Archive for April, 2021

Wine and Wallpaper for the Bank Holiday?

Friday, April 30th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It’s a Bank Holiday this weekend. We’ve lined up rain, rosé and some fresh fish at the farmers market to cover all basses. Wayne won’t be cycling in Mallorca, Alex won’t be swearing at the WhatsApp he’s just received showing a beachside cold beer with a parked bicycle in the background, and none of us are going to the cinema yet.

A man in Bromley has highlighted just how exciting life in the ‘burbs is by taking six years to park in each and every one of the 211 parking spaces at his local supermarket. We absolutely loved the eccentricity of his project, describing it as like a boring version of Panini sticker books and he even used a spreadsheet to log his spaces, allotting a different colour as each row got filled. The crowning glory for us though, was that his name was Gareth WILD!

In other news, we are beginning to wonder if it’ll be curtains for some of the cabinet and their project to turn Westminster into an enchanted forest full of magic money trees for their chums. It seems the Prime Minister, who once called Nigeria “fantastically corrupt”, has studied rather closely a particular way of governing and its proceeds. But we’re beginning to wonder if that brash foolishness really is just stupidity.

So, imagine for a moment you’re in the PM’s shoes, your hair was cut in a dark room by a barber in a blindfold and you’re wearing Wurzel Gummidge’s emergency suit.

Firstly, why would you try and pin your own leaks on the sleeping ogre who fled Barnard Castle last year? It should come as no surprise that he is rather unhappy with his treatment, might have a paper trail of nefarious goings on and coincidentally is due to testify in front a number of select committees in the near future.  Last year he was telling the truth in the rose garden and we were all terribly nasty to think otherwise. This year, he was lying last year in the rose garden. Which is it?

Next, we’d wonder why would you spend £840 a roll on wallpaper when you have a toddler with crayons?

Then we’d wonder why you’d never watched Judge Judy, Suits or even Judge John Deed, because surely, if you had, you would never have walked straight into that barrister’s trap at Prime Ministers Questions this week.

Most importantly we’d wonder why, as an innocent man, you’re so keen to not answer any questions whatsoever but super enthusiastic to invoke enquiries over which you’ll have the final say on their publication. 

It could be us, of course. Perhaps we’re just difficult curmudgeons who think people should act with a certain amount of probity and maybe you’re right with your assertion that this is all a farrago of nonsense.  But we think we’ll be laughing again when we see #carrieantoinette trending – thanks to whoever came up with that one.

As we mentioned, we’re back up to speed with the rosé but, having looked at the forecast for the weekend, we thought it might be prudent to mention a red wine that might fit the bill too. Alex has been particularly enjoying Domaine Lafond Roc Epine Lirac (£18.99) lately, one of the great undervalued appellations of the Rhône, just across the river to Chateauneuf du Pape. A blend of Grenache (60%) Syrah (30%) & Mourvèdre (10%) with just under a third of the cuvée aged in small french oak barrels it has a lovely dark fruit character, a touch of spice and a great finish.

Wayne has been on a different tack supping from the joys of Spain. Mas Blanche I Jove Sao Abrivat (£17.99) from a fantastic estate in Costers del Segre, inland from Barcelona. The wine is a blend of Tempranillo (40%) , Grenache (35%) and Cabernet Sauvignon (25%) matured in a mixture of French and American oak barrels for around 12 months. The wine is soft with a lovely dark red fruit character and a melange of vanilla, cinnamon and black pepper spice notes before the long balanced finish.

We think both will be handy to have on hand should you be barbecuing or having a roast. The Spaniard particularly, should you be roasting some pork.

If anyone was planning to fund a trip to Mustique we’d happily volunteer as fact finders ahead of any “official” travel.

As usual we shall be CLOSED on BANK HOLIDAY MONDAY.


Wayne & Alex

Wine Leads, Football Follows

Friday, April 23rd, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So, here’s a thing…

In 1955, 23 Provençal wine estates proclaimed themselves Crus Classés based on an evaluation of their history, winemaking/cellar reputation and overall vineyard quality.  This classification has never been revisited or modified, except for the fact that 5 of the original estates no longer make wine.  Then in the early noughties, to further elevate their status, 14 of the remaining estates created the Club des Crus Classés de Cotes de Provence with a view to promotion and protection.  Membership of this club is fixed ad vitam aeternam, no new estates can be added and they cannot lose the Cru Classé status. This means the owners of these estates will always benefit from their classification, no matter how good or bad their wines are!

Now, let’s go back to 100 years before this Provençal model. 

In order for visitors at the 1855 Exposition Universelle de Paris to better understand the Bordeaux wines on display, Napoleon demanded a classification system from the wine brokers.  The brokers ranked the wines according to an estate’s reputation and trading price, which was how they gauged quality back then.  Interestingly, in their assessment, the top 4 wines were: Château Lafite, Château Latour, Château Margaux and Haut-Brion…. I wonder whatever happened to any of them?

And now we leap to the present day, where 12 football clubs, following the Provençal model, attempted to create a breakaway Super League this week, membership of which was to be fixed ad vitam aeternam, no new clubs would be added and they couldn’t lose their membership. This would have meant that the owners of these clubs would always benefit from their classification, no matter how good or bad their teams are!

If you want to know what’s going to happen in football next, best look at what was going on in wine 100 years ago! (Ok, this statement possibly doesn’t deserve too much scrutiny but it was fun to write…)

As an aside, highly regarded fine wine database Liv-ex has, since 2009, produced a biennial re-evaluation of the global fine wine market, ‘based on the transactional activity of the world’s largest pool of fine wine merchants, it reflects the changing buying patterns of the trade’.  Their most recent edition (2019) has the following rankings for left bank Bordeaux, in value order: Lafite Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Haut Brion, Mouton Rothschild – recognise anyone!

Elsewhere, outside the high-stakes worlds of wine and football, a real world is carrying about its daily business.

Another week, another MP, another text message.  It would seem that whilst Dyson-gate isn’t going to run far, there is still the question of access… should a billionaire re-pat ex-pat have our Prime Minister’s mobile phone number?  Not sure.

Everyone’s favourite app, TikTok is in trouble again for how it uses the data it collects from all the children that are addicted to it.  In a moment of no sh*#, Sherlock, sorry, profound clarity, the lady leading the legal challenge said that TikTok is ‘a data collection service that is thinly veiled as a social network’.  Whatever next, targeted ads on Facebook?  Doorbells that film you, owned by Amazon?    Sometimes the mind boggles.

Today is the feast day of St George, cheers all round for England’s Patron Saint.  In our quest to unearth interesting facts about him, we seem to have opened a bit of a can of worms.  According to English Heritage not only was George not English, he didn’t even visit England.  He wasn’t a knight either and he never fought a dragon.  He was, however, a Roman soldier who died as a martyr for his Christian faith and as a consequence, he is a Saint.  Phew.  Also in the middle ages, many believed that he was one of the ‘Fourteen Holy Helpers’ – a group of saints who could help during epidemic diseases.  Now, we’re not sure if membership of this group of helpers was fixed ad vitam aeternam, or whether new helpers could be added to this select group but we imagine it was probably run a little more inclusively than the world of Provencal wine…. anyway, St George’s protection was invoked against several nasty diseases, including the Plague and leprosy so his role today is as important as ever!

We also know, not through the English Heritage website but from the research undertaken by Theodore Logan & Bill S. Preston, that his favourite tipple was Piquepoul Rosé 2020, Coteaux D’Ensérune, France – £13.99 – which is the palest of pinks with a delicate nose of cherry blossom, strawberries and peaches and a palate that is bone dry and fresh, with summer berry flavours and notes of crushed rose petals. 

So, if you want to celebrate George properly today and this weekend then grab yourself a bottle or perhaps treat yourself to 6 bottles for £72 whilst the sun is still shining!

Finally, an acknowledgement of The Special One, Jose Mourinho, as he exits English football.  Forget the Premier League wins, the Europa League, the Champions League et al, what he will be most remembered for is being the first and only manager to be sacked in the ESL – a unique and historical achievement, chapeau – now go!

Pie and a Pint of Kingston Gate Lager!

Friday, April 16th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well, what did you do first? 

Me, I had a haircut.  Wayne then did the double header of a haircut followed by a pie and a pint in the pub with Matt Hancock and David Cameron.  As a result, we now have a £1.7 billion contract to supply Red Wayne 20/20 (Wayne’s side hustle mentioned a few weeks back), to the 8 booze bars in the Houses of Parliament, despite the fact that, like Seaborne in 2019, we have no experience whatsoever in high volume distribution and don’t even have enough wine.  Not to worry, we’ll be alright Jack; Boris has insisted that there will be no cross party inquiry into cronyism – I wonder why he’s not so keen?

Aside from drinking outside in nigh-on artic temperatures, what else has been going on this week?  This time last year it was 21 Celsius in our sunny back gardens and we were all labouring under the misguided illusion that restrictions would only last a couple of weeks and that by late May life would be back to normal.  Today it’s about half that temperature but I still would rather be here than there!  In sporting circles one of us got the winner in the Grand National, none of us got the winner of the US Masters and the re-energised Mark Cavendish has won 3 stages of the Tour of Turkey.  Liverpool klopped out of the Champions League and with it now being a mathematical certainty that they cannot win the Premiership, questions must be asked as to how quickly the mighty can fall.

And now more of us can get vaccinated here, which is very exciting, whilst Israel has been hinting that they might be getting close to herd immunity and Malta is offering to pay us to go on holiday there.  We can now go and stay in another bed in another part of the country in self-catered accommodation and not just because we need to test our eyesight. 

In a week of tidying up and catching up we were caught thumbing through and older copy of The Morning Advertiser which carries the strapline Inspiration for Pub Success since 1794 – not much modesty there.  Anyway, this edition was from early December last year and the article that caught our eye was The Drinks List – Top Brands to Stock in 2021 which is actually really just a list of the best-selling drinks in the pub sector over the last year.

And it’s quite astonishing what you learn or rediscover perhaps.  Lager still outstrips all comers on a monumental scale but interestingly enough cider comes in a distant second, cask beer third and fourth is craft beer.  Sadly, 5 of the top ten selling ciders were filled with berries, dark fruits, strawberries and the like, which to my mind isn’t really cider… Anyway, as ever the best-selling lagers were Carling, Fosters, Carlsberg, Coors Light and Stella Artois – all crimes against taste but lessons in great marketing.  What really intrigued us though was the list of top 10 best-selling wines.   Now, bearing in mind we’ve been around since they started making wine in Georgia circa 6,000BC we thought we’d probably come across most brands on show in the British marketplace.  We were wrong. 

Jack Rabbit Pinot Grigio anyone?  Fetzer Coldwater Creek Pinot Grigio?  No clue but apparently they were the two best sellers last year, swiftly followed by Moet & Chandon Brut Imperial – who knew this much Champagne got drunk in the pub, particularly when we’re all being told that Prosecco is the people’s choice – Vinuva only comes 8th in the list.  Significantly, the biggest takeaway  for us from all this is that often pubs sell really, really mediocre wines and as consequence we shouldn’t be too concerned about their re-opening taking away too much of our business!

Following on from last week’s round-up, this week we are pleased to welcome seven new products to our shelves and one returner.

In the white house we have two wines from Spain.  Menade Verdejo Ecologico 2019 – £15.29 which has a definite lemon lime citrus character, with tangy minerality, oozes dryness but is weightier on the palate than the nose might suggest.  Crisp and fresh and deliciously dry, one can definitely have this as an interesting step away from Sauvignon Blanc.  Wayne likes it a lot, as do I!  Second up is Noelia Bebelia Albariño 2019 – £21.49 which has quickly been renamed ‘posh’ Albariño!  Rich and expressive on the nose, sweet ripe fruit on the palate, good concentration and intensity.  A fabulous length finish with hints of the sea and a zingy acidity – a truly hand crafted wine, following minimal intervention principles both in the vineyard and the winery.

For the red zone, we’ve gone global. 

From Australia, we have Geoff Merrill Bush Vine GSM 2013 – £19.49.  Geoff always likes to release his wines with a bit of age on them and this 8 year old is a joy.  It has out grown the boisterously youthful fruit you would get in a younger wine and is filled with rounded blackberry fruits encasing notes of vanilla and mocha.  Lovely long finish, properly mature barbecue wine.

From Chile, Tabali Talud Cabernet Sauvignon 2017 – £18.99.  This is from one of the very best Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in the whole of Chile (top 5) and of course has a classic South American Cabernet nose with notes of blackcurrant or perhaps fruits of the forest yoghurt, cassis and cherry, touches of herbaceous character and integrated oak that finishes with coconut tobacco character – clean, dry, medium plus length – not flabby, not shabby with a very tidy finish!

Italy then joins the fray, with Cantine Paolini Nerello Mascalese 2019 – £11.49 representing Sicily.  Oodles of maraschino cherries and hints of beeswax, lovely soft tannins and a cleansing fresh acidity – almost too drinkable.

And now we have Lebanon, of course.  Massaya Terrasses de Baalbeck 2015 – £28.99 is a wine I first tasted in 2008, so not the swiftest turn around I accept.  The famous Rhône producer, Vieux Télégraphe, has a big interest in this winery and the 40% Grenache Noir, 30% Syrah, 30% Mourvèdre blend is a bit of a giveaway.  Rhôney but not Rhôney is not the most helpful tasting note but I think you’ll understand once you try it.  It smells of wines of the south of France but then on the palate has a plush fruit character and some herby character that you just wouldn’t find in Europe.  Nice long finish, would age for a couple of years too, should you lose it at the bottom of the wine-fridge!

Finally, a couple of beers.  As discussed earlier, in spite of protestations to the contrary, lager is still in great demand.  With this in mind we have just taken Kingston Gate Lager 4.1% – £2.80 from the lovely Park Brewery, a crisp and refreshingly light lager made for drinking in the park of course!  Returning to the fold for its annual seasonal short residency we have the delicious Spring Break Sour 4.3% – £3.00 from the Belleville Brewery, a zingy fresh Gose style beer, with loads of grapefruit freshness and tang.  If there’s one problem we have with this beer it’s that it is for too easy to drink!

I feel I’ve rattled on enough now, you all have lives to lead and we’ve got £1.7 billion to spend, so back to your desks everyone it’s not home time yet!

Volvo Hiccups, Chardonnay and ‘Where’s the Southern Comfort?’

Friday, April 9th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

What a week we’ve had. Sunshine, snow and rain have all featured, neither of us knows what to wear, should we open the door, put a sweater on, open a window and that’s before we’ve even considered what we should wear to the pub garden!

How strange is it going to be having a chat with a mate in real life without a zoom backdrop of the British Library and constantly cutting off one another’s words?

The Volvo had a hiccup but has a brand new shiny suspension bit and is making much less noise now. Back on the road again!

In a brief roundup of other stuff, Myanmar’s coup d’etat reached the streets of London this week when the Ambassador, Kyaw Zwar Minn, was locked out of the embassy.

In Italy, the government has finally done the right thing by Venice and issued a decree that the 700 ginormous cruise ships will no longer be able to enter the lagoon the way they have. They will now follow the canal like commercial ships and disembark their passengers at the far end of the lagoon. An important step in the preservation of Venice we think, let’s hope it holds!

There has been nightly petrol-bombing all week in Northern Ireland in sectarian violence of the like we’ve not seen in years. Why it’s taken 5 days to get to the newspapers we’ve no idea, but frankly it needs to stop, so if matron could drag some politicians by their ears and get them around the table to start talking, it might not be a bad idea.

In real sports, Mark Cavendish found himself on the podium again on Wednesday taking 3rd place at the Schelderprijs. Paris-Roubaix scheduled for the weekend is now postponed.

Saturday sees the Grand National at 5.15pm. The favourite seems to be Cloth Cap but will Tom Scudamore whippet across the line in front of Minella Times? Given that’s the mount of Rachel Blackmore who hogged the winners step at Cheltenham this year we’re not so sure. Wayne suggests a small each way on Discorama but his reasoning seems to be that it sounds like an ‘80’s nightclub plus he had a shocker at Cheltenham so do with that what you will. Alex has been talking about Speith but that might be in the golf!

We’ve had some new wine show up on the doorstep lately, along with the return of a few old favourites. On the new front, we’d mention Flametree Chardonnay 2019 (£18.99) one of Decanter’s Wines of the Year in their February issue and a real delight. We also have a new champagne, Andre Robert Les Jardins du Mesnil (£47) is a captivating Blanc de Blancs all from Grand Cru vineyards. Aged for five years on the lees it’s a stunning example of the style that you all know we both love. Whilst I’m shooting the breeze about bubbles I’d just mention that we have some Bolney Estate  Classic Cuvee (£28.99) chilling in the fridge.

On the old favourite’s front, we are freshly restocked with Collequieto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo (£10.99) a cracking everyday drinker for those that haven’t tried it, dark berry fruits soft tannins and versatile on the food front.

Finally we’d like to raise a glass to Prince Philip using his words to the US Ambassador in 1999 “Where’s the Southern Comfort?”

Melagiu Diena!

Thursday, April 1st, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Just a quickie this week and a day early, too – judging from sales this week, I can see how eager you all are to get out into those gardens and pop some corks, so I shan’t dally!

First up, opening hours.

This bank holiday weekend is a funny one, usually it’s just me and the man from Dalchini playing dominoes in the middle of the street as you all evacuate to bonnier climes far, far away.  This year however, is different and as a consequence of you all staying around, domino tournaments are suspended until May.  In the meantime, I thought I’d let you know when we’ll be open:

Today, Thursday 1st April – now until 7pm

Friday 2nd April – 12pm – 3pm – a short day just in case you need a bottle for lunchtime

Saturday 3rd April – 12pm – 6pm – plenty of time to stock up before we close for 2 days

Sunday 4th April/Monday 5th April – CLOSED

Tuesday 6th April – Back to ‘normal’…

Just as a memo to all this, I shan’t be able to make any deliveries on Friday due to the fact that the Volvo is a bit poorly and also Wayne is going to be busy at home with his latest side project.

After an umpteen of years talking about it he has finally got round to making his own wine, a red wine made exclusively from white grapes.  Key to the blend are Muskat Alarff, Tsallalie and the Lithuanian grape Melagiu Diena.  How he has managed to get the white wine grapes to produce red wine is a mystery to me but I imagine it must have to do with the prevalence of cochineal bugs, imported from Mexico to his vineyard in Balham that are accidentally crushed in the picking process (see, it’s really nigh on impossible to get a 100% vegan wine!).  Anyway, a red wine from white grapes named Red Wayne 20/20 – perfect for the Italian seasonal speciality Pesce d’Aprile…


Anyway, I said this would be short and sweet, so let’s make it so.  Let’s also make it an email that doesn’t contain serious reference to Covid, bike racing, cricket or rugby, politics or European vaccine policy…

And with that, I’m gone – have a wonderful Easter break and let’s all hope it doesn’t snow on your garden parties!