Ideas needed for wine club visits
Published:  19 March, 2010

Q I have established a small wine club for my most enthusiastic customers. Iíd like to organise a trip at some point in the summer Ė can you recommend any drinks-related destinations in London and the Home Counties???A The obvious one would be Vinopolis, which offers discounts on groups of eight or more and private bookings for groups of 10 or more. The basic guided tasting tour works out at £25 per person, lasts an hour, and includes a private wine tasting.

Thereís also a premium version, with better-quality wines, for £35 a person; and finally, thereís the Essential Wine Challenge. This costs £45 a head and ends with a blind-tasting challenge, with the winner receiving a bottle of Champagne. A premium version of this costs £55 per person (

You could consider Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking, Surrey. Its Wine Experience Tour includes ďa special-effect 360-degree film, a ride on the people-mover through the working winery, and tasting three wines in the cellarsĒ.

From April until October you can also take a train tour of the vineyard. Denbies has good facilities for visitors, including a conservatory restaurant. Prices range from £8 to £13 a head, excluding meals, (

You might also talk to the nice people at English Vine Tours who organise visits to six different vineyards in East and West Sussex, and two in Kent. Budget tours work out at £35 per person and include lunch (

Q Iíve just acquired a very tatty shop and need to make it look nice for almost no money. The building itself is sound but itís a former electrical shop and it looks very un-winey. Any tips???A We can picture the synthetic carpet tiles, a battered suspended ceiling and white formica. Hereís what our shopfitting guru suggests.

Firstly, paint the walls as soon as possible to get the smell out of the way as quickly as you can. Go for white, as itís cheap and will make the shop seem bigger.

If the false ceiling is in a state, remove a tile or two and have a look at the condition of the real ceiling above. It might be better to rip out the gridwork altogether, which may well suit the shop better, but youíll need an electrician to sort out the lights.

Talk to your suppliers and get hold of as many quality posters and as much POS material as you can.

ook around local antiques shops and buy some old curios to give the shop a more organic look Ė a book case, stuffed with old wine guides and magazines, can cost next to nothing.

Avoid plastic and favour wood wherever possible Ė you can maybe disguise any really ugly surfaces with some DIY tongue-and-groove. Dim the lights a little and expose the floorboards. Donít worry too much about superficial cracks. Handwrite as many shelf tickets and other signage as you can.

Fill a wicker basket with lemons and limes and give them away with spirits sales. Job done. Well, itís a start, anyway.

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