Archive for the ‘general’ Category

Free For All

Friday, July 23rd, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Captain Peacock : Are you free, Mr Humphries?

Mr. Humphries : I’m free!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Beer

Slybeast 1533 Session IPA – £3.70

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

Park Brewery Ballet Loop Table Beer – £3.80

Sambrook’s Session IPA – £3.40

Wine

Two new whites, seemed sensible given the weather:

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

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

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

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

Ground floor: perfumery, Stationery and leather goods

Wigs and haberdashery, Kitchenware and food

Going up

First floor: telephones, Gents’ ready-made suits

Shirts, socks, ties, hats, Underwear and shoes

Going up

Second floor: carpets, Travel goods and beddings

Materials and soft furnishing, Restaurant and teas

Going down

Bye for now!

The Week That Was

Friday, July 16th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So that was the week that was. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Whatever else you do, stay well!

Is It Coming Home?

Friday, July 9th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well how’s your week been going? I spent an hour and half yesterday trying to persuade a small bird to leave the building. It entered by the window behind me, hovered by the whisky for a bit and settled on the shelf by Italy. It didn’t want to leave by the open front door, didn’t want to sit on the handle of the feather duster to be led out. Then visited France for a bit, before flying a few lengths of the shop and finally leaving by the window it arrived through (I hope, certainly not seen it since!). Not that we generally discourage visitors you understand, but I’m not sure our wine and food matching is up to be speed with greenfly, blackfly or birdseed. For the ornithologists amongst you it was a little brown one a bit smaller than a sparrow, not as small as a wren.

We’ve heard from the government and they’ve clearly decided that they’re fed up with us pointing out the confusion and contradictions in their guidance. Over 100 scientists have written a letter to suggest the government is now conducting “a dangerous and unethical experiment” but what- Ho; July 19th looks like it’ll be “freedom day” with remaining restrictions likely to be largely lifted. Those returning from “amber” countries will no longer have to isolate, you’ll be able to go to the bar and order a drink and finally we’ll all be able to go nightclubbing again. Please don’t fly in the back window though, it’s rather distracting.

In other news the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was passed, considerably hindering the right to peaceful protest, particularly if you’re a bit noisy. Pritti Patel’s Nationality and Borders bill has been published. It seems to put us in opposition to the Law of the Sea that ships have a duty to assist those in distress by making it illegal for anyone to help asylum seekers by removing the clause “and for gain”. The RNLI has already been moved to defend itself. Of course, it was easy to miss this as all the press was talking about “freedom day”. An absolute coincidence I’m sure.

Well it could be coming home, we’ll find out for sure on Sunday, but in the meantime it has certainly set the postcode into the satnav in preparation. I’m talking, of course, about the England football team’s fine performance in getting to face Italy in the finals of the 2020 Euro at Wembley on Sunday. I might avoid Piccadilly Circus on Sunday evening if you’re in a hurry to get anywhere; it seemed slightly chaotic on Wednesday!

Meanwhile a state of emergency has been declared for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, meaning stadia will be empty of fans. That’s got to make quite a difference to the 15000 athletes expected to attend, we’ll all have to cheer encouragement through our TV sets, it seemed to work for the footie.

In proper sports the Tour de France has been playing an absolute blinder! We’ve had crashes, grown men crying, sprinters doing well in climbing stuff and unexpected people being sent home for wearing the slow legs on the wrong day. We have a man on the ground who tells us that the rosé is rather tasty on a hot day, and there are worse places to stay than the southern Rhône. We’ve shuddered on seeing that Vincenzo Nibali hit a speed of 107kmh descending from Ventoux! A lovely, wide, smooth road closed to traffic but 107 kmh! We have a mostly flat day today, 220km travelling through the glorious countryside from Nimes to Carcassonne, I wonder if that Cavendish fella might fancy it.

In wine news it has all kicked off in Russia. Champagne have fallen out with Russia in a labelling row, the term Champagne is heavily protected and legally defended as we all know. But last week Vladimir Putin signed a law saying that only sparkling wines produced in Russia can use the word “shampanskoye” on the front label.  Comment was quick to emerge from Champagne that it was protected in 120 countries and this law change would result in a temporary suspension in shipments. I suspect as we speak new back labels are being printed, we’re all in sales after all!

In other wine news, Angeline Jolie has filed papers requesting an injunction be lifted so that she can sell her share of Nouvel LLC, the company that owns Chateau Miravel, the Provencal wine estate the couple bought in 2011. Seems she has a buyer lined up so no point putting a bid in!

We actually went to a wine tasting this week, almost a year since we last went to one, boy were we out of practice! I forgot how tiring it can be (cue the violins!) and having a personal spittoon means you’re always one hand short of the right amount, spittoon, glass and pen for tasting notes, yet just two hands! On the plus side we are now up to speed with several new vintages, have tasted a few new things that may well appear in a few months’ time and also caught up with chums from around the country.

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

Dare to believe!

Winning Ways In Wine and Cycling

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This being a bit of an old school, once-a-week-only-on-a-Friday publication (and I use that word loosely), we tend to finalise copy on a Thursday evening before we send it off to the subs, who then attempt turn our drivel into some form of vaguely palatable writing before they then send it off to the presses for the West End Final.

Well, actually of course most of this doesn’t happen except for the bit about it being written late on a Thursday, which means that anything exciting that happens on a Friday often gets missed.  Then, by the time we get to the following Thursday other things will have happened and we can’t really talk about the events of last week.

Which is a shame, because I think we could have really gone to town examining the Matt Hancock affair.  I mean, the downfall of a man so well loved and respected by the nation should not go by without comment, surely.  Of course, he wasn’t sacked for being caught in flagrante delicto because his boss very quickly considered the matter closed – which he would of course, given that his own reaction to accusations of wandering hands in 2004 was to brush off these reports as “an inverted pyramid of piffle”.

Michael Howard had clearly had enough of Boris at the time.  Having asked him to resign and been ignored, he ended up firing him from his responsibilities as shadow minister for the arts and vice-chairman of the Conservative Party by telephone after being informed about the newspaper reports relating to Petronella Wyatt.

And that, as The Guardian stated at the time, ‘brings an end to an unlikely but uniquely engaging political career. Johnson, 40, who is also editor of the Spectator magazine, became one of the few modern Tories able to capture the public imagination, even provoking speculation he could be a future leader.’  Gaby Hinsliff, Sunday 14 November 2004.

So, as I’m sure has been noted already, we look forward to Matt Hancock re-igniting his career and becoming a future Prime Minister – we just can’t wait, such exciting times!

Away from Whitehall’s goofballs, the very serious world of wine gave some awards out on Wednesday evening.  The International Wine Challenge 2021 made their announcements yesterday and wineries around the world now await their Gold, Silver or Bronze stickers to attach to their wines before they go on sale.  There are also trade awards, which will mean very little to most of you, though it was nice to see that Bancroft Wines, who we buy Joseph Perrier Champagne and Amon-Ra amongst others, win Medium Agent of the Year – chapeau!

Elsewhere, the Wine Society won Wine Club of the Year for perhaps the gazillionth time which frankly shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.  A well-run company that’s been going since the 1870’s and that ploughs all its members dividends back into its working capital should be able to see off any rivals – and it does!

However, for us the most exciting thing was to see that the mighty Hans Tschida, maker of our thoroughly underrated but hugely delicious Samling 88Trockenbeerenauslese 2007 – £43.00, win Sweet Winemaker of the Year.  We say his wines are underrated purely because sweet wines from Austria are not necessarily the top of everyone’s shopping list – France usually gets peoples vote.  However, his wines should not be ignored and whilst being crowned best Sweet Winemaker is a great accolade, he will need to find room in his trophy cabinet having previously won this award in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2019!  It may not be the cheapest wine in the shop but it’s possibly one of the best!

Finally, Wayne tells me that he is going to have to get his Mark Cavendish tattoo re-inked as the Manx Missile yesterday won his second stage of this year’s Tour de France, now making his overall total 32 stage wins.  I advised him to wait a moment, there could be more to come.  In other news, Eddy Merckx has announced his intention to ride in the TdF next year, keen to protect his record…

That’s it from us for now – hopefully we have some sunshine this weekend, we certainly have plenty of chilled Rosé.  We also have some British Lions Rugby, we have the tennis and then at 8pm on Saturday, the biggest moment of my week since Tuesday – dinner out with my family – can someone text me the score please!

Befuddled!

Friday, June 25th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

What to make of it all, I don’t know and I have many, so many questions….

If the world hadn’t witnessed the Mason Mount/Ben Chilwell/Billy Gilmour on pitch hugathon, would they still have to have self-isolated?

How did Billy Gilmour get Covid?

Why do whole school classes have to self-isolate when there is a positive case in their bubble yet none of the Scotland team had to?  Could it be that the financial repercussions  of a whole team being forced to isolate are too great – let’s face it, even when Christian Eriksen almost died, the teams were back out on the pitch within a couple of hours and I’m sure there was plenty of supportive hugging between players in that interval…

We can’t be trusted to have a wedding party for 150 people in our back garden but, in 16 days, 100 times that number of people will be crammed into centre court for the Men’s Final.  Then, if it rains, well, that’ll be 15,000 people indoors and we all know how very well spaced out the seats are….

2,500 untested VIP’s at Wembley on 11th July yet no German fans allowed in for the match next Tuesday – double standards?

We still cannot get on a plane, even though we’re told 82% of adults have had the first dose and over 60% are double vacced – but does Europe want us?  And then, on the one hand you have the assertion that we implemented border restrictions too late whilst in the same breath there is a ‘real opportunity’ to travel this summer… hmmm, confused

We still have to wear masks, I think, don’t we?  Hard to tell in some places and definitely ambiguous in many places.  You go to pick up your takeaway coffee for example and you have to wear a mask for the minute you are in there but anyone sitting in there ‘working’ on the free Wi-Fi can sit for hours unmasked…

Answers to any of these questions gladly received – I have no axe to grind I’m just befuddled!

So, what else has been going on?  Well, this week we’ve celebrated Summer Solstice, we’ve celebrated the 5th anniversary of the Brexit referendum and we’ve sold a lot of champagne, rosé and beer – not sure if these sales are related to the aforementioned celebrations, I think they might be more weather and football related.  We’ve also had the most successful English Wine Week to date, with sales of the New Hall Pinot Noir far exceeding our expectations, which makes us smile.

In the outside world, a stark warning was given a few weeks back but I’m not sure how much it was reported outside the trade.  Basically we need to wean ourselves off Sauvignon Blanc, particularly those from Marlborough, New Zealand.  As we come to the end of the 2020 vintage we are faced with the prospect of the 2021 vintage being at least 20% smaller which, whilst it is being lauded as being of exceptional quality, will result in less wine on the shelves and at a higher price point.  We have just received the last of our stock of 2020 Greywacke and have already been told that when the 2021 lands in October it will be on allocation – let’s see what we get given! 

But that’s alright, I hear you say, we’ll just drink Sancerre instead.  Sadly not.  The frosts in early April affected approximately 80% of French vineyards, so unfortunately not so much Loire white will be seen from this vintage and, again, any we do see will be at a premium price.

Looking at the positives though, there is still plenty of great quality wine coming out of South Africa and South America so perhaps we should see this as an opportunity to move away from Sauvignon Blanc, as we did with Pinot Grigio a few years back, and embrace some new styles!

Oh, and whilst I’m spreading joyous tidings, the rumour is that supplies of Whispering Angel might also be slashed as the owners (LVMH) look to raid the US market and take a large chunk of the wine that was due for UK sales… as I say, it’s a rumour but from a certified source!

In other news, we have ample stocks of Château de L’Aumérade ‘Cuvée Marie-Christine’ 2020 Côtes de Provence Cru Classé (£15.99, or 6 for £80)!

At this point my colleague would usually start wittering on about sport, particularly cycling.  Suffice to say, the Tour de France starts this weekend and with the Tennis starting over the road on Monday you’ll have to start calling him Terry Two-Tellies as he tries to keep up with everything!

Finally, very sadly we suddenly lost a long-time friend and loyal supporter this week who will be very sorely missed by all of us – god bless you George, we raise a glass in your honour and to absent friends.

Valete.

English Wine Week

Friday, June 18th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sparkling

Hawkins Bros Brut Reserve, Surrey, England – £30

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

Bolney Estate Classic Cuvée, Sussex, England – £28.99

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

Hambledon Classic Cuvée Rosé, Hampshire, England – £37

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

Still

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers,

Wayne & Alex

How’s your week been?

Friday, June 11th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers!

Tax, Sunshine & Roero Arneis

Friday, June 4th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Truth, Denials, Penalties & English Red

Friday, May 28th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Hall Vineyard Limited Edition Pinot Noir 2018 – £22.99

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

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

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

Provence Rose In Store, Summer Surely Approaching!

Friday, May 21st, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

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

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

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

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

Summer is cancelled. 

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

We can only apologise for our actions.

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

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

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

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

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

Any good news Wayne, I hear you ask?

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

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

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

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

Cheers!