Archive for August, 2016

Everything comes to he who waits!

Friday, August 26th, 2016

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well, my dad has always said “everything comes to he who waits” and I think our patience through much of June and July has paid off – we’ve enjoyed a genuinely lovely bit of summer this week, haven’t we?

Rosé has left the building arm in arm with beer, we’ve cycled the long way home (albeit in the twilight!), and we’ve eaten mostly salad because cooking seemed too much of a faff.

We’ve also had Traingate this week. This is where Jeremy Corbyn seems to have been telling porkies about the availability of seats on one of Richard Branson’s Virgin Trains. I’ve been amazed at how many column inches this has generated, if I’m honest, and the only real winner must surely be Virgin Trains who have sold loads of extra tickets to journalists who have to do their piece ‘in situ’.

Transfer deadline is looming with a Bravo for Manchester City (though not Joe Hart) and rumours that even Arsenal may have bought someone. Everything comes to he who waits!

Formula 1 is back this week, Spa Francorchamps in Belgium is the venue and Lewis Hamilton will be starting at the back of the grid due to a breach in technical regulations. That should bring some excitement to the race; it’s a great circuit for racing on.

In proper sports, La Vuelta a España has pushed on through its first week, highlighting how beautiful that bit above Portugal is. Racing has been good too, with plenty of breakaway action each day, and a fantastic stage steal by Simon Yates yesterday.

So to finish with sport, Bake Off started again this week, did you see it? Apparently more people watched the first episode of this series than the most popular parts of the Olympics. When you come up with something like a Gin and Tonic cake, it’s no wonder there are 11 million viewers!

In wine news, Pic-St-Loup in the Languedoc got a bit of a pasting from hail at the end of last week. This year France has suffered a selection of weather related disasters, with a mixture of late frost and hail storms decimating yields. Champagne and the Loire are expected to be down about 30% each and Burgundy and Beaujolais down about 20%, too. Overall across France it makes about an 8% decline in production.

Tasting This Weekend

As a show of support to those plucky French winemakers we’ll show some Gallic flair this weekend. We’ve just got a new Sancerre on board, so we’ll pull the cork on Domaine Michel Girard Sancerre 2015 (£15.99), whilst sporting the red swimming trunks will be Domaine Treloar’s Ciel Vide 2015 (£11.49), a delicious unoaked blend of Syrah and Grenache, from the foothills of the Pyrenees.

Proper punctuation means Alex is back!

Oh and one last piece of admin – on Bank Holiday Monday we will be closed as usual.

Enjoy the long, hot weekend!

Happy Place, Olympics, Riesling and Tempranillo

Friday, August 19th, 2016

Fellow Wine Lovers,

As I write, I am imagining you all squinting to read this, trying to make sense of our latest missive under the glare of a warm sun. Possibly even wishing the phone screen wasn’t quite so reflective.

Whilst you’ve been away I’ve learnt the names of your colleagues, and who to escalate to should I need to. I’ve discovered quicker journey times, seen less people on my morning run, and watched the Olympics late enough into the night, that I feel a little jet-lagged.

We’ve had great news from the Olympics as Team GB haul in medals from the most unexpected places as well as the more usual ones. Best news of all though for this chap from Essex, is that his hometown has been voted the happiest place in the country to live. Leigh-on-Sea came top of this year’s Rightmove study with Troon in 2nd place and Harrogate in 3rd. For those of you who don’t know, Leigh-on-Sea is at the seaside end of the Thames (clues in the name!) about 3 miles before you get to Southend. That’s enough of a plug… you can take the boy out of Essex eh?

Elsewhere in the news Southern Rail continued its domination of the headlines with a ceiling panel falling down on to commuters.

The government’s plan to tackle childhood obesity seems to be rather toothless, especially when you consider that even the CEO of Sainsbury’s doesn’t think it goes far enough. With so many of the changes voluntary, you would be forgiven for thinking it was written by food industry lobbyists.

In an interesting move, ITV is shutting down all channels for an hour at 9.30am on 27th August as part of their I Am Team GB celebrations. So if you come across a test card that says “We’ve gone running – why don’t you join us?” you’ll know what to do.

Normally I’m out on my bike then, so I’m hoping to catch it on demand later.

Congratulations to all the students receiving their A-level results this week. I know most of them shouldn’t be reading this, but please Mum & Dad, do convey our congratulations. It might have been back in black & white when we received our exam results but it seems like only yesterday.

Lastly, if it was difficult enough to decide what to watch on TV, the Vuelta a España starts this weekend. The 21 stage tour stays mostly in the north this year and starts with a team time trial on Saturday. Froome, Contador, Valverde and Quintana are all participating, there are more hills than you can shake a stick at, and the scenery should be beautiful. Who’s in?

Last Orders

Three places left for Wine School. It costs £150 each, starts 8pm 28th September. Ding Ding!

Tasting this weekend

Are we here already? I was just getting into the swing of it. The white corner this week will be inhabited by Max Ferd. Richter ‘Zeppelin’ Mülheimer Sonnenlay Riesling 2014 (£12.99). Wines from this vineyard were served in the luxurious restaurant of the Zeppelin airships in the 1920’s and 1930’s and have been served at state functions at Buckingham Palace, so if it’s good enough for Her Maj…

Squatting rights in the red corner will be claimed this week by Emilio Moro 2013 (£17.99) a delicious drop of Tempranillo from Ribera del Duero. Seems rude not to, what with La Vuelta and all!

Let’s try and get more experts out there before Christmas – Wine School starts Wednesday 28th September

Friday, August 12th, 2016

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Finally we’ve managed to stop focusing on Zika, unfinished stadiums and leaky pipes in the Olympic village to concentrate on the main purpose of Rio 2016 – to make us all vocal experts on sports that we hadn’t worried about since 2012.

Wayne is an acknowledged expert on cycling and thus we have had reasonably coherent, technical conversations on this subject, however handball is discussed more at the level ‘don’t they throw the ball hard’, gymnastics is ‘wow, they’re strong’ and double trap shooting ‘looks fun to do but is no real spectators sport’.

However, with our perceived expert status, we have also had to field questions from the younger members of our families regarding the penalty system in water polo – ‘I think something must have happened underwater’, the scoring system in beach volleyball – ‘I don’t know why they only go to fifteen in the third set, nor do I know why the ladies only wear bikinis and the gents surf shorts and singlets…’ and ‘yes, that is what happens if you pee in the diving pool!’

Suffice to say, we’re thoroughly enjoying the games and debates that ensue.

You can be an expert too…

According to an untraceable survey conducted by the Coop, and subsequently rewritten in a number of trade rags trying to fill pages during slow news August, 38% of British wine drinkers consider themselves to be extremely knowledgeable about wine and 70% of those polled are more interested in wine than they were 10 years ago. Quite where the Coop fits into this wine revolution I’m not sure, having watched their selection over the years, I don’t think they have brought a great deal to the table.

Having consulted our calculators we deduce that 62% of people, in a wine survey, don’t consider themselves experts (which I suspect is modesty on many people’s part) yet clearly enjoy wine regularly enough to do the survey – time for a Wine School plug!

Let’s try and get more experts out there before Christmas – Wine School starts Wednesday 28th September at 8pm and continues on until Wednesday 9th November – as we may have mentioned before, it’s a six week course with a week off in the middle (Wednesday 26th October) for half term. According to the Coop, the four favourite wines are Rosé, Prosecco, Merlot and Chardonnay – we’ll show you some of these of course but we’ll also show you so much more exciting stuff amongst the 50+ wines you’ll taste over the six weeks.

Become an expert by Christmas – £150 per person, just 5 spaces left.

Is Pokémon killing the pub?

No, Alex, it’s not. Get off your Pokémon high horse. True, 21 pubs are closing every week but this is better that 27 a week from a few years back. It’ll take 38 years for them all to close by which time Pokémon will be well and truly over. And since we both know how well we supported the pubs in Wimbledon Village last night, I wouldn’t worry too much…

Is it just me, of is it getting hot in here?

Heatwave coming this weekend, lots of people already enjoying heatwaves elsewhere but we’re still here tasting wine and talking twaddle – both before and definitely after.

For those of you lucky enough to still be around, we will be opening a couple of treats, things we just really enjoy.

Kalin Cellars Chardonnay Cuvée W 1995, Livermore Valley, California – £35.00 – we tasted this a few months back and were startled by the freshness, the length and the all round satisfaction a 21 year old Chardonnay could give at this price.

Geoff Merrill Reserve Shiraz 2007, McLaren Vale, South Australia – £29.99 – harvested in 2007, bottled in July 2010, drinking anytime from now until the last pub closes in 2050 – what Geoff can do with Shiraz is a gift few winemakers possess!

Come and taste them both, revel in their fine flavours and get one step closer to becoming an ‘expert’!!

Rio, Mercury Awards & Vega Sicilia

Friday, August 5th, 2016

Fellow Wine Lovers,

What did we learn this week then?

We’ve learnt that at last some Republicans are waking up to the horror of Donald Trump, as several of them endorse Hilary Clinton as “the least bad option!”

We‘ve learnt that Lizzie Armistead is not quite up to speed with her administration, clearly we’re hoping that she’s up to speed come race day on Sunday.

We’ve learnt that wine vandalism is still active in France’s south as tens of thousands of litres of wine flooded the streets and underground car parks of Sete, following a break in at a bulk wine company. (Sete is near where Picpoul comes from!)

We’ve learnt that the opening ceremony for the Rio Olympics is less than the name suggests, given that the football has started already.

We’ve learnt that test cricket is different from one game to the next.

We’ve learnt what a joy the roads are in the month of August, clear and traffic free despite the large lorries continually ignoring local width restriction signs.

We’ve learnt the nominees for the Mercury Prize and certainly this correspondent was surprised to discover he’s heard of more than half of them. The other half will be investigated over the next few days, but would mention that if you haven’t heard Love & Hate by Michael Kiwanuka you should give the album a listen.

We also learnt that in the world of Park Vintners not a lot changes. This week last year Alex wrote about Wayne taking liberties and buying posh wines when he was distracted by Mackerel fishing and cream teas in Devon.

Guess who’s been Mackerel fishing this week?

On the assumption that broadband, email and the 21st century haven’t made it further west than Exeter I’ll let you into a secret.

Sitting on the shelf ready to surprise Alex on his return is Vega Sicilia’s Pintia 2011 (£38). Hailing from Spain’s Toro region and made Tinta da Toro (local name for Tempranillo) grapes from 40-60 year old vines it is a real treat. Dark Damson fruit character, a spot of oak spice and a nice savoury meatiness as it opens up in the glass. Luis Gutierrez writing in The Wine Advocate thought it was worthy of 94 points.

I also managed to secure a tiny parcel of Vega Sicilia’s Valbuena No.5 2011 (£104). “The 2011 Valbuena was fermented plot by plot, something they started after a deep soil study in the 2010 vintage. 2011 was a very warm and ripe vintage in the zone, and the challenge was to keep the freshness. There are more black fruit aromas, subtle spices and hints of complexity, as well as tertiary aromas that are quite classic and turn more balsamic with time in the glass. Again, this is very different form the 2012 Alión, rounder, riper, richer, more polished, mellow, soft, quite exuberant and hedonistic. 94 Points drink 2015-2025” Luis Gutierrez The Wine Advocate

Anyway, with me likely to be in a spot of bother next week we should have a chat about what we’ll taste this weekend, I think I’m going to need a drink.

On the white front we’ll be investigating the delights of Livermore Valley Chardonnay with Wente’s Morning Fog 2014 (£13,99).  Over on the red front, we’re visiting Marlborough in New Zealand, home of our Southern Dawn Pinot Noir (£13.99) a deliciously silky summery example.

So swing by, have a taste of the wines, we can discuss the Olympics (The men’s road race is Saturday), I might even try and see some of the opening ceremony; even if it is past my bedtime!

As we mentioned last week, we’ll close at 7pm on all August Saturdays.

Oh, and the final thing we have learned this week is that the punctuation really is rather better when Alex is around!

Have a lovely weekend all!