Archive for the ‘Miscellaneous’ Category

We’ll Dink a Dink a Dink to Lily the Pink

Thursday, September 19th, 2013

There are pills to cure anything, right? Even a hangover.

Remember RU21 – the pill of choice for ‘Russian secret agents’ whose main role in life is to sleep with their victim (in the biblical sense), lull them into a false sense of security, and then outsmart them in the morning by planting a tarantula in their sock and sneaking out through the toilet window? Well, there’s a new kid on the block. Dink. I was sent some to try out.

Dink when you drink...for some reason for which I have forgotten

The mission: get really pissed at a charity dinner in Newcastle, go to bed at 2am. Take a three hour train journey to London the next day, on which prepare a board pack and write important notes to several customers. Have several conference calls, a 16:30 meeting with an industry analyst, a beer with a colleague and get a two hour train journey home on which tidy up the day’s emails and write this article. What could possibly go wrong?

Well, here I am, on the train, writing. I’ve nailed my day. I am still awake. OK,  not doing star jumps or writing a thesis on Smithsonian economics. But I have survived.

RU21 is good, but it’s difficult to source (in the UK at least). A heavy night will see you consume up to 10 tablets, so you better put your discreet trousers on or people will think you are doing Es. Dink does the same job and, like RU21, weighs in at about £3 per hangover. It is more discreet, though.

If you’ve got a heavy night entertaining customers and you need to outsmart them in the morning, take three yellow tabs before you imbibe. Take three black ones at the end of the night. Get through your next day much better than you would have. Be aware that chickens come home to roost. You will need plenty of sleep on night two.

Over-chill your wines when the sun is out

Tuesday, July 9th, 2013

If the temperature in the north of England exceeds 20ºC (about 68ºF), we declare an immediate heatwave. Our local council issues emergency supplies of sunscreen and an army of ice cream vans is deployed, much in the same way that road gritters are when it snows. Absence rates at work soar and air conditioning units fail as they finally make a diffident, laboured switch from heating to cooling.

I write this in West Yorkshire, where temperatures today headed towards 30ºC/86ºF. Panic stations.

Half of my current worklife is spent in Florida where, at such temperatures, people reach for their woollen socks, and fur coats sell faster than beach towels.

In either geography, one thing to remember is that wine rises in temperature almost as quickly as mercury. That cheeky young Claret, opened at 16ºC, hits 25 in ten minutes of hot sun. A zingy Sauvignon Blanc, carefully crafted by Jane Hunter, or one of her countrymen, turns flat and lifeless, worthless, unless kept below 10 degrees. So, what can we do?

I recommend chilling any wine much cooler than serving temperature, and pouring in small measures. A barbecue at Wino Towers last weekend saw my Rhone red in an ice bucket for the duration of the afternoon. (OK, I lied, it took two bottles to last the full afternoon).

Try to keep your glasses out of direct sun and above all, drink as quickly as possible. At least this will make you forget how bad warm wine tastes.

Château Jouaninel, 2009

Tuesday, November 6th, 2012

I had a long overdue mooch around Majestic recently. To be perfectly honest, a large proportion of the wines were predictable old fellas. But search hard enough and there are some real gems. I managed to walk out with 15 bottles having lightened my wallet to the tune of £222 (a double Nelson, for the cricketers out there).

One notable success story was this Fronton from the Deep South of France. Barely registering on the fruitometer, the overwhelming and delicious flavour is of a freshly baked rosemary focaccia served on an earthenware plate and drizzled with olive oil. Herby rather than fruity, and rich and spicy, it went superbly with a pepperoni pizza. £7.99 or £6.99 for two or more bottles.

I must also award a WART Medaille d’Or for a recommended drinking temperature clearly displayed on the back label. 17 Celsius is the advice. That’s at least five degrees cooler than your living room. Please chill a little. I’d actually open it at 15° and let it warm.

If you are a Majestic fan, look out for more wine notes on this blog over the next few weeks.

Drink up your wines before you die (or they do)

Monday, July 30th, 2012

Buying wine for laying down is fraught with problems. Aside from the financial investment, and whether it would have actually been cheaper to buy that 1990 claret when you wanted to drink it, rather than cellar it away for 25 years in the hope it’s not oxidised or corked, the storage is a bit of a pain. Also, not all wines age well. In fact, very few should be drunk more than 5 years or so after the vintage date.

I’ve found this out to my cost in a recent exploration and dredging of the nether regions of my wine rack and combine harvester. Over a period of at least four weeks, every alternate bottle has been used to clean the sink rather than rinse my liver. An expensive mistake.

There have been some pleasant surprises. For example, a 2002 Labouré-Roi Meursault tasted of fresh pineapple and lemon despite a recommended drink-by date of 2008.


Amo, amas Amara

Friday, July 6th, 2012

Posh lifestyle website, contacted me to ask what I thought of Riedel glasses. I’m a massive fan and already own most of the Vinum range.

“What about wine accessories then?” I have tried most gadgets thanks very much.

“OK, then have you heard of a wine developer?” Er, no, that’s a new one, can you mail one over? I received a text the next day. Apparently my driver (Dave) was to deliver the item between 17:31 and 18:31 on the 13th. A simple number texted back and Dave would divert and come back another day. Why can’t more online retailers be so accurate and so flexible with delivery times?

Browsing the Amara website is not a thing to do with an Amex Black Card in your hands, despite the fact that I found three Bugattis for sale that even I could afford. But if you are a wino, or foodie, or want to buy a present for the decadent one in your life, it is a place to look for all sorts of luxury items. A set of excellent Wüsthof chef’s knives at £368 is about RRP. I have a set already after re-mortgaging and visiting a top end kitchen equipment shop in Leeds.

Amara’s Riedel stemware is at the top end of the range of prices you will find online. Nothing is cheap. It would be disappointing if it was. This is a luxury website bravely punting the oenological or epicurean equivalent of meteor strike insurance.

But, if London property and restaurant prices continue to hold up at such levels, and if this marriage trend takes off, the website has a market and it would be nice to see it succeed.

As for the ‘Developer’, a device from l’Atelier du Vin, the concept is brilliant. A combination of the theory that H2S can be reduced through contact with metal, and the well trodden advantages of aerating wine before drinking, it’s a carved ball bearing that you slip into the neck of your decanter before transferring the wine. I’d like to think it works, but sadly it doesn’t fit any of my decanters.

Oh well, perhaps I’ll get that credit card out and browse the Amara website….

Vinsobres Domaine Chaume-Arnaud 2009

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Rhone wines can be easily overlooked, and yet many rival the finest Bordeaux, as anyone who has tried Hermitage La Chapelle will tell you.

This Vinsobres comes from the Southern Rhone, is inky in colour and robust, spicy, tannic and plummy in taste. It’s a George Galloway of a wine. Feisty, intelligent, slightly unbalanced and available for purchase. Which you can do at Berry Bros. and Rudd for £14.95. At this price it’s a steal, but, unless you like wines that go with a blue steak, or that make you feel like you are doing a Vito Corleone impression with wet tea bags in your cheeks, I would recommend holding on for a few more years or so before drinking.

Is Riedel right about wine glasses? Château Filhot taste test

Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012

The venerable Austrian wine glass maker, Georg Riedel, has made a mistake. I know this to be a fact because I have just done a taste test on a bottle of 2001 Château Filhot that I’ve been saving for a while. Riedel recommends a 416/33, otherwise known as a Vinum Sauvignon Blanc (left) for the noble rotten wines of Sauternes. I’ve just received a brace of Rheingaus (right), or 416/1 to the librarians amongst you, as a present. So I thought I would do a taste comparison and, what a shock!


Hopeless diet

Friday, January 13th, 2012

January offers up endless possibilities for abstinence, pain and misery. When it comes to 2012 new year torture, my weapon of choice is a diet with the simple objectives of losing a bit of weight and getting fitter.

It is amazing that simply giving up alcohol (especially beer) and fried potatoes (chips, crisps etc) is enough to see me settle towards a more sensible weight. One that will give my knee ligaments a chance of survival as I occasionally pound the streets of city centre Manchester, trying to clear the smog from lungs that suffered cigarette smoke damage until 2003.

I’ve promised myself that I will re-introduce wine to my diet once I have lost half a stone. I’m already at 5lbs so things are looking promising. But I’ve just necked a Ruby Murray so tomorrow is another day on the treadmill.

Forgive the navel gazing. Normal wine service will resume soon.

The Star at Harome, North Yorkshire

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

If there’s one thing better than a pint of Black Sheep, it’s a pint of Black Sheep served in a cosy warm Yorkshire pub, after a long Sunday morning walk on the moors.

The Star at Harome is just such a warming and friendly establishment but with the added bonus of being a restaurant that serves game, fish and fine wines. Oh and it has won just about every “best gastro pub” award going including, at one point, a Michelin star. It’s grouse season and I might just be in heaven. I am going to pay a celestial price too, £111 (a Nelson) plus service is more than a trifle in this part of the world.

The Star at Harome


What to buy a Wino for Christmas

Sunday, December 4th, 2011

Do you know a wine snob? I bet he/she has so many hectolitres of wine in various nooks and crannies of their house that they have considered converting their lawn mower to run on ethanol.  Buying them another bottle seems superfluous.  In any case, choosing a wine for a wino is a bit intimidating and a very personal choice, so, in an effort to ease your pains, and maybe bag myself an odd Xmas present, here are a few non-wine items you could consider.