A Very English Pinot Tasting

The clocks have changed. Those bright blue skies & bright days we have been enjoying have taken flight (south for the winter, probably), to be replaced by autumn as we know it (read: dark. Very dark. Grey. & rather damp to boot.) Hello November.

Leaves, leaves everywhere...

What better than to mark the entrance of this gateway to dark, wintery depths than to have a nice bit of wine geekery? Exactly. We thought the same. So after a wee Twitter storm, chewing the fat over English Pinot Noir, the only logical step was to mark the 1st of November as #EnglishPinotDay & have a Very English Pinot Tasting. & aren’t we glad we did.

Photos will follow (we were sadly relying on a Blackberry, which failed on this occasion. We have, however, been promised some nice snaps from those that attended with cleverer cameras than we. Phew.) In the meanwhile, it is my words that shall have to suffice (apologies). So, deep breaths all, hold on to your corkscrews – & away we go.

The original plan was to have everyone bring a bottle of English Pinot, so as to explore our contention that this is a grape that has a bright future within the land of Britannia Reds. Everyone attending would bring a bottle of the stuff & our assemblage of palates would dissect them, bottle by bottle.

As it turned out, we forgot how difficult it can be to find a solid cross-section in London. So we tweaked the night slightly, suggesting that cool climate ringers could be brought in place.

In the end, we had 8 English Pinot’s on the table (special thanks here to Three Choirs, Gusbourne & Sharpham Estate for their contribution) against entrants from Central Otago (a hot little number indeed @tuckandvine), Transylvannia (cheers @elliotscafe), two from Sancerre (many thanks @jeremyonwine & @donalde) & a very intriguing Slovenian bottle (again, thanks @donalde), as well as a reasonably priced Burgundy, an Hungarian &, that new world behemoth, Chile.

Now, comp(lim/lem)enting the wines: the people! Although we had those that could not make it (shame), we did have a stonking array of palates in the room – see above – as well as 2011 UKVA judge MW Patricia Stefanowicz, Gusbourne’s vineyard manager & a representative from Plumpton. Jolly good stuff.

To have 8 very distinct English Pinot’s, not simply in direct comparison (spanning the country from Devon, to Kent, to Warwickshire) but also against both established & up & coming countries for the grape was a fascinating exercise, with results that surprised expectations: England’s pretensions to Pinot are well-founded.

Special thanks must go to those producers at Borough who provided a superb array of viands for us to compare & contrast against the wines on the table: the Turkish Deli for your olives (made for wine they are!); Sillfield Farm for the wild boar & herb pate; Elliot’s Cafe for the best bread in the land, quince jellies & superb presentation; Rabot Estate for the 66% Madagascan choccie; Borough Market for the loan of your beautiful boardroom; & Riedel, for  the glasses for such a night (there is still division about who preferred Chianti to the Pinot bowl) – I have not washed glasses with such care in a very long time!

All in all, it is something that will happen again – albeit not until the next year. The festive period is nigh & it is going to be a rather busy time for the Wine Pantry. But, wine friends, remember my words: it will happen again. The Wine Pantry tasting club is here to stay. I’m getting a Bacchus vibe as well…

Please don’t judge the piccies – I told you we had issues!






‘The time has come,’ the Walrus said…

To speak of many things. But, sadly, a) I am not a walrus & b) my words are failing me. What to do, when I have such exciting news and no letters to render it sensible to all?

Fear not. As the adage goes, a picture is worth a thousand words (don’t believe me? Speak to the Egyptians) & this lyrical, visual mode of comms shall be the language of this blog.

So, ready yourselves, your very own Wine Pantry Pictionary is about to commence. The prize? Both intellectual glory & precious knowledge; you shall be smug bearer of the facts pertaining to just exactly what is going down at the Wine Pantry this Friday, 21st October.


Forget ‘The Glorious Twelfth’; oyster season is upon us!



A surfing oyster, followed by an address. What do you make of this Holmes?



Bubbles of the First Degree: English Sparkling.



So folks: have you solved it? Are you there, leaping from one foot to another in a wriggle of excitement?

Yes? Good on you. Gold Stars all round. See you this Friday then for some English Bubbly & English Bivalve fun. Also known as GOOD TIMES.

No? Don’t worry poppet. It’s ok. I’ll tell you anyway: This Friday, in celebration of all the briny goodness that oysters bring to the world, The Wine Pantry is – in partnership with our friends in the market – running our inaugural English Sparkling & Oyster Eve*. Shucking & popping will be the verbs of the night; shells & corks will be flying. From 19:00 – 22:00 (or until the oysters run out).

* For those for whom the thought of an oyster is Halloween come early, don’t fret! There will also be platters of English cheese & Cornish charcuterie available.

Words: Dominique Hopgood


English Wine Times… The Catch-up Issue

May 28th. A date that has seen a host of historical milestones: 1588: The Spanish Armada sets sail from Lisbon. 1968: Kylie Minogue is born. 1999: da Vinci’s The Last Supper is put back on display.

2011. It was a Saturday. The sun was shining (mostly). Manchester & Barcelona were kicking a football about some grass in Wembley. It was the dawn of English Wine Week – & something more. Little did London know (apart from those in the know of course), but its very first exclusively English Wine shop was opening its doors*.

Enter, The Wine Pantry.

The heavens shining/smiling down on Borough at the news of London's first - & only! - exclusively English wine shop

Fast-forward 133 calendar crosses & we realise that we have been so caught up in the whirlwind of being London’s only exclusively English Wine shop (it is starting to sink in!) our blog has not just been neglected, rather stranded high and dry. So sorry. Corners have been sat in, lines have been written & bottom lips have wobbled in contrition. What follows is a catch-up on the Wine Pantry’s life up ‘til now. Exciting stuff hey? Ready kids? Here we go…

Since we last wrote (Bastille Day), we have had some French culinary royalty cross the entrance/exit sign into the realms of our little shop. Yes. You guessed it: at the conclusion of our second month, M. Raymond Blanc just happened to swing buy & enjoy some English vinis vinifera. Both heart-stopping & thrilling – especially when he said ‘bonne!’

From there we have seen a broken shutter (rather crucial when it is all that separates you & your wines from Borough High St), lots & lots of rain, a rather perverse attachment to DIY (it never ends), two small business awards followed by a ceremony, vineyard research, vineyard harvesting, Riedel presentations on the perfect glass for English Sparkling (followed by trips back up to London in the swishest of Audis). Our first charity tasting held at Roast. Consulting some big names in London (Quo Vadis, Vinoteca, Tate Modern) on their English wine lists for British Food fortnight. Sending off our first case to Paris for a wine club! Changing the calendar so that every last Friday becomes Magnum day (favourite initiative by far – especially when it involves the Ridgeview Blanc de Blanc 2000. Also known as the 2011 UKVA Gore Brown Trophy winner for Best Wine. I would tell you how it is, but the wee thimbleful I had was so transcendental that when I reflect on it I get lost in the moment & kind of trail… See you on the last Friday then, hey?)

Finally, one of the loveliest things we have found so far is the support we have received, from all quarters in these early days. It has s been incredibly the way such a small amount of square-footage, a wine glass chandelier, and very pretty Dutch enomatic machine filled with English wine can generate such a buzz. So thank-you all so much, to those new, firm friends; the fleeting faces that make us laugh and leave with a smile; and those yet to come.

NEXT UP IN THE WP CHRONICLES: Our First Charity Do; Award Success; Vineyard Adventures; Reidel Goes English; WP Goes a’Harvestin’; & – of course – an introduction to each of our new wines! …Your next two weeks of wholesome, edifying reading sorted then, wot?

*Metaphor. There weren’t any. There still aren’t. Which wasn’t ideal as June was sadly more autumnal than glorious summer. Both of us spent a good portion of it in jumpers and with colds and seriously debating whether it was defeatist or not to start serving mulled wine. We decided against. ‘When the weather gets tough, the tough – drink English Wine’ became little dictum, because if the England will refuse to give us a summer, you have to take it. & what better medium to go through than English wine.

Sad Summer

Sad Summer no more - Captain Magnum saves the day. Just look at those smiles!

Words: Dominique Hopgood


I challenge you to a duel…

For those whose attention it may have escaped, yesterday was the two hundred and twenty – first anniversary of ‘French Practicality’ (more commonly known as Bastille Day) and brought a rambunctious conclusion to the week of celebrations down here at the Borough Marche.

Amid our tricolour bunting and walls bedecked with both French and St George’s flags, an opportunity was spotted to put the “Entente Cordiale” through its paces and, as any self-respecting English Wine retailer would, we dusted off our proverbial gloves to challenge our French cousins at their own game. The Challenge? 2011’s Decanter Gold and Trophy winner, Ridgeview Grosvenor 2007 v one of Reims oldest Champagne houses, Veuve Clicquot Yellow label. The Prize? A personal favourite of Wine Pantry, Ridgeview’s Knightsbridge Blanc de Noirs.

All that was missing was one of Les Mis’ more rousing numbers, which we made up for by wearing a tutu and promising not to decapitate people for getting it wrong.

Patrons were presented with two flutes, one simply marked with a blue dot. The question: where (or where not?) did the blue dot bubbles hail from? What made the stakes all the more interesting was the �14.00 difference between the two (Veuve �38.00 v Grosvenor 2007 �24.00). Currently on offer at Robertson Wine for �29.95 http://www.robersonwine.com/shop/brut-yellow-label-veuve-clicquot!!!

So, before we get down to the nitty gritty, a quick analysis of the competitors:

Weighing in with a 2007 vintage was the Ridgeview Grosvenor Blanc de Blanc.� 100% Chardonnay cuvees can be fussy sparklers to get right but Mike and Simon Roberts have excelled themselves. A delicate silvery gold, its exceptional mousse with bright, well formed bubbles was all elegance � but with a brilliant bite.� On all important palate terms – the well-balanced acidity, lemony sherbet and the softest tropical notes danced against well executed brioche notes.� Overall, it was a glass of beautiful and, uplifting freshness that more than one punter went starry-eyed over.

Now enter Veuve Yellow label, a little NV from that grandee of the grandees (in sparkling wine regions terms), Champagne.� From 1772, Veuve’s motto has been ‘only one quality, the finest’ and this cuvee does pay homage to that belief.� Its distinctive nose, smaller bubbles�and very fine mousse spoke of its heritage, while its juicy citrus-driven palate balanced out its toastier yeasty notes.

The results? Our brilliant maths skills indicate that 75% picked each flute’s origins correctly (although there was a Frenchman who got it wrong!), whereas it was a more clean-cut fifty/fifty for personal preference.� Saying that, there was a good handful who were well and truly surprised to find themselves preferring the English entry (yet another Frenchy who was mildly distraught to have been ‘tricked’ into rejecting her usual favourite � Veuve… and refused to leave the shop without buying the English contender.)

It was a good bit of fun that was also, technically, an incredibly interesting social ‘wine’ experiment.

Congratulations to our lucky winner as well- drawn at random today�- the lovely Naomi and her partner! A bottle of Ridgeview’s Knightsbridge is waiting, on ice, for you.

Sante & Cheers to all.

Words: Dominique Hopgood