Archive for March, 2023


Friday, March 31st, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This week we found ourselves admiring the French. Not, this time, for the quality of their wines, but for their energy and commitment to the cause. A mere 234 years after their Revolution, large parts of the population are out on the streets protesting, setting fire to the Town Hall doors, and fighting with the police. It’s been amazing to witness the lengths they’ll go just to keep a king out!

Germany though, more welcoming or just a bit slow off the mark? Berlin hosted the first state visit from King Charles this week with photos aplenty in front of the Brandenburg Gate. Quite symbolic really, it’s the first time the Brandenburg Gate has been used to welcome a head of state.  

We went to a wine tasting this week. We call it work, and have a system to slim down the 300+ wines that are there. Clearly many of them we have some kind of representation or similar chum already on the shelf so we don’t need to taste them all. Like always we waded through the list and marked on the sheet what we wanted to taste and set off to start with the whites. As we sipped, swirled, sniffed and spat (it’s not pretty!)we looked along the tables to see if there was anything visually appealing that we may not have checked on the list. Well there was, a Spanish red with a very fetching label so we popped a drop in the glass gave it a sniff, swirl, had a swig and then reached for the spittoon. It was really tannic, might be a pleasure in 10 years or so but won’t be appearing here anytime soon. Pretty label though!

In other news, British politics has not improved at all since we last spoke. We’ve had a queue of MP’s lining up to take jobs from a fictitious Korean company, including our very own one! Interests have not been declared properly by Mr Sunak, although the policy seems to be to answer the wrong question repeatedly rather than just correct the record. Locally, the potholes on Strathearn Road are growing at such a pace that we look forward to the imminent opening of Strathearn Lido!

Across the pond the mass shooting epidemic continues, proving once again that America still has too many guns and way too many idiots that think the solution is more guns. The town of Raymond in Minnesota has been evacuated after a train carrying both ethanol and corn syrup was derailed. Given the accelerants on board it will come as no surprise that the area suffered from a rather large fire. Trumpolina has become the first former President to be indicted (or indicated as he typed it!) on criminal charges. Apparently the privilege of being a former President means he won’t be pushed to the ground with a knee on his neck whilst they cuff him!

Sportswise, the football is back after the international break, but the real excitement is for the Ronde van Vlaanderen on Sunday. In the men’s race, Mathieu Van der Poel seems to be the bookies favourite but the odds don’t offer us much room for error, or indeed cobblestones! We’ve had a chat with our chum Dave and particularly like the idea of a Ganna/Pidcock combination.

In the women’s race Annemiek van Vleuten is going to want revenge after being beaten by Lotte Kopecky in the last hundred metres last year. I just wonder if all the favourites are marking each other out it might Pfeiffer Georgi and Megan Jastrab just sneak off into the distance? They seem to be having rather a lot of fun!

Easter is nearly upon us but it’s not too late to stock up on some Chocolate Block 2021 (£25 or £135 for six). It’ll be a very suitable partner to some lamb!

Easter Opening Hours

Thursday 6th April – Noon – 7PM

Good Friday 7th April – Noon – 5PM

Saturday 8th April – Noon – 5PM

Sunday 9th April – CLOSED

Monday 10th April – CLOSED

Tuesday 11th April – As you were!

Tasting this weekend

We’ll populate the white corner with a glass of Dog Point Section 94 2019(£27.99) – a Sauvignon Blanc sourced from a single organic vineyard parcel planted in 1992. Natural fermentation and ageing in old French oak barrels for around eighteen months make it a real treat.

Sitting to attention in the red chair will be Familia Cecchin Carignan 2018 (£13.99) – also organic, the Cecchin family have been winemakers since 1959. They are very hands off in their approach, use minimal sulphur and produce really very quaffable wines. This is one of Wayne’s favourites!

With that, we’re off!

Wednesday’s Child is Full of Woe

Friday, March 24th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It’s been a bit of a week so we hope you’re sitting comfortably as there’s a bit to get through.

Monday brought us news that Switzerland’s largest bank had swallowed up the second largest bank without any need for chats with competition authorities or a vote in parliament, controversially wiping out a layer of bond holders ahead of shareholders…  Something had gone very wrong and Credit Suisse was no longer able to “build lasting value by serving our clients with care and entrepreneurial spirit” without the help of Union Bank of Switzerland. It was also the start of spring with the Spring Equinox happening at 9.24pm.

Tuesday came and went without Donald Trump’s expected arrest. Alex is convinced there’s some smoke and mirrors going on there – the fact that Trump received $1.5 million in donations after announcing his imminent arrest may be it. Bluff and bluster, bluff and bluster.

Wednesday though, was the big deal. We had the Commons vote on the Windsor Protocol. This, of course, is not an edict on the way to knot your tie but rather the new protocol to allow Northern Ireland to function properly for goods and services with both the UK and the EU. Despite much bluster from the usual suspects the bill passed comfortably, certainly a win for Rishi Sunak. In entirely unrelated news, Rishi Sunak chose to publish his long spoken about tax returns. With attention focused elsewhere, there was little to comment other than why did it take so long!

Then we were up in front of the Privileges Committee (or Kangaroo Court if you listen to Rees-Mogg for your news) chaired by Harriet Harman, impeccably turned out in a dark suit and wearing Jay-Z’s gold necklace. Boris appeared, flanked by legal counsel we’re all paying for, with his usual impeccably coiffed straw mat and fresh from the jumble sale grey suit. No necklace for him, just an oath on the St James Bible. He was very keen to highlight that being Prime Minister during a pandemic really was a Hard Knock Life and that everyone in No.10 was working really rather hard. The reason all the photos showed bottles of alcohol was “essential” for staff morale and the running of Government.

Clearly he didn’t like being questioned, becoming quite testy at times, continually interrupting…Excuse Me Miss, he kept trying. Blustering, huffing and insisting, when questioned, that he’d been assured that no rules were being broken when in fact two of the people he claimed told him this had given opposing evidence in their submissions to the committee. I think he may be in a spot of trouble with HR for naming one of them who was assured anonymity!

It seemed to us that Harriet Harman got straight to the nub of the argument with her comment: “If I was going 100 mph and I saw the speedometer saying 100 miles an hour, it would be a bit odd, wouldn’t it, if I said somebody assured me that I was not”. Clearly remembering her own shortcomings as she was fined for doing 99mph on the M4 in 2003!

Anyhow, we could go on with this but Boris has had his say and the committee has gone off to decide whether he’s a fit person to ever Run This Town again. We think we rather agree with the Secret Barrister: “There’s a reason that criminal defence lawyers will tell you that the defence case is usually at its strongest before the defendant gives evidence.”

On the sports front, we’ve moved into International duties in the football with Qualifying for the European Championship across this weekend. England and Northern Ireland both came away with wins last night. Congratulations also due to Harry Kane for becoming England’s top scorer ever!

In real sports, La Volta a Catalunya is rolling around the hills of Catalonia with Primoz Roglic and Remco Evenepoel duking it out for the spoils, ahead of Sunday’s finish in Barcelona.

In wine news, a collaboration of 89 scientists from 17 countries have used genomics to establish that grapevines were probably the first fruit domesticated by humans and it seems to have happened in two separate places simultaneously! Eleven thousand years ago in fact, in both the Levant (Israel, Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan) and the South Caucasus (Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan). Imagine that farmers, just 650 miles apart, started the ball rolling on what put Park Vintners on the map in Arthur Road.

With that firmly in mind, we shall visit Georgia and open Vachnadziani Winery Krakhuna 2019 (£13.49) – a dry white wine, made from Krakhuna grapes grown in the river Kvirila valley, West Georgia. It is citrusy and somewhere between a Furmint and a north eastern Spanish white – very versatile.

Once we’re done there, we’ll pull on our red trousers and head over to the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon and have a taste of Massaya Terrasses de Baalbeck 2018, Bekaa Valley, Lebanon (£29.99) – a wine Alex first tasted in 2008, so not the swiftest turn around we’ll 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. 

So that’s probably us for another week, will Boris out last Conte? Let’s wait and see…

Lá Fhéile Pádraig Sona Daoibh

Friday, March 17th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

St Patrick’s Day today, last day of the Six Nations tomorrow, Mother’s day on Sunday – it’s a busy weekend, are you ready?

But before we get into the weekend, what’s been exciting this week?  Gary Lineker went back to work without having to plead for forgiveness, perhaps having learnt that watching Leicester lose 3-1 to Chelsea on a Saturday afternoon is far more palatable when you’re getting paid to comment on it.  However, he was probably grateful that he chose to go to the King Power Stadium rather than the Twickenham one because losing to Chelsea by a couple of goals is just about bearable compared to losing to France by 43 points.  Thankfully, unlike Gary, we were at work so were, effectively, being paid to watch it (through our fingers).  Happily, as it’s been Cheltenham all week and as it’s St Patrick’s day today we’ve decided that we’re now fully Irish, so tomorrow’s rugby match holds no fear for us!

Jeremy Hunt, he of NHS infamy and certainly a man whose time running the health service wasn’t about paying the workers more money, is now in charge of the Exchequer and on Wednesday he gave us his version of a budget.  Watching a man who is clearly so very, very pleased with himself was quite difficult and, when you add weak jokes and questionable data into mix, it almost had us reaching for the Rum.  We won’t go into deep analysis of his suggestions but suffice to say, booze will get more expensive in August whether we like it or not, you have been warned.

Thursday brought Alex a couple of big wins at Cheltenham, although when you’re only betting a pound a punt, big wins aren’t really life changing.  Wayne also had some big wins and is now looking at yacht brochures and topping up his pension pot….

And now it’s Friday and we’re wearing green.  We don’t sell Guinness and we don’t sell Jameson’s but we do sell something better: JJ Corry The Gael Batch No. 2 – £73.  Here’s a bit of their story:

In 2015 we built a bonded Rackhouse on the McGuane Family Farm and resurrected the lost art of Irish Whiskey Bonding.  Whiskey Bonding is the practice of sourcing new make spirit and mature Irish Whiskey from Irish distilleries and maturing, blending and bottling unique whiskeys.  During the ‘golden age’ of Irish Whiskey (in the 19th and 20th centuries), there were hundreds of distilleries operating on the island of Ireland.  Most did not have their own brands of whiskey at that time, however.  These distilleries made their new make whiskey spirit and sold it wholesale to the Bonders to age, blend and bottle.  The Bonders were the publicans, grocers and mercantile owners.  They would travel to their local distillery with their own barrels, fill them up with new make spirit and then cart them home for ageing and then blending.  Bonders were present in every town in Ireland, giving rise to regional styles.  Sadly, the Irish Whiskey Industry collapsed in the 1930s and the few remaining distilleries cut off the Bonders’ supply, leaving Irish Whiskey Bonding to die out.

The Gael Batch No.2 is a 60% Malt and 40% Grain blend comprising of

  • 30% single malt bonded in 2002
  • 26% single malt bonded in 2003
  • 4% single malt bonded in 1991
  • 40% single grain bonded in 2010

Aromas of shortbread, peaches and cream and sweet grass fill the nose, complemented by notes of lemon drizzle cake, honeycomb, rye bread and thyme throughout the palate.

Batch No.2 was of just 2800 bottles.

Tempted?  I know I am…

However, if whisky is not your thing, how about trying some of the wines we’ve got on tasting this weekend?

A propos of nothing we’ve elected to taste a Gewurztraminer from Northern Italy and a new red from Portugal – should be fun.

Cantina Tramin Gewürztraminer 2021 – £19.99.  So, a bit of background required, I think.  Cantina Tramin was founded in 1898 and has 310 member winegrowers who follow its strict directives on the cultivation of the vines.  If I were then to tell you that the sleepy village of Termeno/Tramin is thought to be the birthplace of the Traminer white grape variety, also known as Gewürztraminer, then you can probably guess why we love this wine.  Add to all this the fact that in 2011, Cantina Tramin gained the “Double Stella” award, which is only given to a winery for achieving the prestigious “3 Bicchieri” 20 times which is awarded by the Gambero Rosso then I think you’ll agree you’re getting quite a lot of wine for your £20 note!  An intense and complex nose, with aromas of tropical fruit, notes of spice and a layer of minerality, accompanied by the charismatic scent of roses.  Creamy, with a balancing acidity and a deliciously long finish – there is no doubt that Tramin make our favourite Gewürztraminer!

Caves Alianca Quatro Ventos Douro 2021 – £10.49.  We always enjoy reds from Portugal and here’s a new edition to our range.  The hand-picked grapes are sourced from selected vineyards in the Douro Valley, where old vines are planted in schist soil in the ‘patamares’ system.  The wine itself has earthy blackberry fruit with hints of warm vanilla spice on the nose, ripe plummy fruit on the palate and a characterful finish.  Delicious with veal or lamb, or perhaps a platter of firm mature cheeses.

That’s about it from us, just a reminder that your Mum would really enjoy a glass of Champagne on Sunday, so don’t forget!


Free Speech?

Friday, March 10th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

ME: What’s another word for unlikeable? 

GOOGLE: unpleasant, obnoxious, vicious, impolite, venomous, vindictive, unlovable, nasty, spiteful, annoying, Rishi, Suella

So, it seems that it’s not just me that’s been listening to Real Dictators on Spotify.  Mr Lineker is clearly a fan whilst the Prime Minister and Home Secretary also seem to have been taking notes as they managed to plumb ever newer depths this week, with hauntingly broad smiles all round.  Arguably the least self-aware comment regarding Lineker came from the PM’s spokesperson:

“It’s obviously disappointing to see someone whose salary is funded by hard-working British payers using that kind of rhetoric and seemingly dismissing their legitimate concerns that they have about small boats crossings and illegal migration.”

The basic annual salary of an MP in the House of Commons, before ‘business costs’ is £84,144, also funded by hard-working British payers – have you heard some of the lazy and unhelpful rhetoric that has come from Westminster recently?

And where now for the BBC?  Al Capone was felled by the Treasury department, Boris Johnson was scuppered by Pincher’s roaming hands, will the BBC be sunk by the winner of the 1986 Golden Boot?  If they sack Gary they just look like a tool of the government, our very own Fox News-alike, a mouthpiece for Trumpian ramblings of Anderson, Braverman et al.  However, if they stand their ground and actually look beyond the guff emanating from SW1 then they can re-establish themselves as a news outlet with integrity.  I fear the former will be the preferred route but we’ll see.  If he is given the boot though, he can take succour from the Suella story – sacked by the prime minister because she sent an official document from her personal email to a fellow MP, in a serious breach of ministerial rules, and then re-appointed to the same role six days later, this sets a perfect precedent for him to follow!

Anyway, enough already, what else has been going on this week?  Farrell has been shifted to the bench for Saturday’s 6 Nations match against France which is a bit of a welcome surprise move from Mr Borthwick; Spurs have proved themselves to be monumentally awful in the FA cup, in the Premiership and in the Champions League, all in the space of 8 days whilst the mighty Arsenal are still top of the Premier league, just in case you were wondering.  We’ve lost the cricket twice to Bangladesh this week in different formats but young Tom Pidcock won the Strade Bianche, the first time a Brit has been victorious in this dusty old race.

Not a lot of news on the wine front, Burgundy is still expensive, South Africa and Portugal still offer great value and Chile is often overlooked – as I said, no news really.  However with these comments in mind, here’s what we’ll be opening this weekend:

Kloovenburg Chardonnay 2021 – £13.99 – this is a delicious barrel fermented Chardonnay from Swartland in South Africa.  Crisp, fresh and elegant with grapefruit and lime citrus notes, a hint of something a tad more tropical and then a lovely creamy textured finish.  It’s not Burgundy but it could be a nice alternative and certainly more wallet friendly!

Viña von Siebenthal Carmenère 2018 – £20.99 – from the Aconcagua Valley in Chile this is a rich and complex wine with aromas of blackberries, blackcurrants and damsons even, complemented by notes of cedar, tobacco and roasted hazelnuts.  A concentrated and full-bodied first impression is balanced with soft tannins and a long elegant finish – definitely a wine that gives many Bordeaux a run for their money!

That’s all from us; we’ll leave the last words to our Home Secretary, the one person who we can rely on to never ever make lazy or unhelpful remarks:

“It’s the Labour party, it’s the Lib Dems, it’s the coalition of chaos, it’s the Guardian-reading, tofu-eating wokerati, dare I say, the anti-growth coalition that we have to thank for the disruption that we are seeing on our roads today.”

I rest my case.

WhatsApp Matt

Friday, March 3rd, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Since Wayne has given me some time off and gone on holiday, I have been spending a lot of hours alone in the shop with just Spotify for company.  This actually is no bad thing, podcasts have bounded uninterrupted into my consciousness and my knowledge of Real Dictators has grown apace.  One of the big eye openers for me has been that there is an almost formulaic route to becoming a dictator: be a bit weird with a reputation for being not entirely trustworthy; talk well, and at length, perhaps bombastically; twist the truth; have an ego; a well-developed sense of entitlement helps; be sure to line your pockets; lie to everyone.  These characteristics used to be the preserve of the worst of men (and they are all men) but now it seems that it has become a more general job spec for too many monotone politicians.

Sorry about that, clearly my listening has gloomed my mood, I’ll stop with the podcasts now and go back to listening to music.

So, how many WhatsApp messages have you sent today? 

Yesterday I think I sent 17 but then, clearly, I’m no Matt Hancock.  We now know that 100,000 WhatsApp messages were handed to the journalist who ‘wrote’ Pandemic Diaries, The Inside Story Of Britain’s Battle Against Covid covering Mr Hancock’s period as Health Secretary.  Guessing that these messages date from March 2020 and at most go through to his resignation in June 2021, we have 15/16 months of messages which, by our conservative calculations, equate to 6,250 messages a month or about 220 each day.  Do we assume these messages include the messages to Gina Coladangelo?  Probably not, so we can fabricate that he was sending in the region of 300 messages a day, a social networking presence that a 17 year old would be hard pressed to keep up with, whilst all the while being ‘totally ******* hopeless’  in his day job, to use Boris’ words.

Anyway, suffice to say, the man whose actions during the Covid years raised too many questions, whose actions in the jungle raised too many eyebrows and who sought to provide some answers/excuses by publishing a book, now feels a ‘massive betrayal’ when 100,000 of his answers are put into the public domain.  Poor, poor chap.

Elsewhere, in cricket we fluffed our lines in New Zealand on Monday and looked like we might also do the same in Bangladesh on wednesday had it not been for a great knock by Dawid Malan.  A rugby win in Cardiff did not feel quite as triumphal as it could have done and the news that Marcus Smith has been sent home to try to learn how to play as well as Owen Farrell is currently, does not feel like a forward step…

“Drink wine, primarily for the pleasure, but at the back of your mind think ‘could I be trying different bottles or varieties that might actually be healthier for me and that I might enjoy?’ …. Diversity is also important; if you take the analogy from food, having a range of different grape varieties in your diet means you are going to be helping different gut microbes inside you and you will increase your gut health and diversity….. Don’t just stick with the same wine, get out there and try hundreds or thousands of different grape varieties that we generally don’t enjoy….. Let’s get those rare ones back on the map again because those could be helping you nourish really healthy gut microbes inside you and improve your health.”

Wise words, given perhaps greater gravitas having been uttered by Professor Tim Spector, Mr ZOE Health Study.  And of course, we agree.  There is so much choice out there, why not give your palate a bit of an adventure all in the name of positive gut health – imagine, a delicious glass of wine that might actually do you good!

So, following the Doctor’s orders, we’ll be waving the following bottles under your noses this weekend, if you fancy a taste:

Cantine Colomba Bianca Vitese Grillo 2021 – £11.99.  We’ve been enjoying our Grillo for quite a while now.  This nearly forgotten Sicilian variety (a crossing of Catarratto and Zibibbo) has lovely lifted citrus and tropical fruit character, a touch of minerality, great mouthfeel and a zesty finish.  Established in 1970, Colomba Bianca are dynamic, very quality focused and also just happen to be the biggest Italian producer of organic wine – so a winner all round then: a diverse, gut friendly organic wine that’s not Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio!

Prats & Symington Prazo de Roriz 2018 – £16.99.  Prats & Symington was founded in 1999 as a joint venture between the well-known Bordeaux winemaker, Bruno Prats and the famous Port making Symington family.  Made using port grapes (35% Touriga Franca, 25% Touriga Nacional, 20% Tinta Roriz, 20% other varieties) the wine is characterised particularly by red fruit flavours of raspberries and cherries and the terroir provides a distinctive minerality and appealing peppery spice.  Forget your Shiraz or other such mainstream varieties – try this with your steak!

One piece of admin before we go – we will be opening later on Tuesday 7th March because we have a big supplier tasting to attend in Camden beforehand but we should definitely be back here by 4pm – sorry for the disruption!

I think that’s it from us for now, I’m off to see if the Keir Starmer Real Dictators episode is up yet – if he is as guilty of the Machiavellian manipulations of Sue Gray that the Conservatives might have us believe, then it should be an amazing story!

Raising a glass to your good health