Thursday, November 30, 2023

Wine tasting New and Premium South African wines

WASP (Wine Appreciation Society, Penrith), Roundthorn Country House Hotel, Penrith. Thursday 30-November-2023.

It was fascinating to discover a new region of South African wines that we were previously unacquainted with, entertainingly presented by Preet Sahota of Edgmond Wines.

Our first ever trip to South Africa in 2008 was a safari, followed by a tour of the wine growing districts: Hermanus and Walker Bay, Franschhoek, Stellenbosch, Robertson and Constantia. They are all east of Cape Town out along the N2. 

These wines are from the Swartland region north of Cape Town out on the N7. The tasting was a rainbow assortment of all the main varieties produced in South Africa. 

Just as interesting as the wines was the presenter himself and the story of how he got into wines from working in his parents' village shop to discovering a passion for wine while at school, then specifically South Africa while at college and then starting his own business.

Wine, Grape variety, Vintage, ABV, Normal list price.
Preet's description
    • Mary's notes and ✱ star rating

1. Villa Esposto Sauvignon Blanc 2022 13% £24.95 
A debut release - From the renowned Skurfberg farm and planted in 1993 comes this delicious Sauvignon Blanc
    • Green, tangy, powerful; smooth, slightly oily, good body, good depth, balanced.

2. Blake Family Wines Chenin Blanc 2021 12.5% £14.95 
From a single vineyard planted in 1984, this is a complex old vine Chenin from the Swartland region
    • Floral, powerful, oily, slightly yeasty?; bit sharp, not as rich as nose, not very fruity. 

3. Villa Esposto Chenin Blanc 2022 12.5% £24.95 
From a single vineyard planted in 1982, this is a complex old vine Chenin from the Skurfberg
    • Light nose, closed, slightly spicy; more complex, richer, well, balanced, tropical fruit? Good length.

4. Blake Family Wines Malbec 2020  14% £14.95 
A real rarity to find a single vineyard Malbec from South Africa!
    • Light nose, closed, slightly spicy; more complex, richer, well, balanced, tropical fruit? Good length.

5. Villa Esposto Pinotage 2018 13.5% £24.95 
A one off parcel - From a single vineyard planted in 1998, this wine once again from the famed Skurfberg region
    • Light perfume, violets?; Soft velvety, soft tannins, good length.

6. Klawer Shiraz 2021 14.5% £11.95 
From the outstanding 2021 vintage and from four different farms - average age of vine 20 years 
    • Soft, sweet, slight peppery, vegetal; soft, fruity, ripe fruit, light.

7. Blake Amethyst Cape red blend 2018 15% £27.95 
A Cape Blend of the noble cultivars, Shiraz, Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon
    • Good nose, slight jammy, good soft fruit, soft tannins.

8. Villa Esposto Muscat d'Alexandrie 2021 8% £24.95 
A delicious sweet wine from a single vineyard planted in 1969 - the oldest vineyard I work with!
    • Toffee, raisins: sweet, yummy, raisiny, some acidity.

We bring our own glasses (or borrow from the hotel if forgotten). There is a spittoon for discarding unwanted wines but at 50cc per tasting measure I have no problem polishing them off. I was amused to note that the spittoons are actually plastic buckets with the handles removed - but hey! it that works why not?

This time we made an effort to be a little earlier so we could buy some raffle tickets and we won a bottle of wine (what else). 

As usual we abandoned the car and I had a chilly walk up in sub-zero temperatures to retrieve the car the morning after.

PS. Other wine tastings in South Africa:

Saturday, November 25, 2023

Pocklington Weekend

Pocklington, East Yorkshire. Saturday 25-November-2023.

We bought tickets to hear Martin Harley at Pocklington so decided to make a weekend of it and, guess what, plenty of parkrun choices nearby. We booked an Airbnb cottage for the weekend only a few minutes walk from the venue and restaurants in the town centre. Sandra and George joined us partly for the music and partly because of parkrun tourism.

Friday night was a meal at JJ’s Bar & Kitchen where George got a free Guinness so gave it the thumbs up.

Beverley Westwood 25/11/2023. 29:39 [97 / 219]

For a compass point for us and a B for Sandra, we chose Beverley Westwood parkrun over other possibilities in the area. 

Beautiful sunny morning but cold with a biting wind. Two laps of a very scenic course in a lovely park. The course took us round an old black windmill.

Two and a half laps, frosty and hilly. A bit up and down - even the undulations had undulations.

Huge thanks to the volunteers and especially the really cheerful Marshall stood on the coldest part of the course. 

The afternoon was spent in York at the Christmas Market using the excellent Park-and-Ride service. The town was heaving with happy shoppers. Finding somewhere for lunch was very difficult so we ended up with a sandwich in the M&S Cafe. Then, after a bit more shopping, it was back to Pocklington for a pre-concert supper at Pane E Vino, a popular Italian just two doors down from the venue.

Martin Harley at Pocklington Arts Centre. 

This is the fourth time we’ve seen Martin Harley. There were a number of other dates on this tour all of which involved a bit of a trek but this was on a Saturday night so we could double up with a parkrun. 

Once in the venue who should we bump into but friends from Penrith away for a weekend to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. It’s a small world!

Martin was as excellent as ever but it was not a sellout and we felt the audience were a bit muted. We enjoyed it and, despite already having the vinyl, bought three CDs so we could rip them to our digital music system.

Sunday morning was our usual bacon butties. There was was a Christmas market in town but it didn’t start till 1pm so we headed off home.

Sunday, November 12, 2023

City Break - Dublin 2023

Dublin, Ireland. Friday/Sunday 10/12-November-2023. 

A return visit to one of our favourite cities for the first time in a while. A weekend break ostensibly to buy a couple of wine glasses from Gibney's of Malahide. We have acquired several over the years and we like them because 

  1. They have a 175ml line which makes equitable pouring easy 
  2. If I use a plain glass we know which wine glass is Mary's

Over the years breakages meant we were down to our last one so off to Dublin to restock. Feeble excuse I know! We were joined by Sandra and George for a weekend of Guinness, parkrun, Guinness, fine dining and more Guinness. We stayed in the Grand Hotel in Malahide which is, in fact, the only hotel in Malahide.

Malahide 11/11/2023 28:49 [182 / 311]

I have done Malahide before - literally my second ever parkrun. Now Mary parkwalks we are playing catch up, ticking off locations that she had missed first time round and we were joined by Sandra. It was the 11th birthday of Malahide parkrun on the 11th of the 11th on a near perfect day. Complete with song led by Eric, RD from Belfast:

🎵You are my parkrun, my only parkrun
You make me happy when skies are grey
And when you're not on
You do my head in
Please don't take my parkrun away🎵

Sandra volunteered as parkwalker in the blue tabard.

Mary, as often, volunteered as tail walker.

After parkrun we had a brief stroll round the grounds of the castle which is the setting for the parkrun.

There were a number of tree-trunk carvings around the park including this impressive stag.

After parkrun it was back to the hotel for a shower then a trip to Gibney's to buy the wine glasses. Lunch was in a local cafe.

Saturday evening we went for a meal at Bloom, our favourite Dublin brasserie. Checking their records Padraig could confirm that we had been there seven times since Valentine's Day 2016.

As the Sunday forecast was for rain we decided to head into Dublin for a tour of the Guinness Storehouse which we last visited nearly 20 years ago. Lots had changed in that time so was well worth a second visit. 

Every visit ends with a pint of Guiness in their top floor bar with 360° views over Dublin.

Sunday lunch was at the oldest pub in Dublin, The Brazen Head, where many years ago we were locked in for the holy hour and had to ask to be let out to catch our plane.

More Guinness with excellent beef stew and dumplings.

This year we had a later flight so it was a leisurely return back to Glasgow and an overnight stay with Sandra and George before driving home to Penrith.

Thursday, November 09, 2023

Uncle Ralph - Paper-hanger

As previously blogged, Ralph lost his right arm just above the elbow in an industrial accident. Interior decorator was not the obvious career switch for a man under those circumstances but so he chose. It turned out to be a felicitous decision.

He lived in Queen's Club Gardens, Baron's Court, London as did most of his clients. The estate was built in the late 19th century when an entrepreneurial developer, William Gibbs acquired the land for his most ambitious project comprising 33 blocks with 548 flats, 3 staff flats and an office set around central communal gardens and two tennis courts, inspired by the new Queen's Sports Club which had opened in the 1880s. [1]. 

As a sitting tenant, he was given the option to buy his flat for a measly £10k (year unknown). He was uncertain whether he should do it, while the rest of the family screamed at him, do it! He did. Given the current prices of the property, that was a prudent move.

Ralph was never out of work. With that many flats word of mouth recommendation meant that it was like decorating the Forth Bridge; there was always another flat queuing up for his services.

I had to ask how he hung wallpaper. Apparently he pasted the paper, concertinaed it, balanced it on his head, went up the ladder, head-butted the wall with the end piece, used the stump to hold it in place and his good arm to position the drop as it unfolded.

I called upon Ralph to redecorate a bedroom when I lived in South Wimbledon. My main bedroom had had part of the room stolen to extend the original cupboard-sized bathroom on the landing and make it a decent size. The previous owners who did that also installed a second door from the bedroom so it could be used as an en-suite. 

As a result the false wall was missing coving along the ceiling (this was a late Victorian terraced house). I used a local company who specialised in replacement plasterwork to take an impression and extrude a new section to match, then fit. The room then needed re-decorating so I called in Ralph. 

He did an excellent job then performed a piece of magic. The new door to the bathroom was a modern flat one unlike all the other original Victorian panel doors. So he stuck four rectangles of beading to the door to fake the impression of panels. A simple trick but amazingly effective.

He had some t-shirts printed with the legend “One Armed Paper Hanger” one of which I acquired. One time I walked into a pub in Richmond, the barman looked at me and asked, "How is Ralph?"

At one point Ralph was in the running to be a movie extra in a pirate movie. In the days before CGI movie makers relied on practical effects. The proposal was that he would wear a papier-mâché arm filled with fake blood. Then in the fight scene his fake arm would be hacked off. Sadly it never came to pass. 

Thursday, November 02, 2023

Wine Tasting - Beaujolais

Bassenthwaite Lake Station, Cumbria. Thursday 02-November-2023.

I have a soft spot for Beaujolais as the first wine I ever remember knowing by name was Moulin a Vent (1975), see My Life In ... Wine. We don't drink a lot of Beaujolais but every now and again think "Ooh yes, we must buy some" and always enjoy them when we do. I was very much looking forward to renewing my acquaintance with this AOC.

The tasting was mostly in pairs which works for me. I like a compare-and-contrast tasting.

No. Name of wine. Shop or Supplier Retail Price Country ABV Vintage ✱ Mary's star rating

1 Coup de tete Chardonnay Majestic £8 France 13% 2020 
Light nose, unoaked, not very fruity, good acidity. Not a Beaujolais but a rare example of a white wine from the Beaujolais region.

2 Chassaux Gamay Aldi £6 France 13% 2022.
Light, but typical Gamay nose; soft, ripe red fruit, tannic. From the Ventoux region but made from the classic Beaujolais grape.

3 Chassaux et Fils Fleurie Aldi £9 France 13.5% 2022
Light, violets; tannic, not much fruit.

4 Domaine Pardon Fleurie Lakeland Vintners £22 France 13% 2022 
Fuller nose, plummy; smooth, tannic, bit closed; too young?

5 Chateau de Pierraux Brouilly Sainsbury's £14 France 13% 2021 
Slight green note; full bodied and flavourful, black fruit, some tannins and length. 

6 Henry Fessy Brouilly Lakeland Vintners £22 France 13.5% 2019 
Deeper more enticing nose; smooth, silky, lovely soft fruit flavours.

7 Chateau de Pizay Morgon Majestic £14 France 13.5% 2022 
Lovely nose, plummy, faint violets; smooth, yummy, deep dark fruits, good tannins and acidity.

8 Les 3 Madones Beaujolais Villages Majestic £7 France Villages 12.5% 2021 
Good nose; soft, plums, blackberry, tannic, medium body.

9 Moillard-Thomas Beaujolais Villages Majestic £12 France 12.5% 2021 
Typical Gamay nose; soft, fruity, easy drinking.

10 Raoul Clerget Beaujolais Majestic £11 France 13% 
Light nose, bright and juicy, classic entry level Beaujolais.

11 Les Iris Beaujolais Booths £11 France 12% 2021
Light nose, fresh-ish, aromatic, short.

12 Beaujolais Superieur Sainsbury's £11 France 12.5% 2021.
Lightish nose, smooth, light fruit, but tannic.

I would take issue with the sequencing. Normally wines are presented in order of price, quality, power or whatever if appropriate so that each wine is not shown at a disadvantage compare to the proceeding wine(s). You might expect the order to be Beaujolais, Beaujolais Superieur, Beaujolais Villages and then the Cru such as Fleurie, Brouilly and Morgan. In this tasting, the Cru wines were in the middle to the disservice of the perfectly serviceable wines following.

Another interesting tasting organised Simon and Diana. Some people are reluctant to shout out their thoughts on the wines so I like the way they solicited feedback by walking round the tables and then summarising for the assembled company. 

As previously we had booked a room at The Pheasant Inn just 5 minutes walk away; a wise move. 

P.S. We made a trip to Majestic in Carlisle a couple of days later to buy some of the Raoul Clerget Beaujolais and the Chateau de Pizay Morgon.