Recently I went to Stockholm for a long weekend. I am not sure if it was due to the cold weather, my habits or just unconsciously trying to stay professional even whilst on holiday, I found myself constantly in search of a decent wine in the supermarket to go with my dinner, but to no avail, nothing was found. The only thing I could see in any supermarket was terrible-looking non-alcoholic wines or beer. I did come across a wine shop on a Saturday afternoon, but guess what, it was closed at 3pm. Coming from the UK where you can buy booze 24/7, I was in shock. Who would close a wine retail shop at 3 pm on a Saturday?
Then my wine-professional-self kicked in. Suddenly I got it. For years, I have learnt that the Scandinavian countries have government regulated alcohol monopoly in place. Now I realize how it works. The Swedish government operates a monopoly on the alcohol retail sales. Anything above 3.5% ABV will need to be sold through the 430 plus government-owned “Systembolaget” wine shops.
Originally, everything, including the import and export, production and both on and off-trade alcohol sales, was controlled by the government. However, in 1995, when Sweden joined the EU, they were allowed only to retain its retail sales monopoly on alcohol. Therefore, nowadays it’s possible for business to import and sell wines to restaurants directly. But to buy wines to enjoy at home, you will need to go to Systembolaget.
As a result, my trip in Stockholm ended up with only a glass of Spanish wine, three times the usual price I would pay in the UK, from Ribera del Duero in a restaurant. But at least it was really delicious!
Museum of Spirits in the island of Djurgården, Stockholm – Photo credit@Spiritmuseum
It seems like Stockholm might not be an ideal destination for wine travel then. However, to my surprise, I found a little gem in the island of Djurgården amongst all the major tourist attractions. It’s a boutique style Museum of Spirits (SpritMuseum – dedicated to alcoholic drinks, not ghosts). Small it might be but it is modernly decorated and equipped with a tasting room, a bar and a restaurant. I went into the special Champagne exhibition first where you could learn everything about Champagne.
Just when I thought that this museum was disappointingly tiny, I turned into the main spirits section and was totally blown away. Admittedly, it is not massive. But I was extremely impressed by the well thought through layout and various aroma pumps that are on display. Aromas of all major spirits such as Cognac, Whisky, Calvados, Bourbon are there for you to sniff. Then more astonishingly, the aromas of many rare ingredients for spirits making, for example, wormwood, which is for making Absinthe is there too for you to smell. Being a wine and spirits educator myself, I have been dreaming of such a ‘classroom’ to show students how those ingredients smell like. Apart from the aroma pumps, there are different sections where you can learn about spirits making in an interactive way. Even the sometimes difficult to understand distillation process has been made easier to understand by the beautiful animated film that is on show. In short, this is heaven for people who like to learn more about spirits in a very engaging way.
Apart from the main exhibition sections, there is also a bar and a restaurant called The Dining Room headed by Chef Petter Nilsson who spent 15 years in Paris at the acclaimed neo-bistro La Gazzetta which he co-owned.
Delicious ingredient-focused, season-specific Nordic dishes are served here. After learning all about spirits, admiring the seasonal collections, it is definitely a treat to settle down and enjoy a beautiful and nourishing Nordic meal here. Not to mention that the view from the restaurant is picturesque, which is a bonus!
SpritMuseum: Djurgårdsvägen 38-40, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden. Photo credit@Spiritmuseum
· CHAMPAGNE! – Until 30/10/2018
· SWEDEN: SPIRITS OF A NATION – Until 31/12/ 2018
SpritMuseum: Djurgårdsvägen 38-40, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden.
Leona De Pasquale DipWSET, The Vintage Magazine’s Wine Correspondent
Originally from Taiwan, Leona has been working in the wine industry for more than 10 years as freelance wine writer, translator and educator. She wrote and translated for Decanter Magazine (Chinese Edition in Taiwan), Le Pin Magazine in Hong Kong and is the UK & Europe Correspondent for the most influential wine and spirits magazine in Taiwan (Wine & Spirits Digest). She is also the translator for The World Atlas of Wine, American Wine and Natural Wine. She obtained her WSET Diploma in 2016.
On the 5th of February 2018, the Dow Jones witnessed its largest one-day point decline in its 120-year history. In total, the 30 largest US listed companies from across the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the National Association of Securities Dealers Automated Quotations (NASDAQ) dropped 4.6%, a percentage decline not seen since the eurozone crisis in August 2011. Nor was the Dow alone.
As investors across the world saw the roaring US stock market come to a violent halt, stock markets in Asia and Europe started to collapse as well.
Why? What went so badly wrong that the world suddenly lost its cool and within a week almost all global indices had fallen by 6%-12%?
Most of the news for 2018 actually looked pretty great.
The IMF had upgraded global growth forecasts for 2017, 2018 and 2019, while claiming that the world was about to witness the “‘broadest’ upsurge in global growth since 2010”. Global Mergers & Acquisition activity was at its highest since the dot.com boom over 17 years ago, the eurozone grew at its fastest rate in a decade and manufacturing growth has exploded across the US, Europe and the UK.
Given these factors, many retail investors and ordinary people reasonably asked the question: “Why did everything collapse and what should I do with my money now”? In an attempt to answer the first part, we have to begin with separating the event itself (the stock market collapse), and the reasons behind the crash (the fundamentals).
There are many different and authoritative views on this issue, including a very easy and concise piece by Bloomberg available here. My take is below:
With interest rates at record lows, the stock-market continuing to grow at breakneck speed and the global economy expanding, people have thrown caution to the wind and invested in the stock markets. In fact, January 2018 witnessed record levels of investment in the stock-market, as confidence took over and people from all walks of life began to invest. This is where the problem started.
Everyone in the stock market had been waiting for a fall. But knowing when it would come had been a significant challenge. If investors left too early, they would be potentially giving up the chance to make more money. If they left too late, they may lose everything. On January 29th and 30th, the first investors lost their calm and pocketed their gains and as January came to a close, the US stock market saw two days of consecutive decline and its largest fall since May 2017 (a small blip in comparison to what would happen later).
But why were the professional investors sceptical of the market? Here again we must return to expectations.
The aim of a professional investor is to generate returns that exceed what could be earned by investing in a risk-free asset. In simple terms “risk free” usually means bank deposits and the bonds of the worlds most financial secure markets (US, UK, Switzerland, German). The reason they are “risk free” is because most bank deposits are covered by insurance and because these governments are considered financially prudent enough to guarantee that any money owed to investors will always be repaid. Naturally this sounds like a great deal for investors. Put your money into a bond and earn a guaranteed amount of interest. What is not to like? Well the problem is that after the financial crisis too many investors thought that this was a good idea and so as the demand for bonds increased, their price increased. To cut a long story short, when the price of a bond increases the interest (read return) gets smaller. This is where the problem started.
Risk free bonds are the benchmark for professional investors. The expectation is to beat the risk free rate and the more risk the investor is asked to take, the bigger the return they expect (over the risk free rate). But if the risk free rate is extremely low, then risky investments can look increasingly attractive if investors cannot reach their target return through traditional investments. Pension funds are an excellent example of this. Prior to 2008 a pension fund would expect to pay 3% of all its funds under management out to its retirees every year. Therefore, as long as the pension fund could earn over 3% the fund would meet its obligations. Conveniently several types of government bond from the UK, USA and across leading economies were paying around 5% prior to 2008, allowing pension funds to make a 2% profit and meet all of their commitments, with minimal risk. But the financial crisis and ultra-low interest rates changed everything.
As interest rates dropped to nearly 0% (in some cases negative), investors like pension funds, were forced to find other ways to generate their returns and so they piled into property, real assets (gold, oil, etc) and stocks. Accordingly, the stock market exploded. It didn’t matter that a company was now generating 3% return a year (compared to 5%) because its share price had risen. The alternative was a 1% government bond.
So back to 2018, the key question for investors was this: when would interest rates rise sufficiently that large money managers would sell their stocks? After all, if the interest rate rises then the return from the stock must price in tandem at every step. But that cannot happen forever.
So the magic number was 3%. Specifically, investors began to believe that rising wage inflation in the US at the end of January would increase the interest rate on US ten-year debt to 3%. If inflation was high, the US Federal Reserve would increase rates and money managers would sell their stocks. In Germany the same thing happened when the largest German workers union negotiated an inflation busting pay rise in February, leading to significant stock market declines in the US stock market (the 2nd worst performer after the Dow Jones).
The financial markets have broadly calmed following their collapse at the start of the month, but the truce remains uneasy. It is clear that investors remain extremely uncertain whether the sharp decline in share prices remains the only price “correction” that we shall see for the year, or if it is merely an early warnings tremor before a larger financial earthquake later in the year. On this question, expert opinion is fiercely divided.
However, for people interested in following the stock market closely its worth looking at whether any of the large companies, famously called “Unicorns” choose to finally go public this year. Traditionally private companies go public when they believe that valuations are at record highs, not when they believe that there is space to grow. So if you see AirBnB, Uber or even Spotify go public, then maybe consider putting some more cash in the bank and out of the stock market.
Important disclaimer here: This piece merely reflects the views of the author and should not be considered as financial guidance or advice.
At Landford Stone we’re lucky enough to work on some truly breath-taking projects in properties across the South-West. There is no greater joy for us than the reward of seeing the highest quality natural stone taking pride of place in beautiful properties.
Natural stone is much more than simply a ‘worktop’ or ‘flooring’ material, it is, to us, a ‘natural masterpiece’, a geological work of art that not only brings the outside world indoors but brings with it both character and charm. Each individual natural stone slab is unique in its patterning and colouring, which is why we encourage all our private customers to visit our yard to hand-select the slab that is perfect for their project.
We’re thrilled to be able to showcase a recent project, completed at the end of 2017, at a magnificent Chandler’s Ford home. The incorporation of a trio of natural stone materials – granite, limestone and marble, has really delivered both an air of sophistication and wow-factor in this impressive home.
This particular project not only involved a full kitchen worktop installation with striking limestone flooring but also an absolutely jaw-dropping marble entrance hall, staircase and first floor landing.
Arabescato Corchia Marble Entrance Hall
The marble we used for this stunning staircase is Arabescato Corchia, originating from Italy. Arabescato is a white marble with striking grey veins that certainly add a touch of luxury to any project! The individual tiles for this project were pre-cut in Italy from matching slabs, transferred over to their new British home and painstakingly fitted by our expert flooring team. The Arabescato Corchia is complemented by a contrasting Nero Marquina, dark marble inset/border (originating from Spain). The bespoke treads and risers were manufactured at Landford Stone’s factory.
Marble is a winning material when it comes to elegant flooring. It has been used for thousands of years, from Ancient Egypt to Ancient Rome and Constantinople.
Marble is of course a higher priced natural stone which conveys an air of grandeur. It is incredibly hard wearing and represents an investment, contributing to the resale value of your property.
Granite and Limestone in a bright modern kitchen
Kinawa White Granite and Baobab Ebony Limestone Kitchen
This stunning kitchen features our 30mm Kinawa White granite worktops with pencil edge detailing, as well as a bespoke shaped granite kitchen island with incorporated breakfast bar /sitting area. Kinawa White granite has been hugely popular over the last 5 years and it is easy to see why!
One of our most popular light granite materials, Kinawa, features beautiful grey patterning throughout and looks equally brilliant in both modern and traditional kitchens – this versatility is definitely a contributing factor in its popularity.
In this kitchen we also installed a large up-stand behind the work surfaces that runs seamlessly into a windowsill. This added feature of an incorporated windowsill or shelf is a very popular detail and a fantastic way of showing off a bit more of your natural stone.
The kitchen flooring is 10mm thick Baobab Ebony limestone tiles, supplied by our major flooring partner Ca’ Pietra and installed by our experienced flooring team.
We were introduced to Louise Waldron, the founder of Snow Finel Ski Wear and couldn’t help but be impressed not only with her, but with her range of ski wear. She certainly has spotted a gap in the market for quality thermals, layers and accessories but without the very high price tags of those up-market brands which we aspired to but somehow couldn’t quite justify.
Made from the finest Merino wool and styled with an understated good taste and stamped with her own unique detail, we’re sure that Snow Finel Ski Wear will be recognised in the same way that a flash of red on the sole of a shoe is unmistakably, Christian Louboutin.
Now is an excellent time to visit the Snow Finel website as there are some timely offers for this season! (Just click on the photos or logo to go to the site and view the whole fabulous collection)
We asked Louise to tell us her story which we are delighted to share:-
I started Snow Finel quite simply because I couldn’t fine anything I wanted to wear! I was lucky enough to own lots of lovely ski jackets and ski pants but when I stopped for those long lunches or apres ski drinks I was rather embarrassed about the scruffy old fleece and T-shirt combos.
After visiting lots of factories in the Uk and persuading three of them to work with me, I started in 2013 with a small range of ladies jumpers and hats. I launched at the Spirit of Christmas Fair and attended a small number of small fairs.
Having been well received I realised that stylish thermals and mid layers were lacking in the marketplace. My aim was to create stylish, coordinating layers which looked fantastic on and off the slopes.
The range has grown to include base layers, mid layers, gilets, leggings and a range of accessories for men and ladies.
Merino Wool Mid Layer with Contrasting Zip and matching Cashmere Hat
I design all the garments myself and have everything manufactured in the UK. I felt very strongly about this as I want to support British industry.
All the garments are made from high quality merino wool. Merino has fantastic qualities as a fibre to wear for sport.
- It naturally regulates the wearer’s body temperature.
- It wicks moisture but doesn’t cool the wearer.
- It retains heat but you won’t ever overheat in it!
- An added bonus is it never smells.
The business is growing organically, I am proud of the products that are designed for skiing but are worn by anyone who enjoys sport. The quest for new products and colour ways makes the design process exciting, as does trying out all the samples on the slopes to ensure they perform well.
Men’s Top Layer in Merino Wool
Recently in Millesime Bio (the world’s largest organic wine fair) in Montpellier, I overheard a conversation between a visitor and a Portuguese wine producer. After tasting some of the impressive wines which were mostly clean and showing pure fruit characters, the visitor challenged the producer by asking, “with a wine [pure] like this, where is the Portuguese ‘terroir’?”
The question is not an easy one. Famous for its Port wine and infamous for many cheap and cheerful Rosés, Portugal wine industry have undergone some dramatic transformations in the last few decades. Huge funding had been injected into many different regions, which helped to improve winemaking techniques, equipment and vineyard management.
But the Portuguese, long been criticised by some marketing experts for their unpronounceable and difficult-to-sell grape varieties, continue to guard and cherish their native varieties and slowly but surely prove to the world that you don’t always need Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc to win sales.
Focusing on what you have, embracing new technology as well as protecting ancient traditions, one can make impressive wines and proudly show the ‘terroir’.
The Portuguese are the guardian of their native grapes
During my short stay in Montpellier, I thoroughly enjoyed trying the below Portuguese organic ‘terroir’ wines.
Made by a group of four organic wine producers in Vinho Verde region in the northern part of Portugal, Mica is their flagship wine made by a blend of Loureiro and some Azal and Trajadura. “Loureiro” means “laurel” and typically shows aromas reminiscent of laurel flowers, orange blossoms, apple and peach. It has refreshing acidity balanced by some residual sugar (19 g/l).
I asked the producer Antonio Sousa Pereira if Mica is always off-dry? The answer was, “it depends”.
He told me that 2017 was a very dry year in the region and Loureiro had lots of sugar accumulated by the time of harvest.
Every year, Mica has different style ranging from bone dry to off-dry. They just let the nature take its course.
A blend of 80% Loureiro and 20% Vinhão made by this biodynamic producer. This is not your usual Vinho Verde! It’s quirky but it’s also ‘traditional’.
Using the ancient method of blending white and red grapes, fermented dry with ambient yeast in clay amphora, the wine shows some funky aromas initially, leading to fresh cranberries and herbaceous and earthy notes.
I also admire their wine label which shows a Faun (a mythological half human–half goat creature) enjoying some music whilst the vines and grape juice are working hard together to produce delicious wines.
The Vintage Magazine is delighted to report on a special performance by Carly Paoli for the Chelsea Pensioners at Royal Hospital Chelsea.
Carly Paoli, the rising star of the classical music world, performed a special concert for the Chelsea Pensioners on Friday 26th January 2018. The private performance, which took place in the Pensioners’ Club at the Royal Hospital Chelsea, was a special preview of Carly’s forthcoming concert at Cadogan Hall on 15th February 2018.
“I often see the Pensioners out and about in Chelsea and wanted to invite them to my concert at Cadogan Hall in February. When I realised that, for some, it might be too difficult for mobility reasons I suggested taking the concert to them” said Carly. “It was a thrill and honour to perform for so many of the Pensioners, and to thank them for the contribution and sacrifice they have made for their country.”
The acclaimed English singer – who can count Pope Francis and Prince Charles amongst her fans and who has sung, several times, with both Andrea Bocelli and José Carreras – performed a selection of familiar and iconic songs, including ‘A Nightingale Sang In Berkeley Square’, ‘I Could Have Danced All Night’ and ‘The White Cliffs of Dover’, as well as songs from her celebrated album ‘Singing My Dreams’.
Having experienced ‘The Stafford in the Country Experience’ at Cowdray House in West Sussex, the ancestral home of Lord & Lady Cowdray it was a natural progression to travel to ‘town’ to experience The Stafford London on its home turf and in particular the Game Bird restaurant which has been the reason behind The Stafford forming an alliance with Cowdray to supply the restaurant with fresh game from the Cowdray Estate shoots. This has proved to be a marriage made in heaven as the Game Bird Restaurant has received glowing reviews since its launch in 2017.
Amongst the accolades heaped on The Game Bird is the interesting entitled award of, Most Civilised Restaurant in the Tatler Restaurant Awards 2018 acknowledged for being sophisticated, cultured and refined – all one could wish for your dining experience; and the reviews for the Game Bird by top critics have been full of compliments and praise; Jay Rayner of the Guardian ; Giles Coren of The Times ; Michael Deacon of The Telegraph ; Tom Parker Bowles of The Daily Mail and Ben Norum of The Evening Standard.
It is rare for such well respected critics to be in accord about a restaurant so it is a testament to the talents of James Durrant, the Executive Chef, that he has created an award winning restaurant.
However, having launched The Game Bird to such culinary heights, James Durrant has decided to step down as Executive Chef and move on to pastures new. The reins have been handed to The Game Bird’s Head Chef, Jozef Rogulski who has now been appointed Executive Chef. Jozef’s path to The Game Bird has been by way of Cliveden House Hotel, The Hand and Flowers and The Waterside Inn, so it can be safely assumed that the restaurant will continue to excite its diners with innovative use of the finest produce and in particular that from the Cowdray Estate.
Another new appointment to The Stafford is Ben Tish as Culinary Director whose role will be to oversee the entire food offering, including The Game Bird Restaurant, the celebrated American Bar, private dining, suites and in-room dining. So expect some exciting new projects for The Stafford in the years to come.
However, some stalwarts remain and are thankfully unchanged, retaining the history of The Stafford, The American Bar is a destination for any American or Canadian visiting London to reminisce about an oasis of glamour amidst the horrors of WWII – whilst the bombs were falling on London, American and Canadian officers took refuge in the bar and when the raids became too much, took shelter in the cellars.
Ben Tish has only to maintain the existing excellence of The American Bar and the loyal guests who return year after year will be satisfied. For those who have not yet experienced the unique atmosphere of The American Bar, then a treat is in store. Sitting amongst the celebrity autographs, sailing memorabilia, artefacts and photos of people who simply love the place, one can have the best cocktails in London, fantastic food and service, all carried out under the watchful eye of Bar Manager, Benoit Provost.
Gino Nardella, Master Sommelier and the table laid for guests in the 380 year old cellars of The Stafford London
Alternative dining experiences at The Stafford can be had in the 380 year old cellars which were used as an air raid shelter in WWII and there is still a museum there displaying memorabilia just abandoned by the American and Canadian officers who used The Stafford as a club during their time in London. Special parties and wine tasting can be held here to make an unusual setting for dining with wines served by The Stafford’s Master Sommelier, Gino Nardella, who we met at the previously mentioned The Stafford in the Country Experience at Cowdray House. Over 8,000 bottles of the world’s finest wines are stored here and Gino has tasted each and every wine over his forty years at The Stafford!
Given the volume of news in 2017, finding a common theme to make sense of the noise has proven challenging. However, as we start 2018, there is an argument to say that 2017 was defined by the actions of the world’s Central Banks.
After years of unconventional monetary policy, the actions of the Federal Reserve, the Bank of Japan, the Bank of England, and the EBC have begun to deliver results. The spectre of deflation has been defeated and inflation appears to be increasing across the world’s major developed economies. Economic growth has picked up in the Eurozone and Japan, while emerging markets have survived the first few US interest rate hikes without causing a collapse. But just as the achievements of these policies have been recognised, so have the costs.
As central bankers discouraged saving by reducing interest rates close to zero, investors were forced into equities and real assets. This led to a surge in global property prices and record levels of investment in global start-ups, crypto-currencies, and passive indexes. Rising property prices have led to bans on second homes across developed economies from New Zealand to Western Canada, and clamouring calls for a ban in London. In many developed economies, the average property price is now well beyond the 4x annual salary against which banks will provide loans, forcing a greater proportion of people to rent than ever before.
It is always exciting to have new beats as you never quite know how they will turn out; over the years I have had unexpected hits and head scratching duds. Rivers can sometimes be as confounding as the fish that swim in them.
At the Craven Fishery on the River Kennet it is good to be working with Josh Purton who spent many summers weed cutting with us and is now installed as the river keeper. Josh is one of a new breed of keepers coming through who are in their 20’s, with fishery management degrees from Sparsholt College. Along with our own Simon Fields this cohort, including Michael Taplin at Wherwell Priory and Rob Rees at East Lodge, seem to have a good way of blending progressive thinking with traditional practices. You will see plenty of this at Craven.
Many of you will be familiar with Kanara on the River Itchen, which is probably one of the longest established day ticket chalkstream fisheries, dating way back to the 1960’s when it was under the care of ‘Scrappy’ Hay of the Rod Box in Winchester.
The world’s largest free trade deal fundamentally re-shaped the future of Transportation – and no one noticed.
In December of 2017, the EU and Japan announced that they had agreed the terms of a vast international free trade deal. The deal, still subject to final approvals in the EU and from the Japanese diet, will create a combined economic free trade area of 600mn people worth 30% of GDP. But while the focus has been on the changes to agriculture, sustainability and regulatory alignment, a key provision has slipped almost unnoticed from the public eye. A regulatory drawbridge for hydrogen vehicles has been created.
In one of the most startling changes, barely noticed by the press, the EU have been allowed to sell hydrogen cars straight into the Japanese market, bypassing stringent legislation for Japanese specialist steel and labelling standards. In addition, the EU has agreed that “Furthermore, EU manufacturers that are not yet as far advanced in the development of this technology of the future can, thanks to the specific and much lighter conditions, import hydrogen fueled cars for testing and validation purposes and use the Japanese infrastructure of hydrogen filling stations to fine-tune their cars.”
Why does this matter? It matters because (arguably) the world’s most technologically advanced nation has bet big that the future of transportation will be Hydrogen and it is now luring all the world’s largest automakers to build out their R&D and manufacturing within Japan.