Archive for September, 2021

Wallaby, 007, Champagne & Tales of the Unexpected

Friday, September 24th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So what’s going on then? We see that the EU is pushing for universal phone chargers for all mobile phones (USB-C since you ask). This strikes us as a genius idea on environmental concerns at the very minimum but possibly about 15 years too late to have a real impact. 

Yesterday, the Bank of England said that they expect inflation to hit 4% yet elected to keep interest rates unchanged at 0.1%. For this commentator, words and actions seem completely opposed but what do we know, we’re just till jockeys in a wine shop.

In Aberdeenshire, a wallaby has escaped from petting zoo Waulkmill Menagerie just a day after arriving. All he has really done is what so many of us do when we arrive somewhere new – pop out through a hole in the fence for a stretch of the legs. Eddie, because that’s his name, was last seen outside a pub in New Deer heading north to Turriff.

As we touched upon last week, the 43rd Ryder Cup takes place this weekend at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. From the form book it definitely looks like it’s for the USA to lose but upsets do happen, so we’ll cross our fingers. Let’s just hope nobody accidently plays a Slazenger 7 on the 18th in error!

Derby County are in a bit of bother, administrators appointed, mandatory points deducted and now languishing at the bottom of the Championship on -2 points. Manager Wayne Rooney found out from a television report apparently. Sad old business all round it seems.

This week’s use of the Commons brain cell clearly wasn’t in either Kwasi Kwarteng’s or Rachel Maskell’s gift when they concurred that people in the north will be harder hit by rising fuel prices because it’s cold. They do say winter is coming, don’t they? Let’s hope we’re not embarking on a time of white walkers and dragons.

Whilst we’re on the subject of fiction did you see the news that Netflix has handed out a rather hefty golden ticket to Roald Dahl’s estate for the rights to his literary work. We’re hoping for a series or twenty of Tales of the Unexpected in the near future.

Now, if you can cast your mind’s back to 2015 there was a film that ended with the words “James Bond Will Be Back”. Well, after a rather lengthy delay the man on Her Majesty’s Secret Service is finally ready for us. He’s been delayed by a mission we can’t tell you about, we are unable to confirm who that chap watching the rugby was, or if he was spotted in Greece in July. What we can confirm is that the 25th James Bond film, “No Time To Die”, will finally hit cinemas next week. Autograph hunters, get yourselves down to the Albert Hall on Tuesday, otherwise we’ll be booking tickets to see it next week.

Champagne Bollinger has long been Mr. Bond’s fizz of choice and we thought it might be nice to celebrate the film’s release with a glass or two of something eminently suitable…

Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut NV (£48 or six bottles for £230 whilst stocks last). We’ve long been fans of this wine, we love that it is mostly Grand and Premier Cru grapes, that 60% of the Cuvée is Pinot Noir giving us that lovely richness. Flavours of pear brioche, a very fine mousse with a lovely finish to suit any MI6 agent. We like it particularly as an aperitif, but the Chef de Cave is rather fond of it with his sushi!

We also have a tiny number of the really rare…

Bollinger 007 Limited Edition Millesime 2011 (£200) – Limited to 1 per customer

To mark the release of the 25th instalment of the James Bond series, Bollinger has created a limited edition wine dedicated to 007, with a 2011 vintage inspired by the world of Bond.

The jet-black 75cl bottle is adorned with the number “25”, formed from the titles of the previous films, which are similarly etched on the glass of the wooden box.

The 2011 vintage, an atypical year, inspired the Chef de Cave to produce a unique champagne, created entirely from Pinot Noir from the Grand Cru village of Aÿ, where Champagne Bollinger was first established in 1829. This is the first time that both the vintage and village have been used exclusively by Bollinger to make a dedicated wine. The excellent 2011 harvest in Aÿ, produced complex, powerful and harmonious Pinot Noirs, fully expressed in this characterful wine.

On wine news, we have spoken about the St Émilion Grand Cru Classé system in the past and how it gets reviewed every ten years, and then the estates that get downgraded because their wine isn’t up to snuff get the lawyers in and sue all involved. We may have suggested that if they spent less money on lawyers and more on improving their wine they wouldn’t find themselves in that situation.  So, with that in mind, a French court case caught our eye. A case brought by the owners of three separate estates in relation to the 2012 classification accuses Hubert de Boüard, owner of Château Angélus, and Philippe Castéja, owner of Château Trotte Vieille, of allegedly rigging entry to the classification system, and their rankings within it, in order to unfairly inflate the price of their wines. The prosecution described it as someone passed the baccalaureate exam after writing the subjects himself.” If found guilty they could be facing a spell in the clink and a 500,000 euro fine.

With that bombshell, I think I need something in my glass. For white we’ll be opening Aromo Viognier 2020 (£9.99) –Maule is one of Chile’s traditional wine growing areas, just about 250km south of Santiago. There’s not a great deal of Viognier planted there but when you taste this you’ll wonder why. We really rate this wine and have been selling it for over 10 years now, one way or another as it is consistently great value, great quality with lovely peachy-apricot fruit characters and a nice crisp finish.  Ace with a creamy prawn pasta dish, or the local Ostiones a la Parmesana, clams in butter and parmesan!

Red wise we’re going with The Crusher Pinot Noir 2018 (£16.99). This hails from Napa in California and Oz Clark once famously said of it: “Bone Crusher, spine crusher, ball crusher – I don’t care which part of my body it crushes but these are just the kind of wines we want at our show.  The audience love them!” 

And with that we’re out!

One man does not make a team and anyone can win on their day.

Friday, September 17th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

With a nod towards the 1992 headline ‘It’s The Sun wot won it’ we will take no responsibility whatsoever for Gavin Williamson’s rapid exit from the Cabinet this week – I’m fairly sure that Carrie doesn’t read our weekly missive and, to be honest, GW has been a dead man walking for too long so it really was time for him to go. 

Anyway, Boris has reshuffled his pack, partly because he needed to but also, more significantly, because he was told that this is what proper and serious Prime Minister’s do every now and then; and of course, as we all know, Boris is the embodiment of proper and serious.  The exciting news is that we get lively Liz Truss to look after our interests abroad; Dominic Raab, who previously did this job but was found asleep on his lounger as Afghanistan unravelled, has somehow become Deputy Prime Minister; Nadine Dorries, whose audition piece on I’m a Celebrity… Get me out of here! in 2012 got her suspended, clearly impressed someone as she is now Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media, and Sport; and Michael Gove, Teflon clad and immune to irony it would seem after the emergence of some particular unpleasant speeches from his youth, is in charge of the levelling up agenda.

So there we have it, Boris’s dream team, proper and serious and leaders in their fields and definitely not just his mates and yay-sayers.

Away from the political arena, we see that Elton John has postponed his upcoming UK tour until 2023 due to the need to have an operation on his hip.  Very sensible, Reginald – if only Tom Petty had taken similar advice we would still have him in our midst.

In sport, we saw the return of Ronaldo to much fanfare and let’s be honest, he did what he is paid to do from game one.  However, he couldn’t stop them losing to Young Boys in Europe, which goes to show that despite appearances, one man does not make a team and anyone can win on their day.  Let’s hope this is true for the Europe players picked for the Ryder Cup.  John Rahm is world #1 but he next highest ranked European is Viktor Hovland at #13 – between these two sit 9 of the American team.  The lowest ranked American is Scottie Scheffler at #21 – 8 Europeans sit below him.  Let’s hope Europe have their day!

No real wine news to speak of.   We’re being encouraged to go to the pub and dine out still but we’ve also all read about the dearth of hospitality staff available.  Apparently, employers need to be more open-minded when it comes to employment contracts as staff want to be able to work more on their own terms.  Many of the predominantly younger potential employees want is greater flexibility, variety and control over their working hours; effectively they want the zero hours contracts just as Keir Starmer is calling for such things to no longer be allowed.  Obviously, in the long run this doesn’t work because when all your staff decide they don’t want to work on Friday nights what do you do then?  Sorry, we’re closed, doesn’t bode well for business survival….

Some scattered sunshine yesterday evening took you all off to the pub it would seem but hopefully tonight you’ll be keener to drink back at home.  With this in mind, I’ll have a couple of bottles open for you to taste – this week I’ve decided to go Italian, as is very often my wont:

Produttori del Gavi ‘Gavi Mille 951’ 2020 – £15.49 – is the white choice – made at their winery overlooking the historic Gavi fortress, this cooperative has been making wine for over 65 years.  Aromas of pear peach, apricot and yellow plum greet us on the nose whilst on the palate we have the same fruit characters with hints of almond in the background.  Dry, light and moreish, a perfect aperitif!

Castel Firmian Merlot 2018 – £13.99 is this week’s red, from Trentino, right up in the northern-most part of Italy.  Wayne has always had a bit of a soft spot for Italian Merlot so it was no surprise that we really enjoyed this when we tasted it, lovely damson fruit character with a touch of leafy herbiness.  The wine spent just 3-4 months in oak barrels and has a lovely juiciness and drinkability, with some fine tannin just to keep it honest.  Being Italian it matches well with all sorts of food choices, perhaps a cheeky burger if the sun makes another showing?

And finally, we said goodbye to Sir Clive Sinclair this week.  Inventor of the pocket calculator, affordable computers, hand held televisions and of course the C5; a man who often invented things we didn’t know we needed – I mean, hand held TV’s and electric vehicles, you must be kidding?!

And that’s that – have a lovely weekend!

I’m not having that – alcohol free wine?

Friday, September 10th, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

That was nice wasn’t it?  Bit of a flurry of September sunshine but not so much that we all start moaning about how hot it is and how the garden needs some rain.  True to Pavlov’s conditional reflex findings, the weather worked a treat for us, everyone suddenly treating Tuesday/Wednesday as the new Friday/Saturday as the fridges could barely keep up with the rapid exodus of beer and rosé; excellent work one and all, hope you enjoyed yourselves!

And then it rained on Wednesday evening and we remembered that we live in England, this is how we roll.  The school holidays are finally over, the sound of horns on Arthur Road is perpetual as everyone gets stuck in traffic with no reverse gear and the regularity of cold calls from energy companies trying to get me to change supplier has quadrupled.  Ah, September, you unruly child.

And then we read some news that might send chills to the hearts of wine merchants across the universe (because, yes, that’s how far our tentacles have spread).  Having talked a month ago about how good coffee, cheese and two glasses of wine a day are for our heart health, we were delighted by the clever scientists researching wine and its benefits.  However, this week we are less sure and our uncertainty comes in the form of Dr Rudolph Schutte at Anglia Ruskin University.  I won’t repeat the whole of his research paper (probably because that would be some sort of copyright infringement) but suffice to say, your man is an expert on Cardiovascular Epidemiology.  He doesn’t have great things to say about beer, cider and spirits but then these have never been touted as being good for you.  However, the body blows came as he started giving wine a hard time: 

“There is an undeniable protective beneficial relationship between coronary heart disease and consumption of both red and white wine”

Good news so far, dankie Rudolph.

“However, this is only seen with coronary heart disease and none of the other cardiovascular diseases.”

Ok, it’s not a perfect panacea but at least it helps a bit.

“This relationship is also seen for alcohol-free wine, so it suggests the benefits are thanks to the polyphenols in the wine rather than the alcohol.”

What the?  Shut the front door?  No, no, no, no, no, no, no – I’m not having that – alcohol free wine?  In fairness we never really thought it was the booze in the drink that did us good, otherwise beer, cider and spirits would be our friends too but did he really have to spell it out, again.  Equally, if he was going to do so, couldn’t he have buried it in August when no one was looking?

Humph, it’s a bit like choosing your favourite weather forecast because it has the closest resemblance to what you want to hear.  Consequently, I think I’ll stick to reading the Italian research from a few weeks back and the articles by Prof Rosa María Lamuela-Raventós, from Universitat de Barcelona, who in July suggested evidence to show moderate consumption of red wine can help you to burn calories in food when drunk during meals, while offering a range of health benefits too – sound anything like the French Paradox to you?

As mentioned, the schools went back this week and at the same time another group in need of some decent education, Members of Parliament, returned to their banquettes on Monday.  Matt Hancock was jeered from all sides during his first bit of backbench bants but we know he’s deaf to criticism.  Gavin Williamson, interviewed in the Standard, was particularly proud of his friends stating ‘Gav, you have to have the hide of a rhino’. 

Well, if we look more closely at rhino attributes, perhaps he’s right: rhinos have poor vision and are unable to see much further than 30m – which obviously doesn’t go any way to explaining his Maro Itoje/Marcus Rashford mix-up; rhinos communicate through honks, sneezes…and poo – if you have ever listened to government debates you will have heard the first two and if you have ever read a government statement you’ll recognise the third.   Rhinos are also intelligent, social and emotional animals which is where the comparisons end and we realise that GW is just a complete numpty.

Wayne always likes to keep us up to date with the sport and reports that insurers, bookmakers and health experts are a trifle discombobulated today.  The Fifth test being cancelled means a big payback for all the fans who bought tickets and various other companies who will lose earnings as a consequence; by reaching the US Open final, Bromley’s finest tennis player, Emma Raducanu, at the age of 18 and ranked 338 in the world in June, might just have Messrs Hill and Ladbroke needing to visit the bank on Monday; and Shane Warne has been heard talking on Australian morning radio about his Covid isolation.  He states, whilst admitting it was a bad idea, that he thought he could beat the virus by smoking 100 ciggies a day…. by all accounts he ended up on a ventilator.  This may well be an apocryphal tale but it also sounds very Shane and very Oz-med!

Anyway, enough of all that, what shall we drink this weekend?  Now that the boys of summer have gone we can start thinking about red wine again, can’t we?  This is handy because we have a new wine in from South Africa to pop in your glasses.

Doran Vineyards Íosa Shiraz-Grenache Noir 2018 – £13.99.  Now, as we all know, Íosa means Jesus in both Irish and Arabic and also happens to be the name of Tom Doran’s son.  He assures us that the wine has never been water and is in fact a blend of 90% Shiraz and 10% Grenache.  The wines from each grape were made individually and then blended together on bottling.  The nose is filled with floral-scented berry fruit and the palate has gentle tannins and hints of spicy oak on the finish.  Supple, easy drinking and too easy to get to the bottom of the bottle!

As the sun might pop out, we’ll taste a South Africa white too – Barton Chenin Blanc 2020 – £12.49.  Hailing from Walker Bay, an area considered to have great potential: the region has varying altitudes and ideal soils that help produce some world class, elegant wines.  This Chenin has a lean, green apple and white pear nose whilst the palate has a full, rounded mouth-feel, still with the apple and pear but also some hints of spice and lingering acidity.

That’s all from us, we’re off to have an alcohol-full glass of wine – care to join?

Where Are We Going With This?

Friday, September 3rd, 2021

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We’ve seen a few of you back already; you’ve given us a wave or stopped in to say hi. We’ve heard about paddle boarding, surfing, Stormzy at Reading and fantastic tandoori monkfish. There’s been talk of the fabulous beaches of Devon, Gower and Hunstanton, mackerel fishing, wine tasting in Oia and surprising heat in southern Spain.

We have also heard some complaints, of midges whose bite is second only to that of the saltwater crocodile but a million times more persistent, of traffic which has a persistence of its own whether you’re on the A3 or the A303 but also the persistence of grey skies cropped up more than once.

Where are we going with this? A question you may well be asking yourself, and certainly one we ask ourselves most weeks – Who knows? As many of you regular readers will know what starts off as a random selection of observations on the week ends up as a selection of random observations with questionable grammar and poor punctuation, particularly if it was Wayne’s turn with the keyboard!

We might mention the time we’d set aside to watch the Belgian Grand Prix only to witness a 3 lap health and safety assessment that resulted in no race but an outcome awarded. As someone who took two days to dry his waxed coat off after seeing Senna win in the rain in 1989, this was a disappointing outcome.  Them’s the rules, them’s the breaks I guess but the cyclists at La Vuelta didn’t stop racing when it rained all the way up the mountain, down the mountain, along the valley and then up the really steep mountain into the fog did they? No, they did not but I feel like I’m complaining about weather again.

There have been some pleasant surprises, the sun appearing around the same time as most of you returning to Wimbledon Park is certainly a pleasant one. Abba announcing a new album is a somewhat unexpected one and a Park Vintners missive talking about memes is certainly a surprise. I don’t know if any of you saw Dominic Raab being questioned by Tom Tugendhat at the Foreign Affairs Committee but if there is a better meme for the kid who didn’t do his summer homework we haven’t seen it.

On the wine front, we bring you news that TotalEnergies is bringing a 100% renewable fuel for race cars to the market that they claim could reduce the CO2 emissions of a racing car by 65%. The fuel is made residues from the wine industry. The waste lees and grape pomace are turned into a bio-ethanol and then waste from feedstock is added making the high performance fuel. Let’s hope the race is for more than three laps, eh?

Following a tough year in French vineyards (and it’s not over just yet!), producers in Chablis are experimenting with electric wires to combat frost. This year some vineyards in the region lost up to half of their potential crop to late frost after 20 nights in 29 days in April suffered unseasonably low temperatures. Indeed, due to climate change it is a considerably higher risk than 20 years ago.

Two days ago we had hail reaping havoc in Ribeiro, that part of Spain where the light reds come from, near Orense. Fairly unusual we’d say, just before the harvest, and a tough reminder of the harshness of weather when growers have lost up to 70% of what was shaping up to be a good year.

We’ll be opening some wine this weekend and, given the forecast is finally for a bit of sunshine, we thought we’d assume a bit of barbecue action may be the order of the day. Wearing the white t-shirt (don’t spill the ketchup!) will be Cave de Turckheim Edelzwicker (£10.99) from the Alsace, a winning blend of Pinot Blanc, Sylvaner and Riesling that is dry and fresh with some lush green apple fruit and a fab aperitif whilst the coals warm up.

Sporting the red t-shirt (ketchup safe!) will be Maggio Family Vineyards Old Vine Zinfandel (£14.49) hailing from Lodi where the family has been growing grapes since 1938. This is a fantastic partner to some low and slow pork if that’s the plan, but equally at home with a burger.

That’s probably enough of our random observations for one week. Do come in, shoot the breeze and taste the wine, who knows we may even know the cricket score!