Waitrose Cellar Event – and a trip on a Canal Boat:
From memory, Waitrose was the first supermarket I used that offered a great choice of wines. Probably about twenty years ago now, I worked for Vodafone in Newbury and tried moving out of London to a tiny village near Marlborough and Waitrose became my local supermarket. Up until then I’d spent my adult life in London and Brighton – and my wine buying experience had focussed on specialist shops. The Waitrose in Marlborough was an eye-opener for me, with a great selection of wines that I could buy with my groceries, all labelled up so that I could pick the right bottles. Of course this was before the internet. A year or so later, I can remember my boss demonstrating the wonders of internet shopping and logging into buy wine online. As he tried to tell us he was buying a single bottle of chablis – we watched and attempted to alert him to the fact that he was actually about to purchase 12 bottles at £20 or so a bottle.
If I end up with a case, you’ll all get a bottle…
Needless to say we were all soon gifted a very nice bottle of chablis each.
It’s all too easy to forget that the internet really didn’t exist that recently. It has changed the way we shop – it is easy now to be an informed and educated shopper – and products that might have been hard to find are now accessible to all.
So what does Waitrose Cellar have to add. Well, for a start it is very comprehensive, but there are a good range of filters to help you find what you are looking for – including price range, grape and country of origin. There are over a thousand bottles to choose from and each one is beautifully categorised and explained. Many have video reviews too. There are special selections if you want someone else to do the legwork – and there is even a very ‘retro’ telephone helpline if you are planning a special event and need help choosing your wine!
We went along to the London Canal Museum to find out more and, of course, to try some of the wines.
Meeting wine specialists Xenia Irwin MW and Stephane Sanchez, it was clear that these are people with a real passion for what they do. Their enthusiasm for wine and for helping to educate us and other customers was quite clear
On the boat, we tried various wines that Waitrose were recommending. Comparing Waitrose Blanc de Noir champagne with Cave de Lugny Sparkling Burgundy Blanc de Blanc sparkling wine for example – both delicious, but the champagne of course has a higher price tag. Serve the latter as an aperitif at a party and my guess is everyone will be perfectly happy – it’s slightly softer than the champagne but still has all the characteristics of a good fizz.
Then, back at base we set to work trying to use the website to determine the best selection of wines for each other in a kind of speed-wine event. Of course by then we’d all had quite a few glasses of quite a few different types of wine – and a great selection of cold meats and cheeses.
The result – some rather haphazard guesses at what our opposite numbers might enjoy…
I know at one point I sat down opposite the lovely Denise from The Wine Sleuth and was trying to ask her what her taste in wine was. I seem to remember her saying ‘Champagne – good Champagne’. I can’t honestly remember which of the bottles I picked for her – but I know I had an excellent selection to choose from. There are also a range of spirits on the site, though I am not sure who was busy picking gins!
It is a very easy way to buy wine. Dangerously easy in fact. I now have a collection of six bottles to try over the next few months – including an Amontillado sherry (already open), which makes a lovely aperitif with olives and chorizo, two bottles of fizz and a very special bottle of red wine, Château Grand-Puy-Lacoste Grand Cru Classé, Pauillac that I am definitely saving for an occasion (perhaps when I finally sell my flat?).
With many thanks to Waitrose for a superb evening. You can find out more about Waitrose Cellar on their site and I hope to be including some tasting notes from the wines as I try them!
All photos copyright Emma Gutteridge