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We started Tasting Notes in January of this year and something I've enjoyed about it is connecting winemakers to the people who enjoy drinking their wines. This seems particularly relevant for the 9th edition. I spoke to James Hines who along with his partner Oakley has been a very good customer of Highbury Library for the last 6 years. He knows a lot about wine but even more about music so I was excited to see what he would put together to Sophie Evan's unique and delicious "Blauer Silvaner 2021".

James grew up in Brighton in the 90s and was obsessed with music as far back as he can remember. This began by religiously recording episodes of Top of the Pops, acquiring his first 7" record (Ice Ice Baby) around the age of 9 and then getting his first CD/Tape player around 1993. His parents were listening to Prince and Bowie in the house and his Gran, who is still attending jazz festivals in her 80s, was also a big inspiration. The Prodigy Experience became one of the most important albums of his youth but he was also listening to the likes of Blur, Beastie Boys and Nirvana. “When you grow up in Brighton, it's almost expected that you should have an interest in music" he says.

He was getting his hands on rave tape packs from brothers of friends who were old enough to attend such events but once he started college, it was Hip Hop that really took centre stage. James hooked up with his friend Ben Caton and they started DJing together, playing instrumentals for local MCs to rap over at Slip Jam B in Brighton.

Later he made the move to London and met people with even deeper and broader tastes. One group in particular had a huge influence on his life who he met at a venue called the Tottenham Swan. They were heavily into genres like Grindcore and Noise Rock and introduced James to bands like Sightings and Arab on Radar Coachwhips along with labels such as Load and Skin Graft. It was exciting for him to peel back these new layers and reach new musical depths.

Next he moved back to Brighton and teamed up with another friend, Matt Hendon to start a radio show and club night called Where To Now? which later morphed into a label, now 15 years old and home to around 100 releases.

Upon returning to London, he discovered the newly opened P Franco and was instantly hooked on natural wine. The scene provided similar aspects to that of music. James loves being around people that have deep interests in specialist subjects as he is someone who loves to investigate things himself. He had already spent time working in food and drink but this natural wine movement felt particularly appealing with its anti-establishment message and mission for new flavour experiences.

I met him when he stumbled into Highbury Library in early 2017 with Oakley and I remember how shocked and excited they were to see what kind of wines we were selling. They became great customers, the kind of people always trying to discover something new.

James has now worked in various natural wine bars and you can currently find him pouring at Sager & Wilde on Hackney Road.

The playlist is a real journey! It should be listened to in the sequence provided but you might have trouble making that one bottle of Sophie’s wine last for an entire 4.5 hours….good luck!


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