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 –


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 -


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: 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 -


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,


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,


Trendy fresh white wine… from Austria!

The wine: Meinklang Gruener Veltliner 11
Where’s it from? Austria
Where to buy it: Whole Foods or
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 -


London International Wine Fair – round up

I visited the London International Wine Fair at Excel last Monday. It’s a massive trade event with a huge number of growers, bottlers, negociants and big booze businesses all showcasing their wines.

Here are some of my stand-outs:

Chasselas and Swiss wines in general

There were some real surprises, including the excellent Wines of Switzerland stand where I tried a really fantastic Chasselas from Maison Blanche in the Mont-Sur-Rolle appellation. (Don’t judge it by the old-skool website!)

The full line up of Swiss wines from Mont Sur Rolle.

The full line up of Swiss wines from Mont Sur Rolle.

I met the wine maker, Yves de Mestral, who was a lovely and very modest chap.

It’s a sensational white with low acidity and a fruity, floral and dry style.

Yves de Mestral pouring his Chasselas for me.

Yves de Mestral pouring his Chasselas for me.

We did some other tasting on the stand and I predict that Swiss wines are going to be ones to watch (if the pound ever gets stronger – the exchange rate is killer!) in future as they are high quality and easy drinking, but under-appreciated in the UK. Could be the new Gruener Veltliner.

The under-representation of English wines

The lack of a strong English wine presence, particularly at such an internationally well attended event on “home turf” felt like a real missed opportunity to me. We were met at the tube station by imitation Frenchies handing out free croissants, India had a huge pitch for its “wines with mango” (pass, thanks), and even the cafes in Excel were stocked with crappy, bottled Echo Falls.

Awkward at a wine fair in London - stocking Echo Falls in the restaurant.

Awkward at a wine fair in London – stocking Echo Falls in the restaurant.

Given how awesome English wine is, this is just bonkers – we should have been all over this event!

How dominiated the wine trade still is by red-trousered Henrys

I would really like to see some more non-white, non-male faces at these things. And not ones dressed up in promo tshirts handing out samples.

Chaps in red trousers - it's a wine thing.

Chaps in red trousers – it’s a wine thing.

Alsace Pinot Gris is delicious

I stopped by the stand of winemaker Hugel et Fils who make a series of great Alsatian wines. My favourite was the Pinot Gris, which pretty much smacks all the insipid Pinot Grigios in the face with a demonstation of what it could achieve if only it would pull its lazy Italian socks up.

Etienne Hugel looking chuffed to be surrounded  by his wines!

Etienne Hugel looking chuffed to be surrounded by his wines!

Well worth giving this a go – you can find it for sale in the UK at the Wine Society for £12.50.

All in all, it was a fab day – it’s going to be held at Olympia next year which is much less convenient for a wobbly post-event visit to Westfield Stratford, but that’s probably for the best!

Thanks for reading -


English sparkling wine and irritatingly delicious Japanese food at Sake No Hana

I wanted to hate Sake No Hana. On paper, it has all the hallmarks of unbearable pretentiousness. It’s in St James, stomping ground of hedge fund tossers; they have a second branch in Dubai; it’s from the team behind uber-expensive Hakkasan: basically, it seems like the kind of place where Tamara Beckwith hangs out.

sake no hana

camel valley 2011

sushi at sake no hana

Annoyingly, they have a really good wine and sake list, including the really fantastic 2011 Camel Valley Pinot Noir Brut, a rose sparkling wine from the Camel Valley Vineyard in Cornwall. It’s a lovely fresh, fruity and dry fizz that went perfectly with what I can only describe (through gritted teeth) as the amazing food served at Sake No Hana.

Japanese food can be hard to match with wines, and I’d generally suggest sake as a more logical pairing, but this stood up really well to the oily fish, spicy wasabi, and everything tempura because of how light and dry it is.

The only thing I could find to hate about Sake No Hana was the bill – but even then, given how good the food was, I couldn’t object. I arrived loving English wine – and left also loving Sake No Hana.

Let me know if you try it out (either the pricey Japanese, or the delicious English fizz) – and thanks for reading,


LWG’s Greek bargain

The wine: Hatzidakis 2011 Santorini Assyrtiko
Where’s it from? Santorini, Greece
Where to buy it: Waitrose or Ocado
What it will set you back: £8.60
How boozy is it? 13.5%

Greek wine is the butt of many a joke, and many of us have washed down a halloumi salad with some seriously dodgy pine-flavoured Retsina.

So when I was doing the Easter Ocado shop (Four massive dark chocolate Lindt rabbits? An Easter essential.) and the Hatzidakis Santorini Assyrtiko popped up as an “item I might be interested in”, I wasn’t immediately sold on it.

Yes, my rug does need hoovering. But I was busy drinking wine.

Yes, my rug does need hoovering. But I was busy drinking wine.

But I’ve been blogging long enough now to have learnt that you have to try a few mingers to idenitfy a diamond, and it was only £8, so I popped it in the basket.

I have to say, it was a pleasant surprise – light, really, really dry and lemony, and generally a tasty wine that stacked up well to our copious Easter scoffing!

 It’s from the beautiful island of Santorini and is a fantastic sunshiney wine bargain that could change the way you think about Greek booze forever. (Good luck finding a palatable Ouzo though – you’re on your own with that one!)

Thanks for reading -



Pink, fizzy, fruity and thoroughly girly – Innocent Bystander Moscato wine review

The wine: Innocent Bystander Moscato 2012
Where’s it from? Yarra Valley, Victoria, Australia
Where to buy it: Whole Foods Market, High St Ken
What it will set you back: £6.95
How boozy is it? 5.5%

The totally yummy Innocent Bystander Moscato 2012.

The totally yummy Innocent Bystander Moscato 2012.

Every now and again, I get tired of wine that you have to think about, wine that’s sophisticated, interesting, sharp and not pink. On Friday night, I had one of those moments – and I saw this fizzy pink flowery wine in a beer style bottle calling to me from the fridge in the High St Ken branch of US hippy, foodie grocery store Whole Foods Market.

We popped the beer bottle style top off this one a couple of hours later, unleashing what I can only describe as a total Spice Girl of a cheeky, fruity, juicy wine. It’s an Italian style sweetish fizzy wine made from a blend of Muscat grapes, and at 5.5% is unlikely to give you too drastic a hangover!

In the week of Mother’s Day and International Women’s Day, I’d highly recommend this decidedly girly Aussie import to you. I won’t bother to tell you what food it would go with – you’ll have necked it before the plates hit the table. It’s not complicated, but it’s delicious.

Enjoy, and thanks for reading -