Tapas pop-up at Ruby & Claret
Quirky, under-the-radar and all about making wine fun - Ruby & Claret is the kind of business that Muddy exists for. Check out this hidden gem.
The people of Earls Barton can’t get enough of this wine shop-cum-tasting room-cum-pop up venue, but it’s still a hidden gem for a lot of the county which is a darn shame! To be honest, I think every town could do with a business like this, a haven of lovingly curated wines suitable for all budgets and occasions but also a place for like-minded people to congregate.
Clare is the wine guru behind Ruby & Claret and is on hand to offer honest and tailored advice so you can be guided through the selection of wines and leave with the bottle that best suits you and your taste buds. Oh, and they have loads of events and social things like supper clubs, book clubs and wine clubs (feel like you’re in a Richard Curtis film yet ; )
It’s all about the wine baby; but mixing the buying experience with the drinking experience.
The large bespoke up-cycled tables mean you can enjoy your bottle of wine in-store while chatting to other shoppers/drinkers who’ve popped in for a more bespoke experience than at the supermarket. Popping a couple of bottles in the trolley at the end of your weekly shop might become a distant memory if you give these guys a go, because the social vibe and personalised service is really appealing. There aren’t any wines under the £7 mark; which still means there’s lots of very affordable bottles, and Clare wants to show people that wine isn’t stuffy and formal. As she told us when we visited, ‘it’s fascinating and diverse, but above all, it’s great fun’.
Clare started her wine career as the Wine and Spirits Buyer for Cockburn & Campbell, at that time owned by the Bedford based Charles Wells Brewery. She then moved to be Head Buyer of an online wine subscription start up called Sipp Wine. During focus group sessions in that role, she could see wine had a bit of a PR issue and was seen as difficult to understand and consumers found picking a ‘good bottle’ akin to splitting the atom (editor’s note, Clare wrote this bit – I think she’s after my job). Ultimately she wanted to make the wine buying process easy and enjoyable, and show that even something that sounds as stuffy as a wine tasting evening could be a whole lot of fun. Her events have been called ‘posh piss-ups’ which she agrees is accurate to a degree, but she thinks most people learn a bit too!
SCOFF & QUAFF
It’s mostly about the quaff (as above), but there is some scoff with regular pop up events and tastings.
I went along to a pop-up Tapas bar evening inspired by Logroño’s famous Tapas street, Calle del Laurel, a lively little town in Spain’s renowned Rioja region. We were welcomed with a glass of Cava on arrival (Masia D’or Brut Nature Cava), and then enjoyed four super tasty Tapas dishes prepared by chef Chris MacArthur. Chris works with Clare on all Ruby & Claret events coming up with super tasty dishes that match the wines of the region showcasing. Clare says the events get people to explore wines that they might not have picked off the shelf themselves and she gets a real joy from introducing drinkers to ‘their new favourite’.
The dishes we had were a traditional Spanish Tortilla (loved it – and I’ve had many a tortilla in my time), a contemporary take on Pan Con Tomate (tomato on toast), Fabada Asturiana (pork and bean stew, the pork is first roasted then slow cooked), Butter Beans in a Romesco sauce (which is tomatoes, ground almonds and bread – again, super tasty but wasn’t for everyone as the lady to the left of me attested to, but she loved everything else) and then a traditional Meatball dish to finish. The dishes were accompanied by homemade olive bread and Plus One snaffled up the lot!
To go with the food Clare served an unoaked Rioja (sometimes called Joven on labels) from Alta Vega. It was fruity, super juicy and incredibly easy drinking, making it a great wine for parties and a perfect partner to Tapas dishes (it was TOO easy drinking tbh). It was a top night and as Clare said when we were leaving ‘I love what I do, and Chris loves what he does, and together, I reckon we pull together a pretty cool evening.’ Hear, hear says us!
OUT AND ABOUT (Earls Barton)
Forget those high streets full of the same retailers (zzz), Earls Barton offers a lovely selection of independent retailers and businesses, from pubs to beauty salons all in a bustling, quaint village with a great atmosphere. You can tick a bunch of things off your to do list here, like grabbing a fine piece of meat from E Lee and Sons family butchers, spending an hour relaxing over a pint in the cosy Saxon Tavern pub or ‘Me Time’ in the award-winning salon Pink Rose Beauty.
The village is also home to New Lodge Vineyard, an award-winning vineyard that not only sells wines from the cellar door but also lets you have a gander around the vineyard. Working family farm Scotch Lodge has a farm shop, craft shop, herb centre and café that serves up fresh food using only the best ingredients and their very own produce (all served on beautiful hand embodied tablecloths). There’s also The Sugar Mouse, (great for the kids), Opus Artistic Hair Design, Apothocoffee shop and one for the lads, The Quarters Barbershop.
THE MUDDY VERDICT
Good for: Wine lovers, those wanting an alternative to supermarket vino and also fab for people who want to meet like minded people. Great for those who want to discover, experience and fall in love with super tasty wines, it would be appreciated by regular vino drinkers and those who want to try something a little unique and special. Great for those who love a pop-up or themed night too!
Not for: Those wanting an anonymous wine purchase amidst a throng of milling people. The shop is small, bijoux and intimate; and will always have someone on hand to answer any questions!
The damage: Prices are reasonable with bottles of wine from £7 a bottle and they go up to £80 should you be after something special. Pop up nights and wine tasting evenings are around the £25 to £30 mark. Tasting nights are informal with some canapes and around 6 wines to taste!