Judith and Colin Cropley know a thing or two about wine. Just off the beaten track in Greenodd near Ulverston, you’ll find The Porterage, and within it, their love affair with wine. I popped in last Friday to meet them both and well, to pick up some wine in time for the weekend (withdrawal symptoms were kicking in).
As far as independent wine shops go, this one is just fabulous. Warm and welcoming it’s a wine lover’s dream. The shelves are stacked high with all manner of wine choice with hand-written labels adorning a chosen few. Spike the resident dog holds fort by the door lying on a huge cosy rug. The whole experience on entering their shop makes you feel, well, right at home. In fact all this place needs now is a squishy leather sofa and there would be no moving me. I’d happily park up, start supping and listen all day to Colin’s quirky wine tales.
Having worked in the hotel and wine trade for donkeys years, Colin became a wholesaler, selling French and New World wine to pubs and hotels. Still the focus of their business, they decided to branch out into retail, opening The Porterage here in Greenodd back in August 2015. They’ve just taken a further plunge and opened their second shop in Bowness – hurrah! (as that one’s closest to me).
It’s clear that Colin loves his wine and spends a lot of time whizzing round trade shows and conducting wine tastings all over for hotels, charities and other businesses as well as private individuals. Passionate about sourcing unique labels his enthusiasm is contagious and I’m listening avidly whilst he dashes around the shop picking up bottles and describing the stories behind each brand. It’s truly fascinating as he reels off the quirky origins and grape varieties that make him tick.
I’m not a massive wine buff, nor am I a gambler. Come The National, I’ll always choose a wacky horse name over the actual odds. Equally when it comes to wine, I love a large glass of sauv blanc on a Friday evening, but am easily swayed by a funky label or unusual variety of grape. If like me, when it comes to wine you’ll give anything a go… then here’s a few alternatives that Colin picked out. As it’s unlikely you’ll pay less than a tenner a bottle (well it is a specialist wine shop) at least you’re assured of taste quality if you do purchase based solely on the name!
Don’t Tell Gary is a fantastic Australian red and a labour of love – one which Gary (the wine producer’s accountant) didn’t know about… In 2014, winemaker Jo Nash discovered an exceptional parcel of Shiraz from the Grampians which she gently crushed, then tucked away in some ridiculously expensive French oak barrels to age for 12 months. A simple label with a unique story, it is the minimal intervention and purity of fruit that makes this a cracking Shiraz and at £12.50, it’s reasonably priced too.
Smart Dog. A great story behind this label. In the Alentejo region of southern Portugal Joao Portugal Ramos was roaming his estate trying to find a decent place to grow Syrah vines to add to his many native Portuguese varieties. The story goes that his dog started digging after chasing a rabbit down a hole. What he revealed beneath a layer of top soil was a deep red sub soil, iron rich and perfect for the Syrah grape. A tall tale maybe, but hey, it makes for a great label and well, a decent bottle of Portuguese Syrah.
Aside from the great selection of wine, it’s good to see that there’s a decent variety of local beer and spirits as well as that all-important offering of cheese as the mandatory accompaniment to one’s glass of plonk.
Kendal Mint Cake Vodka has its own pride of place next to the likes of Judith Kin’s Toffee Vodka and Ulverston’s very own Shed 1 Gin. It’s a tipsy treasure trove of Cumbria’s best booze production sitting proudly alongside a delectable selection of worldwide wines. I could definitely spend a small fortune in here and may just have to pop in to the new Bowness shop to top up my wine rack.
The Porterage Co Ltd, 4B Crankside Business Park, Greenodd, Ulverston, LA12 7RT
www.theporterage.co.uk T 01229 861088