The past year has seen the welcome arrival of some new independent wine shops in Portsmouth. But did you know that there are two where you can go wine tasting for free each month?
Wines by The Sea – Sunday Sessions
Wines by the Sea opened on Albert Road a year ago. It aims not to stock wines that the supermarkets sell, so you can always find something a bit different here to take home and enjoy.
Approximately once a month on Sunday afternoons, the shop opens for free tasting sessions. These are themed around subjects that customers want to know more about, as well as the changing seasons.
“We featured English sparkling wine for the coronation, with two really excellent speakers who knew their products inside out”, says owner Lucy.
“We also offer more than just wine, and I really enjoyed the spirit tastings we did recently with local producers talking about their businesses and the products they produce right here in Southsea!”
All the sessions are informal, lasting around 45 minutes with slots at 1pm, 2pm and 3pm.
Upcoming Sunday Sessions
The next Sunday Sessions at Wines by The Sea will be on the afternoon of Sunday 21 May, with the theme of ‘Summer Reds’.
“Red wine is typically considered more of a winter tipple, so this session will help us explore some that are lighter and perfect to enjoy when it’s warmer”, Lucy explains. “It’s a great opportunity to try something a little different too.”
The following sessions will take place on Sunday 2 July and will also have a summer theme, yet to be announced.
Booking is now open for the May sessions, and at the time of writing there were still a few places available. For details, check out the shop’s socials and send a message to book. Visit their socials:
The July sessions will open for booking later this month, and the best way to keep up to date on these and future events is to sign up to the shop’s email list here. That way, you’ll be the first to hear about them and can book your place early.
Other reasons to visit Wines by the Sea
Even if you can’t make a wine-tasting session, I’d highly recommend a visit to the shop. The owner Lucy is a qualified sommelier and has given me some excellent suggestions over the last few months.
“I enjoy providing solutions to peoples ‘wine problems!’ “, she explains. “For example, wine and food pairing ideas for meals you’re cooking at home, or if you’re buying a gift for someone who likes a particular style of wine I can suggest something similar but different.”
Every time I visit, there’s is something new to discover. “We’ve just started to stock some amazing organic wines from the Czech Republic, an area I never previously considered”, Lucy says by way of example. “We’ve been really impressed and the fact they are organic and very reasonably priced is a huge plus!”
Camber Wines – Sipping Saturday
By way of contrast, Camber Wines was established more than a decade ago and is a family business located in Old Portsmouth above the abarbistro, which it also owns.
Its free wine-tasting sessions take place on the last Saturday of each month (excluding the August bank holiday) and aim to explore different wines that you don’t usually find off the shelf.
“Sipping Saturday introduces a variety of new styles, different grapes and countries – and it’s great value too because we always have the featured wines on special offer for the day!” explains manager Christina.
Something I particularly like about Sipping Saturday is the small selection of canapes that you get to accompany the wines, such as cured meats and hummus on crostini. You also receive a card for scoring the wines and adding your tasting notes.
Again, the sessions are informal and last under an hour, with slots available throughout the day from 11am to the last session at 4pm.
Upcoming Sipping Saturdays
Camber’s next Sipping Saturday will explore some interesting new wines from Bulgaria on Saturday 27 May.
The following sessions will take place on the Saturdays of 24 June, 29 July and 30 September and the best way to keep up to date is to subscribe to their mailing list or follow their socials.
To book a place or make an enquiry, you simply need to email them at firstname.lastname@example.org with your preferred slot and the number of people.
Other reasons to visit Camber Wines
The team at Camber Wines prides itself on keeping up with the latest trends, always aiming to find the next ‘best wine’ and sharing its expertise to help you learn more about what you’re drinking.
“In 2023 we are seeing a rise in organic, biodynamic and sustainable wines, with wineries being more cautious about what is going into the land”, says Christina.
“We are also seeing really good value from South Africa and Southern France, for example, Vermentino in the Languedoc. This is great to see as it provides more diversity for wine buying.
“My go-to at the moment is Cava – I’m a huge fan and it’s making a comeback. For example, we’re seeing Cava Reserva with a minimum of 15 months on its lees (like Champagne NV) which is showing a dramatic improvement in quality and taste without the increased price tag!”
I also like the fact that Camber Wines makes a great base for an afternoon or evening out. Whether you visit on Sipping Saturday or create a private wine-tasting session tailored to your group’s own preferences, you can always head downstairs for some food in abarbistro afterwards, or walk around the Camber to explore some of Old Portsmouth’s other great pubs.