Archive for January, 2020

International Feasting

Friday, January 24th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

In the news this week, the Withdrawal Agreement has passed into law, China has five cities with travel restrictions to contain a new virus, Trump is still being impeached, there’s been an earthquake on Teeside and Bercow has been accused of bullying again.

It would appear that once again our invite to Davos got lost in the post, we’ve both been chomping at the bit to go to there and listen to billionaires telling millionaires what sacrifices the world’s poor need to make to halt global warming. Realistically, Alex was more interested in the skiing and Wayne had heard the wine at the dinners was rather good. As you can imagine, we’ve looked elsewhere for inspiration this week and can only hope they don’t forget us next year!

It looks to me like a weekend of feasting lies ahead of us for those who’d like to join in.

In 1801 a group of merchants in Greenock formed the first Burns Club (still going to this day!). Despite what you might think, it had nothing to do with fire insurance rather than some of them knew the Scottish poet Robbie Burns. Thinking it was his birthday, they held their first Burn’s Supper on January 29th 1802. The following year, somebody had the wherewithal to check the parish records and discover he was born on January 25th and the rest, as they say, is history.

We both tend to get a bit involved in this each year, not for the reciting of the poetry, rather a fondness of haggis, and it’s the one time of year you can easily find it in these parts. Alex takes his in the traditional manner, with a dram or two of whisky alongside the ‘Great chieftain o’ the puddin-race’ whilst Wayne tends to go with a glass of red wine.

We’re suggesting Mary Queen of Scots (£35) a blend of twelve premium single malts at 12 years of age representing the number of years she was on the throne. The whisky is lovely and complex and good value.  Otherwise, a natty combination of Wayne’s red wine and Alex’s whisky would be the Benromach Sassacaia Wood Finish (£48), a whisky aged for two years in red wine barrels.

For those of you less enamoured with haggis but still keen for a spot of feasting, Saturday 25th January is also the Chinese New Year, with 2020 bringing the Year of the Rat. For the superstitious amongst you things to avoid on Saturday include washing clothes, using scissors and sweeping floors. A year of bad luck cannily avoided, rats are seen as a sign of wealth and surplus, as well as fertility.  London hosts the largest Chinese New Year parades outside of Asia, so do pop along to Trafalgar Square where it all starts at around 10am. Foods to feast upon include steamed fish, dumplings, spring rolls and sweet rice balls. As a wine partner we’re thinking a Riesling so why not Hugel Classic Riesling (£17.99) with its classic fruit character and dry finish. Otherwise Deep Roots Riesling (£12.99) might work if you’re heading for something a little spicier, it’s slightly fruitier style might just tantalise the taste buds a little better.

If Scotland and China have not flipped open your feasting follicles how about something from a bit further south. Sunday 26th January is Australia Day and, in true Aussie style, there are many ways to celebrate, from the 39th Annual Cockroach race at the Story Bridge Hotel in Brisbane, an enormous firework display in Perth with 300,000 people expected, or a Lamington eating competition at Suttons Beach in Redcliffe.  We think we can make a strong argument for popping your fleece on and getting the barbecue going Sunday afternoon, maybe some burgers with beetroot for an Aussie twist, or butterfly that leg of lamb and cook over the charcoal whilst the potatoes roast in the oven. For this we’d like to suggest  Flametree Shiraz (£18.99) it’s from a couple of hours further south of the big firework display at Perth and will be very tasty whether you brave the barbecue or not.

Then, for something completely different, we have egg and spam; egg, bacon and spam; egg, bacon, sausage and spam; spam, bacon, sausage and spam; spam, egg, spam, spam, bacon and spam; spam, spam, spam, egg and spam; spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, spam, baked beans, spam, spam, spam and spam; or lobster thermidor aux crevettes, with a mornay sauce garnished with truffle paté, brandy and a fried egg on top and spam…

Diary Notes

Tuesday 28th January – We’ll be opening later as we have a delivery to do in town. We hope to be back by 3pm.

Monday 3rd Feb Tuesday 4th Feb – We’ll be closed as we’re going to see the folks at Hepple in naughty Northumberland.

Thursday 13th February – The years first Cheese & Wine Tasting here at the shop at 8pm. Cost is still £20 per person. Don’t be a cheese dodger!

On the tasting table

It would seem appropriate to have open some of those we have mentioned above, so we will have open:

  • Mary Queen of Scots (£35)
  • Benromach Sassacaia Wood Finish (£48)
  • Deep Roots Riesling (£12.99)
  • Flametree Shiraz (£18.99)

Something for everyone there I think – now, I don’t know about you but all this talk of feasting has me reaching for a wafer thin mint…

With apologies for brevity

Friday, January 17th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

You can imagine my surprise, at 5.30 yesterday evening, when it dawned on me that it was my turn to write the weekly email. So, please accept my apologies in advance for any contradictory notions, poor grammar, punctuation errors or missed news snippets.

It seems Trumpolina’s impeachment trial has started, though we doubt much will happen as, in Nancy Pelosi’s words, “I don’t know who is the puppet – Trump or the Attorney General.” I’m sure its coincidental timing but it seems a trade deal has been agreed with China too!

In unrelated news, President Putin had a reshuffle. It seems all of the government ministers were invited to a surprise meeting where they were told they were resigning from their jobs. I would have thought that was being sacked myself but then I’ve not read the non-disclosure agreements. A reshuffle to one person is a power grab to another. You can, of course, make up your own minds.

Elsewhere, the race to take over from Oh Jeremy Corbyn seems to be hotting up. Rebecca Long-Bailey might be in the lead it seems but there’s still time for that to change and my sources say that Lisa Nandy was excellent in the Andrew Neil interview.

The government seems to have got itself into a bit of a spot this week, allowing Flybe to put off paying its flight tax so that it doesn’t go bust. Now, I’m no business adviser or McKinsey consultant but even I can see that if your business model doesn’t work because of the tax you have to pay, getting a deferment fixes nothing with that model. That said, I’m not sure how comfortable I feel in the company of Michael O’Leary and Willie Walsh. Perhaps I should see if retailers can get a ‘holiday’ on our VAT too – why should struggling airlines get advantages over struggling retailers?

Surely the most ridiculous use of column inches this week was the ding dong over Big Ben ringing on 31 January. If I’m honest I thought it was a p*** take when I first read the story, Mark Francois winding someone up, then I saw it again on the news and everyone seemed to be rather angry about things. Radio 4 even had a vicar on asking him if he was going to be ringing the church bells. It seems to us that some people have too much time on their hands! Funnily enough, Alex has just mentioned hearing a similar discussion on why Big Ben was all covered up in scaffolding. We’ve all assumed it’s for restoration but what if they’re turning it digital, displaying the time in all the countries we’ve negotiated a trade deal with?

Cheese and Wine Tasting – Still at 2015 prices!!!!!

First date of the new season – come and join us on Thursday 13 February at 8pm. It’s the Thursday before half term and the night before San Valentino so it usually fills up quick so give us a call or drop us a line to book your place. £20 per person as usual. 

Tasting This Weekend

We’re populating the red chair with Campos de Luz Garnacha 2017 (£10.49). We find it sits comfortably in the glass and is sociable with all manner of foods and binge watched mini-series. Come and taste the old vine deliciousness for yourself.

On the white leather sofa you will find Accomplice Semillon/ Sauvignon Blanc 2017 (£9.39). It is crisp and versatile, with lovely fresh fruit character and a friendly finish.

So with apologies for brevity (plus side our VAT return is all sorted now!) we raise a glass and say CHEERS!

Welcome to Rantuary

Friday, January 10th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well, it didn’t take long for life to get back to normal did it? 

One minute we’re fending off mince pies and glasses of Pedro Ximenez; it seems just moments later that we’re singing Auld Lang Syne and wondering where we left our Champagne glass and then, ka-boom, it’s the 3rd day of 2020 and Il Donaldo is trying to start World War III, which would definitely be the last in the trilogy, with little prospect of any of us making it through to the final credits.  Thus he wished us all a very Happy New Year reminding us that it’s an election year and that the best distraction from domestic strife is a good dose of aggressive foreign policy – oorah!

Boris returned from channelling his inner Princess Margaret in Mustique – images of the tousled toff sporting a floaty kaftan and Bakelite cigarette holder were too much even for the most prying paparazzo it would seem – and he is back in the driving seat. By all accounts phone reception is terrible in that part of the West Indies so despite relevant vicinity of Mar-a-Lago, Donald was unable to let Boris know what he was up to in the Middle East…

Anyway Boris didn’t need such distractions since he has now got to ‘get Brexit done’ although I imagine he hasn’t a far more erudite way of expressing this.  We await, with bated breath, the next stage in this drama – 31st January is the new date of significance for our diaries, I believe?

Yesterday the tabloids erupted in mutual despair, panic and vitriol at the announcement that a Ginger Prince and his wife, a successful actress, might want to live outside the bubble that is the British Royal Family.  Instead they want to live in a different bubble, in Canada or Hollywood perhaps, and thus will be harder to pry on.  Shameful.  And this comes just weeks after the other Ginger Prince announced he was going to take ‘a breather to travel, write, and read. I’ll be off social media until it’s time to come back.’

Question – has anyone ever seen Prince Harry and Ed Sheeran in the same room at the same time?  Just saying…

From a more local viewpoint, it’s January, it’s damp whilst people are trying to stay dry and the Coop is full of ‘fake beef’ burgers.  Yep, it’s time for our annual Rantuary – a time for us to be incredulous at almost everything that’s going on in the world, to be disappointed and frustrated to the same degree as we are for the rest of the year but at least this month it has a nametag, it has a purpose and we might perhaps even blag someone to sponsor us!

We seem to have heard less about dry January thus far but we do seem to be hearing an awful lot more about not eating meat.  Great for us – for a change, we purveyors of fine beverages are not getting it in the neck from the same journalists who couldn’t get enough fine beverage down their necks 10 days ago and instead it’s the cows and sheep who are feeling the sharp stick this month.  Goats would be in trouble too, if anyone in England knowingly ate much of their meat but that’s a story for another time.

Anyway, the cows and sheep are still digesting too much and filling the world with methane, so we need to stop eating them.  But just for a month?  Surely if we don’t eat them, they’re far more likely to carry on producing methane… I know I’m being fatuous but what are we actually going to do with all these extra animals if we stop eating them?  The world is already overpopulated, we’re told, and if we’re going to have to start fighting for a parking space at Sainsbury’s with Peppa Pig and Larry the Lamb, fighting for the last bag of sprouts and the last sliced loaf, where does that really leave us – perhaps I get the sprouts and Peppa eats Larry?  How does that fit in with the not eating animals thing?  Can cats still eat mice or do they now have to eat rice.  No, they can’t because, we can’t eat rice.  Rice paddy fields, manmade wetlands, methane producers extraordinaire – sadly I don’t think seaweed is a cure this time.  So, we can’t eat meat and we can’t now eat rice.  Let’s eat cheese?  Oh no, can’t do that, long standing research from every ski resort ever indicates that excessive ingestion of Raclette and three cheese fondue can result in indigestion and a notable increase in gases that remind one of a greenhouse.  And then I go home to my vegan supper of lentils and sweet potato and realise that it’s been cooked using fossil fuels and more significantly, as my wife cooked this, I have enslaved another animal to produce my food – by far the easiest part of Veganuary is not eating the meat!

So, with apologies, I am not going vegan or dry this month and, since Wayne has just said, in his wisdom, ‘Alex. Leave it!’ I will do just that – welcome to Rantuary!

Wayne’s wisdom doesn’t end here though of course.  As he sagely pointed out to a customer who was threatening an abstemious month the other day, ‘we can cater very well for Dry January – we have dry whites, dry reds, dry Gin and even dried meat!’, at which point he rested his case and the customer left the shop….

With a potential sale lost, it was now up to him to come up with a mechanic that would jump start sales in this month leading up to the divorce from Europe.  So, using the adage that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, he came up with this:

SIX BOTTLES OF WINE FOR THE PRICE OF FIVE!

Those of you with fabulous memories may recognise the fact that we may well have done this before, in 2012.  And 2013.  And 2014.  And, well yes, every year since.  But it works – it works for you, it works for us and, in a backhanded fashion, it works for the taxman who wants his cut at the end of the month too….

So don’t be slow, we’ve attached a list of what we have in stock for your perusal, the deal can be mixed too, so frankly, what are we all waiting for?

Tasting this weekend

To help you towards the half dozen we’ll open a couple of bottles of easy drinking Italians this weekend:

Madregale Bianco 2018 – £8.99 – We love the whites of Abruzzo and this is soft and fruity with a crisp dry finish – Chardonnay blended with Trebbiano make it all about richness without becoming too unctuous or overbearing.  Would work a treat with smoked salmon, or chicken Caesar salad, and beyond food – a perfect aperitif!

Madregale Rosso 2018 – £8.99 – This blend of Montepulciano and Sangiovese is a prime example of the enormous strides forward that have been made in terms of quality and tastiness in Abruzzo.  The soft earthy rusticity of the Montepulciano combines nicely with the slightly fresher, more elegant Sangiovese.  Perhaps not a wine to ponder, it is pitch perfect with a tomato based pasta!

So that’s it from us – first email of the decade, only another 520 odd to write until 2030 – things can only get better!