13 July, 2007

Rebels can't gag our man in Georgia

The main aggravations wine journalists have to endure on overseas trips are delayed flights, hotel rooms with only one Toblerone in the minibar, and interminable visits to bottling lines. Not for us the bullet-proof vests and armed escorts that our more macho colleagues at CNN seem to require.

But Andrew Catchpole earns an honourable mention for his recent excursion to Georgia, where he risked kidnapping as part of his mission to report for OLN, Wine & Spirit and Drinks International. "I was warned that

westerners who spend any length of time away from the capital Tblisi risk being taken hostage," reports our man, now safely back on British soil.

Exaggeration? Not really. Only a few years ago Andrew's former colleague Lisa Barnard was the "guest" of Georgian hoodlums

who made a brief ransom demand

before releasing her unharmed.

Non-blade runners

As all motorsport fans know, there is only one racing event worth talking about in Britain this summer - and it didn't take place at Silverstone last week. Of course we refer to the British Lawnmower Racing Association's key endurance race of the 2007 season, where Yellow Tail is sponsoring its own team.

The 12-hour invitation race, first run in 1973, is open to all types of powered, self-propelled lawn mowers and will be held at Chichester throughout the night of July 28-29.

More than 50 teams will be in the field for the 12-hour race, driving mowers of up to 13 horsepower. For safety reasons, all their cutting blades have been removed. (Just like the council one that does the grass verge outside my house, then - outraged middle-class Ed.)

Not a pipe dream

And what a glorious summer of sport it is turning out to be! Tomorrow (July 14) sees The Hendrick's Chap Olympiad at London's Bedford Square Gardens. "Old favourites such as the Pipe Smokers' Relay, Three-Trousered Limbo and Bounders make a welcome return, whil e Umbrella Hockey and Neck-tie Kwon Do are some of the new additions to this unmissable free event," says our invitation.

For those unfamiliar with these noble events, youtube.com/watch?v=mAGF-EC43dw&mode=related&search= may offer some elucidation.

Underneath the ministerial briefs

According to the website of new licensing minister Gerry Sutcliffe, he left school at 16 to work as a salesman for local department store Brown Muffs. No, honestly.

Bean there, done that

We wish all new starters in wine retailing the fairest of winds and the biggest of profits, but we have especial enthusiasm for Christine Parkinson, wine buyer for Michelin-starred restaurant Hakkasan, who has just opened a shop called Cocovino in Brighton's fashionable North Laine.

"Given her reputation as one of the most creative wine buyers in the UK, it's perhaps not surprising that many of the wines she is offering are available nowhere else outside of London," reports the publicity material. "What is surprising, however, is that these extraordinary wines jostle for space alongside newspapers, teabags and the odd Mr Kipling cake.

"This unusual approach reflects a fascinating philosophy that goes a step beyond the idea that wine should be for every day, not just special occasions - she can recommend a wine to drink with baked beans on toast in front of the telly." What could that be - Château de Tomato Sours?

Rosé rains supreme

While most of the UK grumbles about the wet and windy July conditions, the Argento Wine Company must be congratulating itself on its foresight. In a statement launching its 100 per cent Malbec rosé, general manager Amelia Nolan says: "We wanted to introduce a dry rosé that is deeper in style - perfect for this wet, English summer." "Great for enjoying outdoors with your umbrella and gum boots," a spokeswoman adds. Wine and weather matching, anyone?

Young guns go for it

Mentzendorff, with some help from Leicester Tigers rugby players Leon Lloyd and Mitch Read, were the champions at the Benevolent Buddies' recent clay pigeon shoot. Sponsored by Quintessentially Wine and hosted by Holland & Holland, the event raised more than £5,500 for the Benevolent. Thirteen teams, which included Chivas Brothers, Pernod Richard, Berry Bros & Rudd, Thierry's, Paragon Vintners, Orbital and Gallo, went head to head, with Leicester's Read also winning the best shot of the day. OLN sharp-shooter Laura Clark received a huge bruise on her right shoulder for her efforts and is now refusing to make the tea.

France's yeast infection

France's new president Nicolas Sarkozy has pledged to revive the country's work ethic, but he should expand his focus to non-human life forms to find the real slackers. Jean-Baptiste Adam, winemaker at biodynamic Alsace winery JB Adam, was recently explaining the risks of wild yeast fermentation to an OLN journo. "We have some yeast that can be too slow - like some people in France it only works for 35 hours a week," he complains.

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