Archive for June, 2018

It’s coming home?

Friday, June 29th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming….

Yep, tennis is back in town and, if you haven’t noticed, here are some signs to look for:

• a notable increase in oversized SUV’s struggling to drive on their side of the road or through width restrictions or in fact anywhere that there are other vehicles
• perma-tanned, beautiful people wearing glistening tennis whites whilst schooning pints of Lanson in Hemmingway’s
• lots of eager emmets will soon be emerging blinkingly from the penumbra of Wimbledon Park tube station to discover that the All England is not bang outside or even that close and no, they haven’t bothered to put up any signposts to help
• the Pig & Whistle will become a drop-in centre for people camping in the park yearning electricity and cushioned seating
• sightings of the red faced and ‘seemingly’ well refreshed Attaché for Sports, Humanitarian, Cultural Affairs in the European Union for the Central African Republic and BBC pundit will become more regular as the finals loom
• the Co-op will run out of anything salad of strawberry related but will have a plenitude of swedes and turnips and other winter casserole ingredients
• we’ll all become tennis experts once more

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming….

Football’s coming home! Or perhaps it isn’t. After last night’s performance, it’s hard to tell but we do now know that we are playing Colombia next week.

Strategically, last night’s game was a masterpiece: it’s about winning the war, not individual battles. By cunningly choosing not to score and thus keep the element of surprise and our powder dry last night, the Red Devils will have no idea how/where/when we are going to score a goal when we meet them again in the Finals!

While we’re at it, why Red Devils? Online research has not clarified this slightly nebulous nickname for me, since demons are not the first things I think of when I think of the land that brought us Magritte, Merckx, Tintin and Plastique Bertrand – but if they want to be associated with Man Utd then that’s their choice – Toby Aldeweireld’s particularly!

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming….

Coming home to roost, for Theresa. Pressure at home from her own party, pressure from 27 EU leaders in Brussels and lots of deadlines looming. I wonder how often she wishes that pro-Leave candidate Andrea Leadsom had been a stronger, victorious opponent two years ago? Still at least they all voted for the third runway at Heathrow this week – still can’t work out how £14 billion will be found by Ferrovial to fund even a small part of this –

Ever since Britain privatised its airports in 1986, infrastructure improvements have been the responsibility of private-sector owners. EU rules clarified in 2014 have further circumscribed the ability of governments to provide state aid to privately owned companies. FT JUNE 22 2018 – Who will pay for Heathrow airport’s £14bn third runway?

This works for now – but what about after we leave Europe?

In their 2017 accounts, Heathrow Aiport Holdings borrowings were £13.4 billion. But they did have a whopping(!?) £703 million of equity….

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming….

As promised last week, we’ve got our act together and organised some dates for tastings etc after the summer hullabaloo.

First up, the return of Wine School and a quick Q & A with Wayne:

Who is this course aimed at?
You! We assume you have tasted wine and enjoyed it enough to come along and explore further. Our course is aimed at the enthusiastic beginner.

What’s your goal?
Our course is designed to give you an excellent opening to the world of wine. Based entirely around what you taste, the course will give you the confidence to trust your palate, understand the characteristics of the main grape varieties and to explore new styles and varieties. We keep the size of the group small, between 8-12 people, to allow for discussion.

What will you cover?
We cover all the classic grape varieties with styles from both the Old and New World. Some of the wines are shown “blind”, so that you learn to trust your judgement based on the taste of the wine rather than what it says on the label. We will show you how to evaluate and assess quality, discuss wine production methods as well as the wine’s acidity, tannins and flavour. On our journey we shall cover ageing potential, wine and food matching, wine storage conditions and, importantly, wine faults.
Weeks 1-3: We’ll show you how to taste wine and cover the main white varieties along with a couple off-the-beaten-track selections.
Weeks 4 & 5: We’ll cover the classic red varieties as well as a few lesser known varieties.
Week 6: This week is all about bubbles – sparkling wines from around the world, alongside several styles of Champagne.
You will taste 8 to 10 wines each week and we will even manage to sneak in a little pudding wine and some Rosé somewhere amongst that lot!

Where does it take place?
The course takes place in the shop after we close. We pull out the tasting table, set up some chairs and get stuck in. Our courses are relaxed and about enjoying wine and sharing knowledge.

Wednesday evenings from 8pm until about 10pm, for six weeks but over a seven week period. It starts on Wednesday 10th October and concludes on Wednesday 21st November – we’ll skip Wednesday 24th October as it’ll be half term in the outside world!

What do I bring?
Just yourself! We’ll provide everything you need… notes, pens, paper, water biscuits and wine.

How much does it cost?
£150.00 per person -payment reserves your place – pop in and see us or give us a call on 020 8944 5224.

Actually it’s not for me, it’s for my partner’s birthday – can I gift it?
Definitely, courses can be the perfect gift. We can arrange attendance either for a specific course date or as an open voucher (valid for 6 months).

However, if you don’t fancy committing to a six week jamboree then here are some dates for upcoming Wine & Cheese Tastings:

Thursday 13th September at 8pm
Thursday 11th October at 8pm
Thursday 8th November at 8pm
Thursday 29th November at 8pm

All these cost £20 per person and, as ever, payment confirms your place at the table!

It’s coming home, it’s coming home, it’s coming….

Well, not exactly home but it’s certainly coming. Next Wednesday will find us watching our American cousins celebrate their Independence from British rule – they seem to have done alright out of that severing of ties – and we thought we might as well start the celebrations this weekend by tasting a couple of wines from the US of A, wines that might also be appropriate with barbecues perhaps, as the weather seems to be holding.

Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2016 – £16.49
Based in the Livermore Valley in California, Wente’s vineyards were founded in 1883 and are still owned and managed by the same family, 4 generations later. They were also one of the first to plant Chardonnay and one taste of this suggests they are doing a fine job. Crisp with fine elegant apple notes and a supporting touch of oak, bang on some grilled lobster!

Long Barn Pinot Noir 2015 – £13.59
This is classic Californian Pinot Noir. A quick swirl fills the air with red cherry aromas whilst the palate is soft with silky tannins, lovely bramble and cherry fruit flavours, gently edged with a touch of spice and a lovely fresh finish. It really is made in an old barn too but fortunately doesn’t taste like one, unlike some older Burgundies we could mention! Ribs?

Not coming home?

Should SW19 not be on your radar this weekend, then two things I cannot recommend heartily enough if you happen to be in their vicinity – a trip to Lords to watch the mighty Kent take on Hampshire in the final of the Royal London One Day Cup or perhaps, if you happen to be in Newcastle, a trip to Fenwicks where our friends at Hepple Gin have taken over the famous Northumberland Street window for the weekend to offer a unique 4 stage Gin experience – it looks extraordinary and extremely cool!

We’re going home…

But not until later. In the meantime, we have cold Rosé in the fridge, warmer reds on the shelf, beers, ice and lots of other things nice – why not swing by and find out what we really think about runways!

¡Arriba, abajo, al centro, pa’ dentro!

Friday, June 22nd, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Winter went; Spring sprang; now Summer is here to stay.

With this in mind, and freshly back from shaking his solstice in Wiltshire, Wayne finally instituted shirt sleeve order yesterday, which this year allows us to wear knee length shorts with long, sturdy socks, brogues and a loose cravat rather than a tie. Waistcoats are optional, no mention of singlets as yet.

And that’s not all he decreed. Before I was allowed to enter the shop yesterday I had to show my ID, had to confirm I didn’t have any criminal records and that I lived in Wimbledon. As I have lived in Wimbledon for more than 5 years, I am considered ‘settled’ so am now entitled to continue working in the shop and pay my taxes and my National Insurance – whoop, whoop!

Having thus gained entry to the shop, I then got to down to the serious business of standing behind the counter, trying to look busy. Years back this used to be a skill that took to time to learn – Wayne still can be found on occasion with his hand in his chin, gazing pensively into the middle distance – a look he developed when working in Oddbins Fine Wine, to discourage timewasters. However, nowadays we can hunch over the computer and give the impression that we are crunching numbers in a particularly complex spreadsheet whilst in fact we are checking to see if England have beaten the Aussies again.

It was whilst engaged in this that I discovered that another ‘craft’ brewer had gone over to the dark side. Beavertown, the cult brewery founded by Logan Plant, son of little known rocker, Robert Plant, has announced that it has sold a ‘minority’ stake in the business to Heineken for £40 million. Interestingly, when Heineken took a similar ‘minority’ stake in Brixton Brewery in November last year, the spokesman for the Dutch monolith, when asked about further acquisitions, was quoted: ‘at the moment, we have no further plans. We have found the perfect London brewer to partner with…’

I wonder how Brixton feel about today’s developments – when they signed I expect they hoped for monogamy but now seem to be playing second fiddle in a Heineken harem?

Just so we’re all on the same page, here are some ideals that are considered important for craft brewers in the USA:
a) Craft brewers are small brewers.
b) The hallmark of craft beer and craft brewers is innovation. Craft brewers interpret historic styles with unique twists and develop new styles that have no precedent.
c) Craft beer is generally made with traditional ingredients like malted barley; interesting and sometimes non-traditional ingredients are often added for distinctiveness.
d) Craft brewers tend to be very involved in their communities through philanthropy, product donations, volunteerism and sponsorship of events.
e) Craft brewers have distinctive, individualistic approaches to connecting with their customers.
f) Craft brewers maintain integrity by what they brew and their general independence, free from a substantial interest by a non-craft brewer.

Many of these ideals are fully and brilliantly embraced by both Beavertown and Brixton, although perhaps not a) and f)!

However, at the end of the day, I really can’t fault them for taking the deal – if Tesco were to offer us £40 million for a minority share, I’m not sure we’d take too long to sign.

In the world outside of beer and wine, the World Cup has been doing what it always seems to do, which is not a lot, a lot of the time… Cricket has been marvellous of late but I won’t dwell on this because it’s bound to be woeful again very soon; and, thus far, we haven’t had a winner at Ascot but that’s probably due to Wayne forgetting it’s on this week and me being in Spain!

So, as discussed earlier, winter went, spring sprang and summer is here to stay. To celebrate such a seasonal milestone we shall taste some summery wines this weekend, both from Spain as that’s what I’ve been supping all week!

Blanco will be Bioca Godello 2017 – £14.69, which is a cracking wine from Valdeorras in north-west Spain. As one of Spain’s rarer indigenous varieties, Godello may not be a well know grape variety so you’ll have to trust me when I say it is very appealing, even rather more-ish, with hints of orange and lemon on the nose following onto a vibrant, crisp and focused palate with hints of minerals in the background. Absolutely crying out for some fish or calamares.

Vino Tinto will be a Rioja – Torres Altos Ibéricos Parcelas De Graciano 2014 – £15.99, and is 100% Graciano. We’ve enjoyed the odd drop of Graciano in the past, it has been noted; some may even say I bang on about it a bit much. However, having tasted this one again recently, I can completely understand why it was such a shoo-in. Elegant, dark cherry fruits, a real velvety palate with a touch of spice and a persistence of finish – we’d suggest some pork fillet with it, cooked in the traditional solomillo adobado style.

So, that’s about it from us this week. As a teaser, we will be getting dates together this week for tastings and also for Wine School up to Christmas and will put them in next week’s email – so have your diaries ready!!

¡Arriba, abajo, al centro, pa’ dentro!

New Game in Town

Friday, June 15th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It’s been a funny old week, starting off in acrimony over the G6 ½ at the weekend. The take home being that Trumpolina seems to think that Europeans don’t buy enough bullets, and that Justin Trudeau is economical with the truth. The picture tweeted by Mutti Merkel seemed to sum it up, though our in house art expert insists that comparing the picture to renaissance art is a bit wide of the mark.

Barely had the ink dried on the retracted G6 ½ statement, than Trumpolina had popped up in Singapore. It seems the meeting with Kim Wrong’un was on after all. I watched it did you? In historical terms it may be like the Berlin Wall coming down, or that wedding in Game of Thrones, or maybe nothing at all.

Trumpolina and Wrong’un circled the table, and each other like Sumos in suits, Nikons and white teeth flashing all around the room, TV cameras rolling silently, whilst in my head Elton John’s Rocket Man was playing. Trumpolina even made a joke “Are you getting loads of nice pictures? Making us look handsome and thin?” Sadly most people missed it as they were ushered out so the private meeting could happen. Papers were signed, Wrong’Uns autograph in the book just next to Roseanne Barr. Nuclear missiles and sanctions could both be off the table, and, in a surprise to Mr Moon from the South, no more games of Battleships. No, the new game in town is Monopoly, and I’m fairly sure a few Chances will be taken before the hotels start going up.

Meanwhile, back in London, our politicians and press were busy demonstrating just how eccentric the machinations of our democracy can be. The Whips were busy running all round the House whispering in peoples ears, the press were coming up with all sorts of plots and intrigue that would be at home in an Agatha Christie novel, and the SNP had a special trick up their sleeve.

They debated, they double dealt, and someone even resigned. Then they voted and we all wondered what the fuss was about. Most miffed of course, were the SNP who ran out of time before they could do their party trick. Fortunately they were able to pull it off very successfully early the next day, streaming out of the House and having a cuddle with the photographers on College Green. With the previous day’s headlines already old, it probably had more effect too. Oh how adult our politicians looked, I hope we’re all proud!

Meanwhile, small footnotes to all this excitement suggested there may be something going on in Russia. Football teams from around the World (except Italy, busy with boats…) are heading for The World Cup (are we allowed to say that?). Anyway there is a football tournament on, England have been practicing penalties, Spain have sacked their manager, and, according to Wayne’s wife, Belgium are going to win. It started yesterday with Russia rinsing Saudia Arabia 5-0, and goes on for a whole month.

We will all have to go multi-screen like a City Boy though, because the sharp end of the tournament interferes with both Wimbledon and the Tour de France. Who organises these things?

Shall we talk about wine?

Vintage Port 2016

I think we mentioned earlier in the year that 2016 was looking particularly exciting as a vintage for port and, as we suspected, St Georges Day found its email Inbox full of declarations from the major Port Houses.

Following a wet winter (above the 10 year average) March was cold, and then April and May continued cold and wet, giving the Upper Douro it’s worst mildew for 20 years. Flowering was at the end of May with the onset of ripening around the 11th July. Guess when the temperature rocketed? Hot dry conditions continued for the rest of the summer, with 13days above 40C. Hottest day was 6th September with a truly scorchio 43.4C. A bit of relief and rain a week later, before harvesting under blue skies through till early October.

That’s the weather that resulted in a crop about 20/25% down on average but with fine aromas and tannins. James Suckling says “The 2016 vintage Ports exhibit fantastic depth and concentration yet at the same time they show a sheer tannin backbone that gives them great form and class They have a cooler, less ripe nature to them compared to the extremely rich 2011s, 2003s and 2000s. The 2016s seem more in line with the racier 2007s but with perhaps slightly more intensity.”

We thought we’d do a small offer on some port if anyone is interested. We have published here the In Bond price which you’ll need to pay to confirm your order before 20th July. The wine should arrive early November and you’ll have to pay the prevailing duty and vat then when you collect the wine.

Unfortunately we are not in a position to store wine for you, but how nice would a few shiny bottles look ageing away in that new wine fridge? Great Christening presents too…

So drop us a line or pop in and see us if you’d like to get some 2016 port.

Tasting This Weekend

It seems to me that Saturday’s footy kicks off with France versus Australia. Given how well that plays into our vinous theme, we will furnish the white shirt with France’s Domaine Lebrun Pouilly Fume 2017 (£17.99) which arrived only yesterday, but will refresh you with the pinpoint accuracy of a free kick by Thierry Henry.

Sporting the red shirt in a baggy, early premiership style, will be Flametree Shiraz 2016 (£18.99) which is not baggy at all, but hails from Margaret River and would be a cracking partner to those lamb koftas you’ve just decided to barbecue on Saturday.
I think that’s enough from us this week except to say that with Toyota the only manufacturer at this year’s Le Mans, there must be a real chance a privateer can win the 24hours.

Vroom Vroom

It’s a funny old world, Wayne.

Friday, June 8th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It’s a funny old world, Wayne.

Just back from Spain, I can say this with confidence. One Prime Minister has been dumped and replaced with a new one with a whopping 24% of the seats in congress; I don’t want to get into politics, particularly those of another country, nor do I really want to get into maths, but 24 seats in every 100 just doesn’t seem enough. Meanwhile in Andalucía, we saw new golf courses being built and plenty of cranes swinging around new luxury villas whilst half built apartment blocks from 10 years back stood alongside, growing weeds and graffiti – it’s a funny old world.

Back home, we have Thames water fined £120 million over leaks – OFWAT found they “did not pay enough attention” to solving leakage issues and “underestimated the significance of its underperformance”. Anyone who watched Arthur Road gently collapse a couple of weeks back as a result of leaving a burst water main unattended for ten days can only think two things: Hurrah!, someone is actually standing up to them and Boo!, our bills and water rates will go up, yet again…

“You need a level playing field … between an online digital world and a traditional retail store base model like the one we have” – thus spake Tesco chief Dave Lewis yesterday, referring to spiralling business rates that has seen, amongst others, Wimbledon Village turn into a bland wasteland of ever opening and closing shops. This on the same day that House of Fraser announced it is to close 31 shops citing, amongst other things, the incessant rise of online shopping. It’s a ‘not very funny’ old world in high street retail, Wayne.

So then we turn to an article written in Drinks Business, a trade rag where too often the articles are just rehashed press releases and puff pieces with sporadic journalism, we read yesterday that, yet again, we’re all drinking less. They cited a Mintel report that has come out some time since January (we can’t say exactly when, as we didn’t have the £1,000+ needed for the report) stating that 10% of us spent more on alcoholic drinks for drinking at home, 26% of us spent less, 17% were non-applicable (why do a booze based survey with non-drinkers we wondered) but 47% of us spent the same. It’s a big figure that 26% of people spending less but we are reassured by the bigger 47% figure!

If we’re honest, much of the trade have seen a slight downturn in customer flow over the last month or two – and with it customer spend, a few more weekday nights at home on the San Pellegrino rather than the San Miguel and before you know it we have panic stations.

And then, in the eleventh hour, another piece of research arrives, to save the booze-trade bacon.

A study by researchers at the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health, investigating the “U-shaped” relationship between alcohol and absenteeism in the UK, France and Finland, found sickness rates, and thus work absences, were higher in people who drank heavily or not at all. Whilst it was fully acknowledging of the fact that often abstainers are perhaps less likely to drink as a result of their condition or medications that prevented it, the survey did cover 47,000 people across Europe split into 5 groups related to how much they drank in a week. Without getting too deep into the data, those of us among us who had a wee drinkie here and there were more likely to turn up to work day in, day out; however, those amongst us who used to work in the city, but now run a wine shop, have often cited the fact that if you’re going to suffer a hangover, you might as well go to work and be paid to have it!

Extrapolating data in a totally non-scientific manner to suit my argument is a skill mastered at school and continued well into adult life – thus it seems obvious to me that too much San Pellegrino is doing us no good whatsoever and a nice, daily glass of wine will be what makes British Industry great again over the next few years with a fit, keen, seven days-a-week workforce that will be the envy of the world once more.

To start us on this road back to greatness, we’ll open two wines from New Zealand this weekend to get those synapses firing and perseverance muscles motivated…

Wairau River Pinot Gris 2016 – £15.49
Wairau River wines take their name from the river that runs through the heart of the Marlborough wine region – Wairau is Maori for ‘many waters’. Succulent ripe pear on the nose, with melon, apple and apricot flavours, nice mouth weight and an exotic lingering finish, perfect for drinking anytime.

Southern Dawn Pinot Noir 2013 – £14.49
Again from Marlborough, this is a wine we have had on the shelf pretty much since we opened. I could give you all the guff about the soil in the vineyards, the angle of the slope the vines are planted on, and the winemakers collection of 19th century corkscrews, but none of that is really relevant. We sell this wine because we think it tastes brilliant: light with red cherry fruit character and a fresh finish. I’ve no idea if he has a corkscrew collection but am certain he doesn’t use it for this!

Wayne had a meeting with John, the owner of the Southern Dawn winery last week and managed to persuade him to fund some stock for us, so this weekend, the Southern Dawn Pinot Noir will be reduced by £2 per bottle to £12.49.

Buy a couple I would, to last the working week ahead!

That’s it from us; we’re off down the pub, purely to boost our productivity tomorrow!

More Austin Powers than James Bond

Friday, June 1st, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

How are you, is half-term treating you well? If you’re away, don’t worry the garden is nicely watered, but your lawn needs a trim. The hedge has gone a bit mental too, so you might need to get the trimmers out. But it’s not really my purpose to talk about gardening, I know little about it, and prefer to sit on a patio with a barbecue warming up if I’m honest.

I thought instead we’d talk about things that weren’t really as they appeared this week. We could start with the magical resurrection of murdered journalist Arkady Babchenko. In a plot more Austin Powers than James Bond, he was allegedly shot on his doorstep whilst popping out for bread. Reports suggested that he had died in the ambulance on the way to hospital. So you can imagine the world’s surprise when he strolled into a press conference the following day. Who on earth thought that was a good idea? Surely someone could see that everyone would just look a bit ridiculous.

Did anyone see last weekend’s Monaco Grand Prix? It was won by Daniel Ricciardo, who led from start to finish, after smashing the track record in qualifying. Sadly, that was where the excitement ended, the day before the race, in qualifying. Ricciardo drove for 50 laps with an engine issue, and nobody passed him. Lewis Hamilton, who came third, wondered if the audience had woken up yet when interviewed at the end. His description as boring was bang on. It’s supposed to be a race, and that certainly wasn’t what we had last weekend, I don’t want to take anything away from Ricciardo, there was a certain elegance in his drive despite the engine issues. I love the Monte Carlo GP, I remember only 6 drivers finishing in 1979, I even met James Hunt and drove my white Fiesta around the course in 1983. I just can’t help but think if this had been the first one, we’d never have made it to the 76th race. Something needs to be done to turn it into a race again. Rant over.

Whilst we’re on the subject of cars, our golfing correspondent in Spain suggest you could do yourself a service by using a car hire company that doesn’t contain a precious metal in name. SilverSUV should be fine, or Platinumpeoplecarrier could be great, but the other one….not so.

We saw a report this week criticising (again!) the lack of female appointments to FTSE company boards. It seems too many people are still stuck in the 1950’s as some of the excuses were incredible. Our favourite was: “There aren’t that many women with the right credentials and depth of experience to sit on the board – the issues covered are extremely complex”. On the same day and keen to show they are embracing diversity in the present day, the Bank of England interviewed four women and one man for a place on the Monetary Policy Committee and then chose the man. Doh!

In wine news two significant regions have been suffering from the heavy rain this week. Bordeaux had some heavy, but localised hail, causing damage not just to vines but also the city itself this time. Meanwhile, further south in Portugal’s Douro region, 80 mm of rain fell in three hours. That’s about double the 30 year average for the whole of May and is bound to damage the flowering vines, talk is of 80% damage in a number of significant vineyards.

In Greece, global demand for Santorini’s Assyrtiko grape is such that prices on the island are up 288% over the last couple of years, so local winemakers are seeking EU permission to plant on Thirassia, Santorini’s sub-island just across the caldera.

Alex suggested I might like to find a red Chardonnay whilst he was swinging sticks on the Costa, and whilst I’m sure he had his tongue planted firmly in his cheek, I have found a rather delicious oddity. Made from the fairly rare Piquepoul Noir, one of the scarcer grape varieties allowed in the blend of a Chateauneuf-du-Pape, I have a small parcel of Piquepoul Rosé (£12.99). Crisp, pale, dry and really rather delicious should you think it’s that time of year.

Tasting This Weekend
We shall join his lordship in Spain I think. Down the middle of the fairway on the Costa Blanca will be Val do Xuliana Albariño 2017 (£13.69) a crisp, orchard fruited and gently mineral dazzler from Rais Baixas in the northwest.

Chipping onto the green in the red polo shirt I’m going to suggest Lopez de Haro Crianza 2015 (£10.99) which is from Rioja. A delicious Rioja that would be a great partner with all manner meats, barbecued or otherwise. We have it in magnums too (£22) if you have a thirst on visitors.