Grand Tour 2014

This year we decided to start a trip by ship from Plymouth to Santander. We had never made this crossing before, but it seemed to make sense as we wanted to visit various suppliers in Rioja. The crossing was fantastic with the infamous Bay of Biscay as smooth as the proverbial mill pond. The Brittany Ferry ship was large and comfortable with good facilities and food. We left Plymouth at 15.45 and reached Santander at 12.15 the following day.

etxeganaWe had been recommended a hotel in the middle of nowhere, but on our way to Rioja and it turned out to be a real gem. The Hotel Etxegana, Ipiñaburu Auzoa 38, near Zeanuri was about an hour and a half from Santander and an hour from Bilbao. Lovely little hotel with friendly staff and excellent restaurant.

jardins-de-bakeaThe next day we visited Briones and our friend Miguel Merino whom some of you will have met at our Rioja Wine Tasting dinner. We had a good time with him and moved on to Martinez Bujanda near Oyon. A superb winery set amidst their vineyards overlooking the river. We were taken to a restaurant called Méson Chuchi in Fuenmayor for a splendid lunch. Highly recommended if you’re ever in that area, with wonderful melt in the mouth barbequed suckling pig and milk-fed lamb. From there we travelled the short distance to Olite where we visited the Bodegas Ochoa where Adriana Ochoa, the brilliant young winemaker, took us through some of their recent vintages. Then it was over the border near St Jean de Luz and in to France. We stayed in Les Jardins de Bakea just over the border and ate a brilliant meal in Mattin in Ciboure as well as very good meals in Zoko Moko and in Les Jardins de Bakea.
chateau_pierrailThen it was up to Bordeaux visiting a few of our suppliers there, notably Château Pierrail, staying in St Emilion before heading north via Tremolat and Brantome. We visited our friends in Quincy, did our tourist bit by visiting the stunning Chateau de Chenonceau before heading for the tunnel. Good stops on the way notably at the Villa Fol Avril in Moutiers-au-Perche. Stunning location in a quiet village and lovely hotel with super friendly husband and wife team and excellent food and our last night at a place new to us La Ferme du Vert in Wierre Effroy, which was all right without setting the world on fire. The advantage being that it was only 20 minutes from the channel tunnel. (Do any of you have a really nice recommendation about an hour or less from Calais?) Do ask us for details of any of these places.

Christmas Orders and Hours

Christmas and New Year Orders

As we get busier and busier every year, we (and you) have to be more and more organised. All Christmas and New Year’s Eve orders will have to be with us by the very beginning of December, because that is the very latest most of our suppliers need to receive their orders from us. Hardly any of our suppliers will be working between Christmas and the New Year, so whatever you want from us for the New Year’s Eve festivities must be ordered at the same time as you order your Christmas fare, and if possible, collected before Christmas.

To enable us to have a few days well-earned rest, we are only going to be open on the morning of Wednesday 31st December, when we will be open from 8.30 until 1.00, but unless you have ordered things already, please don’t expect us to have quite the selection you are used to.

So, the message as in previous years is “plan ahead!”

Opening times from now until the New Year

  • 8th – 23rd December
    • 8.00am 6.00pm Monday to Saturday inclusive.
  • Sunday 21st December only
    • 10.00am – 4pm
  • Christmas Eve
    • 08.00 until noon
  • Between Christmas and the New Year we are closed except New Year’s Eve
    • 08.30 until 1.00pm

We re-open for business as normal on Friday 2nd January 2015 back to our usual time, from 8.30a.m. until 5.00p.m. Tuesday to Friday and from 8.30 a.m. until 4.30 p.m. on Saturdays.

Christmas Poultry and Game

We have virtually every type of poultry and game imaginable at our fingertips. We have been buying from the same goose supplier for more than thirty years. His geese can be seen free-ranging in deepest Dorset until shortly before Christmas. They are wonderfully finished geese, of a quality far above that which you would normally see; and their flavour and tenderness is always superb.  If you want to be different, why not spoil yourself with a goose this year?

However, if a turkey is your bird, our turkey supplier produces a relatively small number of happy, un-intensively reared turkeys. They are plump, moist and tender, and again are really beautifully prepared. They also grow top quality free range Bronze Turkeys. They’re a bit more expensive and a bit smaller than ordinary turkeys, but they are slightly different from the norm, and maybe a bit moister. Those who had them last year thoroughly enjoyed them.

We always hang our Christmas poultry to ensure its flavour and tenderness. It really is a different product altogether from the mass-produced bird, as those of you who regularly buy from us will testify. Turkeys, especially Bronze ones, are always in great demand. If any of you know what you are going to need in the way of turkeys, the earlier you order it, the more likely you are to get exactly what you order! Turkeys and geese are traditionally sold “long-legged weight”, however to make it easier for you we are doing it net weight after dressing from now on.

baubleIf a goose or a turkey is too big for you, why not try one of our Barbary Ducklings? We have them small enough for two people or big enough for four or five. And they really are as good a duckling as you’ll get, with a particularly meaty breast. We get them in from France in the middle of December, freeze them immediately and have them available for you to thaw out yourselves. We dare not risk ordering them from France at the last minute as we have been let down in the past. (We also do this with the Guinea Fowl, large corn fed chickens and free-range chickens).

Most of our game is shot in Dorset (but not the Grouse which come from the Borders), then hung and prepared either by us or locally. Nowadays, people don’t like to hang their game as they once did – until the neck broke! We hang ours for about a week to ten days which tenderises it and gives it some gamey flavour. If you like your game particularly gamey, just ask us to hang it for a bit longer, but give us some notice! Pheasant Breasts and Pheasant thighs (ideal for making your own confited pheasant) are now available.

Wines for Christmas

FR-Quiot-Ventoux5Our autumn wine tastings were held on Saturday 1st and Sunday 2nd November. We had an impressive selection of wines on tasting. Those who ordered obviously approved as this turned out to be our best tasting ever, with record orders. Thank you everybody who contributed to this! Just for your information, best sellers were Pierre de Chanvigne Brut; Quincy Sauvignon; Les Fumées Blanches Sauvignon; Chateau Pierrail Sauvignon; Dog Point NZ Sauvignon; Laurent Miquel Chardonnay Viognier; La Bastide Viognier ; Macon Villages; Candidato red; La Bastide Merlot; Salice Salentino Limitone dei Greci; Chaponne Morgon; Chanrion Cotes de Brouilly; Les Hauts de Naudon and Château Pierrail reds; Château la Tour de By… and the winner by a mile, Quiot’s Ventoux.

Best newcomer was the Sixteen Ridges Pinot Noirs, red, white and rose. They are made on the Worcestershire/Herefordshire borders from Pinot Noir grapes planted on a south-facing site thought to have been used for viticulture as far back as the Romans. The big advantage is that they are wonderfully weak – only 11%, a thing which is so hard to find nowadays!

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc

dog_point_sauvignon_blancIt’s more than 15 years since Cloudy Bay took New Zealand Sauvignon from ‘niche’ to ‘cult’ and since then the world, and the UK in particular, has loved it. This has inevitably resulted in a huge number of cheap imitations – wines which claim similar heritage and quality but which are in fact made in industrial quantities by faceless conglomerates. So in order to make something authentic and worthy of attention, the makers of Dog Point have gone right back to basics.

Dog Point, which is the name of a peninsular, is a fabulous bit of Kiwi terroir managed by two people with 30 years’ combined experience in senior positions at Cloudy Bay. The immense quality of the wines, the result of a personal, careful and hands-on approach of the team (which extends as far as hand picking their grapes, something of a rarity in Marlborough) means that support for the Dog Point operation is not hard to come by. Leading Antipodean wine expert Tyson Stelzer sums it up perfectly: “There’s a consummately crafted dimension to this wine that propels it above the vast sea of New Zealand Sauvignons, a wine of genuine character and interest”. Clearly this is more than a match for Cloudy Bay and we heartily recommend it; as Mr. Stelzer says: “If you buy no other New Zealand Sauvignon…don’t miss Dog Point”! They also do a stunning Chardonnay which is in very short supply….but we do have a case of it if anyone is interested.

The 2013 Vintage in the Southern Rhone

The autumn and winter of 2012 and 2013 were fairly dry. This shortage was offset in the very late winter/early spring by heavy rain. The summer was very dry except for July, when the rainfall was three times the average. From past experience, heavy rainfall in July heavily influences the structure of the vintage, with supple tannins and a very distinctive finesse such as in 1996, 2001 & 2011. Temperatures were mild in the autumn, fairly cool in the winter and spring and normal in summer. During the peak flowering period in the middle of June very high temperatures hit the southern Rhone. This caused a surge in growth to the detriment of flowering. This resulted in heavily reduced fruit set in the Grenache grapes and therefore much lower than normal average yields when picking was over. The wines from 2013’s vintage are much lighter than usual, but they are delicious in a light, fresh, elegant, feminine way which many people will prefer.

Vintage Port 2011 – a very fine vintage, one to lay down

taylors-1985-vpThe winter of 2010 brought many wet days, which assisted the vines to resist the hot and dry summer that followed. As a result of a warm spring, the vines saw early blossom, allowing one of the earliest starts to harvest ever. However, two rainy days at the end of August were perfect for a cool-down of the berries, offering excellent conditions for the maturation process. The 2011 Ports are very concentrated yet elegant and fresh. In 2011, we have the better of the two worlds: the freshness, elegance and the exuberance of flavours of fresher vintages; and the power and structure of hotter ones.

We have various vintage ports here for Christmas: Taylor 1985; Graham 1997; Quinta de la Rosa 2009 and Dow, Graham and Quinta do Vesuvio 2011.

Autumn News

After a second wonderful summer in a row, although as is so often the case August wasn’t very nice, we had an Indian summer with record lack of rainfall and high temperatures in September and early October; and now it’s really cool and Autumnal. Some have forecast really cold weather ahead this winter. After last year’s exceptionally mild one, we could do with a slightly crisper one.

Sloes are in very good supply in our hedgerows and the blackberries were as good as I can remember them. Our walnut trees had plenty of nuts on them and the squirrels had a wonderful time plundering most of them! The leaves are only just starting to show their autumn colours, and the beech trees in particular are very pretty with real displays of autumn gold. Our Virginia creeper was spectacularly red for a while, but the heavy rain knocked its soft leaves off rather earlier than normal. For once our farmers have had a good year and a good harvest. There has been plenty of forage for livestock farmers too.

autumnAs usual at this time of year, we are exceptionally busy at Trencherman’s.  We had a very good trip to North-West Spain and then drove back up through France. For the first time we took the ferry from Plymouth to Santander. This proved a very worthwhile experience as we were in Spain 24 hours after leaving home. Fortunately the infamous Bay of Biscay was very calm. More of our trip later elsewhere but we are ready to offer you yet another fine selection of foods, drink and other ideas for Christmas and the New Year.

We have combined with The Present Finder to send everybody a hard copy of the Newsletter and Christmas Order Forms. Our thanks to them for sponsoring the postage. Do have a look at their catalogue where you will find lots of unusual presents for Christmas.