Considerably later this week than is my norm but forgive me, 24 hours, is a long time in Politics. A smattering of inbound goodies from Bordeaux and starting with a St-Émilion Grand Cru 2009 at £ 22.50 (10 cases) and graduating right across the other famous Bordeaux communes. Also Premier Cru (Red) Burgundy 2010 from £ 22.00 and a smattering of other Pinot Noir & Chardonnay.
I have tried plenty this week but a couple that should feature next week: a tip-top Cahors Malbec and a Kiwi Pinot Noir. And depending upon price, maybe a 5-grape Bordeaux blend from Paarl, South Africa.
Despite the ongoing rollercoaster of the £-E we are mitigating out any price increases on at least 80% of wines and bizarrely on a couple of wines, even a lower price.
Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition. Yet given these last two years, perhaps we should have. Still, so few calling it that it doesn’t inspire too much confidence in the pundits. After voting three times yesterday I was going to do my usual thing and go to bed early but on a hunch I decided to flick on the idiot box at 10 o’clock. Still haven’t been to bed. Instead of settling upon that middle class staple, Aunty Beeb, I was reversing backwards from Sri Lanka’s solid win over India and thus stumbled across I.T.V. and the next 8¾ were, a lost night’s sleep. It was riveting, to a degree and a bit like the Eurovision without the music. I have to say that Tom Bradby performed with consummate ease and for my shilling was lighter, brighter, more seamless than the B.B.C. His comment “the loser was the winner and the winner the loser” was pretty apt yet the best insight I think came from David Blunkett. Wasn’t expecting that.
Having two political exes, George “Little” Osborne & Ed “Strictly” Balls was a good call and they behaved with comparative and rare civility to each other. The best insight I think came from David Blunkett. Wasn’t expecting that. Interesting times that is for certain. First Downton Abbey now outgunning David Dimblebey. Whatever next?
Two lots of customers appeared this week to say that they had just rolled out of Six, Portland Road so I felt compelled to go. We are not talking Michelin Start here but a simple, neighbourhood local and with an above average 3-course lunch for £ 18.50 (Kensington Place at £ 25.00), definitely worth the slide down the hill into Holland Park. It was a firm reminder of how France was to eat out 25-30 years ago. Simple, honest, Prix Fixe. A mish-mash on the wine list but in amongst, a good half-a-dozen with tempting bottle-age (1995 Chinon; 1998 Mas de Daumas Gassac; 2004 Nebbiolo; 2008 Chianti & Gevrey) my top-end temptation was Barbaresco “Pajé” 2011 Roagna at £ 97.00. Not cheap but you’d easily pay £ 65-75 off a shelf. Add a nought to the bill and you could instead have dinner for three at Koji, with one drink each and good though it is, still continue eating afterwards at home. Koji is just by Parson’s Green. £ 18.20 (+ service) for a G&T (Monkey 47) typically helps to make this an annual pilgrimage rather than a weekly endeavour for me. Shame.
Wednesday 21st June (5-9 p.m.) - Kensington Church Street – Open Evening
Sunday 9th of July (Noon kick-off) – The Churchill Arms Street Party
Nine different Burgundies due in today alone. New Provence Rosé too. Just swing by if you can.
Not cheap but a truly elegant Californian Chardonnay, Beaune-like dare I say and one rare success from a full two hours tasting 35-40 Californ-i-a’s:
Schug “Carneros, Sonoma” Chardonnay 2014 at £ 28.50 per Bottle
84 Bottles due in tomorrow
Well, for fifty years I have viewed Kensington as the centre of my World and thus, the true centre of London. I was therefore a little surprised to pick-up an 1888 book of “Kensington, Picturesque & Historical” and find the opening paragraph describes Kensington as “Suburbia”! In it are maps from 1837 and huge swathes of RBK&C were green fields. Pembroke Square stands isolated with Scarsdale Villas etc., not even imagined. 20-30 Houses around Earl’s Court Farm, a few more on Chelsea’s Fulham Road but South Kensington and Knightsbridge below the Park was farmland. The beautiful villas on Addison Road were only on the East side, the opposite of today. ThePhillimore Estate was a mere three fields and Sheffield Terrace to pretty much Holland Street was in isolation, Camden House. Brunswick & PGT etc., was Sheffield House, again in isolation. One local customer whose house is featured in this book is donating to my Charity Swim just to prise this book from my grasp. I will keep the book ‘til mid-next week just in case any locals wish to spy their current address as bricks & mortar or grass & dirt.
That leads me on to my 333 lengths Charity Swim last Sunday. The support was magnificent and just to clarify to two queries (Catherine / Tom), no, this was not achieved on a lilo! We currently have £ 4,706.00 already (plus a further £ 761.50 Gift Aid) from 41 donors and a further 10-15 have pledged circa another £ 1,000. A huge thank you to you. If you happen to give “anonymously” in the Virgin page, at least let me know when you do so I can tick-off those already pledged. I feel a Huntsworth Party in celebration in June.
The last few weeks have seen too many losses, both near and far. One of whom was my age exactly. Amongst the several favours, one was to put me in touch with a Cuban gardener by the name Yecel. Thank you Ann. When he came to the U.K. there was a question of Council Housing but his response was, “I have come to this Country, I am not going to take a house, we are going to work, earn, and buy a house”. And indeed he has. Nice guy, great work ethic. As a native of Kensington for half-a-Century plus I do often get asked “do you know a plumber…do you know…”, so if you happen to need a trusty gardener, please do call him. Yecel Acosta (07886 189 382).
Though rain is forecast I do at least feel like Summer is finally en route. As such, two classic Summer reds, though truly at either end of the spectrum:
Kaesler Vineyards “The Bogan” 2004 Barossa Valley, South Australia at £ 35.00 per Bottle
Here is the epitome of the perfect BBQ wine. Rich, ripe, intense berry fruit in this ballsy Barossa Shiraz. It has lost its fiery belly as the bottle-age has made this chewy offering age gracefully and mellow just a touch.
Not just the 10+ years bottle-age but 2004 is one of Southern Australia’s finest vintages. A bogan is derogatory Australasian slang for someone of uncouth appearance and or behaviour. So if you have any visiting Bruce & Sheila’s, an amusing little nod at least.
For those party minded, there is just one Double Magnum left at a comparatively modest £ 149.00. (92-95 points – Robert Parker)
Next up and one I thought we had long lost. One of my absolute favourite red Burgundy Vintages is 2010. More fruit-driven, purer examples surround but to me 2010 gives the clearest nod to the terroir variations of this temperamental but brilliant corner of France. When we last had this it was £ 33.50 on the shelf so a pound and a half up is not nothing but 2010 will continue, rapidly, to grow scarcer and we know what happens to prices when it does:
Nuits St-Georges “Les Lavières” 2010 Domaine Jean Chauvenet at £ 35.00 per Bottle
The opposite of The Bogan in that this is a pale, see-through, delicate Pinot Noir. A hint of Nuits St-Georges rusticity (character) but perhaps more like a Chambolle-Musigny without their touch of sweetness.
The alcohol level is the typical 13% but it doesn’t feel like it. This will acquit almost equally with a bloody steak as with fish. Classic cool-climate Pinot.
We had approximately 35 cases last year and they did not last long. Now we have a mere 72 Bottles, so don’t dilly-dally.
Both on the shelf.
Weekly wine news:
In just this very morning: Méo-Camuzet 2010; Barbaresco 2010; St-Émilion 1er Cru 1990; Magnums of 2010 red Burgundy…
Urbina 2001 is out-of-stock but we are shipping 480 Bottles directly from the Bodegas and would hope that these arrive late May, or by early June. On the shelf it will go up £1.00 but for any who had at £ 18.50 (and can remember!) we will still peddle this to you at the same modest £ 18.50.
Next week: having tasted a bevy of mostly overpriced Californian red and whites at the start of the week, a couple did stand out for that rare Californian combo, quality and price. As such I’ll lead next week with an elegant Chardonnay from Schug Sonoma Chardonnay which will replace our slightly more obvious Ramey Russian River as double-whammy, the prices have gone up 15%. The Schug will be a better fit.
With the outstanding 2014 White Burgundies just beginning to grow thin on the ground, it is imperative to seek out what you can, be that for drinking now or cellaring. Now the more widely available but much hyped 2015’s have merit indeed but in my little book, not to the uniform degree and classic heights that 2014 seems to possess. Last week we sold our last case of 2014 Jean-Noël Gagnard Chassagne-Montrachet. So here is a direct missing link to that:
Santenay “Les Hâtes” 2014 Domaine René Lequin-Colin at £ 25.00 per Bottle
I first tried this a fortnight back and blind thought it was a Chassagne-Montrachet. Mouth-puckering savoury, saline, grassy notes yet still a Chardonnay core.
The relative poor cousin to Meursault (power and opulence) and Puligny-Montrachet (refined and elegant) but Chassagne-Montrachet, albeit rustic in comparison, gives bags of flavour. Glassy, chewy, it holds your attention.
A half-decent Chassagne costs £ 36-44 so a young pretender at £ 25 is a real deal. In stock tomorrow.
“Chill Bill”. Huntsworth has just bought two new wine fridges and to make it easier for you we have a designated “In The Fridge” Page on our website! When the Celsius rises, you can check beforehand which wines we will have perfectly chilled. Any pre-orders for other wines can be put in our third fridge downstairs, given a modicum of notice.
As the BBQ season still looks to evade us I will bide my time ‘til next week. But then we will have both Bottles and Double Magnums of a legendary Barossa Valley Shiraz, from the fabled 2004 Vintage. High Parker score, perfectly aged and a sensible £ 35.00 for such a quality showing. Plenty at £ 15-20 for BBQ offerings if £ 35 is too lofty for your visiting hordes.
Again, miserable weather aside, we are anticipating the arrival, this very morning of our lead Provence Rosé,Château Des Chaberts “Cuvée Prestige”, in both Bottles and Magnums. Price unchanged from last year.
Busy week with four new offerings:
Perhaps another instance of marketing over sales but I am still remain not fully convinced by Guidalberto(Bolgheri, Tuscany). Nonetheless, as some of you insist on the likes of Château Miraval, Cloudy Bay etc., we do also have requests for Guidalberto, 24 bottles already delivered to Sheffield Terrace this morning, so I thought I’d at least let you know that this second wine of the absolute cult “Super Tuscan” classic, Sassicaia has arrived on our shop floor today. £ 28.50 on the shelf for the new 2015 Vintage.
Any Wine Merchant who says they can do everything is lying. Thus realistically we will have gaps. Gaps in Sherry; Vodka; regional Italian; some New World; and if truth be told, white wines in general. We have nearly three times the number of reds on our shelves. With summer en route I am determined to beef-up our range of whites, though they will have to hit the same high standards and criteria so expect a trickle not a flood. I have many Italians lined-up to taste over the next fortnight. And next week we’ll have a mid £ 20’s Burgundy (Santenay) that is a true match for mid £ 30’s Chassagne-Montrachet but for this week, our at times overlooked whites from the Loire. This region is not as enticing as Burgundy, Bordeaux, Rhône but do not switch off, these are good:
Anjou “Les Bergères” 2014 Famille Fournier-Longchamps at £ 17.00 per Bottle
Too many Loire whites are to me somewhat wishy-washy and that is why we have a fraction of the range compared with Burgundy. Here is a charming and understated Chenin-Blanc. Due in next week.
Pouilly-Fumé “Seduction” 2015 André Dezat at £ 23.50 per Bottle
We already stock the sappy and engaging Sancerre Rouge by Dezat but this is a serious step up. Fabulously enticing nose, rich, minerally but a gentle finish and no overt Sauvignon grassy overtones here. Terrific. In stock tomorrow.
Vouvray Petillant by Domaine Vigneau-Chevreux at £ 17.00 per Bottle
This was a real surprise for me. I don’t often venture out of Champagne when it comes to bubbles. And any of you who find Prosecco just too peachy, too much nail varnish like, this is another delight.
Petillant meaning it is a fraction of the bubbles of say a Veuve Clicquot but the clincher to me was the fabulous salinity in this Vouvray. An added bonus is that this is bio-dynamic
So when it is warm enough to dip your toes in the pool but like me you have a (natural) resistance to Prosecco or Cava, do try this. In stock tomorrow.
Easy come, easy go. We have stocked Ridge Vineyards for many years and strived to show them in their best light which we consider to be, with a touch of bottle-age. Sadly a change of policy means that these wines are only available to Independent Merchants “En Primeur” and ageing stock will only go to restaurants. Upon release, I think these wines are just way to bruising to put on the shelf. Not quite as bad as when Krug and Dom Pérignon Magnums are held back only for nightclubs and not for discerning private customers like you but not exactly putting best foot forward either. Other favourites will also fall by the wayside. When we gun for mainstays like the Brande-Bergère 2010 which we loosely describe as “a £16 wine that drinks like £20”, then a few Centimes rise can I feel be justified. But if a wine jumps by 10% and the ensuing Vintage is simply not as good then time to say au revoir. Au revoir therefore to Swan’s Russian River Pinot Noir as I just don’t see the 2013 as being worth £ 35 or so. I’ll be sampling many more non-Burgundy Pinots in the next month or two. Fingers crossed.
We still have the classic 2004 Vintage La Rioja Alta “904” at £ 36.00. Having spotted the just released 2007 Vintage at £ 44.00 at Oddbins last night and though we’d be about 10% below that price, I am still mulling over whether we should pile in with the same vigour as the 1995 & 2001 & 2004 Vintages. Judgement deferred.
Not unlike the La Rioja Alta is another wonderfully old-fashioned, backward, characterful, Pinot Noir brittle like Barbaresco 2013 from Produttori di Barbaresco. If you want textbook Nebbiolo and or Piedmont, this is it. A few cases arrived today. A couple of years back we had the 2010 Vintage at £ 27.00 and though this will go on the shelf at £ 29.50 later today, with a firm nod to that historic price we will do that at £ 27.50 for any weekly e-mail readers.
“Gentleman’s Claret” – traditionally this meant keeping a recognised Bordeaux for a benchmark twelve years before daring to touch. Well, bang on, this Friday we will have a fair smattering of 2005 Grand Cru Classé and top Cru Bourgeois, from Margaux, St-Julie, St-Estèphe, St-Émilion; Lalande-de-Pomerol; Haut-Médoc. From low £ 20’s to low £ 200’s. Currently out but another dozen cases of Château Brande-Bergère “Cuvée O’Byrne” 2010 back on the shop floor Friday.
When the Motorway ahead is clear and straight the temptation is to put it into top gear and floor it. Sometimes however it is perhaps wiser to drop down into third gear and pace oneself. Last week after winemaker dinners; birthday dinners; and customer wine tastings it was all a bit full-throttle. Like 2015 Burgundy, rich, ripe but at times a bit too full-throttle. As such I am taking a leaf out of that well-worn book and dropping down a gear to consider the pick of Mark Haisma’s 2013 and 2014. For those remotely concerned with global warming and just one side effect, higher alcohol levels, today’s offerings are both at a more sensible 13% abv. This coincidentally reminds me that I need to delve back into Thomas L.Friedman’s “Thank You For Being Late”.
For a big burly Aussie, Mark Haisma has always managed a very deft touch when he makes Pinot Noir. In no sense are they “colour by numbers”. If you want more old school, cooler, fresher Pinot these are certainly worth a look and not just for those Mark Haisma aficionados. He makes a handful of wines but these were my (and his) two picks for the respective vintages (and £1.00 each less than on the shelf):
Volnay “Les Grands Poisots” 2014 Mark Haisma at £ 35.00 per Bottle
Gevrey-Chambertin “Croix Des Champs” 2013 Mark Haisma at £ 36.00 per Bottle
(The Gevrey is already in stock; the Volnay due to follow tomorrow.)
Aged Australian: in any day now, some 2005 & 2006 Barossa Shiraz from a couple of legendary names just about to hit the floor. Speaking of legends, Dave Powell (formerly of Torbreck fame) came in obscenely early on Monday morning and I tried a range of his Powell & Son wines, mostly G.S.M., and a couple of relative successes will also follow in due course.
Château Beauchene, Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc 2016 has arrived after the speedy success of the 2015 Vintage.Fleurie (Villa Ponciago) also back on the shelf.
For those that do follow Instagram, we are on Huntsworth_wine and typically that is where you can first see my current picks and successes.