Archive for April, 2017

Marathon, Malbec, Gin and General Election

Friday, April 21st, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

As we live and breathe, it’s Friday again and barely a jot of work has been done since last Wednesday week, it would seem!  Certainly, judging by the amount of out-of-office replies we received last weekend with outrageously distant return to work dates, holidays are definitely being taken.  So, as you’re all on a beach in Dubai or up a hill in Mallorca, we thought we’d send you an easy to digest list of all the important stuff going on over here:

Monday 17th April – Malbec World Day – you missed it but, in truth, so did we.  It was on Easter Monday and the shop was very much in darkness.  However, all is not lost because tonight we have….

Friday 21st April – Argentine Wine Tasting – we welcome Juan Manuel Matas into the shop.  He is our new Argentinean Wine supplier and he has an array of delicious wines in his portfolio that are only to be found in the finest establishments!  Tonight he will be featuring Lazos Chardonnay 2016 (£13.99), Lazos Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 (£13.99) and Lazos de Sangre Malbec 2014 (£22.49).  Corks will be pulled at about 5.30pm so swing by on your way home and tantalise your taste buds.

Saturday 22nd April – FA CUP SEMI FINAL –Chelsea v Spurs – all made a lot more poignant after the sudden death of Ugo Ehiogu.

Sunday 23rd April – St George’s Day – and of course the day Shakespeare, W. was born, and died, apparently.  Anyway, it’s an important English day of celebration and Wayne has already booked a table at The George & Dragon in honour!

Sunday 23rd April – London Marathon – Matt/Chris: the male course record is a reasonably sedate 2:03:05 set by Eliud Kipchoge in 2016; Kelly: you have an even more leisurely 2:15:25 to match, set by Paula Radcliffe in 2003.  We fully expect sponsorship worthy performances from all of you, particularly as you’ve all done it before!  Good luck also to anyone else bold enough to do the running tour of London, enjoy Île des Chiens and Le Quai Canari!

Saturday 23rd April – FA CUP SEMI FINAL – Arsenal v Man City – could Arsène finally get a break?  From management, we mean….

May (the whole of) – seems to be full of bank holidays, private tastings and a bucket load of electioneering.  Busy.

Thursday 8th June – General Election – which, as we all now know, is rigged.  Trump stated that the US election was rigged, Corbyn has stated similarly.  We all know how that ended.  Equally, Corbyn has stated that the poll is not a ‘foregone conclusion’ just before he stated bears use public conveniences and that the Pope is a lifelong agnostic.

Friday 9th June – Little Bird Gin tasting – mentioned this last week but you were all on hols so thought I’d mention it again now, especially as we’ll probably all need a drink to toast the Farron/Sturgeon coalition…

Thursday 22nd June – Wine & Cheese Tasting – oh no, not another one I hear you groan… all that delicious fine wine and fab cheese, oh no sir, I couldn’t possibly!  5 spaces remaining for those of you brave enough – £20 per head

Thursday 27th July – Wine & Cheese Tasting (REVISED DATE) – we had to change the date for this because some muppet suddenly realised that his daughter’s Leavers Play was on that evening.  So, we moved the date and immediately sold 6 spaces, which means 6 spaces remain!  Still only £20 per head!

Then we have the summer holidays, then September and, before we know it, it’s December – let me be the first to wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

So, that’s the year done – before we race to the finish, how about we enjoy each day as it comes, starting with some fine wines from Argentina this evening – see you beside the tasting table!

Finally, a year ago today, Prince died.  Apparently he outsold both Adele and Drake last year, posthumously.  Go on, stick Purple Rain on and marvel at how an album, that is now over 30 years old, still sounds fresh as a daisy!

¡Arriba, abajo, al centro, adentro!

If chocolate wildlife is not really your bag and your pleasures are more commonly derived from the contents of your glass then read on…

Thursday, April 13th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

As this email is arriving on Thursday that can only mean that the season of eggs and rabbits is now upon us.  Four days off work, with the biggest Christian festival in the middle of it all.  No commute until Tuesday at the earliest (or Wednesday if you work here, but more about that later) and intervals of sunshine and clouds, with perhaps a shower in the area in the afternoon, predicted for most points of the weekend.

However, if like us, you like to edit out the boring bits of life, the previous sentence will have read ‘intervals of sunshine predicted for most of the weekend’, which means that when we’re not puzzling the relationship between chocolate eggs, bunnies and the resurrection of JC, we shall be found in the garden, barbecuing and bottle opening.

Chocolate eggs?  Google it.

There’s loads of stories out there relating to the egg: that it represents the tomb the Christ burst from; that during Lent eggs weren’t allowed to be consumed which resulted in a glut of eggs come Easter; that Mary Magdalene had eggs in her basket that turned red on Christ’s return… but chocolate eggs?  That’s a Quaker thing apparently.  Notably. some Bristolian Quaker’s named Fry, who not only developed the first chocolate bar, Turkish Delight and Peppermint Cream but also were the first people to produce Chocolate Easter Eggs back in 1873.  Dinner party trivia fact #1.

Easter bunnies?  Google this too.

Lots of differing stories here too.  Rabbits symbolise spring and prolific fertility?  A German tradition, brought to America in the 18th century, involving an egg laying hare?  Disney?  Apparently in Switzerland they don’t have an Easter bunny, they have a cuckoo.  But then Lindt, the Swiss chocolate makers, are famous for their golden Easter bunny.  I’m confused.  This could be used as dinner party fact #2 but be wary….

If chocolate wildlife is not really your bag and your pleasures are more commonly derived from the contents of your glass then don’t fret, we will now start talking about liquid refreshments for the weekend.

A couple of weeks back we visited a darkened room in Soho for a tasting, which nowadays doesn’t evoke nearly as much innuendo or hasty explanation to the missus as it might have done 20 years ago.  Anyway, once we’d established what used to be in different streets in Soho, and how Berwick Street used to have a great veg and fruit market and how the Greek barber that dad used to visit now seemed to be a coffee shop and ooh I remember when that was a really good little dive bar…. anyway, once we’d done all that, we entered the darkened tasting room.  Darkened tasting rooms are as much use as chocolate teapots, since tasting is ideally a fully sensory experience, primarily through nose and mouth but it can be helpful to see what colour the liquid is that you are tasting, as you can imagine.  But we cracked on, blind tasting in many respects and finished quite quickly, unless we missed something in the penumbra.  In fact we nearly did.  As we were leaving we noticed one bottle noticeably closer to a candle, with a bright yellow label that was dazzling in the half light.  That looks cool, we thought, wonder what it is?  Let’s try it.

So we did and we were smitten.  Bonal Gentiane-Quina – £14.99 was the name and neither of us had had it before.  Made close to the French Alps, this is a fortified wine which they have infused with gentian and cinchona and a few other interesting herbs.  It’s been around since 1865 so clearly we are late into the game but now we are definitely playing.  It feels like a posh red vermouth given a bit of a boost – classically amaro with prunes, sultanas, citrus and the instantly recognisable quinine kick of the cinchona.  The maestro at Hepple Gin tasted some with us recently and insisted on making it into a long drink with tonic water – and it absolutely sung!  Think along the lines of Pimm’s but not so sweet – this will be our go to aperitif all summer long!!

If however you don’t fancy spirits, we’ll be opening wine this evening and all the way through to Saturday.  For the white we thought we’d celebrate the return of the Boeckel Pinot Blanc 2015 – £13.79.  Alex has always rattled on about Pinot Blanc but often I have found it difficult to share his enthusiasm.  However these chaps have nailed it.  Gently floral on the nose as you’d expect and the palate is crisp with citrus and orchard fruit notes, a central vein of minerality and a lively, crisp finish.  Perfect with your Good Friday fish supper!

In the red chair we welcome a new South African to the fold: Bonfire Hill Extreme Vineyards 2014 – £11.59.  For those of you who have always pondered what would happen if Shiraz, Malbec, Pinot Noir, Barbera and Cinsault all ended up in the same bottle, well here’s your answer.  Lovely red summer fruits with a touch of herby hillside toasting in the sunshine.  Rich, balanced plums and pepper character and frankly just really nice to drink…

That’s almost it from us this weekend apart from a couple of bits of admin.

Upcoming Tastings

Friday 21st April – FREE TASTING – LAZOS, MENDOZA

We’ve got Juan Manuel, our new Argentine importer in for a bit of pouring – he’ll be opening 3 wines from the Lazos range which really hit the mark – as always on a Friday, the wines will be open from about 5.30pm onwards so pop in on your way home

Friday 9th June – FREE TASTING – LITTLE BIRD GIN

Lovely Laura from Little Bird will be in the shop, pouring her Gin and talking a lot, both of which are well worth paying attention to!  Again, 5.30pm onwards…

Thursday 22nd  June – WINE & CHEESE TASTING – £20 each

Cheese and wine, wine and cheese, sounds great whichever way you put it!  4 cheeses, more wines, taste, comment and repeat – simple and more interesting than going to the gym on a Thursday…

Thursday 20th July – WINE & CHEESE TASTING – £20 each

As above – this will be the last one until September, you have been warned!

Opening Hours

As mentioned earlier, it’s a funny old weekend this one and we have the funny old working hours to support this:

Thursday 13th April – NORMAL HOURS – 11am – 8pm

Friday 14th April – ODD HOURS – 11am – 4pm

Saturday 15th April – ODD HOURS – 10am – 3pm

Sunday 16th April – Tuesday 18th April – NO HOURS – CLOSED

Wednesday 19th April – NORMAL HOURS – 11am – 8pm

That’s it from us for now, have a fabulous weekend wherever you may roam!

Perspiration and Rose

Friday, April 7th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Horses sweat, men perspire, but women merely glow.

A phrase that encapsulates almost everything that has and will happen this week.

Tomorrow is the first date of the ‘Liverpool Season’, when the great and the good of Merseyside, the footballers, the popstars and  the scallies, will descend on Aintree to revel in the sunshine, sporting high heels, fake tan, fascinators and bright white smiles – and that’s just Alan Hansen…

But has the Grand National lost its pizzazz?  We’re not talking about fences getting smaller or ditches shorter (which may, or may not, increase the chances of all horses getting around) but actually about the sponsor.  Below is the list of companies who have seen the National as a good reason to shell out a few quid for some good promotion and telly-time:

  • From 1984 to 1991 Canadian spirits monolith and Oddbins owner, Seagram Distillers sponsored the event – plenty of top notch drinks available
  • From 1991 to 2004 Seagram handed sponsorship over to the French cognac producer Martell, one of their subsidiaries, which meant that quality drinking was still on the agenda
  • John Smith’s took over for the period from 2005 to 2013 – a slightly underwhelming bitter brand but at least you could still get a pint
  • Crabbie’s became the main sponsor of the festival in 2014 until 2016 – Crabbie’s are perhaps most famous for their very sweet, alcoholic ginger beer – more a drink for brown paper bags and students but at least some sort of refreshment was available
  • And now, for 2017? Randox Health.  Doesn’t sound terribly boozy to us and in fact is a “global innovative healthcare company” that provides health checks from its clinics in Northern Ireland and London.  They don’t produce refreshments…

So, if you end up watching the race at 1715 tomorrow, raise a glass of something please and drink to bygone sponsors and the times a-changin’.

If you want tips for the race, here goes: my wife reckons that any horse with green in the name (in any language), or silks that have green in them, or a jockey called Verdant Evergreen, or a horse that has ever stood on anything green stands a decent each way chance – any bets on her favourite colour?  My daughter, logically, will go for the one with the longest legs, which involves some serious research and understanding of ‘hands’ which is beyond both of us really but, as she is the most successful punter in the house, we do pay her some heed.  My son takes the long game and is buttering us all up, with a view that if any of us win he potentially stands to benefit.  Wayne has a system – ask no more.  For me, Saphir du Rheu or The Young Master but I can’t tell you why because I don’t know why the pin ended up there!

So that’s the bit about horses sweating and ladies glowing done – what about men perspiring?

Today, we took delivery of the 2016 vintage of Chateau de L’Aumerade Cuvee Marie Christine Provence Rose.   It was a pallet, 80 cases, 480 bottles – however you want to put it, it was hot work shifting a large part of it downstairs and by the end of it we were perhaps perspiring a little but we were not sweating and in fact we were probably glowing pink.  Anyway the important news, of course, is that it’s here.  If it now rains nonstop until October you can lay the blame squarely at our door but we would ask that you still join in and pretend it’s summer and drink pink.  It won’t persistently rain until October, of course; in fact, if it only rains between midnight and 4am for the next 5 months that would be the perfect storm….

Anyway, back to the wine. We tasted this about a month ago, alongside Miraval and Whispering Angel.  For the second year running we were underwhelmed by the Angel; the Miraval is lighter and drier than the previous vintage and almost defines elegance; yet again the Aumerade, with a bit more fruit than the other two, was our absolute go-to summer Rosé – you will not be disappointed!

Due to the wind being in the right direction and our razor sharp negotiating skills of course, we will be offering the same price as last year and the year before – £13.99 per bottle or 6 bottles for £72 -for those of you with an eye to many evenings of outside drinking.  So if we do the maths, the first 80 customers will get their 6 box for £72 and we’ll have to order another pallet on Monday – form an orderly queue!

If you’re not fancying the pink stuff yet then perhaps we can entice you with the wines we have on tasting this weekend.

Ciù Ciù Merlettaie Pecorino 2015, Offida, Italy – £13.99

This wine is not made of cheese, Pecorino is a grape variety originally from the Abruzzo.  A pleasant floral nose with clean, pleasing 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 quite surprised it hasn’t become a chart topper, however that does mean there’s more for us and our friends!

Le Malbec 2014, Pays d’Oc, France – £11.99

We’ve been showing a lot of Argentine Malbec of late so we thought we’d return to the motherland for a change.  Malbec came from France and thrives in the Loire, Cahors, is being replanted in Bordeaux and further south.  This is from the Languedoc and has been a persistent favourite with many of our customers.  Not as punchy as those from Argentina or indeed Cahors, this has softer more perfumed fruit and is dangerously drinkable but not in a Crabbie’s way….

In other news – we now have very funky MINI bottles of Prosecco for £4 a hit – they’re in the beer fridge because that’s where they felt most comfortable.  Pocketsize, even for the smallest of pockets.

It’s Easter weekend next weekend and as with the rest of the world, we’ll be keeping some pretty funny hours:

Thursday 13th April – NORMAL HOURS – 11am – 8pm

Friday 14th April – ODD HOURS – 11am – 4pm

Saturday 15th April – ODD HOURS – 1oam – 3pm

Sunday 16th April – Tuesday 18th April – NO HOURS – CLOSED

Wednesday 19th April – NORMAL HOURS – 11am – 8pm

And that’s all folks, come and buy a little Prosecco bottle and sup it whilst queuing for your 6 box of Rosé!!