Archive for the ‘general’ Category

Good News/Bad News

Friday, November 24th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Not good news, just not bad news.

Having been inflicted with a radical overhaul in duty rates at the end of July, we were very nervous about the rumours that Mr Hunt was going to announce a further hike in his Autumn Statement on Wednesday.  This would have been a real gut-punch and frankly one that we didn’t need in the lead up to Christmas but the rumours proved to be unsubstantiated and we all breathed a small sigh of relief – not good news but certainly not bad news.

Duty is now frozen until 1st August 2024 (not bad news?) and then, on 1st February 2025, the second stage of July’s radical overhaul comes into force – happy days.

Still, at least the Soft Drinks Industry Levy, introduced in April 2018, has yet again swerved any increase, which means it is still set at the same level it started at.  Considering it is one of the infamous ‘sin taxes’, the taxes put on products seen as harmful to consumers or costly to society, you’d have thought this might have been subject to review/increase at some point in the last 2,000+ days?  Particularly as it was key to the government plans to reduce childhood obesity by removing added sugar from soft drinks when first announced in 2016.  Without going into too much detail, obesity levels, either in children or adults, have continued to rise over the last 5 years…

Away from tax, Mr Hunt announced his intention to fund £4.5bn to attract investment to strategic manufacturing sectors, including green energy, aerospace, life sciences and zero-emission vehicles – nice idea certainly, two environmentally focused targets wrapped around the less-than-green aerospace climate change providers.

In happier/more exciting news, we were pleased to see that Northvolt has developed a sodium-ion battery that has no lithium, cobalt or nickel – clearly a long way to go but this certainly feels like a move in the right direction. 

Anyway, let’s move away from real world news and closer to wine chat.  When not reading Vice/Rolling Stone/Penny-Farthing Weekly we do occasionally cast a glimpse at the Financial Times – similar to how 30 years ago we read The Daily Telegraph for the sport, we now read the FT for the wine.  Jancis Robinson is of course the star here and last weekend she came up with an amazing suggestion that we just had to share.

In the article Jancis Robinson answers your festive wine questions (FT Magazine – Jancis Robinson – November 18 2023) she was asked for advice for people that find that their long awaited bottle of wine is actually corked on opening.  I cannot copy her response verbatim due to FT rules but, in short, she suggested that if you do end up with a corked bottle then scrunch up some cling-film, push this into the bottle, re-seal it (not with the offending cork of course) and then give it a good old swirl around so that the cling-film gets in contact with all the wine.  Not sure what the science is here, if any, but she states that whilst it’s not a perfect solution, it does seem to reduce the cork taint!  Normally I would raise an eyebrow at such a suggestion but this is Jancis talking, so advice worth taking, we thought!

Not much news for us to report on in the wine world this week – it’s the calm before the storm of Christmas and we know this because it’s Black Friday today and everyone seems to be trying to sell me a cheap iPhone and old model Garmin which is weird because I’ve never previously bought either but I digress.

Black Friday means that yesterday was Thanksgiving in the USA and so, with a nod to those folk across the pond, we thought we’d open two new listings from California this weekend.

Both wines come from DeLoach Vineyards located in the heart of Sonoma’s renowned Russian River Valley.  The winery has over 45 years of experience experimenting with the perfect combination of soil, rootstock, and clones, resulting in a history of producing high-quality, eco-friendly wines.  In 2003, the Boisset family, from Burgundy, brought their sustainable winemaking experience to Russian River Valley and haven’t looked back since!

Alex tried these wines in September whilst Wayne was too busy drinking Marsala in foreign climes to come to the tasting and liked them enough to push for shelf space for them!

Russian River Valley Chardonnay 2020 – £29.99

On the nose this wine reveals nectarine and ripe pear aromas. The palate is endowed with integrated oak structure, hints of vanilla cream, lemon zest, and baked apples. Building momentum across the mid-palate, this wine is formative with lingering flavors of spice and crème brûlée. The finish has refreshing and persistent acidity that is well-balanced.*

Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2020 – £31.99

Aromas of raspberry coulis, red plum, strawberry, and baking spices on the nose. Dried cranberry, Alpine strawberries, and sweet/tart cherries on the palate of this 2020 Pinot Noir. This is a medium-bodied wine with an outstanding texture and a long finish.*

(*tasting notes from winery website since Alex’s notes ran more along the lines of ‘rich, buttery style will appeal to those who like this style’ for the white and ‘nice, medium body, good length, fresh finish, pleasing’ for the red, which aren’t so heavy on detail, thanks Alex….)

And now I think we’re done – we’ll just leave you with this headline which appeared on Reuters on November 21, 2023:

Wimbledon suffers expansion plan blow after council refuses permission

Quite good news, certainly not bad news….

Good week for some, not so good for others…

Friday, November 17th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This has been a very good week for fountain pen manufacturers and their colleagues in the headed notepaper business.

Stubbing out her breakfast stogie, Thérèse was one of the first to put quill to parchment and then five junior ministers followed her lead.  Suella quickly wrote Rishi a letter but, as so often with Mrs Braverman, her timing was off.  Then, in a move quite typical of the way Labour likes to react to Tory activities, Kier managed to part company with eight shadow ministers and two parliamentary private secretaries.  I think, perhaps, there might be some trouble in paradise….

Still, the good news is that Call me Dave is back on board, thankfully not in the Treasury though, given his track record in financial services.  Oh, and he got an immediate Life Peerage which has no doubt got Nadine plotting her next move…

Meanwhile, Nigel F from Downe hasn’t resigned.  He has spread himself a bit thin though, travelling down under to earn about £1.5 million for eating termites whilst simultaneously going to court in London to sue NatWest for debanking and, cough, reputational damage – he clearly has no idea of the irony…

In our world of wine there was a bit of sad news.  No resignations, just redundancies. 

Both of us cut our retail teeth working for Oddbins – Wayne mainly running the famous Fine Wine department in the Battersea superstore, whilst Alex was more nomadic – Balham, Clapham South, Clapham, Dulwich, Blackheath, Bellevue Road, Kennington and even Battersea had their doors darkened by the bearded one.  Both of us persuaded the powers that be to pay for us to take our WSET Diploma in Wines & Spirits and amazingly we both passed.  We learnt a lot about retail, we learnt a lot about people and we learnt a lot about shoplifting.  We also helped train a number of now very influential wine buyers who, when we met them, were in charge of sweeping the floor and stocking the fridges.

But now, it seems those days are gone.  We have been informed that, having failed to find a buyer for the estate, Oddbins has closed all of its bricks and mortar operation and reverted to web sales – no floor sweeping or fridge stocking there – and considering they only had 2 Champagnes and 1 Cremant under the CHAMPAGNE & SPARKLING dropdown on their website, I would say the doctor’s diagnosis would be DNR.

RIP Oddies – if anyone needs a job, we’ve got a spare broom and plenty of fridges!

In happier news, The Sports Business Awards 2023 Ceremony took place last Friday at The Hurlingham Club.  The Awards aim to recognise and reward achievement by the teams behind the scenes that facilitate sporting excellence and endeavours, saluting and championing their resilience, adaptability and resourcefulness.  The award for Best Sports Community Scheme – Football was won by our very own local heroes – Dons Local Action Group.  For a charity that was founded in March 2020, this is a brilliant achievement and well deserved!

So, how about we raise a tasting glass to this achievement?

The white we have on tasting this weekend is Sameirás Blanco 2022 – £18.99 – which is made from 5 grapes that simply trip off the tongue – Treixadura, Albariño, Godello, Lado, Loureiro – all indigenous to the Northwest of the Iberian peninsula.  A really quite exotic pineapple and nectarine nose with touches of mandarin and similar orange fruits on the palate followed by a beautiful dry/savoury finish with hints of pithy acidity as it fades we haven’t shown this since May 2019, so it’s well worth a revisit!

The red is a bit of an old favourite and very much of the season – Le Seigneur du Raveil Vacqueyras 2019 – £19.99.  Originally formed by 7 passionate winegrowers in 1956, today the Cave de Gigondas has increased to 78 members across 128 hectares in Gigondas whilst also taking in vineyards in Vacqueyras and Beaumes de Venise to bring the total to 260 hectares.  We loved this wine from the first mouthful – blackcurrant, black cherry, blackberry all make an appearance leading to some plum character on the finish with a dollop of spice to tidy it up.  Classic Rhône quality and poise.

That’s it from us, what’ve you been up to?

The King’s Speech

Friday, November 10th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We started the week with the King’s Speech, which Rishi Sunak described as “taking long-term decisions for a brighter future.” I don’t know if you saw it, but the enthusiasm with which the King detailed the measures rather suggested to this watcher that His Majesty remains on the fence in that regard.

There is not much new in it, a lot of words and a few North Sea oil and gas licences that’ll make no difference to the economy at all. Though quite how they’ll be “helping the country to transition to net zero by 2050 I’m not sure. Perhaps that’s why the King sounded rather bored, that and the fact that a third of the proposals are left over from the last parliament maybe. Still, on the plus side, there was nothing about a ban on tents, and there is talk of a Football Regulator, let’s just hope that they don’t involve the folks who run VAR! Probably the cigarette ban isn’t a bad idea either.

We’ve also been tuning in to the Covid enquiry, it’s been heavy going at points but we’ve stuck with it. We felt slightly obliged, given how much time we spent mocking some of the actions or decisions that were taken at points and having listened for a number of days we would say that it was even more mad and chaotic than any of us imagined. You can imagine our shock at the news that “Covid rules were broken virtually every day in No.10”.

On the culture front, Mad Nads’ book is now out. We haven’t read it, but understand from informed folk that it contains all the thrills and spills you’d expect from a fiction writer at the heart of government. A Tory cabal called the ‘Movement’ that really runs everything, a butchered rabbit and claims that Rishi Sunak is a ‘Manchurian candidate’ installed by Dominic Cummings. We’re not sure who has the white cat sat on their lap, but think it might need the cynical setting on your Kindle.

WeWork filed for bankruptcy protection this week as it turned out that it didn’t actually work. Valued at $47 billion dollars in January 2019, the company was worth just $50 million when it filed for protection this week. All those chasing any company involved in AI might just want to do a ‘Fairy Dust’ check before investing the entire pension fund eh?

On the wine front, the figures are in and it turns out that 2023 is the smallest grape harvest since 1961. It looks likely that we’ll experience an overall fall of around 7% and as it’s been Italy and Spain taking the climate hit, France has moved back up to top volume producer for this year. It looks like a good vintage in both quality and volume aspects for the English wine producers and in California, the wet winter and cool summer has done wonders for the producers of Napa and Sonoma.

The OECD released a study into binge drinking this week. The reported headlines were quite a thing:

Daily Express: “Global study names world’s booziest countries – and Britain is NOT number one.”

Daily Star: “World’s biggest boozers revealed – and UK only comes third.”

Daily Mail: “Why ARE British women the world’s biggest binge drinkers?”

You can draw your own conclusions from that, but we would also mention a joint study from researchers at Universities of Washington and California. They found that a glass of wine can help you sleep but only if you’ve already had a coffee. Now I don’t know about you, but I have always had a cup of coffee before I’ve had a glass of wine. Coffee with breakfast, wine later on, even on Christmas Day!

Tasting this Weekend

We thought we’d head to Italy this week, there’s a bit of a treat on the white front, Poggio Al Tesoro Solosole Vermentino 2022, Toscana (£27.99) this delicious white from Bolgheri is crisp and elegant with yellow plum fruit. But don’t take my word for it, come and taste for yourself. It’ll be a top treat with that fish you pick up at the Farmer’s Market on Saturday morning.

In the red corner, we’ll be bringing out one of our new purchases. Urban Park Appassimento 2019, Veneto (£14.99) is from our chums at Montresor and is made from grapes dried for around 30 days before being made into wine. A mini Amarone, if you will. We’re quite excited about it, so come and tell us what you think. We’ve got a mushroom stroganoff against this one, how about you?

It’s all about loyalty

Friday, November 3rd, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well that’s Week 44 just about finished, just 8 more to go. 

Tuesday saw us put Halloween behind us, Sunday sees us put earmuffs on the dog as Guy Fawkes Night does its thing (although I don’t think the kids call it that anymore) and then it’s full steam ahead to Black Friday Eve on 23rd November.  Christmas adverts are already arriving, Caffè Nero emailed me on Thursday with a preview of their offering and  M&S have already courted controversy, albeit mistakenly.

This leads me to believe that it will soon be Easter.

In the world of wine, not much has changed since we last spoke.  A couple of happy headlines in the trade rag Harpers started the week off well:

Licenced premises down by a third since 2003 – 30/10/23 – A net figure of 44,000 outlets have closed in this period which is roughly six closures per day, every day…

Insolvencies peak driven by hospitality and retail – 01/11/23 – See above

Customer loyalty reins supreme in cost-of-living crisis – 31/10/23 (it’s their typo, not mine, neigh!)

Now this is the sort of business I want to be in.  Zonal Insights GO TECHNOLOGY Report 2023, titled The New Loyalty Landscape: How the cost-of-living crisis impacts hospitality,has been paid by someone to come up with amongst other things, the following insights into Loyalty turn-offs: Consumers’ top five reasons for reducing loyalty

1 If I had a few bad experiences (49%)

2 If they raise the prices (37%)

3= If I had one bad experience (24%)

3= If I don’t get value for money in the cost-of-living crisis (24%)

5 If they were involved in controversy (23%)

This also might be seen as:

51% of consumers don’t mind a few bad experiences

63% don’t find a raise in prices hugely important

76% wouldn’t be put off by one bad experience

76% don’t prioritise value for money

77% don’t really care if they were involved in controversy!

I appreciate it’s not quite so black and white but it does make you wonder what you can really learn from such studies – perhaps most importantly, right now, that there is more than one way of looking at things…

At a local level, I seem to have ordered too much seasonal Bordeaux.  I don’t have enough space on the shelves and need you all to help me resolve this problem.  Seeing things differently, Wayne doesn’t see this as a problem and has told me he knows a man who can help with this. 

I suspect it might be him.

In the rest of the world, this week I have been mainly listening to the Covid Inquiry and have taken little reassurance from the knowledge that everything that we thought was going on in 2020/21 behind the scenes actually was; that Dominic Cumming wasn’t the biggest villain; that Gavin Williamson got a knighthood and that Matt Hancock lied, all the time, to everyone.

Our peripatetic cycling correspondent, fresh from his post-paella siesta, sent me news of an important event in the world of two wheels.  Dutch headwind championships cancelled – due to high winds was the headline in Cycling Weekly, which went on: Usually organisers and competitors are hoping for strong enough winds – with force seven being the minimum acceptable requirement. But with Storm Ciaràn set to reach force 11, organisers decided that discretion was indeed the better part of valour.

Whoever suggested that cyclists are a breed apart might have a point… however, if you’re a cricket fan, cycling into a headwind might seem more palatable than watching the World Cup!

We don’t talk about rugby anymore and football is on the bench for now.  On 6th October, we wrote: …I’m not really sure where professional sport will be in 10 years’ time, given all the rising costs and demands on the hosts…. we read that The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia… has announced its intention to bid for the 2034 World Cup. 

On Tuesday, Australia withdrew their application which meant that Saudi Arabia became the sole bidder – I think it’s becoming more obvious where the future control of sport will sit.

But enough of all this, what shall we taste this weekend?

The white will be the Von Buhl Bone Dry Riesling 2022 – £18.99

Seemed appropriate in Halloween week that we taste a wine with a skull on the label!  This is a wonder, with the dryness you experience in Austrian or Clare Valley Rieslings whilst maintaining the texture that makes the more traditional styles so moreish.  There’s a lovely seam of minerality too – who said all Rieslings are all sweet?

The red will be an old favourite bought from our pal and wine guru Jack – Santa Duc Les Plans 2020 – £15.99.  Benjamin Gras is the 6th Generation of the family to run Domaine Santa Duc and he has definitely carried on the great work his father started.  This is from their Vaucluse property and is a slightly naughty blend of 50% Grenache, 20% Syrah, 15% Merlot, 10%, Cabernet and 5% others.  Jack put us onto this one about 4 years ago and he rarely gives us bum steer.  Lovely dark fruits, a touch of liquorice and a slightly savoury note into the finish – it’s unusual to see Cabernet & Merlot in these parts, but it seems to work!

And that’s me done; look forward to seeing all you loyal customers over the weekend, despite the numerous bad experiences we have offered!!

A real human you can talk to

Friday, October 27th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We’ll start with some words from Fiona Beckett, award-winning food and wine writer, one of the world’s leading experts on food and drink matching, wine columnist for The Guardian and the author of 25 books on food, wine, beer and alcohol-free drinks.

Vindependents buys exclusively for independent merchants, and often unearths wines you won’t find anywhere else in the UK….

What the indies do have to offer, however, is wine you just can’t get elsewhere, much of it from small producers who don’t make enough to supply the bigger retailers, as well as a real human you can talk to….

Things are rather better, though, for the 55 members of an enterprising consortium called Vindependents (vindies for short), an agency that buys wine exclusively for the independent sector….

What I like about the wines the Vindependents select is that there’s almost always a good story behind them…

Fiona Beckett on drinks – The Guardian – Fri 20 Oct 2023

So what, I hear you say? 

Well, if you hadn’t guessed already, we are one of the 55 members of the Vindependents buying powerhouse – roughly 20% of our wines come from here, numbering amongst them best sellers like:

  • Champagne Lété-Vautrain
  • Domaine Landreau Cremant Rose
  • Vilacetinho Vinho Verde
  • Domaine Fournillon Chablis
  • Follas Novas Albariño
  • Iris Malbec
  • Cantine Povero Cabanè Langhe
  • Collequieto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

So we’re dead excited that Fiona has looked beyond the supermarket offerings and championed us minnows – thank you well, Mrs B.

But that’s enough about us, what about the rest of the world?

I suppose the first thing to mention is that summer is now definitely over.  I appreciate we have not broken news there but it becomes official on Sunday morning when we put the clocks back an hour and it starts to be dark for more than 60% of the day – happy days, red wine ahoy!

I’ve been warned not to mention sport which is easy since there doesn’t seem to be any going on at the moment – both the cricket and rugby world cups seem to have finished quite abruptly and Wayne hasn’t mentioned much cycling recently, so they must be on an eating phase.  Arsenal are third in the Premier League though, which is brilliant news……

And we obviously don’t want to talk about the AELTC, suffice to say chopping down mature trees and replacing them with a 95-metre long, 28-metre high, 8,000-seat show court doesn’t feel terribly Greta….

Back to football, loosely speaking, we see that Eric Cantona, famous sardine/seagull behaviourist is now a singer, having released an EP, I’ll Make My Own Heaven, at the end of last week but more on that later.

Yesterday, I was reminded of a pet peeve of ours which is the inexplicable popularity of celebrity drinks.  Union, a company that runs systems for high volume hospitality in the US, have crunched the data they accumulate from sales at the venues they serve and have come up with the following disturbing trend – punters are paying on average 73% more on drinks made by famous people!  Gulp.  We’ve laughed in the past at Kylie being 10th in the list of 100 Most Influential People in Drinks but hadn’t actually pondered on the fact that people might be paying more for the pleasure… I mean, I enjoyed Breaking Bad as we all did but I don’t think it ever made me think that I must rush out and buy the Bryan Cranston/Aaron Paul Dos Hombres Mezcal at £60 a pop!

Which brings me back to Cantona – does this mean we would expect to pay treble for his album because he is famous for something completely unrelated?!

I think no….

Back to wine, we thought it apt to taste a couple of the wines that Fiona B highlighted in last week’s article:

Le Veritable Jurançon Sec 2020 – £11.99

A lush, peachy white made from the local gros manseng grape. Fresher than you’d imagine from a 2020 vintage.

Sierra de Enmedio Monastrell – £10.99

Appealingly soft, juicy Spanish red. Easy to drink on its own, better with tapas.

Ok, so I’ve written longer ‘unsubscribe me’ emails but at least we know she liked them as much as we do!

Have a lovely weekend, enjoy the lie in on Sunday and try to avoid midgets demanding sweets on Tuesday!

Adventurers and World Records

Friday, October 20th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We found something that made us laugh out loud this week. You may recall past emails where we may have mentioned the madness of transferring the entire European Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg every other month. We’re rather old fashioned in the view that taxpayers should be able to expect a reasonable value for money approach to spending by their representatives and that this is anything but that. Anyhoo, on Monday, a train full of hundreds of MEP’s and European Parliament officials ended up at Disneyland Paris after being misrouted. You can imagine our mirth and I’m sure you can frame your own ‘bon mots’.   

One hundred miles from the coast of Vanuatu, Tom Robinson has been rescued. Not he of 2-4-6-8 Motorway fame but a young chap who had hoped to be the youngest person to row across the Pacific Ocean. He was nearly there too; he set off from Peru in July last year and was on the last leg, having set off from Luganville, Vanuatu on Monday and expecting to be in Cairns by December. He was rescued by a cruise ship that is now heading to Auckland from where he’ll fly home. I can never make up my mind if adventures of this nature are brave or foolhardy – certainly when I was 24 I never considered rowing anywhere in a homemade boat, certainly not across oceans. We definitely need adventurers like this, brave, foolhardy or otherwise.

Whilst we’re on the subject of water, it seems that Welsh Water, when confronted with independent analysis of their own figures, has admitted to illegally pumping sewage into Cardigan Bay. Their managing director of waste water says “We’re not proud of this at all. It’s a very uncomfortable position to be in – but it’s not for the want of trying. We have been trying to fix this.”

Maybe try harder?

Still on the subject of water, alarmingly, the Amazon is suffering a drought and is at its lowest level in a century, which doesn’t sound good at all.

On a brighter note, we have quite a lot of England versus South Africa World Cup action at the weekend. In Mumbai, it looks like the team will be able to welcome Stokes back after recovering from injury which should give a bit of a boost. At the other end of the day, and closer to home, we have Mahler, Martin and Steward facing an unchanged South African side in Paris. Marcus Smith is still suffering from the battering he took last week. Today’s semi-final is between Argentina and New Zealand – if last week’s games are anything to go by, it should be a fun weekend.

In other news, Rishi Sunak’s Future Fund, the much criticised Covid fund to support start-ups, invested £2 million pounds in four companies linked to his wife. Surprisingly, none of them are mentioned in his register of interests. According to the Cabinet Office, he has spent £650,271.28 on private or RAF jet hire. They say trains are expensive…

In wine news, Aristotelis Valaoritis has set a new world record for glass dancing. Glass dancing is a traditional Cypriot skill that you shouldn’t try at home folks since Aristotelis has been practicing this since 1995, entertaining people at events and restaurants. His world record? 319 wine glasses balanced, one by one, on trays on his head with a total weight of some 30kg – we think it’s certainly not something to try with your Riedels and apparently he’s now aiming to repeat this feat with whisky glasses!

On that note I think we should taste some wine – no rhyme or reason to these choices save the fact that the slow cooker is on duty tomorrow and the red will be a nice accompaniment…

Valenciso Blanco – £24.99 – A firm favourite with both of us, this white Rioja is a blend of 70% Viura and 30% Garnacha Blanca, sourced from 80 year old vines and then fermented with wild yeasts before lazing around for 9 months in Caucasian oak barrels. Complex aromas combining pretty, floral character with preserved lemon, truffle and smoky notes and a palate that is broad and well integrated, with nutty, stone fruit notes. Fresh candied peel, minerality and crisp citrus acidity on the finish and the texture in the mouth is similar to a posh Graves but believe me when I say it’s unmistakably Spanish in style which is why I often pair it with a fish supper!

Château de Paraza ‘Cuvée Spéciale’ 2017 – £16.99 – as discussed, casserole is in the offing and what better to match it than a Syrah, Grenache Noir & Mourvèdre blend. They give us a deep red, garnet coloured wine with cherry and raspberry compote notes, red licorice string in the background and a lovely juicy acidity which make this a great all-rounder of a wine – happy days!

Hello Trousers, Unfinished Business and Joseph Perrier Champagne

Friday, October 13th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Red Wine Time!  Bye, bye Indian summer, hello trousers and damp mornings.

But before we get into that, what’s been going on in the world this week…

We were amused that Donald Trump, a man currently in court for inflating his wealth, has issued a demand for an apology from Forbes for taking him off of their wealth list.

We’ve both been chuffed to find our teams at the top of the Premiership. Wayne especially so as it involved Arsenal beating Manchester City!

We felt disappointment when we read that a person as wealthy as Bernie Ecclestone felt the need to defraud the UK government. He was busted and received a suspended sentence and will pay the HMRC £652 million. To be fair, it’s not the first time we’ve been disappointed in this manner.

We were amazed to hear Chaka Khan collaborating with Bombay Bicycle Club (Tekken 2), and absolutely loved the Rolling Stones track with Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder (Sweet Sound of Heaven).

We found ourselves wondering what could be more elementary than a school boy error? Could it be a Farrell? We’re fairly sure that schoolboys don’t run out of time on a kick.

We also found ourselves wishing that the world had much more glitter and many less bullets.

Back in SW19, our numerous trips to the West End to taste different wines have started to bear fruit, as this week we welcomed two new wines to our shelves and also welcomed back an old friend.

Domaine d’Altugnac ‘Les Turitelles’ Chardonnay 2022 – £15.99

So, we all love white burgundy but can’t necessarily always justify treating ourselves to Chablis Grand Cru on a Monday and this is where ‘Les Turitelles’ steps in.  Childhood friends, Christian Collovray and Jean-Luc Terrier each grew up in a family of winemakers and shared a bond from a young age.  They became closer still, when they married sisters, Brigitte and Florence, also from a winemaking family.  They now boast two properties, Domaine des Deux Roches in Mâcon and Domaine Altugnac in Languedoc  which means you’ve got Burgundy winemakers bringing all their skill and experience to their property in Limoux – what’s not to like?!  Bursting with white floral aromatics and a touch of citrus on the palate, followed by a concentrated and lingering finish this is a complete joy, perfect any day of the week!

Hesketh ‘Unfinished Business’ Pinot Noir 2021 – £16.99

We’d already appreciated this Pinot and were on the cusp of ordering when we read this message on their website:

Hesketh Wines acknowledges the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and the traditional custodians of the lands where we live, learn and work. We acknowledge the importance of the land to its traditional owners, and we as guests are committed to always respectfully caring for the land.

That’s what we like to hear, so we went ahead and bought the wine!  Made with fruit sourced from a selection of premium cool climate vineyards within the renowned Limestone Coast region in South Australia’s southeastern corner, this is made in a way that allows the juicy intensity of this parcel of fruit to shine.  Light to medium bodied with luscious red fruits and juicy acidity pursued by plush tannins, this is an incredibly moreish wine that we expect to have to re-order quite quickly!

Joseph Perrier Brut ‘Cuvée Royale’ – £45.00 (also available in magnum)

Founded in 1825, Champagne Joseph Perrier has been owned and run by the same family since 1888 and own 21 hectares of vineyards on the right bank of the River Marne, around Hautvillers and Cumières, two villages classed 93% in the ‘échelle des crus’ (the former official crus scale of Champagne).  ‘Cuvée Royale’ alludes to the historic relationship between Joseph Perrier and Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, as the royals’ Champagne of choice – probably the highest honour any Champagne house can hope to earn.  A blend of 35% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier, with three years of ageing, this vivacious champagne has a delicate nose of green apples and stone fruits, and a lively freshness that balances the round and elegant citrus fruit on the palate.

Welcome back, old friend!

I reckon, having just rattled on about the Turitelles and the Hesketh, that the sensible follow up would be to get them both open on the tasting counter this weekend so you can try them for yourselves and check our workings….

And that, I think, is that.

Reliable Surprises

Friday, October 6th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It’s been a week since we last spoke, and the world has rotated 7 times, which is nice and reliable and unlike a lot of other things that have happened this week.

Things that we could rely on to happen were:

  • Suella making a speech and managing to wind everyone up
  • Rishi making a speech and managing to upset the top half of the country
  • Every Conservative speaker studiously avoiding the multitude of elephants in the room
  • Trump using  the words ‘witch-hunt’, ‘fraudulent’, ‘fake’ and ‘disgrace’ when talking about his court case
  • KPMG 2023 CEO Outlook report released
  • A football manager complaining about VAR
  • Ben Stokes being injured…
  • …and England losing
  • Mark Cavendish coming out of retirement

The surprises were:

  • that Liz Truss MBGA speech
  • 400 people queuing to listen to the aforementioned Loopy Liz
  • Rishi paving the way to make tobacco potentially more illegal than cannabis
  • Akshata Narayana Murty, Rishi’s best friend,  making a particularly toe curling intro speech
  • Rishi then referring to her as ‘Truly the best long-term decision for a brighter future I ever made’ as if she was another new investment opportunity…
  • For those of you working from home in your dressing gown – the KPMG 2023 CEO Outlook report reveals that:

a) 64% of CEOs believe that there will be a full return to office in three years’ time

b) 87% of CEOs are likely to reward employees who make an effort to come into the office with favourable assignments, raises or promotions

  • Jürgen Norbert Klopp calling for a replay of the last Liverpool game, as if it’s the first time a wrong decision has been made that affects the outcome of a match
  • Klopp then calling for an investigation into Sir Geoff Hurst’s extra time goal in the 1966 World Cup Final
  • Frank Lampard then calling for an investigation into his disallowed goal in the 2010 World Cup

Ok, so the last two aren’t true but I think I’ve made my point.

However, I’m not really sure where professional sport will be in 10 years’ time, given all the rising costs and demands on the hosts.   The Commonwealth Games is currently without a 2026 venue; the only people interested in hosting Euro 2028 are the UK & Ireland after Turkey dropped out; and the 2030 World Cup will seemingly be hosted by Spain, Portugal and Morocco but with the first three matches being played in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay!

Oh, and then we read that The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, fresh from playing against Qatar at St James’ Park on Wednesday and winning 4-1, has announced its intention to bid for the 2034 World Cup.  Other contenders are likely to be China; The Association of Southeast Asian Nations; Uzbekistan & Kazakhstan and Australia & New Zealand (who, if you recall, have just dropped the Commonwealth Games) – so it feels like the Saudi bid stands a chance and the Sportwashing will continue.

Meanwhile, in a theatre in the West End, Just Stop Oil were settling down to watch Les Misérables….

In the world of wine, not so much has moved or shaken this week – we have continued our tastings of ‘Wines for Christmas’ and are hopefully getting towards some sort of consensus which should soon translate into new wines on the shelves.  However, talk of Christmas feels a bit premature as we read that September temperatures were ‘gobsmackingly bananas’ – and that’s a direct quote from a climate scientist.  The gobsmack is due to continue it would seem, as the forecast for this weekend is wall-to-wall sunshine until next Wednesday and temperatures around 24 Celsius!

Not sure we’ve got enough Rosé for this…

I really thought I was going to be opening autumnal reds by now but as it isn’t yet time, we’ll be opening a white and a red that will be very happy alongside your 8th October barbecued spatchcock.  Both come from our pals at Barton Vintners, producers in Walker Bay, South Africa:

Barton Chenin Blanc 2022 – £12.99 – Walker Bay is considered to be an area with exciting potential: the region has varying altitudes and ideal soils that help produce some world class, elegant wines.  This Chenin has a lean, green apple and white pear nose whilst the palate has a full, rounded mouth-feel, still with the apple and pear but also some hints of spice and lingering acidity.

Barton Rouge 2020 – £10.99 – a firm favourite of ours, this is a juicy blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot, giving us a rich and fruit driven wine with dark brambly fruits and a touch of spice, yet without too much tannin to get in the way of the fun. A real food all-rounder too….

And with that we’re gone.  Seems that silly season is upon us with a whole swathe of significant birthdays looming, so if you’re hitting the big 40, 50 or 60 even, this one’s for you!

The end of an era

Friday, September 29th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So, that’s the end of an era.  The Volvo finally wended its way to a charming retirement yesterday, somewhere just outside St Austell.  Happily we are told that there is a vibrant Swedish ex-pat community in Little Polgooth, regular Abba nights in Hewas Water and, if the urge for meatballs and Daim bars becomes too hard to resist, Exeter has an Ikea – so all is good – although Exeter is over the border, so there may be a problem…

But we move on.  From now on the PV deliveries will be sponsored by either Volkswagen, Skoda or pushbike, dependent on the size of order and the clemency of the weather but, rest assured, we will still be able to drop off your favourite tipples in a timely manner.

But we now move out of SW19.  It seems that the BBC has finally enacted some of the ‘Artist Formerly Known As Twitter’ protocols that we had to institute here a good while back to curb some of Wayne’s enthusiasm.  @mikeycylcing and @TheJeremyVine would be nothing without his retweet button however, he readily accepted that he had a particular responsibility to respect Park Vintners’ impartiality, because of his high profile at Park Vintners and as such would no longer be saying all those rotten things about charming Suella and her lovely brain trust at 55 Tufton Street.

What we did find interesting from this was which programmes auntie considers to be ‘flagship’:

  • Antiques Roadshow
  • Dragons’ Den
  • MasterChef
  • Match of the Day
  • Strictly Come Dancing
  • The Apprentice
  • The One Show
  • Top Gear
  • major sporting events – not so many of these nowadays I think

while for radio they have spotlighted the shows presented by the following political heavyweights:

  • Greg James
  • Zoe Ball
  • Vernon Kay
  • Scott Mills

The world will be a poorer place, robbed of their commentary and insight.

Interestingly, Have I Got News For You didn’t make the flagship list, despite the fact that it is about to start its 66th season – perhaps they realised trying to silence the editor of Private Eye might be too much to ask…

But we move away from W1 and venture to Europe.  In France we delighted in victories for England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the Rugby, in Spain we saw Europe keep hold of the Solheim Cup whilst back in Holloway, on Sunday, Tottenham slowed Arsenal’s 2023/24 premiership campaign – I do hope those 2 points aren’t significant come May!  As only Scotland are playing rugby this weekend, the rest of us can focus on the Ryder Cup that starts today, in Rome, where the big bearded fellows Rahm & Hatton got us off to winning start and then the very in-form Norway and Sweden representatives teamed up for Match 2 to do the same.  Match 3 saw a return of the beard with Irish Shane joining long tall Sepp for another win and then Fleetwood Mac completed the landslide – mouth-watering stuff.  Two years ago, 8 of the US players were in the world Top 10 whilst this time they have 6 and we have 4 – the gap has narrowed and we’re playing in Europe, might as well start engraving the trophy now!

And that’s about it for world news.  Here on Arthur Road, having said arrivederci to Whisk a fortnight back, we said wilkommen this week to Ben Venuti who hopefully will pick up where Andrea & Sara left off and keep us all well fed with the good stuff.

Speaking of good stuff, fancy trying some wine this weekend?  Good, rather hoped you’d say yes.  Today we’ll be opening a white from the middle shelf and a red from the third one up.

Domaine Morin-Langaran Cuvee Caroline Picpoul de Pinet – £15.99 

Picpoul is a grape variety that has been grown for years on the banks of Lake Thau, in sight of the famous oyster-beds of Bouzigues down in the Languedoc.  The vines bask in the sunshine being gently aired by the salty breeze and thus this wine is unmistakably Mediterranean.  The estate has been in the same family since 1966 and they produce a classic Picpoul, aged on its fine lees for complexity and the perfect match to shellfish, grilled fish or just as an aperitif!

Quinta do Espinho Colheita 2018 – £13.99

A classic blend of the Douro – Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, all of which feature in the sweet Port wines of the region and in fact these chaps also provide the Taylor’s port people with grapes.  However, this is a dry wine, bright, elegant and complex with lots of red berry and cherry on the nose.  The oak is light and well integrated bringing some extra length to the juicy finish, a touch of spice and green herb too – dangerously delicious and a proper all-rounder food wise.

And now we must leave you be, to continue with your daily tasks.  Have a splendid weekend, and, if you’re going to watch a Michael Gambon movie, eschew the Harry Potter offerings and get your teeth into The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, & Her Lover and raise a glass to the maestro!

Runaway, Rugby and a Red Jumper

Friday, September 22nd, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well, I’ve been away for what feels like five minutes and seem have missed all sorts of excitement.

First up, we had an escapee from Wandsworth Prison, who was an ex-soldier and skilled in survival. I bet that had everyone checking the back door before bedtime. Well, for all his survival skills, getting caught in Chiswick is hardly entering Race Across the World territory is it? I’m not sure he’d even make it through auditions for Hunted.

Incidentally, we saw yesterday that he has pleaded not guilty to escaping from Wandsworth Prison on September 6th. We couldn’t help but wonder how he could then explain his reasons for being by the canal in Chiswick on the morning of 9th September.

England have won two Rugby games, apparently not elegantly but WON! Alex says me not being here was possibly the key!

Sepp Kuss of Jumbo Visma won La Vuelta a España, his first Grand Tour after being the key super domestique in many of their previous victories. Not least La Vuelta 2019, 2020, 2021 Tour de France 2022, 2023 and Giro d’Italia 2023. I seem to recall people said it was boring when Team Sky was dominant.

I don’t know if any of you caught Rishi Sunak’s speech on Wednesday but we feel we should be congratulating him. Not only has he abandoned non-policies like us having seven bins, raising a meat tax, banning chocolate and introducing expensive insulation, but he has managed to unite the Green Party with car manufacturers. We certainly didn’t have that on our Silly Speech Bingo Card.

On the wine front, we’ve been out and about wine tasting a bit this week, ostensibly looking for some wintry treats. We have some sore teeth, a few ideas and inevitably tasted some wrong’uns too.  For the most part they are yet to be shipped, so do watch this space.

In the meantime, we would like to mention the welcome return of Leveret Premium Brut (£16.99). You may remember it as that fizz from New Zealand that’s really good value. It’s a classic blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay made in the traditional method. Alex likes it for breakfast with some smoked salmon whilst for me it’s perfect for Fizz Friday!

Tasting This Weekend

We’ll start off with a white from New Zealand. Mountford Liaison Riesling 2021 (£18.49) hails from North Canterbury and is a lively, zippy and fresh Riesling, just off dry and I reckon pitch perfect with a prawn Laksa!

Red wise, a quick visit to Veneto finds us pulling the cork on Riondo Valpolicella Ripasso 2019 (£16.99). The sharp eyed amongst you might recognise the Riondo name from the Amarone shelf and this certainly carries some of that rich dark fruited style. Rich smooth and full bodied with black cherry and damson fruit, we thought it cracking value when we tasted it. What do you think?