Covid-19 Policy


Corrections, DotW, Sale Update, WSET L1, Curse of the Courier and Car’s the Star

Last week I still had too many numbers spinning around my head from the stocktake, consequently I made a couple of errors in Sheldon’s Times so first up tonight we have some corrections – nothing like creating a bit of your own news. We also have a short update on the Super Sale including a late entry (something you can try in the shop tomorrow), Jude has given us her account of her Level 1 wine course experience and we have the new course dates for this year. We have tried some new low alcohol products which we are reporting on and I have written a piece about couriers and a future dilemma we face – please help us by sharing your views. We finish up with the usual Car’s the Star article (almost). Press on.

Editorial Corrections

I know how much you lot like it when I cock up the email. There were at least a couple of mistakes in last week’s Sheldon’s Times:

Thanks to Tony (although I suspect many of you spotted it) for coming into the shop specifically to point out the spelling mistake in the second paragraph of the introduction. What should have been ‘stocktake’ appeared as ‘stoketake’. I would like to claim it was an auto type correction, but I’d be kidding myself. Simply a mis-spelling on my part. Apologies.

The second mistake was in the stocktake update article itself. I made the claim that we had sold 25,735 bottles in 2021. Esther, like a rat up a drainpipe, was messaging me within minutes of the email going out reminding me that 25,735 was in fact the number of bottles we counted in the shop, not the number of bottles sold. The correct statistic is therefore as follows:

Bottles in the shop at the time of stocktake:
25,735 (up from 22,817 last year). 

This explains why Esther is a little cross with me. Despite having a busy December, I still managed to add nearly 3000 bottles to the stock holding over the course of the year. Perhaps more importantly the mistake begged the question “How many bottles did we sell in 2021?” Esther has done the analysis and the answer is…..45,492. We shall track this number each January and see if we are growing as a business.

Dog of the Week

This lovely spaniel is Hettie, she was in the shop in the middle of December but is a regular visitor, mostly staying in the back of the car. I often get a little stroke when I pop the necessary goods on the back seat. She’s a sweetie and I cannot help but ask myself the question how she would get on with Hector, our Dog of the Year 2020?
A big thank you to Judith and Nick for bringing her in and being regular visitors to Sheldon’s. Great to have you as part of the family.

Sheldon’s January Super Sale Update

The first enthusiast arrived at 0910hrs last Saturday to peruse the ‘sale room’, picking out some of the choice bottles from those on offer. We then had a steady stream of folk, some of you travelling from afar. There are still plenty of bottles in the sale, come on by and fill a box or two, knowing that in some instances you have got the deal of the month.
A new addition to the sale this week is from a wine producer many of you will know well. We have sold wines from Podere Sant’ Alberto for some years. The team have asked us if we would like to  place some wine in the sale. Le Due (meaning ‘the two’) is a Rosso comprised of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from the hills above Staggia, Tuscany. Fermentation took place in steel tanks before the wine was transferred into oak barrels for ageing. The vintage is 2016.

The reason the team from Sant’ Alberto have asked us to put this wine in the sale is that in some of the bottles the wine has thrown a significant sediment of tartrate crystals. These harmless crystals do not affect the taste of the wine, but some people find their presence a little off-putting. Hence the wine is priced accordingly at just £10 a bottle. while stocks last. Oh, and we are going to open a bottle or two tomorrow for you to taste, so if you are umming and ahhing about it pop in and give it a try. For what it’s worth we tried a bottle yesterday and all enjoyed it. Amanda’s assessment was:

“Full bodied, fruity, well structured, well balanced, reasonably high alcohol (15%), great with Italian food. I’ll be taking a case at this price!”

After trying the wine we decanted it to check on the sediment, this particular bottle hadn’t thrown an excessive amount. It’s pot luck in that regard, but at this price no returns.

WSET Level 1 – a first hand experience

As part of her indoctrination into all things wine, our new recruit has just completed her Wine and Spirit Education Trust Level 1 in Wines course. Here are Jude’s thoughts on the experience…
“The one-day Level 1 course has given me a basic background on how wine is produced. Topics covered included colouring, flavours and grape varieties, then we looked at wine production and storage. A little time spent reading the book that was provided for the course was a good way to prepare for the day. The course day itself was really enjoyable. It included a nice mix of theory and wine tasting practice, we tried around 15 different wines throughout the day, but thankfully we didn’t open the first bottle until near 12 noon! The short exam at the end wasn’t too much of a pain. I’m hooked, and I will never look at a bottle of wine in the same way again.”
Jude got her Level 1 result just before Christmas. I am sure she will be cross at me for mentioning it, but she breezed through, getting every one of the 30 multiple choice questions correct. Yes, 100%! She is now busy revising for the start of her Level 2 course which starts in February. We wish her the very best of luck.

Amanda has just informed me that she has had her results from the courses she ran last year. 100% of her candidates passed, with some achieving merits, and distinctions. Some achievement! Congratulations to Amanda.

So, for a guaranteed win, have a think about the following dates:

Level 1 in Wines, the one-day introductory course (£155.00 per person):
Saturday 12th February 2022
Saturday 9th April 2022
Level 2 in Wines, three 1-day sessions (£390 per person):
Sunday 6th February, Sunday 20th February & Sunday 6th MarchLevel 2 in Wines, seven session evening class (£390 per person):
Tuesday 7th June 1830-2130hrs and the following 6 Tuesday evenings

Level 3 in Wines, a 13-week evening class course (£690 per person):
Tuesday 8th February 1830-2130hrs and the following 12 Tuesdays
And for those who like to partake of the stronger stuff, we have our first Spirits course:
Level 1 in Spirits, a one-day introductory course (£175 per person):
Sunday 20th March 2022
Please contact Amanda for further details or to book on

Guest Beers – Smashed Lager and Pale Ale, both <0.05%, £1.95 per 330ml bottle

Following last week’s successful introduction of two low alcohol beers, we have a couple more for you to try this week. Smashed beers from Drynks Unlimited are true no-alcohol beers. While researching Smashed I came across this rather interesting article describing the different methods of producing low and no alcohol beer – worth a read if you are partial to a booze free beer:
Smashed article on low & no alcohol beer production
To get us started with Smashed we have selected two beers, their lager and their pale ale.
Smashed Lager (76 calorie per bottle) – the producers describe this beer as “A refreshing, pale gold lager beer with a clean taste. Perfectly balanced with hints of barley malt, complex aromatic floral notes and mild, hoppy bitterness.” Having tasted it this afternoon we say “looks like a lager, smells like a lager and  tastes like a lager. The best so far. Jolly good and a definite buy for those looking for an alternative to full fat.”
Smashed Pale Ale (55 calories per bottle) –  is outlined as follows “A light refreshing pale ale that’s a fusion of traditional and modern. A pale copper colour with hints of caramel and toffee. Finished with an American style hop for a passionfruit aroma.” Our take on it is “clearly more malty than the lager with a touch of fruit on the nose. A touch richer on the palate. Feels like we are having a proper drink.”
There you have it – Amanda and I are in rare agreement. These are the best no/low alcohol beers we’ve had so far. It seems Smashed have smashed it.

No & low alcohol spirits:
Warner’s Double Juniper and New London Light

We have been having quite a discussion here at the shop about removing alcohol from a beer, wine or spirit and why doing it has such a dramatic effect on the flavour bearing in mind pure alcohol is an odourless, flavourless, colourless liquid. The best we can come up with is that alcohol is a carrier of flavour compounds which when absent the flavours that the alcohol assisted in carrying are lessened or absent.

With that in mind linked with our commitment to explore the no and low alcohol category this January we have acquired a couple of non-alcohol spirits, both of which have come to us recommended by some of you. Here goes:

Warner’s Juniper Double Dry (£18) – this is badged as a full juniper non-alcoholic spirit made with natural botanicals. The bottle is adorned with a lovely juniper label and it looks like a bottle of gin. We tried it neat to start with. The nose was a little reminiscent of a herbal cleaning fluid. On the palate it tastes a little watery with some flavours from the botanicals used but we didn’t think it had sufficient flavour intensity to take a mixer. We then added Fever Tree Indian Tonic Water. This diluted the flavour of the Warner’s Spirit to the point that it was almost undiscernable from an unmixed glass of tonic. So we tried it next to an unmixed tonic – there was just a slight difference between the Warner’s Double Juniper Tonic and the Tonic on it’s own. At £18 a bottle, we thought this bottle of spirit didn’t really do the job. Better to drink good tonic on it’s own or a flavoured tonic instead.

New London Light ‘Aegean Sky’ from Salcombe Distilling Co. (£27.50) – at this sort of price our expectations were high. The packaging of the NLL Aegean Sky is lovely, the liquid has a pink hue coming in a nice frosty bottle, everything you would expect from the Devon-based Salcombe Distilling Company. We followed the same routine – a neat tasting followed by a tasting with Fever Tree Indian Tonic. On the nose it has notes of sherbet and peach which are followed through on the palate but boy, is it bitter in the mouth when drunk neat. The addition of the tonic water brought the bitterness down to a level more akin to a G&T, with the peachy flavours showing through. I found this a refreshing aperitif drink, Amanda (who has a high sensitivity to bitterness) found it less enjoyable.

Our conclusions: that the Warner’s Juniper Double Dry is fine for those who want something in the cupboard that fulfils the ritual of making a G&T but we felt the flavours of the botanicals weren’t strong enough to merit the expense over well made flavoured tonics. The New London Light Aegean Sky has much more base flavour and a bitter element that makes it ripe for mixing and offers a good option for those wanting to go alcohol free but want something a little more than a flavoured soft drink.
We will have a bottle of each here in the shop tomorrow, open and ready for you to try. If you are in the non-drinking brigade this month, pop along and give them a try. Don’t take our word for it, judge for yourself.

The Curse of the Courier

For years we have offered the option of couriering bottles to destinations that we do not deliver to locally. On the upside this gives you, the customer, the chance to send lovely presents to friends and family who live further afield. Over the last 18 months we have invested in professional ‘courier approved’ packing boxes and recyclable cardboard inserts that are intended to keep the bottles safe during transit.
Our standard courier service is provided by APC but we do on occasion use DPD, UPS Parcelforce and DHL. We charge you less than the courier charges us to ship and we don’t recover any of the costs of the packaging we use or the extra time it takes us to pack bottles properly.
In December we processed 97 shipments, comprising well over 150 packages in total – everything from single bottles up to full cases of 12. Each one was properly packed in approved materials and correctly labelled.
Whilst not wanting to reveal the full extent of the issues we experienced before Christmas, we can say with some certainty that for the Sheldon’s wine business at best the outcome is that we didn’t lose any money. At worst it has cost us money. Any profit on selling you the wine has been wiped out on chasing non-deliveries, replacing broken bottles (despite proper courier-approved packaging) and reshiping lost items. How can this be the case?
The simple fact is this: we have no recourse with any of the couriers for lost or damaged parcels for the price you, the customer, is currently prepared to pay for shipping. But perhaps rightly so, you hold us responsible for the safe arrival of the parcel dispatched. Yet we have no control over the couriers.
Our charges are £10 for up to 6 bottles, £15 for up to 12 bottles. At this price point the courier doesn’t include any meaningful insurance or other cover for loss or damage. We charge this amount because the general customer expectation is that parcels over a certain value should be shipped for free (think Amazon over £20). Our packages containing lovely bottles of wine are treated in exactly the same way as every other package that goes through the courier network.
Losing money on offering a courier service is one thing, but above all else we are wine lovers. There is nothing more disheartening to pack a box full of lovely bottles, bottles in which the contents has been carefully crafted and cared for, only to have it lost or destroyed by carelessness just before it is finally intended to be drunk and enjoyed. It is soul destroying.

The experience we have had over the recent festive season has made us question our offer. We are considering the following options:

1. We offer a buy and pack service for customers but customers organise their own courier
2. We offer a courier service but remove any responsibility for failed delivery, loss or breakages
3. We offer a courier service with a charge that reflects the full cost of shipping and insuring the package
4. We cease to offer a courier service

At this point we are undecided which option to choose. Having read this article, if you have a view we would love to hear from you. Just hit reply and let me know what you think, we’ll take your input into account when making our decision. Thank you in advance for your contribution. We’ll be sure to inform you of our decision when we have made it. And in the meantime we are still sorting out some of the Christmas deliveries that didn’t quite make it to their destination…

The Car’s the Star

Unlike dog visitors, car visitors to the shop recently have been thin on the ground recently. No surprise, the winter months are when your prize possessions should be locked away in the warm and dry of the garage. Nothing of note has popped by over the last couple of weeks so here’s a picture of one of my favourites instead.
Ok, it’s not at the shop, but who doesn’t like Chitty Chitty Bang Bang?
That’s enough for tonight. Jude, Trish and I will be looking after the shop tomorrow so if you are at a loose end or fancy trying some non-alcohol spirit then pop by and say hello. Weatherwise it is more of the same, cold with a little cloud and some sunny spells. The perfect opportunity for winter walks to your local wine shop, pop a bottle or two in the rucksack and head home to a cozy fire.

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

Your correction-making, Hettie-loving, low-alcohol-experimenting wine team at Sheldon’s Wine Cellars

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