10pm curfew?

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Wayne now being back from his holidays, replete with Galo de Barcelos tattoo and a worrying Sagres habit, can mean only one thing in Park Vintners life – summer holidays are now officially over, the nights are longer and red wine sales emerge from under the boulders that rosé stacked on them over the last six months.  So, actually, plenty to look forward to!

Although, saying that, one thing Wayne did bring back from the Iberian Peninsula, that is less appealing, is the idea of curfew.  Already, there are quite stern restrictions in place in Portugal with regard to sale of alcohol after certain times: no sales after 8pm for shops and supermarkets for example; and in restaurants and bars, alcohol can only be purchased after this time if food has been ordered alongside.  We have already seen localised, 10pm curfews over here – the North East has just been put under the cosh with similar constraints, which feels a bit rotten for Northumberland whose case rate was below the threshold.  Being the 6th largest county but with a population significantly smaller than Bristol, social distancing is the norm here and frankly it sometimes feels that many of the locals don’t need any encouragement to isolate further!

But, and I’m biased here of course as a licence holder, what is the gain of a 10pm curfew as opposed to normal 11pm or midnight closing.  Does Covid become suddenly more virulent at 10.30pm?  Doubtful – if so, we really need to be told.  Is it some sort of attempt to stop people drinking so much and thus losing control of their distancing radar?  Perhaps, although people will just go to the pub earlier or drink faster if they so wish – it’s not so long ago that we had stricter licensing hours and afternoon closing, for example, and people still found ‘a way’.  Will it encourage people to drink and eat more at home and avoid the pub completely?  This is very possible.  If you would normally book a table at a restaurant or between 8.30 and 9pm, which is historically a very popular time, then you are on the clock immediately, the moment you sit down.  ‘Why bother?’, will be many people’s decision.  At which point pubs and restaurants go bust meaning that when we finally escape these infernal times we will have nowhere to celebrate!

I have spent a bit of time reading a the most September issue of the Market Recovery Monitor from CGA and Alix Partners – a scintillating read, if you want a copy I can send you the link.  Anyway, the simple summary is thus: many more restaurants re-opened in August where previously pubs had been the majority – Eat out to Help out obviously encouraged this; 76.3% of all licensed venues were trading by the end of August, however London is the slowest city to recover, with 28.8% of venues yet to re-open.

And the good news?  Well, there is a genuine likelihood that we will be put under curfew given that Downing Street hasn’t denied the possibility and it looks like half term will be very much at home, so no good news really, sorry.

Blimey, that’s all a bit bleak.  Wayne has now told me that before I get into my rant about martial law and the end of democracy, I need to find something more positive to talk about.

And lots of important stuff has been going on, if you look carefully enough.  A man in Manchester, reclaiming the mad of the late 80’s perhaps, has been booted off the bus for wearing a live snake as a face mask.  Meanwhile, in Australia’s Northern Territory, a humpback whale, clearly looking to start a fight, has found itself in the aptly named East Alligator River – home to many, many Saltwater Crocs.  Most people’s memories of Kakadu are mosquitoes the size of golf balls, so this should be a nice distraction!  Finally, in the real world of football, famously cash-strapped Lionel Messi has won a 9 year battle to make his name a trademark and a famously almost bankrupt 31 year old ex-Tottenham player is perhaps about to be re-signed by his old club for more money than the club captain is earning – Daniel Levy is definitely having a funny five….

The Tour de France grinds on, where grimaces up 18% slopes on Wednesday just went to show that this is not a sport for the faint hearted; then in the evening Eoin Morgan was clearly tippling from the same bottle as Mr Levy when England snatched defeat from the jaws of victory by bowling Rashid rather than Curran in the last over.

For anyone that doesn’t follow cycling or cricket, I imagine that last paragraph might as well have been in Greek!

And so to wine.  Still no new wines to talk about really, although, as mentioned last week, we will be out at a couple of tastings on Monday 21st, so fingers crossed.  On a personal note, I re-discovered my utter delight in the wines of Montalcino last weekend, with a splendid bottle of the lightly oaked Sangiovese proving a fine partner to some sirloin and sausages from the barbecue.

If, like me, you’re keen to reconnect with Tuscan treasures, it would be hard to look past the San Polo Rosso di Montalcino 2017 – £24.99, which comes from a vintage that started cool, was stink hot in August but this heat was then balanced out by rain in early September to help the grapes reach ideal ripeness.  Bright ruby in colour with a nose of Morello cherry and blackberry with just a hint of the light toast of 12 months in oak.  The palate continues this fruit theme with smooth, finely-balanced tannins and a persistent, aromatic finish.  Bistecca alla Fiorentina is the idea match here, but I’m not sure how many of us have a wood fire to cook it over!

Should you wish to up the ante, we do of course have:

Gaja Pieve Santa Restituta Brunello di Montalcino 2012 – £53.50

Sesti Brunello di Montalcino 2013 – £64.00

…both of which are stunning.

There you go, a little bit of chat about wine and I feel noticeably better and more positive!  It’s Friday afternoon, the sun is out and it looks set fair for the weekend – Wayne, let’s have a cocktail, things could be a whole lot worse!

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