Bear with us, we’ll get to the wine.

August 17th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This week we have scoured the news in our usual fashion to give you a little taste of what is happening around the world. I’m sure you can imagine our excitement to discover something that has eluded commentators for millennia. Clearly, the term discover is used in the loosest possible sense here, as all we actually did was read that scientists had discovered something. “Discovered what” I hear you say, somewhat surprised as the shop is empty.

Well, by what we can gather, scientists from Arizona University led by Charlotte L. Pearson have finally been able to date the enormous volcanic eruption of Thera. Using an enhanced carbon dating process on ancient tree rings they can date the eruption of Santorini to around 1660-1540 BC. So those of you watching the sunset at Oia, whilst enjoying a nice crisp glass of Assyrtiko now know when it happened.

Whilst we’re on this timeline, we’d just mention that archaeologists excavating the tomb of Ptahmes, the Mayor of Ancient Egypt’s Memphis (as opposed to the one associated with Elvis) have found the world’s oldest cheese. Believed to be around 3200 years old and an unpasteurised blend of cow and either goat or sheep cheese, it appears to be contaminated with Brucella Melitensis which is not good for you, so we’re definitely ruling it out for our wine and cheese evenings.

In what seems to have been a busy week for scientists, some at Yorkshire Wildlife Park have been giving Polar Bears allergy tests. It seems the poor bears have sores on their feet and it may be because they are allergic to the grass. Victor and Nobby have had their sides shaved and 50 tests applied to get to the root of the problem. Reports that the other bears, Pixel and Nissan, have taken to addressing them as Patch and Sunroof are, as yet, unconfirmed.

Whilst we’re on the subject of bears, shoppers at Crazy Bruce’s Liquors in Bristol, Connecticut were somewhat alarmed to discover a black bear trying to enter the shop. He managed to work the electric door but a quick witted staff member locked the inner door before he could choose his tipple. Fortunately we don’t have bears here in Wimbledon Park, but if you’ve just caught some salmon and would like a wine to partner it all you have to do is ask.

On the sports front, Danny Cipriani has been a naughty boy, Ben Stokes apparently not, and Mourinho could be replaced by Zidane. De Bruyne could be out for a couple of months with injury, which should bring him back just in time to play against Tottenham at an, as yet, undisclosed venue.
In real sports, the Tour of Britain’s gain may be the Vuelta a Espana’s loss as Geraint Thomas, Wout Poels, and Chris Froome are on the start line for the Tour of Britain. On the other hand, I might go and put a couple of pennies each way on the Yates brothers for the Vuelta then!

In wine news, Champagne is 15 days ahead of schedule, and Burgundy almost three weeks, so both are starting the harvest early following the hot summer we’ve all experienced. Storm damage has been a bit of a problem in Nuits St Georges and also the Maconnais, whilst over in Bordeaux the big problem seems to be some mildew following storms in late June. Overall a better French harvest across the board in volume terms, up 27% on last year and around 5% on the five year average. Let’s wait and see what the quality looks like a bit further down the road!

Argentinian Wine Tasting
On the 18th October, we have persuaded Juan Manuel Matas to talk us through a delicious selection of the wines he supplies us with. Expect an evening of Malbec, Torrontés and possibly tales of derring do on the Pampas. Here at 8pm £20 per person with a few places still left.

Tasting This Weekend
The white corner will be populated by a guest from Puglia Mezzogiorno Fiano (£9.39) for no other reason than I fancy a glass of it and suspect many of you are holidaying in that direction this week.

Standing under the red light will be Cuvée Alice 2016 (£11.59) from Corbières, a wine I enjoyed recently and thought it high time I reminded you all how tasty it was.

Raise a glass to the Queen of Soul and absent friends everywhere.

Cheers

Wayne & Alex

Overweight Mop

August 10th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

What ho, how’s the hammock?

Often, when we write this piece, our inspirations come from life going on around us. Something funny a customer said, perhaps; a ridiculous piece of parking outside the shop; Wayne smashing bottles of wine and redecorating the cellar, that sort of stuff. However, you do all make this more difficult for us when you escape for the hols. Whilst we still have customers saying funny things of course, we see less of you and quotes become less anonymous and thus unusable; parking is less ridiculous as there are no cars around; and, of course, Wayne hasn’t broken any bottles recently…

So, we have to dig deep in these fallow periods, which is great news for all of us (?) but fortunately we always have the bull elephant that is Boris. Where The Donald has twitter upon which to voice his distorted views of the world, our own two-bit Trump, the Boris, uses his column in the Telegraph to share his warped wisdom and, by getting paid for it, manages to trump the Donald with his commercial acumen. We all know the story and we all know the follow up but honestly, he’s a grown man – either he apologises on his own or he doesn’t, he can’t be made to apologise like a naughty schoolboy but how he decides to deal with this affair is surely a sign of the sort of man he really is. I think that one of our favourite newspapers, The Rochdale Herald, summed it up best with their headline:

Women in Burkhas look ridiculous, says man who looks like an overweight mop

In the world of water, we have been drinking an awful lot of it lately; New South Wales officially has nowhere near enough of it; some of it fell out of the sky yesterday which was a bit against the norm but perhaps not enough to stave off the potential pending crisp shortage and Christmas veg shortfall as potatoes and carrots suffer in the heat….

Whilst in the world of carrot coloured things, the Ben Stokes trial seems to be getting grubbier; Rick Astley is apparently opening a bar in Shoreditch with a fan from Denmark who happens to own a brewery; and Aldi has launched an orange wine.

Orange wine? – you say.

You know, a white wine that spends time on its skins and thus attains an orangey hue and is extremely popular where Rick is opening his bar and also with young sommeliers everywhere but is actually a wine style that we only ever get asked for about twice a year – ring any bells? Looks like the hipsters need to find a new wine – I suspect it might be blue…

And in the world of blue, Chelsea have blown the doors off by buying a Spanish goalkeeper called Kepa. Wayne was keen for Arsenal to sign Kreyatif Midfeeyelda and perhaps the Brazilian star, Winga, whilst Alex just waited for Mr Levy to say anything. Both of us are still waiting for this whilst Arsenal still top the table whilst Tottenham are just above the relegation zone…

We have, however, been doing a bit of work whilst you’ve all gone fishin’. Work for us really just means we’ve tasted some new things and decided to list them – I know, we struggle sometimes but please don’t tell our wives.

In fact what we’ve done is relist two wines which are actually wines that we used to have but haven’t had on the shelf for about five years; we’ve also listed two completely new wines and two completely new spirits. So, without further ado, please welcome back:

Isabel Chardonnay 2015 – £22.49 this is from some of the oldest Chardonnay vines in Marlborough. Lovely toasty notes with hints of nectarine on the nose, that continue onto the palate with touches of toasted nut in the finish. Elegant texture with great poise.

Ridge Lytton Springs 2014 – £41.70 I think that here I’ll leave the tasting notes to The Wine Advocate (October 2016):

91+ Points. – “More fresh and elegant than the Geyserville, with a touch more focus, the 2014 Lytton Springs is another beautiful wine from this estate. Made from 69% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah and the rest Carignan and Mourvèdre, aged in 20% new American oak, it boasts fabulous notes of plums, blackberry jam, toasted spice and licorice as well as medium to full-bodied richness, beautiful mid-palate depth and notable tannin. The Geyserville is a touch sexier, but this will be longer lived. Give bottles 2-3 years of cellaring and enjoy over the following decade or more.” – Jeb Dunnuck

The two new wines hail from Greece and South Africa:

Lyrarakis Voila Assyrtiko Crete 2017 – £14.49 Located in the mountainous commune of Alagni in Crete, Domaine Lyrarakis stays true to local winemaking traditions. The domaine focuses on indigenous varieties, taking them from obscurity and driving them in a more modern direction, while still retaining a clear sense of place. Its style focuses on pure varietal character, precision and supple texture. The 2017 Assyrtiko is an exemplary wine of outstanding value. Grown at 580 metres’ altitude in the Voila vineyard there is a definite floral character, refreshing minerality and chalky texture to this delicious wine.

Leeuwenkuil Cinsault 2016 – £15.99 As so often happens, we weren’t looking for this wine, we were looking for a replacement Pinotage. However, we liked it and thus we bought it. Lively and elegant with a velvety palate showing good concentration of red berries and cherries balanced with some savoury black olive and black spices. As a side note, Leeuwenkuil means lion’s den… potential food match, perhaps?

And the two new spirits – a Gin from Fulham (sort of) and a Japanese Whisky:

Elderwood English Gin – £33 Chef Mike Robinson from Harwood Arms Fulham is responsible for this. He has spent time foraging in hedgerows for botanicals on top of the classics juniper, coriander and angelica. Quite a citrus led nose with a palate filled with sweet fruits, some really quite elegant floral notes and then a spicy kick – makes for a very summery gin ‘n’ tonic!

Kaiyo Whisky – £90 This is a 100% Japanese Mizunara Oak Single Malt aged for 7 years then ocean matured by shipping in barrel which results in evaporation down to 60% of original contents. Creamy with an almost dried black cherry note to it and a touch of vanilla too, soft and spicy almost like a fruity Speyside and a smooth, complex, lengthy finish.

Nice spread, we thought and with this in mind we ought to let you taste a couple of them too, so we’ll crack open the Cretan white and the South African red this evening and perhaps even the Gin too – come and have a taste whilst the rain passes over…

And with that, we’re gone!

Love Island on Canvey Island and Other Stories.

August 3rd, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So Love Island is finished for another year. Neither of us watched it, so we feel no sense of loss, but we did wonder how different it would be in another setting. If we understand correctly, they’ve just sat by a pool in a villa in Mallorca for a month. So we wondered, especially given how nice the weather, what would have been different if Love Island had been on Canvey Island. We could have had local band Dr Feelgood providing the soundtrack with songs like ‘She’s a Wind Up’ or ‘She Does it Right’ maybe even ‘Milk and Alcohol’. The contestants could have gone on a date at the Lobster Smack, caught a film at the Movie Starr Cinema, or even had a stroll around the transport museum. It could have been a completely different show. Oh well, perhaps next year!

Given the paucity of anything new of much interest in the news, fake or otherwise, we thought we’d have a look back in the archive…

This week in 2012 we were enjoying Bradley Wiggins’ Tour de France win, scoffing at bookmaker’s odds as Frankel won at Goodwood at odds of 1-20, and puzzled by the fact that Austria, a landlocked country, had beaten Australia in the beach volleyball. Apparently, there was cricket on in the north. As we write this year, in the Midlands, Virat Kohli has just scored more runs in a single innings than he did in 10 innings on his last visit!

We fast forward through the years in the time machine to discover 2015 was really rather wet and windy at the beach in South Devon, and, in what was a Minder inspired email, we were heading off to Apollo Banana Leaf with ‘er indoors (funnily enough, something that’s happening next week). We were also really rather taken with the deliciousness of Viña Arana Reserva 2006 which has sadly all been drunk or sold, but we do have some Viña Arana Reserva 2009 (£23.99) if you’re of a mind.

It would appear we have to issue a health warning, those of you reading this poolside in Portugal or a la Playa in Andalucía, might want to head indoors for some shade. It’s properly scorchio and might even break the European record of 48C. Shade and hydration are your friends.

Whilst on the subject of health warnings, it seems a study in the British Medical Journal suggests drinking too little alcohol in middle age increases your risks of dementia as much as drinking too much of it. Steady as she goes…

In other booze news Canadian brewing behemoth Moulson Coors have announced plans to start making non-alcoholic beverages infused with cannabis. It seems Heineken and Constellation are already on the case, and the alcohol commentator at Euromonitor International said: “Fighting the surging green tide will become an expensive exercise in futility. Ignoring it will guarantee the belated, panicky, knee-jerk reactions that greeted the craft juggernaut once it had already established offensive positions at the macro brewers’ gates. Cannabis can indeed cross-pollinate and, ultimately, become the fertiliser for radical innovation and experimentation.” Ok, whatever!

Wine School sign up is gathering pace (starts Wednesday 10th October) details attached, don’t miss out.

Tasting This Weekend

I went for a run on Tooting Common this morning and after all this lovely summer it was absolutely bone-dry, and I was really rather thirsty, which gave me an idea… Reichsrat Von Buhl Bone Dry Riesling (£16.99) is, as the name says, dry. I’ll let Matthew Jukes describe it for you: “it is one of the most enchanting and refreshing wines I have tasted in years. Bone Dry does what it says on the label and it will cast a spell on your palate like nothing you have ever tasted before.”

In the red corner, we thought we might tease your taste buds with Oyster Shack Pinot Noir (£7.99) a deliciously fruity easy drinker that goes down better than Neymar near a penalty box. You could chill it if you like, and it would partner some barbecued tandoori chicken perfectly.

That’s us for this week, enjoy your bike rides, swims, tennis, or poolside book and we’ll be in touch!

Wine without personality is not a place any of us want to be…

July 27th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We had a nice conversation with one of our customers yesterday. Now, I’m not pointing this out to imply that all the other conversations we have with customers are not nice, far from it. In fact, now that I’ve got my spade out and need to start digging frantically, I would submit that every conversation we have ever had with any of our customers has been a joy and a life enriching experience that leaves a trail of enlightenment in its wake….

So, I’ll start again. One of our customers, who is also in the business of buying and selling things, predominantly craft beers, made an observation yesterday that resonated. One of the absolute pleasures and strengths of running your own small, independent business is having the freedom to do what you want.

I don’t mean the kind of ‘do what you want’ that involves sloping off to the beach on sunny days and drinking fine wines off the top shelf, I, or rather he, mean(s) the freedom of choice. No one tells me who I have to buy wines from and, in much the same way, no one has to sell their wine to me; no one has a gun to their head.

The result of this freedom is that we don’t tend to have big brand wines or beers, we don’t sell Veuve, The Ned or Peroni and no one is making us. The freedom we have is to deal with people we like. There are not a lot of rock star wages in the wine trade at any level and as a result one of the main draws, beyond the obvious vinous pleasures, is the people that populate this grape fuelled industry. We love buying wine and beer from Phil and Clive and Jack and Walter and Mary and Frankie and Simon and Mark and, of course, Louisa. They are real people who come in and talk to us about what’s new, about sport, about politics, about each other’s families and, occasionally, about wine. We don’t spend the same fortunes with them as their other bigger clients but they never make us feel like that matters and, significantly, they always give us a fair price and are very transparent about price changes when they do have to happen.

Recently, some of our other suppliers have not been showing the same generosity of spirit and in fact have raised prices with no warning, have shown a distinct lack of desire to increase their business with us when we have tried, some we haven’t laid eyes upon in over a year and thus we are parting company with their products – how long until they notice, I wonder?

When we first opened we decided our strap line would be Wines with Personality, mainly because wine without personality is not a place any of us want to be. This belief in personality is why we still deal with the people we enjoy dealing with and why, hopefully, you all still enjoy dealing with us, or at least Wayne because he’s less grumpy!

Thank you Adam, for reminding us why we’re doing this thing and now, you’ll all be glad to hear, the rant is over!

When we haven’t been delisting lines we’ve been busy watching the roads melting. Extraordinary! We’ve all discussed the weather enough already I know and actually, I would be grateful if someone could tell my family and friends in Devon that I already know what beaches, blue sky and ice creams look like without need for constant daily, pictorial reminders. Likewise, you chaps at the BBC do not need to keep showing us pictures of different patches of dried grass around the country – I have a back garden, I can see for myself. Finally, do I really mind if we break the highest temperature recorded in the British Isles – I’m not sure I do, I fully suspect it’ll still be toasty and warm even if we don’t!

Elsewhere, whilst glued to the Tour de France, one of our number has been reminding us of the time he broke his knee when he fell off his bike and then proceeded to cycle home, a mile down the road. To put his heroics into context, Philippe Gilbert threw himself over a wall whilst descending during the Tour this week, scrambled back up onto the road, got back on his bike, cycled a further 60 kilometres to the stage finish and picked the prize for most aggressive rider of the day. He too fractured his knee. Wayne, Philippe, we salute you!

In Stratford, the ladies have been playing Hockey in the Vitality Women’s World Cup. England have drawn twice, which has an eerie sense of déjà vu, and play Ireland on Sunday, who currently top the group. I have to tell you this because it’s nigh on impossible to find out elsewhere unless you have BT Sport.

The politicos are all on holiday, which feels like a bit of a mickey take, given the amount of Brexit plates that are currently spinning but slowing down. If we end up in a monumental pickle in March, I imagine we’ll all look back fondly on the 10 week summer break our leaders enjoyed?

And so, as often happens, we turn to drink. This weekend, as it’s the end of the TdF, we’ll taste two wines of French provenance, one from the Loire and one from Roussillon.

Domaine Champalou Vouvray Sec 2016 – £17.99 Catherine and Didier started the Domaine in 1983 and have gone on to become one of the most acclaimed producers in Vouvray. This cuvée comes from 35 year old vines and is lovely and crisp, with apple fruit on the nose. Somewhat rounder and richer on the palate leading to a lovely crisp dry finish. It’s unusual for either of us to start a tasting note with ‘delicious’ but in this case, both of us did!

Three Peaks Domaine Treloar 2014 – £14.99 A very classy blend of Syrah (65%), Mourvèdre (25%) and Grenache (10%) from Englishman Jonathon Hesford’s Domaine Treloar. A rich and spicy blend that spent 12 months in French barriques and shows lovely crushed forest fruit character, a touch of earthy minerality and maybe even a hint of leather. Not too heavy but with enough crunch to remind you of what top quality southern French wine is all about.

Now that is probably it from us, apart from a few AOB’s.

Wine School sign up is gathering pace (starts Wednesday 10th October) details attached, don’t miss out. Also the Wine & Cheese and Argentine Tastings are filling up too, so yes, don’t miss out.

Finally, as has become our custom, Saturdays in August we will close at 7pm.

And with that I’m gone – enjoy your weekends and keep topped up on liquids with personality!

School’s Out

July 20th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

School is out, almost.

We know this because we have just had two back-to-back evening tastings where phrases like ‘have a great summer’ and ‘see you in September’ were being bandied around with definite gay abandon.

We know this because we can offer a selection of parking spaces outside the shop for large parts of the day.

We know this because the Tennis has finished and the Golf has started.

We know this because we are suddenly selling out of gift bags and nice bottles of wine for favoured teachers, office staff, lunch helpers and TA’s:

ME: ‘do you know what they like to drink?

NICE CUSTOMER PERSON: ‘no, not really, my son is in Year 2, what would a year 2 teacher drink, do you think?’

ME: ‘champagne, definitely, without a shadow of a doubt, absolutely yes…’

(this section was sponsored by Ricards Lodge, Bishop Gilpin, WPPS, St Michael’s, St Cecilia’s et al)

We know this because the papers and the websites are filled with things to do with kids over the summer, best restaurants for kids, best picnic sites for kids, best suncream for kids, best swimming trunks for kids, best vegan ice creams for kids, best things to do with kids in the rain….

But in amongst all this Alvin Stardust’s eldest son, Shaun, was being lauded in not only the Times and The Daily Mail but also The Sun for his Summer Super Seven list of things that children should do before they disappear into their telephones and iPad each day. As a parent of two children physically incapable of eating breakfast, or indeed walking from one room to another without their phones being glued to their hands, I was intrigued by his list:

• Getting up, washed and fully dressed without being reminded;
• making, eating and clearing away breakfast;
• taking the dog for a walk (your own or a neighbour’s);
• getting some exercise – a swim, bike ride or jog;
• playing a board game;
• doing a household chore such as stacking the dishwasher;
• reading a book.

Laugh? I was almost admitted to A&E…!

In fact, by the time you read this, school might now be out!

So, with that in mind, how about some drinks…

We’ll have a couple of bottles open this weekend to help you face the dreaded/fabulous prospect of 6 weeks of extra family time. As some of you may have noticed, Wayne loves his velocipede, loves to watch other people on their velocipedes and loves to talk to fellow swift foot enthusiasts about the latest swift foot news from France. Is G racing for Froomey? Is he racing for himself? Is he racing for Sam Warburton? Is Froomey biding his time? Are we going to see a repeat of the Wiggins-Froome tantrum of 2012 but this time with Chris dressed as Bradley? Are we going to see the first UK born winner of the TdF?

These are all questions that should only be addressed whilst one has a glass of wine in one’s hand and, clearly, there is no wine more suitable than one made by the scion of a cycling family.

Marina Coppi is the daughter of the legendary cyclist Fausto Coppi, the first man ever to win the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same year. Though vines have always been planted at Castellania, a small village in southeastern Piemonte, it was only when Marina’s son Francesco, along with his wife Anna, took over the property that they began bottling their own wine. They focus on the native varieties of Barbera, Nebbiolo, Croatina, Freisa, Favorita and Timorasso to make wines that are vibrant and well defined – and with this in mind we’ll be opening Vigne Marina Coppi Sant’Andrea Barbera 2016 – £22.99.

For the white, maintaining the Italian theme, we’ll be opening a new wine from a producer we’ve had for a number of years. Many of you have tried their ripasso style Merlot but now the chaps at Gran Passione have made a white wine to go alongside. Made from 60% Garganega (the principal grape in Soave) and 40% Pinot Bianco this is a lovely floral wine with hints of vanilla on the nose. On the palate it is dry, crisp and fresh with ripe fruit flavours which balance out the acidity perfectly. Gran Passione Bianco 2017 – £13.49.

Come in and celebrate the summer with us!

A Taste of Argentina
Thursday 18th October at 8pm we will have our chum Juan Manuel Matas from Gourvid taking us through a selection of his wines from Argentina. So come along and taste Torrontes, marvel at Malbec and delight in the difference between Mendoza and Salta. As usual £20 gets you a chair at the table. So get in touch if you’re game.

School’s back in, almost
And we’re not talking any old school here, we’re talking Wine School!

The term starts again on Wednesday 10th October and finishes on Wednesday 21st November and costs £150 per person for the whole course. There’s a week off for half term in the middle on 24th October but otherwise it takes place every Wednesday for the 6 week course.

So, if you fancy learning more about what’s in your glass, what you would like to put in your glass in future and what you never, ever want to put in your glass ever again, thank you very much, then this is the course for you. Devised for the keen amateur, we aim to demystify the world of wine a little, whilst introducing you to things you might not normally try – and we’ll explain why!

If you fancy this, further, more formal details are attached – or come in and have a chat to us and we’ll talk you through it.

And that’s it from us. Enjoy the M3/M4/M5/A303, get the kids to count the caravans as you finally pass them by, swearing….

Wimbledon Tennis, Tour de France, drinking rosé, birdwatching and sending the kids to visit Gran for a few days

July 13th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well that was fun wasn’t it? The England football team certainly went a lot further than this commentator expected and played some lovely football along the way; it wouldn’t have happened under Sam Allardyce, is all I’m saying….

I think I expected a bit more from Belgium and a bit less from England before the tournament but that has changed. We’ve changed our forecasting tactics after the Croatian loss and switched from wine to beer.

Beer World Cup, from our stock… England 11 Belgium 1

The upside of this is that we can refocus our attentions on more traditional summer pastimes…Wimbledon Tennis, Tour de France, drinking rosé, birdwatching and sending the kids to visit Gran for a few days.

Wimbledon Tennis has had quite a lot of upset this year. It started off with Murray opting to compete with Tim Henman for dullest TV commentator award rather than actually play any tennis; he even wore John Inverdale’s grey jacket.

Shock and upset hasn’t stopped there either. We saw an enormous number of the top seeds go missing in action the first week, careless work by the groundsmen I’d say.

Novak Djokavic seems to be continuing his return from his ‘Lost in Space’ turn of bad form. Playing some fabulous and dreadful tennis all at the same time, I’m fairly sure he scored all the points for both him and Nishikori in the first set of the quarter final on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, Roger Federer chose a really bad time to finally lose some sets, all in the same match is never a good strategy!

We should perhaps mention Rafael Nadal, watching him this year I couldn’t help but notice all his superstitious ticks and twitches. His routine of having two perfectly balanced towels behind him, adjusting his shirt, pinching his nose, and stroking his eyebrows now seems so perfectly timed that I am beginning to wonder if he has been replaced by a robot! I know they all get tested for performance enhancing drugs, but how do you test to see if he is a replicant? Perhaps we should ask Ridley Scott.

Last bit of Wimbledon news, is that apparently a men’s doubles match from last week has been reported for suspicious behaviour with regard to match fixing. Apparently in the hour before the game began there was a series of bets from accounts “with a history of wagering on suspicious matches”. The Tennis Integrity Unit is investigating and does not comment on operational matters.

Tour de France has been more eventful than the profile had suggested for the first week. Peter Sagan is beasting it, having two wins and two second places in the first five stages. Looks like the green jersey may just end up with his name on the back. On the GC front, clearly it’s early days with all main protagonists still in the frame, within a minute of the lead.

For those of you less interested in sport we can report that in the last week 30 species of bird have been spotted on Wandsworth Common including Pied Wagtails, Cormorants, Heron, Black Head Gulls and Collared Doves. The score for Tooting Common is a winning 32 species including Black Caps, Greenfinches and another Collared Dove. More unusually, a buzzard and a red kite have been spotted in the last month.

In other news Trumpolina, the USA’s toddler in chief, has been over this side of the pond. He started by upsetting people at the NATO summit in Brussels and then opted to visit the UK, where he didn’t visit London so as to not to be confused with a large hot air balloon but will visit Scotland where he should be able to get 18 holes in!

Drinking rosé has been happening, we’ve just got our top up shipment of Château de l’Aumerade Cuvée Marie Christine (£14.99 or 6 bottles for £78). Classic, top quality Côtes de Provence rosé that is our best-selling wine most years.

Meanwhile, over at Gran’s, your parents are showing an amazing affinity for Fortnite and your eldest daughter does appear to be rather taken with Werther’s Originals.

Tasting This Weekend

Reserve de Gassac Blanc 2017 – £11.29

A cracking blend of Viognier, Chenin Blanc, Petit Manseng and Chardonnay from the chaps who own Mas de Daumas Gassac (occasionally referred to as ‘Lafite in the Languedoc) but without the price tag of their top wines. Lovely warm, peachy citrus character with a nice weight and a long, gently spiced finish. Fabulous summer drinking, particularly with fragrantly spiced Thai treats, although Wayne is vehement about its positive influences on Syrian dishes.

Monte del Frá Bardolino 2017 – £12.99

Always lighter in style than Valpolicella and often overlooked, Bardolino is an absolute gem of a wine. Lovely aromas of soft cherry fruits with hints of brandy-snaps (kirsch?), too. One of our favourites this, with its palate showing cherry fresh fruits, soft tannins and a hint of soft spice on the finish, lightly chilled it’s just the ticket for tuna steak if you don’t mind the idea of red with some fish!
These will both be open from 5pm today and all day Saturday so come and have a swirl.

As a final note, due to a diary malfunction we now have 3 spaces available for our Wine & Cheese Tasting next Thursday 19th July – £20 per person, 8pm start. Save them from themselves – 9 people shouldn’t be eating 12 people’s portions of cheese!!

English Wines 2 Swedish Wines 0

July 6th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Even those that normally scoff the most at us sports fans have been swept up in the current football fever.

They have learnt what VAR means, have become experts in simulation in the penalty area (which is something they would have frowned upon previously) and fail, like us, to understand how Neymar was in such excruciating pain when the linesman didn’t flinch as Miguel Layan stood on both their feet, simultaneously. Whilst learning how to spot the cheating they have also learnt to love the teamwork of the Japanese team, the nuanced short passes of the England defence and the electricity pulsing through the French team.

We even hear reports that one of the most disparaging critics of international sport we have ever met got so distracted by the England game on Tuesday – I was only watching whilst waiting for the news – that he completely destroyed a saucepan, and the broccoli within, as it boiled dry in the penalty excitement! Takeaways next week if we get past Sweden, I reckon….

However, we mustn’t dwell on sport when there’s wine to be talked about. If you think the tone of this missive drops when we talk about football, I’m not sure what you’re going to think of me when I mention my next topic – Ernst & Julio Gallo. Now, whilst we all love a drop of Gallo Family Vineyards White Grenache (which is, of course, pink) and what they’ve done with Moscato is extraordinary/criminal, one must occasionally look beyond such exceptional wines and boutique winemaking and examine their intellectual endeavours. A survey of 2,000 punters was published this week by one of their more premium labels, Dark Horse, with the following results:

• 73% are intimidated by the wine list when in a restaurant or wine bar

• 58% believe they do not know enough about wine to be confident ordering

• 36% have no idea what they are meant to be looking for when a waiter invites them to try a wine but will not admit it

• 29% only buy wine that is on offer

• 23% choose wine from the same country or region.

• 18% think about what they are eating when choosing wine

The most obvious thing that benefits Dark Horse here is that the punter feels under pressure and lacking in knowledge most of the time and will thus return to the wine they always buy – Dark Horse, of course which you’ll never find on a wine list.

The other obvious take home from these figures is that still, in spite of the fact that over the last 20 years wine consumption has seen near continual growth and the choice we have now is so much greater, most of us still feel the world of wine is a secret and impenetrable society.

73% are intimidated by the wine list. It’s funny for us to hear this in some respects because, as a result of many conversations with different customers when we ran a store Clapham, this was the thing that bugged people the most – what to choose on the list when out to lunch with your boss/on a first date/meeting the in-laws for the first time.

It’s funny purely because these conversations were going on way back in 2007. And back then we listened to our customers intently (!) with the result that we wrote a 6 week Wine School, with the unofficial sole purpose of ‘solving the winelist’ and generally de-mystifying wine.

11 years later, we still run this course and, if surveys are to be believed, ¾ of you reading this would like to go on it!

PARK VINTNERS WINE SCHOOL

6 WEEK COURSE – WEDNESDAY 10TH OCTOBER UNTIL WEDNESDAY 21ST NOVEMBER

(NO CLASS ON WEDNESDAY 24TH OCTOBER, HALF TERM)

£150 PER PERSON 

Tasting this weekend
The last part of the article that I got the stats above from was a nice punchline for us:
Brits typically spend £25 on a bottle of wine for a dinner party but one in ten will splash out £100.
10% of you want to spend a ton!? Do please step this way, madam, and let me recommend the Chateau d’Issan 2005, the Sassicaia or the Vega Sicilia Valbuena, all drinking beautifully and well within your pricepoint…..

Back on planet earth, we’ll be opening a couple of wines more for the everyday rather than the dinner party.

Les Vignoble Foncalieu Piquepoul Rose 2017 (£12.99) is a cracking dry rosé from the plain between Bezier and Narbonne in the Languedoc, France. Made from Piquepoul Noir which is a relatively rare grape variety more normally found as part of the blend in a Chateauneuf-Du-Pape. This wine though, is deliciously fresh and delicate drop with dry strawberry and redcurrant notes and a lovely freshness.

Bodegas Arráez Vivir Sin Dormir 2016 (£12.99) is an organic wine made from Monastrell grapes grown in Jumilla, Spain. We thought its dark plummy roundness would make it great with some barbecued food, winemaker Toni seems to think it a great partner for people who love to dance under the moon. The choice is, of course yours, but I might suggest doing both as it’s the weekend!

That’s it from us this week, busy day tomorrow with football, the start of the Tour de France and of course, the tennis.

I’ll leave you now with a conversation I had with a customer yesterday:

How many wines you got from Sweden, mate? And how many from England?

Strange question, I thought but I replied anyway:

England two, Sweden nil!

Bye now!

It’s coming home?

June 29th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming….

Yep, tennis is back in town and, if you haven’t noticed, here are some signs to look for:

• a notable increase in oversized SUV’s struggling to drive on their side of the road or through width restrictions or in fact anywhere that there are other vehicles
• perma-tanned, beautiful people wearing glistening tennis whites whilst schooning pints of Lanson in Hemmingway’s
• lots of eager emmets will soon be emerging blinkingly from the penumbra of Wimbledon Park tube station to discover that the All England is not bang outside or even that close and no, they haven’t bothered to put up any signposts to help
• the Pig & Whistle will become a drop-in centre for people camping in the park yearning electricity and cushioned seating
• sightings of the red faced and ‘seemingly’ well refreshed Attaché for Sports, Humanitarian, Cultural Affairs in the European Union for the Central African Republic and BBC pundit will become more regular as the finals loom
• the Co-op will run out of anything salad of strawberry related but will have a plenitude of swedes and turnips and other winter casserole ingredients
• we’ll all become tennis experts once more

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming….

Football’s coming home! Or perhaps it isn’t. After last night’s performance, it’s hard to tell but we do now know that we are playing Colombia next week.

Strategically, last night’s game was a masterpiece: it’s about winning the war, not individual battles. By cunningly choosing not to score and thus keep the element of surprise and our powder dry last night, the Red Devils will have no idea how/where/when we are going to score a goal when we meet them again in the Finals!

While we’re at it, why Red Devils? Online research has not clarified this slightly nebulous nickname for me, since demons are not the first things I think of when I think of the land that brought us Magritte, Merckx, Tintin and Plastique Bertrand – but if they want to be associated with Man Utd then that’s their choice – Toby Aldeweireld’s particularly!

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming….

Coming home to roost, for Theresa. Pressure at home from her own party, pressure from 27 EU leaders in Brussels and lots of deadlines looming. I wonder how often she wishes that pro-Leave candidate Andrea Leadsom had been a stronger, victorious opponent two years ago? Still at least they all voted for the third runway at Heathrow this week – still can’t work out how £14 billion will be found by Ferrovial to fund even a small part of this –

Ever since Britain privatised its airports in 1986, infrastructure improvements have been the responsibility of private-sector owners. EU rules clarified in 2014 have further circumscribed the ability of governments to provide state aid to privately owned companies. FT JUNE 22 2018 – Who will pay for Heathrow airport’s £14bn third runway?

This works for now – but what about after we leave Europe?

In their 2017 accounts, Heathrow Aiport Holdings borrowings were £13.4 billion. But they did have a whopping(!?) £703 million of equity….

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming….

As promised last week, we’ve got our act together and organised some dates for tastings etc after the summer hullabaloo.

First up, the return of Wine School and a quick Q & A with Wayne:

Who is this course aimed at?
You! We assume you have tasted wine and enjoyed it enough to come along and explore further. Our course is aimed at the enthusiastic beginner.

What’s your goal?
Our course is designed to give you an excellent opening to the world of wine. Based entirely around what you taste, the course will give you the confidence to trust your palate, understand the characteristics of the main grape varieties and to explore new styles and varieties. We keep the size of the group small, between 8-12 people, to allow for discussion.

What will you cover?
We cover all the classic grape varieties with styles from both the Old and New World. Some of the wines are shown “blind”, so that you learn to trust your judgement based on the taste of the wine rather than what it says on the label. We will show you how to evaluate and assess quality, discuss wine production methods as well as the wine’s acidity, tannins and flavour. On our journey we shall cover ageing potential, wine and food matching, wine storage conditions and, importantly, wine faults.
Weeks 1-3: We’ll show you how to taste wine and cover the main white varieties along with a couple off-the-beaten-track selections.
Weeks 4 & 5: We’ll cover the classic red varieties as well as a few lesser known varieties.
Week 6: This week is all about bubbles – sparkling wines from around the world, alongside several styles of Champagne.
You will taste 8 to 10 wines each week and we will even manage to sneak in a little pudding wine and some Rosé somewhere amongst that lot!

Where does it take place?
The course takes place in the shop after we close. We pull out the tasting table, set up some chairs and get stuck in. Our courses are relaxed and about enjoying wine and sharing knowledge.

When?
Wednesday evenings from 8pm until about 10pm, for six weeks but over a seven week period. It starts on Wednesday 10th October and concludes on Wednesday 21st November – we’ll skip Wednesday 24th October as it’ll be half term in the outside world!

What do I bring?
Just yourself! We’ll provide everything you need… notes, pens, paper, water biscuits and wine.

How much does it cost?
£150.00 per person -payment reserves your place – pop in and see us or give us a call on 020 8944 5224.

Actually it’s not for me, it’s for my partner’s birthday – can I gift it?
Definitely, courses can be the perfect gift. We can arrange attendance either for a specific course date or as an open voucher (valid for 6 months).

However, if you don’t fancy committing to a six week jamboree then here are some dates for upcoming Wine & Cheese Tastings:

Thursday 13th September at 8pm
Thursday 11th October at 8pm
Thursday 8th November at 8pm
Thursday 29th November at 8pm

All these cost £20 per person and, as ever, payment confirms your place at the table!

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming….

Well, not exactly home but it’s certainly coming. Next Wednesday will find us watching our American cousins celebrate their Independence from British rule – they seem to have done alright out of that severing of ties – and we thought we might as well start the celebrations this weekend by tasting a couple of wines from the US of A, wines that might also be appropriate with barbecues perhaps, as the weather seems to be holding.

Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2016 – £16.49
Based in the Livermore Valley in California, Wente’s vineyards were founded in 1883 and are still owned and managed by the same family, 4 generations later. They were also one of the first to plant Chardonnay and one taste of this suggests they are doing a fine job. Crisp with fine elegant apple notes and a supporting touch of oak, bang on some grilled lobster!

Long Barn Pinot Noir 2015 – £13.59
This is classic Californian Pinot Noir. A quick swirl fills the air with red cherry aromas whilst the palate is soft with silky tannins, lovely bramble and cherry fruit flavours, gently edged with a touch of spice and a lovely fresh finish. It really is made in an old barn too but fortunately doesn’t taste like one, unlike some older Burgundies we could mention! Ribs?

Not coming home?

Should SW19 not be on your radar this weekend, then two things I cannot recommend heartily enough if you happen to be in their vicinity – a trip to Lords to watch the mighty Kent take on Hampshire in the final of the Royal London One Day Cup or perhaps, if you happen to be in Newcastle, a trip to Fenwicks where our friends at Hepple Gin have taken over the famous Northumberland Street window for the weekend to offer a unique 4 stage Gin experience – it looks extraordinary and extremely cool!

We’re going home…

But not until later. In the meantime, we have cold Rosé in the fridge, warmer reds on the shelf, beers, ice and lots of other things nice – why not swing by and find out what we really think about runways!

¡Arriba, abajo, al centro, pa’ dentro!

June 22nd, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Winter went; Spring sprang; now Summer is here to stay.

With this in mind, and freshly back from shaking his solstice in Wiltshire, Wayne finally instituted shirt sleeve order yesterday, which this year allows us to wear knee length shorts with long, sturdy socks, brogues and a loose cravat rather than a tie. Waistcoats are optional, no mention of singlets as yet.

And that’s not all he decreed. Before I was allowed to enter the shop yesterday I had to show my ID, had to confirm I didn’t have any criminal records and that I lived in Wimbledon. As I have lived in Wimbledon for more than 5 years, I am considered ‘settled’ so am now entitled to continue working in the shop and pay my taxes and my National Insurance – whoop, whoop!

Having thus gained entry to the shop, I then got to down to the serious business of standing behind the counter, trying to look busy. Years back this used to be a skill that took to time to learn – Wayne still can be found on occasion with his hand in his chin, gazing pensively into the middle distance – a look he developed when working in Oddbins Fine Wine, to discourage timewasters. However, nowadays we can hunch over the computer and give the impression that we are crunching numbers in a particularly complex spreadsheet whilst in fact we are checking to see if England have beaten the Aussies again.

It was whilst engaged in this that I discovered that another ‘craft’ brewer had gone over to the dark side. Beavertown, the cult brewery founded by Logan Plant, son of little known rocker, Robert Plant, has announced that it has sold a ‘minority’ stake in the business to Heineken for £40 million. Interestingly, when Heineken took a similar ‘minority’ stake in Brixton Brewery in November last year, the spokesman for the Dutch monolith, when asked about further acquisitions, was quoted: ‘at the moment, we have no further plans. We have found the perfect London brewer to partner with…’

I wonder how Brixton feel about today’s developments – when they signed I expect they hoped for monogamy but now seem to be playing second fiddle in a Heineken harem?

Just so we’re all on the same page, here are some ideals that are considered important for craft brewers in the USA:
a) Craft brewers are small brewers.
b) The hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation. Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent.
c) Craft beer is generally made with traditional ingredients like malted barley; interesting and sometimes non-traditional ingredients are often added for distinctiveness.
d) Craft brewers tend to be very involved in their communities through philanthropy, product donations, volunteerism and sponsorship of events.
e) Craft brewers have distinctive, individualistic approaches to connecting with their customers.
f) Craft brewers maintain integrity by what they brew and their general independence, free from a substantial interest by a non-craft brewer.

Many of these ideals are fully and brilliantly embraced by both Beavertown and Brixton, although perhaps not a) and f)!

However, at the end of the day, I really can’t fault them for taking the deal – if Tesco were to offer us £40 million for a minority share, I’m not sure we’d take too long to sign.

In the world outside of beer and wine, the World Cup has been doing what it always seems to do, which is not a lot, a lot of the time… Cricket has been marvellous of late but I won’t dwell on this because it’s bound to be woeful again very soon; and, thus far, we haven’t had a winner at Ascot but that’s probably due to Wayne forgetting it’s on this week and me being in Spain!

So, as discussed earlier, winter went, spring sprang and summer is here to stay. To celebrate such a seasonal milestone we shall taste some summery wines this weekend, both from Spain as that’s what I’ve been supping all week!

Blanco will be Bioca Godello 2017 – £14.69, which is a cracking wine from Valdeorras in north-west Spain. As one of Spain’s rarer indigenous varieties, Godello may not be a well know grape variety so you’ll have to trust me when I say it is very appealing, even rather more-ish, with hints of orange and lemon on the nose following onto a vibrant, crisp and focused palate with hints of minerals in the background. Absolutely crying out for some fish or calamares.

Vino Tinto will be a Rioja – Torres Altos Ibéricos Parcelas De Graciano 2014 – £15.99, and is 100% Graciano. We’ve enjoyed the odd drop of Graciano in the past, it has been noted; some may even say I bang on about it a bit much. However, having tasted this one again recently, I can completely understand why it was such a shoo-in. Elegant, dark cherry fruits, a real velvety palate with a touch of spice and a persistence of finish – we’d suggest some pork fillet with it, cooked in the traditional solomillo adobado style.

So, that’s about it from us this week. As a teaser, we will be getting dates together this week for tastings and also for Wine School up to Christmas and will put them in next week’s email – so have your diaries ready!!

¡Arriba, abajo, al centro, pa’ dentro!

New Game in Town

June 15th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It’s been a funny old week, starting off in acrimony over the G6 ½ at the weekend. The take home being that Trumpolina seems to think that Europeans don’t buy enough bullets, and that Justin Trudeau is economical with the truth. The picture tweeted by Mutti Merkel seemed to sum it up, though our in house art expert insists that comparing the picture to renaissance art is a bit wide of the mark.

Barely had the ink dried on the retracted G6 ½ statement, than Trumpolina had popped up in Singapore. It seems the meeting with Kim Wrong’un was on after all. I watched it did you? In historical terms it may be like the Berlin Wall coming down, or that wedding in Game of Thrones, or maybe nothing at all.

Trumpolina and Wrong’un circled the table, and each other like Sumos in suits, Nikons and white teeth flashing all around the room, TV cameras rolling silently, whilst in my head Elton John’s Rocket Man was playing. Trumpolina even made a joke “Are you getting loads of nice pictures? Making us look handsome and thin?” Sadly most people missed it as they were ushered out so the private meeting could happen. Papers were signed, Wrong’Uns autograph in the book just next to Roseanne Barr. Nuclear missiles and sanctions could both be off the table, and, in a surprise to Mr Moon from the South, no more games of Battleships. No, the new game in town is Monopoly, and I’m fairly sure a few Chances will be taken before the hotels start going up.

Meanwhile, back in London, our politicians and press were busy demonstrating just how eccentric the machinations of our democracy can be. The Whips were busy running all round the House whispering in peoples ears, the press were coming up with all sorts of plots and intrigue that would be at home in an Agatha Christie novel, and the SNP had a special trick up their sleeve.

They debated, they double dealt, and someone even resigned. Then they voted and we all wondered what the fuss was about. Most miffed of course, were the SNP who ran out of time before they could do their party trick. Fortunately they were able to pull it off very successfully early the next day, streaming out of the House and having a cuddle with the photographers on College Green. With the previous day’s headlines already old, it probably had more effect too. Oh how adult our politicians looked, I hope we’re all proud!

Meanwhile, small footnotes to all this excitement suggested there may be something going on in Russia. Football teams from around the World (except Italy, busy with boats…) are heading for The World Cup (are we allowed to say that?). Anyway there is a football tournament on, England have been practicing penalties, Spain have sacked their manager, and, according to Wayne’s wife, Belgium are going to win. It started yesterday with Russia rinsing Saudia Arabia 5-0, and goes on for a whole month.

We will all have to go multi-screen like a City Boy though, because the sharp end of the tournament interferes with both Wimbledon and the Tour de France. Who organises these things?

Shall we talk about wine?

Vintage Port 2016

I think we mentioned earlier in the year that 2016 was looking particularly exciting as a vintage for port and, as we suspected, St Georges Day found its email Inbox full of declarations from the major Port Houses.

Following a wet winter (above the 10 year average) March was cold, and then April and May continued cold and wet, giving the Upper Douro it’s worst mildew for 20 years. Flowering was at the end of May with the onset of ripening around the 11th July. Guess when the temperature rocketed? Hot dry conditions continued for the rest of the summer, with 13days above 40C. Hottest day was 6th September with a truly scorchio 43.4C. A bit of relief and rain a week later, before harvesting under blue skies through till early October.

That’s the weather that resulted in a crop about 20/25% down on average but with fine aromas and tannins. James Suckling says “The 2016 vintage Ports exhibit fantastic depth and concentration yet at the same time they show a sheer tannin backbone that gives them great form and class They have a cooler, less ripe nature to them compared to the extremely rich 2011s, 2003s and 2000s. The 2016s seem more in line with the racier 2007s but with perhaps slightly more intensity.”

We thought we’d do a small offer on some port if anyone is interested. We have published here the In Bond price which you’ll need to pay to confirm your order before 20th July. The wine should arrive early November and you’ll have to pay the prevailing duty and vat then when you collect the wine.

Unfortunately we are not in a position to store wine for you, but how nice would a few shiny bottles look ageing away in that new wine fridge? Great Christening presents too…

So drop us a line or pop in and see us if you’d like to get some 2016 port.

Tasting This Weekend

It seems to me that Saturday’s footy kicks off with France versus Australia. Given how well that plays into our vinous theme, we will furnish the white shirt with France’s Domaine Lebrun Pouilly Fume 2017 (£17.99) which arrived only yesterday, but will refresh you with the pinpoint accuracy of a free kick by Thierry Henry.

Sporting the red shirt in a baggy, early premiership style, will be Flametree Shiraz 2016 (£18.99) which is not baggy at all, but hails from Margaret River and would be a cracking partner to those lamb koftas you’ve just decided to barbecue on Saturday.
I think that’s enough from us this week except to say that with Toyota the only manufacturer at this year’s Le Mans, there must be a real chance a privateer can win the 24hours.

Vroom Vroom