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Shopping for Christmas during lockdown

In case you didn`t know it: WE ARE OPEN! What`s more, we are now taking turkey orders, so please hurry while stocks are good. G & J Barron Farms are anticipating significantly less big bird sales this year, while making up the numbers with small birds. My take on this, is we should SEIZE THE DAY. Few of us will have so many mouths to feed we can`t afford to pay a little more for better quality produce this year. For example, if we don`t normally, we should consider buying the best free-range farm turkey, not supermarket, this year. In our shop we sell only the best G&J small turkeys, so look no further!  Additionally, traditional for Christmas Day, there`s our Pinney`s of Orford smoked salmon, which is simply divine with a squeeze of lemon. And, of course, our fabulous Hamish & Johnson cheeses.  For those with a sweet tooth we have cinnamon iced star, Farhi chocolate almonds, marzipan Stollen and Panettone, and Cannoli lemon, hazelnut & pistachio. For the children, chocolate sardines and chocolate Brussel sprouts. They`ll love these sardines and Brussels! Something for everyone at The Wine Centre. Naturally, also, we have your Christmas Day wines, and we want to make it special this year for everyone. Come see our Christmas selection.  In the shop, from today, we will feature our Christmas recommendations. But I will name here two: In white, Perrin Nature Cotes du Rhone Blanc 2019, £16.99 per bottle. This is an organic white wine produced by one of Chateauneuf-du-Pape`s most famous family`s “la Famille Perrin”. A blend of 50% Grenache Blanc, 30% Viognier, 10% Marsanne & 10% Roussanne grapes. It has bright stone-fruit characters and a moreish, creamy palate. I can`t recommend it enough. In red, also from the Rhone Valley, and made by another top Chateauneuf-du-Pape producer, Domaine Lafond Cotes du Rhone Rouge Roc-Epine 2018, £16.99 per bottle. A blend of 70% Grenache and 30% Syrah grapes. Wonderful dark fruits, of cherries and blackcurrants, soft and rounded. A perfect match for that small turkey.  Cheers everyone!

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Sense of Place

September, 2019, I visited Languedoc in the South of France on a worry-free, Covid-free wine-buying trip. I wrote about it in this paper at the time. I visited the region`s up-and-coming “Domaine La Lauzeta”, the creation of Englishman Tom Hills, organic-artisan wine producer of Saint-Chinian, a small appellation north west of Beziers. The first pressings for Tom`s new “Jauzimen Rosé” were already in tank when we arrived, and so it was Tom had time to take us around his vineyards, with some days spare before harvest was due to begin for his red wines. We took in the scrubland all around, covered by oak, chestnut, hazelnut, and cherry trees. “The garrigue”, as it is known, a feast for the senses, taking in mimosa, almond and peach blossom, blackberries, and wild roses, along with the herbal aromas of fennel, rosemary, juniper, lavender, and thyme. Standing on a hilltop there, the view stretches south across the salt marshes to the Mediterranean coast, and north to the distant Caroux mountains, stark, hilly, and beautiful. Beneath our feet the schist terroir, which, together with “the garrigues”, Tom says, is reflected in his wines, like an echo. It`s in the aroma, he explained. Tasting the blue-black fruit that cool September morning, Grenache grapes they were, hanging from gnarled old vines, I was reminded how wonderful life is. And so you can imagine my pleasure when Tom walked into our shop just last week with a bottle of his 2019 “Corteza Red”, from that very vineyard, at least in part, of that same vintage, a blend of 40% Grenache, 34% Syrah, 14% Carignan and 12% Cinsault grapes. “I hope it gives you a sense of the south”, he remarked. And it did. The captivating aroma, the taste of smooth blue-black fruit, riper now.  I was immediately transported back to Saint-Chinian and September last year, to worry-free, Covid-free days. Even for just a while. Cheers, Tom.

Tom`s delicious new release organic red is now available in the shop, £19.99 per bottle. I can`t recommend it enough.

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Share a Cup of Kindness

Halloween tomorrow. Will our children be trick and treating, I wonder? Or given the pandemic will our young mums and dads distract them at home, to keep everyone safe?  Guy-Fawkes next week. Who among us will be in our gardens, with bonfires, fireworks, and sparklers? I know a few people, with dogs and cats, who would like to be spared this year. To say nothing of our wildlife! Our General Hospital A&E could do without the usual burns as well.  But am I being a killjoy? Well, maybe I am. But surely, for once, this year, can we NOT reap havoc all around please?  Let`s all be especially kind instead. Check on the elderly couple next door, perhaps? Get the children to make them a Halloween card?  And then there`s Christmas!  I wonder what`s in store for us all, this year? I suspect most of us will revert to the nuclear family, the smallest possible unit, avoiding travel and mixing households. Which means there will be folk out there who are isolated and lonely. Let`s not forget them. A hamper gift for Christmas is a sure way to make them smile. I`ve seen the happiness they bring to people, and we are delighted to put them together for you. We can mail them anywhere in the country for you too. Even just a single bottle of wine will do the trick, a bottle to open on Christmas day. This year, as never before, would speak volumes. A nice comforting bottle of Cotes du Rhone Villages, say?  Perhaps a big bottle, a magnum, for the extended family? Or a gin hamper? They can be fun: Colchester`s own Jumbo gin and a mix of Fever Tree tonics, makes a great gift. And we can do cheese hampers too, of course, with some of the best cheese money can buy.  But a word of warning: Be sure to get your orders in early, this year; our couriers will have their work cut out for them, to be sure. Cheers everyone!

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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 and 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 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: £11.00pp

Vegan option: £10.00pp

Dessert: £5.00pp

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!