My 12-times table is ninja fast. Not just up to 10, either – that’s kid’s stuff. I’m talking dozens of dozens, hundreds even. I’ve even got favourites: 38 times 12 is 456 – pleasingly sequential; 50 times 12 is 600 – an easy one, but with satisfying roundness. Then there’s the evergreen classic 74 times 12, giving not just two but three fat ladies, 888.
K Cider: that was my first booze of choice. In its limited-edition coloured bottles, it was the height of sophistication – in the public parks of Bedford. I was no snob though, oh no. I would also sometimes drink Mirage and Taboo.
A few years ago I remember rushing into a supermarket with a few like-minded colleagues, like kids in a sweet shop, filling trolleys with clearance wines, which were perfectly good but the retailer had decided to cull the range and these were the victims, the shelf-warmers – genuine half-price bargains for once.
There’s something irresistible about stories unveiling the dirty secrets of a profession: politicians blow billions on garden gnomes; athletes busted mainlining Red Bull; hacks distort facts for salacious headlines.
In July, BBC Radio 4 broadcast an episode of The Food Programme entitled New Wine generation.
Picture your favourite Champagne. Perhaps you’ve got more than one. Either way, I expect it occurred to you almost instantaneously, and that you conjured up an image of the bottle in your mind. Now ask yourself: why is it your favourite?
On the surface, life seems generally predictable and familiar. Alarms wake us at the same time every day, insurance premiums go up every year, pubs sell Pinot Grigio by the glass.
During the short time when cat food came under my remit at Marks & Spencer, I learned two interesting facts.
I’m not sure how to listen to music any more. I don’t mean that I’m sticking earphones into the wrong holes (you don’t make that mistake twice), I'm talking about the way music is accessed.
Is your decanter half full or half empty? Some people look at the UK wine trade and see declining sales, punitive tax and low average prices. I prefer to see recovering sales, decelerating duty and everyday affordability.
Wine marketing only gets criticised for two things: being outdated, conservative and repetitious; or being modern, radical and original.
I recently had to explain the phrase “to have your cake and eat it” to my young son, and it got me thinking about the wine trade.
A wine merchant’s portfolio has to speak for itself. There’s no point having eye-catching merchandising or an integrated social media strategy if the wines themselves aren’t good enough. Here are seven wines that tell me whether a wine shop is worth its salt. How many are on your shelves?
Just when it seemed like a degree of normality was descending on Cheshunt, the stage could be set for yet another twist in the Tesco tale.
Imagine if the recordings of the Berlin Philharmonic, the works of Monet or the performances of Usain Bolt or Cristiano Ronaldo became the sole preserve of the ultra wealthy, kept out of the sight, sound and reach of 99% of the world’s population.
It was in a bar on the other side of the world earlier this week that I first heard whispers Dan Jago might be making a sensational return to Tesco and the BWS department he was suspended from last October.
A few years ago I requested that a wine back label be changed, getting rid of the word “charcuterie” as a food match. While many of us eat charcuterie, most of us don’t call it that – we talk about cold meats, cold cuts or just ham, salami, or whatever it actually is. I believe that consumers need to be spoken to in their own language, plain and simple.
I remember when having an undercut with curtains was fashionable. I got mine done at Tony’s Barber Shop in Foster Hill Road in Bedford and, to complete the look, I wore 10-hole green DM boots, baggy jeans and a long-sleeved U2 T-shirt.
You could be forgiven for thinking that the political frenzy surrounding a general election means those in power take their eye off the important day-to-day matters we pay them to look after and jump in a cab to the next photo op.
Wine must be the only everyday product that has such a cavernous gulf between the knowledge of those who sell it and most of those who drink it.
As the end of each year approaches, there comes an instinctive urge to start predicting what the future holds. But for the world of wine, where the vagaries mean something as fundamental as production becomes utterly unpredictable, any kind of clairvoyance is probably best avoided.
As the Oddbins empire crumbled in 2011, a producer found itself on the receiving end of a rather nasty call from the retailer, demanding more wine when it still hadn’t paid for the last lot. It was a particularly unpleasant example of supplier relations going bad.
Hey everyone, ’tis the season to be jolly! And when I say jolly, I mean ... drunk. right? Let’s not be squeamish: for most of the UK population, this is pretty much routine logic. Festivity means celebration, celebration means having a drink, and that inevitably equals inebriation, to a greater or lesser extent.
Being wrong about a subject as massive as wine is as inevitable as selling more claret at Christmas. Even the trade’s most well-worn clichés celebrate wrongness. You know the ones: I haven’t confused Bordeaux for Burgundy since lunch; I hate Chardonnay but I love Chablis. Oh how we laughed.
In the early 1990s red kites were reintroduced to the Chiltern Hills, having being hunted to extinction in the late 19th century. Now they’re established, conservationists advise residents not to feed them – they want the numbers of birds to be in equilibrium with their natural food source.
Hand-picked, whole bunch, punched down, 50% old French for 12 months. For most people, that sentence is utterly impenetrable. Is it about flowers? Bananas? Abused Parisian pensioners?
Dacia, the Renault-owned Romanian car manufacturer, recently launched a hatchback at under £6,000, yet people are still buying VW Golfs at twice the price. Why?
Few countries take beer more seriously than Belgium.
One of the biggest challenges in wine retail is the right mix between wines of passion and wines of practicality.
Product, price, place and promotion: the four Ps of marketing. It may be corporate jargon, but it works. Sadly, promotion and price are all too often considered one and the same thing within wine retail.