A new Northern wine events company aims to challenge the stuffy image of wine and take a modern approach to tasting events and wine fairs. Janet Harrison, owner of Cracking Wine, writes for Northern Soul about the company’s origins and where the business is heading.
I’ve always loved wine, even back in the Lambrusco days. But my first taste of Champagne made me think that I’d like to find out more about wine, where it was made and drink more of it. That was about 15 years ago and since then I’ve pretty much spent all of my holidays travelling around vineyards, meeting producers and coming home with a heavy suitcase.
It was when I came back from an Australian wine trip that I decided to turn my hobby into a business and, before long, I was studying at the Wines and Spirits Education Trust to obtain professional qualifications. Coming from an enthusiastic amateur angle (rather than being in the wine trade already) afforded me added insight from a consumer perspective. Nevertheless, I always tended to assume that everyone else knew more about wine than I did.
I empathise with people, faced with hundreds of wines in a shop, who feel they don’t really know where to start – even if they have been drinking wine regularly for ages. I often hear ‘if only I knew more about wine’. But, do you know what? Learning the basics is easy.
I set up Cracking Wine to de-bunk multiple myths and make wine accessible to wine lovers and wine novices alike. I offer tastings at people’s houses or for corporate events. These events give people the basics they need to get going on their journey or even just get out of a wine-buying rut. I showcase wine from fantastic local independent stores and the sessions can include wine quizzes or food. They’re also great fun.
Around 80 per cent of wine consumed in the UK is bought in supermarkets, so it made perfect sense to offer supermarket wine tastings too, which have proved to be really popular.
I’m heartened by the new wave of wine gurus who are bucking the trend in terms of the tone of their blogs and advice – people like Helen McGinn from the Knackered Mothers Wine Club or Kate Goodman from Reserve Wines in West Didsbury (a co-host with Michel Roux Jnr on BBC’s Food and Drink show). These experts aren’t the usual ruddy-faced, pompous wine buffs we’ve been used to seeing or hearing from in the wine press.
To capture this spirit, my wine fairs will have more of a festival atmosphere, featuring a mixture of producers, retailers and importers of great wines, with local food and maybe even some music – why not? Wine is a joyous thing and is there to be enjoyed, whatever your level of knowledge. We’ll bring together some hand-picked wine gurus to offer classes too – but don’t worry, they will be subject to our strict ‘no wine snobs’ policy…
By Janet Harrison