Archive for February, 2021

Tunnels

Friday, February 19th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This week seems to have flown past. We have found ourselves enjoying the sunshine, the rain and the later sunsets at the same time as being somewhat glad to see the back of the ice. We’ll confess to having some sympathy for the Texans, many of whom will have only seen snow on the TV. When you’re used to driving on sunlit freeways it must be quite a discovery that the SUV is more difficult to control than it seems when The Stig is behind the wheel. Meanwhile, in a show of solidarity with the electorate, Texas State Senator, Ted Cruz, jetted off to Cancun.

On the virus front, numbers all seem to be moving in the right direction, particularly here in London, so all eyes will be on Monday’s briefing. Will we be nailed down until April like Northern Ireland, or is something else on the cards?

Whilst we’re on the subject of Northern Ireland, did anyone notice talk during the week of a tunnel from Scotland to Northern Ireland? First discussed in 1954, this poppycock idea is surely a distraction but it intrigued us enough to take out our torches and look a bit further into it. We also tried to have a chat with our mole in the Cabinet Office but he wasn’t returning our calls, so this is all clearly our own conjecture.

The place where you’d most like to have the tunnel is surely the shortest distance which, as it happens, is also about the place where the Irish sea is at its deepest. We think this could pose a number of logistical issues and we’ll start off with the large amount of unexploded WWII ordinance. From the end of the war all through the 1950’s some 20,000 tons of obsolete weapons and bombs per year were dumped into the sea at Beauport’s Dyke just south of there. This carried on all the way through to the 1970’s though with only around 3,000 tons per year. They’ve been washing up on beaches on and off since the early 1990’s and I’m not sure I’d want to be driving a big rotary drill under that lot!

We wondered about asking the folk at Euston Square but they were tied up, so we pushed on ourselves. I would stress that neither of us have much in the way of expertise in large earthworks, Wayne help dig a land drain in the garden once but that’s about the sum of it.

According to our back of the envelope calculations, the depth of the sea is some 175 metres down to the bottom here. The distance is some 25 miles and, to keep an acceptable gradient for a goods train to get up (less than 5% ideally, since you ask), we think the other end of the tunnel is going to be closer to Donegal than Belfast. I’m not sure about you, but I’d say this is not a solution to Marks & Spencer’s Percy Pig problem!

We like the idea that it’s a smaller tube like tunnel run by compressed air so you just put products in a torpedo and shut the door. Then it whooshes down the tube to the other end like the cash in an old fashioned department store!

In other news Liam Thorpe, 32 and the political editor of the Liverpool Echo, was offered a covid vaccination. Puzzled as to how this could be the case given his lack of underlying reasons to be so far up the queue, he discovered that he was officially 6.2cm tall with a BMI of 28,000!

In Sussex, a man due to return to prison handed himself into Police early, deciding he’d prefer the peace and quiet of prison rather than another day in lockdown at home!

Valentine, Riesling and Rioja – The Beauty of Age

Friday, February 12th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well, what a disaster last weekend that was at Twickenham! 

I’m sure I can’t have been the only person who was on the phone to their parents at half past six, just double checking  there was definitely no Scottish blood in our ancestry, so bereft did we feel.  A few of us could take solace in the fact that the Wales-Ireland game wasn’t until the next day and, with their Emerald Green Passport in hand (ok, I know it’s a normal red EU passport but do allow me some poetic licence), could look forward to perhaps a more favourable result on Sunday.  However, losing Peter O’Mahony in the 14th minute did not make Irish eyes smile… nonetheless it was one hell of a game after that and as pointed out by almost everyone on Twitter, Billy Burns is English, so it was always to end this way…

And then we heard of a chap who, along with joint Irish/English nationality, also spent a decent period of time living in Italy and as a consequence has a certain soft spot for gli Azzurri – well, we can guess how well his weekend went!

But we stride forward, with the second visit of the Six Nations this weekend starting with the wooden spoon match at Twickenham vs Italy on Saturday.  This is followed by the championship decider between Scotland and Wales at Murrayfield, with the Ireland-France game taking place at 3pm on Valentine’s Day.

Yep, there you go, you’re welcome, that’s a reminder… 

Of course you knew that it’s Valentine’s Day on Sunday, how could I ever doubt you?  You have, of course, managed to order a card and gift online because you realised a while back that none of the card shops are open and you really shouldn’t buy a bunch of red roses and a box of Ferrero Rocher from the florist that also sells petrol for the third year on the trot!  Nevertheless, should you feel that perhaps you want put icing on the cake and push the boat out with a bottle of Champagne or such like, we are open until 7pm tonight and also from midday until 7pm tomorrow, Saturday, you know, the day before Valentine’s Day, just in case like….

Whilst we are all making the most of the glorious weather here right now, we really should consider our poor friends over in New Zealand where they are suffering their late summer sunshine whilst also celebrating New Zealand Wine Week – an event that in normal times would be promoted here with tastings galore and social events but sadly not so much this year.  In place of any such tastings we would like however like to tell you about one wine that we have just got back in stock, from the Mountford Estate in North Canterbury (Waipara).

So often, when you think of New Zealand, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir are the grapes that spring to mind.  However, without denying the quality of these two, there are more players on the scene producing fabulously delicious drops and the Mountford Liaison Riesling 2013 – £ 17.49, is one of those wines.  Now, we must confess, we have a huge soft spot for aged Riesling, the depth and richness they develop over time turns them into something really quite special.  This one is lovely, with layers of citrus fruit, some honeyed character and a lovely precise acidity keeping it all nice and fresh.  It’s not dry, but you wouldn’t want it to be in all honesty, and it is simply gorgeous with something like a Prawn Laksa, should you feel like some escapism!

Now, enough from me, over to him, who wants to tell you about a small parcel of Rioja that he’s very pleased to have in stock – over to you, Huw…

Thank you, Huw.  I’d like to talk to you about a rather special wine from our chums at Valenciso.  Undoubtedly one of our favourite Rioja producers, the winery was founded in 1998 as a collaboration between Luis Valentin and Carmen Enciso.  With more than 30 years’ experience in Rioja wine production, they decided to focus on just one style of wine – a classically structured, subtle and elegantly fine Reserva.  One of the few wines that was on the shelf the day we opened and that we’re still buying. 

Their vineyards are in north-west Rioja Alta, at altitudes of 400-600m, and only produce wine when it meets their exacting quality standards.  There was no 2003 or 2013 for example; all the grapes were sold to other less discerning producers.  Alex was lucky enough to visit them in 2007 whilst they were still finishing the winery – you too can visit once we’re all released on parole!

The wine I want to talk to you about was released 10 years after the vintage.  Park Vintners left the drawing board and became a reality in 2010 but more importantly this coincided with just about the best vintage in Rioja this century.  The Atlantic influence was significant throughout, producing highly aromatic wines with impressive balance, which suits these guys and their vineyard situation down to the ground.

Aged for five years in concrete and then 54 months in Russian Oak before bottling and a bit of a rest in the bottle, this is the real deal.  Dark fruits, balsamic notes from the ageing and a beautiful silky palate with an impressively long finish…

Ladies and Gentlemen I give you the rather exceptional 2010 Valenciso Reserva ’10 Años Después’ (£35 or £100 for a wooden box of 3).  We have a finite amount of stock, so do please form an orderly queue.

Cheers!

Cricket and Yorkshire Pudding

Friday, February 5th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Are we here already? How did that happen? One minute I’m out for a stroll and before you can even comment on the mud and standing water it’s time to write The Weekly Wine. 

After much discussion and backwards and forwards we thought it might be nice if we start with some good news this week. Test cricket is returning to terrestrial television from this morning as Channel Four have secured the rights from Star Media. Just in time for Root’s 100th cap too!

We have had complaints about the lack of sports coverage lately, so whilst we’re on the subject we would also note that the Six Nations Rugby starts on Saturday with Italy travelling to France and England travelling to Scotland for the Calcutta Cup. Could be that both England and Scotland field a rookie centre according to the Beeb!  Sunday sees the Welsh enjoying Irish hospitality.

Elsewhere the road cycling season started Wednesday with the Étoile de Bessages Tour de Gard opening the season. Given the limited opportunities to ride, this year’s race has an unexpectedly high number of ‘star’ names with three Tour de France winners on the start line. If, like me, this is your first encounter with the race, it started in 1971 and has been a five stage race since 1974 joining the UCI Europe Tour in 2005. For what it’s worth, I think we’ve found a race that Eddy Merckx hasn’t won!!!

In other news, countrywide vaccinations are continuing apace with the best part of 15% of the population now done. A University of Aberdeen study found that international travel was a big factor in the death rate and that restricting it would have made quite a difference to the spread of the pandemic. It didn’t mention horses, stables or the whereabouts of Glenn Miller. Seriously though, with numbers heading in the right direction, that dim light in the distance could actually be the light at the end of the tunnel!

We noted that Jeff Bezos has decided to spend some money on new business cards, standing down to just “executive chairman”. As far as we can see no control has been relinquished, just a change of title. I can’t imagine why he’d want to concentrate on the media part of his empire just as the sales side comes under investigation by the Attorney general of Connecticut, and the Senate anti-trust committee.

After briefly flirting with the idea of democracy and elections the army has taken over again in Myanmar. In Russia, Alexei Navalny has been put in prison for two years just because; and Canada have proven once again to be the grown-ups as they declare the Proud Boys a terrorist organisation.

This Sunday being the first Sunday of February it is, of course, Yorkshire Pudding Day. The exact origins of the Yorkshire Pudding remain unknown but it’s generally agreed to be associated with the north of England. The prefix “Yorkshire” was first used in 1747 publication, ‘The Art of Cookery Made Plain and Simple’ by Hannah Glasse, which distinguished the light and crispy texture of the pudding made in this region from other batter-based puddings created in different parts of the country. It was traditionally made in one large tin, rather than the smaller, individual puddings more common today.

In wine news, though possibly not what you’d describe as ’breaking’, The New Scientist reports that Greece domesticated grapevines around 4000 years ago to make winemaking easier. Again there was no mention of horses, stables or the whereabouts of Glenn Miller.

So that’s probably enough from us, let us know what you’re having with your Yorkshire pudding, I’m sure we have a wine to go with it, who knows, maybe even a Greek one!