What I’m doing (March Edition)

All the odds and sods that went on in March and I didn’t bloody tell you about. Hampshire yomps, Hampshire scoff, wine bizniz and a special arrival…

Yeah, I know it’s April now. Sue me. Here’s what I’ve been up to in March.

Walking the Hangers Way

Isn’t it fabulous — genuinely fabulous — to live in a country so crisscrossed and enmeshed with long distance paths? Of course there are the well known national trails: your Ridgeways and West Highland Ways. But there are hundreds more. The Hangers Way passes only minutes away from our house and is named for the range of hills about and atop which it meanders, the Hangers. In spring its woodlands are carpeted with wild garlic and the Hangers bloom from brown to green. Like so many of these paths, the variety of terrain and ecosystem is fantastic.

Eating at the White Hart, South Harting

The White Hart is one of the best of several good food-oriented pubs that dot our patch of the South Downs. Come here for lunch or dinner after you’ve clambered your way up and down neighbouring Harting Hill. We had supper here on Saturday with Amy’s parents: excellent mushrooms, egg and prosciutto on toast (yup, with wanky shrooms), then tender, deep-flavoured venison haunch. Cooking is generally very good and the staff are charmingly gauche. The place has a pleasantly convivial atmosphere and is (crucially) welcoming of yellow labradors. Wine list could do with a revamp (too few food-friendly reds) but the Berry Bros Claret is a solid choice.

Reading about Majestic’s demise

If it weren’t for Majestic Wine, my life would undoubtedly be very different. The bastards rejected my graduate trainee application after interview on the basis of my not being ‘a natural salesman’. A fronthanded compliment indeed.

Majestic is to be subsumed into the company it bought a few short years ago, Naked Wines, which (in the abstract) gives a whole new resonance to the phrase caveat emptor. But nobody watching the UK wine bizniz with even the vaguest interest can have been much surprised.

I enjoyed two takes on the sadly predictable story, both (in their contrasting ways) eloquently evoking the dissolution of the old Majestic: Victoria Moore’s and The Sediment Blog’s.

Celebrating with Veuve Clicquot

I’ve never had the pleasure of tasting the main Champagne houses’ non vintage wines side-by-side, so I have no objective favourite champagne. My subjective favourite, though, is Veuve Clicquot. So there. I’m not reviewing it because it was consumed in celebration — of the fact that, on the same day that Theresa May failed to deliver Brexit, my dear sister succeeded in delivering an infinitely more welcome entity: one tiny human female.

My niece, Elara, with her father Ed.

So, really, all the above waffle is nothing. What was up to in March was: becoming Uncle Parn.

Review: Bollinger Special Cuvee Champagne

… will remind you why celebration is — and e’er will be — fizzy

I’ve a few posts waiting in the wings for you, o dear & faithful reader — thanks to the seasonal profusion of alcohol from which we’re just emerging.

We’ve already done the sherry, so accompany me onward through my festive imbibitions. Next up? Pre-Christmas dinner champagne (courtesy of some bloke who took my parents’ old car off their hands and repaid them with a bottle of Bollinger. Which is exactly the way to do things.)

A bottle of Bollinger Special Cuvee Champagne

I love good champagne. Conversely, I despise the cheap, astringent carbonated pisswater that all too often comes in its stead.

Fortunately, Bollinger’s Special Cuvee is no pisswater. And if you’ve had your mouth shrivelled by one too many thin and acidic fizzes of late (which seems likely at a time of year when cheap fizz is almost mandatory), your first mouthful of Bollinger will remind you why you ever liked this stuff.

For this is a big, generous old toffee-apple sponge of a champagne. It is expansive. It has that characteristic delicious biscuit quality — except that here it’s richer than mere biscuit. More, I’d say, like the topping of a fruit crumble with oats, butter, muscovado sugar — crisped from the oven.

It’s this lovely savoury-sweetness that makes it, that frees it. It gives the wine full license to go bone dry (as we’d expect of a Champagne) without risking astringency.

Smell-wise, the apple and toffee are there, accompanied (subtly) by the aroma of expensive cigarettes.

And it’s a proper bubbler — pretty lively, not so fine a ‘mousse’ as some other champagnes.

Verdict

So, yes, you have it all above. A fine ol’ champagne, balanced, savoury and delicious. And it won’t shrivel your stomach and tongue with acid. It’s a pricey enough bottle, though, at full price — so if you’re spending £30-40, you should damn well expect finesse.

That said, let it be noted that this is very much the kind of champagne I’d like to be given, were someone to take a car off my hands.

(Let it also be noted, howsoever, that I do not own a car.)

Rating ★★★☆☆
ABV 12%
Price £28 (reduced from £38) at Majestic, £34.98 from Amazon (who knew Amazon sold wine?), and £39.99 from Oddbins.