Changing the way people drink wine here in the UK is an exciting challenge and one that we accept wholeheartedly. If you’re a like-minded soul who shares our passion for great Italian craft wine that defies taste expectations – and want to keep track of the boxed wine revolution via – you can also sign up to receive our monthly news round-ups.
UPCOMING EVENTS – Chat and taste with us at;
Cheltenham Food & Drink Festival, Friday to Sunday 9th – 11th June 2017, Montpellier Gardens, Cheltenham
The Wine Gang, Summer Festival, Saturday 17th June 2017, HAC London
I’ve got a bit of an etymology fetish, so when I looked into the history of the word “innovate”, I discovered that the original Latin meaning was ‘introduce as new’ or ‘restore’. So less ‘invent the wheel’, not even ‘reinvent the wheel’, more ‘wow I just found these wheels at the back of the garage, they were a bloody good idea, I’m going to start using them again’.
When in Rome hasn’t thought up an app (yet), nor made an electric car (though on that point I can’t help reflecting that the venerable 1970s British milk float was a lot more useful than a Tesla). But I think we’re an innovative company in the original sense of the word.
To see how, take a look at these holiday snaps from a recent trip to Italy of a good mate of mine. The subject is “le buchette del vino di Firenze”, or the wine portals of Florence, a quick and efficient way for Florentine bankers and wine merchants to flog their delicious wine to customers about 300 years ago. People brought along their own bottle (“fiasco”), passed it through the portal, had it filled and took the wine home to drink with dinner that evening. Fab idea, though sometimes the glassblower messed up and the wine bottle didn’t fit in the portal properly. That’s the origin of the word “fiasco” in English. I told you I had an etymology fetish.
In the same way that most visitors to Florence walk past these portals without noticing them, still less knowing anything about their origin, 97% of wine sold in the UK still comes in single use wine bottles. And nobody really knows why. Even I knew nothing about these portals when we started When in Rome, but I absolutely love the idea and it makes me far less terrified of our mission to change the wasteful way the UK drinks wine today. We’re not innovating at all, we’re just reminding people what a good idea wine portals were.
This summer I’m going to take my phone to Florence, bring up our wine portal at www.wheninromewine.com on the browser and take a picture of our wine portal inside a wine portal!
The last snap of course isn’t from Florence, it’s from another beautiful city founded by the Romans – Bath. More specifically Wolf Wine (www.wolfwine.co.uk ), who in their heroic embrace of wine refills are following in the footsteps of the great Florentine wine merchants who started these portals, many of whom are still in business 300 years later. Together, and thanks to our customers, we’re trying to make Wine Portals great again!
There can’t be many of us who haven’t yet chuckled over the clip of a BBC interview with a rather straight laced expert on South Korea being ruined by his kids, and if you ever work from home and have a family it will have struck a particular chord.
But beyond the laughter, this clip makes a couple of serious points. 1) Why should he be so mortified by his kids appearing? (it happens, just pop them on your lap and solider on for a bit) and 2) I’ve seen plenty of comments about him refusing to change position because he was wearing pyjama trousers beneath the suit jacket (why on earth shouldn’t he?) . Possibly his reaction, and certainly the internet’s reaction, shows – despite the huge tech advances that make it possible – just how persistent are myths about working from home. Or are they myths?
I’ve been working from home full time on When in Rome now for just over three months, and here are my confessions. Bless me Father, for I have:
– Worked all day in my pyjamas
– Deliberately booked evening Skype calls to avoid the kids’ bedtime
– Not had a shower for two days running
– Enjoyed listening to awful traffic reports on the radio from the comfort of my kitchen
That said, we’ve just spent two months preparing to launch the Glitterati, the UK’s (& possibly the world’s) first box wine club, and I’ve worked several weekends and many evenings until the small hours. Thanks to not commuting, this is actually compatible with family life and doesn’t make me miserable. I’ve also had some great ideas for the future of the business thanks to comments from my wife, neighbours and kids (“but what if people don’t like wine Daddy?”) .
In short, for those of you who don’t work from home, all your suspicions about those who do are true, but if it makes you a more productive and happy employee, so what?
As When in Rome continues to grow, we’ll shortly be looking for an office (as, probably, will accidental internet sensation Robert Kelly), but I’ll continue to keep home working in the mix for me and everyone else on the team.
France is the epitome of civilisation – the bread is so natural you have to run home from the bakers to eat it before it turns stale, strangers kiss each other on the cheeks when they first meet, they all use bidets.
But something very sinister is going on in their supermarkets, and not just in the cheese aisle, where lumps of furry not-quite-dead stuff look you straight in the eye and dare you to buy them. It’s worse. Wine bottles are disappearing.
At When in Rome we spend a lot of our time (and marketing budget) reminding people that the fabulous wine they drank in Italy probably came from a carafe, but there’s an even more tangible example closer to home. Box wine in France. When did you last go in to a French supermarket? Did you notice that almost half the wine aisle proudly displayed boxes? Yep. Box wine now accounts for fully 38% of retail wine sales in France, compared to just 3% in the UK.
Sure, some of it is plonk. But increasingly, it is really good too – take a look at Bibovino, whose top of the range wine box costs over €100 and who counts Gerard Depardieu amongst its fans (thank God a man who drinks 14 bottles a day has finally switch to boxes!). Whereas box wine in the UK was a passing fad in the 1980s (just like the bidet), in France it has firmly taken root and continues to go from strength to strength. There’s even an annual best-wine-in-box competition, which When in Rome has just entered.
Of course, the French know nothing about wine. If the Romans hadn’t have invaded and shown them how to make it, France would only be known for its temperamental bread and cheese. But if, like me, you quietly admire the French for both their joie de vivre and their savoir vivre, isn’t it time you tried box wine?
EU environmental legislation is a prime example of Brussels “red tape” that many hope will be removed after Brexit. So hang on to your shares in Coca Cola UK, whose extensive lobbying against the EU’s planned Deposit Return Schemes has recently been exposed by Sky News. DRS are an attempt to return to times gone by, when people could collect a modest deposit for returning glass bottles to the point of purchase. Great for the environment, but terrible for the likes of Coca Cola, who’d incur a lot of cost and inconvenience shipping bottles back to their bottling plants.
Hang on though, isn’t most glass recycled these days anyway – so why do you need a DRS? The answer is, because reuse is better than recycling. In green speak, recycling is the last of the 3 R’s: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. And this is especially true of glass.
Ok, I admit glass is cool. Glass in windows, example, is great. It lasts almost forever, lets the sunshine in (passive solar heating in yet more green speak) and gives people the joy of watching the beautiful outside world from the comfort of their home. Glass can be used to make solar panels. Glass is also infinitely recyclable, whereas plastic is technically downcycled i.e. drink containers turned into carpets etc
The problem is the glass wrapped around your favourite drink. When opening a bottle of wine or any other drink, the chances are you’re more concerned about the quality of its contents than the packaging. Yet drinks bottles account for the overwhelming majority of the glass that’s recycled – which in turn uses a gargantuan amount of energy , because glass generally melts at a temperature above 1000°C, making it more energy intensive to recycle even than aluminium, which melts at 660°C.
So it’s time to start reusing glass bottles! At When in Rome, we’d obviously love you to use ours, again and again. Even for water. And we also love Milk bottles, which are used an average of 13 times before being recycled. But in reality , we need a nationwide DRS to encourage reuse, reduce litter and dave energy. Let’s hope there’s room for it even after we leave the EU. Oh, and stop drinking Coke, that’ll do you some good.Share