Stop buying wine from the supermarket

I used to waste a fair amount of money on buying wine at the various different supermarkets we frequent. I regularly spent way over £10 on bottles that ended up as “Vinegar+” or, at best, “Vinegar+++”. Now and again I’d read the little labels and buy a £20+ bottle.

Every time I was disappointed. I can’t actually think of anything I’ve bought from a supermarket that’s been really good.

So I’ve started buying mixed cases from the likes of:

  • The Wine Society
    Joining fee, but they have a wide variety of wines. I’m a particular fan of their red wine mixed cases. Once I then find a bottle that my wife and I like, we then order a case of it. But, crucially, I don’t think we’ve ever had a rubbish bottle from the Wine Society. Yes we’ve had types that aren’t to our particular taste, that’s fine, but they’ve always been fundamentally good — and even at rates of around £6-8 per bottle.
  • Laithwaites
    During this past Christmas I thought I’d give Laithwaites a go. I logged on and selected a few of their mixed red cases. We’re still going through them at the moment and again, I’m delighted to say I haven’t been frustrated by any of them — but we have found a few highlights that I think we’ll definitely re-order more of.
  • Gerrard Seel
    The boutique wine retailer I came across during a search for a particularly delicious Shiraz I had in Beijing. Gerrard have a good collection of basic mixed cases that we regularly stock up on.

I’m pleased to report good success with the above companies. However I’m keen to explore other possibilities too. So if you’ve any suggestions, please do drop me a note in the comments or by email (


Inspired Wine: Premium boxed wine that stays fresh for 6 weeks? Genius!

There is still a stigma about buying wine in boxes or cartons.

It’s very 1980s. At least, it feels that way. I feel — I’m not sure why — that it’s the lower-middle-class equivalent of buying a 24-can-pack of Stella.

At least, that’s what I thought.

I have no memories of wine-in-a-box or cartons. None at all. I’ve never ever bought wine that way. If anything I’ve always wondered that if a shop can sell 4 litres of wine for £6 (I’m making that price up, I don’t know) it’s probably rather vinegar-esque to say the least.

So I’ve no idea how much this stuff costs. Just that it’s all moderate rubbish. The sort of thing your rather weird uncle with the limp buys once a month from the “offie” (“Off License”).

When I came across Inspired Wine, then, I wasn’t best disposed to take a look. I was in my local Budgens supermarket when I came across a chap I knew. He was manning the temporary stand for Inspired Wines. He asked if I’d like a taste — he had samples arrayed out on a tray. I declined because I was due to take my wife to hospital (for the baby’s birth) later that day. I reasoned (and explained) that any hint of wine on my breath wasn’t advisable given the workload she had coming that day.

But I gladly took a flyer.

My normal methodology for buying wine is to go to Waitrose (or Budgens) and spent at least £10. Of late, I’ve been having good success with almost any Bordeaux that tops £10 from those shops. The trouble is… it’s a complete waste. I have a glass. A big glass. But usually just one glass.

My wife isn’t drinking at the moment. She was pregnant and now she’s breastfeeding. Wine isn’t a good combo.

So it’s just me.

I don’t want to have a few glasses as I need to get out of bed at random times through the night to settle Archie. Hangovers are severely incompatible with that and the guaranteed 6am wakeup call from Archie.

So boxed wine? Wine that doesn’t spoil over night? A box that you can just decant a glass from? That stays fresh for up to 6 weeks?


All my boxes were being ticked.

I ran the concept by my wife who thought it was a great idea, principally because she’s used to watching me pour 80% of those nice Bordeauxs down the sink on a Saturday night. £8 of the £10 wasted.

I had a look on the site — I have to admit that I wasn’t necessarily sold right-away. I wanted a lot more information. I wanted to know how the whole boxed thing worked. How do you open it? How good is the wine? What’s the point in a Carafe? Just.. you know, *MORE* information.

The major issue I had was about the selection of wine. I hadn’t come across any of the brands and I was concerned that their range was a little limited.

In the end I thought I might as well give it a go.

I opted for the Cabernet Sauvignon from wine partner, Pepperwood. This was a whopping £35 for the box. Each box contains the equivalent of 4 bottles so the maths worked for me. The burning issue though: Is it wine any good?

When the box arrived, I gave it ago that evening.

Oh dear.

I don’t know WHAT I did, but the first glass I poured was shocking. Muchos vinegar. I couldn’t quite believe it. My wife tried a tiny sip and was shocked. It was watery rubbish. I’d expected some kind of deep red. The stuff that came out looked like ultra-diluted Ribena!

I was really disappointed. I had really high hopes.

Don’t worry. There’s a positive ending.

I left the box, got on with my evening and then a few days later, just before I was going to open a ‘proper’ bottle, I thought I should do a final test before pouring the whole box out.

This time the wine was a revelation. It was a nice dark red. It was deliciously drinkable. It was exactly as I was hoping. It was, if you’ll avoid the stupid description, highly accessible and interesting enough to keep me involved, to make me want to take another sip. In other words, this box from Inspired Wine was absolutely perfect.

I have NO idea what I was doing when I first opened the box. Perhaps I didn’t operate the tap properly. Maybe I’d siphoned off the wrong bit. I don’t know. However I haven’t looked back now.

I have no hesitation in recommending Inspired Wine as a phenomenally useful product, especially if you like a nice glass of wine and don’t want to keep on buying bottles (that you invariably waste). I reckon I opened the box about 3 weeks ago and every 2-3 days, I’ll pour myself a glass of red from it.

My parents popped over the other weekend and I delighted in demonstrating the box to them, pouring them both a glass. They were also impressed. I think they initially applied the same “BOXED WINE???” viewpoint when I was introducing it. But after the first sip they were converted.

I’m going to be buying more. They’ve got a nice collection — Pino Noir, Zinfandel, Merlot, Shiraz. I reckon I’ll need to try them all.

I have to say that right now, I don’t intend looking elsewhere. The whole boxed concept works absolutely perfectly for me: I want wine available immediately. I don’t want to have to mess around opening a bottle when I only ever want a glass-or-two. And I want decent wine too. I don’t want to sacrifice quality. For instance, I was considering buying a few £4 bottles of red wine to try and limit the ridiculous waste of only having a glass-at-a-time. I bought one £4 a while ago and goodness me it was shocking. So I want good wine in glass form — and that’s Inspired Wine.

One point: I should probably have bought the Carafe Pack:

I have discovered that Carafes — or jugs — are a must with boxed wine especially if you’re aiming to serve more than one glass, as I was when my parents popped over. I ended up having to take each glass up to the box, press the little valve and wait. Hardly difficult, but, you know, it would have been useful to have had a container.

The Inspired Wine team offer a £9.99 Carafe pack that contains a 250ml and 500ml Carafe. Yeah. At the time of ordering that came across as a bit of a … well, a bit unnecessary. An extra tenner? On top of the £35 which, including delivery, tops out above £40? No. Not when you’re unproven to me.

Still. I should have done it. I think I’ll do it next time.

It’d be a lot easier.

Anyway if you’re looking for wine, check out Inspired Wine — I’m thoroughly delighted with my purchase.

Let me know what you think.

Accessories Must Have Wine

Vinturi: The fastest way to aerate red wine

If you’re in to red wine then this is one of those must haves, especially if you enjoy experimenting with powerful vintages that definitely need a bit of time to breathe.

It’s an arse if you get it wrong. Most good reds usually need half an hour or an hour or so to properly ‘breathe’. The difference in terms of bouquet, flavour and finish between open and 60 minutes later is often quite palpable. But what if a friend pops over? Or if you need to deploy another bottle of red right now? Vinturi is your friend. Let’s have a look at it:

To aerate your wine you simply pour directly from the bottle through the Vinturi Aerator directly into the glass. Job done. It’s ready to drink.

I love it. I think I’ll need to get one.

Here’s what Vinturi delivers:

Better bouquet: Sample the nose of the wine. You’ll appreciate the subtle aromatic differences and the full aroma of the wine. Vinturi allows wine to release its intended aromas.
Enhanced flavours: Take a sip. Vinturi aerated wine tastes better, richer and more expensive as well as more flavoursome with better mouthfeel.
Smoother finish: Vinturi aeration is very effective at softening tannins resulting in a much more pleasant finish. Any bitterness or bad aftertaste is reduced or eliminated.

And the science bit? I’m glad you asked.

The design applies Bernoulli’s principle, which states that as the speed of a moving fluid increases, the pressure within the fluid decreases. When wine is poured in the Vinturi, its design creates an increase in the wine’s velocity and a decrease in its pressure. This pressure difference draws in air, which is mixed with wine for perfect aeration.

There you go.

The Vinturi Aerator retails at £39.95 although if you shop around you’ll probably find it slightly cheaper. This is most certainly ‘job done’ for any of your wine-loving friends given Christmas is coming up.

Here’s the Amazon link: