Archive for September, 2018

Does vegan wine actually exist? Discuss

Friday, September 28th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

4 degrees.

That was the morning temperature for a couple of days earlier this week. Those are not September temperatures (average low 11 degrees); those are more in keeping with late November. Wayne, we’ve definitely seen the end of shorts weather, put some trousers on, please.

Basically, err, like, umm, yeah – does this sound anything like a one of the more erudite conversations you’ve had with a teenager recently? Well, actually these are the most annoying and most often used filler words, apparently, by like, all of us. It would seem, so the study says, that we are generally sounding far less intelligent thanks to our increased use of words to plug gaps where facts or sensible information used to reside – but that’s ok really innit, because uh, you know, literally everybody does it, right?


In the wacky world of wine, we learnt of a new event this week – Vegan Winefulness, which is taking place in October, in Shoreditch, obvs. Now, we’ve all know someone who has done a bit of mindfulness in recent years – the opportunity to de-stress, slow down, achieve self-enlightenment and wisdom has been popular amongst people working in high pressure environments and has replaced boxing or boozing as means of pressure release. From mindfulness evolved winefulness – following a similar ethos of slowing down, thinking what’s in the glass and where it’s come from and generally just engaging a bit more. It seems, as anyone who has been on our wine course will know, that we have been wineful for a number of years now, as this slower approach to tasting is one of the first things we teach. However, I digress.

It would be unfair to say that Winefulness is jumping on the Mindfulness bandwagon. Of course it would. In a similar fashion, it would be unchivalrous to suggest that attaching the word Vegan to Winefulness is also bandwagon jumping. Of course it would. There are more than half a million vegans in this country now and thus it is absolutely right that there should be some sort of vinous acknowledgement of this – they want to know what’s in their glass and if they can drink it.

I worry that one major risk is that the terms organic, biodynamic, vegetarian and vegan are all becoming tangled up with each other – an assumption being that if your winemaker is following one of these principles he’s probably following them all. No evidence shows this to be true. The truth is, there’s an awful lot of vegan wine out there and a large portion of it is neither organic nor biodynamic but hopefully vegetarian.

We’re currently making a list of all our wines credentials – thus far I have checked 96 bottles and 45 of them are vegan. Less than half but not by much. In the same list, at this point vegetarian wines are in a 2:1 majority; 2/3 of the organic wines we’ve tracked so far are vegan but, at the same time, 33 of the wines are vegan but not organic. Confused? Don’t be. Suffice to say, making wine vegan is the way forward, not necessarily for purely ethical reasons but more for commercial sense – it’s cheaper and more people can drink it. At the end of the day, who can absolutely guarantee that a small creeping insect, a butterfly, a birds egg or anything of animal provenance didn’t get caught up in the industrial picking machine or crushed amongst the grapes in the hand pickers bucket? Ergo, does vegan wine actually exist? Discuss. You have one hour, starting now…

Time to get off one hobby horse and onto another. Today we go to war. In France, of all places, and as a United Europe, of all things. The Ryder Cup kicked off in Paris today, Europe have a brilliant record in Europe and the USA have only won twice here since 1979. Not that this should mean anything of course but I sure as hell hope it does!

So, I must open some American wine and some European wine – handily I have both. My initial theory with Europe was to have a wine from the country with the most representatives in the team, however since there are 5 Englishmen in there, I’m going to look at the second most represented country. This would be Sweden. And Spain, thank goodness. Luckily, Graeme McDowell isn’t playing; otherwise we might be considering the wines of Northern Ireland…

From the USA, we’ll revisit a wine we had on tasting a few months back but one that fits the bill so well, it needs a second outing: 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, a real food wine and great for watching the golf highlights too.

As stated, Sergio and John are providing the European wine: Solà Fred 2010 – £12.99.
This wine is from the super-cool region of Montsant, in the hills behind Tarragona in Catalonia. It is 100% Carignan and gives us deliciously black cherry and earthy aromas. The palate has a real depth of juicy richness with a little spice to the fruit on the finish. We love the way it has a little of its rustic heritage yet finishes with real polish and panache – like the European team!

That’s pretty much it from us for now.

As a warning , we’ll be opening late on Tuesday next, the 2nd October.

We have to go to one of the biggest tastings of the year for us with a view to Christmas wines etc and it’s taking place in Camden which might as well be Cambridge for us SW19 dwellers. We’ll be back for the evening rush but I suspect not a great deal before – sorry.

And so we’re gone – just remember, the postman always delivers…!

Farewell summer pinks, all hail autumn reds!

Friday, September 21st, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Oi, Wayne, what have you done with all the news and all the sport? Oh, and the sunshine too, whilst we’re at it?

Yep, yesterday was a ‘no news’, trousers day. If one eradicates Brexit, Stormy Daniels’ ex-boyfriend and her explanation for his tiny hands, mixed showings in the Champions League and high winds, we have not a lot to report on, news-wise and, if we take away the sun as well, we no longer have shorts on either.

This, I think most of us can acknowledge, is a shame.

I know many of you live for the opportunity to see middle aged men’s legs striding purposefully towards the Rosé fridge but such opportunities may well be gone for another year, as is much of the stock of rosé. When we continue to wear shorts, there is still hope, as we cling onto, for everyone’s sake, the spirit of summer, to holidays and barbecues, to hours of fun punctuated by sporadic visits to work, to the dream that we’ll never feel cold again or have to wear socks. Apparently, for hundreds of years now, such forlorn clinging has reaped no reward and autumn has continually ploughed its sharp furrow deep into December before flinging us into January, deep winter and, definitely, socks. Ever the optimist, a young chap of my acquaintance painted his rosier picture of autumn, as a period that isn’t so hot and thus his sport kit won’t smell as bad or need washing as much. Thanks, I knew I was missing the silver lining.

But there is a silver lining. Or red, really. Whilst we can all be very proud of our roles in the attempted draining of the pacific sized Provence rosé pool, at some point the party has to be over. All the bottles that ordinarily live on the shelves and never venture close to the fridge, have been sitting patiently for the last 4 months. With their ties loosened and in shirt sleeve order, they’ve been heard to mutter under their breathes about how they can’t quite see what all the fuss is about and why isn’t anyone eating steak and kidney pie or thick vegetable soup right now; well chaps, straighten those ties and get your jackets on, you’re back in play – welcome back red wine, we’ve missed you, you’ve now got a good eight months to impress and delight us.

As Wayne suggested in the last missive, we have taken delivery of a few new wines over the last few weeks and I’ll be honest, none of them were pink. However, with a view to easing ourselves back into the world of tannins and dark fruits, I have elected to open a red at the lighter end of the spectrum this weekend, but still with plenty of class.

Jean-Paul-Dubost Beaujolais Lantignié 2017 – £16.99 – this is an utter charmer that we tasted for the first time about 2 weeks ago. There seems to be plenty of talk that Lantignié, a smidge north of Regnié, will become the newest Beaujolais Cru. We certainly enjoyed this declaring it a “burgundy lover’s style of Beaujolais”. It has lovely berry fruits, a touch of floral character with some soft tannins keeping it all together and, thus, it is very versatile food-wise – perfect for the changing of the seasons.

We must, however, always show a white, in the interests of balance and of well, interest, so this time we will open up a wine that might just serve as a nice farewell to summer.

Tornai Zenit 2016- £12.49 – a bit more esoteric this one, hailing as it does from Somló in Hungary. Now, Somló is a big flat plateau with an extinct volcano in the middle, which is where the vines grow, sucking up all that volcanic minerality. Zenit is an early ripening white, a cross between Bouvier and Ezerjo. A fragrant nose, with aromas of nectarine, mint and a touch of summer blossom lead onto a palate of zippy, fresh acidity with hints of peach, wet-stone and spice. Very tasty and a real hit with a kedgeree, since you ask.

That should really be it from us but I can’t let the latest news from the world’s greatest stonemason, go unmarked. We’ve all read about it no doubt but if you haven’t, the word is that Mr T, the man who instituted widespread business and personal tax cuts and who is now wondering where the money is to build his wall between Mexico and the US, suggested to Spain earlier this year that they build a wall across the Sahara.

Where the money would come from; the sheer enormity of the Sahara; the fact that Spanish border, for the most part is across the Mediterranean not in Africa; the sheer imperialism of such a notion – all this was studiously ignored by the American artisan…

Oh, and Ronaldo. Sent off for pulling hair. When you read the headline it sounds like exactly something he would do, because let’s face it, he’s no Luis Suarez. However, when you see the ‘offence’ you just wonder, once again, about the parlous nature of modern football and its refereeing. If anything, Ronaldo could be sent off for grooming, by which I mean stroking another man’s hair, like a barber. If we’re now going to see red cards for such antics, I fear that diving could lead to life bans!

Oh, and Russia. No longer banned from being in charge of banning drug cheats, Rusada will now be back in the labs poring over blood samples given by Russian athletes. And banning them, perhaps? Probably not. In other news, Mark Zuckerberg has just been appointed Head of Global Data Protection and Jeff Bezos is taking over at International Tax Compliance…

And with that, I’m gone. Judging from a variety of ‘jolly’ texts I received from a number of customers and colleagues yesterday, the Experimental Beach Club in Ibiza is the place to be to drink magnums of Provençal rosé right now, not here – they even sent me photos to prove the point as the sun was setting – thanks for that!

Portu-Geezers, New Wines, Juniper and Prince Charles

Friday, September 14th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So, last Saturday after we closed here, I popped into Waitrose around the corner to pick up something for my supper and was somewhat surprised at how quiet it was. Whilst I’ll accept 8.20 on a Saturday evening is not peak time, it seems that they’re struggling to have a peak time. John Lewis announced that their profits were down 99% this week, a tough year at the office it would appear. Word on the grapevine is that Debenhams are up against it too, still a tough old world on that high street.

I was sending a parcel to my niece today as it’s her birthday soon (Happy Birthday, Ayesha). The chap in the post office was telling me about a customer who’d ordered the same top online in all 22 colours to see which one looked best and was returning the 21 that didn’t pass muster. How on earth does that make for sustainable business for anyone except the Post Office?

Anyway, the press seems absolutely convinced that online shopping is killing off Debenhams and their ilk, as we’re all too lazy to go late night shopping on our way home from the office. Personally, I’m not convinced; my local bike shop received a rent review. Like all shop rents it was upward only and the landlord seemed to think upward by 53% was reasonable. The bike shop declined his generosity and moved next door, paying the same rent he had been. If all rent reviews are upwards in such jumps, is it any wonder that businesses fail? In 2010, the highest rent paid on Oxford Street was £700 per square foot, in 2015 it was £1000 per square foot, meanwhile, average weekly earnings in 2010 were £554 and in 2015 were £528. None of that looks sustainable to me. Rant over!

For the sake of team harmony, we broke with our usual tradition that Wayne buys posh wine whilst Alex is at the beach, and took ourselves off to a tasting last week and bought some new wines.

We started off with some Portu-geezers from our chum Matthew: I’d highlight the Quinta do Espinho Colheita 2014 (£14.99), a deliciously spicy red from the Douro that’d be bang on the button with some meaty sausages. Also worthy of mention is Clô Branco (£8.49), from Adegas Camolas in Setubal; an absolute charmer of a white, fruity and aromatic, it’s a blend of Fernão Pires and Moscatel with a lovely dry finish.

Then we picked up a couple of long lost friends from Spain, whilst adding a lovely red from an almost extinct grape variety. La Forcalla de Antonia (£18.99) is from Valencia in Spain and is made from the Forcalà grape variety, common in the region until phylloxera struck at the end of the 19th century. Aged in big oak barrels for 8 months and then concrete eggs for 3 months, it has lovely cherry fruit, fine tannins and a smooth, elegant texture.

We also ventured to the Balearics, buying some 12 Volts (£25.99), a delicious drop from Mallorca that we have tried to buy on several occasions in the past, only to discover there was none left. It has dark juicy fruits, well managed tannins and our note said “very good, like this as much as ever, wintry perhaps?” so maybe in a few weeks when the leaves are falling…
We also ventured once more to Greece, Naoussa in fact, for Markovitis Xinamavro 1999 (£28.99), which is deliciously complex with a lovely aromatic aged character, even touches of balsamic perhaps. It’s certainly easy to see why it’s known as Greece’s Barolo!

Then we dithered a little in Burgundy…

Chateau de Chamirey Mercurey Blanc 2013 (£28.49), we have form with this one, having bought it with a little age a couple of times in the past. This is rich and rounded with just hints of honeyed age creeping in at the age of 5. We’d say almost pitch perfect age wise.

Jean Jacques Girard Savigny-Les-Beaune 2015 (£28.99), we tried to buy some of the 2010 and 2011 on release only for it to have been sold out, we got lucky with 2015 and it is absolutely delicious, lovely juicy cherry and berry fruit, decent weight and good length, with just a bit of grip from tannins and fruit all the way through.

Domaine Gérard Thomas Meursault 1er Cru Blagny 2015 (£50) marks our first foray into 1er Cru Meursault here. We tried a couple of village wines but somehow they just didn’t cut it, and this was frankly quite delicious and they were just a bit, well, village. In an ideal world it’d cost half this, I would work one day and cycle for six. Sadly we’ve not managed to reach that ideal, yet.

I’ve taken enough of your time and teased you with deliciousness for long enough, it’s time to pull a cork or two.

Tasting this weekend

We’ll populate the glasses of the red drinkers with one of our new Portu-geezers: Vinha Paz 2015 (£16.99) is from the Dão region, a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz, Alfrocheiro and Jaen. Rich and spicy, with great fruit and a touch of black olive in the finish.

To stay with the Iberian theme, we’ll open our new white Rioja. Palacio del Camino Real Blanco 2017 (£10.99) is from about 10 miles west of Logroño and is zippy and fresh with just a touch of creaminess after 2 months lazing away in a barrel.

Finally, a bit of news from the North. The chaps at Hepple Gin, not content with making our best-selling clear spirit and generally being buenos huevos, seem to have been dallying with the great and the good this week, when none other than Charles, Prince of Wales came a-visiting and helped them dig over some juniper saplings, by all accounts (Instagram mainly).

A Royal Warrant in the offing, we’re sure, perhaps we should try and get them to come down and tell their story before they go stratospheric? Let’s start a petition…

That’s it from us for now – have a nice weekend one and all!

Wayne & Alex

Nike, Condoms and Winemaking

Friday, September 7th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,
Two stories caught our attention this week: Nike first, and then the inventiveness of the Cubans.
The news that Nike had signed up Colin Kaepernick as their new face clearly upset a few people. Now we all know Nike, we have certainly worn/still wear some of their products over the years. But what they have always, in my view, been really strong at is their marketing and advertising. From their early 80’s “There Is No Finish Line”, through to Tiger Woods playing keepy uppy with his iron; the Run London “North against South”, through to this week’s Colin Kaepernick: they have been newsworthy. Trumpolina was outraged, though we doubt they’ll miss his business but the sight of all those angry idiots burning their trainers had us both laughing. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, they’re your own trainers, fool!
But then we got to thinking – if there hadn’t been an audience on social media to watch the flaming trainers, would they have lit the match? Perhaps they would have just given them to the charity shop instead?
In Cuba, the lack of goods in shops and the lack of social media to watch burning trainers has created a nation full of creative solutions. A pack of three condoms costs around $0.04, and the strong flexibility and inflatability has been harnessed for many uses we may consider unorthodox. The winner, for us, is home winemaker Orestes Estevez. In his Havana home ‘winery’, he covers bottles of grape juice with condoms. The rubber inflates and become erect as the fermentation releases gases; when it collapses, the process is complete. “It really increases the alcohol percentage and improves the process of fermentation, as well as that of clarification”, he said. Quite a different approach to the way they do things at Ridge, or the Rothschild estates, for example.
In other wine news, Wine Spectator magazine is suing new kid on the block Weed Spectator for copyright infringement. We suspect they’ll win but have afforded a start-up loads of free publicity. Weed Spectator’s strapline though…We rate, you score!
On the sports front, La Vuelta is pushing on, we’ve left the heat of the south and are enjoying the mountain breezes of the north now, Simon Yates has been in red but handed over to Jesus Herrada of Cofidis yesterday. In the Tour of Britain Primo Rogliz is wearing the leaders Green Jersey as they head from Barrow to Winlatter. Otherwise, the last Test starts today and in the footie we have an international weekend with the UEFA Nations League.
Fizz Tasting – Thursday 6th December at 8pm – £30 per person.
Having promised last week, we have juggled the diary around a bit and come up with a date. We’ll be popping the corks at 8pm on Thursday 6th December. A seat at the table will set you back £30 and we’ll have the usual limited numbers. Don’t be slow; this usually fills up really quickly.
Gin Tasting – We’ve got no further with this so far, still hoping to hear back from someone willing to run the gauntlet!
This Weekend Tasting
Wearing the red sweater will be a Guerila Cabernet Franc 2016 (£24.49) from Slovenia. The sharp eyed amongst you may have noticed we have a bit of a soft spot for wines from this grape variety, often listed as guest wines and this is exactly that. “Really rather good”, we wrote when we tasted it, see if you agree. It’s organic and suitable for Vegans, so no excuses!
The white sports jacket will be worn by Munay Torrontés 2017, Salta, Argentina, (£14.99) a lovely example of the grape variety and bang on with that Pad Thai you just arranged for supper!
All the wine and cheese tastings are pretty much full now, so the fizz tasting might be the best pre-Christmas option now, do check your diaries.

“My movies were the kind they show in prisons and airplanes, because nobody can leave.” – Burt Reynolds