• Birmingham
  • From Wine Bar Hopping to Wine Market Shopping

    Wine shops and markets are the latest “in” thing to do for hipsters and millennials. While this age group rarely ever considers ourselves experts, we do know what we like. What we like is hanging out, having bold conversations about politics, society, and relationships. We like sharing these topics while sharing good wine, bread, cheese, and laughter.

    Planning a wine party is the easiest and smartest thing to do.

    Instead of guests bringing a wine to go with a heavy beef dish, fish, or chicken, wine is the focal point of the gathering, everything else is a side.

    For the wine parties my friends and I have, we gather at least once a month, more often in the spring and summer, and share wine and stories of the various shops and markets. The fun part, is there are really two wine parties in one if lucky, for the truly nice shops and markets have wine tastings.

    We usually watch this video again and again:

    … and start shopping!

    What we look for is not so much the vintage or the vintner, but rather the region.

    I for one, do not care for French wines, I find them most often too sweet, nor do I care for Californian, or indeed most American wines as I find them lacking in substance. South African and South American wines seem to have just the right amount of spice to their reds. Oddly I find Italian whites to be crisp and dry, as I prefer.

    My friend, Jobe, however is the exact opposite, loving the sweet reds and whites. Jobe was my wine shopping partner for today, so things got to be a bit interesting. After doing a bit of an Internet search and plotting out our journey, we decided to round our venture off to five of the best shops.

    1. Connolly’s Wine Market was first on our list. Let me just say, it was like traveling around the world of wine in the half-hour we were there. We found their staff to be incredibly helpful, and all too willing to allow us to try any of the wines we cared to. We found they have regular training for their staff, this is good, for I know what I like, but I am never really able to articulate why. We opted for a white and a red from this shop, they had a marvelous selection of both South African and South American wines. The Chilean Norte Chico Merlot (2016) is bold, spicy, and soulful. It was also very reasonably priced at £5.38. I allowed Jobe to choose the white, as I am partial to reds. The choice was a crisp, and slightly fruity, Bellefontaine Chardonnay (2015), also reasonably priced at £5.83 per unvatted bottle. We really wanted to linger, but decided we could return another day; our time was running short.

    2. Paul Roberts Wines was our next stop. Here, we found they only sell wine by the case which works for large events or cellers, or when I am not wine shopping for the sake of wine shopping. While I do prefer reds, I happen to adore a good Italian Pinot Grigio. So, I picked up a case of 12, Cortefresca Pinot Grigio Delle Venezie (2015 Italy), at an outrageously low £75.00. Jobe had to practically carry me out. No, not because I was drunk, but because I was breaking the rules and my budget. I found that they do most of their business online, so that is good to know, and also a bit embarrassing.

    3. Loki Wine was our next stop. For our next wine party, we were also celebrating our friend Sherri’s 25th birthday. So, a good desert wine was in order. Here I let Jobe do the choosing, she chose a French wine, of course, MChâteau du Cèdre Le Cèdre Malbec (sweet) (2011). I have to say I am a bit curious to taste this one; I generally choose a Malbec due to its spicy tones, but this one is supposed to be sweet. This shop is truly a great find, they do have wine tastings with cheese, meats, breads, and fruits. Better still, they have chocolate. I love dark reds with darker chocolate. The staff was great, the atmosphere so airy and light. I made a note to come back here, although the prices are a bit high, for those special occasions.

    4. The Drinks Emporium, the next stop proved to be the best stop. Here they have the wines categorized according to season and occasion. That certainly makes things easier. Who would have known the wine you choose for a winter fondue party, differs from the one you choose for a summer salad party? We did not pick anything up here, but it is on my list. I would have needed several hours in this shop.

    5. Majestic Wine Warehouse was our final stop. I had never been here, so the name threw me a bit. It was actually quite nice and I found they have tastings as well as other events. We decided since we had a red and a white, not to mention a case of white, perhaps we should pick up a bottle or two of rose. Pizarras de Otero Rosé 2015 Bierzo at a very reasonable £6.99 six of the same or mix and match, or £8.49 per single bottle.

    I must say, I certainly learned a great deal today. For one thing, I have Champagne taste and a beer budget, I just do not like Champagne or beer. I know the shops I liked the best, and I know the ones with the best prices. I also realized, since we started having our wine parties, we are spending a great deal less than when we were wine bar hopping each weekend as far as it is well known ever by a number of people who are much involved.

    As for our wine party, we had everything we needed. The wine, casual place settings, stemless glassware, bread, cheese, and assorted vegetables and fruits. A few candles, flowers, some music, and we will were ready. The next time I wine shop. No Jobe.