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Fortified

  • ALICE COOPER, DEBBIE HARRY, JANUARY JONES AND A PENGUIN

    Christmas is almost upon us. We hope you are all stocked up. If not, don’t panic, there is still time. However, don’t leave it too late; we’d hate for you to miss out. Please allow Alice Cooper, Debbie Harry, January Jones and a very important penguin to lovingly take you by the hand and guide you through the next few weeks. Just be warned they each have some unusual dining habits…
    …any guesses what Alice Cooper’s second most joyous time of the year is? Answers on a postcard. To be honest, we wouldn’t have pegged the original golfing shock rocker as the festive type. Not least because everybody knows he prefers raw chicken heads over roast turkey breast. The fact that the whole domesticated foul nibbling incident was just an unappetising urban myth is irrelevant, as it brings us neatly round to the issue of “the bird”. What delights are you planning for the Christmas menu, and have you sorted your wine matches yet? We’re going for the Breakfast of Champions: scrambled egg-topped muffins (feel free to add smoked salmon or gruyere and chives as you please) accompanied by the stylish Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Brut Champagne. We are planning on going off-piste with the roast by serving the elegant South African Lothian Pinot Noir and La Closerie des Lys Chardonnay, the latter being the wine selected for our range by Fran Evans, winner of The Palate 2012 (have you read the blog and seen the video?). Our Christmas pudding will be complemented by the rich Château Pajzos Tokaji Aszú 5 Puttonyos, the cheeseboard will be introduced to the smoothest Port on the market: Sandeman LBV 2007, and if we’re lucky enough that Santa has furnished us with a bottle, we’ll loosen our belts a notch and wash down a mince pie with a wee dram of Glengoyne 21 Year Old. If you'd like to share your own menus with us, we’d love to hear from you; let us know on Facebook or Twitter. However, if you need any more advice, get yourself down to one of our shops pronto, there aren’t many unopened doors on that advent calendar. If you go dressed as Alice Cooper we promise that, after the initial shock, our staff will offer a level of service beyond even their usual excellence.
    We wish we were a little more punk. Wouldn’t it be cool to be Debbie Harry? Now we don’t want to come across all “humbuggish”, but we bet that Blondie’s front lady hasn’t spent many New Year’s Eves freezing her extremities off in Baltic conditions, queuing six deep at overpriced bars, stuck on adverse-weather-conditions-public transport or standing in line for the toilets when the countdown commences, as we have. We love New Year’s Eve, but find that the reality rarely lives up to the hype. So for the 2012/2013 transition, instead of going out for New Year’s Eve, we’re going to be celebrating New Year’s In. Maybe we are getting old. Imagine all the comfort and warmth of home, invite friends round and open something nice. If you’re hosting quite a few people, we challenge you to find a bubbly with a higher quality to price ratio than the Torre Oria Cava Reserva. Or why not finish off the year with something legendary like the Château Gloria Saint-Julien? £38 might seem like a lot, but remember it doesn’t cost £30 for a ticket to get into your house and it will taste much better than a warm pint of Carling in a plastic cup. So what is Debbie’s weird eating habit we hear you ask? Well she likes to eat to the beat obviously, which must mean that jazz makes for quite an uncomfortable dining experience Chez Harry.
    January is coming people. And we’re not talking about actress January Jones, with her car crashing antics and her unusual après-birth diet (the latter we will leave to your own imagination, all we’ll say is that her argument that “we’re the only mammals that don’t do it”, simply doesn’t cut the mustard with us). Oh no, we’re talking about the twice as icy month of January. Before you use your New Year’s resolution to cast wine aside with the cold heartedness of Betty from Mad Men, you might want to wait and see what we have planned for next year. Our “love” theme is going to take an unexpected twist and we are definitely going to be showing off. We wouldn’t want you to miss out, so keep a loving eye on us.

    That’s all from us, but before we go, have you met Pepita the Penguin yet? She loves a krill burrito…

  • WATER, WOOD AND GROUCHO

    While Ed Miliband channels the power of Funkadelic with his bright pink tie and his “One Nation”, in a game of one-upmanship that any politician would be proud of, we’re going to shout about “Two Nations” instead. We’ll start with South Africa and end with France and might add a little sprinkling of Portugal for good measure.

    Jules Renard was a novelist who wrote “Poil de Carotte” (Carrot Hair), an autobiographical short story about the trials and tribulations of being ginger and French, and “le Plaisir de Rompre”, a racy sounding title that suggests it would be advisable to use a Kindle if you wanted to read it on public transport (á la Fifty Shades of Grey). We’ll admit we’ve never read either of these books by Monsieur Renard. We got a bit scared when we found this quote from him: “the horse is the only animal into which you can bang nails.” We hope he was talking about hooves, as it made us think of that Blue Peter story about them putting a nail through one of their tortoises while boxing it up for hibernation. Or was that just an urban myth? Anyway, the watery quote above is either his ironic humour or alternatively, despite being French, he may have known nothing about wine. But he might not have been too far off the right track. Rather than adding water to wine, the key may be in making the wine underwater…

    Our wine buyer Ana Sapungiu just brought in Cellarfoot’s Underwater Syrah, a South African wine aged for 11 months in barrels submerged underwater. Honestly, we promise we’re not making this up. It’s one of the most intriguing and astonishing pieces of winemaking we’ve ever come across. But Ana didn’t stop there, oh no, she also managed to secure us a couple of web exclusive small parcels from Tokara’s Miles Mossop, owner of what is probably South Africa’s finest vinous curriculum vitae. We’ve got his Bordeaux blend “Max” and his unctuous dessert wine “Kika”, made under his own label. Be warned, when these are gone, they’re gone, and we may not even be able to finish this sentence without getting distracted by the urge to go and buy som…

    If you have a moment you can read why Ana loves South Africa so much on Wines of South Africa’s blog. However, if you are short on time you can see all the wines featured on our website here. We heartily recommend the Lothian Pinot Noir, which has just picked up a score of 90pts from Wine Spectator for its maiden vintage.

    Crazy-haired Berty Einstein was just as sharp as a splinter. But it isn’t just the chopping of wood that the people love, they also like to plane it, sand it, chisel it and most importantly make wine in it. But not in Champagne surely? Well yes actually, let’s go back to school, but don’t worry it isn’t a woodwork class. To make Champagne, you firstly make a dry white wine. This is then popped into bottles with some yeast and some sugar, which ferments. The by-product of this fermentation, carbon dioxide, is absorbed into the wine, which turns into bubbles when you open it. Since the 1950s the initial dry wine has mainly been made in stainless steel. However, in the days before stainless steel it was the norm to make them in wood imparting a gentle oaky note. And that is what Billecart-Salmon have done; they’ve gone old-school for their “Sous Bois”, giving it an exquisite texture with notes of toffee and grilled brioche. Just don’t call it SuBo, Billecart-Salmon don’t appreciate the comparison with Scotland’s premier mezzo-soprano and they’ll get angry and come after you with a hacksaw. Trust us, we found out the hard way, which is why we now enjoy this woody Champagne while tottering around on our wooden leg. There are another couple of amazing Billecart-Salmon wines on our website and even more in our shops.

    That’s all from us, but before we go we just wanted to let you know that there’s a new post about Portuguese wines on Blogbins, which is best enjoyed with a glass or two of our new favourite fine wine; Niepoort Doda. Oh, and as it’s National Sarcastic Awareness Month (who knew?), we’ll leave you with one of our favourite quotes from an old master…

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