The Long Run with Cat Brandwood


I’ve injured myself. This is typical me – like that time I booked a 10K race only to promptly kick the table I was sitting at and badly break a toe. A clear sign that, subconsciously, I’m rebelling.

It’s been the perfect excuse to not take myself too seriously for a few weeks. Perfectly timed, as this is the time of year that one has social plans, daaaarrrrling. The Wine Club summer social being a particularly fun afternoon.

The Wine Club has been meeting weekly since May 2020 over Zoom. During lockdown I realised that I was missing the daily interaction with customers. Wine Club was a simple idea – to open one wine per week and present for half an hour before allowing questions.

I never really expected it to go anywhere but it seemed worth a punt, if only to break up the monotony of life at that time. It quickly became a monster. I’ve learned more about wine in the last three years than I have in the rest of my 18-year career. I’ve presented a deep dive into regions, grape varieties and production methods (including a six-week investigation into ageing vessels that I am particularly proud of). To talk for 30 minutes straight about one wine, every single week, and keep it interesting … I’ve really had to do my research.

This group knows each other – new jobs/homes, published books/articles, weddings, special birthdays. You name it, we’ve lived this together through a screen every Wednesday evening. I’ve seen holiday apartments as people tune in abroad, not wanting to miss out. We’ve even seen an Alaskan glacier.

There’s no doubt this group has got me, and each other, through difficult times along with the good and they are very much the reason that I love what I do so much. They are the anthesis of those “difficult” customers that occasionally darken the day (a fellow business owner adds an ‘n’ to customer here – insert that where you see fit).

At its largest, Wine Club had about 40 subscribers but we’re down to a post-pandemic 20-ish. This 20 is a core of nonsense-talking individuals obsessed with maps and coming up with ever more absurd themes for me to shoehorn a selection of wines into. Currently we’re embarking on “seven deadly vins” with each wine tied to a deadly sin. This is the most ridiculous theme we’ve had, but I am secretly proud of the reasons for some of these choices.

Sometimes I think that commercially I should be trying to encourage more people to join, but there is that moment every single week where an off-topic conversation starts and I remember that no one else needs to hear this. I don’t think that the general population is interested in joining a debate about the animal with the largest penis relative to body size, or an overly long piece about how to properly sex your tomatoes.

The summer social was a glorious afternoon spent playing croquet, eating cucumber sandwiches paired with Bacchus and scones paired with Brachetto, among others. This was food and wine matching fun that kept me updating my whiteboard in a frenzy for several weeks as yet another “great idea” popped into my head.

This bunch of wine enthusiasts from different backgrounds, all with different tastes, are simply wonderful, and it’s a rare delight to see people that probably wouldn’t have got to know each other in real life connecting, sharing and enjoying the vast majority of the wines I’ve been peddling. I hope I get to spend many more Wednesdays with them.

Cat Brandwood is the owner of Toscanaccio in Winchester


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