Losing the local


I’d been walking past my local for a few nights wondering why the curtains were closed. I assumed that maybe they were closing midweek to save a few quid and put their effort in to the weekend trade. I was wrong. The curtains had closed and so had the bar.

I was pretty devastated.

Most people have an opinion on why pubs are closing faster than ever. Be that cheaper drinks in the off trade, lack of food or even just lack of trade. It’s a subject that turns us all in to wannabe pub land/lords or ladies to start shouting Peggy Mitchel style: “I COULD RUN A PUB!”. We could all do it right? We could run a pub?

Before it closed down in early September, the Crown and Thistle wasn’t a pub I would have called particularly special. It was only little so as soon as you stepped in it was like walking in to a living room with a bar. The beers focused on local craft lager, ales and ciders and you could pay the cost of a pint to get 3 tasting samples instead. This was a pub with charm. The garden was an utter sun trap but was crowded with too many chairs so half the time the seats sunbathed more than any people. There were no televisions so no football or rugby apart from the furious updates someone would shout as they checked their phone.

All of the above pretty much sums up why The Crown and Thistle didn’t stand a chance against its rivals like The Three Daws and The Rum Puncheon. It’s not off the beaten track by any means but it is a pub on a side road outside of the hub of town which didn’t serve food. It (and by it I mean management) lived in a heady day dream where the locals would flock to the pub just because it was so magical.

It wasn’t magical. In fact in the light of day it was a bit of a dump and could have done with a bloody good clean. The owners let the jack-of-a-few-trades-master-of-pretty-much-nothing son look after it and eventually run it in to the ground. It wasn’t looked after and this is what I find the hardest part. It just wasn’t loved enough even by the people who had the most control to change things.

No word of yet as to what will happen to it but I have seen it being stripped of all its beer mats and miniatures. So sadly I bid my local a fond farewell and hope that if it stays a pub the new owners show it some well-deserved love.



New favourite cocktail: The Spiced Sailor Mojito


Cocktails are usually a bit of a minefield for me. For a few reasons, best bulleted:

  • I don’t like cream
  • That means I don’t like Bailey’s
  • And I don’t have the sweetest tooth
  • Which means that I don’t like Piña coladas
  • Or getting caught in the rain for that matter

My new cocktail of choice is the Spiced Sailor Mojito. It’s a warming yet refreshing blend of Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum, muddled with plenty of fresh mint, lime juice, poured over a load of crushed ice and topped with apple juice.

Hipster jam jar style glass is optional.


So what if there is a Prosecco shortage?


Rumours of a shortage in the Prosecco market didn’t come as much of a huge surprise to me. I knew that Veneto, the region in north-east Italy where the Glera ‘Prosecco’ grapes are grown, had a particularly bad harvest and as a result there would be a lower yield. I also knew that all the stories flying around about Prosecco ‘out-selling’ Champagne meant that a story aimed to worry the British Prosecco drinkers would soon to follow.

Whether or not there is a Prosecco shortage or not (spoiler, there won’t be), I see this as a good thing. There are too many wine drinkers stuck in their ways who buy the same bottle of adult pop each week. Never leaving their comfort zones to try something a bit different.

Escape Prosecco and try these:

Clos Monistrol Vintage Cava: I love a glass of Cava but not that crappy budget £4 a bottle stuff. The Spanish make some truly amazing Cava’s and there are hidden gems out there that are a must try. This is made using a selection of the best Chardonnay, Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada grapes and aged for 36 months. It’s cheap, usually around £7 in Sainsbury’s but there is more depth and flavour to it than you’ll get out of some more budget versions. It’s a good ‘oh I drink good Cava, darrrrling’ dinner party fizz. (Sainsbury’s, £7.50)

Cave de Lugny Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs NV: Thanks to the lovely Susie Atkins for recommending this in her column a few years ago because it’s now a firm favourite on my wine shelf. It’s 100% Chardonnay, light in style with crisp apple flavours and has a really beautiful label. I like it with a cheese board or a simple crab linguini. (Waitrose, £13.99)

Luis Pato Maria Gomes Metodo Antigo NV: I picked this up on a whim in an Oddbins  somewhere in central London ages ago and I still remember it for it’s golden colour and tropical, almost pineapple flavours. This is also good for a cheese board but also works as barbecue fizz. (Oddbins, £14.50)

By the glass


Now, maybe it’s me but I’ve done some speculating over the last few months and I’ve noticed that my favourite pastime is slowly starting to die out. If I am having a drink after work like the other thousands of other people who like to, I only want to stay for one. Maybe two at a push. If I want one pint, or one vodka or one j2o (that’s rare) I can order just one.

Wine by the glass however, just seems to be a major let down. Last week, I got a glass of merlot that had clearly been open longer than a week, a Pinot Gris that was tepid and clearly cost less than they were charing for a glass and then told (probably the most upsetting for me), ‘we only do wine by the bottle’.

Now I know I’ll be told were still in a poxy recession but you can always turn to the R word for an excuse, wanting A glass of half decent wine is one of lifes little pleasures that I feel is slipping away. Not only that, I don’t need the encouragement to drink a whole bottle on a Thursday night. Really, I don’t.

So my plea is not only for bars to please support us one glass drinkers but for you lovely people to suggest good bars in London where I can get a decent glass of wine for under £10!

Lastly, note the image. I broke the corkscrew when I needed it most…

When only a red will do

Red Wine

The Whale Caller – Shiraz Cabernet 2009

I cursed my tastebud’s last weekend but I blammed the suspiciously warming sunshine for luring them into the false hope that spring was finally on its way. Having had more than enough of the cold weather (very much including the snow), I basked in a little bit of above freezing temperatures long enough to begin the yernings for something white and zesty.

No, said the Met Office. Think again. And back we were at the begining of the week with yet more cold. So I quietly gave in and knew only the warmth of a red would do after yet another 45minute wait on a sleety platform.

The recommendations you can get from some people at supermarkets are the types of recommendations I tend to ignore. A good friend worked at a place which for his sake, will go unnmaed. He openly admitted to commiting a major crime by suggesting the wine that was clogging up his stock cupboard, regardless of its suitability. He declined to tell me if anyone had come back in to comment of his food matching skills.

Other than the wise words of resident wine expert who goes by the name of Georgio are some that I will gladly accept. He resides at this post in Waitrose Food Hall, nestled in the basement of John Lewis at Bluewater. And without fault, this man always manages to point me in the right direction.

I have to start with its price. £3.89 which is a price I am normally dubious about. Is that judging a bottle by its label? Surely not, I have learnt my lesson certainly not to have this type of attitude.

However its not me with the attitude, its this wine. Just opening the bottle releases the heat of spice from the shiraz mixed with jammy deep fruit. I love it when you get a nose of a wine like this, it really shouts at you to get involved and that was the sort of encouragement I needed.

The balance of grape mixed with the heat from its South Africa upbringing gives this wine a real punch, matching it brilliantly with meaty and spice filled dishes. I on the other hand, managed to enjoy it pretty well with cheese and crackers. Sometimes a girl really has no time to cook.

The palete is a pretty punchy mix of the deep fruits all balanced with that lingering spice and slight slice of pepper. I imagine The Whale Caller to puff up its chest amongst the other players on the shelf and offer itself up as a busty challenge.

This isn’t a casual drinking wine mind, it deserves a little extra attention if not that meaty meal as already suggested. I like a red to chew on every now and again but unsuspecting guests might not always be up for its raw measures.

This wine gets a sure fire recommend. I know I will be back off to buy a few more bottles. 3/5

Saint Clair – Pioneer Block 7 Berry Block Sauvignon Blanc 2008


I had developed quite a love affair with white wines, in particular anything from Saint Clair or New Zealand over the summer and started to feel the distinct yearnings for something refreshing to cleanse my taste buds. Winter is the time for reds, without a doubt but it’s always the end of January that see’s me trawling back on the whites.

So. I have a decision to make. It’s the beginning of Feb and after a Christmas full of situations involving the words ‘I’ll pay for those’, I was feeling ever so slightly light pocketed last week. Not to the point that I would need to stoop down to a fiver a bottle, oh no thats next week. I decided I would have a reasonably healthy budget to treat those taste buds.

As soon as I thought about what I wanted and more importantly what I was desperate to show the man, I knew what I had to buy – Saint Clair. And to quench that thirst for something refreshing, zesty and palate awakening was the Pioneer Block 2008 7 Sauvignon Blanc.

What makes this wine worth its average of £15 a bottle is it’s elegance, some cheap New Zealand Sauv’s can be overly sweet or dryer than paint stripper. Yet the balance of fruit to minerals in block 7 perfectly match to give you the citrus blast against a mineral edge that prolongs the flavor. On the nose, you can really pick up those grassy and nettle like notes mixed with a passion fruit sweetness. All match by its golden straw colour.

Across the board, Saint Clair produces amazing wines and this is absolutely a beautifully elegant example of a collection of wonderful wines.Very deserving of a 5/5

Tesco Wine by the case App


I’m never one to pass on a good App, so I have to share my experience with the latest wine App to hit our iPhones, the ‘Tesco Wine by the case App’. There’s a few wine App’s creeping around at the moment, the Ocardo offers purchases on wine as well as on food and Berry Brothers have a wonderful little listing as an App. So wine does appear to be making an effort to enter a more digital age – but does this sort of thing work?

So I found some bottles lurking left over from the weekend and got testing! So first things first, when you load the App you get a rather basic page, no real instructions needed, you ‘Start here’.

You’ll then be taken to your camera where you take a picture of the label on the wine, trying to make sure you fit it into the blue lines.

From there, the wine finder kicks in and starts searching all over the place for your bottle and its details. Once its found it, you see a picture of your wine and it get’s added into a history section, so you can look back at past wines you’ve searched for.

You can rate the wine, read up on the ‘info’ tab to check all the vital details including food pairing, region and even a little bit on the history of the wine. You can also, and here’s what Tesco is hoping you do, go on to buy this wine.

What I liked most was the Discover tab where you can do a basic search for the sort of wine you like. Good for those after something a bit more specific.

The usability of this App is great, its simple to navigate round and great to quickly search for some more information when you standing in the supermarket. But that’s the thing, its only Tesco stocked wines. Whilst its a great move forward to eventually an online collection of wines in that sort of format, it still means that you are limited to what just one supermarket stocks.

Still, its a great App, handy to have and a good tool if like me, you get your food shopping from Tesco’s. There’s obviously scope for App’s like this and I think this is a real starter in some more wine App’s, programs and services peaking through in 2010.

a_little_wine rating: 4/5

Piccini Chianti Riserva


Like a lot of the country last night, I was snowed in. I use the term lightly because if I really needed to get out, I could of. But a little voice said ‘No, stay in and have a glass of wine under your blanket on the sofa.’ The larger voice told me that this was what I had to do.

So, I cracked open the Piccini Chitanti Riserva – one of the left overs from the Christmas onslaught. Supprisingly there has been one or two bottles left over. They are saved, not forgotten about.

On to the drinking, being the daughter of a heavy Italian red drinking mother I know I like my reds full and so to speak – meaty. But finding cheap Chianti’s that pack a punch is quite difficult. The Piccini is from Tesco’s and often one of the discounted regulars at around £4.99 a bottle.

And for a cheap Chianti the Piccini line (who stock regularly to the major supermarkets) does it again by producing a ripe and fruitful easy drinking red. It still retains an element of distinction with subtle complex notes making it great for drinking on its own or with some mild cheeses. I have drunk this with red meat dishes and it does hold its weight without overpowering any of the food so it can be done.

A good bottle to have around for parties, or friends dropping in. 3/5

Royal Tokaji Aszu


Tis the season and all that, so what are we all drinking this Christmas? There are always those deals hiting the shelves pushing us to try different things but there are always those trusty winter warmers that we have to enjoy every year.

So last night I delved into my so called storage system to find an old friend. I say old friend, it’s a relavitly new drink on my Christmas drinking campaign (which is enjoyed sensibly as always). Pushing past the port, brandy and sherry I made my way to the Tokaji…

There’s an awful lot of hype behind the brand with links to famous Kings and Queen’s and plenty of talk about first growth vineyards within the brand. However its best just to let the wine itself do the talking.

As in all Aszu wines the three grape varieties are Furmint, Harsleveu and Muscat de Lunel which all blend together for the 2000 vintage to produce a rich balance of sweetness and acidity to tickle a wide range of taste buds. With 2000 being warm and dry the grapes achieved a high level of sugar but failed to produce the trademark botrytis.

The result? A very rich but well balanced wine that quite frankly I believe deserves to be consumed on its own merit. But if and like a fair few you would prefer to indulge in food whilst enjoying this festive tipple, I would strongly recommend adding some to your Christmas pudding! The orange zest and honey notes are fruitful amid the sharp fortified flavours plowing through.

This is a drink best served at this time of year. I am certain to be returning next year.