Twisted Cellar: New wine merchant brings a flavour of rustic France to the heart of Stortford
The blackboard outside says it all:"Life is too short to drink plonk- and the owners of a new wine merchant on Bishop's Stortford's high street are on a mission to introduce people to vin that's less ordinaire.
Twisted Cellar, in South Street, is the brainchild of husband and wife Joe and Sharon Grice, who, frustrated by the shortage of choice offered by wine retailers, decided to take matters into their own hands.
You won’t find boring, high street plonk here, they claim, but an intriguing selection of New and Old World wines with a focus on France, Italy, America and the UK, including locally produced tipples.
Everything in the 2,000 sq ft store is displayed in handcrafted surroundings, designed and made by set designer and sculptor Jay Cole, to evoke a French farmhouse in the heart of the town centre.
The couple have enlisted the help of sommelier and self-styled ‘director of hydration’ Jonathan Kleeman, who joins the business following a distinguished career in London, most recently at the Michelin two-star Quattro Passi. Prior to that he was deputy head sommelier at The Ritz and head sommelier at the Michelin-star Social Eating House.
In addition to unearthing interesting wines, spirits and champagnes, Jonathan has scheduled tastings throughout the year, both in store and out and about with Twisted Cellar’s mobile bar in a converted horsebox. The Grices’ 24-year-old son, Liam, also works for the business.
Joe said: “We searched far and wide to find someone not only with Jonathan’s expertise and experience but also with his enthusiasm and charisma to make Twisted Cellar a destination for Hertfordshire, the likes of which is usually only found in London.
“Jonathan will be sourcing hard-to-find wines from around the world and will also be imparting his palette via regular tastings and events at Twisted Cellar HQ.”
Jonathan added: “I want to show both modern and classic wine styles from smaller producers specialising in handcrafted winemaking. Wines that are expressive, but also polished and refined. We won’t showcase big names or brands; we’ll simply concentrate on top juice, made with both head and heart, by great families who are as much a part of the land as the vines they grow.”
Alongside the carefully curated wine on offer, customers will find local speciality spirits, including One Time Gin, distilled on the outskirts of Bishop’s Stortford in Linkside Road, and Herts craft beer Mad Squirrel, brewed in Hemel Hempstead.
With around 170 wines on opening, Jonathan added: “English wine will be a big part of what we do, with local varietals such as those from Four Acres, made just around the corner in Little Hadham. Their production is only around 2,500 bottles, so it’s truly handcrafted.
“Outside of our wine offer we want to support other local and UK makers, so we are only working with Mad Squirrel craft beer to show a quality product that is not in the mainstream and is brewed in Hertfordshire.
“We’ll also open with around 60 gins – the main focus of our spirits. Two standouts include One Time Gin made in Bishop’s Stortford and Old Curiosity Gin from Scotland. They’re both super-high quality and bring something different to the table.”
For those who might not be able to make it to the Stortford cellar there are plans for an online store and website offering information and advice, from tasting notes to Jonathan’s recommended food pairings.
In the longer term, the Grices, who live just outside Stortford, plan to open a new store in the Herts and Essex area every year over the next five years.