Je suis disgusting, Sherry, Old Port, Classical Clarets, and tastings with Champagne Olivier Horiot and The Scholium Project
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Dear Samplers,

I simply love this time of year. The plants are shooting (except my aubergine seedlings which are recalcitrant little xxxxs), the birdies are tweeting, and the trout season has begun in earnest. For us Samplers its also time to get stocking for the year ahead, so you will be glad to hear that I have been working very hard on your behalf:

A morning's work, with Jess our resident bottle-opener. Sadly only 2 bottles of this lot were any good, and one of those was too expensive, so my next email may feature just one new wine...
The problem with tasting so many bottles so regularly is that we seem to generate a small town's worth of waste, and pouring away so much wine just seems plain wrong, so last week we sent a few locals a text asking if they wanted any dregs. Hey presto, we are the most popular people in South West France, and now get kissed by all our neighbours on the walk to the schoolbus (don't get too excited, this isn't fashion model territory, sadly).

This has given me a good opportunity to talk about wine in French to anyone who will listen. Sadly this isn't many, because as you know, all French people are born with an innate knowledge of wine, as long as you only talk about bottles available in the supermarket and made within 6 miles of their house, so they already knew that all of the wines we were tasting were rubbish.

I have been trying to explain that we were doing a degustation (tasting) of lots of wines to see which ones to buy. Somehow, my conjugation of the verb deguster has become a little confused with the French word dégoûtant (disgusting), so I fear I have been walking up to people saying that the reason I have so many bottles of wine is because I'm disgusting.

Just when we were beginning to make friends....

New Wines 

Sherry and Port!

This Sunday I am driving down to Jerez for a little holiday with the family. Little do they know that this will simply involve me sitting in musty cellars drinking amontillado, but I suppose I do that anyway, so they won't be too surprised.

To get us in the mood, we have just received the latest releases from sherry maesters, Equipo Navajos. These are cask selections (most of them single casks) of the very finest examples of each style of sherry, made by different bodegas, selected for the character and quality. As you know, I adore sherry, and these are the very best you can buy.

Eduardo Ojeda and Jesus Barquin, the men behind Equipo Navajos.
What these guys don't know about sherry isn't worth knowing.

We also have a new very exciting En Rama (cask release) Fino just in:

Sherry's commercial rival is of course Port. This is a little odd as other than having higher alcohol than most wines, they share very little in common. Anyway, I'm not nearly as much a port lover as a sherry lover, but I do enjoy either a middle aged tawny or a really mature vintage port. To keep the sherry company, we have the latter:
  • Croft Vintage Port 1960, £95 - amazing value for a great vintage now more than 50 years old.



It seems that the 2015 en primeur tasting of Bordeaux has revived a bit of interest in claret. I have mixed feelings about the whole thing - some of the finest wines I have ever tasted are Bordeaux, yet even though demand has gone through the floor in recent years, prices have only gone down a little, and really only decreased meaningfully for the very top wines. So for the meantime we are going to sit out the en primeur Bordeaux shindig unless we get blindsided by an unexpectedly large price decrease in what looks like a very good year. As this is almost certainly not going to happen, for now we will stick to classical wines that are ready to drink now, and which don't require a remortgage to drink.

Icons and the Theme Machine


Icons, South Kensington - Supertuscans, Mature Hermitage from very different vintages, and very young Le Chambertin

  • Tignanello 1989
  • Castello di Ama Bellavista  1995
  • Chave Hermitage 1984
  • Chave Hermitage 1985
  • Sorrel Hermitage 1988
  • Jaboulet Hermitage 1995
  • Rossignol-Trapet Chambertin 2011
  • Rossignol Trapet Le Chambertin 2012

Theme Machine, Islington  - Vintage pairs and a couple of randoms

  • Batailley 2005
  • Batailley 2003
  • D'armailhac 2004
  • D'armailhac 2005
  • Pousse D'or Chambolle Amoureuses  2011
  • Pousse D'or Volnay Clos de la Bousse d'Or 2011
  • Ridge Montebello 1997
  • Astralis 2007

Tasting Events - last chance for the Import Tasting, plus Abe Schoener and Olivier Horiot


Spanish Expedition Tuesday 12th April Islington 7pm £20 Call 0207 22 66 555 to book

An exploration of some of Spain’s perhaps less famous wine regions, with their different grapes and climates there's an array of interesting, really characterful wines. We'll taste wines from Priorat, Jumilla, Toro, Bierzo, Rias Baixas, Monsant and Mallorca, and try to prove there is much more to Spanish wines than just Rioja. Last few tickets remaining.

Big Spring Import Tasting, South Kensington, 18th April £30, 6.30-9pm Call 0207 225 5091 to book

This is a new one for us - in the afternoon we are holding a massive tasting for all our restaurant customers of the hundreds of wines that we import, and will have a number of growers over in London helping us to show off the wines, so we thought it would be a great shame if normal customers (who we greatly prefer of course) didn't get to meet them too. So come along and try a huge range of exclusive wines that we import, and meet the makers behind The Scholium Project, Artuke Rioja, AJ Adams, and France Gonzalvez amongst others. Big discounts will be available on the night too and rumours have been heard of oysters as well.

This year the customer tasting will be relatively limited in numbers due to space restrictions in South Ken, but if its successful we might do a big event each year in the Spring. Last few tickets remaining.

The Scholium Project  with winemaker Abe Schoener Wednesday 20th April Islington 7pm £40. Call 0207 22 66 555 to book

It’s been a while since we had a winemaker up in Islington, so we thought we’d return in style with this tasting from our favourite Californian winery.

Abe Scheoner has a fearless, experimental approach to wine making and more than a touch of the pioneer spirit about him. Since The Scholium Project’s beginnings in 2000, Abe had been dedicated to making wines that explore the boundaries of potential from a selection of California’s most impressive and undervalued vineyards. These are neither ‘natural’ or ‘manufactured’ wines, but are pure and unadulterated expressions of the fruit of some of Sonoma and Napa’s most idiosyncratic sites. As well as that, Abe is, lets just say, "a bit of a character", so the tastings are always an experience in themselves. Please come with an open mind and don’t expect an easy ride!

As a bit of background, read this:

Olivier Horiot, with Olivier Horiot! Monday 16th May 7pm, South Ken, £40. Call 0207 225 5091 to book.

We're very excited to have a chance to showcase the full range of possibilites of Champagne and Rosé des Riceys with the wonderful Olivier Horiot from the Aube. One of our most exciting growers, Olivier produces pretty much everything in tiny amounts down in the Aube. Still white, red and rose, a comparative tasting showing one wine with degorgement from three different dates, andeven a champagne made from Arbanne and Pinot Blanc. Obviously it would be a shame to try these without some appropriate nibbles, so there will be carefully curated food from resident foodie Arthur as well.

Craft Beer

Sales of growlers have suffered a bit recently so we have decided to discontinue them. Of course, the reason why they have suffered is because we started to sell bottled beers too, so perhaps we should have seen that coming! I think its a shame as they were better value per pint than any other way of buying them, but I suppose a 4 pint bottle is a little hard to stick in the fridge!

Due to really high demand, expect to see our range of bottled craft beers expand in the next few months - we have more than 30 examples already, and rapidly growing.

That's all folks, I have the prospect of sherry drinking to contemplate so I'm off.

Have a lovely weekend.


Jamie Hutchinson
The Sampler
266 Upper Street N1 2UQ 0207 2266 555
35 Thurloe Place SW7 2HP 0207 225 5091


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