Unskilled, Wooden Spoons & Bono

February 21st, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We really didn’t know where to start this week. Should we start with the new immigration rules that literally rule out (sorry) enough people to pick our home-grown vegetables? Given that imported from Spain veg will take that much longer to get in, what will we all eat?  Then we have leaving the entire hospitality industry with the impression that the government neither finds them skilled or of much consequence. Would you call a Master Sommelier, who gets about 10 years of training, takes 4 sets of exams (with only 269 people qualifying worldwide in the last 50 years) an unskilled job?

We found ourselves wishing for a government that actually had an idea of how the economy worked before we realised those new specs were a bite rose-tinted! Suffice to say, we’re expecting some slippage on this in the near future.

In other news, we see that some parts of the country are receiving a month of rain in a day, for the second time in a week. Anecdotally, Alex reports that Sports Direct were getting low on wellies but had plenty of swimming trunks left should your garden be getting a bit on the dampside!

We also saw reports that Japan is sprucing up hundreds of public toilets ahead of the Olympics arriving in Tokyo. Wayne reckons if there is any country in the world that knows about a clean public toilet it is Japan, so it seems a bit like gilding the lily!

Rugby is back this weekend with the Six Nations finding its way back onto our screens. Saturday’s early game finds the Scots travelling to Italy to collect a wooden spoon, whilst France will be bringing their canoes to Wales for an adventure.

Sunday will see England hosting the Irish at Twickenham. It seems Bono has been in to give the Irish a pep talk, explaining, no doubt that ‘The Fly’ is to score ‘40’ if they are to be ‘Magnificent’ in the ‘City of Blinding Lights’. Personally, I’m hoping they’ll be ‘Running to Stand Still’.

In wine news, I have much less esoterica to tantalise you with this week. The Swedish alcohol monopoly Systembolaget are suing Vivino for breaking strict booze laws in Sweden by offering reviewed wines for sale through the app. Like all the modern upstarts, Vivino insists it’s done nothing wrong.  My money is on Systembolaget, clue is in the word monopoly!

The new system of classification for Cru Bourgeois came into effect in Bordeaux yesterday. It has taken the best part of ten years to get here, and from 2018 vintage there are now three classifications that will be reviewed every five years. The 2020 classification contains 249 Bordeaux Chateaux, 179  Cru Bourgeois, 56 Cru Bourgeois Supérieur and 14 Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel. We have a list, if you’d like one, let us know.

Tasting This Weekend

We shall open the account with a touch of white represented by the Doran Family Chenin Blanc 2015 (£13.99) it’s a lovely barrel fermented Chenin with a good deal of elegance to its creamy poached pear fruit.

Pulling up its red socks you’ll find Le Seigneur du Raveil Vacqueyras 2016 (£18.49) from a Rhône village producing some lovely richly textured reds. This has really lovely brambled fruit, a touch of spice, some tannin to keep it honest and is just the tick for the weekend we feel.

That’ll do from us this week.

Cheers!

esoterica and Valentine

February 14th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

First things first, no beating about the bush.  Today is Valentine’s Day.  You do all probably know that by now, even if perhaps you were unaware of it last night when you went to bed.  That sickening feeling you felt this morning at 6.45 when you shambled blearily downstairs and were confronted by a whacking great bright pink card, a box of chocolates, 2 dozen red roses and a beaming, expectant partner will never, ever really go away.

‘Sorry, darling, I thought we’d celebrate this evening?   You know, bit rushed in the morning and all that, I’ve got a nice bottle of champagne all ready to go but it just seems a bit early right now….’

And, whilst your thinking that you’re doing an amazing job dodging a relationship bullet, your eyes are giving you away, filled with blind panic and shame at the codswallop you are spouting, safe in the knowledge that you are busted big time, once again.  Time to up your game, you say to yourself, as you surreptitiously google what time the card shop opens…

Forget the card shop though, that moment has gone.  There is still Champagne though because yes, you were right, 6.45 is too early to enjoy the bubblier side of life unless you’re in the Lounge at Gatwick.  And we have them chilled, sparkling wines and champagnes, ready to go, to save your bacon.  Here are some pink options:

Domaine Landreau Cremant De Loire Morin Rose NV – £15.99 – for Champagne fans on a sparkling wine budget

Hawkins Bros Rose Reserve NV – £29.00 – the best thing to come out of Guildford since the A3, a traditional blend but with a little extra fruit than some of the more austere English examples          

Champagne Lallier Grand Cru Rose Brut NV – £37.99 – delicious, Grand Cru grapes, comes in a gift box….                                                 

Delavenne Pere et Fils Grand Cru Brut Rose NV – £45.00 – from Bouzy, which is officially the best name for a wine town, ever

Of course, we have plenty of other fizz available to tantalise your taste buds, all you need to do is remember to come straight home rather than go for a few drinks after work with your colleagues!

NEWS

Not a whole bucket-load this week – no trips to exotic Northern locations, no loyalty based call ups to the reshuffled Cabinet, no cases of Coronavirus to report.  Sport and weather dominated last weekend, Alex actually won a rugby bet for the first time in a long time whilst this weekend looks a bit bereft of sport and potentially customers too, as half term is upon us.

Nope, just checked, not much else in the news that warrants further discussion, sadly.

NEW WINES

Whilst we did stray up North to drink gin last week, this week we stayed closer to home thank god – Oxo Tower and Great Portland Street to be precise – and particularly tested ourselves against wines from North Macedonia, Armenia, Georgia, Lebanon and Greece, these last two feeling quite mainstream in this company.

Anyway, bottom line is, we’ve bought some esoterica.  I think it’s been mentioned before but whilst we like a glass of Kiwi Savvy B or a splash of Prosecco on a sunny day these wines are not necessarily what make us leap out of bed and run to work each day.  No, it’s the stuff around the edges, the wines that actually don’t perhaps have a historic reputation, a listing in a Michelin starred restaurant or a fancy-pants globetrotting winemaker – these are the wines that get us out of our pyjamas.

And we’ve listed some but sadly not all.  In our excitement we ordered a couple of wines from Armenia and one from Georgia to discover that their not in the UK until May – boo.

However we have got, arriving today, the following:

Lebanon

Oumsiyat Merlot 2018 – £15.99 – a supercharged damson/plum fruit nose that follow onto the palate – classic with a bit of oomph!

Republic of North Macedonia

Tikveš Kratoshija 2018 – £9.99 – strawberries and cream and a hint of bacon on the finish trust us, it works!

Tikveš Smederevka 2018 – £9.99 – crisp fruit here which is softened by 15% Riesling in the blend, a rival to Sauvignon Blanc?

Georgia

Vachnadziani Winery Krakhuna 2018 – £13.49 – really nicely balanced white, somewhere between a Furmint and a north eastern Spanish white – very versatile

Vachnadziani Winery Saperavi NV – £11.49 – easy drinking red, with lots of light, bright fruit and a decent length finish – definitely might find yourself onto the second glass quite quickly!

We also found some less esoteric stuff.

From Italy the San Costantino Cannonau di Sardegna DOC 2018 – £17.49 – a style we have been trying to find for ages – Grenache done the Italian way.

From Spain, a replacement for the now lost Vivir Sin Dormir – Finca Bacara ‘Time Waits For No One’ White Skulls 2018 – £13.49 – a delicious Monastrell from Jumilla – delicious.

From Portugal, another corker for silly money.  Wayne thought it was going to be about £20 when he tasted it – when I told him how much it actually is he almost chocked on his scotch egg!  Quinta da Garrida Reserva 2015 – £11.99 – Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz doing what they do best in the Dão sunshine…

Weekend Wines

I think we’ll open the Quinta da Garrida as we are so excited about it and then it might as well be joined by a fellow countryman in the white corner – Ai Galera Mistico 2018 – £8.99 – a delicious and fresh blend of Fernão Pires and Verdelho that has aperitif written all over it!

So, don’t stay late at work, get yourself home and don’t forget the Friday fizz en route!

Cheers!

We slowly sliced a lemon and polished some glasses….

February 7th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Thank God it’s Friday, we’ve worked really hard this week!  Ok, it may not actually look like that to you, having been closed Monday and Tuesday but trust me; we were putting our livers on the line for the greater good!

So, as mentioned, we were closed Monday and Tuesday to travel to the very north of the country to visit the fine folk on the moors at Hepple.  We have sold the high fidelity gin from Hepple pretty much since they started to share it with the world, I think Fortnum’s were the only people to pip us to the post and frankly we don’t mind coming second to Piccadilly’s finest…

Anyway, having sold their Gin for such a long time (October 2015 to be precise) we finally managed to save up enough groats for the return trip to Alnmouth in order to go visit these distilling deities and Monday was the day.  Emerging into the blistering sunshine we were met at the station by Walter, the major-domo of the Moorland Spirit company, who whisked us the 45 minutes inland to the Northumberland National Park and the home of Hepple, assuring us on the way that we should not get used to having to wear sunglasses and in fact Wayne was sensible to have bought waterproof trousers.

This was sound advice from a local we soon discovered.

Walking on the moors having had a restorative martini, we saw sunshine, we saw horizontal rain, we saw heather, then some more heather and just round the corner from that, some heather.  We also saw, more importantly some of the Hepple botanicals in their element. 

Douglas Fir, Bog Myrtle and Juniper all grow on the moor here and as a result are at the front of the Hepple story, as is blackcurrant but these bushes were having a sleep.  To be honest, raw Bog Myrtle of the branch is an acquired taste, Douglas Fir has a strong citrus element that surprises us still and the Juniper cones are just delicious and spicy.  The fact that Hepple has its own Juniper makes it unique amongst British Gin producers and allows them to add a different nuance to the blend.  The bushes are old, old, old and are referred to as ‘the ladies’ since they are all named after Aunts in Walter’s family tree – names like Phyllida, Miriam and Tamsin are less often heard nowadays but are alive and kicking in the hills of the Coquet Valley!

The darkness was falling, as was the rain so we repaired inside for some refreshment and sleep – Gin was perhaps sampled but purely in a professional manner – what goes on tour etc etc…

Tuesday morning brought a tour of the distillery and a chance to meet Chris Garden, who has quickly become a big name in the world of craft Gin.  He was the distiller at Sipsmith’s until 2014 when he elected to move up to Newcastle where his wife’s family live.  As a result of his career in Hammersmith, and now the 5 years at Hepple, it is likely that nobody has greater experience in small-batch distilling than Chris in the UK and as a consequence his role is vital to the operation.

And boy does he know what he’s talking about.  His enthusiasm is infectious, his chemistry lesson was the clearest I’ve ever experienced and might have helped my GCSE’s and his clear joy in the juniper just makes you want to give up drinking anything else – so we slowly sliced a lemon and polished some glasses….

I won’t bore you much longer apart from to say the Hepple story is not just one story but a whole panoply of riches that many other Gin’s would give their right tentacle for, too many stories almost but I’ll list them here in no particular order:

  • They have their own juniper
  • They have Chris Garden
  • They have Walter and his lovely wife, Lucy, to tend the Juniper and in fact to plant out more as part of their Juniper Project to try to regenerate growth on the moor
  • Wayne and Alex have also planted juniper now but as neither of us are Walter’s Aunt we fear for our long term future
  • The other partners in this venture are famous foraging chef Valentine Warner and legendary barkeep Nick Strangeway who both bring decades of flavour experience to the table for the renowned distilling and flavour developer Cairbry Hill to turn into liquid magic – some sort of dream team!
  • They don’t just make a London Dry, London Dry is their base and they then go beyond that
  • ‘Beyond that’ involves using vacuum distillation for freshness and then a supercritical extraction that draws out flavours from the juniper that cannot be found using other means.

There are, I’m sure, things I’ve missed out but suffice to say a Gin that we already knew we loved has just reminded us why we love it so much!

Hepple Gin £38

‘it might just be the best Martini Gin I’ve ever tasted’ – Victoria Moore, Daily Telegraph;

‘by revealing the hidden complexities of the ancient, overlooked and natural, it encapsulates the pulse of the place’  – Dave Broom

Back at the ranch

Our sojourn in the North had to come to an end, not because Wayne had finished all the Gin as reported elsewhere, that’s an unfair rumour and Alex feels that all his efforts have gone unnoticed but because we had a shop to run.  So, back at the ranch we now are and after a few days of glorious escapism in England’s least populous county, London feels a bit busy and bright but it’s nice to be back and see what has been going on.

Trump got off, as expected, and is taking it all in his stride like the grown-up that he is.  Whilst on the subject of Darwinism, a bodybuilder claiming a fear of heights and an inability to lift weights due to an accident, was caught out when he posted multiple photos of him weightlifting and riding a 33 metre waterslide that amazingly the insurance company saw on his social media accounts – numpty!  Speaking of numptiness, Alex has decided that England will win on Saturday and has even bet one customer a fiver to this effect – did he not watch the game last week?  Still, at least all his predictions can still pan out, especially when Italy whip France on Sunday – although I’m not sure if he’s taking bets on this!

Got your backs

If it’s Friday 7th February today that means that next week is the 14th – just saying…

So, you might be needing some pink fizz to celebrate and with this in mind can we recommend one of the following:

Domaine du Landreau Cremant de Loire Rosé – £15.99

Hailing from Anjou, Domaine du Landreau has passed through four generations of vine growers.  This is made from Cabernet Franc and Grolleau, hand harvested fermented in the traditional method and then aged for 3 years on the lees.  A cracking sparkler with raspberry fruit character that is an absolute joy.

Hawkins Bros. Rosé Reserve – £29.00

These English wine producers are based just south of Guildford, growing and making wine on the south-facing chalk of the Hogs Back.  Made in the Traditional Method from 95% Pinot Noir, 5% Pinot Meunier, this is a supremely elegant rosé with a subtle flavour of summer berries, a delicate pink hue, notes of strawberry, and fresh brioche from 30 months pre-release ageing.

Champagne Delavenne Père et Fils Grand Cru Brut Rosé – £45.00

Based in the aptly named village of Bouzy where the Pinot Noir grape is the King.  Made entirely from Grand Cru grapes, this is a lovely elegant style with strawberries and red berries on the nose and perhaps a hint of rose petal.  The palate is juicy and creamy with a persistent mousse from start to finish.  This oozes class, much like that special one in your life!

Knocking it back and kicking back

As suggested above, it’s Friday and thus the end of the week – time for some much needed r’n’r.  To aid this we’ll have some wine open this evening and tomorrow to lubricate your journey home which will be a pair of Kiwi’s I believe:

Southern Dawn Sauvignon Blanc 2019 – £11.99 – an excellent Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc with all the trademark passionfruit, citrus, nettles, cut grass and hints of capsicum that you would hope for.  These aromas light the path to a soft, well rounded palate with a luscious mouth feel and pronounced fruit characters.

Southern Dawn Pinot Noir 2013 – £14.49 – this is a wine we have had on the shelf pretty much since we opened.   I could give you all the guff about the soil in the vineyards, the angle of the slope the vines are planted on and the winemaker’s collection of 19th century corkscrews, but none of that is really relevant.  We sell this wine because we think it tastes brilliant: light with red cherry fruit character, a nice bit of age and a lovely fresh finish.

Of course we will also have the Hepple open, if there’s any left after our midday martinis, so do swing by and say hello!

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

January 31st, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

31st January – Guy Fawkes executed in 1606; Terry Wogan died in 2016; John Lydon was born in 1956 and Justin Timberlake in 1981. 

Perhaps most significantly though, in 2020, today marks the end of an era.  A unique period in history, where there were occasional disappointments but, generally speaking, plenty of successes not to mention a greater understanding of how we can help each other out in a mutually beneficial way… Yes, sadly, today is the very last day of the Park Vintners January 6 for 5 sale – I know, it felt like I was going to mention something else didn’t it?  However, I believe that this is the single most significant event happening today, not least because it is properly the very last day, there is no transitioning until December for this one I’m afraid.

But yes, you’re right, we do need to acknowledge that elephant in the room 

Having missed previous deadlines I’m not sure if it’s really the 337th March, the 306th April or the 123rd October 2019!  Will there be a sense of ‘And with that, we’re gone’ come 11pm this evening.  Well, actually, no.  Because we’re not gone of course, that would be too easy. 

Having watched Nigel Farage and Anne Widdecombe singing Auld Lang Syne whilst rather wishing they’d taken the opportunity to channel their inner-Almond by warbling ‘It was a kind of so-so love and I’m gonna make sure it doesn’t happen again, you and I had to be the standing joke of the year… Say hello goodbye, say hello and wave goodbye ’ and waving the Union Flag as they were ejected from European Parliament on Wednesday, it reminded us of how very, very grown up this whole farago has been from start to not-quite finish.  And this is before we mention Heather Anderson’s 4 day cameo for probably more money than you and I earnt his week!

Bonkers.

Life begins at February

But tomorrow is Saturday, it’s February, good sense and decorum will return, dry January will be over, veganuarists will hit the steaks and put their leather shoes back on, the transfer window will be shut and the Rugby Six Nations is on the telly. 

Now, as ever, there’s been plenty of banter between rugby fans over the last week or so, I never can quite understand why much of it isn’t considered to be racist but then I’m the wrong sort of woke, I think.  Anyway, Wayne tells me that England should win the lot, which means they’ll come fifth.  He also tells me that France have a great young team so should win the lot.  Ireland are looking dangerous and, as such, should win the lot.  Wales have a point to prove, aptly demonstrated by not picking Rees-Zammit and sticking North in the centres, so are obviously very confident and should win the lot.  Scotland, well Scotland can beat anyone on their day, so should win the lot.  Italy, like Scotland, have never won the Six Nations so it must be their turn and as a consequence should win the lot.  Place your bets, you heard it here first.

I’d rather have a cup of tea

Not suggesting that there is any science to this at all, just whimsy.  Apparently PG Tips and pals are no longer as popular as they used to be.  Sales are down as these sorts of tea are apparently falling out of favour with the public – so if people aren’t drinking tea, what are they doing?  Anyone familiar with the rest of the Boy George quote from above will perhaps come to the same conclusion as us – expect a baby boom!

I’d rather have a glass of wine and a hunk of cheese…

…. if this sounds like you then you’re in luck.

Thursday 13th February – Cheese & Wine Tasting here at the shop at 8pm.

Cost is still £20 per person – currently we have plenty of space, in fact all the spaces, so if you fancy a night out that’s cheaper then Valentines but could still vaguely count, sign up now!!

I’d rather have a glass of wine

Sensible – how about one of the wines we’ve got on tasting this weekend? You may remember we mentioned a link-up between Argentine producers, Pulenta Estate and Wimbledon Hockey club last year, so we thought we would open a couple of their wines this weekend.

In white we have Pulenta Estate Chardonnay 2016 (£14.99) a perfect partner to some fish pie with its tropical fruit core, peach and hazelnut notes and crisp citrus finish.

In the red we have the Pulenta La Flor Malbec 2018 (£15.69), up here at 980m the grapes develop great colour and give us full flavoured wine with soft tannins and a certain elegance. The wine shows dark cherry fruits, a hint of vanillin from 3 months in oak and a juicy finish. Rib-eye anyone?

Dry February

Not a thing, I know, however early next week could be a little dry since we are shut Monday 3rd and Tuesday 4th whilst we go and examine the Hepple Gin underbelly – photos and news to follow I’m sure and normal service will resume on Wednesday!

‘Take your hands off me, I don’t belong to you, you see, Take a look at my face for the last time, I never knew you, you never knew me

Say hello, goodbye – Say hello, wave goodbye!’

International Feasting

January 24th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

In the news this week, the Withdrawal Agreement has passed into law, China has five cities with travel restrictions to contain a new virus, Trump is still being impeached, there’s been an earthquake on Teeside and Bercow has been accused of bullying again.

It would appear that once again our invite to Davos got lost in the post, we’ve both been chomping at the bit to go to there and listen to billionaires telling millionaires what sacrifices the world’s poor need to make to halt global warming. Realistically, Alex was more interested in the skiing and Wayne had heard the wine at the dinners was rather good. As you can imagine, we’ve looked elsewhere for inspiration this week and can only hope they don’t forget us next year!

It looks to me like a weekend of feasting lies ahead of us for those who’d like to join in.

In 1801 a group of merchants in Greenock formed the first Burns Club (still going to this day!). Despite what you might think, it had nothing to do with fire insurance rather than some of them knew the Scottish poet Robbie Burns. Thinking it was his birthday, they held their first Burn’s Supper on January 29th 1802. The following year, somebody had the wherewithal to check the parish records and discover he was born on January 25th and the rest, as they say, is history.

We both tend to get a bit involved in this each year, not for the reciting of the poetry, rather a fondness of haggis, and it’s the one time of year you can easily find it in these parts. Alex takes his in the traditional manner, with a dram or two of whisky alongside the ‘Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race’ whilst Wayne tends to go with a glass of red wine.

We’re suggesting Mary Queen of Scots (£35) a blend of twelve premium single malts at 12 years of age representing the number of years she was on the throne. The whisky is lovely and complex and good value.  Otherwise, a natty combination of Wayne’s red wine and Alex’s whisky would be the Benromach Sassacaia Wood Finish (£48), a whisky aged for two years in red wine barrels.

For those of you less enamoured with haggis but still keen for a spot of feasting, Saturday 25th January is also the Chinese New Year, with 2020 bringing the Year of the Rat. For the superstitious amongst you things to avoid on Saturday include washing clothes, using scissors and sweeping floors. A year of bad luck cannily avoided, rats are seen as a sign of wealth and surplus, as well as fertility.  London hosts the largest Chinese New Year parades outside of Asia, so do pop along to Trafalgar Square where it all starts at around 10am. Foods to feast upon include steamed fish, dumplings, spring rolls and sweet rice balls. As a wine partner we’re thinking a Riesling so why not Hugel Classic Riesling (£17.99) with its classic fruit character and dry finish. Otherwise Deep Roots Riesling (£12.99) might work if you’re heading for something a little spicier, it’s slightly fruitier style might just tantalise the taste buds a little better.

If Scotland and China have not flipped open your feasting follicles how about something from a bit further south. Sunday 26th January is Australia Day and, in true Aussie style, there are many ways to celebrate, from the 39th Annual Cockroach race at the Story Bridge Hotel in Brisbane, an enormous firework display in Perth with 300,000 people expected, or a Lamington eating competition at Suttons Beach in Redcliffe.  We think we can make a strong argument for popping your fleece on and getting the barbecue going Sunday afternoon, maybe some burgers with beetroot for an Aussie twist, or butterfly that leg of lamb and cook over the charcoal whilst the potatoes roast in the oven. For this we’d like to suggest  Flametree Shiraz (£18.99) it’s from a couple of hours further south of the big firework display at Perth and will be very tasty whether you brave the barbecue or not.

Then, for something completely different, we have egg and spam; egg, bacon and spam; egg, bacon, sausage and spam; spam, bacon, sausage and spam; spam, egg, spam, spam, bacon and spam; spam, spam, spam, egg and spam; spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans, spam, spam, spam and spam; or lobster thermidor aux crevettes, with a mornay sauce garnished with truffle paté, brandy and a fried egg on top and spam…

Diary Notes

Tuesday 28th January – We’ll be opening later as we have a delivery to do in town. We hope to be back by 3pm.

Monday 3rd Feb Tuesday 4th Feb – We’ll be closed as we’re going to see the folks at Hepple in naughty Northumberland.

Thursday 13th February – The years first Cheese & Wine Tasting here at the shop at 8pm. Cost is still £20 per person. Don’t be a cheese dodger!

On the tasting table

It would seem appropriate to have open some of those we have mentioned above, so we will have open:

  • Mary Queen of Scots (£35)
  • Benromach Sassacaia Wood Finish (£48)
  • Deep Roots Riesling (£12.99)
  • Flametree Shiraz (£18.99)

Something for everyone there I think – now, I don’t know about you but all this talk of feasting has me reaching for a wafer thin mint…

With apologies for brevity

January 17th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

You can imagine my surprise, at 5.30 yesterday evening, when it dawned on me that it was my turn to write the weekly email. So, please accept my apologies in advance for any contradictory notions, poor grammar, punctuation errors or missed news snippets.

It seems Trumpolina’s impeachment trial has started, though we doubt much will happen as, in Nancy Pelosi’s words, “I don’t know who is the puppet – Trump or the Attorney General.” I’m sure its coincidental timing but it seems a trade deal has been agreed with China too!

In unrelated news, President Putin had a reshuffle. It seems all of the government ministers were invited to a surprise meeting where they were told they were resigning from their jobs. I would have thought that was being sacked myself but then I’ve not read the non-disclosure agreements. A reshuffle to one person is a power grab to another. You can, of course, make up your own minds.

Elsewhere, the race to take over from Oh Jeremy Corbyn seems to be hotting up. Rebecca Long-Bailey might be in the lead it seems but there’s still time for that to change and my sources say that Lisa Nandy was excellent in the Andrew Neil interview.

The government seems to have got itself into a bit of a spot this week, allowing Flybe to put off paying its flight tax so that it doesn’t go bust. Now, I’m no business adviser or McKinsey consultant but even I can see that if your business model doesn’t work because of the tax you have to pay, getting a deferment fixes nothing with that model. That said, I’m not sure how comfortable I feel in the company of Michael O’Leary and Willie Walsh. Perhaps I should see if retailers can get a ‘holiday’ on our VAT too – why should struggling airlines get advantages over struggling retailers?

Surely the most ridiculous use of column inches this week was the ding dong over Big Ben ringing on 31 January. If I’m honest I thought it was a p*** take when I first read the story, Mark Francois winding someone up, then I saw it again on the news and everyone seemed to be rather angry about things. Radio 4 even had a vicar on asking him if he was going to be ringing the church bells. It seems to us that some people have too much time on their hands! Funnily enough, Alex has just mentioned hearing a similar discussion on why Big Ben was all covered up in scaffolding. We’ve all assumed it’s for restoration but what if they’re turning it digital, displaying the time in all the countries we’ve negotiated a trade deal with?

Cheese and Wine Tasting – Still at 2015 prices!!!!!

First date of the new season – come and join us on Thursday 13 February at 8pm. It’s the Thursday before half term and the night before San Valentino so it usually fills up quick so give us a call or drop us a line to book your place. £20 per person as usual. 

Tasting This Weekend

We’re populating the red chair with Campos de Luz Garnacha 2017 (£10.49). We find it sits comfortably in the glass and is sociable with all manner of foods and binge watched mini-series. Come and taste the old vine deliciousness for yourself.

On the white leather sofa you will find Accomplice Semillon/ Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (£9.39). It is crisp and versatile, with lovely fresh fruit character and a friendly finish.

So with apologies for brevity (plus side our VAT return is all sorted now!) we raise a glass and say CHEERS!

Welcome to Rantuary

January 10th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well, it didn’t take long for life to get back to normal did it? 

One minute we’re fending off mince pies and glasses of Pedro Ximenez; it seems just moments later that we’re singing Auld Lang Syne and wondering where we left our Champagne glass and then, ka-boom, it’s the 3rd day of 2020 and Il Donaldo is trying to start World War III, which would definitely be the last in the trilogy, with little prospect of any of us making it through to the final credits.  Thus he wished us all a very Happy New Year reminding us that it’s an election year and that the best distraction from domestic strife is a good dose of aggressive foreign policy – oorah!

Boris returned from channelling his inner Princess Margaret in Mustique – images of the tousled toff sporting a floaty kaftan and Bakelite cigarette holder were too much even for the most prying paparazzo it would seem – and he is back in the driving seat. By all accounts phone reception is terrible in that part of the West Indies so despite relevant vicinity of Mar-a-Lago, Donald was unable to let Boris know what he was up to in the Middle East…

Anyway Boris didn’t need such distractions since he has now got to ‘get Brexit done’ although I imagine he hasn’t a far more erudite way of expressing this.  We await, with bated breath, the next stage in this drama – 31st January is the new date of significance for our diaries, I believe?

Yesterday the tabloids erupted in mutual despair, panic and vitriol at the announcement that a Ginger Prince and his wife, a successful actress, might want to live outside the bubble that is the British Royal Family.  Instead they want to live in a different bubble, in Canada or Hollywood perhaps, and thus will be harder to pry on.  Shameful.  And this comes just weeks after the other Ginger Prince announced he was going to take ‘a breather to travel, write, and read. I’ll be off social media until it’s time to come back.’

Question – has anyone ever seen Prince Harry and Ed Sheeran in the same room at the same time?  Just saying…

From a more local viewpoint, it’s January, it’s damp whilst people are trying to stay dry and the Coop is full of ‘fake beef’ burgers.  Yep, it’s time for our annual Rantuary – a time for us to be incredulous at almost everything that’s going on in the world, to be disappointed and frustrated to the same degree as we are for the rest of the year but at least this month it has a nametag, it has a purpose and we might perhaps even blag someone to sponsor us!

We seem to have heard less about dry January thus far but we do seem to be hearing an awful lot more about not eating meat.  Great for us – for a change, we purveyors of fine beverages are not getting it in the neck from the same journalists who couldn’t get enough fine beverage down their necks 10 days ago and instead it’s the cows and sheep who are feeling the sharp stick this month.  Goats would be in trouble too, if anyone in England knowingly ate much of their meat but that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, the cows and sheep are still digesting too much and filling the world with methane, so we need to stop eating them.  But just for a month?  Surely if we don’t eat them, they’re far more likely to carry on producing methane… I know I’m being fatuous but what are we actually going to do with all these extra animals if we stop eating them?  The world is already overpopulated, we’re told, and if we’re going to have to start fighting for a parking space at Sainsbury’s with Peppa Pig and Larry the Lamb, fighting for the last bag of sprouts and the last sliced loaf, where does that really leave us – perhaps I get the sprouts and Peppa eats Larry?  How does that fit in with the not eating animals thing?  Can cats still eat mice or do they now have to eat rice.  No, they can’t because, we can’t eat rice.  Rice paddy fields, manmade wetlands, methane producers extraordinaire – sadly I don’t think seaweed is a cure this time.  So, we can’t eat meat and we can’t now eat rice.  Let’s eat cheese?  Oh no, can’t do that, long standing research from every ski resort ever indicates that excessive ingestion of Raclette and three cheese fondue can result in indigestion and a notable increase in gases that remind one of a greenhouse.  And then I go home to my vegan supper of lentils and sweet potato and realise that it’s been cooked using fossil fuels and more significantly, as my wife cooked this, I have enslaved another animal to produce my food – by far the easiest part of Veganuary is not eating the meat!

So, with apologies, I am not going vegan or dry this month and, since Wayne has just said, in his wisdom, ‘Alex. Leave it!’ I will do just that – welcome to Rantuary!

Wayne’s wisdom doesn’t end here though of course.  As he sagely pointed out to a customer who was threatening an abstemious month the other day, ‘we can cater very well for Dry January – we have dry whites, dry reds, dry Gin and even dried meat!’, at which point he rested his case and the customer left the shop….

With a potential sale lost, it was now up to him to come up with a mechanic that would jump start sales in this month leading up to the divorce from Europe.  So, using the adage that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, he came up with this:

SIX BOTTLES OF WINE FOR THE PRICE OF FIVE!

Those of you with fabulous memories may recognise the fact that we may well have done this before, in 2012.  And 2013.  And 2014.  And, well yes, every year since.  But it works – it works for you, it works for us and, in a backhanded fashion, it works for the taxman who wants his cut at the end of the month too….

So don’t be slow, we’ve attached a list of what we have in stock for your perusal, the deal can be mixed too, so frankly, what are we all waiting for?

Tasting this weekend

To help you towards the half dozen we’ll open a couple of bottles of easy drinking Italians this weekend:

Madregale Bianco 2018 – £8.99 – We love the whites of Abruzzo and this is soft and fruity with a crisp dry finish – Chardonnay blended with Trebbiano make it all about richness without becoming too unctuous or overbearing.  Would work a treat with smoked salmon, or chicken Caesar salad, and beyond food – a perfect aperitif!

Madregale Rosso 2018 – £8.99 – This blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese is a prime example of the enormous strides forward that have been made in terms of quality and tastiness in Abruzzo.  The soft earthy rusticity of the Montepulciano combines nicely with the slightly fresher, more elegant Sangiovese.  Perhaps not a wine to ponder, it is pitch perfect with a tomato based pasta!

So that’s it from us – first email of the decade, only another 520 odd to write until 2030 – things can only get better!

Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!

December 20th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

And so it comes to pass.  Last missive of December, last missive of the year, last missive of the decade even and then it’s all over.

-What?  Over?  Did you say “over”?  Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!

-Germans?

– Forget it, he’s rolling.

-And it ain’t over now.  ‘Cause when the goin’ gets tough… (thinks hard of something to say) The tough get goin’!  Who’s with me?  Let’s go! (Bluto runs out, alone, to his local independent wine merchant….)

With apologies to John Belushi, however he was right, it’s not over.  Today is Friday 20th December, still 11 days left until the New Decade (having read POTUS letter to Nancy Pelosi, we’ve decided that indiscriminate use of cApiTals is the way forwards) and more importantly, 5 shopping days left until Christmas, including today.  It’s nowhere near over.

Courtesy of our researchers we also learnt that today, 20th December, is International Human Solidarity Day. 

International Human Solidarity Day is a day of action, led by the UN General Assembly, to encourage new initiatives for poverty eradication through the promotion of the culture of solidarity and the spirit of sharing.  It’s a timely reminder for us that what we do here, selling wine and talking a lot, actually isn’t at all important in the whole grand scheme of things and an occasional reminder does us no harm.

It seems charmingly appropriate that we also celebrate Billy Bragg’s birthday today and bonkers that Uri Geller, fresh from giving Boris a spoon “energised” with “mind positivity” to help him win the election, is now 73 years old!

As it seems likely that we will be continuing with Wayne’s Wet Weather for some time hence, we’ve decided to cut back on our rosé stocks for now and focus more on hearty reds and festive fizz.  With this in mind this weekend we will have open on the tasting table a panoply of delights for your delectation and degustation:

  • Lété-Vautrain Brut 204 – Champagne – £29.99 – 3 for £75
  • Bruno Giacosa Roero Arneis 2018 – Very Fancy Italian White – £19.99
  • Château Roland La Garde 1998 – Nicely Aged Claret – £30
  • Château Lamourette 2010 – Sweet Treat Sauternes – £16.99
  • Krohn Colheita 1999 – Posh Tawny Port – £34.99
  • Taylors 1985 – Really Posh Port – £85
  • King’ s Ginger – Real Royal Liqueur – £23.99
  • Foxdenton Christmas Liqueur – If Mince Pies Were A Drink – £20
  • Foxdenton Sloe Gin – The Classic – £24.99
  • Foxdenton Rhubarb Gin – The Pink – £14.99
  • Eclectic – The House Gin – £35
  • Hepple – Alex’s Favourite Gin – £38
  • Renegade – Battersea Park Hand Crafted Gin – £38
  • Bloody Bens – Garratt Lane Gin – £38
  • Fabuloso – Alex’s Dad’s Favourite Spanish Brandy – £20
  • Delamain XO – Wayne’s Cognac – £97
  • Saliza Amaretto – Proper Kit – £27.99
  • Kummel – For The Golfers – £20.99
  • Berto Bitter – Not Campari or Aperol, In The Middle Somewhere – £21.49
  • Evan Williams – The Best Black Label Whisky from the USA – £31.50
  • Blanton’ s – The Original Single Barrel Bourbon – £57.99
  • Benromach 10 year old – Speyside Charmer – £40
  • Benromach 15 year old – Its Elder Brother – £60
  • Benromach 2011 – Finished in Sassicaia Barrels – £48
  • Bunnahabhain 11 year old – From a Sherry Cask – £50
  • Caol Ila 13 year old – Peaty… – £50
  • Finlaggan – Smoky Islay – £36
  • Ledaig 12 year old – From Mull, Proper Bonfire Business – £50
  • Mary Queen Of Scots – Blend of Twelve 12 year old Single Malts – £35
  • Strathmill 2002 – From Keith…. – £50
  • Mince Pies
  • Quality Street
  • Celebrations

That’s over 30 different tipples to taste – if you try them all and that’s still not enough, we’ll buy you a beer!

What?  Over?  Did you say “over”?

I know we told you last time but here is a reminder of our opening hours over the next two weeks:

SATURDAY 21st DECEMBER                                              10AM – 8PM

SUNDAY 22nd DECEMBER                                                 11AM – 3PM

MONDAY 23rd DECEMBER                                                            11AM – 8PM

TUESDAY 24th DECEMBER                                                            10AM – 5PM

WEDNESDAY 25th – FRIDAY 27th DECEMBER               CLOSED

SATURDAY 28th DECEMBER                                             12PM – 6PM

SUNDAY 29th DECEMBER                                                 CLOSED

MONDAY 30th DECEMBER                                                            11AM – 8PM

TUESDAY 31st DECEMBER                                                 11AM – 6PM

WEDNESDAY 1st – MONDAY 6th JANUARY                     CLOSED

TUESDAY 7th JANUARY – BACK TO NORMAL                11AM – 8PM

What more to add?  Trump will face the senate, Boris picks up where he left off, Ben Stokes becomes SPOTY and Tottenham just pip Arsenal in the Overall Premier League Table of the Decade on points per game – 0.002 points to be exact.  Close, Wayne, but you know that saying about cigars….

And now it is over.  Have a very Merry Christmas, a joyous New Year and don’t be tempted to give up for January!!

Over and out!

On the first day of Christmas

December 13th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well, I’m not sure if that has solved much but quite a few things will change.

The most important General Election in our lifetime has involved lying, misleading adverts, graphs and polls and, to cap it all, a Prime Minister hiding in a fridge to avoid scrutiny. These things, it would appear, are the secret to a landslide.

I looked up Integrity in the Cambridge Dictionary: the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles that you refuse to change: “No one doubted that the president was a man of the highest integrity.”

someone’s high artistic standards or standards of doing their job, and that person’s determination not to lower those standards: “Keen to preserve his artistic integrity, he refused several lucrative Hollywood offers.”

Let’s hope we now discover some, eh?

In the meantime, life moves on regardless and, at the risk of creating minor panic, in just 12 days it’s Christmas. The turkey will be going in the oven, you’ll have stood on numerous bits of Lego and be wondering if it’s too soon to open that second bottle of champagne: I’d say go ahead, it’d be rude not too.

At this stage I might just invoke a song about Christmas that seems appropriate (with apologies to Frederic Austin)…

On the first day of Christmas my True Love sent to me a partridge in a pear tree

We’d put a Faiveley Mercurey 1er Cru Clos des Myglands (£29.99) with the partridge.

On the second day of Christmas my True Love sent to me two turtle doves

We’ll go with Sylvain Dussort’s Meursault-like Cuvée des Ormes 2016 (£21.99) for the doves.

On the third day of Christmas my true love sent to me three French hens

We’re suspecting the JP Moueix Saint-Emilion 2015 (Magnum £46) will be just the ticket, let’s face it, three hens needs more than a bottle.

At the risk of labouring a point, we’re of the opinion that if the Ladies are to be dancing and the Lords leaping, you may want to enjoy our Six Bottles of Bollinger for £210 offer.

That’s enough singing for one Friday and if you’d heard me sing, it’d definitely be more than enough.

We’ve been discussing the merits of seasonal special sandwiches and plan to trial a couple over the next week, any top tips greatly received.

Tasting This Weekend

We’ll be opening Hawkins Bros Brut Reserve (£30each or 3 for £75), a cracking English sparkling wine made at Greyfriars Vineyard near Guildford. A classic cuvée, based on vintage 2014, made and grown on the Hogs Back in Surrey.  This is a blend of 56% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Noir and 22% Pinot Meunier and has spent over three years ageing on its lees.

We’ll open Sylvain Dussort’s Bourgogne Blanc Cuvée des Ormes 2016 (£21.99) mentioned above. A classic white burgundy which is, in fact, the estate’s flagship wine.  The grapes are hand-harvested from vines from 35 to over 60 years and the wine is aged for 12 months in barrels on the lees.  The wine is racked off once and assembled in a single vat before bottling. This takes place at between 16 and 18 months, depending on the vintage. Delicate, rich and elegant, with good length, we reckon in a blind tasting it would easily be mistaken for a Meursault and this was awesome value for money.

The red corner will be ably represented by Domaine Billard ‘Les Bons Feuvres’ Beaune 2017 (£24.99) Domaine Billard has approximately 12.5 hectares of vineyards in different appellations throughout the Côtes de Beaune.  The domaine passed from father to son recently and Jérôme Billard has brought a new philosophy to the domaine where all the farming is done with respect for nature and follows organic principles.  Previously, Jérôme’s father sold his wine to the local cooperative but Jérôme is now estate bottling his entire production and why wouldn’t he be proud to put his name on this wine?  Lush and juicy with bright cherry and black berry fruits, lovely fine tannins and a smooth finish. 

And if that doesn’t tantalise those taste buds, we have got Gin, Whisky, Vodka and of course the Foxdenton Christmas Liqueur all open and awaiting your attention.

Christmas Opening Hours – This is when we’re here and when we’re not.

MONDAY 16th – FRIDAY 20th DECEMBER         11AM – 8PM

SATURDAY 21st DECEMBER                                  10AM – 8PM

SUNDAY 22nd DECEMBER                                          11AM – 3PM

MONDAY 23rd DECEMBER                                                11AM – 8PM

TUESDAY 24th DECEMBER                                                10AM – 5PM

WEDNESDAY 25th – FRIDAY 27th DECEMBER   CLOSED

SATURDAY 28th DECEMBER                                 12PM – 6PM

SUNDAY 29th DECEMBER                                                 CLOSED

MONDAY 30th DECEMBER                                                 11AM – 8PM

TUESDAY 31st DECEMBER                                                 11AM – 6PM

WEDNESDAY 1st – MONDAY 6th JANUARY         CLOSED

TUESDAY 7th JANUARY – BACK TO NORMAL – 11AM – 8PM

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Election Special!

December 6th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Less than a week to go, who will be in the hot-seat come Friday the 13th?

Will it be Graham Hadley, the Independent candidate and the man behind the Mary Queen of Scots whisky we sell? 

Will it be Stephen Hammond, our Conservative incumbent for the last 14 years and ex-National League hockey player? 

Or perhaps we will see Paul Kohler, of the Liberal Democrats/Unite to Remain side of business, living up to the promise they were showing in mid-November when they trailed the Tories by 2 points, or has Jo Swinson damaged the brand too much? 

Or will Jackie Schneider, for Labour, become the first female Wimbledon MP?

Or perhaps this new local super hero is Sarge? No! Or Rosemary the telephone operator?  No way man!  Perhaps then, Henry the mild mannered janitor?

So far as Park Vintners is concerned, we would quite happily see Penrod Pooch elected if it could guarantee that everyone carries on buying champagne and Christmas drinks rather than booking a one way ticket out of here!

Elsewhere in the world of politics the world’s most sensitive bully, Mr Trump, got a bat up his nightdress when other world leaders were seen talking about him ‘behind his back’.  Let’s be honest, Donald, you love it that people are talking about you, it empowers you and massages your fragile ego.  Plus, they were talking about you being 45 minutes late having called an impromptu press conference – if you hadn’t done this there would have been no gossiping!  The final touch for us though was the fact that the Conservatives were noticeably delighted that DT cancelled his next ‘meet the press’, so concerned were they that he might damage Mr Johnson’s election campaign – a ringing endorsement of how they really view the POTUS….

Less than a week to go, who will be in the hot-seat come Friday the 20th?

We will be.  The last Friday before Christmas, we fully expect the grill to be turned up to max as we begin the final buying weekend and with it the start of the exodus, which this year we feel could be spread over 4 days, especially if you’re travelling on South Western trains!  Anyway, the point to all this is that if you know you want by some treats for Christmas, you don’t necessarily need to wait until that weekend – we’ve got a lot of stock in here already, our Christmas cases will be ready from Monday and, frankly, right now we have more stock and more time to ensure you get exactly what you would like – which can’t be guaranteed in two weeks’ time.

Some of you have already started shopping, and we appreciate that.  We’ve already had enquiries as to whether we sell mini bottles of Babycham, Buckfast Tonic Wine and various super-sweet, super-confected spirits – we’re sending all these enquiries up to the shops in the village, through sheer devilment!

And no, funnily enough, we don’t sell wine in cans, despite the fact that a recent survey in the US by WiC Research revealed that 37.2% of participants said they preferred rosé wine from a can, compared to 31.4% who said the bottled version tasted better!  All those years of drinking cans of coke have obviously taken their toll….

In sport we saw the Mourinho spell come unbound in Manchester – he must have been spewing, no matter what he claims otherwise, although when he wins the Champions League with his third different club we may well eat our chapéus!  In cricket we watched as England brought village cricket to the international stage, helped massively by Joe Denly, with crowds to match those seen at Hadlow on a good day.  We also lost, suddenly for us, Bob Willis on Tuesday, a local resident and perhaps most famouls captain of England during the 1981 Ashes victory.  RIP, sir.

Christmas

For a variety of reasons, Christmas doesn’t ever really start until this weekend here at Park Vintners.  We held the last two tastings of the year this week and until they are out of the way we can’t really decorate, as we have to move stock around all the time.  But now that’s done and we can steam towards the 25th.  This weekend sees Alex at the Wimbledon High School Christmas Fair on Saturday and the Wimbledon Park Primary School event on Sunday.  He’s being a bit imprecise over the timings but I do know they both take place over lunchtime, should you be interested in visiting either.

Monday will see us decorating the windows, buying new lights no doubt and generally filling up the shelves and floor with the good stuff.  As mentioned above, we will also be launching our Christmas selections, which will be three different 6 bottle selections – one mixed selection for £60, one mixed selection for £100 and a Red Bordeaux selection for  £115 (£120 with a gift box).  Notes attached…

Tasting this weekend

As I don’t pretend to have any control over Alex once he is off-site, I can imagine he will be tasting Champagne, a red, a white, a sweetie and undoubtedly an array of spirits…. Here in the shop though I do know that we will be opening a fizz, a red, a white and hopefully a port!

We both have the same ‘go to’ Fizz Friday bottle of bubbles which is the Leveret IQ Brut NV – £15.99 – This is champagne in all but name really, being a blend of the usual suspects, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay but grown instead in New Zealand.  Crisp and dry with a fine mousse, it’s exactly the sort of bubbly for any occasion, birthdays, christenings, weddings, parties or just Friday night fish and chips!

A new white in the stable is the Domaine Jouan Menetou Salon 2018 – £15.99 which we are very pleased with.  This is the fourth generation of the family to run this estate and experience certainly shows.  This has the quality and elegance of a Sancerre but without the price tag.  A fabulous all-rounder – did I mention that we are very pleased with it?

In the red, we will open another old favourite – Lopez de Haro Gran Reserva 2010 – £21.00.  After conducting extensive tastings, our in-house team (Alex and I, sacrificing ourselves again!) decided this silky little should be our main GR Rioja.  A blend of Tempranillo and Graciano aged for 30 months in oak barrels, it has complex berry, coffee and vanilla notes and a lovely velvety finish.

Now the port should be a bit of a treat….Taylors 1985 – £85 part of the last shipment from Taylors cellars, where there is no more left so when it’s gone…we’ve put it in the eto so it lasts long enough for you all to have a taste before Wayne guzzles the lot!

Here’s what Will Lyons of the Sunday Times had to say about it in 2015… “This vintage port, described as the Latour of Portugal, is just starting to reach its drinking window. Mid ruby in colour, it has an evocative fragrance of wood smoke, cassis and spice. Soft and silky in the mouth, nevertheless once swallowed it has a powerful kick and leaves a sensation on the tongue of tingling freshness.”

And with that we’re gone. Do come see us at the Shop, at Wimbledon High or Wimbledon Park Primary!