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.

Sunday, 30 May 2010

12 Vineyards English wine case

At artisan & vine we stock no lesse than 12 English vineyards in our wine bar and shop. 12 English vineyards and at least 25 English wines. artisan & vine has London's longest and best English wine list.

Featuring 12 vineyards is a rather convenient number to create a special 12 Vineyards Wine Case, which is exactly what we've done!

Curious about English wine? We've collected the best to create 12 Vineyards Case. Here you can taste a signature wine from 12 of our favourite English vineyards. This is the ultimate way to taste wines from all over England in the comfort of your own home or with friends for your own comprehensive English wine tasting.

Included in the pack are:
Limney Sparkling, Davenport Vineyards, Kent
Sirius Rose, Bolney Wine Estate, East Sussex
Classic Cuvee, Nyetimber Wine Estate, West Sussex
Knightsbridge, Ridgeview Wine Estate, West Sussex

Warden Abbot, Warden Abbey, Bedfordshire
Coleridge Hill, Three Choirs Vineyard, Gloucestershire
Organic Orion, Quoins Organic Vineyard, Wiltshire
Bacchus Dry, Camel Valley Vineyards, Cornwall

Rose, a'Becketts Vineyards, Wiltshire

Gamay, Biddenden Vineyards, Kent
Oxford Regatta, Brightwell Vineyards, Oxfordshire
Tyrannosaurus Red, Furleigh Estate, Dorset

Saturday, 29 May 2010

Why does artisan & vine specialise in English wine?

Hurrah! English Wine Week is upon us and, of course, as the owner of London's first wine bar and shop to specialise in English wine, every blog entry I make this week will be about English wine. Let's start at the beginning: Why English wine?

Why would an Aussie (me), reared on belting Shiraz and sun-scorched Chardonnay choose to open a wine bar and shop that would specialise in English wine?

Yes, I think English wine tastes good. I'm a wine lover, there is wine from pretty much every country that tastes good to me. Good taste gets you over a hurdle, but it doesn't warrant investing your entire life savings to open a specialist wine bar.

The beauty of English wine is that it is almost exclusively made by such small producers, with no significant budget for flavour manipulation or artificial vineyard treatments, that the wine cannot help but reflect the Sense of Place of where it's from. Most English wine is extremely distinctly English, which in a modern age of mass-production and global knowledge sharing, is no small feat.

I’ve travelled a lot and lived in a few different countries. One of my favourite ways of coming to know a country or region is through indulging in the wines of that region. It’s that same old speech from me: Sense of Place, Sense of Place! There is no question in my mind that English wines are underexposed in their own, let alone in the global, market. At the same time as local food production in England is enjoying a celebrity chef inspired renaissance, English wines sit on the shelves of local community markets or the homes of wine maker’s relatives; it’s a fascinating contrast.

In order to bring the English wine experience into artisan & vine, I insisted on only working with winemakers who would deal with me directly – no distributors or wholesalers. I visited a wide range of English vineyards and tasted over 300 English wines to come to the 25 or so we have on our list at any one time. The wines are generally fresh, low alcohol and easy drinking – and they’re getting better with every vintage! English wine making may be in something of an infancy - I view this as an exciting thing.

After nearly two years of serving English wines to our customers I am proud to report a very positive response. The feedback we get often is that people are happy simply to be given the option to have a taste of home. The Bacchus from our friends Bob and Carol of Brightwell Vineyard in Oxfordshire remains one of our best selling wines in the bar while three of the five best selling wines (at time of writing) on the artisan & vine online shop are English (Nyetimber Classic Cuvee, Camel Valley Bacchus Dry and Biddenden Ortega). It’s clear that the demand is there. So how is supply? Well... I have to save something to blog about tomorrow...

Image: artisan & vine's vineyard day trip to the quaint Bolney Wine Estate in East Sussex in June 2009.

Friday, 28 May 2010

English Wine Week 29 May – 6 June

Tomorrow sees the beginning of English Wine Week. As usual, we’ll have at least one English sparkly, white and red available for you to try by the glass and a couple of English wines on Happy Hour (5pm-7pm) for you to experiment with too!

The pinnacle of artisan & vine’s English Wine Week celebrations is our Open Bottle Session this Wednesday, 2 June.

What is an Open Bottle Session?

We have an open bottle of every English wine that we stock at artisan & vine – around 25 bottles. For £10/person, you get a glass & the ability to taste as many of those English wines as you can. All the bottles on tasting will be available for sale to take home or drink in the bar.

The Open Bottle Session will run from 7pm until 9pm - enough to let you taste a new wine every 5 minutes!

It's a fabulous opportunity to taste London's best range of English wines at a fantastic price.
Vineyards on show will include: Davenport Vineyards (Kent), Camel Valley Vineyards (Cornwall), Nyetimber Wine Estate (West Sussex), Biddenden Vineyards (Kent), Brightwell Vineyards (Oxfordshire), Bolney Wine Estate (East Sussex), Ridgeview Wine Estate (West Sussex), Three Choirs Vineyards (Gloucestershire), a’Becketts Vinetard (Wiltshire), Warden Abbey (Bedfordshire), Quoins Organic Vineyard, (Wiltshire) and Furleigh Estate (Dorset)

Image: Three Choirs Vineyard in Gloucestershire

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

News and reviews of artisan & vine

It's probably true that we're a little easily excited at artisan & vine. Can you think of a better way to live life?

One thing that excites us most is seeing reviews or news about us. We're always delighted when others get involved in the dream we're trying to make a reality.

Image: we made The Times in London just this month and are still on a high! Yes... re-remark it if we must... we are rather often excited.

Monday, 24 May 2010

Wine Facts: How Wine Ages

Not all wine improves with age. Some wine is more alcoholic vinegar than wine within years of bottling. How can you know which wines will improve with age and which will collapse?

In general, wines that are designed to be enjoyed for freshness and youthful fruitiness should be drunk young. Include within this category most white and rose wines and any lighter style reds, Beaujolais for example. These are wines whose fresh fruit flavours are likely to die within 2-4 years of bottling and which do not have the tannins or structure within the bottle to develop further.

Wines that taste better with aging are wines where a more complex combination of acids, sugars, minerals, pigments, tannins and flavour compounds need longer to integrate. High quality reds and whites will fall into this category.

As a general - if crude - rule, the more expensive a wine is, the more likely it is to improve with age.

The unlucky truth is that even the wine maker cannot know when exactly is the best time to drink any one wine. The best we can do is ask the person selling us a wine; they should know the story of a given wine in their shop and should taste it regularly enough to know it’s current condition.
Image: I asked Olivier from Domaine D’Arlot in Burgundy when I should drink some of his aging Pinot Noirs. He told me to call him when I was ready to open the bottle and he would let me know if it was ok or not. It’s all that exact :)

Saturday, 22 May 2010

Randall Grahm at artisan & vine

at artisan & vine

Join us for a great evening with Randall, the Wines, the Book (and good food for good measure!)
Randall Grahm is the visionary, irreverent winemaker and President-for-Life of Bonny Doon Vineyard. His goal is to produce wines in a natural, un-manipulated manner, imbued with life force! Cosmic wines for Cosmic times. Often described in the same breath as a genius, madman, and philosopher, the original Rhone Deranger has been at the vanguard of all that has been exciting (and controversial) in the American wine world in the last 2 decades. A champion of screwcaps , a convert to Biodynamics, he has now taken the bold step to list all of his ingredients on the back labels of his wines and is now experimenting with ageing his wines in amphorae and glass jars.

Monday 7th June 7.30pm £35

The Wine Tasting
To kick things off we'll start the evening with an apéritif and some canapes (hopefully outside if the weather is good!) before moving onto the main event.
In his own inimitable way Randall will take you on a guided tour of his new streamlined range of wines. On his quest to make only ‘Vins de terroir’ I am sure Randall hopes that the wines will speak for themselves, but never short of a word or five Randall will be on hand to talk about his wines, the universe and everything in between. Food will be served throughout the event.

If you have ever read the back label of a bottle of Bonny Doon, you will realise that Randall likes to write ! His first book, or ‘Vinthology’ Been Doon So Long won the 2010 James Beard Foundation Award for best drinks book, and takes readers on a rollercoaster ride from wine to philosophy to rock opera to literary parody and back again.

“Randall Grahm is the Willy Wonka of the wine world and Been Doon So Long is intelligent, insightful and mischievous. It is a work of Genius” - Jamie Goode
Get your first edition copy signed by the man himself on the night pre-order online now at special price£19.50(rrp £24.95)

How often do you get the chance to meet a man who has an asteroid named after him?

You’d be mad to miss it, but don’t just take our word for it, here’s what Jancis Robinson has to say:“Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon in California is truly an exception in almost every way. His wine names, labels, packaging and news[?]letters [aka streams of consciousness] have injected more fun into the self-conscious world of wine than all other wine producers put together..”
Image: biodynamic wine making legend Randall Grahm

Friday, 21 May 2010

New beers on tap: what and why

I write to you this week in something of a state of shock. Oddly, it is shock without surprise. I knew what was coming. I didn’t realise it would be so big, or so illuminated or so… well… so darn attractive. And we’re only two-thirds into the journey!

Some big boys arrived at artisan & vine this week and they’ve certainly made their presence felt. 3ft high Peroni and Erdinger beer taps now tower above our bar; as if to challenge the rows of little artisan wine bottles lined up across the way on our back-bar.

We tried working with organic English beer at artisan & vine, in keeping with the theme for wines. I come to the conclusion that one can only be niche when one offers choice within a niche. We can be niche in local and natural wines because we have over 100 of them for you to choose from. I conclude that when there are only 1 or 2 options, best make it something that most people are likely to know and like. Enter the big beer brands. With Peroni, Erdinger and Moretti, we’ve maintained our commitment to quality and taste.

These new beer taps are more shrines to their hop-fathers than simple drink dispensers. According to beer lovers (of which I apologetically cannot confess to be one), these beers taste as good as the aesthetically outstanding taps and glassware look. Maybe these new beers will even convert me.

Peroni and Erdinger are available on tap at artisan & vine from today. Birra Moretti will be available on tap from Tuesday.

We still have 1 keg of Freedom lager which we’ll be serving on tap all week end if you’d like to have one last taste of England!

Image: our new very ornate pieces of bar equipment

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee & Blanc de Blanc

As you'd expect, our best selling wines on the artisan & vine Online Shop tends to move around a bit. I've previously written about the wines that are currently sitting at #1, #2, #4 and #5 within this blog. Recently, Nyetimber's Classic Cuvee 2003 climbed our charts to take the #3 position. How exciting!

I first tasted the Nyetimber Classic Cuvee at a friend's dinner party. It is immediately evident why Nyetimber has earned it's sterling reputation in sparkling wine making. Gorgeous depth and complexity of flavours, lasting finish, soft toasty notes. We're currently stocking the 2003 vintage, though 2005 is just around the corner and will be with us by Summer.

In particularly exciting news, the Classic Cuvee's sister wine, the Nyetimber Blanc de Blanc 2001, won a Gold Medal in this year's International Wine Challenge (IWC), of which I was a judge (check out my previous blog entry on judging at IWC 2010 here). We're selling the Nyetimber Blanc de Blanc 2001 both in store and online now too... best grab a bottle before it sells out!

Image: artisan & vine online shop #3 on the best seller list: Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2003

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

Precious Metals: The Art of Alice Cescatti

We have some genuinely exciting new art up at artisan & vine. The most exciting thing is that it is all created by one of our fabulous customers, Alice Cescatti. And how lucky we are to have Alice! Her past commissions include: The Curator of Sculpture, The Louvre, Paris; Cartier, Paris; The Sultan of Brunei; Alberto Pinto Agency, Paris; Grosvenor House Hotel, London and Claridges, London. Blatantly, this is a list that artisan & vine belongs on :)

Alice’s expertise is in blending precious metals with water gilding and painting techniques to create incredible landscape paintings. All of Alice’s work on show at artisan & vine is for sale, please ask at the bar for pricing.

I think Alice’s art has added a very beautiful and very personal touch to our very personal wine bar.

Image: Alice’s work is inspired by time she’s spent living in New Zealand, Vietnam, the South Pacific and… London!

Monday, 17 May 2010

Wine Facts: How Wine is Made

As you’re reading this blog, you are probably already aware that there are a lot of variations in the important little steps to how a wine is made. This little article is aimed at giving you a summary of the key steps in making wine. By analogy, this guide is like saying the way to get from London to Edinburgh is to go North; options of train vs car vs stopovers vs B-roads vs etc etc are the sorts of “details” we’re skimming over.

The overview remains of import: there’s a lot to be said for knowing which way is North! The steps:

1. Grapes are picked and collected.

2. For white wines, the grapes are pressed so that the skins are left behind and just the grape juice ferments. For red wines, the grapes are left with their skin on to ferment, and then after the colour and flavours have been extracted, the red grapes are pressed to leave behind skin. (Fermentation is the process by which sugars in the grape are converted to alcohol).

3. Wines – whether red or white – may be aged in some kind of holding device – a bottle, a barrel, a tank. Wines can be aged for months or years or not at all.

4. Wines are bottled and labeled for distribution and sale.
Seems as simple as travelling North… the art is navigating the traffic jams, road works and then optimising lovely scenery and local peculiarities along the way!

Image: renowned winemaker Matthieu Cosse shows me some of the incredible new infrastructure they have in place at Domain La Coste in Provence where they are refining the science of natural wine making.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Visit to a'Becketts Vineyard, Wiltshire

What seems a stone age ago (I had to get some kind of pun in here some where), I went to visit a'Beckett's Vineyard by Stonehenge in Wiltshire. It was actually last week end, late at night on the way back from a week end with Andrew's parents in Devon.

I was delighted to see that Paul, the owner and winemaker at the vineyard, has decided to label his white wines with the grape variety. We're now stocking his Pinot Auxerrois - a grape variety often used in England but rarely labelled as such due to it's unfriendly pronunciation prospects. I think it's great.

It's an incredibly beautiful little vineyard of 6 acres of vines and 6 acres of orchards. A'Becketts produce apple juice & cider along with their range of white, rose, red and sparkling wine.

I picked up a case of their full throttle rose as well as the Pinot Auxerrois, for us all to enjoy over the Summer. Come by & have a taste of Wiltshire!

Image: wine maker and owner, Paul Langham, shows me his range of deliciously light and fruity wines. I seem pretty happy about it :)

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Tim Atkin MW in The Times on Natural Wine

Today was a good day for natural wine. Natural wine has a lot of good days, but I reckon today was particularly good.

Tim Atkin MW, renowned wine writer and TV presenter, put together his thoughts on Natural Wine, published in today's issue of The Times. The article, entitled "Let the grapes express themselves naturally" summarises some of the commercial issues facing natural wines, commenting that "Natural wines are the opposite of mass-produced wines, of “spoofulated”, personality-free beverages that could come from almost anywhere".

At artisan & vine, we couldn't agree with Tim more!

The article also included a selection of Tim's six top Natural Wines. Among these were two that are available from artisan & vine. Here are Tim's picks, as well as his insightful tasting notes:

2009 Verd Albera, Emporda (£9.90, 13 per cent, http://www.artisanandvine.com/) From the area of Emporda in northern Catalonia, this is a very Mediterranean blend of garnacha blanca, garnacha gris and muscat. It’s perfumed and unoaked with citrus and orange peel flavours and crisp acidity.

2008 Clos Ouvert Huasa, Maule (£23, 14 per cent, http://www.artisanandvine.com/) It doesn’t happen very often, but once or twice a year, I taste a wine that blows my mind. This old vine, unirrigated Chilean red, made from the local país grape by a Burgundian ex-pat is silky and fine with incredible complexity.

It doesn't get much better than that!

Come by to taste Tim's picks. I've put together a special mixed case based on some of the other wines he particularly enjoyed while at artisan & vine here.

Image: the good old fashioned Times newspaper article; click the image to see the online version

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

Wednesday wine tasting: Chilean wine

We try to mix things up from week to week at artisan & vine's Wednesday evening wine tastings. So, while last week we were in the Alsace and next week we're in Australia, today we're in Chile. The idea is that you could come to the bar every Wednesday and get a broad mix of flavours, stories and facts.

Before we zoom in on Chile, let's talk a little about South America, which, like most of the New World, is something we don't have a lot of at artisan & vine. This is not a deliberate choice. There are simply more natural wines from Europe available in London than there are from other regions.

South America is pretty exciting for the wine world because, although it's had wine grapes longer than any other part of the New World (since 1531), it's in its relative infancy on the global wine scene. Chile, although producing less wine than Argentina, was the first of the South American countries to make a meaningful entrance onto the world wine stage.

Isolated by the Pacific Ocean on the West and the Andes on the East, Chile produces pretty reliably healthy grapes. It's a good place for organic and biodynamic vineyards. This is a place where the days are particularly hot and the nights particularly cold, which is great for allowing a long, mature ripening of grapes - & so those fab fruity flavours!

Tonight we're going to be tasting wines from two Chilean producers. The first is Vina Von Siebenthal, headed by a former Swiss Lawyer now producing indulgently fruity wines in the Aconcagua Valley. We'll taste a pure Carmenere - a Bordeaux grape that has become almost synonymous with Chilean red wine; as well as a Bordeaux blend (Cabernet Franc, Melot and Cabernet Sauvignon). Bordeaux grapes have long been popular in Chile, though we're now starting to see other grapes such as Syrah, Pinot Noir and Riesling make their way down.

The second producer we'll be tasting is Clos Ouvert, headed by Burgundian wine maker Louis-Antoine Luyt. These wines are really exciting. In his recent visit to artisan & vine, Tim Atkin MW felt the same: "Just discovered Clos Ouvert from Maule at Artisan and Vine. The most exciting Chilean wines I have tasted in years. Wow!"

By way of contrast, we're going to taste a pure Carmenere from Clos Ouvert, as well as a Bordeaux blend, and then, most exciting I think, a 100% Pais wine. Pais is Chile's indigenous "peasant's grape"... you're going to love it!

We still have some spaces available at tonight's Chilean wine tasting. Email welcome@artisanandvine.com to sign up!

Image: the incredible Huasa 2008 from Clos Ouvert is 100% Pais and certainly worth a taste at artisan & vine!

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

London Wine and Travel meetup Group

Have you seen these meetup groups online? They have meetups groups for all sorts of interests and hobbies. This Sunday gone we hosted the London Wine and Travel Meetup for a three course meal and wine tasting game.

I was stoked to read the reviews that participants had written up:

Amanda: 'very good!!! many thanks I wanted to rate it 10 stars but only 5 were available so :-) '

Maggie: ‘I loved the restaurant; the food was simply delicious, and a good range of different range of wines. I loved the fact we were encouraged to guess the right wine. This taught me quite a lot. Great afternoon, all round’

Stephanie: 'A fantastic way to have Sunday lunch. Meeting new people over good food and wine. It was well organised and was well planned to help everyone mingle.’

Michael: ‘Really excellent event! Terrific wines, great food and really good company!’

Amanda: ‘Great food, interesting wines and a chance to meet new people with similar interests, perfect!’

Image: this is the photo icon of the London Wine and Travel Meetup Group. I don't have a lot else to say about that.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

Wine profile: Camel Valley Bacchus Dry

Today's blog post: a wine profile on what is currently the 2nd Best Selling wine on the artisan & vine online shop. All my bloggy wine profiles are found by the tag "wine profiles" - who'd've thunk?

Long long ago when Andrew was trying to romance me, he bought be a bottle of Camel Valley Bacchus Dry (a former vintage) so, this wine has I suppose unlikely romantic connotations for me.

Can we call this a Love Potion? As things have panned out, I'd say yes. Can I guarantee it will win the heart of the one you're courting? As I a former Management Consultant, I'm not in the habit of guaranteeing a lot :)

That said, I will guarantee that this is one of England's most pleasing still white wines. Floral, fruity, a surprising depth and length of finish.

Seems other people like it too. The Times 21 April 2009 said: ‘Best Value English Still Wine': ‘Young, aromatic, fresh and zesty, England's answer to Sancerre. A bright accompaniment to seafood, full of zip and fruit. They like it in The House Of Commons.'

Take a taste of Cornwall's version of now classic Bacchus grape today!

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Natural wine & English wine tastings every Wednesday

It's about time I gave a plug to some of our upcoming wine tasting events.

Because they're awesome.

Here's what's coming up:

Wed, 12 May Chilean wine (including wines that Tim Atkin declares as the most exciting Chilean wines he's tasted in years) £20 / person
Wed, 19 May New World Wine (Australia, New Zealand, USA) £20 / person
Wed, 26 May Italian Wine £20 / person
Wed, 2 June English Wine Week: Open Bottle Session £10 / person
Wed, 9 June Food and wine matching £20 / person

As you see, every Wednesday at artisan & vine we run a wine tasting on a specific theme of English wine or natural wine. These are genuinely fascinating events and a lot of fun. For £20/person, you’ll taste 5 incredible wines (last Wednesday we tasted a Grand Cru Riesling worth £60) and have some matched canapes, as well as all of my thoughts – fact and editorial – on that week’s theme.

A wonderful night out for catching up with friends or a different kind of date.
Click here for more information or email welcome@artisanandvine.com or call 0207 228 4997 to book your place now!

Image: me tasting at Comte Lafon in Burgundy. Researching to bring you guys the best wines and information is tough tough work.

Friday, 7 May 2010

The Wine Patio & Plushification

Scrutiny of the weather forecast is something of a preoccupation of mine. As well as a steady interest in how the 2010 English vintage might turn out, artisan & vine’s humble (yet awesome) Wine Patio relies on the weather. But the weather just isn’t playing ball. For those new to The Adventures of artisan & vine, the Wine Patio is our answer to the Beer Garden, and it’s a rather lovely place to while away some sunny hours.

Frustrated by the absence of sun, I’ve opted to take our decorative hands back inside. The Plushification that took part in our bathrooms some weeks back has progressed into the main body of the bar with fresh paint, exciting new art work and due to popular demand - bar stools!

The sun may be holding back on us a little this year but we hope you’ll like the Plushification we have going on inside of a&v in the meantime!

Image: I love our cool new bar stools - please do come by to give them a swivel!

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Wine facts: a Year in the Vineyard

How do you know if what you’re buying is a good or bad vintage? What does that even mean? It’s about what happens in the life of a vineyard in a given year. For example, in 2009, it was a relatively long, mild Summer, that means a long, healthy grape growing season, a good vintage!

Knowing what happens in a Year in the Vineyard helps us to understand what creates a good or bad vintage. Here’s the shortform:

Jan – Feb: the vine grower prunes vines to concentrate nutrients toward the grapes rather than leaf production

Mar: ploughing the soil to control weeds and improve soil health

Apr – Jul: more pruning, positioning vines on their trellises for optimum sun exposure, frost and pest mitigation efforts.

Aug – Sep: harvest! Deciding exactly when to pick is critical, too early will make too acidic wines, too late will make too sweet wines.

Oct: fermentation of grapes in the winery. Decisions about ageing and blending must be made.

Nov – Dec: tasting the young wine continues, ensuring whatever wine making path is chosen: oak ageing, early bottling, blending between grapes; is on track for a winning wine!

Image: superstar winemaker Henri Milan shows me around his delightfully colourful winery in early Sept 2009.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Wednesday wine tasting: the Alsace!

Wednesday is wine tasting day at artisan & vine. Each Wednesday at 8pm we commence enthusing and imbibing along a set wine theme. You can see what I have planned for the coming weeks here.

Tonight we're exploring the Alsace.

A lovely year of my life was spent living in Germany, just south of the Rheingau. It was a fab base for exploring not just the Rhine Valley but also Mosel, and on one particularly long trip, the Alsace.

Alsatian architecture looks a little Germanic. The people often speak French and (mercifully for me) German. The grapes and style of wine making are similar to those you'll find in Germany. The best wines in both Alsace and Germany come from Riesling - we'll be tasting three 100% Riesling wines tonight. Other popular grape varieties offer a delightful balance floral aromas and minerally palates: Sylvaner, Gewurtztraminer, the Three Pinots.

I often hear complaints about Riesling: customers often can't tell how sweet a wine might be before they buy it; a fact particularly true of Alsatian wines with their typically non-descript French labelling (though Alsatian wines do - in contrast to most French wines - list grape varieties on the label! another welcome Germanic influence). I think customers are right to have this complaint and wish I could offer a better solution than: only buy from bars or shops where the salesperson can confidently help you with what you're buying.

We regularly face the same dilemma with natural wine. I come to the same conclusion over and again: better transparency in wine bottle labelling is the only way to help buyers choose beyond Sauvignon Blanc.
Oh, before I sign off for today, I must add that we still have places left at tonight's tasting. It's £20/person to taste 5 wines (including a Grand Cru today!), so please do come along!

Image: Domaine Josmeyer, one of many brilliant biodynamic producers in the Alsace we'll taste tonight.

Tuesday, 4 May 2010

Furleigh Estate and Tyrannosaurus Red

Andrew's parents live near Honiton in Devon. It's a stunning part of the world. Going to visit is always a treat. We normally like to tie a few vineyard visits in with each trip down. Yesterday we visited Furleigh Estate, just off the Jurassic Coast in Dorset.

What a fabulously romantic venue for a vineyard: growing above the soils where dinosaurs once roamed. For the fantasty novelist in me, the imagery was just far too compelling to drive by.

The image above is of the brand new vineyard and winery that they have created nestled within the ridiculously rolling hills of Bridport. The weather wasn't the greatest, but this was a bank holiday week end in England, what should one expect?

Furleigh Estate is surrounded by woodland and wildlife. We saw buzzards, a kite, pheasants and partridge. It was formerly a
dairy farm. Vines were planted in 2005 to create a startingly modern vineyard and winery.

Over 22,000 vines grow on the south facing slopes of the Estate. The usual English sparkling suspects are all there: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meurnier; as well as English still wine darlings: Bacchus and Rondo.

I was in search of "Tyrannosaurus Red", a Rondo / Pinot Noir blend, with some Triomphe. It's full of red berry fruits and is an enjoyable bit of red English tipple. I'd tasted in at the English Wine trade tasting and was ready to put it on our shelves at artisan & vine. You may be shocked to hear that this is of course a particularly difficult mission to fail at.

Tyrannosaurus Red is now available at artisan & vine (well, will be from tomorrow onward when I'm back in London) for £23.50 in the bar and £13.80 to take home.

Image: Furleigh Estate, nestled within the rolling hills of Dorset, 5km inland from the Jurassic Coast, with characteristic Bank Holiday week end skies.

Sunday, 2 May 2010

Friends of artisan & vine

I've been thinking a bit lately about whether it's right to include promotional type information within my blog posts. I come to the - at least temporary - conclusion that people interested in an artisan & vine blog might also be interested in what various special events or promotions we may be running at a given time. My promotional posts are labelled clearly as such, distinct from more of the fact, tip or story based entries. I hope this makes it easy for readers to sift through the various bits of interest. My objective is to blog more frequently on facts, tips & stories, and to share promotional and event information as seems useful to y'all.

On that note, I'd like to focus today's blog on something I'm particularly proud of: our friends of artisan & vine card.

The "friends of artisan & vine" card can be used to claim various benefits and gifts with artisan & vine. It may be bought at the bar or online for yourself, a friend or loved one.

Here's what a "friends of artisan & vine" card gets you:
• One free main meal
• A Birthday bottle of wine, to drink in at artisan & vine
• 50% off your next artisan & vine wine tasting event
• 15% off your next artisan & vine online wine case
• Monthly and weekly exclusive offers and discounts
• Subscription to the artisan & vine newsletter
• A happy feeling for supporting local and natural artisan wine makers

Cards cost £10 each and generate over £50 worth of benefit, simply by redeeming the subscription offers - we have even more specials and discounts announced via our newsletter each month! Terms and conditions apply. Cards can be bought at the bar or via our online shop.

Then, you need only show your membership card at the bar, or enter relevant discount codes on the online shop (this will be emailed to you following subscription) to redeem benefits.

Text on back of card reads:

artisan & vine is London’s first wine bar and shop to specialise in Local English and Natural wines. Friends of artisan & vine are friends of artisan wine makers.

We believe in supporting local English producers. We believe in supporting wine makers who work sustainably and without chemical manipulation globally.

We are not only what we eat. We are also what we drink, what we experience and what we choose to support.

Drink Local * Drink Natural * Drink Artisan

Saturday, 1 May 2010

Our best seller: Clos du Chapeau, Domaine de l'Arlot

Since sunshine has again abandoned us, I'm going back to red. I thought it was worth sharing thoughts on what has become our Online Shop's Best Seller: Clos du Chapeau from Domaine de l'Arlot in Prémeaux-Prissey, Burgundy.

Domaine de l'Arlot is an absurd place. No where in the world should be this beautiful. I can't even think of a way to be more Burgundian than these guys manage. The estate is regal but not overstated; the gardens are manicured yet decorated by stone carvings from hundreds of years of children playing there; the wines are elegant and opulent all at once. For me, a bottle of these wines is a bottle of Burgundy. Beautiful, sumptuous red Burgundy.

I have to agree with our customer's excellent taste: Clos du Chapeau is absolutely one of my favourite wines on our list. It is strawberries and smoke all at once, & for me is a more enjoyable drink than many of its Premier Cru companions.

There's a reason wine lovers love Pinot Noir so much & this wine can show you. Perfection in a bottle, ready for you to drink now (though it will age if, like me, you'd like to keep some for home).