Wine expert, Olly Smith, reveals how he got started, his ultimate pet peeve and the secret to the perfect G&T!

Wine expert, Olly Smith, reveals how he got started, his ultimate pet peeve and the secret to the perfect G&T!

Posted 19th Mar 2019

English fizz, The Ideal Home Show, and the one drink he would never touch again… Olly Smith reveals all!


How did you first get into the wine industry?

“It all started from delivering boxes of wine and lifting them up endless flights of stairs. I was a delivery boy/storeman for Orange & Company Vintners and I think I learnt more from looking at where the wine was being delivered, who was ordering it and why they were ordering it than anything else. I’d like to say my snake-like figure hasn’t changed much in the 20 years since I was lifting boxes – it was certainly good for me!

"I then entered a little-known competition on TV called Wine Idol. About 6,000 people entered it and I was one of the outsiders really, but I kept on speaking about the wines in an informal way because I wanted to bring the personality of the wine to life. One of the prizes was a year’s supply of wine – let me tell you 72 bottles of wine is more like a weekend – and the other was an audition for Great Food Live. I went into the audition and it went well, they invited me on the show, I paired my first wine with Brian Turner and I just kind of fitted in – that really launched my career."


You’re going to be at The Ideal Home Show on selected dates, what can visitors expect to see from you?

"I’m chuffed to bits to be returning and pouring the drinks, I can’t believe it’s the 111th anniversary of the show! We’re bringing the Best of British this year, so I’ll no doubt be pouring some fantastic English wines. Last year was a superb vintage for English wine producers – there was a lot of warm weather, a lot of quantity and, crucially, a really consistent quality! I’m going to try and bring some of the early white 2018 wines from England.

"I’ll be wandering round the show too; I love meeting people, being available to the conversation and helping people to bring joy to their drinks in the coming months!"


You’re going round a friend's for dinner, what drink are you going to bring?

"I always bring English sparkling wine, because the quality is so good. I’ve been collecting English wine seriously since 2000 and the more I taste English fizz the more I believe it’s the pinnacle of the world’s palette. Some of the best wines out there are being grown right across Britain. 

"I quite like taking something that’s a bit unexpected as well. A really good own-label supermarket wine often gets a lot more attention than the expensive wine; it shows that wine doesn’t need to cost a fortune to be fantastic."


How would your perfect day begin?

"I’d definitely say with my wife. I love my wife – she’s amazing. As long as I can bring her I don’t really mind how it begins. A hot coffee, walk with the dog… I love a busy schedule, but as long as I can bring Sophie I don’t mind where you put me. We met at school and we’ve never looked back."


Which drink would you never touch again?

"I’m yet to find a drink that I don’t love. There is one flavour that slightly haunts me though, as I find it dominates every other flavour, and that’s sage."


On the odd occasion where you might over-indulge, what’s your hangover cure?

"Plenty of cold water, plenty of walking (preferably outside) and a heroic amount of sleep. If you can’t sleep, then doze to your favourite piece of music. I find movie soundtracks a nice way to distract your mind."'


Apparently you make the best scrambled egg. Is this true?

"I do make the best scrambled egg! It’s really simple; a little touch of extra virgin olive oil makes it look sensational, then a pinch of salt for flavour, beat the eggs and gently bring them up to the heat, then take it off the heat about 30 seconds before you think it’s ready. The residual heat will keep on cooking the eggs until it's just right. I’m quite happy to make it for whoever would like me to!"


What's the secret to a perfect G&T?

"First of all, put more gin in than you think. Another big tip is to plan ahead and fill your ice cube tray with tonic water and freeze them. Use those ice cubes for your G&T, and as they melt into the drink they will reinforce the flavour. If you use normal ice cubes they tend to dilute the drink. I think for a garnish you can move beyond the citrus as well and try something jazzy like a big wedge of mango, pink grapefruit or pomelo."


What’s your pet peeve?

"It’s a good question. There are very few, but I would say when people aren’t as polite as maybe they could be – especially when it’s towards someone of senior years. A little bit of respect is really important in life and we should be kind to one another. If someone is lacking in politeness I think they’ve missed an opportunity to make someone else’s day."


If you had to choose one drink to have for the rest of your life, what would it be?

"I know a lot of people are going to think it will be wine, but the best drink in the known universe that I would be more than happy to drink exclusively for the rest of my life is a pint of Harvey’s Best Bitter from Lewes.

"It’s the best brewery in Britain, my favourite pint, and it’s local to me. As long as they’re still going for another thousand years, I would choose to live another thousand years and exclusively drink their beer. It’s the most delicious balance between the depth of the barley malt and the wonderful little tickle of hops – definitely the most moreish, balanced, beautiful, exquisite, refreshing and enlightening beer known to mankind."


The Ideal Home Show will be at Olympia, London, on 22nd March - 7th April 2019. Join Olly on the 23rd, 27th, 29th March and 4th and 5th April.

Tickets start from just £5! To find out more about the show, or get your tickets, head to

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