Archive for August, 2018

Missing in action

Friday, August 31st, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

As we reach the end of week four of Operation August Exodus, it seems that we still have plenty of SW19 residents sadly missing in action. Word reached me, early this week, that the poolside sunset view from the villa near Arezzo is so arresting that Alex may struggle to extricate himself from its golden handcuffs any time soon. However, I hear the SBS are on hand and repatriation is in the offing…

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon seems to be a favourite game to play in the news currently, with Wonga and House of Fraser representing the two ends and Newcastle United and Mike Ashley propping up the middle.

Champion of zero hours contracts, firing people for being ill and generally crushing the little man in search of a buck, Mr Ashley usually has no great fan base here. However, this week, he actually gained our attention. Whilst we understand that his altruism-free, long term goal is to browbeat landlords into giving him a better deal, and thus more cash in his pocket, it is nice to see someone actually putting the parlous state of landlord-tenant relations front and centre. Rents are too high – surely better to take a lower rent than have an empty site producing none?

Another week, another study. No safe level for alcohol consumption. Vanilla extract, Marks & Spencer Best Ever Prawn Sandwich, Steak Diane, Shandy Bass – all boozy, in the bin they go. Still waiting for the study that tells us there’s no safe level for living – we’re all going to die at some point, let’s just enjoy getting there!

3-0 to Tottenham at Old Trafford. 3-1 to West Ham at AFC. 3-1 to Forest at home to Newcastle. All the minnows put up a great fight, particularly AFC, but the results were always going one way in the end. Cricket seems set up for a fifth test decider – any truth in the rumour we did better without Stokes? Tennis is being loudly lambasted for being a war of attrition in searing heat – but surely it’s the same every year at both the US and Aussie Open, why is it suddenly news? La Vuelta seems to be taking the message to heart of it being a marathon rather than a sprint – tactically correct, a trifle dull to watch.

News from JD Wetherspoon – they’re banning dogs (shocking) and have been in business since they opened their first pub in Muswell Hill in 1979 (far more shocking). Always had our doubts about boozers in Muswell Hill, still at least we now know where it started and who to blame….

Tastings update

Wine School is now sold out – a new term will start late January – if you’d like to get on the ‘please remind me’ list, just let us know.

Wine & Cheese Tastings

Thursday 13th September – 4 spaces left
Thursday 11th October – SOLD OUT
Thursday 8th November – SOLD OUT
Thursday 29th November – 3 spaces left

Argentina Tasting

Thursday 18th October – 4 spaces left

So with the tastings now over 80% sold, if you fancy joining in just drop us a line on 020 8944 5224 or reply to this email.

Finally, we are planning on doing our usual Christmas fizz tasting in December; we just need to confirm a few other dates first. We would also love to do a Gin tasting if we can find anyone prepared to schlepp down to the end of the District Line – watch this space!

However, if none of those tastings appeal then have no fear, you can just pop into the shop this afternoon or tomorrow and have a glass of the two beauties that we will have open on free-pour.

Geography not being my strong point, in order to entice Alex back from Tuscany I’ve decided, of course, to open two wines from Sicily. I was astonished to discover we had never put this pair on tasting (I rather think my keyword search tool is playing up) but we certainly haven’t had them this year…

Colomba Bianca Gazzera Catarratto Inzolia 2017 – £10.49 this blend of two of Sicily’s indigenous varieties is a deliciously easy drinker. Hand-picked grapes (65% Catarratto, 35% Inzolia) are vinified in stainless steel tanks giving us a crisp, fresh white wine with notes of nuts and candied lemon. Treat yourself to a wing of skate, pan-fried with some butter and capers.

Colomba Bianca Gazzera Nero d’Avola/Syrah 2016 – £10.49 this cracking blend, 65% Nero d’Avola with 35% Syrah, has always impressed us. Lovely fruit characters with the raspberry of the Syrah setting off the dark fruit of the Nero D’Avola really nicely. A decidedly decent fresh feel too, which is not easy in all that sunshine!

That’s it from here this week – tomorrow is our last Saturday of early summer closing, so remember to get to us before 7pm.

Now, if you’ll all join me in a slow handclap we might perhaps be able to urge Alex out of that lounger and onto a plane…

Ciao-Ciao for now!

Alex the new Bond?

Friday, August 24th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

How’s it going, getting to the bottom of the sun tan lotion yet? It’s been a funny old week here in Wimbledon Park, the weather’s been a bit weird and I’ve had to use the lights on my bike on the way home. Still, there’s not so much traffic. Alex, like Idris, has been ignoring my texts on the rumours he’s to be the next James Bond.

Jamie Oliver has been accused of cultural appropriation for a rice dish that most commentators seem to agree is pretty rubbish. Jamie doesn’t care of course; he’s just had cartloads of free publicity. Outrage marketing could be the new thing, and it’s coming to a social media near you!

Over the pond it appears the heat has been turned up on Trumpolina, and he appears to get more red faced and shriller with every tweet. Cohen has coughed to everything, and Manafort has been found guilty on 8 counts of fraud. The money that was paid to the ladies nobody knew about, from a bank account with no origins, and under nobody’s orders, now appears to have been authorised by Trumpolina from his own bank account, most definitely not campaign funds mind you, and he definitely didn’t sleep with that woman. (Oh sorry, wrong President).

It now looks like Manafort may be heading for a pardon just so that the FBI can’t get to him, Trumpolina is trying to call Congress’s bluff with threats of market collapse should he be impeached, and in the meantime has announced more tariffs on Chinese products to help make America great again.
Now you can call me cynical if you like, but this entire thing is starting to seem like a gangster movie. Sooner or later someone will swim with the fishes, or wake up next to a racehorses head. Alternatively, the peaches won’t be ready till just after the midterm elections when Trumpolina has no further purpose and can be impeached at will.

In sporty news, I’d hoped the England cricket team might have fared a bit better than that, how about you? Golf has gone a bit bonkers, Phil Mickelson (career earnings $88m) is playing Tiger Woods (career earnings $112m) for a winner takes all $9m pot at Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas. If you’d like to play at the course yourself, its $500 a round plus a night’s stay at the MGM in Vegas! Don’t expect to get a weekend slot. MGM didn’t they used to make the films with the lion at the beginning?

La Vuelta a España starts on Saturday with an 8km Individual Time Trial in Malaga and finishes 21 days and 3254 km later in Madrid where the winner will collect €150 000.

Best booze news we saw this week was that of a care home in Fife opening an on-site pub called the Hip Joint. Otherwise the Champagne harvest for 2018 started on Tuesday amid high expectations and Germany has started its earliest harvest on record.

Tasting This Weekend
Starting La Vuelta in the south of Spain just cries out for sherry, so in the white/amber corner we’ll have Classic Oloroso by Fernando & Castilla (£15.99) full of orange peel citrus and walnutty deliciousness, whilst the reds will be represented by Lopez de Haro Reserva (£13.99) which would be the perfect partner for that butterflied leg of lamb on the barbecue.


Bear with us, we’ll get to the wine.

Friday, August 17th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This week we have scoured the news in our usual fashion to give you a little taste of what is happening around the world. I’m sure you can imagine our excitement to discover something that has eluded commentators for millennia. Clearly, the term discover is used in the loosest possible sense here, as all we actually did was read that scientists had discovered something. “Discovered what” I hear you say, somewhat surprised as the shop is empty.

Well, by what we can gather, scientists from Arizona University led by Charlotte L. Pearson have finally been able to date the enormous volcanic eruption of Thera. Using an enhanced carbon dating process on ancient tree rings they can date the eruption of Santorini to around 1660-1540 BC. So those of you watching the sunset at Oia, whilst enjoying a nice crisp glass of Assyrtiko now know when it happened.

Whilst we’re on this timeline, we’d just mention that archaeologists excavating the tomb of Ptahmes, the Mayor of Ancient Egypt’s Memphis (as opposed to the one associated with Elvis) have found the world’s oldest cheese. Believed to be around 3200 years old and an unpasteurised blend of cow and either goat or sheep cheese, it appears to be contaminated with Brucella Melitensis which is not good for you, so we’re definitely ruling it out for our wine and cheese evenings.

In what seems to have been a busy week for scientists, some at Yorkshire Wildlife Park have been giving Polar Bears allergy tests. It seems the poor bears have sores on their feet and it may be because they are allergic to the grass. Victor and Nobby have had their sides shaved and 50 tests applied to get to the root of the problem. Reports that the other bears, Pixel and Nissan, have taken to addressing them as Patch and Sunroof are, as yet, unconfirmed.

Whilst we’re on the subject of bears, shoppers at Crazy Bruce’s Liquors in Bristol, Connecticut were somewhat alarmed to discover a black bear trying to enter the shop. He managed to work the electric door but a quick witted staff member locked the inner door before he could choose his tipple. Fortunately we don’t have bears here in Wimbledon Park, but if you’ve just caught some salmon and would like a wine to partner it all you have to do is ask.

On the sports front, Danny Cipriani has been a naughty boy, Ben Stokes apparently not, and Mourinho could be replaced by Zidane. De Bruyne could be out for a couple of months with injury, which should bring him back just in time to play against Tottenham at an, as yet, undisclosed venue.
In real sports, the Tour of Britain’s gain may be the Vuelta a Espana’s loss as Geraint Thomas, Wout Poels, and Chris Froome are on the start line for the Tour of Britain. On the other hand, I might go and put a couple of pennies each way on the Yates brothers for the Vuelta then!

In wine news, Champagne is 15 days ahead of schedule, and Burgundy almost three weeks, so both are starting the harvest early following the hot summer we’ve all experienced. Storm damage has been a bit of a problem in Nuits St Georges and also the Maconnais, whilst over in Bordeaux the big problem seems to be some mildew following storms in late June. Overall a better French harvest across the board in volume terms, up 27% on last year and around 5% on the five year average. Let’s wait and see what the quality looks like a bit further down the road!

Argentinian Wine Tasting
On the 18th October, we have persuaded Juan Manuel Matas to talk us through a delicious selection of the wines he supplies us with. Expect an evening of Malbec, Torrontés and possibly tales of derring do on the Pampas. Here at 8pm £20 per person with a few places still left.

Tasting This Weekend
The white corner will be populated by a guest from Puglia Mezzogiorno Fiano (£9.39) for no other reason than I fancy a glass of it and suspect many of you are holidaying in that direction this week.

Standing under the red light will be Cuvée Alice 2016 (£11.59) from Corbières, a wine I enjoyed recently and thought it high time I reminded you all how tasty it was.

Raise a glass to the Queen of Soul and absent friends everywhere.


Wayne & Alex

Overweight Mop

Friday, August 10th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

What ho, how’s the hammock?

Often, when we write this piece, our inspirations come from life going on around us. Something funny a customer said, perhaps; a ridiculous piece of parking outside the shop; Wayne smashing bottles of wine and redecorating the cellar, that sort of stuff. However, you do all make this more difficult for us when you escape for the hols. Whilst we still have customers saying funny things of course, we see less of you and quotes become less anonymous and thus unusable; parking is less ridiculous as there are no cars around; and, of course, Wayne hasn’t broken any bottles recently…

So, we have to dig deep in these fallow periods, which is great news for all of us (?) but fortunately we always have the bull elephant that is Boris. Where The Donald has twitter upon which to voice his distorted views of the world, our own two-bit Trump, the Boris, uses his column in the Telegraph to share his warped wisdom and, by getting paid for it, manages to trump the Donald with his commercial acumen. We all know the story and we all know the follow up but honestly, he’s a grown man – either he apologises on his own or he doesn’t, he can’t be made to apologise like a naughty schoolboy but how he decides to deal with this affair is surely a sign of the sort of man he really is. I think that one of our favourite newspapers, The Rochdale Herald, summed it up best with their headline:

Women in Burkhas look ridiculous, says man who looks like an overweight mop

In the world of water, we have been drinking an awful lot of it lately; New South Wales officially has nowhere near enough of it; some of it fell out of the sky yesterday which was a bit against the norm but perhaps not enough to stave off the potential pending crisp shortage and Christmas veg shortfall as potatoes and carrots suffer in the heat….

Whilst in the world of carrot coloured things, the Ben Stokes trial seems to be getting grubbier; Rick Astley is apparently opening a bar in Shoreditch with a fan from Denmark who happens to own a brewery; and Aldi has launched an orange wine.

Orange wine? – you say.

You know, a white wine that spends time on its skins and thus attains an orangey hue and is extremely popular where Rick is opening his bar and also with young sommeliers everywhere but is actually a wine style that we only ever get asked for about twice a year – ring any bells? Looks like the hipsters need to find a new wine – I suspect it might be blue…

And in the world of blue, Chelsea have blown the doors off by buying a Spanish goalkeeper called Kepa. Wayne was keen for Arsenal to sign Kreyatif Midfeeyelda and perhaps the Brazilian star, Winga, whilst Alex just waited for Mr Levy to say anything. Both of us are still waiting for this whilst Arsenal still top the table whilst Tottenham are just above the relegation zone…

We have, however, been doing a bit of work whilst you’ve all gone fishin’. Work for us really just means we’ve tasted some new things and decided to list them – I know, we struggle sometimes but please don’t tell our wives.

In fact what we’ve done is relist two wines which are actually wines that we used to have but haven’t had on the shelf for about five years; we’ve also listed two completely new wines and two completely new spirits. So, without further ado, please welcome back:

Isabel Chardonnay 2015 – £22.49 this is from some of the oldest Chardonnay vines in Marlborough. Lovely toasty notes with hints of nectarine on the nose, that continue onto the palate with touches of toasted nut in the finish. Elegant texture with great poise.

Ridge Lytton Springs 2014 – £41.70 I think that here I’ll leave the tasting notes to The Wine Advocate (October 2016):

91+ Points. – “More fresh and elegant than the Geyserville, with a touch more focus, the 2014 Lytton Springs is another beautiful wine from this estate. Made from 69% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah and the rest Carignan and Mourvèdre, aged in 20% new American oak, it boasts fabulous notes of plums, blackberry jam, toasted spice and licorice as well as medium to full-bodied richness, beautiful mid-palate depth and notable tannin. The Geyserville is a touch sexier, but this will be longer lived. Give bottles 2-3 years of cellaring and enjoy over the following decade or more.” – Jeb Dunnuck

The two new wines hail from Greece and South Africa:

Lyrarakis Voila Assyrtiko Crete 2017 – £14.49 Located in the mountainous commune of Alagni in Crete, Domaine Lyrarakis stays true to local winemaking traditions. The domaine focuses on indigenous varieties, taking them from obscurity and driving them in a more modern direction, while still retaining a clear sense of place. Its style focuses on pure varietal character, precision and supple texture. The 2017 Assyrtiko is an exemplary wine of outstanding value. Grown at 580 metres’ altitude in the Voila vineyard there is a definite floral character, refreshing minerality and chalky texture to this delicious wine.

Leeuwenkuil Cinsault 2016 – £15.99 As so often happens, we weren’t looking for this wine, we were looking for a replacement Pinotage. However, we liked it and thus we bought it. Lively and elegant with a velvety palate showing good concentration of red berries and cherries balanced with some savoury black olive and black spices. As a side note, Leeuwenkuil means lion’s den… potential food match, perhaps?

And the two new spirits – a Gin from Fulham (sort of) and a Japanese Whisky:

Elderwood English Gin – £33 Chef Mike Robinson from Harwood Arms Fulham is responsible for this. He has spent time foraging in hedgerows for botanicals on top of the classics juniper, coriander and angelica. Quite a citrus led nose with a palate filled with sweet fruits, some really quite elegant floral notes and then a spicy kick – makes for a very summery gin ‘n’ tonic!

Kaiyo Whisky – £90 This is a 100% Japanese Mizunara Oak Single Malt aged for 7 years then ocean matured by shipping in barrel which results in evaporation down to 60% of original contents. Creamy with an almost dried black cherry note to it and a touch of vanilla too, soft and spicy almost like a fruity Speyside and a smooth, complex, lengthy finish.

Nice spread, we thought and with this in mind we ought to let you taste a couple of them too, so we’ll crack open the Cretan white and the South African red this evening and perhaps even the Gin too – come and have a taste whilst the rain passes over…

And with that, we’re gone!

Love Island on Canvey Island and Other Stories.

Friday, August 3rd, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So Love Island is finished for another year. Neither of us watched it, so we feel no sense of loss, but we did wonder how different it would be in another setting. If we understand correctly, they’ve just sat by a pool in a villa in Mallorca for a month. So we wondered, especially given how nice the weather, what would have been different if Love Island had been on Canvey Island. We could have had local band Dr Feelgood providing the soundtrack with songs like ‘She’s a Wind Up’ or ‘She Does it Right’ maybe even ‘Milk and Alcohol’. The contestants could have gone on a date at the Lobster Smack, caught a film at the Movie Starr Cinema, or even had a stroll around the transport museum. It could have been a completely different show. Oh well, perhaps next year!

Given the paucity of anything new of much interest in the news, fake or otherwise, we thought we’d have a look back in the archive…

This week in 2012 we were enjoying Bradley Wiggins’ Tour de France win, scoffing at bookmaker’s odds as Frankel won at Goodwood at odds of 1-20, and puzzled by the fact that Austria, a landlocked country, had beaten Australia in the beach volleyball. Apparently, there was cricket on in the north. As we write this year, in the Midlands, Virat Kohli has just scored more runs in a single innings than he did in 10 innings on his last visit!

We fast forward through the years in the time machine to discover 2015 was really rather wet and windy at the beach in South Devon, and, in what was a Minder inspired email, we were heading off to Apollo Banana Leaf with ‘er indoors (funnily enough, something that’s happening next week). We were also really rather taken with the deliciousness of Viña Arana Reserva 2006 which has sadly all been drunk or sold, but we do have some Viña Arana Reserva 2009 (£23.99) if you’re of a mind.

It would appear we have to issue a health warning, those of you reading this poolside in Portugal or a la Playa in Andalucía, might want to head indoors for some shade. It’s properly scorchio and might even break the European record of 48C. Shade and hydration are your friends.

Whilst on the subject of health warnings, it seems a study in the British Medical Journal suggests drinking too little alcohol in middle age increases your risks of dementia as much as drinking too much of it. Steady as she goes…

In other booze news Canadian brewing behemoth Moulson Coors have announced plans to start making non-alcoholic beverages infused with cannabis. It seems Heineken and Constellation are already on the case, and the alcohol commentator at Euromonitor International said: “Fighting the surging green tide will become an expensive exercise in futility. Ignoring it will guarantee the belated, panicky, knee-jerk reactions that greeted the craft juggernaut once it had already established offensive positions at the macro brewers’ gates. Cannabis can indeed cross-pollinate and, ultimately, become the fertiliser for radical innovation and experimentation.” Ok, whatever!

Wine School sign up is gathering pace (starts Wednesday 10th October) details attached, don’t miss out.

Tasting This Weekend

I went for a run on Tooting Common this morning and after all this lovely summer it was absolutely bone-dry, and I was really rather thirsty, which gave me an idea… Reichsrat Von Buhl Bone Dry Riesling (£16.99) is, as the name says, dry. I’ll let Matthew Jukes describe it for you: “it is one of the most enchanting and refreshing wines I have tasted in years. Bone Dry does what it says on the label and it will cast a spell on your palate like nothing you have ever tasted before.”

In the red corner, we thought we might tease your taste buds with Oyster Shack Pinot Noir (£7.99) a deliciously fruity easy drinker that goes down better than Neymar near a penalty box. You could chill it if you like, and it would partner some barbecued tandoori chicken perfectly.

That’s us for this week, enjoy your bike rides, swims, tennis, or poolside book and we’ll be in touch!