Tasting Wine and Keeping Score

November 17th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Watched any good sport recently?

England 0 – Germany 0; Sweden 1 – Italy 0; Italy 0 – Sweden 0; England 0 – Brazil 0.

Admittedly two of these were friendlies, but just 1 goal in four matches?  You’ve got Germany, Brazil and Italy – three of the powerhouses of world football, two of whom were playing against lowly England, unable to score a goal.  And Italy, fighting to stay in with a chance of going to the World Cup next year, failed to score in 180 minutes of regular play?  Some people paid £100 to watch England v Brazil on Tuesday night, I suspect the costs weren’t far adrift in Stockholm or Milan – who says there’s no value in football?

Oh hang about, here’s a score form the Women’s Champions League:

Lyon Féminines 9 – BIIK Kazygurt Women 0 (Agg 16-0) – I think I’ve found the goals!

England 21 – Argentina 8.

It looked miserable at Twickenham last week and that’s before we discuss the weather.  It’s been a long time since we’ve been bored by a game of rugby, that’s not how the modern game works but last Saturday came close.  And we’ve got the Aussies this week – they must be quaking… although judging by their strange selection of the second choice wicket keeper for Tasmania for the first Ashes Test, perhaps John Eales might turn up on Saturday?

Read any good news recently?

Mugabe under house arrest was a bit of a surprise, him somehow managing to start negotiating some sort of deal with the army, less so.  Otherwise it’s been pretty much business as usual: more sordid sex scandals emerge; another top banker suggests a second Brexit referendum; Trump tweeted; someone said something derogatory about Theresa….

Drunk any good wine recently?

Well, Alex has certainly tasted enough.  85 wines on Tuesday at the IWC resulted in teeth blacker than the night and a pummelled palate.  However, Wayne has been more successful tasting-wise and as a result we’ve listed some more wines to cram onto the shelves:

Viña von Siebenthal Carmenère 2014 – £20.99 – a delicious red from the Aconcagua Valley in Chile, smooth rich damson fruits and a wine to give many Bordeaux a run for their money

Château Haut-Brisson ‘La Grave’ 2010 – £27.99 – Saint Émilion Grand Cru, from a tiptop vintage, on my table at Christmas, don’t mind if I do!

Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo 2012 – £33 – oh no, not another Barolo we hear you cry!  Well tough, it’s here now with all its lovely red cranberry and cedar wood notes and an elegant palate that has lovely tension between fruit and tannin – if you don’t want it we’ll have it…

Quinta da Falorca Garrafeira Old Vines 2011 – £50 – bit of an indulgence this one, a wine that we fell in love with and agreed that if no one bought it we were happy to drink it ourselves.  Our note was ‘a serious wine for serious people’, which makes absolutely no sense at all I know.  It’s extremely good, a blend of about 50 grapes all from old vines and with plenty of potential to age.  If you like top notch Rioja then try this Portuguese version, it’ll knock your socks off!

Celler Sangenís I Vaque Vall Por 2006 – £25.49 – 11 year old Priorat is not that easy to find and usually when you do it is double this price.  It still has a deep dark colour whilst the nose has a definite evolved character.  Wonderfully smooth with a lovely richness of fruit and some resolved tannins that you would never find in a younger wine.

And away from wine we were bamboozled by the pretty label and bought Dolin Chambéryzette Apéritif à la Fraise – £16.99 – a strawberry spirit that is brilliant over ice and adds a certain frisson to a glass of Gin.

We also have a returning hero – MAGNUM OF THE CHOCOLATE BLOCK 2016 – £50 – knowing how much you all like these I thought I’d mention them as I only have a limited quantity available, so first come, first served I think is the fairest distribution.

Tasted any wine yet today?

If not, then perhaps you should swing by and see us this evening – we’re going to open the perennially popular Talmard Mâcon Uchizy 2016 – £15.99 and the Viña von Siebenthal Carmenère 2014 – £20.99, so lots to tempt your palate with…

Out and about this weekend?

Wimbledon Park Primary are having their annual quiz night this evening and if you are lucky enough to be going then I hear that the winelist is exceptional!  Equally, if you find yourself in Raynes Park tomorrow, Alex will be at the St Matthew’s Church Winter Fair showing all sorts of Christmas tipples and treats.

That’s it from us now, stay warm and see you later on for a warming tipple!

Gin, Chianti, Barolo and Ego

November 10th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Enough, already – enough of the ego, or is it id, either way I’m sick of it?

Look at all the sordid activities going on in Hollywood.  The torrent of allegations against Kevin Spacey and his rampant inability to keep his hands to himself has sullied his whole oeuvre.  We’ve got the Weinstein case.  We’ve got a growing list of actors and writers and directors amongst them Ben Affleck, Dustin Hoffmann, Steven Seagal, Oliver Stone and even George Bush Sr.  Accepting that accusations are only accusations until guilt is proven, it still doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

Look at all the sordid activities going on in Westminster.  Around a dozen MP’s accused of misconduct and half of them confessing to it.  Alongside this we’ve got a Foreign Secretary totally incapable of understanding from his diplomatic advisors that every word he says is recorded and analysed and that even the slightest mis-phrasing can put peoples life at risk; and we’ve got a, now ex-, Development Secretary whose extra-curricular meetings in Israel, again without any diplomatic support, have got us all asking – what was she thinking?

And what is the one thing that perhaps all these people have in common?  An ego, a sense of self-worth above the norm.  An ego that has such girth that it blocks out a lot of common sense and reality.  An ego that says, effectively, I can get away with this because I am who I am, I am a very important person and I am beyond reproach, advice and retribution – do you know who I am?

“He was really cocky, had this big grin on his face like he was going to get away with something” Carrie Stevens

Sick of it.  Apologies for the rant, here’s to happier times.

Happier times

I’m sitting here, writing this, in what can best be described as an armchair of flavoured Gin – I know, what’s with all the moaning and ranting.  Anyway, our delivery from our pals up at Foxdenton Estate that was due to arrive on Monday has just turned up and the only place to put it was around my escritoire.  My left arm rest is the Recognisably Different Sloe Gin (£24.99), that numerous of you have enjoyed as a winter warmer for numerous years; perhaps more exciting though is my right armrest.  Last time we spoke to Nick at Foxdenton he very kindly sent us down a few samples of his other fruit fancies – specifically his Apricot and his Rhubarb gins.  Now the apricot was like drinking alcoholic jam, which was great in small doses but actually the consensus was that it was all a bit too sweet.  The Rhubarb, on the other hand, was an instant hit.  Sweet and rhubarby as you would hope but with just enough tartness in the finish to keep it honest.  So we bought some, hence armrest number two.  It comes in a particularly smart 35cl bottle and has a delicate pink hue (which our sample didn’t, to its detriment probably) and seems likely to fit perfectly into a stocking in the early hours of 25th December.

Foxdenton Recognisably Different Rhubarb Gin (£14.99).

Even happier times

As intimated above, we have been gathering more stock in this week, which makes us happy and ideally you too in the long term.  A few examples below:

From France we have found another magnum from a cracking vintage, the Chateau Lamothe-Cissac, Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2010 – £36.99.  I’ll bring this if you organise the rib of beef.

From Italy, we see the return of Riecine di Riecine 2012 – £52.00, which is, in their own words, “our ultimate expression of the best wine that can be made from Sangiovese – true to the vineyard and the very essence of the Gaiole terroir, capturing everything that…. is the essence of Riecine” and also their Riecine Chianti Classico 2015 – £22.99, of which wine critic James Suckling wrote: “A firm and silky red with blackberry and tile character. Medium body and a flavorful finish. Drink now.”  He then proceeded to give it 92 points and proclaim it as the best Chianti Classico 2015 – we already knew it very was good and now you can too!

Plus we tasted the totally stonking Borgogno Barolo Riserva 2003 – £48.00, which has oodles of delicious fruit from this warmer vintage and is absolutely singing right now.  We’ve always wanted to get a Borgogno wine on the shelf but have missed out in the past – not this time though!  Finishing off Italy, and a bit more wallet friendly we have managed to list the Feudo Antico Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2014 – £11.99, our previous M d’A went missing so it’s nice to have a replacement.

For the more spirited amongst us we also have some new delights:

Delamain Pale & Dry XO Cognac – £97.00 – real artisanal cognac with an average age of 25 years – smooth, delicious and very smart.

Antica Quaglia Ciliegia Liquore – £22.00 – cherry brandy or is it bottled Bakewell tart?

Antica Quaglia Orange Brandy – £35.00 – really pithy Seville orange notes with hints of Terry’s Chocolate Orange between Grand Marnier and Cointreau in flavour and far superior to both.

Antica Quaglia Fernet – £24.00 – classic aroma of herbs and medicine and old apothecaries, bitter and sweet, herby with a touch of mint decent length – a real hangover fix style, whatever a hangover may be…

Park Brewery Park Porter 4% – £2.59 – a Porter from our pals in Kingston and not at a stupidly high alcohol level – perfect seasonal drinking.

Happy Hour

And so it shall come to pass that at around 5pm this evening the weekend shall commence.  Drinks will be drunk all around the country and we will open a couple of bottles here for your tasting pleasure.

The white will be an old favourite of ours – Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2016 – £18.99 – we’ve been buying this ever since Kevin Judd left Cloudy Bay in 2009 to set up on his own and have never been disappointed; judging from sales it would seem you’re also fans but if you want to double check, swing on by…

The red will be another newbie, Casa Silva Pinot Noir 2015 – £17.99 – from the Colchagua Valley in Chile this is a proper cool climate PN with a nose filled with red fruit notes, strawberries, raspberries and a subtle background note of cinnamon and spice from the French oak it spent 12 months reposing in.  Excellent length of finish and a real pleasure.

So that’s it from us.  Without wanting to get political, wear a poppy, don’t wear a poppy, we don’t mind but do perhaps just take a minute tomorrow to reflect.

Best wishes,

Wayne & Alex

P.S. should you need to hear more ranting, between us we can happily orate on a broad sphere of topics: cycling without lights on, using mobiles whilst driving, not indicating at roundabouts or indeed any junctions, fly-tipping, large lorries in central London, dog waste to name just a few….

Rituals, Real Madrid, Itegem and Minervois

November 3rd, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Whoop, whoop!  Guess who has just scored 6 days of extra leave this year?  I reckon I can finish work on the evening of Wednesday 20th December and not come back into work until 3rd January – how good is that?  Plus I get to avoid the busy time in the shop and all the aches and pains – score!

This all came about on Wednesday this week and I can’t thank Wayne enough…  As is our wont, the working day doesn’t really start until one of us been across the road to Saucer and Cup for a couple of coffees.  It was Wayne’s turn on Wednesday, and once we had got through all the usual jokes related to how we would like our coffee today (sprinkles, peppermint mocha, cinnamon dolce, grappa, hahaha) he left premises.  As he left, another of his daily rituals*took place, as he slowly unfurled one of Switzerland’s finest smokes, a Villiger Export Cigar, the stogie of choice for south London geezers for decades now.  Right-ho, I thought to myself, cold coffee for me today, that’ll take him at least 20 minutes to finish….  *made up for the purposes of this email

So what was I to do with these 20 minutes of caffeine free imprisonment?  Well, what would you do?  Yep, I went online – and it was here that I came across an article that was going to change my holiday landscape forever…

Let me introduce you to Piala Inc, a marketing firm in Tokyo.  Following a message from one of the staff that non-smokers were working harder than their gasper fuelled colleagues.  Piala Inc is on the 29th floor and smokers have to descend to basement level to spark up – average length of time away from their desk?  15 minutes.  The CEO, having done some quick maths on the back of a fag packet, came up with the 6 days extra paid leave solution for the non-smoking staff.

Genius – and 25% of the staff have already signed up for it – I reckon I might push for 10 days and go skiing too!

Speaking of holidays, Carles Puigdemont has decided that the beaches of Tarragona hold no half term holiday appeal for him as he takes his family on the trip of a lifetime to Itegem in Belgium.  Apparently he can, technically, seek asylum in Belgium although success is far from guaranteed.  Quote of the week must be from Belgium’s deputy prime minister, Kris Peeters, stating “if you declare independence, you usually stay with your people”.  Ouch.

And speaking of ouch, the Spanish players at Real Madrid were clearly distracted by the activities of their Catalan neighbours as they leaked goals in the Champions League, to Tottenham, at Wembley.  No-one does that…

Also in sport, Marland Yarde has been given his marching orders by Quins and immediately signed for Sale – if he was finding it difficult to get to training in London, where he lives, what chance making it to Manchester?  Perhaps he should have a word with his fellow alma mater alumnus , Danny Cipriani, who’s bound to be able put him back on the straight and narrow!  Oh, and whilst talking of rogues and reprobates, the cricket starts down under on Saturday, without our #1 rogue, Mr Stokes  – 5 nil here we come.

Anyway forget about all that, it’s November now, which is the last buffer between us and Christmas.  We are slowly slipping wines and champagnes in through the door and have listed a couple of new wines this week which we are quite excited about.  We’ve got a new Pinot Noir from Chile (Casa Silva Cool Coast Pinot Noir 2015 – £17.99); we’ve got a new Malbec from Cahors in France (Chateau Vincens ‘Origine’ 2014 – £17.99), that Wayne tasted in June and I haven’t let him buy until the heating went on; and a very tasty Minervois from, um, AOC Minervois (Chateau de Parazza 2015 – £13.99) which we also have in magnum, for £27.99.

We’ll open the Minervois this evening  – a  blend of 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache Noir and 20% Mourvèdre, this is deep red garnet with cherry and raspberry compote notes, backed by red licorice undertones and a juicy acidity.  Floral and mineral details weave together on the crisp finish that is everything you could wish for on a weekend filled with bonfires.

And we’ll open a white, too, Ciù Ciù Merlettaie Pecorino 2016 – £13.99, to be precise.  As I think we have mentioned in the past, this wine is not made of cheese, Pecorino is a grape variety originally from the Abruzzo.  A pleasing floral nose with clean, pleasant and refined aromas of banana, broom, apple, hazelnut and plum followed by a hint of vanilla.  The mouth follows the nose, a slightly round attack however balanced, agreeable crispness, good body and intense flavours.  We first had Pecorino in 2005, when it first came into the market over here, and frankly are very surprised it hasn’t become a chart topper, however that does mean there’s more for us and our friends!

And that just about puts an end to this week’s ramblings – it was his turn on the Saucer and Cup run again and I can see him carrying back two coffees –  I’m just praying that the long lump of ash on his cheroot doesn’t fall into either of them… Amazing how much I can write in a fag break, eh!

Over and out.

Small wine harvest and other horrors

October 27th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Words I thought I’d never write are just dripping off my fingertips: “England beat Brazil 3-1 to make it to the World Cup Final”. The fact that I am talking about the under-17 age group gives us much hope for the future, I’m sure it’ll be ultimately misplaced, but for the moment we’re very happy with “England beat Brazil 3-1 to make it to the World Cup Final”!

A few years ago Alex wrote in these very pages about the creeping insidiousness of a mysterious American conglomerate TorT Inc. (trading here as Trick or Treat UK Ltd). Using sugar based snacks they had become one of the most successful CAPERS (Cash Allowance from Parents’ Removal specialists). In order to keep you all well abreast of events, we felt it was time to check on their activities again. What we have discovered is, quite frankly, a bit alarming.

Pumpkins this year are fewer in number but larger in size, and most will again be used to hide part of the doorstep whilst handily up-lighting that cobweb on the front door. Not so many will be made into soup, curry or pie yet weirdly quite a few may end up in your latte!

Using the very latest in cyber technology (frightgeist.withgoogle), we thought we’d check out the Halloween Costume Charts. We were somewhat surprised to find this year’s most searched costume was Wonder Woman (someone really should take Harvey’s computer away), we were disappointed that more traditional Halloween themes of Zombie (No.9), Vampire (No.19) and Skeleton (No.22) seem to be falling out of fashion. We did wonder why 1980’s at No. 32 was more popular than the Devil at No. 35 but thought best not to delve too deeply, whilst at the same time, feeling slightly sorry for the 1990’s which could only manage 48th position.

There is some good news however, previously reported merger talks between TorT Inc. and The Fawkes Foundation have foundered. Magic Fountains will not be replaced by Sherbet Fountains for this year at least, more news next week…

A week or two ago we mentioned that France had a small harvest this year, and indeed it appears that this year’s worldwide wine harvest is the lowest in 50 years. Several newspapers reported the news in their own inimitable styles.

The Sun: “We’re heading for a wine shortage and boozy Brits are already freaking out!”

The Evening Standard: “UK could face prosecco shortage as European wine production hits 50 year low.”

The Weather Channel: “Bad weather to cause wine production slump”.

We’d just mention that so far we see no reason to freak out as an 8% fall in production is unlikely to cause a Prosecco shortage and we can always drink Cava instead! If all else fails we’ll get Alex to release some from his cellar. I think it’s the one he calls Cellar V.

Tasting this weekend

White wise, we thought we’d go with Boeckel Pinot Blanc Reserve 2015 (£13.79). It’s one of those whites that flies under the radar a little but is just delicious with some fish pie, a creamy mushroom risotto or a simple vegetable frittata.

In the red corner we’ll be having a guzzle on Le Malbec 2014 (£11.99). Hailing from the southwest of France this is perhaps a little lighter than its Argentinean counterparts and lovely with some wild boar sausages, we reckon.

Time

Good news folks, that hour that went off on its travels in the spring is finally returning this weekend, dirty washing in tow no doubt.

Yes indeed it’s time for the clocks to go back this weekend so you can *stay up to watch the end of the late movie/ *throw a few more shapes on the dancefloor/ *enjoy the extra sleep. *Delete as appropriate

Don’t forget to charge or get new batteries for the torch and bike lights.

Cheers,

Living The High Life

October 20th, 2017

Fellow wine Lovers,

How was last night?  Did you have a Gin and Tonic?  Shame, you should have done – following on from last week’s collection of national and international ‘days’, yesterday was International Gin & Tonic Day.  As proof, here is a link: www.facebook.com/InternationalGinAndTonicDay/ – I think the two things that surprised us most were the fact that this is not the first year that this has been a ‘day’ and we’ve missed a trick and , perhaps more significantly, that none of our Gin suppliers (two of whom are solely Gin producers) made any mention of it to us.

As touched upon last week, ‘day’ saturation point has clearly now been surpassed, there are too many ‘days’ in the year for us to keep up with, whilst paradoxically there are not enough days in the year for all the ‘days’…

Moving swiftly on.

‘About two grand’

This is how much the Posh and the Becks allegedly spent on wine on a recent date night.

Not a lot really – with a combined worth of about £500 million, that is really the equivalent of me taking my beloved out for a couple of halves of Amstel and a sausage roll.  They consumed, according to the sources, a bottle of Chateau Margaux 1995 (nice choice, Victoria), a bottle of Chateau Cheval Blanc 2012 (a trifle young, David) and a bottle of Chateau Lafleur 2006 (now that’s more like it, a bit of age and development).

Now, various commentators have tied themselves up in knots about the size of the bill et cetera but what we have to admire is a midweek date night that involves three bottles of wine, red wine no less, and not a glass of Prosecco in sight.

Beckhams – consider yourselves high fived!

‘About a hundred and fifty quid’

Yesterday was a tough day, one of those days that you’re all very lucky to be able to avoid.  But don’t show us too much pity because in fact we brought it all upon ourselves when we invited João from Sogevinus to pop in and see us.  João has the unenviable task of trying to sell Wayne port and he does this by pouring samples into glasses and then waving them under our noses before we taste and spit them out.  Or at least I spit them out, I couldn’t possibly comment on Wayne’s activities…

The ports all came from Kopke, a smaller house but as we well know, smaller does not diminish quality of course; they were established in 1638, is the eldest Porto wine export firm and is considered one of the leaders  in the “Porto Colheita” category.

So, what did we taste?

Kopke 10 year old White (half) – £23

Caramel, peach, soft and not as sweet as I expected at front, caramel again sweetens into the length and persistent peach stone fruit.

Kopke 10 year old Tawny – £22

More red fruit character, touch of cinnamon and nut, soft sweeter attack, milky coffee and red fruits, touch of warmth in finish, very classic winter warmer.

Kopke 30 year old White (half) – £52

Real dried apricot attack, lovely balance, coffee, nut brittle, layered and really long finish

Kopke 1987 Colheita – £75

Textured, soft and sweet but not aggressively so, cream fudge without the sugar, reddish fruit, touch of spice but overall impression is of elegance.

Kopke 20 year old Tawny – £42

Red cherry and chocolate on nose, interesting celery note too, spice more mocha notes on palate lovely intensity without sticky out warmth. Nice and long. Touch of cloves on palate too

Kopke 1967 – £150

Furniture polish, redcurrant, clotted cream, star anise, sweet but drier than I expected attack, red fruits, creamy toffee, butterscotch but a certain amount of power to it. Decent length.

We haven’t bought any of these yet (but have offered them to the Beckhams) but our favourites were definitely the Colheita’s – Wayne enjoying the elegance of the 1987 whilst Alex appreciated the power of the 1967 – and frankly a bottle that is 50 years old for £150 is very hard to beat in our view!

The rest of the day passed in a blur of VAT returns and hunger pangs – who knew that tasting port in the morning gives you the munchies – and now we reach the weekend and for many of our younger readers (!), half term.

It’s only a week off (or two weeks if you pay the right people) and if your lives are anything similar to mine, a glass of wine or two is the only way to get through.  With this in mind, this evening we will be opening a couple of bottles for tasting:

The white corner will be inhabited by Hubert Lamy Bourgogne ‘Les Chataigners’ 2012 (£26.99). The estate is based in St. Aubin (probably the best of them if we’re honest) and this Cuvée comes vineyards above the village on limestone soils. A real bobby dazzler of a wine, and if there is such a thing as value in Burgundy, this is surely it.

Red wise we’ll be tucking into Chateau Tanesse 2010 (£13.99) a cracking drop of claret from Cadillac, Côtes de Bordeaux. From a great vintage, this is a winning blend of 49% Merlot 38% Cabernet Sauvignon and a splash each of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Time for a roast on Sunday?

We promise to stop doing this soon, but will just sign off with the news that today is the 8th Edition of #globalchampagneday.

Perhaps we can help?

That Was The Week That Was

October 13th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We had a cast around this week, wondering where to start with this  commentary. Friday 13th seemed a rather obvious place to start, a successful horror movie franchise from the 80’s rumoured to be getting a reboot, but right now Hollywood seems a subject best avoided.

We had a brief look at the news and discovered that Trump wants “the Nuclear Arsenal to be in tip top condition”. Only to be immediately trolled by Arsene Wenger stating “Arsenal may sell Ozil and Sanchez in January”.

Then a thought struck me, hadn’t someone on the radio said it was National Curry Week? I’ll have a look into that, surely everyone likes a curry and it can’t be too controversial to talk about. Oh, how wrong can you be… it turns out that one of the nation’s favourite curry styles, Korma, is not the mild creamy dish that we all thought. Korma actually means ‘braising’ or ‘slow-cooking’ and can come mild or spicy! It’s not just National Curry Week though folks, it’s also Chocolate Week. Who organises this, surely it makes more sense and fun to make those two separate weeks?

Wool Week has been running for eight years, so if your curry isn’t hot enough you can put on a sweater. Why not take a walk down to the library because it’s also National Libraries Week, and National Braille Week. I have to say, I think Braille and Libraries make a better partnership than Curry and Chocolate. We then spotted the Arthritis Week and Dyspraxia Awareness Week and decided we were full up, we had 7 weeks in a week, and even the Beatles only managed Eight Days.

Positively marvelling at our impressive, if slightly uncharacteristic, time management skills in fitting so much in our week, we decided to look at today Friday 13th. Apart from being an impressive Horror Movie franchise of 12 films and a computer game, it is also a day that has sparked enough fears of bad luck that it has a personal phobia: Friggatriskaidekaphobia!

Friday 13th October 2017 is also World Egg Day, so you know what to have in your lunchtime sarnie. Randomly it is also National No-Bra Day as part of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and if you don’t believe us, you probably already know its International Sceptics Day.

Given how crowded just one week in the diary appears to be, we do wonder how effective they are. Did you hear more about Curry or Arthritis this week?

We are dead chuffed to discover the impeccable timing of the 6th National Wine Week, which runs 28th November till 4th December. Although disappointed we didn’t find out earlier, both Park Vintners and Wayne’s birthday fall in that week, so I suspect a bottle or two will be opened!

In other wine news it looks like France had the smallest harvest in 60 years. Those late April frosts really did the damage in Bordeaux, whilst the really hot spells in August wreaked havoc in the Languedoc. Throw in a storm or two in Champagne and you have a 19% drop overall on 2016! Italy will be top dog this year it seems.

Tasting This Weekend

Given the Korma controversy we couldn’t help but choose a white to go with our previous understanding of the creamy curry and taste Reserve de Gassac 2016 (£11.99). It’s blend of Viognier, Chardonnay and Marsanne should be just the ticket.

Running the show in the red corner will be Uitkyk Pinotage 2014 (£14.49).  Back after an enforced absence due to it literally missing the boat from South Africa, it’s an elegant style that will be comfortable with a Rogan Josh, and no slouch with that barbecued leg of lamb that might just happen on Sunday!

 

Wayne gets the blues…

October 6th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It seems to me that there are many things wrong with the world. State police spending their Sunday beating unarmed citizens over a difference of view, another random man with too many guns shooting random innocents at a concert and ethnic cleansing in Myanmar all, rather sadly, spring too easily to mind.

The dishonesty of shrinkflation on bags of Maltesers, Minstrels and now even Jaffa Cakes all by producers who prefer to think we’re too stupid to notice. Walnut Whips without their walnut, how ridiculous.

A wrong that caught my eye this week is wine related.  French born, London based entrepreneur Aymerc Bruneau unveiled the first blue fizz made from French grapes at the Frieze Art Fair.  When I started to read this I thought “ah, maybe it’s some sort of performance art or publicity stunt”.  I read that the colour was inspired by Yves Klein’s trademarked ‘International Klein Blue’.  But then I saw “We created Eden with elegance in mind, artistic spirit in soul and art-de-vivre in essence.”  It is really quite sweet, (38g/l residual sugar) so that you can drink it over ice and it is claimed to taste better than champagne.

It’s blue! How on earth can something with blue dye in it be better? I’m not sure the wine world is any better off with this launch, but it is the first time Frieze Art Fair has been plugged in our missive, so maybe it is performance art… Anyhow a bottle will set you back £45 or a Jeroboam (4 bottles equivalent) £315. Even the maths is dodgy for an overpriced WKD!

Suffice to say we haven’t managed to find any fridge or shelf space for it.

However, we did find some shelf space for a plethora of beauties this week.

First up, and one Wayne is particularly excited about is Kalin Cellars Cuvée CH Chardonnay 1995, Sonoma County, USA (£40). Those of you with good memories may remember we had a bit of the Cuvee W last year and were just a little upset when it ran out.

Kalin Cellars make small parcels of wine from a selection of other people’s vineyards and then release it as and when they think the wine is ready. Robert Parker wrote: “Terry Leighton is one of California’s two most talented winemakers … (Kalin wines) are the wines of a genius. These wines are worth every effort to find in the marketplace” For our five pennyworth, we’d just say they are how Meursault used to be before all the oxy problems started to rear their ugly heads in the late ‘90’s.  This is from Charles Heinz Vineyards in Sonoma County and is absolutely stunning, rounded and dry, nutty, oatmealy and honeyed, really long in the finish, and still fresh as a daisy. A bargain!

The nagging worked, and we can tell you that the Thiénot Brut NV (£32.99) is back by popular demand. Still as delicious, still not as famous as it should be, and still the Champagne that kicked Möet out of the 2013 Oscars party!

We’ve also listed our first XO Cognac (although it didn’t turn upon the delivery today – Monday they promise me!). Alex, with his love of hip hop and Grime music, was very keen to go down the Hennessey route, but when Wayne pointed out that there is much less Grime in Wimbledon Park than when we worked in Clapham, his voice was heard above the din.

Delamain Pale & Dry XO (£95) Established in 1759 Delamain is one of the last family-owned Cognac houses. They specialise in aged cognacs and this XO is a blend of 25 years old Grande Champagne cognacs, each one was aged separately before blending and ageing for another two years. Complex and powerful with floral and vanilla aromas. Mellow and subtle on the palate with concentrated fruits and hints of liquorice and vanilla.

Tasting This Weekend

We’ll kick off the red corner with a wine we think ideal with windy evenings and falling leaves, Antonio Camillo Morellino Di Scansano 2016 (£14.99), is a cracking red from near the coast in Tuscany.

In the white corner we’re heading to Austria. Turk Grüner Veltliner Kremser Weinberge 2015 (£17.99). Weingut Türk dates back to the beginning of the 18th century and consists of fifteen hectares of vines in Kremstal at the heart of Austrian winemaking. Franz says that his aim is to capture the positive energy of the sun in fluid form. We’re not sure if he’s managed that, but this is typical, peppery Grüner Veltliner. A spicy nose, crisp and refreshing, a Grüner Veltliner that offers drinking pleasure and finesse.

Thanks to Tom Petty for sound-tracking us whilst we learnt to fly.

Wayne & Alex

Cheese, Wine, Sherry, Gin…

September 29th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

He’s back.  He’s reinvigorated.  He’s 90% fish and 10% Sherry.  He’s tanned.  He’s irritatingly relaxed.  He’s ready for Christmas even though he’s still wearing shorts whilst sweeping up crispy autumnal leaf fall.  He is, frankly, quite exhausting.

And he’s instituted some new shop rules – a couple of weeks of good, healthy living and relaxation has turned him proper bossy:

  • No sausage rolls – not good for us apparently, not even as part of a packed luncheon
  • No fighting outside Bristol nightclubs – no good for us but in a different way
  • No scrummaging or tackling – too dangerous and thus ends shop rugby as we know it
  • No testing nuclear weapons – put’s everyone on edge and fighter planes in the sky
  • No more dealings with Boeing
  • No more Hugh Hefner – not altogether sure what he means by that
  • No more trips on Ryanair – not enough flights and not enough consequential compensation
  • No more tweeting about taking a knee during the national anthem
  • No more ‘aid’ packages from Russia
  • No more discussion of October abstaining
  • No more heroes
  • No more Shakespearoes

 

At which point I stopped listening as he now seemed to be busying himself with Spotify….

But it’s good to have him back, really.  When Wayne finishes his summer holidays it means it is eyes down and full steam ahead towards Christmas, hold onto your hats.  We’ve started to order some of the Christmas wines, ready for delivery next month I suspect and we’ve been taking a leisurely look at our spirits – Rhubarb Gin?  Tequila?  Any interest out there, or is it just us?

Oh, and ‘normal’ Gin too.

Bizarre as it may seem, given the current juniper haze that has us all engulfed, we are struggling to find a Gin to replace Dodd’s.  It doesn’t have to be the same as Dodd’s, it just needs to be different from our current offering of Hepple, Little Bird, Dutch Courage and Monkey 47.  Local would be good, top quality and flavoursome is an absolute must, as is interesting.  Any thoughts?  We’ve had a number of suggestions from all sorts of far-flung places but have now taken the view that if people are consistently asking for one particular brand, then that’s the one we should look at more closely.

So if anyone has any suggestions, drop us a line and we’ll have a butchers!

Otherwise, not a huge amount to report on the home front his week.  Wayne’s return means that our instore tastings start up once more and Wine School kicks off a new term next week with a full classroom of eager oenophiles, followed swiftly by our first autumn Wine & Cheese Tasting on the evening of Thursday 5th October at 8pm.

Whilst Wine School is fully booked, we do still have 4 seats available for the Thursday evening tasting of all things good in the cheese and wine world.  If you fancy it, drops us a line or drop in – it’s £20 per person, bookable in advance, and is always a very fulfilling and satisfying evening!

If you can’t wait for next week to have your tastebuds tantalised, we will, as is our weekend wont, be opening a red and a white this evening and all through tomorrow.

White wine will be represented by an old favourite of ours – De Wetshof Estate ‘Lesca’ Chardonnay 2016, – £14.99.  From Robertson in South Africa, and named after Danie de Wet’s wife, this is a lightly wooded Chardonnay, exuding lively aromas of citrus, green apple and butterscotch on the nose.  With the elegance and intensity of great white Burgundy, it has a complex, racy palate of lemon, peach and ripe apple flavours with nutty and mineral notes.  Pork stuffed with prunes was the winery recommendation and we won’t argue with that.

The red representative, maintaining our theme of Burgundy grapes being used elsewhere, is going to be Southern Dawn Pinot Noir 2013 – £14.49, from Marlborough, New Zealand.  I could give you all the guff about the soil in the vineyards, the angle of the slope the vines are planted on, and the winemakers collection of 19th century corkscrews, but none of that is really relevant.  We sell this wine because we think it tastes brilliant: light with red cherry fruit character and a fresh finish.  I’ve no idea if he has a corkscrew collection but am certain he doesn’t use it for this!

No more from us this week – those are the new rules!

Wayne & Alex

Is that another week over with? Thank goodness for that…. I think I need a drink!

September 22nd, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Is that another week over with?  Thank goodness for that…. I think I need a drink!

Some weeks are easier than others and, consequentially, some of these Friday missives are easier to write than others.  This week is a harder week, the news hasn’t really been playing with a straight bat and there is little humour to be derived from much of what we read each day.

Locally, the events in Parsons Green dominate the news and South West London has been rudely awakened to the reality that whilst we live in what seems to be a lovely, leafy, utopian suburbia, we are also still part of the greater London metropolis and can be subjected to the same terrors.  Thank goodness it wasn’t worse.

Internationally, the Donald got more time in the spotlight as he promised to destroy North Korea and put the squeeze on Iran – I’m not sure if he is planning on doing this unilaterally or with a UN jacket on.  Either way, he emphasised that it’s all in the name of making the world a safer and more peaceful place, which makes one re-examine that bit a little earlier in his speech when he stated ‘it has just been announced that we will be spending almost $700 billion on our military and defence. Our military will soon be the strongest it has ever been’.  How safe does that make me feel?  Not sure, especially since Kim now sees his nuclear endeavours as the only sensible avenue when faced with a ‘deranged’ POTUS.  I hate it when the pot and the kettle argue….

The one joy was hearing the Melania, without any hints of irony, highlighting the dangers of cyberbullying and the important role we all have in curtailing it in a speech at a luncheon on Wednesday.  I can only assume she doesn’t follow her husband on twitter.

And then Theresa got up to have her say in New York on Wednesday but unfortunately she failed to attract the packed house that Donny T drew, as more than half the delegates had absented themselves from the room and some of the remainers, as it were, were busy talking amongst themselves.  Perhaps a good trial run for her speech in Florence today, gets her warmed up to the idea of not being listened to!

In sport, at a time when we should absolutely be celebrating the continued footballing ascendance of the England Lionesses, after their 6-0 drubbing of Russia on Tuesday, we are in fact staring gobsmacked at the ineptitude of the FA.  This football team has been getting better and better and has been a beacon of hope in a fairly poor English sport landscape.

But it was not to be unsullied.  Mark Sampson, their manager, has been sacked, almost 4 years after his appointment, for reasons that should have stopped him being hired in the first place.  But then he was investigated by the FA’s safeguarding unit and cleared in terms of his suitability to continue in football, in early 2015.  And Martin Glenn, FA chief exec,  says that now, ‘ (on) reading that report, I felt that what I saw was incompatible with the standards that we’d expect for someone to work at the FA.’  But later in the interview he states ‘Mark Sampson is absolutely clear to work as a coach in football.’

What?

Either he’s a rotten apple and should be removed from the game completely or a good egg who has a clean bill of health?  Is he a bully, a racist or a risk to his players’ safety?  We really cannot tell from all the confusingly muddled messages emanating from the people who are meant to be in charge but one thing is for sure, it stinks.

When I started writing this today, I was hoping to come up with a selection of observations that might all snugly fit under the working title: 7 Reasons Why We Call It Fizz Friday. 

I’m not sure if I have succeeded but let’s all raise glasses this evening to life, to Parsons Green, to Mexico, to the North Korean workers, to Marc Bolan and Jimi Hendrix (died this week in 1978 and 1970, respectively) and, to lighten the mood, to Prince Charles, who confessed this week in 1983, that he talks to his plants!

To help with this I have decided to eschew white wine this week on our tasting and jump straight in with some fizz.

For years we sold Morton Brut NV from New Zealand and you all loved it.  It then went through a re-brand and now calls itself Leveret IQ Premium Brut NV.  A champagne in all but name really, being a blend of the usual suspects, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay it’s crisp and dry with a fine mousse, it’s exactly the sort of bubbly for Friday Night fizz after a hard week.  It’s £14.99 and is a bottled celebration of human intelligence!

Theresa is in Tuscany so I thought it a wonderful excuse to open something very Tuscan – Sesti Monteleccio 2104 – £19.99.  In 1975, when Giuseppe Sesti came to Argiano, Brunello was distinguished but also dying out.  Only 25 producers remained in the area and many assumed Brunello would become a historical footnote.  He set about restoring the ancient vineyards of Argiano.  Monteleccio is Giuseppe’s baby Brunello, distinctively Sangiovese Grosso, the only grape of Brunello, with its classic aromas of dried cherries, cedar, truffles and tobacco.  The palate is concentrated but also soft and open with notes of mocha and chocolate lingering long into the finish.  As a footnote, Giuseppe did not initially choose a career in wine.  Instead, his Venetian upbringing inspired him to study music, art, and astronomy, the last of which became his profession which makes him the perfect person to keep an eye on the actions of Rocket Man and the Dotard!

That’s it from us for now – in all the hiatus I never got a chance to view the rugby last weekend – anyone got any idea how the All Blacks got on against the Springboks!!

I’ll love you and leave you now…

Keep your shoulders back and your heads held high!

September 15th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It’s that time of year when the Big Dog stubs out his stogie, stretches his legs, buries all his bones in the back garden and takes a well-earned holiday in the sun.  This year he is chasing cats and squirrels around Cádiz, Jerez and Sevilla, hopefully whilst refreshing himself regularly with mucho Tinto de Verano, Rabo de Toro and perhaps PX.

Which means, as a consequence, it’s the time of year that I get to arrive at work on time (as opposed to the standard 3 minutes past the hour); I get to stand behind the computer looking important and business-like, writing important sounding emails to impressive sounding people; I get to gaze into the middle distance, arms folded, with the expression of a man busy working out a complex problem; I also get to sit in the big leather swivel chair and, if there’s no one around, turn myself into some sort of human fidget spinner, careening around until giddiness becomes nausea.  And that’s just Monday morning covered; I’ve got two weeks of this.  Freedom, sweet, sweet freedom!

Plus I get to answer the phone.  This is actually nowhere near as exciting as he makes it seem when he is here:

Ring, ring, ring

  • Hello, Park Vintners, Alex speaking
  • Hello, can I speak to the owner of the business?
  • I am the owner, how can I help?
  • Hello Sir, are you the owner of the business?
  • I just told you I was
  • I am calling from the National Company of Power and I would like to reduce your electricity and gas bill today, who is your current supplier?
  • There’s no such thing as the National Company of Power, I think you’re fibbing…

And so the conversation goes on and on – I’ve watched Wayne, over the years, fielding these daily cold calls with the finesse of Jonty Rhodes and admired the length of time he can keep them hanging on the telephone.  Yesterday I broke his record – 8 minutes and 47 seconds – plus there was no swearing from either side and we parted on civil terms – I think the poor lady at the other end hadn’t realised she was the first person I’d spoken to for 4 hours and that I wasn’t going to let her go without a fight!

What else has happened?  Well, apart from sidling off into town yesterday morning to 67 Pall Mall to taste Armand de Brignac Champagne (google it, it’s bonkers) I’ve been chained to the shop.  I’ve bought some wine, I’ve sold some too, which is good for business;  I’ve taken my first Christmas order and I inadvertently listened to 3 hours of experimental jazz on Spotify on Wednesday which almost sent me loopy – elevator muzak on steroids –  God, how I miss the cricket and La Vuelta….

And now it’s Friday – the weekend is beckoning to us to hurry up and the gym can train itself tonight, we’re all having a glass of wine.  If it’s any help at all I’m planning on opening a couple of bottles here if you fancy coming and having a quick tasting snifter on your way home tonight, or anytime tomorrow (I’m here from 10.03am)

In homage to the guvnor’s trip to Spain I thought I might open some Iberian treats but from the opposite end of the country.

Dressed in white satin we have Quinta de la Erre Albariño 2016 – £15.99 which is a small, 10 hectare estate in the O Rosal area of Rias Baixas, coastal Galicia, an area widely regarded as a stand out region quality wise.  A cracking wine with a touch of orange blossom and nectarine fruit in the nose, nectarine fruit on the palate joined by spice, minerality and a lively dash of citrus. Hangs around in the mouth flavour wise, and is great as a partner to shellfish, or even on its own as an aperitif.

Sporting the red flares we have Alodio 2015 – £12.99 hailing from Ribeira Sacra which is just a little inland from the Albariño’s home turf.  A delicious, medium-bodied red, made predominantly from Mencia a grape variety that perennially reminds us of the great Cabernet Francs you find in the Loire Valley of France.  Blackberry fruit leaps out on the nose with some lovely tea caddy leaf notes.  Zesty on the palate with those dark fruits once more, a bit of spice to the fine tannins and crunchy dark fruit into the finish.  This is a lovely quaffer, ‘a real second glasser’ as the boss would say!

Finally a few notes of admin and dates for your diary.

Wine School starts in two weeks’ time – Wednesday 4th October.  We’ve told you loads about this already so won’t labour the point; suffice to say it’s filling up so if you’re planning on joining in, I’d suggest signing up sooner rather than later. £150 per person, bring a pal or two!

Wine & Cheese tasting – Thursday 5th October – still a couple of spaces left, £20 per person, just space for one pal!

Wimbledon Tennis Ballot – for those of you who like the strawberries and the Pimm’s in the rain and always seem to miss out on tickets, the ballot for next year’s tennis opened last week:

www.wimbledon.com/en_GB/tickets/ballot_uk.html

Here ends this public service announcement.

That’s all from me.  Rough day for South West London today, keep your shoulders back and your heads held high!