Archive for the ‘general’ Category

The very fetching yellow beret she sports in the video was her only payment….

Friday, April 5th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Alex has been out and about this week, putting his sniff, swirl and spit skills to good use in the judging of the early rounds of the International Wine Challenge. His teeth have now returned to their original colour, he has caught up with a fair few old chums and also discovered some of the latest buzzwords in the land of winemakers and consultants. Because such things are as strict as Official Secrets Act we can’t say much more than that but there was talk of a game changing tooth product that should help those of us that continually subject their enamel to a short intensive acid bath. We’ll trial it and let you know.

An enormously heart-warming piece of news we saw was that, at the age of 85, Madhur Jaffrey has still got it. She’s recruiting a new generation of fans as a guest star as a Grandma MC in NY hip hop artist Mr. Cardamom’s new track “Nani”. The very fetching yellow beret she sports in the video was her only payment.

News reaches us that Ukraine may be in line to get a comedian as President. Leading the race in first round of Presidential elections is popular TV comedian Volodymyr Zelensky. I see no problem with it at all; we have 649 jokers in our parliament, whilst the US has a TV star in the top role who definitely knows his oranges, what could possibly go wrong.

Meanwhile, at the European Parliament, MEP’s have made some revisions to the food-labelling regulations by this week approving a ban on the producers of vegetarian food from using nomenclature usually deployed to describe meat. French socialist MEP Éric Andrieu, overseeing the debate, said: “We felt that steak should be kept for real steak with meat and come up with a new moniker for all these new products.”

So, goodbye to the veggie burger, welcome to the veggie disc. We wondered what happens to fish cutlets or chicken fillet, is only beef allowed to have fillet? What about beef tomatoes and lambs lettuce? Where does that leave crab apples?

We’re not entirely sure all MEP’s understood the debate, with Molly Scott Cato, MEP for South West of England and Gibraltar (?), stating “I think this could unlock a lot of creativity. My personal favourite is nomato soup, which is a tomato-tasting soup made of peppers.”

This Saturday sees the annual visit of the Grand National at 17.15. It seems to us to be getting later and later, time was you could pop out for a pint and lunch, put a bet on, go home watch the race with Gran, then pop back to the bookies to pick up Gran’s winnings for her before they shut. These they days they’re on the point of introducing floodlights! Anyway, we’ve had a look at the runners if you’re interested? Wayne has had a flutter on Vintage Clouds as that’s where he keeps his head most of the time.

Alex meanwhile has been much more studious on the form and chosen Jury Duty and Valseur Lido, though possibly the latter just because he has the hots for Rachael Blackmore after she won him some money at 50-1 at Cheltenham!

You may recall a few weeks ago we mentioned in passing that Constellation was looking to offload some of its lower valued brands to concentrate on the more premium end of its portfolio. E J Gallo has spent $1.7 billion on a chunk of them (including Paul Masson!). You heard it here first.

Tasting This Weekend

Continuing or record of tasting recent listings the white this week will be Tenute Pieralisi Villaia Verdicchio Classico 2017 (£19.99).  This is the flagship wine from this producer.  The grapes are sourced from their most prized vineyard of Colle del Sole – situated right next to the winery. It has an open and expressive nose with aromas of apricot, orchard fruit, white flower and citrus. The palate has minerality and texture with ripe tropical notes of pineapple and stone fruit, underpinned by racy acidity and a touch of salinity.  Oh, and guess what, it’s vegan too, so it is a natural bedfellow for the veggie burger, whilst it still exists!

The red wine is less controversial, or perhaps more – they use egg whites in the fining process, the scoundrels. However don’t let that put you off the majesty of Bodegas Roda Sela 2015 (£22.49). 2015 was an almost perfect Mediterranean vintage here in Rioja and the blend has a bit more Garnacha than the previous vintage which gives us a lovely and juicy drop with fine tannins and an almost balsamic note from the French oak ageing.  It’s a serious wine for serious wine lovers or is it a fun drop for the jokers amongst us?  Probably both – come and decide for yourself!

The cynic amongst us is on holiday, so this is all probably nonsense….

Friday, March 29th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Right, that’s it, I’ve had enough, I’m leaving Europe, with or without you. 

Apparently, there was an online consultation that attracted an unprecedented 4.6 million responses last year, of which 84 per cent were in favour of a new legislation.  This then led to a vote amongst the EU lawmakers, where the darling MEPs voted 410 to 192 in favour of ending it, with 51 abstentions, (not sure where the other 98 members were, I’d have thought there would have been a three line whip for this), which means that, as of 2021, it’ll no longer be with us. 

Yep, Strasbourg has stolen our summertime. 

No more spring forward, fall backwards; no more 7 months of summer because that’s what the clocks tell us; no more cheeky extra hour in bed in late October; and frankly the alarming potential for the sun to rise in London at 3.45am and 3am in John O’Groats over solstice.  For me it’s purely a nostalgic thing, I’m not a farmer or a factory worker although a longer evening is more beneficial to our trade than a lighter early morning.  I’m sure I would get over it very quickly but, as one of my peers oft states, the EU just wants to homogenise everything and neutralise individuality – we kept our pints and our miles, let’s keep our changing clocks!

‘Right, that’s it, I’ve had enough, I’m leaving Europe, with or without you!’, thus spake my wife last night.

I don’t think we’d had a row or anything and in fact I’m not sure she was addressing me anyway as most of the vitriol seemed to be targeted at the Toshiba laptop in front of her.  It seems, and I’m giving you the edited/sanitised highlights here, that the EU has proposed putting speed limiters in all new cars from 2022.  Now, my wife, being of the country, has always had a close relationship with cars – if you couldn’t drive you couldn’t go out – so the prospect of Brussels meddling with her preferred form of transport certainly seemed to get her goat.  No more spinning along at 52mph on the A3, no more racing along at 73mph on the M3 – no more life in the fast lane for Mrs Park Vintners…. And she was incensed, big brother was mentioned and that crushing of independent spirit, all in the name of homogenisation, was once more aired.  I did mention that it wasn’t until 2022; it would only be on new cars (not a thing we usually get involved with); that the driver will be able to override the restrictor by just putting their foot down but, by this stage, the rant was in full sail.

And, with that, my wife brexited – anyone going to join her?

Back on planet wine, the eternally optimistic team at Majestic have finally let the mask slip – things are not as peachy at the wine warehouse as carefully spun annual figures would have had us believe. 

Hot on the heels of Oddbins facing a forced departure from the high street, Majestic announced it was going to close a portion of its stores and rebrand as Naked, the online side of the business.  “A dramatic and unexpected change in strategy” is how one analyst put it.  The cynic amongst us might suggest a bit of asset stripping by selling shop freeholds and then a sale of the retail business to Mike Ashley perhaps – in the meantime Naked remains online, as it was and always has been, but £70 million richer from when Majestic bought them 4 years ago and with their database too – clever.  However, the cynic amongst us is on holiday, so this is all probably nonsense….

Suffice to say, we don’t have an online presence so you’ll have to keep on popping in to visit us and, hopefully, we can make this chore less tedious at weekends by opening some wines for you to taste?

A few weeks back we mentioned new wines we had listed and old wines that had returned to the fold and we have been opening examples each week.  This week it is the turn of Domaine Treloar and Bodegas Resalte de Peñafiel.

Domaine Treloar has been on the books for a number of years now and we have no doubt bored you before about Jonathan the Yorkshireman and the Rachel the Kiwi Lady responsible for these superstar wines down in the deep south of France?  Have we not?  Oh, okay then, here goes.  Their path into wine was rather unusual, after working in IT for 15 years; they were living almost next door to the World Trade Center when it was destroyed in 2001.

Having experienced that disaster at first hand, they decided to change direction, heading to Rachel’s native home of New Zealand where Jonathan studied oenology and viticulture at Lincoln University.  He graduated top of the class, and then worked as the Assistant Winemaker at Neudorf Vineyards for 2 years.  In 2006 they founded Domaine Treloar, where they do everything in both vineyard and winery themselves.

In 2013 they were chosen as the Coup de Coeur (Favourite) Roussillon producer by La Revue du Vin de France, the country’s most influential wine magazine.

La Terre Promise 2016 (£18.49) is a delicious white blend of Grenache Gris (50%), Macabeu (30%) and Carignan Blanc (20%).  A rich weighty white that’ll be delicious with some garlic and herb roasted chicken or Bouillabaisse if you have time, or on its own if you don’t!

Since we lost Emilio Moro from our shelves we have been kissing a lot of frogs in search of a new prince – meet Lecco Crianza 2014 – £19.29 – proper Ribera del Duero royalty.  Reading Wayne’s notes, he says:

Es un vino sensato, maduro y seguro de sí mismo. Se elabora a partir de viñedos de una cierta edad, de media superan los 30 años momento en el cual ya la viña por si misma empieza a reducir su producción de forma natural en pos de aumentar su calidad. Se seleccionan los suelos que nos aporten mayor elegancia y potencia tanto aromáticamente como en boca.

Estas viñas se vendimian en cajas de 15 kilos de forma manual y después de un estricto control analítico y de cata, así elegimos el momento de mayor expresión de cada viñedo. La elaboración se lleva a cabo por gravedad con el uso de los ovis y durante la cual se controla la temperatura de fermentación y maceración para dirigir la extracción. En total la maceración estará en torno a los 18 días.

El paso por barrica, gran parte de ellas nuevas, de roble francés en 70% y el resto en americano durante al menos 14 meses termina por realzar y acomplejar las características aromáticas y sensaciones en boca, guardando un buen equilibrio entre la expresión frutal de la tempranillo y los tostados y aromas del roble.

I think he likes it!?  14 months in oak, lovely and rounded, tasty tannins and a long and lovely finish –as he said at the outset, a self-assured wine! 

Right, that’s it from us… don’t forget to spring forward on Sunday morning whilst we’re still allowed to and be prepared for lots of silly pranks on Monday – you’ll thank me for reminding you!

¡Salud! as Wayne would say….

It’s the bride of Frankenwine, it’s in the sparkling wine aisle of your local supermarket and it makes me want to weep

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

And so it goes on.  One minute we’re leaving next week, the next minute we’re leaving at the end of June, then five minutes later the EU says we need to be out by 22nd May or 12th April –  crikey, so much choice.  Surprisingly, France seem to be very keen for us to sling our hook asap, whilst Theresa has ‘personal regret’ about asking for a delay, perhaps alienating any of her last supporters in the commons, and Jeremy has had some ‘very constructive’ talks in Brussels.  Oh whoopee, well done you, MP’s one and all. 

Now, we’ve all rented rooms in the past and thus had the whole kerfuffle of moving out and moving on.  So, experience tells us that by now, with a week to go (previously agreed with our landlord) we should be nipping down to the local offie to buy a bottle of something cheap whilst picking up some empty wine boxes  to put our crockery in over the weekend; we should have booked a van, booked the day off and organised cleaners to do a deep clean so that we can leave the premises as we found it and thus leave on good terms, ideally with a few quid in our pocket from our deposit.

As demonstrated over and again, leaving Europe was never going to be as easy as moving house but we really have seen the process escalated to levels that will be the subject of politics A level essays for year to come.

Let’s pretend though that we were going to leave Europe next Friday.  Irrespective of how Wayne and I voted, this has been a day that we have been quite looking forward to from a commercial point of view.  It’s our year end next weekend and we were hoping for one last fillip to our turnover before the close.  It seemed like a win-win for us – eager Brexiteers raiding our shelves for bottles and bottle of English bubbly whilst disappointed Remainers buy Champagne to drown their sorrows whilst they still can….

Herbert Hall Brut (Kent) – £32.99 and Hambledon Classic Cuvée Rosé (Hampshire) – £40 for the leavers and Louis Roederer Cristal 2009 (France) £175 for the stayers – might as well go out on a high!

Otherwise, life seems to go on here in Wimbledon Park.  We completed our first wine school of 2019 on Wednesday night, 6 weeks of tasting torture that rounded off with a bubbles boot camp – 11 more palates are released onto the world, brimming with knowledge and expertise and an intimate working knowledge of all of Wayne’s jokes – if this all sounds too good to be true and the sort of thing you’d like to get involved in then we’ll keep you posted with dates of our next course, which will start late September, I imagine.

And then I read the booze press and my heart sank.  Initially, the idea of Graham Norton launching a pink gin, to go alongside his wine range, seemed a target worthy of a few well targeted darts but then I read about  more crimes against wine being committed by the scientists at Blossom Hill and Echo Falls.  For those of you oblivious to such things, Blossom Hill and Echo Falls are volume producers of very low quality wines in the USA but available globally.  It seems that, of late, sales of vinous beauties like Zinfandel Blush and Sun Kissed Red have been experiencing a bit of a slump.  So what does any self-respecting wine producer do to counteract such a dip – of course, they make a wine that isn’t actually a wine at all.

Blossom Hill Gin Fizz.  Yep, you read it correctly.  So far as bandwagon jumping goes this gets a gold star, previously only awarded to Sparkling Pink Pinot Grigio a few years back.

Anyway, very excitingly it comes in two flavours – Lemon & Rosemary, and Rhubarb – and we are told we need to be pouring it over ice and serve it with a garnish.  But surely ice and garnish is just gilding the lily, we say?  Surely the production method of blending white wine with ‘botanical-infused water’ and gin is enough?  Apparently not. 

It’s not wine, it’s not gin, it’s flavoured with lemon, rosemary and rhubarb and is fizzy – it’s the bride of Frankenwine, it’s in the sparkling wine aisle of your local supermarket and it makes me want to weep.  Echo Falls did a similar launch about a month ago with a Rosé Wine & Gin Fusion which is about £4 cheaper than the Blossom – fill yer boots!

Here are some wise words from their Global Marketing Manager, Bo Jakubenko:

“We know that gin is booming and that people are looking for refreshment and convenience from their drinks purchases.  With Blossom Hill’s Gin Fizz we have developed a product that responds to this need.  By focusing on what the consumer wants and making wine more accessible via a fun, approachable brand like Blossom Hill, we are helping to ensure future category growth.”

Translation:

We asked our customers and they resoundingly confirmed that whilst they buy our wine they would far prefer it if it tasted like gin and had bubbles and herbs in it – anything, frankly, to make the wine taste better than it currently does!

Tasting this weekend

I’ve been so insanely busy that I haven’t been able to get down to Morrison’s to get any Blossom Hill, so we’ll just have to stick to gin in one glass and wine in another.  As ever, we have Eclectic, Sacred, Bloody Bens, Hepple, Sacred Juniper and Sacred Pink Grapefruit open to taste on the Gin trolley along with other spirits and whiskies too.

Wine wise, I’m planning on opening a couple of Chileans that we listed a few weeks back.  The world, it seems, has fallen out of love a little with Chile but we have always been big fans and hopefully you might see why when you taste these wines…

Naciente Chardonnay 2018, Casablanca Valley, Chile – £11.99 – This is an unoaked white, pale yellow in your glass, aromas of very intense fruit with an emphasis on citrusy notes, and mineral touches.  The palate is fresh with the natural acidity making the wine very vivacious and fruity; it has a medium body and a lovely long finish.  Fish and chip Friday anyone?

Metic Carmenère 2018, Colchagua Valley, Chile – £10.99 – A limited production wine from 30 year old vines, the intensely blueberry fruit nose leads on to a bright fruited palate with a lovely intensity and length.  It’s made by a couple of Chilean guys as a side-line to their main business which is consulting for other wineries around Chile.  Their very laidback approach to winemaking intervention is unusual at this price and we’re certainly not complaining about that.

So pop in and try the wines and, if you ask me nicely, I might open a bottle of San Pellegrino and we can mix it with the Chardonnay and some Eclectic!  Actually no, no I won’t, that would be disgusting…

Lost Control

Friday, March 15th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

How’s your week been? We’ve been bumbling along in our normal fashion, tasting here, delivery there, quick squizz at the horses running at Cheltenham, is it time for lunch yet?

As many of you know, and many more suspected, we are no strangers when it comes to the subject of pies. Over the Christmas period we tend to have the odd mince pie or two handy, we have been known to partake of the odd Melton Mowbray after, or even before, a wine tasting and are even known to pop over to Manuels for an emergency sausage roll on a chilly day.

You can imagine then, our excitement to read the BBC headline “Emma Haruka Iwao smashes pi world record with Google help”. Sadly,  the story went on to explain that Ms Iwao has not harnessed Google’s computing power to make the crust that finite bit better, crustier, or melt in the mouth. She has just extended the number of decimal places in л from 22 trillion to 31 trillion, which if recited would take 332,000 years or so. We’ll spare you,  3.14159 has always been good enough for us, but suffice to say: Well played Ms Iwao!

Cheltenham Gold Cup today, for many it is the highlight of the race calendar, Wayne’s been looking at Might Bite or Presenting Percy but I warn you he’s a bit off the pace this week.  It’s also the finale of the Six Nations this week, so if you’re partaking of the fun at Twickenham give us a wave, we’ll be watching on the telly. We’re a bit surprised to see big Joe left out this week, but then we run a wine shop not the England Rugby team.

You know that moment when a song pops up in your head and just won’t go away, a proper earworm that bugs you even though it’s a song you love? We’ve had a bit of that with Joy Division this week.  We pulled up the BBC website and that triggered it: “Confusion in her eyes that says it all She’s lost control”. Counting the boxes in the cellar for the stockcount there it was again: “And she’s clinging to the nearest passer-by She’s lost control” Alex loading the car for a delivery, up it pops: “And a voice that told her when and where to act, she said I’ve lost control again.”  We’re a bit puzzled as to why this song keeps tormenting us.

Meanwhile Trumpolina has spoken about Brexit: “I’m surprised at how badly it has all gone from a standpoint of negotiations but I gave the prime minister my ideas of how to negotiate it, she didn’t listen to that and that’s fine but it could have been negotiated in a different manner.”

In wine news, word on the street is that Pernod Ricard might be putting Jacob’s Creek and Campo Viejo up for sale as part of their move away from focussing on discounting. Meanwhile over in the land of the weird diet or ten (aka USA) we couldn’t help but think that one punter has taken it a little bit too far. Del Hall, director of sales at Ohio’s Fifty West Brewing Company, says he will refrain from all solid food until Easter, drinking only beer for sustenance, as well as water. We can see the appeal of a simple shopping list like that, and couldn’t help but wonder if that made him a vegan, but don’t feel it is something we can recommend. Like any form of extreme exercise, we feel you should check with your GP before embarking on such practice.

I don’t know about you but all the drama in the press this week leaves me reaching for a glass of wine. My aperitif glass of wine is Deep Roots Riesling 2018 (£12.99) a classic dry Riesling from Rheinhessen with citrus and orchard fruit character, a touch of minerality and quite possibly the best partner for that Pad Thai for supper!

Main course red will be One Block Grenache 2015 (£13.99) from Jonathan and Rachel’s Domaine Treloar in the Roussillon. I quite like a glass off it on its own, but I see absolutely no reason not to chomp on a lamb chop with it if you’re peckish.

With that I’m off to sun, sand and fish curry. Wine? Less likely.

The no-newsletter

Friday, March 8th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So, I’ve been banned, apparently for my own good.  Or perhaps I could say I’ve given up for Lent and then perhaps it will seem more worthy.  Whichever way you put it, Wayne has put his foot down and declared that I am no longer allowed to do it, at least until he goes on holiday at the end of next week, after which he doesn’t really care what I do as he will be shoulder deep in yoga and sundowners.

So, what is this nasty habit that has got me this ban?  Nose picking?  Playing B*Witched on Spotify?  Cattle rustling?  No, none of these, in fact it’s something far more prosaic, that we all do, and get away with, everyday – yep, it’s called reading the news.  Now, I’m not talking about doing my best Moira Stewart impersonation or wearing Sir Robin Day bowties, since these are already on the blacklist, but more about the keeping-myself-up-to-date-with-current-affairs aspect.

By all accounts it makes me ranty.  Ranty, moi, how very dare you?  It all starts over breakfast when I flick through the BBC News whilst the dog patiently waits for his walk.  Whilst on the common with Rufus, the aforementioned dog, a particularly annoying and seemingly unstoppable App that Samsung have installed, pings me constantly with breaking news.  This news is never about cats being rescued from trees or old ladies being helped across the road but more about bigger cats becoming extinct, trees being destroyed for ‘industry’, or old ladies being knocked down whilst doing the shopping.  As I still only have Rufus to talk to at this point and his feelings for cats are typically canine, I have to continue with my inner seethe until I get to work.

And then my exasperation becomes too much as I explode in indignation.  Poor Wayne has to nod and tut appropriately, whilst surreptitiously placing his bets for the 2.15 at Lingfield, as I rant about the state of the world, the cruelty of mankind, the seemingly flippant attitude of some to the value of a human life, the overpayment of footballers, the parlous nature of politics and politicians and …. well, you get the gist.

So I’m banned, which is a bit of a bind when it comes to writing this email, since it is usually heavily propped up by some sort of news roundup.   So I’m not entirely sure what to write about now, as there is also an embargo in place on writing about football or rugby – for many of the same reasons as the news ban is in place – such is the life of a Spurs fan and an England rugby fan.  And let’s not talk about cricket.  But if you fancy a rant about footballers and haven’t seen it already then

https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/8579607/edin-dzeko-pepe-roma-porto-champions-league/

should make you smile, whilst also gently simmer at such poor sportsmanship. 

However, if you are banned like me, then take a look at this feel-good story and restore a bit of faith

NEW WINES!!!!

But I am allowed to talk about wine though, which is handy as this is the main purpose of this missive and excitingly this week we have received some of our new listings…

FIZZ

Champagne Vauban Freres Brut NV – £30.49

WHITE

Australia

Pauletts Watervale Semillon 2016 – £14.99

Chile

Naciente Chardonnay 2017 – £11.99

Czech Republic

Sonberk Riesling 2015 – £22.39

Germany

Deep Roots Riesling Trocken 2018 – £12.99

Italy

Monte Schiavo Pallio di San Floriano Verdicchio Classico Superiore 2017 – £13.99

Vignetti Le Monde Friulano ‘Grave del Friuli’ 2017 – £15.99

Tenute Pieralisi Villaia Verdicchio Classico 2017 – £19.99

RED

Argentina

Pablo y Walter Malbec 2018 – £11.39

Chile

Metic Carmenère 2018 – £10.99

Italy

Cantina Crociani Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2015 – £22.49

Spain

Bodegas Resalte de Penafiel Lecco Crianza 2014 – £19.29

And we also welcome back lots of wine from our favourite Yorkshireman, Jonathan at DOMAINE TRELOAR

One Block Grenache 2015 – £13.99

Three Peaks 2016 – £14.99

Le Secret 2013 – £17.99

Motus 2015 – £18.49

La Terre Promise 2015/16 – £18.49

Tahi 2011 – £25.99

And also in Magnum – Tahi 2010 – £50.00

TASTING THIS WEEKEND

As we’ve got so many new wines it would seem sensible to open a couple of them.  We’ve opted to go New World this week and will open the Pauletts Helmsford Semillon 2016 and the Pablo y Walter Malbec 2018.

The Semillon is a single vineyard wine from their Watervale property and, compared to its counterparts in the Hunter Valley, has more flesh on its bones, as it were.  A typically zesty, tangy citrus nose leads onto a riper palate with plenty of crisp fruit – potentially more interesting than a lot of Sauvignons but in the same vein.

The Malbec is a wine we have known about for some time but never really had shelf space for.  That all changed as some if its peers became more expensive but not necessarily better and a slot appeared on the shelf.  A thoroughly decent drop, plenty of dark fruit and richness without knocking your socks into the middle of next week – we think this will gather a bit of a following.

So come and taste the wines, admire the new listings, bring joy to my curmudgeonly existence and perhaps let me know what’s going on in the world!

Kashmir Handbags

Friday, March 1st, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

FIRST A VERY IMPORTANT PIECE OF ADMIN:  

Due to the fact we’ve been invited to provide the wine and run the bar at Kings College quiz night tonight, we’ll be closing at 5pm in order to set everything up. Apologies for inconvenience caused.

This week Trumpolina and Kim Wrong ‘Un met up in Vietnam for a couple of Summer Spring Rolls, Bo La Lot (meat in Betel Leaves) and a couple of pints of Hué. Sadly, as is often the case after a few cold ones, no agreement was reached. Instead Wrong’Un will head back to watch another thrilling march by with the Highsteppers.  Trumpolina meanwhile, mulls over a failed foreign photo op, claims people are telling lies to congress and misses the GDP growth target. We’ll get a Chinese trade deal soon folks, he’s desperate for it.

In other international news India and Pakistan are handbags drawn at dawn over Kashmir again, with captured pilots, shot down planes and furious moustaches. Do you think Led Zeppelin know about this fuss?

In Brexitania, people you’ve never heard of have resigned, we have three dates for meaningful votes and anything could change at the drop of a hat. Someone has discovered we have the wrong size pallets for exporting. I wondered do people still do woodwork at school?

Jacob Rees -Mogg is enjoying his rock star status in a Tom Jones stylee with a sell-out night at the Palladium. Unlike a Tom Jones gig, it appears the audience held on to their underwear!

Climate disaster or an unexpected nice spell in February? I’m sure we all have a view, or maybe even several, but you can be sure the kids who saw the first ever snow in Hawaii, or those in the Sahara who also witnessed a splash of the white stuff, enjoyed it just as much that kid in Wimbledon Park eating an unseasonably early ice lolly.

We also note that today is St David’s Day (Dydd Gwyl Dewi) and on further discussion discovered that we don’t know how it’s celebrated. According to the interweb people attend special church services, wear daffodils or leeks, or eat Welsh Rarebit for tea. Sounds quite different to St Patrick’s Day! We do know of one young lady who celebrates it every year by getting older – A happy birthday to you!

Wayne’s a bit nervous on the sport front, no rugby this week (which might be a good thing) and we have the North London Derby. Normally we don’t discuss this too much, being opposite sides of the coin so to speak. Tottenham have now lost two on the spin and Arsenal seem to be on a decent spell of form, so he seems to think there is a chance of Arsenal winning something at Wembley after all.

In proper sports the European Cycling season kicks off this weekend with Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad bringing us the first cobbled classic of the season. We’ll be cheering for Ian Stannard I think, but think it’s going to be difficult to beat Greg Van Avermaet. For the women’s race we can’t help wonder if it may just be Chantal Blaak’s time to win. Sunday will give us Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and we can’t help but wonder if Matteo Trentin might grab the top podium place.

On the wine front, a news story we found very interesting was that Constellation brands is to sell or discontinue 40% of its wine and spirits brands. It seems to us that everywhere you look people are developing “brands” when we thought you went about building a business. Constellation has built and bought lots and lots of wineries and spirits brands in the time we’ve been in the wine trade, and this is not the first time they’ve had a cull. We think there might be a note of caution to be learned somewhere in this story.

Tasting This Weekend

The Lillywhites will be represented by Desjacques Sauvignon Blanc (£9.49). A lovely drop from Sauvignon Blanc’s heartland in the Loire Valley. A highly aromatic wine with fresh zesty citrus and gooseberry flavours and mouth-watering acidity. Fruit follows the nose nicely with some added chalky mineral to the finish. Very much made in the image of a Sancerre.

Gunners are represented by a delicious Saumur Champigny in the shape of Les Clos Maurice Vieilles Vignes 2016 (£17.99). I could give you all the guff about the soil in the vineyards, the angle of the slope the vines are planted on etc. but the reason we bought this was the label. Nothing at all to do with the lovely fruit concentration from vines planted in 1921, nothing at all to do with the fact that we loved the fine balance of fruit, freshness and tannins, or the long finish. Certainly not how delicious it would be with a pork chop, definitely the label.

Hey, I’ve got this great idea; we’ll dress up some horses as zebras…

Friday, February 22nd, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

A week full of surprises seems to have been the long and short of it. First surprise was really rather a pleasant one. The nice people in the Canary Islands have been sending us some of their wonderful weather, so, barely a minute after putting St. Valentine to bed for another year, it feels like spring has sprung.

In what should come as no surprise, news reaches us that restaurants and pubs suffered a slowdown in spending in January.  Not only were those who did visit only drinking water but apparently they wanted to eat only vegetables too!

There’s also a new movement afoot. It’s been creeping up on us for ages, lurking suspiciously in the background, a small but increasingly confident minority who may at some point be the mainstream. Until quite recently there were basically two pre-dinner drinks that were popular. On the one hand you had the folks that like to drink a glass of champagne or something bubbly in a flute. On the other hand there were the people that liked to have a beer, some chilled, some room temperature, but beer nonetheless.

But this emergent minority we mentioned above appear to prefer drinking a gin and tonic before dinner. Not only that, but they are also recruiting from both sides.  Champagne producers have spotted a fall in their sales and responded with a typically Gallic shrug and an increase in prices. The beer producers have grown their beards longer, shrunk their trousers, added more hops and started going to the same cool places you find gin producers. It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out as something similar happened in the late 70’s/ early 80’s – but barely anyone drinks Babycham now!

On the politics front, in a rare show of humour, the Labour Party re-instated Derek Hatton for 48 hours. Theresa May has been in Brussels again this week, allegedly for negotiations but we’re starting to think she just goes for dinner at Quincaillerie or Comme Chez Soi on the government dime.

Otherwise some renegade former Labour MP’s (known in some circles as The Hateful Eight) have joined up with some renegade Conservative MP’s  (known in some circles as the Three Amigos) to form a mixed commons football team called Independent Group. To what aim remains unclear as they have nobody to play with but rest assured we’ll keep you abreast of developments.

On the science front, scientists believe they have discovered why zebras have stripes and it’s nothing to do with running faster. It would appear the stripes are there to confuse flies. After dressing several horses up in zebra outfits it was discovered that the poor flies are too confused to land because of the stripes. To us this seemed like something you’d dream up after a long and challenging afternoon in the pub… “Hey, I’ve got this great idea; we’ll dress up some horses as zebras…” Kudos definitely goes to the person that managed to sell it to the funding committee.

That’s quite enough guff from us for this week except to say that we’ll be opening a couple of Portu-Geezers on the tasting table this weekend.

Wearing the white waistcoat will be Ai Galera Mistico 2017 (£8.79). It’s a cracking blend of Fernão Pires and Verdelho from the Tejo region.

Adorned in the red slacks will be its sibling Ai Galera Poetico 2017 (£8.79). Funnily enough, it too is from the Tejo region, but sports a blend of Castelão, Trincadeira Preta and Tinta Miúda.

So there you have it, a weekend of lovely weather and five indigenous Portuguese grape varieties to tantalise the taste buds.

Saúde!

What, no Six Nations this weekend?

Friday, February 15th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Tidied up all the rose petals?  Paid off the a cappella group and the mariachi band and the Whitney Houston impersonator?  Washed up the champagne flutes and lobster picks and wondered to yourself –well, how did we get here already?  I know we have…

Two sessions into the 6 Nations, Valentine’s Day behind us, half term starting today, the mercury hitting 15 Celsius yesterday afternoon, daffodils in the shops, sunset after 5pm – all these factors can only, surely, mean one thing – that spring is well and truly on its way!  I’ve even tasted a variety of rosés this week and last, with a view to what to have on our shelves this summer, whilst Wayne has been ironing his shorts and talking about cycling.

It really does seem that not a huge amount has happened in the world this week.  Brexit rumbles on but still flatters to deceive; as discussed, Valentine’s day passed in a flash of consumerism and for us, cheese; rugby continues to surprise and delight us; our Poundland George Best, Wayne Rooney, gets drunk and embarrasses his wife and family, quality bloke; in St Lucia, we win the last (irrelevant) Test match before an Ashes Summer, having lost, comprehensively, the previous two and yet somehow this is being lauded as a huge boost – did none of the journalists watch in Barbados or Antigua?

So, with little to light our candle on the news front, let’s talk about Gin shall we?  We have all watched in awe as the juniper infused potion, which was once firmly confined to the drinks globe of retired Rear-Admiral’s in Plymouth, has become the darling of the cocktail classes.  According to figures released by HMRC this week, the value of gin exports has more than doubled in value since 2010 and overall sales of gin, here and abroad, have now topped £2.5 billion.  Clearly it’s not just Hepple making all this money, or even Beefeater, it’s the whole shooting match from the big boys at Diageo down to the wee fella on Garratt Lane.

For those of you familiar with Garratt Lane, particularly the stretch near the station, the name Ben’s Canteen will no doubt be familiar.  For years this corner site was home to Willie Gunn’s Wine Bar, a popular haunt for long lunches and lost weekends.  We used to sell an indecent amount of Plymouth Gin to this bar but it closed its doors in 2014 and was soon taken over by Ben’s Canteen, a business already established up in Clapham Junction looking to spread its wings. 

Anyway, that’s enough history, what is important for now is that these forward looking chaps have started to make their own gin, on the bar, in the bar.  It’s a proper micro-distillery, by all accounts they produce about 40 bottles per batch, which we imagine just about covers their own requirements but when they have some spare they sell it to local people like us.

Thus Bloody Ben’s Signature Gin – £38 – or Earlsfield Gin as we keep finding ourselves calling it, is the newest kid on our block and is proving to be a bit of a hit.  I’m going to shamelessly lift the marketing blurb they gave me now:

The micro copper Gin Still in Earlsfield makes 30-40 bottles per batch. It’s a London Dry Gin with Wandsworth Honey and orange notes.

This gives it a Spanish theme. The local honey represents London living and the Sweet Orange Peel represents escapism, in our case time in Mallorca where the firm was inspired.

As well as G&Ts, the Orange peel makes it ideal for Negronis.

Botanicals:

1.          Cloves

2.         Angelica Root

3.         Cardamom Seeds

4.         Liquorice

5.         Cassia

6.         Lemongrass

7.         Sweet Orange Peel

8.         Coriander Seeds

9.         Juniper Berry

10.       Honeysuckle

Ok, agreed, it’s a puff piece.  Our tasting note described it as a deliciously juniper forward drop with fabulous orange citrus and honeyed notes.  Significantly, it doesn’t taste like any of the other Gins on the shelf so it can carve its own niche.

We have a little open to sample and we have some stock so, if you’re of a mind, come and have a taste.

Wine open this weekend

As ever we realise that you don’t all want to taste gin so we’ll get some wine open too.

For the white lovers we’ll open Domaine de Vedilhan Viognier 2018 – £9.99.  This Languedoc estate belonging to the Fayet family based in the village of Moussan close to Narbonne.  The property has a small brook running around the outskirts which provides natural irrigation to give much needed water.  This gives the wines their freshness and appeal; keeping the vines cool in a very hot climate.  A flirty Viognier: shimmering hay and peaches with a lush viscous texture give way to a sensual palate of roses, pineapples and mangoes.  Delicious with Thai or fusion food, or some big, juicy langoustines.

And for the red heads we will taste Chateau Thieuley 2014 – £16.99.  Predominantly Merlot but with a healthy dollop of Cabernet Sauvignon, this Bordeaux estate has been family run since the 1950’s, now under the guidance of two sisters, Marie and Sylvie.  Marie is in charge of winemaking and Sylvie concentrates on the commercial side sensibly keeping out of each other’s way!  The wine has a lovely red plum character, a touch of chocolate and spice, medium to full-bodied with a long juicy finish.  Spot on with a Sunday roast or a steak even.

So, swing by and have a taste tonight or tomorrow and perhaps even see how the Cambria is getting along in the eto?

Dry January is just a distant memory of misadventure and misery

Friday, February 8th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This week we feel we have discovered the mistress of the understatement:  Susannah Gill, a lady from London who has just broken the women’s record for the World Marathon Challenge.  She ran seven marathons in seven days, enjoying the chill of -35˚C in Antarctica and toasting her toes in 35˚C in Cape Town, before finishing the feat in Miami. Her average time was 3hrs 28mins per marathon  and afterwards, Gill admitted the challenge of running successive marathons in Antarctica, Cape Town, Perth, Dubai, Madrid, Santiago and Miami in the space of a week, while having very little sleep, “had been tough”.

In other news this week, Brexit seems to continue to dominate the front pages, despite Liam Neeson’s best efforts. We saw that deals had been signed with the US and Chile on the wine front, ensuring no disruption of supply. Meanwhile, Theresa May got some more points on her Eurostar loyalty card, popping over to see her old mates for a quick chinwag in Brussels. The real news in Europe, aside from all the clickbait stories surrounding Brexit, is that France has recalled their ambassador to Rome after the Italian Deputy Prime Minister met leaders of the Gilet Jaunes. Finally, we were amazed at Donald Tusk’s suggestion that there may be a special place in hell; we’d always thought it was amongst the small print on the terms and conditions you click for new software.

I don’t know about you but if the rest of the games in the Six Nations are as exciting as last weekend, we are in for a treat. If France turn up for both halves on Sunday it should be quite a game; on Saturday, Scotland will host an Irish team keen to make a point and a much changed Welsh side travel to Rome.

On the football front, Tottenham have had another knockback on their stadium which is great news for Arsenal as they will get a game at Wembley this year after all!

Often at this time of year we turn some of our attention to the horses, it is barely a month till Cheltenham, a festival which holds a special place in our hearts. Disaster struck this week though, as up to 100 stables are on lockdown following an outbreak of equine flu. So if you see horses on the common, stay away from their sneezes!

We’ve been spotted on the tube by several of you so we’ll come clean and tell you that we’ve been out and about on the town tasting again this week. We like to think of it as working, I’m sure you all have a view. Tuesday saw us on a trip to Vintners Hall.  It’s always a joy to go along to ‘Head Office’ as it were. We tasted a selection of tasty morsels, a couple of the new vintages of old favourites too. Thursday saw us in the function space at Oxo Tower where we managed to whizz round in superfast time despite bumping into a few old chums. We tasted a Sauvignon Blanc IN A CAN!  Can you believe it? The wine trade, full of stuffy old geezers with red trousers and Beaumes de Venise aftershave, has put Sauvignon Blanc in a can! I have to say it tasted fine, and we wondered if it might be just the thing for a picnic, come summer?

If the raucous, and occasionally ribald, Italian tasting we hosted last night is anything to go by, most of us are well over being abstemious and Dry January is just a distant memory of misadventure and misery. Just in time too because we have the celebration of Saint Valentine to contend with next week and, frankly, there is nothing better to help you get through that mountain of cards from secret admirers than a long stiff drink!

With this in mind we’ll have a couple of wines open this weekend with very loose connections to February 14th.

In the white corner we’ll have a pink fizz which, whilst clearly not white, is often a winning choice on Valentine’s Day – Domaine du Landrau Cremant de Loire Rosé – £15.99 which, as we all know but I’ll remind you, is a blend of Grolleau and Cabernet Franc.  Delicious, with a fine mousse, crisp fresh raspberry tinged fruit and a lovely mouthfeel, this is a perfect aperitif and awesome with an indulgent pile of smoked salmon!

We looked around for a suitably naff red to link with Valentine but it seems we have no wines with hearts and suchlike on them and Meerlust just felt a tad inappropriate.  So the red representative this week is a wine from Valencia, made using grapes from forty year old Monastrell vines, which are then blended with a dollop of Cabernet Sauvignon.  It’s a mouthful of damsons and cherries and is a fab all-rounder from a food point of view. 

Its name?  El Bon Homme 2016 – £13.99 – for the good bloke in your life!

In the eto we have Cambria Benchbreak Pinot Noir (£27.49) from Santa Maria Valley in California – it’s been in there all week so we can see how it has got on under the rubber seal…

And now we must off – have a bon weekend avec your bon homme or bonne femme and batten down those hatches!

Welcome Back

Friday, February 1st, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Happy New Year to those of you who are just joining us – how’s it been for you so far?  How’s the marathon training going?  How many different Seedlip cocktails can you have in one evening without feeling bored?  How on earth did you manage to abstain from rich, robust red wine when the last few days have brutally demanded a warming glass or two by the fire?  Are you going to stay vegan?

Anyway, chapeau to all of you that did the Dry January thing – a momentous achievement and one that needs celebrating – but I imagine that, with 31 days of planning, such celebration is already underway; if you haven’t planned anything, I’m sure we can help!

It should be a good weekend for lots of kids as all they unexpectedly receive Playstations, Moncler jackets, brand new iphones, ponies, gold coated pain-au-chocolat and the James Charles palette – things that were just unrealistic dreams up to now.  Why? I hear you say.  Well, whilst these things were never going to happen in normal climates, news has now reached us that, in spite of Donny T’s twitter requests that global warming come back fast, the polar vortex has caused terrible mayhem in the Midwest with Michigan particularly hard hit and thus the neighbourhood of Hell, 200 miles east of Chicago, has frozen over – and we all know what happens then!

However, further research reveals that there is also a village called Hell in Norway, 300 miles north of Oslo and currently surviving on 5 hours daylight which we imagine spends much of its winter months frozen.  So, Hell regularly freezes over and another popular idiom bites the dust.  We’ll have to hope that this is the only idiom losing validity since the possibility of flying pigs is not what any of us want!

Elsewhere the high street is starting to produce some post-christmas casualties. 

Oddbins is up against it once again and this time I’m really not sure who can or will bail them out.  It’s a massive shame, especially for all those, like us, who wore Oddbins t-shirts for a number of years and who have that nutty little company to thank for putting us through our wine exams and teaching us the joys (?)of retail.  We still have friends there, friends who have worked their way from the shop floor to head office and who now face an uncertain future.  And the reason for the collapse?  Well, for some reason Brexit was mentioned, probably because it always is.  Regular currency fluctuations – yep, I can see those being a problem.  Cheap wine in the supermarkets, particularly the European based ones – I can see this also being an issue.  Online – again this is, we are told, the brave new world and it certainly has a huge impact on us paying for bricks and mortar.  Which leads us onto rents which absolutely have to be the biggest factor.  An average 17.8% rent rise at its 100 sites has proved to be insurmountable which isn’t really a surprise.  I still don’t get it, I would rather have my property occupied in perpetuity at a slightly lower rate but with a guaranteed income than the feast and famine style that a lot of landlords and letting agents follow.  We’ve got a rent review later this year – we’ll see what happens.

But it’s February now and there should be plenty of reasons to be cheerful.  We’ve got through the longest, darkest month and will quickly scoot through this short month  – before we know it we’ll be wearing daffodils and praising St David.  Also, February brings us the start of the Guinness 6 Nations which actually starts this evening with France v Wales.  Worryingly, I was due to go to the pub to watch this with one of my Welsh friends but he has now decided against it as he doesn’t feel it’s going to be a good night for the Wales gang – we’ll see.  Scotland host Italy and Ireland host England tomorrow – I fear there could be telephone number scores in both games and as such we’ll be watching through our fingers.  We’ll then finish off the weekend with a bit of gridiron as the New England Patriots take on the LA Rams, the east coast being tipped as the possible winners here in a tight contest – I’ll certainly start watching it, the question being will I remember to go to bed or wake up on the sofa at 4am?

For those of you not interested in the rugby, how about we distract you with a glass of wine?

As a departure from the norm we will have 3 bottles open this weekend – a red, a white and another red.  We’ll be opening the second red because we can keep it fresh for an extended period of time – yep, that’s right, our eto decanters arrived at the end of last week!!  You may remember we did a bit of trialling of the eto with Tom, the designer, two years ago.  Now, after much back and forth to China over the intervening months, the finished article is finally finished and the decanters are being shipped out – and to celebrate we’re going to christen ours with a bottle of…. Cambria Benchbreak Pinot Noir 2013 – £27.49. It’sfrom Santa Maria Valley in California and is medium-bodied, silky smooth and just the ticket for that crispy duck you had planned for Chinese New year next week, or maybe that roast pork on Sunday.

On a more everyday note we’ll also be opening two wines from South Africa. 

Doran Vineyards Chenin Blanc 2015 – £12.99 – since we listed this in November we have sold out of our stocks twice and that’s without ever putting it on tasting!  A barrel fermented Chenin from Swartland, with a crisp, fresh palate of ripe orchard fruits and a lovely long finish – this is an extremely elegant white at a great price.

Barton Rouge 2015 – £9.99 – we’ve been selling the 2013 vintage for the last couple of years and, a bit like the Chenin above, we never have it on tasting because it just sells so well anyway.  However, this is the new vintage so let’s see if we can get it some more fans.  A blend of Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mourvedre and Shiraz it has a delicious richness of fruit, good tannin structure and a bit of spice on the finish that make it the perfect foil to a hearty stew, a hunk of steak or a midweek spag bol!

That’s it from us, no excuses any more as January is now well and truly behind us, come and taste some wine and remind yourself what you’ve been missing! u