Yapp Brothers Blog

Goose Neck Barnacles & Other Animals  »

August 26th, 2014 by Hamish Catanach

It’s always fun trying new things, and having just returned from Portugal on this year’s family jaunt to the Algarve we’ve managed just that.

The small fishing village of Bergau is 50 minutes west of Faro (thankfully on the Easy Jet route from Bristol) and is all that a small fishing village should be – pretty unspoilt over the years and a great place to jump into various local seafood specialities.


tapas bar menu


We’d been to the No 8 tapas bar in previous years, we were well acquainted with their Octopus dishes and the flaming Portuguese black pudding but they always have ‘specials’. This year we were told that as it had just been the full moon they had a new crop of percebes – goose neck barnacles that were only fished for at full moon – and a famed local delicacy.

It all sounded a bit romantic – or perhaps a story thought up to market the Tapas bar – but by all accounts it’s the fact that the sea is normally calm and the divers can see better under the full moon.


goose neck barnacles


Never wanting to miss a new experience we had a bowl of percebes as a starter – they look like claws, and did beg the immediate question ‘can you actually eat these?’ – our host then proceeded to show us the way – you break the claw off and you eat the root of the barnacle. These are boiled and in effect ‘sealed’ so the taste of the sea is intense. I could see what the fuss was about – good fun, different and within seconds and experience not to be forgotten.

You can buy these oddities in the UK at big Fish Markets I subsequently learnt (http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/wordofmouth/2012/oct/08/wild-goose-barnacle-chase) but I think really you need to be by the sea from where they were gathered – and the full moon somehow does play it’s part!


Douro Vinho Branco Seco Reserva


All washed down with a bottle of Douro Vinho Branco Seco Reserva 2013 – a night out to remember (even with the slightly inaccurate translation of my name with the booking!).



What is a fair sentence for wine fraud?  »

August 18th, 2014 by Tom Ashworth

Like many in the wine trade, I’ve been following the Rudy Kurniawan case for some time with interest. For any reader not aware, on 4th August, in a Californian court, Rudy Kurniawan (aka ‘Dr Conti’, in reference to DRC) was sentenced to 10 years in a federal prison and ordered to pay $20m in restitution and $28m in damages to victims of his wine fraud.


Rudy Kurniawan - Jane Rosenberg - New York Daily News


In short, Kurniawan (an Indonesian national) arrived in the US to study in the late nineties and within five years had become famous for buying and selling some of the world’s finest and rarest wines. Except that they weren’t. In March 2012, when FBI officers raided his home, they found a wine counterfeiting factory par excellence and his fate was sealed.

Kurniawan’s wine fraud, which was on a massive scale, was very wrong and extremely damaging to the trading of fine wine although, arguably, it may make the market safer in the long run. A custodial sentence was inevitable, yet there are elements of the case that leave me feeling uncomfortable. A significant amount of the counterfeit wine remains unaccounted for, so could re-appear on the market. If Kurniawan sold an estimated $50m of wine, what about all commissions on those sales: the auction houses and the middle men? There’s a strange silence on these matters.

Yes; victims of fraud are victims of fraud, whether they are princes or paupers, but I am incredulous that individuals didn’t suspect something was odd about an Indonesian student arriving pretty much out of nowhere with alleged access to the rarest wines in the world. If a hawker offered them a Hermes handbag on a beach, would they think it’s the real deal? This is why the first article of the Bunch’s code of conduct (to which Yapp is a signatory) is that the “Provenance of the wine we sell is of fundamental importance to us therefore, we only buy from primary and all trusted sources. In any, and all cases, The Bunch guarantee always applies.”


Rudy Kurniawan - picture from news.artnet.com


So what is a fair punishment? Hawks point to the Bernie Madoff case where the ponzi-schemer is serving 150 years, but doves could counter that self-confessed doping cheat Lance Armstrong, who earned an estimated $125m from prize money and sponsorship deals (including the US Postal Service, thereby the US tax payer), walks free following the dropping of a federal case. Hedge funder, Raj Rajaratnam is serving the ‘longest ever’ 11 year sentence for insider dealing and has been ordered to repay over $50m, but his co-defendants got 3 years on average. What would Rudy have got in the UK? Very little one suspects, given that there is no-one serving prison time (or likely to) for PPI, Equitable Life, self-certification lending, split capital investments, Forex-fixing; need I continue? Where’s the consistency?

As I say, there’s a lot to consider and I doubt we’ve heard the last of this one. I wonder who has the film rights?



(Not the) Great Chalfield Ball  »

August 13th, 2014 by Hamish Catanach

Readers of this blog may remember past musings around the Great Chalfield Ball – a local bash held in the grounds of our local National Trust Stately home. It’s a bit of a ruse really when you’re asked to cough up £25 per head – but then take your own wine and food for your own al fresco picnic. My wife and her partner in crime on this new venture (Nikki Mortimer) decided to change things around this year a bit I think with the idea of using the £25 per head fee to help cover food and wine and hold the bash in Nikk’s garden.


wine glasses


The ease at which the ‘Usual Suspects Ball’ was arranged was clearly assisted by social media – my wife is never backwards at organising things given half a chance, and thankfully apart from assembling various gazebos in the thunder of Saturday morning I thankfully got away lightly, just sorting out some wine, glasses and baking a few loaves of bread.


garden party ladies


The group all donned best attire and we started with chilled glasses of Crémant de Limoux Brut Cuvée Selection, an ideal first drink as by now the clouds had cleared and the sun was out for the evening. Then some more Yapp staple crowd pleaser – Côtes de Thongue: Domaine Les Filles de Septembre ‘Tradition’ 2013, our ‘own label’ Saumur Blanc 2013 and a few bottles of Minervois: Domaine Le Cazal Tradition 2013. The evening flowed along with various cocktails, and again the digital age helping out with an iPhone set up with the frankly marvellous Spotify premium – so everyone could choose songs that suited them – clearly a diverse range of tunes filled the night air. Tempted as I was to put on The Felice Brothers “The Greatest Show on Earth” as a nod to Gavin’s red tonic suit and a not being at Chalfield Manor (the lyric being “I’m in a suit of Burgundy, there’s a deer head lookin at me.”).


garden party blokes


Safe to say, a good time ensued – everyone got home (eventually), no one fell in ponds on the common on the way back (that has been known) and next year’s bash is already booked. As I drove past Great Chalfield Manor on the drive into work this morning, there was the annual ‘please park under the trees’ instruction for their Ball – I think ours had a bit more going for it. Well, we certainly had the same food and wine – but we could count an extra fire pit, a much more eclectic playlist and a much later licence for dancing!

Same time next year then?
Why not.



Cooking Wine  »

August 6th, 2014 by Jason Yapp

I am often asked what wine people should cook with and there are many schools of thought on this topic.


Robert Carrier

Robert Carrier


The late, great cookery writer Robert Carrier had pretty strong feelings on the subject averring that: “To attempt wine cookery with poor wine is more than just a mistake, it is pure heresy.’ He went on to remind readers: ‘…remember, the better the wine you use, the better the final dish.’


Jeffrey Bernard

Jeffrey Bernard


The infamous Spectator ‘Low Life’ diarist Jeffery Bernard was certainly of the Carrier camp (incidentally Carrier was quite camp) and once got sacked from employment as a pub cook for knocking up a shepherd’s pie with an illustrious bottle of 1949 Châteauneuf-du-Pape. He claimed the landlord was a Philistine and the dish was to die for but he was a master in self-promotion and exaggeration and we only have his word for it.

The outmoded notion of ‘cooking wine’ that is just fine for sloshing into a stew but you wouldn’t deign to drink seems to have finally been laid to rest and most modern cooks concur that its best to deploy something half decent in the kitchen. I’m not one for putting Chassagne-Montrachet in the chicken casserole but I think the popular maxim of ‘not cooking with a wine you wouldn’t drink’ is a good one.


Raymond Blanc

Raymond Blanc


I’m also a great believer in culinary terroir – unlike some high profile chefs. I reckon that it is prudent, sensitive even, to deploy a wine from same region as a dish whenever practical. If I’m making moules marinière I’ll use a Muscadet, boeuf bourguignon a red Burgundy, lasagne a Sangiovese etc. It seems obvious to me that there is likely to be a harmonious correlation between food and wine from the same area, moreover I think that serving the same wine with as dish as used in it makes a lot of sense too. I was incredulous when watching Raymond Blanc’s ‘Very Hungry Frenchman’ series when he happily recommended using the famous Bordelais grape Cabernet Sauvignon in the Burgundian classic bœuf bourginon. To me that is totally counter-intuitive. Is it only me that thinks this was a terrible culinary faux pas? Probably. I am a notorious fusspot and bit of a food and wine snob to boot.


Condrieu: Coteau de Vernon 2012


In summary I think cooking with fine wine, certainly anything over £10 a bottle, is pretty wasteful. Of course it is not going to do your dish any harm but I doubt that your guests are going to pick up on the subtle nuances of a posh Pomerol deployed in a sauce in preference to a good, every-day Petit Château claret. I think it is best to cook with geographically appropriate wine that is perfectly potable but not too costly and save the budget for what you are drinking with meal. Tonight we’re having ‘beer can chicken’ and a bottle of Condrieu – a winning combination if ever there was one!



Fire Alarm! Be Prepared – Old Fire Station Café, Warminster  »

July 30th, 2014 by Hamish Catanach

It’s always good fun when my life before the wine trade collides with my life in the wine trade. An old colleague who used to share the top floor office at the Consortium (in effect Marketing, Customer Insight and E-Commerce down ‘our’ end of the office) is setting up a new café in Warminster – just down the road from Yapp HQ.


The Old Fire Station Cafe - Wine Tasting


So there was no better excuse to catch up with the Magees and taste some wines – we worked down a list of Yapp staples while discussing their plans for what sounds to be the place to go in Warminster when it opens in late August.


Wine Tasting with The Old Fire Station


Clearly, it’s all hands to the pump at the Old Fire Station at the moment, both myself and Mei learnt more than we thought possible about coffee machine wiring and barista training – let alone the expertise required to hang heavyweight doors.

Naturally, it was an enjoyable tasting – and we’ll see where we go next with this exciting venture as they are still working on the menus, but they are keen to use local suppliers and offer something that’s a bit special – so do keep an eye out for the opening – we’ll be there for sure!


The Old Fire Station Cafe


Keep up with their progress ‘down the road’ via twitter @FireStationBA12 or The Old Fire Station Café on Facebook.



Hors catégorie – poor old Citroën Traction Avant!  »

July 24th, 2014 by Tom Ashworth

You may have wondered how the Tour de France categorizes the hills and mountains it crosses. OK, maybe not?


Tour de France - Citroen


Quite likely, this is a question that went round and round the heads of the riders as they struggled up and over The Pyrenees this week.


Tour de France - Hill Classifications


Hills are categorised on a scale of one to four – one being the hardest, four the easiest, and ‘HC – hors catégorie’ being ‘off the charts’ as Matthew Jukes likes to say. The system was established after WWII by the use of a Citroën Traction Avant. Tour officials drove the stages and if the ageing ‘Avant’ could get over the pass in fourth gear (a relatively new automotive development at that time) it would be categorised as ‘4’. Likewise, chugging over in first, would lead to a ‘1’ grade. Suffice to say, ‘HC’ marked a climb over which the poor old Citroen couldn’t make it!


Yapp Brothers Citroen Traction Avant