Talking Wine – April 2011

Awards are always important if you win them but not if you don’t! A troop from The Oxford Wine Company went down to London recently for a large wine tasting at the Vinopolis wine centre which was followed by the Harpers Wine & Spirit Magazine Top Merchants wine awards. We knew that we had been short listed in 3 of the 7 categories and were up against such illustrious names as Harrods Wine Department and Tanners. We were hoping to win something but were stunned when we won not only the Best Retailer in the UK Award for 3 shops or less but also the Best Wholesaler in the UK award as well. I tried to thrust my colleagues up to the stage to receive the award but to no avail though this is very much a team effort built over many years. Many new wines and spirits have been added this year so please call in to the new Oxford shop in the Botley Road and have a browse – we hope you will be impressed. Somebody has been!!

Heather Miller, one of our sales staff, is currently studying for her MW (Master of Wine) exam. This is well recognised as one of the hardest exams around. Many hundreds apply for the course, which may take years to complete and even to be accepted on this course is an achievement in its own right. From here a few hundred sit the exams every year and possibly as few as 2 or 3 pass. There are about 288 MWs in the world which says it all. Heather is currently in Burgundy and we have asked her to look out for good small producers. She reports back on a regular basis although quite how she is still standing is anyone’s guess – she appears to have tasted from every single producer! Buying good Burgundy is quite an art in itself as it can vary hugely from vintage to vintage as well as a result of time spent in bottle. We prefer to work with growers and vignerons who are consistent in their wine making from year to year and get the best out of each vintage. Let’s see what she comes up with – we all know it’s a horrible job but someone’s got to do it!

I have issued a challenge to the Cambridge Wine Merchants to take on The Oxford Wine Company in a blind tasting competition. This will be run along the same lines as the Varsity match and we will have to identify 12 wines blind using our skills and experience to name the grape variety, country, region and vintage as well as writing comprehensive notes on each wine. We get 7 minutes a wine and the whole process is massively intimidating and not at all easy. We had the Oxford University coach Hanneke Wilson here recently and she gave us some useful tips following our loss to the well practised university side in a practice run. It’s all good fun and the event will be covered by the national wine press and the Oxford Times. Try it at home sometime and you will soon discover that one glance at the label is worth 30 years of experience with wine!!

By all accounts Lesley from Longworth was distraught at not getting a mention last month. Rumour has it that she has given up her quarter bottle a week for lent and will return a much fitter and healthier woman. So goodbye to those awful hangovers Lesley – you can now join the Longworth runners on a Saturday morning with not only a clear head but also a clear conscience. I am going to put you in touch with the anti smoking lobby – or do you secretly have one a week and two puffs a day?!!