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DotW, Jumpers, Opening Hours, Guest Beer, Large Formats, Bishop of Norwich, New Ins and Car’s the Star

I hope tonight’s Sheldon’s Times finds you all fit and well. Just a week to go now until we hit Christmas and I know many of you are being ultra-careful to avoid any risk of infection and the resultant trashing of the festive season. Stay safe.
Lots of goodies in tonight’s edition. I had hoped to do a piece on what each of us will be eating and drinking on Christmas Day but time has got the better of me. Instead you are getting the first instalment of Winston-the-Wissler, we have the (re)arrival of a great Champagne, a smashing Guest Beer, a piece on port and an associated pass-the-port-phrase, a piece to entice you into buying large formats and some rather special jumpers. Drink in hand? Crack on….

Dog of the Week

Say hello to Winston! He was just a wee pup when this picture was taken, some 10 weeks old. We have been taking regular pictures of him as he has grown and we’ll no doubt do a photo-book in due course. Last weigh in was 13.6 kilos, a damn sight heavier than he was when we took this snap, although his teeth only seem to have gotten sharper with age. He is of course a baby Wissler.
Many thanks to Sian and Lawson for bringing him in to see us so early in his development, we shall all enjoy watching him grow, in both size and personality!

Christmas Jumper (or not)

Knowing what a jovial, Christmas-spirited chap I am, Amanda thought she would try and get me in the mood. Knowing that there was about as much chance of getting me into a Christmas jumper as there is of winning the lottery, she knitted me a Christmas-style jumper-attachment. The knitted Christmas tree had velcro sticky pads on the ‘branches’ which were attached to my military-issue cardigan to create a multi-use outfit fit for the festive season, but ready for any other time of year with the tree removed.
Much to the team’s disappointment the tree remained stuck to my back for a mere 5 minutes before becoming detached. We tried to stick it to the wall instead, but a bit like one of those super-sticky wall-walkers the tree slipped down the wall. I was going to ask you all what we should do with the tree, but Amanda has already whisked it away and sewed it to the front of her pullover. It looks great, feel free to come in and admire the brilliance of the work. Top knitting skills Amanda, thank you for your efforts.
To make up for my lack of festive spirit, yesterday we had a full “Christmas Jumper Day” in the shop. Here’s our little montage of the various pieces of apparel.
If you are feeling festive, come to the shop in your fancy jumper, we’ll take a picture and put a rather nice photo selection in the Christmas edition of Sheldon’s Times. I might even award a small prize for the jumper or outfit that I judge is top of the pile. Competition rules available on request.

Sheldon’s Christmas Opening Hours

While I know you all want Sheldon’s to stay open every day of the year, we have made an executive decision to close the shop for a few days over the Christmas period and New Year. Here’s the advance warning:

Up to Christmas Eve – open as normal
Friday 24th December Christmas Eve – 0900-1400hrs(ish)
Saturday 25th December Christmas Day – closed
Sunday 26th December Boxing Day – closed
Monday 27th December – closed
Tuesday 28th December – closed
Wednesday 29th December – open 0900-1800hrs (as normal)
Thursday 30th December – open 0900-1800hrs (as normal)
Friday 31st December New Years Eve – open 0900-1400hrs(ish)
Saturday 1st January New Years Day – closed (hangover)

We will be closed from Sunday 2nd January to Friday 7th January to undertake the annual stocktake and 2021 business analysis (core statistics to be revealed), reopening on Saturday 8th January 2022 and returning thereafter to normal opening hours.

This week’s Guest Beer – Stroud Brewery Hop Drop 4.5% (£3.50/440ml can)

The Stroud Brewery started out as a passion project for it’s founder, Greg Pilley back in 2006. Greg wanted to make great beer but in an environmentally conscientious way. The results – organic beer that is suitable for vegans. But it is all about the taste, right?
Being fans of hoppy IPA styles, we have selected Hop Drop as our Guest Beer this week. It is described by Stroud as “a tropical fruit explosion from an abundance of organic Citra and El Dorado hops.”
At this stage I usually say “Amanda and I have just tried it…..” but as Trish has just dropped in I can justifiably say that the team here have just tried it and we say “super fruity and hoppy nose, really good on the palate, not as bitter at the Shropstar from last week. Lots of personality”.

Go large (or go home?!)

This week has been “The week of the MAGNUM”. We have sold more large format bottles this week than any other time of the year. No real surprise, considering this will (he says hopefully) be the first Christmas since 2019 where we have been allowed to get together with family and friends. Big bottles are all about sharing, and what better time to share than at Christmas.
We have a broad selection of magnums and other larger formats for Champagne, white wine, red wine and Cognac. Prices start at just £26.95 (Chateau Gardera, out ‘house’ Claret) up to just over £2000. So whatever your budget and whoever is in your friends-and-family circle, I am sure we will have a bottle for you. Pop in and ask a member of the Sheldon’s team and we’ll help you pick something special out for your big day.
Sheldon’s Team Top Magnum Picks:
Esther – Coudoulet de Beaucastel (£50, red Rhone)
Amanda – Jacquesson 743 Extra Brut Champagne (£115)
Jude – La Rioja Alta Vina Ardanza 2010 (£95, Rioja, Spain)
Trish – Drouhin Chassagne Montrachet ‘Embazees’ 1er Cru (£185, white Burgundy)
Shane – Duhart Milon 2005 (£220, Pauillac, Bordeaux of course)

Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?

For many people Christmas is the time of year when Port makes an appearance at the dinner table. For the avoidance of doubt, the correct etiquette with Port at the end of the meal is as follows (according to arguably the best of the Port shippers, Taylor’s):

“Once a Vintage Port has been decanted and the moment has come to enjoy it, tradition dictates that the decanter should be placed on the table to the right of the host or hostess. It should then be passed to the left, travelling round the table from guest to guest in a clockwise direction until it comes back to its starting point. Although the tradition is most often observed when serving Vintage Port, it is also often followed with other Port styles.

If a guest fails to pass the decanter on to his or her neighbour, it will come to a standstill. This usually happens because a guest does not notice that the decanter is there, does not realise that they should pass it on or, more rarely, hopes that no one will notice so that they can have a second glass.

Guests waiting further down the table for the decanter to arrive may become impatient. However, it is considered bad form to demand that the decanter be passed on. Instead, the person who is preventing the decanter from continuing its journey round the table is asked politely ‘Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?’  This is a gentle reminder to get the decanter moving again. If the meaning does not sink in, the less subtle alternative ‘Is your passport in order?’ may be used.

The origin of ‘Do you know the Bishop of Norwich?’ is attributed to Henry Bathurst who was Bishop of Norwich from 1805 to 1837. Bishop Bathurst lived to the age of 93 by which time his eyesight was deteriorating and he had developed a tendency to fall asleep at the table towards the end of the meal. As result he often failed to pass on the Port decanters several of which would accumulate by his right elbow to the consternation of those seated further up the table. A bon vivant said to possess a prodigious capacity for wine consumption, he was sometimes suspected of using these frailties to his advantage.”  

We have a large selection of Ports in the shop, starting with our best-selling Sheldon’s Ruby Port (formerly known as “Sheldon’s Hunting Port” and produced for us by arguably one of the best Port shippers in Oporto); through Tawnies, Single Quintas, Crusted Port and finally to aged Vintage Port. Personally I think the 1985s represent the best quality to price ratio for Vintage Port at present, with prices ranging from £68-86 a bottle depending on the producer. Ready to drink but by no means at the end of their lives, the 1985s will grace any Christmas table.

The Liberator ‘The Bishop of Norwich’ – Port-style wine from the Cape, South Africa

While Port is of course the name reserved for a specific fortified wine from the Douro Valley region in Portugal, some other regions around the world produce Port-style wine. We have Banyuls Rimage and barrel aged Banyuls from South West France on the Mediterranean coast, and the above picture is from the aptly named “Bishop of Norwich” Port-style wine made in the Cape region of South Africa. One of our favourites.

And finally on the topic of Port, we have a few large format bottles of aged Tawny – 2.25 litre bottles, known as Tappit Hens of Graham’s 10 year old and 20 year old tawny.

Have a bit of fun at the end of your Christmas dinner and pass the Port. Who knows, you may have a Bishop present at the table….

New Ins

In a world where many of the big-name Champagne houses are running out of stock, we are delighted to announce the re-arrival of Champagne Labruyere back into the shop (£44.95). We have had Champagne Labruyere on the shelves for 3 years now, having bought into the cuvee made with the 2012 base wine in rather a big way. It became the ‘house Champagne’ for many of you and gained the worthy reputation of being a vintage Bollinger or Krug lookalike at a fraction of the cost. Those stocks of 2012 base wine ran out two weeks ago. As with comedy, in the world of wine timing is everything and it seems we timed this one almost perfectly. Today the cuvee based on the 2015 base wine arrived…again in some volume. 2015 is already being touted as the next big year for Champagne after 2012.
A careful look at the labels (2012 base on the left, 2015 base on the right) reveals some similarities and one key difference. Both cuvees are roughly 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay. Both cuvees have spent extended time on the lees for a non-vintage Champagne (the 2012 base had 4 years, the 2015 base has had 5 years). The key difference is the level of dosage, meaning the amount of sugar added to the wine at the time of disgorgement. The addition of sugar at this point in the production process determines the sweetness level of the Champagne. A standard non-vintage Champagne described as Brut usually has 9-12 grammes of sugar per litre of wine. With Labruyere the 2012 base wine had 4.8g/l, making it on the dry side of Champagnes. The new 2015 base cuvee has just 0.8g/l of sugar added, making it an ‘Extra Brut’ Champagne. Champagne houses only reduce the amount of sugar used when they believe the quality of the fruit is exceptional, and thus the flavours derived from the grapes can carry the Champagne on the palate without the need for the addition of sugar. Sugar is used to soften a dry sparkling wine, reducing the level of austerity.
Wanting to put this theory to the test, a few lucky souls (and regular drinkers of Labruyere and Champagne generally) were invited to a discreet blind tasting. The question was straightforward. Out of the two Champagnes presented to you, which do you prefer. Only I knew the true identity of which wine was in which glass. But it didn’t take long for the convened audience to guess which wine had the higher dosage – it was softer in the mouth, broader and more rounded, without tasting sweet. The higher dosage wine also has the benefit of more bottle age (5 years post disgorgement) allowing for the development of some pleasant (in my opinion) oxidative characteristics. The low dosage wine on the other hand was clean, linear and focused. Some might say razor sharp. The fruit certainly carried the wine and there were no complaints about austerity or the wine being too dry. And the answer to the question: half of the group preferred the higher dosage wine, the other half the new cuvee Extra Brut. All participants agreed they would buy the wine.
While we don’t have any of the 2012 base wine left in the shop (so unless you have some at home, repeating the above experiment will be difficult), my suggestion is that you come in and snap up a bottle of the new 2015 base cuvee while it is available. It is another fantastic effort from the Labruyere house and fits perfectly with a key ethos of the shop – to find amazing quality wines from less well known producers at a great price and introduce them to you, our wine-loving friends. Pop by and buy a bottle or 6.

Car’s the Star

What a treat to see and hear this beautiful classic pull into the car park earlier this week. A SAAB 96, production was from 1960 through to 1980 and this particular model comes from the rather fine 1972 vintage. Perhaps a good year for cars, less so for wine and great for birth years. In my humble opinion that is. The lines and shape of these old Saabs are simply sublime, I some regards they remind me of old Citroens from the same era.
Many thanks to Mr M for popping by with it. He tells me he might have a 99 tucked away somewhere too, so if we are lucky we might get a picture of that at some point in the future. Great.
That concludes the not-quite-Christmas-yet edition of Sheldon’s Times. We’ll be here tomorrow to select some lovely bottles for you for the week ahead and perhaps for Christmas Day itself. Weather-wise I think it is more of the same, an unseasonably dry, mild spell is upon us. I’m not complaining. Have yourselves good weekends, best of luck if you are attempting some Christmas shopping and stay safe.

Shane, Amanda, Jude, Esther, Nigel, Trish and Carol

Your Wissler-loving, 1972-SAAB-admiring, Labruyere-guzzling wine team at Sheldon’s Wine Cellars

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