Did you know that the law detailed EXACTLY how much wine you had to be poured?
Thankfully, that law has just been made a little more wine-friendly.
Most of us have been used to seeing 175ml (small) and 250ml (large) glasses on all wine lists. In recent months the 125ml (properly small) has been required on restaurant and bar lists too (thankfully) and the 250ml glass has morphed into the 250ml carafe of wine to be shared – BRILLIANT!
However, in most cases, no restaurant or bar was allowed to sell you a measure of UNDER 125ml of wine. Why? Because it was supposed to protect you as a consumer, making sure you knew exactly how much wine you were supposed to get – no more, no less. The same is true of pints and half-pints. The glasses might get fancy but the little white mark is always there!
Enter the Enomatic
(photo of Enomatic machines in The Sampler in South Kensington)
A few years ago an Italian company created the Enomatic, a machine that could dispense small volumes of a wine AND keep the bottle fresh for almost 3 weeks – so you could theoretically open the world’s most expensive wines and sell them in tiny, affordable, pours over enough time to ensure you did not waste it.
They are very successful in places such as the USA. However in the UK there is a problem. A sample is around 25ml, meaning you get 30 samples to a bottle, but this is not a legal measure as it was not your “guaranteed minimum” of 125ml.
It didn’t matter that this is actually what you wanted, asked for and paid for, it was still technically illegal.
It seems that practically minded local enforcement officers in Islington and elsewhere decided that sampling in a wine shop, such as the wonderful The Sampler, was OK – you were “testing & tasting” a wine you might buy in legal measures. However, their Westminster colleagues took a different view in the Wonder Bar at Selfridges.
Having paid what I would guess was a VAST amount of money to create and fit out the bar, the inspectors forced Dawn Davies, the sommelier heading the Wonder Bar, to stop selling samples. The reason was that this was a place to eat & drink, not just buy wine, so they were “retailing” the samples. Crazy, but that was after all the law.
It so happens that I made my first visit to the Wonder Bar the day after that fateful visit, just as Dawn was reprogramming all the machines to stop sampling.
Thankfully, after a long campaign, the law has now been changed in part thanks to her lobbying efforts, and maybe we can start to get creative with ideas that enable customers to experience a broader range of wines, at affordable prices, and get more people to love wine.