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DotW, Valentine’s, Fondillon, Old Wines, New Ins and Car’s the Star

Dear boys and girls, just a few days to go until the dreaded (or exciting?) Valentine’s Day. Consider yourself reminded. In tonight’s Sheldon’s Times we have a short intro on a rare discovery of some forgotten casks (click on the link in the article to read the full story), a new Guest Beer, a piece on drinking some 50 year old wines and some fun New Ins. And all of this is top and tailed with not one but two lovely dogs and a super-nice automobile. Happy weekends all!

Dog of the Week

Here we have Scorch and Vesta, the photo having been taken a little time before Christmas. Related of course, they can be two of the best behaved dogs we’ve had in the shop. But they can also be a little crazy too, which makes them all the more fun to have around.
Many thanks to David for bringing them in and allowing us the time to catch just the right photo. Perfect. And with Minna too!

Final Reminder – Valentine’s Day, Monday 14th February

My wonderful colleagues in the shop have been expanding the products available on the Valentine’s display. For some reason they have found it amusing to add ‘Knob Creek Rye Bourbon’, ‘NCB Shagweaver’ and ‘Butcombe Goram’ to the line up. There was talk of ‘Willy’s Kombucha’ being added to the line-up but I soon put a stop to that. It is after all a non-alcoholic tonic.
Tomorrow is your *last chance* to pick up a wonderful in-a-bottle Valentine’s gift from Sheldon’s. Get it done and be a hero on the day.

Introducing Fondillon Luis XIV Vermut

I was approached last summer with a rather interesting story which we had to follow up on. Sheldon’s Times is not the place to tell the story to it’s full extent, but the short version goes something like this. In 2015 a discovery was made in the Alto Vinalopó region of Alicante, Spain. The area has a history of producing off-dry to semi-sweet wines from the Monastrell grape variety (known as Mourvedre in France) dating back as far as the 15th century. An old barrel cellar was found containing some 25 toneles and pipas – ancient barrels containing old ‘Fondillon’ wines made from Monastrell.
Fondillon is produced by filling a barrel with wine, letting it age, drawing some wine off the top of the barrel and refilling it. In many ways it is like a single barrel solera system, different to but with parallels to the way Sherry is made. The barrels found date back to the 19th century and had remained untouched for the last 60 years. The wine contained within was in remarkable condition and the two decedent families agreed to use the wine in these barrels to make something very special. If you are interested you can read a much better account of the story by clicking the below link:
Luis XIV Fondillon story by Richard at Dreyfus Ashby
Today we are announcing the release of a small number of bottles of the Luis XIV Vermut (£22). Vermut is a traditional drink of the Mediterranean region and we already have the Spanish Lacusta range of Vermouths in the shop. But this Vermut is a little different.

Here’s the blurb:
The young Vermut is created from Macabeo which is fermented and then infused with a selection of botanicals and fortified to 15%. The botanicals used are the classic ingredient wormwood, plus a special selection which includes cinnamon, cloves, vanilla and orange peel. This is blended with 30% 8 year old, oxidised Monastrell from the old cellars and aged for two months using the ancient Fondillón barrels.

The Monastrell helps creates a pale garnet hue, which is entirely natural, with nothing further added to deepen the colour. The final combination is a Vermut Rojo Dulce which reflects the ‘richer’ Mediterranean style.

I tried this Vermut back in October last year, long before it was available here in the UK. Unlike the other shop favourite in this categogy, Scarpa red vermouth, which you can drink neat with ice, the Fondillon Luis XIV vermut is more for making great cocktails. It has a richness from the addition of the old wine and use of old barrels for ageing that is simply not found in other products. If you want to own a little bit of history, come in and grab a bottle (I only have 5 for sale at present, 1 I have bought myself and will pour a little glass for you if you pop in and ask nicely).
We will shortly have the two full Luis XIV Fondillon wines – each have been approved by the regional authority, the Alicante Consejo Regulador to be labeled and sold as ‘age superior to 25 years old’ and ‘age superior to 50 years old’, confirming that is the minimum age of the wines. I’ll keep you posted…

This Week’s Guest Beer – Loddon Brewery Al Fresco Gluten Free Pale Ale 4.5% £3.75/440ml can

Based just northeast of Reading in a small village called Dunsden, Loddon Brewery is based in a 300 year old barn and the team brew beer with passion. We have selected their Al Fresco Pale for our guest beer this week. Following on from the successful introduction of the gluten free beers from Arbor, we thought we’d try another gluten free ale to see if good beer is a gluten thing or not. Loddon Brewery say “Our Al Fresco Pale for any time of year! A light, crisp and sessionable gluten-free beer, packed with mosaic and mystic hops. Suitable for vegans.”
Amanda and I have just tried it and we say “Smells rather interesting, a touch yeasty and a bit of fruit. On the palate however it is a bit one dimensional and has an aftertaste of soap. So we checked the glasses to make sure they were clean and properly rinsed and we think they were. Maybe a dodgy can? So there we have it – try at your peril!”

The lottery of Old Wines

In the last week we had reason to open a few old bottles and see how they were doing. Four bottles in fact, all from the questionable vintage of 1972. At 50 years of age one could hardly expect these relics to be in great shape (very much like their owner). But pull corks we did, and give them a try.
First up was a bottle of Mouton Rothschild 1972. The year is pretty well renowned for Bordeaux wines, I think the official word for it is “awful”. If the wines were ever any good they should have been drunk up decades ago. But with low expectations we poured the wine. To say we were pleasantly surprised is an understatement. The wine was not just drinkable, but fully enjoyable. No fruit left of course, all tertiary flavours of leather, tobacco, cedar and the like, but for lovers of that sort of thing it was very easy to sit back, sip away and enjoy a glass. A better-than-expected start.
Next up we opened a bottle of 1972 Domaine de la Romanee Conti La Tache. Burgundy is perhaps the one place on the planet that is thought to have produced reasonable wines in the 1972 vintage. With La Tache being considered one of the best reds from the hallowed village of Vosne Romanee, there was a chance this might have been a decent drop. And it was. Rich, powerful, full of flavour, dominated by truffles but still with a tiny hint of fruit left. A rare treat indeed. Two out of two at this point.
As we moved forward with the wonderful meal we were consuming, it was time for something sweet. A 1972 Oremus 5 puttonyos Tokaji from Hungary came next. This bottle was a recent release from the producer, so we were expecting it to be in reasonable shape. Dark brown in colour, this bottle promised much. Rich raisins on the nose, a touch of polish too. On the palate the retained acidity of the wine made the wine feel less sweet than it was, with flavours raisins, caramel and toasted nuts. Unbelievably we were still ok.
Finally we opened a bottle of 1972 Casenobe Rivesaltes, a regional French wine known as a Vin Doux Naturel, a wine that is fortified before fermentation is complete, leaving some residual sugar in the wine. This bottle had been produced from fruit from the 1972 vintage, made into a wine, fortified, then put into barrel for the long natural process of oxidation to take place – not dissimilar to the way the Fondillon mentioned above is produced. It was finally taken from the barrel and bottled in 2018. The way we described it was “Sherry meets cognac”, I thought more appealing than the Tokaji and very drinkable.
Having started the exercise with extremely low expectations those present were delighted not to have had a bad bottle in the bunch. Moreover it was a treat to open 50 year old bottles from a reputedly dreadful vintage and be presented with not just drinkable but thoroughly enjoyable wines. It was great fun to look back in history through the lens of wine and I don’t suspect it will be an exercise we will repeat any time soon. Not for another 10 years at least.
And the big thank you – goes of course to Solanche and Richard, Dan, Louise and Millie for agreeing to host us at The Royal Oak in Whatcote. It is called The Royal Oak for a reason – we ate like Kings and Queens. Everything was simply delicious. It was so kind of you to let us abuse your space and have such a blast. We thank you.

New Ins

A couple of lovely half bottles are included in the New Ins this week. We shall continue to expand the range of smaller formats as they have a growing following. We also have the only 6 magnums of Miles Mossop’s Max in the country, a Bordeaux blend from Stellenbosch (many of you will remember ‘Saskia’, the Chenin Blanc from Miles). Lovers of rye will appreciate the two Bourbons we have restocked and we have a few bottles of an excellent Jura speciality.
Half Bottles:
2020 Vacheron Sancerre Blanc (£16.95)
2018 Joseph Drouhin Puligny Montrachet village (£31.95)
2019 Vacheron Sancerre Rouge (£35)
2020 Joseph Drouhin Rully Blanc (£24.95)
2019 Joseph Drouhin Rully Rouge (£24.95)
Fevre Chablis (£27.50)
2019 Vergelegen Chardonnay (South Africa, restock £18)
2018 Miles Mossop Max (South Africa, red, £70)
Spirits & other interesting things:
Ketel One Polish Vodka (£25)
Belvedere Vodka (£35)
Knob Creek Rye Bourbon (£43.95)
Bulleit Rye Bourbon (£37.95)
Evan Williams Kentucky Straight Bourbon (£29.95)

And finally….
2011 Chateau Chalon Vin Jaune (£60) which we enjoyed at the weekend with 4-month, 18-month and 30-month aged Comte cheese from Taste of the Country. Delicious.

Car’s the Star

A perfect Jaguar E-Type coupe with original factory fitted sunroof. Absolutely gorgeous. The origins of the car stretch back to the car we had a couple of weeks ago – the C-Type, which became the D-Type. The E-Type is based on the D-Type car and was produced from 1961 to 1975. British racing green of course, powered by the 4.2 litre engine. The owner believes it to have been produced in 1968. This date plus the position of the indicators suggests this is a late Series 1 car, referred to as a Series 1.5. Smashing.
Many thanks to David for bringing the car over to see us. And what a joy to find out it has been in the family for 20 years. A real heirloom. Lovely. Anyone out there got a D-Type so we can complete the set?
The weather looks dry tomorrow, rain on Saturday evening and Sunday morning followed by another dry spell taking us through Monday. Jude, Trish and I will be here to help you pick out some lovely bottles for the days ahead. Whatever you are up to, have a wonderful weekend.

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

Your E-Type-loving, old-wine-obsessed, Scorch-and-Vesta-adoring wine team at Sheldon’s Wine Cellars

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