Archive for February, 2024

Use Them or Lose Them!

Friday, February 23rd, 2024

Fellow Wine Lovers,

As mentioned last week, we’ll be closing at 5pm today as we have our annual excursion to do the drinks at the KCS quiz night. Again, our apologies for any inconvenience.

This week saw another chapter in the Post Office Horizon saga. A spat between Harry Staunton, the former chairman of the Post Office and Kemi Badenoch, the business secretary over the payment, or delay, of compensation. Both sides deny the other’s story with Ms Badenoch doing so in Parliament whilst Mr Staunton chose The Times.

Coincidentally, Ms. Badenoch said trade talks with Canada over cheese and motor vehicle tariffs were ongoing. In an unusual turn of events, Ottawa’s High Commissioner to the UK said the talks have not happened. Perhaps Ms. Badenoch pursues a rather Johnsonian approach to the truth?

We also saw Parliament descend into chaos when the Speaker broke with convention during a debate into a ceasefire in Gaza. He was accused of playing ‘party politics’ when he allowed a vote on a Labour amendment when it was the SNP’s turn. Now around 50 MP’s have called for his resignation. You’d think a ceasefire was more important than whose turn it was to do the wording, but there you have it.

This week, we’ve read some alarming news on the drinks and hospitality front. The drinks trade warned the government that the biggest hike in duty in fifty years was likely to have a dampening effect on sales which would harm both the trade and also the tax receipts. This week HMRC statistics revealed that between September 2023 and January 2024 revenue from wine, spirits, beer and cider fell by £600 million compared with the same dates a year earlier. Wine and Spirits Trade Association chief executive Miles Beale said “Not only has this hurt British businesses, it has fuelled inflation and significantly reduced excise duty receipts to the Exchequer.”  

We also read a survey by UKHospitality, the British Beer and Pub Association, British Institute of Innkeeping and Hospitality Ulster revealing the cost pressures facing venues compared to 2023. Nearly all venues (98%) have seen food and drink cost inflation and are concerned about the increase in National Living Wage in April. Of those surveyed, 25% no longer have any cash reserves at all and a further 29% have only enough for 3 months. What caught our eye though was the staggering 64% of venues that are not optimistic about their business’s prospects for the next 12 months. The trade bodies issued a joint statement: “These results clearly show the perilous state our pubs, restaurants, hotels and cafes find themselves in. The fact that a quarter have run out of cash reserves completely is a real cause for concern. Those businesses are extremely vulnerable to the slightest shock forcing them to shut their doors for good.”

Use them or lose them folks, use them or lose them!

The Six Nations is back this weekend, with Wales partaking of Irish hospitality and England travelling to Murrayfield on Saturday, whilst Italy will be taking a tour of Paris before their game on Sunday. In proper sports, this weekend sees the real racing season start with cobbled climbs at Omloop het Nieuwsblaad on Saturday. It seems Wout van Aert and Lotte Kopecky are the favourites in the Men’s and Women’s races respectively but there’s a chance that their days may be spoiled by Arnaud de Lie and Demi Vollering. Kuurne Brussels Kuurne is on Sunday with a more sprinter friendly parcours – it’s going to be a fun weekend!

Well, somewhere in all this excitement we should be able to find time for a glass of wine.

Sporting the white jersey will be Deep Roots Riesling Trocken, Rheinhessen, Germany (£13.99). A group of young vine growers all got together with the idea of sharing their marketing costs but in the end decided to make just the one wine to showcase their talents.  Almost a mini co-operative, if you will.  Winemaking duties are spearheaded by the talented Stefan Winter, and this is a cracker.  Citrus and orchard fruit notes on the nose, minerals join them on the palate and we reckon this is a cracking partner to a Thai curry!

We shall visit the Rhône valley for the red jersey, pulling the cork on Côtes du Rhône Villages ‘Les Coteaux’, Rhône, France (£13.99). Common practice in the Côtes du Rhône is to bottle the best cuvées as a single named Village wine and the rest as basic Rhône Villages.  The philosophy here, on the other hand, is to start with the intention of making the very best Côtes du Rhône Villages possible.  They source wine from the vineyards of named villages and enrich them with a small proportion of barrel-aged wine from Sablet, Séguret and Cairanne.  The results are fabulous, as you can taste here, with well-balanced brambly fruit and soft tannin that is bang on the money.

New Wine and The Same Old Whines

Friday, February 16th, 2024

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Before I bore you with some unfunny ramblings on the state of things, a few points of admin relating to the coming week.

  • Monday 19th February – we will open late, ideally by 3pm, as we need to go to a trade tasting in town
  • Tuesday 20th February – same as Monday, different day, different tasting but same rules – we will open late, ideally by 3pm
  • Friday 23rd February – different rules, today we will be closing early.  It’s our annual trip up the hill to help out at the KCS quiz night, so in order to get this all set up, we will be closing at 5PM.

I imagine the Friday closing will have more significance to most of you and we can only offer our apologies in advance – sorry.

Anyway, back to the here and now, we are open.  Frankly, though, there have been points this week when we had to check that we had unlocked the door because it has been suspiciously quiet.  Valentine’s Day was the most muted we’ve seen in 10 years and we didn’t have a single person asking us for our recommendation for pancake friendly wine on Tuesday (Champagne or Cider, if you’re interested).  This means we’ve been listening to a lot of podcasts, ordering a decent amount of wine and even, at one point, contemplated giving something up for Lent, just to keep us occupied for 40 days.

Outside of Arthur Road, the world doesn’t seem to be much happier than it was last week.  We still have crisis in the Middle East, Russia is still trying to crush Ukraine, we’re in recession, the Labour party is making all the wrong headlines and, in America, people decide to take their guns to the Super Bowl victory parade, resulting in the death and injury of innocent people.

So, as has so often happened over the last few years, we’ll try to find our good news in the world of wine.  Not a lot to see here either, I can only assume everyone is on the slopes in La Thuile.  I did mention earlier that we’ve been buying wines this week and in fact have 7 new listings:

From France, we have changed our Picpoul de Pinet back to Chateau de La Mirande 2022 – £14.99, one of the stalwarts of the region, this is made from 100 year old vines and is crisp, dry with a lovely citrus and stonefruit character.

From Italy, we have two new whites.  A little while back, one of our travelling connoisseur customers was raving about a Lugana that he had tasted at a fancy dinner somewhere fancy.  This jogged our memory and reminded us that we also rather liked this wine but hadn’t seen it for a while.  Long story short, we found Cà dei Frati 2022 – £26.49 and put it on the shelf.  Aged on lees for half a year in stainless steel, this has a lovely elegant palate with hints of apricot, touches of minerality and a nice long finish – thanks for the steer, Francis!  We also found a very tasty Soave, completely by accident, Montresor Gran Guardia Classico 2022 – £12.79 which is fresh and light with hints of honeysuckle and a creamy nuttiness on the finish.

From South Africa, a proper crowd pleaser – Primordial Soup – £8.99.  Made predominantly with Chenin Blanc and Colombard and at only 11%, this was an immediate wine win for us.  An immediately attractive nose of fresh citrus and stone fruit with lightly floral notes lead onto a palate that is crisp and vibrant with ripe, fleshy, gently tropical fruit characters and a clean tangy finish.

Spain gave us a new ‘posh’ Albariño.  Granbazán Etiqueta Ambar 2022 – £25.79 has fresh, almost tropical aromas then stone fruit and citrus on the palate with a creamy texture, mineral notes, vibrant acidity and classic saline characters.  Quite ripe and complex in style with fresh balancing acidity and a classic saline character.

The USA gave us another crowd pleaser – Showdown Man with the Ax Cabernet Sauvignon 2022 – £12.99 which comes from California and rather stopped us in our tracks (we liked the label…. I know, even we fall for it!).  Ripe cherry and cassis fruit, with a soft, juicy, yet long finish, this would be fab with almost any red meat, especially served rare – it is from America after all!

Finally, not exactly a new listing but a wine that we have been storing to get a bit of age on it –  Famille Brunier Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe Châteauneuf-du-Pape 2016 – £70.  In August 2018, Jeb Dunnuck ( gave it 97 points and wrote:  “…the 2016 Châteauneuf-du-Pape offers a classic, gorgeous bouquet of black raspberries, currants, violets, salty minerality, nori (seaweed wrapper) and licorice.  Full-bodied, pure, incredibly elegant, with fine tannin, and a huge finish, this is classic Vieux Télégraphe all the way that has the balance to drink now.  Drink 2023-2043.”

So that’s our wine news, I think we’ll open the Montresor Gran Guardia Classico 2022 – £12.79 and the Showdown Man with the Ax Cabernet Sauvignon 2022 – £12.99 this weekend so you can let us know what you think!

No Six Nations tomorrow and I think Wayne is focusing on his own cycling rather than that of the professionals.  However, I did read that Twickenham Stadium has introduced alcohol-free areas for the two home Guinness Men’s Six Nations fixtures on a trial basis, based on supporters’ feedback.  This is no doubt great news for any of the gentleman choosing to wear brand new white Quba & Co sailing jackets to HQ and who then get a little bit tied up in knots when they stand up suddenly and spill your pint of Guinness on themselves!  Now, when they purchase their tickets, they can choose to be within an alcohol-free zone and thus avoid the risk of a beer wash and only run the risk of a J2O shower…

Not that any gentleman would ever buy a white Quba jacket….

That’s it from us, a reminder from the top of the email, late opening on Monday and Tuesday, early close on Friday, make a diary note!


Another impressive week in Politics….

Friday, February 9th, 2024

Fellow Wine Lovers,

We thought we should start off this week by correcting some of the mistakes we’ve made in recent news letters. But let’s face it – nobody has that much time on a Friday. So, I’ll just ‘fess up to the fake news that that Lewis Hamilton is leaving Mercedes not McLaren as some of you read last week. Mercedes, McLaren, mistake and momentary madness all start with an ‘m’, as does muppetry.

This week Dishy Rishi has made impressive efforts to demonstrate the excellent judgement and political nous that makes him the perfect person to lead the country. This week’s achievements include blocking a pay deal with Junior Doctors whilst simultaneously blaming them for increased waiting lists at the NHS, having a tone deaf £1000 bet with Piers Morgan over the Rwanda policy and then capping it off with a cruel jibe at the expense of transgender people whilst Brianna Ghey’s mother was in parliament.  Despite cries of ‘shame’ from all sides of the house he refused to apologise and is, a day later, refusing to apologise and blaming Kier Starmer for his problems.

Talking of Kier Starmer, after weeks of ‘will he, won’t he?’ the Labour leader has announced the party will be scaling back its £28 billion green prosperity plan by almost half. The main victim appears to be the home insulation plan, deemed expensive, despite everyone agreeing it to be a very effective and simple solution. I’m sure all the storms and flooding have created no extra cost and we’ll have to set nothing aside for future problems. Would it be nice if there were some politicians out here who’d engage in a grown up conversation with the electorate?

Over in Paris, the farmers are yet to starve the population that this correspondent thought lived mostly on coffee and cigarettes. We also learn that medals for this summer’s Olympics will contain iron from the Eiffel Tower. Before we all get over excited about the structural integrity of the iconic landmark let me reassure you that the metal was removed at its last refurbishment and stored in a secret warehouse for exactly this sort of thing. A nice touch we thought.

Kamila Vilieva, the Russian figure skater banned for four years in January blamed her positive doping test on her grandfather’s strawberry dessert. Apparently he had crushed his trimetazidine on the same chopping board he used to slice the strawberries.  The Court for Arbitration in sport found this explanation was “not ­corroborated by any concrete evidence”. Strawberries marching up that superfood list!

Our man on the ground in Rome last week tells me the atmosphere was absolutely electric and the entire place was on their feet for the last Italian try. A word of caution though, the van outside the stadium that tempts you to get a beer for the walk back into town might be as expensive as the Ritz! For this week’s fixtures England host the Welsh at Twickers for Saturday’s late game. France will have visited Scotland in the earlier game and Italy will be in Dublin for some after show Guinness on Sunday.

As we move onto proper sports, the cycle road racing is edging closer, Tour of Columbia is underway, Mark Cavendish was third on stage one with Ferdinand Gaviria taking the stage and Davide Persico second. Oscar Sevilla, who raced in the Giro d’Italia that Marco Pantani won in 1998, is racing his 26th season at the age of 47 and was third on stage two! Omloop het Nieuwsblaad is traditionally the first World Tour race on European soil and is just 15 days away.

Tasting this Weekend

We thought we’d pay a visit to the Chablis region of France and our chums at Domaine Fournillon. This is a 23 hectare family run domaine situated in the small village of Bernouil, close to Chablis. They currently only bottle 10% of the production but are expanding to meet demand. The soil in the vineyard has a high sand content alongside the Kimmeridgian limestone and has managed to resist phylloxera and avoid the need for grafted rootstocks.

White wise we’ll naturally plump for the Chablis 2019 (£19.99) an absolute classic style with green apple and mineral notes, a lovely finish too.

Red we will open their Bourgogne Epineuil 2020 (£18.50). Epineuil is the name of a hill just opposite the Premier Cru vineyards of Tonnerre. It shares the same soil mixtures and where it was once well known for Pinot Noir rosé, the climate changes have meant that it has become a decent source of Pinot Noir more suitable for red wines as you can see with this example.

So, half term starts today, Lent starts next week and Valentine’s Day rolls in on Wednesday – you have been warned….

Bye for now!

Six Nations, Ferrari, Nerello Mascalese and Cyclocross

Friday, February 2nd, 2024

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Well what did we learn this week? Well, we learnt that Corporation Tax will not increase in the event of a Labour Government at the next election. We also learnt that Jeremy Hunt won’t be giving out big tax cuts at the spring budget. Not what he told us last week, but I think the IMF might have had a quiet word.

We also learnt that the Environment Agency hasn’t been checking sewage permits ‘as frequently as it should.’ We learnt that an Exmouth swimmer is taking legal action against South West Water for ‘loss of amenity’ after she was unable to swim in the sea due to all the sewage spills. We also learnt that Wednesday’s global sea surface temperature of 21.1˚C equalled the all-time record set in August 2023 which means, rather scarily, we’re headed into uncharted waters!

We learnt that there are an almost infinite number of excuses from politicians of all badges on why they deleted their WhatsApp messages. Everyone that stands up in front of the covid enquiry seems to have a different reason, it’s almost like they all have something to hide. We also learnt that Ed Davey is sorry that he sorry he ‘did not see through the Post Office’s lies.’ On the plus side, everyone knows who he is now!

After the best part of two years of ‘working from home’ it would appear that the members of the Northern Ireland Assembly are likely to be heading back to the office after a deal was finally hashed out with the DUP. Let’s hope so, the DUP have caused enough distrust and disillusionment to last a generation. It’ll likely be a bumpy road ahead.

Shocker of the week for me was Mercedes losing Lewis Hamilton to Ferrari for next year. Obviously it is to drive one of their Formula 1 cars rather than join in their new found passion for world sailing competitions. Given his frustration at this season’s performance with Mercedes, I’m not sure he’ll necessarily get a more competitive vehicle at Ferrari; it’s at least 15 years since they won a championship. Time will tell I guess.

Whilst on the subject of wheeled sports, the UCI World Championship Cyclocross is this weekend in Tabor, Czechia. Men’s Elite defending champion Tom Pidcock is not defending his title, so difficult to see past Matthieu van der Poel given his 11 wins from 12 starts this season, but do keep an eye out for Cameron Mason in the GB jersey and Eli Iserbyt from Belgium. Women’s Elite I’m struggling to see past Fem van Empel to be honest, but have high hopes that Zoe Backstedt will improve on her 2nd place last year in the U23. I haven’t seen any racing in the men’s U23 so am completely in the dark there.

Six Nations Rugby starts this week, England travel to Italy for the early game on Saturday (14.15). Marcus Smith is sitting on the sofa following an injury and England have a few new faces in the squad which should make for an interesting watch. We have a man on the ground in Rome taking notes so we should be able to provide a more succinct summary in the not too distant. It’s going to be warm in Rome so don’t forget your sunblock!

The tournament actually kicks off on Friday evening with France hosting Ireland, whilst Wales will host Scotland for the late game Saturday.

We’ll go with a six nations influence on the tasting wines this week visiting France and Italy.

For the white lovers we’ll open Domaine de Vedilhan Viognier 2022 – £11.49.  This Languedoc estate belonging to the Fayet family based in the village of Moussan close to Narbonne.  The property has a small brook running around the outskirts which provides natural irrigation to give much needed water.  This gives the wines their freshness and appeal; keeping the vines cool in a very hot climate.  A flirty Viognier: shimmering hay and peaches with a lush viscous texture give way to a sensual palate of roses, pineapples and mangoes.  Delicious with Thai or fusion food, or some big, juicy langoustines.

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. I think I’d consider Tandoori Chicken with this, but also perhaps a rich fish stew!