Archive for May, 2015

Weekend tasting of Godello, Wine School & other wines.

Saturday, May 23rd, 2015

Fellow Wine Lovers,
Two genuine quotes and two made up quotes to start us off this week:
‘I think the top contenders are also guilty because they let us win the title so early.’
Jose Mourinho after Chelsea lose 3-0 to West Brom
‘But I’m not a man like that. I’m not the kind of guy to cheat people of their money or let the fans down … that’s not what I do.’
Justin Gatlin, twice banned drug cheat, on leaving Beijing earlier this week
‘The food was brilliant but I think the restaurant has to take some blame for me choosing the wrong wine’
Anonymous customer from Wellington Road, after a meal at a Michelin 2 star
‘We don’t like to cheat our customers, we definitely don’t put a higher margin on Rioja, Chablis and Pinot Grigio because they’re the most popular and a lot of our customers always choose wines they recognise, that’s not what we do, we’re not here to cheat people of their money….’
Michelin 2 star discussing their £150 Table d’Hôte menu (not including wine)
So, what can we learn from these quotes? Nothing terribly new I think. Jose is still bonkers and still looking to assign blame somewhere, even though he has already won the title. Justin on the other hand has some serious delusions, possibly as a result of prolonged exposure to mind altering amphetamines and testosterone!
As for the other two quotes we can learn one thing: wine lists are impenetrable to a large number of us, with too many pages and lots of names we don’t recognise from places that we haven’t heard of. But then on the front page, in BIG LETTERS, we have the old rogues like Chablis and Rioja which leads us to breathe a sigh of relief and beckon to the waiter – ‘a bottle of Chablis and a bottle of sparkling water please’ – comforted by the feeling of familiarity and safety.
But what’s in the rest of the list? Treasures to be unearthed, new friends to be made, flavours to be discovered. Riesling from Clare Valley; Cabernet Franc from the Loire; Godello from Galicia; Negroamaro from Puglia – all very exciting and delicious, but how do you know this?
A number of years ago, a number customers came to us with this problem – they would regularly dine out for work and felt they needed to be a bit more exciting in their wine choices to show their clients that they weren’t unimaginative, path of least resistance, crowd followers. So, to help them break these bonds, we wrote them some notes about ‘other’ grapes. These notes were sipped, savoured and swallowed voraciously – and then they wanted more. ‘What about sweet wine?’ they clamoured; ‘tell us about Rosé’ and ‘how do I know if a wine is faulty?’ followed closely behind.
And before we knew it, we had 10 people sitting around a table, swirling, sipping and occasionally spitting as we walked them through all their vinous needs. The Wine School had been born.
That was 6 years ago and it is still going from strength to strength. We cannot claim to have trained any top Sommeliers or budding winemakers but we have broadened many a horizon and introduced many a new grape variety to an awful lot of happy people.
Now it’s your turn. Our next Wine School starts in just over 10 days time – Wednesday June 3rd to be precise – and continues on consecutive Wednesdays for a period of 6 weeks. We will teach you how to taste and then we will go off and explore wines from all over the world and of all hues. It’s a 6 week, 60 wine extravaganza of fun and education and at the end of it you can be sure that you’ll never be in the same boat as the unfortunate chap from Wellington Road!
Full details attached, it costs £150 per person all in, so sign up asap before you go away for half term and forget about it!!
Cock tales
Now we don’t normally have any issue with this charity dedicated to establishing and protecting the rights of all animals. They often have strong arguments for the prevention of animal cruelty which we find hard to disagree with. However they do occasionally drop the ball.
Apparently they have petitioned Britain’s oldest pub to change its name. It has had many names over the years, but since 1872 this pub in St Albans has been happily trading as Ye Olde Fighting Cocks, relating to its history of, yep you’ve guessed it, cockfighting.
They are suggesting the pub change its name ‘in recognition of society’s growing compassion for animals and in celebration of intelligent, sensitive chickens.’
First world problems, as Wayne is often heard to mutter….
Le Weekend
Tous le monde is going to allez away from Londres, sans doute. However if you aren’t joining the long grey smoggy snake down the A303 then come and see us in the shop, taste some wine and perhaps even buy some, sign up to our wine school and revel in the fact that London is half empty.
We’ll be tasting some hispaniels this weekend – Bioca Godello 2013 (£12.99) in the white corner representing Galicia and for red we have Joan Giné 2009 (£22.19) flying the flag for Priorat. They’re both awesome, neither of them appear on the front page of any winelist and we would very much love you to love them as much as we do!
That’s it from us I reckon, have a lovely weekend wherever it may lead you and don’t forget that since it’s a bank holiday we’ll be shut on Monday!
¡Hasta luego!

355 Not Out, Cheese and Wine, Rose Tasting

Friday, May 15th, 2015

Fellow Wine Lovers,
So we bumped into an old friend of ours the other day, completely out of the blue. He had worked for both of us at different times when we all worked for a larger, high street wine merchant. To avoid continually calling him ‘he’ I am going to give him a name – Bob. Now Bob had first worked with Wayne and was a keen student of fine wine and fine drinking and had received expert tuition from the maestro in all matters ‘fine’. This tuition was worthwhile because Bob was definitely the best salesman Wayne had seen.
However, with great talent usually come personality discrepancies. Suffice to say Bob had a difference of opinion over timekeeping and discipline with those upstairs and was suddenly re-located to work with Alex. Alex was delighted; a pre-trained staff member with dollops of talent and an ability to conjure up a sale from the mist – Bob was a precocious talent, not necessarily the best team player (he was fully aware of his abilities and others shortcomings) but undoubtedly a first pick on the teamlist, a man who could change the way the day went.
Anyway after many fruitful months, Alex too had to say farewell to Bob too when he failed to return from a lucrative month long jolly in Australia – Bob was very much a man to rock the boat when there was no need to rock it – and that was the end of Bob’s career in the 7 days-a-week world of wine retail. He ended up in the city, earning popstar wages just for turning up and recruiting people – living the playboy lifestyle until marriage and children caught up with him.
It was this change of tempo that made him think of returning to his passion – wine – and also to the longer form of the game – 7 days-a-week retail. So he approached his alma mater, cap in hand, hoping to have just one more crack at it, whilst he still could. They initially welcomed him with open arms – the company had struggled over recent years and was in need of an injection of experience and the skills that he offered – and said that, in time, management should be very much in his sights, he just needed to show that he still was the salesman that he had been and that his head was in the right place. Bob happily accepted these terms, the carrot of management being his sort of vegetable, and knuckled down. His first weeks back on the shop floor involved re-acquainting himself with some old pals and some serious selling – he eased through the gears and was top salesman in his first month back. Happy days. He stood on a couple of toes during this month but nothing too brutal, and in fact was responsible for one of the biggest individual sales of the year to date. His talent was no longer in doubt, his path to management surely set, and with this in mind he approached the scheduled meeting at head office in buoyant mood.
And here the story takes a sorry turn. The meeting didn’t go as he’d hoped. It seemed that there were still people in the company who remembered him from before, but not fondly, and as a result he found himself leaving the meeting room with a permanent zero hours contract, a request that he write a training manual for budding salesman, and a niggling cramp in his left calf from sitting on the naughty step.
Misled and dejected Bob booked a flight to India and bade farewell to the wine trade….
In other news, Kevin Pietersen scored 355 not out.
Fabulous Wine & Cheese tasting last night, loads of cheese, plenty of wine, lots of discussion. If this sounds like the sort of thing you don’t want to miss out on in the future then I can tell you that we have 2 spaces left on our next one on Thursday 11th June – drop us a line if you fancy joining us!
However if you are lactose intolerant and feel like we have been neglecting you, we have our specially formulated Rosé Tasting on Thursday 9th July which promises an evening of fizz, dry and dessert rosé from around the world and we’ll even tell you how they make it – it’s not just a question of mixing red and white and then putting a cork in it, or is it? Come and find out…. It’s the usual entry fee of £20 and is slap bang in the middle of Wimbledon too so we may even rustle up a strawberry!
Is half full. Which means there’s still space for you, still space for you and your friend, and still space for you two, the couple at the back. £150 for 6 weeks of wine, wine, wine, that’s all we ever do.
Starts Wednesday 3rd June at 8pm but you need to sign up in advance. Phone us on 020 8944 5224 or reply directly to this email or pop in and see us and we’ll sign you up.
With the London Wine Fair coming up next week, sample silly season is in full swing. As a result we’ll be opening a bunch of wines that have been accumulating on our back shelf for the last few weeks with a view to deciding whether or not to list them. There’s fizz, white, rosé and red to try so there’s a strong chance Wayne’s 150 km cycle ride to Brighton and back on Sunday may well be a trifle slurred.
They’ll be open all weekend so come and have a peek.
Next Thursday, 21st May, we will closing our doors early as we have an off-site tasting in Sheen. Doors will close promptly at 6.30pm. If you need wine for the weekend we will be open again at 11am on Friday.
Oh and while we’re on the subject, having mentioned the London Wine Fair earlier on, we will be going to this during the day on Tuesday but will be back in situ by 4pm, brimming with bonhomie!
So in a nutshell, Tuesday after 4pm or Thursday before 6.30pm will bring greater wine buying success than at other times on those days!
That’s all from us for now but we’ll be back soon….

Electing a cheese, Rivaner and Sancerre Rose

Friday, May 8th, 2015

Fellow Wine Lovers,
Did you vote? Did you get it right? Are you now in charge, or are you one of the repressed minority? Did you stay up all-night? Do you think that changed the result? Are you mad with sleep deprivation?
Enough questions for now, I think. Neither of us got the result we hoped – Wayne’s dream of a government banning everything apart from Wine, Cycling and Protein failed to arrive – too many beer drinking, pizza-eating runners was his gripe – whilst Alex’s dream of a bearded, golf loving Prime Minister is still just a dream – perhaps he should stand for election.
We did have a quick vote amongst ourselves though – spot the clumsy segue – as we elected the cheeses to have on our Wine & Cheese tasting next week (Thursday 14th May). The winners were:
• Crofton – a semi-soft naturally rinded cheese made with unpasteurised cow’s and goat’s milk from Cumbria
• Soumaintrain – a soft washed rind cheese made with unpasteurised cows’ milk from Burgundy
• Shropshire Blue – a semi-hard blue cheese with a natural brushed rind made from pasteurised cow’s milk from Shropshire one would imagine
• Wild Garlic Yarg – A hard mould ripened cheese, leaf-wrapped made, with pasteurised cow’s milk from the republic of Cornwall
Although there are doubts as to whether Soumaintrain will be able to take his seat, being French and all that. The votes are still being counted with regards to the winning wines, the only certainty, thus far, is Clos des Eglantiers Rivaner 2014 (£12.89) from sunny Luxembourg.
So, if you want to find out which other wines make it in to the (drinks) cabinet and whether Soumaintrain gets past the border police, then join us next Thursday at 8pm. It promises to be great fun as always, the formula of wine + cheese being a winning coalition! Tickets cost £20 per person and need to be bought in advance – you can do this by phoning us on 020 8944 5224, responding to this email or, if you’re passing, pop in and see us. There are still spaces but they won’t last forever!
Anyway, enough election tomfoolery, it’s now time to indulge in a bit of Schadenfreude. In our missive on 17th April we were meandering around the subject of American craft beer, when craft stops being craft, and Anheuser Busch (not craft). Well it seems that Miller Coors (not craft) owners of Blue Moon (allegedly craft) are being sued in California for engaging in deceptive marketing – apparently the Miller Coors chaps have gone to great lengths to disassociate their name from Blue Moon Belgian White, to give the impression that it is a small brewery and as a result allowing them to charge more. Crafty, but not in a good way. Miller Coors production is said to be in the region of 76 million barrels which is suspect is almost 76 million more barrels than Steve at Rocky Head is producing in Kimber Road!
Otherwise, not much more to add from us. The 6 week Wine School starting on 3rd June is gradually filling up so if you had ambitions to enliven your palate prior to the summer hols, don’t hesitate, give us a call today. It’s £150 per person, you’ll try at least 60 wines over the course plus you’ll get to hear Wayne’s oldest and best jokes each week – who could resist?
We will be opening some wine this weekend because we like wine and we like weekends. We have just listed a Sancerre Rose for the first time which surprised us a bit. For more years than we care to remember we have been shown the pink wines from Sancerre by a variety of producers and never managed to convince ourselves that the juice in the bottle was worth the price on the shelf. Then this chap called Simon wandered in and insisted we taste his one. Fully expecting another disappointment, we dutifully put it in the fridge and tasted it that evening with a few customers:
‘Blimey, that’s really good!’
said Wayne, and before we knew it, we’d ordered it in!
Ignore any derogatory comments we may have made previously, this is the real deal and definitely deserves a space in your fridge – if you don’t believe us come and have a taste!
Pascal Jolivet Sancerre Rosé 2014 £19.99 – 10% off six bottles
We’ll also be opening a red, the magnificently named Magnifico Rosso Fuoco Primitivo di Manduria Riserva 2010 £14.99 which, according to my tasting note, has ‘lovely voluptuous rich black fruits and oodles of spice on the nose – concentrated black currants and berries and bright sweet fruit on the palate with masses of crowd appeal – we’ll sell masses of this!’ Come and tell me if you agree.
So, now I’ll let you return to your daily business and, if you need a drink at the end of today and I suspect you might, you know where we are!

Secrets, tastings and wine.

Friday, May 1st, 2015

Fellow Wine Lovers,
Time for more terse observations from another wild week in the land of drinks and drinking.
So, here I was at a tasting. Quite a big and important tasting, and one that has been an annual occurrence for too long to remember. It has always been well attended and I have often found it to be particularly fruitful. In days gone by this event was attended by the occasionally upstanding members of the bar, restaurant and retail trade. The purpose of the tasting was really simple: sales. Dress it up in fancy clothes and stick it in a fancy ballroom but its sole purpose always remained: to increase sales. And we were there with our eyes wide open, wallets poised, to taste the wines, and if we liked them, buy them.
A simple and effective tool. However this time the tasting had a very different feel to it – the customer facing, frontline wine buccaneers were still here looking for new and exciting bottles, but the majority of the attendees spent the majority of their time air-kissing, waving to people on the other side of the room, and getting in the way of the minority there to taste the wines.
The bloggers had arrived.
Through no fault of the organiser this was no longer the sales event of old, it had now become a networking event. I have no problem with networking events, I appreciate their intrinsic value but don’t take over a professional tasting where people want to get work done. None of the bloggers will buy any of the wines and a number of them won’t even write about them – so what possibly could be the appeal to them?
Free Illy coffee and croissants when you arrive, a free two course lunch and free beers afterwards. Bloggers? Blaggers.
Anyway, back to the blog.
It’s not all about moaning, at least that’s what they’ve told me. An article we stumbled upon a while back, relates how a water purification business in Oregon is so confident of their purifying product that they are petitioning the state authorities to allow them to make a beer using this water. Having been incessantly told as a child that every glass of London tap water you drink has already been through 7 other people, I don’t find this news so unsavoury – however I am sure that the king of US breweries will be livid that the secret is out of how they make their beer taste like *#@%!!
Finally we have to give a serious high five to the brilliant researchers at the University of Bonn in Germany and the INSEAD Business School. To put their research in a nutshell, they have concluded that consumers enjoy wine and chocolate more if it has a higher price tag – the belief that a wine has cost more triggering some sort of neural process that makes you enjoy the wine more. This is the best research we have ever come across, ever. And our advice to you – certainly we can sell you that bottle of wine for £12.99 but if you really want to enjoy it, how about you give us twenty!!
This time next week we’ll be wondering exactly how Gorgeous George managed to get so many votes for his Respect party and puzzling as to what the future will be like without child star William Hague and cash-for-access clot, Malcolm Rifkind bringing joy and mirth to PMQ’s. But what are we going to do to fill the time until then? I suggest drinking wine or at the very least learning about it.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again – we can try and describe all the wines in the shop to you in all sorts of floral language but at the end of the day what you taste in a wine and what I taste are completely subjective. We do our best but really, if you want to know more about wine generally and about what you like specifically, you need to do a course. Conveniently, here is one we prepared earlier:
Who is this course aimed at?

You! We assume you have tasted wine and enjoyed it enough to come along and explore further. Our course is aimed at the enthusiastic beginner.

What’s our goal?

Our course is designed to give you an excellent opening to the world of wine. Based entirely around what you taste, the course will give you the confidence to trust your palate, understand the characteristics of the main grape varieties and to explore new styles and varieties. We keep the size of the group small, between 8-12 people, to allow for discussion.

What will we cover?

We cover all the classic grape varieties with styles from both the Old and New World. Some of the wines are shown “blind”, so that you learn to trust your judgement based on the taste of the wine rather than what it says on the label. We will show you how to evaluate and assess quality, discuss wine production methods as well as the wine’s acidity, tannins and flavour. On our journey we shall cover ageing potential, wine and food matching, wine storage conditions and, importantly, wine faults.

Weeks 1-3
We’ll show you how to taste wine and cover the main white varieties along with a couple off-the-beaten-track selections.
Weeks 4 & 5
We’ll cover the classic red varieties as well as a few lesser known varieties.
Week 6
This week is all about bubbles. Sparkling wines from around the world, alongside several styles of Champagne.

You will taste 8 to 10 wines each week and we will even manage to sneak in a little pudding wine and perhaps a rosé somewhere amongst that lot!

What venue?

The course takes place in the shop after we close. We put out the tasting table, pull up some chairs and get stuck in. Our courses are relaxed and about enjoying wine and sharing knowledge.


Wednesday evenings from 8 till about 9.45 for six weeks. .

What do I bring?

Just yourself! We’ll provide everything you need… notes, pens, paper, water biscuits and wine.


The next course is on Wednesday evenings as follows:

Week 1     Week 2       Week 3   Week 4     Week 5     Week 6
03/06/15 10/06/15 17/06/15 24/06/15 01/07/15 08/07/15

If you can’t commit to the six week course then why not come and join us for one of our Wine & Cheese evenings. These are fun and informal and filled with wine and cheese – a simple plan but an effective one. The next planned evenings are: Thursday 14th May at 8pm followed by another on Thursday 11th June.
And if you don’t like cheese, how about an evening dedicated to Rosé? This will take place on 9th July at 8pm and promises to be top notch. We’ll be tickled pink if you can come and will prepare the pink elephants for the end of the evening.
Talking of pink, the Giro d’Italia runs through 3 weeks of May, and our chums William and Guy at Pearson Cycles in Sheen have tasked us with producing a tasting for them.
Its on 21st May so if that sounds like it appeals you’ll find full details on their website through this link:
That’s it from us except to see if you would like to taste some wine when you pop in to sign up for all these courses and tastings we’ll be opening a perennial favourite white, Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc 2013 – £12.99 and a recent listed red from the fabulous Domaine Treloar called Le Secret 2012 – £16.99, we’d love to tell you more but it’s, you know, a secret…
Chocks away, it’s a bank holiday!