Archive for March, 2018

Koch Cserszegi Fűszeres – definitely easier to drink than pronounce…

Thursday, March 29th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

I know, we’re a day early this week.

This is not something that Alex could have been accused of on Sunday according to various fuming family members, all in spite of the continued reminders of BST in the last email but I think that, too often, he and timekeeping are not happy bedfellows.

Anyway, enough about that.  We’re a day early this week because we’ve got the longest weekend of the year ahead of us with Saturday and Easter Sunday bookended by bank holidays.  Plus, it’s the first weekend of the school holidays and I suspect, after what we have seen sales-wise over the last few days, that many of you have already made you run to the country this morning and are now reading this email on Tuesday 3rd April – hope you had a lovely time?

So, we’ll keep the round up short and sweet this week.  We’ve seen an new interpretation of the term ‘leadership group’: Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft fill this group – with Smith on 64 tests, Warner on 74 tests and Bancroft on 8 tests it feels similar to us promoting Rufus the dog to the Park Vintners board – unlikely.  Perhaps fighting with an England player is the criteria for entry…. anyway, not so many tears shed here for Mr Warner!

Conviviality gone?  We think so, as Bargain Booze prepares to close its doors and Wine Rack too – it’s a difficult area for wine retail, that one between small indies and the supermarkets, as has been proven over and over again – Oddbins, Threshers, Wine Rack (again), Bottoms Up, Unwins, Victoria Wine have all been the wrong side of the red line.  Potentially 2, 500 people without a job after Easter and all because the ‘leadership group’ couldn’t get round to paying their bills – shameful.

Julian Assange has had his internet cut off – makes updating WikiLeaks a little harder, I would imagine.  Shame in some respects as he does keep everyone on their toes.

Whilst Sunday is all about chocolate eggs and bunnies do be warned, it is also April Fool’s Day so be wary of tall tales about spaghetti trees in Switzerland, Prince Harry marrying a famous actress from California, Wayne getting his Bollinger tattoo coloured in or Gareth Bale signing for Swansea!

Wine for the weekend

The joy of being a day earlier means we get to pull some corks a day earlier too.

White wine will be our new friend from Hungary.  Koch Cserszegi Fűszeres 2016 – £12.59 is easier to drink than say.  Gently floral on the nose, reminiscent of spicy Alsace whites but properly dry on the palate.  Flavoursome, crisp, lively and really delicious – try it.

The red is another new chap, this time from Ribera del Duero in Spain.  Pinna Fidelis Roble 2016 – £13.39 is 100% Tempranillo and has lovely aromas of raspberry, redcurrant and a touch of wood spice.  Rich on the palate, with smooth and supple tannins, slightly darker fruits than the nose suggests and a rich, long finish – try this too!

Closed All Weekend

As mentioned last week, we will close at 8pm this evening and will not be opening the doors again until Tuesday 3rd April – have a wonderful Easter and whatever you do, take a brolly!

Last words go to Michael Vaughan:

“Steve Smith is a good guy who made a huge mistake. He needed punishing but I think this is too harsh. Bancroft was led astray and deserved punishing but again, too harshly, in my opinion. The other guy, I really don’t care about…” 


Friday, March 23rd, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

In spite of Monday’s best efforts to make us throw in the towel and acknowledge the fact that we may never be warm again, Tuesday heralded the start of Spring, according to our calendar at least, if not the mercury.  However, Wednesday was proof that if we persist we might just get to wear shorts this year.  Thursday was just a bit ordinary but noticeably warmer than earlier in the week and this weekend, whilst we have a 90% chance of precipitation (rain rather than snow, we hope), the Celsius readings are due to reach double figures and stay there for a bit.  Next week seems to be promising 100% chance of light rain every day and with that we will swiftly move into April, and her showers….


British Summer Time.  This Sunday, however, we get less sleep as the clocks ‘Spring’ forward and we welcome Summer Time, which will allow us to watch all the rain fall in clearer daylight, for longer.


Ben Stokes Ton.  No, not even Ben Stokes two.  The lazarine return of our favourite nightclubber was nothing to shout about.  But then he wasn’t alone.  The paddling of ducks contained 5 members – Root, Bairstow, Moeen, Broad and, of course, Stokes – no acknowledged batsmen in there obviously.  Bring on plenty more rain delays I say – lovely weather for ducks!


Bitcoin Security Turmoil.  Ledger Nano S was a supposedly untamperable hardware wallet to keep your crypto-currency millions safe.  Until it was tampered with by a young British lad, four months ago.  Apparently they’ve fixed it but it does ask quite a few questions.  Just checked the cash in my jeans pocket – untampered.


But Seriously Though.  Facebook, Google, all of you, we all know you harvest our data and we willingly sign up to this in return for convenience, interaction, socialising and the rest.  Just try and keep it safe-ish, would you?


Big Supplier Taxed.  So, we’re not best pals with big booze retailers, for reasons that should be obvious.  As suggested last week, we feel little sympathy for Conviviality who happen to own two of the biggest alcohol wholesalers, Bibendum and Matthew Clark, and also, on the high street, own Wine Rack and Bargain Booze.  The story goes that last week they issued their second profit warning in a week, when they ‘discovered’ a £30 million tax bill due for payment at the end of the month.  £30 million.  Where was that letter hiding and who was meant to open it?

Anyway, they have now released another profit warning and are looking to raise not £30 million but £125 million (!) – they need  cash to resolve overdue payments with creditors, to settle payments with tax authorities, to repay a £30 million revolving credit facility and provide enough capital headroom to allow it to recapitalise the business.  So, within a week they have quadrupled their funding requirements, which to us looks like a business doomed.  Control that Schadenfreude, Alex.


Big Spirits Tasting.  Well, for the most part it’ll be Gin actually.  We’ve been trying to get a tasting like this off the ground for a while now and finally we have found someone willing to indulge us.

Step forward Alexander, superstar cocktail maker and world class gin expert at Sacred, our new gin supplier from Highgate.  Now, as mentioned before, we are stocking his original Gin, his Juniper Gin and his Cardamom Gin and also his English Peated Whisky.  So, we thought it would be a nice idea to get him in to do a tasting for us and, of course, you.  By all accounts he’ll show us a few of his different styles of Gin and some Vermouth, mention was also made of Negroni and also some sort of summer cup – suffice to say, an evening will be had!


Payment confirms attendance as we fully expect to sell this quite quickly!


Beach Shorts Time aka Bank Holiday Survival Training.  Next weekend is the Easter weekend and as a result of various intricacies too mundane to list here, we will be closed Good Friday through to, and including, Easter Monday.  Whilst the beach short reference above might imply we are off to the sunny seaside, this is sadly just a whimsy.  So, just to make it crystal:

Thursday 29th March – OPEN AS USUAL – 11am – 8pm

Friday 30th March – CLOSED

Saturday 31st March – CLOSED

Sunday 1st April – CLOSED

Monday 2nd April – CLOSED

Tuesday 3rd April – OPEN AS USUAL – 11am – 8pm

In fairness, the Easter weekend is by far the quietest weekend of the year and since it falls at the beginning of the school holidays we fully expect an unruly exodus on Thursday evening – so come and see us before then!


Blood, Sweat and Tears.  It’s been a hard week and you’ve all slaved away, perhaps we can offer you a taste of something on your way home this evening?

We’ll open Pauletts Polish Hill River Aged Release Riesling 2010, Clare Valley, Australia – £18.99 because we just love it and it’s the ‘new’ vintage.  Light straw in colour with a toasty honey nose.  Citrus flavours, predominantly lime, couple up nicely with excellent fresh acidity and a long clean finish and frankly it’s Riesling with age, what’s not to like?

For the red fans we’ll open an old favourite Casal de Paula 2015, Ribeiro, Spain – £15.49, which we last opened a calendar year ago – happy birthday as it were.  Four grapes equally make up the blend here, household favourites Brencellao, Ferron, Mencia and Souson and it hails from Ourense, right up there on the Spain-Portugal border.  Medium bodied with juicy, summer berry fruits and a lovely, long and fleshy finish.  Reminded us a bit of the reds we enjoy from the Loire, see what you think!


Bye-Bye, So long, Ta-ta.  That’s it from us.

In case you haven’t realised yet, Summer time starts on Sunday, don’t forget to change your clocks!

Blinkers, tongue straps and coloured silks….

Friday, March 16th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well, it seems to have come round to this again rather quickly and I didn’t even write last week’s missive. Truth be told, it’s a bit of a rarity for me to write this around this time. I’m often away for this week, something to do with how busy my wife is and how sun-starved I feel, often finds me lurking a bit further south than Wimbledon Park. The consequence of which is that I normally miss Cheltenham week and St Patricks Day.

Not this year folks, as I write this I am honing my tipping skills, replenishing my account with my online bookmaker (give me a break we’re already three days in!) and hoping for a winner. Anecdotally, I can say that the best looking horses don’t win, the horses that lurk near the back sometimes do win all of a sudden just when you are serving a customer and picking a horse you’ve won on before is not a sound strategy. I’m glad I don’t have to run up that hill though, I’ve always hated cross country.

The real takeaway from the whole process is though how much mud, grass and horses interfere with the smooth running of a wine shop. Alex has done no work all week except to save a few numbers on a spreadsheet and I’m no better, a couple of boxes down the stairs and a cursory swish round with the broom. Other than that it’s been blinkers, tongue straps and coloured silks.

Looking at the Gold Cup, Alex is having his pennies each way on Total Recall, whilst Wayne has staked his each way on Road to Respect. The lucky pin has now gone back in the drawer till the Grand National!

Elsewhere in the world we appear to have returned to my teenage years. Tit for tat diplomat expulsions were all the rage when I was a youngster.  Everyone did it: Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia, us, even the USA! We are, of course, hoping this doesn’t mean we’re about to witness a return of Leo Sayer and The Flying Pickets to the Hit Parade.

In other news, Southampton have decided that Mark Hughes is a better managerial option than Mauricio Pellegrino. Personally, I’ve always found it puzzling that Mark Hughes is always available when a manager gets the chop. It all went a bit Messi for Chelsea, who have subsequently decided to concentrate on the Premiership.

This weekend is the last of the Six Nations Rugby with England hosting newly crowned Champions Ireland at Twickenham. An improvement on the last couple of performances is needed if we’re to end the day drinking Bitter rather than Guinness.  Wales host France and Italy compare their collection of wooden spoons with the Scots in Rome.

On the wine front it would appear that Conviviality, owners of Wine Rack and Bargain Booze, had forgotten they need to pay HMRC £30 million quid, and have suspended their shares as a result.

Bordeaux estate Cos d’Estournel have created a limited edition wine called Cos 100.  The 2015 vintage wine from a plot of 100 year old Merlot vines planted in 1915 by a group of women during the First World War, is being sold selling in 100 double magnums.  If you fancy one it’s yours for a mere €23000 from their website.

In a more realistic wine experience, tradition dictates that we will open something to taste for the weekend.

Tasting This Weekend

Crios Torrontes (£15.79) from Argentina is our pick this week for the white corner. Made by Susana Balbo, one of Argentina’s most celebrated wine makers, it is crisp, dry and aromatic, and we think it’s a wow with smoked fish and spicy dishes.

Whilst the green packaging on the Crios may appeal for a St Patrick’s Day link, we can’t decide if the wine in the red corner should be horse or rugby related.

Monte del Fra Valpolicella Ripasso (£18.49) a deliciously rich velvety drop from the Veneto. Plump in the mouth with spiced cherry fruit character, it’ll certainly be very tasty with a spot of roast Shergar.

We’ll leave you this week with the words of Stephen Hawking:

“remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet”


Snow’s gone, March marches on, what have you bought for Mum?

Friday, March 9th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Snow’s gone, March marches on, what have you bought for Mum?

That’s all from us, have a great week, see you soon!

Wayne & Alex


And that’s how the weekly email gets written.  We formulate a rough essay plan over an espresso or two at our morning sales meeting and then draw straws as to who then has to put the flesh on the bones.  The straw ‘winner’ of the day then settles himself in front of the laptop and fires up the search engine.

First search: snow’s gone – first hit: Josh Ritter Lyrics – Snow Is Gone – AZLyrics

Second search: march marches on – first hit: march | Definition of march in English by Oxford Dictionaries

Third search: what have you bought for Mum? – first hit: what have you bought for your mum’s 60th Birthday present…

Unmoved by the Americana of Josh Ritter, uninspired by the varied definitions of march and unamused that Mother’s Day wasn’t the first hit when Mum was mentioned, we embark on a final search:

Snow’s gone, March marches on, what have you bought for Mum?

Bizarrely, the first hit here is: Now more than ever, the youth are relying on the bank of mum and… therein lies a story for another day, I reckon.

But we still haven’t really got any flesh for the bones yet.

We spent a whole page of this email this time last year discoursing on Mothering Sunday originally relating to the church of your baptism (mother church) and not your actual mother mother, before it got reinvented by the gift card business post WWII and became the Mother’s Day of Milk Tray and daffodils.

So we can’t use that again this year.

We also can’t give any tips for Cheltenham next week because neither of us have done any ante post business as, frankly, we are struggling to find value – and to be fair, we’re pretty useless tipsters anyway, so we are saving everyone a few quid here.

So we can’t use that here either.

We can’t even go on a diatribe about St Patrick and seek out some appropriately named drinks for 17th March because that is next weekend, so sensible to keep our tinder dry until then.

Not even any Rugby to talk about… oh hang on, there is some, but after the mauling at Murrayfield we are keeping a very low profile and again, avoiding predictions.

Spurs got knocked out in the football, Liverpool and Man City didn’t and Arsenal have all to play for when they entertain the Milan Foot-Ball and Cricket Club back in London next week.

But this still isn’t really putting any flesh on the bones.

As a distraction (?) though, when we searched for the history of drawing straws, we discovered that ‘if a local or national election has resulted in a tie in which candidates receive exactly the same number of votes after three recounts, the winner can be decided either by drawing straws/lots, coin flipping’ (Wikipedia).

And it’s not just Wikipedia making things up,  this actually happened last year, last May in fact, in the South Blyth local election in Northumberland.  The eventual winner, Lib Dem Lesley Rickerby said the following to ITV:

“It’s unbelievable that when you consider we have a democratic service that we end up having to draw straws.  It was very traumatic and I certainly would have preferred it to be a majority, but the way our system works, after a couple of recounts, we had no choice.

The returning officer decides if we would flip a coin or draw straws and he went with straws.”

Who knew Alex & I were following such precise political processes?

Snow’s gone, March marches on, what have you bought for Mum?

Anyway time to get back on message now, a page and a half written and we’ve got exactly nowhere.  The snow disappeared overnight last weekend, much to the chagrin of the local school children but not the local shopkeepers.  February is now long gone and March is forging ahead – we like this, as every day we get closer to the switch to summertime which, I think we can all acknowledge, is a very good thing.

And now to Mother’s Day.  The opportunity to give your Mum a treat on Sunday is one that should not be missed – it’s one day in the year to treat her like a Queen and, from what I’ve heard, she’s a saint and you don’t deserve her!

Furthermore, she’s given us a shopping list…

Yes, she would definitely like some flowers but not ones from the florist that also sells petrol.  Ditto chocolates, but ones that have actually been bought recently, not re-gifted.  Oh, and she would also like a drink.  She’s a bit over Prosecco but could be persuaded to a glass or two of Beaumet 2007, with its delicious leesy richness.

She is also very keen to experiment with Gin: she believes it has an undeserved reputation in relation to mothers and the ruin thereof.  She would therefore like to dispel this myth once and for all and, having read, in the Daily Telegraph a while back, that nice Victoria Moore say ‘it might be the best martini gin I’ve ever tasted’ with regards to Hepple Gin, thinks this is a good place to start.  Her words, not mine.

Flowers – £?

Thorntons Chocs – £?

Beaumet 2007 – £35.99

Hepple Gin – £38.00

Should you feel the need to provide something a tad more vinous in substance, might we suggest one or both of the wines we are opening this weekend?

Domaine Alexandre Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2016 – £19.99 – this 13 hectare property is in the small village of La Chapelle-Vaupelteigne just north of Chablis.  This Cuvée is from the estates oldest vines, around 60 years old and planted by the current winemaker’s grandfather.  It is an excellent, elegant Chablis with a nice richness from the old vines and a good, lean minerality and Mum thinks it would go very nicely with that smoked salmon you’re bringing round.

Vivir Sin Dormir Monastrell Barrica 2016 – £12.99 – this wine arrived back on our shelves this week and we couldn’t resist laying it on thick for Mother’s Day.  You may have translated it already but if not, the name of the wine is ‘live without sleep’.  As any parent will tell you, the key to successfully managing to be a parent whilst also actually trying to be something else apart from being a parent, relies solely on sacrificing bedrest.  So this is the perfect gift for your mum to acknowledge  all those sleepless nights plus it’s delicious.  Velvety dark blackberry fruits, with silky tannins that provide a framework for the medium to full bodied character of the wine – very classy, just like your Mum!

And that’s how we write a blog.

Snow’s gone, March marches on, what have you bought for Mum?

That’s all from us, have a great week, see you soon!

Wayne & Alex


We sat in the shop and watched the mercury oscillate between -4°C and -1°C and wondered where had we gone wrong?

Friday, March 2nd, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It’s been a week of hardship for many of us.

My mother-in-law flew to Australia last Monday, current temperature in Sydney 22°C – but it is the middle of the night.

Wayne’s Uncle is currently in Queensland – 36°C in the shade yesterday.

A friend of mine, who happens to live sporadically in Dubai when not flying to Mauritius or some other paradise, sent me a distraught message on Tuesday moaning that it was raining.  23°C and 61% humidity – probably a relief.

One of our suppliers has taken a trip to New Zealand to visit, amongst others, Dog Point Winery in Marlborough and Neudorf Vineyards in Nelson before going off bungying in Queenstown.  We know this through Instagram – the photos of picnics and beach barbecues giving us the impression of warmth and sunshine.

Another of our suppliers, with a distinctly Braveheart surname, voyaged to Murrayfield on Saturday and came back smugger than Billy McSmug from Loch ma Smug.

We sat in the shop and watched the mercury oscillate between -4°C and -1°C and wondered where had we gone wrong?

Snow Day

Is it or isn’t it?  Apparently it has nothing to do with snow depth but actually availability of public transport, we’re told.

Anyway, Ricards Lodge called it yesterday on the strength of weather predictions.  My sons’ school is closing at 1pm today (it’s currently raining here, just so you know).  To be honest with you, judging from our visit to the Pig & Whistle last night, I suspect that a number of people had already called it too and have decided to work from home today – sensible.  You don’t have to risk the commute, you don’t have to risk slipping over on unsalted pavements, and most importantly you don’t have to risk being the only one who did make it in and thus spend the day answering other people’s phones and making your own coffee.  Plus, because you obviously started work earlier, you can obviously stop work earlier and start the weekend early with a visit to your local wine shop!

Since I live just around the corner and Wayne lives in nearby Balham, we can never justify a snow day, Shanks’s pony or velocipede being our preferred transportation methods, so will always be open to provide you with vital vinous survival packs.  If you fancy something a bit more fortifying, we always have an array of spirits open for tasting, should you need something character building before scaling Arthur Road – particular hipflask favourites are currently:

The Kings Ginger – £23.99

King Edward VII was a trailblazer, trendsetter and maverick who broke tradition throughout his life.

The King literally lived life in the fast lane. He would endlessly drive his horseless carriage (a Daimler), whatever the weather. So much so, that in 1903 the Royal Physician became concerned about the monarch’s health. So, he called on Berry Bros. and Rudd for a solution, a high strength liqueur that would warm and revivify His Majesty. Crafted from ginger, (for centuries celebrated for its medicinal properties) The King’s Ginger was born.

Rich, golden and delightfully crisp in flavour, it helped King Edward stay colourful and ready for whatever came next.

Bepi Tosolini Amaretto Salizá – £25.99

Nel sestiere di Castello, non lontano da piazza San Marco, è possibile giungere alla SALIZA’ o SALIZADA DEL PIGNATTER, sotto il cui arco è incastonata una pietra rossa a forma di cuore: la leggenda vuole che le coppie che vi si recano assieme si ameranno per sempre”. Questa è la storia veneziana che ricorda il nome dell’amaretto Salizà, un vero distillato di mandorle nato dalla ricetta di Bepi Tosolini, senza coloranti ed aromi artificiali.

As you have no doubt gleaned from above this is traditional amaretto from Venice.  Salizada refers to a red, heart shaped stone found in the arch Salizada del Pignatter.  Then there is a whole load of guff about the significance of this stone and lovers loving each other forever and such-like.  Suffice to say we love it, on its own or with company….

However, should Gin be the only spirit that passes muster nowadays, we are very glad to have welcomed two more Gins from Sacred in Highgate.  Sacred Gin With Exotic Notes Of Cardamom and Sacred Gin With Intensely Fresh Notes Of Juniper (both £38) are both gracing our shelves and open for tasting – no prizes for guessing the key botanicals!

Vital vinous survival pack

With differing views as to what the weekend weather might bring, we have made the decision to open two new listings today that match all seasons – it is spring now after all!

De Wetshof Estate Bon Vallon Chardonnay 2017 – £13.49

Soils rich in limestone and broken mountain rock on De Wetshof’s site-specific vineyards allow this wine to emit optimum varietal expression. An unwooded wine, Bon Vallon has a brisk and clean freshness leading into a wide spectrum of classic flavours including citrus, wild flowers and grilled nuts, with a nuanced minerality on the aftertaste

We tasted this last week for the first time and revelled in its unoaked charm, a nice contrast to Lesca Chardonnay, the oaked wine from the same stable.  A nice balance of fruit and lees character, perfect with your Sunday roast or as an aperitif whilst the coal warm up on the Barbie…

Wine & Roses 2015 Tempranillo – £12.19

Wine and Roses is a project which was set up by 5 friends who wanted to produce contemporary wines with equally contemporary packaging.  Their wines are not classified as Crianzas or Reservas as they did not want to be limited by the DOC regulations for Riojan wines.  They took the name from their mutual appreciation of Axl Rose and his chums so we quite expected  to meet a group of denim clad black t-shirt wearing mavericks but in fact we met with a couple of sharply be-suited characters who clearly know how to keep work and play separate – what goes on tour stays on tour etc etc

Delicious, velvety damson fruits and blackberries, plums and spicy chocolate also pop their heads in to make it really a rather decent drop.  Perfect with your Sunday roast or as an accompaniment to those chops on the Barbie…

And with that we shall leave you.  We’re off to Sunny Surbiton and Bahamian Balham this weekend, how about you?

Ciao Ciao!