Archive for October, 2023

A real human you can talk to

Friday, October 27th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We’ll start with some words from Fiona Beckett, award-winning food and wine writer, one of the world’s leading experts on food and drink matching, wine columnist for The Guardian and the author of 25 books on food, wine, beer and alcohol-free drinks.

Vindependents buys exclusively for independent merchants, and often unearths wines you won’t find anywhere else in the UK….

What the indies do have to offer, however, is wine you just can’t get elsewhere, much of it from small producers who don’t make enough to supply the bigger retailers, as well as a real human you can talk to….

Things are rather better, though, for the 55 members of an enterprising consortium called Vindependents (vindies for short), an agency that buys wine exclusively for the independent sector….

What I like about the wines the Vindependents select is that there’s almost always a good story behind them…

Fiona Beckett on drinks – The Guardian – Fri 20 Oct 2023

So what, I hear you say? 

Well, if you hadn’t guessed already, we are one of the 55 members of the Vindependents buying powerhouse – roughly 20% of our wines come from here, numbering amongst them best sellers like:

  • Champagne Lété-Vautrain
  • Domaine Landreau Cremant Rose
  • Vilacetinho Vinho Verde
  • Domaine Fournillon Chablis
  • Follas Novas Albariño
  • Iris Malbec
  • Cantine Povero Cabanè Langhe
  • Collequieto Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

So we’re dead excited that Fiona has looked beyond the supermarket offerings and championed us minnows – thank you well, Mrs B.

But that’s enough about us, what about the rest of the world?

I suppose the first thing to mention is that summer is now definitely over.  I appreciate we have not broken news there but it becomes official on Sunday morning when we put the clocks back an hour and it starts to be dark for more than 60% of the day – happy days, red wine ahoy!

I’ve been warned not to mention sport which is easy since there doesn’t seem to be any going on at the moment – both the cricket and rugby world cups seem to have finished quite abruptly and Wayne hasn’t mentioned much cycling recently, so they must be on an eating phase.  Arsenal are third in the Premier League though, which is brilliant news……

And we obviously don’t want to talk about the AELTC, suffice to say chopping down mature trees and replacing them with a 95-metre long, 28-metre high, 8,000-seat show court doesn’t feel terribly Greta….

Back to football, loosely speaking, we see that Eric Cantona, famous sardine/seagull behaviourist is now a singer, having released an EP, I’ll Make My Own Heaven, at the end of last week but more on that later.

Yesterday, I was reminded of a pet peeve of ours which is the inexplicable popularity of celebrity drinks.  Union, a company that runs systems for high volume hospitality in the US, have crunched the data they accumulate from sales at the venues they serve and have come up with the following disturbing trend – punters are paying on average 73% more on drinks made by famous people!  Gulp.  We’ve laughed in the past at Kylie being 10th in the list of 100 Most Influential People in Drinks but hadn’t actually pondered on the fact that people might be paying more for the pleasure… I mean, I enjoyed Breaking Bad as we all did but I don’t think it ever made me think that I must rush out and buy the Bryan Cranston/Aaron Paul Dos Hombres Mezcal at £60 a pop!

Which brings me back to Cantona – does this mean we would expect to pay treble for his album because he is famous for something completely unrelated?!

I think no….

Back to wine, we thought it apt to taste a couple of the wines that Fiona B highlighted in last week’s article:

Le Veritable Jurançon Sec 2020 – £11.99

A lush, peachy white made from the local gros manseng grape. Fresher than you’d imagine from a 2020 vintage.

Sierra de Enmedio Monastrell – £10.99

Appealingly soft, juicy Spanish red. Easy to drink on its own, better with tapas.

Ok, so I’ve written longer ‘unsubscribe me’ emails but at least we know she liked them as much as we do!

Have a lovely weekend, enjoy the lie in on Sunday and try to avoid midgets demanding sweets on Tuesday!

Adventurers and World Records

Friday, October 20th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We found something that made us laugh out loud this week. You may recall past emails where we may have mentioned the madness of transferring the entire European Parliament from Brussels to Strasbourg every other month. We’re rather old fashioned in the view that taxpayers should be able to expect a reasonable value for money approach to spending by their representatives and that this is anything but that. Anyhoo, on Monday, a train full of hundreds of MEP’s and European Parliament officials ended up at Disneyland Paris after being misrouted. You can imagine our mirth and I’m sure you can frame your own ‘bon mots’.   

One hundred miles from the coast of Vanuatu, Tom Robinson has been rescued. Not he of 2-4-6-8 Motorway fame but a young chap who had hoped to be the youngest person to row across the Pacific Ocean. He was nearly there too; he set off from Peru in July last year and was on the last leg, having set off from Luganville, Vanuatu on Monday and expecting to be in Cairns by December. He was rescued by a cruise ship that is now heading to Auckland from where he’ll fly home. I can never make up my mind if adventures of this nature are brave or foolhardy – certainly when I was 24 I never considered rowing anywhere in a homemade boat, certainly not across oceans. We definitely need adventurers like this, brave, foolhardy or otherwise.

Whilst we’re on the subject of water, it seems that Welsh Water, when confronted with independent analysis of their own figures, has admitted to illegally pumping sewage into Cardigan Bay. Their managing director of waste water says “We’re not proud of this at all. It’s a very uncomfortable position to be in – but it’s not for the want of trying. We have been trying to fix this.”

Maybe try harder?

Still on the subject of water, alarmingly, the Amazon is suffering a drought and is at its lowest level in a century, which doesn’t sound good at all.

On a brighter note, we have quite a lot of England versus South Africa World Cup action at the weekend. In Mumbai, it looks like the team will be able to welcome Stokes back after recovering from injury which should give a bit of a boost. At the other end of the day, and closer to home, we have Mahler, Martin and Steward facing an unchanged South African side in Paris. Marcus Smith is still suffering from the battering he took last week. Today’s semi-final is between Argentina and New Zealand – if last week’s games are anything to go by, it should be a fun weekend.

In other news, Rishi Sunak’s Future Fund, the much criticised Covid fund to support start-ups, invested £2 million pounds in four companies linked to his wife. Surprisingly, none of them are mentioned in his register of interests. According to the Cabinet Office, he has spent £650,271.28 on private or RAF jet hire. They say trains are expensive…

In wine news, Aristotelis Valaoritis has set a new world record for glass dancing. Glass dancing is a traditional Cypriot skill that you shouldn’t try at home folks since Aristotelis has been practicing this since 1995, entertaining people at events and restaurants. His world record? 319 wine glasses balanced, one by one, on trays on his head with a total weight of some 30kg – we think it’s certainly not something to try with your Riedels and apparently he’s now aiming to repeat this feat with whisky glasses!

On that note I think we should taste some wine – no rhyme or reason to these choices save the fact that the slow cooker is on duty tomorrow and the red will be a nice accompaniment…

Valenciso Blanco – £24.99 – A firm favourite with both of us, this white Rioja is a blend of 70% Viura and 30% Garnacha Blanca, sourced from 80 year old vines and then fermented with wild yeasts before lazing around for 9 months in Caucasian oak barrels. Complex aromas combining pretty, floral character with preserved lemon, truffle and smoky notes and a palate that is broad and well integrated, with nutty, stone fruit notes. Fresh candied peel, minerality and crisp citrus acidity on the finish and the texture in the mouth is similar to a posh Graves but believe me when I say it’s unmistakably Spanish in style which is why I often pair it with a fish supper!

Château de Paraza ‘Cuvée Spéciale’ 2017 – £16.99 – as discussed, casserole is in the offing and what better to match it than a Syrah, Grenache Noir & Mourvèdre blend. They give us a deep red, garnet coloured wine with cherry and raspberry compote notes, red licorice string in the background and a lovely juicy acidity which make this a great all-rounder of a wine – happy days!

Hello Trousers, Unfinished Business and Joseph Perrier Champagne

Friday, October 13th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Red Wine Time!  Bye, bye Indian summer, hello trousers and damp mornings.

But before we get into that, what’s been going on in the world this week…

We were amused that Donald Trump, a man currently in court for inflating his wealth, has issued a demand for an apology from Forbes for taking him off of their wealth list.

We’ve both been chuffed to find our teams at the top of the Premiership. Wayne especially so as it involved Arsenal beating Manchester City!

We felt disappointment when we read that a person as wealthy as Bernie Ecclestone felt the need to defraud the UK government. He was busted and received a suspended sentence and will pay the HMRC £652 million. To be fair, it’s not the first time we’ve been disappointed in this manner.

We were amazed to hear Chaka Khan collaborating with Bombay Bicycle Club (Tekken 2), and absolutely loved the Rolling Stones track with Lady Gaga and Stevie Wonder (Sweet Sound of Heaven).

We found ourselves wondering what could be more elementary than a school boy error? Could it be a Farrell? We’re fairly sure that schoolboys don’t run out of time on a kick.

We also found ourselves wishing that the world had much more glitter and many less bullets.

Back in SW19, our numerous trips to the West End to taste different wines have started to bear fruit, as this week we welcomed two new wines to our shelves and also welcomed back an old friend.

Domaine d’Altugnac ‘Les Turitelles’ Chardonnay 2022 – £15.99

So, we all love white burgundy but can’t necessarily always justify treating ourselves to Chablis Grand Cru on a Monday and this is where ‘Les Turitelles’ steps in.  Childhood friends, Christian Collovray and Jean-Luc Terrier each grew up in a family of winemakers and shared a bond from a young age.  They became closer still, when they married sisters, Brigitte and Florence, also from a winemaking family.  They now boast two properties, Domaine des Deux Roches in Mâcon and Domaine Altugnac in Languedoc  which means you’ve got Burgundy winemakers bringing all their skill and experience to their property in Limoux – what’s not to like?!  Bursting with white floral aromatics and a touch of citrus on the palate, followed by a concentrated and lingering finish this is a complete joy, perfect any day of the week!

Hesketh ‘Unfinished Business’ Pinot Noir 2021 – £16.99

We’d already appreciated this Pinot and were on the cusp of ordering when we read this message on their website:

Hesketh Wines acknowledges the Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the first inhabitants of the nation and the traditional custodians of the lands where we live, learn and work. We acknowledge the importance of the land to its traditional owners, and we as guests are committed to always respectfully caring for the land.

That’s what we like to hear, so we went ahead and bought the wine!  Made with fruit sourced from a selection of premium cool climate vineyards within the renowned Limestone Coast region in South Australia’s southeastern corner, this is made in a way that allows the juicy intensity of this parcel of fruit to shine.  Light to medium bodied with luscious red fruits and juicy acidity pursued by plush tannins, this is an incredibly moreish wine that we expect to have to re-order quite quickly!

Joseph Perrier Brut ‘Cuvée Royale’ – £45.00 (also available in magnum)

Founded in 1825, Champagne Joseph Perrier has been owned and run by the same family since 1888 and own 21 hectares of vineyards on the right bank of the River Marne, around Hautvillers and Cumières, two villages classed 93% in the ‘échelle des crus’ (the former official crus scale of Champagne).  ‘Cuvée Royale’ alludes to the historic relationship between Joseph Perrier and Queen Victoria and King Edward VII, as the royals’ Champagne of choice – probably the highest honour any Champagne house can hope to earn.  A blend of 35% Chardonnay, 35% Pinot Noir and 30% Pinot Meunier, with three years of ageing, this vivacious champagne has a delicate nose of green apples and stone fruits, and a lively freshness that balances the round and elegant citrus fruit on the palate.

Welcome back, old friend!

I reckon, having just rattled on about the Turitelles and the Hesketh, that the sensible follow up would be to get them both open on the tasting counter this weekend so you can try them for yourselves and check our workings….

And that, I think, is that.

Reliable Surprises

Friday, October 6th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It’s been a week since we last spoke, and the world has rotated 7 times, which is nice and reliable and unlike a lot of other things that have happened this week.

Things that we could rely on to happen were:

  • Suella making a speech and managing to wind everyone up
  • Rishi making a speech and managing to upset the top half of the country
  • Every Conservative speaker studiously avoiding the multitude of elephants in the room
  • Trump using  the words ‘witch-hunt’, ‘fraudulent’, ‘fake’ and ‘disgrace’ when talking about his court case
  • KPMG 2023 CEO Outlook report released
  • A football manager complaining about VAR
  • Ben Stokes being injured…
  • …and England losing
  • Mark Cavendish coming out of retirement

The surprises were:

  • that Liz Truss MBGA speech
  • 400 people queuing to listen to the aforementioned Loopy Liz
  • Rishi paving the way to make tobacco potentially more illegal than cannabis
  • Akshata Narayana Murty, Rishi’s best friend,  making a particularly toe curling intro speech
  • Rishi then referring to her as ‘Truly the best long-term decision for a brighter future I ever made’ as if she was another new investment opportunity…
  • For those of you working from home in your dressing gown – the KPMG 2023 CEO Outlook report reveals that:

a) 64% of CEOs believe that there will be a full return to office in three years’ time

b) 87% of CEOs are likely to reward employees who make an effort to come into the office with favourable assignments, raises or promotions

  • Jürgen Norbert Klopp calling for a replay of the last Liverpool game, as if it’s the first time a wrong decision has been made that affects the outcome of a match
  • Klopp then calling for an investigation into Sir Geoff Hurst’s extra time goal in the 1966 World Cup Final
  • Frank Lampard then calling for an investigation into his disallowed goal in the 2010 World Cup

Ok, so the last two aren’t true but I think I’ve made my point.

However, I’m not really sure where professional sport will be in 10 years’ time, given all the rising costs and demands on the hosts.   The Commonwealth Games is currently without a 2026 venue; the only people interested in hosting Euro 2028 are the UK & Ireland after Turkey dropped out; and the 2030 World Cup will seemingly be hosted by Spain, Portugal and Morocco but with the first three matches being played in Uruguay, Argentina and Paraguay!

Oh, and then we read that The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, fresh from playing against Qatar at St James’ Park on Wednesday and winning 4-1, has announced its intention to bid for the 2034 World Cup.  Other contenders are likely to be China; The Association of Southeast Asian Nations; Uzbekistan & Kazakhstan and Australia & New Zealand (who, if you recall, have just dropped the Commonwealth Games) – so it feels like the Saudi bid stands a chance and the Sportwashing will continue.

Meanwhile, in a theatre in the West End, Just Stop Oil were settling down to watch Les Misérables….

In the world of wine, not so much has moved or shaken this week – we have continued our tastings of ‘Wines for Christmas’ and are hopefully getting towards some sort of consensus which should soon translate into new wines on the shelves.  However, talk of Christmas feels a bit premature as we read that September temperatures were ‘gobsmackingly bananas’ – and that’s a direct quote from a climate scientist.  The gobsmack is due to continue it would seem, as the forecast for this weekend is wall-to-wall sunshine until next Wednesday and temperatures around 24 Celsius!

Not sure we’ve got enough Rosé for this…

I really thought I was going to be opening autumnal reds by now but as it isn’t yet time, we’ll be opening a white and a red that will be very happy alongside your 8th October barbecued spatchcock.  Both come from our pals at Barton Vintners, producers in Walker Bay, South Africa:

Barton Chenin Blanc 2022 – £12.99 – Walker Bay is considered to be an area with exciting potential: the region has varying altitudes and ideal soils that help produce some world class, elegant wines.  This Chenin has a lean, green apple and white pear nose whilst the palate has a full, rounded mouth-feel, still with the apple and pear but also some hints of spice and lingering acidity.

Barton Rouge 2020 – £10.99 – a firm favourite of ours, this is a juicy blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz and Merlot, giving us a rich and fruit driven wine with dark brambly fruits and a touch of spice, yet without too much tannin to get in the way of the fun. A real food all-rounder too….

And with that we’re gone.  Seems that silly season is upon us with a whole swathe of significant birthdays looming, so if you’re hitting the big 40, 50 or 60 even, this one’s for you!