English Wine Week

June 18th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Congratulations to ultra-runner Sabina Verjee who this week smashed the record for the Lake Districts 214 Wainwrights. She finished the route, 325 miles, including 36,000 metres of ascent, in 5 days 23 hours 49 minutes and 12 seconds which is more than six hours quicker than the previous record! I don’t know about you but my legs ached just reading about it – Chapeau!

Meanwhile, high in the Ecuadorian Andes, scientists have discovered a new species of frog and named it after Led Zeppelin. At this stage it is unclear if Pristimantis ledzeppelin was discovered on a stairway, or just a ramble. Let’s hope it wasn’t trampled underfoot!

Dominic Cummings tried one of his interventions this week. I’m not sure much will come of it with the exception of my inner voice forever thinking of the Health Minister as being Matt Hopeless, a name I’m sure will follow him for longer than any of us will find funny. Just like that initially tall chap at school everyone called Stretch for years after we all caught him up in the height stakes.

The booze trade can be a funny old place, last weekend was World Gin Day, yet today it’s only lunchtime and I’ve already sold four times as much gin! Talking of gin, there seems to be much talk within the trade that all of the sweet fruity styles have had their day. In other news, we ordered a Pinot Noir for Christmas this week and we’ve not even reached the Summer Solstice.

Summer Solstice is, of course, next week (Monday as you asked) and the queue on the A303 will make its annual 24 hour long performance as everyone pops along to Stonehenge for some socially distanced dancing, glass of cider and to watch the sun’s perfect alignment through the stone arches.

Next week just happens to be English Wine Week as well. There are now 3500 hectares planted to vines in the UK, which is four times as much as in 2000. That produced 10.5 million bottles in 2019 (latest figures), of which almost three quarters was sparkling.

We have followed the development of the English Vineyards with a keen interest over the years and are finding that, as we move through time and vineyards get a handle on their terroir and the vagaries of the weather, the wines are getting better and better.  We thought this would be an ideal time to highlight what we’ve gone with so far…

Sparkling

Hawkins Bros Brut Reserve, Surrey, England – £30

We thought we’d start locally with this charming sparkler from just off the Hogsback, south of Guildford.  Made by Greyfriars Vineyard for Hawkins Brothers this is a traditional blend of Chardonnay (56%), Pinot Noir (22%) and Pinot Meunier (22%) with a fine mousse showing plenty of baked apple and creamy, biscuit notes resulting from over 3 years spent on its lees. 

Bolney Estate Classic Cuvée, Sussex, England – £28.99

Bolney were one of the first UK commercial vineyards, bought in 1972 by Janet and Rodney Pratt, with the first vines going into the ground in 1973. Since 1995, Sam, Rodney and Janet’s daughter, has been running the show. This Classic Cuvée is a blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. It has a lovely fine mousse, a rounded palate with notes of brioche, hedgerow fruits and a touch of bruised orchard fruit. Stylish and elegant wine with a lovely persistence.

Hambledon Classic Cuvée Rosé, Hampshire, England – £37

Hambledon have a history that stretches even further back than Bolney. First planted in 1952, winning awards in the 1960’s and by the mid 80’s served on the QE2 as well as various British Embassies and the Houses of Parliament. Sadly, in the 90’s, a change of ownership saw wine production come to a juddering halt and the grapes sold to other vineyards. Fortunately for our story, the estate changed hands again in 1999, more vines were planted and there is now around 200 acres and the UK’s only gravity fed winery. The wine? Well since you ask, its lovely, a blend of 90% Chardonnay with 10% Pinot Noir red wines mostly from the 2015 harvest, with tank-aged reserve wines added. We have a lovely strawberry fruited nose with hints of sour dough toast, a rich palate with again strawberry, a touch of tart cranberry and a creamy yeasty finish.

Still

New Hall Vineyards Bacchus Reserve 2019, Essex, England – £14.49

The vineyards of New Hall are located just outside of Purleigh near Chelmsford. Considered completely eccentric when they started planting in the late 1960’s they are now home to some of the oldest plantings of Bacchus in the UK, certainly the largest (44,500 vines) and they provide grapes to a couple of well-known English Wineries that, frankly, are not very close to Essex. The wine has a vinous, limey nose that leads you into a fruit focused medium dry palate with a reassuring zing on the finish.

New Hall Vineyards Pinot Noir 2018, Essex, England – £22.99

We haven’t tasted many English reds that we thought were worth bothering with. This one was a different kettle of fish though, from vines planted in the early 1970’s, it has been tucked away for the last year or so to enjoy some bottle ageing. Dark cherry fruits on the nose and a really silky palate with a lovely balance (yes I said balance!) of those dark cherry fruits with a touch of spice and earthy notes. Obviously all this deliciousness has its downside in that only a small amount is ever made.

So, let’s make Friday Night Fizz a glass of English shall we?

Cheers,

Wayne & Alex

How’s your week been?

June 11th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

How’s your week been? We’ve found ourselves bathed in sunshine, shifting rosé out of the door and then home just in time for a sundowner before supper. Funny how a spell of sunshine brightens the mood, eh? Did you cop a glimpse of yesterday morning’s partial eclipse, we missed it as a rather prompt delivery showed up at the inappropriate moment.

Mostly good news on the Covid front this week. The head of the NHS told us the link between deaths and infections was now broken, the ONS said 80.3% of the population have antibodies and over a million people signed up for their vaccinations as we move down through the age groups. In Bolton, the region suffering the most from the Delta variant, cases now appear to be falling.

The G7 has landed in Cornwall, though certainly this correspondent finds it difficult to balance the idea of nations getting together to further a greener agenda and tackle a climate crisis, when each of them arrives in a jet plane capable of carrying 300 people, it’s not as if a train has been able to take the strain since 1860. At least it will finally put Cornwall on the tourist map to help sell that surfeit of hotel rooms and campsite places they have every year. We’re sure our Cornish chums will be over the moon that the rule of six has been superseded by the rule of 6500 security forces! Let’s hope we get some real action and some solutions, I guess the vaccination promises are a step in the right direction.

Scientists have found that infecting mosquitoes with Wolbachia bacteria has very positive effect in stopping dengue fever. The bacteria don’t harm the mosquito, but it lives in the same part of the mosquito as dengue fever would and therefore prevents the dengue replicating. The study found a 77% reduction in cases and an 86% reduction in the need for hospital care. The study is being rolled out in a larger area now following its success.

On the football front, Alex has not heard a dicky bird from Daniel Levy yet so we’ll move swiftly onto the Euro 2020, which starts this evening in Rome, with Turkey facing Italy. I have to admit I was a little to surprise to see England above Belgium in the bookies list for outright winner but what do I know?
Nobody usually takes much notice of my football comments, so the fact that I think Belgium might win is neither here nor there.

Edelzwicker might sound like a village you passed through once long ago, or some kind of tool no longer used in a woollen mill that is in fact now a wine bar, but it isn’t.

Edelzwicker “is commonly used to designate any blending of white AOC Alsace grape varieties, without any indication of percentage.” What that description fails to tell you is that it’s a dry white, delicious with delicate green fruit flavours, plenty of fleshy texture and a light, refreshing and savoury finish. If there is a more summery white around it has not slapped us around the chops yet (you know when you’ve been Macron-ed).

You may have guessed but if not, we have just taken our parcel of Cave de Turckheim Edelzwicker (£10.99) so don’t be shy if you’d like some…

Last week we listed a couple of new whiskies – new to us certainly but also fairly new to the UK market.

Canmore Single Malt (£33) – whilst it has no age statement it’s a lovely introduction to single malts with wood and spiced apple notes on the nose, and a fruitier buttered cinnamon note on the palate. Easy drinking and rather more-ish.

Canmore 12 year Old (£42) – is a richer and more rounded style, as you’d expect from the aging for all that time in ex-bourbon barrels. Unusually for a highland it’s not peaty but does have an appealing softness with toffee apple notes and a touch of almost coffee/milk chocolate to finish.

Come in and have a chat with us about them, grab an Edelzwicker and a handful of Paulaner perhaps, England open their campaign on Sunday at 14.00 facing Croatia.

Enjoy the sunshine, I’m off to celebrate a chums birthday about 18 months too late!

Cheers!

Tax, Sunshine & Roero Arneis

June 4th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

How is the South-West? I read in the press that the traffic on the way down left a little to be desired, but it seems the sunshine showed up on time. If it’s any consolation the Lake District National Park is considering a name change to the Lake District Car Park.

In less traffic related news, Tottenham are on the search for a manager. Alex has put his hat in the ring but there do seem to be a few snags with his application that will take some real negotiating skills. Firstly, there are his commitments on Saturdays; it’s difficult to see how he can be stood on the side-line screaming instructions to Son when he should be here selling wine to you.  Secondly, even though he has an extensive knowledge of Italian, he bears no resemblance whatsoever to Brett Anderson or Jools Holland.  On the plus side though, he is cheap, with considerably smaller demands on the salary front than Antonio Conte, Rafa Benitez, or even Sol Campbell for that matter. We’ll see where the horse trading ends up shall we?

In other news, an Irish subsidiary of Microsoft, Microsoft Round Island One, made a profit of £222 billion last year and paid NOTHING, ZERO, ZILCH, £0 in Corporation Tax. It might be legal, but is it right that your neighbourhood wine shop pays more Corporation Tax than Microsoft? We think it might be time this was changed, not in a cross party sense, but in an international sense.  Time some of these international corporations did a bit more for international society. We’re not sure £500k to Oxfam and a rainbow flag during Pride week really cuts it anymore! Next week the G7 summit is in Cornwall and a key theme will be helping poorer countries to recover from the pandemic, perhaps a start could be made there?

Tuesday’s pop up vaccination centre at the Mosque was a big success, with queues around the block and over a thousand people vaccinated by the time they closed at midnight. Well done to all involved, a step closer to normal we hope. In related news, no countries were added to the Green list this week, indeed we seem to have, rather carelessly, lost Portugal. For the moment Iceland is the only place that’ll have us, I’ve not been but have heard it’s rather pleasant!

Space is the final frontier for some nematode worms this week as they are sent up to the International Space Station. The 1mm worms share many biological characteristics with humans and they are being sent up to identify the molecules that cause muscles to weaken and to test some new therapies to prevent muscle loss in zero gravity. One hundred baby squid have also been sent to help understand the effects of spaceflight. No mention was made of salt, pepper or aioli!

In other space related news, NASA has announced to missions Venus in 2028 and 2030, there’s been no investigation in that part of the Galaxy since 1990 apparently so, who knows, it could be on the green list by 2033!

In wine news the Rosé certainly seems to be flying, the Bordeaux ‘En Primeur’ campaign is grinding slowly on and hauliers are still arriving with the wrong paperwork creating delays and logjams at warehouses. The net result of this is that we run out of things on and off, for which we’d like to apologise in advance. It seems to be happening everywhere though; one of the brewers ran out of cans last week!

Given that we started with sunshine but, now the rain has popped in to save us all watering the garden this evening, I thought I’d end on some Piemonte sunshine. Fratelli Povero Roero Arneis 2019(£14.99) is a cracking drop of white, crisp with a soft minerality and pear and stonefruit character that’d be just perfect with mackerel, fennel and olive spaghetti. Also it wouldn’t be a bad match for those fabulous scallops they’ve had at the farmers market lately!

That’s it from us, have a great weekend and enjoy the sunshine!

Truth, Denials, Penalties & English Red

May 28th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Just to be clear, in case it was lost in any of the mudslinging, Dominic Cummings was appearing in front of the Health and Social Care Committee and Science and Technology Committee on Wednesday to ‘help’ with their joint inquiry into lessons to be learned from the response to the coronavirus pandemic so far.

I say just to be clear because, when you look at all the startling revelations, you could be forgiven for thinking he was having his Harry & Meghan meet Oprah moment as he unloads everything that he has already unloaded on Twitter in the days before.  But this wasn’t his opportunity to break into the American market; it was, in fact, the time for him to tell the truth….

And boy, what truths!  Here are some of the startling revelations, in short form:

  • Matt Hancock should have been sacked
  • Boris Johnson is not fit to be PM
  • Lockdown came too late
  • The lines between Boris’ work life and his private life are too blurred, as evidenced by Dilyn-gate
  • His trip to Barnard Castle was “definitely a major disaster for the Government and for the Covid policy”
  • More people died than should have
  • There was no shielding for care homes
  • “any system that leaves people with the choice between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn is obviously a system that’s gone extremely badly wrong”
  • The Pope is Catholic
  • A one legged duck swims in circles
  • Bears have a penchant for ‘alone time’ in the woods

Yep, thanks Dom, not nearly as revelatory as it could have been and in fact the only assessment we can make of all this is that you are a man trying to distance himself from horrific events when in fact, from day one, you were in the thick of it!

Of course, Matt H and Boris J have both denied everything.

On the world stage, Joe Biden has ordered a review of the origins of Covid-19 to include investigation into the possibility it escaped from a lab in Wuhan.  Now, when the Donald was trumpeting such theories we all smiled and said ‘yes, dear’ but now sleepy Joe has followed the same line of inquiry, does it have greater gravitas?  I’m not sure it does but either way, I don’t see an immediate improvement in US/China relations.

In football, Manchester United lost the Europa Cup final to Villarreal on penalties.  Now, we all know how penalties work, one player tries to get the ball past another player into a goal from a distance of 12 yards.  Simple enough, not quite 50/50 but still the goal keeper has a chance.  What is more, you would imagine these things get practised in training as part of the shot-stopper’s job, surely?  Now, step forward David de Gea, regarded as one of the best goalkeepers in the world and the current choice for the Spanish national team but with a serious Achilles heel – he hasn’t saved a penalty for Man Utd for over 5 years!  On Wednesday he extended this record by letting in 11 penalties in a row before having to take one himself, something he probably hasn’t practised so much and, to add to his woes, was saved… if ever a man needed a hug from his mum, this was he!

Locally, we’ve carried on buying and selling wine, as we do, and this week have listed our first English Red Wine:

New Hall Vineyard Limited Edition Pinot Noir 2018 – £22.99

Produced from vines planted in the early 1970’s, this wine showcases the very best that a cool-climate wine can bring.  Ruby in colour with cherry and blackberry fruit on the nose whilst the palate shows typical fruit-driven Pinot Noir characteristics, enhanced by subtle toasty and spicy notes leading to a gorgeous silky mouthfeel.  A year spent aging in the bottle and at a mere 11%, this is a real gem and is only the second English red we have considered worth a third glass!  Couple this with the fact that the mercury is due to hit 24 degrees on Monday; might we suggest it as a bit of a barbecue treat?

If however, you have decided to visit the lands at the end of the A303 this bank holiday weekend, it doesn’t look quite so sun baked – closer to 18 degrees, so perhaps a nice warming bottle of Parada de Atauta Ribera de l Duero 2017 (£23.49), might be more appropriate!

Either way, have a jolly weekend and steer clear of any variants!

Provence Rose In Store, Summer Surely Approaching!

May 21st, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Unfortunately, we need to start this week’s missive with some bag news….

The single-use carrier bag charge, which has seen a 95% cut in plastic bag sales in major supermarkets since 2015, will be increased from 5p to 10 and extended to all businesses in England from 21 May to help drive down sales further.

Thus read the DEFRA press release of 7th May, titled “10p plastic bag charge to come into force on 21 May” and it’s all pretty straight forward I think, which is great because, apart from this announcement we haven’t heard anything from Merton or anyone else who should be enforcing this.  The way we understand it is that, as of today, we need to charge 10p if you’d like a plastic bag to carry home your purchases.  We then keep a record of how many bags we sell and on these sales make an equivalent donation to charity – ideally an environmental one they suggest – we’ll let you know once we decide, although I imagine it might change on a monthly basis…. perhaps we should start with re-planting the trees at the Ford dealership on Plough Lane?

So that’s the bag news, now the bad news.

Summer is cancelled. 

We know this for two reasons.  Firstly, when we asked Anthony in Saucer & Cup when the sun was going to shine he told us ‘not until I tell it to’ and, given the dark scowl he gave, it didn’t feel like soon.  More significant is reason #2: we received our first pallet of the 2020 Chateau de L’Aumerade ‘Cuvée Marie-Christine’ Provence Rosé Cru Classé yesterday and since we put it in the window and on the floor we have had scattered showers and unseasonably high winds…

We can only apologise for our actions.

However, as you are all well experienced in the foibles of the great British summer no doubt, we reckon you’ll all stiffen your upper lips and drink rosé in spite of the weather, so here’s a bit of info about the winery:

The Château de l’Aumérade is a 400 year old estate located in in the heart of Provence. Originally belonging to the Aumerat family, the traditional Mas property dates back to the Renaissance period.  In 1594, the Duke of Sully, Henry VI’s finance minister, presented the Château with a Mulberry tree and some Plane trees for their luxurious gardens, as thanks for supplying the Royal Court.

In 1930, a young Henri Fabre senior and his wife Charlotte, fell in love with the Château de l’Aumérade, with its 300 hectares of estate vineyards and purchased it from the Aumerat family.  The Château was designated as a Cru Classé when the Provence appellation was created in 1955, a system classifying the wine estate rather than the vineyard area.  It is one of 18 that still remain in the designation.  The Château is currently run by Henri Fabre junior and his sister Marie-Christine.

A lovely pale salmon colour, it is indeed cracking stuff with delicate red berry fruits, slightly floral and an impressively long finish.  We think it is the perfect wine for summer, great with all manner of food, or just with the Sunday papers, a deck chair and either a parasol or an umbrella!

A single bottle is £15.99 but now we are allowed to have friends over and all that jazz, why not treat yourself to six bottles for £80?

Any good news Wayne, I hear you ask?

Well, kids, not really.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying there isn’t any good news, just that there isn’t really any news.  If we don’t talk about the headlines there isn’t so much around the edges to bring to the table, unless you want to talk about unscrupulous BBC behaviour 26 years ago or the veiled threat that we won’t be fully unlocking in June.  Either which way, it doesn’t make for pretty reading and often is just causes annoyance.

Leicester won the FA Cup – as a neutral it wasn’t the most exciting game but it was a cup winning goal, so praise where praise is due.  Tottenham are having a spectacular late season implosion the like of which all Arsenal fans have dreamt of – and Harry Kane wants to leave – who knew?!  In real sport, further watching of the Giro d’Italia has taught us that it rains as much in Tuscany and Umbria as it does here and, more importantly, that Grand Tour cyclists can lose their balance (and lose face) going round a greasy bend just as easily as someone cycling home from the pub after a couple of pints!

No huge news in the world of wine either – the Bordeaux en-primeur campaign continues with less fanfare than in previous years – is this still the best way to sell the vintage or should it be re-vamped?  Or, as the top wines become more exclusive and expensive is it perhaps time for us all to put our pounds in someone else’s pockets?  Not sure but I do know that Tim Atkin just gave his first 100 point score to a wine from Argentina this week…

I think that’s it really for this week now.  We are both praying for rain under the premise that never before have our prayers been answered, so just be prepared for a heatwave – you heard it here first!

Cheers!

Stay Sane and Wear a Mac

May 14th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

If we’re honest, Friday seems to have arrived rather quickly this week, so what has happened since we last spoke?

The Champions League final has finally moved to Porto, I suspect flights are selling fast if you’re in possession of a ticket, take a few days though, it’s a great city worth a visit!

Tesla have announced they are to stop taking Bitcoin as payment for your new motor, citing the high use of fossil fuels in the mining process. A more cynical commentator than I might point out that the energy use hasn’t changed since they announced they had bought a chunk of Bitcoin and would henceforth be accepting it as payment. That was way back in February 2021, I guess a lot has changed.

Israel and the Palestinians are back on the front pages for all the reasons they usually occupy news columns, oh for a return to those rosy days of vaccination success news instead.

In news that’ll surprise nobody, David Cameron, testifying in front of a Commons Select Committee, tells us that he was paid “a generous annual amount, far more than what I earned as prime minister”.  Impressively he managed to keep a straight face when his own speech about lobbying was read back to him.

In news that certainly surprised us, following the runaway success of the European Super League a few weeks ago golf has decided that is exactly what they need themselves. A Saudi backed Super Golf League seems to be in the offing. We’ll see how it pans out as players may well get banned from participating in the Ryder Cup for a start. We’re sure it’s not just  money or even as Amnesty International said “sportswashing” but for the good of the sport in general. Mr McIlroy is not a fan but Mr Rose may well be, so we’ll have to sit it out and see, a launch date is set for September 2022.

In real sports, the Giro d’Italia is enjoying its first week. The weather has been rather wet so we’re not so sure the riders are having as much fun. Poor old Mikel Landa crashed into a policeman marking a traffic island on Wednesday, whilst the BikeExchange  team car crashed into the back of Pieter Serry on the final climb yesterday. We’re not sure if that counts as outside assistance or interference if we’re honest. He was a little angry to say the least, hardly a surprise given that he was knocked off by a motorbike just two months ago! Anyway, if you’re not watching there is everything to play for and, so far, all of this year’s racing has been a bit edge of the seat!

In wine news, Darling Cellars has had an absolute tragedy in the winery with the stand supporting a stainless steel tank collapsing and creating a domino effect knocking other tanks over and damaging the building, causing a 50,000 litre river of red wine to run out of the building. Like the South African wine industry wasn’t facing enough challenges lately.

Whilst we’re on the subject of South African wine, we had a chat with our chum Tom Doran from Doran Vineyards yesterday. He was looking very fresh for a man who’d just spent two days sitting wine exams. Anyway, he brought us the new vintage of Doran Vineyards Arya 2019 (£11.99) which is sporting some very smart new packaging. We have some hanging about in the fridge if you’re in the market for a cracking unoaked blend of Chenin Blanc, Grenache Blanc and Roussanne. We think that its orchard fruit character and orange blossom note will be absolutely spit spot with that Red Prawn Curry on the Friday night takeaway!

Elsewhere, we have a couple of rather fabulous new Mercurey for all you Pinot Noir lovers. Gaëlle at Jérôme Meunier Mercurey Villages 2019 (£22.99) and Domaine Belleville Mercurey Les Perrières 2018 (£27.99) are both really rather splendid and quite possibly the last things we tasted outside of the shop!

I think that’s enough from us for this week.

Stay sane, wear a mac and on Monday you can go indoors or have a cuddle!

Is now the time for Count Binface?

May 7th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Voting, missing out on selection to the Lions squad for the South Africa series and godawful weather – I think that covers the week for all of us.

Having spent the week looking at various manifestos, particularly those regarding the role of London Mayor, I have to contend that by far the most enjoyable and, dare I say it, likely to be acted on was that of Count Binface.  I’m not sure how Richard Hewison from Rejoin EU could promise his voters that we would reverse Brexit bearing in mind his remit only covers London but I am sure that Count Binface would be more likely to succeed in point 19 of his manifesto: The hand dryer in the gents’ toilet at the Crown & Treaty, Uxbridge, to be moved to a more sensible position.  In fairness to Richard though, Binface also had at point 10: London to join the EU.  Perhaps there might have been sense in them working together to increase their voting share, under the lead promise of: Hammersmith Bridge to be repaired, and renamed Wayne – I know of one vote that was guaranteed and they could have doubled these numbers if they’d promised to rename all the parks: how does Hyde Park Vintners, NCP Vintners or Park Vintners & Ride sound?

But they didn’t, and hopefully lessons have been learned for next time because I’m sure the Count will be back even if Richard perhaps isn’t…

And now the weather – what goes on there?  It’s still pigging freezing unless you’re in the sun and as a consequence we have had an astonishing number of customers expressing nostalgia for this time last year – I repeat, what goes on there?  Anyway, we checked our archives and this is what we wrote on 8th May 2020:

I don’t know about you but I’ve found it a bit fresh at points this week yet have been enjoying the sunshine nonetheless. We were chatting about how different the mood might have been if it had been raining for these past six weeks, we won’t dwell on it though as we’ve a lovely long weekend ahead of us. Today is the May Day Bank Holiday Monday, despite my calendar saying it’s Friday.

So, put those rose tinted spectacles away all of you, life wasn’t any better this time last year!

It was also this weekend last year that we all sat down and watched Boris’ now famous address to the nation, telling us that lockdown wouldn’t be ending, pubs would not be opening and what, as Matt Lucas brilliantly parodied, we should do:

“So we are saying don’t go to work, go to work, don’t take public transport go to work, don’t go to work.  If you can work from home, go to work.  Don’t go to work.  Go outside.  Don’t go outside.  And then we will or won’t, something or other.”

In the world of Gin, finally there is some sense being talked in relation to what does and doesn’t qualify as ‘craft’. 

Harpers magazine recently held a panel discussion, entitled: ‘Think Gin: Modishness versus Marketing’.

A small batch gin producer expressed their frustration saying:

“The term ‘craft’ has been hijacked by several of the larger distilleries; unfortunately there is no legal definition of a craft brand… To cite an example, we were contacted several weeks ago by an individual looking for a supplier reference, who was starting a new gin brand. We welcome new faces in the market, but the individual stated that they had simply hired a company to make the gin for them – about 1,000 bottles per day.  I tried to explain that this does not qualify as craft gin.  Their response was: ‘Yes, but it sells well, doesn’t it’.”

(James Lawrence, harpers.co.uk, 05 May, 2021)

Anyway, we applaud these sentiments, which is why we looked Walter at Hepple and Braden at Doghouse squarely in the eye and demanded to look under the bonnet before we listed them!

As a post-script to this, the small batch gin producer’s website banner page states that they are ‘THE WORLD’S BEST CONTEMPORARY LONDON DRY GIN’.  It’s funny but there seems to be no legal definition of best….

Anyway, that’s enough from us this week – it might be rose weather but then it might not.  So buy rosé and sit in the garden.  Or don’t buy rosé and sit inside.  Sit inside whilst getting rosy on the outside.  Or buy white and red and rosé but drink beer.  Take an umbrella, take a parasol but Ladies and gentlemen of the class of ’99 – wear sunscreen!

Out.

Wine and Wallpaper for the Bank Holiday?

April 30th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It’s a Bank Holiday this weekend. We’ve lined up rain, rosé and some fresh fish at the farmers market to cover all basses. Wayne won’t be cycling in Mallorca, Alex won’t be swearing at the WhatsApp he’s just received showing a beachside cold beer with a parked bicycle in the background, and none of us are going to the cinema yet.

A man in Bromley has highlighted just how exciting life in the ‘burbs is by taking six years to park in each and every one of the 211 parking spaces at his local supermarket. We absolutely loved the eccentricity of his project, describing it as like a boring version of Panini sticker books and he even used a spreadsheet to log his spaces, allotting a different colour as each row got filled. The crowning glory for us though, was that his name was Gareth WILD!

In other news, we are beginning to wonder if it’ll be curtains for some of the cabinet and their project to turn Westminster into an enchanted forest full of magic money trees for their chums. It seems the Prime Minister, who once called Nigeria “fantastically corrupt”, has studied rather closely a particular way of governing and its proceeds. But we’re beginning to wonder if that brash foolishness really is just stupidity.

So, imagine for a moment you’re in the PM’s shoes, your hair was cut in a dark room by a barber in a blindfold and you’re wearing Wurzel Gummidge’s emergency suit.

Firstly, why would you try and pin your own leaks on the sleeping ogre who fled Barnard Castle last year? It should come as no surprise that he is rather unhappy with his treatment, might have a paper trail of nefarious goings on and coincidentally is due to testify in front a number of select committees in the near future.  Last year he was telling the truth in the rose garden and we were all terribly nasty to think otherwise. This year, he was lying last year in the rose garden. Which is it?

Next, we’d wonder why would you spend £840 a roll on wallpaper when you have a toddler with crayons?

Then we’d wonder why you’d never watched Judge Judy, Suits or even Judge John Deed, because surely, if you had, you would never have walked straight into that barrister’s trap at Prime Ministers Questions this week.

Most importantly we’d wonder why, as an innocent man, you’re so keen to not answer any questions whatsoever but super enthusiastic to invoke enquiries over which you’ll have the final say on their publication. 

It could be us, of course. Perhaps we’re just difficult curmudgeons who think people should act with a certain amount of probity and maybe you’re right with your assertion that this is all a farrago of nonsense.  But we think we’ll be laughing again when we see #carrieantoinette trending – thanks to whoever came up with that one.

As we mentioned, we’re back up to speed with the rosé but, having looked at the forecast for the weekend, we thought it might be prudent to mention a red wine that might fit the bill too. Alex has been particularly enjoying Domaine Lafond Roc Epine Lirac (£18.99) lately, one of the great undervalued appellations of the Rhône, just across the river to Chateauneuf du Pape. A blend of Grenache (60%) Syrah (30%) & Mourvèdre (10%) with just under a third of the cuvée aged in small french oak barrels it has a lovely dark fruit character, a touch of spice and a great finish.

Wayne has been on a different tack supping from the joys of Spain. Mas Blanche I Jove Sao Abrivat (£17.99) from a fantastic estate in Costers del Segre, inland from Barcelona. The wine is a blend of Tempranillo (40%) , Grenache (35%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (25%) matured in a mixture of French and American oak barrels for around 12 months. The wine is soft with a lovely dark red fruit character and a melange of vanilla, cinnamon and black pepper spice notes before the long balanced finish.

We think both will be handy to have on hand should you be barbecuing or having a roast. The Spaniard particularly, should you be roasting some pork.

If anyone was planning to fund a trip to Mustique we’d happily volunteer as fact finders ahead of any “official” travel.

As usual we shall be CLOSED on BANK HOLIDAY MONDAY.

Chintz!

Wayne & Alex

Wine Leads, Football Follows

April 23rd, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So, here’s a thing…

In 1955, 23 Provençal wine estates proclaimed themselves Crus Classés based on an evaluation of their history, winemaking/cellar reputation and overall vineyard quality.  This classification has never been revisited or modified, except for the fact that 5 of the original estates no longer make wine.  Then in the early noughties, to further elevate their status, 14 of the remaining estates created the Club des Crus Classés de Cotes de Provence with a view to promotion and protection.  Membership of this club is fixed ad vitam aeternam, no new estates can be added and they cannot lose the Cru Classé status. This means the owners of these estates will always benefit from their classification, no matter how good or bad their wines are!

Now, let’s go back to 100 years before this Provençal model. 

In order for visitors at the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris to better understand the Bordeaux wines on display, Napoleon demanded a classification system from the wine brokers.  The brokers ranked the wines according to an estate’s reputation and trading price, which was how they gauged quality back then.  Interestingly, in their assessment, the top 4 wines were: Château Lafite, Château Latour, Château Margaux and Haut-Brion…. I wonder whatever happened to any of them?

And now we leap to the present day, where 12 football clubs, following the Provençal model, attempted to create a breakaway Super League this week, membership of which was to be fixed ad vitam aeternam, no new clubs would be added and they couldn’t lose their membership. This would have meant that the owners of these clubs would always benefit from their classification, no matter how good or bad their teams are!

If you want to know what’s going to happen in football next, best look at what was going on in wine 100 years ago! (Ok, this statement possibly doesn’t deserve too much scrutiny but it was fun to write…)

As an aside, highly regarded fine wine database Liv-ex has, since 2009, produced a biennial re-evaluation of the global fine wine market, ‘based on the transactional activity of the world’s largest pool of fine wine merchants, it reflects the changing buying patterns of the trade’.  Their most recent edition (2019) has the following rankings for left bank Bordeaux, in value order: Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Haut Brion, Mouton Rothschild – recognise anyone!

Elsewhere, outside the high-stakes worlds of wine and football, a real world is carrying about its daily business.

Another week, another MP, another text message.  It would seem that whilst Dyson-gate isn’t going to run far, there is still the question of access… should a billionaire re-pat ex-pat have our Prime Minister’s mobile phone number?  Not sure.

Everyone’s favourite app, TikTok is in trouble again for how it uses the data it collects from all the children that are addicted to it.  In a moment of no sh*#, Sherlock, sorry, profound clarity, the lady leading the legal challenge said that TikTok is ‘a data collection service that is thinly veiled as a social network’.  Whatever next, targeted ads on Facebook?  Doorbells that film you, owned by Amazon?    Sometimes the mind boggles.

Today is the feast day of St George, cheers all round for England’s Patron Saint.  In our quest to unearth interesting facts about him, we seem to have opened a bit of a can of worms.  According to English Heritage not only was George not English, he didn’t even visit England.  He wasn’t a knight either and he never fought a dragon.  He was, however, a Roman soldier who died as a martyr for his Christian faith and as a consequence, he is a Saint.  Phew.  Also in the middle ages, many believed that he was one of the ‘Fourteen Holy Helpers’ – a group of saints who could help during epidemic diseases.  Now, we’re not sure if membership of this group of helpers was fixed ad vitam aeternam, or whether new helpers could be added to this select group but we imagine it was probably run a little more inclusively than the world of Provencal wine…. anyway, St George’s protection was invoked against several nasty diseases, including the Plague and leprosy so his role today is as important as ever!

We also know, not through the English Heritage website but from the research undertaken by Theodore Logan & Bill S. Preston, that his favourite tipple was Piquepoul Rosé 2020, Coteaux D’Ensérune, France – £13.99 – which is the palest of pinks with a delicate nose of cherry blossom, strawberries and peaches and a palate that is bone dry and fresh, with summer berry flavours and notes of crushed rose petals. 

So, if you want to celebrate George properly today and this weekend then grab yourself a bottle or perhaps treat yourself to 6 bottles for £72 whilst the sun is still shining!

Finally, an acknowledgement of The Special One, Jose Mourinho, as he exits English football.  Forget the Premier League wins, the Europa League, the Champions League et al, what he will be most remembered for is being the first and only manager to be sacked in the ESL – a unique and historical achievement, chapeau – now go!

Pie and a Pint of Kingston Gate Lager!

April 16th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well, what did you do first? 

Me, I had a haircut.  Wayne then did the double header of a haircut followed by a pie and a pint in the pub with Matt Hancock and David Cameron.  As a result, we now have a £1.7 billion contract to supply Red Wayne 20/20 (Wayne’s side hustle mentioned a few weeks back), to the 8 booze bars in the Houses of Parliament, despite the fact that, like Seaborne in 2019, we have no experience whatsoever in high volume distribution and don’t even have enough wine.  Not to worry, we’ll be alright Jack; Boris has insisted that there will be no cross party inquiry into cronyism – I wonder why he’s not so keen?

Aside from drinking outside in nigh-on artic temperatures, what else has been going on this week?  This time last year it was 21 Celsius in our sunny back gardens and we were all labouring under the misguided illusion that restrictions would only last a couple of weeks and that by late May life would be back to normal.  Today it’s about half that temperature but I still would rather be here than there!  In sporting circles one of us got the winner in the Grand National, none of us got the winner of the US Masters and the re-energised Mark Cavendish has won 3 stages of the Tour of Turkey.  Liverpool klopped out of the Champions League and with it now being a mathematical certainty that they cannot win the Premiership, questions must be asked as to how quickly the mighty can fall.

And now more of us can get vaccinated here, which is very exciting, whilst Israel has been hinting that they might be getting close to herd immunity and Malta is offering to pay us to go on holiday there.  We can now go and stay in another bed in another part of the country in self-catered accommodation and not just because we need to test our eyesight. 

In a week of tidying up and catching up we were caught thumbing through and older copy of The Morning Advertiser which carries the strapline Inspiration for Pub Success since 1794 – not much modesty there.  Anyway, this edition was from early December last year and the article that caught our eye was The Drinks List – Top Brands to Stock in 2021 which is actually really just a list of the best-selling drinks in the pub sector over the last year.

And it’s quite astonishing what you learn or rediscover perhaps.  Lager still outstrips all comers on a monumental scale but interestingly enough cider comes in a distant second, cask beer third and fourth is craft beer.  Sadly, 5 of the top ten selling ciders were filled with berries, dark fruits, strawberries and the like, which to my mind isn’t really cider… Anyway, as ever the best-selling lagers were Carling, Fosters, Carlsberg, Coors Light and Stella Artois – all crimes against taste but lessons in great marketing.  What really intrigued us though was the list of top 10 best-selling wines.   Now, bearing in mind we’ve been around since they started making wine in Georgia circa 6,000BC we thought we’d probably come across most brands on show in the British marketplace.  We were wrong. 

Jack Rabbit Pinot Grigio anyone?  Fetzer Coldwater Creek Pinot Grigio?  No clue but apparently they were the two best sellers last year, swiftly followed by Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial – who knew this much Champagne got drunk in the pub, particularly when we’re all being told that Prosecco is the people’s choice – Vinuva only comes 8th in the list.  Significantly, the biggest takeaway  for us from all this is that often pubs sell really, really mediocre wines and as consequence we shouldn’t be too concerned about their re-opening taking away too much of our business!

Following on from last week’s round-up, this week we are pleased to welcome seven new products to our shelves and one returner.

In the white house we have two wines from Spain.  Menade Verdejo Ecologico 2019 – £15.29 which has a definite lemon lime citrus character, with tangy minerality, oozes dryness but is weightier on the palate than the nose might suggest.  Crisp and fresh and deliciously dry, one can definitely have this as an interesting step away from Sauvignon Blanc.  Wayne likes it a lot, as do I!  Second up is Noelia Bebelia Albariño 2019 – £21.49 which has quickly been renamed ‘posh’ Albariño!  Rich and expressive on the nose, sweet ripe fruit on the palate, good concentration and intensity.  A fabulous length finish with hints of the sea and a zingy acidity – a truly hand crafted wine, following minimal intervention principles both in the vineyard and the winery.

For the red zone, we’ve gone global. 

From Australia, we have Geoff Merrill Bush Vine GSM 2013 – £19.49.  Geoff always likes to release his wines with a bit of age on them and this 8 year old is a joy.  It has out grown the boisterously youthful fruit you would get in a younger wine and is filled with rounded blackberry fruits encasing notes of vanilla and mocha.  Lovely long finish, properly mature barbecue wine.

From Chile, Tabali Talud Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 – £18.99.  This is from one of the very best Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in the whole of Chile (top 5) and of course has a classic South American Cabernet nose with notes of blackcurrant or perhaps fruits of the forest yoghurt, cassis and cherry, touches of herbaceous character and integrated oak that finishes with coconut tobacco character – clean, dry, medium plus length – not flabby, not shabby with a very tidy finish!

Italy then joins the fray, with Cantine Paolini Nerello Mascalese 2019 – £11.49 representing Sicily.  Oodles of maraschino cherries and hints of beeswax, lovely soft tannins and a cleansing fresh acidity – almost too drinkable.

And now we have Lebanon, of course.  Massaya Terrasses de Baalbeck 2015 – £28.99 is a wine I first tasted in 2008, so not the swiftest turn around I accept.  The famous Rhône producer, Vieux Télégraphe, has a big interest in this winery and the 40% Grenache Noir, 30% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre blend is a bit of a giveaway.  Rhôney but not Rhôney is not the most helpful tasting note but I think you’ll understand once you try it.  It smells of wines of the south of France but then on the palate has a plush fruit character and some herby character that you just wouldn’t find in Europe.  Nice long finish, would age for a couple of years too, should you lose it at the bottom of the wine-fridge!

Finally, a couple of beers.  As discussed earlier, in spite of protestations to the contrary, lager is still in great demand.  With this in mind we have just taken Kingston Gate Lager 4.1% – £2.80 from the lovely Park Brewery, a crisp and refreshingly light lager made for drinking in the park of course!  Returning to the fold for its annual seasonal short residency we have the delicious Spring Break Sour 4.3% – £3.00 from the Belleville Brewery, a zingy fresh Gose style beer, with loads of grapefruit freshness and tang.  If there’s one problem we have with this beer it’s that it is for too easy to drink!

I feel I’ve rattled on enough now, you all have lives to lead and we’ve got £1.7 billion to spend, so back to your desks everyone it’s not home time yet!