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The essence of Portugal….

Tuesday, March 27th, 2018

Restricted to holidaying during school breaks, our family pilgrimage to Portugal hangs in the balance because prices are three times higher in peak season. So an invitation to Portugal to review the country’s largest consumer wine fair in Porto: Essencia do Vinho (Essence of wine) and to help judge Portugal’s Top 10 wines, could not be ignored.

Meanwhile (and a little cruelly timed) back in the UK, London was playing host to the annual Wines of Portugal tasting. Normally a fail-safe fixture in my wine tasting calendar I like to visit for the energy, innovation and talent that you are guaranteed to find there. Energy and innovation might not be words you would think of to describe Portuguese wine (perhaps more so their football team) but for a number of years now Portugal has been chipping away at the psyche and taste buds of the UK wine trade and, as figures released show, sales to the UK have risen by nearly 50%: the hard work is paying off. ………

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London’s third urban winery opens….

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

Vagabond wineryVagabond Wines first came onto my radar as an oddly spacious wine shop near my office that had a large table inside and a series of enomatic wine machines to try before you buy. This hybrid format of wine retailing was pretty revolutionary back then so much so that every time I walked passed the place would be empty and I wondered how long it would last. That was 2010 in Fulham and the concept has not only survived but flourished and arguably influenced the flux of hybrid wine shops/bars that now exist around the country.

Not content with an enviable portfolio of wine bars and restaurants in Fulham, Spitalfields, Clapham, Victoria and Charlotte street Vagabond have now opened their first urban winery, and London’s only fully operational winery with bar and restaurant in the newly rejuvenated neighbourhood of Battersea Power Station. And Gavin Monery – formerly of London’s first urban winery, London Cru – is at the winemaking helm. I for one cannot wait to visit; if their press pictures are anything to go by they have not only refined their understanding and use of interior space but positively mastered it.

What they say:
Champions of independent wine, Vagabond has extended its mission to bring quality wines at accessible prices to Londoners with this newest venture. ………

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Wine design…

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018

Terra Gauda poster winner 2017

There’s no denying the influence a wine label and overall pack has on my desire to buy a wine. On a mammoth trek of wine stores (Coop, M&S, Sainsbury, Majestic, Tesco, Morrisons, Waitrose, Lidl) in South London the other week only one store had any bottles open to try which meant the price point and pack were the main contenders fighting for my cash. The wine isle can be an intimidating place, but visiting so many competitors in a short space of time meant overall ambience, shelf appeal and size of range was directly comparable.

There was, inevitably, a surprise winner and surprise looser in the impact stakes. ………

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A force majeure of vinous proportions….

Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018

Force Majeure Chenin BlancA hangover of monumental proportions the other week taught me that Prosecco on tap does not a fun morning make. I’ve not had a hangover on that scale since I was child free and lie-ins and foggy heads were the weekend norm.

Two other blasts from my vinous past have taken me down a rather more enjoyable memory lane this week with the death of legendary French chef Paul Bocuse whose restaurant I visited outside of Lyon on a press trip as a wine trade rookie. There, my wide eyed 23 year old self was taught that binge eating was a skill I had to acquire if I was going to cut it in the wine trade as I struggled to finish all nine courses of fine French cuisine to the horror of my more seasoned and wider waisted colleagues. Then a sip of a delicately oaked Hawkes Bay Chardonnay at the New Zealand Wine Growers tasting last week took me vividly back to my dawning wine moment that convinced me to join the trade. Even though it was a very different producer and at least 15 years later it reminded me that the wine trade hasn’t changed much, not even the wines themselves. ………

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Healthification vinified…..

Tuesday, December 5th, 2017

Atkins Farm ShirazThe healthification of alcohol consumption among millenials was personified last night at the Circle of Wine Writers Christmas party where there was a notable absence of next generation wine scribes on the one hand and a jolly time being had by all on the other. As one that missed the millennial nametag by a matter of months I flirted with a bit of both trends by drinking a few glasses in a short space of time before heading home for an early night. ………

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Women, wine and rabbits…

Tuesday, November 28th, 2017

Contented wine drinking Rabbit by HAMIf the foggy messages filling the school mums whatsapp group after our first ‘pamper night social’ are anything to go by then wine consumption is still going strong and the capacity to get through large volumes when a group of women get together is vast! So it was surprising to find myself surrounded by women at Stylist Live earlier this month with only gin and vodka available to quench the thirst. Fashion, food, inspirational talks, beauty treatments and 200 shopping pop ups for three days at Olympia in London. It was a show full of fabulousness and packed to the rafters with wine drinking women but there was one gapping hole. No wine.


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