Archive for September, 2023

The end of an era

Friday, September 29th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So, that’s the end of an era.  The Volvo finally wended its way to a charming retirement yesterday, somewhere just outside St Austell.  Happily we are told that there is a vibrant Swedish ex-pat community in Little Polgooth, regular Abba nights in Hewas Water and, if the urge for meatballs and Daim bars becomes too hard to resist, Exeter has an Ikea – so all is good – although Exeter is over the border, so there may be a problem…

But we move on.  From now on the PV deliveries will be sponsored by either Volkswagen, Skoda or pushbike, dependent on the size of order and the clemency of the weather but, rest assured, we will still be able to drop off your favourite tipples in a timely manner.

But we now move out of SW19.  It seems that the BBC has finally enacted some of the ‘Artist Formerly Known As Twitter’ protocols that we had to institute here a good while back to curb some of Wayne’s enthusiasm.  @mikeycylcing and @TheJeremyVine would be nothing without his retweet button however, he readily accepted that he had a particular responsibility to respect Park Vintners’ impartiality, because of his high profile at Park Vintners and as such would no longer be saying all those rotten things about charming Suella and her lovely brain trust at 55 Tufton Street.

What we did find interesting from this was which programmes auntie considers to be ‘flagship’:

  • Antiques Roadshow
  • Dragons’ Den
  • MasterChef
  • Match of the Day
  • Strictly Come Dancing
  • The Apprentice
  • The One Show
  • Top Gear
  • major sporting events – not so many of these nowadays I think

while for radio they have spotlighted the shows presented by the following political heavyweights:

  • Greg James
  • Zoe Ball
  • Vernon Kay
  • Scott Mills

The world will be a poorer place, robbed of their commentary and insight.

Interestingly, Have I Got News For You didn’t make the flagship list, despite the fact that it is about to start its 66th season – perhaps they realised trying to silence the editor of Private Eye might be too much to ask…

But we move away from W1 and venture to Europe.  In France we delighted in victories for England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the Rugby, in Spain we saw Europe keep hold of the Solheim Cup whilst back in Holloway, on Sunday, Tottenham slowed Arsenal’s 2023/24 premiership campaign – I do hope those 2 points aren’t significant come May!  As only Scotland are playing rugby this weekend, the rest of us can focus on the Ryder Cup that starts today, in Rome, where the big bearded fellows Rahm & Hatton got us off to winning start and then the very in-form Norway and Sweden representatives teamed up for Match 2 to do the same.  Match 3 saw a return of the beard with Irish Shane joining long tall Sepp for another win and then Fleetwood Mac completed the landslide – mouth-watering stuff.  Two years ago, 8 of the US players were in the world Top 10 whilst this time they have 6 and we have 4 – the gap has narrowed and we’re playing in Europe, might as well start engraving the trophy now!

And that’s about it for world news.  Here on Arthur Road, having said arrivederci to Whisk a fortnight back, we said wilkommen this week to Ben Venuti who hopefully will pick up where Andrea & Sara left off and keep us all well fed with the good stuff.

Speaking of good stuff, fancy trying some wine this weekend?  Good, rather hoped you’d say yes.  Today we’ll be opening a white from the middle shelf and a red from the third one up.

Domaine Morin-Langaran Cuvee Caroline Picpoul de Pinet – £15.99 

Picpoul is a grape variety that has been grown for years on the banks of Lake Thau, in sight of the famous oyster-beds of Bouzigues down in the Languedoc.  The vines bask in the sunshine being gently aired by the salty breeze and thus this wine is unmistakably Mediterranean.  The estate has been in the same family since 1966 and they produce a classic Picpoul, aged on its fine lees for complexity and the perfect match to shellfish, grilled fish or just as an aperitif!

Quinta do Espinho Colheita 2018 – £13.99

A classic blend of the Douro – Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca, all of which feature in the sweet Port wines of the region and in fact these chaps also provide the Taylor’s port people with grapes.  However, this is a dry wine, bright, elegant and complex with lots of red berry and cherry on the nose.  The oak is light and well integrated bringing some extra length to the juicy finish, a touch of spice and green herb too – dangerously delicious and a proper all-rounder food wise.

And now we must leave you be, to continue with your daily tasks.  Have a splendid weekend, and, if you’re going to watch a Michael Gambon movie, eschew the Harry Potter offerings and get your teeth into The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, & Her Lover and raise a glass to the maestro!

Runaway, Rugby and a Red Jumper

Friday, September 22nd, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well, I’ve been away for what feels like five minutes and seem have missed all sorts of excitement.

First up, we had an escapee from Wandsworth Prison, who was an ex-soldier and skilled in survival. I bet that had everyone checking the back door before bedtime. Well, for all his survival skills, getting caught in Chiswick is hardly entering Race Across the World territory is it? I’m not sure he’d even make it through auditions for Hunted.

Incidentally, we saw yesterday that he has pleaded not guilty to escaping from Wandsworth Prison on September 6th. We couldn’t help but wonder how he could then explain his reasons for being by the canal in Chiswick on the morning of 9th September.

England have won two Rugby games, apparently not elegantly but WON! Alex says me not being here was possibly the key!

Sepp Kuss of Jumbo Visma won La Vuelta a España, his first Grand Tour after being the key super domestique in many of their previous victories. Not least La Vuelta 2019, 2020, 2021 Tour de France 2022, 2023 and Giro d’Italia 2023. I seem to recall people said it was boring when Team Sky was dominant.

I don’t know if any of you caught Rishi Sunak’s speech on Wednesday but we feel we should be congratulating him. Not only has he abandoned non-policies like us having seven bins, raising a meat tax, banning chocolate and introducing expensive insulation, but he has managed to unite the Green Party with car manufacturers. We certainly didn’t have that on our Silly Speech Bingo Card.

On the wine front, we’ve been out and about wine tasting a bit this week, ostensibly looking for some wintry treats. We have some sore teeth, a few ideas and inevitably tasted some wrong’uns too.  For the most part they are yet to be shipped, so do watch this space.

In the meantime, we would like to mention the welcome return of Leveret Premium Brut (£16.99). You may remember it as that fizz from New Zealand that’s really good value. It’s a classic blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay made in the traditional method. Alex likes it for breakfast with some smoked salmon whilst for me it’s perfect for Fizz Friday!

Tasting This Weekend

We’ll start off with a white from New Zealand. Mountford Liaison Riesling 2021 (£18.49) hails from North Canterbury and is a lively, zippy and fresh Riesling, just off dry and I reckon pitch perfect with a prawn Laksa!

Red wise, a quick visit to Veneto finds us pulling the cork on Riondo Valpolicella Ripasso 2019 (£16.99). The sharp eyed amongst you might recognise the Riondo name from the Amarone shelf and this certainly carries some of that rich dark fruited style. Rich smooth and full bodied with black cherry and damson fruit, we thought it cracking value when we tasted it. What do you think?

What do we know about running a business?

Friday, September 15th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

First up, a bit of admin to save you having to read the whole email…

We’ve got a busy week of tastings next week, out and about in London town with our notebooks and our Christmas shopping lists, so our opening hours will be slightly unusual:

Monday – we will be back by 3pm, so will open then

Tuesday – CLOSED ALL DAY – multiple tastings, multiple different venues

Wednesday – open as usual

Thursday – we will be back by 3pm, so will open then

Friday – open as usual

Now, back to business.

The Guardian gave us two headlines that particularly caught our eyes this week and I’m sure you saw them too.

Rick Stein defends charge of £2 for condiments at Cornwall restaurant

UK’s biggest pub group to charge 20p more a pint at busy times under surge pricing

For those of you who focus more on the crossword and the sports pages, in a nutshell these two stories pretty much start and finish with the headlines.  Rick Stein has been accused of mugging his customers by charging £2 for mayo, for ketchup and for mushy peas whilst the owners of, amongst others, Slug & Lettuce, Yates’s, Be at One and Walkabout announced their intention to introduce dynamic pricing that will give customers the chance to experience Zimbabwean style price inflation in real time.  If I’m honest, I had no idea that Slug & Lettuce and co were still trading but I expect that’s because I don’t spend enough time around Leicester Square.

Anyway, for me, I think Rick could have avoided the bad press by just adding the £2 into the cost of the fish and chips – if you’re already charging £16.95 then make it £18.95 and give the condiments away ‘free’.  Not everyone will have them, so the costs will be well covered but hey, what do I know about running a business?

Actually, we have been practicing a form of dynamic pricing for a while now.  The way our system works is thus: whilst there is no one in the shop (quiet times) everything is free of charge, fill yer boots; however, as soon as someone comes in (peak times) surge pricing is enabled and everything goes up to the full ticket price on.  A simple yet effective business model, no one has every complained and I’m very pleased to show you some pricing transparency!

It does make me wonder though, if we are about to see bars going down the same route that budget airlines have long followed.  So, as opposed to ordering a pint and paying for it, we will now be confronted with an array of choices:

Would you like to pre-book a nice pint glass for £2 or shall we allocate you a slightly chipped one when you order?  Certainly you can buy a bottle of wine but there will be an additional £2 charge for opening it, is that okay?  Yes, sir, we do have a loo downstairs, it’s 50p per visit or you can pay for £2 for up to 5 visits….

Cannot wait.

The good news is I won’t be charging you for opening the wines that we have on tasting this weekend.  As the weather seems to be continuing fair until Sunday (when I’m playing golf in the rain) I thought we would stick at the lighter end for one more week.

Now, I can’t believe we’ve got this deep into the year without opening one of our most popular summer whites so, freshly landed from Portugal, may I introduce you to Vilacetinho Vinho Verde 2022 – £10.99.  Casa de Vilacetinho was founded in 1790 and is one of the oldest producers of Vinho Verde.  This wine is crisp and dry from south facing, granite slopes and is lively, zingy and zesty with citrus notes and a light spritz.  Perfect as an apéritif sundowner and recently went really well with a ramen and at only 10% alcohol, it’s also unlikely to give you a headache in the morning!

The red will be Italian, from beautiful Tuscany:  Calappiano Chianti 2021 – £11.99.  Owned by the Sensi family, the Calappiano estate dates back to Medici Florence and is steeped in history.  Today it has more than 200 hectares of vines planted alongside woodlands and olive groves situated in this natural heritage site.  A fantastic value Chianti, light on the palate but packed with red fruit flavours and perfect with a large plate of charcuterie.

Cannot wait!

That’s all from us, feels like it could possibly be the last weekend for formation Rosé drinking in the garden but have no fear, we’ve got you covered!

Where’s Wayne?

Friday, September 8th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Welcome back!

Thank you for bringing all this glorious, glorious sunshine, although I’m not sure entirely what to do with it now the schools are back in and we’re all back at our desks, but thanks nonetheless!

Talking about being back at work, do you ever wonder how well you really know your work colleagues?  I realise that if you work in a big corporation with 1,000’s of employees you probably don’t know all of them beyond nodded acknowledgements in the corridors, assuming you are in the office, and if you are WFH then I imagine you probably have more contact with the characters in Saucer & Cup than you do with your actual workmates.

For me, I can count my work colleagues on one finger.  You’d imagine therefore that I would have a pretty good idea about what he’s up to and what’s going on in his world.  I mean, you’ve all met him – charming man, BIG investor in Lycra, with a unique sense of humour and a laser sharp wine knowledge that stops the business from capsizing on a daily basis.

However, right now, I’m not sure where he is.

Knowing his keenness for cycling, holidays, holidays that involve cycling, cycling holidays that include wine tasting and all that jazz, and also noticing that he’s not been at work for the last week, I was understandably somewhat concerned when I read the headline:

Man arrested by Coast Guard trying to cross Atlantic in human-sized hamster wheel – Daily Mirror 07/09/23

Happily, this wasn’t he and the story actually takes a rather unfortunate turn, so I turned the page:

Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary gets cream pie to face as he quips ‘Irish cream is better’ – Daily Mirror 07/09/23

‘Michael O’Leary was about to speak to journalists in Brussels amid news Ryanair pilots based in Belgium had called a strike when a woman ran up and threw the pie at his face’  so the report goes, and once more I was worried.  H          as he gone to visit his wife’s family in Belgium and has she got distracted en route?  If so, chapeaux, but I now remember that there was talk of Italy in his holiday plans, at which point Metro came to my rescue:

Kanye West appears to crash couple’s Italian wedding in bizarre TikTok video – Metro 06/09/23

Now we all know that this wasn’t really Kanye, he would never be so crass or narcissistic, just ask Taylor swift:  ‘A video clip shared on TikTok shows a man dressed in black with a scarf completely covering his head and face. The bride and groom are seen in their wedding outfits posing for photos as the man casually slides in beside them to pose for the snap with his face not visible.’

I think I’ve found him….

Back in the sweltering UK, we are gobsmacked that, whilst we are still recovering from the shock resignation of dear Nadine, Chris Pincher has now resigned too, after losing his appeal against suspension.  Quite how it has taken so long for the appeal to be upheld/lost is a bit beyond me but he will be forever remembered as the man whose wandering hands placed the final nail in Johnson’s premiership coffin.

And now sport.  Our cycling correspondent, as noted above, is busy elsewhere so we have a lack of news on that front except that La Vuelta is still going uphill and down dale and all the GC contenders are still contending.  AFC Wimbledon seem to have had a remarkably fine start to the season, which I have now no doubt scuppered, and we’ve picked a very exciting Ryder Cup team for the Italian showdown at the end of the month.

And the Rugby World Cup starts today.  England have played 51 World Cup games since 1987 and lost 14, which means we have 27% loss record and by this time next month they will have played their 55th match – will that percentage now be 32%?  Let’s watch this space….

Whilst we wait for that exciting stat to come in, let’s taste some wine. 

Having spent some time under Cretan skies recently, and with the current sunshine safari, I quite fancy opening the two wines from Domaine Lyrarakis this weekend.  I have to apologise as they have both been on the table within the last 6 months but, with the forecast for this weekend, it seemed like an opportunity too good to be missed.

Vóila Assyrtiko 2022 – £15.99

Located in the mountainous commune of Alagni in Crete, Domaine Lyrarakis stays true to local winemaking traditions.  The domaine focuses on indigenous varieties, taking them from obscurity and driving them in a more modern direction, while still retaining a clear sense of place.  Its style focuses on pure varietal character, precision and supple texture.  The 2022 Assyrtiko is a delicious wine, grown at 580 metres’ altitude in the Voila vineyard.  There is a definite floral character, refreshing minerality and chalky texture to this delicious wine that marries well with all forms of seafood, as you might expect from a producer surrounded by sea!

Kotsifali 2020 – £13.99

Kotsifali is indisputably a classic of the vineyards of Crete offering spicy red fruits; an elegant mouthfeel and a piquant aftertaste make it a deliciously fresh drop, not too weighty and seriously good with lamb kleftiko or a bit of fried saganaki, perhaps lightly chilled from the fridge?

So pop by and have a try before you go home to light the brai…

Kanye & Alex

Seems like Autumn is here…

Friday, September 1st, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Welcome back! I see you’ve bought the traffic and am certainly hoping that the sunshine is just lagging behind a little?

As Alex returns from enjoying the hospitality of the Greeks, and with Wayne about to head off and enjoy the hospitality of the Italians, we thought we could have a chat about the Corfu incident. This happened at this time of year, exactly 100 years ago and was a diplomatic and military crisis between Greece and Italy.

An Italian General, Enrico Tellini, was heading a commission to settle a border dispute between Greece and Albania but was sadly murdered, along with two of his staff officers, whilst on Greek territory.  

Benito Mussolini issued an ultimatum to Greece, which they declined to totally fulfil. In the kind of rational reaction and proportional response that you might expect of a great statesman, Mussolini sent 3 battleships, 4 cruisers, 6 destroyers, 2 torpedo boats, 4 torpedo armed motor boats, 2 submarines, 1 airship, numerous aircraft and between 5-10,000 soldiers to bombard and occupy Corfu, which was defended by a Greek garrison of 150. As a result of the bombardment 16 civilians were killed and 30 injured, whilst Mussolini made a speech decrying the Greeks for not understanding that Corfu had been Venetian for four hundred years before becoming a part of Greece in 1864.  Personally, I think Benito might have cherry picked his historical data.

Talking of rational reactions and proportional responses, Charles Mullins OBE this week was suspended from Twitter for saying that “someone should kill” Sadiq Kahn, following the expansion of the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone.  Perhaps everyone should take a deep breath of that less polluted air and calm down a little?

In other news, we’ve had a bit of a Cabinet reshuffle after Ben Wallace resigned as Defence Secretary. He has been replaced by Grant Shapps, a man so talented he has been a minister at almost every department.

He started at Housing in 2010, then in 2012 moved to Without a Portfolio before becoming Under Secretary of State in 2015, followed almost instantly by International Development from May till November 2015. Over to Transport in 2019 until the wheels came off in September 2022. It took a mere 6 days for him to have mastered the Home Office brief and then the former photocopier salesman became Minister for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Before you could say ‘glacial melt’ he was Minister for State Energy Security and Net Zero where he’s been since February. Now he’s mixing with the big guns at Defence. 

Claire Coutinho has become Energy Security and Net Zero having learnt all about it whilst Under Secretary at Education. She is the sixth person in the job since 2019, so please rest assured that Energy and Net Zero are being taken really seriously.

On the subject of Education, over 100 schools may end up relocating children and closing buildings if they have been built with reinforced autoclaved aerated concrete. This follows a report in June assessing the risk of injury or death from a school building collapse as “very likely and critical”. Scary stuff!

In Africa, Gabon suffered a coup this week as Ali Bongo was placed under house arrest by his own Presidential guard.  He and his father have ruled Gabon for the best part of 50 years. That’s eight successful Coup d’états in Africa in the last three years, let’s hope Grant Shapps isn’t getting any ideas!

If you’ve not been following La Vuelta, let’s just say it’s been a little on the crazy side. Standing water and slippery roads as Barcelona’s first rain in weeks covered the Team Time Trial; Kaden Groves becomes the first person ever to win back to back stages and then Jay Vine, my tip for King of the Mountains, crashing and leaving the race on the first proper mountain stage.  Will Mr Groves get another sprint win today? It’s still the first week!

Tasting This Weekend

We’ll kick off the red corner with Monte Tondo Corvina 2022 (£15.49) Monte Tondo is a family estate located in the beautiful hillside vineyards of Soave. This is a new wine to us, a lovely red with a bright and lively nose showing fresh cherry, black berry and black pepper hints. It is medium-bodied with a lovely freshness and supple, well-integrated tannins.

Whilst wandering around looking rather suave in the white t-shirt will be Domaine Belleville Rully 1er Cru Chapitre 2020 (£38) – Winemaker Charles thinks that moving to organic farming over the last few years has really improved the freshness in the wines. We certainly loved this with its nose of smoky, creamy citrus notes. The palate is crisp and dry, with a white flower note on the aroma front, whilst the palate is rich with ripe orchard fruit and a creamy, nutty character into an impressive finish.

And with that, I’m gone – happy holiday to me!