A couple of nights ago we were fortunate enough to do a staycation at Hampton Manor. On the Saturday of this glorious weekend, hungover on whisky and feeling very full, we attended a wine tasting with MD James Hill which forms part of the schedule. James would start by telling us this was a session led by an enthusiast and not an expert, one whose eyes had been opened by a wine specialist named Sam Olive. With a copy of the book ‘Natural Wine’ nestled on the counter, James spoke about how Sam had stripped away the bullshit behind wine, and used a language which was accessible. He told the group how Sam and business partner Taylor now had a garage in Digbeth from which they operate a little wine shop called Wine Freedom, incidentally the name of their bullshit free natural wine business.
Rewind ten days prior and I’m sat in that plant-filled, white washed garage drinking wine with my lovely friend Jo. I knew about Wine Freedom already. Over lockdown we had deliveries from them, and prior to that their produce is in many of my favourite places (Ynyshir, 1000 Trades, The Plough et al). Taylor worked a few hours in my favourite pub and and it seemed like you couldn’t go anywhere without seeing them, including my home, where my girlfriend stores a laminated picture of Sam in a tight grey t-shirt underneath the bed.
I quintuple parked as soon as we got there. I wanted to try all of the wines available by the glass. These seem to be the most user friendly of their range; approachable, young wine which contains grapes and nothing else. I’m still trying to fully understand natural wine but I’m getting there slowly. I do like the ones which taste of wine, but give me the wild ones that have notes of cider and perry and I’ll show you ciders and perry I prefer more. If it means anything I liked all the wines we tried that afternoon, and really really liked a number of them.
In the effort of research we also ordered all the food from the shortish menu. They’ve kept it simple; three cheeses from Neals Yard, good bread and butter, chutneys and pickles, and a potted pork. That potted pork recipe can be found on page 60 of The Book of St John and is possibly the best rillettes recipe you will find, loaded with Madeira, garlic, and spice. The chutneys and pickles too mostly come from the same book, though some have been touched by the grace of Dom Clarke of Caneat. It’s all great, from the squash chutney with ras al hanout, to the pleasingly acidic green tomatoes pickles. It’s all rather special and very inexpensive.
Alas it wasn’t supposed to be like this. There were plans to make it a more finished space, but then the world went to shit and they decided to spend the revised and much lower budget on plants and pallets. They were supposed to have a kitchen and a chef and they still might, but I don’t think it needs it. The wine and the charming service and the communal bit of food do they is just a perfect way to whittle away a few hours with friends, especially when that friend insists on paying the bill. But what do I know? I’m no expert. I’m just another enthusiast trying to understand a little bit more.