Meet the Owner of Jesmond Wine Company and Discover How to Pick the Perfect Bottle for Summer
There's nothing better than a chilled glass of wine in the garden on a summer's day - but finding the perfect bottle can often be a challenge
Tell us about your background and how you got into wine.
I was an electrician by trade before I played professional rugby for 14 years at Glasgow Warriors then at Newcastle Falcons. One of my friends who I played for Scotland with, his family had been running a wine business for 40 years and he introduced me to lots of new wines and opened my eyes to what proper wine was all about.
I don’t think enough people know about fine wines – they always think it’s going to be too expensive or they might not know what to buy and where to get it. I had always had an attitude towards wine that it was high-end or it costs a lot of money, but as I started to understand it I realised that that’s not the case, and it’s more about accessing it and obviously getting it from independent wine merchants.
After a really bad injury I started to think about life after rugby and my passion for wine led me to wanting everybody to try these amazing wines and possibly find their gateway wine as some people call it – a wine which makes people go ‘wow this is really nice, I want to try more’. That’s the thinking behind Jesmond Wine Company, and what better place to do it than in Jesmond?
Have you had any formal wine training?
I’ve done the WSET’s (the Wine and Spirit Education Trust courses) where you do exams on wine. They’re really detailed and it’s very very interesting. You learn all about the production of wine and how it’s made to different styles you get and what affects the style. Of course there is no training for a business, that’s a bit of a leap of faith.
Tell us more about your wine tasting evenings.
We close the shop for a private wine tasting. Ten people is probably our capacity but numbers tend to range from six to eight people and it’s a nice cosy night where customers can come in beforehand and pick their wines, then on the night we go through and taste them all. They’re social events, where you can chat with your friends and just enjoy great wine. We talk a little bit about the wine, for example if we have a lovely Rioja we’ll explain the style of it and what notes you should be getting from it. Wine is as complex as it can be, so it’s good to have some guidance and explain the grape or notes you get on tasting, but it’s also about giving people little nuggets of interest and letting them taste it for themselves.
What about English wine, is there much of a difference to other wine regions?
With England being a cooler climate you’ve got a lot of Champagne blends and it’s giving Champagne a run for its money. People are starting to pay attention to how good English wines are and can be, and because they grow in cooler climates you get grapes such as Bacchus and Sauvignon Blanc, and lighter styles of white wines.
Can you give us some tips for picking up a good bottle for the summer?
I don’t think you need to be a wine expert to say what is a good wine and what’s not, it’s very personal and subjective. People can often get caught up in the moment, for example if you go abroad and you thought a wine was absolutely amazing, the experience of the sun and being on holiday, as well as being in great company and you’re relaxed – it all can enhance the experience. If I ever do tastings when I’m abroad I make sure I get a sample of it when I get home to make sure it’s still good.
People always talk about smoothness of wine, but what I believe people are referring to is balance. It’s great if you’ve got wines high in acidity and fruit content – if the wine is balanced, all these will come together perfectly. I think the wine makers are like artists and if they can put all these elements together you’ll notice it. It’s about finding balanced wines and of course value for money.
Do you prefer red or white wine?
Red wine is what I fell in love with and it’s what I started drinking, but within my first year and a half being in business I’ve definitely drunk more white.
What’s your favourite wine region?
Italy. I’ve got two drops [sections] of Italian wine in my shop, whereas everywhere else typically has one. Each region of France gets a drop of its own too because of how prestigious it is, but I’d definitely say Italian wine is my favourite.
If you weren’t drinking wine, what else would you be drinking?
Probably a pint – that’s the rugby boy coming out in me.
Jesmond Wine Company
3a Clayton Road, Jesmond NE2 4RP
0191 240 1269