|Tom Cannavan's wine-pages.com|
|The Sampler, a new venture in London's Islington (it opened in late 2006), is taking a crack at rewriting the wine-selling rules. Its big selling point is that, as
well as an eclectic range of wines sold by the bottle, there are 10 sampling machines lined up along the walls of the shop.
It has long seemed obvious to me - and to many in the wine trade - that what was needed was an opportunity to give people a chance to try before buying, especially for those splashing out more than a few quid on a bottle. But until fairly recently, tasting opportunities were thin on the ground.
|The wines are forced out of the bottles and into the tasting glass due to an inrush of inert gas, which prevents the remaining wine in the bottle from becoming oxidised. In theory, a bottle could
remain in the sampling machine for several weeks at a time without spoilage. In practice this rarely happens: most wines are sampled away within a matter of days (if not hours) by eager customers, and bottles are renewed on a regular basis.
|So successful has The Sampler been that Hutchinson and Mannis are already considering opening a small chain around London.
Could this be the future of wine retailing? As someone who despairs of the high street retailers' generic pile 'em high and sell 'em cheap strategy, and who passionately wants to preserve the wide diversity of the wine world, I wish Hutchinson and Mannis every success. I'll be rooting for them - and I'm pretty sure that wine buffs around the UK will be too.
what I sampled
Le Comte des Floris, Lune Blanche, Vin de Pays de Cassan 2004
An unusual wine based on Carignan Blanc. There's apples, blossom, almonds and honey on the rich, ripe palate. Zesty acidity and a long, almondy length. £16.99 per bottle.
Domaine Schlumberger, Les Princes Abbés Pinot Gris, Alsace 2005
Pears, spice and honey meld together with a touch of residual sugar and a slightly oily, full-bodied palate. Great value for money. £12.49 per bottle.
Wild Earth Pinot Noir, Central Otago 2004
One of The Sampler's best sellers, this Pinot has lots of ripe New World fruit, but it's tinged with earthy complexity. The fresh, zippy acidity carries through on the long fruit-driven finish. £17.99 per bottle.
Astrales, Ribera del Duero 2004
Dense black fruit tinged with liquorice and bitter chocolate is balanced by big, ripe tannins and a deep-pile velvety texture. Although delicious now, this is a very young wine that would benefit from another couple of years of bottle age. £24.99 per bottle.
Roberto Voerzio, Barolo Cerequio 1999
This is an absolutely classic Barolo, with a heady nose of tar and roses. There's the obligatory big, chewy tannins, but these are balanced by perfumed fruit and a superbly silky texture. A long, spicy, floral finish. £110.00 per bottle.
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London N1 2UQ.
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