2 March 2013

Wine is back in fashion!

A few decades ago, you couldn't move for fancy wine bars and there were Threshers and Oddbins on virtually every corner. However, nice wine seems to have fallen out of favour in our town centres of late. 

Take my home city of Salisbury as an example. Our last off-licence closed a few years ago and most of the bars serve house red or pinot grigio and not really a great deal more. Every type of vodka under the sun, yes. A selection of wines from the Stellenbosch, no.

If you want a bottle of decent wine, you invariably have to go to a supermarket or restaurant and suffer something slightly substandard everywhere else.

I'm pleased to say that the trend seems to have started to buck, in Salisbury at least. 

Last year, a specialist wine retailer finally opened in Salisbury, as part of the Cambridge Wine Merchants chain. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fine to buy wine in a supermarket and I am a massive fan of the selection at Waitrose and Marks and Spencer. However, nothing can replace walking into a shop, and being able to ask what wine they would recommend to go with the duck or fish dish you are cooking that night. And having the personal service of expert wine advice based on your tastes and preferences.

Cambridge Wine Merchants, Salisbury

And, you don’t just get some store attendant who has done a three week course in beverages as part of their store induction. These guys know their stuff.  The manager, Gareth, has long recommended and slurped wine and used to manage the last of the wine shops in Salisbury, Oddbins and Nicolas. Last time we went in there, we explained we were going to my parent’s for coq au vin and Gareth recommended a delicious drop of Italian red. A far better experience than interpreting the pretensions of a marketing label on a wine bottle.

Then, in the New Year, joy of joys we got a wine bar! A real wine bar! Well a wine café by the name of Crane Street Wine Café. OK, they do serve food and I did go there for an evening meal, however, you can just pop in for a glass of wine and you don’t have to serve food. And, they have a really good selection and the food is pretty good too. 

Crane Street Wine Cafe in Salisbury. Finally the wine bar is back!

Run by the gregarious Andy Griggs, the place has a really classy ambience and décor too and I can see myself whiling away many an afternoon with a glass of Pinot, watching the people go by. We enjoyed a delicious bottle of Australian Shiraz. And then we enjoyed a second delicious bottle! If you do decide to eat, I would heartily recommend the tuna steak and my Dad wolfed down his spare ribs, so I assume they were pretty tasty! 

I’d be interested to know if this trend is being replicated in other towns across the UK. For me, this is a great departure from shots and red bull and a decidedly more sophisticated way to enjoy a drop.

PS I couldn't write an article about wine in Salisbury without mentioning the Majestic wine store in Salisbury. For me, it’s off this list because it isn't in the town centre and requires a car journey to get there. Plus, you have to buy a six bottle case and you can’t just pop in for a bottle. However, their service is impeccable, there’s nearly always a Pinot Noir on the tasting bar and they do social well. So plus points from me.