Friday I found myself on a train heading out of Oxford to visit one of the oldest wine merchants in the country.
No, I was not on my way to St. James Street in London, I was headed to Banbury, home of SH Jones Wines.
Sydney Herbert Jones bought a wine company in Banbury in 1886. He had learned the trade while living and working in Bristol. In 1913, SH Jones settled at 27 High Street where the retail shop continues to trade.
His descendant, Richard Jones, still runs the company, which includes two retail shops, a warehouse and headquarters in Banbury, a store in Bicester and one in Leamington Spa.
Tim Carlisle, the retail manager in Banbury, showed me around. The warehouse resembled a smaller version of the one from “Raiders of the Lost Ark” with cases of wine, stacked on shelves easily three storeys high. Their fine wine and bulk purchases from France are stored in a bonded warehouse, which is actually an ex coal mine in Derbyshire. All the storage ensures they are not importing wines during the heat of summer.
While there I tasted a Domain Road, Pinot Noir 2008, from Central Otago, NZ (£17.99). This is a smooth, smoky Pinot, with elegant structure. It is not an every day wine, but perfect for an occasion where game is served. The interesting part is the Domain Road representatives got off the train at Banbury by mistake.
They took a chance with a tasting at the cellar shop. Afterward, SH Jones became the first to represent the vineyard’s wines in the UK.
You can taste a variety of South African wine, Thursday 17th May, from 7pm at the Cellar Shop. Currently over 80 wines from 18 different wineries are listed.
The rumor is Craig Hawkins, winemaker at Lammershoek winery, will be attending. Craig is known for the unusual way he ages one of his wines . . . underwater.
It’s 100 per cent Syrah, and spends 11 months in barrels underwater. I don’t know whether Craig will have any of this wine to taste, but it will be interesting to talk to him about his concept.
To purchase the £5 ticket call 01295 672296 or visit any one of the SH Jones shops.
Congratulations to Raoul’s Alex Proudfoot for winning another competition. Last week at the London Cocktail Club in Shaftsbury Avenue he came in first in the UK bartender of the year final for Domaine de Canton, a French ginger liqueur.
He beat eleven other competitors from cocktail bars across Great Britain and will go on to represent the UK in the international final in June in St. Martin with a chance to win $10,000. Let’s raise a glass for Alex.