Provence lands in Wimbledon Park

April 18th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Chapeau! To the French firefighters who have managed to save far more of the Notre Dame than looked likely when the pictures first came through. Not only is it an integral part of the Paris skyline, it is almost part of the very essence of French-ness, appearing so prominently in both France’s history and literature. Victor Hugo will be coming to a best-seller list on Amazon very soon I suspect.

Chapeau!  Also to Victor Campenaerts who has beaten Bradley Wiggins Hour Record. He managed to ride a massive 55.089 km at the Bicentenario Velodrome in Mexico with a perfectly controlled ride. That’s just over half a kilometre further than Sir Wiggo. I’m not sure I’ve ever reached that speed on the flat, let alone for an hour!

If the Met office is to be believed you’ll be needing your sunhats this weekend if you’re still in Wimbledon Park, we’re expecting 20˚C and sunshine, that’s on a par with Barcelona and better than Thessaloniki!

Following on from our golf chat last week we couldn’t help but notice Tiger Woods was the man who gets to borrow the green jacket for a year.  Some of the sports commentators got a little over excited with this news and seemed to think it was the “Greatest Comeback Ever”. I don’t wish to take away from his win, but I would just point out that two of Greg Lemond’s   three Tour de France victories came after being shot in a hunting accident.

In booze news Asda has had an oops on the translation front offering it’s Welsh speakers ‘Free Alcohol’ rather than ‘Alcohol Free’ . It would appear that HMRC is also at risk of booze jokes as it appears to be losing entire or large parts of applications for new distilleries or excise warehouses!

Happy birthday to The Queen, 93 years young on Sunday! Happy Birthday your Maj! The official hoe down will be in June as usual.

Easter Opening Hours – it being a Bank Holiday weekend we have some funny hours!

Today 18th April  – 11AM – 8PM

Good Friday 19th April – Funny Hours – 11AM – 3PM

Saturday 20th April – Funny Hours- 1OAM – 4PM

Sunday 21st April – CLOSED

Monday 22nd April – CLOSED

Tuesday 23rd April – Back to Normal

Anyway as it’s going to be nice this weekend we are very happy to announce (Drum roll please)

Chateau de L’Aumerade ‘Cuvée Marie-Christine’ 2018 our Cru Classé Côtes du Provence Rosé is in stock, and we’ve managed to keep it at the same price as last year!

£14.99 per bottle or 6 bottles for £78

Tasting This Weekend

Given we’re doing it all a day early we’ll open these wines this evening around 5-ish. Your weekend starts here!

Where would we be without an open bottle at the weekend? I can’t help but think it might be nice to show some solidarity with the French, so in the white corner we’ll start off with Domaine Alexandre Chablis 2017 (£19.99) a classic crisp mineral white that we managed to grab a small parcel of.

On the red front I can’t help but think that if we’re eating spring lamb we might want to have a glass of red burgundy with it. On that basis I’m pouring the Domaine Fournillon Epineuil Bourgogne Rouge (£14.99) which will be just fabulous with that lamb.

That’s about it for us this week, but if anyone knows what glue the climate protesters are using give us the nod, we’ve some things up for repair. s”).w

Great with water nymph or dolphin…

April 12th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

I have to confess, I do love the school holidays, the Easter ones in particular.  The sun often shines, the roads are empty and you can get a seat on the tube.  Plus we have the four day weekend that encapsulates Easter Sunday.  Plus plus, our own bearded asylum seeker, Alex, gets dragged kicking and screaming from his priest hole in the cellar and taken to far flung exotic climes (Warwick and Dorset this year, I believe) and I have the place to myself.  And I get to write the email, uninterrupted.

And, as I get to write the email without any ‘helpful’ insertions, I get to write about whatever I want.  If you’ve read any of my previous pieces then you will be aware that I have a passing affection for bikes and cycling; what you won’t know, I suspect, is that my actual true passion is for the little dimpled ball.  Yep, I’m a golf nut.  There you go, it’s out in the world now, it’s in print, it’s on Facebook and our website and my goodness, I feel a great weight has been lifted from my shoulders.

Whilst I do enjoy going out cycling on a misty Sunday morning swaddled in luminescent lycra and feeling like a million lira, the opportunity to stroll around a large country estate swinging clubs (less than 80 times ideally) dressed in plus fours and Pringle knitwear is what I really want to be doing.  I’m not the best player I know, but then I’m also not the worst.  I’m certainly in the top 10 of people I play with and that is all I need really – Strava rarely has such nice things to say to me.

However, there is one way that cycling surpasses golf.  When I watch the Tour de France, the Giro or La Vuelta I see narrow mountain roads being gobbled up by the superfit masochists, I see swooping descents that make roller coasters feel pedestrian and I know that, should I have the desire, I could jump on my bike and attempt my own heroics on these exact roads, any time I wanted. 

Golf however isn’t quite like that, particularly the golf that’s going on right now. 

For those of you less fanatical, the US Masters started yesterday.  This is arguably the biggest week in golf each year as it heralds the start of ‘the season’, is the first major, the winner gets a natty green jacket to wear (but not keep) and it always takes place at Augusta National in Georgia.  You know Augusta, that truly cosmopolitan and inclusive club without a whiff of racism and sexism, always a club to open its doors willingly to all comers.  There is no members’ waiting list because you have to be invited to join, it only has a few hundred members, the majority of whom are men and captains of industry and you’re more likely to be struck by lightning than get a chance to play it. 

So, unlike the Col du Tourmalet, Augusta will never open its arms to me – perhaps I am better off on the bike…

Elsewhere, it seems that we are still in Europe, Tottenham and Liverpool are still in Europe, Julian Assange has left South America and is now in Europe and Omar al-Bashir isn’t in Europe, yet, but he is to be expected at ICC at some point.

But what has any of this got to do with wine I hear you ask?  Nothing at all, is the honest answer but now I will remedy that.

UPCOMING TASTINGS – DATES FOR YOUR DIARIES

Our Cheese and Wine tasting evenings have been as over-subscribed as ever and as of now we have 2 spaces available on Thursday 20th June and then plenty of spaces on Thursday 18th July – should you wish to join us then it costs £20 per person and it all starts at 8pm.

You may have noticed us rattling on about Domaine Treloar over the last few weeks.  One of the reasons is that we think the wines are ace and should be in everyone’s shopping basket.  Another good reason is that Jonathan and Rachel, the owners, are thoroughly good eggs – so good in fact that they have agreed to visit us not once but twice this year!

Thursday 27th June at 8pm – Domaine Treloar Wine tasting with Jonathan Hesford – £20 per person

Thursday 17th October at 8pm – Domaine Treloar Wine tasting with Rachel Treloar – £20 per person

I appreciate that the October date feels a little in advance but when they offered to come and do this we thought we’d get the dates in the diary as soon as possible so they can book their flights – we expect both tastings to be very popular so do book early to avoid disappointment!

OTHER WINE NEWS

After a brief hiatus, I can confirm that we have Chocolate Block back in stock – and we have it in magnums too, for £50, which just has to be a better Easter gift than any overpriced oval confection…

TASTING THIS WEEKEND

Often when Alex is given the reins he thinks he’s being super smart and tries to link the tasting wines to events of the week ‘don’t you think it segues rather nicely’  he might be heard to say, whilst I’m thinking ‘segue’, really, did you really just say that?  Anyway, there will be none of that nonsense this week, just fine wines that need to be tasted by you fine folk.

Naia Verdejo 2017 – £14.99 – this is a new listing for us since the previous inhabitant of the posh Verdejo throne became just too expensive and the Naia had always been in our sights as the pretender and now it has found its seat.  Produced in Rueda, the Verdejo heartland, the grapes come from 98 acres of vineyards, the majority of which are 26 years old (and 5 acres of which are ungrafted 90 year old Verdejo vines) all located in La Seca.  The wine has ripe stone fruit aromas with lightly savoury, herbal notes that persist on the palate and then leads onto a bright and long finish.  Great with shellfish and perhaps with water nymph (Greek translation) or dolphin (Hawaiian translation) but I’m not sure that’s allowed any more….

The Pilot by Alpha Domus 2014 – £13.99/6 for £72 – this is the exact opposite of a new listing – it’s a bin end, once it’s gone, it’s scone!  From Hawkes Bay in New Zealand this is a stonking Bordeaux blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon.  On the nose it’s busy with berry fruits, plums and spicy herbs.  The palate is again filled with plum and blackberry fruit, some clove spice and a silky, savoury finish – a perfect partner to Sunday’s roast lamb.

That’s it for now – enjoy your hols whilst I enjoy the tranquillity and the golf!

The very fetching yellow beret she sports in the video was her only payment….

April 5th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Alex has been out and about this week, putting his sniff, swirl and spit skills to good use in the judging of the early rounds of the International Wine Challenge. His teeth have now returned to their original colour, he has caught up with a fair few old chums and also discovered some of the latest buzzwords in the land of winemakers and consultants. Because such things are as strict as Official Secrets Act we can’t say much more than that but there was talk of a game changing tooth product that should help those of us that continually subject their enamel to a short intensive acid bath. We’ll trial it and let you know.

An enormously heart-warming piece of news we saw was that, at the age of 85, Madhur Jaffrey has still got it. She’s recruiting a new generation of fans as a guest star as a Grandma MC in NY hip hop artist Mr. Cardamom’s new track “Nani”. The very fetching yellow beret she sports in the video was her only payment.

News reaches us that Ukraine may be in line to get a comedian as President. Leading the race in first round of Presidential elections is popular TV comedian Volodymyr Zelensky. I see no problem with it at all; we have 649 jokers in our parliament, whilst the US has a TV star in the top role who definitely knows his oranges, what could possibly go wrong.

Meanwhile, at the European Parliament, MEP’s have made some revisions to the food-labelling regulations by this week approving a ban on the producers of vegetarian food from using nomenclature usually deployed to describe meat. French socialist MEP Éric Andrieu, overseeing the debate, said: “We felt that steak should be kept for real steak with meat and come up with a new moniker for all these new products.”

So, goodbye to the veggie burger, welcome to the veggie disc. We wondered what happens to fish cutlets or chicken fillet, is only beef allowed to have fillet? What about beef tomatoes and lambs lettuce? Where does that leave crab apples?

We’re not entirely sure all MEP’s understood the debate, with Molly Scott Cato, MEP for South West of England and Gibraltar (?), stating “I think this could unlock a lot of creativity. My personal favourite is nomato soup, which is a tomato-tasting soup made of peppers.”

This Saturday sees the annual visit of the Grand National at 17.15. It seems to us to be getting later and later, time was you could pop out for a pint and lunch, put a bet on, go home watch the race with Gran, then pop back to the bookies to pick up Gran’s winnings for her before they shut. These they days they’re on the point of introducing floodlights! Anyway, we’ve had a look at the runners if you’re interested? Wayne has had a flutter on Vintage Clouds as that’s where he keeps his head most of the time.

Alex meanwhile has been much more studious on the form and chosen Jury Duty and Valseur Lido, though possibly the latter just because he has the hots for Rachael Blackmore after she won him some money at 50-1 at Cheltenham!

You may recall a few weeks ago we mentioned in passing that Constellation was looking to offload some of its lower valued brands to concentrate on the more premium end of its portfolio. E J Gallo has spent $1.7 billion on a chunk of them (including Paul Masson!). You heard it here first.

Tasting This Weekend

Continuing or record of tasting recent listings the white this week will be Tenute Pieralisi Villaia Verdicchio Classico 2017 (£19.99).  This is the flagship wine from this producer.  The grapes are sourced from their most prized vineyard of Colle del Sole – situated right next to the winery. It has an open and expressive nose with aromas of apricot, orchard fruit, white flower and citrus. The palate has minerality and texture with ripe tropical notes of pineapple and stone fruit, underpinned by racy acidity and a touch of salinity.  Oh, and guess what, it’s vegan too, so it is a natural bedfellow for the veggie burger, whilst it still exists!

The red wine is less controversial, or perhaps more – they use egg whites in the fining process, the scoundrels. However don’t let that put you off the majesty of Bodegas Roda Sela 2015 (£22.49). 2015 was an almost perfect Mediterranean vintage here in Rioja and the blend has a bit more Garnacha than the previous vintage which gives us a lovely and juicy drop with fine tannins and an almost balsamic note from the French oak ageing.  It’s a serious wine for serious wine lovers or is it a fun drop for the jokers amongst us?  Probably both – come and decide for yourself!

The cynic amongst us is on holiday, so this is all probably nonsense….

March 29th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Right, that’s it, I’ve had enough, I’m leaving Europe, with or without you. 

Apparently, there was an online consultation that attracted an unprecedented 4.6 million responses last year, of which 84 per cent were in favour of a new legislation.  This then led to a vote amongst the EU lawmakers, where the darling MEPs voted 410 to 192 in favour of ending it, with 51 abstentions, (not sure where the other 98 members were, I’d have thought there would have been a three line whip for this), which means that, as of 2021, it’ll no longer be with us. 

Yep, Strasbourg has stolen our summertime. 

No more spring forward, fall backwards; no more 7 months of summer because that’s what the clocks tell us; no more cheeky extra hour in bed in late October; and frankly the alarming potential for the sun to rise in London at 3.45am and 3am in John O’Groats over solstice.  For me it’s purely a nostalgic thing, I’m not a farmer or a factory worker although a longer evening is more beneficial to our trade than a lighter early morning.  I’m sure I would get over it very quickly but, as one of my peers oft states, the EU just wants to homogenise everything and neutralise individuality – we kept our pints and our miles, let’s keep our changing clocks!

‘Right, that’s it, I’ve had enough, I’m leaving Europe, with or without you!’, thus spake my wife last night.

I don’t think we’d had a row or anything and in fact I’m not sure she was addressing me anyway as most of the vitriol seemed to be targeted at the Toshiba laptop in front of her.  It seems, and I’m giving you the edited/sanitised highlights here, that the EU has proposed putting speed limiters in all new cars from 2022.  Now, my wife, being of the country, has always had a close relationship with cars – if you couldn’t drive you couldn’t go out – so the prospect of Brussels meddling with her preferred form of transport certainly seemed to get her goat.  No more spinning along at 52mph on the A3, no more racing along at 73mph on the M3 – no more life in the fast lane for Mrs Park Vintners…. And she was incensed, big brother was mentioned and that crushing of independent spirit, all in the name of homogenisation, was once more aired.  I did mention that it wasn’t until 2022; it would only be on new cars (not a thing we usually get involved with); that the driver will be able to override the restrictor by just putting their foot down but, by this stage, the rant was in full sail.

And, with that, my wife brexited – anyone going to join her?

Back on planet wine, the eternally optimistic team at Majestic have finally let the mask slip – things are not as peachy at the wine warehouse as carefully spun annual figures would have had us believe. 

Hot on the heels of Oddbins facing a forced departure from the high street, Majestic announced it was going to close a portion of its stores and rebrand as Naked, the online side of the business.  “A dramatic and unexpected change in strategy” is how one analyst put it.  The cynic amongst us might suggest a bit of asset stripping by selling shop freeholds and then a sale of the retail business to Mike Ashley perhaps – in the meantime Naked remains online, as it was and always has been, but £70 million richer from when Majestic bought them 4 years ago and with their database too – clever.  However, the cynic amongst us is on holiday, so this is all probably nonsense….

Suffice to say, we don’t have an online presence so you’ll have to keep on popping in to visit us and, hopefully, we can make this chore less tedious at weekends by opening some wines for you to taste?

A few weeks back we mentioned new wines we had listed and old wines that had returned to the fold and we have been opening examples each week.  This week it is the turn of Domaine Treloar and Bodegas Resalte de Peñafiel.

Domaine Treloar has been on the books for a number of years now and we have no doubt bored you before about Jonathan the Yorkshireman and the Rachel the Kiwi Lady responsible for these superstar wines down in the deep south of France?  Have we not?  Oh, okay then, here goes.  Their path into wine was rather unusual, after working in IT for 15 years; they were living almost next door to the World Trade Center when it was destroyed in 2001.

Having experienced that disaster at first hand, they decided to change direction, heading to Rachel’s native home of New Zealand where Jonathan studied oenology and viticulture at Lincoln University.  He graduated top of the class, and then worked as the Assistant Winemaker at Neudorf Vineyards for 2 years.  In 2006 they founded Domaine Treloar, where they do everything in both vineyard and winery themselves.

In 2013 they were chosen as the Coup de Coeur (Favourite) Roussillon producer by La Revue du Vin de France, the country’s most influential wine magazine.

La Terre Promise 2016 (£18.49) is a delicious white blend of Grenache Gris (50%), Macabeu (30%) and Carignan Blanc (20%).  A rich weighty white that’ll be delicious with some garlic and herb roasted chicken or Bouillabaisse if you have time, or on its own if you don’t!

Since we lost Emilio Moro from our shelves we have been kissing a lot of frogs in search of a new prince – meet Lecco Crianza 2014 – £19.29 – proper Ribera del Duero royalty.  Reading Wayne’s notes, he says:

Es un vino sensato, maduro y seguro de sí mismo. Se elabora a partir de viñedos de una cierta edad, de media superan los 30 años momento en el cual ya la viña por si misma empieza a reducir su producción de forma natural en pos de aumentar su calidad. Se seleccionan los suelos que nos aporten mayor elegancia y potencia tanto aromáticamente como en boca.

Estas viñas se vendimian en cajas de 15 kilos de forma manual y después de un estricto control analítico y de cata, así elegimos el momento de mayor expresión de cada viñedo. La elaboración se lleva a cabo por gravedad con el uso de los ovis y durante la cual se controla la temperatura de fermentación y maceración para dirigir la extracción. En total la maceración estará en torno a los 18 días.

El paso por barrica, gran parte de ellas nuevas, de roble francés en 70% y el resto en americano durante al menos 14 meses termina por realzar y acomplejar las características aromáticas y sensaciones en boca, guardando un buen equilibrio entre la expresión frutal de la tempranillo y los tostados y aromas del roble.

I think he likes it!?  14 months in oak, lovely and rounded, tasty tannins and a long and lovely finish –as he said at the outset, a self-assured wine! 

Right, that’s it from us… don’t forget to spring forward on Sunday morning whilst we’re still allowed to and be prepared for lots of silly pranks on Monday – you’ll thank me for reminding you!

¡Salud! as Wayne would say….

It’s the bride of Frankenwine, it’s in the sparkling wine aisle of your local supermarket and it makes me want to weep

March 22nd, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

And so it goes on.  One minute we’re leaving next week, the next minute we’re leaving at the end of June, then five minutes later the EU says we need to be out by 22nd May or 12th April –  crikey, so much choice.  Surprisingly, France seem to be very keen for us to sling our hook asap, whilst Theresa has ‘personal regret’ about asking for a delay, perhaps alienating any of her last supporters in the commons, and Jeremy has had some ‘very constructive’ talks in Brussels.  Oh whoopee, well done you, MP’s one and all. 

Now, we’ve all rented rooms in the past and thus had the whole kerfuffle of moving out and moving on.  So, experience tells us that by now, with a week to go (previously agreed with our landlord) we should be nipping down to the local offie to buy a bottle of something cheap whilst picking up some empty wine boxes  to put our crockery in over the weekend; we should have booked a van, booked the day off and organised cleaners to do a deep clean so that we can leave the premises as we found it and thus leave on good terms, ideally with a few quid in our pocket from our deposit.

As demonstrated over and again, leaving Europe was never going to be as easy as moving house but we really have seen the process escalated to levels that will be the subject of politics A level essays for year to come.

Let’s pretend though that we were going to leave Europe next Friday.  Irrespective of how Wayne and I voted, this has been a day that we have been quite looking forward to from a commercial point of view.  It’s our year end next weekend and we were hoping for one last fillip to our turnover before the close.  It seemed like a win-win for us – eager Brexiteers raiding our shelves for bottles and bottle of English bubbly whilst disappointed Remainers buy Champagne to drown their sorrows whilst they still can….

Herbert Hall Brut (Kent) – £32.99 and Hambledon Classic Cuvée Rosé (Hampshire) – £40 for the leavers and Louis Roederer Cristal 2009 (France) £175 for the stayers – might as well go out on a high!

Otherwise, life seems to go on here in Wimbledon Park.  We completed our first wine school of 2019 on Wednesday night, 6 weeks of tasting torture that rounded off with a bubbles boot camp – 11 more palates are released onto the world, brimming with knowledge and expertise and an intimate working knowledge of all of Wayne’s jokes – if this all sounds too good to be true and the sort of thing you’d like to get involved in then we’ll keep you posted with dates of our next course, which will start late September, I imagine.

And then I read the booze press and my heart sank.  Initially, the idea of Graham Norton launching a pink gin, to go alongside his wine range, seemed a target worthy of a few well targeted darts but then I read about  more crimes against wine being committed by the scientists at Blossom Hill and Echo Falls.  For those of you oblivious to such things, Blossom Hill and Echo Falls are volume producers of very low quality wines in the USA but available globally.  It seems that, of late, sales of vinous beauties like Zinfandel Blush and Sun Kissed Red have been experiencing a bit of a slump.  So what does any self-respecting wine producer do to counteract such a dip – of course, they make a wine that isn’t actually a wine at all.

Blossom Hill Gin Fizz.  Yep, you read it correctly.  So far as bandwagon jumping goes this gets a gold star, previously only awarded to Sparkling Pink Pinot Grigio a few years back.

Anyway, very excitingly it comes in two flavours – Lemon & Rosemary, and Rhubarb – and we are told we need to be pouring it over ice and serve it with a garnish.  But surely ice and garnish is just gilding the lily, we say?  Surely the production method of blending white wine with ‘botanical-infused water’ and gin is enough?  Apparently not. 

It’s not wine, it’s not gin, it’s flavoured with lemon, rosemary and rhubarb and is fizzy – it’s the bride of Frankenwine, it’s in the sparkling wine aisle of your local supermarket and it makes me want to weep.  Echo Falls did a similar launch about a month ago with a Rosé Wine & Gin Fusion which is about £4 cheaper than the Blossom – fill yer boots!

Here are some wise words from their Global Marketing Manager, Bo Jakubenko:

“We know that gin is booming and that people are looking for refreshment and convenience from their drinks purchases.  With Blossom Hill’s Gin Fizz we have developed a product that responds to this need.  By focusing on what the consumer wants and making wine more accessible via a fun, approachable brand like Blossom Hill, we are helping to ensure future category growth.”

Translation:

We asked our customers and they resoundingly confirmed that whilst they buy our wine they would far prefer it if it tasted like gin and had bubbles and herbs in it – anything, frankly, to make the wine taste better than it currently does!

Tasting this weekend

I’ve been so insanely busy that I haven’t been able to get down to Morrison’s to get any Blossom Hill, so we’ll just have to stick to gin in one glass and wine in another.  As ever, we have Eclectic, Sacred, Bloody Bens, Hepple, Sacred Juniper and Sacred Pink Grapefruit open to taste on the Gin trolley along with other spirits and whiskies too.

Wine wise, I’m planning on opening a couple of Chileans that we listed a few weeks back.  The world, it seems, has fallen out of love a little with Chile but we have always been big fans and hopefully you might see why when you taste these wines…

Naciente Chardonnay 2018, Casablanca Valley, Chile – £11.99 – This is an unoaked white, pale yellow in your glass, aromas of very intense fruit with an emphasis on citrusy notes, and mineral touches.  The palate is fresh with the natural acidity making the wine very vivacious and fruity; it has a medium body and a lovely long finish.  Fish and chip Friday anyone?

Metic Carmenère 2018, Colchagua Valley, Chile – £10.99 – A limited production wine from 30 year old vines, the intensely blueberry fruit nose leads on to a bright fruited palate with a lovely intensity and length.  It’s made by a couple of Chilean guys as a side-line to their main business which is consulting for other wineries around Chile.  Their very laidback approach to winemaking intervention is unusual at this price and we’re certainly not complaining about that.

So pop in and try the wines and, if you ask me nicely, I might open a bottle of San Pellegrino and we can mix it with the Chardonnay and some Eclectic!  Actually no, no I won’t, that would be disgusting…

Lost Control

March 15th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

How’s your week been? We’ve been bumbling along in our normal fashion, tasting here, delivery there, quick squizz at the horses running at Cheltenham, is it time for lunch yet?

As many of you know, and many more suspected, we are no strangers when it comes to the subject of pies. Over the Christmas period we tend to have the odd mince pie or two handy, we have been known to partake of the odd Melton Mowbray after, or even before, a wine tasting and are even known to pop over to Manuels for an emergency sausage roll on a chilly day.

You can imagine then, our excitement to read the BBC headline “Emma Haruka Iwao smashes pi world record with Google help”. Sadly,  the story went on to explain that Ms Iwao has not harnessed Google’s computing power to make the crust that finite bit better, crustier, or melt in the mouth. She has just extended the number of decimal places in л from 22 trillion to 31 trillion, which if recited would take 332,000 years or so. We’ll spare you,  3.14159 has always been good enough for us, but suffice to say: Well played Ms Iwao!

Cheltenham Gold Cup today, for many it is the highlight of the race calendar, Wayne’s been looking at Might Bite or Presenting Percy but I warn you he’s a bit off the pace this week.  It’s also the finale of the Six Nations this week, so if you’re partaking of the fun at Twickenham give us a wave, we’ll be watching on the telly. We’re a bit surprised to see big Joe left out this week, but then we run a wine shop not the England Rugby team.

You know that moment when a song pops up in your head and just won’t go away, a proper earworm that bugs you even though it’s a song you love? We’ve had a bit of that with Joy Division this week.  We pulled up the BBC website and that triggered it: “Confusion in her eyes that says it all She’s lost control”. Counting the boxes in the cellar for the stockcount there it was again: “And she’s clinging to the nearest passer-by She’s lost control” Alex loading the car for a delivery, up it pops: “And a voice that told her when and where to act, she said I’ve lost control again.”  We’re a bit puzzled as to why this song keeps tormenting us.

Meanwhile Trumpolina has spoken about Brexit: “I’m surprised at how badly it has all gone from a standpoint of negotiations but I gave the prime minister my ideas of how to negotiate it, she didn’t listen to that and that’s fine but it could have been negotiated in a different manner.”

In wine news, word on the street is that Pernod Ricard might be putting Jacob’s Creek and Campo Viejo up for sale as part of their move away from focussing on discounting. Meanwhile over in the land of the weird diet or ten (aka USA) we couldn’t help but think that one punter has taken it a little bit too far. Del Hall, director of sales at Ohio’s Fifty West Brewing Company, says he will refrain from all solid food until Easter, drinking only beer for sustenance, as well as water. We can see the appeal of a simple shopping list like that, and couldn’t help but wonder if that made him a vegan, but don’t feel it is something we can recommend. Like any form of extreme exercise, we feel you should check with your GP before embarking on such practice.

I don’t know about you but all the drama in the press this week leaves me reaching for a glass of wine. My aperitif glass of wine is Deep Roots Riesling 2018 (£12.99) a classic dry Riesling from Rheinhessen with citrus and orchard fruit character, a touch of minerality and quite possibly the best partner for that Pad Thai for supper!

Main course red will be One Block Grenache 2015 (£13.99) from Jonathan and Rachel’s Domaine Treloar in the Roussillon. I quite like a glass off it on its own, but I see absolutely no reason not to chomp on a lamb chop with it if you’re peckish.

With that I’m off to sun, sand and fish curry. Wine? Less likely.

The no-newsletter

March 8th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So, I’ve been banned, apparently for my own good.  Or perhaps I could say I’ve given up for Lent and then perhaps it will seem more worthy.  Whichever way you put it, Wayne has put his foot down and declared that I am no longer allowed to do it, at least until he goes on holiday at the end of next week, after which he doesn’t really care what I do as he will be shoulder deep in yoga and sundowners.

So, what is this nasty habit that has got me this ban?  Nose picking?  Playing B*Witched on Spotify?  Cattle rustling?  No, none of these, in fact it’s something far more prosaic, that we all do, and get away with, everyday – yep, it’s called reading the news.  Now, I’m not talking about doing my best Moira Stewart impersonation or wearing Sir Robin Day bowties, since these are already on the blacklist, but more about the keeping-myself-up-to-date-with-current-affairs aspect.

By all accounts it makes me ranty.  Ranty, moi, how very dare you?  It all starts over breakfast when I flick through the BBC News whilst the dog patiently waits for his walk.  Whilst on the common with Rufus, the aforementioned dog, a particularly annoying and seemingly unstoppable App that Samsung have installed, pings me constantly with breaking news.  This news is never about cats being rescued from trees or old ladies being helped across the road but more about bigger cats becoming extinct, trees being destroyed for ‘industry’, or old ladies being knocked down whilst doing the shopping.  As I still only have Rufus to talk to at this point and his feelings for cats are typically canine, I have to continue with my inner seethe until I get to work.

And then my exasperation becomes too much as I explode in indignation.  Poor Wayne has to nod and tut appropriately, whilst surreptitiously placing his bets for the 2.15 at Lingfield, as I rant about the state of the world, the cruelty of mankind, the seemingly flippant attitude of some to the value of a human life, the overpayment of footballers, the parlous nature of politics and politicians and …. well, you get the gist.

So I’m banned, which is a bit of a bind when it comes to writing this email, since it is usually heavily propped up by some sort of news roundup.   So I’m not entirely sure what to write about now, as there is also an embargo in place on writing about football or rugby – for many of the same reasons as the news ban is in place – such is the life of a Spurs fan and an England rugby fan.  And let’s not talk about cricket.  But if you fancy a rant about footballers and haven’t seen it already then

https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/8579607/edin-dzeko-pepe-roma-porto-champions-league/

should make you smile, whilst also gently simmer at such poor sportsmanship. 

However, if you are banned like me, then take a look at this feel-good story and restore a bit of faith

NEW WINES!!!!

But I am allowed to talk about wine though, which is handy as this is the main purpose of this missive and excitingly this week we have received some of our new listings…

FIZZ

Champagne Vauban Freres Brut NV – £30.49

WHITE

Australia

Pauletts Watervale Semillon 2016 – £14.99

Chile

Naciente Chardonnay 2017 – £11.99

Czech Republic

Sonberk Riesling 2015 – £22.39

Germany

Deep Roots Riesling Trocken 2018 – £12.99

Italy

Monte Schiavo Pallio di San Floriano Verdicchio Classico Superiore 2017 – £13.99

Vignetti Le Monde Friulano ‘Grave del Friuli’ 2017 – £15.99

Tenute Pieralisi Villaia Verdicchio Classico 2017 – £19.99

RED

Argentina

Pablo y Walter Malbec 2018 – £11.39

Chile

Metic Carmenère 2018 – £10.99

Italy

Cantina Crociani Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2015 – £22.49

Spain

Bodegas Resalte de Penafiel Lecco Crianza 2014 – £19.29

And we also welcome back lots of wine from our favourite Yorkshireman, Jonathan at DOMAINE TRELOAR

One Block Grenache 2015 – £13.99

Three Peaks 2016 – £14.99

Le Secret 2013 – £17.99

Motus 2015 – £18.49

La Terre Promise 2015/16 – £18.49

Tahi 2011 – £25.99

And also in Magnum – Tahi 2010 – £50.00

TASTING THIS WEEKEND

As we’ve got so many new wines it would seem sensible to open a couple of them.  We’ve opted to go New World this week and will open the Pauletts Helmsford Semillon 2016 and the Pablo y Walter Malbec 2018.

The Semillon is a single vineyard wine from their Watervale property and, compared to its counterparts in the Hunter Valley, has more flesh on its bones, as it were.  A typically zesty, tangy citrus nose leads onto a riper palate with plenty of crisp fruit – potentially more interesting than a lot of Sauvignons but in the same vein.

The Malbec is a wine we have known about for some time but never really had shelf space for.  That all changed as some if its peers became more expensive but not necessarily better and a slot appeared on the shelf.  A thoroughly decent drop, plenty of dark fruit and richness without knocking your socks into the middle of next week – we think this will gather a bit of a following.

So come and taste the wines, admire the new listings, bring joy to my curmudgeonly existence and perhaps let me know what’s going on in the world!

Kashmir Handbags

March 1st, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

FIRST A VERY IMPORTANT PIECE OF ADMIN:  

Due to the fact we’ve been invited to provide the wine and run the bar at Kings College quiz night tonight, we’ll be closing at 5pm in order to set everything up. Apologies for inconvenience caused.

This week Trumpolina and Kim Wrong ‘Un met up in Vietnam for a couple of Summer Spring Rolls, Bo La Lot (meat in Betel Leaves) and a couple of pints of Hué. Sadly, as is often the case after a few cold ones, no agreement was reached. Instead Wrong’Un will head back to watch another thrilling march by with the Highsteppers.  Trumpolina meanwhile, mulls over a failed foreign photo op, claims people are telling lies to congress and misses the GDP growth target. We’ll get a Chinese trade deal soon folks, he’s desperate for it.

In other international news India and Pakistan are handbags drawn at dawn over Kashmir again, with captured pilots, shot down planes and furious moustaches. Do you think Led Zeppelin know about this fuss?

In Brexitania, people you’ve never heard of have resigned, we have three dates for meaningful votes and anything could change at the drop of a hat. Someone has discovered we have the wrong size pallets for exporting. I wondered do people still do woodwork at school?

Jacob Rees -Mogg is enjoying his rock star status in a Tom Jones stylee with a sell-out night at the Palladium. Unlike a Tom Jones gig, it appears the audience held on to their underwear!

Climate disaster or an unexpected nice spell in February? I’m sure we all have a view, or maybe even several, but you can be sure the kids who saw the first ever snow in Hawaii, or those in the Sahara who also witnessed a splash of the white stuff, enjoyed it just as much that kid in Wimbledon Park eating an unseasonably early ice lolly.

We also note that today is St David’s Day (Dydd Gwyl Dewi) and on further discussion discovered that we don’t know how it’s celebrated. According to the interweb people attend special church services, wear daffodils or leeks, or eat Welsh Rarebit for tea. Sounds quite different to St Patrick’s Day! We do know of one young lady who celebrates it every year by getting older – A happy birthday to you!

Wayne’s a bit nervous on the sport front, no rugby this week (which might be a good thing) and we have the North London Derby. Normally we don’t discuss this too much, being opposite sides of the coin so to speak. Tottenham have now lost two on the spin and Arsenal seem to be on a decent spell of form, so he seems to think there is a chance of Arsenal winning something at Wembley after all.

In proper sports the European Cycling season kicks off this weekend with Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad bringing us the first cobbled classic of the season. We’ll be cheering for Ian Stannard I think, but think it’s going to be difficult to beat Greg Van Avermaet. For the women’s race we can’t help wonder if it may just be Chantal Blaak’s time to win. Sunday will give us Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and we can’t help but wonder if Matteo Trentin might grab the top podium place.

On the wine front, a news story we found very interesting was that Constellation brands is to sell or discontinue 40% of its wine and spirits brands. It seems to us that everywhere you look people are developing “brands” when we thought you went about building a business. Constellation has built and bought lots and lots of wineries and spirits brands in the time we’ve been in the wine trade, and this is not the first time they’ve had a cull. We think there might be a note of caution to be learned somewhere in this story.

Tasting This Weekend

The Lillywhites will be represented by Desjacques Sauvignon Blanc (£9.49). A lovely drop from Sauvignon Blanc’s heartland in the Loire Valley. A highly aromatic wine with fresh zesty citrus and gooseberry flavours and mouth-watering acidity. Fruit follows the nose nicely with some added chalky mineral to the finish. Very much made in the image of a Sancerre.

Gunners are represented by a delicious Saumur Champigny in the shape of Les Clos Maurice Vieilles Vignes 2016 (£17.99). I could give you all the guff about the soil in the vineyards, the angle of the slope the vines are planted on etc. but the reason we bought this was the label. Nothing at all to do with the lovely fruit concentration from vines planted in 1921, nothing at all to do with the fact that we loved the fine balance of fruit, freshness and tannins, or the long finish. Certainly not how delicious it would be with a pork chop, definitely the label.

Hey, I’ve got this great idea; we’ll dress up some horses as zebras…

February 22nd, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

A week full of surprises seems to have been the long and short of it. First surprise was really rather a pleasant one. The nice people in the Canary Islands have been sending us some of their wonderful weather, so, barely a minute after putting St. Valentine to bed for another year, it feels like spring has sprung.

In what should come as no surprise, news reaches us that restaurants and pubs suffered a slowdown in spending in January.  Not only were those who did visit only drinking water but apparently they wanted to eat only vegetables too!

There’s also a new movement afoot. It’s been creeping up on us for ages, lurking suspiciously in the background, a small but increasingly confident minority who may at some point be the mainstream. Until quite recently there were basically two pre-dinner drinks that were popular. On the one hand you had the folks that like to drink a glass of champagne or something bubbly in a flute. On the other hand there were the people that liked to have a beer, some chilled, some room temperature, but beer nonetheless.

But this emergent minority we mentioned above appear to prefer drinking a gin and tonic before dinner. Not only that, but they are also recruiting from both sides.  Champagne producers have spotted a fall in their sales and responded with a typically Gallic shrug and an increase in prices. The beer producers have grown their beards longer, shrunk their trousers, added more hops and started going to the same cool places you find gin producers. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out as something similar happened in the late 70’s/ early 80’s – but barely anyone drinks Babycham now!

On the politics front, in a rare show of humour, the Labour Party re-instated Derek Hatton for 48 hours. Theresa May has been in Brussels again this week, allegedly for negotiations but we’re starting to think she just goes for dinner at Quincaillerie or Comme Chez Soi on the government dime.

Otherwise some renegade former Labour MP’s (known in some circles as The Hateful Eight) have joined up with some renegade Conservative MP’s  (known in some circles as the Three Amigos) to form a mixed commons football team called Independent Group. To what aim remains unclear as they have nobody to play with but rest assured we’ll keep you abreast of developments.

On the science front, scientists believe they have discovered why zebras have stripes and it’s nothing to do with running faster. It would appear the stripes are there to confuse flies. After dressing several horses up in zebra outfits it was discovered that the poor flies are too confused to land because of the stripes. To us this seemed like something you’d dream up after a long and challenging afternoon in the pub… “Hey, I’ve got this great idea; we’ll dress up some horses as zebras…” Kudos definitely goes to the person that managed to sell it to the funding committee.

That’s quite enough guff from us for this week except to say that we’ll be opening a couple of Portu-Geezers on the tasting table this weekend.

Wearing the white waistcoat will be Ai Galera Mistico 2017 (£8.79). It’s a cracking blend of Fernão Pires and Verdelho from the Tejo region.

Adorned in the red slacks will be its sibling Ai Galera Poetico 2017 (£8.79). Funnily enough, it too is from the Tejo region, but sports a blend of Castelão, Trincadeira Preta and Tinta Miúda.

So there you have it, a weekend of lovely weather and five indigenous Portuguese grape varieties to tantalise the taste buds.

Saúde!

What, no Six Nations this weekend?

February 15th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Tidied up all the rose petals?  Paid off the a cappella group and the mariachi band and the Whitney Houston impersonator?  Washed up the champagne flutes and lobster picks and wondered to yourself –well, how did we get here already?  I know we have…

Two sessions into the 6 Nations, Valentine’s Day behind us, half term starting today, the mercury hitting 15 Celsius yesterday afternoon, daffodils in the shops, sunset after 5pm – all these factors can only, surely, mean one thing – that spring is well and truly on its way!  I’ve even tasted a variety of rosés this week and last, with a view to what to have on our shelves this summer, whilst Wayne has been ironing his shorts and talking about cycling.

It really does seem that not a huge amount has happened in the world this week.  Brexit rumbles on but still flatters to deceive; as discussed, Valentine’s day passed in a flash of consumerism and for us, cheese; rugby continues to surprise and delight us; our Poundland George Best, Wayne Rooney, gets drunk and embarrasses his wife and family, quality bloke; in St Lucia, we win the last (irrelevant) Test match before an Ashes Summer, having lost, comprehensively, the previous two and yet somehow this is being lauded as a huge boost – did none of the journalists watch in Barbados or Antigua?

So, with little to light our candle on the news front, let’s talk about Gin shall we?  We have all watched in awe as the juniper infused potion, which was once firmly confined to the drinks globe of retired Rear-Admiral’s in Plymouth, has become the darling of the cocktail classes.  According to figures released by HMRC this week, the value of gin exports has more than doubled in value since 2010 and overall sales of gin, here and abroad, have now topped £2.5 billion.  Clearly it’s not just Hepple making all this money, or even Beefeater, it’s the whole shooting match from the big boys at Diageo down to the wee fella on Garratt Lane.

For those of you familiar with Garratt Lane, particularly the stretch near the station, the name Ben’s Canteen will no doubt be familiar.  For years this corner site was home to Willie Gunn’s Wine Bar, a popular haunt for long lunches and lost weekends.  We used to sell an indecent amount of Plymouth Gin to this bar but it closed its doors in 2014 and was soon taken over by Ben’s Canteen, a business already established up in Clapham Junction looking to spread its wings. 

Anyway, that’s enough history, what is important for now is that these forward looking chaps have started to make their own gin, on the bar, in the bar.  It’s a proper micro-distillery, by all accounts they produce about 40 bottles per batch, which we imagine just about covers their own requirements but when they have some spare they sell it to local people like us.

Thus Bloody Ben’s Signature Gin – £38 – or Earlsfield Gin as we keep finding ourselves calling it, is the newest kid on our block and is proving to be a bit of a hit.  I’m going to shamelessly lift the marketing blurb they gave me now:

The micro copper Gin Still in Earlsfield makes 30-40 bottles per batch. It’s a London Dry Gin with Wandsworth Honey and orange notes.

This gives it a Spanish theme. The local honey represents London living and the Sweet Orange Peel represents escapism, in our case time in Mallorca where the firm was inspired.

As well as G&Ts, the Orange peel makes it ideal for Negronis.

Botanicals:

1.          Cloves

2.         Angelica Root

3.         Cardamom Seeds

4.         Liquorice

5.         Cassia

6.         Lemongrass

7.         Sweet Orange Peel

8.         Coriander Seeds

9.         Juniper Berry

10.       Honeysuckle

Ok, agreed, it’s a puff piece.  Our tasting note described it as a deliciously juniper forward drop with fabulous orange citrus and honeyed notes.  Significantly, it doesn’t taste like any of the other Gins on the shelf so it can carve its own niche.

We have a little open to sample and we have some stock so, if you’re of a mind, come and have a taste.

Wine open this weekend

As ever we realise that you don’t all want to taste gin so we’ll get some wine open too.

For the white lovers we’ll open Domaine de Vedilhan Viognier 2018 – £9.99.  This Languedoc estate belonging to the Fayet family based in the village of Moussan close to Narbonne.  The property has a small brook running around the outskirts which provides natural irrigation to give much needed water.  This gives the wines their freshness and appeal; keeping the vines cool in a very hot climate.  A flirty Viognier: shimmering hay and peaches with a lush viscous texture give way to a sensual palate of roses, pineapples and mangoes.  Delicious with Thai or fusion food, or some big, juicy langoustines.

And for the red heads we will taste Chateau Thieuley 2014 – £16.99.  Predominantly Merlot but with a healthy dollop of Cabernet Sauvignon, this Bordeaux estate has been family run since the 1950’s, now under the guidance of two sisters, Marie and Sylvie.  Marie is in charge of winemaking and Sylvie concentrates on the commercial side sensibly keeping out of each other’s way!  The wine has a lovely red plum character, a touch of chocolate and spice, medium to full-bodied with a long juicy finish.  Spot on with a Sunday roast or a steak even.

So, swing by and have a taste tonight or tomorrow and perhaps even see how the Cambria is getting along in the eto?