25 April 2009

The Sampler

While Jo and Kieron are widening my eyes with their househunting posts from Lusaka (http://www.zambiaexpress.blogspot.com/), we've just had a stark-contrast immersion in the sybaritic delights of London. Last night we managed not to think about the Oxford University Press Sand index for a few hours and met our good friends Geoff and Nora at The Sampler on Islington's Upper Street. The Sampler is a wine shop, but a wine shop with a difference. You actually get to taste the wines that you'll be tempted to buy via the sleek dispenser system shown above. Eighty wines are "on tap."

The procedure works like this: you put credit via Visa or cash onto a Sampler card, grab a wineglass, and then insert the card into the slot at the center top of the unit. See the red LED print above each bottle? This shows the price for a sample, ranging from about 50p to £20. Under that are three buttons that allow you to choose the size of sample you want. We all stuck with the smallest and therefore cheapest, which was plenty to share a few sips.

While waiting for Geoff (Nora came straight from work), we started on whites, where the unanimous favorite was a Chardonnay that cost, of course, £85 a bottle. That's never likely to come home with us, but this is the point. You get to try wines of a price and--possibly--quality you'd never be able to afford otherwise. The ever-decreasing remaining credit is displayed each time you insert your card; top-ups, needless to say, are immediately available at the cash register.

Unsurprisingly, the reds detained us the longest. Michael concentrated on Pinot Noir and one of those, from New Zealand, is now in our wine rack, to be opened with Kate if she gets here in June or on our 40th anniversary later in the month if she doesn't. We also bought a more reasonably priced 100% Languedoc cinsault for some less significant celebration.

The tasting finished with Geoff and Michael each paying ~£18 to sample a £375 bottle of Pomerol, from a domaine near the one Geoff and Nora's friend owns. A rare treat--but Michael would have chosen the Felton Road Pinot Noir even if the Pomerol had been a tenth of the price.

We then headed next door for dinner at a Kurdish restaurant. Cuisine was very similar to that at Turkish places near us in Southwark, but the flatbread--produced on an iron griddle installed near the front window--was exceptional, especially when stuffed with soft cheese or spinach and onion.

How lucky we are that Angel station is a straight shot on the Northern Line from Borough--in particular me, since the Islington Waitrose and Sainsbury are the best-stocked supermarkets I can get to & from with the least lugging of heavy bags up and down steps.

The Sampler:

Felton Road Winery/Cornish Point 2007:

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