Birmingham’s Great Western Arcade has enjoyed something of a renaissance over the past couple of years. It is now a thriving community of independent retailers, from the wonderful vintage charity shop, Forgotten Vintage, to the foodie treasure trove that is Anderson and Hill.
The arcade’s newest arrival is Loki – an independent wine merchant and tasting house with a twist.
Loki was a Norse god who enjoyed making mischief. He loved nothing more than stirring up trouble amongst his fellow god-buddies, snd that spirit of mischief is exactly what Loki is bringing to the sometimes-stuffy world of wine tasting.
You won’t find any of that “I’m getting an aroma of rose petals scattered over barbecued trout” pretentiousness in store. Instead you’ll find the incredibly chilled-out, smiley and helpful wine expert, Phil. Oh, and don’t forget the three “wine preservation machines” Jancis, Robert and Oz.
Yes, this is a trio of state-of-the-art wine storage and vending machines. They enable Loki to have up to 24 wines available to taste at all times. That’s right 24 wines, priced from about 40p per sample. That’s a lot of wine tasting potential!
Customers buy “tasting credit” on a special Wine Tasting Card, which is inserted into the machines. They then get to select their wine, choose whether they want a sample, a half glass or to indulge in a full glass, then it is simply matter of pressing the button and watching the wine slosh into the elegant glass. It is a pretty cool experience!
The main shop is stocked with full bottles of the wines, so that people can walk away with their favourite to enjoy at home. There is also a gorgeous lounge area upstairs, with leather couches and lots of stylish dark wood. It is ideal for a date with a difference or for relaxing with friends. Meat and cheese platters are available to help with those wine induced snack cravings.
I went along on a Saturday afternoon with some mates. We all like a glass of wine, but we are by no means wine connoisseurs. In fact, my main reason for liking Sauvignon Blanc is that it tastes a lot like Um Bongo. I put £10 on a card to share with my husband. Phil listened to my Um Bongo preferences without even batting an eyelid; he then identified two tropical-tinted white wines that he thought would be perfect for my somewhat niche palate.
Based on Phil’s tips, I started with a half-glass of Schild Estate Unwooded Chardonnay. I was a bit nervous, as I’m not normally a fan of Chardonnay. But this was a revelation – it lacked that cloying honey taste that I normally associate with this variety of wine. Instead it was packed with the fruity and exotic flavour that I love. I then moved on to the trendy La Linda Torrontes, which was crisp and dry, tingling on my taste buds and delivering just the right amount of fruity flavour.
On my next visit I plan to expand my winey horizons and investigate to reds and rosés. In fact, it will be tricky to walk through the Great Western Arcade without stopping for a swift sample.
Oh, Loki. You are mischievous but I like you.
36 Great Western Arcade
Monday - Wednesday 10am - 7pm
Thursday & Friday 10am - 8pm
Saturday 10am - 6pm
Sunday 12pm - 6pm