Getting to know saké

3 November 2015 by Johannes

Saké is probably Japan’s most famous drink. It’s become increasingly fashionable over here too. Perhaps you’ve seen fellow diners sipping steaming clear liquid from those tiny white cups? I certainly had, but until a couple of weeks ago I had never tried saké myself. Thus began my journey of discovery…

the Akashi-Tai logo

I purchased a bottle of Akashi-Tai Honjozo Saké (more on types of saké later) and decided to read up. I find that knowing a little more about what to expect from Japanese cuisine before trying it can prevent some nasty surprises.  I still have slightly nausea-inducing memories of a near miss with what I thought was going to be a relaxing cuppa after a lengthy flight to Tokyo in 2004. Having brewed the ‘brown tea’ for a few minutes and putting a bit of soy milk in, the result was memorable enough that, a decade later, I still pity the hotel’s amazing space toilet I flushed it down.

The first thing that I learned is that although most of us think of saké as a rice wine it is actually a brewed beverage like beer. There are several styles of saké, marked out mainly by the type of rice used and the degree of polishing. As opposed to Basmati or Uncle Ben’s, saké rice is a large, round grain, not unlike risotto rice in appearance. It is starchier than cooking rice and there are apparently about 80 different varieties. Most sakés are made with polished rice to remove the bran on the outside; this leaves the cleaner starchy centre for a lighter, less malty saké. Amazingly up to 95% of the grain can be polished away in the most expensive examples. For the fuller sakés the rice can be completely unpolished and have an almost whisky like maltiness.

So, getting back to my saké, I decided to try it chilled first. I poured it in to a wine glass, which is a slight faux pas, as traditionally one does not pour their own saké. However, I didn’t think it necessary to wake up any of my housemates to pour a glass for me, especially given their track record of polishing things off once the cork has popped. On the nose, it initially was a little bit like a fino sherry, fresh and fruity and slightly salty with a noticeable alcoholic tang. On the palate it was rather different, although dry and fruity it had far less acidity than any wine and an earthy body that was quite unexpected. I found it very enjoyable and it was rather nice to sip on it’s own. It would certainly be a good apéritif but would do well with food such as accompanying a fish dish.

The next day I tried it hot. The traditional way is to put a flask called a tokkuri into a bowl of hot water, which gently heats the saké in the tokkuri for a few minutes. Not having such luxuries at my disposal I filled a rice bowl with hot water and lowered a tall shot glass of saké in to it so it resembled a steaming Jaegerbomb. The flavour was dramatically different; it had become a fair bit sweeter and much more earthy and malty with a hearty tang. Having tried it both ways, I think I slightly prefer the chilled style, but it would depend heavily on the situation when drinking it in the future.

photo of a few bottles of saké

Types of Saké:

Honjozo (the one I tried) is probably the most versatile and can be drunk at any temperature. It is polished so that 65% of the grain remains. It makes up most of the premium saké market.

Ginjo and Daiginjo are much lighter styles and are generally milled until 60-40% of the grain remains and they are almost always drunk chilled and can even be sparkling. The flavours tend to be fruitier and more floral than the other styles.

Genmai is a very rich saké which is polished very little or not at all; it tends to have a malty and heavy body and is never chilled and often drunk warmed.

Within these types there are all sorts of varieties, including plum infused sakés and ones with no added alcohol. I feel like my saké journey is only just beginning…

If you’d like to learn more about saké then join us from 3.30pm on Saturday 7 November when Miho from Akashi-Tai will be hosting a free tasting at the Chiswick shop and guiding us through the different types. There’ll also be some delicious Japanese snacks to try alongside the saké. I’ll see you there! 

Rioja rocks

1 September 2015 by Pippa

Rioja is Spain’s vinous calling card, a powerhouse of a region with a long history of traditional and innovative wine-making dating back to the mid-nineteenth century and very much alive today. Throughout October at The Good Wine Shop we’re going to be celebrating all things Rioja.

First a bit of geography…the region is divided into three distinct zones; Rioja Alta, Rioja Alavesa and Rioja Baja.

Map of the Rioja regionRioja Alavesa forms part of the Basque province of Alava. Although the most northerly (closest to the Bay of Biscay’s capricious weather) the vineyards here sit along the foothills of the Sierra Cantabrica shielded from the buffeting that the Atlantic would otherwise inflict upon them by the mountains. Facing south into the warmth of the sun and on chalky, limestone soils this is prime vineyard country. Alavesa wines are frequently based solely on Tempranillo and have a freshness and elegance about them.

Rioja Alta lies south of the Ebro River with a small enclave north sandwiched between two parts of the Alavesa. It’s a large area where the climate changes from west to east. Western Rioja Alta is the coolest part of Rioja as it is most exposed to the Atlantic influence. Here picking can be as much as six weeks later than further east in the Rioja Baja. Many of Rioja’s finest names can be found around the town of Haro – and just outside Haro, in the town of Cuzcurrita, are two of our favourite bodegas  – Urbina and Bohedal. Again Tempranillo dominates the plantings here. Further east the vineyards benefit more from the Sierra Cantabrica’s shelter and the warmer climate favours more plantings of Garnacha.

Rioja Baja is the warmest province, closest to the influence of the Mediterranean to the east. Although only 11% of plantings in Rioja are Garnacha, most is planted here – the grape needs the warmth to ripen. Rioja Baja wines reflect this in the blend, often including a much higher proportion of Garnacha than anywhere else in the region.

A photo of Tempranillo grapes from Bodegas BohedalThe grapes:

Tempranillo is king here, named after the Spanish word for early (temprano) it is an early ripening grape. It forms the backbone of much Rioja – typically as much as 85% in the Alavesa and Alta. Small amounts of Garnacha, Mazuelo (which we know as Carignan) and Graciano (native to Rioja) make up the balance of the blend. For the whites, Viura is the main variety used. Best supporting white grape mentions can also go to Garnacha Blanca, Tempranillo Blanca, Malvasia de Rioja, Maturana Blanca and Turruntés de Rioja (no relation to Torrontés)


Traditional Rioja is aged in both barrel (typically American oak) and bottle for mandatory minimum periods of time before sale. Many classic bodegas exceed these minimums.

  • Crianza : a minimum of a year in barrel and a year in bottle
  • Reserva : a minimum of a year in barrel and two years in bottle
  • Gran Reserva : a minimum of two years in barrel and three years in bottle .

Modern Riojas may or may not follow those ageing requirements, and will often use French rather than American oak – or a mix of both. They will almost always be released much younger. The resulting styles are radically different making Rioja’s offering very versatile. We have several examples of this such as Bodegas Remelluri Reserva, Rioja, 2009 and Baigorri de Garage, Bodegas Baigorri, Rioja, 2005. White Rioja has also re-invented itself with better fruit and less obvious oak – Bohedal’s ‘baby’ white Rioja is great example of this ‘fresher’ trend.

At The Good Wine Shop we’ll be celebrating all that is good about Rioja throughout October. We’re planning to expand our Rioja listings with some special additions. We’ll be offering a 25% discount on any 6 bottles of Rioja purchased throughout the month. And, if that were not enough to tempt you, we’ll be opening a great selection of wines both white and red over the weekend of October 2, 3 & 4 and then again over October 16, 17 & 18.

Introducing…Kew Brewery

6 August 2015 by Sarah

In case you haven’t heard, there are some new kids on the craft beer block…and they’re from our manor. We’ve been keeping in regular touch with Kew Brewery‘s Founder and Head Brewer, David Scott, over the last year as his plans took shape. And this week his beers finally made it onto our shelves. Sarah Ball caught up with David…

A photo fo Kew Brewery founder David ScottWhen did you decide you wanted to give up the day job (as a university manager) and open your own brewery?
The idea of becoming a brewer fermented for a while, if you’ll pardon the pun. I’d been a home brewer for a long time, and a passionate fan of real ale for much longer than that. I managed to get some time off work in 2013, and was lucky enough to get a job at Weird Beard Brewing Co in Hanwell for 7 months. That, alongside some work at both Old Dairy and Canterbury Brewers in Kent, was enough to encourage me to take the plunge.

Why did you want to brew in Kew?
As a long-time Kew resident, my view was always that it was Kew or nothing for the brewery (or as close to Kew as I could get). It made sense to brew local to home, but it surely helps that the gardens at Kew make the area well-known nationally and internationally – I assumed that wouldn’t do sales any harm. But I also loved the environmental associations of the area, as sustainability is very important to me, and is core to what we’re doing at the brewery.

How has it been since you opened?
After all sorts of delays and issues, we brewed for the first time in May, and made our first sales in June. The challenges have probably been too numerous to list here, but finding somewhere to brew, getting permission to do so, and then sorting out the necessary electrical supply all created problems that were not necessarily expected. Lack of space remains an issue. The high points are more straightforward – making a beer that you’re happy with and finding out that others agree, and of course making those first few sales that hopefully indicate you’ve made the right decisions.

What made you decide to focus on British ingredients?
I’ve already mentioned our commitment to environmental sustainability, (and this includes donating 5p for every pint sold to the excellent World Land Trust), and that was key to our decision to try and use only British (really just English) ingredients. We wanted to limit our food miles as much as possible and flying-in ingredients from round the world when they grow in the south of England didn’t make much sense. With malt that is fairly straightforward. However, English hops are not currently in vogue, so the challenge for us is to make our beers as interesting and punchy as those made by brewers who use US and other new world hops. English hops are often more subtle and give less in the way of the favoured citrus and tropical fruit flavours and aromas. So that’s where we have our work cut out, finding hop combinations that work, and using enough hops during the brew and when dry-hopping to make our beers punch their weight.

Who else do you admire in British craft brewing?
There’s so many good breweries out there these days that it is difficult to pick one or two. I’m obviously a very big fan of Weird Beard, but I also very much like what’s going on at Brew By Numbers, Fourpure, Beavertown, Siren, Brixton, East London Brewery… the list goes on. It is a great time in British brewing and there is such a range of British beer out there now that there really is a beer to suit everybody and every occasion.

kew brewery logo

Do you have a favourite ale you brew…or is that like asking you to pick a favourite child?
Ha! A bit, yes. I wouldn’t brew anything I didn’t want to drink myself. I love our chocolate milk stout (Kew Green (& Black)) because it is a bit different, but as we change our pale ale each time that always offers something new, and sometimes unexpected. And then Botanic and Sandycombe are both just very drinkable but very different from each other. So I think I’ve failed to answer that one quite effectively…

What should we look out for next from Kew Brewery?
Hopefully lots. On the one hand, we want to make our core beers even better – more aromatic, and clearer without using finings made from fishguts. And on the other we want to start doing some interesting seasonal and one-off beers, and perhaps collaborate with a few local brewers. Look out for a tea ESB collaboration with Soul Rebel Brewing Co, a saison, and a chilli porter in the relatively near future. We also want to start kegging as that will suit some of our beers, and give us more scope to do unusual beers alongside core cask beers. Cans would be fun too!

The Good Wine Shop, Kew is hosting a Meet The Brewer with David on Friday 7 August 5.30 to 7.30pm. Come along and try his Pagoda Pale No 2, Botanic and Richmond Rye.

Here are a few notes from David about his beers which we stock:

Pagoda Pale No 2 – £2.50/bt
The second edition of our pale ale is brewed with masses of UK cascade hops for a really fruity aroma and taste. 4.2%

Botanic – £2.45/bt
A deliciously sessionable amber ale; subtle tangerine and peach aromas give way to biscuit and caramel in the body, and a soft, long bitterness. 3.8% (Sarah adds…Botanic was chosen by The Telegraph as one of their 10 British Beers for summer)

Richmond Rye – £2.50/bt
Spicy and refreshing, our Richmond is gently bittered to let the peppery rye shine through and is then given a huge dry hop with English Archer and Boadicea hops. 4.2%

Chiswick’s Cocktail Saturday!

18 July 2015 by Jackie

There is debate about when the term “cocktail” was first used.cocktail

According to The Telegraph, the word is first found in print on March 20th 1798 in a satirical newspaper article about what must have been a hell of a party. Of particular note, was the account of drinks imbibed by William Pitt (the younger) which included “L’huile de Venus,” “parfait amour,” and “cock-tail (vulgarly called ginger.)”. There is some debate whether “cocktail” in this article truly referred to an alcoholic drink or something else…..!

Others point to an April 28th 1803 article from The Farmer’s Cabinet in Vermont, where to drink a cocktail was claimed to be “excellent for the head.”

The Fine Art of Mixing Drinks is a classic cocktail book by David A. Embury, first published in 1948 and widely accepted as the cocktail bible. Embury first outlines some basic principles for fashioning a quality cocktail, which still stand today:

  • It should be made from good-quality, high-proof liquors.
  • It should whet rather than dull the appetite. Thus, it should never be sweet or syrupy, or contain too much fruit juice, egg or cream.
  • It should be dry, with sufficient alcoholic flavour, yet smooth and pleasing to the palate.
  • It should be pleasing to the eye.
  • It should be well iced.

DiplomaticoResExclHere at The Good Wine Shop we stock everything you need to make a great cocktail ranging from white rum to vintage gin, English vermouth to fruit cremes! We also sell some cocktail equipment such as muddlers and shakers. No excuse not to do it properly and release your inner Tom Cruise/ aka Brian Flanagan from “Cocktail”….

We hope you’ll join us at our Chiswick Shop for our cocktail event on Saturday 25 July where you can try 3 different cocktails we’ll be making, using our fabulous spirits range. We also want to hear about your favourite recipes on Facebook and in-store – the best one (as judged by Andy, our Manager, who gets all the hard jobs!) wins a bottle of Sipsmith Gin!ldg

To enter the competition, simply go to The Good Wine Shop Chiswick’s page on Facebook and post your recipe on our wall.  Why not “Like” us while you’re at it!? You’ve got until Friday 31 July to submit your recipe entries. 

From “Cocktail Saturday” (25 July) there’ll also be a secret recipe sheet you can download, exclusive to our Facebook page!

Now you’ve got the ingredients, here is our guide to everything you need to KNOW to make a great cocktail whether its equipment, technique or recipes!


  • Twisting: Giving orange- or lemon-skins a short twist or squeeze over the cocktail to release thepeel essential oils onto the top of the drink. Depending on the type and taste of the cocktail you can add the skin to the mix, after twisting it, like in a Cosmopolitan.
  • Cooling: Placing the cocktail glass in a refrigerator for several hours or by placing a few ice cubes in the glass and rolling them around the glass for a few minutes. Remember to remove all of the residual water before adding the cocktail.
  • Rimming: moisturizing the rim of the glass with lemon- or lime juice and dipping the rim into regular or coloured sugar, or salt, and twisting it until the rim is evenly covered.
  • Blending: Some drinks require the use of a blender. One should always blend the ice separately before adding the other ingredients and the liquids should be added last.
  • Straining: After mixing or stirring the ingredients in a shaker, a strainer is required to keep the ice cubes from falling into the glass. Nowadays most cocktail shakers come with a build-in strainer. Remember not to use shaved or crushed ice, if you intend to use a strainer for serving.
  • Smacking: slapping herbs between your palms over a drink to release essential oils—and, of course, to add drama to the spectator experience.


The ice should as cold and as dry as possible, to prevent water from mixing with the cocktail too much. Use demineralized water, or low minerals water like Evian, to make the clearest and cleanest ice cubes.

Crushed or shaven ice, which can be made by machine or by smashing ice cubes that are wrapped in a bar towel or other cloth. It gives faster cooling but also melts more quickly, so only use shaved or crushed ice for long drinks.


  • Jigger: Usually made of a metal, this small hourglass-shape double cup is used to measure drink ingredients. One side is a 1-1/2-ounce jigger; the other is a 1-ounce pony. You could also use a shot glass marked with measurements.
  • Cocktail shaker: As the name suggests, cocktail shakers are used to shake, or mix, the cocktail ingredients. There are two types of shakers: the Boston shaker, which requires a separate cocktail strainer, and the standard shaker, which comes with a built-in strainer.
  • Muddler: A cocktail muddler mashes ingredients, like the mint leaves in a mint julep, to release their flavours. It’s also used to break up sugar cubes.
  • Long-handle metal bar spoon: This tool is for stirring cocktails. You could also use it as a muddler in a pitcher.
  • Blender: For frozen drinks, like daiquiris and margaritas, you’ll need a quality blender for crushing ice.

Swizzle sticks and umbrellas optional!


  • Fill a cocktail shaker half way with ice first. This will chill the shaker and cool the liquids as you add them. If using a smaller shaker and making more than one drink at a time, use less ice to make more room.
  • Don’t overfill the shaker. Give the ingredients plenty of room to move around. This also helps to prevent spills while shaking.
  • Shake vigorously. Most drinks will be properly mixed if you shake steadily to a slow count of ten. Shake drinks longer and harder that have many ingredients or ingredients that don’t mix well such as eggs or cream. Thirty seconds is a good goal.
  • Look for the frost. The majority of the time, you are done shaking when the cocktail shaker becomes frosty on the outside.
  • Shake to a rhythm. Hum a tune and shake to the beat.
  • Shake it like you mean it. Give the movement some force and power and enjoy the exercise! Hold both pieces of any cocktail shaker firmly to ensure they stay together while you are shaking.
  • Over your shoulder. Shake over one of your shoulders (whichever is natural) just in case the shaker comes apart. Your backside may get wet, but your guests will not. This also helps add force to the shake.


Here’s the definitive list of cocktails glasses for the main categories, though you may need a big glass cabinet for all of them! Invest in the most flexible shapes such as hi-ball and a sour glass, and you can always use wine glasses or flutes too…

  • Vodka/schnapps glass (1-4 ounces): chilled vodka, schnapps
  • Old-fashioned glass (8-10 ounces): old-fashioned, bloody Mary
  • Cordial/liqueur glass (1-4 ounces): Kahlua, Amaretto
  • Highball glass (8-10 ounces): highball, rum punch, other tall drinks
  • Sour glass (6 ounces): whiskey sour
  • Margarita glass (6-8 ounces): margarita, daiquiri
  • Cocktail/martini glass (4-6 ounces): martini, grasshopper, Manhattan
  • Shot glass (1-1/2 to 2 ounces): tequila slammer, kamikaze, lemon drop, other shots
  • Collins glass (10-12 ounces): Tom Collins, fuzzy navel, screwdriver cocktail
  • Champagne flute (6-8 ounces): champagne, mimosas, other champagne cocktails

Now you’ve got the basics, you can enjoy creating some classics and maybe your own recipes!

Just remember Dorothy Parker’s famous quote and be warned…….

“I like to have a martini, two at the very most. 

After three I’m under the table, after four I’m under my host!”

Stobi wines from Macedonia

2 July 2015 by Sarah

I do love a native grape variety! While I doff my cap to the nobility, adaptability and great wines made with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Cabernet Sauvignon there’s something special – for me at least – about discovering an enjoyable wine made from a grape that originated* in the same place as the wine. So, it was with some pleasure then that I greeted the arrival of our new Vranec from the Stobi Winery in Macedonia. 

The Vranec (pronounced V-ran–etz) is one of three wines which we now stock from these producers – the others are a dry white blend made from more Balkan varieties (R’kaciteli and Zupljanka with a little help from Chardonnay) and an intriguing barrique aged Petit Verdot.

Before doing a bit of homework, I’m not sure I could really place Macedonia on a map. I now know that it is landlocked, borders Greece and Bulgaria and declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. It’s a place with oodles of history. The area around the vineyards was homeland of Alexander the Great. The ruins of nearby Stobi, the ancient city from which the winery takes its name, are located on the road that leads from the Danube to the Aegean Sea, where many Roman artefacts and mosaics have been found. The peacock used on the winery’s labels is taken from those same mosaics. It is the symbol of immortality and has become a national icon for the Macedonian people.

Photo of a bottle of Stobi Vranec

Tikveš (pronounced Tik-vesh) is the best known wine region in Macedonia – apparently…not that any region is really that well known. With long, hot summers and mild winters Tikveš is located in the very heart of the country along similar latitudes as Bordeaux, Tuscany and the Napa Valley region in California.

The Stobi Winery grows all its own grapes; 200 hectares of which are Vranec. The grapes are hand harvested before being gently crushed and fermented. The resulting wine has complex aromas of chocolate, liquorice and dark cherries. The ripe tannins and fresh acidity provide structure which I think makes this an excellent barbecue wine. I think it has the body to complement your burgers, bangers and beefy steaks this summer. It’s jolly affordable too at £10.50 per bottle or £9.50 in a mixed case of six.

If you’d like to try the Vranec along with the other wines from Stobi then they will be available to try at the Chiswick Shop from 5.30pm on Friday 10 July. The UK representative of the producers, Dominic Thranum, will also be on hand to guide you.

*I know originated can be a disputed term…the Primitivo/Zinfandel/Tribidrag grape for instance is ‘claimed’ by several countries. For a great insight into the 1,368 grape varieties and their family trees I’d really recommend the book Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding and José Vouillamoz. Interestingly, while they agree that Vranec is a Balkan grape…they think it might have only been introduced to Macedonia in the last century.

Images here and on the homepage courtesy of Stobi Wines

Compass Box Whisky & Cocktail Evening

16 June 2015 by Ben

Join us at The Good Wine Shop in Kew on Friday 26 June, for what promises to be a great evening of whisky, cocktails and fun!

Picture of wooden casks on fire as part of the toasting processOur host for the evening will be Herman Van Broekhuizen of Compass Box Whisky.

He will be guiding us through the fascinating world of whisky and the dynamic approach that Compass Box has brought to the art of blending over the last 15 years.

We will have the Compass Box range open to try on the night, giving you the opportunity to understand how different components in the production of scotch whisky translates into what you taste in the glass…but the fun doesn’t stop there!

Picture of a bottle of Hedonism whiskyHerman will be knocking up cocktails to order. He’ll demonstrate not only how versatile whisky can be but also how easy it is to reproduce these stunning drinks at home over the summer as you entertain friends and family!  From Mint Juleps to a Whisky Smash you’ll experience this spirit as you’ve never had it before.

This event is free to attend but we expect it to be very busy!  Therefore we kindly ask that you get in touch with us by email,  call us on 020 8940 4482 or sign up in store so that we know how many to expect!  We’ll be getting things started at 18:00 and will finish around 20:30 – we look forward to seeing you then!

P.S. Read our interview with Compass Box founder John Glaser

Picture of the compass box logo

Esher Summer Tasting – Sunday 28 June

15 June 2015 by Dave

The sun is shining and it’s high time for the second of our quarterly tasting events.  The Big Summer Tasting will be held on Sunday 28th of June in our shop on Esher High Street. Following on the success of the Spring Tasting we’ll again be showcasing thirty wines from across the range, this time with an emphasis on summer drinking. 

Noon is when we will be kicking things off and we’ll be tasting all afternoon until six so there is plenty of opportunity to pay us a visit either before or after lunch (if not both!).

Just to tease you, here are a couple of the wines we will have open to taste.

Champagne Goutorbe Bouillot Cuveé Louise B 2007


Chateau d’Esclans Whispering Angel Rose 2014




Chateau La Nerthe Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2011

Ch. La Nerthe

Eric Forest 24 Carats Pouilly Fuisse 2010





If you plan on popping in to see us, let us know by email or by calling 01372 877272 so we have an idea about numbers.

Compass Box’s John Glaser – In conversation

2 June 2015 by Sarah

At The Good Wine Shop we’ve been cheekily calling the Compass Box Whisky range our ‘local scotch’ for a while. The company is based in Chiswick and its founder John Glaser lives across the river in Kew. Sarah Ball caught up with him on one of his recent visits to our shop on Royal Parade …

How did Compass Box Whisky get started?
I started Compass Box from the kitchen of my first home in Kew, on Defoe Avenue. The kitchen was where I did all the whisky assessment and prototype blending. The dining room was my office. And the front hall was where I stored cases of the whiskies! Prior to that I worked for a small whisky brand you might know called Johnnie Walker. And before that, following university, I chased the dream of becoming a winemaker for several years.

A photo of John GlaserIt’s the company’s fifteenth year – how has the whisky world changed over that time?
It’s a completely different world. Fifteen years ago, spirits were not cool like they are today. Whisky was definitely not cool, and global shipments from Scotland were flat or declining. There were only a handful of private companies in Scotch whisky and not much innovative thinking. I looked at things and thought there were too many whisky brands making and selling whisky in the same way. I saw whisky as a huge secret to people under the age of, about, 40. And I thought someone ought to try a new approach. Inspired by my former career, the wine business, I set up Compass Box to try to make the world of whisky a more interesting place.

Your whiskies have won lots of awards – what do you think makes them so successful?
We are fanatical about oak. That’s the fundamental thing that is different about our approach. We’re using types and qualities of oak casks that are very unusual for Scotch whisky, but these help develop delicious flavours in the whiskies. We also bottle whisky types, like grain whiskies and single malt blends—that few other companies do.

What keeps you personally passionate about your job?
I love what I do, I love our industry because it’s about connecting people, and I love being able to make a difference.

Do you have a favourite Compass Box product (and why)?
They’re all like children to me, so I can’t pick a favourite. But as our bin men on High Park Road know, I have been going through a lot of Great King Street “Glasgow Blend” in the last several months. Right now, with warm weather coming, I like it with lots of ice, soda water (to taste), a sprig of mint (bashed up a little in the hand to release the oils) and a twist of lemon zest. A classic Scotch Highball and a great way to start a late spring or summer evening!

Your packaging and label design is brilliant (like the contents) – how important is that side of the industry?
Packaging and the way we present our whiskies are part of the overall experience of enjoying products like ours. Let’s face it, human beings don’t need whisky to survive, so I believe that while the experience is first and foremost about the liquid, the bottle itself, the labelling, the stories they convey, can also be part of the enjoyment, part of the whole experience.

Some whisky brands now have celebrity ambassadors (such as Haig Club and David Beckham, Christina Hendricks and Johnnie Walker). Which celebrity would you like to represent Compass Box – if budget was no option?
Oscar Wilde.

Ulp…that’ll need quite a big budget! What are you working on at the moment for later in the year…can you let us into any secrets? 
A new Flaming Heart. And a bit of luxury. I’ll leave it at that for now!

Photo of Great King Street Whisky in a hi ball glassYou’re based in Chiswick but live in Kew. What do you love about West London?
The planes, the parakeets. And the predictability of traffic on the South Circular.

Compass Box is holding a whisky cocktail evening in the Kew shop on Friday 26 June. What’s your favourite recipe?
This really depends on the day of the week, the time of day, the time of year! What’s worth pointing out here is just how much the world of cocktails has changed in 15 years. There is a global move toward a culinary approach with cocktails that did not exist when I started Compass Box. We’re seeing more and more restaurant people moving from the kitchen to the bar. And the distinctions between “wine people” and “spirits people” is blurring. For example, fifteen years ago, you didn’t see any serious interest in spirits in the best restaurants of the California wine country. Now, great cocktail bars are all over, particularly in Napa and Sonoma.

If you would like to explore the world of whisky cocktails with The Good Wine Shop and Compass Box then pop in to our Kew shop from 6pm on Friday 26 June. This informal tasting event is free.

Chiswick Super Summer Tasting

27 May 2015 by Jackie

Our annual Summer Tasting this year also coincides with the fabulous EatChiswick event, so you’ve got even more reasons to come and see us and try 30 wines for FREE
on Sunday 7th June at our Chiswick shop.

eat chiswick logo

We’ll be popping corks from noon and tasting all afternoon until six so plenty of opportunity to pay us a visit either before or after lunch (if not both!).

Just to whet your appetite, here are some of the wines we will have open to taste…



What better way to start than with our best selling Champagne Gallimard Cuvée Reserve NV followed by newbies like the delicious and uber-summery Cuvée Tour Campanets Rosé 2014 We’ll also have some old favourites such as the Fourcas Hosten 2009 – a classic Bordeaux.

We’re very excited to be showcasing our revamped Argentinian range with some brilliant wines from top winemakers Susana Balbo and Benegas Lynch.Benegas Lynch Cabernet Franc

We’re also putting the spotlight on some top-notch South African, Italian and French offerings too – pop in to find out which ones and try them for yourself!

Everyone is welcome so if you plan on popping in to see us, let us know by email or by calling 0208 994 8084 so we have an idea about numbers.

Looking forward to seeing you here!

Let’s be…Franc

2 May 2015 by Jackie

Because Cabernet Sauvignon has so much more of everything – body, tannin, alcohol, colour – it is often supposed to be superior, but here at TGWS, we have a very soft spot indeed for its more charming and aromatic parent, Cabernet Franc.


Here’s everything you need to know about the grape, where it can grow, how its made and blended well, so you too can fall in love with its charms!

Cabernet Franc tends to be grown to a limited extent wherever Cabernet Sauvignon is grown but we hope we’ll continue to see more Cabernet Franc-dominated wines – they are just so easy to drink.


It is mostly planted in the far northeast of Italy, particularly in Friuli, but it is also found in the wines of the Veneto (where it is known as Bordo), as part of some Chianti blends, even as far south as Puglia. Plantings of Cabernet Franc in Tuscany have been increasing in recent years, particularly in the Bolgheri and Maremma region where the grape is prized for the balance and elegance that it brings to blends.


Currently there are 500 hectares of Cabernet Franc planted around the Mendoza region and it’s being heralded as “the future” for Argentina with planting increasing rapidly each year. Lusher and fuller than a Loire red, but more airy and refined than the average Argentinian Malbec, some believe it’s going to be more successful to cultivate than Cab Sauv…watch this space!

South Africa:

Cabernet Franc has become a favourite of some of the country’s boutique wineries and acreage has slowly been increasing to nearly 1,000 ha by the mid 2000s.

Bruwer Raats is the pioneer of “fine” varietal bottlings in SA, although he has to struggle with his vines’ tendency to ripen – even individual bunches – very unevenly. Harvesting Cab Franc at peak ripeness is paramount. It’s grown in a variety of terroirs, and with great success on well-drained, medium-to-low potential soils containing chalk and limestone. It confirms the importance of choice of soils and shows that ripeness of Cabernet Franc is easily achievable in South Africa – excellent wines are possible!


In France, Cabernet Franc is found predominately in the Loire Valley and in the Libournais region of Bordeaux. As of 2000, it was the sixth most widely planted red grape variety in the country.

Bourgueil is an Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC) for Cab Franc in the Loire Valley region. It is situated on the right-bank of the river, which provides some climate moderation, to the west of Tours and on the edge of the better known Maine-et-Loire department. Also known as Cabernet Breton, up to 10% of the wine can also be made from Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Limestone soils produce wines with a dusky red hue, whereas those grown in siliceous soil take on a redcurrant shade. Bourgueil wines have a floral and fruity bouquet, which becomes earthy as the wine gets older. These wines age splendidly in the bottle, keeping for up to 20 years.

gayda figure libre

Cabernet Sauvignon has rarely made wines of real distinction in the Languedoc but Cabernet Franc instead has been making inroads there recently and several varietal versions of interest have arrived on the international marketplace in the last couple of years, especially from innovative estate, Domaine Gayda who we stock.

We’ll be opening some examples of Cab Franc in May across all 3 stores, so you can try them for yourself. We’ve also put together a delicious “introductory” case, highlighting 6 of our best examples of this grape from across the world and in various different styles. It’s available throughout May and costs £175 saving you £24.50.