Monday, 12 December 2016

We Don't Sell Mead...

My local Chinese Take-Away sells Chinese food.  This may seem rather an obvious thing to say, but my point is that they know their market and they stick to what they are good at doing.  You wouldn’t dream of going in there and asking whether they sell pizzas.  Based on our experience I bet someone has though!  The festive season does seem to generate some odd requests for retailers and I guess Wine Merchants cannot expect to be immune from these.  People seem to think we are the likely source of all sorts of interesting stuff...

I suppose it’s only reasonable that customers should ask, because many retailers do add to their product ranges at this time of year so unexpected items do crop up in unusual places.  After all, garden centres sell beer.  Supermarkets sell insurance and the latest statement from our bank came with a wine offer enclosed (thanks chaps...).

We always keep a mental note of requests for things we don’t stock (a) because you never know, we might be missing a trick (b) for our own amusement and (c) to give a quiet nod of approval to the most unusual request by the end of the year.

Currently the all time winner is a request, a few years ago now, for soap powder.  To this day we are still confused by that one.  There was a rather touching request for cocktail cherries from a dear old chap one Christmas who had clearly spent days scouring the town for some. They were evidently a specific request from his wife and, being an attentive husband, he was determined to find some. He struggled up our steps, wheezed his way into the shop, and popped the question.  We explained that sadly this was not a line we sold.  A good-natured “Bugger!” was his only response though we did point him to a local supermarket where we felt he may find success.  He passed the shop again on his way home giving a cheery “thumbs up” having presumably secured his prize elsewhere.

We are frequently mistaken for an Off Licence and enquiries for cold beers (in the summer) and tobacco are not uncommon.  We don’t really want to sell either.  Advocat anyone?  No... I thought not.  Yes, I know we sell olive oil, but wine and olive oil go hand in hand from the land they’re grown on and through production.  Frequently they are made by the same people, so it sort of makes sense.

Way out in front this year are three requests for mead, all in the last fortnight (so no demand outside the festive season then).  Sorry chaps, it’s a bit off our plot, try your local castle (no, seriously, it’s the sort of stuff English Heritage sell next to ye olde plastic knights helmets and the wooden arrows with the little rubber suckers on the end).  Wine is our thing you see; we love it.  Can’t get enough of it.  Would stock more lines but there isn’t room.  However, we do add a bit to our range at Christmastime, specifically with Christmas menus in mind.

We’ve already flagged up the Mourat wines (some of the Pinot Noir will hopefully be coming my way for the Christmas table) but here’s another new find which would be the perfect partner for those who prefer a fuller red with their turkey, chicken or goose.  Valpolicella Ripasso, a generous red with richness and a bit of oak nicely balanced by fresh red cherry fruit.  It’s on the website now, along with the other 450+ lines we have currently available.

I’ll finish with an account of possibly the most frustrating request we have ever had.  A chap came in the other day saying “I’ve looked at your website and can see that you have a fantastic range of over 400 wines, all individually tasted and selected by you.” (well spotted, full marks so far Sir...) “I wonder... can you get Blossom Hill?”...

Thursday, 1 December 2016

The Bathroom Wine Rack

Shower time for the short sighted needs to run on rails.  Once my specs are off I regard myself as virtually blind – especially at that time of the morning – and the stuff I need has to be in predictable places.  Sponge, shower gel, towel... This morning I found myself, wet and blind, with no shower gel.  Bugger.  So out of the shower I got, dripping water onto the bathroom floor, scrabbling around like Mr Magoo in the cabinet where further supplies are usually located.

The problem is that there are females in the house.  Daughter is away at university (and I have enjoyed seeing the resulting expanse of vacant flat surfaces in the bathroom that this has created) but much of that which would be out on display when she is in residence has been put away for safekeeping in the cupboard where the shower gel usually lives so there’s more to hunt through in there than one might expect.  I found shampoo, body butter, facial scrub, handwash (that would do wouldn’t it?) moisturiser, hand cream, conditioner, suncream, after sun... I sensed the trail going cold.  Second cupboard then; baby powder, baby lotion (er...) crème bath, bath foam, anti-perspirant, deodorant, insect repellent, bite ease... trail going cold again. 

There’s always that intriguing bar of fruit soap of course, but it’s new, unopened and seems to have been made by English Heritage. For all I know I might be earmarked as a Christmas present for someone we don’t like.   Besides, I don’t really want to go to work smelling like synthetic mulled wine...

There was only one thing left to do and that was resort to the final cupboard to where all the mini shower gels and shampoos migrate; collected from hotel and B&B stays but never actually finished.  Here there was an assortment of sponges and other body scrubbing devices but buried at the bottom was indeed a selection mini bathroom products.  Mostly shampoo and conditioner only of course, so still no joy.

Eventually I located a part-used mini shower gel which at least solved the immediate problem.  I then made sure that I put it back afterwards though so that the missus, who would surely face the same challenge in an hour or so, would automatically unearth the secret stash of shower gel which surely exists somewhere but I was unable to locate.  She’s efficient you see, so we won’t have run out, it’s just that I couldn’t find what I needed when I needed it.  Hmmm, maybe we have run out?

Domestic wine racks are like this.  You thought there was a bottle of fizz in there for Christmas morning but when you went to pop it in the fridge on Christmas Eve it wasn’t there.  Had you already drunk it?  Had you taken it to that party last month and forgotten to replace it?  And what about some decent wine?  A quick check through the rack reveals some stuff you like but don’t think it quite good enough for the occasion concerned.  Then there are the bottles that guests have brought for you which you’ve not yet been brave enough to open... Did they spend time choosing these especially for you, or were they the free bit of the latest Dine In for £10 deal which they didn’t fancy either?  There’s the better stuff at the bottom of course, but is it ready yet? Or is it already too old?  There does seem to be a growing selection of “bottles to cook with” and it’s Christmas for goodness sake.  These really won’t do!

It doesn’t have to be this way you know.  Just get organised.  Lay in some decent bottles and make sure you label them so they don’t get drunk by the rampaging hoards of returning university students... Check stocks regularly and, crucially, allow yourself the enjoyment of a really good tidy up from time to time when you can open those bottles that you think might be too old and occasionally come across one that isn’t and is really surprisingly good.  Free up space for some new acquisitions and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.  Then you’ll have what you need, when you need it.  Once you’ve done that you can chuck out all those part used jars of body butter and bath creme from the bathroom.  If you’re brave enough!