Out of the asylum for the weekend (I am unfortunately surrounded by the unfortunate sufferers of Alzheimers here) my father drove me up into the old mill towns of Lancashire, and more precisely Clitheroe an ancient garrison town overlooking the Ribble Valley.
And there the reason for our outing, D Byrne & Co, quite singularly, the greatest wine shop I have been to in a long, long time. Great because of its selection, great because of its fair pricing, great because it was just great.
In my opening gambit on this site, I stated that my sabbatical had forced me to take a new look at what I do, but I have regressed to the only trade I know, selling wine from France and Italy to the UK and American markets in as great a quantity as I can, and with a pathetically keen eye to the scores of Parker, Suckling et al.
I am not really proud of it, but that is what I do. And hell, I have a family to feed.
But in a perfect, dream of a world, D Byrne would I become. It is an embarrassment of riches, literally. They have everything you could ever want, from Charlie Melton to Dominique Lafon, from Lustau’s Papirusa to 1988 GPL. What is more, their prices put me to shame; they are cheaper than I see (and sell) on the open market. If the mirror in my hospital bathroom were lower, I would have difficulty looking myself in the eye.
To my cynicism, D Byrne & Co is a well of freshness, purity and joy.
I am collapsing into hyperbole, but it is difficult to express how much I loved this place, and how great to know that places like this still exist. They have been doing this same, simple job since the 1890’s. My wife asked if they would work with me, and I had to reply that I wouldn’t even insult them by asking.
Afterwards we drove through beautiful woods and fells on single track, stone walled lanes (better than the Cotswolds, I promise you) to the Inn at Whitewell, where with a platter of English cheese and a pint of bitter, I sat in the garden contemplating the river Hodder and the Trough of Bowland, not to mention…the error of my ways.
So If you are up near Liverpool or Manchester, take the time out to visit this little, tardis-like shop and take something home. I was tempted by a 2006 Puligny Les Charmes from Lafon (£109 off the shelf), but for Old Times’ sake settled for a bottle of Nine Popes and a bottle of Marjossa sparkling shiraz. It seemed like a good idea at the time, that last one, but I have no idea what I’ll drink it with…perhaps Midsummer Pudding. Seems as a good a match as any.
They sell everything, from a Bell’s whiskey miniatures to Embassy Regal cigarettes. Long may it continue, and they can probably point you to a mean balck pudding too.
D Byrne & Co, http://www.dbyrne-finewines.co.uk
Address: Victoria Buildings, 12 King St, Town Centre, Clitheroe BB7 2EP