catalogue, a list of our wine categories is shown on the left of the page - just click on a category to view our wines. In the top left of each page is also our search feature - enter up to three keywords and click the search button to find our wines that match your search keywords. For a more detailed search, click on the Advanced Search link.

If you don't like any wine, for whatever reason, we'll refund you, - it's as simple as that.

For 30 years it has been my mission to seek out what we call 'real' wines: those with extra flavour and character that really stand out from the crowd. Unlike the big brands that dominate the market, real wines are made in small volumes by the world's craftsmen winemakers. I buy them direct to guarantee quality and cut out the middleman. We really want you to enjoy every bottle you order from us. So much so that we'll give you your money back if you don't like the wine. No questions asked.

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