For me, the soul of a city lies in the hearts of the people who invest their time and love there. The best way to find about a place is to talk to the people who care. Like the old man in the pub who has sat in the same seat for over 30 years, the kindly faced lady in the veg shop or the young woman with her arms splattered with chocolate as she makes salted caramels for her little place. They're the ones who know.
Just like James knows.
But who's James?!
Well, one misty Saturday evening, I realised that I needed a bottle of wine. I resent going to the supermarket because they always ask for me identification even though I am the grand old age of 27. It's embarrassing because I can't drive and I don't happen to carry my passport with me. What's more, having been spoilt for choice and service at Sexy Wine in Barcelona, I find the wines at most supermarkets to be pretty dull. And what's more yet, is that I prefer independent shops because they're usually friendlier and...
So when I sauntered down Palace Street by the fading light of 6pm, I could hear the jaunt of some jolly folk music wafting through the glossy blue doors of Wild Ferment. And there he was. Staggeringly tall and thumbing through a magazine. Surrounded by shelves brimming with glinting bottles and jigging his knee to cry of the fiddle. We made small talk about Spanish wines, which is where I made my beeline and, as it was the shop's first birthday, we had a little sip of some excellent French wine, which James assured me would be kind to my oncoming migraine as it was made without any of the usual nasties you might find, like sulphur.
I finally chose a bottle of Gran Cerdo (click on the link) and went on my way, promising to return by the light of day for more words.
And so return I did.
So James, where are you from and how long have you been in Kent?
Well actually, I'm originally from Norwich. I moved down this way, what, ten years ago? No, it was twelve, around the year 2000. I came to be with my (now) wife. Do you know my brother, Adam? He owns the Veg Box Cafe.
Yes I do know Adam. He has an incredible ginger beard, beautiful babies and makes mean lentil, aubergine and cauliflower dhal.
I live in Faversham so it's not just Canterbury that I love. It's Kent. Or East Kent abiding like Folkestone and Whitstable and all those wonderful little seaside places. I've always felt like Canterbury is 'on the cusp' of being magnificent. There's exciting things happening all the time with music, art and the independent shop scene.
Why did you open Wild Ferment?
I was the area manager for Oddbins Wines for years and I went all over the country to help run shops and train people. When they went bust, you know they went bust? Well, I suppose it was a push to do it.
Well you see, wine is a really big thing but I feel like people only see the tip of it. You have your posh wine shops and your supermarket but I don't feel like either of these places give people the chance to know much more. No one talks to you in the supermarket about the wine.
So why are you special?
I think wines are really fascinating and endlessly evolving. I suppose Wild Ferment is a gateway between the supermarkets and the posh places. We want to sell interesting wines. That means the ones that come from small farms, from people with character and those who aren't afraid to be experimental. At Wild Ferment, I like to think that we sell real wines from real people. Take your bottle of Gran Cerdo for example, Gonzalo is such an interesting guy and the name of the wine is quite raucously a reference to Franco. Those are the kinds of wine I like. Those with the stories and the characters. And of course, the place. Wine comes from so many places. There are big vineyards and then those who are simply doing it because they love wine.
Where's your favourite place in Canterbury, James?
I really like the Blackfriars, oh wait, is it the Blackfriars Garden? Do you mean where the river and the little monastery is? Yes. That's the Greyfriars. Yes, the Greyfriars. Lovely place. I also like a good pub. Like the Bell and Crown. There aren't many pubs that are just themselves these days and the Bell and Crown just is what it is. A great, slightly grotty local pub full of townspeople.
Well, thank you very much James, I'm defo a die hard Wild Fermenter for life now and shall be spreading the word. See you on Friday the 9th of November for one of your regular wine tasting evenings?
If you want to know more about James and Wild Ferment, you can go to their website or simply pop on in for a chat. Forget Tesco... Wild Ferment is where you'll want to be buying your wine from now on. Open until 7pm weekdays, 8pm Saturdays and 6pm Sundays.