What's New at artisan & vine?

This blog site includes news on latest wines, food, events, offers and happenings at artisan & vine. It also includes stories of my wine adventures in and outside the bar, wine facts and wine profiles.

Friday, 30 April 2010

artisan & vine’s Eat Out Manifesto

Damn straight I’m getting in on electoral fever!

Here’s our Eat Out Manifesto:

  1. We believe that all Londoners should be able to eat out any day of the week, regardless of occasion or cause for celebration.
  2. We believe that Monday through Thursday should provide the same, if not better, opportunities for eating out as over-crowded week ends.
  3. We believe that Friday is better when it starts with sparkling wine.
  4. We believe that outstanding wine should be available with every eating experience, and enjoyed without compromise.

To fulfil these ideologies, we pledge to offer all customers the opportunity to enjoy a Prix Fixe menu of £11 for two courses and £13 for three courses, every day of the week.

Click here to see the menus on offer in our Eat Out Manifesto.

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Happy Hour and my medieval PR skills

Yesterday someone on twitter said artisan & vine's PR skills are "medieval". It's true... we still haven't thought of anything better than relying on our customer's word of mouth & writing little witticisms about our latest ideas, discoveries or revelations. Well... here's my latest shot at homemade PR... like homemade wine or homemade cooking... I reckon there's a certain charm :)

I’m certain I don’t do enough to let you know about Happy Hour. I’m certain because any wine lover who knew about it would definitely be at the bar.

Happy Hour runs at artisan & vine every day from 5pm till 7pm. We always have 2 whites, 2 reds, a rose, a sweet wine and a sherry on Happy Hour. The deal is: you get to drink the selected wines at our off licence, rather than bar, prices. Because we are also an off licence, if you don’t finish the bottle at artisan & vine, we can cork it up for you to take home or to a BYO restaurant.
It’s an incredible deal.

We change the wines on offer regularly and you get them for a fantastic price. To get an idea of our off licence prices, click here to see the online shop, and see how Happy those hours between 5pm and 7pm really are!
Image: this stunning 2008 Albarino from Bonny Doon is currently on Happy Hour at artisan & vine; exactly the sort of opportunity any wine lover should jump on!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Wine Facts: a Brief History of Wine

Every week I'm posting some Wine Facts, you can find them in this blog under the "Wine Facts" tag. This week: you need to know where you've been to know where you might go!

Pre-history through to Ancient Rome
Evidence of wine making and drinking emerges as early as ancient Babylon (3000BC) and Egypt (some sophisticated relics from 1900BC). Wine moves its way up to the Mediterranean with the Phoenicians in 1100BC and exists as a hallmark of Greek social life and culture throughout antiquity. Ancient Rome sees the first documentation of vintages and ageing with the legendary “Opimian”, of 121BC vintage, being drunk 125 years later!

The Middle Ages through to the 18th Century
The Middle Ages saw the emergence of the Church and monastical wine making. The one commercial exception to the Church’s vineyard domination was Bordeaux, with its market focused wine production for France and England. Bordeaux sets a precedent for the wine world of the future.
The wine industry grew and prospered in Europe up until the 17th century as it was the only safe and storable beverage of the time. Water and ale were largely unsafe and spirits and caffeinated drinks did not yet exist.
In the 17th century the European world opened to the Americas and Asia. This brought tea, coffee and chocolate. The Dutch developed spirits and hops were added to ale to make much more stable beer. As a reaction to these new competitive drinks, wine moved from being a necessity beverage to a prestige drink. The quality of wine improved greatly and by the 18th century, Europe had established many of its most successful quality wine regions and techniques.

The 20th Century
The 20th century saw science and industrialisation provide the basis for mass production and global distribution of wine. Hiccups around various Prohibition campaigns, a couple of world wars and more dangerous to the vine world – a lethal outbreak of the now infamous vine pest phylloxera – dented production levels from time to time, but the wine world had already proved itself hardy and continued to improve.

It’s easy to get editorial on the state of the wine world today. Clearly, globalisation and the artificial tricks to producing wine for epic journeys and immediate supermarket stocking have taken their tolls on what was an artisanal product. Though, there is hope. Naturally, this brief account of the History of Wine must conclude with the spectacularly historic opening of London’s first wine bar to specialise in Local and Natural wines: artisan & vine. It says a lot for the luxury of our age that we have so many different wines and specialist wine bars to choose from.

Image: of course the Egyptians were at it.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

How to meet new people AND enjoy amazing wine

You already know we run exciting Speed Dating every other Thursday and fun Wine Tasting every Wednesday. Now we’ve combined the best of both to have Wine Dating! The next Wine Dating event at artisan & vine will be run on Sunday, 30 May at 2pm.

How does it work?
WineDating events are a great way to meet new people whilst tasting some great wines from around the world. Wine tasting dating allows you to meet people in groups of 6 rather than one-on-one like traditional speed dating.

What is the format of a WineDating event?
Our wine tasting events are totally different to any other dating events in London. On arrival you will greeted by our hosts who will allocate you a table number and a scorecard.
Once everyone has arrived I will begin with an introduction into tasting, some hints and tips plus a description of the six wines you will taste during the event. Everyone then takes their seats and the tasting of the first wine begins. Please remember to arrive on time as we can't always let you in if you're really late!
Once everyone is seated in their first group of six (normally 3 guys, 3 girls) the wine tasting begins! You then have around 12 minutes to taste the first wine, chat and get to know your first set of co-tasters.
When your 12 minutes is up we will signal the end of your first tasting session. At this point the guys move on to their next table and collect the wines for their next tasting group.
It's important to record the people you want to see after each tasting as you're going to be using our online matching system then day after the event!
This format until all groups have met all the members of the opposite sex and tasted all six wines.

Monday, 26 April 2010

Wine Profile: Cuvee Faustine 2007, Domaine Comte Abbatucci, Ajaccio, Corsica

Any wine blog worth its weight in cork should have regular profiles of particularly exciting wines. You can find a collection of my favourite wines within this blog under the tag "Wine profiles".

Today, as the sun is here - if a little retreated this particular day - I must talk rose! In specific, this gorgeous Corsican rose, which currently ranks as the fifth best selling wine on the artisan & vine online shop, no small achievement!

On the magical island of Corsica, known in France as “Île de Beauté” (the Beauty Island”), the Domaine Comte Abbatucci extends over 100 ha of granitic sandy slopes, blending in with the wild but benevolent natural landscape.

Out of the estate’s 100 hectares, there are 20 ha of vines but also clementines, vegetables, olive trees, sheep… All farmed bio-dynamically since 2000. Jean-Charles strongly believes in Rudolph Steiner’s concept of a “farm unit”.

Being one of the oldest vineyard plantations in Corsica, the estate has been selected to study and experiment the reproduction of ancient vine varieties that are treasures of the Corsican viticulture. The estate grows a fascinating (and delicious) range of indigenous varieties: Vermentino, Niellucio, Sciaccarello and Barbarossa. Life on the estate is regulated by the rhythms of sun, moon and planets. The grapes harvested develop in health and harmony.

Today Jean-Charles’s wine quality is recognised by experts all over the world, wines that preserve the very particular and original flavours of the Corsican terroir. This wine is the ultimate rose experience. Light colour, displaying aromas of peach & apricot, red berries. A tender, subtle wine with outstanding freshness.

This is the wine to persuade those rose-doubters that the style is capable of greatness!
Naturally, it is available at artisan & vine wine bar, and on our online shop here.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

London's Top 10 Wine Bars

Drinking and going out authority Fluid London recently published their Top 10 Wine Bars list. Once again, we were delighted for artisan & vine to feature in the Top 10. Check out the write up by clicking here!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

St George's Day English Wine Trade and Press Tasting

Yesterday saw the celebration of England's patron saint: St George. In reality, St George's Day seems more to be a celebration of "Englishness" than saintliness. With that spirit in mind, Suvi, Karlee and I proceeded happily to Chelsea Football Stadium for the 2010 English Wine Trade Tasting.

The slogan of the English Wine Marketing Association is to "think English, drink English". I've been drinking English for some time now. As an Aussie, trying to appreciate the full "think English" experience, I'm considering spending more time queuing, discussing the weather and reading tabloids.

On a more pleasant note, I was delighted to taste that the 2009 vintage for some of my favourite producers were still very strong: Biddenden (Kent), Brightwell (Oxfordshire) and Bolney Estate (East Sussex) were all in fine form. Latest releases from Ridgeview (West Sussex), Nyetimber (West Sussex) and Camel Valley (Cornwall) (varying vintages as these were sparkling wines) similarly stood up well.

A slow start to my morning meant I didn't get to all of the tasting tables I would have liked - namely Three Choirs (Gloucestershire) and Sharpham (Devon) - though I'm committed to subsequent vineyard trips to these.

So, the fun bit: who are my new picks for our 2010-2011 wine list? I'm very excited about Quons Organic Vineyard (Wiltshire), who make a lovely wine from the Orion grape variety. I was very impressed by the rose and red wines from Furleigh Estate (Dorset) and the red wine, King Coel from Carter's Vineyards (Colchester). Last, though certainly not least, was a very fresh and refined couple of white wines from Warden Abbey Vineyard (Bedfordshire). Our 2010-2011 wine list will be published in May.
Overall, the quality of wines at this year's tasting was certainly up from last year. English wine producers are bringing a lot more finesse and fruit to their wine making. I think a lot of the wine makers are honing in on the style that suits their soils and grape varieties. Of course it could just be that 2009 was a fantastic year for wine grape growing.

29 May - 6 June is English Wine Week. That Wednesday, 2 June, our Wednesday Wine Tasting will be an open bottle session to taste an exciting range of English wines. It's going to be a special price of only £10/person to taste all of our great English wines. Click here for further details and to book your place.

Image: the English Wine Marketing Association slogan: Think English, Drink English

Friday, 23 April 2010

ANZAC Day: 25 April

Today is St Georges Day. But I'm writing about ANZAC Day today. I'm writing about St Georges Day later; after I've tasted all of the English wines on show at today's St Georges Day tasting.
I'm writing about ANZAC Day today because I want to give you advance notice on what it's all about & what we're doing about it at artisan & vine.

This Sunday 25 April is ANZAC Day. As an Aussie, I’m going to need to tell you a little about it. Yes, you can expect to see a good number of Australians and New Zealanders out with BBQ and stubbies but I think it’s worth writing a little about what ANZAC Day is really about.

ANZAC = Australian and New Zealand Army Corps. The original intent of ANZAC Day was to commemorate whose who fought at Gallipoli, Turkey during World War I. It now more broadly commemorates all those who died and served in military operations for their countries. It’s an important day for Australians and New Zealanders, not only because we remember the honourable sacrifice of over 10,000 Aus & NZ soldiers, not only because it was the first international military conquest we were a part of, and not only because this was an 8 month stalemate on Turkish shores. It’s for all of these things and the spirit of commitment, strength and honour, that came to form part of both of our national identities.

To commemorate the ANZACs and support widows and children of deceased veterans, we’ll be donating £1 from every bottle of Australian or New Zealand wine sold at artisan & vine this Sunday to London Legacy.

Please do come along and enjoy some Australian or New Zealand wine this Sunday; it’s no extra cost to you & will benefit this very worthy cause.

Image: ANZAC Cove in Gallipoli

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Meet @ artisan & vine

Back in my corporate life, I was always bewildered by the uninspiring and expensive venues we used to use for external team meetings, brainstorming sessions or training courses. Recently it occurred to me that I could do something about it - well, not retrospectively of course, but I could help make a brighter future for other corporate meeters :)

And so, artisan & vine recently opened our doors to corporate users by launching Meet @ artisan & vine, available to book from 9am -5pm Monday - Friday.

Meet @ artisan &v ine specialises in providing meeting space for organisers seeking something different, who in these cash-sensitive times, are rightly unwilling to pay for facilitates they will not use, but refuse to compromise on customer service, catering and style. Meet @ artisan & vine specialises in small-medium sized groups (up to 30 people) seeking informal, creative London conference facilitates for a highly competitive price.

The space is ideal for workshops, with plenty of room for break out sessions and boasts a great location only 5 minutes from Clapham Junction, Britain’s busiest train station. Even better, after your meeting has concluded, you and your team are already in one of London's best wine bars, ready for a relaxing evening with fine wine.Advance bookings are essential. Meeting space may be requested with as little as 12 hours notice.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Australia Days

ANZAC Day is coming up this Sunday. Between that & the most excellent weather of late, I'm very much reminded of home and the big sun lavished vineyards we have. Earlier this year I spent a luxurious 3 weeks sunning it up at home in Australia. That place has a lot of vineyards and much less wine bars, which is a shame because the tyranny of distance makes it a real project to taste all of the exceptional boutique wines hidden across the country.

Australia really does has some outstanding wines, it’s a (another!) shame that so many of them just don’t make it over to our shores. I most enjoyed trying a large range of Semillon wines in the Hunter Valley (an easy 90 minutes from Sydney). We don’t often see Semillon as a single varietal wine here in the UK but if you get a chance, do give it a go – it’s a very powerful grape, strong citrus aromatics and a robust vegetal mouth. I’ll keep you posted on my hunt for a happy Semillon here in the UK.

An excellent resource you should check out if you love biodynamic wines and are headed to Australia is Max Allen’s comprehensive website: Red, White and Green. It provides an outstanding overview of biodynamic producers across Australia, which I came to depend upon while out there!

Image: me with dear ol’ Mum & Dad tasting wines at Macquariedale Vineyard, one of only two biodynamic vineyards in the Hunter Valley.

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Wine Facts: Top 10 Wine Producing Countries

Unable to share enough wine facts during our normal opening hours, we’ve decided to go “e” with the fact disbursement. Every week we’re going to include a mini-feature on interesting wine facts. You'll be able to find them all under the tag "Wine Facts" within this blog.

To kick off: the big picture – where wine is made and how much is being made. The following table lists the world’s 10 biggest wine producing countries, plus our beloved UK’s wine production*. By way of conversion, the UK’s production was nearly 2 million bottles.

1 France 51,700
2 Italy 49,631
3 Spain 38,173
4 USA 23,579
5 Argentina 15,400
6 Australia 14,260
7 China 11,800
8 South Africa 9,400
9 Germany 8,995
10 Chile 8,450
59 United Kingdom 14

Of the top ten wine producing countries, all have grown in production volumes since 1996 except the Old World superstars: France, Italy and Germany. Spain has hardly had a steady ride over the 10 year period either, with (relatively) widely fluctuating annual production figures. The most aggressive production growth in the top ten comes from, little surprise, Australia, which almost doubled its production in the last ten years.

The surprises? Did you know that China would be in the Top 10? Or that Argentina produces more than Australia?

* Source: The Wine Institute World Wine Production By Country, Trade Data And Analysis (TDA), volume figures are given in thousands of Hectoliters based on 2006 production.

Monday, 19 April 2010

International Wine Challenge

This year I had the pleasure of being invited to judge at the International Wine Challenge (IWC). During the last week I joined some 300+ wine experts in blind tasting over 10,000 wines to determine which wines should take home coveted medals or commendations from the Challenge. The IWC is ‘the biggest blind tasting in the world’. The result of the tasting manifest in these little stickers (pictured) that you’ll see appear on bottles of wine that have won a Gold, Silver, Bronze or Commended award from the judges at the competition. For consumers, they represent a kind of quality guarantee.

Here’s how the process works:
1. In early April, 45,000+ bottles arrive at the Barbican Centre to be categorised by grape variety, region, etc.
2. For Week 1 of tasting, judges determine which wines should be tasted again in Week 2 for medal classification, which wines should be Commended, or which wines are not medal or commendation ready.
3. There is an added safety net for lower scoring wines, which are sent for re-tasting by the co-chairmen judges.
4. During Week 2 all of the higher scoring wines are re-tasted, again completely blind, and invariably by different judges, to determine which wines will take which medals.

Having moved from the corporate world to what is normally the very casual and artistic world of wine, I found the structure and organisation of the IWC to run with surprising finesse. Having seen what goes on behind the scenes, particularly the palate and integrity of my fellow judges, I reckon that these little IWC stickers are a pretty reliable indicator of a good wine. That said, one could most likely expect that, like Michelin stars for restaurants, these coveted little IWC medals might add a couple of pennies to the price of winning wines.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

2010 Wine Patio & Spring menu additions

Hurrah! FINALLY we got to plant the flowers for the 2010 Wine Patio. For those new to our beloved suburban wine bar, the Wine Patio is our most excellent advancement on the traditional Beer Garden. The trees you’ll recognise from previous editions of the Wine Patio: our crabapples have mercifully survived their 2nd winter out front of artisan & vine and are now in gorgeous pink blossom.
I’m trying to build my dream week-end afternoon: fresh homemade light meals, delicate rose wine, and a flower drenched Wine Patio to sit and enjoy it all in. To make it happen, we’ve introduced some fab new menu items: a gorgeous range of fresh ciabatta sandwiches, made-as-you-like omelets, Croque Monsieur, Salad Lyonnaise, and a host of other perfect Spring bites.
The new light meals menu will be available 12 noon – 3pm week ends and 6pm – 10pm every night. Click here to see our full food menu.
Image: is it safe to say Spring is here? The blossoms say yes!

Saturday, 17 April 2010

English Wine Country

Fantastic week end weather is exactly the thing for a day trip into what I’m beginning to think of as “English Wine Country”. This time of year, “Wine Country” - Sussex and Kent - we should still expect the vines to be as stark as Grapey (the incredibly creative name I’ve given to the single grapevine I have growing on the balcony of my London apartment), but I it's worth the trip all the same. Grapey is currently more Twiggy than Grapey.
A lot of you have been asking me about English vineyards worth visiting for the week end. The absolutely definitive place for finding English vineyards is the English Wine Producers website, which includes a fantastic map and regional vineyard listing. You’ll be surprised just how many vineyards there are all over England.
My recommendation for a short weekend or day trip from London is “Wine Country” – north Sussex and Southwest Kent – for the heaviest concentration of quality wine producing vineyards in England. Some of these vineyards are not open to the general public without prior arrangement.

My favourites of the ones that you can drop into without a booking are:
· Biddenden Vineyards, Kent (also for lovely cider)
· Ridgeview Wine Estate, East Sussex (incredible sparklies)
· Bolney Wine Estate, West Sussex (you need to book in advance for tour)

Brilliant vineyards that don’t have a visitor facility but are worth peeking at:
· Davenport Vineyards, East Sussex / Kent (excellent organic wines)
· Plumpton College, East Sussex (a school + working vineyard & winery)
· Nyetimber Vineyard, West Sussex (tragically closed doors!)

Further afield, my picks outside of “Wine Country” are:
· Camel Valley Vineyard, Cornwall (the multi award winners)
· Brightwell Vineyards, Oxfordshire (can be done in a London day trip)
· Three Choirs Vineyard, Gloucestershire (impossibly pretty setting)
· A’Becketts Vinetard, Wiltshire (a nice tie in with touristy Stonehenge visit)

Image: Sam Lindo, the Head Wine Maker at Camel Valley, & I brave the winds at his stunning vineyards in Cornwall. This was in Oct 2009 – can you believe it’s been that long since I was last at one of our English vineyards?!

Friday, 16 April 2010

Chilean Earthquake: Special Charity Tasting

On 27 February, 2010, Chile experienced an 8.5 magnitude earthquake. The epicenter of the earthquake was offshore from the Maule Region, where Clos Ouvert, my favourite Chilean wine maker, is based.

As you can see from this image, the winery was severely damaged by the quake. While there were fortunately no fatalities at Clos Ouvert, there was a lot of damage to the winery and wines. Head wine maker, Louis-Antoine lost around 40% of each of his 2007 and 2008 vintages, which, for a young winery in only it's third vintage is quite a lot.

On Wednesday 21 April, we will be running an insightful wine tasting on the wines of Clos Ouvert to raise money to help Louis-Antoine re-build his winery.

Tickets are £20/person. £2 from every wine tasting ticket and £1 of every bottle of Clos Ouvert wine sold will be donated to earthquake relief efforts. (The £1 is donated whether you buy off licence or drink in).

We normally have 2 Clos Ouvert wines in stock, for this special occasion, we'll be tasting and selling 4 fabulous wines. All 4 red wines show incredible uniqueness & finesse – there’s a reason these guys are my favourite in Chile & the wines are delicious treat, all sense of charity aside.
Click here for more information and to book your place on this special Chilean Earthquake relief wine tasting