One man does not make a team and anyone can win on their day.

September 17th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

With a nod towards the 1992 headline ‘It’s The Sun wot won it’ we will take no responsibility whatsoever for Gavin Williamson’s rapid exit from the Cabinet this week – I’m fairly sure that Carrie doesn’t read our weekly missive and, to be honest, GW has been a dead man walking for too long so it really was time for him to go. 

Anyway, Boris has reshuffled his pack, partly because he needed to but also, more significantly, because he was told that this is what proper and serious Prime Minister’s do every now and then; and of course, as we all know, Boris is the embodiment of proper and serious.  The exciting news is that we get lively Liz Truss to look after our interests abroad; Dominic Raab, who previously did this job but was found asleep on his lounger as Afghanistan unravelled, has somehow become Deputy Prime Minister; Nadine Dorries, whose audition piece on I’m a Celebrity… Get me out of here! in 2012 got her suspended, clearly impressed someone as she is now Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport; and Michael Gove, Teflon clad and immune to irony it would seem after the emergence of some particular unpleasant speeches from his youth, is in charge of the levelling up agenda.

So there we have it, Boris’s dream team, proper and serious and leaders in their fields and definitely not just his mates and yay-sayers.

Away from the political arena, we see that Elton John has postponed his upcoming UK tour until 2023 due to the need to have an operation on his hip.  Very sensible, Reginald – if only Tom Petty had taken similar advice we would still have him in our midst.

In sport, we saw the return of Ronaldo to much fanfare and let’s be honest, he did what he is paid to do from game one.  However, he couldn’t stop them losing to Young Boys in Europe, which goes to show that despite appearances, one man does not make a team and anyone can win on their day.  Let’s hope this is true for the Europe players picked for the Ryder Cup.  John Rahm is world #1 but he next highest ranked European is Viktor Hovland at #13 – between these two sit 9 of the American team.  The lowest ranked American is Scottie Scheffler at #21 – 8 Europeans sit below him.  Let’s hope Europe have their day!

No real wine news to speak of.   We’re being encouraged to go to the pub and dine out still but we’ve also all read about the dearth of hospitality staff available.  Apparently, employers need to be more open-minded when it comes to employment contracts as staff want to be able to work more on their own terms.  Many of the predominantly younger potential employees want is greater flexibility, variety and control over their working hours; effectively they want the zero hours contracts just as Keir Starmer is calling for such things to no longer be allowed.  Obviously, in the long run this doesn’t work because when all your staff decide they don’t want to work on Friday nights what do you do then?  Sorry, we’re closed, doesn’t bode well for business survival….

Some scattered sunshine yesterday evening took you all off to the pub it would seem but hopefully tonight you’ll be keener to drink back at home.  With this in mind, I’ll have a couple of bottles open for you to taste – this week I’ve decided to go Italian, as is very often my wont:

Produttori del Gavi ‘Gavi Mille 951’ 2020 – £15.49 – is the white choice – made at their winery overlooking the historic Gavi fortress, this cooperative has been making wine for over 65 years.  Aromas of pear peach, apricot and yellow plum greet us on the nose whilst on the palate we have the same fruit characters with hints of almond in the background.  Dry, light and moreish, a perfect aperitif!

Castel Firmian Merlot 2018 – £13.99 is this week’s red, from Trentino, right up in the northern-most part of Italy.  Wayne has always had a bit of a soft spot for Italian Merlot so it was no surprise that we really enjoyed this when we tasted it, lovely damson fruit character with a touch of leafy herbiness.  The wine spent just 3-4 months in oak barrels and has a lovely juiciness and drinkability, with some fine tannin just to keep it honest.  Being Italian it matches well with all sorts of food choices, perhaps a cheeky burger if the sun makes another showing?

And finally, we said goodbye to Sir Clive Sinclair this week.  Inventor of the pocket calculator, affordable computers, hand held televisions and of course the C5; a man who often invented things we didn’t know we needed – I mean, hand held TV’s and electric vehicles, you must be kidding?!

And that’s that – have a lovely weekend!

I’m not having that – alcohol free wine?

September 10th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

That was nice wasn’t it?  Bit of a flurry of September sunshine but not so much that we all start moaning about how hot it is and how the garden needs some rain.  True to Pavlov’s conditional reflex findings, the weather worked a treat for us, everyone suddenly treating Tuesday/Wednesday as the new Friday/Saturday as the fridges could barely keep up with the rapid exodus of beer and rosé; excellent work one and all, hope you enjoyed yourselves!

And then it rained on Wednesday evening and we remembered that we live in England, this is how we roll.  The school holidays are finally over, the sound of horns on Arthur Road is perpetual as everyone gets stuck in traffic with no reverse gear and the regularity of cold calls from energy companies trying to get me to change supplier has quadrupled.  Ah, September, you unruly child.

And then we read some news that might send chills to the hearts of wine merchants across the universe (because, yes, that’s how far our tentacles have spread).  Having talked a month ago about how good coffee, cheese and two glasses of wine a day are for our heart health, we were delighted by the clever scientists researching wine and its benefits.  However, this week we are less sure and our uncertainty comes in the form of Dr Rudolph Schutte at Anglia Ruskin University.  I won’t repeat the whole of his research paper (probably because that would be some sort of copyright infringement) but suffice to say, your man is an expert on Cardiovascular Epidemiology.  He doesn’t have great things to say about beer, cider and spirits but then these have never been touted as being good for you.  However, the body blows came as he started giving wine a hard time: 

“There is an undeniable protective beneficial relationship between coronary heart disease and consumption of both red and white wine”

Good news so far, dankie Rudolph.

“However, this is only seen with coronary heart disease and none of the other cardiovascular diseases.”

Ok, it’s not a perfect panacea but at least it helps a bit.

“This relationship is also seen for alcohol-free wine, so it suggests the benefits are thanks to the polyphenols in the wine rather than the alcohol.”

What the?  Shut the front door?  No, no, no, no, no, no, no – I’m not having that – alcohol free wine?  In fairness we never really thought it was the booze in the drink that did us good, otherwise beer, cider and spirits would be our friends too but did he really have to spell it out, again.  Equally, if he was going to do so, couldn’t he have buried it in August when no one was looking?

Humph, it’s a bit like choosing your favourite weather forecast because it has the closest resemblance to what you want to hear.  Consequently, I think I’ll stick to reading the Italian research from a few weeks back and the articles by Prof Rosa María Lamuela-Raventós, from Universitat de Barcelona, who in July suggested evidence to show moderate consumption of red wine can help you to burn calories in food when drunk during meals, while offering a range of health benefits too – sound anything like the French Paradox to you?

As mentioned, the schools went back this week and at the same time another group in need of some decent education, Members of Parliament, returned to their banquettes on Monday.  Matt Hancock was jeered from all sides during his first bit of backbench bants but we know he’s deaf to criticism.  Gavin Williamson, interviewed in the Standard, was particularly proud of his friends stating ‘Gav, you have to have the hide of a rhino’. 

Well, if we look more closely at rhino attributes, perhaps he’s right: rhinos have poor vision and are unable to see much further than 30m – which obviously doesn’t go any way to explaining his Maro Itoje/Marcus Rashford mix-up; rhinos communicate through honks, sneezes…and poo – if you have ever listened to government debates you will have heard the first two and if you have ever read a government statement you’ll recognise the third.   Rhinos are also intelligent, social and emotional animals which is where the comparisons end and we realise that GW is just a complete numpty.

Wayne always likes to keep us up to date with the sport and reports that insurers, bookmakers and health experts are a trifle discombobulated today.  The Fifth test being cancelled means a big payback for all the fans who bought tickets and various other companies who will lose earnings as a consequence; by reaching the US Open final, Bromley’s finest tennis player, Emma Raducanu, at the age of 18 and ranked 338 in the world in June, might just have Messrs Hill and Ladbroke needing to visit the bank on Monday; and Shane Warne has been heard talking on Australian morning radio about his Covid isolation.  He states, whilst admitting it was a bad idea, that he thought he could beat the virus by smoking 100 ciggies a day…. by all accounts he ended up on a ventilator.  This may well be an apocryphal tale but it also sounds very Shane and very Oz-med!

Anyway, enough of all that, what shall we drink this weekend?  Now that the boys of summer have gone we can start thinking about red wine again, can’t we?  This is handy because we have a new wine in from South Africa to pop in your glasses.

Doran Vineyards Íosa Shiraz-Grenache Noir 2018 – £13.99.  Now, as we all know, Íosa means Jesus in both Irish and Arabic and also happens to be the name of Tom Doran’s son.  He assures us that the wine has never been water and is in fact a blend of 90% Shiraz and 10% Grenache.  The wines from each grape were made individually and then blended together on bottling.  The nose is filled with floral-scented berry fruit and the palate has gentle tannins and hints of spicy oak on the finish.  Supple, easy drinking and too easy to get to the bottom of the bottle!

As the sun might pop out, we’ll taste a South Africa white too – Barton Chenin Blanc 2020 – £12.49.  Hailing from Walker Bay, an area considered to have great potential: the region has varying altitudes and ideal soils that help produce some world class, elegant wines.  This Chenin has a lean, green apple and white pear nose whilst the palate has a full, rounded mouth-feel, still with the apple and pear but also some hints of spice and lingering acidity.

That’s all from us, we’re off to have an alcohol-full glass of wine – care to join?

Where Are We Going With This?

September 3rd, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We’ve seen a few of you back already; you’ve given us a wave or stopped in to say hi. We’ve heard about paddle boarding, surfing, Stormzy at Reading and fantastic tandoori monkfish. There’s been talk of the fabulous beaches of Devon, Gower and Hunstanton, mackerel fishing, wine tasting in Oia and surprising heat in southern Spain.

We have also heard some complaints, of midges whose bite is second only to that of the saltwater crocodile but a million times more persistent, of traffic which has a persistence of its own whether you’re on the A3 or the A303 but also the persistence of grey skies cropped up more than once.

Where are we going with this? A question you may well be asking yourself, and certainly one we ask ourselves most weeks – Who knows? As many of you regular readers will know what starts off as a random selection of observations on the week ends up as a selection of random observations with questionable grammar and poor punctuation, particularly if it was Wayne’s turn with the keyboard!

We might mention the time we’d set aside to watch the Belgian Grand Prix only to witness a 3 lap health and safety assessment that resulted in no race but an outcome awarded. As someone who took two days to dry his waxed coat off after seeing Senna win in the rain in 1989, this was a disappointing outcome.  Them’s the rules, them’s the breaks I guess but the cyclists at La Vuelta didn’t stop racing when it rained all the way up the mountain, down the mountain, along the valley and then up the really steep mountain into the fog did they? No, they did not but I feel like I’m complaining about weather again.

There have been some pleasant surprises, the sun appearing around the same time as most of you returning to Wimbledon Park is certainly a pleasant one. Abba announcing a new album is a somewhat unexpected one and a Park Vintners missive talking about memes is certainly a surprise. I don’t know if any of you saw Dominic Raab being questioned by Tom Tugendhat at the Foreign Affairs Committee but if there is a better meme for the kid who didn’t do his summer homework we haven’t seen it.

On the wine front, we bring you news that TotalEnergies is bringing a 100% renewable fuel for race cars to the market that they claim could reduce the CO2 emissions of a racing car by 65%. The fuel is made residues from the wine industry. The waste lees and grape pomace are turned into a bio-ethanol and then waste from feedstock is added making the high performance fuel. Let’s hope the race is for more than three laps, eh?

Following a tough year in French vineyards (and it’s not over just yet!), producers in Chablis are experimenting with electric wires to combat frost. This year some vineyards in the region lost up to half of their potential crop to late frost after 20 nights in 29 days in April suffered unseasonably low temperatures. Indeed, due to climate change it is a considerably higher risk than 20 years ago.

Two days ago we had hail reaping havoc in Ribeiro, that part of Spain where the light reds come from, near Orense. Fairly unusual we’d say, just before the harvest, and a tough reminder of the harshness of weather when growers have lost up to 70% of what was shaping up to be a good year.

We’ll be opening some wine this weekend and, given the forecast is finally for a bit of sunshine, we thought we’d assume a bit of barbecue action may be the order of the day. Wearing the white t-shirt (don’t spill the ketchup!) will be Cave de Turckheim Edelzwicker (£10.99) from the Alsace, a winning blend of Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner and Riesling that is dry and fresh with some lush green apple fruit and a fab aperitif whilst the coals warm up.

Sporting the red t-shirt (ketchup safe!) will be Maggio Family Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel (£14.49) hailing from Lodi where the family has been growing grapes since 1938. This is a fantastic partner to some low and slow pork if that’s the plan, but equally at home with a burger.

That’s probably enough of our random observations for one week. Do come in, shoot the breeze and taste the wine, who knows we may even know the cricket score!

To Beer Or Not To Beer

August 27th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Us again, feels a bit soon to be celebrating the end of another week with a bottle of Friday Fizz but I can assure you that it is definitely the weekend once again.  Plus it’s a long one this time,  the late August bank holiday is on Monday which signifies the end of bank holiday season until we celebrate a pair of them on the 27th & 28th December; let me be the first to wish you all a very Merry Christmas….

Back in the now, having mentioned the shortage of customers last week it would seem that the much hoped for delivery of clientele needing refreshment has failed to show up this week too.  On Monday and Tuesday I think we could probably have put our deckchairs in the middle of Arthur Road and snoozed undisturbed for an hour or two and in fact Wayne did suggest a mammoth game of badminton versus the odd-numbered side of the street but they were all too busy cutting hair, selling houses or making coffee.

So we had to entertain ourselves.  Having failed to sell the jeroboam of Sela last weekend it was suggested we taste it anyway, just to check, but Wayne vetoed the prospect of a magnum each on a Monday as setting an unruly precedent, so we had an ice cream instead.  Tuesday found us applying for HGV licences as we realised that the quickest way for us to ensure we got our Haribos, Nandos and McDonalds milkshakes was to stop moaning about the problems and become part of the solution, whilst getting paid to do it.  Wednesday we listened to a lot of Rolling Stones albums and watched England play cricket in a way that would have made Charlie smile.  And Thursday was yesterday, grey and not altogether as warm as it could have been but nonetheless, one step closer to fizz Friday.

In the world outside of our immediate environs it seems the news is largely filled with stuff we kind of thought might happen.  Covid spikes in Cornwall – not a total surprise.  Harry Kane staying at Spurs – if Daniel Levy and Joe Lewis don’t want you to go Harry, you’re not going.  The new travel green list not really changing the status quo for most of us –  business as usual really. 

And no news whatsoever in the world of wine.  In the beer world however, crimes against taste continue to be committed.  Reading The Drinks Business earlier, we were delighted to see that Dunkin’ Donuts are releasing 3 more beers on the unsuspecting public.  As we didn’t know they were even in the beer game this came as a surprise but apparently for the last few years, in collaboration with Harpoon Brewery, they have been making a Pumpkin Spiced Latte Ale.  By all accounts all their beers are made using ‘Dunkin’s iconic coffee, donuts and matcha tea’.  We now hear that the new beers in the stable will be: Maple Crème Blonde Ale brewed with donuts and maple syrup from Dunkin’, Midnight American Porter brewed with Dunkin’s new Midnight Roast coffee  and Blueberry Matcha IPA brewed with blueberries and matcha.  Hmmmm….

Whilst they may be interesting in some corners, we won’t be selling them.  Added to this list of things we certainly won’t be selling is the weird collaboration between Virginia’s Champion Brewing Company and  Duke’s Mayonnaise to create the perfect beer designed to complement the egg-based condiment!

Beers we do sell look something like this:

Belleville Brewery – Wandsworth Common

Commonside Pale Ale 33cl can 5% – £2.60

Thames Surf IPA 33cl can 5.6% – £2.70

Spring Break Sour 33cl can 4.3% – £3.00

Spring Break Gose 440ml can 4.3% – £4.00

Park Brewery – Kingston’s finest brewery

Kingston Gate Lager 33cl can 4.1% – £2.80

Phantom Kolsch Lager 44cl can 4.2% – £3.50

Killcat Pale 44cl can 3.9% – £3.80

Ballet Loop Table Beer 44cl can 3.4% – £3.80

Gallows Pale Ale 44cl can 4.5% – £4.00

Spankers IPA 44cl can 6.0%£- 4.50

Sambrooks  – our longest serving beer, now based in the Ram’s Quarter

Wandle Ale 50cl bottle 4.2% – £2.79

Pumphouse Pale Ale 50cl bottle 4.2% – £2.79

Session IPA 440ml can 4.0% – £3.40

SlyBeast Brewing – brewed in Wandsworth by the Pig & Whistle legends

Lager 33cl can 4.3% – £2.80

1533 Session IPA 44cl can 4.2% – £3.70

Wimbledon Brewerybest brewery in Colliers Wood

Gold Lager 33cl can 4.8% – £2.70

Lindemans – classic Belgian brewer

Gueuze 25cl 5% – £2.00

Paulaner – Munich’s finest

Munchner Hell Munich Lager 50cl bottle 4.9% – £2.79

All far better than anything Mr & Mrs Donut can produce.

That’s about it from us for this week.  As it’s the late summer bank hols we’ll open the Château de L’Aumérade ‘Cuvée Marie-Christine’ 2020, Côtes de Provence Cru Classé – £15.99 (Six bottles for £80) and de Bortoli ‘The Accomplice’ Shiraz 2019 – £9.39 both of whom are perfect accompaniments to all that barbecued food you’ll be eating this weekend!

BREAKING NEWS – just sold the jeroboam of Sela, lucky we didn’t polish it off ourselves!

Gone Fishin’

August 20th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This week has felt very much like a week when we should just put up the Gone fishin’ sign and sit by Wimbledon Park Lake, hooking carp and netting golf balls, just to see if anyone might notice our absence. 

And it would seem you didn’t.  Monday we caught bream and pike too and I now have enough Callaway’s to see me through the winter.  The sundowners we enjoyed on the terrace of Wimbledon Park Golf Club just served as reminder that this is one of the nicest places to enjoy an evening beer in SW19 and what a huge and sad loss it will be when the club gets engulfed by the AELTC.

But we have now put our waders away and are back in the shop, anticipating that at least one of you must be still here and will want a glass of the good stuff over the weekend, because frankly we’re all going to need it.  Any thoughts we had of a midsummer heatwave seem to have disappeared in a puddle of rainy mediocrity.  Gone are dreams of tan lines and buckets of rosé in the back garden since apparently we’ve already had 117% of our usual August rainfall here in London and are due more over the next week.  So, it’s all about red wine for us.

Over the past year there has developed something of a standing joke between us.  Every time we order from Bodegas Roda, we order a jeroboam of Sela, their lighter, earlier drinking Rioja designed to be enjoyed whilst you wait for your posher wines to come of age.  Anyway, the Wayne eyebrow is always raised because he is never quite sure if we have a market for a ‘four bottle’ bottle so I try to mollify his concerns by stating that I’ll buy it at Christmas if we haven’t sold it by then.  The ‘joke’ is that we usually sell the jero within a week of receipt, Wayne’s nerves remain unfrayed and I have no wine for December.

Except this time we’ve had it in stock for 10 days now and no one has even asked about it, so in Wayne’s eyes this is now seen as an overstock, a slow moving line, a delist even and he’s putting the pressure on yours truly to do something.  Perhaps the tasting note we’ve written ‘plenty of fun to be had with this one’ is not giving enough information, so it’s probably time I put some meat on the bones.

Of course, there is plenty of fun to be had, but a tasting note might be more helpful.  The Bodegas Roda winery was founded in the late 1980s and has rapidly gained renown for its meticulous and exacting research into Tempranillo, one of Spain’s oldest indigenous grape varieties. Using the most modern of technology, Roda have perfected the art of Tempranillo, identifying 552 individual clones, from which only 20 have been selected for propagation, chosen for the quality they deliver in specific vineyard plots.  Their flagship wine, Cirsion, sells for about £150 a bottle and is an absolute delight.  Roda I is the next tier down and whilst notably less expensive than Cirsion still is a bit of a wallet emptier. 

This is where Sela comes to the fore.  A blend of 87% Tempranillo, 7% Graciano and 6% Garnacha the nose is intense, vivacious with aromas of fresh cherries and raspberries.  On the palate we continue with the red fruit characteristics from the nose with a medium weight palate and a long elegant finish with fine tannins.  The winery recommends it be drunk with pinchos and tapas but of course, if you’re me, it’s perfect for Christmas dinner, if it makes it that far!

Bodegas Roda Sela 2016 JEROBOAM – £95

Not much else to report on this week, I think we all know what the news is and there is nothing we can add.  A conversation with a customer yesterday evening concluded with the idea that there is actually too much news available nowadays.   A return to a morning newspaper and the New at Ten with Sir Trevor as our sole sources of update might be preferable so we can concentrate on other stuff in the interim without being constantly updated and worried.  We then digressed into a discussion about how policemen were suddenly looking younger and how the summer of 1976 was a proper scorcher, realised how old we sounded and swore never to speak of such things again and went back to talking about what wine we would taste this weekend.

I feel, having talked it up in grand format, we should probably open a normal sized bottle of Bodegas Roda Sela – £22.49 for you to taste, before you purchase the big fella.

For white, we’ll keep a peninsula theme and go to Portugal for the Casa Vilacetinho Vinho Verde DOC 2020 – £9.99.  A charming and light blend, only 10% alcohol, of Avesso, Arinto, Azal and Loureiro.  Gentle citrus and orchard fruits lead into a fresh, smooth and light palate that can be enjoyed at any time!

And that’ll be it from us.  Hopefully we’re wrong about the weather but if we’re right you’re more than welcome to take refuge and share a glass with us – if it’s a proper deluge then maybe we’ll go halves on the jero!

Cheers!!

Wayne’s Weather Report

August 13th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We find ourselves arriving at Friday with slightly drier clothes and shoes than last week and a sunnier outlook.  

The UN has published the 6th report by the International Panel on Climate Change and it makes for some grim reading. The words “unprecedented” and “irreversible” are not necessarily what you want to see connected with the human influence on global warming. Our TV screens have been filled with pictures of flash flooding around the UK as we have days where a week or month’s rainfall has dropped out of the sky in minutes, repeatedly. We’ve even had customers pop in the shop looking like they’ve just got out of a bath with their clothes on when all they did was walk 100 yards from the Co-Op.

Meanwhile, Greece, Turkey, Siberia, Canada and California are all struggling with wild fires.  The Stockholm Climate Conference of 1972 identified many of the problems; we had the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro 1992 and the Kyoto Protocol of 1997 saw representatives of 150 nations attend and adopt the first international treaty to control and reduce greenhouse gases. In 2015, in Paris, attendees from 196 countries negotiated the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. In Glasgow, in November, the UK will be hosting COP26 Climate Conference. Nearly 50 years after the first conference, delegates from all over the world will be flying into Glasgow to have a chinwag about how awful everything is getting.

There will be some tough decisions made, developing countries will be exempted, a piece of paper will be signed and many column inches and hours of news will be devoted to the impending success of the chat.  I can’t help but think that perhaps Zoom, Teams, or an equivalent might be a little less taxing on the environment? We’ve been talking for nearly 50 years; perhaps some action might be just the ticket?

Whilst we’re talking about flying, Lionel Messi flew into Paris this week. We saw him announcing, through floods of tears, how heartbroken he was to have been unable to compromise on his near £600k a week salary demands whilst the club he has been at for 18 years suffers a little financial difficulty. I guess that first £300 million didn’t go as far as expected!

Whilst we’re shooting the breeze about cash, a chap working at the British Embassy in Berlin named as David Smith has been arrested by the German police for selling secrets to the Russians for cash. It is unclear at the moment if he was wearing a beige Macintosh or if the cash was hidden in a folded newspaper.

Staying on the subject of David’s, “River Dave” a chap who has lived off the grid in New Hampshire for thirty years was rueing the fact that he’ll be unable to return to life as a hermit after his cabin was burned down last week. Having been jailed last month for contempt on a civil case (a timely word of caution there surely!), he was freed by a judge after the fire and has received over 20 offers of places to stay since.

It seems “ Call me Dave” Cameron who earned £7 million from his help at Greensill Capital may be in another spot of bother after a genetics company he worked for, Illumina, was awarded an £123 million government contract after he intervened on their behalf with Matt Hancock. In unrelated news, it seems that Nadhim Zahawi has learnt enough as vaccine minister to be tipped as a replacement to Gavin Williamson at Education.

In wine news, not a lot seems to be going on; grapes are getting riper in Europe, whilst the vines are enjoying the last month or so of their winter sleep in New Zealand and Australia. We had a chat with Rachel and Jonathan at Domaine Treloar this week who are based down in Trouillas, south of Perpignan. The sun is shining and tourist season has just started so they are receiving visitors, so should you find yourself down in that part of the world, do look them up!

Talking of wine, we received our allocation of the rather wonderful 100% Pinot Noir Cuvée from Bollinger this week. It is based on the 2016 vintage (50%), with reserve wines back as far as 2006. Made entirely from Pinot Noir with the grapes predominantly from the village of Verzenay, Bollinger PNVZ16 (£85) is the second interpretation of what will become a regular series highlighting the wonderful Pinot Noir plots that Bollinger own.

We’ll open Cantine Povero Roero Arneis (£14.99), a cracking white wine from Piemonte with some stonefruit and apple character a touch of that classic almond note in the finish. Cantine Povero has around 35 hectares and the entire estate is farmed organically.

Charging the red glass will be Herdade do Portocarro Autocarro 27 Red (£12.99) a cracking red from Setubal, that is a blend of Aragonez, Touriga Nacional, Cabernet Sauvignon and has lovely plum fruits on the nose and easy going palate with smooth tannins and a nice freshness that is versatile with all suits of food.

That’s enough from us for this week, do come and have a taste!

Cheers!

Normality, Cheese, Wine & Coffee

August 6th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Hasn’t August been great so far!  Wall to wall sunshine, back to back barbecues and ear to ear smiles all round – certainly photos we see from people holidaying abroad tell this tale.  Here though, it’s all a bit ordinary, isn’t it?  Dull weather doesn’t make the staycation feel like the best decision I’ve made recently and even the quieter roads and short queues at the bar don’t quite stop me from thinking about tapas and the bars of Benahavís…

But we’re here, so let’s make the best of it.  We’ve allowed ourselves to turn the telly on over breakfast (normally verboten) to watch the latest medal winning performance in a sport that until now we hadn’t come across – speed climbing for example – and we’ve loved it.  We’ve watched the cricket, admittedly from behind the sofa on Wednesday but yesterday we felt a bit more confident.  We even watched the tedious Lions rugby last weekend which felt like an Olympic discipline as gruelling as the marathon swim.

Conforming to his reputation as a gentleman, aesthete, scholar and gourmet, Wayne always prepares himself a rather splendid luncheon to accompany his prescribed glass of early afternoon red.  Often this luncheon will include/entirely consist of cheese and will always be accompanied by some highbrow periodical that apparently helps him solve The Times crosswords.  On Wednesday, on his way to Saucer and Cup for his post prandial caffeine fix, he thrust that day’s literary offering under my nose and, with a smile, said ‘You’ll like this!’

My eyes fell upon a Cardiovascular Research review paper by Gabriele Riccardi, Annalisa Giosuè, Ilaria Calabrese and Olga Vaccaro at the University of Naples Federico II – Dietary recommendations for prevention of atherosclerosis – July 2021.  Now, we all want our hearts to keep on beating for as long as possible but it appears that Mr W. has been checking out what we should and shouldn’t be eating and drinking.  He read this paper so that we didn’t have to and has these keynotes to offer us:

  • a 2020 meta-analysis of studies found an 18 percent reduction in the incidence of myocardial infarction (heart attack) in subjects who habitually consumed cheese
  • consumption of three cups of coffee per day is associated with a 10 to 16 percent reduction in risk of heart disease incidence and mortality
  • two glasses of wine per day is associated with a maximal risk reduction of 32 percent of cardiovascular disease

There was also some good news relating to chocolate but since that doesn’t usually appear on his lunch table, he didn’t divulge the full details.  Plus, we are led to believe that whilst a UK ‘unit’ of 8g of alcohol, an Italian ‘unit’ is 12g.  Feels like a win, trebles all round!

In other news we read a headline on the Beeb website that asked the question ‘Is Covid over?’ and, to be honest, we didn’t bother reading further as this seemed like a bit if a non-article, sent to wind us up.  Australia got their way as we saw the postponement of the Rugby League World Cup until next year; this writer can foresee the postponement of the Ashes this winter too, particularly as only 15% of their population have been jabbed currently (and, of course unrelated, we will be without Ben Stokes and Jofra Archer).  Grant Shapps shuffled his red, amber and green cards and decided that France was no longer as naughty as previously thought, Mexico is extremely naughty yet somehow Spain is ok and the likes of Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Germany, Malta, Norway, Romania, Slovakia and Slovenia get the full green light – start packing your bags!

Last weekend saw the cautious return to a bit of wine tasting action in the shop.  Wayne opened some Albariño, the heavens opened, the tube station shut and not many people got to try the wine.  Unperturbed and with an optimistic nod towards a return to normality, we will be opening a couple of bottles this weekend and, since it’s been such a long time, this is a great opportunity to open some new listings.

In white we have Manos Negras Torrontés 2019 – £14.99 from the high altitude desert of the Calchaquíes Valleys in Salta, Argentina.  We always enjoy the aromatic fresh floral nose that you get with Torrontés, urging you to taste the wine, which never disappoints giving similar tropical fruit flavours attached to a long, crisp and fresh finish.  Great with a Thai green curry…

For red, we’ve gone to Italy for our inspiration.  That T-bone you are planning to barbecue this weekend would be simply splendid with Fattoria di Calappiano Vinciano 2019 – £14.99.  The estate was founded circa 1500 by the famous Florentine family, the Medici who probably spent a bit of money on it at the time!  Anyway, the estate is still flying and this Chianti is a lovely juicy Sangiovese with lush red fruits, herby hints and a touch of wood-smoke on the finish – it really won’t take very long to finish the bottle!

That’s it from us for now – please pop by and say hello, have a taste and raise a glass to normality (we hope!)

Fish, Cheap Sunglasses and Albariño

July 30th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We seem to have arrived at this week’s missive with indecent haste. We’ve managed to avoid most of the monsoon falling on our heads, stayed up too late watching amazing triathlon performances by both men and women that featured crazy boat manoeuvres, silly rainfall and final kilometre punctures.

Our roving correspondent who is wearing the Cheap Sunglasses and checking the lay of the land in Devon, reports that there is still ice cream available, and considerable uncertainty on the cream and jam positioning on scones.

We have also heard that Groove Armada were great at Alexandra Palace last weekend, Latitude was fabulous, particularly Wolf Alice and The Vaccines. Smaller festival Standon Calling was drenched in glitter before being deluged in rain and called off on Sunday. It seems if you didn’t leave early a boat may have been required. There is much talk about an outstanding performance by Hot Chip including a guest spot by Jarvis Cocker.

Normally at this stage of The Weekly Wine we might take the opportunity to poke a bit of fun at the political folks who spend all of our taxes. A quick glance around the press this week and we thought we might just pass it up. It feels like we’re standing over a barrel of fish with a gun. I mean, it’s not for us to mock the £2 million that Westminster Council spent installing a scaffolding remake of the mound from Close Encounters of the Third Kind at Marble Arch. Or the fact that they plan to charge you £8 to climb it and see the traffic from a higher vantage point!

I’m Bad, I’m Nationwide, but surely that’s not our Prime Minister and Home Secretary declaring that crime is illegal and that they’ll open some of those courts that they closed to help deal with it. Chain gangs are coming back too apparently! If we’re not careful someone will suggest building railways!

The Olympics have been cracking on in Tokyo, Team GB seem to be doing alright, just missing out in the rowing is a bit of a blow, but Charlotte Dujardin got a bronze in the dancing horses to make her Britain’s most decorated female Olympian. I’m hoping she doesn’t hold on to that accolade for long as Laura Kenny goes into action in the velodrome next week with three events that would be nice to win. The gold medal in the BMX for Bethany Shriever after she had to crowd fund her trip to Tokyo absolutely captures the true spirit of the Olympics for me.

Not poking fun at politics has Got Me Under Pressure so I think we’ll just have to talk about wine this week. As luck would have it Sunday is #albarinoday. We seem to have a ready-made subject.

Albariño is of course Spain’s most fashionable white grape variety and is very much at home in that damp north western corner of Spain just above the Portuguese border. One look at us and you’ll appreciate we know nothing about fashion, but we do have an idea of where the grapes are grown.

Galicia is home to the wine region Rías Baixas (REE-ass BYE-shuss since you ask) where 95% of the grapes planted are Albariño. Some of the keen cyclists amongst you may have noticed that the Vuelta a España is often in this part of the world and that it’s actually pretty hilly and green. It gets plenty of rainfall, is probably the wettest part of Spain in fact. As a result of this the vines are all grown on pergola type arrangements where the wind can blow through and keep the grapes and vines healthy. If ever you were thinking of a holiday that may involve grape picking we’d head here. It’s much less back breaking to harvest from these trellises and you’ll spend much less time at the osteopath on your return!

Anyway, we appear to be getting a bit off message here.  We’ll talk first about Follas Novas Albariño 2020 (£14.49) a delicious example from Val do Salnés, one of the five distinct sub-regions of Rías Baixas. This is the oldest of the sub-zones, the coolest and wettest yet also the birth place of Albariño sometime before the 12th century. The vines for this wine are between 20 and 40 years old and vinified in a state of the art winery completed in 2005. Fabulously clean and crisp with citrus and floral notes on the nose, tangy stone fruit on the palate and a lovely mineral laden finish. But why not come and have a taste and decide for yourself!

We also have Noelia Bebelia Albariño (£21.49) a very recent addition to the range; someone very quickly christened it “the posh Albariño”. This one hails from Soutomaior the smallest of the sub regions, south of Pontevedra in the hills at the head of Ría de Vigo. Noelia and husband Simon have a less is more approach in both vineyard and winery. Grapes are hand sorted so only the best bunches make it into the wine, most practices in the vineyard are done by hand too. The winemaking is gentle and mostly involves patience. The result is an Albariño with an uncommon intensity, a real weight and elegance to the classic stonefruit notes with a taught focused freshness to the finish. Posh indeed!

So pick up some fish or shellfish from the farmers market tomorrow morning, maybe some Padron Peppers even, we’ve got the drinking sorted!

That’ll be enough from us this week.

RIP Dusty Hill, a Sharp Dressed Man.

Free For All

July 23rd, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Captain Peacock : Are you free, Mr Humphries?

Mr. Humphries : I’m free!

So, on Monday, even though John Inman died more than 14 years ago, as a country we came together to celebrate his most famous catchphrase whilst revelling in our new found ‘Freedom’.  Mick Jagger was there too, singing ‘I’m free to do what I want any old time’ over and over again; 70’s blues rockers Free sang ‘All Right Now’ whilst chewing their lifetime supply of Wrigley’s Spearmint but sadly neither George Michael nor Freddie Mercury were available to perform ‘Freedom’ and ‘I want to break free’…

We went to the pub, a Free House of course, on public transport using our Freedom Pass (who knew we were both over 66!) and drank beer from the Freedom Brewery, freely.  Whilst the beer wasn’t free, this was our free time and we were free to choose how to spend it.

Of course, none of this really happened and if I’m honest, Monday was just another day, with the same amount of people wearing/not wearing masks out and about as we had seen last week.  In the pub on Tuesday it was still table service, socially distanced, the staff were all masked and it didn’t feel weird.  In the shop we’re still wearing masks when people come in and for the most part customers are too.  As mentioned last week, it’s almost as if we can self-govern and work out what’s best for us without outside help although if Boris’ ridiculous behaviour last Sunday when he didn’t much fancy going into isolation are anything to go by, some people, the same people, really do need to have it spelt out to them in words of one syllable – NO, YOU CAN’T.

One person who seems to be taking the whole freedom thing to heart is Dominic Cummings who on Tuesday continued to give us feedback on his relationship with Mr Johnson via interview with the BBC.  This continues his drip feed of almost lascivious revelations about what went on, in his opinion, behind the door of Number 10.  We have been getting Free Dom updates for a while now and it feels they will continue to flow – at what point does the mud actually start to stick though?

In Wayne’s world of weird sports, the Tour de France completed itself and, as suggested last Friday, Pogacar won and Mark Cavendish kept the green jersey, chapeaux all round.  The British Lions take on the Springboks with Eliot Daly at outside centre which only goes to prove that Warren Gatland has a sense of humour.  In the world of cricket, The Hundred started on Wednesday which everyone tells me is not simply shortened format T20 cricket but actually a huge innovation in the world of leather and willow (although I suspect neither of these are used in this format).

For me, I’m off on holiday, following a cry for help from the organisers of the Tokyo Olympics.  Apparently, they have an unusual problem that I can help them solve…. myself and a crack team of shuckers are being paid just over $1 million to save the canoeing and rowing in Tokyo Bay.  Our job is to remove all the oysters that have attached themselves to the floats positioned to protect the racing area from waves.  So many oysters have attached themselves that the floats are starting to sink which I believe, by definition, is not what they are meant to do.  So I’ve packed, Muscadet and Chablis, a bit of Albariño but I just need someone to help me carry the barrel of Guinness – any volunteers?

Should only take about a week and then I’ll be back, clearly not having to isolate as I will be part of the now infamous and perhaps fictitious daily contact testing pilot scheme.   In the meantime, we have a few new things to keep you occupied in my absence:

Beer

Slybeast 1533 Session IPA – £3.70

Park Brewery Phantom Kolsch Lager – £3.50 (not new exactly but absent for a long while)

Park Brewery Ballet Loop Table Beer – £3.80

Sambrook’s Session IPA – £3.40

Wine

Two new whites, seemed sensible given the weather:

Pfaffl Wien 1 2020, Vienna, Austria – £14.99 – Made from 60% Riesling, 20% Pinot Blanc, 20% Grüner Veltliner all grown overlooking the city of Vienna, we have a wine that is lightly aromatic on the nose with a palate of fresh green orchard fruits with a touch of peppery spice from the Grüner and a long, moreish finish – this is what the Austrians drink on hot summer evenings and I think it’s a bit rude that they haven’t told us about it sooner!

I Clivi Malvasia Vigna 80 Anni 2019, Collio, Italy – £24.99 – if you go any further west here you’ll be in Slovenia but that’s just a free geography lesson rather than a tasting note.  We loved the rounded leesy nose, the appealing softness on palate, the apple fruit, the minerals, the layered texture and the finish.  Our tasting note ended with words of one syllable that we can all understand: I LIKE THIS…

That’s it from us for now, stay hydrated and sit in the shade with a nice glass of white wine perhaps

Now , sing along with me, Mrs Slocombe and Miss Brahms:

Ground floor: perfumery, Stationery and leather goods

Wigs and haberdashery, Kitchenware and food

Going up

First floor: telephones, Gents’ ready-made suits

Shirts, socks, ties, hats, Underwear and shoes

Going up

Second floor: carpets, Travel goods and beddings

Materials and soft furnishing, Restaurant and teas

Going down

Bye for now!

The Week That Was

July 16th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So that was the week that was. 

We had a gun, a real pop-pop automatic pistol designed to look like it was made of Lego but thankfully the real Lego pointed out to Culper Precision in Utah (USA in case you were wondering) the lunacy of such a thing error of their ways.  As a side note, Everytown For Gun Safety tells us that there have been more than 165 accidental shootings by children in the US so far this year.

We had localised flooding that was awful and then we saw what was going on in Germany and Belgium and the rest and grieved for the climate.

We had Boris’s confirmation of the next phase, with the mask/no-mask debate taking centre stage.  Unofficially there seems to be a definite feeling that a large proportion of the country think that mask use is still a sensible move – it’s almost as if we can self-govern and work out what’s best for us without outside help….

We had a football team in a final for the first time in 55 years – the first time in many of our lifetimes – and it was at Wembley too.  We played, we lost and we’re hugely proud of the team and what they have achieved and the joy they have brought us.  Thank you.

We had six gazillion people pinged on test and trace in the last week which is up infinity percent on the week before – it’s almost as if there is a rampant airborne virus out there, targeting humans!  At what point do we reel in the testing a bit and start on the next phase please?  Over 10% of employees at Nissan Sunderland are at home because of potential contact….

We had promise of sunshine, which soon proved itself to be empty, but it’s only 16th July, still plenty of time, yeah?

We had the publication of the National Food Strategy Independent Review – RECOMMENDATIONS IN FULL.  By in full, they mean it is 73 pages long in tiny type and contains 14 recommendations.  And no, I’ve not read it.  However, I have to say that the first two recommendations made me realise immediately that Boris would not be a fan.

Recommendation 1. Introduce a sugar and salt reformulation tax.  Use some of the revenue to help get fresh fruit and vegetables to low income families – seems totally reasonable and I think, if any of us have read the papers at any stage over the last 20+ years, sugar and salt have long been seen as the nemeses to good health and long life.  Spot quiz: can anyone tell me whether British Sugar (part of Associated British Foods) or Tate & Lyle have ever donated sums of money to the Conservative Party?  Jam doughnut to everyone that guessed yes…

Recommendation 2. Introduce mandatory reporting for large food companies.  When I read this one liner, my first reaction was, whoa, wait a minute, don’t they have to do this already?  It would seem not if it is being put forward as a recommendation.  Not sure if it’s the sort of reporting they meant but very quickly a number of ‘big food producers’ told us that there is a risk that food prices will go up if they have to follow any of these regulations.  Big business blackmail, that’s a new one, I wonder if it will catch on.  Second spot quiz: basically the same as the first one – any money hit the tory coffers from large food producers do you think?  Have another doughnut…

Boris’ response, when on the stump in Coventry – “I am not, I must say, attracted to the idea of extra taxes on hard-working people.”  And there we have it.

We had lots of other things going on this week as well, I’m sure. 

Wayne tells me the cycling is now a procession to Paris with Pogacar at the head, the biggest threat to his victory being the arrival of a supersized ‘Allez Opi-Omi’ placard directly in front of him but even then his bike handling is probably good enough to survive this. 

The British Open golf is back on, another rescheduled event from 2020 and my regular bet on Ricky Fowler has been placed at 100/1 – there’s probably a good reason for these odds but I’ve bet on him so many times now I feel like a teenager in front of a fruit machine trusting that it’s bound to pay out eventually and I don’t want to miss it.  I fear, however, that Einstein was closer with his observation that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!

We did do some work too, rather than just watch sport and eat doughnuts.  One new wine was listed this week, a Merlot from Italy.  Wayne has often been heard to mention his enjoyment of Italian versions of Merlot and so we thought we’d indulge him, just this once.

Mezzacorona Castel Firmian Merlot 2019, Trentino, Italy – £13.99 – which is from one of the most northerly regions in Italy.  Hints of leafiness and damson on the nose, leading to a soft damson fruit filled palate, enriched by 4-6 months in oak.  Fine tannins surround a long finish to give us a good, honest, juicy and very drinkable glass of wine.  Buy some before he snaffles it all!

And that’s probably it from us.  As a final note – we’re planning on carrying on with the mask thing in the shop for the time being and would be delighted if you joined us – of course we can’t insist but just thought it was worth mentioning!

Whatever else you do, stay well!