What do we know about running a business?

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?

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…

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!

Late August…

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

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…

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 (www.bibbymarine.com/bibby-stockholm -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!


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!


July 28th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

I’m sure that if you, like me, have been reading the press this week you are comforted by the news that there is no longer a war in Ukraine, there hasn’t been a coup in Niger and there is nothing to discuss about climate change. The only thing that really matters is Man Baby’s bank account. Seemingly closed after the accidental discovery that he no longer meets the requirements to hold a Child Trust Fund, Man Baby has had an absolute hissy fit. He screamed and screamed until he made himself sick (he can you know) and the fallout has been far and wide, featuring apologies, middle of the night resignations and a rather gleeful Man Baby screaming “ More, more!”

All this has been manna from heaven for our government of integrity, professionalism and accountability. It’s let them off the hook from rethinking a commitment to net zero, a simple inability to encourage anyone to build any houses, dodgy by-election results, and that opinion polls seem not to give them the upper hand.  Not to mention that Flitwick Town Council have written to Mad Nads asking her to vacate her seat immediately so they can get some actual representation.

As we read headlines of stepping back from net zero commitments placed next to pictures of wildfires in Rhodes, Sicily, Corfu and Croatia, we do find ourselves wondering what could happen if the party politics were removed from this. After all, Sadiq Khan seems to be taking a lot of flak for expanding ULEZ, an idea of Boris Johnson’s and imposed on TFL as part of the settlement negotiated by Grant Shapps. Removing the party politics from the conversation may just give us a bit of cleaner air to breathe, and perhaps a less toxic political environment.

Which would be nice.  

On the subject of hot spots and history, should you be avoiding the Mediterranean in your travels this summer but planning a visit to the tropical paradise of the Scilly Isles we have news…

An Iron Age grave discovered on Bryher in 1999 has finally had its mysteries solved by DNA testing. The grave contained a skeleton along with a sword and shield and also a brooch and a bronze mirror. The sword and mirror combination are a unique discovery in Western European Iron Age study whilst the DNA testing of the skeleton’s tooth enamel suggest the skeleton to be that of a woman. Historic England believe the mirror would have been used for signalling and that female involvement in raiding and other local warfare was more widespread than previously thought, laying the foundations for leaders like Boudica to happen. The sword and mirror are in the Isles of Scilly museum, should you be in the ‘hood.

After too many months of absence caused by a series of problems too dull to discuss here, we are chuffed to announce the return to the shop, to the fridge and to Friday Night Fizz, of Leveret IQ Brut NV (£16.99), our delicious traditional method sparkling wine from New Zealand. As a reminder, it’s a blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier aged for 18 months on its lees.

We’ve also gone and bought another beer from the nice folk at By The Horns Brewery. Cherry Berry Sour (£4.25) is a kettle soured beer brewed with sloe berry and sour cherry puree before being dry hopped with a slug of Eureka hops. It’s a fruity drop and, for our palates, a bit less sour than you might think.

Tasting This Weekend

We thought we’d open the bowling with Lumari Lucido/Inzolia, Sicilia (£12.99) a lovely, modern easy drinking white. An aromatic and fresh wine with hints of nuts and citrus made from indigenous Sicilian varieties.

We’ll be rolling the red in from the Pavilion End with Lyrarakis Kotsifali, Crete (£13.99). Kotsifali is a grape variety indigenous to Crete and mostly grown in the Heraklion region. This one has spicy red fruit with hints of herbs and a palate of red cherry fruit balanced with fine tannins and a hint of that herby spice in the finish.

We can’t sign off this week without remembering Sinead O’Connor.

Revisit the album “I Do Not Want What I Haven’t Got” and raise a glass.


They’re having a heat wave, a tropical heat wave

July 21st, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Spain travel warning as Britons to face soaring temperatures in top hotspots Daily Express 17th July.** (see footnote)

Did you hear?  It’s summer in Europe and it’s hot.  Many, many UK column inches have been printed warning us if the dangers of going to Europe and meeting Cerberus or Charon – last year it was the ferry ports being overcrowded, this year it’s the weather; one is almost starting to feel like there is some sort of animosity between the UK and the mainland!

Glancing quickly at the Spanish and Italian press though, their coverage seems less meteorologically fixated.  La Nazione, in Florence, has a front page headline discussing a local restaurant no longer being allowed to put tables on the pavement, whilst El País is more concerned with power outages due to air conditioning usage, the 143,000 litres of olive oil being sold as Extra Virgen when it’s been mixed with lesser product (two headlines that appear every year, I think), and, of course, the upcoming general election on Sunday.

Not so many headlines about the weather.

However, this does lead us to a heartfelt plea from Wayne who, in case you don’t know, is not going on holiday until September and so will be chief helmsman from now and all through August.  It can get a bit lonely for him so, if you were to decide to avoid the Furnaces of Europe and indulge in a London staycation, he would be delighted to see you and have someone to talk to!  Plus, at the moment, he is juggling watching the Tour de France, The Ashes and the British Open if you’d care to join – not something you could necessarily do in Montalcino.

Plus we’ve got strikes a plenty coming up: the tubes, the railways and the buses are all out at some point in the next few weeks; the doctors are out now; the baggage handlers at Gatwick are also joining in the fun – it definitely feels more and more like you should stay put and drink wine with Wayne!

As we watched our Members of Parliament yesterday scuttle back to their constituencies for six weeks, we applaud Rishi the Reshuffler for keeping members of his Cabinet firmly on their toes.  Nothing quite like going off on holiday on a Thursday completely uncertain of what job you’ll be doing when you get back, if any – excellent people management, almost Machiavellian we’d say.  When you take into consideration the 3 by-elections scheduled for the last day of term plus the announcement, on Wednesday, of a new Tata Gigafactory to be built in Somerset, possibly just over the road from Somerton & Frome, you could be forgiven for raising a quizzical eyebrow whilst reaching for your copy of The Prince!

In our world of wine and associated drinking, all the press is talking about is the duty rise that we warned you about a couple of weeks back.  Further research on our part has revealed that wines over 14.5% will likely go up by £2 on the shelf, which, when we looked at our selection from the valleys of the Rhône, the Barossa and the ‘policella led us to a deep, long sigh.  None of this will happen until August though, so there’s another good reason for you to pop in sooner rather than later to buy wine from Wayne!

As a spoiler, here’s what he’ll have open this weekend:

New Hall Vineyards Bacchus 2021 – £16.99 (equivalent to 23p/ml) – The vineyards of New Hall, established in 1969, are located just outside of Purleigh, Essex and are home to some of the oldest plantings of Bacchus in the UK.  They certainly have the most – 44,500 vines – and supply grapes to a couple of well-known English Wineries that, frankly, are not very close to Essex.  The wine has a vinous, limey nose that leads you into a fruit focused medium dry palate with lovely hints of elderflower and a reassuring zing on the finish – all for a refreshingly low 11% abv!

A Los Viñateros Bravos Volcánico País 2021 – £17.49 (equivalent to £2.33/10cl) – from Itata in Chile, this is a bit of a favourite of ours.  Over the years we have tried our fair share of wines from the grape variety País and an awful lot of them have been a bit ordinary and we could easily understand why it was, for the most part, distilled into Pisco.  However, this is not like any of the others – really lifted aromatic fruit on the nose, fresh and juicy, almost spritzy even in the mouth and with really fine tannins.  A proper vin de soif that’d be perfect with some slow cooked pork on the barbecue and, again, a refreshingly low 12.5% abv.

And with that we’re done.  I’m off to watch the cricket, he’s off to watch Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One – neither of us have managed to get tickets to Barbie, yet….

¡Hasta la proxima!

Wayne & Alex

** We also have heard an interview with the BBC’s Vatican correspondent who was able to confirm that the Pope was indeed a Catholic, followed by an American expert on ursine biology who was able to confirm what bears do in the woods.

The Week That Was

July 14th, 2023

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This week we started off, as usual, with a Monday. There was no Tour de France as it was a rest day and the third match of The Ashes had ended with an England win, bringing the series to 2-1 in favour of the Aussies. The paperwork got done as usual and some orders were placed.  We discussed the fact that Boris Johnson had failed to hand over his ‘old’ phone by the deadline and now was technically in contempt of court. We wondered if anything would happen.  We looked at the tasting list for the tasting we’d attend in the morning and formulated a plan of action.

Tuesday, and we’re arriving in Camden at the appointed time, well Alex anyway, Wayne suffered overconfidence in the reliability of the Northern Line. We arrived at the tasting to discover that low attendee numbers meant the pressure was on for full feedback on all of the new prospects. Plan of action out of the window, we set about a mammoth tasting for the greater good. Some hours later we emerged with black teeth and sore gums to discover that Mrs Johnson, with impeccable timing, had announced the birth of their third child, Frank Alfred Odysseus Johnson. We treated ourselves to a Pret sandwich and headed back to the shop.

Wednesday arrived on time, Wayne shirking any responsibility for anything by having a day off, Alex shifting a van full of wine around the shop- no gym for him that evening!  Meanwhile in the wider world, Mad Nads has been reported for WhatsApping a top civil servant trying to get on Lettuce Liz’s Honours List. That’s the same Mad Nads who hasn’t appeared in Parliament for over a year, though she has been able to write her newspaper column and host her TV show.  Clearly MP’s don’t have the same attendance rules they set for jobless claimants.

Thursday popped up in the correct position and it was Alex’s turn to swing the lead. Except that the lead was swapped for a golf stick and he had a lovely walk following a Penfold’s No 9 around a very manicured lawn with sand pits. It also turned out that Boris Johnson can’t remember the pin number for his old phone which is why it’s not been handed over. I would have thought that you could ask almost any tabloid journalist for that, or maybe  I would have tried 0000 or 1234 myself! The Tour de France went a bit berserk and I would be telling porkies if I said I actually understood what anybody’s tactics for the day were. To be honest, I’m exhausted, and I was just listening! The top three on Grand Classification remain the same at the end of it though, so we go again today up to Grand Colombier at 1501m – a mountain top finish following a 17.4km climb at an average of 7.1%.

You’ll recall our chum Tim was in exactly that position last week. Fortunately for him they are nearly at the end of their tour which will finish in Paris this weekend. Today is a flat day for them, but does follow back to back mountain days on Mont Blanc. The group together has raised nearly £1m now for Cure Leukaemia. If you’d like to help donate to Cure Leukaemia here is the link: Tim Goodman is fundraising for Cure Leukaemia (justgiving.com)

That brings us pretty much up to date, what with it being Friday. If we were to suggest tasting some wine, how would that appeal?

It’s Bastille Day today, so we’ve chosen a couple of wines from France. Waving the flag in the white corner will be Christian Bellang Bourgogne Sous Velle 2020 (£25.75). If you’re a fan of smart white Burgundy then this is for you. Made from grapes sourced in Meursault and aged for 10 months in barrels of 1 to 5 years old, it’s a lovely rich and complex wine which we found to be rather decent value for money.

Charging up the boulevard in the red jacket will be Domaine d’Escausses Cuvée Des Drilles 2020 (£14.99). This cheeky little number from Gaillac is a blend of two grape varieties, Duras (75%) with the rest comprised by Fer. A proper wine of the south west with bright peppery notes, hints of Seville orange, bitter cherry and a really appealing suppleness in the mouth. A real second glasser!