Sommelier Fiona McLain, 30, has launched a wine bar with a relaxed ‘try, buy, enjoy’ approach in new premises on Yarm High Street.

Fourteen Drops is holding a special opening event this Friday (November 10).

Fourteen Drops (this refers to the number of drops left after a bottle of wine is finished), encourages customers to try carefully-chosen wines, buy them off the shelf then enjoy them in the bar’s relaxed space.

Fiona McLain – photo by Simon Hogben Photography

In a concept not unlike trying a spritz of perfume from a tester in a fragrance shop before you buy, Fiona hopes to encourage people to step outside of their comfort zone and try new wines.

“We plan to have new wines every week for people to experiment with. We know people tend to stick to wines they like because it is a gamble to try something if they’re unsure how it will taste.

“At Fourteen Drops we want to encourage people to expand their wine-drinking horizons, try new wines and to make them think about drinking better wine.”

The wine bar will have a range of wines for sale and a weekly-changing selection of specials which customers can try before they buy.

They will also be able to select wines from the shelves, pay a corkage fee then drink them on the premises. Charcuterie  and cheese platters will also be available to eat alongside.

Fourteen Drops will also serve coffee, tea and soft drinks during the day.

Fiona has been in the wine trade for a number of years a sommelier at Rockliffe Hall near Darlington and Michelin-starred House of Tides in Newcastle. She has achieved WSET wine education qualifications.

Her partner Andrea Asciamprener, who is from Milan, has been a sommelier and national wine buyer for 15 years. His expertise and contacts within the trade mean they have access to smaller wine producers as well as one-off vintages bought at auction.

Fiona hopes that as an authentic wine bar, the concept of Fourteen Drops will appeal to genuine wine enthusiasts.

“The name comes from family folklore – my grandpa, remembering his Navy days said there are always 14 drops of wine once you’ve emptied a bottle – it’s a good one to try and usually true!

“We want to offer a relaxed and approachable way to drink and try wine by offering a selection of wines that aren’t available elsewhere, so people who really enjoy wines can know that every week there will be something new to try.

“An example is a 1982 Sassicia which is known as a ‘super-Tuscan’.

“We will have money-can’t buy wines – often those that you would only see on a restaurant menu – but people will be able to try these are a lesser price than at a restaurant.

“It pays to drink better, but we realise that people can be scared of paying for a wine they are unsure of. So, we are trying to allow them to access new, exciting and delicious wines that they can enjoy it and learn more about it. We also want to champion smaller producers and support ethical wineries.

“Traditional wine lists can be frustrating because people stick to what they know. We work in wine but even we get bored by five-page wine lists – so we will aim to use our expertise to ‘curate’ a winning list for customers.

Fourteen Drops – photo by Simon Hogben Photography

“We will draw on wines from across Europe with snacking plates of European meats and cheeses, encouraging the very relaxed continental idea of slow, lingering and sociable enjoyment of wine and good company”, adds Fiona.

Fourteen Drops will also have a selection of craft beers as well as coffee and teas available. There will also be a hot dish of the day with a paired wine.

Regular tastings with wine-makers are also planned in coming months.

What’s hot in wine

– Prosecco is so last year – Franciacorta is the latest Italian sparkling wine to name drop, made from a similar method to Champagne.

– Austrian sparkling wine – who knew? Pet Nat is a pale and interesting must-try.

– Think about higher quality wines from less obvious regions – Austrian reds and impressive Greek wines. 

– The Riesling revival is on its way, time to re-think the 80s party wine.

– Say hello to sherry. Get a Fino fix and be the coolest customer on the block.

14 Drops, High Street, Yarm

Twitter: @14drops | Instagram: @FourteenDrops

Photos by Simon Hogben Photography