Archive for May, 2014

What can we talk about this week?

Friday, May 30th, 2014

Fellow Wine Lovers,

What can we talk about this week? You all sent out of office replies to last week’s mail and are now hiding out in museums or have snuck off to the countryside for a few days. It’s a slow news week in the wine world as next week sees the London Wine Trade Fair so everyone saves up the press releases and gossip for that. How about a bit of sport?

The Giro d’Italia draws to a close this week with three mental climbing days including a climb up Zoncolan which at points is a leg wrecking 25% climb. A cable car for me please!

In the cricket England and Sri Lanka seem to have engaged in an “I can score less than you” competition, let’s see what happens in the test. Freddie Flintoff is un-retiring after four years of gardening, playing in the T20 Blast for Lancashire.

Scotland and Nigeria draw 2-2 after allegations of potential match fixing, I wonder if it’s that nice man whose dad stashed $20 million in a Swiss bank account for me? I really must send him that number.

We also noticed that for the years 2012 & 2013 close to 50,000 bottles House of Commons Sauvignon Blanc and 26,000 bottles of House of Commons Merlot were drunk by our esteemed leaders and their guests, not to mention 10,989 pints of Guinness. Thirsty work this politics business!

Tasting this Weekend
I’ve a suspicion that it’s high time we introduced you to our chum Bernie. He has a tower in his back garden you know! He also makes our delicious Chateau Carré Muscadet Sèvre et Maine (£10.49) which looks like a good place to start. It is crisp dry and summery (listen to me ever the optimist!) with a decent finish.
On the red front I’m going with a cracking red that’ll work a treat should the barbecue get a visit this weekend. Chakana Malbec (£11.99) is just the ticket, lush and juicy, a bit spicy and long in the finish with just enough tannin to keep it honest.

Final word this week goes to Maya Angelou: “Life loves the liver of it.”

Hangover Cures, Golf and Long Weekends

Friday, May 23rd, 2014

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Students invent first hangover free alcohol The Drinks Business 21/05/14

‘Didn’t think students got up early enough to get hangovers’ harrumphed Wayne as we sat and sipped our coffees at 11am yesterday, having just opened the shop…

He might have a point regarding the reveille of our future leaders, but it seems that whether or not they suffer on the morning after, they do understand that there is a danger that they might in the future.

A synopsis: Rage on Saturday. Up for Church on Sunday.  The three students from California have devised a formula that they claim will quell the effects of a hangover if added to every fourth alcoholic drink consumed of an evening.  Not quite sure about the flavours or quantities of powder involved, but on their crowd-funding page they promote the idea of Prime (that’s what it’s called) mixed with vodka and lemonade.   It looks like blue WKD, which doesn’t strike me as the best brand alignment, but anyway.

I appreciate it’s an idea in development, that it is focusing on the loss of electrolytes and vitamins one suffers on a ‘night out’ and that it is potentially aimed at the youth market but it still doesn’t quite work for me.

I can’t imagine being out at an important dinner, supping on fine Bordeaux and the like before requesting a break in proceedings to hustle up a vodka and lemonade from the sommelier, add some blue powder to it, drain glass and then continue with the fine wine.

Even more, I cannot imagine adding aforementioned blue powder directly to my 2001 Fourcas Dupré or Moutard Brut Grand Cuvée and certainly not to my Ardbeg Uigeadail.  I’ll take the hangover, ta.

Or perhaps I’ll work on hangover alleviation through the age old, tried and tested systems.  Drink plenty of water and have blind faith it will be alright on the morrow.

For development of this wonder formula they hope to raise, through crowd funding, $20,000 by 15th June.

By yesterday afternoon they had raised $520.


In a sort of ‘seven-degrees-of-Kevin-Bacon’ scenario

·         we’ve got the golf on at Wentworth this weekend with a newly single Rory McIlroy trying to put his split from Caroline Wozniacki behind him;

·         Wozniacki, a Liverpool fan then tweets something along the lines that she knows she’ll never walk alone;

·         Craig Bellamy, ex-Liverpool player, announces his retirement;

·         Craig Bellamy is Welsh; 

·         so is Gareth Bale;

·         Bale will be playing for Real Madrid against Atletico Madrid in the Champions league final on Saturday night, in Lisbon;

·         Lisbon is in Portugal, as is Val de Lobo;

·         Val de Lobo is where Craig Bellamy, whilst a player with Liverpool, famously attacked John Arne Riise with a golf club;

·         and so we’re back to golf, and to Wentworth….

This Weekend

It’s another one of those bank holiday thingies this weekend and if you couple this with the start of half term then there are plenty of reasons to be filling your glass either to celebrate the break or to numb the pain.

We’ve decided to go to California this week since this is allegedly where the future cure for hangovers will be coming from(!) so we might as well look at what might produce them….

Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2012, Livermore Valley, California, USA (£13.99) – Wente’s vineyards were founded in 1883 and are still owned and managed by the ame family 4 generations later. They were also one of the first to plant Chardonnay and one taste of this suggests they are doing a fine job. Crisp with fine elegant apple notes and a supporting touch of oak, bang on with fish and chips!

Jewel Old Vine Zinfandel 2012, California, USA (£12.99) – An outstanding Zinfandel from Lodi, inland from San Francisco, with rich spiced fruit aromas and a touch of vanilla.  The palate is satisfyingly rich with layers of berry fruit, a touch of blackcurrant and some spiciness leading onto some fine tannins.  We found it to be an excellent partner to some Spenwood cheese recently.

We’re closed Bank Holiday Monday as usual

Have a great weekend folks – we’re cheering for Ernie Els as he designed the course and has his own wine.

Forget phases of the moon, now it’s all about what music you play to your grapes!

Friday, May 16th, 2014

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Sometimes, this world we inhabit is fantastic. It is a world full of wine and bonhomie, thirsty friends, dusty roads to vineyards, sunshine, smiles, the odd hailstorm and the occasional hangover.

Sometimes this world we inhabit is bonkers…

This week we learned of a Bodega in Murcia, Southern Spain that has been playing music to their wine once it has been bottled. The theory is loosely based on the idea that playing music to pregnant mums influences the character of baby.

The playlist, chosen by the head of Spain’s Radio 3, was designed to soften the tannins and make the wine all silky and velvety, and seems to include a chunk of Sigur Ros and other relatively chilled tunes that wouldn’t be out of place at the Café del Mar.

We can’t help but wonder if playing Led Zeppelin’s “Trampled Under Foot” would have made a difference to the outcome.

As I say, bonkers…

Elsewhere in the news football managers have been sacked, county cricket is under an uncomfortable match-fixing spotlight and Bradley Wiggins leads the Tour of California!

More Beer – just in time for the sunshine.

Our chums at Sambrook’s have come up with a couple of delicious new beers.

Battersea Rye (£2.79) is made with Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt, Malted Rye, Crystal 400 and Chocolate Malt. Battersea Rye contains Northdown Hops for bittering and Bramling X and WGV Hops for aroma. Culminating in a bold and spicy rye ale with a well-rounded fruity flavour.

Battersea IPA (£2.79) contains the finest Maris Otter Pale Ale Malt and Caramalt, Chinook Hops for bittering and Chinook and Citra Hops for aroma. The result is a deliciously crisp, hoppy, citrusy India Pale Ale.

Cheese and Wine

The next cheese and wine tasting will be Thursday 26th June at 8pm. Here as usual, £20 gets your place at the table. Give us a call or drop in if you fancy it.

Tasting This Weekend

There is a fair chunk of you a little disappointed to have missed our sherry tasting but, fear not, salvation is at hand! We shall open the Fernando de Castilla Fino En Rama (£9.99) that was such a hit on the night. This is very much Fino in the raw, only lightly filtered and much fresher than any of Wayne’s jokes. Who knows we might even be able to rustle up an olive or two alongside!

If you’re all sitting comfortably we’ll then zip across Spain diagonally landing in the hills behind Tarragona just south of Barcelona. In these hills lays the region of Montsant, which is home to our red choice, Sola Fred £10.99, a really winning combination of Mazuelo and Garnacha.

We’re off to change the playlist in the cellar!

Help me diminish this wine mountain I have built before his lordship tries to cycle up it!

Friday, May 9th, 2014

Fellow Wine Lovers,

‘Just going to sit down for a minute and write the email’ I said to Wayne last Friday.  Or was it yesterday.  Or five minutes ago.  Not sure about everybody else but this constant bombardment of bank holidays is playing havoc with my sense of time and I’m fairly sure that whilst physically I am here on 9th May, mentally I am still somewhere in late April.  Not that I’m complaining too much but it does feel like a blink of an eye since I last sat here writing the email.

Bank Holiday was spent celebrating birthdays, swimming through pools of wine, occasionally eating and playing beach cricket, English style, in our winter coats and shorts (although the wind did provide some interesting reverse swing potential).  Returning to London I discovered that Wayne had been so busy on Friday and Saturday that he had raided his bonus and gone on a sunny cycling holiday for a week!

So, on Tuesday I stood alone in the middle of a shop that resembled some sort of post-apocalyptic  supermarket sweep and said to myself ‘If he’s going to cycle up and down mountains for a week then I’m going to build some mountains of my own!’

Fighting talk that resulted in me receiving just over a tonne of wine yesterday, leading to a fabulously character building work out and repeated revision of the correct procedure for picking up boxes – straight legs and a bent back, right?

Now I’ve done my bit, it’s really over to you to start drinking the stuff.  If you’re wondering why the weather is going to be so awful this weekend it’s entirely down to the fact that I have good stocks of my three Rose wines with a fourth to arrive on Monday.  Fear not though, I have plenty of reds to keep out the chills and about 90 different whites relaxing in the fridge ready for those sunny spells we are often told to expect.  Oh, and there’s my dedicated sparkling wine fridge for those of you who believe that Friday is Fizz day.

As you can tell I haven’t seen much news this week – Sunderland surprisingly survive, Fulham frustratingly fall and the Premiership title stays up North.   Katie Price is getting a divorce (number 3) whilst expecting her 27th child – I do wonder why she can’t find Mr Right….

We have Stuart Hall and Rolf Harris in court again sullying many childhood memories. 

And a warning to all those thinking about leaving the big smoke and seeking bucolic bliss elsewhere – according to UK census data, the top ten local authorities with highest proportion of over-65s are the following:

  1. Christchurch, Dorset
  2. West Somerset
  3. North Norfolk
  4. Rother, East Sussex
  5. East Dorset
  6. East Devon
  7. Tendring, Essex
  8. Arun, West Sussex
  9. East Lindsey, Lincolnshire
  10. New Forest

The future’s bleak, the future’s grey.

Anyway, enough rambling.  I’ll be out doing a delivery between 2pm and 4pm today (Friday) and after all that exertion I’ll probably need a glass of wine.  For white I’ll be trying Mezzogiorno Fiano 2012, Puglia, Italy – £8.69 a really tasty drop, indigenous to the south and frankly a bit of a well-kept secret.  On the red side I’m opening CentoPassi Rosso 2012, Sicily, Italy – £12.99.  My tasting notes say it’s organic with spiced black fruits, hints of cloves and decently full bodied.  Apparently the wine is part of a project involved in rebuilding communities and honouring Mafia victims using land seized from Mafiosi.  Nice story, nice wine.

So come and see me tonight or tomorrow and help me diminish this wine mountain I have built before his lordship tries to cycle up it!

Oh and I just received a text from the man stating he was just about to have some Paella for lunch, did I have any wine recommendations!  Not sure what to say really…

Wayne & Alex

Manzanilla, Fino, Amontillado, PX

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Some headlines that caught or attention this week

·         Ban on Indian mango imports to EU comes into force (BBC)

Where does this leave Mango chutney?

·         Chelsea 1 Atletico Madrid 3 match report: John Terry and Jose Mourinho suffer Champions League semi-final heartbreak (The Independent)

No comment

·         Men fear ridicule over ordering wine (The Drinks Business)

British men enjoy drinking wine at home but avoid ordering it in a pub in case their friends make fun of them, a recent survey has claimed.  Man up.

·         Beer giant Lion buys NZ wine estate (The Drinks Business)

Lion New Zealand has purchased the Morton Estate wine brand, including its Stone Creek vineyard, strengthening its expanding wine portfolio.  Bugger – there goes another independent winery down the supermarket route.

And on a happier note:

·         Protester hits Nigel Farage with egg (BBC)

Anyway, back on track.  After the wonderful warm weather that helped us clamber through the last few days of April we welcome May with galoshes and an umbrella.  However we didn’t allow this climate change to dampen our spirits last night.  12 of us donned our sombreros, put Gipsy Kings on repeat, flipped the doorsign over to say ‘Siesta’ and settled in to some serious Sherry tasting. 

We were guided on our journey by the very talented Bea, a native of Cadiz who now lives over here and who was on hand primarily to pronounce all the names in a convincingly appropriate accent and also to give us the lowdown on all things Jerez.  Last year Bea received her Diploma as a certified Sherry Educator from the Consejo Regulador de la D.O. Jerez-Xeres-Sherry – and as she also managed full marks in both parts of the exam, she was presented with a Venencia for coming top of the class!  Aha, an expert in our midst, not before time.

It was pointed out to us early on that it was a nice change for people to not be  forced to listen to us massacring our Spanish pronunciation but to actually learn from a professional at the top of her game.  So we sat at the back and tucked into tortilla español, habas fritas, almendras, aceitunas, chorizo ibérico de bellota, jamón ibérico de Extremadura curada 24 meses,  pan y chocolate de verde y negros.  Oh, and some sherries from Bodegas Rey Fernando de Castilla too.

Whilst skulking at the back we took the opportunity to make some notes which we have taken the liberty of repeating here:

Classic Manzanilla 15% – £7.99

Not to be confused with camomile tea (same name be warned!) this has spent 3 years under flor. Fresh and tangy with fresh apple and floral notes and a touch briny into the finish, Wayne’s having this with tonight’s fish and chips.

Fino En Rama 15% – £9.99

This is raw fino, no clarification just a very gentle filtering, it has spent 6 years ageing under the flor. Richer and fresher than the Manzanilla with an almost honeyed note to it, Alex suggests “gambas al pil pil” but then he would wouldn’t he?

Antique Amontillado 19% – £30.99

Oh my! This little number has been ageing in a barrel for 20 years, having started life under flor before additional alcohol added to kill the flor allowing oxidative ageing. Nutty, caramel notes in the nose but the palate is bone dry and deliciously complex. Jamón Jamón!

Classic Oloroso 18% – £14.99

No flor involved here, just oxidation over the course of 12 years. More viscous in the mouth, yet still dry it presents spicy, rich dark fruit notes and a long pleasantly warming finish. We like the idea of mature cheeses with this, but if more serious sustenance is what you’re after game and braised oxtail are good ideas.

Antique Palo Cortado 20% – £34.99

A real treat. This rarity starts life as a fino until the flor goes wrong. Luckily for us when the flor went wrong here it didn’t turn into sherry vinegar but into this rare beast that has hung out in a barrel for 30 years just becoming awesome. It has a lovely umami character that’d be mighty fine with some foie gras. If that’s not your bag then why not give wild boar a go!

Antique Pedro Ximenez 15% – £30.99

When the grapes we on the vine for this Alex hadn’t started shaving! Thirty years in barrels has made this soft, rounded and properly sweet with more sugar than is mentionable in polite company. This is unctuous and delicious and most of us enjoyed it with some 70% Green & Blacks. Chocolate dodger Alex loved it with salted almonds, and there was talking of marinating raisins in it, for a naughty apple strudel!

Solera Gran Reserva Brandy 38% – £50

One of the smoothest brandies that we’ve had the pleasure of. Drier than most Spaniards, a bit richer than cognacs and with such a long finish we’ve forgotten where we started!


It was a fabulous evening, the flamenco singers arrived at 1am, Wayne re-introduced us to Gin y Tonica (50/50), we danced until dawn and then went for a swim in the sea… yo no soy marinero, soy capitan, baile la Bamba…..

We’ve still got the Brandy here to taste and joining it this weekend will be…

Bank holiday on Monday so we’ll be shut, business as usual Tuesday onwards.  We have a delivery into town on Tuesday though, so we’ll be here from about 4pm onwards.

Avoid the tube strike and drink wine in Wimbledon Park I say…