Wine Tasting at the Summertown Wine Café

[UPDATE: I have just learned that the wine café has now closed- apparently the owner just packed up and left. Real pity.]

Despite having been in Oxford for nearly six years now, and having had a keen interest in wine for about three of those years, I’d never been to the Summertown Wine Café. The idea of a wine café in Oxford appeals to me a lot, given my fond memories of sitting outside brasseries in Paris: working through the wine lists, eating cheese, and playing cards. So when a friend suggested we check it out and spend an afternoon there recently, I jumped at the opportunity.

With a wine list of 50 wines, there is a lot to choose from. But if you don’t know what to choose- that’s fine as well. You can taste 10 wines for £9, great value in my opinion, as tasting a variety of wines is the quickest way to start to learn more about wine. What’s more, you can actually buy the wines you have tasted to take home with you, so you can make sure you drink wines you know you like. The café runs a few organised tastings with producers from time to time, and summer barbecues are running every Wednesday at the minute. They are open weekdays from Monday to Saturday 8.30am – 11pm and Sunday 10am  – 10pm; it’s a little way outside of the city centre, but worth the trip.

When we arrived at the café, the first thing I noticed when stepping in was how relaxed the atmosphere was: door wide open, lots of open space, and comfy chairs. A sausage and red onion marmalade baguette was being made and served. I remember thinking what a great place this would be to come with a book or some work, and I could only imagine how buzzing it would be in the evenings, and what fun it would be to take a group of friends to do a tasting. Sitting down at the bar, we had a friendly chat with the people running it, and when we mentioned that we hoped to do a blind tasting specifically of French wines, to sharpen our skills for the Oxford Blind Tasting Society, that was no problem at all. In fact, the gentleman behind the counter was the captain of the blind tasting team himself a few years back. We sat at the bar, and three glasses promptly appeared, ready for the flight of French whites.

We had a great time doing the tasting, with a good amount of discussion with the two behind the bar, given it wasn’t particularly busy that afternoon. It was clear they had put a lot of time and effort into picking their bottles, and definitely knew their stuff about wine as well. Of the six wines we had, we both got three of them correct: one bottle we both got correct, four bottles one of us was correct, and one bottle neither of us got- of course, with the appropriate amount of kicking ourselves for silly guesses. The only unfortunate result is that we can’t now do another blind tasting of French wines there, having seen a good few of the French wines they have- at least until they change their menu. But I will certainly be back, though, to see what else they have on their list.

Our flight of French whites: Chablis (left), white Bordeaux (centre), and Loire Sauvignon Blanc (right).

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