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DotW, Champagne, Sheldon’s Book Shop, Cigars, Musar, Guest Beer, New Ins and Car’s the Star

For those of you ‘celebrating’ Valentine’s, I hope you had a great time. Many of you have been in saying you have had to delay your special dinner for various reasons, if this is the case, we wish you well for your belated festivities.
Tonight’s email is dominated by lots of New Ins. Not just wine and spirits but books and cigars too. And perhaps most importantly we have the announcement of the arrival of our Edward Sheldon Champagne. Thank goodness. Press on.

Dog of the Week

There was an exciting moment last week when Dog of the Year 2020 (Hector the Glorious Victorious) was in the shop mooching about and in came Dog of the Year 2021 (Jackson the Triumphant). There was much barking, a little sniffing, no biting and a good time was had by all. Always nice to see a little friendly rivalry.
As most of you know, we have a general rule that states any DotW photo must be taken in or on the shop premises. But we also have a Sheldon’s on Tour article where bottles from the shop appear in interesting places. As the below photo wasn’t taken in the shop it must count as a Sheldon’s on Tour snap. The paper that young Twix is holding is from a bottle of Latour 2001, consumed on New Year’s Eve. Fair play, the dog has good taste.
And to set the record straight, the above is a picture of a real dog, not a fake one, or a teddy bear, or any sort of cuddly toy for that matter….sort of. Many thanks to Will-I-Am (a.k.a Mr Squish) for allowing us to use the photo and of course to Twix for fetching the all-important Latour tissue for us.

Edward Sheldon Champagne – thank goodness!

Yesterday we took delivery of the first two pallets of Edward Sheldon Champagne in 2022. We ran out of bottles between Christmas and New Year (thankfully we didn’t run out of halves, mags and jeros) so it is a great relief that we have it back in 75cl bottle format. Stocks are good and we will shortly have more on the way to see us through the whole year.
Finally, after a month and a half gap, we have bottles of Sheldon’s Champagne back!
We now have a reasonable volume of the following formats and wine types at the 2022 prices:

Edward Sheldon Brut Halves (£14.95)
Edward Sheldon Brut Bottles (£24.95)
Edward Sheldon Brut Magnums (£60)
Edward Sheldon Brut Jeroboams (£135)
Edward Sheldon Brut Rose Bottles (£31.95)

Come in and stock up!

Sheldon’s Book Shop – L’Academie du Vin

We have long been talking about creating a small library at the shop focused on all things wine, beer and spirits. Today this talk became a reality. We have taken delivery of 6 different books published by L’Academie du Vin. L’Academie du Vin was set up by the late Stephen Spurrier to promote wine education through print media. While we may acquire and consume information in many different ways today, there are still few greater pleasures than flipping the pages of a beautiful new book.
The titles we have selected are:

The Story of Wine by Hugh Johnson
Oz Clarke on Wine
On Bordeaux with entertaining contributions from pretty much all of the great and good in wine.
Wine Tasting by Michael Broadbent
In Vino Veritas, described as an elegantly bound collection of fine wine writing both past and present.
Sherry: Maligned – Misunderstood – Magnificent! by Ben Howkins

Like the Chateau Musar book some of you bought from us previously which was by the same publisher, each copy is beautifully bound and presented. I shall be tucking into them over the coming weeks. They also make great presents for the wine-obssesed people in your lives. Something a little different. Something that will perhaps last a little longer than a bottle.

We sell Cigars – Cuban, Honduran and Nicaraguan

Following in the success of cigar sales since we upgraded the range before Christmas, we have added further lines to the selection. As you know, we are not allowed to say any more, but if a cigar is your thing, come in and ask us to talk you through the new additions to the range.

New Vintage Chateau Musar – in four bottle sizes

This week we have taken delivery of our allocation of new vintage Chateau Musar. Not wanting to miss out, we have taken the bold step of acquiring the 2015 vintages in all four available formats:

2015 Chateau Musar:
Half bottles: £18
Bottles: £32.50
Magnums: £75
Double Magnums: £215

We also have a little new vintage release 2014 Chateau Musar white (£32, a peculiar beast, consciously oxidised as part of the production process, this is a wine you either love or hate) and even less 2017 Chateau Musar Rose (£29.50. Why? Because we love it).
We now hold a reasonable collection Chateau Musar across many vintages and wine styles. Whether you are a Lebanon wine novice or a hardened professional, I urge you to try these wines and judge for yourself. They are exceptional and represent incredible value for money for the quality of juice in the bottle.

This week’s Guest Beers – Freedom Lager, Helles and Pale (all £1.95 per 330ml)

For this week’s Guest Beer we have selected not one, not two, but three bottles from the same producer. Freedom Brewery was started back in 1995 in London as a no-compromise producer of quality lager. The team moved out of London to a farm in Staffordshire in 2004 with the thinking of producing beer in a more sustainable way. A number of significant investments in sustainability have taken place since, including the installation of natural water filtration on the farm and the introduction and management of bee colonies.
The three beers we have selected from Freedom Brewery are:

Freedom Lager – Lager as it should be. Brewed using 100% British ingredients, the combination of Challenger & First Gold hops deliver a sessionable lager that is light, crisp and refreshing to the last drop.

Freedom Helles – A pale balanced organic lager full of character. Inspired by the Munich Helles style, a clean malt base showcases the traditional Hallertau hops, delivering a delicate, floral balance of flavours that hits the spot.

Freedom Pale – The perfect go-to session pale ale. American Citra and Cascade hops deliver a tropical fruit aroma, complemented by just the right balance of bitterness from the addition of English Admiral hops.

Amanda and I have just tried all three and we say “the lager is pleasantly light, perfectly balanced and very refreshing. To use Amanda’s words, it is a Ladies Lager. Our Friday guest taster known as Trouble says “sippable in the summer”. The Helles is a fuller expression, a bit much for Amanda but Shane says its a Mans Lager. The Pale smells great, lovely fruit on the nose. the bitter finish is too much for Amanda but Shane rather likes it. So there you have it, complete agreement again! One thing we do agree on is that all three are good quality beers and they won’t hang around for long.”

New Ins

Just a handful of New Ins this week to tantalise the tastebuds, mostly on the spirits front:

2021 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc (£25.50)
2017 Inama Bradisismo (£35)

Black Cow Milk Vodka (£29.95) – much cheaper than the Black Lion milk vodka, it is easier to milk a cow.
Eminente 7 Year Old Cuban Rum (£45)
Ardbeg 10 Year Old Islay Whisky (£45)
Glenmorangie Single Cask 388 (£680)
Glenmorangie Single Cask 8664 (£680)
Glenmorangie Single Cask 12836 (£680)

And we have just one jeroboam (3 litre) bottle of Hennessy XO Extra Age Cognac. It looks absolutely fabulous, if you have a decent drinks trolley at home, this size of bottle will look just the part and will never run out.

Car’s the Star

It was quite late on one Saturday afternoon when this black knight turned up at the shop. I do believe it is a Jaguar F-Type S coupe.  Don’t ask me any more because I am not sure (3 litre vs 5 litre, V6 vs V8, Supercharged or not), the conversation between the owner and I was brief, I spent most of the time gawping at the lines.
Many thanks to Dave for dropping by to pick up some bottles and allowing me to convince him to let me take a quick piccy of the car.
I suspect we have had more Jaguars of all ages in Car’s the Star than any other vehicle type, it has certainly been the most regular make over recent months. I wonder if it has something to do with our proximity to Jaguar-Land Rover manufacturing based here in the Midlands.
And so concludes tonight’s edition of Sheldon’s Times. Weatherwise it looks like we have survived the storm and tomorrow will be a little calmer but still unsettled. Amanda, Trish and I will be here to look after you throughout Saturday, pop in and say hello. Perhaps buy a bottle of wine while you’re here.

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

Your Twix-loving, Musar-addicted, book-digesting, Cow-milk-adoring wine team at Sheldon’s Wine Cellars

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

DotW, V-Day, Alcohol Duty, Guest Beer, New Ins & Car’s the Star

Wasn’t it lovely to have a little snow this morning? It was certainly coming down in the villages but by the time I got to Shipston it was more like sleety rain. And then lovely sunshine.
Tonight’s Sheldon’s Times is dominated by a rather long list of New Ins, the wines we have been gathering throughout January ready for the time when those who have been abstemious start drinking again and for the rest of us to up our game. The list is dominated by red Bordeaux, plenty from 2010 and 2009, but also some older vintages too. There is a sprinkling from Spain and Italy and even a bottle from South America and one from the US. Have a trawl and let me know if you are interested. The wines will be allocated on a first come first served basis unless there are contiguous requests for a particular wine, in which case I will do my best to share equally.
We also have a super DotW, a short piece with a link to a more comprehensive article on wine duty increases, your first reminder on the big V day and a very yellow Car. Press on.

Dog of the Week

Here’s Winston. He’s a spitting image of Digby, so much so that I thought the photo was of Digby when I looked back. But my notes tell me it is definitely Winston. Perhaps just a touch older than Digby. And extremely well mannered.
Many thanks to Harry and Marcie for bringing Winston in to see us. As always a real treat to have any woofit in the shop, but especially one so well behaved as Winston.

Sale Update – it’s still on!

Last week I said we would be dismantling the January Sale on Thursday this week because we needed the tables for tomorrow’s Cellar Tour. By some miracle we have found some more tables so we haven’t had to nick the Sale tables. We are going to let the sale run for another couple of weeks to allow those coming off Dry January to fill their wine racks with good booze at a discounted price. Come in and fetch some bottles while you can.

Valentine’s Day – 1st reminder

With January now well behind us it is time to look forward into February and embrace the  occasions that lie ahead of us. First up is Valentine’s Day which is a week on Monday. Consider this your first reminder. If like me you feel Valentine’s is purely a commercial invention then congratulate yourself, you are correct. Unfortunately that doesn’t get you off the hook of sourcing an overly romantic gift for your loved one.
To make life a little easier for you Jude has set up a rather fetching Valentine’s display. Most of the items on offer are pink in colour, but don’t be fooled, there is some proper booze here. And for those who want to go the whole hog there are a few bottles of Dom Perignon Rose downstairs. Go on, do something amazing.

Get ready for more price rises – the Government’s proposal for Duty Rate changes

I have little doubt that some of you will have seen reports in the press about the likelyhood of rises in wine prices. The stimulus for this coverage comes from the Government’s proposed reforms to duty rates. Currently wine duty has three categories: one for still wine, one for sparkling wine and one for fortified wine. For the vast majority of still wine, duty is fixed at £2.23 a bottle. The Government proposal is to move to a variable duty rate linked to the alcohol level in the wine. Instead of 1 rate (or 2 if you include very high alcohol wine) there will be 27 bands in half a percent alcohol increments, each of which have a different duty rate. A recent article by the BBC sums up the situation well and can be found here:
BBC article on proposed changes to alcohol duty rates
As a small single-shop independent merchant, the proposal for additional duty rates will have the following impacts:
a) for most of your still wines the duty rates will be higher than they are today, resulting in higher prices for us and ultimately for you.
b) the duty rates on sparkling wines with relatively low alcohol levels (<12.5%) should go down a touch, savings which we will pass (although Champagne prices are going up at the moment which will counteract any saving)
c) administration to meet the new recording and reporting will significantly increase, Esther will be pulling her hair out and there is a risk we have to employ additional resource just to keep ahead of the requirement.The wine industry body (WSTA) has been working with industry members to ensure the voice of merchants and wholesalers is heard. Ideally we would like the current system to remain in place. We’ll keep you posted.

Guest Beer – Hobsons Brewery ‘Twisted Spire’ 3.5% £2.95/500ml

Dry January is over, and so is our review of no and low alcohol products. To start us back on the right track we have a beer from a brewery already known to us. Before Christmas we tried Hobson’s Brewery ‘Shropstar’ and declared it one of the best beers of the Guest Beer series. This week we have gone for another beer from Hobson’s. Twisted Spire is a Blonde beer described by Hobson’s as “A beer with a real twist, light and refreshing with a full, up front hop flavour followed by a crisp bitterness and citrus aromas.”
Amanda and I have just tried it and we say ” lovely bright golden colour, a touch biscuity and yeasty on the nose, not fruity like the pale ales we’ve had in the past, more than a lager, rich on the palate with a bitter finish. I guess that’s the twist”. More my sort of thing than Amanda’s, who likes lots of fruit and less bitterness. Good for a curry.

New Ins

I did say we hadn’t been laying idle throughout January. Brace yourselves, here’s today’s list of New Ins. And it is not everything, Esther still has a few things to load on the till. We’ll save those for next week.
The Americas:
2018 Pulenta Estate VII Gran Corte, Mendoza, Argentina (£37.50)
2019 Domaine Drouhin Arthur Chardonnay, Oregon, U.S.A. (£32)
Spain (all large format):
2005 La Rioja Alta ‘904’ Magnum (£115) – only 4 available
2010 CVNE Vina Real Gran Reserva Jeroboam 5 litres (£350) – 3 available
2010 CVNE Imperial Gran Reserva Magnum (£160) – 6 available
2010 Roagna Barolo, Piedmont (£80)
2010 Il Poggione Brunello di Montalcino (£60)
2010 Gaja Brunello di Montalcino Pieve di Santa Restituta (£74)
2010 Gja Brunello di Montalcino Pieve di Santa Restituta Halves (£55)
2015 San Leonardo, Trentino (£75)
2015 San Leonardo, Trentino, Magnums (£155) – only 4 available
1995 Reserve de Leoville Barton (2nd wine), St Julien (£60)
1995 Troplong Mondot, St Emilion (£115)
1995 Lagrange, St Julien (£105)
1996 D’Angludet (£65)
2000 Leoville Barton (£200)
2001 D’Armailhac (£95)
2003 Batailley (£75)
2004 D’Armailhac (£80)
2006 Leoville Barton (£79.50)
2008 Leoville Barton (£75)
2009 Giscours, Margaux (£80)
2009 Du Tertre, Margaux (£80)
2009 Gruaud Larose, St Julien (£120)
2009 Reserve de la Comtesse, Pauillac (£85)
2009 Haut Bages Liberal, Pauillac (£55)
2009 Grand Puy Lacoste, Pauillac (£95)
2009 Larrivet Haut Brion, Pessac Leognan (£59)
2009 Ormes de Pez (£49)
2010 Giscours, Margaux (£95)
2010 d’Angludet, Margaux, Magnum (£120)
2010 D’Armailhac, Pauillac (£80)
2010 Cantenac Brown, Margaux (£85)
2010 Rauzan Segla, Margaux (£160) – Adam…..
2010 Sociando Mallet, Haut Medoc (£55)
2010 Clos du Marquis, St Julien (£89)
2010 Grand Puy Lacoste, Pauillac (£95)
2010 Ormes de Pez, St Estephe (£45)
2010 Fonbel, St Emilion (£39)
2010 Fonbel, St Emilion Half Bottles (£19.50)
2010 Capbern Gasqueton, Haut Medoc (£46)
2010 Chasse Spleen, Moulin-en-Medoc (£52)
And finally a couple of rare beauties:
2011 JF Mugnier Nuits St Georges Clos de la Marechale Jeroboam 3 litre
1996 L’Eglise Clinet, Pomerol Imperial 6 litre

Car’s the Star

Here’s a car that I have been promised would visit the shop for at least a couple of years. The excuse for it’s non-arrival was that it wasn’t clean. Here we are, two years later, a spotless car at the shop. A ‘new’ VW Beetle, except it is 22 years old. I remember this model coming out and thinking at the time it was an excellent interpretation of the original Beetle.
A big thank you to Anna for coming in with a clean Beetle and sharing it with us. Don’t worry if your car isn’t clean, you are welcome any time.
That’s it for tonight’s Sheldon’s Times. Weather-wise it is looking like it is going to be both chilly and wet over the next few days. I guess after a no-rain January we deserve a little precipitation. Good for the garden is what they usually say. Whatever you are doing this weekend, have a super time. Amanda, Trish and I will be looking after you tomorrow, drop in, pick out a bottle or two and prepare yourself for an evening in by the fire.

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

Your Beetle-bugging, Winston-adoring, Valentine’s-distaining wine team at Sheldon’s Wine Cellars

DotW, SotW, Dry Jan, Sale, Couriers & Car’s the Star

I hope you all enjoyed your festivities over the last week. Burns Night in our household involved vegeterian haggis, swede and carrot mash (preferred to turnip) and roasted potatoes – a bit of a deviation from the traditional haggis, needs and tatties but delicious all the same. Being predominantly veggie during the week we didn’t do the full Aussie barbee on Wednesday. But we still had fun.

We have mostly updates in this last January edition of Sheldon’s Times. An update on Dry January, an update on the super Sale and an update on the delights of the courier service. This is all top-and-tailed with DotW, a return of Sketch of the Week and a smashing Car’s the Star. Oh, and we have tried just one last low alcohol drink before we all get back on it in February. Not that I haven’t heard tales of accidental slippage in the last few days. Good for you. Now read on.

Dog of the Week

Unlike the cars we have in Sheldon’s Times, we are still playing catch up with the doggy visitors. Back in mid-November Josh and Hannah came in with Sybil. She is a rather delightful fox-red Labrador. Doesn’t she look majestic, standing with her feet together, patiently waiting for a little something to nibble on.
It continues to be a real pleasure to have you visit with your lovely furry friends. Many thanks to Josh and Hannah for coming in with Sybil. If you remember last week we had Frank, the short-and-long-haired Jack Russell. He popped in again this week and got so excited he nearly took my finger off while jumping for a treat. Not quite as well behaved as Sybil. We love it.

Sketch of the Week

In the early days of Sheldon’s Times when we didn’t have quite enough DotW photos we occasionally replaced DotW with a Sketch of the Week. As I have had a couple of recent sketch entries we are spoiling ourselves by having both a DotW AND a SotW in tonight’s Sheldon’s Times.
This masterpiece has much interest in it. The composition is centred around a house, with two cats beside the house observantly eyeing the cat bed in the picture foreground. The three birds are all flying against the prevailing westerly wind, one of them being decidedly close to one of the trees on the left hand side of the work. The use of orange adds a striking contrast to the otherwise consciously black-and-white style of the picture.
Many thanks to Nicholas for putting breakfast to one side to create this presentation. Rather good I think.

Dry January update

We know many of you have been observing Dry January, some in part (i.e. allowing yourselves the odd glass) and others going for the full month of complete abstinence. Well done to all of you who have managed to hold on. The weekend ahead comprises the final few days in January. Drinking can begin again in earnest next week. For our part, Trish and I will go through to the 6th February at which point the breaks will come off and our re-acquaintance with the hard stuff will commence.
Throughout January we have been trying a variety of new (certainly to the shop) low alcohol alternatives. Here are our top picks from the month:
This year’s no/low alcohol winners
Best Beer and overall winner: Butcombe Brewing Co Goram IPA Zero – we thought this had more flavour and body than all of the others, and to boot it is the cheapest of the bunch. Amanda and I have order a case each to see us through the weekend ahead. We will continue to stock this as our low alcohol beer.

Best Lager: Smashed Lager by Drinks Unlimited – again, great flavour and you don’t miss the absence of alcohol that much. This will also become a regular line for us.

We will also continue to stock Lucky Saint which is excellent, and Hogan’s High Sobriety Cider. Together this makes a decent selection of low alcohol alternatives for regular consumption.

Wanting to go out with a bang rather than a fizzle, we have tried one last low alcohol offering. The Crafty Nectar Cider Co make a range of quality craft ciders including a version which is aptly named “0.5 alcohol free cider“. The alcohol level is lower than our regular Hogan’s High Sobriety (a full 1% alcohol). Craft Nectar refer to their 0.5 Alcohol Free as a ‘unicorn’ cider, “a mythical low alcohol cider with all the taste of a full-bodied cider”. Amanda, our resident cider expert and a big fan of High Sobriety says “very pleasant, lots of flavour and good depth, a touch sweeter than Hogan’s and the lower alcohol is noticeable, but perfect for a lunchtime tipple”. At £2.50 for a 500ml bottle we think it represents fair value for money but it is not going to knock Hogan’s off the top spot.

Sale Update

One more week to go with the Sheldon’s Super January Sale. There are still lots of lovely bottles in the sale so jump in this weekend before we dismantle it at the end of the week. The last day of the sale will be Thursday 3rd February. Don’t come complaining to us if you miss it.
For the third and final Saturday in a row we will have a bottle of Le Due open tomorrow for people to try. This Tuscan blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot has been a hit for everyone who has tried it and we have already seen folk coming back for more. At a tenner it is ridiculous value, grab it while you can.

Courier situation update

Firstly a huge thank you to all of you who responded for feedback on the courier article I wrote a couple of weeks ago. Apologies to those who I didn’t manage to respond to directly, your emails were read and I am grateful for all of the input. We are still trying to untangle some of the missed deliveries, a full month after Christmas.
The general consensus from the replies I received were that we should either offer a service that includes insurance for the goods in transit or not offer a long distance delivery service at all. Of course the insured option comes with extra cost for the customer. The benefit of such a service is that the value of the lovely bottles in transit will at least be covered for breakage or loss. But the actual service itself doesn’t change (same couriers, same issues). One of you captured in words the way we should think about this (thanks Gary):

The quality of your delivery service should match the quality of the service we receive when we come into the shop.

As a team we all agree with this sentiment and at the moment, even with an insured courier delivery, the quality of the delivery service doesn’t meet the expectations we would like. It is clearly unaffordable for us to deliver long distances using the small team here in the shop, so at this moment in time we are still trying to decide how we meet the objective of offering a delivery service that matches the service our walk-in customers receive. We will keep you posted.

Car’s the Star

I heard this one coming before I saw it. What a smasher. A Jaguar C-Type (the ‘C’ stands for ‘Competition). The car is based on the XK120, it’s official name is a Jaguar XK120-C. The car has many key modifications to the XK120, including a highly tuned engine (205hp as opposed to 180hp in the standard car), improved structural and other engine components and a new aerodynamic aluminium body. Released in 1951, only 53 were built. It won at Le Mans in both 1951 and 1953, and in ’53 it was the first car to achieve an average speed of over 100mph, clocking up an average of 105.85mph over the 24 hours.
The confession of course is that the car above is a near-exact replica of the real thing. Built around 20 years ago it looks absolutely spectacular and is only a tiny modification away from being able to race as a true C-Type. But perhaps this one is too nice for racing. A huge thank you to Richard for popping by and an even bigger thank you for taking me down the road and back. I was smiling like a Cheshire Cat for the whole experience. What a treat.
Normal service will resume from next week when we might have rather a comprehensive list of New Ins for you. Yes, we haven’t been sitting around drinking coffee throughout the quiet month of January. Instead we have been selectively stocking (and restocking) the warehouse and cellars with some marvellous new wines that will set your minds racing. And due to a cancellation we have a four spaces left on the Cellar Tour next Saturday (5th Feb) so if you fancy re-engaging with alcohol with others in a fun setting in the afternoon, give us a call and we’ll book you on. First come first served.
Weather wise it looks like this marginally milder weather is going to be with us for the next few days – wholeheartedly welcomed by us because it has been freezing in the shop. This weekend Jude, Trish and I will be here to look after you, drop in and say hello and perhaps try a glass of Le Due.
Shane, Amanda, Jude, Esther, Nigel, Trish and Carol

Your Butcombe-drinking, C-Type-admiring, Sybil-loving wine team at Sheldon’s Wine Cellars

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

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

DotW, Sheldon’s Super Sale, Guest Beers, 2021 Wines Package, Stocktake & Car’s the Star

Happy New Year everyone! I hope you all managed to have a fun time over the break. I know we certainly did. Many a fine bottle was opened and plenty of good food was scoffed. So much so that we have entered 2022 in need of some self control. A little discipline perhaps. We’ll see how that goes (and how long it lasts.)

Thank you for your forbearance over the last week while we conducted our annual stoketake. Most of you managed to stay away, but a few of you snuck in to grab a bottle or two. It was a delight to see you and break up the monotony of bottle-counting. Normal service resumes at the shop from tomorrow (Saturday) – we will return to normal opening hours, which as a reminder are:

Tuesday – Friday 0900-1800hrs
Saturday – 0900-1700hrs
Sunday & Monday – closed

In our first edition of Sheldon’s Times in the year of 2022 we have a smashing DotW, the announcement of the the Sheldon’s Super Sale (yes – it is going ‘live’ tomorrow so don’t hang around), some fun facts from the stocktake and a marvellous car that dropped in at closing time on NYE. Oh, and as is befitting at this time of year, our Guest Beers are of course a pair from the growing collection of no/low alcohol offerings available in the market today. Jolly good it is too. On you go.

Dog of the Week

Our first Dog of the Week in 2022 is Copenhagen. But not just a single photo. We were lucky enough to have our first encounter with Copenhagen back in February 2021, nearly a year ago. There he is, as a young pup on the left. Just before the recent New Year festivities he dropped in for a second visit. He had just come from a wet and muddy walk so looks a little forlorn but isn’t it interesting how he holds his head in the same way? He remains as sweet as ever.
A big thank you to David and Charlotte for bringing Copenhagen into see us and allowing us to share in his growing up. Lovely.

Sheldon’s Super January Sale!

I have let Amanda loose in the shop, identifying wines that make potential candidates for a January Sale. To say she’s gone crazy is an understatement. 60 different lines make up the sale, some of which we have just one or two bottles, others we have plenty. All are discounted (which those who know me know that this goes against my better instincts) and the sale is offered to shop visitors only. This is not an online sale, nor a phone the shop sale. Sorry about that, especially to those that live a distance away, but our staffing levels mean we are focusing on the shop retail side. That means don’t ask us to send you the list, coz we won’t. Really, we won’t.
If this approach goes against my better instincts, why are we doing it? The sale allows us to achieve the following:
It allows us to make way for the arrival of a new vintage of an existing line
It helps us remove duplicates or common lines where we have too many of the same type (who needs 7 different Chiantis?)
The sale makes room for new wines in the shop
It gives us the opportunity to move damaged stock (labels, slight seepage etc)
Finally it allows us to offer up the last few bottles of certain lines (bin ends)
All of the above takes place at a price that is advantageous to you. There are bottles of fizz, whites, roses and reds in the wine category, port covers the fortified category and there are even a few bottles of spirits tucked away in a corner. Come in, have a browse and pick up some lovely wines at more than reasonable prices.

Guest Beers:
Drop Bear Yuzu Pale Ale (0.5%) £1.95/330ml can
Big Drop Paradiso Citra IPA (0.5%) £1.95/330ml can

Yes, you’ve guessed it. Throughout January we are going to shine a spotlight on low and no alcohol products, to help those of you (read: us) who are taking a break following an over-indulgent festive period. Amanda and I, with a surprise appearance from Esther on a Friday afternoon have been tucking into a couple of new guest beers.
The Drop Bear Yuzu Pale Ale has a great pale ale nose with a touch of toffee. The addition of a touch of Yuzu (a citrus fruit) gives the beer a pleasant lift. 3.5 stars out of 5 from the oh-so-professional tasting team.
Big Drop’s Paradiso has a full-on fruit nose of citrus and tropical fruits. It reminded me of Punk IPA from Brewdog (also available in a low-alcohol version but we don’t have it). on the palate the fruit flavours don’t quite follow through but it still a good beer for a low version. I prefer it more than Amanda, so the combined score for this one is 3 stars.
Bearing in mind any low alcohol beer we try is going to lose a point for the absence of alcohol at this early stage in our no-booze journey, both of these ales are rather good. I’ll definitely be taking one of each home for Trish to try…

Wines of 2021 – Bundled

In last week’s Sheldon’s Times, each of the team members offered up their favourite wines from 2021. These were not their best drinkers, but instead were wines they have particularly enjoyed showing to customers or that have made a valued addition to the range. After publication, one of our much loved customers responded almost immediately to say “why don’t you sell the Wines of 2021 as a package?” (thank you Scott!). So we have done almost exactly that…excluding Sheldon’s Champagne because we have sold out of 75cl bottles…replacing it with my next favourite fizz – Cremant du Jura.
Each package is priced at £80, representing a massive £0.84 saving over the individual bottle pricing. We are full of giveaways today, aren’t we? We have a few boxes made up so come in and pick up a package, take home and enjoy.

Stocktake – Key Facts

This week we have been busy counting the bottles in the shop. This process gives us a good baseline to start the year, it helps inform us regarding restocking and allows us to make decisions on whether to drop or replace some of the lines. It also allows us to identify which lines have been the stars over the last 12 months.
Yet again our best selling wine in the shop in 2021 was our very own Champagne – Edward Sheldon Brut. This wonderful product is made for us by H Blin in Vincelles, just west of Epernay. At over 2300 bottles sold in the last 12 months, up from 1600 last year, the result demonstrates that your thirst for this excellent Champagne remains unabated. Remember back in November I reported on our 2-pallet shipment having just arrived. I seriously thought we had ordered enough wine to see us through to Easter this year, but alas how wrong I was. We are out of bottles (as of this afternoon, a canny shopper called up) and down to the last few magnums. We have half bottles and jeroboams, but for how long I cannot say. We have already placed our order for a new shipment which will be with us shortly but note that the supply of formats other than standard 75cl bottles is severely restricted or non-existent.
Despite prices having risen on the last shipment, we promised to hold prices throughout 2021 which we did. The 2022 prices for Edward Sheldon Champagne are as follows:
Edward Sheldon Brut 37.5cl half bottle: £14.95
Edward Sheldon Brut 75cl bottle: £24.95
Edward Sheldon Brut 150cl magnum: £60.00
Edward Sheldon Brut 300cl jeroboam: £135.00
Edward Sheldon Rose 75cl bottle: £31.95

Here are some more fun facts from this week’s stocktake:

2021 Number of bottles sold (of all shapes and sizes): 25,735
(up from 22,817 last year)
In December alone we sold 7,370 bottles, with 681 of those being bottles of Sheldon’s Champagne.
Regarding stock accuracy we are -20 on bottle count, (last year was -21) so while not good news we are celebrating a 5% year-on-year improvement. By 2042 we should have nailed it.

Following hot on the heels of Edward Sheldon Champagne, the next best sellers were:

2nd: The combined sales of Nika Tiki and its replacement, Moloko Bay at £9.95
3rd: Le Salare Montepulciano d’Abruzzo at £10.95 (which pips last years 3rd placer)
4th: Trastullo Primitivo at £11.50 (relegated by one place)

In the annual rose sales competition there was a bit of an upset. The fact that we had a pretty rubbish summer weather-wise and I think people were upgrading their rose choices because they were mostly dining inside has resulted in a different outcome to last year.
First Place: Puech Haut, Languedoc (the one with the frosty bottle), 600 bottles sold
Second Place: Whispering Angel, Provence (the branded rose), 529 bottles sold
Third Place: Chateau de la Deidiere, Provence (affectionately known as “Deirdre”, our ‘house’ rose), 462 bottles soldLast year Deirdre thrashed the other two. It remains the most affordable of the three at just £12.95. Amanda has put some of the remaining bottles of Deirdre in the Sheldon’s Super Sale at an even lower price. Fill your boots.

Car’s the Star

Here’s the first motor of the new year. It pulled into the car park around 10 minutes before closing on New Year’s Eve. Great to see a car like this out and about on a winter’s day, a rare treat. It is of course a Caterham 7, one of my favourites for a track day. ‘Tis indeed a brave person who drives it on the public road, such is the temptation to tip your foot down and let the back end come out a little. A proper drifting car if you can judge things right, but my advice is save it for the track.
Many thanks to Chris for coming in to see us and facing the brisk weather of the day. A shame young Will couldn’t quite manage the cold breeze for the onward journey. Tut.
That’s it for tonight’s edition of Sheldon’s Times. I suspect we might see some of you tomorrow to peruse the saleroom. Doors open at 0900hrs, form an orderly queue. The current cold spell looks set in, so wrap up warm, light the home fires, pull the cork on a warming red and settle in. Amanda (“The Queen of the Sale”), Trish and I will be around tomorrow to service your every wine and other consumable beverage need, drop in and say hello.

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

Your Copenhagen-loving, Sale-anticipatory, Caterham-envious wine team at Sheldon’s Wine Cellars

HNY, DotY, Quiz Answers, Shop Closure Times, WotY and a BIG Thank You

As we approach the turn of the year it is time for some announcements – Dog of the Year 2021, Wines of the Year 2021, the answers to the ever-so-challenging Christmas Quiz and the opening hours (or perhaps I should say closure times) of the shop over the coming days. We finish up with a big personal thank you to all of you – our lovely customers – who make the running of our little wine shop so enjoyable. Happy New Year everyone, have fun!


May we take this opportunity to wish you all a very Happy New Year. Whatever the days ahead holds for you, enjoy yourselves. We are all hoping (as we were last year) that the turn of the year will herald in a new era of freedom, only time will tell. Ordinarily I would be in Burgundy next week for the tasting of the new vintage, but alas this will be missed for the second year in a row. We have all had to curtail our plans for the safety of ourselves and those around us.
Have a great time with your celebrations, be safe and here’s wishing you all the very best for 2022!

Dog of the Year 2021

And now to the nearly impossible task of selecting Dog of the Year 2021. I suspect it is a bit like being asked to pick your favourite child (not difficult for me as I don’t have any of those), or even worse your favourite bottle of wine (near impossible) but a decision has to be made. After three committee meetings, several bottles of wine and three laps of the car park to make absolutely sure we have made the right decision, the trophy for Dog of the Year is being handed from the 2020 winner, Mr Hector the Victorious, to our 2021 winner, Mr Jackson the Triumphant.
Jackson the Triumphant – Dog of the Year 2021
Jackson has been a frequent visitor to the shop, mostly with his best pal Douglas. So regular have their visits been that:

a) they know exactly where the treats are
b) they know which treats they like best, and those that come a sorry second
c) they think they run the shop and are often vocal when someone (including paying customers) enters ‘their shop space’

The fact that Jackson won 3rd place in the Most Handsome Dog competition with me at this years Whichford Show might also have something to with it – a proud moment for dog, owners and myself together. Thanks to Tim and Debs for being such regular visitors and sharing your dogs and some great bottles with us.

Congratulations to Jackson, and by association Douglas too, for taking this year’s top spot as Dog of the Year 2021

Christmas Quiz – the answers

Last week we ran Amanda’s Christmas Quiz and from some of the comments we have had back I think it is time we revealed the answers. I am sure you all did very well. But to be sure, see below:
1. Which alcohol is traditionally added to the base of a Christmas trifle?
2. A swede is a cross between which two vegetables?
A turnip and cabbage (Ed: seriously?)
3. From which country does the Christmas drink Eggnog originate?
4. What should you eat one of for each of the 12 days of Christmas if you want good luck?
A mince pie (Ed: only ‘one’ each day?)
5. What drink, invented by Francis Showering, has a fawn mascot?
Babycham (Ed: still available? Surely not….)
6. Who served up figgy pudding in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol?
Mrs Cratchit
7. Which alcoholic ingredient is used in a Snowball cocktail?
Advocaat (Ed: another potential addition to the weird spirits section perhaps?)
8. What is the name of the German yeast cake often served at Christmas?
9. According to the tradition, where are you supposed to hide the Christmas pickle?
In the Christmas tree
10. Which of the Sheldon’s team has the most festive name (and we’re not talking cowboy films!)?
Carol! (Ed: of course! Our very own Christmas helper, Carol is really in charge when it comes to Christmas in the shop)

New Year’s Closure and Reopening 8th January 2022 – a final reminder

Following a fun three days of serving you all in the days “inbetwixtmas”, we are now closed for the New Year. We are also closed next week for the annual stocktake, an exercise we throughly enjoy (not) but it is a necessary step to ensure we have confidence in our stock levels for the year ahead. It also allows us to assess the balance of wines we have across the different wine making regions of the world, informing us as to where we place our investments in the months ahead.
We will reopen on Saturday 8th January 2022 where our opening hours will return to normal.
We are looking forward to seeing you back in the shop in January and hearing all of your festive tales. We will also help you find the right bottles to help you through the gloomy days ahead while we wait for spring to appear.

Wine(s) of the Year 2021

I have asked each member of the team to offer up their wine of 2021. The parameters were simple: a wine you love to sell in the shop and/or a bottle you think has been a valued addition to the range in the year. This is not a list of our favourite drinkers, but is instead a selection of wines we are particularly proud of. Here goes:
It has to be Rezabal Txakoli for me. This wine comes from the Basque region of Spain, not a well known wine producing region. When we tried this light, spritzy yet delicious white wine we were a little nervous about bringing it into the shop, wondering who would buy it. Having convinced a handful of you to try it, it has now become a firm favourite. And at £13 a bottle it is a ‘no-guilt’ mid-week treat.

Since starting here 3 months ago I have been watching the team talk to customers and learning all the time. One bottle that stands out for me is Chateau Le Gardera, a wine we consider our ‘house’ Claret. Whilst available by the bottle we mostly sell it by the case. No surprise considering the price is just £12.95 a bottle (or £26.95 a magnum) – a real bargain!

Easy one for me – Vinsobres, the Southern Rhone wine from the Perrin family. Since we started showing this blind at the monthly Cellar Tours it has been flying out. It is the most affordable of the Perrin wines we hold (£17.95/bottle) and has all the hallmarks of much more expensive wines from the same area, and from the rest of the world for that matter.

For me there is only one answer: Sheldon’s Champagne. The quality of the Champagne in the bottle for the price is phenomenal. In 2020 it outsold every other wine in the shop by at least two and a half times, I am looking forward to seeing how it did in 2022 (but we have an idea based on the lack of bottles we have left in the shop!)

Earlier on in 2021 we were sent a box of samples, all in 50cl bottles. Included in the selection were the wines of the Italian Tuscan producer, Querciabella. We had the opportunity to try all of the range side by side, and we stock the excellent Camartina which is down in the cellars (£85/bottle), but the standout wine for me was their wine called Mongrana. A Sangiovese with Bordeaux varieties in the blend, this is such high quality for such a silly price (£16.95). Superb and a worthy addition to the range!


As a final note, I want to say a huge thank you to all of you lovely people who visit the shop and buy lovely wines from us. It has been another testing year for all, with much uncertainty and the threat of the virus hanging over us. Despite this you have continued to pitch up and shop for great bottles. Not wanting to sit on our laurels in the quieter periods, we have made further improvements to the shop over the course of the last 12 months, including an expansion of the range of wines we hold (Esther estimates another 500 lines, I am in trouble), upgrades to the security and CCTV systems that help us secure the stock and of course the onboarding of Jude, our newest member of the team. We are proud to say we haven’t skipped a single day, even when team members have had to isolate due to Covid.
It is your visits and your custom that makes a business like ours. Without you we would not survive as a shop, but more’s the point, we wouldn’t enjoy what we do. You have all been great, engaging with us to find you the best bottles for whatever occasions you have had over the last 12 months. So a HUGE thank you to all of you for your unwavering support in 2021.
Our quest to continuously upgrade our wine selection remains unabated and we shall systematically work our way through the range of wines we hold and replace with higher quality wines as we find them. We already have big plans for 2022, including the expansion and upgrading of our spirits section with a special focus on Whiskies, the introduction of wines from countries in Eastern Europe (Hungary, Georgia and Romania to name a few) and somehow finding space for some of the wines we have already acquired from South America and the USA that we have hidden in the warehouse because we couldn’t find room for them in the shop or cellars. I also want to take a look at the wines we hold from Australia, with the help of a specialist in a similar way to that which we upgraded our South African selection (thank you Richard for all of your help with SA in the last 12 months).
Our commitment to you to find fabulous wines and the best possible prices is absolute. Our mission to become a destination wine shop for the discerning wine lover is not yet fully realised, there is still plenty of work for us to do. We are grateful to have you to continue this journey with us and help us fulfil our ambitions. Thank you.
The majority of you will be getting into the swing of things as you read this, readying yourself for the evening ahead hopefully with a glass in hand. Our regular readers, John, James and family in Australia will already be well into 2022!
Here’s wishing every one of you a happy and prosperous New Year. We look forward to seeing you when we reopen on January 8th.

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

Your New-Years-loving, quiz-contented, Jackson-congratulating wine team at Sheldon’s Wine Cellars

DotW, Christmas Quiz, Opening Hours, Dinner Wines, Jumpers & Car’s the Star

Naturally there is no real wine content in tonight’s email, it’s just for fun. I am sure many of you are well into your third or fourth drink by now. If you are reading this then sit back, take another sip and settle in.
We have Santa in tonight’s edition, a fun quiz from Amanda (a bit easy if you ask me), a reminder of our opening hours over the next week or so, what wines we will be having for Christmas Dinner, a reprise on Christmas Jumpers and we finish with a super (although not necessarily festive) Car’s the Star. Sherry anyone? Yes please!

Dog of the Week

Imagine our surprise when Santa popped in! Yes, this lovely doggie is called Santa. She was very excited when she came in, was more than willing to have her tummy rubbed and managed to snaffle a few treats. She was less keen when we popped her reindeer antlers on and tried to take a photo. Hence why she is a touch out of focus.
Many thanks to Richard for bringing Santa in to see us. Rather appropriate to have her in the Christmas Eve edition of Sheldon’s Times. She’d be welcome down our chimney any time.

Amanda’s Christmas Quiz

Amanda has written you all a fun little quiz. You can either have a go now, or wait until you are all around the Christmas table. Whenever you do it, remember, it is not like a game of Christmas Monopoly or Pictionary – no arguing, no fighting. It’s just for fun. Answers may appear in next week’s Sheldon’s Times. Or perhaps they won’t.
1. Which alcohol is traditionally added to the base of a Christmas trifle?
2. A swede is a cross between which two vegetables?
3. From which country does the Christmas drink Eggnog originate?
4. What should you eat one of for each of the 12 days of Christmas if you want good luck?
5. What drink, invented by Francis Showering, has a fawn mascot?
6. Who served up figgy pudding in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol?
7. Which alcoholic ingredient is used in a Snowball cocktail?
8. What is the name of the German yeast cake often served at Christmas?
9. According to the tradition, where are you supposed to hide the Christmas pickle?
10. Which of the Sheldon’s team has the most festive name (and we’re not talking cowboy films!)?
Have a lovely Christmas all!
Amanda x

Festive Season Opening Hours

No change here from what was reported last week, but if I tell you again it might sink in. Here goes:

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.

What’s for Christmas Dinner?

Being such traditionalists all of us at the shop are having fairly predictable fare for Christmas dinner tomorrow. But the interesting thing (as far as I am concerned!) are the wine choices that go along with the food. Here’s a little snapshot of what we are having (to drink) with our main festive meal:

I’ll be doing presents tonight with family to avoid the rush in the morning. I’m then going to my brother’s for for lunch tomorrow. I’ll be doing most of the cooking and we are having turkey, with carrots, sprouts, 3 types of potatoes (roast, dauphinoise, boiled). I’ll be enjoying my personal favourite, a glass of Lyme Bay Pinot Noir rose. This off-dry wine is something I really enjoy.

In the morning we’ll be having some mulled wine. When we get to lunchtime we’ll be having turkey with all the trimmings. And interestingly I will be tucking into a rather nice bottle of Whispering Angel, the most popular of the Provence roses and a fine accompaniment to the white meat from the turkey. In the afternoon we are all going to hit the cream liqueur.

We are having a family Christmas with my parents over from Norfolk. Beef will be the main event and I’ll be serving Sottano’s Enologo Malbec from Mendoza, Argentina. I love this wine for it’s richness and sense of place. We’ll have a bottle of Sheldon’s Champagne to get us started and probably dive into the port after the meal.

We’re having chicken with all the business. We are eleven in the house so there are a lot of mouths to feed. Sheldon’s Champagne will help the smoked salmon go down and then we’ll crack open a bottle Macon Bussieres from Joseph Drouhin followed by Karl Johner’s Gladstone Pinot Noir. Karl Johner is based in Baden Baden and makes great Pinot Noir in Germany, but his Gladstone holdings are in New Zealand and are delicious. Good Burgundy without the Burgundy price tag.

Shane & Trish:
We have a couple of village drinks parties to go to from midday onwards, so we’ll be arriving home full of ‘cheer’ ready to cook a 2-rib beef roast (thank you friends at Paddock Farm) with most of the bits. Dom Perignon will help with the cooking (2008 Legacy Edition I think). Smoked salmon will precede the cow which we will have our favourite white – Joesph Drouhin’s Chassagne Montrachet 1er Cru ‘Embazees’ 2017, then with the beef I remain a little undecided. By that stage we’ll be half cut and I always make generous wine choices when I’m like that. Undoubtedly it will be a lovely old Bordeaux, I’ll select the bottle on the day!

Christmas Jumpers

It has been great to see many of you visiting the shop in your Christmas jumpers in the last week. My colleagues have my full admiration for their commitment to festive knitwear, I have been less prolific, using the excuse of not wanting to get my pullover dirty in the cellars and warehouse.
Regarding our visitors, we have both a selection that fit into the ‘runner up’ category and a shared first place.
Runners Up: A lovely selection of woolies in the shop over the last week.
2021 Christmas Jumper Competition Winners: Ollie, Dougie & Jackson
Some of you may recognise all three dogs here, they have after all been former Dogs of the Week. Both visits took place in the last 48 hours. Nice to see the boys sporting the festive wares.
Many thanks to all of you who popped in wearing your Christmas garb. It certainly brightened our days and made the team feel less conspicuous in their own outfits.

Car’s the Star

No reindeer antlers on this one I’m afraid. But it does have gold wheels. A Porsche 911 Turbo S 992.  Not much else to say, errr, other than it generates 641 horse power, gets to 62mph in just 2.4 seconds and has a top speed of a mere 205mph. Insane.
A big thank you to Henry for bringing it along, and for the smattering of other wonderful vehicles he has turned up in over the last 12 months. It has been our pleasure! If I have been a really good boy, perhaps Santa will bring me one for Christmas?!
All that is left for me to say is a very Merry Christmas to you all. We hope you all have a super break. Eat well and drink even better. We’ll be back in the shop on Wednesday 29th from 0900hrs to deal with any in-between wine emergencies. See you then, if not then in 2022.

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

Your turkey-stuffing, jumper-wearing, quiz-loving wine team at Sheldon’s Wine Cellars


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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