Archive for October, 2015

Joe Jackson, Parsnips and Holy Smoke

Friday, October 30th, 2015

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Things we have learnt since we last wrote to you….

No caffeine, no protein, no booze or nicotine, remember everything gives you cancer

Joe Jackson was very much playing the oracle when he wrote those lines all the way back in 1982.

The WHO have finally finished their research into process meats and have decreed that the days of hot dogs, ham, sausages, corned beef, black pudding and barbecuing need to be put behind us – they just need to find a problem with seafood and tomatoes to put the writing firmly on the wall for the Mediterranean. Or do we all need to use more olive oil and drink a glass of red wine every day to stave off these illnesses – I think I already know the answer to that.

Anyway, if you want to get the full picture, go to and look up The complete list of things that give you cancer (according to epidemiologists), within which you will find such diverse carcinogens as bracken, dairy products, fruit, not having a twin, railway sleepers and a particular favourite of ours, Vatican Radio Masts.

Vegetables also give us cancer, apparently.

This meant that we read the Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall article on the BBC website regarding food waste with a great sense of relief.   Fortunately for us all, tonnes and tonnes of these dangerous vegetable things are thrown away each week because they are the wrong shape, are too big/small or are just not straight enough.  He quotes a figure of 20 tonnes of parsnips a week being dumped at just one Norfolk farm for not conforming to supermarket restrictions.  We both definitely feel like we’ve dodged a bullet here and sincerely hope that plenty more of these dangerous vegetable killers are kept out of our reach.

Phew, time for something safe to eat…

Holy Smoke

Obviously, having read all the guidelines and scare stories above, the most sensible place to find sustenance and safety would be a restaurant that specialises in smoked food.

For those of you who haven’t been, Holy Smoke is the new restaurant on Leopold Road that took Wimbledon (and Trip Advisor, for what it’s worth) by storm when they opened in February this year. Cameron, the affable, flip-flop sporting, South African owner has created a masterpiece local dining experience with a definite hint of smoke about it.

We went on Tuesday night and thoroughly recommend it – if nothing else the smoked French fries alone are worth the visit!

There’s more to Northumberland than Moors and Pete Doherty and Robson Green…

There’s Gin now, too! One of our longest serving customers, previously of a parish near here, upped sticks a few years ago for the wilds of the North.  As often happens when the winters are cold, long and dark, thoughts quickly turn to hard spirit.  However our friend , being of an entrepreneurial bent, decided to take it a step further and create his own Gin using the local available botanicals – particularly Juniper, Bog Myrtle and Douglas Fir.

It sounded interesting to us, he was like an extremely excitable cocker spaniel about it, and so we thought we’d give it a taste.

It’s fab, very pretty, delicious and, according to Victoria Moore in The Telegraph, is “utterly brilliant and original martini gin – maybe the best I’ve ever had.”

It’ll be here on Monday costing £38, plus we have an open bottle here to taste, should you wish to try it before then.

It’s definitely worth it.

And finally, some gentle musings…

Imagine how good a Scotland v Argentina semi final could have been?

Imagine how much you could have won if you’d put a fiver on Sunderland to beat Newcastle 3-0 at the weekend? (answer: roughly 1100 quid, according to one of our customers…)

Imagine being able to go to a private viewing of Spectre at the Bulgari Hotel, courtesy of Bollinger – lucky Wayne…

Imagine what Ontañon Gran Reserva Rioja 2005 (£25.99) tastes like – no need, it’s on tasting today and tomorrow…

Imagine how pink-tickled we would be if you voted for us in the Time Out #lovelondonawards…

Imagine what the world would be like without a bacon sarnie and a barbecued sausage…

Let’s be careful out there!

Vote for us in the Time Out #lovelondonawards

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It’s Saturday morning just after opening, and Alex is sitting in the armchair polishing his glasses surrounded by Rioja. In walks the postman with a cheery greeting, bringing us a couple envelopes that are obviously bills, a magazine about mining for somebody who left years ago, and a suspicious looking brown envelope, both bulky and floppy at the same time.

Which package do we open first? Patient as we are, the suspicious looking item gets it. Immediately torn open, a bevy of cards onto the counter and in the envelope is a poster.

All of them contain the phrase “Time Out Love London Awards”. It would seem somebody out there loves us and has shortlisted us in the local shops for Wimbledon. So now that we’ve been nominated we’d really like to win. We know that may come across as a trifle needy and for that we apologise.

We know our clothes are not as fashionably desirable as some of the items in Matches, and that the Two Sisters know far better than us the correct positioning of your Barcelona chair and vintage mirror. We do think, however, we manage to do a half decent job of providing a chipper comment, sympathetic smile and even the odd bottle of wine.

If you agree with us please do have a vote on our behalf, we’d be diluted to win.

Don’t forget to tell all your friends and their Nans too. We’d love all those votes!

Bond: James Bond

The reviews are in and everyone seems fairly to be pleased with the film, with the chap from The Guardian positively gushing on the radio yesterday morning. We have just a couple of the Limited Edition Spectre Bollinger bottles left so don’t be slow if you’ve been thinking about it! ‘SPECTRE LIMITED EDITION’ – £125

Wine School – New Year Term

We’ve put together the dates for this next term of our ever popular Wine School. At this time of year it seems a popular idea for a present. We’ll start on 27th January 2015 to 3 weeks, take a break for a week for half term and then do 3 weeks with the last week on 9th March.

We’ll taste about 60 wines, talk about wine faults and generally shoot the breeze about all things vinous. Coming along? £15o per person, full details attached.

Tasting this Weekend – Shop Rioja

So we’re still flinging the Rioja around, and this week we’ll be pulling the cork on Valenciso Reserva 2008 (£23.99). Founded in 1998 by Luis Valentín and Carmen Enciso, who are two talented winemakers with 30 years’ experience, who’ve spent too long working for other people. This is a fabulous Reserva, 100% Tempranillo fermented in concrete vats, aged for 17 months in French oak barrels and open for your delectation this weekend.

Chilling in the white corner is Mas Macia Cava Brut NV (£10.99). Although, these days a small amount of cava is produced in Rioja itself, ours is from the Penedès region, near Barcelona. This is cava’s real heartland with production of around 200 million bottles annually. The Mas Macia spends around 24 months aging on its lees giving a nice bready character. So white and bubbly, still clearly Spanish, but from a tad further east than the Rioja.

That about raps it from us this week,

Vote for us, give us a review on Time Out’s website and tell all your friends, family, acquaintances, and maybe even random strangers on the tube if you’d like to meet new people!

The magazine about mining for the absent friend? Sent back like every other quarterly issue for the last 5 years!

Wayne & Alex


We had high hopes for Olympic wine tasting.

Friday, October 16th, 2015

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This week we learnt that loopholes are there for the taking.

We’ve seen that multinational companies can use loopholes like a back-to-front telescope so that they end up paying less corporation tax than your local shop.

We’ve seen that grammar schools can use loopholes and open another branch of the same school in a different town entirely. Wayne went to a grammar school, back when the world was in black and white and only the army or a farmer drove a land rover.  He says even then people wanted to stop them.

We’ve also seen loopholes in sport. Michel Platini is looking for one whilst on suspension and still enjoying the support of UEFA (hmmm!). The sporting loophole we had the most hope for though has snapped shut. News that Bridge will not be considered a sport has both of us feeling a little downcast today.

Not that either of us even know how to play the game (though we both know people that do), but we were fairly confident that we could make a strong case for another sport if Bridge made the cut.

We had high hopes for Olympic wine tasting.

Physically more demanding than Bridge, with a need for a certain amount of strength and technique to remove a cork, decanting also requires a deliberate skill set.

Then we come to the tasting itself, there are the breathing exercises need to bring the sniff into action, the agility required in swirling the glass. Then there is the slurping action, again a result of special breathing exercises, before exercising the control of the cheek muscles to perfect the final arc of expulsion, the spit if you will. So line up a flight of 80 wines and by the time you’re through, you’ll believe me when I say you’ll feel a little tired when you finish.

Sadly it was not to be: bridge didn’t make a strong enough case and the loophole tightened shut on us!

Christmas Cheese & Wine Tasting

Thursday 26th November at 8pm £20 per person

This is the last tasting this year with some places left.  We’ve reviewed the best cheeses we’ve had this year and will be serving them alongside some suitably festive drinking. Sounds like a jolly fine evening to me.

Shop Rioja

This weekend we will be “flopping it out” in the red corner, Wayne having persuaded Alex that the best course of action for a Shop Rioja exploration would be to open Roda I 2007 (£50). This stunning Reserva is made from 100% Tempranillo grapes grown on low yield 30 year old bush vines. Anthony Rose, writing in The Independent, said “This is a fabulous modern Rioja, whose rich, vanilla oak flavours coat a cherry fruitiness, with a nicely balanced acidity”.

Standing up in the white corner we’ll have a rather drop dead gorgeous Valenciso Blanco 2014 (£19.99). Almost as rare as an England team at the World Cup (they only make 12-15 barrels a year) this is a beautifully elegant blend of Viura and Garnacha Blanco with a fabulous texture and finish.

That’s it from us this week – as there’s no rugby on, you might as well come and book onto the tasting, try some exceedingly fine wine and take advantage of our 10% off 6 Rioja offer!

I’ll get my coat…

Wayne & Alex

We’ve teamed up with the wonderful people of Wines from Rioja to participate in their Shop Rioja campaign.

Friday, October 9th, 2015

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This week we’ve had raids at Volkswagen, suspensions at Fifa and tax fraud charges for Mr Messi. We’ve got Klopp in at Liverpool, though probably Sunderland need him more, and Dinamo Zagreb face no sanctions despite one of their players failing a drug test after the game with Arsenal.

We’re not going to mention the rug…oops nearly slipped up.

We had a brief chat with our chum Ulrich this week; he’s the talented chap that makes the Hoffman and Rathbone English sparklers. He was pretty excited and busy sharpening his secateurs as he expects to start harvesting today.

Elsewhere across Europe, we’ve had earlier harvest than usual due to heatwaves across parts of France and Spain this summer, but Bordeaux, Rhone Valley, Tuscany and Rioja all seem pretty excited about the grapes they’re squashing. Rioja particularly seems to think it is similar to 2005, one of the great vintages in recent times.  The Port producers also seem pretty happy which means we can all look forward to some great drinking in the years to come!

Shop Rioja

Talking of Rioja, the sharp eyed amongst you may have noticed a number of fine bottles and maps appearing in our window display. For way of a change, we are going to feature the wonderful wines from this beautiful part of Spain. We’ve teamed up with the wonderful people of Wines from Rioja to participate in their Shop Rioja campaign.

Located in the north of Spain, Rioja is the country’s best known region. Protected by mountains from both scorching continental heat and heavy Atlantic rains, it has an ideal climate for the production of whites and roses, as well as the better known reds.

Not any wine can be called Rioja- wines have to pass several tests before they are classified.

The reds are from predominantly Tempranillo, but the blend can also contain Garnacha, Mazuelo (known elsewhere as Carignan), and Graciano – a grape Alex is particularly fond of if you’re looking for gift inspiration!

The whites are predominantly Viura, but also can contain Garnacha Blanca and Malvasia in the blend.

This week on the red front we’ll look at a Crianza. Identified by the regulator with a cherry red logo on the back label the wines must be aged for a minimum of two years at the winery before release, one year of which must be in oak casks.

Ramon Bilbao Edición Limitada 2011 – £14.99 – These guys were named “Best Spanish Producer” at the International Wine and Spirits Competition 2014. Based in Haro in Rioja Alta, one taste of this and you’ll see what the fuss is about.

On the white front we’re getting all cosy with Bodegas Ontañon’s Vetiver Rioja Blanco – £10.79. This hails from Rioja Baja and is 100% Viura aged for 4 months in a barrel and 6 months in the bottle. Perfect with some fish pie!

All that remains for me to say is all Rioja wines are on a special offer this month. We’re offering 10% off of 6 bottles and that’s mixable. Given the great value these wines offer already, you should be “having it large!”


Wayne & Alex

Bond Bollinger Bubbles

Friday, October 2nd, 2015

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Mr Bond, we’ve been expecting you…

Rumour has it that this phrase is never really uttered in any of the Bond movies but we don’t like spreading rumours, so we are going to assume that it is in common usage amongst Bond villains for the sake of this email.

Now that we are in October, we are finally released from the terms of the 1,000 page Non-Disclosure Agreement that we had to sign in order to be allowed to sell the Limited Edition Bollinger for Bond, known as ‘Spectre Limited Edition’.  This was launched officially on October 1st in anticipation of the Royal Premiere and Global release of Spectre, which will take place in London on Monday 26th October.

In language more MI6 than SW19, we were told in no uncertain terms that we needed to be very aware that the product could not be sold or discussed with anyone until after the 1st October – we were definitely given the feeling that EON (the producers of the film) would send the boys round, quick as you like, if we breathed a word.  So we didn’t, but now we can.

Bollinger has had an exclusive partnership since Moonraker in 1979 and has actually appeared in 13 of the films since Live and Let Die in 1973.  From a book perspective it was actually first mentioned by Mr Fleming in his 1956 novel Diamonds are Forever.  So a 40 year relationship that just seems to be getting stronger and stronger and to celebrate this relationship we will be getting our hands on some of the limited edition release.

The 2009 vintage Bollinger has been dedicated to the Bond Limited release only. 

According to the press release it is

sourced exclusively from Grand Crus, it is a blend of 68% Pinot Noir (39% from Ay and 29% from Verzenay) and 32% Chardonnay (16% Mesnil-sur-Oger, 8% Avize and 8% Cramant) matured for twice as long as stipulated in the Appellation rules.

As a final touch it arrives encased in a sleek Carré Basset designed black cool-box with embossed silver Bollinger and 007 branding. The exterior is designed to mimic the texture of the gun grip on 007’s Walther PPK, whilst the insulated interior will keep the bottle chilled for up to two hours once removed from the fridge.’

According to Wayne

‘The sublime 2009 vintage Bollinger is boxed up in a fancy pants box that reminds me of a tuxedo and gift bag and is for sale for £125 in exclusive establishments with close connections to Her Majesty’s Secret Service’

So there you have it – we’ve attached some pretty pictures and the fiche technique to tantalise your taste buds – if you would like a bottle for yourself, for your other half, for Christmas or just for the hell of it, let us know and we’ll set one aside for you.


Back in the world we live in, life ticks on.  Studiously avoiding the subjects of Rugby and Arsenal we have found ourselves talking about wine and cheese for the most part this week.  Safer territory for both of us.  We’re doing a Rioja/Spain focused Wine & Cheese evening here in the shop of Thursday 15th October, as part of our involvement with Shop Rioja, during the month of October.  We’re trying to find a cheese from Rioja, we know there is certainly one but it’s a question of where we can get it – failing that we’ll have to focus on Rioja wines and cheese from other parts.

Either way, it’ll be a top night and a great opportunity to enjoy the differences between Crianza, Reserva and Gran Reserva whilst munching on fine cheese and pouring crumbs down your front.


And finally, wines on tasting today and tomorrow. 

We will be opening our new Malbec – Angulo Innocenti 2012 (£17.59) from La Consulta, Mendoza – a reasonably neutral selection, since we don’t believe Argentina will win the World Cup.

And for the white we will be visiting South Africa, Robertson in fact, and opening Fram Chardonnay 2014 (£12.99) – a reasonably neutral selection, since we don’t believe South Africa wi….

Park Vintners will be back.