Thursday, 5 May 2016

Two Birds Spirits

The seriously annoying call centres that constantly peddle cheaper gas or electricity have an unerring tendency to up their call rate on Friday afternoons.  A few weeks ago, on a Friday during which we had already seen off five of these jokers, a late shout from an unknown number had me flexing my trigger finger.  In the event a charming chap called Nigel very skillfully de-fused me by talking about gin-and-tonic which seemed like a belting idea at this stage.  It turns out that he was calling from a fairly new craft distillery called Two Birds Spirits in Market Harborough, where they make small batches of different flavoured spirits which have their exceptionally smooth vodka as a base.

Now, Williamson and I are both purists in the world of alcoholic beverages, indeed as buyers for our business it could be argued that we have to be.  We don’t like novelty alcopops that glow in the dark or cider that tastes of tinned fruit salad; we don’t like gloopy cream liqueurs that look like baby sick and we don’t like wine that has been buggered about with flavours of chocolate.  After the G & T conversation Nigel slowly revealed their full range which led through the aforementioned vodka to four different gins.  So far, so good. Then there followed some fruit-infused vodkas which, on the face of it, seemed less our thing, though raspberry, blackberry and blackcurrant were logical - I have made my own home-made versions of blackberry and raspberry and most enjoyable they were too.  Passion fruit struck us as a little odd - they hardly grow rampant in the hedgerows of Leicestershire after all.

Then it got weird.  “Guess what our current best seller is,” he challenged genially.  I’d no idea, telepathy being a weak point in my arsenal, “Salted caramel! Oh and also going strong is After Dinner Mint!”  And it had all been going so well.  The disappointment in my voice must have been obvious; I explained the purism angle and that we don’t do novelty drinks and thanks for trying but….  Nigel pointed out quietly that we hadn’t tasted any of them yet and suggested that perhaps we should reserve judgment until we had and gamely offered to send us some samples.  Hard to argue with that really; if he was prepared to back his confidence with currency, the least we could do was try them.   

Twelve little bottles arrived which evoked, variously, delight, vague interest, doubt and abject horror.  Every now and again we all need a reminder about the danger of preconceptions; we knew which ones we would like and which we would reject with a weary sniff of disdain.  We knew that the gins would be nice enough, the fruity ones would be more or less OK and that the weird pair would be confected, sweet and disgusting.

Boy, were we wrong.

English Vodka is as smooth and pure as any I have tasted.  Put up against the trendy and more expensive Grey Goose my family unanimously preferred it. 

London Dry Gin is an award winner with a top Gold Medal at the 2013 Craft Distillers Association and a Silver Outstanding at the International Wine and Spirit Awards, however a different version marketed as Speciality Cocktail Gin because it has a double hit of juniper actually trumps the former in our view.  Not only does it retain its juniper character in a cocktail, but it also makes a wonderfully punchy G & T.  It was awarded a Double Gold medallion at the 2014 San Francisco World Spirit Competition.  We have chosen this one to stock for its deliciously intense juniper character and versatility.

Old Tom Gin harks back to the rotgut produced in the 18th and 19th centuries when much of the gin was pretty filthy and distinctly dodgy, frequently illegal distillers disregarded the first volatile elements to come off the still as well as the final heavy ones - the “heads and tails” - which are toxic and must be discarded.  The resulting coarse spirit was sweetened up to disguise its rough flavours and it was a style that found favour with the masses.  Even though it killed some of them.  Fast forward to today to a beautifully refined, modern interpretation which is impeccably smooth and retains the less dry feel of the past.  This too makes a banging G & T and a brilliant Tom Collins.

The berry-based fruit variants are made with fresh English fruit and the same beautifully pure Vodka described above.  These are not a variation of the French crème de cassis et al, they are far less sweet and not remotely syrupy.  The Raspberry Vodka holds its pretty colour and its crisp summer fruit is captured in the vodka without detracting from the delicacy of the fruit itself.  It is medium and not at all jammy.  Finished at 26% abv it mixes well with good tonic - my trials show Fevertree low sugar is great - while Fentimans Rose lemonade offers a different option.  Plop a couple of fresh raspberries in and make a long summer refresher.

The Blackcurrant Vodka is intense and juicy with rich, concentrated blackcurrant flavours.  It is similarly clean and un-sticky, made from the same variety as Ribena apparently, with the berry’s refreshing acidity balancing a natural note of sweetness.  I have no idea whether blackcurrants’ famous vitamin C content makes it this far via the maceration process, but I will be pleased to take the risk - it is delicious!  It registers 32% abv and is certainly not kids’ stuff; pour over ice with a sprig of mint for a solo reviver, serve a tot with summer pudding, or trickle over a suitable sorbet or ice-cream.

Passion Fruit Vodka although clearly not from English fruit is nonetheless made with organic fruit, continuing the company’s attention to detail.  Its passion fruit definition is pin-sharp with plenty of clean, tropical zing.  Medium or a shade drier and bottled at 29% abv, this will also work well with the same mixers as the raspberry.  At its best, pour a modest dollop into a wine glass and serve with a crisp dry sparkling white, though you will have to have a couple to find out how much passion fruit suits you!

We approached the pair that, in conversation at least, nearly killed the deal.  I had heard of toffee vodka products before and the sticky, sickly reputation of some made us sneak up on our sample to try and catch it unawares.  Our fears were entirely misplaced; suddenly we swung from instinctive dislike to amazed fans and with the zeal of a religious convert would recommend it to anyone who is a lover of high-grade toffee.  The Salted Caramel Vodka is pale and fresh looking, first smelling, then tasting, precisely like very good salted caramel, neither insistently salty nor, vitally, as sweet as the solid stuff which leaves it clean and not in the least sticky or sickly.  We were sure we wouldn’t like it, indeed not sure that we even wanted to like it but just couldn’t help it.  It packs a punch at 37.5% abv and would work with any toffee-ish, caramel-ish pud but makes a great post-prandial drink poured over ice.

The final line on the tasting was After Dinner Mint Vodka.  How unlikely does that sound?  I remember from early years in the trade a number of strikingly nasty liqueurs to be found on the “liqueur trolley” in restaurants all over the country.  I haven’t seen one for years, thank God.  Some of these purported to be chocolate and/or mint based and were universally horrid.  Williamson was a posh sommelier in a previous incarnation and remembers all this with exactly the same revulsion as he had to push the trolley!  This however is forensically accurate in its flavour and it reproduces the taste sensation in every respect but one: it is not as sweet.  This is a seriously skilful recipe; it would be so easy to overdo one or other of the key ingredients yet it is not overly rich, nor too sweet, nor obviously sticky.  Do not bother with a box of minty chocs just give them a glass of this, served cold.  If you make yourself a hot chocolate drink, liven it up a bit with a shot of this, but be aware that it is 29% abv.

This is a very different direction for Wines of Interest and we appreciate that despite our enthusiasm for an unexpected range of spirits some of you will think some of them are just not WoI and not for you either.  Straight gin and vodka aside, so did we.  The only way around this is to taste them before you make your mind up and they will be available to try at our Summer Tasting on Thursday June 9th 2016.  If you are not going to be there we will try and make them available to taste in the shop and you can see for yourselves.  Click here to buy a ticket for the tasting.

Usefully, all these come in two sizes.  There are standard 70cl bottles and 20cl bottles which are ideal for running trials at home or when you just need a little for cocktails and flavouring.  Clearly they cannot be exactly cheap, but they are top notch and offer some deliciously different alternatives to your drinks table or fridge.  Click here for full details.  

Wednesday, 27 January 2016

Too much advice is bad for you

Jim struggled home with his bag of shopping, it was heavy and the sifting rain made his walk back pretty miserable.  He hoped that Nell, his wife, would weave her magic with the bag’s contents and make his efforts worthwhile.  She had packed him off with a list of ingredients for a number of baking projects and Jim reinforced his resolve with thoughts of her plump muffins and succulent apple turnover.  He picked his way through the puddles to the front door, fumbled with the key and gratefully stepped out of the wet.
The bank of sensors in the hall, set at knee height to monitor the contents of all incoming groceries, buzzed and flashed predictions of imminent doom.  One after another the display units declared Fat Alert - Butter Detected; Allergy Probability - Wheat Flour Found; Fructose Warning - Cooking Apples Present and Processed Meat Danger - Sausagemeat Hazard. 
The new “Dame Sally” Dietary Vice Alarm, the most unforgiving model yet, was connected to a central computer which downloaded new information constantly.  For example the Red Meat sensor which had maintained a benign silence for so long had recently developed a particularly shrill note.   The Dairy cell barely knew whether it was coming or going: triggered by butter today, it may well fall silent on the matter tomorrow.  Jim half expected it to self-destruct over the fat content v. calcium benefit calculation in the great cheese debate.
After the fridge had reprimanded him for using full milk in his tea and the larder gave him a bollocking for taking a solitary digestive, Jim braced himself for the savage admonishing he would receive from the ceiling monitor in the sitting-room.  This remarkably sensitive device was programmed to detect the merest scintilla of alcohol and Jim was contemplating a cleansing ale which, God knows, he felt he had earned.  At the first hiss of escaping pressure, before the cap had rattled satisfyingly onto the sideboard, the alarm went into electronic apoplexy.
Nell heard the racket and requested a large one from her husband.  The second that the cap came off the gin the sensors went into full scale banshee mode and the screen flashed Cirrhosis!  Obesity!  Cancer! Brain Damage! and any other infirmity it could blame on a drink.  The device also kept a tally of units consumed per week and blared, Amber Warning: Ten Units Used! AFD Required!
An AFD was the alarm’s shorthand for Alcohol Free Day.  Like all governments and bureaucracies, these monitors too communicated in acronyms.  They had been compulsorily installed by order of an umbrella organization within the government called the National Enjoyment Restriction Department, NERD for short, coincidently reflecting the type of cheerless, small-minded pen-pusher who would take on such a task.  The execution of the order was delegated to the Sector Promoting Health Indoctrination Nationally Controlling & Taxing Alcohol, SPHINCTA which, curiously, also spoke volumes about its operatives.  The trouble with such concerns is that they attract zealots from outside their offices who form amateur counterparts in hateful support.  These coagulate into bigger entities and the government, typically divesting itself of expense and responsibility, farmed out the task of supervising the paperwork and collating the data to the British Association Supporting Total Alcohol Restriction Discontinuance & Sacrifice.  Yup.  You might wonder why nobody had checked the suitability of the acronyms, but the collective senses of humour, fun and warmth in the assembled multitude of staff combined across the three lumbering, monolithic organizations would, in the incomparable descriptive words of Bill Bryson, “fit comfortably inside a proton and still leave room for an echo.” Nobody would have noticed.
Taking his life in his hands Jim took a long, refreshing gulp of beer and idly considered if a glass or two of red with supper might be in order.  He ambled through to the kitchen to deliver Nell her G & T and found her preparing greens to go with their shepherd’s pie.  This was a family favourite, once deemed nutritious and a great way to use up leftovers, but now triggered dire warnings on the “Dame Sally” kitchen screen.  High GI from the mash which, uh-oh, also contained butter; a red meat alert for the pie’s delicious filling and a whoa, what’s this - watch out for vitamin k in your greens?  He’d only just consigned grapefruit, an erstwhile super-food, to the dustbin of forbidden delights because of the statin he took every evening.  This was becoming confusing.
It was Jim’s turn to cook tomorrow and it was worrying him already.  The plan had been to produce fish and chips; not something they had often, but fish was still alright for you, wasn’t it?  I mean, if you use sustainable fish and the right sort of fat in the fryer?  Heeding the old animal fat warning Jim had changed to vegetable oil for a while, secure in the knowledge that poly-unwossnames were good for you but saturated ones are not.  Now this information had been stood on its head by a proper scientist who had said that owing to changes the veg oil underwent at high temperature, actually it would be less bad for you to use lard after all.  Eh?
Apparently an hour in front of the telly is, guess what, bad for you - too sedentary or some such, so Jim and Nell retired early.  Unsurprisingly troubled and unable to sleep, the pair discussed this weird turn.  What confused Nell most was that in almost every case a well-respected, fully-qualified talking head would declare, eat red meat/drink wine/enjoy a little butter, only to be countered by an equally experienced “expert” in the same field whose opinions were diametrically opposed to those of his illustrious colleague.  Whom do you believe, she wondered, if those trained and paid handsomely to help us can’t agree themselves?
Jim contended that not one of them, however they had interpreted the evidence, took any interest in our happiness.  Eat this - it might be better for your heart/liver/brain; avoid that or it might give you any one of an impressive range of fatal conditions… but there is no consideration for your soul.  How much does being happy or miserable affect your health? 
Eventually they grumbled themselves to sleep but in the morning after a virtually toxic bacon sandwich, they made their determined way out to the shed while the kitchen alarms wailed inconsolably.  Each grabbed a hammer and, laughing for the first time in weeks, smashed their useless, intrusive, confusing, killjoy “Dame Sally” unit to dust.  Glorious silence.
Today was going to be a very good day.  Well worth raising a glass to that, for the conclusion they had reached the night before was that a little of what you fancy does you good, just as Grandma had been saying all along.        

Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Short on Sparkle...? Nah...

Wine fashionistas have been panicked recently by rumours working back from Italy that there is going to be a shortage of Prosecco. The Sunday papers suggested that droves of Ladies Who Lunch would be trawling the nation’s shelves with sharp elbows and flailing handbags, prepared to defend their hard won stash to the death. One commentator, social rather than equipped with any degree of actual wine knowledge, struck a rather tearful tone in her piece, clearly in a funk of melancholy at the merest whisper of the possibility.

Prosecco has become fashionable. It’s been around for ages and many of you have quietly enjoyed the odd bottle from time to time over the years, but only now that the herd instinct has randomly tuned into Prosecco as The Thing To Drink has it become a widespread fad. In some quarters, being seen to be drinking it is more important than actually enjoying what you are drinking. It’s the same thing as wearing a particular clothing brand because “Paris says…” or sporting a variant of bling because Hollywood’s current favourite does - not because you like it yourself. 

It does look good doesn't it...!

The way the market reacts to such spikes depends to an extent on the product in question. If you are manufacturing an item of clothing that suddenly goes ballistic you gear up your factories and churn out more. If you are producing what is basically an agricultural line you are dependent on the seasons’ turn: last year’s harvest is over, the wine is finished or in the process of being made and there is no more until the next. Furthermore, a vine is a fruit tree - you can’t just sow a seed like wheat and watch your crop pop up - it takes years to come to its best.

This means that, human nature being as it is, there will always be the temptation for less scrupulous producers to cut corners and produce poor wine. You are their target. Look what happened to some Chardonnays when that was all the rage; learn from what happened to Pinot Grigio more recently - it’s still flying high, but some is plain awful.

John Ruskin’s commercial view was this,

“It's unwise to pay too much, but it's worse to pay too little. When you pay too much, you lose a little money - that's all. When you pay too little, you sometimes lose everything, because the thing you bought was incapable of doing the thing it was bought to do. The common law of business balance prohibits paying a little and getting a lot - it can't be done. If you deal with the lowest bidder, it is well to add something for the risk you run, and if you do that you will have enough to pay for something better.” That this is still so relevant today suggests that consumers have learnt little in over 150 years.

If stocks of Prosecco really are stretched, rest assured that Wines of Interest will not be compromising on quality, nor should you: the bandwagon being ridden by the multiples will see that there is ample heartburn material around for the, um, less fussy. At the moment we have had no notification of any impending shortages from any UK importers and it’s business as usual.  In any case, the word is that the better DOCG vineyards escaped the bad weather that affected the 2014 harvest.  The more recently planted DOC areas on the flatlands (younger vines planted in response to the recent spike in Prosecco popularity, and producing less flavoursome fruit as a result) is where the wet weather did most damage.

There are alternatives too. The bright light of Prosecco should not blind us to some seriously good non-Champagne sparklers from elsewhere and if you drink sparkling wine because you like sparkling wine, please tune in to this pair of belters. 

Paola of Cantine Beato Bartolomeo, our favourite Prosecco producer.

If Prosecco risks shooting itself in the proverbial foot by lowering the bar to fill demand quickly, think what Cava has already done. All that low grade, cheap fizz for the holiday crowds in Spain from the sixties onwards has done permanent damage to the reputation of the good producers too. While consumers need to bear in mind that not all Prosecco is good, they must also remember that not all Cava is bad. We carry a Cava called
Mas Macia which is a single estate wine produced in an idyllic spot about an hour out of Barcelona and it is excellent. Made in the méthode traditionelle with its secondary fermentation in the bottle, the wine is rested on its lees for upwards of 24 months and develops flavours more reminiscent of a much more senior sparkler. At £11.25 Mas Macia costs less than our top Prosecco and delivers more complexity.

The cellars at Bohigas, where Mas Macia Cava is matured.

We have a new fizzy in from France from a single domaine in the Jura called
Domaine Désiré Petit which hits that halfway price between the other sparklers and Champagne. It is a wine of tremendous vivacity and considerable style made from Chardonnay, also bottle fermented and showing the gentle bready, creamy notes of correct maturity. Designated as Crémant de Jura it will appeal to those who love Blanc de Blancs Champagne but not its £30-ish price tag. This super Crémant is on the shelf at £16.95 - not a day-to-day bottle perhaps but cracking value nonetheless. 

The Desire Petit vineyards in the Jura

In the immortal words of Corporal Jones, DON’T PANIC! No shortages here at present, just more choice for lovers of good fizz. 
Click here to see what we currently have available.


Monday, 18 May 2015

Time to look beyond Chateauneuf…?

At the southern end of the Rhone Valley, just to the south of the village of Vaison-la-Romaine, the Dentelles de Montmirail dominate the skyline.  The Dentelles are a small chain of mountains which are effectively the foothills of the highest peak in Provence, Mont Ventoux, situated just to the east.  They have something of an impressive and imposing nature being the result of layers of Jurassic limestone, folded on end to sit vertically and subsequently eroded into jagged and menacing forms as if standing sentry over the precious patchwork of vineyards beneath.

The Dentelles de Montmirail

The Dentelles guard some illustrious names, most notably Chateauneuf du Pape though over the course of the last few decades or so many of the surrounding vineyards have raised their winemaking to such levels that villages such as Gigondas, Vacqueyras, Lirac, Rasteau and others now enjoy the prestige of their own village appellations and in many cases rival the wines of all but the very best Chateauneuf producers.  In many cases the lesser-known names represent much better value for money.
Chateauneuf du Pape
We have always offered a range of wines from the southern Rhone from a few well-chosen individual producers but the recent sale of Domaine de Cassan and the decision of the new owner to sell off their Gigondas vineyards mean that we will be keeping our eyes (and mouths) open for a new addition or two in due course.

If you’ve enjoyed the wines of Domaine de Cassan in the past and wish to grab a few bottles while we still have stock left of their 2009 Gigondas or 2010 Ventoux ‘Les Esclausels’ then now is your time!  Possibly more intriguing is their 2010 Beaumes de Venise Rouge – another of the villages with its own appellation, widely known for its sweet Muscat desert wine, though here is a fine example of red Beaumes de Venise (80% Grenache, 18% Syrah, 2% Mourvedre aged in cuve).  Again stocks are limited.

Domaine de Cassan

We have also bought the last of the stock from the UK agent of the 2009 Vacqueyras from Domaine Saint Pierre.  This wine is no longer available in the UK and we have a couple of cases left.  It’s 60% Grenache and 40% Syrah, with production at only 35hectolitres per hectare it’s a wine of rich concentration, power and depth.  The grapes are destemmed and cold-macerated, then blended and macerated for about 3 weeks under temperature control, with daily punching down of the fermentation cap, and aged for 6 - 12 months in large oak foudres, before assemblage and bottling.  It can be drunk now, but if you lost a few bottles under the stairs of a few years it wouldn’t matter!

The vineyards of Vacqueyras

Fascinating and powerful reds are very much the order of the day in the southern Rhone.  They’re usually Grenache or Syrah-dominated blends and frequently contain smaller proportions of other local grapes  to add to the blend.  With a sprinkling of deliciously fragrant whites and mouthwatering roses as well, the southern Rhone is well worth exploring and if the only name you are familiar with from this part of the world is “Chateauneuf” do have a look at our website or pop into the shop and we’d be pleased to suggest some clever alternatives to the most famous of names.  Equally, if only Chateauneuf will do, we have plenty to choose from.

Our Other Southern Rhone Wines:

2009 Lirac Rouge ‘La Dame Rousse’ (last few bottles, 2010 to follow)
2006 Lirac Rouge ‘Cuvee de la Reine des Bois’ (last few bottles, 2007 to follow)
2012 Tavel Rose ‘La Dame Rousse’ (2013 currently being shipped)
2013 Cotes du Rhone Rose currently being shipped

Other follow-on vintages of Domaine de la Mordoree wines available on request.

We also have several vintages of Chateauneuf du Pape ‘Cuveede la Reine des Bois’ available from Domaine de la Mordoree.  Please visit our website for full details.


What's The Point Of Paying More...?

“So, when I pay £10 or £15 for a bottle, what do I get for my money?  What is it in that bottle that justifies the extra cost?” 

This was a perfectly reasonable question posed at a talk I had been asked to present to a group of local businessmen and women.  There are a few obvious answers of a more nebulous nature; market forces, quality of the vintage - general sort of background information.  Then there is what goes on that we don’t see and therefore perhaps do not appreciate both in terms of physical effort and, less easy to define, philosophy, if that doesn’t sound too poncy.  The best way I can illustrate that is to reproduce a modest chunk of a newsletter that arrived in the middle of December summarising the challenges of 2014 in one vineyard.
“At the end of August, I met a fellow winemaker at a supplier we both use.  He was all tanned: his face looked calm, he was clearly in good shape.  He said, “Hi Christophe, how are you?  Did you see the vines?  Not ripe and plenty of rot; I just got back from 3 weeks’ vacation and it’s a disaster, it’s sickening.”  I replied “Me?  No vacation, we worked all summer like crazy: pruning bunches, reducing leaf cover and everything is ripe and healthy.”   In his eyes there was a blank stare and I could see him getting mad; he replied, “The cemetery is full of people like you.”  He turned and walked away. 

It is certainly hard to accept for others, but I cannot bear not doing everything possible to obtain the best wines.  In my case it’s more a state of mind, it is a philosophy of life and it is called a job well done.  Never give up, care for every detail, even when they have no immediate effect, constantly question what you are doing and always believe there is a better way, without losing sight of the core values of our winery, based on truly sustainable agriculture.  This implies never forgiving oneself for mistakes and making every effort to correct them.  Of course this is a little strange in these times when people say we have to take it easy, but one can never change!  My motivation in life is the quest for excellence.”

Illustrate this with 2011 when the climate threw many obstacles at him.  Forward growth in spring, rain when not required, not enough warmth here then excessive heat there, grey rot - contained - then “sour” rot - also beaten off - uneven ripening, forensic selection of individual grapes at the press house… you name it, Christophe dealt with it all.  The result?  “This was a superb vintage for whites and rosés and a very good one for reds.  Of course, because of all the sorting the harvest was small, but this is the price of quality.”  We opened a bottle of his “simple” 2011 Côtes du Rhône a couple of weeks ago (purely in the interests of research and quality control, you understand) and were amazed at its depth and style.  I wonder how well his indolent neighbour performed….

That, my friends, is why some wines can and should command higher prices than others.  Now, who is this driven man who seldom rests and whose perfectionism sends his neighbours bonkers?  It is Christophe Délorme of the Domaine de la Mordorée with holdings in Lirac, Tavel and Châteauneuf-du-Pape in the Southern Rhône, whose wines, as our regulars will know, we have been banging on about for years.  Christophe’s reputation is very highly regarded worldwide and his wines, even his least expensive are all on allocation, but we have been able to amass an extensive collection of current and past vintages, particularly reds, for you to tap into.

These are hardly day-to-day, budget hoovering - they are much too special for that - but now you know why.  Nor, however, are they crazy prices if you look at what you pay for even modest Claret or Burgundy, so if you want something for the weekend, sir, a birthday bottle, or you’ve had a shitty week, worked like stink and damn it, you deserve a treat, Domaine de la Mordorée will see you right and put a great, big smile right across your face.

Domaine de la Mordoree - Available Wines

2013 Cotes du Rhone Rouge - please enquire
2012 Cotes du Rhone Rouge - please enquire
2012 Lirac Rouge "La Dame Rousse" - please enquire
2011 Lirac Rouge "La Dame Rousse" - please enquire

2012 Lirac Rouge "Cuvee de la Reine des Bois" - please enquire
2011 Lirac Rouge "Cuvee de la Reine des Bois" - please enquire
2009 Lirac Rouge "Cuvee de la Reine des Bois" - please enquire
2012 Chateauneuf du Pape "Cuvee de la Reine des Bois" - please enquire


Thursday, 19 March 2015

Spring Wine Offer 2015

Right then.  Some of you have done dry January and by the time you get this others will have nearly completed their Lenten deprivation.  By the beard of Zeus, some of you will have done both.  Eeeek.  Well done. Now that, surely, is enough flagellation for the time being.  Demonstrating considerable dedication to duty you have earned yourself a well-deserved, pretty enormous glass of wine.  I would suggest two - no, hang it, several - but the Joy Police may spot this and declare such a notion to be irresponsible.  So I won’t.

What’s it to be?  A fresh, lively white to cut the last of the winter dust?  Maybe a dark, fruit-filled red to ease down your Easter lamb or a subtle, white Rhône inspired smoothie for a free-range fowl?  Doubtless you’ve also been on a bloody diet for added torture; time to wave that off with a dish of savoury pasta and unhealthy gratings of cheese for which a keen, cleansing Italian red will touch the spot.  If you like the sound of any of that read on, for you will find all the wet part of it in the following offer.

There’s more to this offer than meets the eye.  Yes, the wines are delicious.  Yes, you get a bit of discount and yes, as ever you can slice it into reds only, whites only or mixed rations, all at the same very reasonable price.  However, for every dozen bought we will donate £8 to Cancer Campaign In Suffolk and for every half-dozen we will give them £4.  We trim your price and our margin; between us we will try to send a significant contribution to this valuable local cause. 

This is a great local charity that aims to help you, the population of Suffolk, regardless of gender, colour, creed or age and it deserves whatever support we can give.  If you would like to know more, tune into or email  or call them on 01473 211884.

If you need a box or two of wine this spring, choose one of these options – because you’re not just buying wine.

That’s the worthy bit; you’ll be thirsty now.

If you cannot make it to the shop we will be pleased to battle through “Gridlock Ipswich” to bring your wine to you.   Local deliveries are FREE for orders of £70 or more.  Delivery details may be found here.

The offer starts NOW and runs until May 30th 2015 and is available subject to stocks remaining unsold.  We will do our best to buy enough stock in advance to hold these prices for the full length of the offer, but reserve the right to make any adjustments should they become necessary.

Plan ahead: you have a long Easter weekend and two bank holidays in that period and it wouldn’t do to go dry!

For full details of delicious wines of real character at reduced prices, please click here.

Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Chateau l’Ermitage, Costieres de Nimes

We’ve stocked the ‘Tradition’ wines from Chateau l’Ermitage in Costieres de Nimes before, but the new vintages (tasted at a recent event in London) reminded us of just how good the wines from this property are.  If anything, the latest versions are even more impressive than their predecessors and we simply couldn’t resist!

The Château l’Ermitage estate is owned and run by the third generation of the Castillon family in the form of Michel, and his son Jerome.  Some sections of vineyard at Chateau l’Ermitage date back to the 12th Century, and the first cellars here were built in the early 1800s.  The soil is sandstone and the vineyards face south, towards the sea, with the sea breezes helping to mitigate the summer heat and retaining a freshness in the resulting wines.  The property is signed up to the Terra Vitis scheme which brings with it a commitment to safeguard the local environment – especially the vineyards - and a constant striving to make wines of true quality that have been crafted using natural methods that respect both Man and the land.  This is typical of many producers who follow an organic philosophy without embracing the formal restrictions of certified organic status.

Jerome Castillon of Chateau l'Ermitage

The appellation of Costieres de Nimes itself used to be part of the Languedoc but in the late 1990s the growers got together and requested to included as a sub-region of the Rhone Valley simply because their wines were closer in style to those of the Rhone than the wines of the Languedoc.  The French authorities took their time but the change was eventually effected in 2004.  Even though we are significantly south-west of Avignon here and nicely on the way to Montpellier you need to ‘think Rhone’….but with a gentle twist… !

Map of the Southern Rhone

We are now stocking 4 wines from Château l’Ermitage ; the fine trio of white, pink and red which will be accompanied by 50cl bottles of a splendid Muscat which is wonderfully fresh and pleasingly not-too-sweet.  We are sure it will win many friends !

The Château l’Ermitage Tradition Blanc is 60% Roussanne, 20% Viognier and 20% Grenache Blanc and has aromas of orange blossom with hints of peach, grapefruit and nectarine, all with a wonderful mineral edge.  It’s very clean and fresh and splendidly original.

The Château l’Ermitage Tradition Rose is 50% Grenache, with 25% each of Syrah and Mourvedre.  It is pale salmon pink in colour with a fresh berry nose.  A little fuller than Provence rose yet not as masculine as the roses from elsewhere in the Rhone Valley.  It is poised, elegant and mouthwatering.

The Château l’Ermitage Tradition Rouge is 40% each of Syrah and Mourvedre with 20% Grenache.  It is a hearty red with ripe tannins and plenty of red fruit flavours matched with a gentle savoury edge.  Yes it is youthful, but it is also very approachable.  It will keep if you wish, but it’s so attractive now that you may struggle to keep your hands off it…. We know we will !
Finally, 'Le Muscat' is 100% Muscat a Petit Grains which has its fermentation stopped by the addition of 7% grape spirit thus retaining a small percentage of natural, unfermented grape sugars.  It is wonderfully delicate though and, crucially, beautifully fresh, grapey and not too sweet.