Archive for December, 2016

Out with the old in with the new!

Friday, December 30th, 2016

Fellow Wine Lovers.

They’re stealing away our childhood memories, dad.

A horrible year continued its malevolent course over the Christmas period as George, Carrie and, suddenly Debbie too, all left us behind.  It’s high time we move on from ‘bad 2016’ and looked to remember the happier events that happened in ‘good 2016’…

January – we started the year singing I wish that I knew what I know now, when I was younger, as we encouraged you to join our Wine School and get involved with our annual 6 for 5 deal.  Updated healthy drinking guidelines were published – confirming once again that riding a bike or driving a car are still more likely to knock you off your perch.  Then it was Burns night, an end to abstention and whisky galore.  And Black Tower was rebranded and relaunched, with an initial focus on the northeast…

February – the Six Nations came back to town as did Valentines day, half term and Lent – all things that are mutually exclusive to each other.  And the end of the month brought us the headline: Donald Trump cements frontrunner status after big win in Nevada (The Guardian) – oh my, how little we knew…

March – Wayne practises jokes on Rufus the dog (If I’ve got three eyes, four ears, two mouths and a sprouting beauty spot, how do I look?  Ruff, he replied) as the start of the month seems a bit slow.  Mother’s Day was well celebrated, Maria Sharapova got busted and sparkling wine sales in the UK topped £1 billion – I think we all helped here, certainly if Mimi sales count in this!  The Chancellor then increased duty on wine to £2.52 a bottle whilst a week later Tesco sold bottles of Champagne for £7.50.  And the sun shone…

April – in the first instant we had people believing Wayne was about to become a Country and Western singer covering Shania Twain songs – frankly, for some of us, that was the highlight of the year!  We then bought some rum from Panama, as it was in the news (Panama, that is) and some Gin from Peckham, because it’s so nice (the Gin, that is).  Thinking of Gin, the Queen hit 90 this month.  We bought a pallet of Provence Rosé, just as it started to rain…

May – the first vote of the year.  With what was to happen later in the year we really should have seen Ankit, leader of One Love and the alleged Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir, who wanted to clear air pollution whilst simultaneously legalising pot as our new Mayor.  Sadiq from Tooting in fact won, and there was no controversy or gnashing of teeth.  Wayne came back from cycling and Alex went to play golf.  In the midst of this they tasted lots of different wines  – Wayne’s tasting note, for the Handcrafted Gruner Veltliner (£13.99) reaching new peaks of lyricism – ‘that’s right dangerous that, you’d need at least a six box for the weekend!’  You can take the boy out of Essex…. And early promise of sunshine remained elusive as Alex watched cricket wearing a beanie and two coats, sitting on the bonnet of the car to steal the engine warmth on 21st May…

June – Europe played football whilst England watched, street parties celebrated the Queen, 52% of the country was victorious in a plebiscite, I forget what it was about but suffice to say it was quickly forgotten…

July – Jags and SUV’s swamped SW19 as the tennis rolled into town.  Or were the Jags and SUV’s already here?  Anyway, Murray won and collective gloom was alleviated as the sun shone and our favourite jolly Scotsman joked ‘it’s not that bad is it?!’  And then the Jags left and the SUV’s left and the summer solstice took the last train to the coast and Wayne wondered if it was something he had said…

August – Wayne swept the shop and put the signs out everyday, like a character in a novel, waiting for a customer to waft in, the Olympics went off very well for Team GB, Leigh-on-Sea was voted happiest place to live by Rightmove and we wallowed in a heatwave…

September – stand by your beds, schools are back and life is back.  We advertised our Christmas Fizz tasting for December and it sold out almost overnight.  Pitt and Jolie split whilst Trump makes comments about women that most now surely make him completely unelectable and our last Wine School for this year started…

October – Cod speak in regional accents.  Not sure what papers Wayne  reads, but his was one of his discoveries this month.  Trivial?  Not if you’re the one receiving the research grant.  The Pound slumped and wine got more expensive handily just at the time all retailers are putting in their big Christmas orders.  The clocks went back and Sloe Gin and King’s Ginger strode back into the limelight, brandishing hipflasks…

November – we had Black Friday.  We had our first (very successful) Whisky tasting.  Boris talked of making Titanic efforts and Trump got in…

December – this is us, this is where we are, still, just about.  We celebrated our 6th Birthday we drank Champagne and we closed at 5pm on Christmas Eve.  You came and saw us, drank Champagne perhaps and kept us busy – thank you!

So that’s it.  A year referenced solely through our emails – I’m sure other things happened but if they didn’t make into the ‘Fellow Wine Lovers’ blog then they cannot have been too important…

Thank you for all your support through the year, especially those of you who raised Wayne’s sombrero to check he was still breathing in August – here’s to a wonderful New Year full of nice surprises and joy!

Carpe Diem, as a Cod might say in his best Brummie…

An Army of Dads

Friday, December 23rd, 2016

Fellow Wine Lovers,

A special hello to all of you who are still at your desks – we salute you!  If you’re pulling a late one or working tomorrow, then we not only salute you but we also play you a short fanfare.  If you’re working on Sunday, then you’re perhaps a footballer or a cabbie (but definitely not a train or tube driver), or an emergency worker or a publican – either way, a crucial cog in the Christmas wheel and, for this, we salute you, play a fanfare and raise a toast!

Wherever you are and whatever you’re doing, you will be fully aware that we’re almost there, Christmas is upon us and that this is the penultimate email of 2016.  Next week we’ll give a round-up of the year but right now we will try, probably unsuccessfully, to be succinct in our prose…

Don’t panic!

Lance Corporal Jones had it in nutshell.  There’s still time.  The shops are still open.  A great number of them will be open on Monday.  We are open now until 8pm today and then tomorrow from 10am until 5pm.  7 hours of opening on Christmas Eve, 8 hours left today – 15 hours.  Masses of time, masses.

You stupid boy!

Having said that, as we get closer to ground zero, to 5pm tomorrow, there will be less and less stock in the shop as boots get filled and wish-lists get ticked off.  Just because we had 12 bottles of Krohn’s 2007 LBV on Monday doesn’t mean we have any left today (we don’t, the last bottle left yesterday) but we have plenty of Krohn’s 2011 LBV – £18.99 to replace it – another stellar vintage.  Don’t miss out – if you know you want it, don’t get caught out!

However, if you’ve been fruitless in your search for the right gift for that special person, don’t forget that we still have spaces left on our Wine School that starts on Wednesday 25th January and takes place for 6 of the next 7 weeks, with a week off for half term.  6 weeks, 60 wines, £150 per person – a gift that keeps on giving!  Full details attached.

They don’t like it up ’em!

Taking time off from being bossy and impertinent, something that has caught our eye, and subsequently made it water uncontrollably, has been Burgundy.  This time of year we sell a lot of red and white from this delightful region, their wines being almost perfect foils for much of the favoured festive foods.  At this time of year we also get invitations to early January tastings of newly released vintages – this time it’ll be 2015 release.  Wayne had a scoot through the various offerings earlier in the week and unearthed some scary, to us at least, facts.

Firstly, the drinking windows seemed remarkably short for the majority of the wines on offer, which means these are not wines for investment.  Secondly, the prices.  Now, Burgundy hasn’t had a great time of late with some atrocious weather conditions and lower yielding vintages.  Triumphing over such adversity hasn’t been easy, but thanks to a combination of smaller production and higher pricing,  ‘drinking’ Burgundy has gone through the stratosphere whilst ‘collecting’ Burgundy is somewhere near Mars.

On our shelf currently – Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2012 (Tremblay) is £35.99 – the next release of Chablis Grand Cru Vaudesir 2015 (Billaud) will be circling around £60.  Puligny Montrachet 2013 (Miolane) is on our shelves for £35.99 – whilst the next release – Puligny Montrachet 2015 (Chavy) is a nice round £50.  On the collecting side, Domaine Leflaive is releasing the debut vintage for their Saint-Véran under the Domaine’s label – this will be about £35 on the shelf – gulp!

We could go on but it’s not going to cheer anyone up – might be time to look elsewhere.

Don’t tell him, Pike!

We’ll be opening wine as usual today and tomorrow.  As it’s Christmas, it’s a bit of a lottery really – we’ve been asked for wine matches for Carp, Pike and Herring from those customers who celebrate on Christmas Eve and Turkey, Reindeer and Rib of Beef for the Christmas day celebrators.  It’s hard to choose just one wine for such a smorgasbord, so we often sit on the fence.  This week, having visited France and Italy over the last few weeks, we’ve decided from our safe position, legs astride the barrier, to look at the new world a bit more closely.

But not before we open some English Fizz.  ‘We never list new wines in December’ is our stock response to any of our reps who try it on in late November.  But then Louisa emailed us to let us know that the Hambledon Classic Cuvée Rosé Brut NV (£36.99) had just been awarded a gold medal at the International Wine Challenge, the place Alex slopes off to every six months for some intensive, blind-judging.  Anyway, we used to sell the Brut from these chaps, so asked for a sample, which we proceeded to taste with a group of willing tipplers at our Wine & Cheese tasting.  It was gorgeous, so we listed it, and thus broke our ‘no new wines in December’ rule.  Come and try it, I think you’ll understand why!

And then we’re off to New Zealand and the USA.  Neudorf Chardonnay 2014 (£26.99) coming from Nelson in the South Island, this is really quite stunning – elegant, concentrated and rich, much like Wayne.

From the USA, we have Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills Pinot Noir 2013 (£33.99) which is smooth, fruity, spicy with a little sultry smokiness, again, much like Wayne.  When we put on our Pinot Around The World And I Can’t Find My Favourite tasting earlier this year, this was the outright winner – no fence sitting there.

Port?  Why not.  Krohn’s 2011 LBV (£18.99) as mentioned above, will be opened and awaiting your glass, form an orderly queue.

Put that light out!

Not much more to add.  We’ll be here right up to the last knockings tomorrow – 5pm is our estimated turfing out time, although over the last six Christmas’ we have still had browsers in at 5.01… and then we’ll turn the lights back on next Thursday 29th December, just in time to write the next email!

So swing by, have a mince pie, some wine and port and let us wish you all a very Merry Christmas!


‘Twas the Weekend before Christmas

Friday, December 16th, 2016

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Friday 16th December, folks, and we’re into the final countdown (diddle-er-der, diddle-er-der-der, diddle-er-der…. etc) with just an armful of shopping days left until Christmas, a few more after that before New Year’s Eve and then, bosh, we’re bang smack in 2017 without a clue what to do.

Will prices go up?  Will the currencies behave?  Will prices then go down?  Will somebody break ranks and admit things have gone wrong due to their own incompetence rather than blame it on, the as yet un-actioned, Brexit?  Will we have guard-less trains on Southern Rail?  The big questions of today should finally have their answers, whether we like them is a different matter and, from what we have witnessed this year, these answers are likely to be in direct contradiction to those predicted!

To be honest, we’re a bit nervous of what the New Year will bring, tales of doom and gloom always sells more papers and the murmurings from the trade are no more positive.  To calm these nerves, Wayne likes to start his day with a soothing glass of Saliza Amaretto by Bepi Tosolini (£25.99) whilst Alex finds a quick half bottle of Moutard Grande Cuvée Champagne (£16.49) helps him maintain his famous effervescent bonhomie, until at least 11 o’clock – when we open, in other words…

By lunchtime, the effects of the restorative sherry at 11am (Equipo Navazos Fino en Rama – £10.99 for a half bottle), will have truly worn off, so it’s time for a glass of Burgundy.  It’s not oysters every day for lunch for us, so when we opt for some hand carved smoked salmon, we find the perfect foil comes in the guise of Talmard Macon Uchizy 2015 (£14.99).

It has long been advised that a post-prandial siesta is the secret to a long and happy life, or at the very least gives one a fighting chance of surviving the evening beyond 8pm, and we stay true to this advice as much as possible.  With the lunch slate now rubbed clean and the sun starting to move over the yardarm, the prospect of a ‘cheeky magnum’ as Wayne likes to call it, now looms into view.  What to have though?  Do we stay true to the classics and decant the Chateau Patache d’Aux 2009 from Medoc (£50.99) or do we throw our hat in the ring with those chaps in the new world and enjoy an oversize bottle of Meerlust Red 2014 from Stellenbosch (£26.99) – decisions, decisions….

And then it’s the Port.  Much maligned as the primary purveyor of hangovers, Port is often left on the shelf for another day.  We don’t need to drink a whole bottle – the colheitas and the tawny ports can be kept open for ages due to their style of aging, so a quick glass of Krohn Colheita 1982 (£44.99) tends to up our sugar levels, in time for the evening rush.

And then it’s all over, the customers have drifted off happily into the night and it’s time to close the shop.  With the array of choice here, and the different treats already supped, now must be time for the ultimate palate cleanser – Champagne.  With such a choice, we never lack variety in our glass, as we choose from (amongst others)

Champagne Thiénot £32.99, 3 for £90 or 6 for £164.96

Champagne Bollinger £45, or 6 for £200 (low stock)

 As we lock the shop up, tired from the days endeavours, we reflect that life isn’t so bad, next year can’t be that bad and if nothing else, live for today – or is that just the drink talking?!

‘Same time tomorrow, Wayne?’ ‘Same time tomorrow, Alex, have a nice evening.’

Talking of time…














Back in the real world…

Whilst it would be great fun to practice what we have preached, our days aren’t quite so action packed. However, there are possibly the seeds of a Christmas Day Drinks Template amongst the wines selected above – but perhaps not for everyone.  With this in mind, this weekend we will be opening:

Champagne Thiénot Brut NV(£32.99) One of the new kids on the block champagne wise, having been founded in 1985 but being owned by a former grape broker, they definitely get the pick of the bunch (sorry).  Deliciously rounded and with a nice bready note and the star selection at a recent tasting. Choice pour at the 2013 Oscars pre-show party, too.

M & B Talmard Macon Uchizy 2015 (£14.99) Mallory and Benjamin produce just one cuvée of Macon each year from their 20 hectares just north of the Macon hills.  Richer and riper than many, it has a generous weight, subtle, almost tropical fruit with aromas of melon, ripe pear, and all the other flavours you’ll notice when you pop in to taste!

Bouchard 1er Cru Beaune du Chateau 2012 (£29.99) this is wine from Bouchard’s own vines, and named after the family home, which the family have owned since 1820. Lovely red cherry fruits, a touch of that truffly, forest floor note, and a lively balance of fruit and structure on the palate. Perfect partner to poultry!

Chateau Les Mingets 2012, Sauternes (£11.99 37.5cl) where would be without an emergency half of Sauternes to call on? This is from Bommes in the heart of the region and is an absolute classic. Honey and apricot marmalade notes but with a beautiful citrus zest of acidity to balance the sweetness and keep everyone tidy.

Drop in for a mince pie and a taster!

Wayne & Alex

Dear Santa

Friday, December 9th, 2016

Fellow Wine Lovers, Dear Santa,

I hope you’ll forgive us for writing a joint letter, but we thought it would save you some time as you do have an awful lot of reading to do at this time of year, before you make all those deliveries.

We have been good boys nearly all year, being careful to avoid discussing North London football teams between ourselves without a neutral adult present.

Alex has very kindly laughed at Wayne’s jokes, even the ones he’s been hearing on a weekly basis for about ten years.

Wayne has patiently listened to all the golf speak, without, he hopes, letting on that he has no clue what is really going on in the game.

We’ve been looking at what everyone would like for Christmas, and as we are in charge of the keyboard they have asked us to ask you.

Chateau Patache d’Aux Magnum 2009 (£50.99) for Frank, he’s always thirsty and likes a good vintage of claret.

Hepple Gin (£38) for Auntie Vicki, and some of that fabulous Saliza Amaretto (£25.99) for Christine.

Bryan would like a box of Thiénot Champagne please (£32.99 or 6 for £164.96) as he has to buy some gifts for his team and it is in a gift box and was delicious when he tasted it last week.

Karen wondered if she could have Rully 1er Cru Marissou 2011 (£19.99) whilst there is still some left.

Lynn would like some Krohn LBV 2007 (£18.99) as her book club is reading a book about Portugal and it should make a nice change from the usual.

Could you get Rudolph to train some delivery drivers so that they don’t arrive very late with mouthfuls of bad words at almost closing time?

Uncle Rowley would love Amarone della Valpolicella to sip in his armchair. Either Montresor 2013 (£28.99) or the Tedeschi 2012 (£34.99) would be fun, but both would be better!

Uncle Steve spent a long time ‘abroad’ and only eats T-Bone steak, so perhaps a Malbec from Angulo Innocenti 2013(£18.99) will put him in his happy place.

Daddy would like the Southern trains to work so that his supper isn’t cold all the time.

All the cousins have been in Scotland agitating for independence, so one of these malts apiece would be ideal:

Benromach 10 year old (£36.99)

Speymalt Macallan 2006 (£37.99)

Connoisseurs Choice Arran 2006 (£38.99)

Connoisseurs Choice Strathmill 2002 (£42.99)

Connoisseurs Choice Caol Ila 2003 (£45.99)


Donald has just got a new job and would like some cocktail ingredients “just to shake things up a little” so we think the By The Dutch Orange Bitters (£8.99) should do the trick there.


Wayne would like a bottle of Le Corti Chianti Classico 2013 (£17.99) convinced it will be delicious with goose and impressed with Tre Bicchieri from the Gambero Rosso.


Alex meanwhile would love a Maxime Trijol VSOP Cognac (£48) to share with his dad. They both love the idea that it beat a couple of the really famous XO in competition and is half the price.


To make things easy for you Fellow Wine Lovers Santa, you can buy all of this at Park Vintners in Arthur Road without having to wait for all those couriers. They even take Amex, and if you’ve registered with #shopsmall there are some advantages to be had.


They also have tastings at the weekend…


Champagne Tarlant Brut Nature (£39.99) is a wine that Alex has been nagging Wayne about for ages. A family owned champagne house currently run by the 12th generation, the wine is a blend if 1/3 each Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay, based mostly on the 2008 vintage with some reserve wine added and a long lees maturation (over 6 years). The result is a delicious, rounded and complex wine with a really good finish.


Latitude 41 Moutere Chardonnay 2014 (£20.99) is a wine that we only discovered very recently. A deliciously creamy wine, with citrus and ripe apple/stonefruit character. Very good partner for some roast poultry, if I may be so bold.


Chianti Classico Le Corti 2013 (£17.99) will be showing off its credentials in the red corner. Awarded Tre Bicchieri by the Gambero Rosso, the magazine of the slow food movement, and Wayne’s suggestion for a goosey partner. Come and see if any of them have the same palate as you!


We think that’s all from us Santa, we’ll leave Rudolph out some carrots (unless you think he might like biltong and Brussel sprouts?) and we’ll leave you a mince pie and a glass of Pedro Ximénez Colosía (£15.99). Mummy calls it Santa’s sports drink – I do hope she’s left some!


Promise again that we’ve been good,


Alex & Wayne

Big Mac’s & Brunello

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Forty nine years ago a chap came up with the idea of doubling the lettuce, cheese, pickles, onions and beef patties in one burger.  There was the special sauce too, and the Big Mac was born, creating a lasting impression on McDonalds and now sold in over 100 countries worldwide.  That chap was Jim Delligatti, who passed away this week, aged 98.

Thanks Jim, for your culinary contribution, but what would you drink with a Big Mac?  Clearly Cola, or a shake will have their fans, and I’m sure an argument could be made for a nice, hoppy pale ale, perhaps but what wine would you choose?  Wayne quite likes the idea of a Brunello di Montalcino, that rich dark ripe cherry fruit being a decent foil, whilst Alex is thinking more southern hemisphere, with Pulenta Estate’s Gran Corte, a richly fruited Malbec blend from the lofty Lujan de Cuyo region of Mendoza.  So what would you drink with yours?

Elsewhere, Gareth Southgate has been announced as the England manager.  It would appear the last 4 games were just a rehearsal.  He has stated he is keen to make up for the 1996 Euros and he knows that there is a “time and a place for a beer”.  Clearly not after a penalty shoot-out!

 Free Beer!

American Express launches their ShopSmall campaign on Saturday.  It runs from the 3rd to the 18th December and is designed to encourage all you Amex card holders to shop with small businesses like us.  Or, as Amex puts it: Shop Small from 3 December right up to 18 December 2016 and every time you spend £10 or more on your Card in a single transaction at a participating small business, you’ll get a £5 credit on your statement.  I reckon that’s the equivalent to a bottle of beer or two don’t you? Terms and conditions are bound to apply, you’ll need to register your card and full details are here:

 Champagne and Birthdays

As long term readers may remember we like to fill December with birthdays and bubbles.  We kicked the month off yesterday with one of each, so thanks to everyone who came along and made the evening such fun, apologies for Wayne’s singing.

Those of you who didn’t manage to get along though, do not despair.

It is our birthday this weekend (WE ARE SIX!) so tradition dictates that we open a bottle of bubbly on Saturday.  We shall be opening Champagne Thiénot Brut NV (£32.99) a delicious drop that we thought was drinking particularly nicely when we opened a bottle at Wine School recently.

As you know, we offer six bottles for the price of five on most of our fizz and champagne.

For this weekend only, we’ll also offer the Thiénot on a three bottle deal of 3 bottles for £90 for those of you who’d prefer not to buy a box of six.


We’ve chatted with several of you over time about the differing styles of port.  We will be opening a bottle of the Kopke Colheita 1964 (£150).  A very rare but really rather lazy beast.  Rare because there really isn’t very much of it about, really lazy because all it has done since 1964 is laze around in barrels getting fabulous.  If you’re lucky, Alex won’t have drunk it all before lunch.

Wine School

Several of you have asked and yes, a gift voucher for Wine School is available.  Dates and full details attached.

Tasting This Weekend

The red corner this week will be inhabited by Château Fourcas Dupré 2006, Listrac-Medoc (£23.99) a delicious claret from the Pages family, who we feel have producing great, undervalued claret for a good number of years now.

Wearing the white shorts this week will be Uitkyk Chenin Blanc 2015, Stellenbosch, South Africa (£12.99).  The name of Uitkyk (look out) is most appropriate given its situation on the southwestern slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain looking across to Table Mountain in the distance.  The estate’s neo-classical manor house, completed in 1788 is one of the only three 18th century, double story, flat roofed, Georgian style houses left in the country.  But enough National Trust-like guff, this is a cracking drop of wine.  Part barrel-fermented using wild yeasts, it has a touch of vanillin and candied apple notes on the nose.  Once in the mouth we are treated to lovely crisp fruit characters supported by that gentle spice from the oak, and with a lovely lingering finish.  Yum!

That’s it from us for now, I’m off to the Golden Arches with my bottle of Brunello!