Our instore tastings happen every week and are designed to be relaxed, informal and accessible for everyone, whether you are exploring wine for the first time, broadening your horizons, or delving deeper into your favourite regions and styles.
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Our upcoming programme of tastings is listed below. We also regularly host winemakers in our Meet the Winemaker series, with winemakers from Australia, France, Hungary and Austria joining us in recent months.
Please note that our tastings start at 7.30pm. Unless otherwise noted, tastings take place on the same day in each of our stores. We typically taste ten wines, accompanied by quality charcuterie and cheese, and the tastings last for around two hours. We regret that due to limited facilities we are unable to cater for dietary requirements.
All places must be booked and paid for in advance. Reservations will not be confirmed without a working contact number and cancellations made with less than 48 hours notice will not be refunded. Due to the popularity and long reserve lists for many of our tastings, it is our policy that reservations made but not confirmed with payment more than two weeks after your reservation is made may be released without notice, although we will try to contact you by phone or email first of all.
To book, please contact your local store for availability.
Upcoming Tastings in 2017
Pfalz to Franken: Rediscovering Germany - £26.00
Thursday 20th April
A derelict wine shop in the arcade under Charing Cross station proudly declares on its curlicued Victorian sign 'Claret, Hock, Moselle' – a reminder of a time when German wines were as highly esteemed as the best red Bordeaux. The wines have since fallen out of favour and are nowhere near as expensive but, whatever the reasons, the vineyards around the mighty Rhine still produce some of the most delicious and distinctive wines in the world. The majestic riesling grape reaches its zenith here, and silvaner, muller-thurgau, weissburgunder and chasselas all make characterful, contemporary wines with crisp flavours and low alcohol. Among the reds pinot noir rules the roost, making increasingly sumptuous and sensuous reds that might challenge all your preconceptions about Germany's misunderstood wines.
Wines of the Silk Road: Kazakhstan, Georgia, Armenia - £29.00
Thursday 27th April
You would be forgiven for thinking that wine was invented in France, but its origins lie in the fertile triangle east of the Black Sea where we know people were cultivating vines and producing wine at least five thousand years ago. Modern Georgian winemaking isn't that modern – wines are still made in traditional Georgian qvevri, clay vessels buried underground, and native varieties like saperavi and rkatsiteli rule the roost. Nearby Armenia focuses on its native areni noir grape, and Kazakhstan also has a burgeoning wine culture. Tonight we return to the cradle of civilization in our wine glasses!
Spring Fling: Sparkling Wines and British Cheese - £30.00
Thursday 4th May
The second the sun kissed our lips the corks started popping. We don't know why but the uplifting sparkle of these wines seems perfect for the change of seasons and the move away from the rich reds of autumn and winter. Whether for a picnic, a pre-dinner glass in the garden, or just for the hell of it, we've got plenty of spring sparklers for your fridge door. Tonight we take you through the bubbles that we are loving right now, from classic blanc de blancs champagne to Californian rose and from savoury Spanish cava to juicy Italian moscato, all accompanied by some delicious British cheeses to celebrate summer!
The Garden of France: Wines of the River Loire - £28.00
Thursday 11th May
The winding route the Loire takes on its way to the Atlantic passes through some of the most beautiful countryside in France; little wonder that most of the French nobility through history have built chateaux along its banks. It has been called the garden of France, due to the abundance of orchards, the rolling fields of artichokes, and – most importantly – the vineyards. The Loire is notable for its range of grape varieties and styles: there'll be grassy sauvignon from Sancerre, blackcurranty cabernet franc from around the valley town of Saumur, chenin blanc in all styles, from dry to sweet and clean to funky, and crisp, coastal Muscadet. Although the winegrowing districts of the Loire cover a large area, the wines are united in their freshness of character and truly French spirit: classiness and rebellion in equal measure.
Gimme Gimme Gamay: Discovering Beaujolais - £25.00
Thursday 18th May
While we believe Beaujolais is for life, not just for summer, it is true that it often sits just right in those months where trouser legs shorten and skin gets more pink (in my case anyway). Gamay is at its quaffable best from the volcanic hills north of Lyon, but don't let this drinkability belie the serious quality to be found in the cru Beaujolais villages, with their balanced delicacy and weight that reveals itself with some bottle age. But it's not just gamay that gets the juicy treatment these days: we'll taste a delicious Beaujolais-style tannat (yes, really), and some other thoroughly thirst-quenching varieties from around the world. Epaulé – jeté!
Bordeaux Bounces Back - £29.00
Thursday 25th May
Oh Bordeaux, our first true love. The English affair with claret is our most longstanding: the wines of the oldest chateaux have graced the best dinner tables in the kingdom for centuries. In recent years, with prices at the top end of the market rising, the British have been inclined to sulk that their favourite tipple is beyond their means. Now that we've all cooled off, it's clear that beyond the luxury wines at the top of the pyramid, there's an abundance of great quality to be found at very wallet-friendly prices. We're talking mature reds, hugely underpriced whites that rival white Burgundy at half the price and many other classically proportioned wines of enduring appeal.
On The Waterfront: Wines of the Coast - £28.00
Thursday 1st June
As our thoughts turn eagerly to picnics on the beach, it's worth remembering that there's more to the coast than chips, sandy tea and sunburn. While we gather our picnic hampers and swimshorts, there is no denying that some of the world's most interesting wines are strongly influenced by their coastal location, where the ocean has a calming effect on summer heat and keeps winters in check. Tonight we stop off in all well-lubricated ports, looking at the coastal wines of the world, from California to Croatia and South Africa to Spain, with their combination of umami richness in the reds and refreshing salinity in the whites.
La Dolce Vita: Avant Garde Italy - £30.00
Thursday 8th June
Not for nothing did the Greeks christen Italy Oenotria – land of the staked vine. Across every hill and down every valley the grapevine runs riot, with thousands of indigenous varieties and obscure denominations challenging the supremacy of Barolo and Brunello. Tonight's tasting is a look at the most exciting contemporary developments in this thrillingly complex, diverse and exciting country. Declassified wines from famous regions go head to head with endangered grapes being saved from extinction by single-minded farmers, and low intervention and biodynamic methods are increasingly popular. Tonight we taste timorasso and grillo, aglianico and gaglioppo alongside many more of Italy's unique vinous treasures.
Sun, Sea, Sherry: Exploring the Wines of Jerez - £28.00
Thursday 15th June - Greenwich & Tufnell Park
Sherry continues to grow in popularity, in part thanks to the exploratory tastes of some wine lists in London restaurants, where the sheer variety of flavours available provides the opportunity for both traditional and experimental pairing options. And, if they can do it, so can we: we'll be choosing our favourite tapas and some more unusual food pairings, and opening a range of sherries to explore the many different ways of making this fascinating drink. As well as tasting light, salty fino, nutty oloroso, old palo cortado and treacle-sweet pedro ximenez, we'll also look at how sherry has moved beyond the Bristol Cream era to produce some of the most distinctive, delicious and value-driven wines on the planet.
Seville to San Sebastian: Exploring the Wines of Spain - £28.00
Thursday 15th June - Leytonstone
Spanish wine continues to grow in popularity, in part thanks to the sheer variety of its flavours, often with an emphasis on richness, ripeness and good value. Tonight we'll be choosing our favourite Spanish wines – white, red and sparkling - and matching them with some traditional Spanish dishes as well as delicacies from further afield. Alongside spritzy Txakoli and mineral albarino, our country-wide tour will take in traditional Rioja, chaotic Catalunya, not to mention the vineyards of Rueda and Toro in the centre. And if that isn't enough, the south of Spain is bouncing with energy, from rejuventated bodegas in Jerez to old vine monastrell and bobal from Valencia. Spain has never been so dynamic, and it shows no sign of stopping yet!
Cocktails with Cocchi - £10.00
Friday 16th June – 8pm, Tufnell Park
Once upon a time a cocktail involved plenty of hard liquor, sugar and, more often than not, vermouth. There isn't a page of the beautiful and iconic Savoy Cocktail Book that doesn't call for a jigger of Italian vermouth or a dash of the French stuff. The fashionability of gin and the rise of the Negroni has brought long-neglected vermouth back into fashion. Tonight we look at one of the world's best producers, Cocchi of Milan to understand how important quality vermouth is, from making the perfect spritzer to transforming Negronis, Manhattans or Martinis from good to great. Less Joan Collins, more Anita Ekberg, tonight promises to be a revelation for fans of proper, classic cocktails.
Down Under: New Australia - £25.00
Thursday 22nd June
Misrepresented by Jacob's Creek and condemned to the 1990s bin along with shellsuits and Noel's House Party, we've all but forgotten that Australia is one of the world's greatest wine producing countries. While it used to be dominated by explosively rich interpretations of French varieties (did someone say shiraz?), a new wave of producers are using lighter Spanish and Italian varieties, making juicy but fresh montepulciano from Riverina, barbera from King Valley and spicy tempranillo from the Adelaide Hills. Those producers still working with the Aussie originals – chardonnay, shiraz and cabernet – have been making fresher and more elegant styles for years. Tonight we revisit the country that introduced so many of us to wine.
There's No Place Like Home: Native Grapes - £27.00
Thursday 29th June
Some grapes are born jetsetters, travelling around the world and finding their fame in far-flung places. Some are more fickle – or just less popular – and never take hold outside of their homeland. Whether well travelled or localised, it is always fascinating to taste a wine made from grapes grown in their original setting. Malbec may be known for its big, ripe and glossy Argentinian outings, perfect with slabs of red meat, but back home in Cahors it makes altogether more rustic and complex wines. Tonight we'll be writing our own vinous origins story, taking grapes back to their homeland. From garnacha in Spain to nebbiolo in Italy, via German riesling, Croatian zinfandel and – of course – French chardonnay, we'll discover what makes these grapes an enduring success in their homeland.
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