Archive for March, 2019

It’s the bride of Frankenwine, it’s in the sparkling wine aisle of your local supermarket and it makes me want to weep

Friday, March 22nd, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

And so it goes on.  One minute we’re leaving next week, the next minute we’re leaving at the end of June, then five minutes later the EU says we need to be out by 22nd May or 12th April –  crikey, so much choice.  Surprisingly, France seem to be very keen for us to sling our hook asap, whilst Theresa has ‘personal regret’ about asking for a delay, perhaps alienating any of her last supporters in the commons, and Jeremy has had some ‘very constructive’ talks in Brussels.  Oh whoopee, well done you, MP’s one and all. 

Now, we’ve all rented rooms in the past and thus had the whole kerfuffle of moving out and moving on.  So, experience tells us that by now, with a week to go (previously agreed with our landlord) we should be nipping down to the local offie to buy a bottle of something cheap whilst picking up some empty wine boxes  to put our crockery in over the weekend; we should have booked a van, booked the day off and organised cleaners to do a deep clean so that we can leave the premises as we found it and thus leave on good terms, ideally with a few quid in our pocket from our deposit.

As demonstrated over and again, leaving Europe was never going to be as easy as moving house but we really have seen the process escalated to levels that will be the subject of politics A level essays for year to come.

Let’s pretend though that we were going to leave Europe next Friday.  Irrespective of how Wayne and I voted, this has been a day that we have been quite looking forward to from a commercial point of view.  It’s our year end next weekend and we were hoping for one last fillip to our turnover before the close.  It seemed like a win-win for us – eager Brexiteers raiding our shelves for bottles and bottle of English bubbly whilst disappointed Remainers buy Champagne to drown their sorrows whilst they still can….

Herbert Hall Brut (Kent) – £32.99 and Hambledon Classic Cuvée Rosé (Hampshire) – £40 for the leavers and Louis Roederer Cristal 2009 (France) £175 for the stayers – might as well go out on a high!

Otherwise, life seems to go on here in Wimbledon Park.  We completed our first wine school of 2019 on Wednesday night, 6 weeks of tasting torture that rounded off with a bubbles boot camp – 11 more palates are released onto the world, brimming with knowledge and expertise and an intimate working knowledge of all of Wayne’s jokes – if this all sounds too good to be true and the sort of thing you’d like to get involved in then we’ll keep you posted with dates of our next course, which will start late September, I imagine.

And then I read the booze press and my heart sank.  Initially, the idea of Graham Norton launching a pink gin, to go alongside his wine range, seemed a target worthy of a few well targeted darts but then I read about  more crimes against wine being committed by the scientists at Blossom Hill and Echo Falls.  For those of you oblivious to such things, Blossom Hill and Echo Falls are volume producers of very low quality wines in the USA but available globally.  It seems that, of late, sales of vinous beauties like Zinfandel Blush and Sun Kissed Red have been experiencing a bit of a slump.  So what does any self-respecting wine producer do to counteract such a dip – of course, they make a wine that isn’t actually a wine at all.

Blossom Hill Gin Fizz.  Yep, you read it correctly.  So far as bandwagon jumping goes this gets a gold star, previously only awarded to Sparkling Pink Pinot Grigio a few years back.

Anyway, very excitingly it comes in two flavours – Lemon & Rosemary, and Rhubarb – and we are told we need to be pouring it over ice and serve it with a garnish.  But surely ice and garnish is just gilding the lily, we say?  Surely the production method of blending white wine with ‘botanical-infused water’ and gin is enough?  Apparently not. 

It’s not wine, it’s not gin, it’s flavoured with lemon, rosemary and rhubarb and is fizzy – it’s the bride of Frankenwine, it’s in the sparkling wine aisle of your local supermarket and it makes me want to weep.  Echo Falls did a similar launch about a month ago with a Rosé Wine & Gin Fusion which is about £4 cheaper than the Blossom – fill yer boots!

Here are some wise words from their Global Marketing Manager, Bo Jakubenko:

“We know that gin is booming and that people are looking for refreshment and convenience from their drinks purchases.  With Blossom Hill’s Gin Fizz we have developed a product that responds to this need.  By focusing on what the consumer wants and making wine more accessible via a fun, approachable brand like Blossom Hill, we are helping to ensure future category growth.”

Translation:

We asked our customers and they resoundingly confirmed that whilst they buy our wine they would far prefer it if it tasted like gin and had bubbles and herbs in it – anything, frankly, to make the wine taste better than it currently does!

Tasting this weekend

I’ve been so insanely busy that I haven’t been able to get down to Morrison’s to get any Blossom Hill, so we’ll just have to stick to gin in one glass and wine in another.  As ever, we have Eclectic, Sacred, Bloody Bens, Hepple, Sacred Juniper and Sacred Pink Grapefruit open to taste on the Gin trolley along with other spirits and whiskies too.

Wine wise, I’m planning on opening a couple of Chileans that we listed a few weeks back.  The world, it seems, has fallen out of love a little with Chile but we have always been big fans and hopefully you might see why when you taste these wines…

Naciente Chardonnay 2018, Casablanca Valley, Chile – £11.99 – This is an unoaked white, pale yellow in your glass, aromas of very intense fruit with an emphasis on citrusy notes, and mineral touches.  The palate is fresh with the natural acidity making the wine very vivacious and fruity; it has a medium body and a lovely long finish.  Fish and chip Friday anyone?

Metic Carmenère 2018, Colchagua Valley, Chile – £10.99 – A limited production wine from 30 year old vines, the intensely blueberry fruit nose leads on to a bright fruited palate with a lovely intensity and length.  It’s made by a couple of Chilean guys as a side-line to their main business which is consulting for other wineries around Chile.  Their very laidback approach to winemaking intervention is unusual at this price and we’re certainly not complaining about that.

So pop in and try the wines and, if you ask me nicely, I might open a bottle of San Pellegrino and we can mix it with the Chardonnay and some Eclectic!  Actually no, no I won’t, that would be disgusting…

Lost Control

Friday, March 15th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

How’s your week been? We’ve been bumbling along in our normal fashion, tasting here, delivery there, quick squizz at the horses running at Cheltenham, is it time for lunch yet?

As many of you know, and many more suspected, we are no strangers when it comes to the subject of pies. Over the Christmas period we tend to have the odd mince pie or two handy, we have been known to partake of the odd Melton Mowbray after, or even before, a wine tasting and are even known to pop over to Manuels for an emergency sausage roll on a chilly day.

You can imagine then, our excitement to read the BBC headline “Emma Haruka Iwao smashes pi world record with Google help”. Sadly,  the story went on to explain that Ms Iwao has not harnessed Google’s computing power to make the crust that finite bit better, crustier, or melt in the mouth. She has just extended the number of decimal places in л from 22 trillion to 31 trillion, which if recited would take 332,000 years or so. We’ll spare you,  3.14159 has always been good enough for us, but suffice to say: Well played Ms Iwao!

Cheltenham Gold Cup today, for many it is the highlight of the race calendar, Wayne’s been looking at Might Bite or Presenting Percy but I warn you he’s a bit off the pace this week.  It’s also the finale of the Six Nations this week, so if you’re partaking of the fun at Twickenham give us a wave, we’ll be watching on the telly. We’re a bit surprised to see big Joe left out this week, but then we run a wine shop not the England Rugby team.

You know that moment when a song pops up in your head and just won’t go away, a proper earworm that bugs you even though it’s a song you love? We’ve had a bit of that with Joy Division this week.  We pulled up the BBC website and that triggered it: “Confusion in her eyes that says it all She’s lost control”. Counting the boxes in the cellar for the stockcount there it was again: “And she’s clinging to the nearest passer-by She’s lost control” Alex loading the car for a delivery, up it pops: “And a voice that told her when and where to act, she said I’ve lost control again.”  We’re a bit puzzled as to why this song keeps tormenting us.

Meanwhile Trumpolina has spoken about Brexit: “I’m surprised at how badly it has all gone from a standpoint of negotiations but I gave the prime minister my ideas of how to negotiate it, she didn’t listen to that and that’s fine but it could have been negotiated in a different manner.”

In wine news, word on the street is that Pernod Ricard might be putting Jacob’s Creek and Campo Viejo up for sale as part of their move away from focussing on discounting. Meanwhile over in the land of the weird diet or ten (aka USA) we couldn’t help but think that one punter has taken it a little bit too far. Del Hall, director of sales at Ohio’s Fifty West Brewing Company, says he will refrain from all solid food until Easter, drinking only beer for sustenance, as well as water. We can see the appeal of a simple shopping list like that, and couldn’t help but wonder if that made him a vegan, but don’t feel it is something we can recommend. Like any form of extreme exercise, we feel you should check with your GP before embarking on such practice.

I don’t know about you but all the drama in the press this week leaves me reaching for a glass of wine. My aperitif glass of wine is Deep Roots Riesling 2018 (£12.99) a classic dry Riesling from Rheinhessen with citrus and orchard fruit character, a touch of minerality and quite possibly the best partner for that Pad Thai for supper!

Main course red will be One Block Grenache 2015 (£13.99) from Jonathan and Rachel’s Domaine Treloar in the Roussillon. I quite like a glass off it on its own, but I see absolutely no reason not to chomp on a lamb chop with it if you’re peckish.

With that I’m off to sun, sand and fish curry. Wine? Less likely.

The no-newsletter

Friday, March 8th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So, I’ve been banned, apparently for my own good.  Or perhaps I could say I’ve given up for Lent and then perhaps it will seem more worthy.  Whichever way you put it, Wayne has put his foot down and declared that I am no longer allowed to do it, at least until he goes on holiday at the end of next week, after which he doesn’t really care what I do as he will be shoulder deep in yoga and sundowners.

So, what is this nasty habit that has got me this ban?  Nose picking?  Playing B*Witched on Spotify?  Cattle rustling?  No, none of these, in fact it’s something far more prosaic, that we all do, and get away with, everyday – yep, it’s called reading the news.  Now, I’m not talking about doing my best Moira Stewart impersonation or wearing Sir Robin Day bowties, since these are already on the blacklist, but more about the keeping-myself-up-to-date-with-current-affairs aspect.

By all accounts it makes me ranty.  Ranty, moi, how very dare you?  It all starts over breakfast when I flick through the BBC News whilst the dog patiently waits for his walk.  Whilst on the common with Rufus, the aforementioned dog, a particularly annoying and seemingly unstoppable App that Samsung have installed, pings me constantly with breaking news.  This news is never about cats being rescued from trees or old ladies being helped across the road but more about bigger cats becoming extinct, trees being destroyed for ‘industry’, or old ladies being knocked down whilst doing the shopping.  As I still only have Rufus to talk to at this point and his feelings for cats are typically canine, I have to continue with my inner seethe until I get to work.

And then my exasperation becomes too much as I explode in indignation.  Poor Wayne has to nod and tut appropriately, whilst surreptitiously placing his bets for the 2.15 at Lingfield, as I rant about the state of the world, the cruelty of mankind, the seemingly flippant attitude of some to the value of a human life, the overpayment of footballers, the parlous nature of politics and politicians and …. well, you get the gist.

So I’m banned, which is a bit of a bind when it comes to writing this email, since it is usually heavily propped up by some sort of news roundup.   So I’m not entirely sure what to write about now, as there is also an embargo in place on writing about football or rugby – for many of the same reasons as the news ban is in place – such is the life of a Spurs fan and an England rugby fan.  And let’s not talk about cricket.  But if you fancy a rant about footballers and haven’t seen it already then

https://www.thesun.co.uk/sport/football/8579607/edin-dzeko-pepe-roma-porto-champions-league/

should make you smile, whilst also gently simmer at such poor sportsmanship. 

However, if you are banned like me, then take a look at this feel-good story and restore a bit of faith

NEW WINES!!!!

But I am allowed to talk about wine though, which is handy as this is the main purpose of this missive and excitingly this week we have received some of our new listings…

FIZZ

Champagne Vauban Freres Brut NV – £30.49

WHITE

Australia

Pauletts Watervale Semillon 2016 – £14.99

Chile

Naciente Chardonnay 2017 – £11.99

Czech Republic

Sonberk Riesling 2015 – £22.39

Germany

Deep Roots Riesling Trocken 2018 – £12.99

Italy

Monte Schiavo Pallio di San Floriano Verdicchio Classico Superiore 2017 – £13.99

Vignetti Le Monde Friulano ‘Grave del Friuli’ 2017 – £15.99

Tenute Pieralisi Villaia Verdicchio Classico 2017 – £19.99

RED

Argentina

Pablo y Walter Malbec 2018 – £11.39

Chile

Metic Carmenère 2018 – £10.99

Italy

Cantina Crociani Vino Nobile di Montepulciano 2015 – £22.49

Spain

Bodegas Resalte de Penafiel Lecco Crianza 2014 – £19.29

And we also welcome back lots of wine from our favourite Yorkshireman, Jonathan at DOMAINE TRELOAR

One Block Grenache 2015 – £13.99

Three Peaks 2016 – £14.99

Le Secret 2013 – £17.99

Motus 2015 – £18.49

La Terre Promise 2015/16 – £18.49

Tahi 2011 – £25.99

And also in Magnum – Tahi 2010 – £50.00

TASTING THIS WEEKEND

As we’ve got so many new wines it would seem sensible to open a couple of them.  We’ve opted to go New World this week and will open the Pauletts Helmsford Semillon 2016 and the Pablo y Walter Malbec 2018.

The Semillon is a single vineyard wine from their Watervale property and, compared to its counterparts in the Hunter Valley, has more flesh on its bones, as it were.  A typically zesty, tangy citrus nose leads onto a riper palate with plenty of crisp fruit – potentially more interesting than a lot of Sauvignons but in the same vein.

The Malbec is a wine we have known about for some time but never really had shelf space for.  That all changed as some if its peers became more expensive but not necessarily better and a slot appeared on the shelf.  A thoroughly decent drop, plenty of dark fruit and richness without knocking your socks into the middle of next week – we think this will gather a bit of a following.

So come and taste the wines, admire the new listings, bring joy to my curmudgeonly existence and perhaps let me know what’s going on in the world!

Kashmir Handbags

Friday, March 1st, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

FIRST A VERY IMPORTANT PIECE OF ADMIN:  

Due to the fact we’ve been invited to provide the wine and run the bar at Kings College quiz night tonight, we’ll be closing at 5pm in order to set everything up. Apologies for inconvenience caused.

This week Trumpolina and Kim Wrong ‘Un met up in Vietnam for a couple of Summer Spring Rolls, Bo La Lot (meat in Betel Leaves) and a couple of pints of Hué. Sadly, as is often the case after a few cold ones, no agreement was reached. Instead Wrong’Un will head back to watch another thrilling march by with the Highsteppers.  Trumpolina meanwhile, mulls over a failed foreign photo op, claims people are telling lies to congress and misses the GDP growth target. We’ll get a Chinese trade deal soon folks, he’s desperate for it.

In other international news India and Pakistan are handbags drawn at dawn over Kashmir again, with captured pilots, shot down planes and furious moustaches. Do you think Led Zeppelin know about this fuss?

In Brexitania, people you’ve never heard of have resigned, we have three dates for meaningful votes and anything could change at the drop of a hat. Someone has discovered we have the wrong size pallets for exporting. I wondered do people still do woodwork at school?

Jacob Rees -Mogg is enjoying his rock star status in a Tom Jones stylee with a sell-out night at the Palladium. Unlike a Tom Jones gig, it appears the audience held on to their underwear!

Climate disaster or an unexpected nice spell in February? I’m sure we all have a view, or maybe even several, but you can be sure the kids who saw the first ever snow in Hawaii, or those in the Sahara who also witnessed a splash of the white stuff, enjoyed it just as much that kid in Wimbledon Park eating an unseasonably early ice lolly.

We also note that today is St David’s Day (Dydd Gwyl Dewi) and on further discussion discovered that we don’t know how it’s celebrated. According to the interweb people attend special church services, wear daffodils or leeks, or eat Welsh Rarebit for tea. Sounds quite different to St Patrick’s Day! We do know of one young lady who celebrates it every year by getting older – A happy birthday to you!

Wayne’s a bit nervous on the sport front, no rugby this week (which might be a good thing) and we have the North London Derby. Normally we don’t discuss this too much, being opposite sides of the coin so to speak. Tottenham have now lost two on the spin and Arsenal seem to be on a decent spell of form, so he seems to think there is a chance of Arsenal winning something at Wembley after all.

In proper sports the European Cycling season kicks off this weekend with Saturday’s Omloop Het Nieuwsblad bringing us the first cobbled classic of the season. We’ll be cheering for Ian Stannard I think, but think it’s going to be difficult to beat Greg Van Avermaet. For the women’s race we can’t help wonder if it may just be Chantal Blaak’s time to win. Sunday will give us Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne and we can’t help but wonder if Matteo Trentin might grab the top podium place.

On the wine front, a news story we found very interesting was that Constellation brands is to sell or discontinue 40% of its wine and spirits brands. It seems to us that everywhere you look people are developing “brands” when we thought you went about building a business. Constellation has built and bought lots and lots of wineries and spirits brands in the time we’ve been in the wine trade, and this is not the first time they’ve had a cull. We think there might be a note of caution to be learned somewhere in this story.

Tasting This Weekend

The Lillywhites will be represented by Desjacques Sauvignon Blanc (£9.49). A lovely drop from Sauvignon Blanc’s heartland in the Loire Valley. A highly aromatic wine with fresh zesty citrus and gooseberry flavours and mouth-watering acidity. Fruit follows the nose nicely with some added chalky mineral to the finish. Very much made in the image of a Sancerre.

Gunners are represented by a delicious Saumur Champigny in the shape of Les Clos Maurice Vieilles Vignes 2016 (£17.99). I could give you all the guff about the soil in the vineyards, the angle of the slope the vines are planted on etc. but the reason we bought this was the label. Nothing at all to do with the lovely fruit concentration from vines planted in 1921, nothing at all to do with the fact that we loved the fine balance of fruit, freshness and tannins, or the long finish. Certainly not how delicious it would be with a pork chop, definitely the label.