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DotW, Burns Night, Guest Beer, Australia Day, Sale Update, Burgundy Update and the Loss of a Legend

Can you believe it is the 21st January already? The month will be over before we know it. The irises and daffodils are already shooting up, we’ll have flowers out in no time at all.
Tonight’s Sheldon’s Times finishes with a tinge of sadness. This week saw the passing of Anthony Barton, proprietor of Chateaux Langoa and Leoville Barton. Anthony was an individual who had a  significant impact on my wine journey as I am sure he did with others and I am sad to see him go. On happier themes we have a super DotW, another good low alcohol guest beer, an article about Burns Night and a mention of Australia Day, both of which are taking place next week. And there is an explanation of what we are doing about the new release Burgundy vintage, worth a read if you are into that sort of thing. Press on.

Dog of the Week

Say hello to Frank. Frank is a bit Jack Russell like, but what makes him really special is his white hair is long, but his black hair is short and smooth. Put that together with the wonderful character Frank has and you have a pretty smashing combination.
Many thanks to Robert for bringing Frank in to see us, just a shame he doesn’t come to visit more often. And while we are talking about Robert, he popped in this week to take a look at some of our old Ledgers and Journals. You see Robert comes from a long line of Harpers who have been in Shipston for a while and he wanted to see if he could identify family members in our old books. Specifically after information relating to his Grandfather, Robert asked if I could pull the records from 1900 to 1920.
A selection of old Journals and Ledgers from 1900-1920
With a coffee in hand and a keen eye Robert soon found information relating to his Grandfather. What he didn’t quite expect was to find information relating to his Great Grandfather at the same time. What fun. And now we know what their tipples were too! A pleasure to have someone peruse our archive material and find something meaningful to him and his family history.

Burns Night – Tuesday 25th January

We are just days away from Burns Night, that evening of tradition for Scots where haggis, neeps and tatties are scoffed, washed down with a dram or two of good Scottish whisky. But the preparations for Burns Night start well before the day of the event. This is because the not-so-aptly-named common haggis is so elusive, difficult to track and near-impossible to catch. Known for its ability to travel great distances at speed and across rough terrain, the common variety of haggis is seldom seen in daylight, preferring to forage in dusk and dawn. With the favourite dinner of the haggis being a tasty Sorex araneus, it is no wonder the wee beastie is so quick on its three legs.
The hunting season for the creature starts in late October when keen enthusiasts trek long distances to the well-kept secret habitats of the common haggis. Tracking a haggis requires a well trained nose and a sharp eye for it doesn’t leave much evidence of it’s presence. Often it is only the droppings that give it away, from which an experienced hunter can tell the direction of travel with a simple nibble. The traditional method of catching a haggis is by using a long crook made from a ram’s horn. Three hunters are required, standing in a triangle surrounding the creature, one covering each of the three legs of the haggis. The hunter at 30 degrees to the rising moon then swings his or her crook from north to south in a sweeping movement at exactly 13 inches above the ground. This action confuses the haggis into thinking it must jump in the air to catch a flying Sorex araneus, only to find itself caught by the crook and whisked into a sack made of wool derived from the hair of the Highland Cow.  The guns that the hunters carry are just for show, for a haggis has a tough hide under its fur that can withstand the lead shot released from a shotgun cartridge.
Will and friends from Tredington on the moors of Scotland before dusk choosing their position for hunting the ever-elusive haggis
Once caught the haggis stays perfectly still. While it is not fully understood, it is thought that the creature is mimicking death hoping the hunter will think the bounty derived from the haggis is spoiled. But the canny hunter knows that if they keep the haggis in the Highland Cow sack for a full hour without sustenance the haggis will release its food pouch to lighten itself and make ready for escape. At this point the hunter can release the creature and retrieve the food pouch. If the hunter does not release the haggis the creature will soon start to devour the food pouch to maintain energy levels and the hunters bounty will be lost.
A rare daytime photo of the common haggis making its way through lush pasture
It is this food pouch that is the prized winnings for the astute hunter. So few in number are the haggis that once caught the creature itself is always released back into the wild. As the breeding habits of the haggis are so poorly understood, to remove a haggis from its natural habitat would risk rapid progress towards extinction and then none of us would have the pleasure of enjoying the delights of this fine animal’s food pouch. When cooked respectfully and served with a fine single malt this delicacy is only rivalled in exquisiteness by caviar and perhaps the very best Australian wagyu beef.
So this Burns Night, as you sink your knife and fork into some delicious haggis and take that first sip of whisky, spare a thought for those avid hunters out on the moors at dusk in the howling wind and horizontal rain, and also the little three legged beastie that they seek to harvest your well-won dinner from.
Slàinte Mhath!

Guest Beer – Butcombe Brewing Co Goram IPA Zero (<0.5%)

We are fast marching through January and it won’t be long before we ditch the no/low alcohol options for the real deal. But before we do, here’s another go on just one more Dry January treat.
Butcombe Brewery was founded in 1978 and proudly states that it was crafting beer before craft beer was a thing. Proudly Bristolian, the team at Butcombe brew a selection of traditional beers alongside a series of craft and seasonal ales. The beer we have selected is named after the legendary Bristol Giant – Goram – and is produced with ‘a punchy blend of UK, USA and New Zealand hops”. The brewery describe their Goram IPA Zero as “An alcohol free beer with all the aroma, taste and flavour of a normal IPA, it’s the perfect beer for those looking for a non-alcoholic drink”.
Amanda and I say “good colour, lovely fruity nose. And what a great fruity, beery flavour. This is the first low alcohol beer we’ve had that has more flavour on the palate than aroma on the nose. Delicious, and at the risk of repeating ourselves, probably the best yet!”

Australia Day – Wednesday 26th January

The day after Burns Night you can have a quick change of clothes (ditch the kilt, sporran and sgian-dubh and opt for a pair of shorts, a tee shirt and perhaps a hat with corks hanging from the brim) and ready yourself for a barbecue in the garden, for Wednesday 26th is Australia Day!
Sadly we don’t have any VB in the shop, but we do have a good selection of decent Australian wines. Pop over and select a bottle or two and get in the mood. I am sure our pals John and James will be on the beach (again) enjoying some lovely seafood in the sunshine. We can metaphorically join them by pulling a cork and raising a glass to our Australian friends.

Sale Update

The sale is still on although stocks on some of the wines are beginning to run a little thin. We’ll continue with the sale until the 3rd Feb, on the 4th it will be dismantled because we need the tables for the cellar tour on Saturday 5th (which is fully booked). Come and have a look, it is worth picking through the bottles, there is bound to be something worth taking home.
As previously trailed, last Saturday we opened a bottle of Le Due from Sant’ Alberto, the Tuscan blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. From memory, everyone who tried it bought it. At £10 a bottle it is worth a punt. We’ll open another bottle tomorrow, if you’d like to try-before-you-buy then swing round and ask for a taster.

Burgundy 2020 En Primeur – a difficult situation

In the good old days now would be the time that we would usually offer the new vintage Burgundy wines en primeur, before they were in the bottle and physically available. As previously reported, Burgundy has been hit over the last couple of years by difficult climatic conditions including frost and hail which has decimated crops. The result is twofold: firstly quantities of wine available are significantly down on previous vintages and in some instances no wine was made from certain vineyards or geographic areas. Secondly (and consequently) prices have gone up again.

A small but well-formed 2020 Burgundy tasting in London this week

This week I attended one of the many Burgundy tastings taking place in London. I went to the group tasting because shop-delivered sample bottles have not been forthcoming. This is why we have not been able to organise an en primeur tasting here at the shop. I am pleased I went early in the day as only one sample bottle of each wine was available for the tasting and some wines were not being shown. In some instances producers that we follow chose not to make samples available at all so their wines could not be tried. That said, it was useful to taste what was available and it reconfirmed my commitment to a handful of producers which I feel are cut above the rest. As yet we do not know the quantities of wine we will be allocated so it is difficult for us to make a meaningful offer to you at the en primeur stage. I have therefore decided to handle this year’s campaign differently.
I am committed to buying wines from the producers that I think are exceptional from the year. I am sure we will not get the quantities we ask for, but my hope is that we will get enough wine to see us through. When the wine is physically available and has been shipped to us I will organise a tasting here at the shop. This will be the first (and in some instances where quantities are low the only) opportunity for you to buy the new vintage wines. In all likelihood this will take place in the summer or early autumn when the wines have arrived. I may try and conduct a 2019 vintage tasting prior to the arrival of the 2020 wines.
In the meantime we have reasonable stocks of older vintages of Burgundy available in the shop and we are just beginning to bring the 2018s out on to the shelves.
Whilst I recognise this way of operating is not ideal, I think it fairly reflects our position as a physical shop retailer rather than a broker or wholesaler and offers you, the customer a fair way of trying and buying the wines you like, based on taste not hype. If you are interested in being invited to the tastings when they happen please drop me a line and I’ll put you on the list. More to follow when we have the wines.

The loss of a legend – Anthony Barton

It is with a great deal of sadness that I learned of the passing of Anthony Barton this week. Aged 91, Anthony was the owner/proprietor of Chateau Langoa Barton and Chateau Leoville Barton, the famed St Julien estates in Bordeaux. Suzanne Mustacich at the Wine Spectator has written an excellent obituary, far better than I could do, which you can read by hitting the below button.
Wine Spectator Obituary for Anthony Barton
For my part, and perhaps this is why Anthony’s passing is so poignant for me, Mr Barton was an individual whose wine and personality got me into wine. A few years ago (22 to be exact) I had my first experience with fine wine – a bottle of Dom Perignon 1990 followed by a bottle of Leoville Barton 1990, the latter having been sold to me by Avery’s of Bristol. Little did I know at the time that 1990 was one of the best vintages in the last four decades for both Champagne and Claret. Both bottles were the most expensive bottles of wine I had ever bought at that time. The question was simple: could we tell the difference between these bottles and the wines we were also buying at the time from supermarkets at £5 a bottle. The answer was a resounding yes and my journey with fine wine began.
Chateau Langoa Barton, St Julien, the home of Anthony and Eva Barton
In 2003 I made my first proper pilgrimage to Bordeaux. I wrote to a number of the Chateaux, including Palmer, Mouton, Cos d’Estournel and of course Langoa/Leoville Barton. The marketing teams from each of the Chateaux wrote back to me confirming appointments except for one. From Leoville Barton I received a hand written letter from Anthony inviting me to visit. We turned up at the allotted time and rang the bell on the gate posts outside the Chateau and watched as a gentleman with his 2 black labradors came out of a side door to greet us. It was of course Anthony, who spent the afternoon with us, taking us round the vineyards, the winery and tasting wine with us. It was magical, an experience I will never forget. I am sure he shared his time in a similar way with many, so generous was he with his knowledge and experience. I have been buying Leoville Barton since the release of the 2000 vintage and have also amassed a small collection of back vintages. It is the wine I have bought for my Godchildren. It is why we have so many different vintages and formats here in the shop.  Every bottle I have had has been exactly as Anthony wanted it to be – quintessentially classic Claret. Delicious. He will be missed by many, and I count myself in that number. Farewell Anthony Barton.
That’s it for tonight’s Sheldon’s Times. Amanda and I will be here tomorrow to look after you. As Trish is away we might be sneaking in a lunch of hotdogs and onions so if you smell the waft of frying onions when you drop in you’ll know what it is for. Unfortunately the weather looks like more of the same, a touch warmer perhaps but more cloud too. Whatever the weather, come to Sheldon’s and buy some lovely bottles to enjoy over the eventful week ahead.

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

Your Frank-friendly, Haggis-catching, Barton-missing wine team at Sheldon’s Wine Cellars

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