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The darker nights ahead

We have seen some fantastic innovation since Covid 19 came upon us, not least from young people, and it`s a joy to behold. In recent blogs I have referred to caterers Dominic Carter and Emma Bennett`s latest adventure, The Food Station Mobile, bringing quality food direct to you, the customer.  They will be parking in our Gt Horkesley car park Fridays 5.30-7.30pm, teaming up with us to deliver great food with our cheeses and matching wines. And they will be popping up all over Essex and Suffolk, bringing joy to all the communities in the run to Christmas.  Well done them. A great many restaurateurs have done equally well; unable to invite guests into their premises during lockdown, they took up deliveries. If lockdown happens again, God Forbid, we know we can trust in them to make good, and service will quickly resume in one shape or other. Shop owners, us included, had to quickly improvise to make shopping safe, and now we look ahead to our next challenge just round the corner: Christmas, the dark, the cold.  Still, on the bright side, tonight, 23rd October, is the first of our “Dining & Wining at Home” Friday nights, Japanese Beef Ramen & Pecan Pie, the first of many to cheer us all up as the nights get darker. Next Friday, 30th, it`s South Indian Seafood Curry & Lemon Posset.  6th November is Beef Bourguignon… I could go on (I`m salivating). If you would like to book your `chef`s takeout` for any or all of these, telephone Dom and Emma on 07587 196 496 or email . You can also order our matching wine of the week to accompany the main. Incidentally, if you would like to pick up cheese and biscuits as well, phone us on 01206 271 236 during opening hours 10am-6.30pm and you can collect it together with the food. Or simply pop into the shop before we close at 6.30pm. Full details available at (click on blog for menus). Pickup in our Gt Horkesley car park Fridays 5.30-7.30pm. Cheers everyone.

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In difficult times..

Hello everyone!

Here we all are, already, in the wet of the Autumn stretch and the lead to Christmas, and Winter. Our garden is covered in leaves again, and the gutters are full of sludge. The nights are getting darker sooner. We are struggling with having to wear our masks anywhere and everywhere we go; and stoically we continue to wash our hands, and keep our distances, even when it feels a drain to have to always think about doing so. The news is ever more depressing on the television and radio, and we turn to Netflix, a good book and to music, as never before. We look to escape. The future does not look great, frankly, and already we are weary of it all. More lockdown coming, higher unemployment, more debt. And now I am depressing you all even more in this newspaper, in a column designed to convey a little light relief! But I was reminded, last night, of one of the good things about the here and now.  It is our time, ladies and gentlemen, for stews and casseroles, and for full-bodied red wines! Oh joy! Yes, we can still enjoy our food and wine, and perhaps it doesn’t matter so much if we put on a few pounds. We can just slip on a baggy jumper, after all. Let`s be easy on ourselves, and kind to others. In such times we need slack, and a kind word, more than ever; and we need our treats, to keep us going. Which reminds me, don`t forget we kick off with our “Dining and Wining at Home” programme next week. Delicious hot food by one of the best young chefs in East Anglia, served from their mobile food station in our Gt Horkesley car park Fridays 5.30-7.30pm. A chance to get together with family and friends and celebrate the good that is here and now. Pre- orders advised on 07587 196 496 or by email . View: . Next week Japanese Beef Ramen & Pecan Pie on the menu. Enjoy everyone!



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Dining and Wining at Home – Menu

We have an exciting new programme for everyone in the run up to Christmas.

Introducing fine dining at home with culinary delights provided by chef Dominic Carter of The Food Station. Some of you will know Dominic from our wine-tasting dinners.

Why not treat yourself or have a party of two, four or six (subject to latest government restrictions)to make your Friday night a special one

Pick up from The Food Station mobile van parked outside The Wine Centre in Great Horkesley from

5.30pm – 7.30pm Fridays

Food & Wine pre-orders to:

Emma Bennett

Mob: 07587 196 496

If you would like to pick up some cheese and biscuits for your party as well, you can pre-order at The Wine Centre on:

Tel:  01206 271 236 (10am-6.30pm Mon-Sat) or simply pop in when you pick up the food, before 6.30pm closing.

Take-away Menu

Main course: £11.50pp

Vegan option: £10.50pp

Dessert: £5.50pp

Week 1 Friday 23rd October

Japanese Beef Ramen with Noodles, Fresh Chilli, Ginger, Mushrooms, Cabbage, Beans, Egg and Sweetcorn


Vegan Ramen with Smoked Tofu & Shiitake Mushrooms (VG)

Pecan Pie

** Wine of the Week **  Borsao Seleccion Garnacha, Campo de Borja, Spain 2019, £9.99

Fragrant plum and spiced-red berry fruits lift from the glass. On the palate the wine has some concentration but remains light, fresh and fruity. Some interesting chocolatey notes appear mid-palate, amid plump, juicy fruits. Serve slightly chilled. Garnacha 85%, Syrah 10%, Tempranillo 5% Vegetarian

Sileni Estates Cellar Selection Pinot Gris, Hawke`s Bay New Zealand 2018, £11.99

The Cellar Selection Pinot Gris has classic aromatic peach characters along with citrus fruits, mineral notes, and beautifully balanced acidity. Although you would expect to match Beef Ramen with an aromatic red, this combination might well surprise you! Pinot Gris 100%

Lohr Wildflower, Monterey, California USA 2018, £18.99

An explosion of bright, aromatic brambly fruit leaps from the glass. This is an old favourite, comforting and quaffable, with soft, rounded, fleshy body. This new vintage combines juicy blueberry, blackberry, and pomegranate, with a black pepper note. Valdiguié100%

Week 2 – Friday 30th October

South Indian Seafood Curry with Jasmine Rice


South Indian Coconut, Chickpea & Cashew Nut Curry (VG)

Lemon Posset

 **Wine of the Week** Borsao Seleccion Garnacha Rosé, Campo de Borja, Spain 2019, £9.99

 A delightful salmon-coloured Garnacha rosé with intense aromas of bright red fruits, raspberries, and strawberries.  Terrific aromatics give this wine immense drinkability. The palate has ripe red berry and cherry fruit characters, balancing acidity, and an appealing red fruit finish.

 D`Arenberg “Hermit-Crab” Marsanne Viognier, McLaren Vale, Australia 2018, £16.99

A fragrant nose full of sweet apricot and gingery spice. The palate is luscious and generous, but has good acid which tightens the wine, adding freshness and a clean crisp finish. Slight pithy feel which builds on the spice notes. Marsanne 50%, Viognier 50%

Domaine Lafond Roc-Epine Cotes du Rhone, France 2018, £16.99

The Roc-Epine Cotes du Rhone is a generous, fruity red, of cherries and blackcurrants, with good concentration, a note of leather, sweet spices, and a soft, round mouthfeel. A crowd pleaser. Grenache 70%, Syrah 30%.

Week 3 – Friday 6th November

Boeuf Bourguignon in red wine, served with crushed new potatoes and vegetables


Vegan Pesto Gnocchi with Cherry Tomatoes, Spinach & Toasted Pine Nuts (VG)

Apricot & Custard Tart

**Wine of the Week** Quatre Vent Douro, Portugal 2018, £9.99

Plum & blackberry aromas are followed on the palate by fruity, fleshy, soft dark fruits, nicely rounded. Blend of Tinta Roriz, Touriga Franca & Tinta Barroca grapes.

Kloster Eberbach Spatburgunder Trocken (Pinot Noir), Rheingau, Germany  2014, £28.99

Wild strawberries, blackcurrants, forest floor & spice aromas, followed by a smooth, fruity palate with elegant fine tannin; quite dark for Pinot Noir, especially so far north.   100% Spatburgunder.

Cabriola by Borsao, Campo de Borja Spain 2016, £19.99

High altitude, low yielding Grenache dominant red. Ripe berries, sweet spices, herbs, toast. Mouth filling, unctuous and fleshy. 70% Garnacha, 25% Syrah, 5% Mazuelo.


Week 4 – Friday 13th November

Chinese Style Pork Belly with Stir Fry Vegetables and Rice


Chinese Glazed Cauliflower Steak (VG)

Chocolate Brownie

**Wine of the Week** Emiliana `Adobe` Chardonnay, Casablanca, Chile 2018, £9.99

Unoaked, sun-kissed Chardonnay made from organically grown grapes. It projects citrus aromas of grapefruit and lime that intermingle with subtle tropical fruit aromas, especially pineapple, and a touch of herbs. On the palate, it is a balanced, fresh, and fruity, with silky texture and a persistent, enjoyable finish. Chardonnay 100% Vegan

Les Pivoines, Beaujolais-Villages, France 2018, £10.99

Exuberant, light fruity red wine with juicy crushed strawberries, cherry characters and an intriguing savoury twist. The palate is lightweight and supple, with vibrant acidity, bright red fruits, with a floral, morello cherry finish. Gamay 100% Vegan

Waterkloof `Circle of Life` Red, Stellenbosch, S. Africa 2016, £15.99

A harmoniously integrated blend with great length that combines the spiciness of the Syrah, the fresh fruits of the Petit Verdot and the juiciness from the Merlot. The beginning is fresh and fruity with good acidity, evolving into riper flavours and herbaceous notes, with elegant tannins and fine, bright acid in the finish. Syrah 73%, Merlot 16%, Petit Verdot 11% Vegan







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Dining and Wining at Home

Hello everyone!

We have an exciting new programme for everyone in the run up to Christmas. Got to share. We are calling it: “Dining and Wining at Home”, and it can be simply for you to spoil yourselves at home, as a family, or tailored for parties with friends up to six (subject to latest government restrictions, of course). Many of you will already know chef Dominic Carter from our wine-tasting dinners. Well, Dom, together with his `front-of-house` partner Emma Bennett, will be “popping-up” Fridays 5.30-7.30pm in our Gt Horkesley car park, offering steaming hot food for customers to take home. The premier evening will be October 23rd, with Japanese Beef Ramen for main, with noodles, fresh chilli, ginger, mushrooms, cabbage, beans, egg & sweetcorn. This will be followed by Pecan Pie. There will also be a vegan alternative to the main every week, starting with Vegan Ramen, with smoked tofu & shiitake mushrooms.  You can just turn up if you like, but better if you pre-order on 07587 196 496 or by email . The price, per person, is £11.50 for the main and £5.50 for the desert.  We expect this to be a regular Friday night event, at least until Christmas, and I urge you to support it. Make it your fancy special Friday night in.  It`s a chance to try my wine of the week too, chosen to match the main.  With the beef and vegan ramen, for example, Spain`s Borsao Seleccion Garnacha (£9.99), a light, fragrant red wine which is best served lightly chilled. Can`t wait until the 23rd. Get your orders in everyone. And happy Fridays until Christmas.  Oh – if you would like to pick up some cheese and biscuits for your party as well, you can pre-order at the shop on 01206 271 236 (10am-6.30pm Mon-Sat) or simply pop in when you pick up the food.

Pickup at The Wine Centre in Gt Horkesley Fridays 5.30-7.30pm, starting 23rd


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Life is for living, and wine is for drinking.

I once said: “There is nothing so sad as an empty wine-rack”. I can improve on that: “There is nothing so sad as a wine-rack filled with over-the-top, past-their-best wines”. The latter statement is better, or worse, rather, because it represents so many missed opportunities. One assumes the owners procrastinated, and then never did.  Mrs. to Mr. Jones: “Shall we open some of the 1999 Lynch-Bages, dear, it`s my fiftieth after all.” His reply: “Oh no, sweetheart, it`s way too good to share with Clive and Marge and the Pickles; you know they don`t appreciate fine wine”.  Of course, that may be true. If the Joneses guests are unlikely to appreciate the opening of such a delectable beverage, then perhaps it would be best saved for another occasion.  Or just maybe they would have blown Clive and Marge and the Pickles away with it, the name Lynch-Bages forever a reminder of the Joneses generosity. Such moments have ignited the passions of most oenophiles at some time or other, it`s how we start our wine journeys. Sadly, I have witnessed too many cellars with OTT aged wines to know better, that far too many people like the Joneses hold back, deferring the moment. The more expensive the wine, the less likely it will ever be opened. So, it was with great pleasure that today in the shop a customer confided in me that he had, during the lockdown, been tucking into his finer vintages. It was `a Covid thing` he said – the feeling, ah what the heck! What are we waiting for? And a sentiment I share absolutely, having helped drink up some of my late father`s special bottles. Impossible not to think how he should have enjoyed them while he was here.  Of course, there is a point to cellaring, I`m not saying otherwise. I`m just urging you hoarders out there not to wait too long. Life is for living, and wine is for drinking. Cheers everyone!


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An Englishman`s take on a French Custom

In years gone by I have enjoyed foie gras, both of goose and of duck, in France and in England. On one occasion it was accompanied by an intensely sweet golden wine, a fine Sauternes, as a starter with caramelized apples and toasted brioche; on another served simply on melba toast with fig, with an aged Pinot Gris, a dry white, from Alsace. On yet another occasion I had it on steak with a Saint-Emilion, a dry red, from Bordeaux.  We even used to sell it in our shop.  I recall extolling its virtues, including how well it went with a variety of different wines.  But then a thing happened. It wasn’t that I suddenly found out about the force-feeding (the “gavage” as the French call it), I guess I always knew about that; I simply saw a picture one day and went off the idea of it. Same with veal, hearing a cow cry (just last year) after losing its young. I come from a farming background, and   certainly don`t judge others on their choices, simply, there came two moments in my life when I ceased to partake. They were no longer for me.  Ever since, I have enjoyed finding alternatives:   a variety of paté and terrine, accompanied with fruit-bread, or gingerbread, and the mulberries from our garden; alternatively, with confit apricots, or mango.  I like big, fat white dry wines, to match, but not overly dry. Good white burgundy like the Saumaize-Michelin Pouilly Fuissé “Vigne Blanche”. Alternatively, Pinot Noir reds work well, Catherine Marshall`s “on Sandstone” from Elgin in South Africa, or, indeed, burgundy`s Theulot-Juillot Mercurey “Vieilles Vignes”, the 2015 vintage sensational right now.  The combinations are infinite, and I don`t miss the old ways at all. In beef, it is the best possible cuts, of sirloin, fillet or rib eye, every bit as good as veal, even better, with darker, meatier reds, of Sangiovese or Syrah, for example our ever popular Chianti Riserva Fagiano, or the highly regarded Yann Chave Crozes Hermitage “Le Rouvre”.  So, so good.



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Hedonism – a joy to behold

THE PURITANICALS among us despise hedonism, as though seeking pleasure and self-gratification were a sin. They lump it in with “materialism” and “greed”. I don`t see it that way. I think a little bit of hedonism from time to time is enriching of life, both the physical and the spiritual.  For some people it might be a day in the spa, or a drive in the red Ferrari. For me, it`s in the opening of a special bottle of wine. The anticipation of it can be every bit as exciting as the event itself. It might be to mark a special occasion, such as the 1999 Dom Perignon I opened at last year`s staff party, to remember the year I bought The Wine Centre. It could be to remember someone. Just yesterday I opened a 2005 Rauzan-Segla, picked out by Theresa in the shop, to remember her late husband by. Earlier this year I opened another Margaux to remember my father. Another time it might be to celebrate a birthday, an anniversary, a friendship. The wine itself can be the occasion, of course, the leg of lamb chosen to accompany it.  The cork is drawn, the contents poured gently into the decanter, allowing the wine to breath, while removing any sediment it may have thrown. The wine is distributed to the waiting guests. It is regarded, smelled, tasted. Not with undue ceremony, but reverently, thoughtfully. Those present are aware of the significance of this bottle, and the moment. And yes, we indulge, we coo, we titter, undeniably a little self-absorbed, rapturous in the excitement of tasting such a rare, beautiful thing. Even better, the shared experience of it, with family, friends, loved ones, in the knowledge we have just marked this moment in time forever, like a priceless one in a generation photo.   I don`t think it is too farfetched to call such a passing of time as uplifting, even spiritual. Do you? Better a hedonist than a puritan. Better we seek life`s pleasures and to share them, than to be abstemious, mean-spirited and pious. Cheers everyone!

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September, the month of plenty

Eating seasonally, especially from produce grown locally, can be hugely rewarding. And no better time to do so than late August, early September, when our gardens burst forth with colour, of big fat red juicy tomatoes, and blue-mauve Victoria plums. We bake apple and blackberry pies. We feast on the humongous courgettes we have grown in pots – ours in 2020 record breaking! Others take the same pride and joy from growing squashes and pumpkins, which might well by now be very tasty. I suggest throwing one in a fire pit until charcoal-black, alternatively fill one with cream and cheese for baking. But it`s also mushroom season, which is just getting going about now, when foragers start hunting for ceps and other delicacies. These, wonderful fried in butter, make for a perfect match with Suffolk`s own Giffords Hall Pinot Noir 2018, a translucent light red wine with red fruits and forest floor overtones. The flesh of the mushroom, itself quite meaty with an earthy taste, has the effect of brightening and intensifying the fruit in the wine, which is delicious. Wines come into their own with September`s seafood harvest as well: Giffords Hall Bacchus 2019 dry white wine with Colchester oysters, why not? The pale white wine has a distinctive elderflower note, green crunchy fruits and a mineral, flinty streak, which, with oysters, and with our local mackerel for that matter, makes for a tasty combination.    So, in case you had not picked up on my gist here, I am advocating an appreciation, generally, of the seasons, and in the here and now, I am giving a big hoorah for September. But I am also pointing out that wine, too, is for the seasons.   Root vegetables are on the way and before long we will all be enjoying hearty casseroles and full-bodied reds to accompany the chillier temperatures; let`s embrace this last slice of summer, before, finally, we put our barbecues away and accept that Autumn and then Winter are on us.  Cheers everyone.

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Last day of our virtual holiday

From the portal in our garden (aka the porch) we teleported from La Grande Motte in France, to Florence in Italy. Because you can do that in your imagination. This is the land of Sangiovese – the grape responsible for the Tuscan wines of Chianti and Montalcino.  We were heading for the beautiful Ristorante Paoli where we had spent a glorious Covid-free summer`s afternoon just the year before. So much of the scene was still fresh in our memories: Michelangelo`s David, the Piazza del Duomo. The restaurant building dates to 1824 with vaulted ceiling and fading Art Deco frescoes, augmented by traditional, super-friendly service. Just love those purring Italians fussing around my wife – so Italian.  And I`ll never forget the duck carpaccio with truffle, nor the wine which accompanied it: Olena Chianti Classico 2012. Both were magnificent together. Now, in our garden porch, I am pouring the 2015 vintage of the very same wine (a deeply romantic gesture clearly lost on my wife), and the food was Spaghetti all’ Arrabbiata, our favourite pasta dish. Once again, the wine hit the spot. Satisfying sour cherry and blackberry, with underlying chocolate and dark shades of mineral, and herbs, and a bright acidity, married to juicy, ripe tannins. Andrea Bocelli was singing his heart out at this point, and the wine was having a mellowing effect.  Lunch, and life, could not have been better. Yet nonetheless it was not complete. We could not be in Italy, even virtual Italy, and not taste one of their delicious sweet wines.  This was a moment we had anticipated with glee. My wife had baked an almond tart, and I had chilled a half-bottle Pieropan `Le Colombare` Recioto di Soave Classico.  The golden wine was unctuous and lingering, set against the crunchy tart it was a dreamy finish to our wonderful Tuscan holiday. As we left Ristorante Paoli to teleport home, we looked skyward, at Fillipo Brunelleschi`s famous cathedral, The Duomo: to think it took 142 years to build!    Sweet memories.

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Virtual holiday 2nd Day.

Hello everyone

Last night the serviettes were French tricolour, red, white, and blue. We started the evening with Pastis and water, a single act which transformed us immediately to the south of France, to a seaside resort known as La Grande Motte, on the outskirts of Montpellier. Three years before we had paddled in the sea on a glorious morning there. The sea shimmered in the early sunlight and there was a gentle breeze. As we sipped our drinks now, in the garden porch, we recalled the feeling of exhilaration that morning. We had breakfasted at the beach café after what must have been a three-mile beach walk, and on an impulse, we had ordered a pastis. France`s national drink has a very particular taste, of anise and liquorice, which is both refreshing and invigorating. It now had the effect of stimulating our appetites, and right on time my wife produced the amuse-bouche, a tasty bite-sized morsel comprised of fresh fig, prosciutto, blue cheese, and walnut. It was wonderful.   The main dish of the evening, my wife tells me, was inspired by King Henri 1V of France. Apparently he won favour with France`s peasantry by promising “a chicken in every pot”, from which was born the quintessentially French dish known as Coq-au-Vin. The meat, typically seared in fat and simmered in red wine, is succulent and juicy, flavoured with onions, garlic, button mushrooms, lardons, bay leaf, parsley, and thyme. It is benchmark fodder for red burgundy. My wine of choice for the occasion was Joseph Faiveley Bourgogne Rouge 2016, a classic red-fruited Pinot Noir with mouth-watering acidity and just enough richness. Mid-palate the wine`s bright cherry fruit was followed by a floral lift, which the food accentuated magnificently.   In the French mode of operandi, the main would have been followed by the cheeses, finishing with desert and coffee. But on this occasion, we had a single Morbier cheese, a very tasty semi-soft cow`s milk cheese from Franche-Comté in eastern France. It was an exquisite end to the meal, as we mopped up the last of the burgundy.  Oh joy!