Archive for May, 2023

Fibs, Power and Truth

Friday, May 26th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Time to play spot the fib….

“If you have heard media hyperbole that a heatwave driven by an African plume will bring intense heat to the UK in the next few days, you are going to be disappointed – this isn’t true” – Neil Armstrong, chief forecaster at the Met Office and erstwhile moonwalker, Wednesday 24th May 2023.

“Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said she heard there was a hurricane on the way. Well, if you’re watching, don’t worry, there isn’t!” – Michael Fish, broadcast meteorologist and lead singer of Marillion, on 15th October 1987.

“I sought to explore whether bespoke arrangements were possible, given my personal circumstances as a security-protected minister. I recognise how some people have construed this as me seeking to avoid sanction – at no point was that the intention or outcome.” – Suella Braverman, former Home Secretary (resigned), tireless humanitarian, current Home Secretary (certainly not planning on resigning again), May 2023.

“It’s a lot of work, I’ll tell you that much, but I love it, I absolutely love it, and I want you to know I change a lot of nappies” – Boris Johnson, WhatsApp user, September 2021.

I know, difficult huh, perhaps they’re all fibbers?

I reckon though, with a view to it being the Bank Holiday weekend again, we want Neil Armstrong to be the one to be found telling porkies because, frankly, a heatwave weekend is exactly what we are all hoping for.  Currently, the weather for midday Saturday looks like this:

Wimbledon – 19c – real feel 22c – 0% rain

Fleet Services (M3) – 17c – real feel 21c – in-car temperature 21c – 0% rain

Stonehenge (A303) – 18c – real feel 21c – in-car temperature 40c (rising) – 0% rain

Exeter Services (M5) – 18c – real feel 22c – 0% rain – 0% chance of getting a West Cornwall Pasty

Thurlestone (Village Inn) – 17c – real feel 18c – 0% rain – beer temperature 4-5c

I think I know where I would like to be….

Meanwhile, in the world of booze that we lurk in, trade rag Drinks Retailing News has released its annual 100 Most Influential People in Drinks list.  Obviously we didn’t appear on it and it was not a surprise to see Miles Beale, Chief Executive of the Wine & Spirit Trade Association coming in first; nor was it a surprise to see the buyer from Waitrose and one from Tesco in the top 5, alongside Jancis Robinson.  What did make us drop our cucumber and marmite ciabatta was the name that appeared at number 10…

Kylie Minogue, Creative Director Kylie Minogue Wines

Pop sensation turned wine industry powerhouse, Kylie Minogue, launched her wine brand in 2020 with Paul Schaafsma of Benchmark Drinks.  After three years, the brand now has a portfolio of nine wines, including its popular Signature Rose and Prosecco Rose, as well as an alcohol-free sparkling rose.  Minogue has also become a familiar face in the global wine community, showcasing her wines at Prowein in March this year.  Kylie Minogue wines are now available to purchase in 31 countries.

Having rubbed our eyes and pinched ourselves, we re-read the list and it still said the same thing: Ramsay Street tomboy mechanic, Charlene Robinson, is now considered to be one of the most influential people in drinks?  Stone the flamin’ crows, as Alf Stewart up in Summer Bay might say…

Whilst, clearly, the success of the wine is more likely related  to  the efforts of Paul Schaafsma/Benchmark Drinks, what made us smile was that the caption under the photo of the two said Paul (pictured left) and Kylie – I think we could have out who was who without the signpost!

Oz Clarke came 91st.

Elsewhere, the cycling is just about coming to a finish in Italy, the Premier League  has all but ended and we don’t start our Ashes warm up until next Thursday, so we might as well entertain ourselves with a glass of wine and as it is going to be great weekend (fingers crossed) I think we’ll open some summer drinkers:

Château de L’Aumérade ‘Cuvée Marie-Christine’ 2022 – £17.99 – our perennially popular Côtes de Provence Cru Classé is back on the floorstack and is tasting better than ever. 

For those of you who haven’t come across it the Chateau de L’Aumerade is a 400 year old vineyard in the heart of Provence.  Its red soils are rich in minerals, giving it an edge on the quality stakes amongst its neighbours and this edge was recognised in 1955 when the estate was designated “Cru Classé”.  A lovely pale salmon colour, it is indeed cracking stuff with delicate red berry fruits, slightly floral and an impressively long finish.

We think it is the perfect wine for summer, great with all manner of food, or just with the Sunday papers and a deck chair.  It’s also suitable for vegans and, if you’re really thirsty, we offer 6 bottles for £90!

Talking of perennially popular wines, for the red we’ll open Palacio del Camino Real Crianza 2019 – £11.99.  A classic Rioja blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano aged for 12-14 months in a mixture of French and American oak, this wine has a real understated elegance.  Gently spiced red fruits, a touch of leather and a polished soft finish give it some good all-rounder appeal – you’re bound to be cooking over coals this weekend, so how about some new season lamb cutlets with it?

That’s it from us for now, just to remind you we’ll be shut on Monday as it’s the Bank Holiday and we’ll be raising a glass to the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll

“You can’t get hung up on age or beauty because you’re then always chasing after something you’ll never get back” – Tina Turner, Woman & Home Magazine, July 2016.

Wise words.

More cycling nonsense!

Friday, May 19th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This week we have not been eating cheese sandwiches. Not because we don’t like cheese, but more that we find Ann Widdecombe truly terrifying.  Wouldn’t it be nicer world if she spent her time spoiling her grandchildren rather than tell others they should just starve?

We have no plans to retrain as fruit pickers, lorry drivers or indeed, journalists. Not because there’s anything wrong with those jobs but frankly, we both feel we already have employment. Admittedly, we find working from home to be an insurmountable problem but do take comfort in that 63.9% of the working population are with us.

We’ve continued in our viewing of the Giro d’Italia and last week described it as having thrills and spills. That has certainly continued this week and, if I’m honest, it’s starting to feel less like a race and more like an alternate take on Squid Games. The weather has been atrocious, never before have racing cyclists worn their entire wardrobe with a waterproof over the top for so many days in a row. There have been riders falling victim to covid, the usual gastro problems, not to mention so many crashes, one rider even got taken down by a race official! Today’s stage has been re-routed through a tunnel, not because the GPS was playing up, but because the climb up to the Gran San Bernardo pass (at 2469m) is still buried under snow – questions still remain as to whether it will actually happen today, as torrential rain has delayed the start…  Remarkably, given it’s the Giro and there have been so many crashes, Geraint Thomas is still upright and wearing the pink sweater!

Whilst we talk about bike races I’ll mention it is just 43 days to the Tour de France and I do believe we may have lined up something rather special…

Tim Goodman, a customer since we opened, has been buying less from us so far this year as he is in serious training for cycling the 3500 kilometre Tour de France route. He also says that he is unlikely to try any wine during the three weeks cycling from Bilbao to Paris, over all five French mountain ranges (can you name them?). However, he is committed to making up for his abstinence at the celebratory dinner in Paris. He has also reserved a couple of bottles of Puligny Montrachet from us for when he gets back. 

He has committed to providing weekly reports for the newsletter during the Tour, a week ahead of the race, to let us know how he is getting on. He is raising money for Cure Leukaemia, which funds clinical trials to help beat this disease at hospitals around the UK, including UCL and Guy’s & St Thomas’s in south London. The team of 25 is aiming to raise £1 million by doing the ride.

In the meantime, if you would like to sponsor him, the link to his fundraising page is Tim Goodman is fundraising for Cure Leukaemia (

If you are interested in sponsoring the team bus or an individual stage, or even want to have a go at riding the Tour next year please email Tim at with Tour de France in the subject line.

In other news, it looks like Rafa is going to retire next year. Still struggling with the hip injury that has plagued him all year, he made the announcement at a press conference as he withdrew from the French Open. Manchester City are looking rather ‘on’ for their hopes of a Treble if the way they destroyed Real Madrid is anything to go by.

On the wine front we’ve just received the stunning new vintage of Domaine Lyrarakis Assyrtiko 2022 (£15.99). Who wouldn’t like a mini trip to Crete? We’ll pop that in the fridge for tasting over the weekend.

In the red corner we’ll pour Atal Sia 2019 (£25.99). This fabulous wine is from the Boutenac Cru in Corbières. A rather splendid blend of predominantly Carignan with Grenache Noir and Mourvèdre from vines older than Wayne, planted in the absolute best part of Corbières.  We loved it, come tell us what you think.

With that we’re off, have a great weekend!

Thrills, Spills and Feteasca Neagra

Friday, May 12th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We will be the first to put our hands up to being rather disappointed not to have this coming Monday off, we were rather getting into the swing of Bank Holidays.

So, what has happened since we last had a chat? The almost mediaeval pomp and circumstance discussed in last week’s missive passed without being disrupted by the drizzle. Despite not being The Lady of The Lake, it turned out that Penny Mordant can carry a sword and, as if by magic, the gold hat fitted the Charles formerly known as Prince rather snuggly. Having discovered that the King has a posse of long bow archers as his personal bodyguard, I was hoping the sword might have to be withdrawn from a stone or that a band of Merry Men might visit from Nottingham, but it was not to be.

The Merry Men from the Met did arrest some people for having some string, unloading a van and wearing a yellow jacket. The fact that these people had been liaising with the Met for weeks co-ordinating a peaceful protest was completely lost on the arresting officers, who seemed unable to contact Head Office by mobile phone, or the two way radio system that has been in use since the 1960’s.  Some sixteen hours later, these arrested folk were released without charge and the Met issued a long rambling statement expressing regret. That’s modern policing in action folks.

The local election results came in after we went to press last week but we are pleased to announce that finally something promised by the government actually came to pass. Rishi Sunak promised us the Conservatives would lose 1000 councillors in the local elections and they actually over delivered, losing 1061 seats and also control of 48 councils. UKIP, a party that is always keen to steal the headlines, lost all of their councillors.

Elsewhere, Lettuce Liz has decided to inflame relations with China by taking a trip to Taiwan, just as the region calms down a little after Nancy Pelosi did the same, which  resulted in the islands being surrounded by Chinese warships. I find it alarming the amount of trouble that can be caused by the vanity project of somebody who has already caused so much damage.

Over the pond, the parlous lay of the land was demonstrated in several awful fashions. Firstly, the consensus is that, despite being legally branded a sexual predator by a New York jury, it’ll make no difference to Trump’s electoral appeal in the next Presidential election. The other was the fact that the first 127 days of the year had seen 202 mass shootings where four or more people had died. Then Trump appeared on CNN in a ‘Town Hall’ discussion and, despite losing over 60 court cases related to the 2020 Election, still pressed on claiming it was stolen and then proceeded to talk absolute nonsense throughout the rest of the show.

Elsewhere, the Giro d’Italia has been winding its way through Italy, starting in Abruzzo. As always, it is serving up its usual mix of thrills and spills not to mention the stunning scenery. Mark Cavendish came fourth on a very wet Wednesday, sliding across the line on the floor. Remco Evenepoel was incredibly quick in the opening time trial and then was brought down by a stray dog a few days later. We even had a breakaway caught with just 200m to go, heart-breaking perhaps, but that’s the thrills and spills!  In Spain, Annemiek Van Vleuten won La Vuelta Femenina by nine seconds from Demi Vollering.

At this point we should probably talk about wine. The En Primeur campaign for Bordeaux 2022 is in flow and the vintage is, we understand, absolutely tip top. We sent our chum Clive off on a tasting trip and he came back with purple teeth and bags of enthusiasm for the vintage. In a surprise to nobody, the prices are around 20% higher than last year’s release prices.

Tasting This Weekend

We thought we’d open…

Follas Novas Albariño 2021 – £14.99

From Val do Salnés, the oldest, coolest and wettest of the five distinct sub-regions of Rías Baixas, yet also the birth place of Albariño sometime before the 12th century.  The vines for this wine are between 20 and 40 years old and vinified in a state of the art winery, completed in 2005.  Fabulously clean and crisp with citrus and floral notes on the nose, tangy stone fruit on the palate and a lovely mineral laden finish.

And in the red jumper we’d like to introduce a new one that we mentioned a couple of weeks back.

Solevari Reserve Feteasca Neagra 2017, Recas, Romania -£12.99

This is from the same stable as the ever popular Orange wine and, we thought, a bit of a find. As a reminder, the Cramele Recas Estate is owned by Englishman Philip Cox and his Romanian wife Elvira who have put an enormous amount of work into modernising their winery. One of the results is this beauty:  spicy black pepper framing black berry fruit character, a hint of cherry, maybe even a bit Pinot Noiry, medium bodied and great value was what we wrote down.

Long live the Quiche!

Friday, May 5th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

I’m not going to lie, Wayne has been a tad over excited this week.

Yes, we’ve known the programme since it was unveiled in October last year and have had plenty of time to work out the best vantage points to watch all the action; we have kept a keen eye on who will be there and who, significantly will not; we have also regularly checked the weather forecasts and googled what different participants might be wearing, so are feeling pretty well prepared; however, even with all that, as the big day approaches the tension is palpable when he blurts out something for which I hadn’t prepared:

‘So, who do you think is going to be crowned?’

‘Errm, are you extracting the Michael, I think we’ve both spent all our lives knowing the answer to that question…’

‘No, no, no – who do you think is going to be crowned when they cross the line in Rome on May 28th?’

Evidently, you can take the boy out of Essex but you can’t take him off the bike, as his agitation would seem to be stemming from the start of the Giro D’Italia this Saturday.  He’s paid his GCN subs and will be glued to the action from 10am on Saturday morning, don’t expect any bunting.

Meanwhile, for those of you less inclined to Lycra, you may be aware that this Saturday will be King Charles’ coronation – we will be open from 12-7pm as usual and are expecting 70% chance of drizzle all day with temperatures in the low teens, what could be more British?

So, anyway, for a lot of us, this is our first Coronation but, having become experts in Jubilees over the last few years, I imagine we have the requisite skillsets to cope with the novelty.  Ditto regarding the extra Bank Holiday, which we also have had a lot of recent experience in dealing with.  Street parties have been encouraged as ‘Neighbours and communities across the United Kingdom are invited to share food and fun together at Coronation Big Lunches on Sunday 7th May 2023, in a nationwide act of celebration and friendship. From a cup of tea with a neighbour to a street party, a Coronation Big Lunch brings the celebrations to your neighbourhood and is a great way to get to know your community a little better.’

So what should we be eating?  Looking back over previous events of this stature, courtesy of Professor Wikipedia, we discover a goldmine of trivia that needs to be shared.

The Victoria Sponge is named after the good Queen, who, whilst she didn’t invent it, was reportedly a very keen partaker of afternoon tea and this style of cake was her favourite.  Alfred the Great also had some cake based anecdotes but they are best ignored as cooking guides.

By all accounts, in 1902, King Edward VII organised (?) a ‘Coronation Dinner for the Poor of London’ where 500,000 dinners were served in multiple locations across town – apparently the King contributed £30,000 towards this.

According to the Bank of England Inflation Calculator £30,000 in 1902 is worth £2,974,268.89 today.

There is no obvious food association for George V; his son Edward VIII abdicated before we got to learn his tastes and very quickly a rather reluctant George VI was crowned in 1937.  We don’t learn much about the food side of proceedings but did find out that the event cost £454,000, just shy of £25 million today and I suppose you could argue they got two coronations out of that.

Next up, our Queen, the lady we all grew up with and who played a blinder, not only in her service to the nation but also in her dish – Coronation Chicken.  Still hugely popular in sandwiches today, I’ve never met anyone who doesn’t like it!

Charles has enlisted Nadiya Hussain, Ken Hom and Gregg Wallace to rattle off some tasty sounding main course but the choice of a quiche as the ‘signature’ dish has surprised a lot of us. 

To start with, it’s French, which has been a Republic since 1792.  If The Proclaimers get removed from the official playlist for Republican views how does this slide through?  Secondly, the ingredients:  If you want to unite the nation as one, offer them fish and chips or a cup of tea, not broad beans in an egg custard – might as well make marmite on toast the official breakfast too!  In fairness, I like broad beans and marmite but they are divisive tastes that only elicit binary responses – perhaps it’s a clever metaphor and, if it is, I must praise Charles for his cognizance!

QEII gave us Chicken in mayo, KCIII gives us Egg in pastry – I think we can now answer which came first.

I mentioned the Official Coronation Celebration Playlist that is available to enjoy alongside your French tart on Sunday.  Of course Coldplay and Ed Sheeran are on there, Queen too and Harry Styles but no Robbie Williams which comes as a surprise, but not necessarily a disappointment.  Noticeably no Prince either, another sign of Charles’s clever curation perhaps?  It was a bit disappointing to see that Coventry’s second finest band, King, failed to make the shortlist, their song Love and Pride would have been a banger!

So, I think that’s possibly all you really need to know about the Coronation to get the conversation started on Sunday.  As mentioned, we’ll be here as usual on Saturday but closed on Monday.  Should you be in need of a break from the television and a bit of a leg stretch then pop down and see what we’ve got on tasting this weekend: Chatelain Desjacques Chardonnay (£10.99) from the Loire Valley and Juliénas Chaintré Fleurie (£15.99) from Beaujolais – both absolutely bang on matches for your egg flan on Sunday and both unashamedly French.

Vive La France – Long live the Quiche!