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A darkness is descending. Bridges have been burnt, promises broken (350 million of them) and walls have been built (well maybe, not quite, perhaps... actually just a nice picket fence will do).
After all the surprises of 2016, I predict this for 2017: that nobody can predict what is going to happen this year. I firmly believe that this is one thing we can all be absolutely sure of. The financial experts don’t know. The political experts don’t know. Likewise, predicting what might happen in the wine world this year would be a grossly foolhardy and totally pointless act of idiocy.... Read More >
Malt Whisky is created when partially fermented malt is dried then mixed with water before being heated to cause a chemical reaction, which allows for the extraction of sugars. These sugars can then be fermented by the addition of yeast to produce alcohol. The resulting liquid, which is basically beer, is then distilled; heated to boil off the water and release alcoholic vapour, then condensed back into liquid. This happens three times and the outcome is far boozier than the pre-distilled liquid. Hooray, we have whisky - almost. Next comes the fun bit.
This liquid can then be altered by barrel ageing... Read More >
Once upon a time life was simple. Cars took you from A to B. Telephones were used to make telephone calls. Perfume was worn to stop you smelling of gin and syphilis and grapes were grown, picked, squidged, fermented and drunk. Now these simple things define us. The Brand is king. It can make or break the marketing potential of a product, even wine.
Would, for example, Marlborough's iconic wine Cloudy Bay have become the global phenomenon that it did if they had called it Farewell Spit? They nearly did, but you don't require a marketing genius to tell you... Read More >
It was not that long ago that, bar a few notable exceptions, I thought the wines of Rioja were a rather mediocre affair. Decent value. A safe bet. Solid, but rarely spectacular. A sort of C+ sort of a wine. If I was unfortunate enough to be looking at a rather ordinary wine list then I could take comfort in the fact that it was likely to have a decent, if not remarkable Rioja Crianza hovering somewhere between the Cotes du Rhone and the Chianti. After all, who could really take exception to the vanilla hit of American oak and the... Read More >
It was the summer of 96. The country was at fever pitch as El Tel's boys seemed to be cruising towards the European Cup, The Spice Girls warbled into the charts with their inaugural hit 'Wannabee' and I was sporting a rather dubious set of curtains - a haircut so atrocious that it is now punishable by death in certain parts of the world. I was also trying desperately to like beer but, no matter how hard I tried, I could not.
It made me wretch and if, by a miracle, I did manage to force a couple of lagers down, the... Read More >
I think it is as a result of being a Brit that I have always had a slightly smudged relationship with Californian wine. We are not conditioned to look to America for what we consider culture. France? Yes. Spain and Italy? Okay. But, for those of us who see wine as a product of culture, of regional identity and of the Artisan then America and California suffers. I have previously looked at imports from the US and found it very hard to discover wines of value and interest between the cheap, mass produced gloop... Read More >
This blog was supposed to be about Russian wine but the samples I received were of a cloudy red demeanor in test tubes labelled SOCHI 2014 VINTAGE. They didn't taste great but I started to morph into The Incredible Hulk and found I could jump over the moon.
So, that bunch of rapscallions won't be there but the rest of the world are off to South America and Brazil for the traditional, great Olympian sports of the 100m sprint, the long jump, javelin and... golf. Except that some golfers won't be there... Read More >
It is no great secret that I have a very squidgy soft spot for Spanish wine. I think we all have a wine that got us into wine and mine was from Spain and specifically from Rioja. That first confrontation with the heady scent of American oak, of vanilla and furniture polish combined with the sweet/savoury blackberry and spice miracle concoction of Tempranillo was too much too resist. So much has happened since then that even Rioja has gone through several changes of direction. American barrels or French barriques? Pure Tempranillo, or blended with Graciano, Mazuelo, and/or Garnacha? Regional blends, or... Read More >
The Gin and Tonic, or Geoffrey Thomas, as a Portuguese bartender friend of mine used to refer to it, is a drink that is ingrained in the British consciousness. A few years ago I was on a stag weekend in a Welsh coastal village when a group of us found ourselves mulling over what defines Britishness. In the alcohol subsection of our carefully and not at all drunkenly drawn up document was Pimms, the inevitable pint of Bitter, but topping the list was the G&T. From Victorian urchin's fighting juice, to Mothers Ruin, the 6pm tipple of the gentry and now boutique spirit... Read More >
Last weekend with some time to kill I wandered into the wines aisles of a (gasp) supermarket. I found myself in the one which, it is alleged, has the power to make house prices in its locality rocket, housewives salivate over Heston's Buns and house martins, well, the house martins don't care. They are birds. Or an 80s alternative musical outfit which our student union DJ would inevitably play at last orders sending sweaty young men with 'Snakey B' dripping from their eyeballs, stampeding towards the bar, the prospect of getting lucky being delivered a... Read More >
For years and years she has sat upon her throne. Grand, sophisticated, regal. But now, a younger, fresh-faced upstart has sauntered into view. She is bright, popular and dare I say it, accessible. I am sure Her Majesty feels no such ill will towards Kate Middleton, but this is the sort of experience that Champagne has suffered against the stratospheric rise of Prosecco. This year demand is expected to outstrip supply of the nations new favourite fun juice. To drag out the analogy I rather fancy Prince Phillip as the Cava of the Royals. Old, blundering and liable to offend just... Read More >
Tasting wine is fun. Tasting wine never gets boring. Like watching a Joe Root cover drive, the boy makes it look so darned easy. Tasting wine, however, is not always easy.There are many mitigating factors. The opinions of others about you, temperature, humidity, altitude, time of day, the state of the moon, what you had for breakfast, they all play a part. Here I am, for example, at ten o'clock on a miserably dank morning in Sussex, sitting on a crate of beer in the corner of a cold, dark room with the flavours of coffee and Marmite toast lurking about... Read More >
Last week I asked my wife to to name a hop. She sighed, glared at me, paused The Archers podcast and took a sip of her G&T.
"Is there a Fuggles?" She ventured.
If anyone was in any doubt that the beer revolution had reached the parts that other revolutions cannot reach then here was the evidence. She went back to Helen and nasty Rob, but it left me thinking. Five years ago I could not have named a hop. Me. A serial imbiber of beer for nearly twenty years and yet... Read More >
It just so happened that I embarked upon my vinous journey as the Sauvignon Blanc juggernaut was thundering along at quite a lick. It was not hard for a young, fresh-faced whippersnapper developing a taste for wine to be seduced by the unashamedly pungent examples from Marlborough in New Zealand. In the heat of my love affair I drove ten miles late on New Years Eve to buy a bottle of Cloudy Bay from a confused looking French sommelier for £70 at the doors of a Five Star Hampshire hotel. These days I tend... Read More >
I harbour, I confess, a romantic ideal of a wine made from indigenous vines planted between ancient granitic boulders upon a hill in Spain by a hairy hermit who ploughs only by the full moon with his own fingernails. He sees the word pesticide as the very worst of all swearwords, using only the manure produced by the family composting water closet to fertilise his vines and whose relationship with the words Blossom and Hill are quite different to yours and mine. They make him smile and think of spring, not... Read More >
Forgive us please for blowing our own trumpet, but on this occasion we intend to go all out Jeremiah Clark's The Prince of Denmark's March performed by Håkan Hardenberger wearing a gold-lined Gucci suit and Unicorn-kissed Ray Bans. We sell wine for a living, which sounds glamorous but mostly involves moving heavy boxes from one side of a room to another and working desperately anti-social hours.
It is, however, glamorous enough to have awards ceremonies and 2015 was a bumper harvest for South Downs Cellars. IWSC trophy for Independent Retailer of the Year,... Read More >
Thighs pump, huge chests heave, pulses race and eyes goggle at the up and under. No, I am not talking about an evening at Stringfellows. The Six Nations is here and it is time to indulge in 'the gentleman's game' of dump tackling, eye gouging and head stamping. Over the next few weeks the young, brave men that proudly pull on the shirts for their countries will lay bare their strengths and weaknesses, their flashes of brilliance and moments of human fallibility. To see us through these highs and the lows I offer six drinks to represent these six nations.
... Read More >
Dry January; a decision many folk undertake, swapping the guilty gustatory excesses of Christmas for a cleansing start to the New Year. While it would be foolhardy to question such endeavour, perhaps there’s also some viable middle ground to tread too. By all means lets advocate restraint, but should the opportunity arise then lets also choose quality over quantity (every time) and opt to take a walk on the lighter side.
Here are a few wine and beer suggestions to wet the whiskers.
Becoming a staple beer style for many breweries is the low alcohol session ale, usually around 3%. The goal being... Read More >
On the 26th of last month the IWSC (International Wine & Spirit Competition) awards banquet took place at London’s Guildhall.
The awards are now in their 46th year and renowned amongst wine and spirit producers globally. The Independent Retailer of the Year Award was launched in 2008.
“…created to recognise the importance of the independent wine and spirit merchant, and their role in assisting UK wine and spirit buyers when making their selection. It is the knowledge and enthusiasm of the independent retailers which encourages consumers to try different products and gain a deeper knowledge of wines and spirits.”
We’d been notified a few... Read More >
For the forthcoming Christmas season South Downs Cellars is very pleased to be working with a world famous champagne house we’ve held in the highest regard for many years, making their highly anticipated arrival a poignant one too. We are of course referring to the one and only Champagne Gosset, founded some four centuries ago in 1584 by Pierre Gosset in the village of Ay (Pierre was the mayor of the now Grand Cru village) thus making it the regions oldest known wine producer.
Why are we fans?
The wines are renowned for their longevity as well as freshness. This can be attributed... Read More >
The Italian wine landscape unites a myriad of regions, sub zones and numerous grape varieties like no other wine producing country; a blend of intrigue and sometimes bewilderment for the customer, with hard to interpret bottle labels regularly adding to its mystification.
Wouldn’t it be so much easier if every single bottle simply stated the grape variety and offered a brief description of the wine like so many new world counterparts are able to do? Well yes it probably would be…and wouldn’t that run the risk of also being incredibly dull? It could do.
So while Italian wines rich cultural heritage and occasional... Read More >
Approximately three to four years ago some London craft beers began to appear on our shelves; proving quite the noisy neighbours as they jostled with more traditional types from locally renowned breweries.
In no time at all a throng of new pretenders were present, some of them brazenly shouting out loud (Beavertown), some of them not so much (Kernel). They certainly weren’t pretending though, the beer was really good. Not that good beer was hard to find previously, far from it, it’s just that these breweries were walking a different walk than many of us had been accustomed to.
Over that period of... Read More >
Last week we were proud to be awarded the 2015 Regional Merchant for the South and South East at the International Wine Challenge awards dinner, which took place at the Park Lane Hilton, London.
So what better time to showcase some of our favourite wine producers that we not only take pride in stocking but whose inclusion exemplifies our independent spirit.
Here are three of many favourites:
Henri Mandois, Pierry, Champagne
While not classified as a ‘grower’ champagne the Mandois family own 35 hectares of vineyard located across the famous terroirs of Epernay, Vertus, Pierry and Chouilly. This accounts for 70% of the fruit... Read More >
Cometh the sun cometh the Rosé
Fingers crossed, it looks as though summer may have arrived and if like many Rosé proves to be your go to drink for sunny afternoons and clement evenings then stay on this page.
What grapes are used?
On this occasion we’re covering rosé wine from France, so whether it’s from Provence or the Languedoc Roussillon region the wine is usually a blend of two or three grape varieties. The principal grapes are all red / dark skinned varietals - Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault and Mourvedre.
Rosé from the Loire is likely to be made from Pinot Noir.
How is Rosé made?... Read More >