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December 2009

The tasting game

A couple of years ago I reported on a new product from The Wine Gift Centre called 'The Tasting Game', that for me was easily the best of several wine-related dinner-party games I'd come across. Well, The Wine Gift Centre has just re-launched an improved version of the game with an introductory £10-off, bringing the price down to £19.95 which is outstanding value. The game is suitable for up to six players or teams, and for any level of wine knowledge: its all about describing what is in your glass. The game is great fun and very educational, but even if you don't use it too often, you will get tremendous use from the spittoon, dripstops and bottle bags that are included - and which alone would cost more than £20 if purchased separately. I'm delighted to see this product back on sale: for me it's a Christmas no-brainer.
  

STOP PRESS: The Wine Gift Centre is offering 15% of *everything* on its site, exclusively for wine-pages visitors. That includes the tasting game of course, which would bring the price down to less than £17. To enjoy the discount, choose your items from winegiftcentre.com and enter the code 'winepages' at check-out.

Laithwaites goes to (Borough) market

Since it opened a decade ago, Majestic wines have had a retail shop within the Vinopolis wine venue near London's Borough market. Famous for being the only Majestic branch where single-bottle purchases were allowed, the store serves both local shoppers and visitors to Vinopolis. So it was a surprise to hear that Majestic will be replaced as the retailer in Vinopolis as of January 2010, by Laithwaites, the direct-selling. Wine-pages understands that Majestic pulled out after lease negotiations did not reach a satisfactory conclusion, and that
 
Laithwaites stepped in. It is a coup for the company, which is moving more and more into over-the-counter retailing with 10 shops to its name already. The flagship 5,000sqft store will stock the wines Vinopolis visitors taste on the tour, as well as wines from Laithwaites own range. Tony Laithwaite, Founder and co-Chairman of Laithwaites Wine says: "It's very exciting for me. I guess I have railway arches in my blood, having started off under Windsor Central Station. I look forward to appearing there regularly - Southwark is quite a buzzy part of town - the Tate, the Globe, the Market, Vinopolis … and now Laithwaites."

Lurton does Dakar

Winemaker François Lurton is driving for the first time in the Dakar Rally, to take place in Argentina and Chile this year. The fifth generation of the Bordeaux dynasty, Lurton first visited South America in the early nineties, and "recognised the potential of the terroir for producing top wines." He now owns two estates in South America, Vista Flores in Argentina and Hacienda Araucano in Chile. Commenting on the Dakar he says: "Racing in the Dakar has been a dream of mine since I was a young boy. There was no way I was going to miss out on the chance to drive close-by to my vineyards and wineries in Argentina and Chile, two countries I have come to love over the past fifteen years."
  

Humanitas

Humanitas is a small, family-owned winery with a difference. Their '7% Solution' strives to donate a minimum of 7% of their revenues (which they say is 100% of their profits) to charities working on solutions to hunger, affordable housing & education. Humanitas says "We simply want to make the world a better place...one sip at a time!" Founded in 2001, the wines are only available in the USA at this time, and I personally have not tasted them. But with the festive season upon us, and a range of wine gifts and baskets available, it might be one for US visitors to look into. Check out humanitaswines.com.
  

Manga manga manga!

In weird story corner of the month, one of our favourite winemakers, Ben Glaetzer of Glaetzer Wines tells me that his cult wine AMON-Ra has just become a little more cultish still as it has featured in Japanese Manga comic "Les Gouttes de Dieu" (The Drops of God). The subtleties of the plot (and just what exactly this strapping Barossa Shiraz has to do with it) escape me, but the Gouttes de Dieu series apparantly tells the story of Kanzaki Shizuku, the son of a recently deceased, world renowned wine critic Kanzaki Yutaka, who owns a vast wine collection. To take ownership of his legacy, the son must find 12 wines, known as the 12 Apostles. The story line revolves around Shizuku's rivalry with another son, also a wine critic, in his search to solve the mystery of what their father has deemed the greatest wines in the world. It's seems that AMON-Ra is one of them. Ben Glaetzer says "it's an honour to be named alongside the other 'apostles', and exciting to be a part of the modern Manga culture."   

Max Bordeaux

Just opened in Bordeaux city centre is the Max Bordeaux 'Wine gallery'. Six Enomatic wine dispensing machines will offer 48 of Bordeaux’s most prestigious wines by the glass. The staff are said to be "knowledgeable but not intimidating," and a pay-as-you-go credit card system allows you to choose tasting samples according to your budget. The initial list of wines on offer include all the First Growths, Yquem and stars of the Right Bank like Chavel Blanc and Ausone. The company says "We want to change the general perception of Bordeaux – particularly within the younger generation. Admittedly, we are one of the few places in the world offering all first growths side by side, however, equally exciting in my mind are the 'seconds of the firsts and the firsts of the seconds', which are generally far less known but offer great value for money." The ambitious company behind Max Bordeaux says it plans to open more Wine Galleries around the world, but in the meantime you can find them at 14 Cours de l’Intendance, 33000 Bordeaux. Tel +33557292381.