Wine, books and peanut butter
Hastings has a wine shop, at last. St Leonards has two: Phoenix & Plum in Kings Road; and you can buy wine at Graze on Grand on the front. But now Borough Wines, Beers & Books has their own wine shop. It opened in Robertson Street and, having given it a few weeks to bed in, HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths went to take a look.
Some people have commented there are enough booze outlets in Hastings so do we need another wine shop? There may be lots of cheap wine and beer places but when it comes to an independent wine shop with literary undertones then the answer is a defnite “yes”.
This is the company’s seventh Borough wine shop and its only store outside London.
It was decided to open in Hastings when Jess Scarratt – who was previously Director of Borough Wines wholesale arm – and partner, writer and broadcaster Michael Smith, wanted a move from London. Since Borough Wines Co-owner Corinna Pyke, had grown up in Sedlescombe, attended art school here and understands Hastings idiosyncratic culture, it was logical for Scarratt and Smith to open a branch here.
At the time they did what any baby book would advise against: moving house, having a baby and starting a new business. I walked past the day of opening and it seemed that a near miracle would get them opened. But they managed it by the skin of their teeth: flowers and food ready; wine, beer and books on the shelves.
They stock local wines range from £5.50 to £30. They have their pioneering red, white or rosé litre bottles refilled from the keg for £5.50 however, an average spend is about £13/14. Recommended for good value and drinking is an Argentinian Malbec and a Spanish Godello both for £10.
Besides the shelves of wine, sprits and beer, there is the literary element. The books stocked are a range of cookery, wine, art, literature, nature, seaside, poetry, local writers and history. Curated by Smith and Faber poet Will Burns, Michael Smith is no literary slouch; he is an author and film maker who has made a trilogy of films on the edge: Thames estuary, Whitby and Hastings. Books range from Alastair Crowley, Derek Jarman, Charles Bukowski On Writing – with a label alongside saying ‘boozy literature’.
There will be talks and poetry readings even a future possiblity of film screenings. Michael has good connections with authors and film makers and wants to connect with the local community – as the shop does generally. There are plans afoot. For Halloween they intend to have talks and readings about the strange and sordid history of gin. No, I didn’t ask more, I thought I’d go and experience it.
And then there are craft beers and spirits. A young man is sitting at the bar tastes a few beers.
“I’ve never tasted anything quite like it,” he says
I ask “In a good way?”
He takes another sip, to make sure, and nods.
Jess stresses “This is more than just a shop. People can ask questions and get an answer – about the wine which is all imported rom small independent producers so we know where it is produced, the person who produced it.” There are some fantastic labels but Michael says “they are great but it is the quality of what is in the bottles that is more important.”
They may introduce a Knackered Women’s Wine Club once a month. So that mothers can come and have a glass of wine and not feel guilty. They are planning to have wine and beer producers visit so people can meet the makers; boutique gin tastings like Little Bird gin. There will be free tastings on Saturdays and Sundays. But much of this is in the mix; they are sucking and seeing for the time being as they settle in.
This is certainly a wine shop with a difference. There has been a really good response from Hastings-ites (and St Leonards as well) and they are developing all the time in answer to what people want. They are stocking a range of olive oil from a Hastings local, living in Tarragona, Spain who presses a smooth, mellow oil from an antiquated stone press. They even sell peanut butter. “Well, we had to stock it.” Jess laughs, “when we saw it was not only very good peanut butter but ‘a motherf*****g peanut butter’.
Saturday 10 October 12-4pm free tasting with L’Atypique cidre
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