Archive for November, 2018

Whisky, Birthdays and Waterboys Surprise

Friday, November 30th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,
Diary entry, Friday 30 November: 334 days in, 31 days to go.
Dear Diary, This year Dry January came and then Lent went; we witnessed the rampant Rosé revival that naturally follows such springtime abstinence and is always promptly pursued by the mass August Exodus; too much summer fun pressurises us into a Sober October but I think that now, as we only have 8.5% of the year to complete that we’ve all done pretty well this year and so we can abandon media inspired self-flagellation as we meet December face on.
Because, let’s face it, for Dry January to have any impact at all, December needs to have been fun! I know I’m not meant to say such things in the world where every published comment gets over scrutinised in order to be criticised but hell, why not have fun in the festive season? You heard it here first…
Before we get to December, however, we need to finish November. Today is that day and, if you’re Scottish, you’ll be celebrating St Andrew’s, like a true professional. Now, it’s been a bank holiday in Scotland since a parliamentary act in 2007, however that feels a little nominal – banks are not obliged to shut and employers are under no obligation to give the day off. Nonetheless, when it falls on a Friday I expect that productivity north of the border slows a little in the afternoon… and why not?
As a consequence of St Andrew we were sent a musical playlist yesterday featuring music by Scottish bands. Quite an impressive list, lots of bands we’d forgotten about or not realised were from there, particularly The Waterboys. Both of us had firmly believed The Waterboys to be from the other side of the Irish Sea but, by all accounts, they were founded in Scotland, have pretty constantly had Scottish members and really have little more than the celtic connection with Ireland. That the two of us, having grown up in different places at different times, both thought them to be Irish must mean there was some sort of mis-selling in the late 1980’s, an early example of cultural appropriation maybe, or perhaps we only saw the crescent. Either way, it came as a bizarrely shocking revelation and one which made us question what’s what.
And we were right to question it because there was more – did you know that Scotland isn’t the only place that produces Whisky? I know, the world is collapsing about our ears. We quickly researched our top shelf and, with a view to full disclosure, can now offer a corrected list of what we currently have in stock, and its provenance:
Finlaggan Old Reserve – £32.99
Benromach 10 year old – £37.99
Tomatin 12 year old – £41.75
Bunnahabhain Discovery 11 year old – £50.00
Caol Ila Discovery 13 year old – £50.00
Strathmill 2002 Connoisseurs Choice – £50.00
Ledaig Discovery 12 year old – £50.00
Benromach 15 year old – £60.00
Royal Brackla 1999 Connoisseurs Choice – £60.00
Linkwood Distiller Label 15 year old – £65.00
Ardmore 1998 – £70.00

Jack Ryan Beggar’s Bush 12 year old Single Malt – £52.99

Sacred Peated – £52.00

Kaiyo Mizunara Oak – £90.00
Yamazaki 12 year old – £110.00

Evan Williams Extra Aged Kentucky Bourbon – £28.50
Rittenhouse Rye – £32.99
Blantons Single Barrel Bourbon Original – £57.99

Glad that’s all cleared up.

Away from Scotland, as mentioned earlier, December is upon us. That means we will have been open here for 8 years on Monday, which is more than 16,000 hours (of which Alex has definitely worked at least 4,000) and, more scarily, also means that we have written over 400 of these emails (of which Alex has definitely written at least 40, perhaps 50). Either way, I reckon we all deserve a drink and so we will open these chaps this weekend…

To celebrate 8 years:

Champagne Comte Decrion Brut – £28.99 – a fabulous champagne that we tasted a couple of months back, purely on the basis that we quite liked the label. I know, we all do it. A fabulous drop, less rich than the Moutard but that is no doubt because it is the traditional Chardonnay/Pinot Noir/Pinot Meunier blend rather than just straight PN. Delicious fruit, a gently soft and creamy mousse, a real pleasure. We both imagine it will be our Christmas Day fizz, depending on stock.

To celebrate the start of the festive season:

Domaine Lebrun Pouilly Fumé 2017 – £17.99 – About a million years ago, when we sported Oddbins polo shirts, we used to sell lots of this wine. The bottle has lost its distinctive orange label somewhere in the intervening years but the wine has lost none of its quality or verve. Gooseberry, grass, minerals, lemons and limes all crop up somewhere between the start and the nice long finish. Tip-top, classic Pouilly Fumé!

To celebrate Wayne, and all his hard work over the years:
Château Béchereau 2015, Lalande de Pomerol – £19.99 – for those who don’t know, for many years Wayne was a Fine Wine manager. In fact he still is but this fades into insignificance when put against his role as IT Manager, Head of Office Supplies and Director of Marketing, to name but three. As a fine wine guru, Bordeaux has always had a special place in his heart, hence this choice. Chateau Béchereau has been family owned since the early 19th century and has vineyards in Neac, on excellent clay soils. A blend of Merlot (80%) and Cabernet Franc (20%) half of the wine is fermented in stainless steel before ageing in oak barrels for 12 months whilst the other half is fermented in oak. This has given us a medium bodied, modern claret with a good balance of black fruits, toasty notes, some sweet spice and those tell-tale silky tannins that we love about Pomerol – this one’s for you, Wayne!
That’s about it from us for now, just a few final bits of admin to tie up.
If anyone is in Wimbledon on Saturday then why not visit the Wimbledon High School Christmas Fair. It’s on from 11am until 4pm and Alex will be manning the PV stand there – he’ll be delighted to see you. Also, if you ever venture online, have a look at a new pop-up supper club in Merton Park – we’ve heard the food is excellent and the wine too!
Finally, did we mention Wine School? No, ok, that’s something for next week then…
Happy Birthday to us, Happy Birthday to us, Happy Birthday to us!

Wayne discusses instability, amongst other things….

Friday, November 23rd, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Another week passes and another chapter of ‘Oribble ‘Istories is written. In Italy, the Government found itself in hot water with the EU rejecting its budget for a second time, saying that Italy was “sleepwalking into instability”. As an impartial observer, I couldn’t help but wonder if the EU actually knew anything about Italy. Since they’ve had sixty six governments since 1945, I’d say their natural position was instability!

In the US, Trumpolina has managed to continue his glorious run of balanced, well thought out statements in a stately and presidential manner. He’s accused the judiciary of being biased against his policies, calling the 9th circuit (Alaska, Arizona & California) a complete and total disaster. There were no chants of “lock her up, lock her up” on the Ivanka email front as, apparently, it’s completely different this time! Finally, he undermined his intelligence (if ‘twere possible) with the tweet “Brutal and Extended Cold Blast could shatter ALL RECORDS – Whatever happened to Global Warming?” Never let normal wintry weather get in the way of an agenda, eh?

Here in the UK, the week started with the alarming discovery that the promised 48 letters never arrived. We don’t know if Andrew Stephenson MP spending the day with the postman in Barnoldswick is significant but did note his comment “…delivering letters and parcels, six days a week, in all weathers.” Lord Snooty would only comment that his letter had most definitely been delivered, we couldn’t afford to ask Boris for a comment, he was charging about $1000 a minute. As an aside, we’ve discovered there’s a Doom Metal band from Japan called Boris.

Theresa May, meanwhile, has been backwards and forwards to Brussels more times than a Eurostar driver, finally securing a daft/draft (delete as suits) agreement with the EU which appears to mean we can talk about trade now. The process seems to have gone on almost forever, though it is in fact only 881 days, and many times along the way we’ve had questions that remain unanswered. If not this, what do they all normally do? I mean this is a once in a lifetime renegotiation so what does the machinery of government normally do if they’re not doing this?

In other European news, a driver in Germany has lost his licence after being caught speeding having passed his test a mere 48 minutes before. The Leaning Tower of Pisa is leaning less than it used to, which is a good thing if you’ve spent £200 million with that as the sole aim.

Finally, some good news: Noel Edmonds has promised to retire from the telly if he wins I’m A Celebrity. So there you go folks, give him loads of bush-tuckers but let’s make sure he does win.

News reaches us that, whilst they encourage, hector, or bully us all to drink less, wine consumption at government events has gone up 20 percent in the last 12 months. Do as I say, not as I do.

And finally, sent out into the chilly night on Wednesday, filled with Champagne and cake, were 12 scholars eager for vinous adventure after completing successfully 6 weeks of Wine School. If you would like to join them in such scholarliness, then why not come along to our next edition?

Wine School

We’ve attached details of the course but, put simply, if you have an interest in wine but have never really got round to learning more about it, this is the course for you.

It starts on Wednesday 6th February and wraps up 7 weeks later (we take a break for half term) and costs £150 per person. It’s a great way to return to the fold should you have a dry January and is certainly better than anything on telly on Wednesdays in February – if that doesn’t sell tickets I don’t know what will!

To sign up, reply to this email, give us a call on 020 8944 5224 or pop in and see us. The course we’ve just finished was oversubscribed, just saying….

Tasting This Weekend

Personally, I’m not waiting till February for a glass of wine, so thought we should continue in our long established tradition of opening something for the weekend.

Wearing the white hat will be Las 30 Del Cuadrado ‘Cepas Viejas’ 2016 (£20.49) a rare and rather special wine from Sanlucar de Barrameda in Spain, more usually renowned for Manzanilla sherry. The grapes are grown in a special part of the vineyard on 70 year old vines. The wine itself is made with natural yeasts forming a spontaneous fermentation (how old school is that?). The wine has stunning tropical fruit notes with a lovely herby note, nutty and fresh with a really long finish. An absolutely stunning partner to Fritura Mixta or, failing that good old fish and chips.

Wearing the red buff will be Dievole Chianti Classico 2015 (£21.99) an estate that was established, according to the records, on 10th May 1090 when Rodolfino and Vinizio paid two Capons, three loaves of bread and 6 silver Lucca denari for the land. Seems like a bargain to me, not too far from Siena for a night out and capable of producing cracking Chianti like this. Complex to taste, yet simple to enjoy and certainly spot on with some partridge.

So that’s it for us for now, come in and marvel at how we manage to keep the shop so warn when it’s so cold outside and reach for a glass of something tasty!

Lunchtime latest

Friday, November 16th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It’s that time again – lunchtime on Friday and up we pop to interrupt your BLT, your Cheese & Onion and yer crossword with the ramblingly unstructured witterings of a wine peddler, for which we apologise, we won’t be long.

Yesterday morning was a tricky one for Wayne.

As soon as he arrived at work he was faced with a barrage of questions relating to the exact details of what had been discussed in Wine School (Week 5 – Other Reds) the previous evening. The fact that he had conducted this evening meeting until well after 10pm, behind closed (shop) doors, with just a small group of 12 customers and 585 pages of tasting notes, had led other customers to question his motivations.

Wayne has always maintained a well-publicised platform of being pro-Bordeaux wines and, as such, he was perhaps an unusual choice to be negotiating the tricky ‘Other Reds’ meeting. Since no-one else was prepared to take on this mantle, Wayne took the job, knowing full well that he would be the subject of perpetual jibes at his suitability for the role but with a view that someone had to get on with it and knuckle down. Alex has not resigned, in spite of his views on the varied pitfalls of a hard or soft Bordeaux…

In other news, lots of people resigned from government posts yesterday whilst Theresa tried to get on with it; and the next Park Vintners Wine School, including Week 5 – Other Reds will start again on Wednesday 6th February. Whilst we may never find out exactly what was said in Downing Street late on Wednesday evening, you will get the opportunity to find out Wayne’s thoughts on non-Bordeaux wines on 13th March!

Earlier in the week Alex made the long trip to The Oval to help out with the judging at the International Wine Challenge. He has been doing this judging for the best part of 10 years now and still manages to have all of his own teeth, despite tasting 100 wines in a day of mixed quality, acidity and tannin. When he eventually returns to the shop, with black teeth and the glassy eyed look of a man whose body feels like it has been drinking all day but hasn’t actually swallowed a drop, he is quite a sight and always bubbling with tales to tell.

So, this year it would seem he had been having a long conversation with a wine merchant, based in the US, about the use of social media and apps in the sale of wine. It quickly became clear that, in spite of geographical and demographic differences, we all face the same beast when it comes to the online wine comparison sites.

Whilst there is no doubt about the value of the online wine community it can sometimes be a bit too much of a tool. Picture the scenario – customer comes into the wine shop in America and is discussing a wine with the owner and indeed buyer for this shop. Whilst discussing the merits of a particular wine, the customer proceeds to look up said wine online, through the app. Bob from Bognor and Daniel in Dubai have both tasted this wine and posted notes. Both give it 5 stars – great. But who is Bob? And who is Daniel? Complete strangers who might actually normally drink Frosty Jack and Buckie or who, heaven forfend, have posted notes about the wrong wine. How did Bob and particularly Daniel, get more influence over this customer than the shop-owner standing right in front of them? Admittedly he is the salesman and thus keen to make a sale. He is also, probably more importantly, in the business of you buying the right wine for the occasion and returning many, many more times, so has absolutely no interest in selling you a dud. Bob, and especially Daniel, don’t care a fig, one way or another.

Trust online, sure, but not exclusively.

Sport punditry is taking a back seat this weekend since we were, happily, misguided in our belief that England were going to have a learning experience at Twickenham and with this in mind, we have no clue what will happen against Japan. Football is on a break and frankly needs to be, what with the combined daftness of an England team captained by Rooney one more time and a £5 million farewell for Scudamore making it a bit of a laughing stock. Cricket, as discussed last week – well, anything could happen there.

I was reminded by an overeager family member yesterday that it’s only 39 days until Christmas now which, it was impressed on me, is not very long. However, over the last few years Thanksgiving has taken a firmer grip on people’s entertainment diary – as the saying goes, it only takes one American…

Anyway, Thanksgiving next Thursday and, as a consequence, we’ll open a nice bottle of American red this weekend to prepare and what could be more appropriate than a Zinfandel?

Maggio Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel 2016, Lodi, California – £13.99 – Rudy and the family Maggio have been growing Zinfandel in Lodi since 1954, selling their fruit to a number of prominent wineries. In 2002 they took the bold decision to start making and bottling their own wine. We think they’re doing a decent job of it. This wine has classic Lodi character with bold sweet cherry fruit characters, fine soft tannins and a touch of chocolate in the finish and is a fabulous food matcher.

We don’t have an appropriate American white to recommend right now, so instead will open a bottle of one of our favourites from Burgundy – Domaine Alexandre Chablis Vieilles Vignes 2016 – £19.99. The 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 that’s it from us, suffice to say we have attached notes about the Wine School mentioned above.

Now, back to yer crossword, you’ve got 5 minutes…

It’s all going bananas, again

Friday, November 9th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It’s all going bananas, again.

DT loses control of the House of Representatives, loses control of himself in a press conference, tells Jeff Sessions and Jim Acosta to get lost with all his usual playground charm; Beth Bader Ginsburg takes a dive in order to avoid attending the Brett Kavanaugh investiture and a twitter spat erupts over doctoring of videos. Meanwhile, in the real world away from Capitol Hill, in the country where 42% of households in 2017 owned guns, a 28 year old man runs riot in a bar in California, resulting in 12 dead. Actually Sarah Sanders, this is the sort of conduct that is absolutely unacceptable.

Over on this side of the pond, the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford who are, possibly self-appointed, world-leaders in pioneering research that addresses global challenges, have just released another one of these headline hugging studies that confirms, as a subtext, that we are all going to die but best not have too much fun doing it.

Red meat, bacon and ham and sausages et al are once again in the spotlight, with the potted conclusion being that we need to eat less of all these delicious foods, as already suggested in many previous studies, and that we must impose a meat tax to mitigate future healthcare shortfall. My head spins with all the whys and wherefores but I might suggest that, seeing how slowly we are trying to resolve the ‘sugar’ problem as evidenced as much by the Halloween binging, it could be centuries before salami gets the same treatment – plus any tax on food is always a contentious subject.

In a world where cannabis is becoming more and more legal are we going to see a burgeoning black market in beef rib and bacon? It’s all going bananas, again!

Outside of foreign politics and food, we sometimes amuse ourselves by following the occasional sporting fixture. Alex is quite disappointed that Tottenham weren’t playing football last night since they seem to be on the TV every other day right now, with mixed showings. The cricket has delivered but we all know that anything can happen with the England team going forward. International rugby rears up again this Saturday with Italy v Georgia or Scotland v Fiji being the obvious viewing picks really. In the Twickenham game the most fun to be had is guessing which England player will be sin-binned first – Ashton, Farrell and Hartley are all strong prospects with Lawes an outsider purely because he’s on the bench. Guessing the score – go large.

And then, aside from foreign politics, food and sport we also dabble occasionally in wine related pastimes. This week we have mainly been receiving deliveries of wines we didn’t order, sending them back and finally receiving the correct wines, or being told the wines we ordered have now changed vintage without us knowing and thus are no longer of interest to us. Oh, and in the middle of all this we found time to have a blazing row with our courier company and run two tasting events – and it’s still only Friday!

In amongst erroneous deliveries, we did actually receive some correct stock of two new spirits we ordered – Douglas Fir Vodka (£35) from our pals at the Moorland Spirit Company, makers of the super popular Hepple Gin, and The Eclectic Gin Society Original Blend Gin (£35).

The Douglas Fir is one of the botanicals that appears in the Hepple and has always added an exciting citrusy, earthy and fresh character to the blend. Now they are encouraging it to stand centre stage. We knew very little of this adventure until a six box arrived with a scrawled note telling us to give it a go, we could have it on sale or return and that until Fortnum & Mason had finished their exclusivity for the month of October, it could only be an under-the-counter bootleg sale – very in keeping with the frontier-land feel of the Coquet Valley and the history of moonshine in the Cheviots.

Anyway, we tasted it. Very decent, as we expected but we hadn’t quite anticipated what would happen when we added tonic, ice and a slice – really quite extraordinary! The tonic brought out all the Douglas character and made it undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable drinks I’ve had all year and, by all accounts, I’ve had a few. An absolute highlight – buy it, don’t buy it – but never, ever let it be said I didn’t tell tweak your curiosity!

The Eclectic Gin Society Original Blend Gin is an excellent new London Dry Gin that we are actually sort of involved in. We are part of a small, independent buying group of merchants across the UK and, along with sourcing great wine, we decided a gin would fit nicely into the portfolio. Being UK wide, there are members in Scotland who were key in working with the distiller to create the masterblend and we’re all very pleased. It’s a proper everyday drinking Gin with a delicious lifted citrus kick – we think you’re going to love it.

Both new spirits are open to taste, come and see for yourselves!

Wine School

As discussed previously, it’s November now, with December to follow. The 25th December causes all sorts of consternation in many households as gifts are the required buy-in to get a seat at the turkey top table – but what to buy?

How about a six week wine course to lighten the mood in the dark days of early 2019?

We’ve attached details of the course but, put simply, if you have an interest in wine but have never really got round to learning more about it, this is the course for you.

It starts on Wednesday 6th February and wraps up 7 weeks later (we take a break for half term) and costs £150 per person. It’s a great way to return to the fold should you have a dry January and is certainly better than anything on telly on Wednesdays in February – high praise indeed, what’s stopping you!?!?

To sign up, reply to this email, give us a call on 020 8944 5224 or pop in and see us. The course we are currently running was oversubscribed, just as a warning….

Tasting this weekend

If February is too long to wait for a taste of wine, why not come and try what we’ve got open this weekend (including the spirits)

We’ll have two wines open as ever and I think it’s worth us opening some new arrivals.

The white is a new South African from Doran Vineyards and is called Arya 2017 (£11.99). We met Tom Doran as a consequence of us both pitching to supply wine for a ball at a local school – we both lost the business to a bigger player but all is not lost, since we now have Tom’s wine.
Tom used to be a professional rugby player but now has devoted his time to chefing and selling wine – so he still gets to lose his weekends and miss out on family time but is marginally less likely to end up in A&E. Anyway, we tasted his wines and have listed a couple, one of which is this, Arya. A blend of 65% Chenin Blanc, 20% Grenache Blanc and 15% Roussanne, it’s exactly the sort of wine I’m sure many Rhône producers would love to make if only they were allowed to use Chenin, since this provides the wine with structure and clean acidity that Rhône whites often lack. Orchard fruits on the nose with hints of orange, peach and honey on the palate and a good length juicy finish. It worked a treat with some goat’s cheese last night at the tasting and is a real crowd pleaser.

We’ve opted for a lighter red this week – Domaine des Mailloches Bourgueil 2017 (£13.49). Cabernet Franc from the Loire valley is one of life’s great joys and we have doubtlessly bored you all rigid about this before. So, I won’t bore you again. Lovely, juicy fruit and fine tannins – what’s not to like?

So come along and have a taste, marvel at how full our France room is suddenly looking and buy yourself something nice to go with steak and sausage, whilst we’re still allowed.


Wayne’s vegan issue

Friday, November 2nd, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

An action packed week on this side of the fence, how about you? We’ve moved a lot of wine around making room for some new stock. Alex has been particularly active in the cellar, Wayne ducking out by putting a smart shirt on!

As the mid-term elections in the US get ever nearer, we have a man in the field telling us how it is. It would appear vegetables are hard to come by should you find yourself travelling through Georgia and Mississippi, though churches are plentiful. Whilst many don’t like Trump the man, they all seem to support what he is doing and they feel he is perhaps one of them, if only from a religious view. Rather strangely perhaps, the local Walmart didn’t have so much in the way of Halloween costumes. When our correspondent mentioned it, he was told that you have to be a bit careful in that neck of the woods as many see celebrating Halloween as Devil Worship.

Closer to home the annual pumpkin sacrifice happened this week, everywhere you turned a big orange globe leered back at you. Not like in the summer from on high, warming you up and tanning the skin. No this was much colder and more sinister, lurking at knee height with flickering eyes, flashing like a nightlight in a draught. We thought we saw a ghost, but it turned out to be Wayne’s dropped handkerchief. Then the lollipops were raided by a skeleton. Rather foolishly we thought they’d just rattle his ribs and fall on the floor, fortunately it turned out he was just in fancy dress. Otherwise, Halloween (or Devil Worship if that’s your view) passed us by relatively unheeded and with that, it was over. We’re left with just the usual phone zombies till next year.

Yesterday was World Vegan Day. To me it seemed strange to position it so soon after a Pumpkin slaughter but what do I know. It seems it was widely celebrated, though perhaps not in Mississippi or Georgia. Gourmet Burger Kitchen, closing 17 sites to stay afloat, celebrated by giving away Vegan Burgers for free. Jamie’s Italian, having closed nearly half of its sites to stay afloat, offered 50% off Vegan dishes. I think I can see a flaw in a business model.

Elsewhere, Waitrose celebrated by losing its Food Magazine editor after some ill-chosen comments about vegans, it would appear that joke isn’t funny anymore. Meanwhile, vegans blasted Parkrun for announcing a partnership with Happy Eggs.

Wayne and Alex discovered there really is a magazine called Plant Based News and wondered if it was still acceptable to listen to The Smith’s Meat is Murder album.

There’s rugby at Twickers on Saturday, the first test against South Africa. Brown’s out, Farrell’s in, and Eddie Jones is the Aussie in the stand with an iPad and ear piece.

In proper sports, Geraint Thomas got lost in Carmarthenshire on a training ride, the 2019 Giro d’Italia route looks like Tom Dumoulin might fancy it and the Tour de France route is really, really hilly, not one for the sprinters.

I think we’re still allowed to mention that Guy Fawkes is celebrated or commemorated on Monday. Fireworks in Wimbledon Park, but buy your tickets online beforehand, no chance on the gate. I’m not sure we’ll get through 36 barrels of gunpowder but it’s normally a good display.

Tasting This Weekend

We shall have a small ‘bonfire’ related celebration of our own and open some fiery fine wines this evening and tomorrow. The white corner will host Flametree Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2017 – £16.99, a cracking drop made by our chum Cliff Royle – it even won a gold medal at the Royal Sydney Wine show this year.

Smouldering away in the red corner will be Flametree Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot 2015 – £19.99. Flametree have firmly established themselves as one of the best addresses in Margaret River and we think that’s down to Cliff’s excellent winemaking. This is another tasty morsel from Cliff, medium-bodied, juicy in the mouth with a real drinkability that we found irresistible.

That’s all from us for now – rather serendipitously one of you will be in Washington next week and has offered to report back on the US midterms – never have we been so interested in American politics but it is currently the biggest horror show in town!

Bottoms up!