Our instore tastings are at the heart of what we do, and we have run over 1000 since we opened in 2002. They 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.
Our upcoming programme of tastings is listed below. We also regularly host winemakers in our Meet the Winemaker series, with producers from Australia, France, Japan, the UK and Austria joining us in recent months.
All our tastings start at 7.30pm unless otherwise noted, and last approximately two hours. Each evening, a range of artisan bread, cheeses and charcuterie will be provided to match the wines, although we regret that we cannot cater for dietary requirements. Places must be booked and paid for in advance and payment must be made within two weeks to confirm your booking, otherwise your reservation may be released without notice. Reservations will not be confirmed without a working contact number and cancellations made with less than 48 hours notice will not be refunded.
To book, please email your local store for availability. As our tastings often sell out within days (or hours) of publication, we suggest you sign up to our mailing list to receive the tastings updates as soon as they are published to avoid disappointment.
Upcoming Tastings in 2018
The Magic Mountain: Piedmontese Wine & Food Matching - £36
Thursday 15th February
At the bottom of the alps in northwest Italy lies Piedmont, one of the greatest winemaking regions in the world, sometimes referred to as the Burgundy of Italy. The quality here is unsurpassed but even more interesting is the great diversity on offer. Tonight we will focus on the singular deliciousness of nebbiolo, with its flavours of leather, dried cranberry and spice – not just the great wines of Barolo and Barbaresco, that reveal their aromatic intensity over years of ageing, but also nebbiolo from all around the wider region, where it assumes a range of names and powerful flavours for the money. We will also show our appreciation for the other grapes of the area such as ever-popular moscato and endlessly-drinkable barbera, alongside some carefully chosen cheeses and meats to complement this fine banquet of wines.
The Birth of Wine: Greece, Thrace & The Black Sea - £26
Thursday 22nd February
When Jason sailed to Colchis in search of the Golden Fleece and the proverbial land of milk and honey, it was to modern day Georgia and Armenia, across the Black Sea from Greece, that he travelled. Our own journey involves no dragons' teeth, and the only siren song we'll be singing tonight is that of value, variety and originality, three virtues that the wines of Bulgaria, Romania, the Causcauses and Greece have in spades. Tonight we steer our trireme from exuberant agiorghitiko to aromatic xinomavro, spiced mavrud to waxy rkatsiteli, brooding saperavi and mineral cramposie, exploring the contemporary flavours of an area with a claim to being the birthplace of wine culture as we know it.
Old World, New World, Borrowed and Blue World - £27
Thursday 1st March
Ever since the Judgement of Paris tasting in 1976, when Californian wines beat the best of France into second place, wines from Europe have had to compete with America, Africa and Down Under. While the distinction between old and new was once clear cut, there is now a lot of crossover, with growers outside traditional European heartlands emulating the finesse and site-specific bottlings of their Old World counterparts, while in Europe the benefits of greater understanding of winemaking, fostered in universities like University of California at Davis and the Australian Wine Research Institute in Adelaide, has lead to more consistent and polished wines. This marriage of approaches means only one thing – delicious choice for the open-minded drinker. Come along to see if you can taste the difference between Chilean and Burgundian pinot noir, discover syrah from New Zealand that is the spitting image of northern Rhone, and test your senses with a blind tasting round to see if you can detect old from new.
Alsace Effect: Alsace and its Influences - £29
Thursday 8th March
Up in the north-eastern corner of France, the Alsace region has been, both politically and culturally, caught between France and neighbouring Germany. The competing influences are seen throughout Alsace, from the language and architecture to the food and, of course, the wine. While grapes and wine labelling are Germanic, the diversity and scale of winemaking is often resolutely French. Tonight, to discover what is happening in this unique region, we'll taste soaring, bone-dry, gothic riesling, fleshy and succulent pinot gris, and rococo, camp gewurztraminer. We'll also taste how the trademarks of Alsatian wine have travelled across the world, sometimes under the radar, from the Finger Lakes to the Antipodes.
Better than Burgundy? - £34
Thursday 15th March
When tasting the 2016 Burgundy releases in early January, we were taken aback by the absurd prices. Of course, some were very tasty, but if even entry level Bourgogne rouge is fifty pounds a bottle, it feels like the returns are slipping away. Luckily, there are plenty of wine regions happy to offer bang-for-buck not found on the Cote d'Or, so tonight is about chardonnay and pinot noir that won't leave you pining for premier cru Gevrey, from regional French competitors to Oregon and South Africa. Of course, there is still value to be dug out in Burgundy, so as a control we'll slip in a few of our choice picks. All in the name of science...
Wild and Raw - £30
Thursday 22nd March
In the supermarket wine aisles, you will find a whole fruitbowl of flavours printed on the bottles: ripe, juicy and readily palatable flavours prevail. Just as Bronwen and Francis Percival describe for cheesemaking in their recent book, Reinventing the Wheel, the industrial production of wine has narrowed the boundaries of what is seen as 'acceptable' flavour. While the mainstream favours cleanliness and super-ripeness, in the undergrowth of the wine world there is a whole range of savoury, mineral, animal and raw flavours to be experienced. Tonight we'll taste wine unpurified with chemical additives, and from producers embracing the wildness of natural yeasts: tangy Georgian whites, the muscular wines from Oikonomou in Crete, slatey, crystalline Beaujolais, and others embracing farmyard funkiness across the world.
Resurrection: Grapes Brought Back from the Brink - £28
Thursday 29th March
Although the 90s provided a broad expanse of experience – from shellsuits to tamagotchi, Liam and Noel to the 'end of history' – when it came to wine they celebrated well-travelled French grape varieties such as chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon to the exclusion of almost all else. The 21st century has proven itself more interested in provenance, so while malbec and Rioja remain calling cards for many people, there's increased interest in the niche, the rare and the endangered when it comes to the vines that make our wines, all of which offer up new flavours, textures and personalities. Our tasting tonight explores grape varieties that were very nearly lost altogether, or have languished in obscurity for too long. Aglianico, pecorino, viognier and mavrotragano will all feature. With wines from places as widely spread as Chile and Santorini, our quest is to put almost-lost grapes back where they belong; in the glass.
Crossing Borders: Slovenia, Austria, North-eastern Italy - £32
Thursday 5th April
The sweep of European terrain running from the Danube, through Slovenia, and across northern Italy into the foothills of the Alps has, throughout history, been full of cross-cultural pollination. Once ruled over by the Austro-Hungarian empire, the continental climate favours grape growing, and there are centuries of fascinating winemaking history that traverses modern borders. We'll be showcasing the amazing new wines of Uros Valcl from Marof winery in Prekmurje, Slovenia, alongside lofty gruner veltliner and peppery blaufrankisch from Austria, alpine Italian reds and the rich and complex whites often made with skin contact from Friuli and neighbouring Brda.
A Little Sugar in my Bowl: Sweet Wine and Cake - £28
Thursday 12th April
Wines with sweetness are often met with disdain, even by those who love a pudding, happily eat quantities of ripe, sweet fruit, and can plough through a pack of Haribo with ease. We think it's time to reimagine sweetness as just another factor in the overall experience of wine alongside acidity and tannin. To do so we'll explore a whole range of wines, from everyday house wines with unannounced residual sugar used to add roundness and fruitiness, elegant German riesling where sweetness is a necessary foil to soaring acidity, and then on to unashamedly sticky dessert wines of all shades. Dessert wine wouldn't be right without some dessert, so we'll be pairing wines with a range of seductive sweet treats from the patisserie.
Green, White and Red: Regional Italy - £30
Thursday 19th April
Although the top wines of Italy are internationally recognised, its fierce regional independence makes it an overwhelmingly complex country to get to grips with. Not only are there hundreds of grape varieties, often the same grape is called a different name in the next town down the road. Still, there is a lot of delicious wine to be found, so tonight we'll showcase our pick of Italy's lesser known regions, such as mineral muller thurgau from the edge of the Alps, dense, herbal sagrantino from Umbria, aromatic nerello mascalese from Sicily, and juicy falanghina from the Adriatic coast.
Meet the Brewer: Hop Stuff and Pretty Decent Brewing - £10
Wednesday 25th April - Leytonstone only
After a hard day's work tasting wines to select the best for our shelves – someone has to do it - we all agree that the best way to wind down is with a refreshing beer. With this in mind we have invited our friends at Pretty Decent Brewing and Hop Stuff over to our Leytonstone store for another 'Meet the Brewer' tasting. Pretty Decent are a young brewery from just round the corner in Forest Gate, and Hop Stuff are based in Woolwich, just a stone's throw from our Greenwich store. Come and join us to taste through each brewer's range of styles, hear their stories and find out what exciting new things they are brewing up.
Rosé and Light Reds with Cheese - £25
Thursday 26th April
Spring is here, and now that the days are getting longer, we start fantasising about ripping off our knitwear to gambol through fields of budding grasses and blossoming trees, feeling the kiss of spring sunshine rejuvenate our pale, winter skin. This lease of life is tangible in the produce of the season, so tonight we'll be pairing young spring cheeses with light, fresh reds and ruddy rosés that exude joy. Think fresh and earthy goats cheese from the Loire with sprightly cabernet franc, Charolais with juicy gamay, and peppery, tangy Bandol rosé with Coulommiers.