Far from being just a place for Beefeater teddy bears, expensive boiled sweets and seemingly endless journeys to find an escalator, Harrods is one of London’s finest culinary landmarks, packed with fine produce, expert staff and plenty of history.
The food and booze hall is, as you know, expansive (no, I didn’t mistype that), bursting with a rich and wondrous range of things to sample. From obscure meats, lovingly-prepared jars of ‘this and that’, or even just a spot of tea, there’s plenty to keep you occupied.
However, perhaps not so obvious to the average shopper is their range of beer, wine and spirit tasting evenings held throughout the year. Each month they put the spotlight on a different drink, variety, region or country and invite you, dear reader, to come and sample their best and brightest.
I went along to try one of their most recent tasting events focussed on Italian wines. Reds, whites and (just three) rosés spanning Campania, Sardinia, Sicily, Molise, Puglia and Bassilicata were all on display, totalling 39 different wines at my disposal. As I am no expert, I took to a more balanced and curious approach, trying the different regions side by side, and whittling down my favourites.
The chance to do that is really the key to how useful the tastings are, as it can be difficult to ascertain what strikes your fancy, unless you are a seasoned wine buff. In fact, the best and worst I tried both fell within the vast Sicilian red category; the beautifully rounded and mouth spinning Zenner Terre delle Sirene Nero d’Avola (2005, £23.95) making the ghastly Cornelissen rosso del Contandino No. 4 (2006, £21.50) seem almost ridiculous in its placement alongside it. But each to their own, of course.
All of the wines are stocked in Harrods, and many are offered at discount prices for a limited time post-tasting, something which I am told makes those looking for wedding booze very keen to take advantage of.
But if wine isn’t your fancy, or you simply have done too many wine tastings to remember, there is plenty of variety to the events, and this goes for the pricings too, which can range almost as much as the drinks themselves. For example, July is packed with an introduction to sake (10th, £70), gin (19th, £25) and a Bollinger tasting (26th, £80), covering everything from the etiquette and production to the subtle differences between bottles. Canapés also abound to keep the hunger at bay.
Looking to August and beyond, there will be a range of tastings including summer wines and beers (August 16), cognac (September 6) and Bordeaux wines (October 18), with prices to be announced. Check the website for more details or pop down to the wine shop and ask in person.
Obviously, the tastings come at a premium, but from what I sampled you get a tremendous selection to choose from. If more of a helping hand is what you are looking for, also keep your eyes peeled for their periodical introductory wine courses – although do be prepared to part with £150.
87-135 Brompton Road
Tel: 020 7730 1234