Malcolm von Schantz writes in with his contribution for our competition for the best review of the best independent wine merchant in the world.
I am extremely lucky to live a few minutes away from my nominee, but even if I wasn't practically a neighbour, I would be happy to travel a considerable distance to visit The Vineyard in Dorking.
In spite of being located in a small town of some 12,000 souls, with a new Majestic having opened only yards down the same road, John and his team maintain a thriving and happy business. It is one of those shops where they recognise you the second time, and the third time you are a friend (and get a discount).
Whether you are looking for a bottle under a tenner or a special 50th birthday present, they are always happy to guide you towards exciting wines with personality, and they have an uncanny ability of knowing what you like (they probably remember what I've bought better than I do), and most importantly, not a snobbish bone in their bodies – whatever your budget and whatever your knowledge about wine, you can always count on getting sincere and helpful advice, or being left free to browse undisturbed if that's what you prefer (guided by countless thoughtful staff notes posted on the shelves). After a few visits, you know every single member of staff, all of whom have personality, deep knowledge, and friendliness in spades.
Every Saturday they open a number of bottles for a free tasting, and of course there is also the (equally free) annual tasting event when all their distributors bring their goods to a large venue at nearby Denbies Wine Estate. So in summary:
I couldn't imagine a nicer shop of any category run by a nicer and better group of people – how fortunate I am that they sell wine, and practically on my doorstep!
76 South Street
Surrey RH4 2HD
+44 (0)1306 876 828