I am quite fierce about my independence, when I choose wine for a tasting I do so based on quality, availability and price, so I really don't want to sign any deal that ties me to a particular retailer, even if it would mean getting commision or a better deal on bulk buys. However when I have had a good experience I want to share it.
The Wine Society is a mutual organisation, which means they only charge what they need to in order to cover their costs and provide benefits to members. There are no directors getting fat bonuses, the society is run by an elected commitee. You pay for a share in the Society (currently £40) to become a lifetime member, no annual fee. Every wine they sell has been well vetted and, particularly their own label varietals, which represent great value for money as well as an educational experience. There's always someone on-hand to give advice, they host tastings up and down the country and you'll find useful things like vintage charts and fine wine advice on their website. Really the complete package for anyone interested in wine.
If I had £1 for every time I was asked about whisky tastings I could retire! So here its is! With the same sort of down-to-earth, fun approach that I have to wine, Gordon makes learning about whisky and whisky tasting fun. Click the banner to go through to his website.
Recommended High Street Retailers
- since my days in Oxford I've always had a strong connection with Oddbins. The manager of the Summertown branch was training to be a Master of Wine back then and taught me a LOT! Even now, with 3 branches in Aberdeen, they more often fulfill my criteria when it comes to selecting wines for tasting, and the staff are as knowledgeable and friendly as ever.
I would say that Majestic are en par
with Oddbins where it matters i.e. quality, knowledgeable & friendly staff and these days their minimum order policy (you have to buy at least 12 bottles if shopping online or 6 in-store) is less of a problem. They stock a different selection of wines from Oddbins, so now that there is a store in Aberdeen I usually find myself looking at both before deciding on what to use in a tasting. Hopefully, through my tastings, more of you will also have the confidence to be more adventurous and try something ne, so there is no reason for you to stick to one retailer either.
Recommended Online Retailers
- as I said I'm keen to share a good experience and recently I spotted a bargain on the Laithwaites website. After being told there was a stock issue Laithwaites defied my cynicism by providing an alternative that was not only from the same appellation in Bordeaux, but had the same scores and positive reviews in the wine literature. The one I had chosen previously was such a bargain that I fully expected to be offered an alternative based on price rather than quality and was instead bowled over by the product knowledge and high levels of customer service. I would shop here again!
Drinks Direct has a good range, often including wines that I have known in the past and can no longer get on the high street or wines that I am curious to try. Their delivery charge is reasonable (£5.99 per delivery) and they often have special offers that effectively mean delivery is free.
Wine and Food events by city, worldwide. Spirits and Beer events as well. Post your own event or
sign up to be notified when new events are posted to your area. I will also post an ad here for upcoming Young Adults' Tastings to give you plenty warning.
- I first stumbled onto Isabelle Legeron's programme Journey into Wine on the Travel Channel and was struck by her down-to-earth approach. Having grown up in the vineyards of France her knowledge is far greater than mine, but her philosophy seems to be the same - to make wine and learning about it more approachable to everyone and to debunk a lot of the myths and elitism than can be associated with it. If you don't have access to the Travel Channel
or don't want to wait for the repeats you can buy DVDs of the series here.
Just so you know how much is too much and maybe some other facts you might not have been aware of regarding the effects alcohol can have on your health.
Wines & Spirits Educational Trust (WSET). Born the same year I was! The Trust provides courses for professional qualifications in wines and spirits at their centre in London and through approved programme providers across the globe, as well as workshops and one-of evenings for the enthusiastic amateur.
Fiona's my cousin so I've been lucky enough to have been sampling her cooking for years. Believe me it is GREAT!
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