Monday, 10 October 2016

Awesome Autumn Drinks: Beer, Ale, Cider

The ground is awash with leaves all hues of red and gold, the clocks will be changing soon and our evenings are already getting dark. All perfect reasons to gather friends for Sunday roasts or hearty home cooked meals.

Step away from the light lagers and move on to more comforting brews; think barrel-aged beers, amber ales and stouts - the perfect pints for cosy nights at the pub.

Here’s part two of your two-part guide to the best booze for autumn; a handpicked selection that will help you slurp through the season.

Craft beer Hiver is owned and run by Hannah Rhodes, who specialises in producing a small but perfectly formed range of beer and ale using 100% British ingredients including honey from both urban and rural bees. The Honey Ale is fermented with raw blossom and heather honeys that complement and add depth to darker roasted malts – this attractive ale has a rich chocolatey nose, a honey aroma and roasted malt flavours.

Currently £2.40 at Ocado

Wild Beer Co, Modus Operandi
Wild Beer Company are advocates of alternative style beers made with wild yeasts, wild hops and a whole lot of wild attitude. They have a whole range of weird and wonderful blends, but their Modus Operandi is just made for autumn. This barrel aged beer has a smooth, rich, full body and bags of flavour of vanilla, berries, cherries, leather and tannins. Complex and sexy, it’s the perfect match to red meat and game dishes such as duck or venison. The bottle looks great, too!

Currently £4.09 at Beer Hawk

Brewdog, Pumpkin Beer
Pumpkin ales have long been popular in the States and now they’re on the rise in the UK. This year the clever chaps at Brewdog have released Pumpkin King: bright and zesty with notes of cinnamon spice and sweet pumpkin. The USA pumpkin beers can be a tad too sweet at times but there’s no danger of that here – Brewdog have crafted a more savoury, dry style. Sophisticated and seasonal.

Currently £2.49 at Beer Hawk

Bedlam Brewery, Benchmark
This amber coloured ale is the natural next step up from the pale ales of the summer months. Crisp and refreshing at first, with a finish of rich malted flavours and a hint of chocolate.

Currently £2.09 at

Gosnells Mead
Mead, one of the oldest alcoholic drinks on the world, may have been at its peak in medieval times but it’s making a hipster comeback. Made from sugar and honey, Tom Gosnell uses a Spanish orange blossom honey for a more citrusy flavour, and the end result is light, semi-sweet and slightly bubbly.

Currently £3.30 at Forest Wine

Harviestoun, Ola Dubh 18
If there’s one drink that goes well with the darker nights, it’s a darker beer, and Ola Dubh 18 is a great example. It starts out as the rich, dark “Engine Oil” beer, which is then aged in old whisky casks, taking on a fruity, whisky character. With sticky toffee sweetness, wood and smokey notes all tied in with vanilla and dried fruits, this is a beer to be sipped on by the bonfire.

Currently £5.19 from Beer Hawk

Henderson’s Spiced Cider
Autumn is apple season and so of course we have to celebrate that by drinking some stonking cider. Henderson’s Spiced Cider is sweet and has a touch of warming spice to help blast away the chill of the autumn evenings. Flavoured with cinnamon, cloves and ginger, it’s perfect for the season. They also do a toffee apple cider for those with a sweet tooth.

Currently £25.00 for 5 litres at

What are you drinking this autumn? Let us know on our Facebook or Twitter page.

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Your Guide to Awesome Autumn Drinking: Wine and Spirits

best autumn wines
Photo: Kevin K (CCL)

It’s that time of year when the leaves are turning and the nights are drawing in, we pull our knitwear from the back of the wardrobe and swap alfresco picnics for crisp autumnal walks and Sundays in the pub. 

Welcome the season of comfort food – of glorious game, hotpots and pies, sausage and mash and slow cooked delights.   You’ll need some serious seasonal sips too, and we’ve got you covered. 

Here’s part one of your two-part guide to the best booze for autumn; a hand-picked selection of wine, spirits and cocktails that will help you slurp through the season.


The chillier temperature and hearty food means embracing those wonderfully rich, robust and textured wines. 

For reds, look for more medium bodied styles with darker fruit flavours of blackberry, plum and damson, along with sweet spice and indulgences like chocolate.  Grape varieties Merlot, Malbec and Grenache are classics that are just made for these months.

Choose from Old World regions such as Puglia (Italy), Rhône, and Douro (Portugal) for rustic styles, and from the New World look no further than California and South Africa for wines with power and body.

This Merlot based wine from Italy oozes red and dark fruits and is layered with chocolate, sweet spice and toasty, earthy notes

£9.99 at Majestic (mixed price £8.99)

Réserve des Hospitaliers Cairanne, Côtes du Rhône Villages
Rich and satisfying, this Côtes du Rhône has everything you need to pair with hearty dishes on a cosy night in - ripe fruit flavours, structure, poise and a touch of oak.  

£9.99, Waitrose

For whites, look for texture, body and depth as well as intensity of flavour. The benefit is that these wines can be served a touch less chilled, meaning there’s no need to shiver over your Sauvignon.
Flavours of stone fruit, minerality and a touch of vanilla spice from oak will work nicely so look out for oily Viognier, aromatic Pinot Gris, luscious Chenin Blanc and creamy Chardonnay. White Rhône blends and white Burgundy will steal the show, as will Vouvray (Loire) and white Rioja.

Millton Riverpoint Viognier, Gisborne
This biodynamic beauty from New Zealand has bags of brilliance. With an array of flavours from poached pear and spiced apple, it’s rich in mouth feel yet has refreshing minerality. A personal favourite, I promise this will blow you away. 

This classic Loire Vouvray Chenin Blanc has expressive almond and honey, and the off-dry style adds texture and further richness.  Pair this with a bold, salted dish like pork or a white bean cassoulet and watch it sing.
Currently £8.99, Majestic (mixed price £7.99)


Having so many beautiful autumnal fruits in season provide a perfect excuse to get creative with cocktails, and the drop in temperature means that extra little kick of alcohol is perfectly acceptable– we’ve got to keep warm somehow! These Vinspire favourites are your seasonal secret weapons.

This warming cocktail is guaranteed to take the edge off the chilly weather with fab autumnal flavours - gloriously crisp apple, rich maple syrup, smokey bourbon and refreshing, lifting cider. 

The result is a delicious medium-sweet cocktail the same colour as the golden leaves.

Question: what’s better than scoffing toffee apples as a kid at Halloween? 
Answer: drinking alcoholic toffee apples as an adult! 

This martini style cocktail is ghoulishly good, with toffee liqueur, apple juice and real toffee sauce plus a splash of vodka. 


Not just for Christmas - while traditional ruby ports may be rich and sweet, an aged style Tawny offers a lighter, more approachable style. Find a good 20 or 30 years aged one for typical flavours of caramel, hazelnut, cinnamon and fig, often with toasted notes.


Nothing warms the cockles like a wee dram of whisky, and with the darker evenings and richer food, now is the time to indulge. 

A delicate style with notes of honey, coffee and sherry along with richer smokey, spiced complexities.  Great for sipping in front of the fire.

Sloe Gin

A true English favourite – sloe berries come into season from October, so take the opportunity to get back to nature, go leaf kicking and forage for sloes and damsons. Making your own sloe gin is easy: simply soak the sloes in good quality gin along with some caster sugar, shaking gently every few days until all the flavour and colour has been extracted. Do this for one to two months for best results – so technically not an autumn drink, but when Christmas rolls around you’ll be able to relive your autumn fun! 

Stay tuned for Part Two: The best beers, ales, stouts and ciders...

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Drinks by the Dram boozy advent calendars – the beautiful, the bold, and the bloody expensive

We’ve hit September, which means it’s officially ok for me to start talking about Christmas

And Christmas time means boozy present talk.

I almost feel that these near legendary calendars don’t need an introduction most people I know have already got one on their Santa list. Yes that’s right, it’s Drinks by the Dram advent calendar time

These babies just keep getting better every year. For 2016, there are 26 different calendars available – one for every kind of booze lover. If you’re struggling to choose, and have got a bit of spare cash lying around, you could have 25 out of the 26 for £4978.80. Or if you’re feeling flush, and really like your old whisky, that’ll be just £14978.75 for all 26.

This year, those crazy folk at Drinks by the Dram have added a Very Old & Rare whisky advent calendar for, wait for it, £9999.95. While that may be beyond the reach of most of us, boy does it sound incredible. Highlights include the Balvenie 46 year old from 1968 – which sells for a casual £19,000 a bottle, 60 year old Glenfarclas, and The Macallan 42 year old 1969 – the rarest of the rare collection. 

If you’re not a fan of surprises, you can have a look at the full list, and be amazed.  

And it won't look out of place on your mantlepiece. Each calendar comes in a bespoke wooden box handcrafted by a cabinet-maker. It's available in a walnut or Macassar ebony finish. 

If your budget doesn’t stretch quite that far, there’s the universally loved Ginvent calendar, £124.95 (made with the lovely folk at Gin Foundry), some slightly more affordable whisk(e)y options, bourbon, tequila, rum, vodka, cognac, absinthe, mezcal, and armagnac. Definitely something for everyone. 

There’s even an escalating heat naga chilli vodka calendar, £99.95, for those brave/stupid souls out there. Did someone say 240,000 Scovilles? Yummy...


If you're planning to stick with your Cadbury's calendar this year, and you're sick of those tiny measuring tapes, crap puzzle games, and plastic flicky frogs, you can also up your cracker game too. 

While you still get the hat and the crap joke (of course), you'll be flinging 3cl bottles of spirits under the table/in granny's Brussels sprouts instead. 

Here's to a happy Christmas indeed. I think it's time for me to start saving some pennies...

Monday, 12 September 2016

Wine Bar Review: Pall Mall Fine Wine

Hands up who’s been to Trafalgar Square? I’m guessing if you’ve ever been to London that at some point you would have visited this tourist and pigeon paradise. For me there are many reasons to visit this corner of London; the galleries, easy access to Covent Garden, Leicester Square and Buckingham Palace, nice restaurants, the list goes on and on... Now I have found one more reason – Pall Mall FineWine

Nestled in one of London’s oldest shopping arcades, the Royal Opera Arcade, just off Pall Mall itself, is this gem of a little wine bar. I visited her sister establishment, Shepherd Market Wine Bar, earlier this year and was very pleased to be invited to check out this bar.

The Bar

As you walk in to the bar you are immediately struck by the pretty, yet somewhat eclectic décor. Laid out in an unmistakably French cave du vin style, it features pretty little ornaments, trinkets, objets d’art, paintings, newspaper cuttings. One of my favourite features was a series of music sheets perched on top of one of the door frames. The bar has a long-standing relationship with notable artist Simon Key, who produces illustrations for ‘Private Eye’ and several of his pieces are festooned around in a pleasingly haphazard manner. 

Wedged at the end of the bar is a piano, with a promise that if one were to play a pleasing tune to amuse the clientele that a reward would be forthcoming in a liquid form; I was very tempted, but my (admittedly meagre) piano skills are rather rusty currently…

The layout of the bar is rather neat. There are a series of tables outside in the arcade, that provides an almost Parisian feel (helped when I was there by the fact that real French people were sat outside drinking wine and smoking cigarettes!). The main bar is on the ground floor and features about 10 small tables for people to huddle around. There is an upstairs area with a couple of rooms where tastings or private functions can take place. The bar has a food menu to accompany its wine which predominantly focuses on charcuterie; there are also some rather good looking dessert options.  

I was greeted by Laurence, who runs the establishment and leads the team of three who ensure its smooth operation. The wine-list falls into two categories: they have 60 or so wines that are available by the glass or by the bottle; additionally, they have a fine wine list of wines, which are available only by the bottle. For the fine wines, the price is the same (bar a £9 corkage fee) whether you are buying to drink in or take home with you. The list overall has a strong French influence to it (which is in keeping with the French décor and the French staff), but there is some other old-world representation from Germany and Italy, as well as some new-world wines from USA, South Africa and New Zealand.

I tried a number of wines from their list and found them to be very pleasant and, rather reasonably priced – especially when considering the environs.


I started with a 2015 L’espirit de Provence Vermentino (Côte de Provence, France; price £6.50/glass or £24.95/bottle) which I found to be joyfully peachy, juicy and fresh on the nose, which translated to a clean, decent taste. Next up I tried a 2014 Domaine de Janasse Viognier (Rhône, France; price £8.00/glass or £30.95/bottle) – after all, everyone loves Viognier; don’t they? This had a decadently heady nose, with a slightly floral twang to it. On the palate it was fresh and fruity with stone fruits (apricots and peach) dominating, before ending with a slightly mellow honey-flavour.


I started on the red side with a 2013 Urlar Gladstone Pinot Noir (Wairarapa, NZ; price £8.00/glass or £32.95/bottle) which had a pleasing soft red cherry nose, accompanied by a touch of perfumed rose. It had a nice, smooth profile to it, with typically low tannins. Not the most complex Pinot that one will ever drink, but rather decent at the price. After this I moved onto a 2012 Chateau des Gravières (Grave, Bordeaux, France; price £6.50/glass or £27.95/bottle), which was a wine of considerably more presence; it featured a strong blackcurrant nose, but on the mouth it was deeper with some tobacco notes to add a nice secondary profile. I finished with a 2011 Chateau de Cénac (Cahors, France; price £8.50/glass or £33.95/bottle) which had a rich, dark black cherry nose to it and a rich, moussey chocolate taste to it. A very nice wine – and a reminder to where the real home of Malbec is!


I really enjoyed my visit to Pall Mall Fine Wine; I found it relaxing and comfortable, with an excellent wine list. Given its central location it will definitely become a regular part of my planning for when I brave the crowds and the pigeons.
Many thanks to Laurence for looking after me so well. I certainly plan on returning!
The details:
Pall Mall Fine Wine
Units 6 - 8 Royal Opera Arcade
Open: 1200 - 2030 Mon; 1100 - 2300 Tues - Fri; 1400 - 1800 Sat; closed Sundays.
Disclaimer: I attended as a guest of Pall Mall Fine Wine, nonetheless the opinions contained within this article are my own and were not in any way influenced by the hospitality.         

Friday, 12 August 2016

Hip Hydration: DRINKmaple Maple Water

"Amazing water doesn't grown on trees, it grows in them!"

Cheesy slogan aside, you can probably tell that carton of coconut water to do one as there's a new(er) health drink in town; DRINKmaple.

One of nature's masterpieces, maple water was discovered hundreds of years ago by Native Americans, though it's only thanks to the current health food obsession that it has started appearing on our shelves. There's such a high demand for drinks that not only taste great but also help nutritionally these days, and let's not forget that Beyoncé swears by this stuff. If it's good enough for Queen B, then it's good enough for me.

If you're wondering where exactly maple water comes from - *scratches head* - it is 'collected' by simply tapping maple trees (a process that doesn’t damage them) and allowing the water, jam-packed with a host of nutrients and minerals the trees have amassed through their roots, to run into buckets. The organic maple water is then bottled without anything being added or taken away and without any boiling. Job done.

The brand DRINKmaple sprang to life thanks to two American Ironman triathletes - wowzas - who discovered that maple water offered the most refreshing drink they could find. Created in a tree and not in a lab, it's super hydrating and naturally good for you; proof that ''Mother Nature is the best chemist.''

It has a very subtle maple-y sweet flavour, but unlike maple syrup (which is the tree's water boiled down), it isn’t high in sugar. In fact maple water has only about half the sugar of coconut water (less than 1.5g per 100ml), but does contain 46 other nutrients, including more manganese than a cup of kale – a nutrient which plays an important role in our bodies’ energy systems. We'll all be training for Ironman in no time then.

If I'm being 100% honest, I wasn't too sure about the taste of DRINKmaple; I think I was expecting a bolder maple flavour. However, putting it in smoothies for breakfast every morning changed my opinion (see the suggested recipes below). It's much lower in calories and much more thirst quenching in comparison to using something like almond milk, it has a neutral taste which doesn't fight against other flavours, and its natural sweetness means that you don't need to add any additional sweeteners - much more wholesome.

Saying that, the thing which first made DRINKmaple grab my attention was an intriguing cocktail recipe - goodbye all virtuous intentions. And seeing as I tried (pretty unsuccessfully) some boozy coconut water concoctions a while ago, I needed to do a comparison, right?

With a mix of rye whisky, maple water, mint and angostura bitters, I was a little hesitant, but I needn't have been; it slipped down in an instant. Fresh and punchy, it was wonderfully balanced and an unexpected treat! It has a bit of a summer vibe about it thanks to the mint, but with the weight of the whisky lurking behind, it could easily be an all-year-round beverage that I'd make again and again.

To test DRINKmaple's alcoholic versatility, I tried it in an Americano cocktail; Campari, sweet vermouth and maple water. Another winner; the bitterness from the Campari counteracts the sweetness from the other components, and it made a silky and refreshing aperitif. If you're trying to get into Negronis and other bitter drinks, this is the way to ease into it.

If these slightly more health conscious cocktails haven't twisted your arm, then maybe this will; for every bottle sold, 200 gallons of fresh clean water is supplied to individuals in developing nations beset by drought and disaster through the organisation More Than Sport. Buying DRINKmaple not only does you good, but helps others too!

So, whether you’re looking for a tastier thirst quencher for your gym session or an interesting base for a party cocktail pitcher, then look no further than DRINKmaple.

You can find buy it via Ocado, Wholefoods, Planet Organic and over 200 other stores, including Selfridges, Revital and Harvey Nichols. Prices range from £1.99 for a 250ml Tetra to £3.99 for 946ml.   For more recipes, visit the DRINKmaple website.

Maple Smash

1 shot WhistlePig 10 Year Rye Whiskey
1 shot DRINKmaple maple water
Dash of maple syrup
2 dashes of Angostura aromatic bitters
Muddled mint and lemon

Shake all ingredients and serve over ice. Garnish with a sprig of mint and enjoy!


1 shot Campari
1 shot sweet vermouth
1 shot DRINKmaple

Fill a glass with ice. Pour in all the ingredients, stir and serve. 

Watermelon Mint Maple Water Cooler

1 cup of diced seedless watermelon
1/2 cup of DRINKmaple
1/2 cup ice
6 leaves of fresh mint
Optional: to make this an alcoholic drink, add a shot of vodka

Combine all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

Maple Cold Brew Coffee Smoothie
(serves two)

1 cup DRINKmaple pure maple water
1/4 cup of cold brew coffee concentrate
2 tbsp. chia seeds
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup ice

Blend all ingredients and enjoy!

Maple Cherry Chocolate Smoothie
(serves two)

1 1/4 cup DRINKmaple maple water
3/4 cup frozen cherries
1 pear
2 tbsp. cacao powder
1 tbsp. chia seeds
1 tbsp. natural unflavored protein powder
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup ice

Blend all ingredients and enjoy!

Friday, 29 July 2016

Confessions of a Wine Geek...
Photo taken from under CCL

"Hi, my name is Tim Milford and I am a Wine Geek."

I imagine that loads of people would say that they like wine. Lots would say that they LOVE wine. But for me my love affair has gone further than that; I am fascinated and beguiled by wine. I find its subtleties, intricacies and variabilities amazing. I find the artistry, craft, precision, history and tradition of the people that make it astounding. There is no doubt about it - I am a Wine Geek. There is nothing wrong, of course, with being a Wine Geek. I would also say that the fellow Wine Geeks that I have been lucky enough to meet have to be some of the nicest, most generous people I have had the good fortune to come across. 

So, how do you know if you are a Wine Geek too? Here are some tell-tale signs, let me know how many apply to you - needless to say, I am guilty of all of the below...!

1) You (try) to keep meticulous wine notes

Early on in my wine love-affair I was given a Christmas present which was a year's subscription to the wine magazine "Decanter" (see symptom no.2). My favourite section each month was Michael Broadbent's column, I loved his debonair style and, frankly, I lusted over the wines and wine makers that he nonchalantly tossed around. He would mention trying a 1934 Lafite or Mouton-Rothschild as if it were an every day occurence, but always seemed so warm and gregarious in doing so. He said in one of his columns something that I have always tried to do, which was that one should keep meticulous notes on everything that one tastes. Why is that? Well, it helps you to remember what you've tried, plus it makes you look up which sub-region the particular wine comes from. Furthemore as you taste more and more wines it helps you remember them!
I personally use an Excel spreadsheet (see above for evidence...). I know some people like to use apps like Vivino, but I don't like the idea of putting all that precious information into one app and then becoming dependent on it. What I also like Excel for is that I can do searches. I might, for instance, think I fancy writing a post about German Spätburgunders in a few weeks - a quick search allows me to pull my tasting notes of all of those wines with ease. I think this is one of the defining characteristics of geekery - the desire to catalogue and record information about your passion. I know a few people who DJ and they say that behind all of the on-stage showpersonship, they have an encyclopaedic knowledge of their chosen music genre and can name all of their thousands of records to you. I now have notes on over 300 different wines that I have tried; I don't quite manage Mr Broadbent's instructions to note every wine, but I try to get as many as I can...!     

WP_20160127_20_31_06_Pro2) You get given wine-related gifts for your birthday/Christmas

As you develop your love for all things wine it starts to spread. Your friends and loved ones start giving you wine related gifts for birthdays/anniversaries/Christmases all aimed at supporting your geekery.

Case in point for me was last year when my wife got me a Coravin for Christmas, which is quite frankly brilliant. I wrote a piece about it for  Vinspire which you can read here.

3) You become determined to try all of the obscure grapes and regions that you can

Socrates was once told that he was wise, to which he responded "wisest is he who knows that he knows nothing". This is how I feel about wine, every time I feel that I learn a bit more about wine it opens up another subject area that you want to learn about. You think you know about Italian wine and then you discover that there are over 350 different authorised grapes within Italy! 

Furthermore, when you come to read pieces from those people who REALLY know about wine you understand that they have devoted their entire lives to trying to understand wine and, usually, have managed to become experts in just a couple of these areas.

For the last few years I have been on a personal mission to try as many different grapes as possible in what I suppose equates to the wine version of "Pokemon Go". There is a club known as the Wine Century Club to which the only entry criteria is that you have to be able to say that you have tried at least one hundred different grapes. I achieved this last year (something I tracked through my wine spreadsheet) and am waiting for my membership to be acknowledged - it will be a proud day when it is!  

Basically a pilgrimage
4) You start to plan your holidays around visiting vineyards/wine regions

This is when you are getting to serious levels of geekery. You try shoe-horning the topic of holiday destinations to places where you could enjoy some nice wine tasting. "I've heard that California is a lovely place to visit, my dear. Also Reims is meant to be beautiful at this time of year..." 

Over the next couple of years I am planning trips to Tuscany, Australia and New Zealand. All beautiful places, yes - but the common theme? I'll leave you to decide that...

5) You start spending too much time talking to sommeliers in restaurant

This one really drives my wife crazy. Pre-wine geek phase the conversations with sommeliers went something like this:

Me: "I'm having the beef and my wife is having the lamb, can you recommend something nice?"
Somm: "Of course, sir."

That was it.

Now we tend to get involved in more in-depth discussions about the wines. I must say that I still like to ask for their recommendations, after all it is their wine list and they know it best; sometimes they'll throw in a real curve ball, something you'd never have picked. The good thing about this is that should you dislike the match then they will usually let you select a different bottle. 

One of the good things that I've found about making friends with the sommelier is that they know that you are serious about your wine, which they usually are too. Sometimes I've found they've got something open that they think is really interesting and they'll give you a little sample of!

6) You start practicing wine tasting/smelling

I am not a naturally great taster, either nose or palate. As such I have to work quite hard to practice my wine tasting (see symptom no. 7) to work on my aroma and flavour memory. I have found that this has meant that I have started seeking out unusual tastes and smells so that I can build up my descriptions of wines. After all, the purpose of writing about wine is find a way of describing the profile of a wine to the reader in ways that they can comprehend. I did find myself smelling some magnolias in Kew Gardens and exclaiming, "wow - these smell just like a lush, juicy Gewürz"!! 

One of my favourite presents I received recently (see symptom no. 2) was a rather lovely kit (see above) that contains 54 different synthesised aromas in little bottles. The purpose of this kit is to allow the budding Wine Geek to practice their smelling against these aromas. After all, what does hawthorn smell like? What about lychee? These are commonly used descriptors in the trade and it is very helpful to have gotten acquainted with these.

7) You take a course in wine tasting

So, you've committed to a life of wine geekery; the obvious next step is to take a course in it! Why? Well, from a knowledge perspective they help fill in some of the technical information about the wine industry. I think that is what separates the wine lover from the Wine Geek. The wine lover is quite happy just appreciating wine, whereas the geek needs to know how it is made - after all it is the magic and nuance of the wine-making process that means that vineyards that are separated by incredibly small distances can produce distinctively different wines and that they can range in price dramatically.

Most people do their wine courses through the Wine and Spirits Education Trust (WSET) who have got a well structured and comprehensive educational programme that takes you from complete novice, through tasting exams, blind tasting exams, to dissertations and diplomas. Those who are really serious go through the Master of Wine or Master Sommelier qualifications which are, quite frankly, terrifying. If you haven't seen the film "Somm" about a group of prospective Master Sommelier students then I urge you to do so (it's on Netflix). Their blind tasting abilities are frankly astonishing (even if some of them are intensely dislikable!) 

8) You start a blog about wine

So, your Wine Geek levels have reached maximum levels; you're essentially a wine version of Sheldon from "The Big Bang Theory". What's the obvious next step? Right a blog about it, of course. After all, your friends are unlikely to be fascinated by the fact that you've just picked up a rather funky and daring Vin Jaune. Who are you going to share your tasting experiences with? Well, the fortunate part of living in the Information Age is that through blogs and social media it is possible to make contact with lots of fellow wine geeks all around the world and share your experiences with them.

There you have it, my eight signs that you may be a Wine Geek. If you find yourself ticking these off, don't worry about it - you're in good company... Embrace your inner Wine Geek!

Acknowledgement: I should also credit the title of this blog, which I have stolen with pride from a blog title that a good friend of mine, Ant from The Grape Escape in Cheltenham, used to write. It was too good a title not to use... Thanks, Ant!