Christmas is Coming!

December 15th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

There are now 10 days until Christmas – I know this because my junk mail has told me.

Uniqlo, Runners Need, Amazon, Buyagift, Kew Gardens and even Surrey County Cricket Club have been warning me that I risk missing out on their latest offers and that I really, really must hurry.  Even the cheeky so-and-so’s at the Wine Society were putting the hard word on me.  Yesterday, there were 11 days until Christmas and on Tuesday there were 13 days – how do I know?  Because Uniqlo, Runners Need, Amazon… you get the gist.  However, my daughter wishes me to believe that there are only 9 days left because you don’t include today or the 25th in the count and, in fact Dad, because she is going away next Friday to her cousins’ house that, actually Dad, there are only really 6 days until Christmas properly starts…

So, I will now revise my opening statement, there are in fact just 6 days until Christmas – we all know this because my daughter has told me!

Whilst Theresa, Brexit and a Tory rebellion dominate the front pages, it is sport that really helps us keep a sense of perspective and, as often happens, it is the world of football and, within that, the world of José Mourinho, which provides us with the appropriate balance we need.

For non-football fans, here’s what you missed and I’m not sure it will encourage you to become fans in the near future.  Manchester United hosted Manchester City and lost the match 2-1.  After the match, it is alleged that Mr Mourinho made a complaint that the City team were ‘over-celebrating’ their victory and thus weren’t showing United, the losers, enough respect.  In a surreal re-invention of what is normally known as ‘handbags’, a scuffle ensued in the tunnel during which milk, water, plastic bottles and even the occasional punch are alleged to have been thrown, proving once more that footballers are the hardest sportsmen around.  Oh, and the concept of ‘over-celebrating’ – what is that, Jose?  Is that similar to over-laughing, over-smugly smiling and having an over-estimation of one’s own worth?!

Having said all this, I was on the verge of grabbing the Cravendale when I heard what Jonathan Ford of the FAW (Football Association of Wales) said of the requirement for a new Welsh national coach:  “We have always favoured Welsh people because arguably the passion is there.  Somebody said this earlier, Welsh most definitely, foreign possibly but definitely not English.”  Apparently he has had to apologise and put on his hair shirt in order to avoid a sticky international incident resulting in borders closing and a wall being built – who knew the world of football was so very sensitive?  Oh, hang about…

In other news, Donald Trump is 71 years old and has never apologised for anything.

Hopefully cycling isn’t hitting another serious doping scandal – we’ll have to wait and see; hopefully the English cricket team can grab something at the WACA – Day One was a decent day, Day Two started well until Steve Smith turned up again and it seems that Jimmy Anderson has yet to recover from the deeply psychologically traumatising Duckett dousing he received recently; however Steve Finn insists recent disciplinary lapses are not reflective of a drinking culture in English cricket.

In other news, Sir Ian Botham is to launch an English Sparkling Wine next year as part of a new wine range, and is already a partner in Botham Merrill Willis wines with Bob Willis and Geoff Merrill, superstar winemaker, who he met whilst on an Ashes tour in the 70’s…

Anyway, enough of what other people are drinking, what about us here in Wimbledon Park?  It all seems to be gearing up a bit now, parties are going on, pre- Christmas Christmases are being celebrated almost every day of the week and instore talk of turkey and smoked salmon seems to be on a perpetual loop – and we love it!

This weekend, to help with our drinking choices over the festive period but from less traditional areas, we will be opening Herbert Hall NV – £29.99 – our delicious fizz from Marden in Kent; we’ll be opening Quinta de la Erre Albariño 2016 – £15.99 – a cracking wine from Galicia; and we’ll be opening Spencer Hill Latitude 41 Small Batch Pinot Noir 2014 – £21.49 – from Nelson, NZ.  Plus, knowing Wayne’s expertise in persuading corks out of bottles of Port, I suspect we shall open something fortified too but I’m not sure what yet!  Of course, we will have an array of spirits open, including the Foxdenton Rhubarb Gin – £14.99 – that is challenging Prosecco as a top seller and is certainly going to get the award for best newcomer!

That’s about it really from us this week, only about 5 minutes left until Christmas I’m told, don’t forget our Wine Course starts in very late January and makes a perfect gift for that wine fan in your life – £150 for 6 weeks of vinous education, sounds good to me!

We’re off now to buy José some earth boots (thanks Galliano) to help him keep his feet on the ground and then have a chat with David Gower about his £1,000 fine for hiring a plane and buzzing the Carrera Oval during the 1990/1 Ashes tour – proper misbehaviour!

Boswellia Sacra (aka Hougary Frankincense) – who the hell he?

December 8th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Following Alex’s minor brush with celebrity and light switches just the other week, it feels like Arthur Road is gently turning into Primrose Hill. Alex gets accosted in the street; whilst the traffic was on a go slow all day Thursday, as both The Wedding Dress Shop and The Cake Parlour starred in a film! All day there were dozens of people standing around drinking tea, it’s a funny old business this film business. Word on the street is that it’ll be an advert for a high street bank, so watch this space.

In other news, we lost the second test in The Ashes and currently sit at 2-0 down, still in it though, we’re told. Russia has been banned from the Winter Olympics for “state-sponsored doping” but reports that they have been contracted to organise the after-party yet to be verified. We also understand we’ve reached “Peak Human” and are not sure if we should believe it; last year we were told we’d reached peak beard but we see more and more of them.

New Gin

A few weeks back we asked for suggestions for a new gin and received many excellent suggestions. Thanks very much for all your help. In the end we tasted a few but settled on Sacred “Classic” Gin (£35.00) from a micro distillery in Highgate. They use vacuum distillation which occurs at a much lower temperature than pot distillation giving much fresher and lusher flavours. This gin is the result of much experimentation (in fact recipe no 23!) and contains 12 botanicals including juniper, cardamom, nutmeg, and Boswellia Sacra (aka Hougary Frankincense) – hence the name, Sacred.  As an aside, when we asked our chaps at Hepple their opinion on Sacred, they gave it an unconditional thumbs up which erased any lingering doubts we may have had!

As luck would have it, Sacred have also recently released the first whisky to be aged in London – Sacred Peated English Whisky (£52), pipping the chaps in Battersea to the finish line. They take English Whisky from bourbon barrels and re-cask them in London for further maturation and flavour development in hogsheads – old Pedro Ximenez casks from Bodegas Navarro in Montilla, Spain. These nutty and rich nuances give a truly deep and satisfying single malt. Log-fire smoke from a country pub, sea salt, dried pineapple, clove spice, sweet vanilla and Christmas cake. We have been fortunate enough to grab a few bottles from cask No.2.

We have also had our first Mexican shelf visitor – Lunazul Tequila Reposado (£33). For us, it offered classic tequila notes of baked pineapple, framed in a smoky note from lazing around in barrels for a bit. Very smooth, with a long finish that is gently spiced and smoky.

Tasting this weekend

The white corner will be hosting Jean Loron’s Viré Clessé 2014 (£17.99). The south east facing chalk and clay soils here give this wine a lovely minerality. More complex than a Mâcon, not as rich as a Pouilly Fuissé, and really delicious.

In the coin rouge we are still in Burgundy but a little further north. Domaine Faiveley Mercurey La Framboisière 2015 (£23.99). La Framboisière is a single vineyard wine that Faiveley have owned since 1933. Despite its name, we always find it has a real hint of strawberry about. This is an absolute stunner of a vintage, so do come and have a taste.

Christmas Opening Hours

SUNDAY 17th DECEMBER 11AM – 3PM

MONDAY 18th – FRIDAY 22nd DECEMBER 11AM – 8PM

SATURDAY 23rd DECEMBER 10AM – 8PM

SUNDAY 24th DECEMBER 11AM – 4PM

MONDAY 25th – THURSDAY 28th DECEMBER CLOSED

FRIDAY 29th DECEMBER 11AM – 8PM

SATURDAY 30th DECEMBER 10AM – 8PM

SUNDAY 31st DECEMBER 11AM – 6PM

MONDAY 1st – WEDNESDAY 3rd JANUARY CLOSED

THURSDAY 4th JANUARY 11AM – 8PM

BACK TO NORMAL!

Short and sweet this week – don’t forget to book a space on the Wine School that starts again on Wednesday 31st January 2018 – £150 well worth spending to disperse all those deep winter blues!

Right, back to work with you, before someone notices you’re not examining spreadsheets…

Shop Small And Meet The Neighbours

December 1st, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Thanks to everyone who came along last weekend to witness Alex turning on the Christmas tree lights.  He’s coming down from the dizzy heights of celebrity now and is just about able to negotiate doors without damaging his ears. If you need someone handy with a light switch though, do get in contact, he has reasonable rates for Weddings, Barmitzvahs and Paper Bag openings.

In the news this week, we’ve had a bit of everything. The banks aren’t stressed anymore, winter has arrived, Prince Harry and Meghan Markle have announced their engagement and, as if it was already scripted, Donna has taken charge of all the planning.

It appears that when invading Britain Julius Caesar landed his 800 ships at Pegwell Bay in Kent. I suspect traffic on the A2 was much lighter in 57 B.C. making it a quicker run up to town!

Something that did make me smile was “Saudi prince Miteb bin Abdullah pays $1bn in corruption settlement.” Surely, that’s what got him into trouble in the first place?

Lastly, we’re hoping that Sunday night is a clear one, as there’ll be a supermoon (really big, like in ET!) and it’ll be a good number of years till it is that close to earth again.

Wine School

We have consulted the calendar and put some dates in the sorting hat, the results of which are:

Term starts Wednesday 31st January 2018 and ends on Wednesday 14th March 2018. Wednesday 14th February is skipped for half term skiing or St Valentine’s smooching, the choice is yours! Over the six weeks you’ll taste in the region of 60 wines, learn some wine faults and maybe even meet some new friends (vinous or human). Sign up now, the entire course costs £150, and we can provide you with a voucher for it, if you’re buying it as a gift.

Happy Birthday To Us

Park Vintners is Seven (!!!) years old this weekend, and is dead chuffed that small businesses around the country will be joining in to help us celebrate with…

Small Business Saturday

Tomorrow is Small Business Saturday, so cancel the Ocado shop, skip Sainsbury’s and head on down to your local butcher, the farmers market, florist, or even wine shop. We’d prefer it wasn’t just one day a year clearly, but small steps…

Shop Small with American Express

In some wonderful joined up thinking, the annual American Express Shop Small promotion starts tomorrow too. There are T&C’s obviously, but in essence: “Just spend £10 or more on your Card in a single transaction at a participating small business, and you’ll get a £5 credit on your statement. Offer runs from 2 – 17 December 2017. There’s no limit to the number of £5 credits you can receive, but you can only claim it once at each small business. To take part, just register your Card – or Supplementary Card – and you’re ready to Shop Small once the offer is live.”

It’d be churlish not to so, we’re in, are you?

New Neighbours

We’d like to extend a warm welcome to Galerie Prints (www.galerieprints.com ) who opened today at 152 Arthur Road.  Go in and see them, there are some truly fabulous pictures.

Tasting This Weekend

Well, given the birthday celebrations, we’ll definitely have a Champagne open.  In the white corner we’ll be pulling the cork on Sylvain Dussort’s Bourgogne ‘Cuvée des Ormes’ 2014 (£18.99). It is the estate’s flagship wine, from vines around 50 years old it is delicate, rich and elegant, with good length, and we reckon in a blind tasting it could easily be mistaken for a Meursault.

We’ll be running the flag up in the red corner for Chateau Sorbey 2010 (£13.99) a cracking Cru Bourgeois Haut Médoc that, despite Arthur Road’s propensity for hairdressers, has nothing to do with any famous celebrity coiffeurista called Trevor!

Thankyou, Rioja, Chablis, Pouilly Fume and luncheon Claret

November 24th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

As it was Thanksgiving yesterday we thought we should say thank you, thank you, thank you for the events of the past week.

Thank you for eventually resigning, Robert, although we’re not sure what you’ve done with Grace.  Thank you Philip, for freezing duty on beer, wine, cider and spirits.  Thank you also for continuing to freeze fuel duty.  Thank you Tottenham for making Arsenal fans happy, yet again.  Thank you, James Vince and Mark Stoneman, for at least getting us through Day 1 at the Gabba.  Thank you, Eddie, for putting Dylan on the bench tomorrow.  And thank you the British Medical Journal for publishing two reviews on subjects close to our hearts, relating to coffee and alcohol.

First up, coffee.  3 or 4 cups a day might be healthy and might reduce the risk of liver disease, some cancers, the risk of dying from a stroke and certain heart complaints.  Equally, too much coffee during pregnancy can be harmful – but then too much of anything during pregnancy can be harmful, so I suspect that’s not entirely breaking news.  Unfortunately, our excitement over this news was somewhat dampened when we discovered that all of the studies had been ‘observational’ and they couldn’t prove one way or another whether coffee had been the significant cause.

So, in nutshell, someone received a nice grant to watch people drink coffee and then make varying statements about the health benefits of caffeine without actually being able to, or even needing to prove any of them.  I definitely want that gig – but in the meantime, I need a drink.

Do emotions related to alcohol consumption differ by alcohol type?  An international cross-sectional survey of emotions associated with alcohol consumption and influence on drink choice in different settings – yep, this is the title of a research document published on BMJ Open online on 20 November.

In a rare fit of studious intent, I read the document online yesterday and, whilst it’s no JK Rowling, it did make for quite an interesting read perhaps because I managed to understand most of the words, although I’m not sure they’ve re-invented the wheel.  This was an international survey looking at individuals aged between 18–34 years old who had drunk some beer, spirits, red and white wine in the previous 12 months and where one of these was their drink of choice at home and out socially.  The study had almost 30,000 respondents from 21 countries, so quite an interesting cross section of cultures, I imagined with potential to throw up some surprises.

One part of the study was related to positive and negative emotions people believed they would experience with different drinks.  The positive emotions were: energised, confident, relaxed, and sexy; whilst the negatives were: tired, aggressive, ill, restless, and tearful.

Spirits were considered most likely to make people confident and energised but also most likely to make people ill and least likely to make you relaxed (is that definitely the spirits or perhaps the addition of Red Bull, Coca Cola or other sugary mixers – oh, hang about, it’s not my survey!)

Red wine, beer and then white wine were considered most likely to make you relaxed but this also resulted in them being least likely to energise and the most likely to make you tired – are they all possibly synonyms?  Astonishingly (!), beer was the least likely to make you sexy and, whilst spirits were most likely to make you aggressive, it was only 30% of respondents who thought so.

So, what have we now learnt?  Spirits can make you cocky, beer is no aphrodisiac and too much wine can make you a bit snoozy – shut the front door!!

Thank you, BMJ.

One more thanks before I start talking about wine – thank you Douglas and all The Cresidents.  Tomorrow evening, at 4.15pm, Christ the King is lighting up its Christmas Tree and there’ll be carol singing, mulled wine and mulled Ribena, whilst the lights will be turned on by a local celebrity…  Not to give the game away but we are led to believe that the local celebrity works here at Park Vintners but you’ll have to come along tomorrow to find out!

So, that’s enough giving of thanks for now, back to business.  A number of you have been asking if we are doing the Wine School in the New Year as you think it might make for a nice Christmas gift.  Well the answer is yes, on both counts – it would make a lovely gift and we will be putting the course on again – most likely to start late January but we just need to straighten out a couple of dates.

Another week, another deluge of wine arrives in time for December.

From Spain, Rioja in fact, we have the return of Lopez de Haro Crianza 2014 – £10.99 per bottle or £22 per magnum and Lopez de Haro Reserva 2012 – £13.49 both wines as delicious as ever and the Crianza in magnum just had to be bought.

From France we have some new wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Loire.

Bordeaux brings us Château Sorbey 2010, Haut-Medoc – £13.99, our new luncheon claret…

Burgundy provides us with two treats: Domaine Alexandre Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2015 – £19.99, an excellent, elegant Chablis with a nice richness from the old vines and a good, lean minerality.  Further south, we have Sylvain Dussort Bourgogne ‘Cuvée des Ormes’ 2014 – £18.99.  This is the estate’s flagship wine (impressive, considering he also makes Meursault), with the grapes hand-harvested from vines between 35 to over 60, years.  The wine is aged for 12 months in barrels on the lees is then racked off once and assembled in a single vat before bottling.  This takes place at between 16 and 18 months, depending on the vintage.  Delicate, rich and elegant, with good length, we reckon in a blind tasting it would easily be mistaken for a Meursault.  Awesome value for money we thought.

And finally, the Loire offers us Domaine Lebrun Pouilly Fumé 2016 – £17.49.  About a million years ago, when we sported Oddbins polo shirts, we used to sell lots of this wine.  The bottle has lost its distinctive orange label somewhere in the intervening years but the wine has lost none of its quality or verve.  Gooseberry, grass, minerals, lemons and limes all crop up somewhere between the start and the nice long finish.

I think, as it’s Friday, that we’ll open a bottle of the Pouilly Fumé and a bottle of the Rioja Crianza mentioned above this evening –might as well strike whilst the iron is hot!  We also have the Taylors 325th Anniversary Reserve Tawny – £29.79, should you fancy fortifying yourselves with something a little stronger!

Right, I’m off to have a Caffè Corretto alla Sambuca to boost my confidence and my immune system….

Ay-thang-yaw!

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!