Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Wine by the sip returns to Selfridges

Selfridges’ head sommelier Dawn Davies has won a five-year legal battle to allow 25ml measures of wine to be sold at the department store’s Wonder Bar, the drinks business reports. Leading the campaign by members of the wine trade, Davies persuaded ministers to scrap "mad, archaic" laws that barred bars and restaurants from selling wine by the sip. Having sold 25ml measures of wine when the Wonder Bar opened in 2007, Davies was told the sips were in breach of the 1988 Weights and Measures Order, specifying that wine can only be sold in 125ml, 175ml and 250ml glasses.

But her indefatigable lobbying has paid off, and the law has been amended. “We got an email from the government's National Measurement Office the day before New Year’s Eve. Westminster were supposed to call, but I guess they were too busy with the New Year celebrations,” Davies said. When I saw we’d won I screamed and jumped up and down – it didn’t feel real. I couldn’t stop dancing around the office. It’s the first time the government has done anything positive for the drinks industry in a very long time,” she added.

All the wines at the Wonder Bar are now available in the 25ml measure with prices starting from £1. The new "sips list" includes Chablis 1er Cru, Vaillons, Domaine Christian Moreau Père et Fils at £1.75; and Château Pichon-Lalande’s second wine Réserve de Comtesse at £2.75. Davies plans to celebrate the victory by putting some very special bottles on the bar’s fleet of Enomatic machines. “I want to put some old Burgundy on there, an old vintage of Sassicaia, and some old Bordeaux, perhaps even Pétrus,” she teased.

Teaming up with Jamie Hutchinson of Islington wine shop The Sampler in 2007, the pair organised a petition, wrote letters to Lacors ­– the body in charge of local government regulation – and persuaded drinks industry trade groups, including the drinks business, to lobby the government. “The campaign was a fast burner to begin with, then it lost momentum, and I had to keep nudging the government with emails,” Davies said. “After four years of fighting, it felt like it was never going to happen, as they stopped answering my emails, that’s why I was so shocked to hear the news,” she added, believing the overturning of the law to be “massively important” for the wine trade.

“Any venue in London or indeed the UK can now serve wine by the sip, which gives the on trade more flexibility and opens up the world of wine education – it will be great for venues like Vinopolis,” Davies said. The new regulation means pubs and restaurants can sell wine in any measure they like below 75ml.
The law change had been due to come into force last year but was delayed by the election.

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