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Wine Reviews

  • The Acts of The Ape-ostles

    The Chapel of Saint Paraffino has a guest speaker. While preparing to regale the congregation with his annual round up of the year, and scanning his extensive notes, the priest has succumbed to a fit of the vapours. Passionate Chimp, on a visit to family members more observant than himself, has agreed to step in, his suspicion of creationism outweighed by a fundamental decency and a constant urge to show off. He does not realise that he's about to find out whence cometh his name...

    Passionate-Banner

    On one side of the pulpit sits a litany of sadness and regret, on the other an illuminated manuscript of delight and success. As he declaims them to the gathering, he feels a growing sense of absurdity, that the breathless onslaught of surprise, shock and dismay has made it difficult to tell good from bad, major from minor, shit from shoeshine. Eventually he alights upon an improbability so stunning that his composure dissolves entirely. And it's listed in both of the texts...

    L.City

    With a howl of anguish, he tears up the scripts and hurls the shreds of paper into the blinding light of the clerestory windows, a fluttering kaleidoscope of sensory disintegration. The congregation rise and fill their pockets with the fragmented memories as they descend, a pick and mix of celebration, loss and wince-worthy reminder.

    Passionate Chimp slumps over the lectern, deep in thought. He hasn't had a bad year, if he takes away the things he could do nothing about. Leicester City notwithstanding, there was plenty of good sport, a decent summer, front row seats at a concert by his hero. Who knows, maybe it's time to break out the communion wine. But dear God, not that one. Or that. And especially not...He shudders and makes a phone call, a quick prayer to Bacchus for which he imagines the Lord will forgive him.

    Chimp-Banner

    Five minutes later his fellow disciples of Dionysus arrive in an encouragingly rattling van, and within moments the 12 Chimps of Christmas are spreading the gospel of celebration. Whether rejoicing at the end of one year or psalming the possibilities of the next, all are settling into each other's company with the liberal libations of Laurent-Perrier Non-Vintage, and Prosecco Ca'Rosa, and so much more besides. And Passionate Chimp smiles benignly upon the flock, asking himself a couple of questions. What do we really have if we don't have each other? Should we not first and foremost keep an eye on one another, whatever the tidings? And the big one...

    LP

    ...How am I going to get the church to pay for all this fizz? Yikes! They'd better be having a sale in January!

    CaRosa

    A happy and healthy New Year to all of you, and be sure to watch out for each other.

  • Orang-Utangover!

    The bar has reached a Friday evening peak. Everybody is loud and excitable, Prosecco is flowing and there is love and laughter everywhere. The Headache Fairy will be busy tomorrow, but for now...

    "...So, then I said, right, I said 'And anyway, darlin, that's not a banana you're peeling!'" Mass guffaws. HAHAHAHA HA HA HA ha...ha...haaa...and fade to black. And silence.

    Crazy-Banner

    A chimpanzee is lying beneath a tree. Well, perhaps "beneath" dignifies the picture somewhat. "Underneath" might be better. And the tree is horizontal. On the floor surrounding the chimp are a number of festive baubles, and on a nearby sofa is a crumpled heap of clothes and blankets. Looping on his television screen is a video of a chimp invasion of a wine store. After a BLT he will realise how much fun last night's Christmas party was, but right now he is sulking about a lost battle with a tree.

    "Oi, Snazzy", he says to the sofa. The crumpled heap moves a little to show the head of another chimpanzee, this one topped off with an angel. "How did we get here?"

    "I think we started off with a couple of aperitifs, Crazy, Laurent-Perrier Non-Vintage, £27 a pop. Christmas has come early at that price..."

    LP

    "No, here!" I was a tree climbing aristocracy not so long ago, now I'm pinned to the floor by a Norwegian Spruce wondering how I'm going to get to work. I should be sitting in the sunshine picking fleas off my girlfriend, not working in a wine shop in Clapham!"

    "Well for a start, I warned you against putting your Christmas tree up after a night on the Brasso. You should have savoured some Bourgogne Blanc Girardin with me - elegant, pleasantly aromatic, and appealingly fruity. The wine's not bad either, boom boom!"

    Bourgogne

    "And as for your job, well, think about it. People want a shop with character, and they want the best of everything. The confused man with ten quid who'd never been in the place before - you gave him Coteaux du Pont du Gard - fruit, structure, intensity and complexity. And a rather saucy joke. Think how some small part of his life may have been changed by a wine of such quality. He might have had a Road to Damascus moment with a country wine from Avignon."

    Pont-du-Gard

    "...and the lady wanting a change from boring, boring Pinot Grigio? Domaine de Coudoulet Viognier - a lovely flowery nose and tropical fruit on the palate, balanced with a dash of citrus. She didn't think wine shopping could be such fun, and now she's looking at the more generic offerings with something approaching pity. You see, we send out little ripples of love and affirmation with every bottle, and though you can't see them, they cross your path with every step you take from the shop to Clapham Junction station. Every cosy looking, lamp lit window may have a Coudoulet Viognier behind it. If only you knew!"

    Snazzy-Banner

    "Cor blimey, Snazzy, you don't half talk some cobblers. And there's nothing elegant or pleasantly aromatic about you while you're piled up on my settee! Now get yourself out and get us a banana, lettuce and tomato, while I sort some coffee out."

    As the front door closes, Crazy Chimp's mind drifts to Snazzy's comments. To the tables he may have enriched in some way, to the laughter he's brought to unsuspecting shoppers, to the enrichment of his own mind and so many others with knowledge of the seemingly obscure or opaque. Clapham has become a beautiful place, and Christmas is his, for him to give to the world!

    Well, that's if he can get from under this tree now Snazzy's gone out...

  • The Chimpossible Dream

    Outspoken Chimp is sitting with friends watching himself on a video for the umpteenth time. The video concerns the seasonal takeover of a chain of wine stores by a bunch of likeable, if unruly chimps, and Outspoken has convinced himself and all around him that he is by far the star of the show. A former tabloid journalist, he has a great flair for persuading people to believe the clearly improbable. As another bottle of Girouette Sauvignon Blanc is passed around, the rather surprising finale takes him back to his journalistic heyday.

    Girouette-Sauvignon-Blanc

    'MUST WE FLING THIS FILTH AT OUR POP KIDS?' blared a headline in the Sunday People, back in the punk era, above a hysterical piece that accused the New Musical Express of covering the new music's attendant hysteria in tones verging on the hysterical. Even by tabloid standards, this was award-winning gobbledegook! Not to be outdone, Outspoken swung straight on to the bandwagon. Picking randomly on Mancunian no-hopers, Primate Scream, the Daily Spud's front page article 'PUNK ROCK DRUG HOUNDS BEAT UP VICAR' carried nothing to substantiate its headline, but seethed with enough ill-conceived outrage to drive the band's record sales through the roof. Outspoken subsequently left Grub Street behind, making the trek to Manchester to work as the band's PR. Tied up in the boot of their Austin Allegro, by his own account...

    Outspoken-Banner

    The band went from strength to strength, or at least from stunt to stunt, until their singer, Passionate Chimp, began to feel restless. The sincerity with which he dealt with the band's subject matter - creationism, species-ism, dodgy Clint Eastwood films - was beyond reproach, but he was wishing the audience would show their approval with something other than phlegm. Maybe they could leave flowers at the front of the stage, like they did for Barbra Streisand, or a bottle of deliciously elegant wine like Domaine Condamine Syrah-Mourvèdre, or even throw their...ahem, that's quite enough now...

    Syrah-Mourvedre

    On a night off in the middle of a tour, he wanders into a cabaret club in Liverpool. A listless turn has the audience tapping their toes politely while eating chicken in a basket and gazing into glasses of Vin Tres Ordinaire. During the interval, Passionate Chimp takes the stage and starts cautiously to sing 'The Way We Were', an evolutionary favourite. The bouncers move to throw him off until they notice that people are paying attention. He glides into '(They Long To Be) Close To You', an anti-creationism classic, and people are looking fondly into each other's eyes and swaying gently while they push the boat out with some Anxo Albarino.

    Anxo-Martin

    By 'Ape-ril In Paris', the original act has packed up and wobbled home, having drowned his mediocrity with Kavalan Concert Master Taiwanese whisky; and as Passionate brings the house down with 'Lover Come Back To Me', the man with the bucket of 'roses for the lady' has sold out completely, the whole lot piled up at the front of the stage! The audience are on their feet, grown men are in tears and the club is in uproar, and as Passionate Chimp gathers up the flowers, buried among them he sees - yes! - underwear! A Littlewoods panty girdle with a phone number written on it in lipstick. Passionate hasn't been here an hour and already he has arrived!

    Passionate-Banner

    Making notes in a dark corner stands Outspoken himself. Even he has never convinced so many people so unequivocally of his own greatness. He mooches over to a man in a sheepskin coat, his hands bedecked with sovereign rings, and starts making arrangements.

    Is this the end for Primate Scream? Will Tom Jones be dethroned by a chimpanzee? Will our hero dial the number on the Littlewoods passion killers? Tune in next week, and in the meantime keep the heat turned up with a bottle of La Multa Garnacha, a hot blooded continental with a powerful body that you won't want to share with anybody else!

    La-Multa

  • The Long Arms of The Law

    Hilarious Chimp is listening to records. At the moment it is the turn of Pithecanthropus Erectus by Charles Mingus, a long-standing family favourite. The music is terrifically exciting, with five men seeming to make the noise of eleven, and Hilarious is playing it at an appreciable volume while whirling around the room on a unicycle and whooping and a-hollering with the band! Unfortunately, his neighbours are rather less appreciative. They've seen the video Hilarious made recently with all of his other Oddbins cohorts, and they didn't find quite the same joy in its assorted muckslinging or the Mingus-maybe melodies that have sent the chimp back to his record collection. And now this racket! Tired of his primate pranks, they have summoned the long arm of the law...

    Hilarious-Banner

    In the conference room of a swish hotel, Sassy Chimp is delivering a seminar entitled 'Writing On The Wall: When To Flog Your Business, and Where You Won't Be Found'. It consists, in large part, of the murky tales surrounding his sale of 'Monkey Vegas', a huge empire founded on teaching circus skills and party tricks to primates. By what he described as an 'uncanny coincidence', Sassy sold the business at an eye-watering profit exactly one month before animal acts were banned from circuses. "I didn't so much avoid the country after that, it was more a case of simply being somewhere else...". He has come back to help his friends and family with the cheerful invasion of Oddbins, whence he has graced his event with ample supplies of Terra Noble Reserva Terroir Syrah, a deep and deliciously savoury red from the Maule Valley in Chile, together with a Chardonnay from the same winery, a warmly approachable white that partners delightfully with the hors d'oeuvres he's provided. While he's pointing to a Venn diagram on a Bo-Nobo board, he is discreetly called out of the room and taken into a police station.

    Terra-Noble-Syrah

    Terra-Noble-Chardonnay

    "...and he says you're the only person he knows who can pay for his bail. Well, you and..." consulting a notebook, "...Billy Expletive Smart. Funny bloke considering he doesn't even crack a smile!"

    "Funny?"

    "Yeah. He's cracked everybody up round here, playing table tennis with the boys. 10p, 50p, whatever, absolutely thrashed all of them. Funny thing was, he was riding a unicycle throughout. Even when we brought him in he pedalled out to the panda. Then he made the handcuffs disappear and we found them in the glove box."

    "How much is his bail exactly?"

    Sassy-Banner

    "Well, he's clearly a chimp of good character. In fact, we considered dropping all charges when we told him we don't usually have much to do with hominoids, and he said that's because you can get cream for them nowadays. If we can find a caring home for him we'll forget the whole thing - you seem to have done better than he has out of circus regulations, maybe you owe it to him to see he doesn't spend another Christmas in the park? Meanwhile, we'll set him up in Oddbins and the staff will take him under their loving wing! Now,  back in the car and you can pick up your records while we bring your neighbours in for crime against hilarity. A couple of days in the cooler listening to Kenny G should teach them what side their bread's buttered!"

    In the back of the car, Hilarious and Sassy are making up. "So, Hilarious, 50p a game, you say? I'm sure I could fix you up with plenty more games, and at a pound a pop! How about we seal the deal with a bottle of this Tarlant Champagne..."

    Tarlant

  • WHAT THE FOX?

    Being an adult is hard. We might have jobs and suitcases, and go into meetings with faces that say ‘you-can-do-business-with-me-and-no-I-absolutely-did-not-roll-in-at-3am-last-night’, but sometimes we can’t do it. Sometimes we just want to play with woolly foxes and stuff. Is that so wrong? We hope not, because we have just put 47 foxes in our shops…

    IMG_3069

    *Wipes Farley’s Rusks crumbs from face* in all seriousness, we have actually put a three foot fox in the window of each and every one our shops. Yes, it’s partly because we wuv the liddle foxy-woxy woos, but it’s also because we feel an affinity with foxes: we may not be the most powerful predator on the block, but our Buyers are cunning at digging out unexpected treasures and unearthing incredible bargains. Ana and Jenny have been foraging in Italy (not literally: they’re demure ladies as you can see, honestly), as they believe that the really exciting wines are the ones off the beaten track… Prosecco Ca’ Dei Noni, for example, is a ridiculously unusual still prosecco, made by Follador, with boundless pear drop-esque, floral charm.

    What The Fox

    It’s all well and good wanting to play with foxes and but we can tell, you, these foxes play hard. Really hard… You know when you go up to a cute-looking Chihuahua or other vertically-challenged dog and then it turns into a gnashing, yapping beast, scaring the living daylights out of you? Well, we had a similar experience with the foxes: it turns out they’re not as cute as we thought. In fact, seems they become insanely angry with people who fail to get into the festive spirit, as one customer learned to his eternal shock. We’ve got the footage here and it makes for some disturbing viewing but the fox redeems himself and, actually, turns out to be a bit of a Christmas hero.

    So, if you want to play – and are prepared to play hard – follow the foxes’ exploits in our shops and on Twitter using #WhatTheFox. Because we’re grown up like that…

  • DISCOVER ANOTHER SIDE TO CHILE

    What do you think of when you think of Chilean wine? We would bet our bottom dollar that the first thing that springs to mind is fresh, easy-drinking good value Sauvignon Blanc. And there is absolutely nothing wrong with fresh, easy-drinking good value Sauvignon Blanc. Indeed, if you were to present us with a bowl of chili, ginger and garlic prawns with coconut rice and fresh coriander, we would demand nothing other than a fresh, easy-drinking good value Sauvignon Blanc, such as the laser-sharp zest fest that is Pora Py’a.

    However, like a latter-day John and Yoko, with a slightly different agenda, we are here to say ‘give other wines from Chile a chance’. For there is a small but fascinating group of producers who are moving away from full-throttle, pure varietal wines, to blended, nuanced wines made in the cooler fringes of this towering, strip of a country.

    Chile - Pic 1

    Via Wines, for example, have created Oveja Negra – a madcap blend of Sauvignon Blanc and… Carmenère? Bizarrely, it works. Really well. When made into a white wine (by not leaving it on the skins during fermentation), Carmenère’s spicy fruit and capsicum freshness complement the juicy, zingy pizazz of Sauvignon Blanc perfectly.

    Another small but important trend in Chilean wine is their almost supernatural way with Pinot Noir. This most fickle of grapes can end up flabby and boring in the wrong hands, but Chile seems to have become particularly green-fingered with Pinot. Viña Leyda Reserva Pinot Noir, for example, is as delicately fragrant as a midsummer breeze and is a tasty testament to the lighter side of Chile.

    Chile - Pic 2

    Here comes the science: cooler climes mean fresher wines and another trend for forward-thinking producers is, instead of focusing on the coolness found at more southerly latitudes, they are realising the importance of the cooling effect of the ocean. The windswept, maritime environment almost convinces the grapes they are in Europe and the resulting wines are very much European in style. Viña Leyda Canelo Syrah, for example, is more like a delicately spiced, violet-laced northern Rhône Syrah than many Chilean examples, which can be quite blockbuster-y in fruit, spice and structure. So, if you're looking for more art-house than blockbuster, take another look at Chile - its cinematic landscape and vinous auteurs means there's something for everyone...

  • THE PALATE 2014: THE AUSTRALIAN ADVENTURE

    For this edition of Odd Blog, we hand over the reins to Steve Saunders, the affable Bristolian and new Dad who blew us all away at The Palate 2014 and sipped, slurped and gargled his way to wine tasting victory. Over to you, Steve...

    So here we were, just over five months after the whirlwind of vinous pleasure that was The Palate 2014, and I was off to Australia - the headline-grabbing prize that I was amazed to have won last September, courtesy of Longview Wines and Berton Vineyards. I was even allowed to take the other half with me. Lovely.

    Having chatted via email with Longview’s winemaker and all-round great bloke Peter Saturno, I had my tickets ready and a pretty sensational itinerary. The relaxed sage of the Eden Valley, Bob Berton (of Berton Vineyards fame), then dropped me a line with the plan for the first couple of days at his place. He gave me an interesting choice of either food and wine matching with some old friends of his, or shark diving. As I have not yet had my arm bitten off by a glass of Shiraz I chose the former. Maybe next time Jaws.

    Sydney

    As Australia is quite a trek, Peter and those excellent folks at Oddbins moved my flights about so I could stay in Oz for the best part of two weeks. I spent the first week with my cousin Andrew and his girlfriend Pen in Sydney and, between reptile parks, 360 degree dining and a few beers in ‘Crowy’ (a suburb in Sydney) we also found time to hit some wineries, before commencing the rest of the trip. I was so excited I could crush a grape – which I did, but more of that later….

    After a quick flight to Adelaide we were met by Peter Saturno and, after somehow managing to keep pace with him in our Hyndai i20 hire car, we arrived at the beautiful Longview Vineyards. We were housed in one of the new eco lodges at the vineyard, which was fantastic and housed an array of great wines. Not only that but it was also overlooking a block of Pinot Noir vines… appetite suitably whetted we met Peter and his brother and partner in crime, Mark, in the dining room for dinner. We chatted like old friends around a roaring fire and enjoyed an array of delicious dishes including rare beef, salads and roasted vegetables.

    Longview

    We kicked things off with a tour of the Longview winery, which involved some grape picking, squashing and tasting, checking out the various blocks of vines and watching two Grey Kangaroos hop away after a free sip of the Nebbiolo. Throughout our stay, we got our laughing gear around the other Longview wines, including the Red Bucket Semillon Sauvignon Blanc, which took this classic white Bordeaux blend to new heights with its fresh citrus flavours and zippy acidity. The Whippet Sauvignon Blanc , which had fresh lemon with elderflower and herby notes, with a lovely restraint and elegance but that burst of up-front deliciousness the Aussies do so well. The smooth berry flavours of Red Bucket Shiraz-Cabernet/Sauvignon followed by the minted blackcurrant and spice of Devil’s Elbow Cabernet Sauvignon and then the decadent raspberry and pepper of Yakka Shiraz. Yum. Our final day in the Adelaide Hills had come too soon, so it was with regret that we bade goodbye to our wonderful hosts (although we cheered up when we were given a bottle of the juicy megalith that is The Piece Shiraz [available in selected Oddbins] to take with us (yesssss)!

    Steve

    Our trip to Eden Valley saw us acquainted with the laid back and wonderfully affable Bob and Cherie Berton of Berton Vineyards. After a quick beer and a chat we made our way over to the restaurant at Peter Seppelt Wines. We had a pretty racy and citrusy Riesling to kick things off then shared a wonderful array of wood-fired pizzas, washed down with a drop or two of Shiraz before we headed back to Berton.

    After a critically important lie in Bob, Cherie, my wife Steph and I drove to the Murray River where we enjoyed a rather lovely Berton Vermentino with fish and chips before going back for a wonderful slow roast lamb dinner with more excellent Shiraz and Cherie helped Steph dispose of a white tail spider which had joined us via our suitcase.. We then repaired to the lounge where Bob attempted to tutor me in the ways of Australian Rules football. To no avail. A great day though and a nice relaxing final day before we had to prepare for our flight back home.

    As Bob had to get back across Australia to take a flight to the UK, Steph and I used the time to make sure no more errant spiders had made their way into our cases. We then hit the road and had an excellent lunch at Lou Miranda Estate of light, crispy calamari and some excellent Pinot Grigio. Sadly it was then time to head back to the UK but with a head and heart full of wonderful memories of great food and wine and incredible people. And about half a stone to lose.

    Thanks to everyone for such a fabulous trip but especially to Peter and Mark Saturno and Bob and Cherie Berton – and of course Oddbins – for making this dream journey a reality.

    Cheers!

    ***You can find Oddbins’ range of Longview Wines in-store and here and our range of Berton Vineyards wines in-store or here***

  • ART, USAIN BOLT AND THE FICKLENESS OF VALUE

    1 August, 2014

    Value is a fickle thing. If spotted on the arm of a Middleton sister, the price of a seemingly bland handbag can skyrocket faster than Usain Bolt leaving Glasgow after calling the Commonwealth Games ‘a bit s**t’, while house prices in Lancashire drop as quickly as you can say ‘fracking is dangerous and dirty’. Salvador Dalí was a master at manipulating value and, after taking friends out to dinner, would often do a sketch on the back of the cheque, pretty much safe in the knowledge that it wouldn’t be cashed as it was more valuable to them as a ‘Dalí original’. Our point? Value is what you perceive it to be. So, without wanting to do a Dalí and inflate opinion and therefore price, we’d like to show some appreciation to that unjustly under-valued sparkler; Cava.
    Cava is a prince among men. It is the only sparkling wine that, by law, has to be made the same way as Champagne. This ‘traditional’ method, which involves a second fermentation in the bottle, pretty much guarantees extra depth of character and finer bubbles. So why the blazes the prices aren’t higher, we know not. In this context, Cavas like Anna de Codorníu (£10.50) begin to look darn hot. The Codorníu family were the first Spaniards to use the traditional method and are something of experts at it; Anna de Codorníu, for example, is exceedingly Champagne-like, with a soft, well-balanced and refreshing palate, elegant citrus notes and fine, persistent bubbles. So, think of Cava like an eccentric aristocrat that runs around in a battered old Mini, giving no indication that they’re actually Lord Asquith Wellington Montagu the Second, tenant of Walsingham Court and owner of half of England.
    Now. All this is at odds with the fact that that Spanish food staple, tapas, is often hideously over-priced. We’ve seen grown men break down in anguished sobs, screaming “but it’s a street foooooood” when they see menus listing tapas at £8 per dish. That ain’t pretty. So, whaddaya do? You have a P-A-R-T-why? Because tapas, particularly seafood tapas, pairs brilliantly with Cava and, together, they can make for a great fiesta, for not a lot of pesetas (sorry, euros). Crispy calamari with garlic mayonnaise, for example, is a match made in heaven for Cava Renaixenca Brut (£11). Pronounced ‘rennay-shen-sha’, this is a Catalan set-up that has been in the Pons family for 250 years and, today, Joan and Pere Pons embrace both tradition and modern technology to great effect. This Brut Non Vintage has a gently playful fizz, subtle creamy notes from the 20 months spent ageing on its ‘lees’ (used yeast), combining with a gorgeously cool, thirst-quenching rush of green fruit.
    For the next six weeks, Oddbins will be looking at the Art of Wine. For it is made by skilled craftsmen who must balance a number of elements and its aim is to stimulate the senses; who says it isn’t art? If a load of bricks on the floor of Tate Modern – or ‘Equivalent VIII’ by Carl Andre to give it its proper title – constitutes art, then we’re darn sure our next Cava does. Shimmering gold, with copper reflections and exquisitely fine bubbles, we’d go so far to say that Torre Oria Reserva (£9.50) is the Gustav Klimt of the wine world. *Rubbing our hands and warming to our theme* which would make the gentle brush strokes of Anna de Codorníu a Claude Monet and the playful, cool Cava Renaixenca an Alexander Calder mobile. Excellent. Wine is so much easier than art. But what do you think? Finish the statement “Wine is easier than art because” on Twitter, using the hashtag #WineVsArt, to win a bottle of Champagne.

    And not one ear was cut off in the writing of this email – there’s one reason wine is easier than art for a start…

    ‘Til next time.

  • WE ARE ALL ARTISTS

    22 July, 2014

    We have some shocking news: we don’t really care for convention at Oddbins.
    OK, maybe you already knew that. Anyway, that’s why we’re going to be a tad random start this newsletter with a poem:
    We are all artists
    Nothing’s the same in black and white
    Use your own colours and create your own light
    Don’t doubt your colour is you
    Never change the slightest hue
    What would the sea be if it lost its blue?
    This poem sums up how we feel about wine. At its best, we feel a wine should shine through with local character – ‘regional typicity’ as wine folk say – and with the character of the winemaker. When this happens, you’ve got wine gold and we are well chuffed to have been named High Street Chain of the Year 2014 by the International Wine Challenge (IWC) for stocking wines that do just that. So saying, let us introduce you to some IWC award-winning wines that really do create their own light…
    First up is Janeil Gros Manseng/Sauvignon Blanc 2013, a zingy, floral belter from the southwest of France, which scooped Gold at the IWC 2014 awards. Although ‘Gros Manseng’ sounds less like a grape and more like an unflattering description of a singer, the producer declares this local variety loud and proud on the label and quite right too: it’s a gorgeous example of this unique grape. Or, as the less florid judges put it, ‘Fresh lemon, apple, pear and grass. Zesty with balancing fruit richness. Great drinking.’
    Speaking of staying true to yourself, we’ve got some advice for Newsnight’s new anchor, Evan Davies: don’t try to be Paxo, yo. More news puppy than news hound, Evan is a nice bloke and it’s going to plain weird if he starts spluttering and yelling at interviewees that they still haven’t answered the question. Instead, we think Evan should follow the example of Luís Lourenço, the maker of Quinta dos Roques, and bring his own style to proceedings. Made from the classic Dão varieties Touriga Naçional, Jaen, Alfrocheiro, as well as Tempranillo, this is a proud example of the chunky, soulful reds that Dão does so well. Plus, the 2011 has just won Gold at the IWC 2014 and is the IWC’s Portuguese Red Wine Trophy Winner. It is for wines like this that we have, *dusts off black tie awards dinner outfit*, also won the IWC Specialist Merchant of the Year Award for Portugal. Yieah, boi!
    And lastly to a wine, a man and a city that all have splendidly strong, idiosyncratic personalities. We are speaking, respectively, of Viña Leyda ‘Falaris’ Chardonnay, Joe Wadsack and Glasgow. Viña Leyda were the pioneers of winemaking in Chile’s now desirable, cool-climate Leyda Valley, which was named after them in 1997. The cooler climate means they can make more nuanced wines such as this Chardonnay, which has a captivating mineral streak running through the ripe melon and guava fruit, and which won Bronze at the IWC 2014. This was one of the wines that former RAF pilot-turned-wine writer and educator, Joe, put on tasting at The Palate Semi Final Boot Camp in Glasgow last weekend and wowed the contestants. A spectacularly energetic, crazy man, showing a pioneering wine, in a bustling, fiercely proud city: a triumphant triad of ‘regional typicity’ and unabashed personality, we think you'll agree.
    Ciao for now.
  • THE WAR OF THE WORLDS, A RIGHT ROYAL CARRY ON AND THE (CORNISH) MINORITY REPORT

    The world is scary and, quite frankly, the news does nothing to help. They could give us more heart-warming stories about kittens but, oh no, they have to tell us about Eastern European conflict that’s threatening to destabilise the entire continent. It’s like Orson Welles famous The War of the Worlds radio broadcast from the 30's all over again – except that whilst the US public was huddled under the kitchen table with the misguided assumption that aliens had landed, we’re huddled under the table in justified fear. So, we say, shun the news-stand, turn off the radio and telly and enjoy an alternative take on the news from yours truly, via the medium of delicious wine and whisky. So much better than actual news.
    Whilst Kate and Wills proudly parade young George around Australia and the press coo at his every hiccup and marvel at the wisdom of Kate’s choice of dress, we have a slightly different bundle of joy for you. It is not teething and its surname isn’t Windsor, but it sure is cute: it’s Oddbins’ Spring Breeze Mixed Case. It’s a selection of bright ‘n’ breezy wines for the bargainous price of £50, including the eternally popular, pear-scented Prosecco Ca’Rosa (£10), so you can raise a glass to George (and his dragon-bothering namesake, if you didn’t do so on Wednesday).
    Speaking of national pride, we now turn our beady eye to Cornwall, with the news that, as the BBC put it, ‘Cornwall is not England’. Yes, the region has won its battle for minority status, in recognition that there’s more to Cornwall than pasties and the grumpy yet affable Doc Martin. Great news for Cornwall. But, though we love them and they have the best regional flag ever, we are going to disagree with Tori here. We think we've spotted one down-side; Ireland, Wales and most definitely Scotland all produce famous whisky, so if they’re joining the gang in their official minority status, we reckon this is a ‘could do better’ area. Scotland has new malts coming out of ears, such as Flaughter, from anCnoc (the C’s silent, the flavours aren’t). anCnoc usually offer a more gentle, honeyed Highland style, but Flaughter (£55) is a new arrival that combines come-hither vanilla and toffee flavours with smoky, manfully peaty notes. Take heed Cornwall!
    Now. If we offered you six years’ pay for only 10 months’ work, you’d take it, right? Well unlike Manchester United’s remarkably well-remunerated former manager, David Moyes, you’re not quite so lucky. But – ta da – we have an alternative offer to ease your bitter disappointment. How about the chance to win one of two pairs of tickets to the terrifically trendy (people still say terrific, don’t they?) Meltdown festival this summer for simply subscribing to this newsletter (i.e. for doing nought).  Not bad eh? The winners will be announced in the next email, so stay tuned.

    Anyhoo. If we’ve managed to coax you from under the kitchen table in the tentative hope that the apocalypse isn’t nigh, then why not celebrate with a glass of the luscious, star anise, cinnamon and blackberry-flavoured antidote to unpleasant news that is Domaine de l’Arnesque’s Côtes du Rhône ‘Fleur de Garrigues’ (£9.25). And… relax. Just stay away from the radio.

    ‘Til next time.

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