As I have discovered over the past two years, The Oxford Wine Company can boast of a rare thing, the provision of a Bacchic solution to two perennial events of almost every student’s life: pres and the essay crisis. The latter is perhaps better known: the Oxford Wine Café, located on the corner of Little Clarendon, is undoubtedly the ideal spot to fit in an afternoon of work, a welcome oasis of gleaming wood, bright light, and deep leather armchairs when the prospect of a dark and dusty library corner is just too daunting.
Here you can lunch on soups, salads, and smoothie bowls, energised by their excel- lent coffee. But it’s when the health buzz and caffeine starts to wear off, and it feels like you’ll never hit two thousand words that this excellent institution really comes into its own, because now you can turn to a refreshing glass of Vermentino or a calming Burgundy and relax as the words start to flow just a little bit more easily.
Of course, if you’re feeling sensible you might instead motivate yourself with the promise of a celebratory drink once the essay is complete – but personally I’d recommend taking advantage of the illusion of acceptability that the word ‘café’ provides day-drinking with. Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it, trust me.
In addition to the flash of marking genius that came up with this verbal alternative to ‘bar’ and thus hit the bull’s eyes with the stressed afternoon student demographic, the Oxford Wine Company also hosts a series of one-off or annual events, such as the Bordeaux Dinner (a Quod-catered, three course meal accompanied by wines which are probably older than you are – admit- tedly it only costs slightly less than a ball ticket and therefore, although objectively good value for money, isn’t the best suited for the average student budget) and the Oxford Wine Fair .
The Oxford Wine Fair is held in the Randolph ballroom; having purchased a ticket you then, for the evening, have the opportunity to sample over 80 different wines – and believe me, 80 glasses, even if they’re tasting portions, will almost definitely see you through to Bridge and beyond.
On a more serious note, if you do consider yourself something of a connoisseur when it comes to wine this particular tasting event is very reasonably priced, and a lovely opportunity to talk to some wine producers and vintners. Anybody who frequents their central store on Turl Street will know that it can be a bit hit and miss when it comes to value for money, and often it seems that even the 10% student discount and added bonus of having your purchase lovingly wrapped in Oxford-blue tissue paper doesn’t really make it superiors to the wine-shelf at Tesco’s.
The Fair (and indeed the Café) allow you sample some of their range and determine where the gems lie (in my opinion, towards the front of the store where the European wines are; their selection from the new World lurking at the back has yet to impress me). A particular favourite of mine is the Chateau Haut Gaudin (£12.99), but you might also be drawn in by the Symposiac label of the Morellino di Scansano Riserva (£19.99), and I would also suggest venturing all the way to the back if you’re a fan of desert or fortified wines.