Cheese Wine and Chewie

February 17th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

If I may be so bold, might I suggest that this half term week seems to have instigated a small return to the normal?

There have been school trips, Instagram photos of mountains with snow on them, sports in the park and cinemas visited. Internationally, Mr Flynn has discovered that if you get caught telling porkies to the boss there are consequences, and we all suspect the kids could have warned him!

Future Star Wars movies may be in jeopardy though, due to reports that Harrison Ford maybe about to lose his pilot’s licence. As we went to press, despite several attempts, we had been unable to contact Chewbacca.

On the sports front we have No Nations Rugby this weekend (or a rest week if you prefer!), Arsenal managed their usual capitulation to Bayern Munich, and in a surprise move it would appear Barcelona used the same playbook. Joe Root is the new Alastair Cook, and as we move closer to winter testing, Mercedes have announced former Ferrari whizz, James Allison, as technical director. Clearly they’re keen to hold on to that world domination thing they have going on!

In wine news, Cliff Richard’s estate, Quinta do Miradoura which has been on the market since last year has just seen €3 million knocked of the price. If you have a spare €6.5 million under the bed you can snap up 11 bedrooms with sea and vineyard views, private pool and tennis court and all the winery and equipment too. Form an orderly queue!

More seriously, in a sad day for Swartland wineries it appears that the Swartland Municipality is opening up part of the Paardeberg for sand mining. Despite a two year battle involving lawyers, local, regional and national authorities the Municipality issued two licences this month, and  with the precedent set there will be little to stop a multiplication of mining activity in what, until now, was one of the leading regions in modern South African wine.  Progress, eh!

Wine & Cheese

The February and April dates are sold out but we still have a few places each for:-

Thursday 30th March and Thursday 25th May.

As usual an 8pm start and £20 per person.

Tasting this weekend.

The sudden balmy turn in the weather hasn’t lessened our quest for some wine with sunshine running through them, and this week we’ll head toward the Mediterranean end of France.

Standing in the white corner will be our chum Domaine Antugnac Chardonnay 2015 (£11.99), a cheeky little number from the plateau above Limoux. No oak at all just sun ripened Chardonnay grapes and the tip top winemaking.

The red corner will be occupied by a charming new red called Jean. Jean Gamay Noir 2015 (£13.99) is a new discovery for us, lovely spiced cherry fruits and medium body. Come and give it a taste and let us know what you think.

Cheers!

There are just a few days until St Valentine’s Day – we consider it a community service to remind you all – let’s face it, getting in trouble on a Tuesday is less than ideal!

February 10th, 2017

 

Ayes to the left and noes to the right – not as easy as they say!

February 3rd, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So that’s it, is it? We’ve had a couple of days debating a series of ayes to the left and noes to the right and now the timetable is all ready for the action ahead. We’re expecting some hard knocks along the way and the possibility of some disappointment, too.

First off though, we’ll tell a remarkable tale of healing. This tale, whilst not as incredible as the idea of a former security guard becoming President or  a former property developer hanging up the phone in an apparent huff with the leader of another country, is nonetheless amazing.

No, no, no, readers, the Australian in this tale is called Eddie and the remarkable tale of healing is that of Joe Marler, who looks likely to start for the England rugby team despite suffering a fractured leg barely a month ago.  Tough as old boots, these rugby fellows!

The Six Nations starts on Saturday, with the action starting at 2.30 with Scotland hosting Ireland at Murrayfield. A chance for a comfort break and a quick visit to the wine shop before England stick it to host the French at Twickenham, at 5pm. We round off with Italy hosting Wales in the Sunday game, at 2pm.

In other sports, local giant killers Sutton United FC, having already squashed the cup dreams of AFC Wimbledon and Leeds United, are relishing their 5th round draw at home to Arsenal, who, in the form they displayed this week, must be terrified.

In proper sports, the Tour of Dubai is proving rather eventful. Mark Cavendish came 3rd on the opening days racing, having ridden the last 4km with a puncture. Then, on day 3, Andrei Grivko was kicked off the race and fined 200 Swiss Francs for punching Marcel Kittel. Kittel commented: “I guess Grivko had a coffee too much this morning”.

In other news, we find out that Francis Ford Coppola’s wines will be those poured at this year’s Oscars. In classic Hollywood understatement: ‘What seems logical to me is that if anyone’s going to provide wine to the Academy, it ought to be the Coppola family,’ Coppola said. ‘We were one of the earliest of the film people to get into the wine business; we have the most established, broad-based wine business of any film celebrity and, as a family, I imagine we have won as many nominations and wins as any.’  We understand around 2100 bottles will be consumed on the evening, not a bad sale, we thought!

Whilst we’re on the subject of wine, the eagle eyed amongst you will have noticed that we put some dates in the diary for some Cheese & Wine tastings. First up is Thursday 23rd February at 8pm and I couldn’t help wondering if it might make for a suitable gift for Valentine’s Day. £20 per person gets you a seat at the table , cheese, wine and crackers. Surely that’s more fun than a bunch of roses!

Whilst we’re on the subject of sweethearts, we couldn’t help but notice that Dame Vera Lynn is celebrating her 100th birthday by releasing a new album. It contains guest appearances by Aled Jones, Alfie Boe and Alexander Armstrong; stories of a follow-up featuring Bruno Mars, Billy Idol and the Bay City Rollers are unconfirmed.

We’ll be raising a glass to Dame Vera this weekend with Handcrafted Gruner Vetliner 2016 by Martin & Anna Arndorfer (£14.49). They are particularly lazy in the winery  and this delicious white wine is made with a real minimum of intervention: unfiltered, unfined, and with a gentle spritz. Fresh, with a real, life-affirming zestiness.

On the red front, we’ll go a little more mainstream with Boekenhoutskloof’s Chocolate Block 2015 (£23.99 or 6 for £120), a rather delightful little number that you may have heard of. This vintage, all of the grapes are from Swartland.

That’s it from us, Dame Vera deposing Pete Tong’s Classic House from the top of the album chart might be fun.

We’ll meet again!

January Sale, Wine and Cheese Tastings

January 27th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

A cold week, a foggy week and generally a week worth forgetting – a typical late January week if we’re honest with ourselves – and a week filled with comings and goings:

  • Mr Trump arrived demure and understated as ever, whilst Obama slipped out through the back door and giddily ran for the hills.
  • Zoe and Chris, from The Cake Parlour, finally made good on all their threats and shipped off back to Australia, just in time for Australia Day and 24 degrees in the shade – can’t imagine why they’d want to leave! The new owners of the Parlour seem very nice though, so I’m sure business will rock on.
  • It would also seem that, according to one of our sources (but we haven’t corroborated this with any of the hairdressers yet), Just Pause, beside the Post Office, has also left Arthur Road – certainly the windows are all blacked out and the shop has been completely cleared, so something is definitely afoot. Is this now the opportunity for one of you to open that Wine Bar we all know the area needs?  Or a hairdressers, perhaps!
  • As a country we’ve still left Europe but then, on the other hand, we haven’t quite managed it yet as there now needs to be another vote about a vote that we’ve already voted in – ah, the never ending layers of bureaucracy, surely that’s one of the things we were hoping to leave in Europe….
  • All the Brits left the tennis in Melbourne and the Open suddenly seems to have turned into a Veterans event.
  • And January has almost left us, and with it the 6 for 5 deal, but February is around corner, with its Six Nations deal to keep our weekends lively.

And we’ve been busy.  Monday was paperwork and deliveries; Tuesday found Alex trying to go to a supplier tasting and lunch in Farringdon, only to discover the event was on Wednesday; Wednesday was the start of Wine School and consequently all of Wayne’s jokes needed to be dusted off and given a good polish to honour the event; Thursday was Australia Day and appropriately, colder than the Baltic.   Most of every day we have been wrestling with Office 365, we’ve lost our Outlook Calendar, found it again on our phones, re-instated it on Outlook and then crossed our fingers each morning when we relight the computer praying that it’ll still be there.  And we’ve organised some dates for upcoming tastings.  And now it’s Friday, payday, hip, hip hooray!

WINE & CHEESE TASTINGS

Many of you have been on one of these, a significant number of you have been on two or three, and lots of you have never been.  None of these reasons should exclude you from coming to one this year.

We have developed a very good relationship with a French cheese wholesaler who, in a fortunate stroke of serendipity, is located in Wellington Works, which is more commonly known locally as the end of the road Alex lives on.  Anyway, the cheeses are great, not always French which is also great, and different every time – what’s not to like.  The wines come off our shelves and we always endeavour to select wines that will tantalise the tastebuds and complement the cheeses, rather than torture them.  2-3 kilos of cheese, 6 or 7 wines, bread and crackers – where do I sign up!

Dates are:

Thursday 23rd February

Thursday 30th March

Thursday 27th April

Thursday 25th May

Each evening will start at 8pm and we have a maximum of 12 seats.  The cost is £20 per person and, as places are limited, we ask that any reservation is supported by payment, to avoid disappointment!

IF THOSE TASTINGS ALL SEEM A BIT TO FAR DISTANT

We will have wine open in the shop this weekend, as ever.  As it was Aussie Day yesterday and we all wish we were somewhere warmer right now, we’re opening a couple of stonkers from down under.

Pauletts Polish Hill River Aged Release Riesling 2009, Clare Valley – £18.99

The name is a bit of a mouthful but then so is the wine!  Aged Riesling from Australia may seem like a market without demand but as the wine is so blooming delicious it just sells itself.  Honeysuckle, citrus, apples, orchard fruits in general, close your eyes and you can almost smell the shrimps blackening on the barbecue…

Paringa Estate Peninsula Pinot Noir 2015, Mornington Peninsula – £27.59

This may seem like a slightly awkward compliment but this is my second favourite Pinot Noir.  The first is from Oregon and has a suitably niche and elevated price tag and, significantly for today’s purposes, is not from Australia.  This chap, the silver medallist in a photo finish in the race to become my favourite, is from Mornington’s most celebrated estates.  Soft, ripe cherry red fruit, hints of spice in the background and an enormous pleasure to drink, which is a very Australian approach to winemaking and we fully support it.  Come and taste some before I polish it all off…

Should your cockles need more serious warming we do still have a number of our whiskies open, plus the sloe gin and of course King’s Ginger, the perfect foil to the cold weather.

Right that’s it from us, we’re off now, buoyed by The Donald’s confident assumption that Mexico will pay for the wall, we’re going to tell our neighbours to pay for a ski holiday!

To emulate Wayne’s herculean efforts this week, how about joining us for the slightly less frenetic Wine School that starts next Wednesday?

January 20th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

‘122 wines (2 of them twice, just to check), 3 olive oils, countless grissini and a couple of pints of Guinness.’

It’s rare, but occasionally we get a sneaky glimpse into Wayne’s diary to find out what he’s really up to when he claims to be cycling/visiting family in Essex/trimming the hedge/painting the fence/swinging the lead… To be fair, he does spend a significant portion of his non-work life engaging in all of the activities above but every now and then he goes off the reservation and hits the town.

This happened on Tuesday.

A quick warm up tasting at the Oval (30 wines tasted, 3 olive oils, various breads) was an exercise more focused around trying new vintages of wines we currently list and a couple of esoteric peripheral treats – for example, a quality Lambrusco and then a 1978 Terrantez from Madeira that was a rare treat but, at over £150 for a half bottle, it is unlikely to be appearing in the shop anytime soon!  Olive oil was all delicious and green and herbaceous and frankly we got side-tracked…

Next stop Langan’s.  Well you should really, shouldn’t you, if the purpose of your day is vinous extravagance.  A baker’s dozen of wines here, tasted in the upstairs room with all the photos of all the luminaries propping Peter Langan up, the sort of photos Hello and co aspired to present but none as classy and cool as this collection.  Again we got side-tracked.  Some really tasty and interesting wines from Beaujolais (the ‘next big thing’ apparently if Lambrusco doesn’t get there first, or posh Madeira), some genuine horror stories from various bits of the New World, some melt in the mouth slivers of hand-carved Serrano ham and we’re out the door, all within half an hour.

Quick courtesy call at Marks & Spencer’s and then a route march down to the Albert Hall, having misjudged the intervening distance.  Tasting wasn’t in the hall but when you’re tasting next door, this is the landmark you aim for.  Here is where teeth turned black, and tasting notes grew monosyllabic.  Almost 80 wines tasted and noted – the two Cremant were re-examined a few times, just as a respite, just as a palate cleanser and then as a treat – sometimes it is just too rude to spit.

And the Guinness.  Now that tasted fabulous, the requirement to spit was no longer there and a body that had been teased all day by the prospect of a tasty tipple was finally given its reward.

If that’s what he gets up to on a Tuesday, one can scarce imagine what his weekends must be like!

Last call for Wine School

Following on from Wayne’s herculean efforts this week, how about joining us for the slightly less frenetic Wine School that starts next Wednesday, 25th January at 8pm?

Admittedly, over the six week course you will only taste about half the number of wines Wayne tasted on Tuesday, about 10 each week, but to be able to be like Wayne you need to have been like Wayne for a long time – and not many people have….

Anyway, over the six weeks you will learn about all your old favourites – Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and friends – but you will also get to learn about, and taste, other grape varieties that perhaps you are always a little wary of when confronted with the wine list.  Treat yourself to this in 2017 – if wine is going to get more expensive, it might be time to explore the roads less travelled, where greater value hides!

Wine School – Wednesday 25th January to Wednesday 8th March

(half term 15th February)

£150 per person, 4 places remaining.

6 for 5

16.66% discount.  On wine and beer.  Many of you have partaken, more of you haven’t.  It ends when January ends, as does abstinence – you might well need a bottle or six by then!

Haggis time

This time next week we’ll have celebrated Mr Burns’ night.  We’ll have asked ourselves why we don’t eat haggis, neeps and tatties on a more regular basis.  Then we’ll remember what we read in the paper about the critical shortage of courgettes and other veg from Spain and Italy at the moment, and it will dawn on us that maybe we will be having neeps and tatties more regularly, like it or not.

But it’s not all bad news.  The joys of the haggis meal are limitless.  It’s the simplest dinner party in the world – boiling and mashing whilst leaving the wee beestie to its own business in the oven means more time for socialising and champagne drinking.  There’s barely any washing up.  It tastes fabulous and when else can you open a bottle of whisky and pour it onto your food ‘as a gravy’ – Wayne, of course, thinks this rocks!

So, speaking of Whisky we can offer:

Benromach 10 year old £36.99

Speymalt Macallan 2006 £37.99

Connoisseurs Choice Arran 2006 £38.99

Connoisseurs Choice Strathmill 2002 £42.99

Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila 2003 £45.99

Highland Park 2006 (Cask Strength) £50.00

Connoisseurs Choice Royal Brackla 1998 £52.99

Coopers Choice Glenrothes 1997 £69.69

MacPhail’s 21 year old £69.99

Ardmore 1996 £72.99

Should you not wish to use up all your units on hard spirit we have plenty of wine recommendations for the Scottish dinner.  Reds from the Rhone and Spain have historically given us great pleasure and with this in mind we’ll break from the norm this week and open two reds for tasting, one from each of the above regions:

Celler de Capçanes Mas Picosa de flor en flor 2013, Montsant, Spain (£13.29) – Montsant is the area surrounding Priorat, in the hills behind Tarragona, just south of Barcelona.  This is a winning blend of Garnacha, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah giving us plenty of brambly aromas with a juicy vibrant palate and a lovely fresh finish, which we think will be spot on with almost everything meaty.  Oh, and it’s organic.

Boutinot Côtes du Rhône Villages ‘Les Coteaux’ 2013, Rhône, France (£10.99) – Common practice in the Côtes du Rhône is to bottle the best cuvées as a single named Village wine and the rest as basic Rhône Villages.  The philosophy with this wine, however, is to start with the intention of making the very best Côtes du Rhône Villages possible.  They source wine from the vineyards of named villages and enrich them with a small proportion of barrel-aged wine from Sablet, Séguret and Cairanne.  The results are fabulous, as you can taste here, with well-balanced brambly fruit and soft tannin that is bang on the money and always a crowd pleaser – can you believe we haven’t put this on a weekend tasting since April 2011?

So there you go – a round-up of the week just gone and some ideas for next week including an offer some fun wine education!

We’re off now to play a kazoo duet at the Trump inauguration – do anything for a buck and a corndog in January!

Knowing Sauvignon Blanc from Cabernet Sauvignon is a real life skill…

January 13th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Is it me or is it getting a bit chilly?

This week has been rather eventful on the news front, real, imagined or fake. Now, I think it may be my age but I find it increasingly difficult to distinguish which is which. I saw that Jay Rayner is going to approach 2017 by staying furious about food for the whole year; I may take a similar approach to the news.

If Emily Maitlis or Jon Snow say it, we’ll assume it to be mostly real news or valid opinion, if it’s Paul Merton or Ian Hislop we’ll assume the same with a humorous twist, and anybody else’s news we’ll assume to be imagined, faked or reality (which, as we can tell from the TV, bears no resemblance to the real world at all!)

It was with some surprise that we saw the A303 appear all over the news wires this week. For boys from Essex and Kent inhabiting South West London, the A303 is a road we spend a surprising amount of time talking about.

Alex has, by virtue of marriage, become rather better acquainted with the road than almost anybody else who grew up in Kent, whilst Wayne takes a similar approach to the road as he does to golf. He listens sympathetically, has a couple of key facts, and then looks blank if the conversation takes a technical turn.

The A303 reared its ‘slow on a Friday’ head this week with the news that they’re planning to put a tunnel under Stonehenge to ease the ‘slow on a Friday’ aspect of the A303. I’ll be the first to put my hand up to paying less attention in tunnel engineering class than I should have, but tunnel under Stonehenge?

Stonehenge, I seem to remember, is a collection of really big stones that arrived from Wales by unknown methods, possibly religious, a really long time ago. Given we don’t know why they turned up, or how they got there, is it not a bit dangerous to just go tunnelling underneath them. Has nobody in government heard of the Mines of Moria? Progress marches on, eh?

Wine School

We would be as bold to suggest that knowing Sauvignon Blanc from Cabernet Sauvignon is a real life skill, as much as being able to make a fish finger sandwich or mushroom risotto, let alone opening a bottle of champagne without spraying your guests.

Come along to wine school and enhance your life, we can’t help with the fish finger risotto or the mushroom sandwich but, the Sauvignon thing, we’re all over like a rash.

School starts on Wednesday 25th January at 8pm.
£150 per person.

Wine Trade

We’ve mentioned on more than one occasion that the wine trade can be a funny old business, full of quirky people and strange traditions. One of those quirky traditions is that January is stuffed to the gunnels with tastings as all the new release Burgundy is about and many suppliers take advantage of the fact.

In their infinite quirkiness several of our suppliers are having a tasting on Tuesday and as a result
we shall be closed on Tuesday 17th January.

We’ll be busy tasting wines to try and keep all your palates tingling throughout 2017. Apologies for this, we hope you understand.

Weekend Tasting

The white corner will be inhabited by Southern Dawn Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (£10.49) a cracking example of what Marlborough does best.

The red corner is also going to be inhabited by a chap from the southern half. De Bortoli Heathcote Shiraz 2014 (£12.39) which is a lovely drop of red from Heathcote, directly north from Melbourne but quite a long way inland, well balanced with blackberry, plum and spice character – very appropriate for the current coldsnap.

That’s all from us – don’t forget we’re still doing our 6 for 5 offer – so pop by , book a place on the wines school and then take six bottles home for revision!

Stay cool!

Park Vintners January 6 for 5 Offer

January 6th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Lovely, lovely, lovely, thank you very much.  Christmas was fab, New Year’s Eve was an appropriately late night and having the first few days of 2017 away from the grindstone was marvellous – how about you?

However, we are now back to the aforementioned grindstone.  Christmas decorations have come down, apart, of course, from the really obvious one that we won’t notice until mid February but that’s almost as an important part of the tradition as the big day itself.  We’ve even seen some customers – our first day back we mainly sold Champagne and fine wine, belated gifts allegedly but we think that more than one of these was a case of letting the good times roll, just a little longer!  We’ve looked at some sales figures but not too forensically – unsurprisingly Prosecco was our best selling fizz but, overall, Champagne outsold sparkling wine in December – as it should do.  Hepple Gin was still our best selling spirit, maintaining category dominance for a full year now and, as we have been predicting all year, our best seller overall, January to December, was Chateau de L’Aumerade Cru Classé Rose from Provence and at a canter.  Not a bad shopping basket that though – Rose for the summer, Prosecco for weekdays, Champagne for weekends, high days and holidays and Gin for 5pm – make mine a large one.

As you can imagine we are fully eschewing abstinence (tautology, perhaps?), certainly when it comes to alcohol – be a bit like being a vegan butcher really – although speaking of veganism, Wayne has fully immersed himself in Veganuary, because he’s clearly nuts and wants to become one, whereas right now all that Alex seems to have given up is telling the truth!

But, we know some of you will be dry January-ing so if there was any way that we could encourage you all to visit 126 Arthur Road sometime over the next 25 days, how could we incentivise you.  We’re all done on mince pies, smoked salmon and boxes of Celebrations, so perhaps we must offer something with a little more wallet appeal in these dark cold days…

6 for 5

… of course!  All we had to do was look at what we wrote in January 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 to find the appropriate mechanic.  Yes folks, as now seems traditional in this small corner of southwest London, might we present to you the Park Vintners January 6 for 5 Offer.  Similar to the ongoing Champagne and sparkling wine deal we offer all year, for January we will be extending this offer to wine too.  Why don’t we include beer as well!  But not spirits I’m afraid, all the profit on those is reserved for HMRC, unfortunately it’s our Duty.  Oh, and it’s only wines we have in stock currently.  And a couple of the Champagnes aren’t in the deal either but let’s not get caught up in all the Ts & Cs, this is a glorious offer – 6 bottles for the price of 5, mixable, a ‘16.66% off’ straight-up deal, none of this ‘cheapest bottle free’ malarkey.  Drive your cars down and fill your boots.

The other thing this deal doesn’t apply to is Wine School, sorry.  If 6 of you want to attend then I’m afraid you’ll all have to pay, although this might be a bit academic(!) since we don’t have six spaces left.  However we do still have some unallocated seats at the table so if, like our customers earlier in the week, you are still short of a Christmas gift then this could be just the ticket.  Equally, again like our other customers earlier in the week, if you fancy this as a gift for yourself, don’t let anyone judge you!

WINE SCHOOL – WEDNESDAY 25TH JANUARY UNTIL WEDNESDAY 8TH MARCH – £150 PER PERSON

Half term 15th February – further details attached.

WORLDS BEST MARTINI

http://www.worldsbestmartini.co.uk/

It would seem Hepple should be paying us a commission – two mentions in one blog!  Anyway, whilst we wait for that, how about seeing how they get on in this challenge on Tuesday January 17th up at Bar 366, which is just a hop and a skip from Clapham Junction or a shorter trip from the 156 bus stop at Plough Road.  Either way, they’ve done extremely well to make the shortlist of 5 Gins and well, frankly, as Victoria Moore once said, when writing in the Daily Telegraph “it might be the best Martini gin I’ve ever tasted.”  You never know, you might even see us there – Tuesday night Martini’s, let the good times roll!

That’s it from us – we’ll have a white and a red open tonight and tomorrow, we just haven’t had the energy to choose it yet, what with this new vegan diet…

Bananas!

Out with the old in with the new!

December 30th, 2016

Fellow Wine Lovers.

They’re stealing away our childhood memories, dad.

A horrible year continued its malevolent course over the Christmas period as George, Carrie and, suddenly Debbie too, all left us behind.  It’s high time we move on from ‘bad 2016’ and looked to remember the happier events that happened in ‘good 2016’…

January – we started the year singing I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger, as we encouraged you to join our Wine School and get involved with our annual 6 for 5 deal.  Updated healthy drinking guidelines were published – confirming once again that riding a bike or driving a car are still more likely to knock you off your perch.  Then it was Burns night, an end to abstention and whisky galore.  And Black Tower was rebranded and relaunched, with an initial focus on the northeast…

February – the Six Nations came back to town as did Valentines day, half term and Lent – all things that are mutually exclusive to each other.  And the end of the month brought us the headline: Donald Trump cements frontrunner status after big win in Nevada (The Guardian) – oh my, how little we knew…

March – Wayne practises jokes on Rufus the dog (If I’ve got three eyes, four ears, two mouths and a sprouting beauty spot, how do I look?  Ruff, he replied) as the start of the month seems a bit slow.  Mother’s Day was well celebrated, Maria Sharapova got busted and sparkling wine sales in the UK topped £1 billion – I think we all helped here, certainly if Mimi sales count in this!  The Chancellor then increased duty on wine to £2.52 a bottle whilst a week later Tesco sold bottles of Champagne for £7.50.  And the sun shone…

April – in the first instant we had people believing Wayne was about to become a Country and Western singer covering Shania Twain songs – frankly, for some of us, that was the highlight of the year!  We then bought some rum from Panama, as it was in the news (Panama, that is) and some Gin from Peckham, because it’s so nice (the Gin, that is).  Thinking of Gin, the Queen hit 90 this month.  We bought a pallet of Provence Rosé, just as it started to rain…

May – the first vote of the year.  With what was to happen later in the year we really should have seen Ankit, leader of One Love and the alleged Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, who wanted to clear air pollution whilst simultaneously legalising pot as our new Mayor.  Sadiq from Tooting in fact won, and there was no controversy or gnashing of teeth.  Wayne came back from cycling and Alex went to play golf.  In the midst of this they tasted lots of different wines  – Wayne’s tasting note, for the Handcrafted Gruner Veltliner (£13.99) reaching new peaks of lyricism – ‘that’s right dangerous that, you’d need at least a six box for the weekend!’  You can take the boy out of Essex…. And early promise of sunshine remained elusive as Alex watched cricket wearing a beanie and two coats, sitting on the bonnet of the car to steal the engine warmth on 21st May…

June – Europe played football whilst England watched, street parties celebrated the Queen, 52% of the country was victorious in a plebiscite, I forget what it was about but suffice to say it was quickly forgotten…

July – Jags and SUV’s swamped SW19 as the tennis rolled into town.  Or were the Jags and SUV’s already here?  Anyway, Murray won and collective gloom was alleviated as the sun shone and our favourite jolly Scotsman joked ‘it’s not that bad is it?!’  And then the Jags left and the SUV’s left and the summer solstice took the last train to the coast and Wayne wondered if it was something he had said…

August – Wayne swept the shop and put the signs out everyday, like a character in a novel, waiting for a customer to waft in, the Olympics went off very well for Team GB, Leigh-on-Sea was voted happiest place to live by Rightmove and we wallowed in a heatwave…

September – stand by your beds, schools are back and life is back.  We advertised our Christmas Fizz tasting for December and it sold out almost overnight.  Pitt and Jolie split whilst Trump makes comments about women that most now surely make him completely unelectable and our last Wine School for this year started…

October – Cod speak in regional accents.  Not sure what papers Wayne  reads, but his was one of his discoveries this month.  Trivial?  Not if you’re the one receiving the research grant.  The Pound slumped and wine got more expensive handily just at the time all retailers are putting in their big Christmas orders.  The clocks went back and Sloe Gin and King’s Ginger strode back into the limelight, brandishing hipflasks…

November – we had Black Friday.  We had our first (very successful) Whisky tasting.  Boris talked of making Titanic efforts and Trump got in…

December – this is us, this is where we are, still, just about.  We celebrated our 6th Birthday we drank Champagne and we closed at 5pm on Christmas Eve.  You came and saw us, drank Champagne perhaps and kept us busy – thank you!

So that’s it.  A year referenced solely through our emails – I’m sure other things happened but if they didn’t make into the ‘Fellow Wine Lovers’ blog then they cannot have been too important…

Thank you for all your support through the year, especially those of you who raised Wayne’s sombrero to check he was still breathing in August – here’s to a wonderful New Year full of nice surprises and joy!

Carpe Diem, as a Cod might say in his best Brummie…

An Army of Dads

December 23rd, 2016

Fellow Wine Lovers,

A special hello to all of you who are still at your desks – we salute you!  If you’re pulling a late one or working tomorrow, then we not only salute you but we also play you a short fanfare.  If you’re working on Sunday, then you’re perhaps a footballer or a cabbie (but definitely not a train or tube driver), or an emergency worker or a publican – either way, a crucial cog in the Christmas wheel and, for this, we salute you, play a fanfare and raise a toast!

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, you will be fully aware that we’re almost there, Christmas is upon us and that this is the penultimate email of 2016.  Next week we’ll give a round-up of the year but right now we will try, probably unsuccessfully, to be succinct in our prose…

Don’t panic!

Lance Corporal Jones had it in nutshell.  There’s still time.  The shops are still open.  A great number of them will be open on Monday.  We are open now until 8pm today and then tomorrow from 10am until 5pm.  7 hours of opening on Christmas Eve, 8 hours left today – 15 hours.  Masses of time, masses.

You stupid boy!

Having said that, as we get closer to ground zero, to 5pm tomorrow, there will be less and less stock in the shop as boots get filled and wish-lists get ticked off.  Just because we had 12 bottles of Krohn’s 2007 LBV on Monday doesn’t mean we have any left today (we don’t, the last bottle left yesterday) but we have plenty of Krohn’s 2011 LBV – £18.99 to replace it – another stellar vintage.  Don’t miss out – if you know you want it, don’t get caught out!

However, if you’ve been fruitless in your search for the right gift for that special person, don’t forget that we still have spaces left on our Wine School that starts on Wednesday 25th January and takes place for 6 of the next 7 weeks, with a week off for half term.  6 weeks, 60 wines, £150 per person – a gift that keeps on giving!  Full details attached.

They don’t like it up ’em!

Taking time off from being bossy and impertinent, something that has caught our eye, and subsequently made it water uncontrollably, has been Burgundy.  This time of year we sell a lot of red and white from this delightful region, their wines being almost perfect foils for much of the favoured festive foods.  At this time of year we also get invitations to early January tastings of newly released vintages – this time it’ll be 2015 release.  Wayne had a scoot through the various offerings earlier in the week and unearthed some scary, to us at least, facts.

Firstly, the drinking windows seemed remarkably short for the majority of the wines on offer, which means these are not wines for investment.  Secondly, the prices.  Now, Burgundy hasn’t had a great time of late with some atrocious weather conditions and lower yielding vintages.  Triumphing over such adversity hasn’t been easy, but thanks to a combination of smaller production and higher pricing,  ‘drinking’ Burgundy has gone through the stratosphere whilst ‘collecting’ Burgundy is somewhere near Mars.

On our shelf currently – Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2012 (Tremblay) is £35.99 – the next release of Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2015 (Billaud) will be circling around £60.  Puligny Montrachet 2013 (Miolane) is on our shelves for £35.99 – whilst the next release – Puligny Montrachet 2015 (Chavy) is a nice round £50.  On the collecting side, Domaine Leflaive is releasing the debut vintage for their Saint-Véran under the Domaine’s label – this will be about £35 on the shelf – gulp!

We could go on but it’s not going to cheer anyone up – might be time to look elsewhere.

Don’t tell him, Pike!

We’ll be opening wine as usual today and tomorrow.  As it’s Christmas, it’s a bit of a lottery really – we’ve been asked for wine matches for Carp, Pike and Herring from those customers who celebrate on Christmas Eve and Turkey, Reindeer and Rib of Beef for the Christmas day celebrators.  It’s hard to choose just one wine for such a smorgasbord, so we often sit on the fence.  This week, having visited France and Italy over the last few weeks, we’ve decided from our safe position, legs astride the barrier, to look at the new world a bit more closely.

But not before we open some English Fizz.  ‘We never list new wines in December’ is our stock response to any of our reps who try it on in late November.  But then Louisa emailed us to let us know that the Hambledon Classic Cuvée Rosé Brut NV (£36.99) had just been awarded a gold medal at the International Wine Challenge, the place Alex slopes off to every six months for some intensive, blind-judging.  Anyway, we used to sell the Brut from these chaps, so asked for a sample, which we proceeded to taste with a group of willing tipplers at our Wine & Cheese tasting.  It was gorgeous, so we listed it, and thus broke our ‘no new wines in December’ rule.  Come and try it, I think you’ll understand why!

And then we’re off to New Zealand and the USA.  Neudorf Chardonnay 2014 (£26.99) coming from Nelson in the South Island, this is really quite stunning – elegant, concentrated and rich, much like Wayne.

From the USA, we have Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2013 (£33.99) which is smooth, fruity, spicy with a little sultry smokiness, again, much like Wayne.  When we put on our Pinot Around The World And I Can’t Find My Favourite tasting earlier this year, this was the outright winner – no fence sitting there.

Port?  Why not.  Krohn’s 2011 LBV (£18.99) as mentioned above, will be opened and awaiting your glass, form an orderly queue.

Put that light out!

Not much more to add.  We’ll be here right up to the last knockings tomorrow – 5pm is our estimated turfing out time, although over the last six Christmas’ we have still had browsers in at 5.01… and then we’ll turn the lights back on next Thursday 29th December, just in time to write the next email!

So swing by, have a mince pie, some wine and port and let us wish you all a very Merry Christmas!

Cheers!

‘Twas the Weekend before Christmas

December 16th, 2016

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Friday 16th December, folks, and we’re into the final countdown (diddle-er-der, diddle-er-der-der, diddle-er-der…. etc) with just an armful of shopping days left until Christmas, a few more after that before New Year’s Eve and then, bosh, we’re bang smack in 2017 without a clue what to do.

Will prices go up?  Will the currencies behave?  Will prices then go down?  Will somebody break ranks and admit things have gone wrong due to their own incompetence rather than blame it on, the as yet un-actioned, Brexit?  Will we have guard-less trains on Southern Rail?  The big questions of today should finally have their answers, whether we like them is a different matter and, from what we have witnessed this year, these answers are likely to be in direct contradiction to those predicted!

To be honest, we’re a bit nervous of what the New Year will bring, tales of doom and gloom always sells more papers and the murmurings from the trade are no more positive.  To calm these nerves, Wayne likes to start his day with a soothing glass of Saliza Amaretto by Bepi Tosolini (£25.99) whilst Alex finds a quick half bottle of Moutard Grande Cuvée Champagne (£16.49) helps him maintain his famous effervescent bonhomie, until at least 11 o’clock – when we open, in other words…

By lunchtime, the effects of the restorative sherry at 11am (Equipo Navazos Fino en Rama – £10.99 for a half bottle), will have truly worn off, so it’s time for a glass of Burgundy.  It’s not oysters every day for lunch for us, so when we opt for some hand carved smoked salmon, we find the perfect foil comes in the guise of Talmard Macon Uchizy 2015 (£14.99).

It has long been advised that a post-prandial siesta is the secret to a long and happy life, or at the very least gives one a fighting chance of surviving the evening beyond 8pm, and we stay true to this advice as much as possible.  With the lunch slate now rubbed clean and the sun starting to move over the yardarm, the prospect of a ‘cheeky magnum’ as Wayne likes to call it, now looms into view.  What to have though?  Do we stay true to the classics and decant the Chateau Patache d’Aux 2009 from Medoc (£50.99) or do we throw our hat in the ring with those chaps in the new world and enjoy an oversize bottle of Meerlust Red 2014 from Stellenbosch (£26.99) – decisions, decisions….

And then it’s the Port.  Much maligned as the primary purveyor of hangovers, Port is often left on the shelf for another day.  We don’t need to drink a whole bottle – the colheitas and the tawny ports can be kept open for ages due to their style of aging, so a quick glass of Krohn Colheita 1982 (£44.99) tends to up our sugar levels, in time for the evening rush.

And then it’s all over, the customers have drifted off happily into the night and it’s time to close the shop.  With the array of choice here, and the different treats already supped, now must be time for the ultimate palate cleanser – Champagne.  With such a choice, we never lack variety in our glass, as we choose from (amongst others)

Champagne Thiénot £32.99, 3 for £90 or 6 for £164.96

Champagne Bollinger £45, or 6 for £200 (low stock)

 As we lock the shop up, tired from the days endeavours, we reflect that life isn’t so bad, next year can’t be that bad and if nothing else, live for today – or is that just the drink talking?!

‘Same time tomorrow, Wayne?’ ‘Same time tomorrow, Alex, have a nice evening.’

Talking of time…

SUNDAY 18th DECEMBER: 11AM – 3PM

MONDAY 19th – FRIDAY 23rd DECEMBER: 11AM – 8PM

SATURDAY 24th DECEMBER: 10AM – 5PM

 

SUNDAY 25th – WEDNESDAY 28th DECEMBER: CLOSED

 

THURSDAY 29th DECEMBER: 11AM – 8PM

FRIDAY 30th DECEMBER: 11AM – 8PM

SATURDAY 31st DECEMBER: 11AM – 6PM

 

SUNDAY 1st – TUESDAY 3rd JANUARY: CLOSED

 

WEDNESDAY 4th JANUARY: 11AM – 8PM BACK TO NORMAL!

Back in the real world…

Whilst it would be great fun to practice what we have preached, our days aren’t quite so action packed. However, there are possibly the seeds of a Christmas Day Drinks Template amongst the wines selected above – but perhaps not for everyone.  With this in mind, this weekend we will be opening:

Champagne Thiénot Brut NV(£32.99) One of the new kids on the block champagne wise, having been founded in 1985 but being owned by a former grape broker, they definitely get the pick of the bunch (sorry).  Deliciously rounded and with a nice bready note and the star selection at a recent tasting. Choice pour at the 2013 Oscars pre-show party, too.

M & B Talmard Macon Uchizy 2015 (£14.99) Mallory and Benjamin produce just one cuvée of Macon each year from their 20 hectares just north of the Macon hills.  Richer and riper than many, it has a generous weight, subtle, almost tropical fruit with aromas of melon, ripe pear, and all the other flavours you’ll notice when you pop in to taste!

Bouchard 1er Cru Beaune du Chateau 2012 (£29.99) this is wine from Bouchard’s own vines, and named after the family home, which the family have owned since 1820. Lovely red cherry fruits, a touch of that truffly, forest floor note, and a lively balance of fruit and structure on the palate. Perfect partner to poultry!

Chateau Les Mingets 2012, Sauternes (£11.99 37.5cl) where would be without an emergency half of Sauternes to call on? This is from Bommes in the heart of the region and is an absolute classic. Honey and apricot marmalade notes but with a beautiful citrus zest of acidity to balance the sweetness and keep everyone tidy.

Drop in for a mince pie and a taster!

Wayne & Alex