The Southwold invasion

On my visits to the seaside town of Southwold, I often heard complaints that the town was being taken over by Londoners (much of the time it was  Londoners doing the complaining). Now the people of Southwold have decided to fight back. Adnams, the brewery that dominates the little Suffolk town, is taking over London. They started stealthily with a shop in Stamford, Lincolnshire, then one opened in Spitalfields market and now another has appeared near where I work in Bloomsbury.

Adnams’ advertising may be a little hit-and-miss but their beer is lovely and they are a first-rate wine merchant. Their shops also do a nice line in up-market kitchenware: I have my eye on some spatulas that will be ideal for my mother’s birthday present. Whilst nosing around the Bloomsbury shop, I was grabbed by a member of staff and marched down the basement where they were conducting a wine tasting.

One wine in particular grabbed my attention Juniper Estate Shiraz from Margaret River in Australia. Adnams describe it like this:

‘You’ll want to save this whopper Western Australian Shiraz, with its chocolate-rich, blackberry fruit, vanilla oak and spice for folks you want to impress.’

Sounds pretty grim doesn’t it? Happily it tasted nothing like this description. In fact it was miles away from the clichéd image of good old boy Australian Shiraz, a wine described by Roger Scruton in I Drink, Therefore I am as ‘a wine for hooligans.’ The first impression was lively and fresh: this wine has a lot of acidity. Not that you would mistake it for Beaujolais, however, it’s full of sweet, bright optimistically New World fruit with some vanilla. I detected a floral flavour that I normally describe as violets but having never eaten a violet, I don’t know why I call it that. Must try to eliminate wine jargon!  It smells spicy. A 2005, it carries its age gracefully. The fruit is still very much to the fore though there’s also some woodiness and meat. I’d describe it as an Australian take on the Northern Rhone. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had chosen to label it Syrah rather than Shiraz. I wrote in a previous post that one of my wine prejudices was Australian Shiraz. The Juniper Estate made me realise that they don’t all have to be 15% monsters.

On leaving the Store Street shop I noticed that the pub opposite, the College Arms, is now an Adnams pub. Quietly, inexorably, the Southwold invasion has begun; London is theirs for the taking. If it means good wine, beer and quality fish & chips, then I shan’t be putting up a fight.

Juniper Estate Shiraz 2005, Margaret River, Australia – available from Adnams £15.99

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About Henry

Henry Jeffreys was born in London. He has worked in the wine trade, publishing and is now a freelance journalist. He specialises in drink and his work has appeared in the Spectator, the Guardian, the Economist, the Financial Times, the Oldie and Food & Wine magazine. He was a contributor to the Breakfast Bible (Bloomsbury 2013) and his book Empire of Booze: British History through the Bottom of a Glass was published in November 2016.
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10 Responses to The Southwold invasion

  1. Pippagirl says:

    Invasion of the West Australians! Margaret River is, like, almost my home town. You’d love it. I’m going to go and drink a pint of Ghost Ship to thank Adnams for finally converting you.

    • Henry says:

      I do tend to like the Margaret River wines I have tried. We will come to visit when/ if you move back though not just for he wines.

  2. Chaz Folkes says:

    Good to hear that Adnams is still going strong. I used to drink their beer in cans (!!!) years ago when the real stuff didn’t travel well enough to get to the South East. They brew a good pint, although I find the Broadside a bit much these days.

    I wasn’t aware that they were a wine merchant as well and the bottle you mention sounds worth investigating. Although I wouldn’t quite go so far as to concur with Roger Scruton that Australian Shiraz is for hooligans, I’m probably doing nothing to help its reputation by insisting on paying no more than six quid a go and jokingly referring to it as Kangarouge…

  3. Henry says:

    I can never have more than two pints of Broadside though if the standard bitter is in good condition i can drink it all day. Ghost Ship on draught is meant to be excellent but I’ve only had it in bottle where it was a little underwhelming.

  4. Henry says:

    I popped into the College Arms on Tuesday night for a pint and it turns out that it’s not an Adnams pub. They didn’t even have any Adnams bitter on. Still Adnams are taking over London, even if they haven’t taken over the College Arms, yet.

  5. Chaz Folkes says:

    The Seven Stars always seems to have Adnams on. Not seen any pubs owned by the brewery yet…

  6. Henry says:

    Had a very good pint of Adnams ‘American style’ IPA at Seven Stars last night. Very hoppy and refreshing and thankfully not too high in alcohol.

  7. Patrick says:

    I think that Fry’s Chocolate Cream is flavoured with violet but have never got round to finding out if that’s true. I’ve certainly come across its taste in some wines …

  8. Henry says:

    That’s a top fact if it’s true. I tend to use violets, lavender & lilac interchangeably when trying to describe wine.

  9. Simon R says:

    Ahhh, the Broadside….the traditional lunchtime opener when I would lead my merry men (and woman) through the streets of St Ives to reward their loyalty and hard work. I think two pints would knock me out these days though.

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