Tag Archives: wine merchant

Blog: It Was The 90’s in Johannesburg and I Fell In Love | Matt’s Wine Story

By Matt Monk

This week Matt reveals all about how he fell in love with wine and what he’s learned along his journey since that day.

Where did it all start for you?

It’s a question I’ve often been asked. Though I’m sure I’d been drinking wine for some time, I do remember the wine that made me stop, think, and wonder. It wasn’t a first growth or Premier Cru. It wasn’t a special occasion or event. It was a day like any other.

I was with a large group of colleagues in Johannesburg. (In a previous life I was a trolley-dolly for British Airways and, as crew, we always went out for drinks and a spot of dinner) The restaurant? What used to be a church, called Gatreels in the Central Business District.

I don’t know who picked it or why they choose that wine. Being a crew night out it was unlikely to be the old adage of “mid priced on the wine list must be good”. At one point in the meal I stopped talking for a change, topped up the empty glasses and took a sip.

Now the earth didn’t move cosmically, it didn’t stop spinning; I didn’t hear heavenly music or have fireworks go off in my mouth, but it did make me stop and think. It made me assess what I tasted: the aromas, the flavours. There were layers of complexity to this wine. I had so many questions.

What Next?

Now, I at the time I knew a little about wine; a day and a half in my 12 weeks training course with British Airways, in a room next to the engineering bays at Heathrow Airport. But looking back, my wine knowledge then boiled down to: Fizz, White or Red.

But now, the game had begun. I got back to our base and signed straight up for the company’s dedicated wine course.

Six months later and I was on it: the Wine and Spirit Education Trust Intermediate course. I think it was 6-8 weeks before I sat the exams: a multiple-choice paper and wine tasting with the head Wine Buyer of British Airways… Now I see why there had been a six-month waiting list: the chance to taste some wine, not just from Economy and Business Class but also First Class and Concorde!

How lucky we were! A lot of fun was had, and in that brief couple of hours tasting, I learnt more than from than any book I’ve read on Wine (and let me tell you I’ve read A LOT, much to the exasperation of my wife, who finds books and magazines piled up in the kitchen, the lounge and at the side of the bed!).

My Reflections Since Those Days

That was in the early nineties; a lot of time, changes and wine have passed by. There are days when I still don’t get it, maybe I’ve got a cold coming on, a bad mood, the wrong time or I’m just not feeling it.

I have found, however, that there is no rule as to what makes a bottle of wine taste good. Whether it’s that premium bottle, opened on a special occasion, or the affordable stuff I bring home to share with friends over a barbecue, or simply that glass experienced around the fire after a long day, that manages to hit just the right note; it’s all about the company, place and timing, and allowing your wine of choice to complement that situation. All the money and knowledge in the world cannot make up for the feeling of when these four elements come together perfectly!

And so, on that night in Johannesburg, I fell in love… with Wine.

Oh, and the wine in question? Well it was a Boschendal Blanc de Blanc.

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For any information regarding the blog or social media, please contact sam@thewhalleywineshop.com


Blog: ANTIFREEZE IN YOUR WINE?! | Why now is the time to re-visit Austrian Wine and get excited.

By Sam Johnson

Sam brings you a story natural beauty, music, scandal and revival… he also tells you why you should start getting excited by Austrian Wine and its groundbreaking new makers, keen to show off what the country has to offer.

 When you think of Austria, you think of snow capped Alps and glüwein on the piste; a land of quaint alpine lodges, where insubordinate nuns sing in the rolling meadows of the hilltops, while the faint sound of Mozart’s ‘The Magic Flute Overture’ can be heard drifting up from the quiet town below. Thinking of their wine, you may even think of cheap, thin and acidic, mass-produced antifreeze…

But gone are those days! Now is the time to reconsider your view on the export of this once overlooked wine producing region, in a big way!

The State of Austrian Wine Today

2003 gave us the new DAC system (Austria’s equivalent of the Italian DOC) and through greater levels of control in Austrian winemaking, Austrian wine has not only recovered from its horror period in the 1980s, but also gone from strength to strength.

Now producing on average way over 250million bottles a year, the majority of Austria’s wine production is focused on three lesser-known varieties and well as more familiar names such as Riesling, Pinot Blanc and Chardonnay:

  • Grüner Veltliner

Often likened to Sauvignon Blanc, it makes crisp, dry and fresh white wines that are un-oaked. Its delicate citrus flavours intertwine with peach and a waft of dry, spicy, white pepper that works brilliantly with simple grilled fish dishes.

  • Zweigelt

The most planted red variety in Austria, Zweigelt is a lighter style of red wine that more often than not is un-oaked. Sometimes lacking a little depth initially, Zweigelt opens up to develop concentrated notes of raspberry and black cherry.

  • Blaufränkisch

If you’re looking for something a little heavier then Blaufränkisch is the way to go. Age-worthy, with big tannins, its wines retain a lovely acidity and freshness with notes of blackberry, cassis and sour cherry.

So whatever it is that you’re looking for, why not to reach for an Austrian Wine next time you come to pick something up? There really is something for everybody!

Who’s Behind It?

A big part of the rebirth of Austrian Wine is down to a new generation of winemakers in the country who are embracing new ideas and techniques, and striving to produce better wines at every turn. One example would be Arnold Holzer at Eschenhoff Holzer, who after taking over the winery at just 22 years of age, has gone on to produce some stunning examples of both Grüner Veltliner and Zweigelt that are not only low in sulphur, but also embrace modern packaging and label design reminiscent of the hyper trendy Craft Beer scene.

Another producer that we are really proud to work with is Weingut R&A Pfaffl. Pfaffl are a really top end Austrian producer who make the lovable and affordable ‘Dot’ series, all the way up to the stunning Passion Reserve Riesling (a personal favourite of mine), which although at a premium price, is just simply a delightful glass of wine!

The Pfaffl family are at the forefront of vineyard and cellar management techniques in Austria and are a worthy overseas flag-bearer for their nation. So we were super excited to send Will, our Assistant Manager, out to Austria to take a look around the winery and taste through their range to make sure that we are stocking the best of what’s out there! Take a look at some of his photos below. (I know… It’s a hard job that he’s got, our Will!)


In the 1980’s it would have been impossible to think that such quality could come from the ashes of one of the great wine scandals of the 20th century, but yet here we find ourselves. Austria’s new generation of winemakers are tearing up the European wine scene, refusing to be ignored, and they have the grape-based goods to back it up. That alone is a reason for you to stop passing them over, give them a whirl, and get excited!

Next week: “Glassware: is it really worth it?”

For any information regarding the blog or social media, please contact sam@thewhalleywineshop.com