LWG interviews Chris Scott, of Thirty Fifty and Find A Vino

I’ve become more and more interested in people in the wine business devoted to making wine accessible and easy for drinkers to get to know. Chris and Jane Scott who run wine education company Thirty Fifty are great examples of this – and when they wrote to me to tell me about their new app, Find A Vino, I was keen to know more so I interviewed Chris.

Chris Scott of Find A Vino

Chris Scott of Find A Vino

LWG: So tell me how you first got started in the wine business?

Chris Scott: I first worked with wine in vineyards in New Zealand, where I’m originally from. But it was actually on holiday with my wife Jane when we had an epiphany in a vineyard and decided to start a wine business together. We had been thinking about taking up an entrepreneurial challenge together for some time – we’d also been thinking about a Subway franchise – but when the idea of working with wine, which we both loved, hit us, we knew that was what we wanted to do! We started our WSET wine studies and Thirty Fifty was born.

LWG: Where did the idea of the Find A Vino app come from?

CS: We wanted to create something that made it easier to find competition winning wines at the right price – we noticed that award winning wines were selling out quickly and I’d personally found it hard to remember which wines I’d read about that were highly recommended by wine experts. So we made the Find A Vino app to try and simplify this process – you can sort by expert, by award and by best price so you know you’re getting good value.

LWG: And talk me through the process of developing the app?

CS: It actually has taken nearly two years to get to the point of it being ready to market. There were some facets that were really important to my partner and I when we were developing it – for example, it has a great function to be able to access award winning wines in multiple supermarkets and wine merchants, and sort by both quality and price. We knew that it needed to be able to be used by shoppers standing in the wine aisle, so we made sure it can be used without a connection to wifi. And given how quickly competition-winning wines sell out and prices change, the app has to have frequent updates and have the information be portable – we’ve done a lot of work on this.

LWG:
It looks fab – and it’s really easy to use. Definitely worth a download!

Thanks to Chris for taking the time to speak with me, and as usual, thanks for reading.

LWG

PS I’d love to know if you would like more interview-type content – let me know in the comments! x

LondonWineGirl writes about beer for a change

It’s only fair to warn those of you who are somewhere on the autism spectrum, before you release your Inner Angry Nigel in the comments section, that this post is mainly about beer, not wine. Rest assured, Colins and Nevilles, that my normal wine reviewing service will resume in the next post.

I normally hate holiday smugness. I hate the cute photos of feet in flip-flops on Facebook. I hate having to admire the tan acquired (I make Dracula look swarthy.) I can’t even watch A Place in the Sun without rolling my eyes.

So it is with trepidation that I am writing about a bar in Puerto Vallarta in Mexico. But if it makes you feel better, I am also going to tell you about a bar in somewhat less exotic Shepherds Bush.

I am normally, as the blog title heavily implies, a wine girl. Undeniably though, beer is Having A Moment. One of my favourite things about living in West London is that if a trend makes it out of Dalston and across to us, it is here to stay. Not for us, yet, the sherry bars, pop up vegan restaurants, or speakeasy cocktail places where you enter through a door disguised as a kebab shop’s fridge, having given Stavros the code word. We are all over the craft beer thing, though.

Brewdog's massive list of beers (and some dude's head. Sorry.)

Brewdog’s massive list of beers (and some dude’s head. Sorry.)

Brew Dog in Shepherds Bush was heaving when a gang of us went on Saturday night – deservedly so, the beers are great and with a couple of exceptions it’s fair to say you aren’t spoiled for choice in that neck of the woods.

Close-up of the life-ruiningly strong Tactical Nuclear Penguin

Close-up of the life-ruiningly strong Tactical Nuclear Penguin

We tried the really, seriously delicious Punk IPA, and then a ridiculous, seriously a bad idea: Tactical Nuclear Penguin, a beer so boozy (32%) they sell it as a shot in a brandy style glass.

The Union beer the Cerveceria gets its name from

The Union beer the Cerveceria gets its name from

At the Union Cerveceria in Puerto Vallarta, we’d learned enough from our monster London hangovers to stay away from the stupidly strong stuff. We’d spent much of the holiday drinking dark but refreshing Negra Modelo (yup, that’ll be the black version of Mexico’s Corona alternative, Modelo lager).

Chupacabara and APA at Cerveceria Union

Chupacabara and APA at Cerveceria Union

We also tried the brilliantly marketed Chupacabra ale – which tasted exactly like a memory of childhood holidays, Carambar sweets from France.

I really like the idea of small, indie breweries making unique products and successfully turning their consumers into fans. That’s one of my favourite things about wine : beyond Blossom Hill, there are an amazing array of small growers and producers creating brilliant wines that are yet to be discovered.

But the challenge with craft beer is the same as in wine: as CAMRA members will tell you, the UK has a phenomenal track record in producing interesting beers that haven’t been marketed to a Hoxton audience. The hardest part is differentiating great product from great hype – but it is great fun trying. I’d love to hear what you make of the craft brew revolution?

Thanks for reading –

LWG

Dim Sum, wine, fancy tea: LWG’s trip to Bo Lang

Bo Lang is a dim sum restaurant in South Ken, a part of London which seems to be a strange restaurant black hole – one of those neighbourhoods that’s so multicultural and affluent it should by rights be much foodier than it is. I’m pretty sure people have stopped opening trendy restaurants anywhere between Battersea and Earls Court for fear that the Made in Chelsea cast might annex the whole place.

bo lang 1

LondonWineHusband and I chose Bo Lang because of a Sunday morning steamed bun craving (mine) and a desire to visit the brilliant indie wine merchant The Sampler (his, honestly – although I admit to enthusiastic adoption of the plan.)

Chinese restaurants my not be front of mind when you think about great wine lists, but Bo Lang’s is pretty interesting – unusual wines, good quality, not ridiculous mark up and not an overwhelming amount of choice to wade through. They also have masses of tea varieties, all of which were rejected by LWH for being “too flowery”.

Tea at Bo Lang. For chicks, apparently.

Tea at Bo Lang. For chicks, according to LWH.

The place was pretty quiet when we visited, and the food was really, really great – up there with Chinatown dim sum but with much friendlier service and no queuing.

Crispy squid: salty, crunchy, spicy, and delicious.

Crispy squid: salty, crunchy, spicy, and delicious.

Steamed buns and dumplings with berry sauce.

Steamed buns and dumplings with berry sauce.

The buns were everything I had been hoping for, and dumplings, squid in chilli sauce and Japanese mochi with ice cream were all seriously tasty.

Pac man  style Japanese mochi filled with icecream and sorbet. I ate half of the green one before taking a photo. Soz.

Pac man style Japanese mochi filled with icecream and sorbet. I ate half of the green one before taking a photo. Soz.

Our post-lunch stagger to the Sampler was pretty successful too – we tried some 1980s Bordeaux that was only affordable to us non-hedge funder mortals in tiny, Enomatic machine samples before heading home for a post-wine and dim sum nap. All in all, a very satisfying Sunday!

Thanks for reading -

LWG

PS Sorry I haven’t posted for a while – I’ve had a major case of writer’s block! I have some posts backed up that in my fug I didn’t think were worth finishing, so you can expect a few more imminently :)

Weird, wonderful Evolution is a nine grape extravaganza.

The wine: Evolution White, Sokol Blosser
Where’s it from? Oregon
Where to buy it: winedirect.co.uk or Whole Foods
What it will set you back: £12

When you’re learning about wine there tends to be a lot of emphasis on the different grape varieties (that’s Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, not green and red!) and what their different flavour profiles are. Single varietal wines – yup, that’s wines based on one type of grape – are quite easy to get your head around and deservedly popular with consumers who appreciate knowing roughly what they can expect even if they haven’t tried a particular bottle or producer before.

Blends – that is, wines made from more than one variety – can have lots of different reasons for being. It can be the winemaker’s way of adding different kinds of flavour: avid readers might remember my review of the D’Arenberg Laughing Magpie Shiraz, which has a bit of the white wine Viognier in it to balance out their bolshy Aussie red.

Loads of champagnes are blends, too, and blending also allows winemaker’s to counter the effects of weather in a particular season or add fruit and acidity characteristics to keep an individual year’s wine output still tasting like “their” champagne.

Evolution Sokol Blosser from Oregon, photographed after a couple of glasses (soz.)

Evolution Sokol Blosser from Oregon, photographed after a couple of glasses (soz.)

Evolution takes this one step further. The producer makes both a white and a red from nine different grape varieties, including Chardonnay and Pinot Blanc. I wasn’t really sure what to expect from this but was sort of anticipating a “wine soup” effect with not much dominant flavour going on. It ended up really surprising me by being really crisp, floral and peachy, like a full-on Viognier crossed with the flowery taste you sometimes get from Gewurztraminer. They reveal the nine grapes, but not which ones are particularly prevalent, so if you are a wine dork there is a really hard “guess what’s in this” game to be played. It’s fresh and fruity enough to be a good partner for spicy food, and pretty good value – I’d definitely recommend it if you are looking for something a bit unusual!

Enjoy, and thanks for reading -

LWG

Tiny, specialist and lovely – in praise of Wine Pantry

LondonWineHusband and I have a few guilty pleasures in common. Ridiculously spicy Chinese take out from Yun Kim in Brentford; laughing at anything related to farts; a heartfelt love for Bruno Mars’ haunting ballad, Gorilla, which is about how he wants to shag a girl like they are both gorillas, and shovelling raclette into our faces at Borough Market.

Borough Market is nose-bleedingly expensive, touristy and full of delicious organic food of varying levels of healthiness. The word “artisan” is used for everything. (Artisan carrier bag? Tick.) It has the afore-mentioned awesome raclettes, the ever-delicious Monmouth Coffee and loads of nice restaurants. It’s also home to the tiniest wine shop I’ve ever been to, the small but epic Wine Pantry.

Wine Pantry - you had me at "English wines".

Wine Pantry – you had me at “English wines”.

It specialises in English wines, has a couple of tables for sit-down tasting and drinking, and an Enomatic wine dispenser machine full of hard-to-find English bottles. They do a deal where you can taste five wines from around England, and we tried some really interesting ones, including Colchester Rosé, a fruity and properly fuschia rosé from Essex, and Westwell Ortega, made in Kent from the perfumey Ortega grape, popular in similarly cool climate Germany according to their slightly baffling website. Both of these were moderately priced and easy drinkers.

The Colchester rose is PROPERLY pink.

The Colchester rose is PROPERLY pink.

This is the Westwell Ortega. Yum.

This is the Westwell Ortega. Yum.

We left with a bottle of English fizz from the Bolney Estate: this is priced more like a French champagne, but a couple of hours in the market made it seem quite reasonable. It more than holds its own against a Veuve or Piper, and ticks lots of “artisan” boxes, too.

Here's the Bolney fizz (LWH took the photo which is why it's not at a wonky angle, as normal.)

Here’s the Bolney fizz (LWH took the photo, which is why it is not at the usual wonky angle.)

I love Wine Pantry – a highly recommended Borough Market pitstop and great to see a specialist English wine store do so well.

Enjoy – and thanks for reading,

LWG

Sublime and ridiculous wine experiences @ Taste of London festival

This weekend was the annual Taste of London festival in Regent’s Park. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a collection of all sorts of foodie greatness and weirdness (a surprisingly large Lithuanian section, for example!) and some booze thrown in for good measure.

I had a good trot round all the stalls with some friends, tried some Thai wines – safe to say I would stick to the rather more excellent Thai beers in future- and generally we ate our body weight in foods that were delicious and often bonkers.

The "flight" of Thai wines. Hmm.

The “flight” of Thai wines. Hmm.

I also had two totally contrasting wine experiences. Taste of London wine hell was delivered by Shawbury Vintners, an indie wine merchant who sell by the case and with whom I had one of my worst ever wine customer experiences. The stall was pretty much empty of festival goers when I approached the World’s Surliest Wine Merchant (WSWM, we’ll call him for now).

LWG: Hi there! What have you got that’s particularly interesting today?
WSWM: Um everything really.
LWG: Oh right! Er, so what’s selling particularly well?
WSWM: Everything really.
LWG: Everything?
WSWM: Yes. Do you even buy wine by the case?
LWG: Yes. I love wine and I do often buy by the case.
WSWM: (Looks incredulous about my case-buying. Doesn’t speak. Pulls out a bottle and pours me a thimblefull.)
LWG: Oh thanks. What’s this?
WSWM: It’s from New Zealand.
LWG: Oh, is it a Sauvignon Blanc?
WSWM: (Nods perfunctorily.)
LWG: (Drinks her thimble of the world’s most average Sauvignon Blanc.) From Marlborough?
WSWM: (An even more perfunctory nod.)
LWG: How much does it sell for?
WSWM: £14.95
LWG: (!!!!) OK, well thanks for letting me try it!
WSWM: (Stony silence while he scans the crowd for someone “better” to talk to.)

I don’t even know where to begin with this one. Granted, I am a girl, I am quite young, and I am enthusiastic in the face of wine merchants, no matter how surly. But to deliver quite such an appalling, unfriendly experience, at a fair for foodies where surely the whole point is to showcase your wares is unforgivable. Unfortunately, there are still wine peddling dinosaurs who assume that younger women are just not fine wine buyers – and while experiences like this one are accepted, that’s unlikely to change: wine can be intimidating enough without this sort of snobbery. I did a bit of Googling, and it seems I’m not the first person to have this experience, either. Disappointing.

At the other end of the scale in wine heaven, the Laurent Perrier masterclass delivered by LP’s UK MD, David Hesketh, was everything missing from the Shawbury Vintners experience: approachable, interesting and designed to showcase the premium product to it’s full ability.

Laurent Perrier masterclass at Taste of London festival

Laurent Perrier masterclass at Taste of London festival

Highly, highly recommended: and there’s a lesson here for you, WSWM – there wasn’t a “typical wine customer” in sight at the LP tent, but I’d put money on people having left with a new favourite champagne!

The Laurent Perrier pouring in action!

The Laurent Perrier pouring in action!

We tried the brut non-vintage, the 2004, 2002 and the properly lovely pink champagne, too – all well-described by an expert with attention and enthusiasm.

Remember to vote with your feet if you encounter your own version of the WSWM – because buying wine should be fun – and thanks for reading,

LWG

Trendy fresh white wine… from Austria!

The wine: Meinklang Gruener Veltliner 11
Where’s it from? Austria
Where to buy it: Whole Foods or vintageroots.co.uk
What it will set you back: £9.99
How boozy is it? 11.5%

Gruener Veltiner is trending in wineland. It’s even got it’s own “funky” abbreviation – the red trouser brigade call it Grue-Vee. Like groovy, geddit? (Yes, I rolled my eyes too.) Austria’s probably not top of your list of wine regions, because we tend to associate it with 1970s Germanic disasters like Blue Nun and Liebfraumilch. But Gruener Veltliner is different – sharp, dry, fresh and lemony, it’s closer to an NZ Sauv Blanc than a syruppy Riesling.

The rather delicious cold, crisp Meinklang Gruener Veltliner!

The rather delicious cold, crisp Meinklang Gruener Veltliner!

This Meinklang, in particular, is also biodynamic and organic, to up its trendy credentials: but most importantly, it’s a lovely, easy drinking summer wine with reasonably low alcohol and is extremely moreish – be warned!

A perfect one for drinking in the garden, it’s good value and a really interesting alternative to your usual summer whites. I highly recommend you try it (But buy more than one bottle. Trust me.)

Enjoy – and thanks for reading -

LWG