Jeremy Smith loves his indie so much that, in his entry for our competition, he explains why he's changed his whole schedule.
In the 17 years I have lived in Muswell Hill in North London, watching independent shops and cafes come and ago, usually to be replaced by charity shops and chains, few openings have given me as much happiness as the arrival last year of Prohibition Wines, run by Paul and Louise Shanley. It started with the happy – if initially disconcerting – realisation that 'the offie knows my name'. Now it has changed the route I take around the shops, as I make a point of always ending my shopping there, so I can put my bags down, browse happily and buy a bit more than I maybe planned, knowing I haven't any more shops to visit before heading home...
Their innovative and globally ranging stock has helped me explore the wonders of Albarino and Godello. Introduced me to Cannonau, the Grenache from Sardinia. And furnished me with a rolling supply of reds from what has become my favourite current vineyard – Domaine Treloar of Rousillion. I am never encouraged to spend beyond what I plan to, with recommendations often being for wines costing less than whatever nominal budget I have declared I am looking to spend.
They provide me with what has become my default gift for friends and family – the Highgate-distilled Sacred Gin – and not just this locally produced and award-winning London gin, but most of the rest of Sacred's range too, including their vodka, vermouth and Negroni kits. Meanwhile their range of London micro-brewed ales, from the likes of Brew By Numbers to Beavertown, means I haven't drunk a boring beer or an insipid IPA in over a year.
And just as I have changed my route, so I have altered my schedule, thanks to their weekly wine events. Many weeks they will have tastings on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, often guest hosted by one of their suppliers, or someone like Ian from Sacred. And when it's not a guest supplier, it's just them cracking open a few bottles for their regulars or anyone who pops in to join them in tasting. For someone who works at home, their five o'clock Friday tasting has reinvigorated the institution of 'poets' day. My working week now ends an hour early, with a sampling of whatever is being introduced, always available at a 10 per cent discount. Their laid back approach means you never feel that once tasted you'd 'better buy something'. So good is what they select, however, that I invariably do.
One simple incident sums up what I love about Prohibition Wines. I once asked for a recommendation for a wine to pair with a particularly obscure meal, and rather than feigning knowledge or brushing me off, Louise pulled out the very book on offer as a prize, looked up what it suggested and showed it to me. No pretension. Just a genuine enthusiasm to learn about and share great wine with anyone eager to discover it too.
34 Fortis Green Rd
tel +44 (0)20 8444 4804