Join the Wine Rebellion
The perfect gift for foodies - or to self - Muddy tries the Wine Rebellion version of the award-winning Brighton Food Tours
If you’re looking for a unique gift experience to give, or want to ring the changes on a festive lunch, then do check out Brighton Food Tours. Enthusiasts Cat and Angela take people on culinary journeys around the city, picking up nibbles and learning behind-the-scenes tales from the best local independent eateries.
I gave two of their regular VIB (Very Independent Brighton) food tours as presents last Christmas, having heard good things, and joined the newer Wine Rebellion tour myself just recently. Here’s how I got on…
Though it’s not a wine venue, we meet up at new micro brewery Holler – just opened the weekend of our visit to hear about their plans. They’re letting customers order in pizza from the lovely Fatto O’ Mano over the road – so already a big tick in my book.
So why Wine Rebellion? Our guide Xavi – half Catalan, half Mexican – tells us he got fed up with the shrouding of wine in snobbery and mystery. He came up with the idea of taking people out as he would his friends – for a glass of vino here and a tapas there – and teamed up with the Brighton Food Tours who jokingly dub the concept ‘acceptable daytime drinking’.
Xavi tells us about an experiment he did whilst studying viniculture at uni involving drinking wine in rooms with red and green lights and how it completely altered the taste of the drink. The style of glass, the environment and many other factors enhance or detract from our enjoyment, he says, because they change our perception of what we are drinking.
We move onto Semolina where we have some lovely nibbles and Henry Butler from Butler’s Wine Cellar is there to tell us how the recommends mainly lesser-explored Portuguese wines to go with the style of the food.
I also get tips on the lead in time required for getting into this popular but rather tiny restaurant.
At Silo, at tables with melted vinyl record plant pots, we hear more abut the restaurant’s zero waste ethos, try some of its ‘natural’ wine and meet a local potter experimenting with making tableware from used wine bottles (a process that uses less energy than recycling).
Natural wine doesn’t generally use sulphites, and though it’s growing in popularity it can be an aquired taste. It went down well enough on our tour.
As this is a ‘rebellion’ themed tour, it’s not the only natural wine we try. We drop in at the lovely Plateau, which, I hadn’t realised before, serves all organic wines – and try another – a sparkling Loire Valley Sauvignon Blanc, along with some dill, beetroot and homemade curd blinis.
At winebar-cum-shop Ten Green Bottles, over what turns out to be the only red of the day, (it’s a lottery as to what’s opened on any tour) we snack on pistachios and some of the best olives I’ve ever tasted and attempt a cut down version of the quiz they offer to groups who don’t want a full wine tasting.
Let’s just say it’s a good job the theme is anti-snobbery because we don’t do so well at working out what wine were supping from the descriptions.
We finish up in style with champagne and oysters at Riddle & Finns on the seafront, where we find out about their anti-snobbery policy on choosing their fizz and about the British-produced caviar on their menu. There’s also a breakthrough foodie moment for me.
Oysters have been one of the few foods I really can’t stomach – on a joint hate list with Spam. I nearly threw one up once at a posh function in a museum! I’m encouraged to give them another try, with the offending salt water tipped away and dipping sauce added. It goes so well I end up having three!
We also pick up a voucher for free glasses of champers on our return (there are exclusive savings handed out on every BFT tour).
We’ve covered six stops, plus out meeting bar in around three hours and being a bit of a lightweight when it comes to daytime drinking I’m quite comfortably sozzled by the end, even without fully downing every glass. With the amount of booze and nibbles we got at each stop as well as the inside gen it’s also proved unexpectedly good value.
Though the venues alternate, every tour hits a similar number of stops. The more regular Brighton Food Tours are really varied as with over 50 participating eateries a great many permeations are possible.
Of the venues we dropped into on the Wine Rebellion tour, some were already favourite haunts, others I’d been meaning to try for ages, some I’d mistakenly thought were more expensive or always booked out. It was good to chat with the managers and not only get a feel for what they do, and a sense of their enthusiasm, but also ask insider tips on best time to book, special offers and more.
It would be a brilliant way to get the lie of the land if you’re new the area but even though I go out in Brighton regularly, I still learned loads.
It’s also a chance to meet like-minded people and swap recommendations. As we walked between spots (trying to guess our next venue) I picked up all sorts of tips from our guides and others in our group – favourite eateries; restaurants I didn’t know were affiliated to each other; the off licence that’s so-so on wine but great on beer; another that does someone’s favourite prosecco and so on.
Xavi also shared his favourite affordable wines, what to look for in a decent prosecco and more.
It’s a sophisticated bar crawl, a great alternative to your usual drinks out with friends or visiting relatives, or, particularly if you’re on the food tour version, rings the changes on going out for lunch.
Any BFT tour can be adapted for private groups and you should get a big ‘cheers’ if you gift one to someone into their food and drink.
Regular VIB (Very Independent Brighton) Food Tours run Fridays and Saturday, fortnightly in winter, weekly at other times. Food and Beer, Drink Brighton and Wine Rebellion tours run on selected dates. (The next Wine Rebellion Tour is in February). Gift vouchers are available for all tours.
by Debbie Ward