Archive for September, 2019

Are we just living inside someone’s lunatic dreamscape?

Friday, September 27th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

To borrow from Mrs Merton:

So what first attracted you to ninth in line to the throne, Princess Beatrice?

Or perhaps:

So what first attracted you to the Italian property tycoon, Edoardo Mapelli Mozzi?

And then the answer arrives:

We share so many similar interests and values, and we know that this will stand us in great stead for the years ahead, full of love and happiness – like skiing and holidays on yachts and working not very hard or too often… let’s see who ends up paying for the wedding shall we?

In truth though, I shouldn’t be belittling this romance because it’s actually one of the few pieces of happy news this week. 

Politics, on both sides of the pond, is in absolute mayhem and as a consequence has a somewhat surreal aspect to it – can this all really be happening or are we just living inside someone’s lunatic dreamscape?  Watching the mudslinging in parliament on Wednesday, frustration and vexation were in abundance.  What was also in abundance was mobile phone usage – whoever was sat behind the Attorney General when he was in full barrister-flood on Wednesday spent most of her time on her phone.  Now, I don’t know that she wasn’t scrolling through important government documents nor that the colleague next to her was watching House of Cards on her tablet but I do know when discretion is called for – a well-placed sheaf of papers blocking the phone from the television cameras would perhaps have been the guidance.  Moreover, it was distracting – never did we see her face, no matter how attentively we viewed, so we still don’t know who it was!

Thomas Cook finally curled up its toes this week, to much gnashing and wailing and reports of skulduggery in hotels in foreign resorts.  What we have learnt from this is that whilst we pay up front for the accommodation the travel company doesn’t actually pay the hotel until well after you have stayed there so, effectively, when you are actually in the resort, you are living on credit which is fine, unless your tour operator goes bust.  By all accounts there are towns in Spain that dealt almost exclusively with TC and will now face an uphill struggle to survive.  The real injustice here is that the writing has been on the wall for Thomas Cook for so long now but still they were allowed to make promises that they stood so little chance of being able to fulfil – which then leads to the question, as always, where has all the money gone???

It has been confirmed that Wayne did not travel on a package holiday so will not be spending an extra week in Greece, awaiting repatriation – we expect to see you on Monday, spick and span.

So with such headlines, apart from the royal engagement, where are we looking for our happiness this week?  Well, I suppose if you’re an Arsenal fan you can wallow in Tottenham’s spectacularly poor start to the season in all competitions.  If you’re not a cricket fan then you can relish the fact that the cricket season has finally finished and if you’re a rain fan you will have been very happy with the way the week has shaped up.

But now we can look forward because it’s the weekend and, for some of us, it’s payday, hooray!  Not wanting to spend your money for you but, you know, it is Friday and thus it should really be fizz tonight and with that in mind, I might mention that we’ve listed a couple of new English sparklers from Hawkins Bros. 

These have been brought in to replace the Herbert Hall primarily, who was just becoming too expensive for what he was putting in the bottle, which is ironic really considering the most common bugbear people have with English sparkling wine is the cost – but hey, let’s not listen to the punters, let’s just whack another tenner on a bottle and hope Brexit makes us the only choice?  Nice one Herbie, on your bike now!

Anyway, back to the brothers Hawkins, who are English wine producers based just south of Guildford, growing and making wine on the south-facing chalk of the Hogs Back.

Brut Reserve 2014 – £30

Dosage: 6g/l – Alcohol: 12%

Gold medal winner at the IEWA 2019 and Bronze at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2018

A classic cuvée from 2014, made and grown on the Hogs Back in Surrey.  This is a blend of 56% Chardonnay, 22% Pinot Noir and 22% Pinot Meunier and has spent over three years ageing on its lees.

Baked apple on the nose, a soft mousse gives way to a palate of wonderful depth and complexity with a long citrusy finish.

Rosé Reserve NV – £29

Dosage: 4.5g/l – Alcohol: 12%

Bronze Medal International Wine Challenge 2019

Made in the Traditional Method from 95% Pinot Noir, 5% Pinot Meunier.

A supremely elegant rosé with a subtle flavour of summer berries, a delicate pink hue, notes of strawberry, and fresh brioche from 30 months pre-release ageing.

Sound exciting, don’t they?  I took a bottle of the pink home last weekend on the false/fools assumption that, as my wife has always been a bit suspicious of wine that’s not either white or red, much of the bottle would be mine.  However, in a text book horse switcheroo mid-river, of which only she is capable, my beloved declared that it wasn’t that she didn’t like pink it was just that she hadn’t had a good one yet.  As she poured the last drops into her tankard, I could only surmise that this was a ‘good’ one!

Further to my missive from a week back, we still have places on some of our upcoming tastings, just a few less.  If you fancy an evening in the company of cheese and wine, or perhaps a winemaker’s wife, all for a mere £20 per person, here are the dates once more:

Wine & Cheese Tasting – 10th October – 5 spaces left

Domaine Treloar Tasting – 17th October – 2 spaces left

Wine & Cheese Tasting – 7th November – 6 spaces left

Wine & Cheese Tasting – 28th November – 5 spaces left

Tasting this weekend

As mentioned, it’s the last weekend of September and frankly we should be looking forward to hearty reds not delicate Rosés and shorts should returned to use for sporting purposes only, just so you know!  Last weekend we opened the World Cup Rugby with a head to head between Meerlust Red from South Africa and Alpha Domus ‘The Pilot’ from New Zealand.  Intriguingly the Meerlust was a clear favourite on the Friday evening and, for the first twenty minutes of the game on Saturday we thought our wine predictor might be onto something.  By the end of play on Saturday  though we had sold four times as many of the Pilot than the Meerlust – after a slow start it came back very strong, appropriate given the scoreline!

This weekend there are no obvious vinous clashes – I mean Uruguay v Georgia would be an interesting tasting and Ireland v Japan could lead to a whisk(e)y  fuelled late night but no, I’m not going there.

This week it’s purely about what I fancy tasting whilst the guv’nor is still sunbaking:

From the part of Italy that is almost Slovenia, we have Vigneti Le Monde Friulano 2017 – £15.99

Established in 1970 and recognised as a “cru” within Friuli, it is only under the current owners that the estate has really taken off.  This wine is made from 100% Friulano, with aromas of fresh flowers, citrus, lemon and green apple.  The palate is crisp and dry with again notes of apple, peach and pear with a subtle floral note. Good weight, perfectly balanced by a fresh clean finish – a delicious wine that often falls below the radar of many Italian white fans!

And from the Minervois in France, we’ve got open Chateau de Paraza ‘Cuvée Spéciale’ 2016 – £13.99 which is a Syrah, Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre blend that give us a deep red garnet coloured wine with cherry and raspberry compote notes, red liquorice string in the background and a lovely juicy acidity.  A great all-rounder of a wine with red flowers and mineral notes entwining themselves with the fruit into a great finish  – if you enjoy the Rhône, you’ll enjoy this!

So pop by and have a taste, tell us some happy tales from your week and we’ll all be the better for it!

That’s it Sun, you’re done.

Friday, September 20th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So, a quiet week, thus far, in the world of 126 Arthur Road. 

Apart from two Amazon deliveries for the people upstairs and a visit to the Coop for a spot of quality lunch, Monday flew past in a mêlée of paperwork and tumbleweed.  The great and the good of Wimbledon Park, which is you by the way, had clearly decided that tennis, the gym, running club or boot camp were far more appealing than a drop of wine and chat with a local entrepreneur, which is me by the way.  Such was my concern that, at 7pm, I had to call my wife to check for proof of life, concerned that I’d missed some sort of apocalypse and was now destined to be stuck alone for eternity on Arthur Road.  However, the very act of her answering the phone confirmed my worst suspicions – I hadn’t missed Armageddon, it was just Monday and my  utopian future of life surrounded by hundreds of bottles of wine and steaks liberated from the ‘closed on Monday’s’ Casa Argentina, disappeared into the sunset.

And then Tuesday rocked up, filled with promise and sunshine and news that a tiny white cloud had been spotted over the Greek islands and all was good with the world.  Oh, and I sold some wine, if anyone happens to ask.  Wednesday was early closing at 1pm, as I always like to do when Wayne is away, traditional market day closing don’t you know, and a visit to a local hostelry to watch a north London football team throw away a 2-nil lead to cling onto a draw, not for the first time this season.

With Wednesday out of the way, Thursday came next and with it a phone call from the car insurance people.  For those who haven’t yet encountered the Park Vintners delivery mechanism, we have a 1995 Volvo estate that has a boot as big as a billiard table and a 2.5 litre engine – it’s a beast and we love it.  It would seem though that not everyone shares this love.  10 days ago, parked outside Wayne’s house for just one night, it underwent some fairly major surgery as some local charmer decided to slash all four of its tyres and destroy all three the windscreen wipers.  Genuinely didn’t know people did this sort of thing still but apparently they do and aggressively vandalising a stranger’s car is ok.  We reported it to the police who, I am pleased to say, have already closed the case due to lack of evidence but at least we got a crime number.

So anyway, the phone call from the insurance company.  Basically, the car is so old, none of What Car?/Parkers/Autotrader were able to give it a valuation, so they were going to write it off.

‘How much is the work going to cost’, I asked. 

‘£1800’, came the flat reply.

‘You’re having a giraffe’, I said, ‘four tyres and some windscreen wipers for the best part of two grand – I’m in the wrong job!’

‘Oh, is that all you want done?’ was the response, ‘we thought we were going to do all the paintwork too?’

At which point I laughed.  It’s almost 25 years old and lives on a London street, don’t fret about the paintwork was my instruction to them and, it would seem, the bill has gone down hugely and is no longer a write off.  A perfectly decent, reliable and useful car was about to be written off due to its paintwork – sometimes I wonder about the world of insurance!

And now we have reached Friday, time for the weekend to start up, the suns out again, it’s all good.

Away from my travails in Arthur Road, there has been a world going about its business without me.  Two iconic sporting figures were in the press this week, for reasons out of their control.  Whilst Gareth Thomas hasn’t named The Sun, they, or their like, were undoubtedly behind the blackmail that led to his HIV announcement.  Equally, we know for absolute sure that they were responsible for the Ben Stokes story this week.  It would be really nice to see the headline ‘That’s it Sun, you’re done’ and the end of this sort of sordid car crash/ambulance chase journalism, which actually isn’t journalism at all, but sadly I think this tabloid would survive the apocalypse, like a cockroach.

We don’t talk about smoking much, partly because it mucks up your palate, partly because we both haven’t smoked for years but mainly because it’s not terribly interesting.  What we both have agreed on since day one, both being Marlboro purists, is that vaping is just weird.  Either smoke or don’t smoke – don’t suck on a Bic biro/mini walkie-talkie hybrid filled with strawberry flavoured liquid, it’s just weird.  Anyway, there have been a few deaths recently in the US that have been attributed to vaping but perhaps not enough to create a serious dent in the vape popularity.  However, what will put a dent in their sales is the news that India’s cabinet has announced a ban on the production, import and sale of electronic cigarettes, saying they pose a risk to health.  That’s a complete ban in India; India, with a smoking population of 100 million people that would be an absolute goldmine for the e-smoking industry but clearly the medical experts see clear risks and have acted.  Very interesting indeed – no smoke without fire, as my colleague might say.

Having just about closed off the cricket season and the cycling Grand Tour season also coming to a conclusion for this year (anyone notice that Wayne’s tip, Primož Roglič, only went and won La Vuelta – chapeaux), we can now concentrate wholly on the Rugby World Cup.  We touched on this last week with mention of Japan as an outside bet for the finals however for many people, and by many people I’m meaning the bookmakers primarily, the winners of the World Cup will come from one of New Zealand and South Africa.  Odds on the AB’s are 5/4 whilst odds on the Boks  are 4/1.  For transparency , England also are at 4/1 but I feel that has something to do with punters patriotism.

No-one knows how the rugby will go this weekend, who will win, who will lose but in our own version of Paul the Octopus we’re going to use wine as our tipster and as a consequence will actually be opening 3 wines – don’t tell Wayne.

In white, of course, we’ll have England and an English wine. 

New Hall Vineyards Bacchus Reserve 2018 – £14.49.  The vineyards of New Hall are located just outside of Purleigh and are home to some of the oldest plantings of Bacchus in the UK, certainly the largest (44,500 vines) and they provide grapes to a couple of well-known English Wineries that, frankly, are not very close to Essex.  The wine has a vinous, limey nose that leads you into a fruit focused medium dry palate with a reassuring zing on the finish.

In the absence of any wine from Tonga, I’m going to boldly pronounce this a walkover and move on to the main event, New Zealand v South Africa.

In the interest of fairness I have picked similar wines at a similar price to go head to head from these two countries, so let’s see how they get on.

From South Africa we’ll have Meerlust Red 2014 – £14.49 which hails from Stellenbosch and is a classic Bordeaux style blend of 52% Merlot, 27% Cabernet Franc, 12% Cabernet Sauvignon and 9% Petit Verdot.  Aromas of cassis and plums drag you into an immediately appealing, medium-bodied red with crushed black fruit, a touch of vanilla spice and some nicely structured tannins.  We note that this would be a great partner to a rack of lamb and with that in mind, we move to the Kiwi offering.

Alpha Domus ‘The Pilot’ 2014 – £13.99.  Similar in price, from the same vintage as the Meerlust, basically exactly what we were after for a head to head, a typical Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot blend with nice plummy fruit, a touch of fragrant spice, a lovely mouthfeel and a nice long finish.

Damn, this one is going to go right down to the wire.

That’s about it from us for this week save for a quick tastings update:

Wine School starts in 10 days’ time – 2nd October – 2 spaces left.

Wine & Cheese Tasting – 10th October – 6 spaces left.

Domaine Treloar Tasting – 17th October – 3 spaces left.

Wine & Cheese Tasting – 7th November – 6 spaces left.

Wine & Cheese Tasting – 28th November – 5 spaces left.

So, pop in and assess the wine offerings, sign up for a tasting our two, watch a bit of rugby, enjoy the sunshine, ignore the threat of thunderstorms and generally have a bon weekend!

Mate ne, as they say in the bars of Tokyo!

Sitting on the truth/lie fence

Friday, September 13th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

As a knock on effect of the Queen’s decision to prorogue, the Friday email will be suspended for the next 5 weeks – there will be no debate on this and Wayne has already left for Europe.

Actually no.  That was a lie.  Or was it?  I’m not really sure what lying is now as the media seem to have a variety of definitions depending on political bent, the Scottish judges another definition, definitely not political, and your man Boris, well he has spent most of his career and personal life on the truth/lie fence.  So I will take the advice Wayne left in his note for me before he left with his one way ticket to Greece and what looked like the contents of the safe – trust nobody, Alex….

Anyway, in a fit of preparedness I am one of the people who has actually read the Yellowhammer document and, greatly enlivened by that experience and in a boxset frame of mind, went on to read about Operation Brock (currently suspended) and am awaiting my clearance to read Operation Redfold. Having read the synopsis and seen the trailer, I do hope we avoid Redfold.  Suffice to say, I am now an expert on base scenarios and remain unsurprised by the warnings that Yellowhammer contained since they are all topics that have been well discussed over time – slow border crossings, the new east Kent lorry park, delays, delays, delays – in truth, things that we are all very accustomed to dealing with!

But we’ve not left yet, the sun is shining and promises to do so over the weekend and the cricket no longer matters.  We ventured up to the Oval on Tuesday for a wine tasting and the pitch looked in tip top condition and frankly would have been amazing as a grand finale but the cricket no longer matters.  If we hadn’t concentrated on the World Cup, if Anderson hadn’t got injured, if Smith had stayed injured, if we’d been able to build unbeatable totals but no, Alex, the cricket no longer matters.

Because what matters now is the Rugby.  Thus time next week the first game (Japan v Russia I believe) of the 2019 World Cup will be coming to a conclusion and the fun will have begun.  Saturday will bring big victories for Fiji, Argentina and, for the first time ever, an incredible 0-0 tie in the last game of the day that sees both teams removed from the tournament…

Looking back, in 2011 we tipped France as potential finalists, in 2015 we thought England would beat Wales so frankly we are not really rugby tipsters.  New Zealand maybe?  There you go, that’s sunk their ship… and left it wide open for the surprise package of 2015 and the hospitable hosts – Japan, 80-1 to reach the final!

Before we get there though we must finish this week first and that always coincides with us opening a couple of bottles of wine.  As a gentlemanly salute to the Aussies, we’ll be opening some of their fine wines today.

In the cricket whites we find Flametree Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2017 – £16.99, a cracking drop made by our chum Cliff Royle, we’ve not discussed cricket with Cliff, but do know that he makes awesome wines –  this blend of 80% Sauvignon and 20% Semillon has cracking lychee, lime and stone fruit character and a real elegance to it.

And in the red lifeguard shorts Flametree Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot 2017 – £19.99, the first vintage in 2007 won the Jimmy Watson Trophy, and frankly the winery hasn’t looked back since! This is classically aromatic, showing cassis, violets and blackberry, balanced with notes of freshly dusted cocoa and dark chocolate; fresh in the mouth and, packed with dark fruits, bitter chocolate and subtle spicy French oak characters. Rumour has it there might be some barbecueing at the weekend. Brisket or burgers would be awesome!

Park Vintners Autumn Wine School is surreptitiously creeping up on us. Just about 3 weeks to go and there are a couple of places left if you fancy joining in the fun and improving your wine smarts!

6 Week Wine School – Wednesday 2nd October – Wednesday 13th November (half term 23rd October) – £150 per person

And with that we’re gone!


Back in the Game

Friday, September 6th, 2019

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Finally they’ve gone back and that almost endless break is over. The seemingly continual fight over whose turn it was on the lilo, whose fault it was that the beach ball blew away and the almost magical way an ice-cream slides off the cone and onto your t-shirt  is but a memory.  Life can get back to normal with Mum and Dad cabs in action most weekends.

In the playground there has been a renewal of acquaintances, some teams have new captains but the game and its goals remain the same. The blue shirted team have a new Captain in Boris, who has been marching round the playground trying to get everyone to join in his game of British Bulldog whilst the previous Captain, Theresa, has been spotted giggling in the background. Several of his team including Stephen, Nicolas and Clarkey aren’t allowed to play any longer, so they have started a book club in the history room that already has 21 members.  His brother Jo is another non-player and has decided to leave school altogether.

The orange team have a new Captain too, confusingly also Jo, who seems to be rather good at recruiting people from other teams. The oranges are currently playing petanque over in the square and, although other games have not been ruled out, they’re not at all keen on Boris’s game of British Bulldog.

Despite many rumblings, the red team have stayed with their Captain Jeremy. He’s been keen the last few terms to ask all the kids what game they should play, but now Boris has said Bulldog will be much more fun if everyone does join in, he doesn’t seem so keen to do the canvassing. It seems the reds are just hanging around by the fence waiting for something else to happen.

The short, shouty chap from the other school is still keen for everyone to join his game of British Bulldog in the park, but so far everyone is keeping him at arm’s length.

Sajid has been made tuck shop monitor and is giving Haribo out everywhere, especially to friends of the oranges and reds and we think he might be trying to bribe them into playing British Bulldog with Boris and the rough boys. Never take sweeties from strangers kids!

Anyway enough talk about children, there is sport to discuss.  In the cricket The Ashes contest is well into the fourth test with Steve Smith still proving to be a thorn in the side of the England team at Old Trafford, not often I hope for rain but this is one occasion.

On the football front we have an international break for the European Qualifiers, but AFC will be in action away in Milton Keynes for the grudge match.

On the cycling front La Vuelta is living up to its slightly crazy race reputation. Helicopters covering the race have uncovered a rooftop marijuana plantation, the gravel section inserted for extra spectacle was lost to TV coverage because of a rain storm, and following Quintana winning a stage,  Roglic rode into the red jersey on the individual time trial.

Lastly, good luck to all the runners on the Bacchus Marathon at Denbies this Sunday. Sadly this year there will be no Park Vintners representative, but we know that everyone running will have a good time and the weather looks perfect.

Wine School  

We’ve just a couple of spaces now, so if you’re thinking about joining the fun do give us a shout.

Six Week Wine School –

Wednesday 2nd October – Wednesday 13th November (half term 23rd October) – £150 per person


Thursday 10th October at 8pm – WINE & CHEESE TASTING – £20

Thursday 17th October at 8pm –


Jonathan and Rachel Treloar own and run this small, highly-regarded vineyard and winery in the Roussillon, France’s most exciting wine region.

Thursday 7th November at 8pm – WINE & CHEESE TASTING – £20

Thursday 28th November at 8pm – WINE & CHEESE TASTING – £20

The greatest hits from all the tastings over 2019, just in time for Christmas!

Thursday 5th December at 8pm – CHRISTMAS BUBBLES TASTING  SOLD OUT

Tasting This Weekend

The Argentinians seem to have had a tough week or two at the office so we thought we’d taste some of their wines.

Pulenta Estate Chardonnay 2016, Mendoza, Argentina – £14.99

Pulenta Estate is located in Alto Agrelo, Luján de Cuyo, Mendoza, one of the most prestigious winemaking areas in Argentina.  Its high altitude, at 980m, ensures a wide temperature range and a slow ripening of the grapes.  This Chardonnay has citrus and tropical fruit notes, gently underlined with vanilla from the oak, which is delicately balanced with both fruit and freshness.

Los Pueblos Classic Blend 2017, Mendoza, Argentina – £11.99

This is from Don Cristobel’s Finca Santa Maria, located at 935m altitude in Ugarteche, Luján de Cuyo. A cracking blend of 50% Malbec, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot, this wine offers a fresh,  medium bodied loveliness with red and dark fruits and a soft juicy finish.

When I looked up my most recent tasting note it said “YES REMEMBER THIS!! WE MEANT TO ORDER” So now we have…

That’s us for this week, swing by for a taster, and take the opportunity to stock up the wine rack!