From creamy, lightening fresh Anjou Chenin Blanc to mind-bendingly good Retsina, here’s my favourite wines to buy at Amathus right now.
Amathus is a name that’s well known in the drinks trade, serving over 1,000 customers across the UK with its portfolio of whiskies, wines and other spirits since the company was established in 1978. However, their expansion into retail premises outside of London is relatively recent, and the shop in Bath was opened in 2018.
Amathus Bath’s team give it that rare, genuine appeal of a proper local wine shop
While the PLC group is a one of the big guys in our trade, the business is still family owned and headed by founder-CEO Harry Georgiou. The shop retains an independent vibe with a carefully selected range, fixtures and fittings that make the place feel like a treasure trove of discovery, and personal, friendly service from the Bath manager Iford Stanton and his team. The place feels something of an ode to Will Baber’s Tasting Room that formerly occupied the premises; tastings chalked on black a-boards, stock stacked high on the till with staff favourites, and a liberal attitude to opening up goodies for punters to taste.
In today’s difficult wine market, Amathus Bath straddles the luxury of being backed by a major player and retaining its indie appeal – key when you think that the pretty but expensive plot of 6 Green Street is going to demand a fair pace of sales. Bath may be a foodie attraction, but city centre shops like this, with no real place to park close by, are heavily reliant on tourist footfall and bottle, rather than case, sales. If Ifor and the team are selling cases and getting the locals in, then it’s down to how well they run the place. That’s even more the case since the beloved Green Street butchers Bartlett and Sons permanently closed its doors in February this year.
Nevertheless, every time I’ve been in the experience has been a pleasure. Although I have been neglecting the selection recently, instead popping in to top up on Coravin capsules, Amathus’ recent tasting night gave me a chance to sample a whole load of wines in one night – over 50, in fact.
Guided by Iford, and Amathus buyer Jeremy Lithgow MW, these were the bottles that stood out for me:
Here’s what white wine to buy at Amathus
2018, Domaine Nigri Pierre de Lune Jurancon Sec ★★☆ It won’t surprise many who know me that my first pick of the whites would be something obscure like a Jurançon. A blend of Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng, this is a creamy, textured and bright white wine with a hint of candied peel but otherwise overloading with pineapple and stone fruits. Spicy, oaky hues support in a gentle, stylish fashion. It’s succulence in definition. It would work beautifully with risotto and crispy chicken skin, although I took the bottle home and had it with falafels, cherry tomatoes, chips and sizzled courgettes. Lovely! Price is £18.
2018, Markou Vineyards Retsina of Attiki ★★☆ Perhaps the biggest surprise of the evening was that I would taste Retsina and really, really like it. Made by Markou, who have been creating wines since 1928, this was a pleasant surprise with an elegant mix of peachy, peppery, piney and moreish tones. Coming in at £12.50, I’d happily be getting a bottle next time I cook up a platter of Greek meze or fancy something different to sip in the afternoon sun.
2017, Caves de la Loire Anjou Blanc ★★★ My favourite white from the night was a varietal Chenin Blanc from a co-op founded in 1951 called Caves de la Loire, farming around 2,200 hectares of vines operated by 160 families in the Loire Valley. Enjoying a long, cool couple of months’ fermentation in tank and six months on lees, this £14.00 white wine was maverick and characterful, boasting a creamy and honeyed palate with deep apple fruit but retaining lightening freshness thanks to a piercing acidity. Mouth-watering and memorable, it’s a steal.
My favourite red wines to buy at Amathus
2018, H De Chateau de Hauterive Cahors ★★☆ Hailing from the Filhol family’s 21 hectare estate in Cahors, south-west France, this is a blend of 70% Malbec and 30% Merlot. It’s rustic but in a charming, old cottage kind of way, with a mix of red and black fruits over woody tannins. It’s plush and grippy, making sure you remember it. Brilliant for £13.00.
2018, Domaine des Nymphes Rasteau Les Encostes ★★☆ An organic blend of Grenache, Syrah and Carignan from 40-year-old vines, this wine takes its name from the area where an altar destined for the cult of nymphs was unearthed in the Queyrarde district of Rasteau, Rhone. This is full of dark plums and spice, which makes it an easy favourite from the off. Rich but noy jammy, this is a well looked after wine and a great example of bottle young Rasteau that drinks well. £18.00 a bottle.
2018, Lamont Pinot Noir ★★★ Organic red wine by Craig and Angie Gasson in New Zealand’s Central Otago, made from fruit grown on 20-year-old vines that sit on the Bendigo Terraces. £34.00 means it’s not cheap but this super ripe Pinot is silky and fresh with intense, precise fruit. It lingers joyfully and makes me crave lamb.
2018, Barahonda Tinto Barrica ★★★ Another organic red and for me the standout of the night, especially since you can pick it up for £14.00. Grown in the Spanish region of Yecla, which has a real focus on Monastrell (Mouvedre), a variety that is blended here with Syrah. The estate is owned by the Candela family, who have owned their vineyards since 1850 and established their own winery in 2003. Many of its vines are still planted on pre-phylloxera rootstocks and bathe in the sun at 500-900m above sea level, allowing for real intensity in the fruit’s ripeness. The wine ticked all the boxes with marvellous balance on the palate and a melody of dark fruit, pepper, gamey hues and a medium bodied structure that meant it never felt dopey or cloying.
Prices correct as of 14 September 2021. Vintages taken from Amathus’ website. You can buy the wines from Amathus at their shop on 6 Green Street, Bath, or online here.