It’s all going bananas, again

November 9th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It’s all going bananas, again.

DT loses control of the House of Representatives, loses control of himself in a press conference, tells Jeff Sessions and Jim Acosta to get lost with all his usual playground charm; Beth Bader Ginsburg takes a dive in order to avoid attending the Brett Kavanaugh investiture and a twitter spat erupts over doctoring of videos. Meanwhile, in the real world away from Capitol Hill, in the country where 42% of households in 2017 owned guns, a 28 year old man runs riot in a bar in California, resulting in 12 dead. Actually Sarah Sanders, this is the sort of conduct that is absolutely unacceptable.

Over on this side of the pond, the Oxford Martin School at the University of Oxford who are, possibly self-appointed, world-leaders in pioneering research that addresses global challenges, have just released another one of these headline hugging studies that confirms, as a subtext, that we are all going to die but best not have too much fun doing it.

Red meat, bacon and ham and sausages et al are once again in the spotlight, with the potted conclusion being that we need to eat less of all these delicious foods, as already suggested in many previous studies, and that we must impose a meat tax to mitigate future healthcare shortfall. My head spins with all the whys and wherefores but I might suggest that, seeing how slowly we are trying to resolve the ‘sugar’ problem as evidenced as much by the Halloween binging, it could be centuries before salami gets the same treatment – plus any tax on food is always a contentious subject.

In a world where cannabis is becoming more and more legal are we going to see a burgeoning black market in beef rib and bacon? It’s all going bananas, again!

Outside of foreign politics and food, we sometimes amuse ourselves by following the occasional sporting fixture. Alex is quite disappointed that Tottenham weren’t playing football last night since they seem to be on the TV every other day right now, with mixed showings. The cricket has delivered but we all know that anything can happen with the England team going forward. International rugby rears up again this Saturday with Italy v Georgia or Scotland v Fiji being the obvious viewing picks really. In the Twickenham game the most fun to be had is guessing which England player will be sin-binned first – Ashton, Farrell and Hartley are all strong prospects with Lawes an outsider purely because he’s on the bench. Guessing the score – go large.

And then, aside from foreign politics, food and sport we also dabble occasionally in wine related pastimes. This week we have mainly been receiving deliveries of wines we didn’t order, sending them back and finally receiving the correct wines, or being told the wines we ordered have now changed vintage without us knowing and thus are no longer of interest to us. Oh, and in the middle of all this we found time to have a blazing row with our courier company and run two tasting events – and it’s still only Friday!

In amongst erroneous deliveries, we did actually receive some correct stock of two new spirits we ordered – Douglas Fir Vodka (£35) from our pals at the Moorland Spirit Company, makers of the super popular Hepple Gin, and The Eclectic Gin Society Original Blend Gin (£35).

The Douglas Fir is one of the botanicals that appears in the Hepple and has always added an exciting citrusy, earthy and fresh character to the blend. Now they are encouraging it to stand centre stage. We knew very little of this adventure until a six box arrived with a scrawled note telling us to give it a go, we could have it on sale or return and that until Fortnum & Mason had finished their exclusivity for the month of October, it could only be an under-the-counter bootleg sale – very in keeping with the frontier-land feel of the Coquet Valley and the history of moonshine in the Cheviots.

Anyway, we tasted it. Very decent, as we expected but we hadn’t quite anticipated what would happen when we added tonic, ice and a slice – really quite extraordinary! The tonic brought out all the Douglas character and made it undoubtedly one of the most enjoyable drinks I’ve had all year and, by all accounts, I’ve had a few. An absolute highlight – buy it, don’t buy it – but never, ever let it be said I didn’t tell tweak your curiosity!

The Eclectic Gin Society Original Blend Gin is an excellent new London Dry Gin that we are actually sort of involved in. We are part of a small, independent buying group of merchants across the UK and, along with sourcing great wine, we decided a gin would fit nicely into the portfolio. Being UK wide, there are members in Scotland who were key in working with the distiller to create the masterblend and we’re all very pleased. It’s a proper everyday drinking Gin with a delicious lifted citrus kick – we think you’re going to love it.

Both new spirits are open to taste, come and see for yourselves!

Wine School

As discussed previously, it’s November now, with December to follow. The 25th December causes all sorts of consternation in many households as gifts are the required buy-in to get a seat at the turkey top table – but what to buy?

How about a six week wine course to lighten the mood in the dark days of early 2019?

We’ve attached details of the course but, put simply, if you have an interest in wine but have never really got round to learning more about it, this is the course for you.

It starts on Wednesday 6th February and wraps up 7 weeks later (we take a break for half term) and costs £150 per person. It’s a great way to return to the fold should you have a dry January and is certainly better than anything on telly on Wednesdays in February – high praise indeed, what’s stopping you!?!?

To sign up, reply to this email, give us a call on 020 8944 5224 or pop in and see us. The course we are currently running was oversubscribed, just as a warning….

Tasting this weekend

If February is too long to wait for a taste of wine, why not come and try what we’ve got open this weekend (including the spirits)

We’ll have two wines open as ever and I think it’s worth us opening some new arrivals.

The white is a new South African from Doran Vineyards and is called Arya 2017 (£11.99). We met Tom Doran as a consequence of us both pitching to supply wine for a ball at a local school – we both lost the business to a bigger player but all is not lost, since we now have Tom’s wine.
Tom used to be a professional rugby player but now has devoted his time to chefing and selling wine – so he still gets to lose his weekends and miss out on family time but is marginally less likely to end up in A&E. Anyway, we tasted his wines and have listed a couple, one of which is this, Arya. A blend of 65% Chenin Blanc, 20% Grenache Blanc and 15% Roussanne, it’s exactly the sort of wine I’m sure many Rhône producers would love to make if only they were allowed to use Chenin, since this provides the wine with structure and clean acidity that Rhône whites often lack. Orchard fruits on the nose with hints of orange, peach and honey on the palate and a good length juicy finish. It worked a treat with some goat’s cheese last night at the tasting and is a real crowd pleaser.

We’ve opted for a lighter red this week – Domaine des Mailloches Bourgueil 2017 (£13.49). Cabernet Franc from the Loire valley is one of life’s great joys and we have doubtlessly bored you all rigid about this before. So, I won’t bore you again. Lovely, juicy fruit and fine tannins – what’s not to like?

So come along and have a taste, marvel at how full our France room is suddenly looking and buy yourself something nice to go with steak and sausage, whilst we’re still allowed.


Wayne’s vegan issue

November 2nd, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

An action packed week on this side of the fence, how about you? We’ve moved a lot of wine around making room for some new stock. Alex has been particularly active in the cellar, Wayne ducking out by putting a smart shirt on!

As the mid-term elections in the US get ever nearer, we have a man in the field telling us how it is. It would appear vegetables are hard to come by should you find yourself travelling through Georgia and Mississippi, though churches are plentiful. Whilst many don’t like Trump the man, they all seem to support what he is doing and they feel he is perhaps one of them, if only from a religious view. Rather strangely perhaps, the local Walmart didn’t have so much in the way of Halloween costumes. When our correspondent mentioned it, he was told that you have to be a bit careful in that neck of the woods as many see celebrating Halloween as Devil Worship.

Closer to home the annual pumpkin sacrifice happened this week, everywhere you turned a big orange globe leered back at you. Not like in the summer from on high, warming you up and tanning the skin. No this was much colder and more sinister, lurking at knee height with flickering eyes, flashing like a nightlight in a draught. We thought we saw a ghost, but it turned out to be Wayne’s dropped handkerchief. Then the lollipops were raided by a skeleton. Rather foolishly we thought they’d just rattle his ribs and fall on the floor, fortunately it turned out he was just in fancy dress. Otherwise, Halloween (or Devil Worship if that’s your view) passed us by relatively unheeded and with that, it was over. We’re left with just the usual phone zombies till next year.

Yesterday was World Vegan Day. To me it seemed strange to position it so soon after a Pumpkin slaughter but what do I know. It seems it was widely celebrated, though perhaps not in Mississippi or Georgia. Gourmet Burger Kitchen, closing 17 sites to stay afloat, celebrated by giving away Vegan Burgers for free. Jamie’s Italian, having closed nearly half of its sites to stay afloat, offered 50% off Vegan dishes. I think I can see a flaw in a business model.

Elsewhere, Waitrose celebrated by losing its Food Magazine editor after some ill-chosen comments about vegans, it would appear that joke isn’t funny anymore. Meanwhile, vegans blasted Parkrun for announcing a partnership with Happy Eggs.

Wayne and Alex discovered there really is a magazine called Plant Based News and wondered if it was still acceptable to listen to The Smith’s Meat is Murder album.

There’s rugby at Twickers on Saturday, the first test against South Africa. Brown’s out, Farrell’s in, and Eddie Jones is the Aussie in the stand with an iPad and ear piece.

In proper sports, Geraint Thomas got lost in Carmarthenshire on a training ride, the 2019 Giro d’Italia route looks like Tom Dumoulin might fancy it and the Tour de France route is really, really hilly, not one for the sprinters.

I think we’re still allowed to mention that Guy Fawkes is celebrated or commemorated on Monday. Fireworks in Wimbledon Park, but buy your tickets online beforehand, no chance on the gate. I’m not sure we’ll get through 36 barrels of gunpowder but it’s normally a good display.

Tasting This Weekend

We shall have a small ‘bonfire’ related celebration of our own and open some fiery fine wines this evening and tomorrow. The white corner will host Flametree Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2017 – £16.99, a cracking drop made by our chum Cliff Royle – it even won a gold medal at the Royal Sydney Wine show this year.

Smouldering away in the red corner will be Flametree Cabernet Sauvignon/ Merlot 2015 – £19.99. Flametree have firmly established themselves as one of the best addresses in Margaret River and we think that’s down to Cliff’s excellent winemaking. This is another tasty morsel from Cliff, medium-bodied, juicy in the mouth with a real drinkability that we found irresistible.

That’s all from us for now – rather serendipitously one of you will be in Washington next week and has offered to report back on the US midterms – never have we been so interested in American politics but it is currently the biggest horror show in town!

Bottoms up!

Be Excellent To Each Other

October 26th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

It has turned a bit fresh in the mornings perhaps but it seems incredible that we’ll be putting the clocks back this weekend, doesn’t it? If you’re stuck for something to do with the extra hour I might suggest having a spin through Richmond Park, the colours are turning really rather splendidly.

We received an email this week, it was an apology. Intrigued, I read it all the way to the bottom so surprised was I to receive an email apology. It turns out there was good reason for being sorry, they’d sent us an email from a sister company, in direct contradiction of all the GDPR rules.

Let me explain, a company we’re on the radar of, let’s call them ‘Only Booze’, continually try and sell us in-depth industry studies and annual subscriptions. So far we have managed to resist their temptations, cynically viewing the in-depth study of ‘Big Seven Booze Trends’ and it’s £600 ex VAT price tag as perhaps less relevant to our small local wine shop.

So to get to my point, it seems this sister company, let’s call them ‘Only Clothing’ also seem to offer in depth industry studies and annual subscriptions at exactly the same price as Only Booze. Interestingly, the latest in depth study they offered us was entitled ‘When Things Go Wrong’ for which they apologised.

In a similar vein Trumpolina, who only last week was making jokes about a Republican Congressman convicted of assaulting a Guardian reporter, has this week taken a very different approach to civility. He is suggesting that “Those engaged in the political arena must stop treating political opponents as being morally defective,” and called on the media “to stop the endless hostility”. Sadly, I didn’t see the speech so can’t tell you if he blushed, even a little, when he said it. Seems to me even Fake News is now so yesterday, you don’t even need to make it up. It’s a good job he doesn’t think restarting the Cold War will fix global warming. Err…

In Brexit news this week, UKIP MEP’s may have had their best ever attendance record in Strasbourg as the Parliament announced the transition payments and allowances for clearing their desks and offices by the 29th March. All good things come to an end, it would appear, but not before a pay off!

In wine news this week there are all sorts of snippets. A bottle of 1945 Domaine Romanée-Conti sold for £424,000 last week, undoubtedly a great vintage but you can’t help but wonder if it’s getting a bit long in the tooth? Still it’s the most expensive bottle of wine, ever. England’s grape harvest is looking fairly sensational, only a winemaker can mess it up now! Most excitingly though, there is talk of a new train service that could link London and Bordeaux in less than five hours. It seems to me that’s a proper sit down lunch, in Bordeaux, in a commutable time. What’s not to like?

Finally, a 20 year old in Selkirk has been ordered to carry out 90 hours unpaid work after admitting hitting himself over the head with a wine bottle, drawing blood and knocking himself out.

Wine School
Although we’re only a short way into the current term, many of you have been asking dates for when we’ll run Wine School again. We’ll start on Wednesday 6th February and run the six week course over seven weeks skipping 20th February for half term and finishing on Wednesday 20th March. We’ve held the price at £150 and you’ll taste around 60 wines. (An absolutely spiffing Chrimble present!)

New Wines
We’ve bought some new wines this week. Domaine Cherrier Sancerre Rouge 2017 (£22.49) is not something we generally go for, but to be honest this was so tasty we didn’t want to miss it. (Apparently that’s known as FOMO, we are reliably informed by young people). Also Vieux Chateau Gaubert 2010 (£26.99) a delicious Graves from a great vintage that’ll be very tasty should you be planning some roast beef in the near future. On the white front, the new vintage of Zeppelin Riesling 2017 (£14.99) has finally landed.

Tasting this Weekend

Having mentioned it above I propose opening the proceedings with Max Ferd. Richter Zeppelin Riesling 2017 (£14.99) before moving swiftly on to De Martino Legado Carmenère (£13.99) which could be just the ticket with that Roast Pork on Sunday (make sure the oven is hot for first 20 mins so the crackling is crisp!)

Bill and Ted were right “Be excellent to each other”

Half Term, Tissues and Mad Cows

October 19th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,
Boof – and here it is, half term already and the countdown to Christmas commences! 66 days, since you ask and we’ve already sold our first six box of Bollinger for the festivities! If you deduct lengthy half term holidays from this figure then by the time we get them back into uniform there will only be about 50 days – it’s practically here, have you ordered the turkey?
I know we’ve talked about this before but as we’re in the midst of another month of charity-influenced abstention so the media is having its usual field day promoting alcohol free gins and the like. We actually hear of one made in Ireland, by a 16 year old as part of her D of E project, that is called Driver’s Gin. What a great name, we thought, smart, simple and catchy. What we also thought was how can a 16 year old create such a drink? Surely, to make it authentic, one needs to taste it and know exactly what’s missing and how to replicate it which relies on many years of immersion in Gin and Tonic and Martini’s which we’re hopeful she hasn’t had – we expect she had help…
Equally, as discussed last week, in a world where we are told the 16-25 year olds are drinking less or nothing at all, why do we need alcohol free gin? To our mind the market for Seedlip and co is to Gin drinkers who on this occasion can’t drink gin but if they could, by golly they would. If you’re not a gin drinker in the first place, you’re certainly not an alcohol free gin drinker – perhaps the market is potentially more fragile than we are led to believe?
It’s not often I get caught reading the Economist but the combined influencers of becoming a bit bored with Rolling Stone of late and my father trying to make me read grown up articles led me there. In the absence of sports pages or jumbo crosswords, I was starting to panic a little until I found an article titled ‘Pinot or pot? Cannabis v wine in California’ – my sort of story.
And it’s a great read, if you get the chance, particularly if we also take into context what has happened in Canada this week. Some Californian winemakers are bemoaning the fact that their previously cheap grape pickers have now decided to go and work for the cannabis farms that pay better and guarantee work all year round – the joy of democracy, freedom to work where you wish! Slightly more scary is the idea that sommeliers are offering ‘wine and weed’ pairing classes – I was always led to believe by my more wayward pals that mixing booze and bong was a recipe for disaster!
Anyway, well regarded drinks writer and generally well informed pundit Andrew Jefford, sums it up well, we reckon: “Cannabis drinks may become the leading medium for recreational consumption.”
Now, that’s the sort of alcohol free drink we’d be more interested in trying…
Away from the Economist, we have been rueing the day that we decided that the £3,000 entrance fee was too much to justify joining Wimbledon Park Golf Club. However, any members who are reading this, if you need help with any windfall spending we can think of 850 ways to put it to good use!
Brexit. Yeah, we know, move on.
No place for Cipriani in the England squad, yet Ashton and Hartley still get a place on the bus? I can already hear Eddie Butler, Mike Aylwin, Stephen Jones and wee Stuey Barnes sharpening their knives.
Mansize tissues are no more as Kleenex bows to public pressure to remove the sexism from nasal hygiene – I always thought they were called mansize because men had bigger noses? Certainly, I remember them being an aspirational product as a young boy but apparently I was wrong in oh, so many ways.
Mad Cow disease is back, violent crime and murder is at a new high, the clocks go back in just over a week, Alex is playing golf whilst I’m stuck at work and, as discussed, there are less days than we thought until Christmas – time for a drink I think….
We’re going to have a Second-Go-Saturday since this week we finally received the Albariño that we were meant to have on tasting last weekend – I’m sure you remember but, just to refresh your memories, it’s called Eido da Salgosa (£14.99) and is a wine Alex tasted a little while back and amongst other notes wrote ‘it should be on our shelves’. Well, after a bit of to-ing and fro-ing and delivery shenanigans it now is – come and taste it whilst you can!!
For the red, I’m going to stay Iberian and unleash another of our new listings – Quinta do Espinho Colheita 2014 – £14.99. A classic Douro blend with lovely brambly fruits, a touch of liquorice, a hint of oak and a really decent, long finish. Definitely a wine for this time of year…
So come in and taste the wines, we’re both here on Saturday so service has the potential to be 1.5 times better, the music roughly the same and jokes noticeably worse!
And with that, I’m gone.

Cake and Wine

October 12th, 2018

Fellow Wine Lovers,

Who knew ‘Greek Barolo’ was going to be so popular? Wayne’s feeling very smug. Having spent more years than either of us will admit to nagging Alex about Greek wine and space on the shelf, we’ve bought some, sold it all and now there’s space on the shelf!

It seems someone has had their finger in the pie at Patisserie Valerie, as this week forensic accountants were called in to establish exactly what has caused the £20m hole in the numbers. Now, call me old fashioned but even for a posh cake shop that’s been around for 92 years, £20m buys you an awful lot of Rum Babas.

We’ve been involved with the accountant a bit this week, last year’s accounts, this quarter’s VAT blah blah blah but we were also discussing the business going forward, as you do. You can imagine our horror then to read headlines that suggest our future maybe in some peril.

“Nearly 30% of young people in England don’t drink” doesn’t make for happy reading from this side of the counter. Looking closer at the study you notice that by young they weren’t joking, some 22% of the people discussed aren’t even legally able to buy anything other than tonic water or Biltong in our shop! We do think over the years it’s become much harder for under age teenagers to buy alcohol since the licensing laws changed, so probably that is leading to wholesale behavioural change.

‘Quick Alex, lets diversify. There’s a golf course around the corner, should we have a chat with Big Bertha?’

“Slazenger may be more appropriate Wayne, and the street already has a tennis shop.”

It would appear some light fingered ne’er-do-well has made off with Geraint Thomas’s Tour de France Trophy. The naughty folk on the Pinarello stand left it unattended and, before you could say “Geraint get the beers in”, it was missing. Talk that the police would like Messrs Froome and Quintana to help them with their enquiries is wide of the mark, apparently. If anyone gets offered a big blue fruit bowl with gold trim, or even a cuddly furry lion toy please email the guys at Sky.

In a quick sports round up its an international week in football so nothing interesting there. (What not even Faroe Islands vs Azerbaijan?). Over in Formula 1, despite decades of competition, Ferrari seem to have lost their tactical nous. To close the cycling season, ‘Ride of the Fallen Leaves’ or Il Lombardia is this weekend. All those involved are looking forward to eating cake and letting the hair on their legs grow back for the winter. Finally, those of you who like to watch a swinging stick and a lawn with sand holes should get yourselves down to Walton Heath Golf Club for the British Masters, it’s just down the road.

Tasting this weekend

Desperately clinging on to thoughts of summer, and having gone Greek last week, this week it’s all Y Vino España!
Assuming that our chum Jaime delivers, the white corner will be occupied by a shiny new listing in Eido da Salgosa Albariño (£14.99) about which Alex said “a really special mouthfeel. This should be on our shelves.” Mmm, not sure anything needs to be added to that, come and taste for yourselves.

On the red front we shall weigh in with Palacio del Camino Real Crianza 2015 (£10.99) a delicious Rioja Crianza that has fallen into our lap rather fortuitously.

Thanks to everyone who attended last night’s Cheese and Wine tasting, you’ll be pleased to hear the negotiations with the printer were successful, and it is behaving perfectly normally today. Technology making life better every day…

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