Archive for November, 2020

Beaujolais, Solar Power and Hospitality

Friday, November 20th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So yesterday, as you all know, was Beaujolais Nouveau day. 

As has happened since the early 1970’s, in the early hours of Thursday, chaps with vintage RAF moustaches and names like Squiffy, Blunder and Blatter all arrived in the vicinity of Romanèche-Thorins in their vintage MG’s and Triumph Spitfires, ready to take part in the race from the heart of Beaujolais to the heart of London.  The aim of this race is to be the first to bring the new vintage wines from Beaujolais to the eager drinkers in wine bars around, for them to enjoy with their ‘Beaujolais Breakfast! 

Sadly though, none of actually happened – 2 weeks quarantine, the famous vulnerability of old Triumph’s and the truly desperate situation of there being no wine bars open, has all rather put paid to the fun this year and thus Squiffy & Co will have to find their kicks elsewhere.

As a consequence, blaming the global pandemic in a way only the shabbiest of operators would, we therefore have no Beaujolais Nouveau.

Equally, as Wayne has just pointed out, it could just be that we didn’t order any, because we’re not sure if we like it or not, but that seemed a little too blunt and honest statement to start the email with!

We do however have Beaujolais Ancien should you wish to scratch that itch – the particularly juicy Cuvée Six Villages 2018 (£10.99) and the more concentrated Cuvée Sept Fleurie 2018 (£14.99) are both a joy to behold and frankly are far better than anything you might have had for breakfast yesterday!

Moving on from the disappointments of yesterday, let’s look at ones in the future instead. 

We are now well and truly ensconced in silly season, the earliest of the Christmas parties should be starting this week and the on-trade should be gearing up for the busiest 5 weeks of the year.  Christmas falling on a Friday should mean good trade all the way up to Wednesday 23rd since a lot of people would stay at their desks longer in order to ensure not having to come back before 2021. Then the pubs and bars and restaurants and hotels would benefit from Monday and Tuesday of the week being busy like a Thursday or Friday –  money to be made, fun to be had and an industry given a small boost.

However, will bars and restaurants open before Christmas?  It seems there are as many articles saying ‘yes’ as there are saying ‘no’ but the most worrying research comes from a recent survey conducted by CGA.  

Talking to members of UK Hospitality, the British Beer & Pub Association and the British Institute of Innkeeping, the shocker is that over 70% of businesses could close in 2021 without further government help, if we continue under the current tier system.   And in the short term, further government help would be better directed at letting them re-open before Christmas than further cash injections.  Given the choice between trading for 3 weeks in December or trading for the first 6 weeks of 2021, 100% support for the December option would be the most likely outcome, we reckon.

So Boris, when you read this, if there is any chance that the science says we can re-open hospitality for December then please make it so!

And now for the less gloomy news….

Tough to find much glimmering out there but the flurry of potential vaccines is a huge positive for us all, surely.

Listening to Bryson DeChambeau, pre-tournament Masters favourite, claim that Augusta would be like a par 67 for him and then proceeding to watch him card 70-74-69-73, tied for 34th place.  In fact, prior to this year he has only carded under 70 on one occasion, in 12 attempts.  Schadenfreude is the word.

For the first time in 22 years Scotland qualified for a major tournament – Euro 2020 – and with it the tantalising prospect of a match against England at Wembley on June 18th next year.  For England fans this will be a great opportunity to watch the second half of the 1996 Euro meeting between these two teams and enjoy the Gazza goal/dentist chair celebration one more time; https://www.bbc.co.uk/sport/av/football/21314242

And finally, something that should maybe have happened ages ago:

Sol Brewed With Solar Power

No need to elaborate really on this great piece of renewable energy/marketing, we just wonder how long it will be before ‘produced using biomass energy’ becomes as much of a selling point as organic, low sulphite or vegan on a label?

I’ll leave that with you…

Recommending Wine

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

What has happened in the world this week then? From our unseasonably mild, socially distanced outside seat we have noticed that all is not well at No.10. Lee Cain, who has nothing to do with oven chips yet everything to do with running the country as an unelected “communications officer” who has Boris Johnson’s ear, has resigned.

For our part we’re hoping he gave Boris his ear back before he left but also there is an outside hope that self-proclaimed superspreader (err, I think you might mean superforecaster!) might himself take off on a one way trip, as Lee was his mate.

Fortunately, there is nothing else pressing on the agenda, the global pandemic has turned tail and fled, and the country is absolutely fully prepared and ready for the all the opportunities that the Brexit deal is presenting us with in January.

Here at Park Vintners towers there’s been a bit of a to-do as well. Both Wayne and Alex were tasked with recommending a red wine to a customer, who took both home for the weekend to try. Now when we recommend wines, we obviously try and fit the wine to the brief we’ve been given. In this case there had been talk of low intervention, interesting grape varieties and genuine drinkability and interestingly we both chose wines from countries that speak Spanish, and indeed even contained similar grape varieties.

Expecting the big reveal on Monday, we waited on tenterhooks wondering whose choice had proven most drinkable. Well I can tell you we were both disappointed to hear nothing on Monday, the jury still being out by all accounts. Well, when the result came to us on Tuesday there was some surprise and consternation , Alex well and truly spat the dummy out,  refusing to accept that Wayne had chosen the more approved of wine. Rufus, in his capacity as Chief of Spaniels, hastily arranged a press conference in the car park at Pets at Home and Wayne cheekily recommended Alex’s choice to another customer in the interim. Fortunately sense has prevailed, we’ve sorted our differences over a game of tiddledywinks, and it has been agreed that wine recommendation is not a competitive sport unless you’re an American Sommelier in Molly Birnbaum’s “Season to Taste”. The usual zen like calm has returned to 126 Arthur Road.

In other wine news, we’ve had a backwards and forwards with our chum Jack. Those of you with long memories will recall he is a long-time confidant who tends to provide us with the occasional bit of posh kit, interesting information on obscure parts of the wine trade and good laughs on the odd occasion we get to the pub. Not so many laughs this year for obvious reasons but we have to hold our hands up and say we’ve bought some nice bits of claret from him.

We’ll start off by saying that, as always, we’ve tried to choose wines that are just coming to their perfect spot for maximum pleasure, we’ve unusually gone with all the same vintage because 2006 is just bang on the button now. Personally, I’d have to say the Haut-Bailly isn’t one we see very often so we certainly weren’t going to pass up an opportunity to get what Jean Delmas, winemaker at Haut Brion for 40 odd years, described as the best terroir in Pessac-Leognan bar none.

Château Haut Batailley 2006, Pauillac – £55

“Tasted at a vertical tasting at the château. The 2006 Haut Batailley is a wine that I have always appreciated and at ten years of age, I have no reason to change that view. It has a such a lively and vivacious bouquet, especially when compared to the sultrier (if ultimately superior 2005 Haut-Batailley). The palate is underpinned by very fine tannin, the acidity quite noticeable but simply lending freshness and tension. There is a sense of this being a Pauillac that is tightly coiled and there is a lot of energy on the finish. This is a great success for the vintage, but if you can wait another couple of years, it should manifest more intriguing secondary notes and turn into a more interesting Pauillac. Tasted July 2016. Drink Date 2018 – 2035”

Score: 91 Neal Martin, Wine Advocate (231), June 2017

Château Haut-Bailly 2006, Pessac-Leognan – £90

“The 2006 Château Haut-Bailly has a refined and pure bouquet with hints of dark chocolate infusing the precise red berry fruit. I love the way this seductively unfurls in the glass, as if a finger is beckoning you. The palate is medium-bodied with supple tannin, a keen line of acidity, quite grippy and backward towards the finish, suggesting that this will benefit from another year or two in bottle. Elegance and power here, a Haut-Bailly cruising at a high level.” 

Score: 93 Neal Martin, RobertParker.com, May 2016

Leoville Barton 2006, St Julien – £90

“Not surprisingly, this wine is closed, masculine, but super-rich, with a denser, more complete and full-bodied style than its sibling, Langoa Barton. Some toasty vanillin is apparent in the black currant aromas intermixed with tobacco leaf, cedar, and spice box. The wine is full-bodied and has a boatload of tannin, not unusual for this estate, as well as an impressively pure, long finish. Everything is here, but this wine, made with uncompromising vision, is meant to be cellared for an exceptionally long period of time. Anticipated maturity: 2020-2035.” 

Score: 91+Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (181), February 2009

Domaine Belleville Chambole-Musigny ‘Les Drazeys’ 2015 – £62

Tasting the wines at this estate are one of the reasons we joined an independents buying group. This is beautifully aromatic with violets, dark cherry, raspberry and black tea leaf character. The palate has a lovely mouthfeel with silky tannins, those same berry fruits, a touch of minerality and a really long finish. When we first tasted it, we gave it a very rare 3 ticks on the tasting sheet. As far as we can see keeping a little back in the cellar for an extra year has meant we’re just about the only stockists in the UK now. Very Limited.

For the white wine drinkers amongst you lets chat about Christian Bellang…

In 1974 Christian Bellang took over his parents’ estate with vines mainly in Meursault as well as some of his father in law’s vines in Savigny-Lès-Beaune. His son Christophe joined him in 1995 and together they expanded the estate to a total of 9 hectares. Today Christophe manages the estate and bottles around 40% of production under his own label. He makes wines which are fruit forward, easy going and perfect for drinking young.

Vines are grown according to the principles of Lutte Raisonnée. The wines are vinified in oak barrels using indigenous yeasts and are aged barrel for between 10 and 18 months depending on the vintage and the appellation.

Meursault 1er Cru Les Charmes 2017 – £55

This 1er Cru  at the southern end of the village is probably the best known of Meursault’s lieux dits, it is also the largest. This land has some of the best terroir in the Cote d’Or for white wine with its rocky, calcerous soils underpinned by broken limestone bedrock. This is wonderful, fruit forward in the house style but with some velvet glove power and a real elegance to it. Scrumptious!

Now that we’ve whet the appetite a little, who’s thirsty?

We’re Open with New Wine!!!!!!!

Friday, November 6th, 2020

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Oop – Hapur – Oтворено – Obert – Otvoreno – Otevřeno – Åben – Open – Avoinna – Ouvert – Iepen – Geöffnet – Aνοικτό – Illuliat siamasissut – Nyitva – Opið – Buka – Oscailte – Aperto – 営業中 – Minogiwang – Oтворено – Miftuh – Foshlit – Åpen – Otwarte – Aberto – Deschis – Открыто – Fosgailte – Oтворено – Otvorené – Odprto – Abierto – Imefunguliwa – Öppet – เปิด – Açık – ‘Tala – Вхід – Ar Agor…..

Hopefully, I’ve managed to get the message across in as many different languages as possible but if it needs further clarification, we are OPEN. 

As an essential business (!) we are allowed to keep the doors unlocked and welcome in sensibly socially distanced customers, two at a time or two bubbles at a time.  We were allowed to stay open last time we got locked in but refrained as we really weren’t sure what to do/how to do it/who would get ill and when, or indeed if it was sensible to encourage lots of  people out of their lairs.  In this iteration however, we are far more confident about where we all stand; confident that we all now clearly understand the do’s and don’ts, the social etiquettes, the mask wearing and the hand sanitising, the need to stay at home if you feel ill and frankly the serious nature of what we have endured for the last 7 months. 

So, yes, we’re open but should you not want to venture out because it’s cold, then we are still delivering – 6 bottle minimum order – should that be of interest.

Our slightly revised opening hours are:

MONDAY, TUESDAY, WEDNESDAY – 4pm – 7pm

THURSDAY & FRIDAY – 2pm – 8pm

SATURDAY – 12pm – 7pm

SUNDAY – CLOSED

Anyway, that’s our news, what’s been going on in the wider world, anything fun?  To be honest, as more of us get sent home there really shouldn’t be any news.  Last night was the quietest Guy Fawkes night I have ever known, it felt like an early January evening; mind you, it seems that many of us have been out every night so far this week so perhaps an evening in is just what is needed – here you go, have 28…

Saying that though, Guy Fawkes’ is the day of the annual Million Mask March.  Usually, the focus of this march is to address corruption in politics and civil liberty and the protestors tend to wear Guy Fawkes mask (or is it Salvador Dali?).  This year however the march was more focused on the current pandemic and the lockdown of course but hopefully the irony of the protester holding the banner saying ‘NO MORE LOCKDOWN  NO MORE COVER-UPS  NO MORE MASKS!  NO MORE LIES!’  Whilst wearing a mask has not been missed!

Meanwhile in Asian news, last week we passed the anniversary of the Military World Games that took place in Wuhan in late October 2019.  China won 239 medals, the USA just 8.  Home advantage clearly was well used here and the sports included Aeronautical Pentathlon, Naval Pentathlon, Orienteering, Wrestling and, of course, Golf!  Alex reckons that the golf is all something to do with spy training, courtesy of his intense study of James Bond films (RIP 007 #1!) and, as a point of no relevance whatsoever, Brazil won all four of the available gold medals.  You have been warned he said, as he tapped the side of his nose.  I think he’s talking rot but you should hear some of his other conspiracy theories about Wuhan 2019 whilst I pop down to the RMR unit on Durnsford Road to discuss handicaps.

Back here, Mr Sunak has extended furlough until the end of March 2021, which will mean over a year of the government funded scheme, which is good news for a lot of people but still begs the question that if he can find money for this, how was it so hard to find cash for Manchester, Wales or half term school meals?

And so, finally, to the US of A, the world’s largest economy, home to Mickey Mouse and Donald Trump.  Who is now in charge we ask ourselves?  Well actually, Donald still is, until January 20th next year at least, which gives him plenty of time to cause mischief and mayhem in the interim.  I wonder, when he looks at the news reports and sees boarded up shops across the country and hears of arms and ammunition being taken off display in stores, all due to fears of election induced social unrest, does he think to himself ‘my, what a great job I have done!’?

WINE NEWS

Because, yes, that’s really the purpose of this email.  Whilst tastings have been few and far between, we have manged to list a couple of new wines and welcome back a couple of old favourites this week.

New in, we have two champagnes from the marvellous Joseph Perrier.  We’ve been keen on these wines for years but have never quite been able to reel them into the shop but now they’re hooked.  As their website states: Founded in 1825, Joseph Perrier has been owned and run by the same family since 1888.  They own 21 hectares of vineyards, that  are mostly planted with Pinot Noir but include 2 hectares of Chardonnay.  All the wines are made with a keen focus on freshness and purity, a theme which runs right through the range and really shows its worth in the vintage cuvées which show impressive energy and poise and remarkable ageing potential.

Joseph Perrier ‘Cuvée Royale’ Brut NV – £36.99

35% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier, with three years of ageing, this vivacious champagne has a delicate nose of green apples and stone fruits.  A lively freshness balances the round and elegant citrus fruit on the palate.  Cuvée Royale’ alludes to the historic relationship between Joseph Perrier and Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, as their Champagne of choice!

Joseph Perrier 2008 – £70.00

A superb blend of 50% Chardonnay, 41% Pinot Noir and 9% Pinot Meunier with 6 years of ageing and from an excellent vintage, this champagne has a bouquet of pure white stone fruit and honeysuckle leading to a richly textured palate with exotic citrus flavours and a hint of brioche.

Also new in, a wine from SA that we used to sell before we opened here and have always hoped to get back on the shelf.  Ataraxia was founded in 2004 by husband and wife team Kevin and Hanli Grant.  Kevin spent years getting to know the intricacies of Hemel-en-Aarde’s terroir as head winemaker of Hamilton Russell where he was very key in their upward trajectory.  We have currently listed the Sauvignon Blanc, which is the wine we know of old but will taste their Chardonnay once the new vintage arrives – it is meant to be world class!

Ataraxia Sauvignon Blanc 2019 – £17.99

This has minerality and grassiness ahead of pure, pungent fruit but still shows hints of passionfruit and citrus as well as green melon aromas – a lovely bridge between the New and Old world style of Savvy B.

We also welcome the return of the two wine from the our chaps in the Veneto, Monte del Fra:

Bardolino DOC 2019 – £13.99

Ripasso Classico DOC 2017 – £19.99

That should probably be it from me as it’s 1.45pm and I need to open the doors now and let you all in!

We’ll leave the last words to Sean (with a little help from Elizabeth Barrett Browning):

Love may not make the world go round, but I must admit that it makes the ride worthwhile!