Archive for March, 2011

Sharrow Bay, Ullswater, Cumbria

Friday, March 25th, 2011

If you have just scaled England’s third highest mountain via Striding Edge, slipped and nearly died, wished that you owned a pair of crampons, nearly shat yourself, and in the process built up a hunger hole the size of one of Sherpa Tenzing’s footprints, you could do worse than get your scram at one of the poshest hotels in the lake district, the self proclaimed inventor of sticky toffee pudding.  Make sure you take your Amex Black Card, though.  And check you are still in possession of your arms and legs on the way out.


STWC Wino gold customer service award

Tuesday, March 22nd, 2011

It seems my one man Twitter war against Virgin Trains is becoming a misnomer.  Twitter is getting ever fuller of people who are fed up of the poor customer service.  “At least their trains run on time” I hear you cry, and you have a point.  But the buffet is awful, the carriages always stink of toilets, the seats are uncomfortable, the seat reservation system rarely works, you will puke up if you try to use a laptop or read a book for more than 20 minutes (on a swaying Pendolino), and the pricing and peak hours policies are bizarre and unfathomable.

So, it is excellent to be able to highlight a company at the other end of the customer service spectrum.  My occasional orders are not going to make  Sunday Times Wine Club (Laithwaites) most valuable customer roster, but when I do see a deal I snap it up.  It does a super range of well priced en-primeur offers amongst other tempting goodies.

I always order in confidence because of their “no-quibble” guarantee and have always been very happy with the way any bad bottles are dealt with. 

But, I stretched this philosophy to what I though might be the limit recently.  I rang to report that three bottles in a mixed 2007 en-primeur Chianti case looked suspect.  The corks were protruding from the bottle in a way that suggested overheating.  I’ve opened enough bottles in my life to know this is not generally a good sign.

Shall I open one to see if it is drinkable?  I asked the polite girl on the end of the phone.  Maybe you would like me to return them?  Perhaps I should email you a photo?

None of the above were acceptable.  Instead, having checked the stocks, and regretfully informed me that the particular wine was no longer available, she merely asked what I would like as a replacement (or refund).  I suggested that a similar 2007 Chianti of her choice would be just fine.  She promised to consult the Fine Wine Advisers and get three bottles posted to me pronto. (See what I did there?)

That was all yesterday and today I received a confirmation that 3 bottles of Felsina Berardenga are on the way.  I can’t tell you how surprised, shocked and pleased I am.

Le Café Anglais Oyster Bar, London

Friday, March 11th, 2011

I’ve been impressed by Café Anglais on a number of occasions but I thought it was famous for roast chicken, and not particularly great for solo diners.  So, ever since they emailed me to say an oyster bar had opened I’ve been itching to try it.


Château de Nervers, Brouilly, 2009

Monday, March 7th, 2011

I am in the envious position of having tickets to see Elbow in their home town on 25 March.  So tonight, Matthew, I’m doing a bit of cramming.

Have you heard the new Elbow album?  It was released today and I downloaded it from iTunes for the princely sum of £10.99.  Listening to it now, I am not yet totally enamoured.  But that almost certainly means that, with two or three more listens, I will love it.  Guy Garvey’s sharp “northern” lyrics combined with soulful melodies seem to appeal as much to men, as to women, despite the music being a bit soft for Northern blerks.  I’d like to see Guy proclaimed King of Manchester and maybe I’d share a curry with him at Akbars, the most royal of Manchester Ruby restos.

The self proclaimed King of Beaujolais, Georges Duboeuf, sent me some Brouilly, via the Wine Society who debited my account to the rather commonly sum of £8.75.  Château de Nervers, Brouilly, 2009, is from a legendary Bojo vintage.  Do you believe the hype?


A little Antipodean chess diversion

Friday, March 4th, 2011

Do you know Wino Sapien?  A doctor from Perth with excess intelligence and wit and more wine expertise than me.  You should read his blog.

I’ve been getting to know him a little too well.  We may both be deep into mid life crises, since we agreed to play postal chess.  No, not internet, nor even email chess.  Postal.  SNAIL MAIL!  The game has been going for nigh on 6 months and this is the rather paltry progress made in some varation of Queen’s gambit declined, that I don’t understand.

Slow, I know, but outrageous fun in an English eccentric sort of way.

Black to move – will you offer him any help?  Maybe he has already posted.  Such is the speed of 1970’s technology. If you want to laugh along, I dare say Ed might keep you up to date occasionally as well.  If you are into Chess I advise you to look away or be horrified.  You have been warned.

Normal wine service will be resumed soon…