Archive for April, 2022

Fiddling Whilst Parliament Burns

Friday, April 29th, 2022

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It seems our democracy continues to be torn apart quicker than a parcel at a five year olds birthday party. According to the Parliament website there are 764 Lords in the house eligible to scrutinise bills, investigate government activity and ask oral and written questions as well as debate.

This week the House of Lords passed the government’s Election Bill which abolishes the independence of the Electoral Commission. Of those 764 eligible to vote only 383 of them bothered. We don’t know about you but we think that putting the body designed to ensure free and fair elections under Government control is surely not the work of a functioning democracy, is it? You didn’t read about it in the papers because they were busily distracted by the crossing of legs and the arching of eyebrows.

In other news, peaceful protest has been criminalised, a DJ has resigned after allegations of sexual misconduct but three cabinet ministers and two shadow cabinet ministers haven’t. That’s our MP’s upholding standards in public life.

There are elections on the 5th May so do go and vote, it’s us the government is supposed to work for and the continued destruction of democracy relies on continued voter apathy.

Seems our valuation of Twitter was a bit off, the inimitable Ego Musk has maxed out his Amex with an apparent $44billion bid. Surely with that much money you could go to space or something, maybe even set up Thunderbirds in real life. From a secret island in the South Pacific…Tesla Island anyone?

Omid Djalili pointed out some good news though; we used to be able to get about £65 of fuel into the Volvo, now we can get £90 in! Taking a win where we can…

Growing up towards the tail end of the Cold War and witnessing the fall of the Berlin Wall, we naively believed that the world was heading in the right direction – that the time of missile crises, repression, persecution, invasions, right wing dictators and the like was over, and while there were still a few rogue bogeymen clinging on in places like Libya, Iraq and North Africa the spread of democracy was inevitable and would reach them in time…Unfortunately it seems our optimism was misplaced and the bogeymen are as present now as they ever were.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine affects all of us in a myriad of ways and in the wine industry we can point to availability issue of screwcaps and bottles that are no longer being produced in Ukraine, and the severe price hike of gas and fuel affecting all transport and production as the most obvious examples. And, while Ukraine is clearly taking the brunt of the physical aggression, they are not the only ones struggling as a result of Putin’s empire building efforts.

Georgia, for example, is also suffering – and let’s not forget that the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were annexed by Putin in 2008, citing unnamed threats to ethnic Russians in the region. All of which sounds remarkably familiar but there was less international outrage.

For Georgian winery Teliani Valley, their biggest export market last year was Ukraine, to the tune of 2 million bottles. That market has disappeared in a heartbeat. Second biggest? Russia. Third? Belarus. Fourth? Kazakhstan.

We wanted to do something to help, and the best way we thought we could do that was to get some Georgian wine in your glass. So we’ll be opening Teliani Valley Kakhuri No.8 2020 (£15.99) a blend of Rkatsiteli, Kakhuri, Mitsvane, Khikvi and Kisi grapes. This is a white wine made using skin contact more usually the preserve of red wine making. It gives the wine an amber hue and a wonderfully rich texture. But do come and taste for yourselves it’s actually quite difficult to convey in words.

For those not aware, Georgia is often considered the cradle of wine, with archaeologists tracing the world’s first wine production back to 6000BC with the people of the South Caucasus.

On the red front, we’ll head over to a rather less war torn Sardegna for a drop of San Costentino Cannonau di Sardegna 2020 (£17.99) a medium bodied drop of loveliness. Cannonau is of course the name Grenache goes by when it resides in Sardegna.

Thunderbirds are go…

Wayne & Alex

From HR to the Masked Singer

Friday, April 22nd, 2022

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Prime Minister Boris Johnson Resigns

is a headline we thought we might have read by now, if we’re honest. If he had a job at the Post Office, stacked shelves at a supermarket or drove a bus for a living he’d have been in and out of the HR department pretty sharpish. If we were to use a meme here it might be Alan Sugar with his arm extended pointing to the door.

As it stand’s though, Lord Sugar hasn’t picked up the phone to say: “Send him in now”.  Just as well really, there is nobody sat outside on the naughty chairs in the office. Possibly fearful of the cab waiting downstairs, our Prime Minister has dashed off to India. As I write this he is consulting with the sadhus at Swaminarayan Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar. His timely visit is apparently to announce trade deals with India. Call me old fashioned, but don’t we have a Trade Minister or a Foreign Minister who should do that? I bet poor old Liz Truss is fuming at all of those missed Instagram possibilities.

You may recall a few years back we had some fun reporting Belgium running itself without a government, 652 days in the end. I’m not sure it seems such a joke anymore!

In other news, Tesla boss Elon Musk looks set to receive a $23 billion bonus as the company outperforms set targets. That’s the cost of Twitter sorted then!

We also saw that David Attenborough has been named ‘Champion of the Earth’ by the UN. We thought at first that a 95 year old man was perhaps a bit long in the tooth to be uniting the belts to become Undisputed. Then we realised it was for his commentary on nature and climate change, rather than his Rocky style prowess in the ring.

We learned today that Rudy Giuliani has been unmasked as a contestant on ‘The Masked Singer’. His song choice? George Thorogood and the Destroyers “Bad to The Bone”.

At the risk of destroying the rather nice spell of weather we’ve been having, we might just mention that Domaine Foncalieu Piquepoul Rose 2020 (£13.99) has arrived in the shop. It is crisp, dry, pale and as delicious as ever. We’re offering a six box at £72.

This weekend we’ll pay a vinous excursion to South Africa. Wearing the white polo shirt will be KloovenburgChardonnay 2019 (£13.99) a barrel fermented beauty from Swartland. The red shorts will be sported by Idun Nuit Eternelle Syrah 2019 (£19.99) a really elegant and savoury style from the Elgin Valley. Both of these are new drops to us, we tasted them in October and ordered them. Then they took forever to arrive, we had even ordered some more and were discussing a wager on which shipment would arrive first. The joys of paperwork for new imports!

Anyway I suspect that enough from us for another week and we’ll leave you with the words of Arthur Kent and Sylvia Dee via Eric and Ernie:

Bring me sunshine, in your smile

Bring me laughter, all the while

In this world where we live, there should be more happiness

So much joy you can give, to each brand new bright tomorrow

Make me happy, through the years,

Never bring me, any tears,

Let your arms be as warm as the sun from up above,

Bring me fun, bring me sunshine, bring me love.

Le Big Weekend

Thursday, April 14th, 2022

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Time for lunch everyone and then an early finish this afternoon, followed by the fast train to the coast for the first free long weekend of the year – 22 degrees in some parts of the country, everyone get ready for pasty legs and bodies followed by sunburn and hangovers.

So, whilst I’ve just been away for a few days gentle queuing on the M20, Wayne has been propping himself up by the door in the hope that at least one of you might pop by so that he might entice you in with a cheerful grin, a witty one liner and promises of fine wine and eclectic music.  However, by all accounts this didn’t happen very often – it seems many of you have also flown the coop and are currently poolside somewhere hot/fireside somewhere snowy.

And it’s not just you that are absent – all our Parliamentarians are also on their Easter Recess.  What this means in real terms though is that between 31st March and 19th April should, for example, the PM and the Chancellor happen to get a fine for breaking the law having previously lied about it, then it’s ok because no one is there to make you resign and when the new term starts you can just pretend you went skiing like everyone else and nothing happened. 

And you still get to keep your job?  As Wayne said to me earlier, it feels as if the phrase ‘surely this time he must go?!’ has now become an ancient English proverb, it having been used so often!

Still, at least the Chancellor kept a cool head when faced with various ‘non-dom’ questions regarding both his and his wife’s activities – in truly Trump-esque style he totally ignored the significance of the accusations and showed far greater concern about who had revealed his secrets… really mate, get your coat, you’ve lost the room, time to slink off to California.

Whilst sitting in the fume-filled fairyland that was the Operation Brock, I did try to catch up on a bit of stuff that was going on outside of SW1 but without much joy – it seems there is very little that we aren’t already painfully aware of, as has been the case for the last few years.  I did discover, whilst catching up on the Court & Social, the announcement that we have all been waiting for as it has been confirmed that Lady Denise van Outen of Basildon has partnered up with Lambrini, official drink of Essex, to create the much awaited ‘Bring the Brini’ campaign.  Now, we’re not sure which of the two parties is going to suffer the most reputational damage in this affair but do have to confess that we were very surprised that both Denise and Lambrini were still knocking about as we were quite sure they were both put out to pasture in the late 1990’s!

As I said, no news.

However, as mentioned previously, it’s Le Big Weekend coming up, no work until Tuesday for all the good people of Wimbledon Park… however the less saintly amongst us will be putting in a bit of hard yakka, at least in the early part of the weekend:

Today, 14th April – 12pm – 7pm

Good Friday 15th April – 12pm – 5pm

Saturday 16th April – 12pm – 6pm

Sunday 17th & Monday 18th April – CLOSED

Tuesday 19th April – back to as you were – 12pm– 7pm!

Hoping that a few of you might venture out, Wayne will once again be standing  by the door to entice you in with his cheerful grin, the same witty one liner but now with the added promise of a taste of the wines that we will have open from this evening onwards:

Flametree Embers Sauvignon Blanc – Semillon 2021 – £15.49

From Margaret River in WA, this is another fab drop from the Cliff Royle stable.  We tasted this a while back but given the snail like movement of wine from across the world at the moment, it has only just arrived with us.  We know we liked it, we suspect we can explain why but, to give full disclosure, we have forgotten what it tastes like so are very much looking forward to revisiting!

As it’s Easter and the rules state that you must eat lamb on Sunday, we thought we’d open one of our all-time favourite reds, Monemvasios Red 2013 – £20.99.

So, a quick intro.  It’s from the southern part of the Peloponnese, in the southern part of Greece, made from 90% Agiorgitiko and 10% Mavroudi but I imagine you knew this already.  It’s absolutely delicious, the fact that the wine has a nice bit of age means we have some lovely mature dark fruit and silky polished tannins – all in all a wine that gives some more famous (and more expensive) French and Italian cousins a good run for their money!  All you need now is to remember to marinate the leg of lamb overnight and then put it in the oven for five hours before you want to eat it and voilà, Kleftiko!

That’s all from us for this week – have a lovely long weekend and, if at all possible, avoid travelling anywhere on Monday…


A Taxing Week

Friday, April 8th, 2022

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Last week we started with a fabulous quote about fools in April. This week we saw video footage from South Africa of a guy in a supermarket trolley hanging on to the back of a fuel tanker driving down the highway at some speed. Now that’s definitely taking the old CB radio term ‘suicide jockey’ to another level. By all accounts Pretorian Police are unamused.

On the subject of fools it seems the Chancellor, the man charged with collecting tax and administering the country’s finances has found himself in a spot of PR bother. He has just broken a Conservative manifesto promise and inflicted an increase in taxation to most of us through a National Insurance rise so it’s awfully difficult timing to discover that his wife, the daughter of a billionaire, is a ‘non dom’ when it comes to tax.

Now even we can see that’s a bad look for a Chancellor, for a start we all know she lives at No.11 Downing Street. It might not be permanent (especially after this news) but surely that is where she is currently domiciled? Maybe the HMRC might want to have a look at that. We just don’t understand why a change wasn’t suggested by that army of advisers when he became Chancellor, or when he became an MP? Absolute school boy error, we really are governed by clowns.

On the subject of clowns, the Prime Minister announced the UK’s new energy strategy. New nuclear is definitely on the cards, but given the cost and build time that is unlikely to help much in the next five years. We will admit surprise that insulating properties didn’t feature. It seems a relatively straightforward, fast and effective fix to us but what would we know, it’s not like we spend the day in front of a draughty window!

Staying on topic with clowns, you may have noticed Wayne out and about in the trusty Volvo this week, dropping off a case here and there. Do you remember that biblical rain on Wednesday evening about 7.30? Well guess who had to pull over because the trusty windscreen wipers went every which way but loose. So Wayne utilised all his mechanical skills by phoning the kind gentlemen at Naismiths who suggested he pop in. Between you and I he was there about 30 seconds, the chaps at Naismith wielded a spanner, Wayne blushed at his own ineptitude and all was fixed. Every day’s a school day!

In a move that many find akin to cultural vandalism, Culture Secretary Mad Nads has decided that the best way forward for Channel 4 is for the government to sell it off. Founded in 1982 under Margaret Thatcher’s government to foster the British film and TV industry, the channel has always been publicly owned but funded by advertising. Any rumours that Mad Nads has made the announcement in a fit of pique after being rejected for Naked Attraction don’t bear thinking about. We suspect it’s more likely that stunts like replacing the no-show Prime Minister with an ice sculpture during a debate on climate change that have led the decision.

Still on the cultural front, ‘Replicas’ by Tubeway Army celebrated its 43rd birthday this week. I, for one, am struggling to understand how an album that came out when I was a teenager is now older than me!

It must have been years since we mentioned it, but the race to be the next James Bond appears to have taken a turn. Idris Elba has ruled himself as too old, odds on Tom Hardy have lengthened whilst odds on both Aidan Turner and Cillian Murphy have shortened. We can’t comment on whether Alex has popped his tux into Manuel for a press, but we can say that Jane Seymour is “so fed up of hearing, should a woman be James Bond?”

What shall we wrap our taste buds around this weekend? I’ve had a look, and these two look like decent candidates…

Produttori del Gavi ‘Gavi Mille 951’ 2020 – £15.99 – 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! It’s even organic and suitable for vegans.

Viña von Siebenthal Parcela #7 Gran Reserva 2018, Aconcagua, Chile – £20.99

It probably says something for this winery that two of their top wines have both received 95+ points from Robert Parker, no mean feat.  Their focus is on small production and high quality and they achieve this in buckets.  Whilst it is a Bordeaux blend with all the usual elegance, there is a ripeness of fruit and a sense of weight that you rarely get in claret.  Well, let me just suggest it might be really rather tasty with a slow roast shoulder of lamb.


Friday, April 1st, 2022

Fellow Wine Lovers,

“Here cometh April again, and as far as I can see the world hath more fools in it than ever.” – Charles Lamb

So, did someone prank you yet today?  To explain, for those of you less date obsessed, today is 1st April, April Fool’s Day, the day on which the most irritating people you know get carte blanche to play a joke on you, tell you a tall story or perform some sort of silly stunt all of which is supposedly excused by them exclaiming ‘April Fool’ which somehow allows them immunity from retribution.  As you can tell, we’re not totally on board with all this.

For some though, it seems silly season started early.  Will Smith is the obvious example here, crossing many boundaries and in the process making the story all about him whilst Jada just rolled her eyes.  Then we have our Chancellor saying that he empathises with the Fresh Prince’s situation, something that won’t do either of them any favours.  Honestly though Rishi, people criticising Infosys continued involvement in Russia isn’t quite the same as someone deriding your physical appearance.  Plus, the claim that Akshata Murthy doesn’t have anything to do with the company’s operational decisions is undoubtedly true, however that £400 million bank balance didn’t just spring from the ground.

Rishi also referenced Joe Root in his quest to appear down with the kids, opining that he too hadn’t had the greatest weekend.  True that but it’s not just young master Root who should take the blame for the dismal England batting performance last weekend.  As they slumped to a ten wicket defeat, there was silliness from top to tail but I imagine they all said ‘April Fool’ to each other in the changing room and thus will get away with it and be picked again when New Zealand pop over in June.

Whilst on the cricket though, it is worth mentioning that England will face Australia in the Women’s World Cup Final on Sunday – if you just get the chance to admire Sophie Ecclestone’s finger spin for a few minutes you’ll be in for a treat.

And it seems the weather has decided to act the silly sausage too.  Last weekend we were getting complaints that we’d run out of a couple of our Rosés whereas right now it’s gone so bloomin’ Baltic we’d probably struggle to give them away.  Oh, and look, the fuel prices are going up today too, what timing!

Returning to the scene of Mr Smith’s Sunday night slapfest, the real reason for the great and the good (and the not so good) to be assembled was for the Oscars of course.  It would seem that not only did Agent J win a Best Actor Oscar but he also was one of the lucky few to scoop the Oscar swag bag of free goodies that redefines excess and good taste.  Having trawled the gossip columns it would seem that amongst other goodies, the most expensive item in the bag is a $50,000 three-night stay at Turin Castle in Scotland, complete with butler service and a bagpiper welcome when they arrive.  Other treats include, according to our chums at E!News:

  • A $15,000 four-night stay at the Golden Door luxury resort and spa in California.
  • A $12,000 “Celebrity Arms” liposuction procedure from cosmetic surgeon Dr Thomas Su.
  • A small plot of land in Scotland, along with the title of “Lord” or “Lady of Glencoe.”
  • $10,000 of “treatments and rejuvenation procedures” from Dr Konstantin Vasyukevich.
  • A life coaching session with wellness expert Kayote Joseph, worth $1,200.
  • $25,000 worth of home renovations from Maison Construction.
  • A pair of TurboFlex glasses featuring a 360-degree rotating hinge.
  • An assortment of “Flavor wrapped” popcorn packages from Opopop.
  • A bottle of Ariti extra virgin olive oil infused with edible gold flakes.

Because, like, that’s what your average Hollywood A-lister needs, right?!

Meanwhile, back here in Blighty, Wayne & Alex have keenly tasted wines again and as a consequence have a couple of new listings worth a mention:

Amotera Vino Biologico Trebbiano d’Abruzzo 2020 – £12.29 – a delicious white from Abruzzo with floral notes on the nose leading to some nice, easy orchard fruit character on the palate – a proper pre-prandial quaffer.

Another organic Italian white, this time from Sicily, is Colomba Bianca Vitese Zibibbo 2021 – £11.99.  Now, as you are all well aware, Zibibbo is more commonly known to us as Muscat of Alexandria and so has a charming nose of apricot, almonds and orange blossom.  What made us sit up and pay attention was the lovely dry finish it showed on the palate.  We’ve often been told that a dry Muscat is a great sparring partner to asparagus, which is handy as the season is just starting.  Oh, and a fun fact we just learnt,  asparagus has enzymes said to fight a hangover, which sounds like the makings of a very fancy breakfast!

In red we have Peninsula Vinicultores Vino de Montaña 2018 – £13.69.  This is a wine from high-altitude vineyards in Sierra de Gredos and other historic growing areas in the Sistema Central, the mountain chain that divides the Iberian Peninsula in its Northern and Southern halves.  This is a field blend based mostly on very old Garnacha vines but with some Rufete and Piñuela in the mix too, all grown on granite soil and in the glass we have lovely fresh red fruits and hints of white pepper – the altitude gives the wine a delicious freshness that one doesn’t always associate with Spanish reds.

And finally, an old favourite of Wayne’s, Ktima Gerovassiliou Avaton 2018 – £28.  As his tasting note states, this feels like a Bordeaux blend but with entirely the wrong grapes.  The reason for the wrong grapes is because it comes from Epanomi in Central Macedonia, Greece and the grape varieties are 60% Limnio, 20% Mavrotragano and 20% Mavroudi.  Try it, I think you’ll like it…

And that’s about it from us, we’ll be opening a couple of bottles of wine as usual this weekend with the Amotera Trebbiano doing the heavy lifting on the white front whilst the red team will be represented by Le Ciel Vide  – £13.49, from Domaine Treloar, in anticipation of Jonathan’s visit later in the month.

Over and out.