Archive for September, 2017

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

Friday, 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!

Friday, 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!

Wine School, Pais and Riesling

Friday, September 8th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Disarray, that’s the only word for it.

Cycling magazines everywhere, amongst the betting slips and stacks of newly listed expensive wines.  I thought I left you guys in charge?  However, it seems August scathed Wayne marginally less than last year and, as each day passes, he is talking less to the spider (Leslie, apparently) upturned in the corner of the window, and has managed to cease addressing the deer on top of the beer fridge as ‘Master’.

We’ll get there.

Otherwise, it seems that his lordship has been keeping you pretty well informed about the world and its varying idiosyncrasies, with the occasional bit of wine punditry – a nice balance.

They say that going on holiday is the opportunity to take some time far away from your usual daily toil and to unwind all those tightly-bound stress knots that have surreptitiously built up in your belly over the previous 12 months.  And they’re right.  Even with a brace of children in tow, after two and a half weeks away, donnez moi has given way to laissez faire, and ‘are we nearly there?’ loses its potency after the first 1,000km of driving.

Special mention goes to my daughter who was fairly certain (as she is about most things) that she could see the sea – we were about 100km south of Madrid.

Doesn’t take long to get back into the flow of things and before you know it Angry Alex from Arthur Road is back in the chair.  What has particularly galled me today is the joint report by the Royal Society for Public Health and the weight loss organisation, Slimming World.  Obviously, I first came across this report whilst skimming through the BMJ over my muesli but I believe it may also been covered in things called The Sun, The Guardian and the BBC – whatever they may be.  Anyway, I’m sure you’ve read the article but, if not, the nub of it is that we are all eating more than we should, only this time it’s not our fault, it’s the fault of those naughty old retailers – fast food outlets, cafes, supermarkets and pubs, to name and shame just a few.

Allegedly, it’s all to do with the evil sales tool ‘the upsell’, previously only known to those on the inside, and we are powerless, yes powerless, to resist.  Picture the scene – you’ve have walked through the golden arches of health and longevity and approached the counter.  Whilst ordering your ‘healthy’ snack the kind person behind the counter, let’s call them an assistant, since that is their role, enquires as to whether you might like a side order, a drink or perhaps make it a bit bigger for 50p more – customer service, if you will.  It is at this point, apparently, that we all become transfixed by such an offering and buy the lot.  And an apple pie!

I’m not going to labour the point but, having spent all of my working life behind bars (!) or counters, I might have come across this shady ‘upsell’ practice once or twice.  It can be seen as a positive force to show a customer something they might enjoy (if you like claret then you might enjoy this chianti) or it could be through necessity (sorry, it’s 4.30pm on Christmas Eve – Bollinger is the only champagne we have left…) but if the ‘upsell’ was so darned potent and pernicious then trust me, you’d all be walking out of here with a case of Cristal under your arm, every time!!

Point made – caveat emptor, no one ‘makes’ you buy anything and when one does go into a fast food chain, well, the responsibility is on you really, isn’t it?

Sorry about all that, think I might need another holiday….

Moving swiftly on, and back onto safer shores perhaps, all the schools have now gone back I believe, certainly there are plenty of smart new blazers and clean shoes wandering around each afternoon which won’t look the same come half term.

So, they’ve all gone back to school, how about you?

As we’ve mentioned before I’m sure, our Six Week Wine School kicks off its new term on Wednesday 4th October at 8pm, here in the shop.  It costs £150 per person and is currently half full.  We have noticed in the last couple of days an increased interest, and indeed sign-up, almost as if a momentum is building.  If you want to be part of this momentum and learn more about what’s in your glass 60 different times in October and November then contact us straight away and in return for payment we’ll reserve your place at the table.

Wine School

6 week course on Wednesday evenings

Wednesday 4th October until Wednesday 15th November (half term Wednesday 25th October). 

£150 all in!

Elsewhere a footballer, famous for getting drunk and acting inappropriately, has got drunk and acted as expected.  Test cricket is running the risk of making ODI’s look a little bit laboured; Chris Froome keeps labouring up hills that most of us would struggle to walk up, and the US Open has an all American ladies semi-final round which, considering the paucity of quality in US ladies tennis of late beyond Venus and Serena, is a bit of a turn up.

And lastly, it’s the Denbies Half Marathon on Sunday – a beautiful run through the Surrey Hills with a wine tasting every two miles – who needs a medal – good luck to anyone foolhardy enough to be getting involved!

With wine tasting in mind how about a drop this weekend?  Having fully diluted my stresses whilst on holiday it seems they are slowly building up again, so what shall we try?

Tackling the white wine side of things will be Novas Gran Reserva Riesling 2016, Bio-Bio Valley, Chile (£11.19).   A new one in the shop this very week, made by the clever folk at Emiliana, and, just like its predecessor, is organic. The wine is crisp, dry, with lime fruits, a bit of minerality and has a lovely zesty finish.

Red wine will roll in from Itata in Chile courtesy of A Los Viñateros Bravos Volcánico País 2015 (£15.99). Over the years we have tried our fair share of wines from the grape variety País. Most of them, to be fair, have been a bit rustic, chewy and big but, somehow, just didn’t do it for either of us. You can imagine the eyes rolling when our chum Phil brought this in. We had to swallow our words, this is not like any of the others. Really lifted fruit on the nose, fresh and juicy, almost spritzy even in the mouth with really fine tannins. A proper vin de soif that’d be perfect with some slow cooked pork. Come along and taste it, tell us what food you’d have it with.

Oh, and whilst you here, would you like a case of Cristal with that?

¡Salud!

Sunny September Sidles In!

Friday, September 1st, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So that’s that then, transfer window slams shut and somehow more money than ever before has been spent on names most of us didn’t know until 3 o’clock yesterday afternoon.  Looks to me like Swansea have done some good business… buy Wilfried Bony for about £12 million, get 35 goals out of him, sell him to Manchester City for £25 million, buy him back for £12 million after they don’t give him any games!  The Premier League really does bring Fantasy Football to life!

Bake Off is back, all be it on a different channel. As a quick guide for future episodes, Noel Fielding is the tall one with long hair who isn’t Sue, Sandy Toksvig is the short funny one who isn’t Mel, Prue Leith is the glamorously dressed one who isn’t Mary, and Paul Hollywood is the one from the old show who eats all the cakes.

Strange unexplained clouds seem to be a bit of a thing lately. There were a lot around on Wednesday, not only did our gardens here in Wimbledon Park get a good dousing, but so did the cyclists riding La Vuelta a España whilst in the mountains just north of Almería.

Meanwhile, the good folk of Birling Gap had to be evacuated from the beach due to an unexplained cloud too. Concerned, we called in the Doctor for a chat. Whilst unable to explain the exact nature of these unexplained mists, he did point out that all his emails are in the cloud and questioned their security!

Meanwhile, in south-west Sicily, scientists from the University of South Florida have discovered some storage jars in a cave on Monte Kronio. The exciting find put wine making in Italy as far back as 6000 years ago, about 3000 years earlier than originally thought. Until now it was thought that winemaking in Italy arrived with the colonisation by the Greeks in around 800 BC.

In Paris, thieves have tunnelled from the Catacombs into a private cellar and stolen around 300 bottles of wine valued at around €250,000. Police sources say “They didn’t tunnel by accident”. It’s unclear if any of the wine was Sicilian!

Back to School

Time to pick up the kids from Grandma’s house; they need to go to school next week. A more adult concern, Wine School starts here on Wednesday 4th October at 8pm.

Cost is £150 per person and there is no cross country running. Is your name on the register?

Back on the Shelf

Blanton’s Single Barrel Bourbon (Barrel 594) is back in stock now and is still priced at £50.99.

We also managed to lay our hands on a few extra bottles of Japanese whisky too. Ask us for details.

Tasting This Weekend

On the white front we’ll have a guzzle of Fleur Solitaire Côtes du Rhône Blanc 2016 (£10.99) a blend of 50% Grenache Blanc, 20% Viognier, 7.5% Roussanne, 7.5% Marsanne, 7.5% Clairette and 7.5% Bourboulenc, this is a fairly rich peachy style of wine, with a lot going on but never sacrificing its crispness.

The red corner will involve a wine from Toro in Spain. The Gran Colegiata Lagrima Tinto Roble 2014 (£12.99) is a very tasty drop made by the Fariña family that just happens to laze around in barrels for four months, having been made from only free-run Tinta de Toro (Tempranillo).

Lastly, Wayne thinks the new Queens of the Stone Age album ‘Villains’ is worth a listen, if you’re of a mind – Rock on!