Archive for the ‘general’ Category

We’ve Found A Brick

Friday, October 22nd, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

How’s your week been? We’ll confess to having had better ones if we’re honest. We received an alarm signal at about the midpoint of that biblical storm on Wednesday night and Alex was dead chuffed to test the waterproof nature of his jacket with a stroll in the rain just before midnight.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t a false alarm, as some kind person had presented us with the gift of an old London house brick. It turns out that 24/7 glaziers are less 24/7 when the rain is falling and by the time someone had been and boarded up the damage the rain had actually stopped. A rather sleep deprived Alex set off for home pleased with his jacket’s performance but somehow a little disappointed with the performance of human kind.

Fortunately, little was stolen. When you’ve been in the game for 20 years you only ever put dummies in the window so that the other dummies can’t get away with much. So, leave nothing in your cars folks and if anyone is missing a brick…

If all of this wasn’t enough, I’ve just discovered that the history I understood to be true has been torn up. Imagine that, for decades I’ve been wrong, and not just me, possibly all of you too. Scientists writing in the journal ‘Nature’ have discovered that Christopher Columbus was not the first European to sail to America. Dating some wood at a Norse settlement in Newfoundland, it seems the Vikings arrived around 1021 AD, almost 500 years before that slacker Columbus!

Whilst we’re getting the bad news out of the way, some people will be devastated to hear the price of Marmite is on the rise. We’re surprised to discover it’s not covered by the energy price cap!

We’ve just had this year’s World Porridge Making Championship (yes really!). Normally, it takes place in Carrbridge, which is bona fide proper Highland Scotland but this year it was held virtually (Zoom Porridge?). Anyway, top spoils were taken by Dutch food blogger Miriam Groot for her oat arancini with mushrooms and white wine. I don’t know about you but I’m unconvinced that I would find the recipe in my book filed under porridge.   The top 10 included two Americans, two Australians, one cook from Germany, two from England and one from Scotland. They each won a hand-carved spurtle which is a 15th century Scottish wooden kitchen tool, used for stirring porridge. Looking at them, I’m not sure you could pick up arancini with them.

It’s got to that stage of the football season where managers decide to change their commute and Sam Allardyce updates his LinkedIn. Bruce is out at Newcastle United, Nigel Adkins is out at Charlton Athletic and Kevin Maher is in at Southend United. Mourinho could be under a spot of pressure too, it’s not often you see an Italian team taking such a drubbing; maybe they were unsettled being that far north?

Whilst writing this piece I have just discovered there is a computer game called Football Manager. Who on earth plays a game that fires you in October? Is Super Mario in charge at Naples? I have so many questions.

We’ve had a chat with HR and we’ve decided that we’re making Alex Employee of the Month for services to the late night economy of Arthur Road. With that done, should we taste some wine?

We thought we’d visit Portugal this week for some good everyday drinkers.

The white corner will be inhabited by Ai Galera Mistico 2018, Tejo – £9.49

Tejo, a region east of Lisbon, has been overlooked for too long but, as we’ve said before, Portugal is where the value is at and this blend of Fernão Pires and Verdelho is a fine demonstration.  Golden yellow in the glass, entirely unoaked and with a lovely soft, satisfying, juicy fruit character.  Wayne likes the thought of some grilled sardines; Alex thought some lemon sole, so we’re definitely looking seaward!

Whilst leaning on the bar in the red room will be Terra Boa 2018, Beiras – £9.49

This is from the granite based uplands by the Spanish border, grown between 500 and 700 metres altitude.  A blend of predominantly Touriga Nacional and Tinta Roriz, with a 10% splash of Cabernet Sauvignon, its bramble and plum aromas are very appealing. Generous and supple on the palate, with fresh red cherry and blackberry leaf characters, fine tannins and a touch of spice on the juicy finish.  Our food match – some slow cooked pork with a bit of spice rub and some couscous, wonderful!

AWOL

Friday, October 15th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Boris, Boris, Boris – even when he’s on holiday he still manages to make bad headlines and bugger things up for people.

Since the mid 80’s, Alex’s family have called Benahavís, in the south of Spain, their second home.  Many summers went by in the happy embrace of Minh’s bar, or before that Don’s Bar on the corner, where a Bloody Mary with a Fino sherry top was just the ticket.  The ‘teca, with its mirror ceiling-ed dancefloor was a great late night haunt, a good place to work off the enormous Solomillo Adobado dished up at Las Cañas in the village square and a perfect place to practice Spanish with the locals.  In August, the Feria to mark the Saint’s day was filled with bull-running, dodgems and supersized Vodka y Naranjas.  We knew that Sir Jimmy and Adnan had properties up in the hills and occasionally we would see family members in the village, or Kashoggi’s yacht in the port but this was fine because everything was very low key.  There was wall to wall sunshine, mountains to be biked, rapids to be ridden and golf to be played – a blissful oasis.

But now Boris has come a-visiting so there goes the neighbourhood – thanks mate.

But also, why was he on holiday and not here unloading containers at Felixstowe?  Oh, of course, conference season.  The season runs from 23rd September until 18th October and since the Tory Conference was from 3rd – 6th October that gives anyone with a well-documented tendency to roam the perfect opportunity to nip off for a bit of sunshine whilst the rest of us try and keep the economy going.  As a side note, when I mentioned to Wayne that Parliament is only open for about 158 working days this year, or roughly 13 working days a month, he immediately decided to run in the next election as part of his easing into retirement strategy!

Elsewhere in the news, what do we have?  Large dollops of doom and gloom but also a media that refuses to learn any lessons.  Fresh from sending half the country into an unnecessary spin over petrol shortages they are now putting the panics on the punters with scare stories about Christmas shortages and empty shelves.  Everyone brace yourselves, this rollercoaster ride is far from over.

Even sport hasn’t offered us the succour we often get and the violence at the football and a not terribly good result just about put the icing on the cake.

So let’s not dwell on such things, let’s think about drinking wine this weekend instead.  Having been to the classic regions of Bordeaux and the Loire last week we thought we’d hop over the border into Cataluña now and taste a brace of wines from the Mas Blanch I Jové winery in Costers del Segre which is just west of Priorat.

We liked these wines from the start, particularly their strapline ‘Wines that Inspire’.  They practice ecological mountain viticulture and produce wine with grapes all sourced from their 17 hectare property.  Most (99%) of the energy they use is solar, the vineyard has been certified as organic since 2015 and they have a great arrangement with artists and sculptors in the vineyard too – they have more than a dozen works of art scattered over the property which look awesome.  Having only tasted their wines when Sara was over in the UK, this is one winery that both of us are itching to visit!

Mas Blanch I Jove Troballa 2019/20 – £17.99 – a great wine, 100% Garnacha Blanca with wild fermentation, aged for four months in concrete eggs.  Rich and fruity with a lovely mouthfeel that would be splendid with a rare tuna steak.  The wine is suitable for vegans too, so perhaps a lightly spiced vegetable and coconut curry.

Mas Blanche I Jove Sao Abrivat 2017 – £17,99 – This red is a blend of 40% Tempranillo, 35% Grenache and 25% Cabernet Sauvignon matured in a mixture of French and American oak barrels for around 12 months.  The wine is soft with a lovely dark red fruit character and a melange of vanilla, cinnamon and black pepper spice notes before the long balanced finish.  A regular visitor to both our dining tables….

Another brief epistle this week but I’m sure when there is more happy news to report on they will get longer – in the meantime have a bon weekend and pop by to taste some wine with us if you get a chance!

¡Saludos!

All Part Of The Plan

Friday, October 8th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So, this week we had the Tory Party Conference in Manchester. Along the way we were encouraged to Build Back Better, Build Back Butter and Build Back Batter but certainly not any talk of Build Back Barber…

The crowning glory of course was the leader’s speech which carried all the gravitas and detail that we’ve come to expect. The Independent appears to have found eight false claims ranging from being the number one country for investment to claiming to build 48 new hospitals.  You may recall that NHS bosses were ordered to call rebuild projects as “New Hospitals” back in August.  Sky News went as far as suggesting that the speech was “economically illiterate”, a comment that we find difficult to argue with. All these shortages were definitely the Government’s idea apparently but definitely businesses fault.

Anyway, we’re all set to become a high wage economy. The government is very keen for businesses to pay their staff more, clearly they haven’t spoken to anyone at the Bank of England, I’m fairly sure they were warning against that sort of thing just a week or two ago.

Over at Justice, Dominic Raab has shown he is completely on top of his brief declaring that “Misogyny is absolutely wrong, whether it’s a man against a woman, or a woman against a man”. Glad we cleared that up!  Between us, we think he’s only there to make the others look smarter. Anyway, that’s enough shooting fish in barrels.

Talking of shooting, it looks like Newcastle might be moving from the frying pan to the fire as finally that Saudi consortium buys out Mike Ashley. I’m sure he’ll spend his extra time looking at a pay rises and improved conditions for his employees at Sports Direct.

In other news, Facebook has a whistle-blower, Frances Haugen, who has been on Sixty Minutes, in front of a senate committee and coming soon to a parliament near you. The fact that Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp all had a six hour outage rather soon after Ms Haugen was on Sixty Minutes is a coincidence we’re sure. Mark Zuckerberg, as usual, said the claims were untrue. Somewhere there is a saying about smoke and fire, I believe.

Last week Alex teased you all about panic buying. This week, a headline in Bar Magazine stated: “WINE DRINKERS FACE EMPTY SHELVES AND HIGHER PRICES AS ‘PERFECT STORM’ HITS GLOBAL WINE SUPPLIES”. Now, we’re not entirely sure why they are shouting but with harvest yields down in Champagne (60%), New Zealand (20%), France (29% but suspect that includes champagne!) and Italy (9%) we’re starting to wonder if he may have had a point! Rest assured we won’t give ourselves inflation busting pay rises, despite what Worzel Gummidge may have said.

For those of you following the James Bond theme lately, Daniel Craig has a sparkly new star on the walk of fame and we’ve sold half of our Bond Bollinger 007!

Gary Barlow has launched an Organic Red and an Organic White, both from Spain. If you’d like to Take That then it only takes a minute to have a chat with Morrisons where our chum Clive has put them on the shelves.

On the tasting table this week we’re going to play fast and loose with the shortages in France. We’ll doff the white cravat with Domaine Lebrun Pouilly Fumé (£17.99), a crisp dry and rather classic Loire white that we’ve been selling since we wore those Oddbins polo shirts. Buttoning up the red waistcoat will be Château Saransot-Dupré 2016 (£23), a Listrac-Médoc that has been in the same family since 1875, was declared a Cru Bourgeois Supérieur in 1932 and in 2010 to be of “Classed Growth Quality” by Robert Parker no less. We’ll let you be the judge of that but frankly we think it’s a great value bottle of wine.

Enough piffle paffle from us, come and join us for a taster!

A £300 bottle of Claret on a school night?

Friday, October 1st, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We don’t want to worry you but, with Christmas less than 3 months away, we currently have less than 10,000 bottles of wine in the shop.  This, of course, should be more than sufficient stock and we have plenty more in the warehouse; as a consequence, the message we want to get across to you is that there is no need to get into a bit of a PANIC and come to the shop to BUY so much more WINE than you have storage space for right NOW.

Another chap who is telling us that there is absolutely no need to panic buy, whilst subtly implying that actually perhaps it might just be worth popping an extra bottle or two in your bag is quoted as saying: “Best advice to everyone in the supply chain – from producers to distributors to customers and to consumers – would be to plan ahead and, where possible, purchase early, as it is certainly far more likely than at any other time in memory that favourite brands and products will not be available in the run-up to Christmas.”  Oh and the man who said this?  Andrew Hawes – Mentzendorff (UK Agent for Bollinger)

Last week Wayne wrote: ‘A case brought by the owners of three separate estates in relation to the 2012 classification accuses Hubert de Boüard, owner of Château Angélus, and Philippe Castéja, owner of Château Trotte Vieille, of allegedly rigging entry to the classification system, and their rankings within it, in order to unfairly inflate the price of their wines.’  He also wrote a short piece about Bollinger and James Bond prior to the film release this week.  So, apparently there is a scene where Bond pops over to Q’s house for a spot of mid-week scran and grabs a large glass of red wine from the strategically placed centre screen bottle of Chateau Angélus – a very nice bit of extra promotional puff when times are tough for Hubert de Boüard!  More significantly for this writer, if a civil servant is drinking a £300 bottle of Claret on a school night, what does he drink at the weekend?  And who is paying for it?!

Sport took a tumble last week: both AFC Wimbledon and Tottenham lost to Arsenal and the Ryder Cup just proved that the European team wasn’t even close to the mob from the USA.  So we’ll move swiftly on from here.

On the home front, I have a bit of an unusual request.  Having children is great but there comes a point when, frankly, they need to leave home and do their own thing.  I have one of these in my house at the moment, studying for his A-levels, dreaming of going to University and breaking the parental shackles (although why any teenager would want to break the shackles of a parent who owns a wine shop beats me but, as the y say, horses for courses).

Anyway, this A-level student, let’s call him Joe, has to do some coursework for one of his subjects and part of this coursework involves a short survey to hopefully help him design a product.  The survey is quite simple and confidential – largely related to how you open your bottles of wine, how easy you find it and how you might improve your wine bottle opening experience.  If you can help with the survey and thus help with Joe’s A-level and then, as a direct consequence, help Joe escape the evil clutches of his parents, then the link is here:

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/HJ2L726

The whole family thanks you!

Back in the shop, we are continuing to open bottles of wine on a Friday and Saturday and this seems to have been well received – a return to more normal times we feel.  This week we have decided to delve down under to New Zealand and Australia…

Mountford Liaison Riesling 2013, North Canterbury, New Zealand – £17.49 – the grapes were grown on the deep gravels of the Waipara Valley, hand selected and chilled over night before being whole bunch pressed.  That was ages ago though, this is a 2013 wine… we met the winemaker at Mountford a while back and he explained that they specialise in ageing wines in bottle before release, which is right up our street – we genuinely wish more would do that.  This has none of the petrol note you sometimes find with aged Riesling, there are just lovely fresh mango and apricot aromas mingled with dried fruit and honey.  To taste it’s off dry and soooo fresh with green apple fruit intensity, quince flavours and a citrus kick to balance, great length too – it’s almost mesmerising!

De Bortoli Heathcote Shiraz 2017, Victoria, Australia – £13.99 – we like the approach at De Bortoli, who always look for freshness and balance in their wines.  Heathcote is an up and coming region for Shiraz and the wines have an elegant, spicy quality, as opposed to the fruit soup you can sometimes end up with.  This has got spicy plum notes on the nose, whilst the palate is blackberry laden, with a touch of black pepper and spice and a nice dry finish.

So swing on by, taste some wine, perhaps do a survey to help the poor afflicted teenager and certainly admire the Bollinger 007 Limited Edition Millesime 2011 – we’ve all agreed it’s rather funky!

Until next time….

Wallaby, 007, Champagne & Tales of the Unexpected

Friday, September 24th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So what’s going on then? We see that the EU is pushing for universal phone chargers for all mobile phones (USB-C since you ask). This strikes us as a genius idea on environmental concerns at the very minimum but possibly about 15 years too late to have a real impact. 

Yesterday, the Bank of England said that they expect inflation to hit 4% yet elected to keep interest rates unchanged at 0.1%. For this commentator, words and actions seem completely opposed but what do we know, we’re just till jockeys in a wine shop.

In Aberdeenshire, a wallaby has escaped from petting zoo Waulkmill Menagerie just a day after arriving. All he has really done is what so many of us do when we arrive somewhere new – pop out through a hole in the fence for a stretch of the legs. Eddie, because that’s his name, was last seen outside a pub in New Deer heading north to Turriff.

As we touched upon last week, the 43rd Ryder Cup takes place this weekend at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. From the form book it definitely looks like it’s for the USA to lose but upsets do happen, so we’ll cross our fingers. Let’s just hope nobody accidently plays a Slazenger 7 on the 18th in error!

Derby County are in a bit of bother, administrators appointed, mandatory points deducted and now languishing at the bottom of the Championship on -2 points. Manager Wayne Rooney found out from a television report apparently. Sad old business all round it seems.

This week’s use of the Commons brain cell clearly wasn’t in either Kwasi Kwarteng’s or Rachel Maskell’s gift when they concurred that people in the north will be harder hit by rising fuel prices because it’s cold. They do say winter is coming, don’t they? Let’s hope we’re not embarking on a time of white walkers and dragons.

Whilst we’re on the subject of fiction did you see the news that Netflix has handed out a rather hefty golden ticket to Roald Dahl’s estate for the rights to his literary work. We’re hoping for a series or twenty of Tales of the Unexpected in the near future.

Now, if you can cast your mind’s back to 2015 there was a film that ended with the words “James Bond Will Be Back”. Well, after a rather lengthy delay the man on Her Majesty’s Secret Service is finally ready for us. He’s been delayed by a mission we can’t tell you about, we are unable to confirm who that chap watching the rugby was, or if he was spotted in Greece in July. What we can confirm is that the 25th James Bond film, “No Time To Die”, will finally hit cinemas next week. Autograph hunters, get yourselves down to the Albert Hall on Tuesday, otherwise we’ll be booking tickets to see it next week.

Champagne Bollinger has long been Mr. Bond’s fizz of choice and we thought it might be nice to celebrate the film’s release with a glass or two of something eminently suitable…

Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut NV (£48 or six bottles for £230 whilst stocks last). We’ve long been fans of this wine, we love that it is mostly Grand and Premier Cru grapes, that 60% of the Cuvée is Pinot Noir giving us that lovely richness. Flavours of pear brioche, a very fine mousse with a lovely finish to suit any MI6 agent. We like it particularly as an aperitif, but the Chef de Cave is rather fond of it with his sushi!

We also have a tiny number of the really rare…

Bollinger 007 Limited Edition Millesime 2011 (£200) – Limited to 1 per customer

To mark the release of the 25th instalment of the James Bond series, Bollinger has created a limited edition wine dedicated to 007, with a 2011 vintage inspired by the world of Bond.

The jet-black 75cl bottle is adorned with the number “25”, formed from the titles of the previous films, which are similarly etched on the glass of the wooden box.

The 2011 vintage, an atypical year, inspired the Chef de Cave to produce a unique champagne, created entirely from Pinot Noir from the Grand Cru village of Aÿ, where Champagne Bollinger was first established in 1829. This is the first time that both the vintage and village have been used exclusively by Bollinger to make a dedicated wine. The excellent 2011 harvest in Aÿ, produced complex, powerful and harmonious Pinot Noirs, fully expressed in this characterful wine.

On wine news, we have spoken about the St Émilion Grand Cru Classé system in the past and how it gets reviewed every ten years, and then the estates that get downgraded because their wine isn’t up to snuff get the lawyers in and sue all involved. We may have suggested that if they spent less money on lawyers and more on improving their wine they wouldn’t find themselves in that situation.  So, with that in mind, a French court case caught our eye. A case brought by the owners of three separate estates in relation to the 2012 classification accuses Hubert de Boüard, owner of Château Angélus, and Philippe Castéja, owner of Château Trotte Vieille, of allegedly rigging entry to the classification system, and their rankings within it, in order to unfairly inflate the price of their wines. The prosecution described it as someone passed the baccalaureate exam after writing the subjects himself.” If found guilty they could be facing a spell in the clink and a 500,000 euro fine.

With that bombshell, I think I need something in my glass. For white we’ll be opening Aromo Viognier 2020 (£9.99) –Maule is one of Chile’s traditional wine growing areas, just about 250km south of Santiago. There’s not a great deal of Viognier planted there but when you taste this you’ll wonder why. We really rate this wine and have been selling it for over 10 years now, one way or another as it is consistently great value, great quality with lovely peachy-apricot fruit characters and a nice crisp finish.  Ace with a creamy prawn pasta dish, or the local Ostiones a la Parmesana, clams in butter and parmesan!

Red wise we’re going with The Crusher Pinot Noir 2018 (£16.99). This hails from Napa in California and Oz Clark once famously said of it: “Bone Crusher, spine crusher, ball crusher – I don’t care which part of my body it crushes but these are just the kind of wines we want at our show.  The audience love them!” 

And with that we’re out!

One man does not make a team and anyone can win on their day.

Friday, September 17th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

With a nod towards the 1992 headline ‘It’s The Sun wot won it’ we will take no responsibility whatsoever for Gavin Williamson’s rapid exit from the Cabinet this week – I’m fairly sure that Carrie doesn’t read our weekly missive and, to be honest, GW has been a dead man walking for too long so it really was time for him to go. 

Anyway, Boris has reshuffled his pack, partly because he needed to but also, more significantly, because he was told that this is what proper and serious Prime Minister’s do every now and then; and of course, as we all know, Boris is the embodiment of proper and serious.  The exciting news is that we get lively Liz Truss to look after our interests abroad; Dominic Raab, who previously did this job but was found asleep on his lounger as Afghanistan unravelled, has somehow become Deputy Prime Minister; Nadine Dorries, whose audition piece on I’m a Celebrity… Get me out of here! in 2012 got her suspended, clearly impressed someone as she is now Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport; and Michael Gove, Teflon clad and immune to irony it would seem after the emergence of some particular unpleasant speeches from his youth, is in charge of the levelling up agenda.

So there we have it, Boris’s dream team, proper and serious and leaders in their fields and definitely not just his mates and yay-sayers.

Away from the political arena, we see that Elton John has postponed his upcoming UK tour until 2023 due to the need to have an operation on his hip.  Very sensible, Reginald – if only Tom Petty had taken similar advice we would still have him in our midst.

In sport, we saw the return of Ronaldo to much fanfare and let’s be honest, he did what he is paid to do from game one.  However, he couldn’t stop them losing to Young Boys in Europe, which goes to show that despite appearances, one man does not make a team and anyone can win on their day.  Let’s hope this is true for the Europe players picked for the Ryder Cup.  John Rahm is world #1 but he next highest ranked European is Viktor Hovland at #13 – between these two sit 9 of the American team.  The lowest ranked American is Scottie Scheffler at #21 – 8 Europeans sit below him.  Let’s hope Europe have their day!

No real wine news to speak of.   We’re being encouraged to go to the pub and dine out still but we’ve also all read about the dearth of hospitality staff available.  Apparently, employers need to be more open-minded when it comes to employment contracts as staff want to be able to work more on their own terms.  Many of the predominantly younger potential employees want is greater flexibility, variety and control over their working hours; effectively they want the zero hours contracts just as Keir Starmer is calling for such things to no longer be allowed.  Obviously, in the long run this doesn’t work because when all your staff decide they don’t want to work on Friday nights what do you do then?  Sorry, we’re closed, doesn’t bode well for business survival….

Some scattered sunshine yesterday evening took you all off to the pub it would seem but hopefully tonight you’ll be keener to drink back at home.  With this in mind, I’ll have a couple of bottles open for you to taste – this week I’ve decided to go Italian, as is very often my wont:

Produttori del Gavi ‘Gavi Mille 951’ 2020 – £15.49 – is the white choice – made at their winery overlooking the historic Gavi fortress, this cooperative has been making wine for over 65 years.  Aromas of pear peach, apricot and yellow plum greet us on the nose whilst on the palate we have the same fruit characters with hints of almond in the background.  Dry, light and moreish, a perfect aperitif!

Castel Firmian Merlot 2018 – £13.99 is this week’s red, from Trentino, right up in the northern-most part of Italy.  Wayne has always had a bit of a soft spot for Italian Merlot so it was no surprise that we really enjoyed this when we tasted it, lovely damson fruit character with a touch of leafy herbiness.  The wine spent just 3-4 months in oak barrels and has a lovely juiciness and drinkability, with some fine tannin just to keep it honest.  Being Italian it matches well with all sorts of food choices, perhaps a cheeky burger if the sun makes another showing?

And finally, we said goodbye to Sir Clive Sinclair this week.  Inventor of the pocket calculator, affordable computers, hand held televisions and of course the C5; a man who often invented things we didn’t know we needed – I mean, hand held TV’s and electric vehicles, you must be kidding?!

And that’s that – have a lovely weekend!

I’m not having that – alcohol free wine?

Friday, September 10th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

That was nice wasn’t it?  Bit of a flurry of September sunshine but not so much that we all start moaning about how hot it is and how the garden needs some rain.  True to Pavlov’s conditional reflex findings, the weather worked a treat for us, everyone suddenly treating Tuesday/Wednesday as the new Friday/Saturday as the fridges could barely keep up with the rapid exodus of beer and rosé; excellent work one and all, hope you enjoyed yourselves!

And then it rained on Wednesday evening and we remembered that we live in England, this is how we roll.  The school holidays are finally over, the sound of horns on Arthur Road is perpetual as everyone gets stuck in traffic with no reverse gear and the regularity of cold calls from energy companies trying to get me to change supplier has quadrupled.  Ah, September, you unruly child.

And then we read some news that might send chills to the hearts of wine merchants across the universe (because, yes, that’s how far our tentacles have spread).  Having talked a month ago about how good coffee, cheese and two glasses of wine a day are for our heart health, we were delighted by the clever scientists researching wine and its benefits.  However, this week we are less sure and our uncertainty comes in the form of Dr Rudolph Schutte at Anglia Ruskin University.  I won’t repeat the whole of his research paper (probably because that would be some sort of copyright infringement) but suffice to say, your man is an expert on Cardiovascular Epidemiology.  He doesn’t have great things to say about beer, cider and spirits but then these have never been touted as being good for you.  However, the body blows came as he started giving wine a hard time: 

“There is an undeniable protective beneficial relationship between coronary heart disease and consumption of both red and white wine”

Good news so far, dankie Rudolph.

“However, this is only seen with coronary heart disease and none of the other cardiovascular diseases.”

Ok, it’s not a perfect panacea but at least it helps a bit.

“This relationship is also seen for alcohol-free wine, so it suggests the benefits are thanks to the polyphenols in the wine rather than the alcohol.”

What the?  Shut the front door?  No, no, no, no, no, no, no – I’m not having that – alcohol free wine?  In fairness we never really thought it was the booze in the drink that did us good, otherwise beer, cider and spirits would be our friends too but did he really have to spell it out, again.  Equally, if he was going to do so, couldn’t he have buried it in August when no one was looking?

Humph, it’s a bit like choosing your favourite weather forecast because it has the closest resemblance to what you want to hear.  Consequently, I think I’ll stick to reading the Italian research from a few weeks back and the articles by Prof Rosa María Lamuela-Raventós, from Universitat de Barcelona, who in July suggested evidence to show moderate consumption of red wine can help you to burn calories in food when drunk during meals, while offering a range of health benefits too – sound anything like the French Paradox to you?

As mentioned, the schools went back this week and at the same time another group in need of some decent education, Members of Parliament, returned to their banquettes on Monday.  Matt Hancock was jeered from all sides during his first bit of backbench bants but we know he’s deaf to criticism.  Gavin Williamson, interviewed in the Standard, was particularly proud of his friends stating ‘Gav, you have to have the hide of a rhino’. 

Well, if we look more closely at rhino attributes, perhaps he’s right: rhinos have poor vision and are unable to see much further than 30m – which obviously doesn’t go any way to explaining his Maro Itoje/Marcus Rashford mix-up; rhinos communicate through honks, sneezes…and poo – if you have ever listened to government debates you will have heard the first two and if you have ever read a government statement you’ll recognise the third.   Rhinos are also intelligent, social and emotional animals which is where the comparisons end and we realise that GW is just a complete numpty.

Wayne always likes to keep us up to date with the sport and reports that insurers, bookmakers and health experts are a trifle discombobulated today.  The Fifth test being cancelled means a big payback for all the fans who bought tickets and various other companies who will lose earnings as a consequence; by reaching the US Open final, Bromley’s finest tennis player, Emma Raducanu, at the age of 18 and ranked 338 in the world in June, might just have Messrs Hill and Ladbroke needing to visit the bank on Monday; and Shane Warne has been heard talking on Australian morning radio about his Covid isolation.  He states, whilst admitting it was a bad idea, that he thought he could beat the virus by smoking 100 ciggies a day…. by all accounts he ended up on a ventilator.  This may well be an apocryphal tale but it also sounds very Shane and very Oz-med!

Anyway, enough of all that, what shall we drink this weekend?  Now that the boys of summer have gone we can start thinking about red wine again, can’t we?  This is handy because we have a new wine in from South Africa to pop in your glasses.

Doran Vineyards Íosa Shiraz-Grenache Noir 2018 – £13.99.  Now, as we all know, Íosa means Jesus in both Irish and Arabic and also happens to be the name of Tom Doran’s son.  He assures us that the wine has never been water and is in fact a blend of 90% Shiraz and 10% Grenache.  The wines from each grape were made individually and then blended together on bottling.  The nose is filled with floral-scented berry fruit and the palate has gentle tannins and hints of spicy oak on the finish.  Supple, easy drinking and too easy to get to the bottom of the bottle!

As the sun might pop out, we’ll taste a South Africa white too – Barton Chenin Blanc 2020 – £12.49.  Hailing from Walker Bay, an area considered to have great 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.

That’s all from us, we’re off to have an alcohol-full glass of wine – care to join?

Where Are We Going With This?

Friday, September 3rd, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We’ve seen a few of you back already; you’ve given us a wave or stopped in to say hi. We’ve heard about paddle boarding, surfing, Stormzy at Reading and fantastic tandoori monkfish. There’s been talk of the fabulous beaches of Devon, Gower and Hunstanton, mackerel fishing, wine tasting in Oia and surprising heat in southern Spain.

We have also heard some complaints, of midges whose bite is second only to that of the saltwater crocodile but a million times more persistent, of traffic which has a persistence of its own whether you’re on the A3 or the A303 but also the persistence of grey skies cropped up more than once.

Where are we going with this? A question you may well be asking yourself, and certainly one we ask ourselves most weeks – Who knows? As many of you regular readers will know what starts off as a random selection of observations on the week ends up as a selection of random observations with questionable grammar and poor punctuation, particularly if it was Wayne’s turn with the keyboard!

We might mention the time we’d set aside to watch the Belgian Grand Prix only to witness a 3 lap health and safety assessment that resulted in no race but an outcome awarded. As someone who took two days to dry his waxed coat off after seeing Senna win in the rain in 1989, this was a disappointing outcome.  Them’s the rules, them’s the breaks I guess but the cyclists at La Vuelta didn’t stop racing when it rained all the way up the mountain, down the mountain, along the valley and then up the really steep mountain into the fog did they? No, they did not but I feel like I’m complaining about weather again.

There have been some pleasant surprises, the sun appearing around the same time as most of you returning to Wimbledon Park is certainly a pleasant one. Abba announcing a new album is a somewhat unexpected one and a Park Vintners missive talking about memes is certainly a surprise. I don’t know if any of you saw Dominic Raab being questioned by Tom Tugendhat at the Foreign Affairs Committee but if there is a better meme for the kid who didn’t do his summer homework we haven’t seen it.

On the wine front, we bring you news that TotalEnergies is bringing a 100% renewable fuel for race cars to the market that they claim could reduce the CO2 emissions of a racing car by 65%. The fuel is made residues from the wine industry. The waste lees and grape pomace are turned into a bio-ethanol and then waste from feedstock is added making the high performance fuel. Let’s hope the race is for more than three laps, eh?

Following a tough year in French vineyards (and it’s not over just yet!), producers in Chablis are experimenting with electric wires to combat frost. This year some vineyards in the region lost up to half of their potential crop to late frost after 20 nights in 29 days in April suffered unseasonably low temperatures. Indeed, due to climate change it is a considerably higher risk than 20 years ago.

Two days ago we had hail reaping havoc in Ribeiro, that part of Spain where the light reds come from, near Orense. Fairly unusual we’d say, just before the harvest, and a tough reminder of the harshness of weather when growers have lost up to 70% of what was shaping up to be a good year.

We’ll be opening some wine this weekend and, given the forecast is finally for a bit of sunshine, we thought we’d assume a bit of barbecue action may be the order of the day. Wearing the white t-shirt (don’t spill the ketchup!) will be Cave de Turckheim Edelzwicker (£10.99) from the Alsace, a winning blend of Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner and Riesling that is dry and fresh with some lush green apple fruit and a fab aperitif whilst the coals warm up.

Sporting the red t-shirt (ketchup safe!) will be Maggio Family Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel (£14.49) hailing from Lodi where the family has been growing grapes since 1938. This is a fantastic partner to some low and slow pork if that’s the plan, but equally at home with a burger.

That’s probably enough of our random observations for one week. Do come in, shoot the breeze and taste the wine, who knows we may even know the cricket score!

To Beer Or Not To Beer

Friday, August 27th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Us again, feels a bit soon to be celebrating the end of another week with a bottle of Friday Fizz but I can assure you that it is definitely the weekend once again.  Plus it’s a long one this time,  the late August bank holiday is on Monday which signifies the end of bank holiday season until we celebrate a pair of them on the 27th & 28th December; let me be the first to wish you all a very Merry Christmas….

Back in the now, having mentioned the shortage of customers last week it would seem that the much hoped for delivery of clientele needing refreshment has failed to show up this week too.  On Monday and Tuesday I think we could probably have put our deckchairs in the middle of Arthur Road and snoozed undisturbed for an hour or two and in fact Wayne did suggest a mammoth game of badminton versus the odd-numbered side of the street but they were all too busy cutting hair, selling houses or making coffee.

So we had to entertain ourselves.  Having failed to sell the jeroboam of Sela last weekend it was suggested we taste it anyway, just to check, but Wayne vetoed the prospect of a magnum each on a Monday as setting an unruly precedent, so we had an ice cream instead.  Tuesday found us applying for HGV licences as we realised that the quickest way for us to ensure we got our Haribos, Nandos and McDonalds milkshakes was to stop moaning about the problems and become part of the solution, whilst getting paid to do it.  Wednesday we listened to a lot of Rolling Stones albums and watched England play cricket in a way that would have made Charlie smile.  And Thursday was yesterday, grey and not altogether as warm as it could have been but nonetheless, one step closer to fizz Friday.

In the world outside of our immediate environs it seems the news is largely filled with stuff we kind of thought might happen.  Covid spikes in Cornwall – not a total surprise.  Harry Kane staying at Spurs – if Daniel Levy and Joe Lewis don’t want you to go Harry, you’re not going.  The new travel green list not really changing the status quo for most of us –  business as usual really. 

And no news whatsoever in the world of wine.  In the beer world however, crimes against taste continue to be committed.  Reading The Drinks Business earlier, we were delighted to see that Dunkin’ Donuts are releasing 3 more beers on the unsuspecting public.  As we didn’t know they were even in the beer game this came as a surprise but apparently for the last few years, in collaboration with Harpoon Brewery, they have been making a Pumpkin Spiced Latte Ale.  By all accounts all their beers are made using ‘Dunkin’s iconic coffee, donuts and matcha tea’.  We now hear that the new beers in the stable will be: Maple Crème Blonde Ale brewed with donuts and maple syrup from Dunkin’, Midnight American Porter brewed with Dunkin’s new Midnight Roast coffee  and Blueberry Matcha IPA brewed with blueberries and matcha.  Hmmmm….

Whilst they may be interesting in some corners, we won’t be selling them.  Added to this list of things we certainly won’t be selling is the weird collaboration between Virginia’s Champion Brewing Company and  Duke’s Mayonnaise to create the perfect beer designed to complement the egg-based condiment!

Beers we do sell look something like this:

Belleville Brewery – Wandsworth Common

Commonside Pale Ale 33cl can 5% – £2.60

Thames Surf IPA 33cl can 5.6% – £2.70

Spring Break Sour 33cl can 4.3% – £3.00

Spring Break Gose 440ml can 4.3% – £4.00

Park Brewery – Kingston’s finest brewery

Kingston Gate Lager 33cl can 4.1% – £2.80

Phantom Kolsch Lager 44cl can 4.2% – £3.50

Killcat Pale 44cl can 3.9% – £3.80

Ballet Loop Table Beer 44cl can 3.4% – £3.80

Gallows Pale Ale 44cl can 4.5% – £4.00

Spankers IPA 44cl can 6.0%£- 4.50

Sambrooks  – our longest serving beer, now based in the Ram’s Quarter

Wandle Ale 50cl bottle 4.2% – £2.79

Pumphouse Pale Ale 50cl bottle 4.2% – £2.79

Session IPA 440ml can 4.0% – £3.40

SlyBeast Brewing – brewed in Wandsworth by the Pig & Whistle legends

Lager 33cl can 4.3% – £2.80

1533 Session IPA 44cl can 4.2% – £3.70

Wimbledon Brewerybest brewery in Colliers Wood

Gold Lager 33cl can 4.8% – £2.70

Lindemans – classic Belgian brewer

Gueuze 25cl 5% – £2.00

Paulaner – Munich’s finest

Munchner Hell Munich Lager 50cl bottle 4.9% – £2.79

All far better than anything Mr & Mrs Donut can produce.

That’s about it from us for this week.  As it’s the late summer bank hols we’ll open the Château de L’Aumérade ‘Cuvée Marie-Christine’ 2020, Côtes de Provence Cru Classé – £15.99 (Six bottles for £80) and de Bortoli ‘The Accomplice’ Shiraz 2019 – £9.39 both of whom are perfect accompaniments to all that barbecued food you’ll be eating this weekend!

BREAKING NEWS – just sold the jeroboam of Sela, lucky we didn’t polish it off ourselves!

Gone Fishin’

Friday, August 20th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This week has felt very much like a week when we should just put up the Gone fishin’ sign and sit by Wimbledon Park Lake, hooking carp and netting golf balls, just to see if anyone might notice our absence. 

And it would seem you didn’t.  Monday we caught bream and pike too and I now have enough Callaway’s to see me through the winter.  The sundowners we enjoyed on the terrace of Wimbledon Park Golf Club just served as reminder that this is one of the nicest places to enjoy an evening beer in SW19 and what a huge and sad loss it will be when the club gets engulfed by the AELTC.

But we have now put our waders away and are back in the shop, anticipating that at least one of you must be still here and will want a glass of the good stuff over the weekend, because frankly we’re all going to need it.  Any thoughts we had of a midsummer heatwave seem to have disappeared in a puddle of rainy mediocrity.  Gone are dreams of tan lines and buckets of rosé in the back garden since apparently we’ve already had 117% of our usual August rainfall here in London and are due more over the next week.  So, it’s all about red wine for us.

Over the past year there has developed something of a standing joke between us.  Every time we order from Bodegas Roda, we order a jeroboam of Sela, their lighter, earlier drinking Rioja designed to be enjoyed whilst you wait for your posher wines to come of age.  Anyway, the Wayne eyebrow is always raised because he is never quite sure if we have a market for a ‘four bottle’ bottle so I try to mollify his concerns by stating that I’ll buy it at Christmas if we haven’t sold it by then.  The ‘joke’ is that we usually sell the jero within a week of receipt, Wayne’s nerves remain unfrayed and I have no wine for December.

Except this time we’ve had it in stock for 10 days now and no one has even asked about it, so in Wayne’s eyes this is now seen as an overstock, a slow moving line, a delist even and he’s putting the pressure on yours truly to do something.  Perhaps the tasting note we’ve written ‘plenty of fun to be had with this one’ is not giving enough information, so it’s probably time I put some meat on the bones.

Of course, there is plenty of fun to be had, but a tasting note might be more helpful.  The Bodegas Roda winery was founded in the late 1980s and has rapidly gained renown for its meticulous and exacting research into Tempranillo, one of Spain’s oldest indigenous grape varieties. Using the most modern of technology, Roda have perfected the art of Tempranillo, identifying 552 individual clones, from which only 20 have been selected for propagation, chosen for the quality they deliver in specific vineyard plots.  Their flagship wine, Cirsion, sells for about £150 a bottle and is an absolute delight.  Roda I is the next tier down and whilst notably less expensive than Cirsion still is a bit of a wallet emptier. 

This is where Sela comes to the fore.  A blend of 87% Tempranillo, 7% Graciano and 6% Garnacha the nose is intense, vivacious with aromas of fresh cherries and raspberries.  On the palate we continue with the red fruit characteristics from the nose with a medium weight palate and a long elegant finish with fine tannins.  The winery recommends it be drunk with pinchos and tapas but of course, if you’re me, it’s perfect for Christmas dinner, if it makes it that far!

Bodegas Roda Sela 2016 JEROBOAM – £95

Not much else to report on this week, I think we all know what the news is and there is nothing we can add.  A conversation with a customer yesterday evening concluded with the idea that there is actually too much news available nowadays.   A return to a morning newspaper and the New at Ten with Sir Trevor as our sole sources of update might be preferable so we can concentrate on other stuff in the interim without being constantly updated and worried.  We then digressed into a discussion about how policemen were suddenly looking younger and how the summer of 1976 was a proper scorcher, realised how old we sounded and swore never to speak of such things again and went back to talking about what wine we would taste this weekend.

I feel, having talked it up in grand format, we should probably open a normal sized bottle of Bodegas Roda Sela – £22.49 for you to taste, before you purchase the big fella.

For white, we’ll keep a peninsula theme and go to Portugal for the Casa Vilacetinho Vinho Verde DOC 2020 – £9.99.  A charming and light blend, only 10% alcohol, of Avesso, Arinto, Azal and Loureiro.  Gentle citrus and orchard fruits lead into a fresh, smooth and light palate that can be enjoyed at any time!

And that’ll be it from us.  Hopefully we’re wrong about the weather but if we’re right you’re more than welcome to take refuge and share a glass with us – if it’s a proper deluge then maybe we’ll go halves on the jero!

Cheers!!