I read in the news a few weeks ago that Selfridges has fallen foul of zealous Trading Standards officials who deemed their new Wonderbar to be in breach of Weights and Measures regulations. The bar is equiped with this marvelous piece of technology that allows opened bottles of wine to be kept under an inert atmosphere and to dispense measured samples of upto 120 different wines. The idea is that customers purchase a swipe card with a certain amount of credit on it, which then allows them to chose which wines they want to sample. The selection on offer was quite astounding really and included as its "star attraction" a 1996 Petrus for a very wallet friendly £32 per 25ml sample. This was such an attractive offer that apparently they went through two bottles in the two weeks that they were operational. But the problem, as far as T.S. officers were concerned is that the Weights and Measures act dictates that wine is sold in measures of 175ml or 125ml or multiples thereof.
Now the weights and measures act has many strengths, it is there to protect consumers from being ripped off by unscrupulous vendors. Thats most definately a good thing. But when it prevents opportunities such as presented at Wonderbar, you have to question its effectiveness. And so I support Decanter magazines petition to get the law changed to allow smaller sample measures of wine to be poured (http://www.decanter.com/press/petition/).
Currently it is illegal for us to offer "flights" of wine, where four or five smaller measures of wine are poured around a central theme - eg Pinot Noir. Wine flights are very popular in the States and down under in New Zealand and Australia. They allow customers the chance to have a comparative tasting without getting plastered drinking more than a bottle of wine. When you consider that the government is currently considering numerous measures to curb our apparently excessive alcohol consumption, allowing smaller measures of wine for sampling and flights would be quite a sensible move. As ever we will have to wait and see what happens. However if you live in the UK please visit the petition and have your say.