Archive for the ‘general’ Category

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Friday, March 20th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Many times over the 9 years that we have been writing this weekly email we have bemoaned the fact that there is no good news to comment on.  On every one of those occasions we now know that we were spoilt.  Today, there really is nothing we can poke a stick at and gently mock, so what have we written about in late March over the years – here’s a snapshot:

  • 2019 – we were about to leave Europe, and then we weren’t.  Still, at least that’s all behind us now
  • 2018 – we were gearing up for the clocks to change on Sunday and enjoying multiple weather forecasts containing the word ‘sunshine’ – unlike yesterday
  • 2017 the email opened with these lines:Six nations is over, England won, though not prettily and by no means easily. It seems to this correspondent though, that Mr Jones has the makings of a good team there, tidy up some of the errors and we can look forward to the 2019 World Cup in Japan with some excitement – wise words
  • 2016 – in a time before DT became POTUS, The Economist Intelligence Unit Global Forecasting Service for April 2016 voiced this concern: Apparently, his lack of consistent policies, his consistent hostility towards free trade, China, the Middle East, Mexico and everyone in between, mixed with the previously inconceivable fact that he is the Republican frontrunner for Presidential candidate has set some serious alarm bells ringing.  Why didn’t anyone listen?
  • 2015 – we got excited when we saw that scientists from the University of Illinois were working on “hangover free” wine – obviously not a great success as we’ve not heard much about it since
  • 2014 – the lovable rogue Clarissa Dickson-Wright died this week and Vera Lynn revealed that she was going to release a new album in June – those were definitely different days
  • 2013 – Girls Aloud announced they were calling it a day after all these years – a nation mourned
  • 2012 – we got a bit ranty about duty increases on wine – nobody listened, yet again
  • 2011 – Wayne was on holiday in Antigua, Matt Banahan replaced Mike Tindall in the England back line and fleet-footed David Strettle was back on the bench – all this just makes me feel old!

So that’s the past, what of the future?  Absolutely no clue I’m afraid.

Too many years loitering around in the wine trade has led us to believe that Alex is likely to be as fortified as an alcoholic disinfectant and  since Wayne fell into a cauldron of Claret as a baby, we are hoping that these factors will help us to stay healthy, virus free and, as a happy consequence, open for business.

Clearly, all of the above is out of our control and if we go into lockdown this weekend quite where that leaves us is anyone’s guess. 

However, we will endeavour to stay open as much as we possibly can but if we have to close our doors we would hope to continue trading by offering a free local delivery service. 

We imagine it would work along the lines of us saying we will be delivering between 4pm and 6pm each day and that any orders received before 3pm will be delivered that day.  This is not our final strategy but I imagine we won’t stray far from this plan.  We do have a decent level of stock currently and we are told we will still be able to get deliveries etc but sadly we are still in the land of anyone’s guess…

Our suppliers want to do business, we want to do business, you want to do business – I’m sure we’ll find a way.

CONTACT DETAILS:

shop@parkvintners.co.uk

020 8944 5224

The email approach is the most reliable by far since we may not be able to get to the phone but do call if that is easier.  We can then take orders, you can transfer funds by BACS or other means and we can then deliver.  Happy days in these perhaps not so happy days!

We will confirm how this is all going to work as and when.  In the meantime, making the assumption that we will be open this weekend we will be tasting the two wines that we have the most stock of right now, since we seem to be selling more by the case than by the bottle this week:

Chatelain Desjacques Sauvignon Blanc 2018 – £9.99 – classic Loire Sauvignon Blanc, one of our best sellers.

Palacio del Camino Real Crianza 2016 – £11.99 – our go-to Rioja, crowd pleasing, like a comfy pair of slippers and a back rub rolled into one… so I’m told.

Wayne and I will be mainly tasting the Baller Vodka – £33 – from over near Battersea Park just to keep our resistances topped up!

That’s it from us, hopefully only until next week but we’ll see – in the interim, ignore social media, practice deep breathing when talking to your children and don’t panic – if you get stuck in, we can help you!

Horses & Logistics

Friday, March 13th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well I’m back, have I missed much?  This week we have been mostly watching horses run around a track down in the Cotswolds. Our favourite race meet has been happening at Cheltenham and a slow rate of attrition has seen us gently enrich a couple of fine chaps in tweed jackets who seem awfully good with numbers. Years ago we had a customer who was a bookmaker, and he used to come into the Oddbins we worked at most Saturdays. If he’d had a good day he’d buy a case of posh claret, if he’d had a bad one he’d buy a bottle of vintage champagne. We’ll leave the story there, wishing we had such a nice collection of posh claret!

Whilst on the subject of claret we’ll just say thanks to the tasting group who were in for a Bordeaux tasting last night. All applied themselves with commitment and now know their left from right bank!

Sport

Elsewhere, Liverpool finally showed they are not completely infallible by getting knocked out of the Champions League by Atletico Madrid. At least they can concentrate on the Premiership now, eh? Both Arsenal and Tottenham have also decided against any further travel to Europe by the same method, Arsenal having ended up in quarantine for their troubles.

Politics

We’ve had a budget this week, an impressive amount of measures for a man who has only been in the job for five minutes. It would appear that wine and petrol are no more expensive, the NHS has had a cash injection and infrastructure projects are all back on board, unless you’re Heathrow. Finally, there are a series of measures aimed at helping small business’ which may help to keep a few wolves from the door.

Supply Chain & Logistics

Should you find yourself working from home more than usual, we’d just offer a gentle reminder that we do offer free local delivery. Should you wish to us to bring a box or two to your doorstep, do get in touch and we can make the arrangements.

Contact us on shop@parkvintners.co.uk or 020 8944 5224.

New Arrival

On the wine front we’ve got a fantastic new Barbera in the Vigna Marina Coppi ‘I Grop’ Barbera Superioire 2013 (£29.99). Marina Coppi is the daughter of legendary cyclist Fausto Coppi, who was the first man to win both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same year. Whilst the family has owned the vineyards since Fausto’s time, it was only when her son Francesco took over in 2003 the estate began bottling their own wines. This wine is a single vineyard wines from the ‘I Grop’ vineyard at 400m altitude in Castellania. When we tasted it we found it nicely rounded, the little bit of age adding a slightly savoury edge to the plum and vanilla notes and gently spiced long fresh finish.

Tasting This Weekend

Wearing the white shorts this weekend will be Aromo Viognier 2018 (£9.49) a smashing crisp white from the Maule Valley in Chile. We’ve been selling this on and off since we opened and its appeal has not diminished.

Over in the corner with the red t-shirt is a new one Villa Mottura Negroamaro 2018 (£12.99), it’s a grape variety that Wayne has a bit of fondness for, from the heel of Italy. Lovely ripe dark fruits, a herby hint of tobacco – why not come and give it a try yourself, maybe we’ll put your tasting note on the bottle instead of ours!

Horses That’s it from us, come in and have a taste and chat to Alex about his new French radio station!

I hope flyball isn’t the only sport on telly this weekend…

Friday, March 6th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

**** Today – Friday, 6th March – is our annual close-early-and-go-and-run-the-bar-at-the-KCS-quiz-night.  So, we must apologise because we will be closing at 5pm today****

Now, I think it’s time for some good news…

From today, it’s going to be a beautiful and long summer.  Somehow, we’re all going to win the lottery and buy yachts.  Elon Musk is going to find a way to turn rain and floodwater into electricity.  Or wine.  Or gold.  And then give it all to us.  Amazon is going to be found to be just using all the data they gather for a better customer experience and nothing more.  The world will not end, we will survive…

It’s been a bleak week and no mistake.  Thanks to the weather and the general mood, at times it has felt like I have been put into an involuntary self-isolation – the first person through the door yesterday was after 4pm.  So, with all this free time I have been gifted, I have been gently exploring different business avenues.  Currently the loo roll industry seems a good one to be in and I’m just trying to work out how I can recycle all the newspapers filled with scare stories into NEW Park Vintners Bathroom Tissue.  Sticking with the bathroom, apparently bidet sales are on the up in Australia, as a consequence of the loo roll shortage hitting them hardest down under – I’m not entirely sure what information the Australian government has been given about the current health scare but it does seem like it’s being approached from an odd angle…

Got to love the British though and their insatiable love of dogs. 

Whilst two of the world’s biggest wine fairs, Prowein and Vinitaly, International rugby matches and, potentially, the London marathon are facing postponement or cancellation, Crufts: The World’s Greatest Dog Show, Where Every Dog Has Its Day opened yesterday, business as usual, no mucking about.  Just goes to show that the eccentricity of the English, coupled with a soppiness for our canine friends trumps any virus threat!  Whilst reading about Crufts earlier I happened across something called Flyball (no, not Flybe) – it’s a great watch, particularly the whippets, trust me!

However, I hope flyball isn’t the only sport on telly this weekend because it should be rugby time again.  Always a funny one the England v Wales match – that strange time of the year when Wayne and I discover how many of our customers are in fact from the Land of Song when we’d always thought they were from Godalming or West Ham.  Anyway, always adds a bit of spice to the chat over the tasting table on a Saturday morning – I fully expect it to be a humdinger as ever – we really mustn’t forget that Wales have lost twice already, so will turn up to Twickenham hungry.  Home advantage has never been so important although probably what is more important this weekend is for Scotland to set Murrayfield alight on Sunday and be the first to beat France in 2020!

In other sport, and back to Australia, the England Women’s Cricket Team were denied the opportunity to play their T20 World Cup semi-final because it was raining and no one had thought to have a reserve day for this stage of the competition – did I mention it was the semi-final?  So, a team gets all the way to a World Cup semi-final and is then knocked out because of the weather – someone needs to rethink the planning of these events although I’m sure it would never happen in the football (too much money at stake perhaps?).  Gutted.

However, if like me, sport is of little interest, let’s talk food.  I’m sure we’ve mentioned this before but, as a reminder, there is a local pop-up supper club called Dining Room that we provide the wine for.  They base themselves out of Coolangatta Café (81 Kingston Road, London SW20 8LB) and every couple of weeks they take over on a Friday and Saturday night.  This month they are doing a Mexican Menu:

Rhubarb Margarita

***

Butternut Squash, Cheese and Coriander Quesadilla, Sweetcorn and Pico de Gallo Salsa, crumbled Feta, Chipotle Mayo

***

Slow cooked Pork Shoulder Pibil, Escabeche de Cebolla, Arroz Rojo and Mexican Slaw

Or

Spicy Black Bean Chilli, Arroz Rojo and Mexican Slaw and Sour Cream

***

Churros y Chocolate

This all costs just £40 per person including welcome cocktail, a glass of dessert wine (or perhaps tequila), coffee and service.

Sounds pretty good doesn’t it – I’ve also heard the wines are not bad either!!

www.dining-room.co.uk

Tasting this weekend

We don’t have Mexican wine sadly but keeping with the Spanish speakers, we’ve got a couple from Galicia.

The white will be Val do Xuliana Albariño 2019 – £13.99 – a crisp, orchard fruited and gently mineral dazzler from Rias Baixas, whilst the red will be Rechamante  – £14.99 from Orense in the Ribeiro.  Made mainly from Mencía Grape variety, it is light, fresh and fruity. The fruits are a mixture of red and dark fruits to this taster, but there is no doubting its juiciness and consequently how dangerously easy to drink it is at only 12%

That’s it from us for now, just one final reminder:

**** Today – Friday, 6th March – is our annual close-early-and-go-and-run-the-bar-at-the-KCS-quiz-night.  So, we must apologise because we will be closing at 5pm today****

Cheeeeers!

Single manning

Friday, February 28th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It all started in 2010 and the Iceland volcanic eruption – Eyjafjallajökull to give its correct name – I was about to say easier to spell than say but now I’m not so sure about that… Anyway, all that way back in 2010, I was fortunate enough to be on the Island of Madeira whilst all flights were grounded and got an extra 5 days holiday courtesy of someone else’s insurance.

Well, they say that elephants never forget but our proboscis faced friends have nothing compared to my business partner.  Since my extended ‘break’ almost a decade back he has endeavoured to get his own extended holiday – for example last year he purposefully booked his holiday to straddle 29th March, hoping that Brexit might cause mayhem at the airports and as a sad consequence he might just have to stay in Goa a trifle longer.  This year he was visibly disappointed when both Ciara and Dennis arrived too early to leave him grounded in the foreign sun however I won’t be at all surprised to receive an apologetic email saying that unfortunately he’s been quarantined for 14 days and it would be for the best if he stayed put.  On a continent that thus far has had just two cases of the virus…. hmmmm!

Still, at least the pandemic news has seen Trump and Johnson booted off the headline acts, although Donny did manage to state that the US is “rapidly developing a vaccine. The vaccine is coming along well.”  Which is probably true but wouldn’t be available for a year following clinical trials – which is perhaps why he is allowing Mike Pence to lead the government response – it’s an election year, he needs to be associated with more immediate successes!

So, with the media whipped threat of a global pandemic, coupled with properly awful weather conditions in large parts of the UK, I’m wondering where does the lightness of mood come from this week?  Never been a fan of felines, so cat videos hold no joy; as mentioned, my senior colleague, who is usually good for a laugh, has left the building; in fact if it wasn’t for the idiocy on twitter regarding Yorkshire Tea and its political associations and the Rees-Mogg follow up with Walkers and Pringles, I think my week would have been one long grey and dreary affair.

Would you rather fight one horse sized duck or 100 duck sized horses?  This dilemma has been doing the rounds since 2003 at least and has been discussed in the pub, on long journeys and even in the later rounds of job interviews.  Well, not for the first time, China is planning its own version of duck fighting.  Widely reported yesterday (and also in July 2000 so this could be a spoof) China is training 100,000 elite ducks, not to engage in equine warfare but in fact to eat the billions of locusts approaching their eastern border.  A duck apparently can eat 200 locusts a day, so this ‘eleat ‘unit would see off 20 million a day, by all accounts. However, judging by estimated number of locusts in the air it would take just 27 years for the swarm to be extinguished.  Now, if we had horse sized ducks….

Sadly, we have just read that Zhang Long, a professor from China Agricultural University, has rejected the Ningbo Evening News report that China was going to dispatch ducks to Pakistan – no comment on the hybrid version though!!

And then we read that France has become the fourth largest export market for Prosecco, now who’d have thunk that?  We had been led to believe that the French were pretty well served on the fizz front – many of the regions produce a Cremant of some sort or another and there is an area just north of Burgundy that certainly has been building quite a reputation of late for its sparkling wines made from Chardonnay and Pinot Noir no less – worth looking out for I’m told.  Anyway, Prosecco seems to be sliding in very much at the lower end, as it did in the UK, thus cannibalising a market eager to drink fizz but without a fizz budget.  Ideal.  But you know who it will actually hit the hardest?  Those champagne producers who release their insipid, tart and flavourless version of the noble wine onto the market at a £10 price point – if it kills this market it can only be good for all of us!  Forza Glera!!

We won’t be tasting Prosecco this weekend, we’ll leave that for the French but we will, in a nod towards our wayward traveller, taste a couple of South African wines.

The newly listed white is the Barton Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc 2017 – £12.79 from Walker Bay, this is all about green pepper, gooseberries, and grapefruit, underlined with a crisp minerality and a medium- bodied citrus finish.  We like all the wines from Barton and it seems you do too, so let’s welcome this one with open arms.

Tom Doran, he of Doran Vineyards, has just had an operation on his knee and so is out of action for a few weeks, so we thought we might give his sales a boost again this week, whilst he’s laid up.  Another reasonably new listing is Doran Vineyards Pinotage 2018 – £13.99 from the Western Cape, this has excellent raspberry and blackberry fruits at its heart and is dangerously drinkable.  Not my best tasting note I concede but I believe it gets the point across.  Get well soon Tom; we’re likely to need more stock!

One important piece of admin before I go:

Next Friday, 6th March, is our annual close-early-and-go-and-run-the-bar-at-the-KCS-quiz-night.  So, we must apologise because we will be closing at 5pm that day.

So, that’s it for this week, apologies for the tardiness but I was interrupted for a bit by a shoplifter who needed thwarting.

Cheers!

Unskilled, Wooden Spoons & Bono

Friday, February 21st, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tasting This Weekend

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

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

That’ll do from us this week.

Cheers!

esoterica and Valentine

Friday, February 14th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

NEWS

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

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

NEW WINES

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

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

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

However we have got, arriving today, the following:

Lebanon

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

Republic of North Macedonia

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

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

Georgia

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

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

We also found some less esoteric stuff.

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

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

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

Weekend Wines

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

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

Cheers!

We slowly sliced a lemon and polished some glasses….

Friday, February 7th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

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

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

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

This was sound advice from a local we soon discovered.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hepple Gin £38

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

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

Back at the ranch

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

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

Got your backs

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

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

Domaine du Landreau Cremant de Loire Rosé – £15.99

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

Hawkins Bros. Rosé Reserve – £29.00

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

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

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

Knocking it back and kicking back

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

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

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

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

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

Friday, January 31st, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

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

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

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

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

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

Bonkers.

Life begins at February

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

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

I’d rather have a cup of tea

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

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

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

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

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

I’d rather have a glass of wine

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

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

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

Dry February

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

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

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

International Feasting

Friday, January 24th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diary Notes

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

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

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

On the tasting table

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

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

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

With apologies for brevity

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tasting This Weekend

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

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

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