A WINE merchant that claims to offer an exciting and reasonably-priced alternative to supermarket shelves opened in St Neots this week. With every wine personally approved by the proprietor, customers can be sure they know what they are getting and can taste before they buy, Matt Ellis told The Hunts Post as he stocked the racks. Matt, 35, a passionate wine-lover who has been employed in the trade for 10 years, has opened The Smiling Grape Company in Cross Keys Mews, opposite the town's market square. "Traditionally, shops organised wines by country. What I wanted to do was categorise them by wine-maker, so people can choose by taste. They want to know whether it's fresh or it's luscious or it's rich. We've also broken them down to match food or to match music or films, even books." Each wine is accompanied by amusing tasting notes with a photograph of the wine maker, he added. "I don't stock anything I don't personally like. And you won't find wines here that you can get in the supermarket." Prices for the 400-plus wines range from under \u00A35 to \u00A320, with the average around \u00A37, and Champagnes at up to \u00A334. "We cater for all different types of customer, from people organising parties to real connoisseurs. "I was fed up with stuffy, old-fashioned wine shops that make wine confusing and difficult to buy. Wine should be a celebration of life," he enthused. "Everyone should be able to find the perfect wine for any occasion. So I set about creating a very different type of shop - one that not only carries original wines from independent growers but makes it easy for people to pick the right wine for them. "Most people don't want to be saddled with numerical scores, grape yields and barrel toast levels. They just want the right wine for the right occasion or mood. In our shop there's no room for pretension, posturing or piffle." The Smiling Grape Company will also offer private, corporate and charity wine tastings and German and European beer tasting events. INFORMATION: The Smiling Grape Company is at 21a Cross Keys Mews, Market Square, St Neots PE19 2AR. Telephone 01480 403100. www.smilinggrape.co.uk.