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,


7 thoughts on “Sublime and ridiculous wine experiences @ Taste of London festival

  1. Dear London Wine Girl, it is sad to read your comments about Thai Wine and a question comes up right away was the wine served made from wine grapes ? or was it some other stuff unfortunately marketed as Thai Wine domestically and internationally. Anyhow we do hope that you will have the chance to taste some real international award winning Shiraz, Tempranillo, Chenin Blanc and other wines grown and bottled at PB Valley Khao Yai Winery the birthplace of the Khao Yai Wine Region in Thailand. New Latitude wines as they are called have made a good name for themselves over the years – cheers

    • Hi Heribert

      They were indeed wines made from wine grapes – I’m afraid just too sweet and lacking in freshness for my taste. I will look out for Khao Yai wines to see if they convert me to a Thai wine fan!

      Thanks for commenting –


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  3. Shame to hear that the sort of pomposity you encounter is still alive and well in wine. Probably he was fed up that while he was merely pouring you were drinking!

  4. I had the *exact* same experience when they had a stall up at Jamie Oliver’s Big Feastival. It sounds like it was exactly the same guy. It really put a damper on my day to be honest though it’s a little reassuring I wasn’t the only one to receive the treatment. I definitely didn’t look like a wine snob that day and while I could recognise this, it still doesn’t warrant such a cold reception.

    My girlfriend and I walked up to their booth after another couple had finished tasting some wines. We started by asking about the collection he had out (4 bottles or so) and got a bit of a cold shoulder and a couple of single-syllable responses. We asked about one in particular (I think it was a Marlborough Sauvingnon Blanc too, as we’d been to Marlborough late last year to tour the region) and the only response we got from him was that he just packed up all 4 bottles and walked away.

    I felt as if I’d wronged him in some inexplicable way and was completely stunned.

  5. Shawberry vintners are in my opinion, crooks! They ran a promo on living social offering a wine tasting session for £20 including free bottle of prosecco.

    I invited friends who had helped me through cancer treatment as a thank you.

    David asked me to invite 8 people and buy certain foods to go with the wine.
    Four hours before his partner was due to show up he rang and cancelled due to laryngitis. No replacement, no money back and they had deducted twice from my account! They then decided the voucher had expired! Living social were equally unhelpful. People had booked babysitters and taxis so we had our own wine tasting without the rude hard sell which we probably have encountered by these nasty retailers.
    Stay clear Of Shawbury vintners!

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