Frost, elections and albatross

May 5th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Man: Albatross! Albatross! Albatross!

Customer: Two choc-ices please.

Man: I haven’t got choc-ices. I only got the albatross. Albatross!

Customer: What flavour is it?

Man: It’s a bird, innit? It’s a bl**dy sea bird. .. it’s not any bl**dy flavour. Albatross!

Customer: Do you get wafers with it?

Man: Course you don’t get bl**dy wafers with it. Albatross!

Customer: How much is it?

Man: Ninepence.

Customer: I’ll have two please.

 News reaches us this week that scientists are using high resolution satellite photographs to count albatross.  The Northern Royal Albatross calls the rocky sea stacks near New Zealand’s Chatham Islands, home. But they are sadly on the endangered list and have not been counted since 2009. The inaccessibility of the sea stacks make it expensive and dangerous to do manually, so the US military’s spy satellites are just the ticket apparently.

As you read this the council elections around the country are being counted. For me it’s almost like going to the cinema in the old days, a quick b-movie before the main event on the 8th June.

France is having the final round of the Presidential Elections with Macron likely to win (?) but Marine Le Pen setting herself up for next time round, we think. In a last minute statement former President of the USA, Barack Obama backed Macron.  There seems to be no end to foreign states interfering in other nations elections does there?

Prince Philip has sadly decided to retire from public life at the age of 95. I will certainly miss him; he has a wonderful catalogue of one liners, of which my favourite was from 1995. Speaking to a Scottish driving instructor “How do you keep the natives off the booze long enough to pass the test?”

 On the sports front, Alex’s team won the North London derby last week and look certain to finish above Wayne’s team for the first time since Alex was at university.

In real sports, the 100th Edition of the Giro d’Italia kicks off today with a 206km spin along the north coast of Sardegna. Quintana to steal it on the hills in the last week? Geraint Thomas to rinse the two time trials to get him far enough ahead to hang on in the hills? Pull up an armchair; it looks set to be a cracker.

On the tennis front, is it only me that thinks Sharapova should have to go through qualification? She’s returning from a rather lenient 15 month ban for doping, so giving her multiple wild card entries isn’t likely to deter future players from taking “supplements” for “games of special importance”, is it?

 This cold snap continues to play havoc for vineyards across Europe. Last week was sadly the turn of many English vineyards with some having between 50-75% of the buds destroyed by an air frost that chilled the vineyards down to a barmy -6˚C in some places.

We heard from one winery in Kent, where the frost alarm went off about 3am (yes, there are such things!) and they started putting the candles out but, before they had even got halfway the damage had been done, so cold was the wind.

In Bordeaux the same evening they suffered possibly their worst frost in 25 years. Even lighting fires and using helicopters to keep the air moving hasn’t managed to mitigate the damage in St Emilion, where some growers may have lost their entire crop.

Whilst this is particularly late for such severe frosts, much of the problem has been caused by the spurt of warm mild weather we had in March, which has encouraged everything to be a couple of weeks ahead of schedule and more susceptible to the freeze.

Looks like we’ll be drinking more Southern hemisphere wines in the future!

Tasting this Weekend

On the white front we’ll open Domaine Boeckel Pinot Blanc Reserve 2015 (£13.79) a wine we threatened to open a few weeks back but never quite got round to it. The wine is a bit of a charmer… 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.

Red wise, I think we’ll slide along to visit our chums from Ramon Bilbao and sup some of their rather tasty Ramón Bilbao Edición Limitada 2013 (£14.99). A delicious Rioja Crianza made from some of their finest grapes. Soft and open with lovely creamy black and red fruit character.

Gannet on a stick!

Wayne & Alex

Who turned the thermostat down?

April 28th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This cold snap has certainly caught us all out. Wayne had to get his gloves out having watched his fingers turn blue on the ride home Monday night; Alex has got his running hat out of the winter drawer and we’ve had several disappointing reports from the continent too!

Champagne was struck by a sudden frost this week, which is not so unusual in itself but the mild weather in March has caused the vines to be a bit ahead of themselves. Our chum Benoit Tarlant, whose delicious Champagne Tarlant Zero (£39.99) we stock, was sadly quoted this week as having “a potential 70% loss of the house’s 2017 vintage, with almost its entire Chardonnay crop having been wiped out.”

Even as we write this, Vignerons across Bordeaux are assessing the damage to their vineyards after this week’s cold snap, too. Ex-pat winemaker Gavin Quinney, in typically erudite fashion, described it as “Squeaky bum time”.

But should it be catching us all out? I notice that this very same week last year, we wrote:

“Fellow Wine Lovers,

Unfortunately, you can lay the blame squarely at our door this week.  Confident that the rain on Monday was the last dampness we’d see until September, we decided to write this message on our blackboard outside:

BANK HOLIDAY WEEKEND – Is this the official start of the Rosé season?  I think it probably should be!

And I think you all know what happened next – hail, snowstorms and stair-rod rain, blue skies interspersed with darker-than-night grey clouds, stiff breezes, all rounded off by a rumbling thunderstorm on Wednesday evening.  Well, at least the storm cleared the humidity…!

Living in the UK has made us stoic when faced with poor weather and it has been a pleasure to be selling plenty of Provence Rosé all week in spite of the climate – it’s the stiff upper lip, it’s the blitz the spirit, it’s the ‘this could be as good as summer gets so let’s pretend we’re on the Côte d’Azur’.

18 Celsius and bright sunshine in Cannes, as I write.

So, do we all forget, do we have enormously short term memories, or do we all just prefer to stroll on the sunny side of the street?

Elsewhere, Mayor of London Sadiq has pulled the plug on the controversial Garden Bridge –  only £46 million of public money has been wasted or about 23 state of the art MRI scanners, if you prefer!

Otherwise, there’s campaigning for a general election with all sorts of claims being made by all parties. I’m beginning to wonder about Mark Twain’s words… “If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it”

Bank Holiday Monday

We’ll be closed, as usual…

New Beer

Frankie, from Park Brewery in Kingston, swung by with a delivery this week. She and Josh have a new seasonal brew on the go…

Reasons To Be Cheerful (£2.89) is a new IPA dry hopped with Amarillo and an Aussie interloper Vic Secret. This brings an orangey, citrus sweetness to the front palate with a nice bitterness keeping it tidy and fresh in the finish. You may have noticed it is named after a song by Ian Dury, who has a bench dedicated to his honour at Poet’s Corner in Richmond Park. Brilliant name for a beer!

Tasting this Weekend

In the white corner we’ll be visiting Beiro Atlantico in Portugal, for this is the home of Luis Pato’s Maria Gomes 2015 (£11.99). A white that is wonderfully fresh and aromatic in its grapey nose, then with a broad, smooth texture in the mouth with melony flavours and a beautifully pure finish. What’s more, it’s just 12.5% too!

Red wise, we’ll be journeying to the Riebeek Valley in Swartland for a glass or two of Post Tree Pinotage 2013 (£9.99). It displays bags of juicy red berry fruits, rounded tannins and a nice elegant finish. We’d suggest this as a marvellous partner to some spicy roast chicken, give the chicken a rub with either some Jerk Seasoning or Ras El Hanout and roast in the usual fashion. Yum!

That’s it from us this week, enjoy the long weekend!

Marathon, Malbec, Gin and General Election

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…

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

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!!

The Times Are A Changin’

March 31st, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Is it me or was that just a bit of a damp squib? I can’t but help feel a little deflated, if I’m honest. All the talking, the hot air generated, endless column inches and handwringing. Angry people, happy people, playing-my-cards-close-to-my-chest people, and that’s not evening mentioning the ‘not-in-my-name’ people.

But there it is folks, Things Have Changed; we’ll be wearing no more Boots of Spanish Leather, there’s talk that A Hard Rain is Gonna Fall and we’ll all end up on Desolation Row. Those of us who thought we’d be Forever Young on the Costa Blanca till we were Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door have seen our dreams Blowin’ in the Wind.

In case you haven’t worked it out yet, Bob Dylan has finally decided to accept his Nobel Prize. Like a Rollin’ Stone he will be pitching up in Sweden and playing a couple of concerts in Stockholm over the weekend when he collects it.

In other news, something called Article 50 has been triggered and created a bit of a hoo-haa. We’re not entirely sure what it’s about, or what the effect of article 48 or 49 may have been.

Just when you thought politics couldn’t get any odder, in France it seems many of Francois Hollande’s team appear to have backed an independent candidate for President, rather than their own Socialist Party candidate!

Meanwhile, in Northern Ireland, trading standards officers have destroyed a selection of Easter eggs after the Benedictine monks at Buckfast Abbey complained about them. A local off licence had designed their own ‘Buckfast Tonic Easter Egg’ which cost £9.99 and contained a chocolate egg, a miniature bottle of Bucky, a fridge magnet and a cigarette lighter (?) – £2000 worth of orders are now being refunded!

Congratulations to Jo Pavey who was awarded the bronze medal for the 10,000m World Championships of 2007. That’s a long wait for a medal, but we’ve always known success is a mix of patience and perseverance!

As cyclists across London have been calling out for more cycle lanes, the professionals have been fined for using them. In the Three Days of De Panne, 15 riders, including the winner, were fined 200 Swiss Francs for using a cycle lane that allowed them to miss the cobbles on a hilly section, causing spectators to scatter and a near miss with a parked car!

Brexit Brevity is the watch word this week, what with a selection of deliveries, the year-end stock count and a cheese and wine tasting too. we have a general sense of wonder as to who scheduled it all in the last few days of March!

Tasting this weekend

Assuming we find any in the stock count, we’ll be opening one of our newbies, Arena Negra Chardonnay (£7.49). A cracking drop from Chile, named after the black volcanic shores of the Pacific. Clean and fresh, with a lovely fruity zing.

As we’ve made the journey that far south, we’ll just hop over the Andes and try Lazos Trio Malbec (£16.49). With fruit from La Consulta at an altitude of around 1100m, this is a Malbec with a real touch of elegance and a touch of spice and roundness from 6 months in oak barrels.

Late!

Monday 3rd April we’ll be opening later as we have to attend a tasting searching out new wines for your delectation. We’ll be back in the shop by 4pm though.

That’s it from us folks, come and taste the wines and be very alert tomorrow morning…

Cheers!

Wayne & Alex

Mother’s Day

March 24th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Six nations is over, England won, though not prettily and by no means easily. It seems to this correspondent though, that Mr Jones has the makings of a good team there, tidy up some of the errors and we can look forward to the 2019 World Cup in Japan with some excitement. Lions tour next!

Formula I season starts this weekend down in Melbourne, with new owners, new rules and talk of a Ferrari revival. We’ll see how it unfolds, but in off-season testing they have suffered no engine failures, compared to McLaren having seven and just the one for Mercedes: Let the tournament begin.

Yesterday’s Stage 4 of the Volte a Catalunya was shortened by 60km due to snowfall (or as the UCI states, Extreme Weather Protocol!). To be fair, it’s never any fun to cycle in the snow but one can’t help but wonder if Eddy Merckx would have just put a sweater on? For the record, Nacer Bouhanni won the stage for Cofidis.

With the dawning realisation that the day was creeping up on us, we couldn’t help but wonder the origins of Mother’s Day (or Mothering Sunday as my Nan called it!) After we’d both made a quick dash to the post office, we looked it up!

Well, it seems in the 16th century there was a tradition for people to return to the church of their baptism on the 4th Sunday of Lent. Those that did were said to have been a-mothering. As time went on this started to die out and by the early 1920’s the tradition in much of Europe was lapsing.

Undeterred by European fashions, the Americans kept it and it was the influence of American and Canadian soldiers during World War II that triggered a revival. The canniness  of UK retailers in the early 1950’s is not to be underestimated either; the chance to sell a card and a box of Milk Tray seemed too good to miss and so the tradition of giving mum a card and a gift stems from there and is celebrated on the 4th Sunday of Lent.

As to returning to the church of baptism, Wayne reckons the last time he did that was as a teenager for a disco. I didn’t realise they had churches that far back!

So, don’t forget Mother’s Day folks, a box of Milk Tray and a glass of something suitable.

Tasting this weekend…

Meanwhile, in Arthur Road, we’ll be opening some wine, it seems rude not to what with the weekend being here and it threatening to be dry too, if a little breezy (the weather, not sure we have any breezy wine).

White wise we shall sniff, swirl and slurp Crowded House Sauvignon Blanc (£13.99). A new listing, we tasted it for the first time just a few weeks ago. We were at a tasting, chatting to our chum the Viking and saw it on the list. After suggesting all the “Take the Weather With You” and “Four Seasons in One Day” jokes we can categorically state this wine has nothing to do with the band of the same name from the late 80’s. As fresh and zesty as you’d expect, and we thought, really rather good value.

In the red corner, we’ll toddle over to France for a splash of Bordeaux. Another new listing, Rives de Loudenne 2010 (£18.99), is the second wine of Chateau Loudenne. The wine is a cracking drop of Medoc, from a stunner of a vintage and is just slipping into its stride. Rich, of fruit and sunshine, maturing with a gently rounded tannin structure and a great finish. Lovely with Sunday lunch, methinks.

That’s about it from us for this week, don’t forget when you go to bed on Saturday it’s already an hour later than you think!

Let’s be careful out there,

Alex & Wayne

What can I suggest for those of you wanting something vinous, that is nebulously Hibernian?

March 17th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

For us it’s all about Ireland this week – Cheltenham, St Patrick’s Day, and the Ireland v England rugby on Saturday.

But our Irish week actually started last Saturday, when one of our customers popped in with a ‘strange request’.  We get a lot of strange requests, I think it’s something to do with being open in the evening once the hairdressers are shut, but most requests are nowhere near as strange as the quester believes, so eyelids, usually, remain unbatted.

This was different.  Jennifer, whose name I may or may not have changed to protect her anonymity, informed me that she was going to be celebrating St Patrick’s day with some pals this week and thus, what Irish Wines did I have?  Irish Wine?  Not so sure Ireland’s the place I’d go looking for wine.  In fact, we’ve just recently had it confirmed by our Irish representatives in the Northern reaches of London that, after a tasting at the Irish Embassy, we’re not missing much or indeed anything at all.

So I said to Jennifer, because that’s definitely not her name, that I had a fabulous bottle of Jack Ryan Beggars Bush 12 Year Old Single Malt Whiskey for £51.99 but if she wanted wine, I couldn’t help.  I think she had suspected this might be the case so she said that she was happy to take something else vinous, providing it had a loose connection to the Emerald Isle – and that she would pop back in a few days to see if I had had any thoughts.

I like a challenge, particularly one involving slightly tenuous wordplay, so I set about my task with gusto.

Difficult.

I can report that there are not enough wines out there (or at least in here) that fit within any of these criteria:

  • Made by someone called Patrick
  • With Celtic crosses on their labels
  • Or Harps or Shamrocks
  • With Emerald mentioned in their title
  • Or Serpents
  • Or March 17th
  • Or a Leprechaun, God be thanked
  • Associated to U2, Boyzone or B*Witched, again, God be thanked

So what can I suggest for those of you wanting something vinous that is nebulously Hibernian?

Any wine from Galicia – there is plenty of evidence or myth, depending on your viewpoint, that there is a shared genealogy between Ireland and Galicia – I won’t get into a debate here but suffice to say there are Celtic crosses galore in Northwest Spain.

If you cross the border into Portugal, you’ll encounter the zesty, clean wines of Minho –  Vinho Verde to be exact, which  I suspect we can all Google translate as ‘green wine’.

There’ll be others I’m sure but a here’s a selection of what I have on the shelf:

Leira Seca 2016 – £11.49 – Vinh O’Verde, Minho

Val do Xuliana Albariño 2015 – £12.49 – Rías Baixas, Galicia

Bioca Godello 2016 – £13.49 – Valdeorras, Galicia

Sameirás Blanco 2015 – £16.49 – Ribeiro, Galicia

Alodio 2015 – £12.99 – Ribeira Sacra, Galicia

Casal de Paula 2015 – £14.79 – Ribeira, Galicia

And here is the even more tenuous selection, which arguably we had more fun with:

Pouilly Fume ‘La Charnoie’ 2014 – £18.99 – made by a gent named Patrick

Puligny-Montrachet 2014 – £35.99 – made by a gent named Patrick but a different one

Powers Merlot 2012 – £13.29 – from Washington State in the USA but surely there’s a certain Irish Whiskey by this name…

Emili O’Moro 2014 – £17.99 – from Ribera del Duero, really called Emilio Moro but it’s the first wine I have sold this week with an ‘Irish’ connection

Riecine 2011 – £48 – because it’s made by Sean O’Callaghan.  And it’s delicious.  Even if he is actually an Englishman…

Hopefully that helps a little or a lot, depending on your requirements.  For those of you ambivalent towards these events, perhaps I can entice you to pop in for a taste anyway?

We’re going to open two wines from Galicia, mentioned above:

Bioca Godello – £13.49 – Godello is the grape here, grown at high altitude which helps give it real purity of flavour.  Lifted orange character on the nose and a vibrant, crisp, citrus focused palate with some background smatterings of minerals.  A very decent length finish and unerringly more-ish – if you want more though, you’ll have to buy a bottle!

Casal de Paula – £14.79 – A pimentón spiciness on the nose with some savoury red and black fruits in there too leading onto a delicious palate of sour cherries and tart red fruits.  Fine tannins with great freshness, typical of the region, and a real delicious drop.

So I think that’s about it from us – last day of Cheltenham today with Ireland leading 14 – 7, having had six winners yesterday but I think we’ll let them have the bragging rights providing we do the reversal on them in Dublin at the Aviva tomorrow!

As someone notably said back in 1996:  Good things come to those who wait! (anyone remember who?)

Sláinte!

All about eto…

March 10th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This time last year we wrote that stage 3 of the “Race to the Sun” (Paris-Nice) had been cancelled due to snow; this year we’ve had no white outs and Julian Alaphilippe is currently in the yellow jumper after five stages.

A gentleman, much wiser than me I’m sure, once described football as “a game of two halves”. I’m not sure we will witness a better manifestation of that than what we saw in the Champions League this week.

In case you missed it Arsenal demonstrated that a 5-1 drubbing is awful away, it’s even worse when repeated at home. Barcelona were busy rejecting the Arsenal game plan entirely, with a fight back against Paris St. Germain that will be talked about for years.

Some clever video chappy, I’m sure, will be able to splice the two halves together to make a motivational video.

We’ve not managed to get any comment on stories that Arsene Wenger has joined the Government’s Brexit team.

With Six Nations action as well this weekend, control of the remote is going to be key.

We’ve had a Budget putting booze up again but the biggest surprise was Spreadsheet Phil cracking jokes!

In other news, Resveratrol, a substance found in red wine, was found to slow the aging process in mice. Before we all get carried away, you would have to drink around 2000 litres of red wine to get enough to replicate the enriched diet the mice had. That is something we would counsel against even if we can be Dorian Gray!

Cheese & Wine for Thursday 30th March has two places left at £20 per head – We start at 8pm, are you coming?

New Stuff
You may have noticed we’ve been opening the shop a little late on, or possibly greeted you with a rather purpled smile. That’s because it’s been prime tasting season and we’ve been out hunting and gathering.

Keep an eye on the shelves, some new wines are showing up already, some more to come too. There’s an awesome new Chardonnay from South Africa, a few Sicilians, and we’ve even listed our first alcohol free bubbly!

Tasting with Tom
Those of you with long memories will recall that Tom Cotton is the designer behind eto.

Eto is of course the innovative wine decanter that allows you to decant, serve, and preserve your wine’s full flavour we were telling you about last week.

Tom is all fired up and ready demonstrate in the blind taste test comparing freshly opened wine with its eto 7 day preserved equivalent. This will take place this evening in the shop from around 5.30pm. We’d love for you all to come down and taste the difference.

As we mentioned last week, Tom is local, a dad at Wimbledon Park Primary School, and is a proud Welshman – “eto” is Welsh for “again” as the decanter allows you to enjoy your wine again and again… and we’re very excited to get the chance to be involved in the taste test. So come on down, have a chat with Tom, taste some wine and you’ll be home in time for the Wales Ireland game at 8.05. Who knows it may even kick-start the Wales Six Nations campaign!

www.etowine.com is the website or follow their news on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram

So eto has the red accounted for, I’m not giving away any secrets when I tell you we’ll be tasting The Long Barn Pinot Noir (£12.99), from California.
The white corner, meanwhile, will be hosting Luis Pato Maria Gomes (£11.99) which rather splendidly says on the back label to drink as a welcome drink. I can’t help but think that on Friday night a glass of wine is always a welcome drink, so this seems perfect!

See you all at 5.30pm then….

Spring Sprung, eto, Rueda

March 3rd, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Hooray, hooray, Spring is in on its way!  According to our correspondent at Metro (the paper of choice if travelling between Earlsfield and Waterloo for a tasting), Wednesday was the first day of the meteorological spring this year, while March 20 is the first day of the astronomical spring.

What does that mean really?  It means lighter mornings, lighter evenings, lighter moods and, I suspect, light rain in places.  It means daffodils and leaves on the trees and lamb in the fields and the oven.  It means Wayne going on holiday, impromptu 20 degree days and Rosé back in the fridge, with a vengeance.  Oh, and it means the last Spring Budget is in the offing – next Wednesday, 8th March – a time when we all wait with crossed fingers and unrealistic dreams of cheaper fuel and, ideally, wine.  This won’t happen of course so we need to remember that Spring is on its way we have lighter mornings and warmer evenings….

Fearful of currency fluctuation, poor vintages and duty increases, we have been spending an awful lot of our time of late staring through the bottom of wine glasses.  Plus ça change, you might say, but actually this has been in the name of finding new wines.  Often we get asked if we get to travel to exotic climes to try wines and we can now confirm that we do – we’ve been to Victoria Street, Southwark Bridge and the Pimlico borders, and that’s just this week, last week we were more Soho focused… Anyway the good news is we have, we think, found some new gems and some replacements for delisted wines and are hoping the Chablis crisis might be resolved but, with a 60% drop in yields in some cases, this doesn’t look too hopeful.

So, if wine is to become a more valuable asset whether we like it or not, then we need to make sure we don’t waste any – Did you know that every year in the UK alone, almost 50 million litres of wine are poured down the plughole – a massive £470 million down the drain!

That fact came from Tom Cotton  a Product Designer with nearly 20 years experience of bringing designs from concept to market, for global companies including Bacardi, InBev, Diageo and P&G, to name but a few.

But now he is the man behind eto – and here are his words and musings:

So what’s the Problem?

You know how it is; you crack open that one last bottle with friends at the weekend and then the rest ends up on your kitchen counter for 3 days, exposed to oxygen, and your vino can taste more like vinegar.  Sure, there are wine preservation devices out there but they’re either ineffective as the wine is still in contact with some air, or expensive, and you’re tied into pricey refills.  I thought there had to be a better way, and so came up with ‘eto’ – an innovative wine decanter that allows you to decant, serve, and preserve your wine’s full flavour.

How does eto work?

Decant your whole bottle into eto … this ‘opens up’ the wine and brings out its character. Pour yourself a glass – the sharp lip gives drip-free pouring.  But then, at the end of the evening, you push down on the neck and the unique, patented design forms a complete seal preventing any further contact with oxygen.

OK sure, but how do we know it works?

Science: Independent tests conducted at the laboratories of Bangor University show that eto far out-performs the more conventional wine-preservation methods on the market today.

Taste: This is where you come in… At Park Vintners we’re carrying out a blind taste test comparing freshly opened wine with its eto 7 day preserved equivalent.  This will take place on the evening Friday 10th March in the shop and we’d love for you all to come down and taste the difference.

Tom is based on the Wimbledon Park grid, is a dad at Wimbledon Park Primary School, and   is a proud Welshman  – “eto” is Welsh for “again” as the decanter allows you to enjoy your wine again and again… and  we’re very excited to get the chance to be involved in the taste test

www.etowine.com is the website or follow their news on Twitter, Facebook & Instagram

So that’s tasting next week, what about this week?

This week we’ll open Nisia ‘Old Vines’ Verdejo 2015, Rueda, Spain (£17.99) it is from really old vines in Rueda, the youngest were planted in 1942, and went down a storm at a recent private tasting we did.  A crackingly complex white wine with a flavour profile that is similar to Sauvignon Blanc, but a softer finish.

Red wine drinkers will swirl, slurp and swoosh with Malbrontes Malbec Torrontes 2015, Mendoza, Argentina (£12.79) where the Malbec is blended with a splash of Torrontes just to give the fruit profile a bit of a lift. Deliciously dark fruited red that we think is perfect for a sirloin Saturday supper.