Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Now THIS back label won't get any dispute from me
"dark, silky and deeply delicious. This full bodied and muscular blend has a coffee roast bitterness at its core. Speciality sugar adds a distinctive toffee flavour to this sleek and smoky mature porter"
5/5 rating from me 

HATHERWOOD The Purple Panther Porter 5% a/v 
Lidl Own Label 
£1.25 at Lidl [500ml] 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

HATHERWOOD The Green Gecko IPA 500ml

The back label promises "a tropical thunder storm of big flavour new world hops" that just doesn't wow me as much as I hope from an IPA. A gentle drizzle maybe?

3.5/5 rating from me 
HATHERWOOD The Green Gecko IPA 5% a/v 
Lidl Own Label 
£1.25 at Lidl [500ml] 

Monday, August 29, 2016

RIBOLLA GIALLA - is it contagious?

There are more than 2000 grape varieties used to make wine throughout the world. Some have many names and there's plenty of genetic confusion but I've never encountered RIBOLLA GIOLLA before. Plus I reckon this is my first ever taste of a Slovenian wine. The jury is still out on both.

This is an interesting blend with Sauvignon Blanc and it's about as far removed from the New Zealand version as Coca Cola. It's a little bit chunky but still well worth considering. There's more palate weight than the back label suggests and I don't quite see the "soft elegant finish". 

If you want to experiment I thoroughly recommend it.
3.5 rating from me

Krasno 2015 Sauvignon Blanc/Ribolla Gialla 
£6.99 from Majestic

Sunday, August 28, 2016


FREIXENET CORDON NEGRO £5.06 [at Sainsbury's with the current 25% discount]

This Spanish success story has been around for a long,long time and has claims to being the biggest selling in the world.
At this price it deserves to be offering quality that is far above what you'd expect. It's clean, crisp and dry with enough complexity to satisfy more demanding tastes - without scaring off anyone looking for a simple quaff

MY VERY FIRST TASTE OF 2016 - from the Casablanca Valley

Every year there's a special moment when you taste the very first wine from that year's vintage. For the first time EVER it's from Chile. And what a spectacular start it is.

For starters the wine is an absolute cracker. Hugely aromatic with masses of florals leading to a dry mid weight palate and enough acid to keep it in balance. But it gets better. This actually aged beautifully over three days and that gave me plenty of time to read the back label.

Apparently only 1% of Chilean wines are planted to Gewurztraminer [there should be more] and apparently one vine produces enough grapes for a bottle. Puts an interesting perspective on the price.

4.5 rating [because not everyone like gewurz]

"One to One" 
2016 Old Vines Gewurtztraminer 

from Majestic

Saturday, August 27, 2016


So on yet another visit to see what wines Majestic have on tasting, The Bride is inspired to ask "What rose would you recommend?" And that's the great thing about Majestic - everyone knows what they're talking about and £140 later we leave.

Unfortunately in a lifetime of wine retailing I was seldom asked that question but my answer was always "Are you sure that's what you want? Why don't you just put a bit of a chill on a decent red" . I struggle with the point of rose. So much of the character of red grapes is in the skin so why discard that for a pretty pink colour. They're inevitably in a clear bottle to show off this pretty pink and while they aren't made to age the clear bottle just means they teeter into aged oblivion very quickly.

To Mr Majestic's credit all these wines met the brief almost perfectly. They were crisp. lean, plenty of acid and DRY but where was the fruit. All beautifully made roses, all a little over the odds in price and all very recommendable if that's what you're looking for.
3.5/5 rating from me [probably less from TB]

Minuty 2015 Cotes de Provence £9.99

Commanderie de Peyrassol 2015 Cotes de Provence £9.99
Chateau Pigoudet 2015 La Chapelle Cotes de Provence £8.99


When I was retailing I never ever had a 25% off wine sale - my margins were much lower than that so I would have been losing money. A couple of my supermarket competitors in Australia regularly held 30% off sales. Their prices were so high to begin with they could afford to. To Sainsbury's credit they offer the 25% off their regular prices AS WELL AS their weekly specials.

We grabbed a few samples to test as well as stocking up on our old favourites like this

Sainsbury's Winemakers' Selection 2015 Malbec is just as impressive as their 2014 release. 

Spicy, savoury and beautifully balanced.
But there is a serious problem with this wine - it's so quaffable that the bottle will be knocked off before you get a chance to appreciate how outstanding it really is. Which is why I disagree with their back label recommendation to "consume this bottle within a year of purchase". Let it breathe for a few hours or drink it over three days [challenging, I know]
At £5 it's an outstanding bargain. With a further 25% off on a straight or mixed six you won't buy better at a mere £3.75
At this price an indisputable 5/5 rating from me


If I was looking for a hand pulled draught beer to drink at home this would do me nicely. It's a rich amber ale proving, once again, that intense flavour has nothing to do with alcohol levels. The bead is tiny and restrained so it slips into that real ale niche quite nicely.

It's another one from the Skinners and once again the back label is a hoot "In Cornish folklore Betty stogs was reputedly full-bodied. golden-hearted and just a little fruity ............."

5/5 rating from me

Betty Stogs Brazen Cornish Bitter
4%  a/v
Skinner's Brewery Cornwall
£1.39 at Lidl [500ml]

Thursday, August 25, 2016


I  spotted these two during today's grocery shop. I've got the boxes I want and I have no idea how much they have left but both were really good value at their £6 original asking price. Both have a silly geographical labelling theme and are imported and bottled for Off-Piste wines. I hope they're not too piste off with what's happened to their wines:


750ml Western Cape South Africa 14% a/v
"LM wines are inspired by the French settlers who arrived in the Western Cape of South Africa in the 17th century" Really? I'd be far more interested in knowing what percentage there was of each grape as an explanation for the final result. It's a surprisingly soft wine with plenty of complex spice. Great drinking now and has enough acid to warrant a place in the cellar at this price. 4/5

  750ml Clare Valley Australia 12% a/v £3.99
"Australia's Clare Valley lies on an axis of 274 degrees from Botany Bay where the first European settlers arrived in the 1700s" That's all kind of true but if you want to be really accurate they rejected Botany Bay and settled in Port Jackson [Sydney] in 1788. My goodness, almost the 1800s!
And the wine? It's past its first flush of youth and has developed a slightly cloying palate weight. It's still dry with zesty fruit zing but for me this is either drink now with spicy food or cellar for 5-10 years when it should develop into a toasty gem.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016


There's a lot happening on this label from the necktag down.
"In 1997, armed only with their surname, a chap called Steve and his family dreamed of setting up a community brewery in Cornwall . Since then we've crafted countless casks and won hundreds of awards"

Reaching the back label there's a description of a perfect beach somewhere between St Ives and Padstow where this is the perfect beer to sup as the sun sinks over the water. 

I want to go there, right now, TODAY as the temperature hits well over 30 in the South of England. But it's a long drive and the sun will have set by the time I get there so I'll just duck down the road and get some more.

This is a delicious, beautifully balanced hop driven [blend of three] Pale Ale that will have me searching out more from the Skinners

5/5 rating from me

Lushingtons Sunshine Pale Ale
4.2%  a/v
Skinner's Brewery Cornwall
£1.39 at Lidl [500ml]


When I pick up a beer from the supermarket shelves labelled IPA I hope for an aromatic hop laden fruit fest. Sometimes they fall short but rarely are they so wide off the mark as this.
What poured into the class was a very pleasant beer that was treacly and toasty without a hint of hops. 
BE WARNED! Impossible to rate

Skrimshander Kentish Ale IPA 
4.5% a/v
Hopdaemon Brewery Kent
£1.25 at Lidl [500ml]

Tuesday, August 23, 2016


Now THIS is a SPIRALIZER £14.99 from Dunelm.
Absolutely outstanding with the only residue being a small mushroom shaped core.

Monday, August 22, 2016


After a brisk stroll from home, down hill, along the Medway then uphill to Tonbridge Rd we'd covered 3.5km before we found a pub. We'd driven past it so many times but there's a whole new incentive to stop when you're walking on a warm day and the sun has just made it beer o'clock.
"Let's see if they've got anything interesting on tap".

And did they what! The bride's eyes lit up when she saw the Aspall logo. I tend to agree. May just be THE WORLD"S GREATEST CIDER. So we were definitely stopping but just as well I had £10 in the back pocket. I asked the bored young bartender for his beer recommendation. Given that we were the only midday patrons he had plenty of time to consider his advice.
To his credit he recommended one of the greatest beers I've ever sipped. Enticingly balanced between overdoses of hops and malt this instantly scored my 5/5 rating. 

So with lure of the Wednesday £7.50 steak special, a level 2km walk from home and two repeat pints we vowed to return. This could be our new local promising a vast improvement on The Fox. 

Once again Sharp's Cornwall Atlantic Pale Ale [£3.50 pint] was just as impressive as was the Aspall Draught Cider [£4 pint]. But the steak was just OK. We expect better from Pubs or maybe that's just an Australian thing. The tomato was blandly uncooked and the peas were just peas. There was enough mustard to last a lifetime. The chips however were sensational. But do you walk 4km on a Wednesday night to spend £22.50 on two outstanding pints and a hundred or so outstanding chips?

The Bull has plenty going for it. There's lots of space, a pleasant enough beer garden plus a few nooks and crannies to escape the crowd - if there was one. Maybe its old owners who have run out of steam or new owners who are sussing out the market.

We'll probably give it another try and hopefully we'll be acknowledged as new patrons rather than an interruption to what looked like the publican's family gathering.