Archive for August, 2023

Late August…

Friday, August 25th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

An action packed week here in Wimbledon Park. We kicked off the early part of the week with Monday. We’re traditionalists, none of that start the week with a Sunday for us.

We received reports from one of our international correspondents that Athens was experiencing perfect laundry weather of 37˚C and windy.

We’ve heard from chums in the Lake District, apparently still a place where you can test the efficacy of your waterproofs, but not every day. Reports from Bergerac drift in gently smouldering because, we’re told, the only way to cope is to stay in the pool drinking ice cold Monbazillac, whilst the shade swelters in 40˚C.

Last week we were congratulating A-level students, this week it’s the turn of GCSE students. Well done everyone, it’s just the start of a long journey with many turns in the path and thousands of changes of mind ahead.

We also saw the ‘Dave’ list of winning jokes from the Edinburgh Fringe. Lorna Rose Treen was declared the winner with her “Zookeeper” one liner. Surprised not to be included with her “working daily with constituents” one liner, Nadine Dorries has threatened to resign.

We have also learned that since Petty Patel and Cruella Braverman announced their illegal Rwanda policy in April last year the UK has granted 14 Rwandan’s asylum. It seems Rwanda is not a safe country for everyone and there are at least some in the Home Office that can see that.

Tonight Matthew, I’ll be Kirsty MacColl with “Rwanda 14 England 0”.

Locally, amongst the hordes of roadworks, we’ve had a group of gentlemen from Conway come and fix the width restriction just up the road from us. So do breathe in, cross your fingers or use whatever other tricks you have for squeezing through. I’m sure it’ll only be a few weeks before one of the local skip lorries manages to force it wider, though they do look a bit more serious than before.

In India we had outbursts of national pride as their Chandrayaan-3 spacecraft rolled its rover on to the moon from their safe landing at the moon’s south pole. Disappointingly, the craft’s mission is not to find Clangers or Soup Dragons, but to identify the composition of the lunar surface through x-ray spectrometry.

In Russia, Putin continues to use gravity to silence his opponents. It would appear that a plane carrying Yevgeny Prigozhin, leader of the Wagner Mercenaries, just fell out of the sky. To me it seems a bit of a failure in Warlord 101 for both him and his deputy to be on the same plane, but what would I know.  I’m not sure how his death will bring any stability or certainty on the way to the upcoming “elections” but it will certainly have been noted.

Sports wise, F1 starts returns from its break this weekend with the Dutch Grand Prix at Zandvoort. Let’s hope the forecast rain enables somebody other than Red Bull to win a race, twelve wins from twelve races hardly screams competitive season does it?

In more exciting sports La Vuelta España starts on Saturday with a Team Time Trial in Barcelona. Over the course of three weeks it visits just about all of Spain, and certainly most of the mountains. The race book profile for Stage 20 looks like a drawing of a saw blade! I’ve had an each way sixpence on Geraint Thomas for the win and Jay Vine for the King of the Mountains jersey. Depending who you speak to, or which bookie you consult, either Primoz Roglic or Remco Evenepoel are favourite.

You may recall a week or two ago we spoke of a Crooked House pub that had changed hands, had a fire and then seemed to fall foul of a bulldozer the very next day. Police have arrested two men on suspicion of arson. Amazing how often that seems to happen, there was one on Southend seafront that spontaneously combusted three times before luxury flats sprung up. As far as I know the new build is not Phoenix House!

Tasting this weekend we’ll visit Spain. As La Vuelta starts in Barcelona we’ll start with a white from Costers de l Segre, just a bit further inland. Mas Blanch I Jove Troballa 2022 (£19.49) – a great wine, 100% organic Garnacha Blanca with wild fermentation, aged for four months in concrete eggs.  A rich and fruity wine with a lovely mouthfeel that we think would be splendid with a rare tuna steak.  The wine is suitable for vegans too, so perhaps a lightly spiced vegetable and coconut curry.

For the red we figured we’d head inland from Alicante to Jumilla. We’ll be sampling a drop Sierra De Enmedio Monastrell 2021 (£9.99). It’s from a family winery founded in 1870 and has all the richness of dark fruit you’d expect from this grape variety. I might try and barbecue something to go with this, but feel free to conjure up some duck, or even a selection of tapas with yours.

As usual on Bank Holiday Weekends we will close at 6pm on Saturday and open again as usual on Tuesday. Have a great weekend

Talking to myself

Friday, August 18th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

I stood here by the till and wondered aloud what we should talk about this week. In an unsurprising development, I received no answer. Alex has had his hair cut and set off on his holidays, and the Chocolate Block Jeroboam is not much of a chatterbox.

Here we languish in mid-august and with a mysterious turn of events we’ve had three consecutive days of sunshine, with talk of more to come.  Students across the land have received their A-level results, so congratulations one and all, and good luck with whatever comes next. Proud parents everywhere are being reminded of those motivational bribes they were offering to encourage study. We’re here to help if we can!

It seems Gillian Keegan, the Education Minister, said something a bit mealy mouthed but I only mention it here because I have a wider question… if you went along to a job interview and discovered that taking the job you would make you the sixth person in the role in less than four years, do you think you would take it? Ms Keegan is the sixth Education Minister since the 2019 Election, indeed the fourth one since July 2022. Can you imagine running a business where the person dealing with something changed so frequently? In some roles you’d have barely caught up with the email trail let alone grasped the brief. Fortunately, the WhatsApp’s will have been deleted.

An old school friend of mine had a wedding anniversary this week. He and his wife celebrated by renewing their vows where they got married in Santorini. It would appear that good fun was had by all, and Santorini still has the most amazing sunsets.

Did you know that in 1972 1 in 12 of all unmarried men in the country got married? Or that in 1976 91% of women were married by the age of 30, whereas today it’s about 33%? I mention this only in that we put together a box of wine for a wedding present this week, so if you’re going to a wedding, it might be an idea.  We even have an absolute stunner of a white from Santorini where the winery is next to the beach!

Michael Parkinson, who we sadly lost this week, once said: “Anybody who’s been married to a man for forty odd years knows he’s all talk. …” I was always rather a fan of Parky, I loved the way he seemed to enjoy his job so much, and that any moment chaos could descend. Tears of laughter when Billy Connolly or Dame Edna were on, eccentricity and great stories with Spike Milligan and that peculiarly awkward interview with Meg Ryan, where the show was rescued by the discovery of Jamie Cullum for me.  Let’s not also forget the Rod Hull and Emu chaos either eh? Cheers Parky, it’s been wonderful.

This weekend we’ll open a couple of bottles from the tail end of Gavin Williamson’s time as Education Secretary.  Deep Roots Riesling Trocken 2021 (£14.49) is a lovely dry Riesling from Rheinhessen. Crisp, dry, and citrus on the palate, we reckon it’s just the ticket with some tandoori chicken, whether you barbecue it yourself or dial it in.

The red hails from Sicily and is Cantine Paolini Nerello Mascalese 2021 (£11.89). One of Sicily’s indigenous grape varieties, unsurprisingly grown on volcanic soils, it has an easy going personality with red cherry fruits, a touch of spice and a nice fresh finish with fine tannins. Again I think I’d consider Tandoori Chicken with this, but also perhaps a tuna steak!

All that remains from us is a huge roar for The Lionesses on Sunday!

A well trusted Swedish friend has stolen my childhood…

Friday, August 11th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We’ve always liked the Swedes.  To clarify, all the Swedes we have met have come across as humble, fair, honest, creative, calm, open-minded and non-judgemental – thoroughly nice people generally speaking and let’s face it, everyone loves an IKEA hot dog.

But now, a well trusted Swedish friend has stolen my childhood:

“We continue to rapidly transform our product offer, which means not only moving towards full electrification, but also shifting to new platforms and technologies across all our cars. We will naturally need to evolve and consolidate our line-up as we prioritise fully electric cars and make this technological transition.

As a result, we have removed further models from the UK line-up. These include the S60, V60 and V90.  Demand for our existing SUV line-up continues to grow, while interest in our forthcoming fully electric EX30 and EX90 models is strong.  The vast majority of our customers opt for an SUV. The XC40, XC60 and XC90 all sit in the top three positions in their respective segments when it comes to UK sales. 

Meanwhile, appetite for our saloon and estate models has fallen to very low levels in the UK, which has led to our decision to remove these models from sale in the UK.”

To be fair, current President and CEO, Jim Rowan, was born in the Sweden’s southernmost city, Glasgow, so perhaps he has different character traits to other swedes but notwithstanding this, Volvo, what have you done? 

GUU 560W was the first Volvo that arrived in front of my parent’s house in August 1980.  A bright white estate car, far more luxurious than the beige Austin Maxi it was replacing and the first time I’d ever seen my Mum look happy with the car she was driving.  It took me to school, took us all to Wales on numerous occasions and went to Sainsbury’s quite a lot. About 7 years later it got replaced by another 240, this time in dark blue/green – never buy a white car if you live in the country was the lesson learnt, and so we proceeded for the next few years.

Following Mum’s advice, E521 WKJ, a burgundy Volvo 360 was my first car.  Often found galloping up and down the M4 in pursuit of some sort of university education or at other times plummeting down the M5 in pursuit of a pasty, some scrumpy and some waves – this was always far more comfortable than if we’d gone in Martin’s orange Ford Fiesta!

And now, M735 LDU, the car that delivers all of our wines to your front doors, a Volvo 740 estate, dark blue/green again, born in 1995, London resident since 2012.  Sadiq has ensured ULEZ means we have to say farewell at the end of the month and Volvo have now ensured that we won’t be able to replace it!

“appetite for our saloon and estate models has fallen to very low levels in the UK, which has led to our decision to remove these models from sale in the UK” – fair enough but they must be hoping that the UK appetite for Polestar saloon cars, the high performance electric car manufacturer they bought in 2015, doesn’t suffer the same fate.

However, before we march on IKEA and boycott Tetra Pak (difficult), we should perhaps be more Swedish in our reaction and just be grateful for all the good times that we have had – as the owner of the Volvo 240 that has completed over 828,000 miles put it in The Sunday Times article last weekend – “I prefer the feel of driving a car rather than the car driving you”.

Well said and Valete all you Volvo estates…

Elsewhere, life goes on as normal.  Lee Anderson, everyone’s favourite menu planner, has now decided to diversify into travel advice regarding accommodation in the floating prison barge in Dorset.  As Wayne commented in our email on 7th April:

‘Having recently completed a major refurbishment programme, Bibby Stockholm can accommodate up to 222 guests in high quality en suite bedrooms alongside a range of modern facilities over three decks ( -Stockholm-Factsheet.pdf)

So is capacity 506 or 222?  There seems to be some serious discrepancy, are we trying to get 506 men into 222 beds?  Pretty sure that there aren’t too many UK prison cells with more than 2.279279 people inside?

Happily though, Alex Chalk, Justice Secretary was leapt to Lee’s defence: “Lee Anderson expresses the righteous indignation of the British people. Yes, he does it in salty terms, that’s his style’ but his indignation is well placed.”

Oh, ok, that’s alright then, if you don’t like something, get salty….

I think I need a drink, so let’s open some wine:

Greywacke Sauvignon Blanc 2022 – £21.99

This my wife’s favourite wine when I’m paying for it.  Greywacke was created in 2009 by Kevin Judd, the person responsible for the ground-breaking early wines produced in Marlborough.  The name ‘Greywacke’ was adopted by Kevin for his first Marlborough vineyard, located in Rapaura, in recognition of the prevalence of rounded greywacke river stones in the vineyard’s soils.

So far as the actual wine is concerned, Kevin describes it thus: “Aromas of cassis and passionfruit are first to emerge, with guava, crisp pear and white peach adding a delicious fruit salad intricacy. On the palate, it’s generous yet refreshing, with ripe pineapple and a lime sherbet zing, layered with elderflower and hints of citrus blossom. A classic example of Greywacke’s interpretation of the famous Marlborough style – ripe, textural and scrumptious – with the volume turned well down.”

Bodegas Resalte de Penafiel Lecco Crianza 2019 – £19.29

We’ve always enjoyed the wines from Ribera del Duero and, with the predicted weather, this could be the perfect red.  This is 100% Tempranillo from 30 year old vines aged for 14 months in a mix of 70% French and 30% American oak.  A complex and rich wine with a medium body, dark red fruit character, a touch of coffee and touches of spice into the long, lingering finish, more than happy with that smorgasbord of barbecued deliciousness you are cooking this weekend!

“I said-a hip, hop, the hippie, the hippie to the hip hip hop” words so memorably uttered by Wonder Mike (he’d like to say hello) on Sugarhill Gang’s 1979 release “Rapper’s Delight” that were, for most of us, the first encounter with a phenomenon that began in a block party in the Bronx with Kool Herc on 11th August 1973.  A very happy 50th birthday to hip-hop!


Friday, August 4th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Shh, shh, it’s oh, so quiet, shh, shh, it’s oh, so still, shh, shh, you’re all alone, shh, shh, and so peaceful…

Betty Hutton first sang these bon mots in July 1951; Fröken Guðmundsdóttir repeated the sentiment in June 1995 whilst Wayne sings this to himself every day in August – it seems that the tranquillity of Arthur Road in the summer has been a globally acknowledged phenomenon for over 70 years – and this year is certainly no different.

Just so you know not to rush back too soon, Manuel has closed his D&S Tailors and Dry Cleaners for a well-deserved break from 31st July until 29th August; likewise, Lee and the gang at Saucer & Cup are closing from 14th to 30th August; Andrea and Sara at Whisk will be scooting back to the Bel Paese from 15th to 26th August whilst the crew at Arthur’s hung up their aprons on 29th July until 20th August.

Still, at least the Post Office now sells crisps; perhaps they could get a Gaggia…

Anyway, in the absence of too much action on the customer front, we have had plenty of time to keep up with the cricket, the Women’s World Cup football and the Netball World Cup.  We’ve watched more players going to the Saudi Pro League, we’ve watched a documentary about Mark Cavendish, we’ve watched rain fall, grass grow and paint dry. 

And then we’ve done this all over again the next day.

Outside of SW19, we’ve seen our prices rise, interest rates rise, we’ve seen our tee-total PM pretend to pour pints and we’ve seen Donald Trump issued with his THIRD indictment.  This means he has a full set – one relating to events before his presidency, one from after his time in office and now one from during his tenure – cup of tea, as the bingo callers would say.

From a work point of view, we’ve not worked too hard but we have re-designed our Monthly Case Club offering to fall in line with the new price hikes.  For those of you who haven’t come across our case club, it’s all really very simple.  Every month we select a mixed box containing six bottles of wine carefully chosen to tickle the life back into your taste buds.  There is an option of a £75 case or an £100 case and suffice to say, the discount on each case will always be greater than what we would offer instore.  We email you the tasting notes for each selection at the beginning of the month, you say ‘yes please, I’d like a case’ and we’ll drop them round.  You can say no at any point, you can also say ‘yes please I’ll take two!’

If you’d like to give it a go, just drop us a line and we’ll include you in next month’s mailing – we’ve attached notes for this month’s case to give you an idea what we’re talking about.

As it’s only Wayne and I tasting this weekend, we thought we’d treat ourselves to a couple of gems:

Kumeu River Ray’s Road Chardonnay 2020 – £27.99

Oak – 100% barrel fermentation in older French Oak and 100% malolactic fermentation with 11 months maturation in barrel.

A new wine in the line-up and it pleases me greatly to see that it comes from Hawke’s Bay.  I adore Hawke’s Bay Chardonnay and I can certainly see why these coolish climate kings have chosen to seek more fruit and also more challenges in this part of Kiwiland.  I love Rays road.  Classy, layered and complete this is a very different take on this grape from the remainder of the portfolio, given that the rest come from Kumeu (north of Auckland).  There is a distinct beginning, middle and end here, which is often a challenge in a new wine and particularly I love the acid line and elegance on the finish. 

18/20 – Matthew Jukes – 14 July 2021

Sokol Blosser Estate Pinot Noir 2020 – £36.49

The Sokol Blosser estate was founded by Bill and Susan Sokol Blosser in the Dundee Hills of Oregon about 30 miles south west of Portland in 1971.  Their first vintage was released in 1977 following 6 years renovating and improving the vineyards and cellar and the 85 hectares of vineyards are farmed organically with the insect population being kept in check by a resident flock of bluebirds! 

Having spent 16 months in French oak barrels the wine has a nose rich with mushroom, truffle, and forest floor, accompanied by black cherry, cranberry, and clove.  The palate reflects the cranberry, black cherry and truffle, but also introduces a dash of black pepper with medium tannins and acidity on the finish.

Sounds like we should get the big tasting glasses out….

Happy August everyone, enjoy your festivals, avoid forest fires and floods, eat food you wouldn’t normally try and do think of us weighing up whether to lunch on a Cheese & Onion sandwich from the Coop or a pack of Dextrosol from the chemist!