Brollies and Bank Holidays

May 24th, 2024

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Happy bank holiday weekend everybody, grab your brollies.  Wayne has been scouring the web for good news and can confirm a reasonable amount of consistency in the forecasting:

AccuWeather

  • Saturday – increasing cloudiness, 21°
  • Sunday – a shower in the area in the morning; otherwise, clouds giving way to some sun, 20°
  • Monday – partly sunny, 18°

BBC

  • Saturday – sunny intervals and light winds, 21°
  • Sunday – light rain showers and a gentle breeze, 20°
  • Monday – drizzle and a gentle breeze, 17°

Met Office

  • Saturday – sunny, changing to cloudy in the afternoon, 21°
  • Sunday – cloudy, changing to light showers by late morning, 20°
  • Monday – sunny changing to cloudy by lunchtime, 18°

Weather.com

  • Saturday – generally sunny despite a few afternoon clouds, 21°
  • Sunday – cloudy with occasional showers, 19°
  • Monday – partly to mostly cloudy, 17°

If we all keep in mind that our resident Michael Fish is having a barbecue on Monday then I would suggest that you mow the lawn on Saturday and book cinema tickets for the rest of the break.

Speaking of brollies, there seems to be a shortage in Downing Street.  The forlorn footage of a drenched and solitary Prime Minister announcing the General Election on Wednesday was made more pitiful when we considered that he couldn’t find anyone prepared to hold an umbrella over him, not even Akshata?  I would imagine that someone threw in a towel as he went back inside though.

Elsewhere, we read on Wednesday that Cazoo, the online car retailer, had called in the administrators.  Never quite sure why you’d buy a car sight unseen but by all accounts this was a popular way of doing things during the covid years.  Anyway, they were valued at £5 billion in 2021 but apparently never made a profit.  Never made a profit?  In 2020 they made £99 million in losses; in 2021 they made £542 million in losses; in 2022 they made over £700 million in, you’ve guessed it, losses; in 2023 they sold a large chunk of debt for equity and in 2024 they fold.

Alex Chesterman, the founder, sold £100 million of shares in 2021, so he’s alright.

Thames Water has debts of over £15 billion, largely thanks to the previous owners taking too much money out of the business before selling it.  South West Water also has persistent pre-tax losses on one hand, whilst offering a a £127 million dividend to shareholders with the other, and poisoning the residents of Brixham with another.

Susan Davy, CEO of South West Water’s parent company, has yet to confirm whether she will be taking her bonus this year but she does know that she won’t have to explain the parasite outbreak to MP’s thanks to parliament being dissolved before she’s due to meet with them, so she’s alright.

Everyone’s favourite priest, Paula Vennells, earnt over £5 million in her time running things, very badly, at the Post Office, so she’s alright too.

It sometimes feels that being a debt averse independent wine retailer doesn’t reward success as much as other industries reward failure but then, neither of us went to business school so we don’t know what we don’t know!

The Tottenham Hotspur Stadium takes delivery of its first (and probably last) pieces of silverware this weekend but obviously not for anything football related.  The Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals, for rugby union, are both taking place in north London and Tottenham are hosting.  With Gloucester being the only English team involved in this, we’ll all be donning Jonny May facemasks for one last time and hoping the cherry and whites have put behind them the 90-0 drubbing by Northampton 2 weeks ago!  Not even Spurs have lost that badly on this ground…

Wayne, throwing caution to the wind, has intimated that he feels there is a possibility that Tadej Pogacar might just have enough to win the Giro d’Italia.  Unless he falls off.  In which case, he will probably still go on and win it.  You heard it here first.  For other tips, he’s offering the prospect of the FA cup ending up in Manchester this weekend and the Champions League being decided on goals scored….

Not much booze news this week – we’ve got a few new wines in the pipeline but we can tell you more about those next time but in the meantime, what shall we taste this weekend?

We’ve decided to go a little esoteric today, so we will open a wine from Romania and a wine from Crete.

Cramele Recas Solara Orange – £14.99

This Romanian estate is owned by Englishman Philip Cox and his wife Elvira.  Their immaculate vineyards, in mountainous terrain, are a combination of evolved plantings from 1447 and much more recent plantings too.  A natural minimal intervention wine, it is made by leaving the grape skins and seeds in contact with the pressed juice, creating a deep orange-hued finish.  The wine ferments naturally without the addition of yeasts, sulphur or any other additions.  The nose exhibits quince, Poire William and a hint of vanilla.  A complex and structured palate, it is elegant with discreet fruit flavours of stone fruits, backed up with a complexity and long, balanced finish, incredibly fresh.

Domaine Lyrarakis Kotsifali 2021 – £16.99

Yep, it’s this super winery in Crete again – they make ideal wines for summer drinking we reckon, so let’s ignore the weather reports above and pretend it’s blazing sunshine out there!  One of the Queens of Cretan grape varieties, Kotsifali is indisputably a classic of the island, offering spicy red fruits, an elegant mouthfeel and a piquant aftertaste which makes it a deliciously fresh drop, not too weighty and seriously good with lamb kleftiko or a bit of fried saganaki.

That’s probably enough from me for now – as I write, 76 Tory MP’s have said they aren’t going to stand for re-election in July, 7 since Wednesday afternoon – really not sure Rishi has enough umbrellas for this deluge!

Dirty Water? Drink Wine!

May 17th, 2024

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We’ll start off this week with an apology. We mentioned the sun in last week’s note and it promptly sent a few solar flares and a wonderful display of the aurora borealis before returning the rain to us. We’re keeping shtum this week.

We are approaching, albeit rather slowly, a General Election. We know this, not because Kier Starmer has set out some of the things they might like to do if elected (change the wallpaper?) but because yesterday, Rishi Sunak appeared on Loose Women and revealed that being on the programme was one of the most intimidating things he’s done. He also revealed that if he is not on the winning side and elected as PM, he will stay on as an MP. Still a bit of an assumption in that comment we thought but perhaps we should lobby for Janet Street-Porter to be on the Standards Committee?

Due to an impending shortage of train drivers, the government is consulting on lowering the age at which one can become a locomotive operator. It could be that soon we’ll have 18 year old train drivers; we contacted a number of teenagers to gauge the interest in driving a train, but didn’t get much of a response past a cursory grunt.  In unrelated news, HSBC, KPMG and Deloitte have all had to withdraw job offers for foreign students due to visa rules changes.

In Devon, we saw South West Water issue a ‘boil water notice’ after many residents of Brixham reported an icky tummy and twenty two of them were found to be suffering from cryptosporidiosis, a waterborne disease caused by a microscopic parasite. How many more gallons of sewage will be dumped in our rivers and lakes before we see cholera putting the NHS under pressure?

Moving onto sporting endeavours, we couldn’t help but notice it’s PGA Championship time again. Given the performance Rory put in last week, and the fact he plays so well when there is a bit of domestic stress, we think it could be his weekend.

In the Premiership, it’s all come down to the last game. To win the Premier League, Arsenal need to beat Everton at home, whilst hoping that West Ham win in Manchester, whilst Tottenham Hotspur need to draw at the minimum with Sheffield United to have any European travel next season. At this stage I fancy Alex’ chances more than Wayne’s.

Over in Italy we have some proper sport conducting itself rather excitingly around the country. Tadej Pogačar is still riding around dressed like the Pink Panther with a lead of over 2 minutes from Daniel Martinez and Geraint Thomas in second and third respectively. Today’s stage is a pan flat 179km stage that should end in a bunch sprint for the crazy guys, difficult to look past Jonathan Milan given his form so far, but surely Kaden Groves is due a win.

Tasting This Weekend

This week we’ll be visiting Niederösterreich in Austria, which is the home to Funkstille Grüner Veltliner 2023 (£14.49). It is a cracking example of Grüner Veltliner, rich with pear and melon fruit character and a fresh, zippy finish. The winery produces its own fertiliser from grape skins, manure and straw in a Biogas plant which also produces more than enough energy, along with some solar panels, to power the entire estate.

We’ll head further east for the red. Arriving in Bulgaria, we’ll head straight to the Bessa Valley to taste Domaine Bessa Valley Enira 2018 (£19.99). This is a recent discovery on one of those days we opened a bit late. It’s a blend of 66% Merlot, 20% Syrah and 14% Petit Verdot aged for 12 months in French Oak. In the glass, the wine has plum and forest fruits, a touch of cocoa and lovely silky tannins. After we’d put our double tick (our buy signal) in the tasting book we got chatting and discovered the estate is in Count Stephan von Neipperg stable. He also owns Canon La Gaffelière, Clos de L’Oratoire, La Mondotte and d’Aiguilhe in Bordeaux, several of which we have offered shelf space in the recent past. We’re pretty excited about it so do come and give it a go.

I’m off to cheer for West Ham!

Sunshine

May 10th, 2024

Fellow Wine Lovers,

As a gift to you, we’ve let the sun out, so I don’t want to hear any more moaning as it’s here all weekend and now is the time to start polishing your Rosé glasses…

We all voted for our favoured candidates last week and still ended up back where we started, with Sadiq keeping his Parker Knoll Statesman Como Leather Recliner at the head of the table with 11 of his party colleagues around him.  Reform gained a seat, the Conservatives lost a seat, Binface beat Britain First, the ULEZ vote proved to be less important than most candidates had hoped it might be and Siân Berry giving her seat to Zoë Garbett seems to have got a lot of people dangerously hot under the collar about nothing, frankly, since it was a London Wide Assembly seat where people had voted for a party not an individual…

Meanwhile, just short of 60% of voters were washing their hair, had a flat tyre, were double booked or just couldn’t be bothered to exercise their right.

But we move on.  Sleeper cells seemed to have been activated in Westminster when we watched with incredulity as Natalie Elphicke sashayed across the floor to Labour – it’s always the ones you least expect.  However, when she stated in 2023: “Don’t trust Labour on immigration they really want open borders” little did we know that she would be making her own brave journey!

Who’s next? Liz Truss?  J R-M?  Rishi?  Journalists everywhere are licking their lips….

Moving away from Westminster, we stumble into the world of classical music, not somewhere we know much about but we have heard of some of the big noises, including Beethoven.  It would seem that a couple of clever clogs from Harvard have been studying the big dog and, courtesy of The Drinks Business, we discover that, in the journal of Clinical Chemistry, the authors argued that “suggested primary sources of lead exposure include plumbed wine, dietary factors, and medical treatments”.

Plumbed wine?  Yep, it’s a new one for me too. 

Apparently, the plumbing of wine involves adding Lead to the liquid and certainly dates back to the Ancient Romans.  The rationale was that the Lead sweetened the drink, made the tannins less aggressive, helped to preserve it and made it look clearer in the glass – all of which can be seen as positives, why would we stop doing this?

Well, Alex, perhaps because it’s a devastating neurotoxin that can lead to irreversible brain damage, damage to your kidneys, your liver, your nervous system, seizures, unconsciousness and death.

And in Beethoven’s case, it ‘lead’ to his hearing loss…

Tough week to be a Spurs fan, a Quins fan or a Northampton fan – nuff said.

So, assuming that you took my advice at the top to polish your Rosé glasses, they should now be ready to fill – here’s what we can offer you:

  • Cuvée Jean Paul (France) – £9.99
  • Borsao Selección (Spain) – £10.99
  • Barton Pinot Noir (South Africa) – £12.99
  • Domaine Foncalieu Piquepoul (France) – £14.99
  • Château de L’Aumerade Provence Cru Classé (France) – £19.99
  • Domaine Lafran-Veyrolles Bandol (France) – £23.99

As it’s the weekend we will be opening some wines this evening and since I’ve just mentioned them, this week the white corner will be filled with a Rosé.

Les Vignobles Foncalieu Piquepoul Rosé 2022 – £14.99 is from the Coteaux d’Ensérune which is in Languedoc, northeast of Beziers, towards Montpellier.  Piquepoul Noir is a relatively rare grape, and mostly fond in blends, notably the allowed blend for Châteauneuf-du-Pape.  The palest of pinks in colour, with a delicate nose of cherry blossom, strawberries and peaches whilst the palate is wonderfully fresh with summer berry flavours and notes of crushed raspberry and rose petals.  These fruity notes are balanced perfectly with a lively, citrus acidity leaving the palate refreshed.

In the red corner, it would seem daft to ignore a newly listed wine that is called ‘Friday’.

Viernes de Godelia Mencía 2021 – £18.49 – This wine comes from Bierzo in northwest Spain, an area where Mencía is top cat.  As the winery suggests, a really good way to discover Mencía is through this young and easy to drink red wine.  Made using fruit from their youngest vines and from different vineyards with different aspects this is a cracker with lovely crunchy fruit character, a light and fresh palate with no intrusive lumps of oak so popular in other parts of Spain.  Very summery, very Friday night!

And, of course, if you fancy something a bit different, we’ve also got the Doppelgänger open to taste…

So that’s it, pens down please, the suns out, today is POETS day and it’ll be raining next week so Carpe diem folks!

I don’t think for a minute that the orange Teletubby will be able to keep quiet!

May 3rd, 2024

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Where to start this week…

I hope you all went and exercised your democratic rights to vote. Personally, I feel I’m not able to complain if I haven’t voted and we all know I like to have a moan about how our tax is spent!

This week started with the government paying someone to get a flight to Rwanda. A free flight and £3000 in the pocket was enough to find a volunteer to go. To me this seemed so symptomatic of how this government has operated and the plan to bribe someone to get on a plane to prove a policy works is certainly getting to the less savoury parts of the barrel. In other, unrelated, news from Rwanda, the leader of the opposition has been banned standing in an election and also from leaving the country to visit her sick husband.

Safe.

We read this week about people leaving the country because of the closing of the non-doms tax loophole and apparently, the plans are to head to Monte Carlo or Dubai for better treatment. It seemed to us that if it’s the spending of the money they don’t like, Monte Carlo doesn’t come cheap. Perhaps it’s just the idea of paying tax? Wait till they hear of Brazil’s proposal that billionaires pay a 2% tax on their wealth – a French economist, Gabriel Zucman, has been tasked with preparing proposals for the July G20.

Over the pond, freedom of speech seems to be unavailable for many students with scenes similar to 1968 on campuses.

Trumpolina has been fined for repeatedly over exercising his mouth, despite warnings to the contrary from the judge. Now the judge has told him he may face jail if he doesn’t behave. I’m looking forward to seeing how this plays out; I don’t think for a minute that the orange Teletubby will be able to keep quiet.

We found ourselves flicking through Rolling Stone this week, specifically their article on “The 250 Greatest Guitarists of all Time”. First off, we felt they hadn’t narrowed it down too much given the length of the article, but to be fair, it was including a wide selection of musical genres. What did surprise us was Duane Eddy only coming in at number 239 and George Harrison being above Eric Clapton at 31 and 35 respectively!

In booze news, Campari have completed the purchase of Courvoisier for around $1.2 billion. Smallest of the ‘big four’ cognac houses, Courvoisier was founded in Jarnac 1828 by Félix Courvoisier and Jules Gallois and soon became a favourite of Napoleon III. 

In other news, Moët & Chandon have an autonomous robot, YV01 to spray their vineyards. Next in line is an autonomous weeder that we’re assuming might be called YV02. It certainly doesn’t sound to me that they’ll be rushing down the organic route anytime soon.

We’ve read in several places this week that nearly the entire Manchester United squad will be up for sale this summer as Sir Jim Ratcliffe’s changes all start to take effect. Erik ten Hag has, of course, denied this but some of those same reports might have suggested that Erik wouldn’t necessarily be in the loop. I think perhaps some of the football pages are as gossipy as some of our newspapers.

In real sports, the women’s peloton is racing around Spain at the moment in La Vuelta Femenina, whilst tomorrow marks the start of the Giro d’Italia 2024. Tadej Pogačar starts as favourite but let’s face it, anything can happen in those Italian mountains. Day two is a mountain top finish, which seems a bit early and possibly a bit mean on the part of the organisers until you look at the rest of the first week.

We’ve been chatting to Braden this week. You’ll recall he’s the clever chap that makes Renegade Gin and the Baller Chilli Bacon Vodka down in Battersea, We thought it was about time we gave his Doppelganger a bit of shelf space.

Doppelganger (£21.50) is an Italian style aperitivo with that classic bitter-sweet balance. Here it is achieved with citrus and hibiscus which make for perfect summer sipping – all we need now is some sunshine and those Café del Mar tunes. 

He’s suggesting this Pink Grapefruit Spritz or “Fire Citrus Spritz” as the perfect serve:

•           Add 50ml of Doppelgänger Aperitivo into a wine glass

•           Add ice and top with 75ml of Pink Grapefruit Soda

•           Stir through

•           Garnish – Slice of Pink Grapefruit or orange

And we’ve got a few bottles of pink grapefruit soda here that we can move your way should you fancy a crack!

On the table this weekend, we shall start off with Chateau de la Mirande Picpoul de Pinet (£14.99). The estate is just outside Castelnau-de-Guers, overlooking the Bassin de Thau and its oyster and mussel beds. Crisp and dry with citrus and stonefruit character, we think the zippy finish makes it ideal as a partner to most shellfish or maybe a traditional potato salad.

Following up swiftly in the red galoshes will be Glencairn Pinotage (£15.99) from Breedekloof in South Africa. My tasting note says Pinot Noir-like fruits, red cherry and strawberry on the nose, a fresh palate with ripe tannin and vanillin notes followed by strawberry all the through to the finish. Despite the weather, we’re planning to eat barbecue on Sunday and I don’t think this’ll be a bad partner (to the food not the weather!).

As it’s the first of the May Bank Holidays this Monday we will be closed so that we can start our Morris dancing season.

And with that we’re off!

We delved through all the waffle so you don’t have to!

April 26th, 2024

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Only 6 more sleeps, how exciting is that?

Thursday 2nd May gives us all the opportunity (providing we’ve got photo ID) to choose who will be our next Mayor.  If we look at the form book, we should be expecting an Eton educated Tory, having had two labour incumbents, both of whom are local boys and certainly didn’t play the wall-game.  Having looked at the mini-manifesto booklet, it appears that the Tory candidate is actually Susan Mary Hall, who also didn’t play the wall-game and thus the form book goes out the window.

Now, what does the Mayor have to do?  According to londonelects.org.uk they are responsible for:

  • Making plans, strategies and policies for Londoners
  • Acting as the executive of London’s government and managing a £20.4bn budget to run transport, police, fire services and investing in London’s housing. Part of the council tax levied by London’s councils is set by the mayor to help fund these services
  • Acting as a representative for the capital at home and abroad

We have 13 candidates to choose from and we can only make one choice in this election, so we need to get it right first time, people.

11 of the candidates chose to pay the £10,000 to promote themselves in the MY VOTE DOESN’T COUNT pamphlet and here are the York Notes:

Femy Amin (Animal Welfare Party) – People, Animals, Environment – some nice, vegan-based ideas including the aim to become a global leader in opposing speciesism and the sale of foie gras and fur is rejected – no mention of police or ULEZ

Rob Blackie (Liberal Democrat) – unusually, no punchy strapline – fix the Met, support the NHS and, rather excitingly, tackle the sewage dumping in the Thames!

Natalie Campbell (Independent) – I will take a zero B.S. approach to rebuilding London – build homes, bobbies on the beat, affordable transport

Howard Cox (ReformUK – London Deserves Better) – London needs Reform – obsessed by ULEZ and cars generally

Amy Gallagher (SDP) – Stand Up To Woke – make public transport pleasant, build houses, reduce rents, scrap ULEZ and LTN’s

Zoë Garbett (Green) – It’s time for a Green Mayor – as a councillor, I hear how Londoners need better housing, safer streets and reliable, cheaper transport

Tarun Ghulati (Independent) – Empowering Growth Through Trust – more police, more tourism, scrap ULEZ and LTN’s, free school meals, minimise council tax

Susan Hall (Conservative) – We’ll fix the issues that keep Londoners up at night – more bobbies on the beat, scrap ULEZ expansion and LTN’s, build houses

Sadiq Khan (Labour) – Now let’s go even further – Sadiq is in the unique situation where he can reference what he has done over the last 8 years, including a pledge to end rough sleeping by 2030 which, if he were to see it through would be in his fourth term, 14 years after he came to office.  No rush.

Andreas Michli (Independent) – Make London Strong – end knife crime, fix the police, scrap ULEZ, build houses

Nick Scanlon (Britain First) – No To Immigration – deport illegal immigrants, stop immigration, close down migrant hotels, protect our monuments and, of course, abolish ULEZ and Congestion Charge.  It’s a no from me…

The 2 candidates who didn’t stump up the promotional readies were:

Count Binface (Count Binface for Mayor of London) – To Take The Piss Out Of The Thames, Vote Binface! – also planning to price-cap croissants and renaming London Bridge after Phoebe Waller.  Like Rob Blackie, he also puts the Thames sewage problem front and centre.

Brian Rose (London Real Party) – A Campaign for Freedom – which in along with scrapping ULEZ etc also involves making London the financial capital of the world once more by making our capital the centre of the crypto, web3 and blockchain industries.  For someone keen on finance, you’d have thought he’d have scraped together the £10,000 with ease…

Sadly, the St George’s Flag wearing hooligan that calls itself Laurence Fox failed to fill in its candidate form correctly and thus won’t be standing whilst also picking up a fine of £180,000 for being obnoxious – not a good week for the pound-shop Farage.

Oddly, not one of the candidates seems at all interested in the Fire Brigade and, if Sadiq’s figures are correct that more than 90% of cars are ULEZ compliant in the zone, then surely it seems a bit daft for so many of them to be banking on the Uxbridge Strategy to sweep them to power.  Thus, I think I’m more likely to go with one of the two candidates who has put the health of the Thames in their crosshairs, I’ll decide which one on the day!

And there you have it, Mayoral election in a nutshell – we delved through all the waffle so you don’t have to!

In the world outside politics, it’s been mainly cold with bits of showery stuff. 

The worlds of wine and sport collided unexpectedly last weekend as Tom Gilbey, a thoroughly engaging wine trade eccentric, hit the headlines when he decided that running the London Marathon for over 4 hours was far too much time away from his vinous pleasures, so he proceeded to blind taste a wine every mile of his journey – chapeau!  Obviously, having done the Denbies Bacchus half-marathon a number of times, the concept of drink-running is something we have long endorsed.

Arsenal won, Liverpool lost, Man City won and will doubtless win the League, whilst AFC have settled for mid-table mediocrity.  Bike-boy tells us that despite the fact that everyone knew exactly where and exactly when Pogačar would make his move last Sunday, none of them could do anything about it and he proceeded to win by a couple of minutes.

And what about those Red Roses.  Having been knuckle-rapped for not covering the Women’s Six Nations, I proceeded to watch the clinical destruction of an Irish team that seemed to be addicted to staring straight into English headlights – 88-10 is a scoreline even Bristol would be envious of!

And so to wine.  A survey by Aldi into their customers wine buying habits cast many pearls but what stuck with us was that 47% of those surveyed considered themselves knowledgeable about wine whilst 89% wished they knew more and that a desire to impress friends was a significant factor in purchasing decisions.

The good news for us is that 53% of folk don’t consider themselves knowledgeable, which hopefully means that our jobs are safe for a few more months!

However, to help make us all more knowledgeable we, as might be expected, will be opening a white and a red today for tasting and to hopefully impress your friends with…

For the white, we will dip back into an old favourite that hasn’t shown its face on the tasting table for a long time:

Domaine Jouan Menetou Salon 2022 – £18.99.  Menetou-Salon is a small appellation of around 300 hectares right next to Sancerre, to the south-west.  Here the Sauvignon Blanc vines are planted on Kimmeridgian limestone soils, very similar to those of Chablis and similar minerally notes can be detected in the wines.  It has always been the case that a bit of careful hunting and tasting can find you some real gems that rival its more famous neighbour in the quality stakes.  Fresh and floral with aromas of citrus and blackcurrant leaves and elegant mineral tones and a long finish – excellent value for the canny shopper!

The red we have chosen because we haven’t had it for a while and the wine itself seems to be suffering a bit of an identity crisis.  When we first took this vintage it was called ‘Tradition’ in a Bordeaux bottle but with the latest re-stock we discovered it is now called ‘Intuition’ and comes in a Burgundy bottle – same wine, insane winemakers!

Château Viranel Tradition/Intuition 2017 – £18.99.  A fabulous Saint Chinian estate, which has been in the same family since 1551.  This cuvée is a blend of 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache Noir, 10% Mourvèdre, and 10% Carignan.  A supple drinker with cherry, violet and liquorice notes and a palate, framed with velvety tannins, of rich dark black fruits and a hint of chocolate from the oak.  We think we’d like to try it with the winemakers suggestion of lamb shoulder stuffed with herbs.

And with that we’re gone.  Hopefully our election rundown was useful – bike-boy has just informed me that when Binface gets in, he’ll petition that Chelsea Bridge gets renamed Wayne…

Over and out.

Proper Sports…

April 19th, 2024

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We have witnessed, over a good number of weeks, a lot of running happening. People passing the shop with a backpack on, clearly having run back from the office whilst others are settling in for a long run with a CamelBak on, the tube dripping down their arm as they pass. All this rather points to Sunday and the 2024 London Marathon. First run in 1981, the London Marathon has had over a million people run past the Cutty Sark, over Tower Bridge and raise their arms on The Mall!

This year chasing the spoils, we have the Women’s World Record holder, Tigist Assefa, the Olympic champion, Peres Jepchirchir, and Ruth Chepngetich the fourth fastest woman of all time. I’ve not seen the start list for Elite men but I’m sure we’ll be seeing a stellar line up as usual although probably without He Jie….

I have just read that the average man takes 55,374 paces and the average women 62,926. We’re not sure that tells the full story though, before you run a marathon you have to do a fair amount of training, with a long run each week that seems to get ever longer. That’s a lot of extra steps we’re adding there. Some of our longer standing readers may recall that we both ran the 2014 edition of the London Marathon we didn’t run much together in training but did one time run from here up to and around Hyde Park and back, and another time three laps of Richmond Park.

Lots of steps.

In the end, Wayne completed it in 4.27 and Alex in 4.40 having queued for 7 minutes for a comfort break at Tower Bridge. We raised over £3,000 for The Children’s Trust and each expended over 5000 calories.  We enjoyed our pizza that evening, the stairs to the cellar on Monday morning? Not so much. 

So, where am I going with all of this? Reader, I wish I knew. If you’re running the marathon this week enjoy it, all the hard work is done. Enjoy all the northern soul blasting out of the pubs you pass, the drummers, the cheers, the tears and the amazing sense of achievement that follows. You got this.

In other news, certainly for the older folk amongst us, it’s been known as a Snickers since 1990.

As unlikely as misinformation from us might be, I find I have to apologise for being a little bit early with my discussions on Record Store Day last week. Actually, it is happening this week, no, honestly, it really is. I am staying with my choices though. To remind you, I went for X-Ray Spex album ‘Germ Free Adolescents’ and Horace Andy with Sly and Robbie ‘Livin it Up’.

In UEFA news, Manchester City and Arsenal are both popping their passports back in the drawer for this season whilst West Ham and Liverpool get their Thursday evenings back. In the cricket, Essex top the Counties table but it is really rather early in the season.

Meanwhile, in proper sports, we say ‘chapeau’ to Stephen Williams who became the first British winner of La Fleche Wallonne. It was a really tough race with awful weather and even snow for much of it. ‘Chapeau’ also to Kasia Niewiadoma, who won the women’s edition.

This weekend sees the last of the Ardennes Classics with Liège-Bastogne-Liège on Sunday where it’s difficult to see past Tadej Pogačar in the men’s race, the parcours suits him better than high flying Matthieu van der Poel, though Tom Pidcock seems to be in fine fettle too.

In the women’s race will Demi Vollering defend her title from last year? She certainly has the form but I’m hoping for a win for Pfeiffer Georgi who’s been so close in the last few. As always, watch out for seasoned campaigner Marianne Vos, she’s not known as the GOAT without reason.

To paraphrase a Fast Show character, this week we shall be mostly tasting Italy.

We’ll start off with Cà dei Frati ‘I Frati’ Lugana 2022 (£26.49). A random conversation with a customer about a fabulous wine he’d had at a client dinner reminded us of this wine. We re-tasted it, remembered why we loved it and puzzled over why we had forgotten about it. Why not come and see for yourself? 

We’ll move onto Cantine Povero ‘Dianae’ Barbera d’Asti 2022 (£15.99) a rather fabulous red from the Piemonte. It’s a natural wine without the weird bits, being made without the addition of extra sulphites. Bang on with a spot of duck.

Lastly, having mentioned it last week, we couldn’t leave without sharing a bit of Lettuce’s book with you.

“I had become increasingly concerned that Britain’s judiciary had become a self-perpetuating oligarchy, Here was a group of similarly minded people from similar backgrounds who had a particular worldview and were resolute in protecting their own interests.”

How’s that for self-awareness?

Cheers!

Thwack

April 12th, 2024

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well here we are again, Friday rearing its head to welcome the weekend and we need to begin with an apology.

One of our cricket experts pointed out to us, quite correctly, that last week we’d used the words “willow” and “leather” without also including the word “thwack” – for this we bow our heads in apology and will now trudge back to the pavilion on a duck.

Back to the weekend, it’s a warm one and the horses running the Grand National may be a little confused; it can’t be that often they run on heavy ground in 20˚c. 

We’ve had a week of chit chat about whether Angela Rayner should be paying tax of £1500 on a house she sold over 10 years ago before she became an MP. We have had not so much chit chat about Michelle Donelan’s libel case costing the taxpayer an extra £19,000 on top of the already declared £15,000 settlement. The extra money is for legal advice, £7,785 of it to government lawyers and a further £11,600 on private counsel. One wonders why we have government lawyers if we’re then going to spend money on private counsel as well – almost feels like people are lining their pockets, again!

Whilst we’re on the subject of folks named Michelle, I would just point out that Monbeg Genius has been withdrawn from the Grand National. The horse is owned by Michelle Mone and Doug Barrowman and I have to say I’m a little disappointed, given the heavy going, having something on fast track could have been a winning strategy.

Lettuce Liz has been on the airwaves again, anybody would have thought she had a book out. Well she does, it is called “Ten Years to Save the West” and costs £20 if you pre-order it. Given her track record I suspect a donation of £20 to the Trussell Trust so that somebody could have some lettuce would be more use.

It’s Record Store Day on Saturday. Lots’ of limited vinyl releases abound, some actually really limited! My picks might be X-Ray Spex ‘Germfree Adolescents’ album on a 1000 copy picture disc for a pitch perfect pop punk album from 1978, or perhaps 1000 copy first time on vinyl for Horace Andy with Sly and Robbie ‘Livin’ It Up’ from 2006. Whilst we’re on the subject of tunes, Robert Miles’ anthemic ‘Children’ is now 29 years old and is just the song for a sunny day like today!

So, over to the Grand National. As we mentioned it looks like the going will be heavy and a warm day for all involved. We’ve had a perusal and come up with Minella Indo, Noble Yeats and Latenightpass. As usual, caveat emptor, we’re normally fairly rubbish at this sort of thing.

For the stick swingers amongst you, it’s the US Masters in Augusta this weekend. The usual wander around a beautiful course that nobody else is allowed to play on and at the end win one of the coveted green jackets. We’re looking at Jake Knapp as an outsider, Ricky Fowler who’s always good on a Par 3 and frankly owes us and Akshay Bhatia after his cracking form last weekend.

In real sports, both the men’s and women’s Paris Roubaix last weekend were great spectacles of bicycle racing, De Brabantse Pijl midweek started the transition from Flanders to the Ardennes but first, we’ll look forward the Amstel Gold Race this weekend. I’ve no idea who’ll win however I’m hoping for Pfeiffer Georgi in the women’s and Joseph Blackmore in the men’s but think there is a risk of disappointment…

Given how cheap and easy it is to ensure your 18 year old on the family car, it seems odd that the government has decided to lower to 18 the age at which one can drive a bus or coach. It would appear recruitment has been challenging and the transition from Polo to Routemaster is considered child’s play.

After that, I need a drink. If you’ll join me we’ll be opening Percheron Chenin Blanc/Viognier 2023 (£9.99). We have chosen it mostly because there’s a horse on the label if I’m honest. Wine wise it’s a lovely drop from old bush vines in the Western Cape.

Wearing the red cap we’ll zip off to Chile for a slurp or two of Sierra Grande Pinot Noir 2021 (£10.49) a wine with strawberry and raspberry fruit and soft tannins that’s almost indecently easy drinking.

As we say goodbye to OJ, we’d just offer up this thought. If OJ hadn’t done what he did, we may not have had the Kardashians…

Who’s taller?

April 5th, 2024

Fellow Wine Lovers,

And now it’s April, it’s summertime and the world still seems to be in a bit of a tangle.  Looking into the archives, it seems this is not a new situation – on Friday 5th April 2019 we wrote:

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

Whilst on Friday 5th April 2013, we seemed a tad chilly:

It’s been snowing too much recently, it’s been too damn windy and frankly our small oil-fired radiator is having to work too hard.  If it wasn’t our own business we would take industrial action against our inhumane working conditions.  The Bordeaux we had on tasting last week became a study in tannins as the shop chilled down whilst the Eiswein was standing there in his shorts and flip-flops wandering what all the fuss was about.  Oh and I may well have started hallucinating…

So what news does Friday 5th April 2024 bring us?

Well, firstly that we missed the party of the year on Wednesday evening, when everyone’s ‘favourite’ Nigel turned 60.  With a guest list of luminaries including:

  • Lee Anderson
  • Arron Banks
  • Nick Candy
  • Derek Chisora
  • Lizzie Cundy
  • Jim Davidson
  • Sir David Davis
  • Mark Francois
  • Andrea Jenkyns
  • Andrew Rosindell
  • MT Stevens
  • Richard Tice
  • Georgia Toffolo
  • Liz Truss
  • Holly Valance

I have to say, we were very glad to have missed out

Interesting fact about Nigel.  Wayne bumped into him many years ago, just off Victoria Street and noted in his Filofax that Mr Farage was far shorter than him but not as short as Gilles Peterson (funny what comparisons people make) – anyway, work that into a dinner party conversation this weekend and we’ll buy you a drink!

In the world of booze, conflicting messages are coming from all sides.  In one article we read that Nyetimber, the famous sparkling producer, has agreed a deal in principle to buy The Lakes Distillery, a Cumbrian producer of single malt whisky and other spirits, in a £46.1 million deal.  Nyetimber would also inherit a debt of £25.8 million upon acquisition, bringing the true value to approximately £71 million – that’s a lot of bottles of fizz to shift!

Elsewhere, Adnams, the Suffolk brewery with over 1oo years in the trade, has made noises in the market that it wouldn’t be against the prospect of a full sale of the company, given the parlous state of the industry currently and the marked increase in insolvencies.

So one company is looking to accumulate whilst another is considering getting out completely – who will prove to be right?

Meanwhile, Glyndebourne, the famous Sussex Opera Festival, has announced that Bolney Wine Estate is now their official wine partner, which is very exciting news.  More exciting still, you don’t have to wait until the Summer, take a drive down the M23 or pretend to like Opera, as you can pick up a bottle of Bolney Estate Foxhole Vineyard Brut Reserve NV – £33.00 from usright here in Wimbledon Park!

Elsewhere, we welcome back the sound of leather on willow as the County Championship cricket season starts today and will continue until 29th September, which feels a life time away.  If the conversation at the dinner party seems to be hitting a slump again, Surrey are probably favourites to win it, Essex would be a good back up bet whilst Kent, the garden of England, should perhaps stick to the landscaping.

Back to wine now though, what shall we taste this weekend?  In 2019 we tasted a posh Verdicchio and a posh Rioja whilst in 2013 we tasted two wines from Portugal that we can no longer get hold of.  Sensing no obvious theme to our April 5th tasting selections we thought we’d get out of Europe this year and get some sun in the southern hemisphere.  From Marlborough we have:

Staete Landt ‘Josephine’ Chardonnay 2020 – £23.79.  Land (discovered in honour) of the Governors (Staete) of the Dutch Republic.  In 1642, Staete Landt was the working title Abel Tasman gave to the newly discovered lands now known as New Zealand and Ruud Maasdam decided to honour this name when he set up the winery in the 1990’s. 

The ‘Josephine’ Chardonnay is one of the best kept secrets of the Estate: full and round yet stylish, great texture and length, this wine shows the perfect balance between fruit, acidity and oak integration.  A whiff of sea breeze, citrus fruit and cream on the nose, white peaches on the palate and with a mineral aftertaste that lingers on.  A truly great wine with a strong personality and European elegance

For the red, we go to Constantia:

Beau Constantia Lucca 2019 – £29.99.  2019 was a difficult vintage with very low production throughout the region, related in no small measure to the after effects of 4 years of drought.  For the first time Cabernet Franc was the prominent grape (53%) with Merlot making up the balance.

An appealing nose of cedar wood and black cherry is complemented by some tart cranberry on the palate.  This mix of fresh fruit and spice is beautifully complemented by fine-boned tannins and Megan, the winemaker, thoroughly recommends some medium-rare game with chimichurri, which seems totally reasonable!

That’s all from us, enjoy your weekend but do remind me before you go, who’s taller – Gilles, Wayne or Nigel?

Thursday The New Friday

March 28th, 2024

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Welcome to Thursday, the new Friday for one week only. It’s not often we make excuses for brevity but this week we might have to make an exception.

We’ve been stock counting this week it really is as dull as you can imagine and takes the best part of a day. Not ideal when you’re already wrestling with a shortened week but it’ll be different next year, our year end doesn’t move around like Easter.

Outside in the world, the party politicals are all gearing up for a local election campaign. We’ve already seen New York subway footage falsely used to describe London, Labour mocking the successes (!) of levelling up and all the while child poverty is moving in the wrong direction. Still.

The UN Commission on the Status of Women is the principal global intergovernmental body exclusively dedicated to shaping global standards on gender equality and the empowerment of women. For their 2025 session Saudi Arabia has been chosen as chair. I’m not sure had them in my Top 10 of candidates but we all love a surprise. Reports the Garrick Club have offered to host are, apparently, somewhat wide of the mark.

We learnt this week that water companies up and down the land have been pumping raw sewage into our rivers for 4 million hours. That is the equivalent of 5.6 average lifespans for a human in the UK. As someone who likes to swim outside this really makes my blood boil. We also learnt that rowers have been warned not to go into the water after discovery of E Coli in the Thames (I wonder how that got there).

In sports news this week, the Boat Race is on Saturday. The women’s race starts at 14.46 and the men’s at 15.46. As far as I can see Oxford appears to be favourite to take both.

Whilst on the subject of sports, I’d like to talk about the Barkley Marathons. Participation of the 100 mile race is by invitation and the course has a 60 hour cut off time. The challenge is obviously the distance, but more so the amount of ascent and descent, which is the equivalent of around two Mount Everest’s. This week, the UK runner Jasmin Paris became the first woman ever to finish the race, arriving at the line with just 99 seconds to spare. Truly inspirational stuff, especially given that she is only the 20th finisher since 1989.

Whilst on the subject of tough sports, Classics season in the cycling is in full flow with the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday. The race should have everything looking at the forecasts with strong cross winds on what should have been the easier part of the course. Looks like it’ll be worth tuning in if you have time!

I’ve got this far without mentioning that it’s a long weekend! So put on your comfy shoes, search for Voodoo Ray on your smart speaker and dance like it’s the first time you’ve heard it.

We’ll be open…                      Good Friday 12-5pm

Saturday 12-6pm

Then we’ll be back as usual on Tuesday.

That leaves me to talk about what we shall taste this weekend.

We’ll start off with a trip to Piemonte for a sample of Gavi Folli e Bonato (£17.99) before have a dash north through the mountains to alight in Burgundy for a taste of Beaune to be Wild (£30.99) a red burgundy made without the addition of sulphites.

That leaves me to wish you all a Happy Easter and just say if anyone has a 2009 Cheval Blanc knocking around, we haven’t lost one in the stock count, but do have glasses and a corkscrew if you need any assistance.

Cheers!

Red Wine from Montalcino, What’s Not to Like?

March 22nd, 2024

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Just to follow up from last week, Kemi Badenoch has told us that we all need to move away from the Frank Hester row and that the general public don’t really care about it.

Read the room, Kemi.

More locally, last weekend saw the annual elections to the Executive Board of Park Vintners Limited. 

Once again, the combined post of Executive Chairman and Managing Director was up for grabs and the shortlist of candidates had been whittled down to two – Wayne, the incumbent, and Alexei, the token opposition.  Wayne has held the role of Executive Chairman since 2010 and, following his Constitutional Revision of Monday March 23rd 2020, (coincidentally the start of the first Covid-19 lockdown) the role was combined with that of Managing Director, in perpetuity. 

It was a free and fair election, with 100% turnout and it soon became clear that Wayne’s time on the hustings the week before would pay off, as he received 470 votes to Alex’s 71, a truly remarkable performance when one considers only two votes were cast… however, Alex did keep his seat on the board and looks forward to taking the minutes at any meetings – it is a dumacracy after all!

In a happy coincidence, Wayne’s hunting buddy Vlad P was also fairly elected for another term this week…

Hopefully though, Wayne won’t emulate his pal by considering the implementation of a 200% duty on wines from ‘unfriendly’ countries and members of NATO that has been proposed by the Association of Winegrowers and Winemakers of Russia.  Good news for Russian wineries, also those in Argentina, Chile, South Africa and perhaps China but even better news for those working in the black markets!

Hopefully Wayne won’t emulate Harrods by listing French Bloom La Cuvee Vintage 2002 though.  This is the brainchild of French model Constance Jablonski and Maggie Frerejean-Taittinger, who spent time working for the Michelin Guide and is married to the Rodolphe, whose great-grandfather perhaps founded Taittinger.  As the tasting note goes:

An exceptional vintage French sparkling wine, reveals all its complexity when tasted, like a great wine full of singularity.

Crafted from organic French Chardonnay grapes, this French sparkling wine surprises with its depth and complexity upon tasting.  Despite its youthfulness, it exudes the character of a well-aged sparkling wine at its pinnacle, boasting a richness of aromas and flavors that defy expectations.

Sounds quite tasty to be honest and the revelation that it is 0% alcohol shouldn’t necessarily dissuade us from trying it as alcohol free wines seem to be improving by the week

However, what does dissuade us is the shelf price of £109 per bottle (including wooden box) – Seedlip eat your heart out!

Happily, the wines we have on tasting this weekend will contain more than 12% alcohol:

Vina Robles Viognier 2020 – £23.49

How Hans Nef, a civil engineer from Zurich, ended up with a wine estate in California is a story… he discovered Paso Robles in the mid-1990s and quickly became enamoured with the emergent wine country.  Here, where the Pacific coastline unfolds into rugged ranch-lands and cowboy ambiance (and who doesn’t love a story with cowboy ambience?), a new generation of California winemakers was turning Paso Robles into one of the world’s most dynamic winegrowing regions. 

This Viognier is planted in the highest part of the Huerhuero Vineyard benefitting from the cooling afternoon pacific breeze.  Crisp and medium-bodied with peach and mandarin fruit with a long lively finish – really rather fabulous and a great wine for a hearty Sunday roast.

 Il Palazzone Vino Rosso NV – £24.79

The Il Palazzone philosophy is based around terroir and tradition; they believe that it is the Montalcino terroir which is responsible for the character of its wines, that the winemaker’s job is to do as little as possible and simply allow this to be communicated and that the traditional methods do this most effectively.  Reflecting this ethos, the Rosso del Palazzone is a blend of different vintages, so they cannot put a year on the label.  The wine is produced with Sangiovese grapes and is an authentic expression of Tuscan terroir.  Whenever possible, they declassify a portion of their Brunello to be blended with the Vino Rosso barrels to result in greater complexity.

Born of a desire to return to the tradition of “Il vino di tutti i giorni”, the Rosso is definitely a second glasser, revisiting the ideas of the old customs of wine and food of the people in Tuscany and Montalcino.

Red wine from Montalcino, Alex – what’s not to like?!

Before we send you back to your desks, a spot of Bank Holiday admin:

EASTER OPENING HOURS

Thursday 28th March – Noon – 7PM

Good Friday 29th March – Noon – 5PM

Saturday 30th March – Noon – 6PM

Easter Sunday 31st March – CLOSED

Easter Monday 1st April – CLOSED

Tuesday 2nd April – As you were – Noon – 7pm!

Finally, I’d like to thank the Executive Chairman for giving me the opportunity to type this email today; it’s been an honour and privilege to serve him!