Archive for July, 2021

Free For All

Friday, July 23rd, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Captain Peacock : Are you free, Mr Humphries?

Mr. Humphries : I’m free!

So, on Monday, even though John Inman died more than 14 years ago, as a country we came together to celebrate his most famous catchphrase whilst revelling in our new found ‘Freedom’.  Mick Jagger was there too, singing ‘I’m free to do what I want any old time’ over and over again; 70’s blues rockers Free sang ‘All Right Now’ whilst chewing their lifetime supply of Wrigley’s Spearmint but sadly neither George Michael nor Freddie Mercury were available to perform ‘Freedom’ and ‘I want to break free’…

We went to the pub, a Free House of course, on public transport using our Freedom Pass (who knew we were both over 66!) and drank beer from the Freedom Brewery, freely.  Whilst the beer wasn’t free, this was our free time and we were free to choose how to spend it.

Of course, none of this really happened and if I’m honest, Monday was just another day, with the same amount of people wearing/not wearing masks out and about as we had seen last week.  In the pub on Tuesday it was still table service, socially distanced, the staff were all masked and it didn’t feel weird.  In the shop we’re still wearing masks when people come in and for the most part customers are too.  As mentioned last week, it’s almost as if we can self-govern and work out what’s best for us without outside help although if Boris’ ridiculous behaviour last Sunday when he didn’t much fancy going into isolation are anything to go by, some people, the same people, really do need to have it spelt out to them in words of one syllable – NO, YOU CAN’T.

One person who seems to be taking the whole freedom thing to heart is Dominic Cummings who on Tuesday continued to give us feedback on his relationship with Mr Johnson via interview with the BBC.  This continues his drip feed of almost lascivious revelations about what went on, in his opinion, behind the door of Number 10.  We have been getting Free Dom updates for a while now and it feels they will continue to flow – at what point does the mud actually start to stick though?

In Wayne’s world of weird sports, the Tour de France completed itself and, as suggested last Friday, Pogacar won and Mark Cavendish kept the green jersey, chapeaux all round.  The British Lions take on the Springboks with Eliot Daly at outside centre which only goes to prove that Warren Gatland has a sense of humour.  In the world of cricket, The Hundred started on Wednesday which everyone tells me is not simply shortened format T20 cricket but actually a huge innovation in the world of leather and willow (although I suspect neither of these are used in this format).

For me, I’m off on holiday, following a cry for help from the organisers of the Tokyo Olympics.  Apparently, they have an unusual problem that I can help them solve…. myself and a crack team of shuckers are being paid just over $1 million to save the canoeing and rowing in Tokyo Bay.  Our job is to remove all the oysters that have attached themselves to the floats positioned to protect the racing area from waves.  So many oysters have attached themselves that the floats are starting to sink which I believe, by definition, is not what they are meant to do.  So I’ve packed, Muscadet and Chablis, a bit of Albariño but I just need someone to help me carry the barrel of Guinness – any volunteers?

Should only take about a week and then I’ll be back, clearly not having to isolate as I will be part of the now infamous and perhaps fictitious daily contact testing pilot scheme.   In the meantime, we have a few new things to keep you occupied in my absence:

Beer

Slybeast 1533 Session IPA – £3.70

Park Brewery Phantom Kolsch Lager – £3.50 (not new exactly but absent for a long while)

Park Brewery Ballet Loop Table Beer – £3.80

Sambrook’s Session IPA – £3.40

Wine

Two new whites, seemed sensible given the weather:

Pfaffl Wien 1 2020, Vienna, Austria – £14.99 – Made from 60% Riesling, 20% Pinot Blanc, 20% Grüner Veltliner all grown overlooking the city of Vienna, we have a wine that is lightly aromatic on the nose with a palate of fresh green orchard fruits with a touch of peppery spice from the Grüner and a long, moreish finish – this is what the Austrians drink on hot summer evenings and I think it’s a bit rude that they haven’t told us about it sooner!

I Clivi Malvasia Vigna 80 Anni 2019, Collio, Italy – £24.99 – if you go any further west here you’ll be in Slovenia but that’s just a free geography lesson rather than a tasting note.  We loved the rounded leesy nose, the appealing softness on palate, the apple fruit, the minerals, the layered texture and the finish.  Our tasting note ended with words of one syllable that we can all understand: I LIKE THIS…

That’s it from us for now, stay hydrated and sit in the shade with a nice glass of white wine perhaps

Now , sing along with me, Mrs Slocombe and Miss Brahms:

Ground floor: perfumery, Stationery and leather goods

Wigs and haberdashery, Kitchenware and food

Going up

First floor: telephones, Gents’ ready-made suits

Shirts, socks, ties, hats, Underwear and shoes

Going up

Second floor: carpets, Travel goods and beddings

Materials and soft furnishing, Restaurant and teas

Going down

Bye for now!

The Week That Was

Friday, July 16th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So that was the week that was. 

We had a gun, a real pop-pop automatic pistol designed to look like it was made of Lego but thankfully the real Lego pointed out to Culper Precision in Utah (USA in case you were wondering) the lunacy of such a thing error of their ways.  As a side note, Everytown For Gun Safety tells us that there have been more than 165 accidental shootings by children in the US so far this year.

We had localised flooding that was awful and then we saw what was going on in Germany and Belgium and the rest and grieved for the climate.

We had Boris’s confirmation of the next phase, with the mask/no-mask debate taking centre stage.  Unofficially there seems to be a definite feeling that a large proportion of the country think that mask use is still a sensible move – it’s almost as if we can self-govern and work out what’s best for us without outside help….

We had a football team in a final for the first time in 55 years – the first time in many of our lifetimes – and it was at Wembley too.  We played, we lost and we’re hugely proud of the team and what they have achieved and the joy they have brought us.  Thank you.

We had six gazillion people pinged on test and trace in the last week which is up infinity percent on the week before – it’s almost as if there is a rampant airborne virus out there, targeting humans!  At what point do we reel in the testing a bit and start on the next phase please?  Over 10% of employees at Nissan Sunderland are at home because of potential contact….

We had promise of sunshine, which soon proved itself to be empty, but it’s only 16th July, still plenty of time, yeah?

We had the publication of the National Food Strategy Independent Review – RECOMMENDATIONS IN FULL.  By in full, they mean it is 73 pages long in tiny type and contains 14 recommendations.  And no, I’ve not read it.  However, I have to say that the first two recommendations made me realise immediately that Boris would not be a fan.

Recommendation 1. Introduce a sugar and salt reformulation tax.  Use some of the revenue to help get fresh fruit and vegetables to low income families – seems totally reasonable and I think, if any of us have read the papers at any stage over the last 20+ years, sugar and salt have long been seen as the nemeses to good health and long life.  Spot quiz: can anyone tell me whether British Sugar (part of Associated British Foods) or Tate & Lyle have ever donated sums of money to the Conservative Party?  Jam doughnut to everyone that guessed yes…

Recommendation 2. Introduce mandatory reporting for large food companies.  When I read this one liner, my first reaction was, whoa, wait a minute, don’t they have to do this already?  It would seem not if it is being put forward as a recommendation.  Not sure if it’s the sort of reporting they meant but very quickly a number of ‘big food producers’ told us that there is a risk that food prices will go up if they have to follow any of these regulations.  Big business blackmail, that’s a new one, I wonder if it will catch on.  Second spot quiz: basically the same as the first one – any money hit the tory coffers from large food producers do you think?  Have another doughnut…

Boris’ response, when on the stump in Coventry – “I am not, I must say, attracted to the idea of extra taxes on hard-working people.”  And there we have it.

We had lots of other things going on this week as well, I’m sure. 

Wayne tells me the cycling is now a procession to Paris with Pogacar at the head, the biggest threat to his victory being the arrival of a supersized ‘Allez Opi-Omi’ placard directly in front of him but even then his bike handling is probably good enough to survive this. 

The British Open golf is back on, another rescheduled event from 2020 and my regular bet on Ricky Fowler has been placed at 100/1 – there’s probably a good reason for these odds but I’ve bet on him so many times now I feel like a teenager in front of a fruit machine trusting that it’s bound to pay out eventually and I don’t want to miss it.  I fear, however, that Einstein was closer with his observation that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results!

We did do some work too, rather than just watch sport and eat doughnuts.  One new wine was listed this week, a Merlot from Italy.  Wayne has often been heard to mention his enjoyment of Italian versions of Merlot and so we thought we’d indulge him, just this once.

Mezzacorona Castel Firmian Merlot 2019, Trentino, Italy – £13.99 – which is from one of the most northerly regions in Italy.  Hints of leafiness and damson on the nose, leading to a soft damson fruit filled palate, enriched by 4-6 months in oak.  Fine tannins surround a long finish to give us a good, honest, juicy and very drinkable glass of wine.  Buy some before he snaffles it all!

And that’s probably it from us.  As a final note – we’re planning on carrying on with the mask thing in the shop for the time being and would be delighted if you joined us – of course we can’t insist but just thought it was worth mentioning!

Whatever else you do, stay well!

Is It Coming Home?

Friday, July 9th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well how’s your week been going? I spent an hour and half yesterday trying to persuade a small bird to leave the building. It entered by the window behind me, hovered by the whisky for a bit and settled on the shelf by Italy. It didn’t want to leave by the open front door, didn’t want to sit on the handle of the feather duster to be led out. Then visited France for a bit, before flying a few lengths of the shop and finally leaving by the window it arrived through (I hope, certainly not seen it since!). Not that we generally discourage visitors you understand, but I’m not sure our wine and food matching is up to be speed with greenfly, blackfly or birdseed. For the ornithologists amongst you it was a little brown one a bit smaller than a sparrow, not as small as a wren.

We’ve heard from the government and they’ve clearly decided that they’re fed up with us pointing out the confusion and contradictions in their guidance. Over 100 scientists have written a letter to suggest the government is now conducting “a dangerous and unethical experiment” but what- Ho; July 19th looks like it’ll be “freedom day” with remaining restrictions likely to be largely lifted. Those returning from “amber” countries will no longer have to isolate, you’ll be able to go to the bar and order a drink and finally we’ll all be able to go nightclubbing again. Please don’t fly in the back window though, it’s rather distracting.

In other news the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill was passed, considerably hindering the right to peaceful protest, particularly if you’re a bit noisy. Pritti Patel’s Nationality and Borders bill has been published. It seems to put us in opposition to the Law of the Sea that ships have a duty to assist those in distress by making it illegal for anyone to help asylum seekers by removing the clause “and for gain”. The RNLI has already been moved to defend itself. Of course, it was easy to miss this as all the press was talking about “freedom day”. An absolute coincidence I’m sure.

Well it could be coming home, we’ll find out for sure on Sunday, but in the meantime it has certainly set the postcode into the satnav in preparation. I’m talking, of course, about the England football team’s fine performance in getting to face Italy in the finals of the 2020 Euro at Wembley on Sunday. I might avoid Piccadilly Circus on Sunday evening if you’re in a hurry to get anywhere; it seemed slightly chaotic on Wednesday!

Meanwhile a state of emergency has been declared for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo, meaning stadia will be empty of fans. That’s got to make quite a difference to the 15000 athletes expected to attend, we’ll all have to cheer encouragement through our TV sets, it seemed to work for the footie.

In proper sports the Tour de France has been playing an absolute blinder! We’ve had crashes, grown men crying, sprinters doing well in climbing stuff and unexpected people being sent home for wearing the slow legs on the wrong day. We have a man on the ground who tells us that the rosé is rather tasty on a hot day, and there are worse places to stay than the southern Rhône. We’ve shuddered on seeing that Vincenzo Nibali hit a speed of 107kmh descending from Ventoux! A lovely, wide, smooth road closed to traffic but 107 kmh! We have a mostly flat day today, 220km travelling through the glorious countryside from Nimes to Carcassonne, I wonder if that Cavendish fella might fancy it.

In wine news it has all kicked off in Russia. Champagne have fallen out with Russia in a labelling row, the term Champagne is heavily protected and legally defended as we all know. But last week Vladimir Putin signed a law saying that only sparkling wines produced in Russia can use the word “shampanskoye” on the front label.  Comment was quick to emerge from Champagne that it was protected in 120 countries and this law change would result in a temporary suspension in shipments. I suspect as we speak new back labels are being printed, we’re all in sales after all!

In other wine news, Angeline Jolie has filed papers requesting an injunction be lifted so that she can sell her share of Nouvel LLC, the company that owns Chateau Miravel, the Provencal wine estate the couple bought in 2011. Seems she has a buyer lined up so no point putting a bid in!

We actually went to a wine tasting this week, almost a year since we last went to one, boy were we out of practice! I forgot how tiring it can be (cue the violins!) and having a personal spittoon means you’re always one hand short of the right amount, spittoon, glass and pen for tasting notes, yet just two hands! On the plus side we are now up to speed with several new vintages, have tasted a few new things that may well appear in a few months’ time and also caught up with chums from around the country.

I think that’s enough from us for this week.

Dare to believe!

Winning Ways In Wine and Cycling

Friday, July 2nd, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This being a bit of an old school, once-a-week-only-on-a-Friday publication (and I use that word loosely), we tend to finalise copy on a Thursday evening before we send it off to the subs, who then attempt turn our drivel into some form of vaguely palatable writing before they then send it off to the presses for the West End Final.

Well, actually of course most of this doesn’t happen except for the bit about it being written late on a Thursday, which means that anything exciting that happens on a Friday often gets missed.  Then, by the time we get to the following Thursday other things will have happened and we can’t really talk about the events of last week.

Which is a shame, because I think we could have really gone to town examining the Matt Hancock affair.  I mean, the downfall of a man so well loved and respected by the nation should not go by without comment, surely.  Of course, he wasn’t sacked for being caught in flagrante delicto because his boss very quickly considered the matter closed – which he would of course, given that his own reaction to accusations of wandering hands in 2004 was to brush off these reports as “an inverted pyramid of piffle”.

Michael Howard had clearly had enough of Boris at the time.  Having asked him to resign and been ignored, he ended up firing him from his responsibilities as shadow minister for the arts and vice-chairman of the Conservative Party by telephone after being informed about the newspaper reports relating to Petronella Wyatt.

And that, as The Guardian stated at the time, ‘brings an end to an unlikely but uniquely engaging political career. Johnson, 40, who is also editor of the Spectator magazine, became one of the few modern Tories able to capture the public imagination, even provoking speculation he could be a future leader.’  Gaby Hinsliff, Sunday 14 November 2004.

So, as I’m sure has been noted already, we look forward to Matt Hancock re-igniting his career and becoming a future Prime Minister – we just can’t wait, such exciting times!

Away from Whitehall’s goofballs, the very serious world of wine gave some awards out on Wednesday evening.  The International Wine Challenge 2021 made their announcements yesterday and wineries around the world now await their Gold, Silver or Bronze stickers to attach to their wines before they go on sale.  There are also trade awards, which will mean very little to most of you, though it was nice to see that Bancroft Wines, who we buy Joseph Perrier Champagne and Amon-Ra amongst others, win Medium Agent of the Year – chapeau!

Elsewhere, the Wine Society won Wine Club of the Year for perhaps the gazillionth time which frankly shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone.  A well-run company that’s been going since the 1870’s and that ploughs all its members dividends back into its working capital should be able to see off any rivals – and it does!

However, for us the most exciting thing was to see that the mighty Hans Tschida, maker of our thoroughly underrated but hugely delicious Samling 88Trockenbeerenauslese 2007 – £43.00, win Sweet Winemaker of the Year.  We say his wines are underrated purely because sweet wines from Austria are not necessarily the top of everyone’s shopping list – France usually gets peoples vote.  However, his wines should not be ignored and whilst being crowned best Sweet Winemaker is a great accolade, he will need to find room in his trophy cabinet having previously won this award in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2015 and 2019!  It may not be the cheapest wine in the shop but it’s possibly one of the best!

Finally, Wayne tells me that he is going to have to get his Mark Cavendish tattoo re-inked as the Manx Missile yesterday won his second stage of this year’s Tour de France, now making his overall total 32 stage wins.  I advised him to wait a moment, there could be more to come.  In other news, Eddy Merckx has announced his intention to ride in the TdF next year, keen to protect his record…

That’s it from us for now – hopefully we have some sunshine this weekend, we certainly have plenty of chilled Rosé.  We also have some British Lions Rugby, we have the tennis and then at 8pm on Saturday, the biggest moment of my week since Tuesday – dinner out with my family – can someone text me the score please!