Archive for November, 2017

Thankyou, Rioja, Chablis, Pouilly Fume and luncheon Claret

Friday, November 24th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

As it was Thanksgiving yesterday we thought we should say thank you, thank you, thank you for the events of the past week.

Thank you for eventually resigning, Robert, although we’re not sure what you’ve done with Grace.  Thank you Philip, for freezing duty on beer, wine, cider and spirits.  Thank you also for continuing to freeze fuel duty.  Thank you Tottenham for making Arsenal fans happy, yet again.  Thank you, James Vince and Mark Stoneman, for at least getting us through Day 1 at the Gabba.  Thank you, Eddie, for putting Dylan on the bench tomorrow.  And thank you the British Medical Journal for publishing two reviews on subjects close to our hearts, relating to coffee and alcohol.

First up, coffee.  3 or 4 cups a day might be healthy and might reduce the risk of liver disease, some cancers, the risk of dying from a stroke and certain heart complaints.  Equally, too much coffee during pregnancy can be harmful – but then too much of anything during pregnancy can be harmful, so I suspect that’s not entirely breaking news.  Unfortunately, our excitement over this news was somewhat dampened when we discovered that all of the studies had been ‘observational’ and they couldn’t prove one way or another whether coffee had been the significant cause.

So, in nutshell, someone received a nice grant to watch people drink coffee and then make varying statements about the health benefits of caffeine without actually being able to, or even needing to prove any of them.  I definitely want that gig – but in the meantime, I need a drink.

Do emotions related to alcohol consumption differ by alcohol type?  An international cross-sectional survey of emotions associated with alcohol consumption and influence on drink choice in different settings – yep, this is the title of a research document published on BMJ Open online on 20 November.

In a rare fit of studious intent, I read the document online yesterday and, whilst it’s no JK Rowling, it did make for quite an interesting read perhaps because I managed to understand most of the words, although I’m not sure they’ve re-invented the wheel.  This was an international survey looking at individuals aged between 18–34 years old who had drunk some beer, spirits, red and white wine in the previous 12 months and where one of these was their drink of choice at home and out socially.  The study had almost 30,000 respondents from 21 countries, so quite an interesting cross section of cultures, I imagined with potential to throw up some surprises.

One part of the study was related to positive and negative emotions people believed they would experience with different drinks.  The positive emotions were: energised, confident, relaxed, and sexy; whilst the negatives were: tired, aggressive, ill, restless, and tearful.

Spirits were considered most likely to make people confident and energised but also most likely to make people ill and least likely to make you relaxed (is that definitely the spirits or perhaps the addition of Red Bull, Coca Cola or other sugary mixers – oh, hang about, it’s not my survey!)

Red wine, beer and then white wine were considered most likely to make you relaxed but this also resulted in them being least likely to energise and the most likely to make you tired – are they all possibly synonyms?  Astonishingly (!), beer was the least likely to make you sexy and, whilst spirits were most likely to make you aggressive, it was only 30% of respondents who thought so.

So, what have we now learnt?  Spirits can make you cocky, beer is no aphrodisiac and too much wine can make you a bit snoozy – shut the front door!!

Thank you, BMJ.

One more thanks before I start talking about wine – thank you Douglas and all The Cresidents.  Tomorrow evening, at 4.15pm, Christ the King is lighting up its Christmas Tree and there’ll be carol singing, mulled wine and mulled Ribena, whilst the lights will be turned on by a local celebrity…  Not to give the game away but we are led to believe that the local celebrity works here at Park Vintners but you’ll have to come along tomorrow to find out!

So, that’s enough giving of thanks for now, back to business.  A number of you have been asking if we are doing the Wine School in the New Year as you think it might make for a nice Christmas gift.  Well the answer is yes, on both counts – it would make a lovely gift and we will be putting the course on again – most likely to start late January but we just need to straighten out a couple of dates.

Another week, another deluge of wine arrives in time for December.

From Spain, Rioja in fact, we have the return of Lopez de Haro Crianza 2014 – £10.99 per bottle or £22 per magnum and Lopez de Haro Reserva 2012 – £13.49 both wines as delicious as ever and the Crianza in magnum just had to be bought.

From France we have some new wines from Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Loire.

Bordeaux brings us Château Sorbey 2010, Haut-Medoc – £13.99, our new luncheon claret…

Burgundy provides us with two treats: Domaine Alexandre Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2015 – £19.99, an excellent, elegant Chablis with a nice richness from the old vines and a good, lean minerality.  Further south, we have Sylvain Dussort Bourgogne ‘Cuvée des Ormes’ 2014 – £18.99.  This is the estate’s flagship wine (impressive, considering he also makes Meursault), with the grapes hand-harvested from vines between 35 to over 60, years.  The wine is aged for 12 months in barrels on the lees is then racked off once and assembled in a single vat before bottling.  This takes place at between 16 and 18 months, depending on the vintage.  Delicate, rich and elegant, with good length, we reckon in a blind tasting it would easily be mistaken for a Meursault.  Awesome value for money we thought.

And finally, the Loire offers us Domaine Lebrun Pouilly Fumé 2016 – £17.49.  About a million years ago, when we sported Oddbins polo shirts, we used to sell lots of this wine.  The bottle has lost its distinctive orange label somewhere in the intervening years but the wine has lost none of its quality or verve.  Gooseberry, grass, minerals, lemons and limes all crop up somewhere between the start and the nice long finish.

I think, as it’s Friday, that we’ll open a bottle of the Pouilly Fumé and a bottle of the Rioja Crianza mentioned above this evening –might as well strike whilst the iron is hot!  We also have the Taylors 325th Anniversary Reserve Tawny – £29.79, should you fancy fortifying yourselves with something a little stronger!

Right, I’m off to have a Caffè Corretto alla Sambuca to boost my confidence and my immune system….


Tasting Wine and Keeping Score

Friday, November 17th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Watched any good sport recently?

England 0 – Germany 0; Sweden 1 – Italy 0; Italy 0 – Sweden 0; England 0 – Brazil 0.

Admittedly two of these were friendlies, but just 1 goal in four matches?  You’ve got Germany, Brazil and Italy – three of the powerhouses of world football, two of whom were playing against lowly England, unable to score a goal.  And Italy, fighting to stay in with a chance of going to the World Cup next year, failed to score in 180 minutes of regular play?  Some people paid £100 to watch England v Brazil on Tuesday night, I suspect the costs weren’t far adrift in Stockholm or Milan – who says there’s no value in football?

Oh hang about, here’s a score form the Women’s Champions League:

Lyon Féminines 9 – BIIK Kazygurt Women 0 (Agg 16-0) – I think I’ve found the goals!

England 21 – Argentina 8.

It looked miserable at Twickenham last week and that’s before we discuss the weather.  It’s been a long time since we’ve been bored by a game of rugby, that’s not how the modern game works but last Saturday came close.  And we’ve got the Aussies this week – they must be quaking… although judging by their strange selection of the second choice wicket keeper for Tasmania for the first Ashes Test, perhaps John Eales might turn up on Saturday?

Read any good news recently?

Mugabe under house arrest was a bit of a surprise, him somehow managing to start negotiating some sort of deal with the army, less so.  Otherwise it’s been pretty much business as usual: more sordid sex scandals emerge; another top banker suggests a second Brexit referendum; Trump tweeted; someone said something derogatory about Theresa….

Drunk any good wine recently?

Well, Alex has certainly tasted enough.  85 wines on Tuesday at the IWC resulted in teeth blacker than the night and a pummelled palate.  However, Wayne has been more successful tasting-wise and as a result we’ve listed some more wines to cram onto the shelves:

Viña von Siebenthal Carmenère 2014 – £20.99 – a delicious red from the Aconcagua Valley in Chile, smooth rich damson fruits and a wine to give many Bordeaux a run for their money

Château Haut-Brisson ‘La Grave’ 2010 – £27.99 – Saint Émilion Grand Cru, from a tiptop vintage, on my table at Christmas, don’t mind if I do!

Giacomo Fenocchio Barolo 2012 – £33 – oh no, not another Barolo we hear you cry!  Well tough, it’s here now with all its lovely red cranberry and cedar wood notes and an elegant palate that has lovely tension between fruit and tannin – if you don’t want it we’ll have it…

Quinta da Falorca Garrafeira Old Vines 2011 – £50 – bit of an indulgence this one, a wine that we fell in love with and agreed that if no one bought it we were happy to drink it ourselves.  Our note was ‘a serious wine for serious people’, which makes absolutely no sense at all I know.  It’s extremely good, a blend of about 50 grapes all from old vines and with plenty of potential to age.  If you like top notch Rioja then try this Portuguese version, it’ll knock your socks off!

Celler Sangenís I Vaque Vall Por 2006 – £25.49 – 11 year old Priorat is not that easy to find and usually when you do it is double this price.  It still has a deep dark colour whilst the nose has a definite evolved character.  Wonderfully smooth with a lovely richness of fruit and some resolved tannins that you would never find in a younger wine.

And away from wine we were bamboozled by the pretty label and bought Dolin Chambéryzette Apéritif à la Fraise – £16.99 – a strawberry spirit that is brilliant over ice and adds a certain frisson to a glass of Gin.

We also have a returning hero – MAGNUM OF THE CHOCOLATE BLOCK 2016 – £50 – knowing how much you all like these I thought I’d mention them as I only have a limited quantity available, so first come, first served I think is the fairest distribution.

Tasted any wine yet today?

If not, then perhaps you should swing by and see us this evening – we’re going to open the perennially popular Talmard Mâcon Uchizy 2016 – £15.99 and the Viña von Siebenthal Carmenère 2014 – £20.99, so lots to tempt your palate with…

Out and about this weekend?

Wimbledon Park Primary are having their annual quiz night this evening and if you are lucky enough to be going then I hear that the winelist is exceptional!  Equally, if you find yourself in Raynes Park tomorrow, Alex will be at the St Matthew’s Church Winter Fair showing all sorts of Christmas tipples and treats.

That’s it from us now, stay warm and see you later on for a warming tipple!

Gin, Chianti, Barolo and Ego

Friday, November 10th, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Enough, already – enough of the ego, or is it id, either way I’m sick of it?

Look at all the sordid activities going on in Hollywood.  The torrent of allegations against Kevin Spacey and his rampant inability to keep his hands to himself has sullied his whole oeuvre.  We’ve got the Weinstein case.  We’ve got a growing list of actors and writers and directors amongst them Ben Affleck, Dustin Hoffmann, Steven Seagal, Oliver Stone and even George Bush Sr.  Accepting that accusations are only accusations until guilt is proven, it still doesn’t paint a pretty picture.

Look at all the sordid activities going on in Westminster.  Around a dozen MP’s accused of misconduct and half of them confessing to it.  Alongside this we’ve got a Foreign Secretary totally incapable of understanding from his diplomatic advisors that every word he says is recorded and analysed and that even the slightest mis-phrasing can put peoples life at risk; and we’ve got a, now ex-, Development Secretary whose extra-curricular meetings in Israel, again without any diplomatic support, have got us all asking – what was she thinking?

And what is the one thing that perhaps all these people have in common?  An ego, a sense of self-worth above the norm.  An ego that has such girth that it blocks out a lot of common sense and reality.  An ego that says, effectively, I can get away with this because I am who I am, I am a very important person and I am beyond reproach, advice and retribution – do you know who I am?

“He was really cocky, had this big grin on his face like he was going to get away with something” Carrie Stevens

Sick of it.  Apologies for the rant, here’s to happier times.

Happier times

I’m sitting here, writing this, in what can best be described as an armchair of flavoured Gin – I know, what’s with all the moaning and ranting.  Anyway, our delivery from our pals up at Foxdenton Estate that was due to arrive on Monday has just turned up and the only place to put it was around my escritoire.  My left arm rest is the Recognisably Different Sloe Gin (£24.99), that numerous of you have enjoyed as a winter warmer for numerous years; perhaps more exciting though is my right armrest.  Last time we spoke to Nick at Foxdenton he very kindly sent us down a few samples of his other fruit fancies – specifically his Apricot and his Rhubarb gins.  Now the apricot was like drinking alcoholic jam, which was great in small doses but actually the consensus was that it was all a bit too sweet.  The Rhubarb, on the other hand, was an instant hit.  Sweet and rhubarby as you would hope but with just enough tartness in the finish to keep it honest.  So we bought some, hence armrest number two.  It comes in a particularly smart 35cl bottle and has a delicate pink hue (which our sample didn’t, to its detriment probably) and seems likely to fit perfectly into a stocking in the early hours of 25th December.

Foxdenton Recognisably Different Rhubarb Gin (£14.99).

Even happier times

As intimated above, we have been gathering more stock in this week, which makes us happy and ideally you too in the long term.  A few examples below:

From France we have found another magnum from a cracking vintage, the Chateau Lamothe-Cissac, Haut-Medoc Cru Bourgeois 2010 – £36.99.  I’ll bring this if you organise the rib of beef.

From Italy, we see the return of Riecine di Riecine 2012 – £52.00, which is, in their own words, “our ultimate expression of the best wine that can be made from Sangiovese – true to the vineyard and the very essence of the Gaiole terroir, capturing everything that…. is the essence of Riecine” and also their Riecine Chianti Classico 2015 – £22.99, of which wine critic James Suckling wrote: “A firm and silky red with blackberry and tile character. Medium body and a flavorful finish. Drink now.”  He then proceeded to give it 92 points and proclaim it as the best Chianti Classico 2015 – we already knew it very was good and now you can too!

Plus we tasted the totally stonking Borgogno Barolo Riserva 2003 – £48.00, which has oodles of delicious fruit from this warmer vintage and is absolutely singing right now.  We’ve always wanted to get a Borgogno wine on the shelf but have missed out in the past – not this time though!  Finishing off Italy, and a bit more wallet friendly we have managed to list the Feudo Antico Montepulciano D’Abruzzo 2014 – £11.99, our previous M d’A went missing so it’s nice to have a replacement.

For the more spirited amongst us we also have some new delights:

Delamain Pale & Dry XO Cognac – £97.00 – real artisanal cognac with an average age of 25 years – smooth, delicious and very smart.

Antica Quaglia Ciliegia Liquore – £22.00 – cherry brandy or is it bottled Bakewell tart?

Antica Quaglia Orange Brandy – £35.00 – really pithy Seville orange notes with hints of Terry’s Chocolate Orange between Grand Marnier and Cointreau in flavour and far superior to both.

Antica Quaglia Fernet – £24.00 – classic aroma of herbs and medicine and old apothecaries, bitter and sweet, herby with a touch of mint decent length – a real hangover fix style, whatever a hangover may be…

Park Brewery Park Porter 4% – £2.59 – a Porter from our pals in Kingston and not at a stupidly high alcohol level – perfect seasonal drinking.

Happy Hour

And so it shall come to pass that at around 5pm this evening the weekend shall commence.  Drinks will be drunk all around the country and we will open a couple of bottles here for your tasting pleasure.

The white will be an old favourite of ours – Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2016 – £18.99 – we’ve been buying this ever since Kevin Judd left Cloudy Bay in 2009 to set up on his own and have never been disappointed; judging from sales it would seem you’re also fans but if you want to double check, swing on by…

The red will be another newbie, Casa Silva Pinot Noir 2015 – £17.99 – from the Colchagua Valley in Chile this is a proper cool climate PN with a nose filled with red fruit notes, strawberries, raspberries and a subtle background note of cinnamon and spice from the French oak it spent 12 months reposing in.  Excellent length of finish and a real pleasure.

So that’s it from us.  Without wanting to get political, wear a poppy, don’t wear a poppy, we don’t mind but do perhaps just take a minute tomorrow to reflect.

Best wishes,

Wayne & Alex

P.S. should you need to hear more ranting, between us we can happily orate on a broad sphere of topics: cycling without lights on, using mobiles whilst driving, not indicating at roundabouts or indeed any junctions, fly-tipping, large lorries in central London, dog waste to name just a few….

Rituals, Real Madrid, Itegem and Minervois

Friday, November 3rd, 2017

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Whoop, whoop!  Guess who has just scored 6 days of extra leave this year?  I reckon I can finish work on the evening of Wednesday 20th December and not come back into work until 3rd January – how good is that?  Plus I get to avoid the busy time in the shop and all the aches and pains – score!

This all came about on Wednesday this week and I can’t thank Wayne enough…  As is our wont, the working day doesn’t really start until one of us been across the road to Saucer and Cup for a couple of coffees.  It was Wayne’s turn on Wednesday, and once we had got through all the usual jokes related to how we would like our coffee today (sprinkles, peppermint mocha, cinnamon dolce, grappa, hahaha) he left premises.  As he left, another of his daily rituals*took place, as he slowly unfurled one of Switzerland’s finest smokes, a Villiger Export Cigar, the stogie of choice for south London geezers for decades now.  Right-ho, I thought to myself, cold coffee for me today, that’ll take him at least 20 minutes to finish….  *made up for the purposes of this email

So what was I to do with these 20 minutes of caffeine free imprisonment?  Well, what would you do?  Yep, I went online – and it was here that I came across an article that was going to change my holiday landscape forever…

Let me introduce you to Piala Inc, a marketing firm in Tokyo.  Following a message from one of the staff that non-smokers were working harder than their gasper fuelled colleagues.  Piala Inc is on the 29th floor and smokers have to descend to basement level to spark up – average length of time away from their desk?  15 minutes.  The CEO, having done some quick maths on the back of a fag packet, came up with the 6 days extra paid leave solution for the non-smoking staff.

Genius – and 25% of the staff have already signed up for it – I reckon I might push for 10 days and go skiing too!

Speaking of holidays, Carles Puigdemont has decided that the beaches of Tarragona hold no half term holiday appeal for him as he takes his family on the trip of a lifetime to Itegem in Belgium.  Apparently he can, technically, seek asylum in Belgium although success is far from guaranteed.  Quote of the week must be from Belgium’s deputy prime minister, Kris Peeters, stating “if you declare independence, you usually stay with your people”.  Ouch.

And speaking of ouch, the Spanish players at Real Madrid were clearly distracted by the activities of their Catalan neighbours as they leaked goals in the Champions League, to Tottenham, at Wembley.  No-one does that…

Also in sport, Marland Yarde has been given his marching orders by Quins and immediately signed for Sale – if he was finding it difficult to get to training in London, where he lives, what chance making it to Manchester?  Perhaps he should have a word with his fellow alma mater alumnus , Danny Cipriani, who’s bound to be able put him back on the straight and narrow!  Oh, and whilst talking of rogues and reprobates, the cricket starts down under on Saturday, without our #1 rogue, Mr Stokes  – 5 nil here we come.

Anyway forget about all that, it’s November now, which is the last buffer between us and Christmas.  We are slowly slipping wines and champagnes in through the door and have listed a couple of new wines this week which we are quite excited about.  We’ve got a new Pinot Noir from Chile (Casa Silva Cool Coast Pinot Noir 2015 – £17.99); we’ve got a new Malbec from Cahors in France (Chateau Vincens ‘Origine’ 2014 – £17.99), that Wayne tasted in June and I haven’t let him buy until the heating went on; and a very tasty Minervois from, um, AOC Minervois (Chateau de Parazza 2015 – £13.99) which we also have in magnum, for £27.99.

We’ll open the Minervois this evening  – a  blend of 40% Syrah, 40% Grenache Noir and 20% Mourvèdre, this is deep red garnet with cherry and raspberry compote notes, backed by red licorice undertones and a juicy acidity.  Floral and mineral details weave together on the crisp finish that is everything you could wish for on a weekend filled with bonfires.

And we’ll open a white, too, Ciù Ciù Merlettaie Pecorino 2016 – £13.99, to be precise.  As I think we have mentioned in the past, this wine is not made of cheese, Pecorino is a grape variety originally from the Abruzzo.  A pleasing floral nose with clean, pleasant and refined aromas of banana, broom, apple, hazelnut and plum followed by a hint of vanilla.  The mouth follows the nose, a slightly round attack however balanced, agreeable crispness, good body and intense flavours.  We first had Pecorino in 2005, when it first came into the market over here, and frankly are very surprised it hasn’t become a chart topper, however that does mean there’s more for us and our friends!

And that just about puts an end to this week’s ramblings – it was his turn on the Saucer and Cup run again and I can see him carrying back two coffees –  I’m just praying that the long lump of ash on his cheroot doesn’t fall into either of them… Amazing how much I can write in a fag break, eh!

Over and out.