Author Archives: The Vintage Magazine

Life on a Chalkstream by Simon Cooper

You see a great many corpses beside the road at this time of year as the animal hierarchy redistributes itself ahead of winter. 

Badgers are so commonplace as to not raise comment. Deer something to steer around. Grey squirrels inexplicably more frequent that you might expect. But the saddest of all for me are hares, the white, jagged broken bones of those strong rear legs poking out of that beautiful golden brown fur. So, knowing how the population is in decline, it made me sadder still when I read this week that myxomatosis, the disease that wiped out 99% of the British rabbit population when deliberately introduced in 1952, may have crossed over into the previously immune brown hare population.

Brown Hare

Hares have long been one of my favourite British animals. They are, a bit like otters, remarkably strong and large with a propensity to range far across large tracts of countryside doing their best to avoid people, conducting their lives out of the sight of humanity. For centuries they had made the empty downlands, where the greatest disturbance was a few sheep, their home. But in the post-war drive for more home food production, ploughs bit into land untouched by man since it was exposed by the retreating ice cover millions of year ago. The places they lived and the grassland they lived off has been disappearing ever since, the marginal habitat they are forced to inhabit polluted by agricultural chemicals.

Sound familiar? You’ll have read something similar to describe the plight of water voles, song birds and hedgehogs. In the case of hares it is estimated that the population has gone from something above 4 million a century ago to 800,000 today. The worry is that myxomatosis will all but wipe out the remaining hare population. However, as ever with these stories the headline may not tell the whole story: nobody is as yet certain that the unexplained deaths of hares in East Anglia are directly attributable to myxomatosis. In the 1930’s Australian scientists tried to deliberately infect brown hares with the myxoma virus but failed. There have been similar deaths in Spain but the evidence is inconclusive. In Ireland, where hares are relatively more populous but myxomatosis incidence is of a similar level to the UK, there have been no reported deaths.

Myxomatosis is spread by the rabbit flea that carries the virus, infecting the rabbits by biting as they hop from one host to the next; mortality once infected is close to a 100% as the rabbits go blind, lose fur to ulceration and the body organs shut down. As you might imagine in the close confines of a warren the fleas are easily transferred, so populations are rapidly wiped out. Hares however live a different life which suggests myxomatosis would not so easily take hold.

Brown hares prefer the solitary life, living in very exposed habitats so they may use their acute sight and hearing to avoid their primary predators – foxes and raptors – by running at up to 45mph, which is faster than a horse. Unlike rabbits hares live in the open, creating ‘forms’, small depressions in the ground among long grass. Here they spend their day moving out to feed in the open at night. Tender grass shoots, including cereal crops, are their main foods. Breeding takes place between February and September with the young, known as leverets, born fully furred with their eyes open who are then left by the mother in forms a few yards from their birth place. Once a day for the first four weeks of their lives, the leverets gather at sunset to be fed by the female, but otherwise they receive no parental care. This avoids attracting predators to the young at a stage when they are most vulnerable. They don’t live particularly long lives, 3 to 4 years is the norm, with disease and predation the two major causes of death.

This difference in lifestyle, and in the absence of any firm evidence, has suggested by some that the culprit may be rabbit haemorrhagic disease (RHD) which first emerged in China in the 1980’s. It has since spread around the globe first reaching Britain in 1992 when the domestic rabbit infected the wild population. But RHD is more virulent than myxomatosis wiping out 10m rabbits in 8 weeks when the virus escaped quarantine on the 20km2 Wardang Island off the south coast of Australia in 1995, spread as it is by contamination and the wind.

So for the moment, despite many assumptions, we don’t really know what is happening. The University of East Anglia, along with the Suffolk and Norfolk Wildlife Trusts are trying to gather dead hares for analysis but it is all certainly very odd. One report was of six dead hares in a single field; for a solitary mammal that would be quite a conclave. I suspect we have a while to go before we get to the bottom of this particular problem but even when we do it won’t change the truth: disease or no disease, we are gradually, just a little at a time, destroying the British countryside that we purport to love.

 

A 50th celebration

 

Barry Welham at The Mill

 

 

 

 

Two weeks ago I was so pleased to host a very special lunch at Nether Wallop to celebrate the 50th anniversary of fly fishing at The Mill.

The guests of honour were Renée Wilson, widow of Dermot Wilson, and their son Fergus. As Renée said to me they were initially hesitant at accepting my

invitation; neither had been to The Mill since 1982 and the thought of a return stirred up all kinds of memories. But as it turned out we all had the most wonderful time reminiscing about Dermot, the wonderful camaraderie of the customers and the whole madness of the venture he set his family on.

Charles Jardine, back then a perm-haired recently graduated art student, joined us as he had been the resident trainee guide/instructor under the guidance of the irascible Jim Hadrell. Barrie Welham, a long time friend of Dermot and Renée was there, producing a copy of the 1971 Trout & Salmon (cover price 17.5p!) which featured the British record rainbow trout that he had just captured from The Mill lake. Neil Patterson, he of Chalkstream Chronicle fame, read a letter that Dermot had written to him apologising, in the most charming of words, for inadvertently taking credit for a pattern Neil had invented. Richard Banbury showed us where his desk had been in the days when Orvis took over The Mill from Dermot and Renée.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We rounded the day off unveiling a blue plaque that I hope will remain for many decades as a fitting tribute to a great man.

Diane-Bassett.-Richard-Banbury.-Fergus-Wilson.-Renee-Wilson.-Charles-Jardine.-Barrie-Welham.-Neil-Patterson

Diane Bassett, Richard Banbury, Fergus Wilson, Renée Wilson, Charles Jardine, Barrie Welham and Neil Patterson


A troika of greats

 

I was very touched as Renée Wilson handed me a gift wrapped package by way of thanks for the day. As I undid the wrapping in her very understated way she said, ‘These are just a few bits and pieces from Dermot’s collection I thought you might like.‘ I was overwhelmed when she told me the provenance of each of the three items.

Dermot Wilson fishing items

The first is one of Dermot’s very own reels. As the original UK Orvis dealer he was very loyal to the brand who, you might be surprised to hear, actually made all their high-end reels in the UK as late as the 1980’s.

Renée tells me Dermot was a bit obsessive, tagging everything, hence the label. The reel still has the leader from the last time he fished.

The net was a gift from the legendary Lee Wulff, he of Gray Wulff fame, who was a regular visitor to The Mill.

The final item is a fly box full of flies that were tied by Ernie Schwiebert an American angling literary colossus. He was a great friend of Dermot, the box a gift from him to Dermot when they fished together in Montana.

Schwiebert is not so well known in the UK but though I never met him I owe him a huge debt. He wrote a two volume master work on trout in which, as a schoolchild, he enraptured me about the chalkstreams. They were so much the weft and weave of my upbringing that it took an outsider to show me how very special they were.

The quality of his writing is without measure. Let me quote from a speech he gave in 2005, shortly before his death. It is the very definition of why we fish.


Ernest Schwiebert

 

“People often ask why I fish, and after seventy-odd years, I am beginning to understand.

I fish because of Beauty.

Everything about our sport is beautiful. Its more than five centuries of manuscript and books and folios are beautiful. Its artefacts of rods and beautifully machined reels are beautiful. Its old wading staffs and split-willow creels, and the delicate artifice of its flies, are beautiful. Dressing such confections of fur, feathers and steel is beautiful, and our worktables are littered with gorgeous scraps of tragopan and golden pheasant and blue chattered and Coq de Leon. The best of sporting art is beautiful. The riverscapes that sustain the fish are beautiful. Our methods of seeking them are beautiful, and we find ourselves enthralled with the quicksilver poetry of the fish.

And in our contentious time of partisan hubris, selfishness, and outright mendacity, Beauty itself may prove the most endangered thing of all.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Quiz

 

The usual random selection of questions to confirm or deny your personal brilliance. As ever it is just for fun with the answers at the bottom of the page.

 

1)     What is the Latin numeral for fifty?

2)     Who are on the rear of the current £50 note?

3)    In what year did Queen Elizabeth II celebrate her 50th year on the throne?

 

 

Simon Cooper of Fishing Breaks

Simon Cooper simon@fishingbreaks.co.uk

Founder & Managing Director

www.fishingbreaks.co.uk

Simon Cooper is the founder and managing director of Fishing Breaks the leading agent for chalkstream fishing in England. He has over 120 miles of river under his control, across eight counties and twenty rivers.  Fishing is mostly let by the day and if you want advice on which to choose Simon regularly fishes every beat under his care, living by the company motto time is precious. use it fishing.  It is not a bad job!

 

 

Quiz answers:

1)      L

2)      Matthew Boulton and James Watt, 18th century makers of steam engines

3)      2002. Makes you feel old ……..

 

 

 

Slovenia boasts a rich cultural heritage. Known for its spectacular Postojna Karst Cave and the fairy-tale like Lake Bled, yet this country has so much more to offer.

Surrounded by Italy, Austria, Hungary and Croatia, this mountainous country has historically been the crossroads of Slavic, Germanic, and Romance languages and cultures. Over half of the territory is covered by forest so when you are going to Slovenia by plane, make sure you get a window seat in order to enjoy the view of magnificent mountains dotted with lush and rolling green valleys.

Rolling Hills in Brda Slovenia

The Lush Rolling Hills in Brda

 

Slovenia is also a paradise for foodies and wine lovers. Just flip through this mouth-watering online magazine called ‘Taste Slovenia,‘ published by its tourism board, featuring all the regional Slovenian cuisines and you might already want to book a flight!

Wines are equally exciting. Slovenia has a very long history of winemaking and grapes are mainly grown in three wine regions: Primorska (west), Posavje (southeast) and Podravje (northeast).  In 1823, the Archduke Johann of Austrian ordered “all noble vine varieties that exist” to be planted on his property in Maribor, Podravje. Since then, many international grape varieties, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Muscat, Riesling, Pinot Noir were introduced to inland Slovenia.

The westernmost Slovenian wine region, Primorska, is the most important amongst the three. There are around 6,490 hectares of vineyards in the region. Being close to the Italian border, you can no doubt sense the Italian influence.

Recently, I had the opportunity to visit Goriška Brda (or ‘Brda’) in the north of the Primorska region, which is right across the Italian border. Though in fact, it is very difficult to know the real border line, Brda can probably be seen as a continuation of Collio Goriziano region across the border in Friuli, Italy.

A view from Ljubilana Castle in Slovenia

A View from Ljubljana Castle

 

Coming from the capital city Ljubljana by car, it takes around 1.5 hours to reach Brda.  Not long after leaving the motor way, you will find yourself in Italy, driving around somewhere in Udine!  But then, all of a sudden, you will see a verdant countryside and notice a tiny sign saying “Slovenia,” you know you are back in the country again.

My destination was the biggest wine cooperation in Slovenia, Klet Brda, in the village of Dobrovo. Driving pass some picturesque villages surrounded by undulating hills and vineyards, it is easy to see why Brda is dubbed “Slovenia’s Tuscany”.

 

Klet Brda Wine Cellar and Klet Brda Rebula Sparkling Wine and Krasno Wines

Klet Brda’s Wine Cellar and Bottle of Klet Brda Rebula Sparkling Wine and Krasno WInes

 

Being the biggest in the country, Klet Brda works with around 400 wine growers and only processes and produces wine from grapes grown in the region.  They have an impressive range of wine, white, red, rosé and sparkling, made from familiar grapes such as Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Bianco, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon etc.  Not to forget also some local specialties such as Rebula (Ribolla Gialla in Italian) and Pikolit (Picolit in Italian).

Rebula is an ancient white grape variety from Friuli-Venezia Giulia, typically with light body, hint of floral and has refreshing acidity but can also be made in various styles. Here in Brda, the best Rebula are grown in the higher slopes to allow them to develop the flavours slowly but also to retain the acidity. Additionally, they make a special blend of Rebula and Sauvignon Blanc just for the UK market and can be purchased through Majestic Wine.

 

Pikolit Dessert Wine from Slovenia

Dessert paired with Pikolit Dessert Wine from Slovenia

 

 

 

Pikolit is another local specialty in the Italy-Slovenia border.  It is a white grape and became famous throughout Europe in the 18th century when Conte Fabio Asquini started to export the wine bottled in exquisite hand-made Murano glass and sold at a high price.  It is said that even the Pope liked it at the time.  However, the variety was almost extinct due to the phylloxera epidemic in the late 19th century.  Luckily some survived through it.  The plantings of Pikolit remain quite small in Slovenia.  Klet Brda has around 2 hectares and uses it to make a fantastic Pikolit dessert wine that has floral, peach, dried apricot and acacia honey aromas but sadly not yet available in the UK.

 

 

 

 

Quercus Pinot Bianco from Slovenia

 

 

 

Klet Brda has made some stunning Pinot Grigio and Pinot Bianco from their Quercus, Krasno and Bagueri ranges. Both are full of characters and expressive. Pinot Grigio is flavoursome, not the lighter style as their Veneto counterparts in Italy.  Pinot Bianco here is opulent on the palate.  It’s dry and refreshing with green apple and grapefruit flavours but also very food friendly.  Krasno Pinot Bianco can be found in Majestic Wine and Quercus Pinot Bianco is available through hundreds of Young’s Pub in the UK.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Klet Brda is open to tourists and wine lovers who love to try their wine. Tastings can be booked through their website .

Apart from wine tastings, don’t forget to visit the charming fortified village of Smartno, Dobrovo Castle, and to appreciate a panoramic view of Brda from Gonjace Tower.

And of course, make sure you enjoy lots of local wine and food!

 

Where to stay

 

The view from Hotel San Martin overlooking Smartno in Slovenia

Hotel San Martin 

They have a fantastic restaurant in the hotel and you can enjoy the striking view of the village Smartno from here.

 

 

Where to eat

 

 

Grad Dobrovo Restaurant

Address: Grajska cesta 10, 5212 DOBROVO V BRDIH

*They are right inside the Dobrovo Castle, offering regional cuisines.

Tuna capaccio in Primula Restaurant in Nova Gorica in Slovenia

Primula Restaurant 

Address: Soška cesta 40, 5000 Nova Gorica

*This is a fish restaurant by the river in Nova Gorica. Make sure you go to the roof terrace to enjoy the view before you go for the meal.

 

 

 

 

Leona de Pasquale wine correspondent for The Vintage Magazine

 

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.

 

Blackmore Borley Limited

 

 

                                 The Bespoke Lloyd’s Insurance Broker

 

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Their skilled specialists take the time to understand their clients’ needs and simplify the complexity of insurance so that they can deliver innovative and high quality solutions.

 

They are the broker of choice for many businesses and individuals, across a range of disciplines and industry sectors and are committed to building long-term relationships between their clients and their insurers.

 

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Blackmore Borley Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority FSR 311926

 

Blackmore Borley Private Client Brochure

 

Blackmore Borley Private Client Brochure

Blackmore Borley Brochure Private Client

Blackmore Borley Brochure Private Buyer

blackmore Borley Brochure Private Buyer

Blackmore Borley Private Client Flyer

 

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                                                         Blackmore Borley Ltd is authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority FSR 311926

 

 

 

 

London Skyline for Christopher Jackson's Blog, The View From Lawrence Street

 

From the 14th June, the world will witness its 21st World Cup tournament, this time hosted in Russia. Football is an odd game to have conquered the worlds hearts. A sport popularised by the sons of aristocrats running around the wet and cold fields of England’s leading 19th century public schools, is now actively played by over 270 million FIFA registered players globally while the World Cup is the World’s most watched event, with 3.5 billion people reached in the 2014 tournament.

But while the talents of the worlds leading male football players will fill the papers for the next few weeks, it is also worth taking some time to consider the impact that the World Cup has on national politics.

The World Cup can exert a powerful affect on national moods, not only on the host nations but also on those who participate. In 2006 as Germany hosted the World Cup, the nation witnessed the first large scale public displays of German flags and German nationalism, or as one German friend remarked to me, “It was the first time in my life I felt it was ok to be proud of being German”. By contrast spare a thought for Brazil, who after financing the World Cup and the Olympics, crashed out of the World Cup against Germany in a 7-1 in what the BBC called one of the “Great World Cup moments”. Not only did the tournament torpedo the reputation of Brazil, it also destroyed the popularity of the national government, and when the full details of the lavo jato or “Operation car wash” scandal first started to appear in 2014, it was a matter of time before the acting President Dilma Rouseff was impeached and the Workers Party (PD) removed from party. Incidentally, Argentina’s subsequent loss to Germany in the final also helped sour Argentine national mood and along with Brazil the country removed President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in 2015.

So, what is there to consider at this World Cup?  Well firstly its hosts are not exactly in the international good books.  Following large-scale arrests and investigations, it is widely believed that the Russian hosts bribed their way into securing the World Cup tournament this year.  If that wasn’t bad enough, the country remains under heavy international sanctions for its illegal annexation of Crimea, alongside its involvement in the deaths of Dutch nationals in Ukraine and its complicity in Assad’s war crimes in Syria. Given this backdrop, President Putin sees an opportunity to distract the world (and his citizens) with well-executed games. If Russia performs well, the visitors are happy and the matches are exciting, the country will be given a strong platform to re-engage with Europe on sanctions whilst also undermining domestic political opposition. However, a loss in the group stage, followed by further corruption details and stories about Russian football hooligans would further undermine both domestic and international support for Russia.

But Russia is not the only country looking to the World Cup for a reputation boost. Both Iran and Saudi Arabia would benefit from stronger than expected performances, and while the chances of any Middle Eastern Team winning the cup are reasonably low, an advance to the semi or quarter finals would still provide a large positive PR boost to these middle eastern nations.

Read more…

King JOhn Inn Tollard Royal

The King John Inn at Tollard Royal in Dorset is one of the growing numbers of gastro, or bistro pubs with enough rooms to accommodate a shooting party, and good enough food and wines to make a team of guns and guests want to have dinner and stay there on the night before a shoot.  The King John Inn is just one of many such pubs.

Tollard Royal is a charming village with a 14th Century Church in the middle of what must surely be one of the largest concentrations of good shoots in a small area anywhere in the south of England.

Other ‘gastro’ pubs and notable establishments along the Dorset Wiltshire border include the Beckford Arms, near Tisbury, the Lamb Inn at Hindon,  Howard’s House Hotel at Teffont Evias, and the Museum at Farnham.  All these pubs have created comfortable and stylish accommodation and provide superb food and friendly service for frequent shooting parties during the season.

For instance the King John Inn at Tollard Royal has no fewer than 70 shooting parties per season thus providing a very welcome and substantial contribution to its turnover and profits.

Assuming an average spend of £200 per head, for dinner,  bed and breakfast with an average of 10 guests per party, this creates income of £2000 per shooting  party, which  multiplied  by 70  shooting parties per annum generates a  staggering £140,000 of income that otherwise would not exist.

It is therefore easy to understand why an increasing number of local Pubs are ‘raising their game’ and improving and upgrading their facilities to attract this lucrative market, creating a welcome source of income for the trades people engaged in these ‘up-grades’.

A Report on the economic, environmental and social contribution of shooting sports to the UK by Public and Corporate Economic Consultants (PACEC) identified the following:

  • 480,000 people shoot live quarry in the UK
  • shooting supports the equivalent of 70,000 full time jobs
  • Shooters spend £2 billion each year on goods and services
  • Shooting is worth £1.6 billion to the UK economy
  • Shooting is involved in the management of two-thirds of the rural land area
  • Two million hectares are actively managed for conservation as a result of shooting
  • Shooting providers spend £250 million a year on conservation
  • Shooters spend 2.7 million work days on conservation.

Historically the larger and longer established shoots are on estates that often had houses designed, or extended, to accommodate the large shooting parties of the Victorian and Edwardian eras, and in some cases these are reserved for the exclusive use of their owners and their guests.

However, roving syndicates are more likely to stay in the local pub or small hotel where they receive a warm welcome and good service, and this all adds to the camaraderie of dinner the night before a shoot and at breakfast the next morning, and the anticipation of a great day ahead.

As far as the owners of these shoots are concerned the visiting guns provide much needed income for the estate but also for the teams of loaders and beaters who are crucial to a successful days shooting.

There are few things more appealing to a sociable soul than the shared experience of a friendly shoot in beautiful countryside on a beautiful day, but the first impression of the pub or hotel where you have arrived after a long journey is dictated by the warmth of the welcome you receive.

When we arrived at the King John Inn, it was  nearing the  end of its Sunday Lunch session, and the place was crowded with tables demanding their bills, but the efficient staff, led by Paolo Corgiolu, ably supported by Kate took good care of us, and made us very  welcome, despite the other pressures on them.  They quickly found  us a  table for a late lunch, and we  ordered two ‘starters’ from the main menu, chosen since we were saving our appetites for supper,.  Two glasses of wine appeared without delay and we could begin to relax and take in our surroundings.

 

King John Inn dining area and bar

The simple wooden tables in the dining and bar area

The place had a good ‘vibe’ or dare I say, ‘trendy’ feel similar to that found in London.  I struck up a  conversation with a couple on an adjoining table by admiring their Cocker Spaniel and I asked  if he  shot  with  it, only to discover  that he had a gun on an Army Shoot at the Central Ammunition Depot at Bramley, near the  Duke of Wellintgon’s home at Stratfield Saye which my late father ran for several  years in the late fifties, and on which I  know another current member, namely Andrew Speed.  ‘Speedy’ to  his  friends, was the Adjutant  at Sandhurst, and is now living in a  ‘grace and  favour’ house in Horse Guard’s Parade from whence he organises  all the  ceremonial events, including  the  Trooping of the Colour at Her Majesty’s Birthday parade.

This is proof, if it were needed, of the small world the shooting fraternity inhabit!

Anyway, after our modest but excellent lunch,  we retired to our very spacious double room with a King-size bed and a beautiful marble floored ‘en-suite’ bathroom with free standing roll top tub and separate shower with enormous rose.  This is the largest of the eight bedrooms available at The King John Inn, five of which are in the main building and three others in a converted barn opposite.  All are beautifully decorated with antique pieces mixed with modern touches to create rooms in which you just want to linger.

 

Te King Suite at The King John Inn at Tollard Royal

The King’s Room Suite

Bedrooms at King John Inn Tollard Royal

All of the rooms are dog friendly at a modest extra charge of £15.00

Read more…

 

We were recommended to try Villa di Geggiano by a friend who knows Chiswick well and things were looking good when we found a parking space just around the corner from the restaurant, a unique experience in London, particularly on a Saturday, and put us in a good mood for our lunch.  At the moment Villa di Geggiano is only open for lunch at weekends and for dinner during the week from 6 pm but we were told that this may change when the days start to warm up and the terrace and gardens can be made full use of – they obviously know their market and when customers want to visit.

Chiswick is not an area that we are familiar with so had not known about the struggling restaurants that had tried and failed on these premises.  Some may have predicted that Villa de Geggiano too were doomed but they had not reckoned with the expertise of the Bianchi Bandinelli family.

Their background is from the highly desirable Chianti region of Tuscany, which is already a firm favourite place with the English, so much so that it is fondly referred to as Chiantishire.  The original Villa di Geggiano, after which the restaurant is named, has been run by the family for over 400 years over which they have maintained and developed the Tuscan estate, each generation taking up the mantel to preserve the legacy.

Villa di Geggiano has been running since 2014 and so far all is going well.  A combination of Italian flair and a love of fine food and wine makes for a winning recipe.

Certainly our first impression was very promising – the restaurant has a lovely large terrace at the front which in the summer would be a welcoming ‘watering hole’ on the way home after work.

Villa de Geggiano in Chiswick terrace

 

Once inside we were greeted warmly by the general manager, Lukasz Borowski  who directed us to the lounge for a pre-lunch drink.  What confronted us was a very elegant room with an eclectic collection of antique, modern and quirky decorative pieces – nothing anodyne about this room and definitely a talking point whilst relaxing over a pre-lunch drink.

 

lounge at Villa de Geggiano in Chiswick

 

lounge at Villa de Geggiano in Chiswick

 

lounge at Villa de Geggiano in Chiswick

 

Presented with a list of traditional Tuscan cocktails from which to choose, it is unfortunate that we elected to drive to the restaurant or more precisely that  I had been voted designated driver.  If this had not been the case I would have loved to have tried a Passion fruit martini or Tuscan Devil both reasonably priced at £8.00.  Perusing the impressive wine list there are 8 from the Villa’s own vineyards made predominately with the local Sangiovese grape.   In fact it is believed that the Bianchi Bandinelli family were the first to introduce Chianti to our shores as early as 1725.

 

Villa de Geggiano restaurant in Chiswick

 

The actual restaurant is quite large, serving a hundred diners in the main room and there is a private dining area at the front of the building .   The large skylight floods the whole room keeping the interior bright and although we did not see it, the restaurant stretches further back to another garden at the back – in warmer weather this will be another lovely al-fresco dining experience away from the busy main street. .

The eccentric decor is repeated in the dining room with a mixture of pendant lights and a strangely green felt covered tree structure – we’re still wondering why even now!

Notwithstanding such eccentricities, the service and meal were par excellence.  In fact I can confidently state that I have not had a better three course meal.  It being lunch time I chose lighter options and started with Burrata con Caponatina di Melanzane, which lived up to its meaning in Italian, buttery – a delicious mixture of mozzarella and cream balanced against the light spiciness of the aubergine ‘stew’.  Robert had his favourite Tuscan dish which he always orders when it’s in season, Vitello tonnato  – this time the thin cuts of veal loin with tuna were accompanied with a saffron sauce, apples, celery and baby gem – he assured me this was no disappointment.

For our ‘secondi’ I chose the pan fried Monkfish with samphire, datterini tomatoes and celeriac cream – it is no exaggeration to say this was simply delicious – the fish was perfectly cooked and the other ingredients balanced the dish, particularly the use of the speciality datterini tomatoes with their added sweetness and seasonal samphire.  Robert went off-piste with the special of the day, Pasta with lobster – being true italians, this also was exceptional.  Not really needed but we had side dishes of small roast potatoes with rosemary and garlic and some spinach enlivened with chilli.

Finally we could not resist the puddings, I had the vanilla panna cotta and hazelnut foam and Robert an apple semifreddo and jelly with white chocolate and crumble.

Naturally a restaurant of this standard is not cheap but Villa di Geggiano is overall good value as the food was exceptional.  Our starters were £8 and £12 respectively and our main courses £25  and puddings at £7 each.

Four years on and Villa di Geggiano is still going strong and I’m certain that there are many more treats in the pipe line to offer their customers.

So don’t just leave this gem to the locals – a specific trip to Chiswick is well worth the effort.  Villa di Geggiano is a special place and the closest you will get to Tuscany in the middle of Chiswick.

I hope that they have broken the curse of 66-68 High Street Chiswick – they certainly deserve to.

 

Chef and kitchen staff at Villa de Geggiano in Chiswick

The skilled kitchen team that produce the magic

 

 

 

Chrissy Jarman Features Editor of The Vintage Magazine

 

Chrissy studied at Southampton University where she gained a degree in Fine Art Valuation and worked for 16 years at Gerald Marsh Antique Clocks in Winchester, now known as Carter Marsh.  Following her departure from Carter Marsh she has been instrumental in the launch of The Vintage Magazine and the design of its website.  As well as being a contributing author she is the Features Editor of the magazine with special responsibility for Arts and Culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

London Skyline for Christopher Jackson's Blog, The View From Lawrence Street

It was probably inevitable, but the crisis engulfing Facebook is one of the most embarrassing examples of Silicon valleys hubris in the last two decades.

A company that specialises in connecting people, an exercise that requires people to trust the platform as a place to share content, has managed to simultaneously violate that trust and act totally surprised in doing so. When Facebook was first created it was a place for university students to share stories, an occasional photo and talk to friends when they couldn’t afford to call abroad. Today it is a business platform for multinational corporates, a virtual monopoly in the global social media world (excluding the great digital firewalls of China and Russia), as well as the largest surveillance mechanism ever created by man. If the apocryphal tales that Facebook was created by the CIA ever become more than conspiracy theories, I would take the agents out for a beer. It’s hard to imagine them being more successful in manipulating billions of people to hand over the most intimate details of their life than Facebook.

But what do we do about it? Facebook IS the only platform where everyone can find a friend, family member or old classmate from their school days. It also owns Whatsapp, Instagram and nearly brought out Snapchat (before deciding it was cheaper just to copy all of their ideas into Instagram instead). Indeed, the monopoly is alive and very well in the social media space. So much for a dynamic and free market that internet radicals long predicted.

The issue with Facebook is that it has transcended its role as a tech company and become a global public good, much in the way that GPS, SWIFT and Wikipedia have done. This conflict between its corporate needs and Facebooks public nature is at the heart of the conundrum that is threatening Facebooks future role as the global sharing platform.

There may come a time where individuals lose their inhibitions and learn to accept the flawed nature of humanity, such that the embarrassing university photos and awkward Facebook status of one young activist days become nothing more than a source of amusement. But we are not there yet.

In the interim the most radical solution may yet be the one true way to ensure the eternal legacy of Zuckerberg’s creation: turn the company into a global charity with an international non-partisan board. Such a solution has long been muted for Twitter, another social media company that serves a clear public good, but unlike Facebook has lacked the will (some would say ability) to extract the financial gains necessary to ever become commercially viable.

A world where Facebook becomes a utility like Verizon or a charity like Wikipedia is hardly likely to thrill investors and tech entrepreneurs. Then again, few people who change the world ever live to see the real fruits of their efforts.

If Zuckerberg is serious about fixing Facebook he needs to find a way to square the circle between regaining user trust and generating the returns expected by Wall Street.

For a man more concerned about his public appearance than his bank account, Mr Zuckerberg could do worse than consider what Facebook would look like if it became a true global public good rather than a Wall Street darling. The clock is ticking and the users are leaving.

Your move Mr Zuckerberg.

 

 

Christopher Jackson The View from Lawrence Street

 

Christopher Jackson graduated from York University with a 1st Class Honours Degree in Politics with International Relations, BA and is a graduate of Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies and currently works on financing and developing renewable energy projects.

Click HERE to read Christopher’s impressive curriculum vitae on Linkedin.com

 

Audi Q5

 

If the Audi Q5 is not looking in showroom gleaming condition that is because it has been doing what its designed to do.  In this case it has been driven around the country lanes of the South Downs to visit some of the wonderful shooting country for which the Cowdray Estate is renowned, including the famous ’chalk-pits’ drive at Cocking.  Be assured that the Navarra Blue paintwork with black leather Alcantara sport front seats is a very pleasing combination, in fact the Audi Q5 delivers on the ‘looks front’ in abundance.

Audi have combined clean elegant lines on this 2017 model, having made it slightly larger than the previous version and added more technology – there’s a head up display, adaptive LED headlamps and the Virtual Cockpit.  However, larger doesn’t mean heavier – in reality due to the use of aluminium throughout the body work this Audi Q5 is 90 kgs lighter resulting in better performance, braking, handling and efficiency.

Better efficiency by way of fuel consumption and lower CO2 has been achieved by their latest development of the company’s famous all-wheel-drive system.  It works by allowing the engine to drive just the front wheels most of the time. When the extra grip from all-wheel drive is needed due to changing conditions, power is sent to the rear wheels via two clutches – one mounted to the car’s gearbox, the other to the rear axle.  This takes only 200 milliseconds for power to flow to the rear and shift the engine’s torque between all four wheels to keep you pointing in a straight line.  Not only does this help improve fuel economy but it helps reduce unnecessary wear and tear on the engine and gearbox.

So all this is good for everyday driving but as mentioned earlier, we put the Audi Q5 through its paces off road and the efficiency and comfort was improved by engaging the optional air suspension which allows you to raise the ride height.

These new technologies seem to have worked as the 2017 Audi Q5’s combined MPG is officially up by 16%, while CO2 emissions are down by 15% – all this and better acceleration to boot.

Audi Q5 dashboard

  • Audi Q5 2.0 TDI 190 Quattro S tronic

Having driven many Audis it is reassuring to find the Multi Media Interface (MMI) is very much the same across all models although with added sophistication on the higher spec cars.  On this Q5 there is a large central screen with a controller on the central console and a control pad with adorning buttons enabling easy navigation through the myriad systems – definitely need to read the owner’s handbook to discover all its functions!

Read more…

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 Djurgarden Stockholm

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.

Aroma pumps in Museum of Spirits In Djurgarden Stockholm

 

More Aroma pumps in the Museum of Spirits

Aroma Pumps

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.

Slow baked hake with burned onion puree and pickled onions by chef Petter Nilsson

 

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Museum of Spirits in Djurgarden Stockholm

SpritMuseum: Djurgårdsvägen 38-40, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden.   Photo credit@Spiritmuseum

Current exhibitions:

 

·         CHAMPAGNE! – Until 30/10/2018

 

·         SWEDEN: SPIRITS OF A NATION – Until 31/12/ 2018

 

SpritMuseum: Djurgårdsvägen 38-40, 115 21 Stockholm, Sweden.

 

https://spritmuseum.se/en/

 

Leona de Pasquale wine correspondent for The Vintage Magazine

 

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.

London Skyline for Christopher Jackson's Blog, The View From Lawrence StreetOn 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).

What next?

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.