Shooting the Wine and Spirit Show


A couple of weeks ago now my partner and I attended the Wine and Spirit Show at the National Liberal Club, One Whitehall Place. Tickets are usually priced at £40, but with a cheeky Groupon voucher we bagged 2 tickets for under £40! This, as it turns out was exceptional value! 

The setting for the event was spectacular, a proper classic building featuring a sweeping marble staircase, high ceilings and fairly opulent surroundings. With a free gin of your choice on arrival (which barely touched the sides, it was a pretty hot day!), it was time to grab a glass and explore our surroundings. 

Spread across five rooms, the show included a gin bar, wine tasting room, spirit tasting room and 2 masterclass rooms. With so much tasting to do, we didn't get round to the master classes, but these were pretty busy and on such an unseasonably hot October day this wouldn't have been much fun.

The wine hall was a fair sized ballroom type hall, the perimeter of which was filled with wine ambassadors from all around the world. All the obvious front runners were there such as France, and Argentina, but there were many surprisingly pleasant countries to be found, all of which now escape me.  There was however impeccable British wines  - something I am becoming increasingly fond of. 

Now I am no wine buff, I like what I like and I'm always up for trying new things. The event drew all manner of folk, from people who like me are up for trying, people who were genuinely serious and were taking meticulous notes about the wines, and those who were total tools acting like they knew what they were talking about, but you could spot a mile off that they were winging it to show off! 

I wish I had made some notes regarding the wine to share some tips, but I've got to be honest, I was to busy enjoying myself to take it that seriously. One notable drop was Angel Wings, an English winery producing some good stuff!

With half an idea of what to expect I didn't go with any real intentions of taking serous photos, but after a few wine samples I started to get a feel for it and took the opportunity to do some documentary style shooting to try and capture some interesting shots of people enjoying themselves. 

After a couple of hours of wine tasting the alcohol was starting to take a hold which did give me a boost of confidence to be a bit more spontaneous with my shooting, despite this I did manage to miss some great shots. This may have been more to do with the level of inebriation than anything else. 

Because of the low light conditions, the want to capture more of a documentary style, and the threat of oncoming inebriation I decided to shoot the entire day using my Fast Prime, Sony FE 50mm 1.8. I don't often use this lens because I prefer a bit more range in my focal length, but for an event like this it was ideal.

Being a 1.8 and shooting in shutter priority I did run the risk of missing my focus with such a narrow focal plane, and disappointingly I did miss some great shots because of this. At times I did switch to manual focus and use the focus assist (a Sony setting which applies a colored layered to you plane of focus in your view finder) which did help a lot. 

I have noted that some of the bokeh produced because of the bold shapes look very blocky which I didn't find particularly attractive. But the trade off would have been more grain with a higher ISO. If you're not following, I'll be doing a post that explains exposure soon so keep an eye out for that. 

Grabbing a cheese platter from the cheese merchant appointed by the Queen (which was amazing btw), it was time to hit the spirits. This was when things began to increasingly decline.

The spirit room had such a broad range of emerging sprint brands to sample which was truly impressive. All manner of gins, whiskies, rum tequila etc. I'll showcase a few shortly which I was particularly taken by.  Although you were only taking medicine cup size samples, the friendlier vendors would happily keep topping you up if you were enjoying their product. This truly was the danger zone. 

Starting with the beers (not exactly a spirit, but whatever)  there was a fine array of beers all laid out, but as a self proclaimed proper beer drinker, those on offer were a little too 'crafty' for my taste. 

The first of the pleasant surprises was Welsh Whisky, yes you did read that right. Nope, haven't a clue what it was called, but they had 6 different bottles including 3 single malts that were matured in different barrels (port, sherry and, err, something else). All of these whiskies were delightful, something I really didn't expect from Wales if I'm honest. If you want tasting notes I would suggest you find a wine and spirit blogger, all I can say is it was good! 

Ice Wine was another product that took me by surprise, and this one I do know the name of. Rebel Pi, the owner of which features on the current line up of the Apprentice although I haven't been watching it this time around. Her stand was a little different form the others. Stripped right back, nothing fancy, just a couple of bottles. Oh, and samples cost £15! But at £120 a half bottle it's no surprise she can't afford to just give it away. 

Keen to see what the fuss was about I stumped up the cash, and I am happy to report that this stuff is amazing! Imagine an intense white wine, but very sweet and syrupy that lingers on the tongue. Very, very tasty indeed. At £15 a thimble, you're damn right I was going to remember what it tasted like!

Some of my noteworthy drops were Codigo 1530 Rosa Tequila, which was a very smooth easy drinking Tequila instead of your hold your nose and throw it down your neck gear. Definitely look out for a bottle of that.

Opposite is a little bottle of magic that every fridge should contain! This small bottle of Xpresso Martini made with cold brew coffee literally blew my mind! It was so tasty and had a fairly modest alcohol content, so ideal for breakfast! Only kidding, I'm not an alcoholic really. I could have very easily slipped a few of these into my bag and smuggled them out had it not been full of my camera gear. 

Now, I have left the best to last. Gin drinkers take note...

Without doubt my favorite drinks of the entire show, Horse Guards Gin is a small business with serious heritage and a fine product. This London Dry gin cuts through the BS of today's hipster fashion gins and returns back to basics. Crisp, clean and perfectly balanced between the 4 key botanicals that make up a proper gin. First served to us straight from the bottle with a gentle squeeze from a fresh orange peel, I was instantly in love. Trust me, you want this, you really do. 

It had been a pretty full on day and we should have probably left it there, but we didn't. 

I went for a wander on my own and stumbled across a stall serving a variety of whiskies including some recognizable Scottish and Irish Single Malts, and even an English Single malt. Stood by the stall was a young lady from Canada, her partner who was English, and a serious Scottish chap. So ensured some serious tasting. 

Having arrived around 1pm, drank our way around the world with wine, enjoyed the Queens cheese, sampled some incredibly tasty spirits and followed this with a whisky drinking competition between Canada, Scotland and England I was eventually ejected from the venue at 7:30 PM for being drunk. Mission accomplished! 

In all a very good day, very pleased with the event and would highly recommend to anyone who is interested in trying new drinks, especially if you can get a cheap ticket! This isn't a shooting opportunity I would normally gravitate towards, but I am glad now that I did take my camera. The main lesson I take away from this is that drinking and photography do not necessarily go together for me, at times I was actually forgetting where to find settings on my camera! 

Thanks for reading, drop any feedback or questions below and don't forget to like and share! 

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