Archive for August, 2014

Efficient Service, Witty Repartee and Solid Wine Advice…

Friday, August 29th, 2014

Fellow Wine Lovers,

A quick apology – all the fantastic, efficient service, witty repartee and solid wine advice that you have become so accustomed to over the last six weeks has been heavily diluted over the last few days. Yep, Alex is back; he seems to have forgotten where everything is and how much it costs, brought bad weather and a broken toe with him plus post bank holiday gloom and doom. Welcome back chum, we’ve really missed you!

However his return didn’t cast a cloud over everyone’s week, we’ll leave that to Berlusconi’s Icelandic volcano. Whilst we are deep in AFC Wimbledon country here, and I’m sure we have a few Man U fans out there, one cannot help but admire the MK Dons 4-0 scoreline from Tuesday evening. One hell of a beating and one can only guess at how much claret was spilt at the Ferguson household!

Otherwise it’s business as usual. Heather Watson loses in the first round of the US Open, Andy Murray strolls through his second round match, the media pundits are debating the future of Alistair Cook and Tottenham top the Premiership.

Elsewhere, in the wide world of wine we have an earthquake in Napa causing an estimated 4 billion dollars worth of damage. Kerala in southern India continues with its plans to have a dry state within 10 years by closing hundreds of bars throughout the region. Except for the ones in 5* hotels – know thy master, perhaps. Pernod Ricard post a decline in net profit that can be linked directly to the clampdown on gift giving in China – they own Chivas Regal and Martell, so say no more.

WINE & CHEESE TASTING – Thursday 4th September – 8pm

Owing to a bit of diary mismanagement we now have two spare tickets available for the tasting next Thursday. For those of you who haven’t been before the tasting goes something like this: we select 4 cheeses with the aid of the chaps from Norbiton Fine Cheese and then we match 5 wines, a sweetie and a beer with them, hopefully successfully! We taste them altogether and discuss the various merits and drawbacks of each selection. Fun, informal and full of cheese – what more does one need on a Thursday evening?

Tickets are £20 per person – clearly they are in short supply so first come, first served.

As ever we will have a couple of bottles open for you to sample from 5pm this evening. In a massive break with tradition we will be opening a Pinot Grigio for your pleasure. We have often found Pinot Grigio to be a bit over-rated, with the obvious exceptions of the ones we sell, and have never put one on tasting before, until tonight.

Ramato means ‘coppery’ in Italian and this refers to the colour of the wine rather than the taste. The wine gets this gentle rosy tinge from 18 hours of skin contact with the grapes. The nose has delicious red fruit and pear aromas whilst the palate has some real fruit character and a lovely crisp finish. Pink Pinot Grigio never, ever tasted this good!

A beautiful Barbera with a distinctively elegant, floral character. Vinified with no oak contact whatsoever and capped with a distinctive glass closure to help keep freshness. Designed to be drunk young it has delicious cherry character and some balanced tannins on the finish which make it a natural match for cured meats and foods with a bit of fattiness.

Bit of a watershed weekend this one as we all transition from August to September, from holidays to school, from flop-flops to brogues. We suggest keeping the August, holiday, flop-flop thing going for one more weekend with a glass of wine and a barbecue and worry about September school brogues on Monday!

Glass of Pinot Grigio Wayne? Don’t mind if I do….

Last Bank Holiday until Christmas, so let’s make it count, people!

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

Fellow Wine Lovers,

The queues outside of Clark’s have been epic this week with the youngsters all waiting for foot measuring for new school shoes. The excitement, and trepidation, evidenced as GCSE results were picked up on Thursday – indeed I heard one chap with his mates “Oh man, I got two D’s”.

Some will be staying on for A-levels, some moving off for apprenticeships, or maybe a BTEC in engineering. Some of the younger ones are excited to be putting on the new uniform and moving up to “big school” with all the challenges and opportunities that will bring. Getting up earlier probably being the first of these!

Where am I going with all this? I don’t really know, the thought struck me that many of you are back from your holidays, all looking bronzed and lovely, some of the schools go back next week and some the week after. More importantly I have not heard a single child say “I’m bored” which means, Mums and Dads, you are doing a fantastic job.

Sports wise Balotelli is on his way to Liverpool – you have to hand it to Brendan Rodgers, he doesn’t go for the easy life, does he? Crystal Palace have parted with their sporting director this week, leaving junior from the office in charge – they’d like to apologise for the delay in answering the phone.

Belgian Grand Prix this weekend, Spa is a challenging but exciting circuit with the longest lap length. It’s also one of the quickest, so will Rosberg or Hamilton prevail?

La Vuelta a Espana starts this weekend too with Froome and Contador back in the saddle after their tumbles in the Tour. I can’t help but think they’ll both still be a bit sore and that Quintana may well be the man to beat. As always staying on the bike will be key!

In wine news, we find that Chilean producers ‘Carolina Estates’ are replanting a near extinct red grape variety called Romana. Virtually unknown in Chile, it originated in the Chablis area of France, where it is known as César. It is almost extinct there too, with just about 10 hectares left. Elsewhere we hear that ‘Treasury Wine Estates’ (owners of Wolf Blass and Penfolds) made a massive A$100 million loss. Apparently next year is a ‘reset year’. No kidding!

Bank Holiday Monday
We are closed on Bank Holiday Monday.

Congratulations to our chums at Sambrook’s Brewery, their Wandle won a bronze medal at the Great British Beer Festival last week.

Tasting this weekend
Alex is back this weekend to regale you with stories of Fino, Flamenco and Feria. He’ll be serving you all in his best Spanish accent, though talk of a Toreadors’ outfit is probably wide of the mark. I suspect he’s had plenty of Spanish wine so we’ll be looking elsewhere for this week’s palate pleasers.

It’s a long weekend this one, last Bank Holiday until Christmas so let’s hope the sun shines and the barbecues keep burning – let’s make it count, people!

Jo Pavey, Chopper, Woodstock and Aragonez

Friday, August 15th, 2014

Fellow Wine Lovers,

I knew it was going to be a slow news week when our wine news provider sent a story entitled “10 weird ways to open a bottle”. Being August it’s been a slow everything week with the exception of my commute from Balham. No traffic to speak of makes my short cycle whizz past even quicker, I have to go the long way just to keep it interesting!

Anyway, most of the ways weren’t weird at all, pushing the cork into the bottle when you forgot the corkscrew at a picnic, we’ve all done that I’m sure. The weird bit was taking a toothbrush to a picnic and using that to push the cork in. Do people really take toothbrushes to a picnic? I’m not talking about a camping trip, I’d hope we all take a toothbrush then; maybe I’m the odd one not brushing after my scotch egg in the park.

It’s been a good week for sport with the English ladies making it to the World Cup final in the rugby, Mo Farah finding his mojo again in the 10k, and Mark Cavendish back in the saddle at the Tour de l’Ain.

Performance of the week though must surely be Jo Pavey absolutely bossing the 10k at the European Championships just weeks before her 41st birthday. Inspiring.

The premiership kicks off this weekend with lots of shiny new players to watch and even a few new managers for the ‘good team performance’ slot on MOTD, while in what must be surely an unassailable new record, we note that Crystal Palace have parted company with their manager less than 48 hours before the first ball was kicked. Not inspiring.

In other news, Raleigh are releasing a limited edition Chopper this year. Sure to be top of the kids’ requests to Father Christmas this year, the picture I saw it looked like it had been given an F1 Lotus paintjob circa Emmerson Fittipaldi’s era!

Finally, following on from last week’s history notes, I’d just mention that 45 years ago today Richie Havens was the opening act at Woodstock.

Wine this Weekend
Following on from Alex’s Spanish Fiesta last weekend, I’m staying on the Iberian Peninsula and plumping for Ciconia Tinto (£9.99) which hails from Alentejo in Portugal. A winning blend of Touriga Nacional, Syrah and Aragonez (Tempranillo in Spanish!) it is rich and rounded and just the thing to go with a last day purchase from the butcher.
On the white front we’re going with Percheron Chenin Blanc/Viognier (£8.19) a summery white from old bush vines in South Africa. Good fruit and a nice weight make it a good all-rounder really, but it is particularly good with cold chicken.
Both come with a screwcap so if you’re off on a picnic you won’t need the toothbrush!

Until next week,

Nanu nanu.

Wayne & Alex

Not cooking with Bulmers: Txakoli, Mencia and Cidre Breton

Friday, August 8th, 2014

Fellow Wine Lovers,

There’s no denying it, one of life’s greatest and guiltiest pleasures is Wikipedia. It is also a rich seam of trivia suitable for an unimaginative email writer on Friday 8th August – and here I am.

Here is a short list of things related to today which will hopefully make you life and soul of the party at the bar in the Tower & Poppy tonight.
I suggest you open up your account with the question – Any plans for New Year’s Eve? Only 145 days remaining until the end of the year.
Now you’ve got their attention you can follow up with the double-whammy – Not only was Ronnie Biggs born on this day in 1929 but exactly 34 years later, in 1963, the Great Train Robbery took place!

Six years later in 1969, whilst Ronnie was sunning himself in Australia, photographer Iain Macmillan was taking that photo of a zebra crossing in Abbey Road, replete with Beatles in varying footwear. This is a cue for lengthy discussion over the hidden meaning of this album cover ably supported by pub logic and pint confidence that should last until closing time.

Should you need any other titbits to season the conversation you could always mention that in:
• 1974 – President Richard Nixon announced his resignation as President of the United States on national television – the exact same day that ‘big’ Brian Harvey, of East 17 fame burst into the world.
• 2008 – the China Olympics started
• 1988 – Princess Beatrice born
• 1985 – Toby Flood born
• 1981 – Roger Federer served up
• 1961 – The Edge (U2) was born David Howell Evans, in Barking, to Welsh parents.

Now, if that last fact doesn’t earn you a pint then I give up. Slainte!

Not much more to report from here on Arthur Road.

As it’s Friday, we’ll open some tasting bottles this afternoon, so before you go to the pub to impress your mates with your new found knowledge, you might want to pop in and see us for a quick gargle to wet the whistle, as it were. I’m off to Spain next week so to get the mood going I will be opening a couple of Spaniards.
I fancy a bit of a change to start with so will pull the cork on the unique Ameztoi Txakolina Txakoli 2013, Getariako Txakolina – £14.29.
Growing in the Basque country, Txakoli is made from the local Hondarrabi Zuri grapes (which of course you already knew) and is the perfect match for the seafood pinxos served in San Sebastian. Fresh and appley with a delicious spritz, it has been likened to the wine equivalent of a wet sponge on a hot day – refreshing!

For the red wine lovers we are striding across to the northwest (Galicia) where we find Casal de Paula 2012, Ribeiro – £13.99. This is a bit of a blend using grapes most of us haven’t come across before: Ribeiro Tinto, Mencia, Brencellao, Ferron and Souson. Very reminiscent of ripe Loire valley reds with some bramble and hedgerow fruits and a nice fleshy finish. A good food wine that went down a treat at our cheese tasting in June.

Come in and taste them both, fabulous after a warming tube journey!

Lastly, a reminder. Mike, the butcher across the road, is closing his doors for the last time at the end of next week, which is a huge loss to the area. If you haven’t popped in there recently take the chance whilst you still can because they won’t be back.

Which leads me to a comment made by one of our customers this week, who had made a special trip to buy a bottle of our Cidre Breton:

When you buy such a lovely piece of pork from the butcher there is absolutely no way I’m going to cook it with Bulmers!

Regnie, Torrontes & Lobster beer

Friday, August 1st, 2014

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This week we’ve learned that Dinosaurs were just unlucky to be wiped out, and that if the asteroid that did the deed had shown up a couple of million years earlier or later it would have all been ok. What’s a few million years amongst friends?
Boffins in Cambridge have developed a new technique using out of focus lasers to do some needlework with nano particles making meta-materials that reflect light the wrong way, thus rendering invisibility cloaks a real possibility. Hide and seek will never be the same again.

On the sports front football players have been bought and sold, gold medals are being won, lost and fiercely contested in Glasgow. England beat India in a test match!

On the beer front we find ourselves wondering if the craft brew concept is getting a little carried away with itself as news reaches us that Dogfish Brewery in Delaware has produced chocolate lobster ale. It is called Choc Lobster, and alongside the traditional Porter base ingredients include 5 lobsters, 6lbs of cocoa powder and basil tea.

A brewery in Iceland is launching an IPA smoked over sheep dung; I think I prefer mine floral and hoppy!

Not a lot on the wires wine news wise but our chums at Maison des Bulliats got a nice write up in the recent issue of The Wine Advocate…

2012 Maison des Bulliats Regnie – £10.99
“Proprietors Fred and Helen Lockwood kindly drove down the A3 to my home in Guildford to drop off samples of their Beaujolais wine. Together with their two sons, they have owned around 7.5hectares of vineyard since 2005, seduced by their love of France and its wines. The day-to-day running is delegated to oenologist Sylvain Dory. They were sanguine about the notion of winemaking being a profitable business, and as we chatted over my kitchen table, it was clear to me that Maison des Bulliats is more a labor of love. But that is often the foundation of its best wines, and they produce simple, delicious, uncomplicated…carefree Beaujolais wines that I would happily polish off over dinner (and I must confess that later that evening, I did precisely that.) The 2012 Regnie is a delightful wine that delivers a lively, brisk red cherry and strawberry-scented nose that is clean and nicely defined, neatly avoiding some of the under-ripeness that maligns some of their peers. The palate is well-balanced with nicely judged acidity, and although I would never describe it as complex, it is clean and fresh, with abundant red berries on the finish and a spice-tinged aftertaste. Lovely. Drink now-2016.” Neal Martin Wine Advocate # 213 (Jun 2014)

After all that I fancy a glass of wine…

So we’ve clearly got a contender for the red corner in that review above, we’ll head to Argentina where we will get our tongues tangling with a Torrontés!

Crios Torrontés 2013 – £13.49 is from Susana Balbo’s Dominio del Plata winery and is packed with that summery fragrance we love, not dissimilar to Viognier but with a bit more of that crisp zing and zip we find in a Sauvignon Blanc.

That’s all from us this week, just time to remind you all to put your fantasy football teams together!


Wayne & Alex.