Who We’re Congratulating: Universal Works
The artistic vision of former Paul Smith and designer, David Keyte, Universal Works has long since been the last word in simple, honest menswear that puts fit, design and wearability above all else. This year marks Universal Works’ tenth year of merging British-inflected workwear with smarter, more occasion-friendly attire. The brand’s Autumn-Winter ‘19 collection sees the brand further solidify this balance with a thoughtful and considered collection of mainstays and new additions. Drawing loosely on Aesop’s fable of the Hare and the Tortoise (a story that preaches the importance of a calm and consistent approach to all things worth doing) the lineup boasts a vibrantly sporty edge that sings of the brand’s signature style whilst still managing to push things forward. Talk about celebrating in style.
What We’ve Been Watching: Jokers
Cynical, exploitative and ultimately forgettable, Todd Phillp’s Joker is a desperate and uneven attempt to make a grown up film that, quite like Joker’s eponymous protagonist, falls flat on its arse one too many times. The weight and heft of Joaquin Phoenix’s performance is unsurprisingly impressive. But the rest? Not so much. Don’t get me wrong, Joker isn’t a bad film, per se. It can’t be, really. It’s a derivative, cut-and-paste, Frankenstain’s Monster of a film that has so shamelessly and meticulously aped bigger, better films that it never really has the opportunity to fully derail itself. Its Scorscese stabilisers are fixed on too tight for there to be any risk of that. That the film is a cheap, vacuous facsimile of Taxi Driver is not its biggest crime, however: Joker simply isn’t as edgy, relevant, or even as interesting as it thinks it is. This is the agsty, filmic equivalent of angrily throwing shit at a wall to see what sticks. Sure, you make a bit of a scene in the process. But at the end of the day, you’re still left with a wall covered in shit.
What We’ve Been Mixing: Unhindered, a Cocktail Compliments of Pippa Guy
Fruity, enticing, and full of character, Black Tot Rum boasts a rich, golden marriage of fruity Barbadian, full bodied Guyanese and vibrant Jamaican Rums that warms the soul. Each sip releases the richness of tropical fruits, the sweetness of Caribbean cakes, a lacing of intense espresso, and a finish of sweet spices. And as Pippa Guy (formerly of The Savoy’s American bar) reveals, it makes a mean cocktail too.
40ml Black Tot
20ml Oloroso sherry
3 dashes Angostura bitters
Garnish: Orange peel
Combine all ingredients except the orange peel in a mixing glass filled with ice. Stir for 20-30 seconds and strain into a chilled coupette glass. Gently twist a thin piece of orange peel over the glass before dropping it in.
Who We’ve Been Talking To: Ben Walgate, Tillingham Wines
First off, what’s your story? What sparked your interest in biodynamic wine in the first place?
I was working in a wine shop whilst at uni. This would have been back in 2001. I’d worked in hospitality and wine shops before then, but at this particular point in time I first started to find out about biodynamics. It was a combination of learning about some of the characters and the philosophy behind the wines, but mainly the wines themselves, which had an energy and sense of place that really stood out. I soon went off to visit some of these producers and it was while in a vineyard in Burgundy that I realised that all I wanted to do was farm and make wines in this way.
Are there any additional challenges associated with producing wine here in the UK, especially when working with low-intervention methods?
A lot of people say that natural farming and winemaking aren’t suited to the UK, as our climate is more marginal. I think this is, in part, an excuse by some for not trying harder and also down to a lack of understanding of the benefits and the principals of this approach. First of all, a vine – like all plants – requires a healthy living soil for the uptake of nutrition and also for its own immune system. If you don’t have a healthy soil, the disease issues are greater. there’s a greater impetus to farm in this way. As for the wine making itself, I find that our inherently higher acidities, combined with our long growing season, make for wines that are inherently quite resilient to spoilage. The wines – when made with a low-intervention approach – have great longevity in the bottle.
Hand planting 10,000 vines at your farm must have been quite the challenge. What was the motivation behind it?
Cultivation can be bad for the soil and bad for the environment. I thought that through lots of compost additions and cover crops I would have done enough to get away with hand planting. In the end the vines struggled a bit. This year, we planted 26,000 and chose to cultivate, the results we much much better. It’s been a learning curve. Now all the vines are in the ground, we will avoid cultivation – as we do herbicides – and control the competition (aka weeds) around the vine by mechanical/manual means. It’s just for the establishment phase and in the long run means our soils will be healthier.
I hear that some of your wines are the product of Qvevri ageing. How does this impact the final wine? Which of your wines would you say best exemplify the benefits of this technique?
We use qvevri here. I have 14 now. We also have concrete vats, various formats of Oak and also stainless steel. They all have an impact on the wine. Sometimes, some of the wines from qvevri take on the taste of the clay, other times not. My favourite so far has been the Qvevri Artego from 2017. We’ve just released a Qvevri white blend which is shaping up to be really really good. This one I finished in barrel for 6 months, though, to soften the perception of clay in the wine.
Do you think people’s interest in – and attitude towards – British wines have changed in recent years? Do you think more natural wine processes have opened the category up?
English wine and Welsh wines have come a long way, and the success and renown of the top sparkling has provided a platform for other wine styles to gain acceptance. What myself and the handful of other, more experimental, winemakers are doing will have broadened the category a bit, I’m sure. It’s great to see now that there’s some diversity in the UK industry.
Are there any grape varieties that have made a comeback thanks to low-intervention winemaking? Are you working with any (relatively) lesser-known grapes yourself?
What’s becoming apparent (to me at least) is that the less trendy varietals like Regent and Müller-Thurgau and the like can make really good, characterful still wines when using a more sympathetic, natural approach. These are now is short supply, whereas a big oversupply of chardonnay and pinot noir is starting to be the norm.
How are the plans for the Tillingham guests rooms and restaurant coming along?
We’re now open! The 11 rooms all look beautiful, and the restaurant and wine bar are serving up our own food from the farm as well as our wines, and a great selection of my favourite natural wines from around the world. The weekends from now until Christmas are filling up fast.