Talking Wine with Manchester Wine Tours’ founder – Kelly Bishop

Food & wine writer and communicator Kelly Bishop launched Manchester Wine Tours in October 2023. She was also, this month, included in the Code Hospitality Women of the Year 2024.  Eatnorth catches up with her to talk all things wine.

When did you first discover a love for wine?

I ALWAYS say my wine journey started with a demijohn in an airing cupboard – and that’s not a euphemism!

My dad used to make (bad) wine from kits he bought from ‘Boots’ the chemist. He would add local sloes to the mix sometimes and I would help him squish the berries.

There would always be a demijohn glugging away in the airing cupboard opposite the loo. So, I suppose that piqued my interest as a kid.

I started drinking wine alongside food at home, and at restaurants on special occasions. My parents both drink wine but they are far from experts, and we mostly had supermarket wine around the house other than the stuff my dad made.

I only really got nerdy about it when I became a food writer in my 30s. I felt completely clueless about wine so, I did my WSET qualifications at Manchester Wine School and really got bitten by the bug thanks to the enthusiasm of wine educators, like Simon Woods MW and Laura Kent.

Picture of food and drink writer Kelly Bishop pouring wine on Manchester Wine Tour.
Picture courtesy of Debbie Ellis

What’s new on Manchester Wine Tours?

I launched Manchester Wine Tours in October 2023, so it has just passed the six-month mark. It’s still a young business and I’m constantly tweaking it to improve it.

Our walking tours take in seven different delicious wines accompanied by a tasting experience in each venue. As well as sampling some superb wines, one of our guides will lead the group through the city, explaining more about Manchester’s history and culture as we go along.

I have changed the days I run the tours, and they are now available to book on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday afternoons with options for other days/times as private events only. I’m always adding new venues – with some exciting places potentially joining soon. It’s ever evolving and that’s how I like it.

Fantastic feedback

I’m pleased with the feedback I am getting and trying hard to absorb it because I’m very self-critical. I’m always thinking of things I could have done better.

So far, I have 43 five-star reviews on Trip Advisor and have just been listed on Google. I am getting good reviews there too. So that must be a sign I am doing things right.

I also get a lot of people in real life telling me they have heard wonderful things about the tours, so word is getting around.

“I love that people are talking about what I’m doing in such a positive way. I think it also speaks volumes that even in a short time frame, I have already had multiple people book again to do another tour. If that isn’t a vote of confidence, I don’t know what is.”

My tours change all the time as I work with quite a large pool of venues. I change up the wines constantly so they’re never the same twice.

Read more: Discover the best bottles on a wine tour around Manchester

What has been your favourite wine and food match to date?

In a broad sense, that’s impossible to answer as I have tasted so many great (and terrible) pairings.

On the wine tours, there are these super indulgent ‘cheese doughnuts’ at one venue (I don’t want to give the game away too much), that always elicit groans from the group, especially when they are matched with hearty reds.

I also enjoy seeing people’s perceptions of orange wine change when matched with things like garlicky flatbread and hummus. On a more personal level, I have done a few wines, and ‘everyday foods’ matches on TikTok, and I was particularly pleased with my Alsace Gewurztraminer x Coronation Chicken.

How does it feel to be named in the Code Hospitality Women of the Year 2024?

I was completely gobsmacked that this tiny Manchester business could have reached a London-based industry expert entity like Code (who also looks after The Good Food Guide), not least within 6 months of inception.

So, the fact that I ended up on the final list of 55 women shortlisted from 850 nominees was a real honour. I went to the event at Claridge’s, I n London and had a lovely time drinking champers and nattering with a roomful of exceptional women.

Restaurant critic, Grace Dent, presented the awards. I tried not to fangirl too much. I still don’t know who originally nominated me, but I am incredibly grateful to them and to Thom Hetherington, who launched the Northern Restaurant and Bar Show, amongst other things, was on the judging panel championing women from the North.

You are on a bit of a roll this year. What else are you planning?

I’m thinking of doing some themed wine tours, perhaps one for Beaujolais Nouveau Day in November, for example. I’m also wondering whether to dabble in doing them outside of Manchester but that would take a fair bit of planning – and also perhaps involve me cloning myself.

At the moment, I’m busy with the wine tours and releasing an album with my band The Empty Page so I don’t have much capacity for other stuff, but I hope to keep improving my food and wine blogs on Substack.

Tell me about the wine t-shirts?

I have only made one t-shirt so far and it’s a bit niche! I always make obscure connections to wine terms that help me remember things or simply try and make people laugh.

For example, when I was studying for the French Wine Scholar exam, I renamed the Champagne/Chablis soil Kimmeridgean Marl “Kim Kardashian Marl” to help me remember it – and it worked, I passed with the highest honours.

In Beaujolais, amongst other places, they use a process called carbonic maceration which results in very unusual bubble-gum/candy flavours in the wine.

“I always thought carbonic maceration sounded like a death metal band, so I had one of my death metal artist friends design me a death metal Carbonic Maceration t-shirt in honour of that.”

Picture of a death metal wine t-shirt

I’ve still got a few available if anyone wants to buy one?

Pop fact: the most famous person to own one of these tees is the guitar tech to Robert Smith of The Cure.

Is the Northern wine scene growing? Are there more women in wine now based here?

Yes, as Manchester’s hospitality scene has exploded in the past decade, there are now so many more opportunities in wine. Cork Dorks – The Manchester Women in Wine group – I helped co-found, now has over 40 members and is growing. There are tons of us. It’s great to see.

What do you want to see happen in the future with the Manchester wine scene?

I think it’s thriving at the moment, but I’d always be keen to see more cool wine bars open. I’d love to open my own one day but let’s take things a step at a time.

I’d also like to see more people from diverse backgrounds welcomed into the wine world. We are making some progress in that department, albeit slowly.

Wine can be enjoyed by everyone (who drinks alcohol), so that should be reflected more in the industry. I’d like to see it keep developing into a welcoming, inclusive space rather than the elitist world of the past.

Go to Manchester Wine Tours to book.


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