Leave your ego at the door

October 5th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So, a gentleman walked into the shop yesterday, a gentleman who I had not seen for a good long while now and who very much had the air of a man of rest. Or a man of the road, one or the other. Anyway, I hadn’t seen him round these parts for a while and his manner of dress was more flower power and sunshine than SW19 chic.

“I’ve not been around for ages”, which I had already established and served to explain his dishevelled appearance, “and I haven’t seen any news for a while – what’s been going on?”

So I told him. I told him about one of the most powerful men in the world resorting to playground trash talk by calling one of his fellow countrymen a ‘traitor’ and a ‘scumbag’ and how diplomats the world over are feeling underemployed and thus almost obsolete I told him about cyber hacking and other web based derring-do. “Trump?” he said. “No, the other one this time but I think they have more in common than we’d like…”

I told him how 0.000003% of the population of the UK had succeeded in getting a Costa coffee advert banned for suggesting that a breakfast of a bacon roll or an egg bap might be a decent alternative to poorly-ripened avocado toast. Apparently the advert was banned because it was seen to ‘condone or encourage poor nutritional habits’. I hope that both of the people who filed the complaint get their senses of humour back soon. Speaking of banning things that ‘condone or encourage poor nutritional habits’, where does this leave McDonalds or Walkers crisps or Pizza Hut et al, I wonder?

“Snowflakes” he muttered.

And then I told him about leaving your ego at the door, about winning the Ryder Cup, about backing the underdogs. I told him about Mourinho and Pogba and Antonio Valencia and then reminded him about leaving ego at the door.

We then moved onto the world of adult drinking. “£850,000”, I told him, “that’s how much you would have got for your bottle of 60 year old Macallan from the 1920’s if you hadn’t drunk half of it making Rusty Nail cocktails with that hipflask bottle of Drambuie you won in the bottle tombola…”

And now that he was all caught up on the important events of the last few weeks, he strolled to back of the shop, removed the flowers from his hair and Birkenstocks, put on his Fred Perry and Levis’ and pretended to be ready for work – “Caffè corretto?” was all I heard as he wandered over to Saucer & Cup for a break…

So, Wayne’s back, bringing misty mornings, chilly evenings and bracing days. His return means it’s eyes down, no more holidays until Christmas, roast dinners, hearty stews and red, red wine. Which also means that as time goes by, we are likely to be tasting some of the more traditional autumnal wines, so this weekend we’re going to open a couple of Greek wines because we really, really like them and we’re not sure when we might be in a position to open them otherwise.

Ktima Gerovassiliou White 2017 – £19.49
In 1981, Vangelis Gerovassiliou started reinvigorating the 2.5 hectare family vineyard approximately 25km south-east of Thessaloniki. The vineyards are about 3 km from the sea, which borders the vineyards on three sides, tempering the warm summer days. This wine, a blend of Malagoussia and Assyrtiko, is a deliciously crisp citrus and peach flavoured drop with a splendid seam of minerality. Ktima Gerovassiliou is internationally recognised too – US publication Wine and Spirits Magazine has named them ‘Winery of the Year’ four times.

And the red is a wine we’re very excited about.

Markovitis Xinomavro 1999 – £28.99
So often wine needs to be fun, needs to be exciting and needs to get the blood pumping even before you’ve pulled the cork. So often it isn’t. This however had us at Chateau. This is mainly because this was the only word we could pronounce on the label since everything else, apart from 1999, was Greek to us. Thus all we knew when we tasted it was that it was almost 20 years old, that it was from Greece and, thanks to a bit of help from a friend, that it was made from Xinomavro. Great; very excited. Xinomavro can make really long lived wines and in fact can be really quite unapproachable at less than 5 years old unless you have a particular penchant for dry tannins, in which case 2013 Bordeaux would be a cheaper fix.

‘Greek Barolo’ is what our tasting notes came up with. A rounded, perfumed nose with classic hints of balsamic and violets whilst still absolutely fresh as a daisy, with integrated but evident tannins and a marvellous length finish. It’s not cheap but I reckon for the class of wine it is, it more than justifies its price tag and certainly justifies a herby leg of lamb from the butchers….

That’s all for now – swing by for a taste and a chat, we’d be delighted to see you!

Does vegan wine actually exist? Discuss

September 28th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

4 degrees.

That was the morning temperature for a couple of days earlier this week. Those are not September temperatures (average low 11 degrees); those are more in keeping with late November. Wayne, we’ve definitely seen the end of shorts weather, put some trousers on, please.

Basically, err, like, umm, yeah – does this sound anything like a one of the more erudite conversations you’ve had with a teenager recently? Well, actually these are the most annoying and most often used filler words, apparently, by like, all of us. It would seem, so the study says, that we are generally sounding far less intelligent thanks to our increased use of words to plug gaps where facts or sensible information used to reside – but that’s ok really innit, because uh, you know, literally everybody does it, right?


In the wacky world of wine, we learnt of a new event this week – Vegan Winefulness, which is taking place in October, in Shoreditch, obvs. Now, we’ve all know someone who has done a bit of mindfulness in recent years – the opportunity to de-stress, slow down, achieve self-enlightenment and wisdom has been popular amongst people working in high pressure environments and has replaced boxing or boozing as means of pressure release. From mindfulness evolved winefulness – following a similar ethos of slowing down, thinking what’s in the glass and where it’s come from and generally just engaging a bit more. It seems, as anyone who has been on our wine course will know, that we have been wineful for a number of years now, as this slower approach to tasting is one of the first things we teach. However, I digress.

It would be unfair to say that Winefulness is jumping on the Mindfulness bandwagon. Of course it would. In a similar fashion, it would be unchivalrous to suggest that attaching the word Vegan to Winefulness is also bandwagon jumping. Of course it would. There are more than half a million vegans in this country now and thus it is absolutely right that there should be some sort of vinous acknowledgement of this – they want to know what’s in their glass and if they can drink it.

I worry that one major risk is that the terms organic, biodynamic, vegetarian and vegan are all becoming tangled up with each other – an assumption being that if your winemaker is following one of these principles he’s probably following them all. No evidence shows this to be true. The truth is, there’s an awful lot of vegan wine out there and a large portion of it is neither organic nor biodynamic but hopefully vegetarian.

We’re currently making a list of all our wines credentials – thus far I have checked 96 bottles and 45 of them are vegan. Less than half but not by much. In the same list, at this point vegetarian wines are in a 2:1 majority; 2/3 of the organic wines we’ve tracked so far are vegan but, at the same time, 33 of the wines are vegan but not organic. Confused? Don’t be. Suffice to say, making wine vegan is the way forward, not necessarily for purely ethical reasons but more for commercial sense – it’s cheaper and more people can drink it. At the end of the day, who can absolutely guarantee that a small creeping insect, a butterfly, a birds egg or anything of animal provenance didn’t get caught up in the industrial picking machine or crushed amongst the grapes in the hand pickers bucket? Ergo, does vegan wine actually exist? Discuss. You have one hour, starting now…

Time to get off one hobby horse and onto another. Today we go to war. In France, of all places, and as a United Europe, of all things. The Ryder Cup kicked off in Paris today, Europe have a brilliant record in Europe and the USA have only won twice here since 1979. Not that this should mean anything of course but I sure as hell hope it does!

So, I must open some American wine and some European wine – handily I have both. My initial theory with Europe was to have a wine from the country with the most representatives in the team, however since there are 5 Englishmen in there, I’m going to look at the second most represented country. This would be Sweden. And Spain, thank goodness. Luckily, Graeme McDowell isn’t playing; otherwise we might be considering the wines of Northern Ireland…

From the USA, we’ll revisit a wine we had on tasting a few months back but one that fits the bill so well, it needs a second outing: Wente Morning Fog Chardonnay 2016 – £16.49.
Based in the Livermore Valley in California, Wente’s vineyards were founded in 1883 and are still owned and managed by the same family, 4 generations later. They were also one of the first to plant Chardonnay and one taste of this suggests they are doing a fine job. Crisp with fine elegant apple notes and a supporting touch of oak, a real food wine and great for watching the golf highlights too.

As stated, Sergio and John are providing the European wine: Solà Fred 2010 – £12.99.
This wine is from the super-cool region of Montsant, in the hills behind Tarragona in Catalonia. It is 100% Carignan and gives us deliciously black cherry and earthy aromas. The palate has a real depth of juicy richness with a little spice to the fruit on the finish. We love the way it has a little of its rustic heritage yet finishes with real polish and panache – like the European team!

That’s pretty much it from us for now.

As a warning , we’ll be opening late on Tuesday next, the 2nd October.

We have to go to one of the biggest tastings of the year for us with a view to Christmas wines etc and it’s taking place in Camden which might as well be Cambridge for us SW19 dwellers. We’ll be back for the evening rush but I suspect not a great deal before – sorry.

And so we’re gone – just remember, the postman always delivers…!

Farewell summer pinks, all hail autumn reds!

September 21st, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Oi, Wayne, what have you done with all the news and all the sport? Oh, and the sunshine too, whilst we’re at it?

Yep, yesterday was a ‘no news’, trousers day. If one eradicates Brexit, Stormy Daniels’ ex-boyfriend and her explanation for his tiny hands, mixed showings in the Champions League and high winds, we have not a lot to report on, news-wise and, if we take away the sun as well, we no longer have shorts on either.

This, I think most of us can acknowledge, is a shame.

I know many of you live for the opportunity to see middle aged men’s legs striding purposefully towards the Rosé fridge but such opportunities may well be gone for another year, as is much of the stock of rosé. When we continue to wear shorts, there is still hope, as we cling onto, for everyone’s sake, the spirit of summer, to holidays and barbecues, to hours of fun punctuated by sporadic visits to work, to the dream that we’ll never feel cold again or have to wear socks. Apparently, for hundreds of years now, such forlorn clinging has reaped no reward and autumn has continually ploughed its sharp furrow deep into December before flinging us into January, deep winter and, definitely, socks. Ever the optimist, a young chap of my acquaintance painted his rosier picture of autumn, as a period that isn’t so hot and thus his sport kit won’t smell as bad or need washing as much. Thanks, I knew I was missing the silver lining.

But there is a silver lining. Or red, really. Whilst we can all be very proud of our roles in the attempted draining of the pacific sized Provence rosé pool, at some point the party has to be over. All the bottles that ordinarily live on the shelves and never venture close to the fridge, have been sitting patiently for the last 4 months. With their ties loosened and in shirt sleeve order, they’ve been heard to mutter under their breathes about how they can’t quite see what all the fuss is about and why isn’t anyone eating steak and kidney pie or thick vegetable soup right now; well chaps, straighten those ties and get your jackets on, you’re back in play – welcome back red wine, we’ve missed you, you’ve now got a good eight months to impress and delight us.

As Wayne suggested in the last missive, we have taken delivery of a few new wines over the last few weeks and I’ll be honest, none of them were pink. However, with a view to easing ourselves back into the world of tannins and dark fruits, I have elected to open a red at the lighter end of the spectrum this weekend, but still with plenty of class.

Jean-Paul-Dubost Beaujolais Lantignié 2017 – £16.99 – this is an utter charmer that we tasted for the first time about 2 weeks ago. There seems to be plenty of talk that Lantignié, a smidge north of Regnié, will become the newest Beaujolais Cru. We certainly enjoyed this declaring it a “burgundy lover’s style of Beaujolais”. It has lovely berry fruits, a touch of floral character with some soft tannins keeping it all together and, thus, it is very versatile food-wise – perfect for the changing of the seasons.

We must, however, always show a white, in the interests of balance and of well, interest, so this time we will open up a wine that might just serve as a nice farewell to summer.

Tornai Zenit 2016- £12.49 – a bit more esoteric this one, hailing as it does from Somló in Hungary. Now, Somló is a big flat plateau with an extinct volcano in the middle, which is where the vines grow, sucking up all that volcanic minerality. Zenit is an early ripening white, a cross between Bouvier and Ezerjo. A fragrant nose, with aromas of nectarine, mint and a touch of summer blossom lead onto a palate of zippy, fresh acidity with hints of peach, wet-stone and spice. Very tasty and a real hit with a kedgeree, since you ask.

That should really be it from us but I can’t let the latest news from the world’s greatest stonemason, go unmarked. We’ve all read about it no doubt but if you haven’t, the word is that Mr T, the man who instituted widespread business and personal tax cuts and who is now wondering where the money is to build his wall between Mexico and the US, suggested to Spain earlier this year that they build a wall across the Sahara.

Where the money would come from; the sheer enormity of the Sahara; the fact that Spanish border, for the most part is across the Mediterranean not in Africa; the sheer imperialism of such a notion – all this was studiously ignored by the American artisan…

Oh, and Ronaldo. Sent off for pulling hair. When you read the headline it sounds like exactly something he would do, because let’s face it, he’s no Luis Suarez. However, when you see the ‘offence’ you just wonder, once again, about the parlous nature of modern football and its refereeing. If anything, Ronaldo could be sent off for grooming, by which I mean stroking another man’s hair, like a barber. If we’re now going to see red cards for such antics, I fear that diving could lead to life bans!

Oh, and Russia. No longer banned from being in charge of banning drug cheats, Rusada will now be back in the labs poring over blood samples given by Russian athletes. And banning them, perhaps? Probably not. In other news, Mark Zuckerberg has just been appointed Head of Global Data Protection and Jeff Bezos is taking over at International Tax Compliance…

And with that, I’m gone. Judging from a variety of ‘jolly’ texts I received from a number of customers and colleagues yesterday, the Experimental Beach Club in Ibiza is the place to be to drink magnums of Provençal rosé right now, not here – they even sent me photos to prove the point as the sun was setting – thanks for that!

Portu-Geezers, New Wines, Juniper and Prince Charles

September 14th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So, last Saturday after we closed here, I popped into Waitrose around the corner to pick up something for my supper and was somewhat surprised at how quiet it was. Whilst I’ll accept 8.20 on a Saturday evening is not peak time, it seems that they’re struggling to have a peak time. John Lewis announced that their profits were down 99% this week, a tough year at the office it would appear. Word on the grapevine is that Debenhams are up against it too, still a tough old world on that high street.

I was sending a parcel to my niece today as it’s her birthday soon (Happy Birthday, Ayesha). The chap in the post office was telling me about a customer who’d ordered the same top online in all 22 colours to see which one looked best and was returning the 21 that didn’t pass muster. How on earth does that make for sustainable business for anyone except the Post Office?

Anyway, the press seems absolutely convinced that online shopping is killing off Debenhams and their ilk, as we’re all too lazy to go late night shopping on our way home from the office. Personally, I’m not convinced; my local bike shop received a rent review. Like all shop rents it was upward only and the landlord seemed to think upward by 53% was reasonable. The bike shop declined his generosity and moved next door, paying the same rent he had been. If all rent reviews are upwards in such jumps, is it any wonder that businesses fail? In 2010, the highest rent paid on Oxford Street was £700 per square foot, in 2015 it was £1000 per square foot, meanwhile, average weekly earnings in 2010 were £554 and in 2015 were £528. None of that looks sustainable to me. Rant over!

For the sake of team harmony, we broke with our usual tradition that Wayne buys posh wine whilst Alex is at the beach, and took ourselves off to a tasting last week and bought some new wines.

We started off with some Portu-geezers from our chum Matthew: I’d highlight the Quinta do Espinho Colheita 2014 (£14.99), a deliciously spicy red from the Douro that’d be bang on the button with some meaty sausages. Also worthy of mention is Clô Branco (£8.49), from Adegas Camolas in Setubal; an absolute charmer of a white, fruity and aromatic, it’s a blend of Fernão Pires and Moscatel with a lovely dry finish.

Then we picked up a couple of long lost friends from Spain, whilst adding a lovely red from an almost extinct grape variety. La Forcalla de Antonia (£18.99) is from Valencia in Spain and is made from the Forcalà grape variety, common in the region until phylloxera struck at the end of the 19th century. Aged in big oak barrels for 8 months and then concrete eggs for 3 months, it has lovely cherry fruit, fine tannins and a smooth, elegant texture.

We also ventured to the Balearics, buying some 12 Volts (£25.99), a delicious drop from Mallorca that we have tried to buy on several occasions in the past, only to discover there was none left. It has dark juicy fruits, well managed tannins and our note said “very good, like this as much as ever, wintry perhaps?” so maybe in a few weeks when the leaves are falling…
We also ventured once more to Greece, Naoussa in fact, for Markovitis Xinamavro 1999 (£28.99), which is deliciously complex with a lovely aromatic aged character, even touches of balsamic perhaps. It’s certainly easy to see why it’s known as Greece’s Barolo!

Then we dithered a little in Burgundy…

Chateau de Chamirey Mercurey Blanc 2013 (£28.49), we have form with this one, having bought it with a little age a couple of times in the past. This is rich and rounded with just hints of honeyed age creeping in at the age of 5. We’d say almost pitch perfect age wise.

Jean Jacques Girard Savigny-Les-Beaune 2015 (£28.99), we tried to buy some of the 2010 and 2011 on release only for it to have been sold out, we got lucky with 2015 and it is absolutely delicious, lovely juicy cherry and berry fruit, decent weight and good length, with just a bit of grip from tannins and fruit all the way through.

Domaine Gérard Thomas Meursault 1er Cru Blagny 2015 (£50) marks our first foray into 1er Cru Meursault here. We tried a couple of village wines but somehow they just didn’t cut it, and this was frankly quite delicious and they were just a bit, well, village. In an ideal world it’d cost half this, I would work one day and cycle for six. Sadly we’ve not managed to reach that ideal, yet.

I’ve taken enough of your time and teased you with deliciousness for long enough, it’s time to pull a cork or two.

Tasting this weekend

We’ll populate the glasses of the red drinkers with one of our new Portu-geezers: Vinha Paz 2015 (£16.99) is from the Dão region, a blend of Touriga Nacional, Tinto Roriz, Alfrocheiro and Jaen. Rich and spicy, with great fruit and a touch of black olive in the finish.

To stay with the Iberian theme, we’ll open our new white Rioja. Palacio del Camino Real Blanco 2017 (£10.99) is from about 10 miles west of Logroño and is zippy and fresh with just a touch of creaminess after 2 months lazing away in a barrel.

Finally, a bit of news from the North. The chaps at Hepple Gin, not content with making our best-selling clear spirit and generally being buenos huevos, seem to have been dallying with the great and the good this week, when none other than Charles, Prince of Wales came a-visiting and helped them dig over some juniper saplings, by all accounts (Instagram mainly).

A Royal Warrant in the offing, we’re sure, perhaps we should try and get them to come down and tell their story before they go stratospheric? Let’s start a petition…

That’s it from us for now – have a nice weekend one and all!

Wayne & Alex

Nike, Condoms and Winemaking

September 7th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,
Two stories caught our attention this week: Nike first, and then the inventiveness of the Cubans.
The news that Nike had signed up Colin Kaepernick as their new face clearly upset a few people. Now we all know Nike, we have certainly worn/still wear some of their products over the years. But what they have always, in my view, been really strong at is their marketing and advertising. From their early 80’s “There Is No Finish Line”, through to Tiger Woods playing keepy uppy with his iron; the Run London “North against South”, through to this week’s Colin Kaepernick: they have been newsworthy. Trumpolina was outraged, though we doubt they’ll miss his business but the sight of all those angry idiots burning their trainers had us both laughing. At the risk of pointing out the obvious, they’re your own trainers, fool!
But then we got to thinking – if there hadn’t been an audience on social media to watch the flaming trainers, would they have lit the match? Perhaps they would have just given them to the charity shop instead?
In Cuba, the lack of goods in shops and the lack of social media to watch burning trainers has created a nation full of creative solutions. A pack of three condoms costs around $0.04, and the strong flexibility and inflatability has been harnessed for many uses we may consider unorthodox. The winner, for us, is home winemaker Orestes Estevez. In his Havana home ‘winery’, he covers bottles of grape juice with condoms. The rubber inflates and become erect as the fermentation releases gases; when it collapses, the process is complete. “It really increases the alcohol percentage and improves the process of fermentation, as well as that of clarification”, he said. Quite a different approach to the way they do things at Ridge, or the Rothschild estates, for example.
In other wine news, Wine Spectator magazine is suing new kid on the block Weed Spectator for copyright infringement. We suspect they’ll win but have afforded a start-up loads of free publicity. Weed Spectator’s strapline though…We rate, you score!
On the sports front, La Vuelta is pushing on, we’ve left the heat of the south and are enjoying the mountain breezes of the north now, Simon Yates has been in red but handed over to Jesus Herrada of Cofidis yesterday. In the Tour of Britain Primo Rogliz is wearing the leaders Green Jersey as they head from Barrow to Winlatter. Otherwise, the last Test starts today and in the footie we have an international weekend with the UEFA Nations League.
Fizz Tasting – Thursday 6th December at 8pm – £30 per person.
Having promised last week, we have juggled the diary around a bit and come up with a date. We’ll be popping the corks at 8pm on Thursday 6th December. A seat at the table will set you back £30 and we’ll have the usual limited numbers. Don’t be slow; this usually fills up really quickly.
Gin Tasting – We’ve got no further with this so far, still hoping to hear back from someone willing to run the gauntlet!
This Weekend Tasting
Wearing the red sweater will be a Guerila Cabernet Franc 2016 (£24.49) from Slovenia. The sharp eyed amongst you may have noticed we have a bit of a soft spot for wines from this grape variety, often listed as guest wines and this is exactly that. “Really rather good”, we wrote when we tasted it, see if you agree. It’s organic and suitable for Vegans, so no excuses!
The white sports jacket will be worn by Munay Torrontés 2017, Salta, Argentina, (£14.99) a lovely example of the grape variety and bang on with that Pad Thai you just arranged for supper!
All the wine and cheese tastings are pretty much full now, so the fizz tasting might be the best pre-Christmas option now, do check your diaries.

“My movies were the kind they show in prisons and airplanes, because nobody can leave.” – Burt Reynolds

Missing in action

August 31st, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

As we reach the end of week four of Operation August Exodus, it seems that we still have plenty of SW19 residents sadly missing in action. Word reached me, early this week, that the poolside sunset view from the villa near Arezzo is so arresting that Alex may struggle to extricate himself from its golden handcuffs any time soon. However, I hear the SBS are on hand and repatriation is in the offing…

Six degrees of Kevin Bacon seems to be a favourite game to play in the news currently, with Wonga and House of Fraser representing the two ends and Newcastle United and Mike Ashley propping up the middle.

Champion of zero hours contracts, firing people for being ill and generally crushing the little man in search of a buck, Mr Ashley usually has no great fan base here. However, this week, he actually gained our attention. Whilst we understand that his altruism-free, long term goal is to browbeat landlords into giving him a better deal, and thus more cash in his pocket, it is nice to see someone actually putting the parlous state of landlord-tenant relations front and centre. Rents are too high – surely better to take a lower rent than have an empty site producing none?

Another week, another study. No safe level for alcohol consumption. Vanilla extract, Marks & Spencer Best Ever Prawn Sandwich, Steak Diane, Shandy Bass – all boozy, in the bin they go. Still waiting for the study that tells us there’s no safe level for living – we’re all going to die at some point, let’s just enjoy getting there!

3-0 to Tottenham at Old Trafford. 3-1 to West Ham at AFC. 3-1 to Forest at home to Newcastle. All the minnows put up a great fight, particularly AFC, but the results were always going one way in the end. Cricket seems set up for a fifth test decider – any truth in the rumour we did better without Stokes? Tennis is being loudly lambasted for being a war of attrition in searing heat – but surely it’s the same every year at both the US and Aussie Open, why is it suddenly news? La Vuelta seems to be taking the message to heart of it being a marathon rather than a sprint – tactically correct, a trifle dull to watch.

News from JD Wetherspoon – they’re banning dogs (shocking) and have been in business since they opened their first pub in Muswell Hill in 1979 (far more shocking). Always had our doubts about boozers in Muswell Hill, still at least we now know where it started and who to blame….

Tastings update

Wine School is now sold out – a new term will start late January – if you’d like to get on the ‘please remind me’ list, just let us know.

Wine & Cheese Tastings

Thursday 13th September – 4 spaces left
Thursday 11th October – SOLD OUT
Thursday 8th November – SOLD OUT
Thursday 29th November – 3 spaces left

Argentina Tasting

Thursday 18th October – 4 spaces left

So with the tastings now over 80% sold, if you fancy joining in just drop us a line on 020 8944 5224 or reply to this email.

Finally, we are planning on doing our usual Christmas fizz tasting in December; we just need to confirm a few other dates first. We would also love to do a Gin tasting if we can find anyone prepared to schlepp down to the end of the District Line – watch this space!

However, if none of those tastings appeal then have no fear, you can just pop into the shop this afternoon or tomorrow and have a glass of the two beauties that we will have open on free-pour.

Geography not being my strong point, in order to entice Alex back from Tuscany I’ve decided, of course, to open two wines from Sicily. I was astonished to discover we had never put this pair on tasting (I rather think my keyword search tool is playing up) but we certainly haven’t had them this year…

Colomba Bianca Gazzera Catarratto Inzolia 2017 – £10.49 this blend of two of Sicily’s indigenous varieties is a deliciously easy drinker. Hand-picked grapes (65% Catarratto, 35% Inzolia) are vinified in stainless steel tanks giving us a crisp, fresh white wine with notes of nuts and candied lemon. Treat yourself to a wing of skate, pan-fried with some butter and capers.

Colomba Bianca Gazzera Nero d’Avola/Syrah 2016 – £10.49 this cracking blend, 65% Nero d’Avola with 35% Syrah, has always impressed us. Lovely fruit characters with the raspberry of the Syrah setting off the dark fruit of the Nero D’Avola really nicely. A decidedly decent fresh feel too, which is not easy in all that sunshine!

That’s it from here this week – tomorrow is our last Saturday of early summer closing, so remember to get to us before 7pm.

Now, if you’ll all join me in a slow handclap we might perhaps be able to urge Alex out of that lounger and onto a plane…

Ciao-Ciao for now!

Alex the new Bond?

August 24th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

How’s it going, getting to the bottom of the sun tan lotion yet? It’s been a funny old week here in Wimbledon Park, the weather’s been a bit weird and I’ve had to use the lights on my bike on the way home. Still, there’s not so much traffic. Alex, like Idris, has been ignoring my texts on the rumours he’s to be the next James Bond.

Jamie Oliver has been accused of cultural appropriation for a rice dish that most commentators seem to agree is pretty rubbish. Jamie doesn’t care of course; he’s just had cartloads of free publicity. Outrage marketing could be the new thing, and it’s coming to a social media near you!

Over the pond it appears the heat has been turned up on Trumpolina, and he appears to get more red faced and shriller with every tweet. Cohen has coughed to everything, and Manafort has been found guilty on 8 counts of fraud. The money that was paid to the ladies nobody knew about, from a bank account with no origins, and under nobody’s orders, now appears to have been authorised by Trumpolina from his own bank account, most definitely not campaign funds mind you, and he definitely didn’t sleep with that woman. (Oh sorry, wrong President).

It now looks like Manafort may be heading for a pardon just so that the FBI can’t get to him, Trumpolina is trying to call Congress’s bluff with threats of market collapse should he be impeached, and in the meantime has announced more tariffs on Chinese products to help make America great again.
Now you can call me cynical if you like, but this entire thing is starting to seem like a gangster movie. Sooner or later someone will swim with the fishes, or wake up next to a racehorses head. Alternatively, the peaches won’t be ready till just after the midterm elections when Trumpolina has no further purpose and can be impeached at will.

In sporty news, I’d hoped the England cricket team might have fared a bit better than that, how about you? Golf has gone a bit bonkers, Phil Mickelson (career earnings $88m) is playing Tiger Woods (career earnings $112m) for a winner takes all $9m pot at Shadow Creek Golf Course in Las Vegas. If you’d like to play at the course yourself, its $500 a round plus a night’s stay at the MGM in Vegas! Don’t expect to get a weekend slot. MGM didn’t they used to make the films with the lion at the beginning?

La Vuelta a España starts on Saturday with an 8km Individual Time Trial in Malaga and finishes 21 days and 3254 km later in Madrid where the winner will collect €150 000.

Best booze news we saw this week was that of a care home in Fife opening an on-site pub called the Hip Joint. Otherwise the Champagne harvest for 2018 started on Tuesday amid high expectations and Germany has started its earliest harvest on record.

Tasting This Weekend
Starting La Vuelta in the south of Spain just cries out for sherry, so in the white/amber corner we’ll have Classic Oloroso by Fernando & Castilla (£15.99) full of orange peel citrus and walnutty deliciousness, whilst the reds will be represented by Lopez de Haro Reserva (£13.99) which would be the perfect partner for that butterflied leg of lamb on the barbecue.


Bear with us, we’ll get to the wine.

August 17th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

This week we have scoured the news in our usual fashion to give you a little taste of what is happening around the world. I’m sure you can imagine our excitement to discover something that has eluded commentators for millennia. Clearly, the term discover is used in the loosest possible sense here, as all we actually did was read that scientists had discovered something. “Discovered what” I hear you say, somewhat surprised as the shop is empty.

Well, by what we can gather, scientists from Arizona University led by Charlotte L. Pearson have finally been able to date the enormous volcanic eruption of Thera. Using an enhanced carbon dating process on ancient tree rings they can date the eruption of Santorini to around 1660-1540 BC. So those of you watching the sunset at Oia, whilst enjoying a nice crisp glass of Assyrtiko now know when it happened.

Whilst we’re on this timeline, we’d just mention that archaeologists excavating the tomb of Ptahmes, the Mayor of Ancient Egypt’s Memphis (as opposed to the one associated with Elvis) have found the world’s oldest cheese. Believed to be around 3200 years old and an unpasteurised blend of cow and either goat or sheep cheese, it appears to be contaminated with Brucella Melitensis which is not good for you, so we’re definitely ruling it out for our wine and cheese evenings.

In what seems to have been a busy week for scientists, some at Yorkshire Wildlife Park have been giving Polar Bears allergy tests. It seems the poor bears have sores on their feet and it may be because they are allergic to the grass. Victor and Nobby have had their sides shaved and 50 tests applied to get to the root of the problem. Reports that the other bears, Pixel and Nissan, have taken to addressing them as Patch and Sunroof are, as yet, unconfirmed.

Whilst we’re on the subject of bears, shoppers at Crazy Bruce’s Liquors in Bristol, Connecticut were somewhat alarmed to discover a black bear trying to enter the shop. He managed to work the electric door but a quick witted staff member locked the inner door before he could choose his tipple. Fortunately we don’t have bears here in Wimbledon Park, but if you’ve just caught some salmon and would like a wine to partner it all you have to do is ask.

On the sports front, Danny Cipriani has been a naughty boy, Ben Stokes apparently not, and Mourinho could be replaced by Zidane. De Bruyne could be out for a couple of months with injury, which should bring him back just in time to play against Tottenham at an, as yet, undisclosed venue.
In real sports, the Tour of Britain’s gain may be the Vuelta a Espana’s loss as Geraint Thomas, Wout Poels, and Chris Froome are on the start line for the Tour of Britain. On the other hand, I might go and put a couple of pennies each way on the Yates brothers for the Vuelta then!

In wine news, Champagne is 15 days ahead of schedule, and Burgundy almost three weeks, so both are starting the harvest early following the hot summer we’ve all experienced. Storm damage has been a bit of a problem in Nuits St Georges and also the Maconnais, whilst over in Bordeaux the big problem seems to be some mildew following storms in late June. Overall a better French harvest across the board in volume terms, up 27% on last year and around 5% on the five year average. Let’s wait and see what the quality looks like a bit further down the road!

Argentinian Wine Tasting
On the 18th October, we have persuaded Juan Manuel Matas to talk us through a delicious selection of the wines he supplies us with. Expect an evening of Malbec, Torrontés and possibly tales of derring do on the Pampas. Here at 8pm £20 per person with a few places still left.

Tasting This Weekend
The white corner will be populated by a guest from Puglia Mezzogiorno Fiano (£9.39) for no other reason than I fancy a glass of it and suspect many of you are holidaying in that direction this week.

Standing under the red light will be Cuvée Alice 2016 (£11.59) from Corbières, a wine I enjoyed recently and thought it high time I reminded you all how tasty it was.

Raise a glass to the Queen of Soul and absent friends everywhere.


Wayne & Alex

Overweight Mop

August 10th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

What ho, how’s the hammock?

Often, when we write this piece, our inspirations come from life going on around us. Something funny a customer said, perhaps; a ridiculous piece of parking outside the shop; Wayne smashing bottles of wine and redecorating the cellar, that sort of stuff. However, you do all make this more difficult for us when you escape for the hols. Whilst we still have customers saying funny things of course, we see less of you and quotes become less anonymous and thus unusable; parking is less ridiculous as there are no cars around; and, of course, Wayne hasn’t broken any bottles recently…

So, we have to dig deep in these fallow periods, which is great news for all of us (?) but fortunately we always have the bull elephant that is Boris. Where The Donald has twitter upon which to voice his distorted views of the world, our own two-bit Trump, the Boris, uses his column in the Telegraph to share his warped wisdom and, by getting paid for it, manages to trump the Donald with his commercial acumen. We all know the story and we all know the follow up but honestly, he’s a grown man – either he apologises on his own or he doesn’t, he can’t be made to apologise like a naughty schoolboy but how he decides to deal with this affair is surely a sign of the sort of man he really is. I think that one of our favourite newspapers, The Rochdale Herald, summed it up best with their headline:

Women in Burkhas look ridiculous, says man who looks like an overweight mop

In the world of water, we have been drinking an awful lot of it lately; New South Wales officially has nowhere near enough of it; some of it fell out of the sky yesterday which was a bit against the norm but perhaps not enough to stave off the potential pending crisp shortage and Christmas veg shortfall as potatoes and carrots suffer in the heat….

Whilst in the world of carrot coloured things, the Ben Stokes trial seems to be getting grubbier; Rick Astley is apparently opening a bar in Shoreditch with a fan from Denmark who happens to own a brewery; and Aldi has launched an orange wine.

Orange wine? – you say.

You know, a white wine that spends time on its skins and thus attains an orangey hue and is extremely popular where Rick is opening his bar and also with young sommeliers everywhere but is actually a wine style that we only ever get asked for about twice a year – ring any bells? Looks like the hipsters need to find a new wine – I suspect it might be blue…

And in the world of blue, Chelsea have blown the doors off by buying a Spanish goalkeeper called Kepa. Wayne was keen for Arsenal to sign Kreyatif Midfeeyelda and perhaps the Brazilian star, Winga, whilst Alex just waited for Mr Levy to say anything. Both of us are still waiting for this whilst Arsenal still top the table whilst Tottenham are just above the relegation zone…

We have, however, been doing a bit of work whilst you’ve all gone fishin’. Work for us really just means we’ve tasted some new things and decided to list them – I know, we struggle sometimes but please don’t tell our wives.

In fact what we’ve done is relist two wines which are actually wines that we used to have but haven’t had on the shelf for about five years; we’ve also listed two completely new wines and two completely new spirits. So, without further ado, please welcome back:

Isabel Chardonnay 2015 – £22.49 this is from some of the oldest Chardonnay vines in Marlborough. Lovely toasty notes with hints of nectarine on the nose, that continue onto the palate with touches of toasted nut in the finish. Elegant texture with great poise.

Ridge Lytton Springs 2014 – £41.70 I think that here I’ll leave the tasting notes to The Wine Advocate (October 2016):

91+ Points. – “More fresh and elegant than the Geyserville, with a touch more focus, the 2014 Lytton Springs is another beautiful wine from this estate. Made from 69% Zinfandel, 18% Petite Sirah and the rest Carignan and Mourvèdre, aged in 20% new American oak, it boasts fabulous notes of plums, blackberry jam, toasted spice and licorice as well as medium to full-bodied richness, beautiful mid-palate depth and notable tannin. The Geyserville is a touch sexier, but this will be longer lived. Give bottles 2-3 years of cellaring and enjoy over the following decade or more.” – Jeb Dunnuck

The two new wines hail from Greece and South Africa:

Lyrarakis Voila Assyrtiko Crete 2017 – £14.49 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 2017 Assyrtiko is an exemplary wine of outstanding value. Grown at 580 metres’ altitude in the Voila vineyard there is a definite floral character, refreshing minerality and chalky texture to this delicious wine.

Leeuwenkuil Cinsault 2016 – £15.99 As so often happens, we weren’t looking for this wine, we were looking for a replacement Pinotage. However, we liked it and thus we bought it. Lively and elegant with a velvety palate showing good concentration of red berries and cherries balanced with some savoury black olive and black spices. As a side note, Leeuwenkuil means lion’s den… potential food match, perhaps?

And the two new spirits – a Gin from Fulham (sort of) and a Japanese Whisky:

Elderwood English Gin – £33 Chef Mike Robinson from Harwood Arms Fulham is responsible for this. He has spent time foraging in hedgerows for botanicals on top of the classics juniper, coriander and angelica. Quite a citrus led nose with a palate filled with sweet fruits, some really quite elegant floral notes and then a spicy kick – makes for a very summery gin ‘n’ tonic!

Kaiyo Whisky – £90 This is a 100% Japanese Mizunara Oak Single Malt aged for 7 years then ocean matured by shipping in barrel which results in evaporation down to 60% of original contents. Creamy with an almost dried black cherry note to it and a touch of vanilla too, soft and spicy almost like a fruity Speyside and a smooth, complex, lengthy finish.

Nice spread, we thought and with this in mind we ought to let you taste a couple of them too, so we’ll crack open the Cretan white and the South African red this evening and perhaps even the Gin too – come and have a taste whilst the rain passes over…

And with that, we’re gone!

Love Island on Canvey Island and Other Stories.

August 3rd, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

So Love Island is finished for another year. Neither of us watched it, so we feel no sense of loss, but we did wonder how different it would be in another setting. If we understand correctly, they’ve just sat by a pool in a villa in Mallorca for a month. So we wondered, especially given how nice the weather, what would have been different if Love Island had been on Canvey Island. We could have had local band Dr Feelgood providing the soundtrack with songs like ‘She’s a Wind Up’ or ‘She Does it Right’ maybe even ‘Milk and Alcohol’. The contestants could have gone on a date at the Lobster Smack, caught a film at the Movie Starr Cinema, or even had a stroll around the transport museum. It could have been a completely different show. Oh well, perhaps next year!

Given the paucity of anything new of much interest in the news, fake or otherwise, we thought we’d have a look back in the archive…

This week in 2012 we were enjoying Bradley Wiggins’ Tour de France win, scoffing at bookmaker’s odds as Frankel won at Goodwood at odds of 1-20, and puzzled by the fact that Austria, a landlocked country, had beaten Australia in the beach volleyball. Apparently, there was cricket on in the north. As we write this year, in the Midlands, Virat Kohli has just scored more runs in a single innings than he did in 10 innings on his last visit!

We fast forward through the years in the time machine to discover 2015 was really rather wet and windy at the beach in South Devon, and, in what was a Minder inspired email, we were heading off to Apollo Banana Leaf with ‘er indoors (funnily enough, something that’s happening next week). We were also really rather taken with the deliciousness of Viña Arana Reserva 2006 which has sadly all been drunk or sold, but we do have some Viña Arana Reserva 2009 (£23.99) if you’re of a mind.

It would appear we have to issue a health warning, those of you reading this poolside in Portugal or a la Playa in Andalucía, might want to head indoors for some shade. It’s properly scorchio and might even break the European record of 48C. Shade and hydration are your friends.

Whilst on the subject of health warnings, it seems a study in the British Medical Journal suggests drinking too little alcohol in middle age increases your risks of dementia as much as drinking too much of it. Steady as she goes…

In other booze news Canadian brewing behemoth Moulson Coors have announced plans to start making non-alcoholic beverages infused with cannabis. It seems Heineken and Constellation are already on the case, and the alcohol commentator at Euromonitor International said: “Fighting the surging green tide will become an expensive exercise in futility. Ignoring it will guarantee the belated, panicky, knee-jerk reactions that greeted the craft juggernaut once it had already established offensive positions at the macro brewers’ gates. Cannabis can indeed cross-pollinate and, ultimately, become the fertiliser for radical innovation and experimentation.” Ok, whatever!

Wine School sign up is gathering pace (starts Wednesday 10th October) details attached, don’t miss out.

Tasting This Weekend

I went for a run on Tooting Common this morning and after all this lovely summer it was absolutely bone-dry, and I was really rather thirsty, which gave me an idea… Reichsrat Von Buhl Bone Dry Riesling (£16.99) is, as the name says, dry. I’ll let Matthew Jukes describe it for you: “it is one of the most enchanting and refreshing wines I have tasted in years. Bone Dry does what it says on the label and it will cast a spell on your palate like nothing you have ever tasted before.”

In the red corner, we thought we might tease your taste buds with Oyster Shack Pinot Noir (£7.99) a deliciously fruity easy drinker that goes down better than Neymar near a penalty box. You could chill it if you like, and it would partner some barbecued tandoori chicken perfectly.

That’s us for this week, enjoy your bike rides, swims, tennis, or poolside book and we’ll be in touch!