The S.H.I.T. Interview: Wine Expert Elizabeth Hawthornthwaite

‘Wine is my passion and my career.’

How much would we all like to say that? But Elizabeth Hawthornthwaite really can.

She started her wine company, Elizabeth and Wine, in a bid to transform the world of wine tasting from stuffy, jargon-heavy, intimidating experiences, to fun, engaging events which everyone can enjoy and take part in.

Elizabeth is a qualified sommelier and has been an operator in London’s hospitality sector for 15 years. She has run some of the City’s biggest and best bars including One Under Lime, The Oyster Shed and The Kitty Hawk, has written countless restaurant wine lists and trained under some of the top sommeliers in the world.

She branched out on her own because she wanted to help get rid of the snobbery and confusion behind wine labels.

How many of us look blankly at a wine list in a restaurant and panic-order the house white because we haven’t got a clue where to start? And that’s exactly what Elizabeth wants to eradicate. As she says, good wine knowledge is as much about knowing what to buy from a supermarket when you’re popping round to your mate’s for a BBQ, to not feeling intimidated when faced with a restaurant wine list.

So let’s hear from the lady herself:

What do you most love about your job?

I love working with groups and individuals on all things wine-related, helping people to develop their palates, seeing them falling in love with a wine style and helping them to understand why they like it.

If you were able to taste wine with anyone in the world, dead or alive, who would it be?

I’d taste vintage champagne with Winston Churchill.

Why is it perceived that men know more about wine than women?

Historically, society expected men to know more whereas the woman’s role was to remain silent while the man chose the wine. I find this very outdated – it goes back to the time when men ordered for women. Nowadays there are lots of great female wine producers, sommeliers and of course millions of women who enjoy drinking wine!

One of Elizabeth’s all women wine tasting events

Describe a typical day in the life of Elizabeth Hawthornthwaite.

I start with a cup of hot water with lemon and ginger, followed by a cup of Earl Grey tea. By 7.30am it is either Muay Thai training or yoga for an hour and I’m at my desk by 8.30am, answering emails and getting on with the day. As early as 10am I’ll be trying wines (any earlier and the tastebuds won’t be awake!).

I often meet clients for lunch and I’ll be back to my desk by 2.30pm for an afternoon of wine research, client emails and new companies who want to work with me in the afternoon.

Trendy bar or old man’s pub?

Trendy bar. I love to get dressed up and enjoy a really nice glass of wine.

Stuck in a vineyard (cause that would be so terrible) with Nigella Lawson, Jamie Oliver or Gordon Ramsay?

Nigella Lawson. She is a barrel of laughs and a strong woman with lots of life stories.

Your favourite wine and a story behind it.

Source Gabriel Rosé from Provence, France.

Regine Gabriel took over from her grandfather who founded the vineyard in 1958. It’s a tiny vineyard with only 10 hectares. Regine was one of the first female producers in the region and pioneer of the pale pink rosé style which Provence is now famous for. Regine is a perfectionist committed to quality and in 2005 certified her vineyard for organic farming. Everything about the way she makes wine is close to my heart.

What’s your favourite restaurant in London and why?

Barbary, an Israeli-inspired restaurant in Covent Garden. I love the energy of the staff and how the chefs and staff gel together. It is a very small space to operate, in the heart of Seven Dials and they don’t take reservations so you queue to get in.

It is a small venue with countertop eating – the place makes me smile as soon as I arrive.

They also have a good wine list at a reasonable price. The music gets up to a party level and by the end of the night you are doing shots off the bar with the team.

You’re on death row (sorry!) but you’re allowed to choose one last meal and wine – what would it be?

Bresse roast chicken with an old Grand Cru Meursault.

What is your favourite wine to grab in the supermarket for a night in with the girls?

Today I saw Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc in Waitrose with £5 off. So only £10.99. It’s a perfect NZ Sauvignon – a real crowd pleaser.

A random fact about yourself.

Last year for everyday of advent I had a glass of champagne. Merry Christmas!

What are your top Christmas supermarket picks for white, red & fizz?

White – Sainsbury’s 2016 Taste The Difference Mâcon-Villages – £8

Red – Waitrose Catena Malbec – £9.99

Fizz – definitely English! Nyetimber Classic Cuvée – Majestic sell it – £34.99

And Waitrose have 25% off Veuve Clicquot today making it £30.

And finally, what makes you S.H.I.T.?

Buying, thinking about, talking about and drinking great wine!

Elizabeth offers group workshops and individual training sessions. To find out more please contact her at

And what’s more, you can get a free prosecco reception by quoting S.H.I.T. – Happy Christmas! 




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