London Wine Week 2016: Six things we’ve learned
For one sweet, seven-day stretch every year, it’s totally acceptable to drink gallons of wine in the middle of the day in the greatest city on Earth. Yes, this was London Wine Week (23th-29th May). Vintners took a bow, girlfriends fell into wine-induced comas and, suffice to say, there was Malbec on the streets of London, if not Dublin, Dundee or Humberside.
Wine pop-up shops popped up, non-critics actually attended wine bars and even the most expensive vintages were sampled by the Merlot-est common denominator. After stashing so much wine at The Upcoming, you may as well call us Amy. Here are some of the things I learned from London Wine Week 2016.
1. Water won’t be replacing wine
A humble carpenter from Nazareth once turned water into wine, but what about turning wine into water? For a scary moment this week, it looked like we were headed for a wine-free future. And we’re not talking about the Atlanta-born rapper denying a glass of the famous grape.
A healthy dose of capital cynicism met the announcement of a pop-up bar due to open in the basement of Selfridges later this year, complete with a quote from the planned hostelry’s own water sommelier, stating that “like wine, one can actually taste the region and depth from which the water comes.” Fortunately, the following day, a few sheepish retractions had to be posted: “No, Selfridges is NOT opening a fancy bar that will only serve water.”
It turns out, the fuss was all a big misunderstanding – the new bar in the department store’s basement would instead sell “water infusions, cocktails, wines and spirits.” Upmarket filtered water would be available, but for free.
But the mild, yet lingering aftertaste of PR disaster remained. Of all the weeks to accidentally announce a water-only bar that wasn’t really happening, London Wine Week may have been the worst possible choice.
2. Aldi are getting in on the action
Anyone who prefers “Choco Rice” to Coco Pops or “Snack Noodle” to Pot Noodle will know that Aldi’s wine section got crowned multiple wine retailer of the year in 2015.
How do they celebrate London Wine Week? Not by peddling any old plonk, that’s for sure. They opened a pop-up in Shoreditch’s BOXPARK, a breeding ground for class, quality and quirky retail opportunities, executed on a short-term basis.
The Aldi Wine pop-up was open for two days, and it lived up to Aldi’s reputation by selling not just one wine, not just two wines, but multiple wines. No doubt their online wine delivery service will see a lot more action in London’s trendy East End after this
3. Wine tasting can settle the EU debate
Soon you will have to send out a postal vote on whether you prefer Boris Johnson or David Cameron.
For wine fans, the EU debate can be fermented down to one issue: which option will give me the best wine? Honest Grapes took it upon themselves to help by holding a referendum 2016 in vs out tasting event. Surrey’s Litmus White Pinot Noir was pitted against Portugal’s Beyra Branco, and Gusbourne Pinot Noir from Kent faced off with Savigny-lès-Beaune Aux Grands Liards from Burgundy. Most attendees found it difficult to make up their minds because although European wine is traditionally superior…
4. … it’s a fine time for English wine
British wine sellers and drinkers alike had something to celebrate during London Wine Week (aside from the cornucopia of wine, that is). Just before the week began, The British Bottle Company announced a huge deal with US distributor Vine Street, rivalling other famous US deals such as Roosevelt’s New Deal, Howie Mandel’s Deal or No Deal and Kim Deal from the Pixies.
5. People are still victimised by wine scammers
At the start of London Wine Week, we were warned of the dangers of fine wine investment scams. Days earlier, the Independent reported that the world’s most expensive wine bottles had been auctioned off in Geneva, only for their authenticity to be threatened.
If Wine Week got you in a money-spending mood, be wary of any wine investment opportunities. Fine wine investment guides from experts like The London Wine Cellar detail problems where supposed wine brokers persuade clients to buy wine, and then either go into liquidation or completely AWOL (Avoiding Wine Oriented Lawsuits).
Maybe these poor would-be wine investors would have been better served spending more time reading the label, or avoiding those pesky cold callers from wine dealers. Or even ignoring all callers of any temperature – just to be safe.
- Merlot may never recover from its Sideways savaging
While Paul Giamatti’s character in the wine-fuelled 2004 mid-life crisis movie espoused a strong anti-Merlot view (“If anyone orders Merlot, I’m leaving!”), sales of the mass-market red actually went up in the wake of the film’s release. Call it reverse psychology.
Unfortunately, that sales spike led to Merlot growers trying to increase their grape growth via a new method of irrigation, which needed additional tampering to even make the wine taste decent. The result? More people started agreeing with Paul Giamatti – never a bad thing… unless you’re a Merlot producer.
Now that sales of the wine are finally on the rise again, it’s almost a cruel twist of fate that LWW could bring about a relapse, at least within London. Sideways: The Play – a stage adaptation of the film Sideways – opened in the West End and coincided with London Wine Week coming to a close.
Will this doom the popular tipple to its certain fate, at least within the confines of the M25, or will Merlot be a light that never goes out? We’ll just have to stretch out and wait to find out – after all, these things take time.
The editorial unit