Dry January……not my favourite month.

dry january

So this is not another sarcastic drinks post about only drinking dry white wine, dry gin or dry cider. That’s right I’ve actually done it – or more accurately, I’m doing it – #dryjanuary.

I’ll come clean – it hasn’t been the whole of the month – I had a drink on New Year’s Day as that’s still the holiday season and I was determined to enjoy every last minute of it.  As it happened I had the 2nd January off as well and fully intended to make use of that to get my final fix before the following 29 days but unfortunately, I developed the cold that I’d been avoiding all Xmas on NYD and didn’t feel like drinking on the 2nd!

Whatever the small print, I’m doing it.  Why? Well I’ll be honest – principally to loose a bit of weight.  I’d crept up a bit and whilst we’re not talking ballooning here, it was enough that I wanted to redress and I can never do that with food, especially at this time of the year.  If anything, I want to increase my intake rather than reduce it.  My diet is richer during the colder months than the meat & salad infused days of spring, summer & autumn.

So, not drinking was the obvious other alternative.  I know, I know, there’s exercise and believe me, I have plans on that front but it’s not easy to ramp up the level of activity with the life I lead in order to affect things in the time frame we’re talking about here.

This therefore is a status report of sorts. An update as to sanity, “the way it’s affected my life” and most importantly, has it helped me achieve the goal I wanted it to?


Let’s start with sanity. As I sit here writing this, I can honestly say I have no inkling whatsoever for any sort of alcoholic drink in the slightest. That may have something to do with it being 9.30 in the morning but it’s a start.  Fast forward 8 or 9 hours to Saturday evening, a steak is sitting on the side gently coming up to room temperature.  I would normally be thinking about the bottle I’d be consuming with that particular cut of meat and whether I’d need to open it in advance of the meal…….

The early evening couple of pints at my local are currently on hold and whilst I like to think that takings are down dangerously this month to the point of closure due to my lack of presence, truth is, they probably haven’t noticed I’m not there.

These are the times when I’m struggling…..I’ll level with you – I’m not enjoying it.  It isn’t a good thing to not be able to pour a glass of something you love and enjoy it with a great plate of something or just whilst watching a  Heineken Cup match as is on this afternoon.

This brings me on to the point you hear so much when people talk of having given up drinking……”it’s changed my life completely!!!!!”

I can only think that the reason why this would be true is if your life is crippled and prohibitive because of one’s relationship with alcohol.  In fairness, that said, my life has actually changed…..I’m not enjoying it quite as much as I used to….I’m not able to engage in one of my main passions outside of my day to day life, work and family.

I thought it would give me more energy – as I’ve heard or read so many times – but what has happened in reality is that I’ve started going to bed earlier (mainly in the hope that tomorrow arrives more quickly and the next day and so on until the 1st Feb), getting more rest and so my body has become used to this level of sleep.  Getting up at my customary 5.30am has become an impossible task!

I’ve also been going to great lengths to find interesting and enjoyable soft drinks to consume during my hiatus…..from expensive cordials to non-alcoholic beers and even alcohol free wine purporting to be “Shiraz without the hangover.” It isn’t.


The one thing it has enabled me to do – and it’s a moot point whether this is any use whatsoever – is to be able to go to the supermarket to get emergency items past say 8.00 or 9.00pm. Can we really say that’s a plus point?

I think also, the law of sod or the gods of mischief have spotted my attempt at purifying myself and employed their own forms of torture on me. I seem to be noticing more keenly an enhanced level of media traffic from within the industry.  Indeed, it’s as though the dry january ‘movement’ or concept is an excuse for the drinks industry to get its middle finger out and go into overdrive.  I’ve also, for some reason decided to start listening to a new wine podcast “Batonnage” with Fiona Beckett & Liam Steevenson which is a really enjoyable listen with a lovely relaxed tone to it but also excruciatingly tempting to crack open a bottle and drink whilst immersed in each episode!!!

What though, I hear you ask, about the weight loss, the main reason for putting myself through this 1st world pain?  Well, I’m happy to report an initial surge in the first 10 days. The next week has seen a more marginal loss but we’re going in the right direction so that’s a crumb of comfort to cling on to whilst others are enjoying themselves around me.

So I’ve got 13 more days to go including today……13 more days of spending lots of money on posh squash, drinking slimline tonic water and no Bombay. 13 more days of matching food with water!!!! Granted, it’s a lot easier than wine but I think you’ll agree it’s best suited to accompanying a food & wine combination rather than being the main beverage of the evening.

I just need to keep thinking of settling down on 1st Feb to watch France v Wales hoping for a red win whilst clutching a red from the opposing country……actually, I should start planning what it will be – this could help occupy my mind over the remaining 2 weeks!!!

I’ll update once it’s over…….wish me luck!!!

Talk Soon


New Year – New Look

So it’s that time again where all the wine writers in the world tell you their new year resolutions, the things related to wine that they’re going to attempt to do in the coming 12 months.  I know, I’ve done it and it happens regularly.

This year though, I’m not partaking.  Not because I have anything against these types of post……indeed it gives you a topic for a post without thinking which is sometimes the most difficult part of writing. Events or annual festivals are perfect for providing ready made subjects and focal points, particularly if one is struggling for inspiration.

Instead of making pledges of what I will drink more of, drink less of or write more about, I have concentrated on refreshing the look of my blog.  Without realising, the blog is now a little over 4 years old and I decided it was time for a change of look.  I was really happy with the rugged look to it when I started it and it suited the way I wanted to present my posts during its infancy.

Now though, I want a cleaner look, a different layout and hopefully, a push for some new and different content – something which has been seriously lacking for a while now I know.

Hopefully, as well as my own posts, I want to include some guest content, be that from blogging friends I know or simple reposts which I think will be interesting for you to read (because they interest me)!

I’ll also take requests – so to speak – to explore certain topics or wines that you want to know more about.  Equally, I’ll try and include more personal events and encounters with wine, even if they don’t make for a substantial post – maybe some tweets or Instagram posts copied on to here.

So let me know if there’s anything particular that you want to hear about and remember that this is about real wine for real people….this means there is no snobbery or even reverse snobbery on here….anything goes!

Talk Soon


The Vexed Question of Vintages…….

To the uninitiated, the vintage of a wine may be irrelevant. It may be a mark of simply when it was made, it may give an indication as to how good it is, depending on how old it is.

To those who have dug a little deeper, they will understand that that last comment is fraught with danger, the second comment is true but it gives so many more clues to the drinker and of course with some wines, there may not be a reference to ne specific vintage or year at all!

Indeed, there are many homogenous wines that are made from batches of grapes from different vintages producing glugging products that are pleasant enough but give no sense of the background story to what’s in one’s glass.

Burgundy bottles 2

The ‘older the better’ argument falls down depending on the colour, the grape, the region & even the vines involved in its incarnation. On the whole, there are more reds then whites that provide the structure for ageing although not exclusively at all.  Within both whites and reds, certain grapes have a propensity to gather sophistication and austerity with age, some need time to develop their fruit characteristics. Wine making techniques in certain regions have perfected the craft of making wines that can age whereas others are only just starting to discover what they have available to them.

What may be also alien to the average wine drinker is the variation in vintages from region to region. Yes, people may here that such and such was a good year and you should look for anything with X year on the label.  Yet the truth is, unless one is drinking wines of a similar style or quality from different vintages on a regular basis, it is difficult for people to believe there is great difference in the drink that is made by the same producers in the same country in large quantities from year to year.

Therefore, everybody should try the very simple test of trying the exact same wine, from the exact same winery, made by the exact same producer, in different vintages. What is more striking is if you can do it so they are 1 -2 years MAX apart to negate the ‘well that’s a lot older so it’s had a lot more time to change’ argument or the ones colder than the other so it’s bound to taste different mantra.

So this is what The Commandant & I decided to do the other evening (well in truth I decided to do it and she went along for the ride).

We took 2 bottles of Louis Jadot  Macon-Villages, one from 2015 & one from 2016, chilled them side by side in the same fridge for the same amount of time and then tasted them side by side.


The results were striking, even with just a year between them and something The Commandant wasn’t expecting. The ’16 was delightful, pale lemon in colour with a fresh smell of minerally dry fruit.  It was very much like a young Chablis and had the perfect ability to begin a party (after the fizz of course).

Turning to the ’15 and the age gap was as stark as you could wish to expect. Pale lemon had given way to rich golden hues, there was warmth on the nose that led you to believe the fruit would be more intense and the flintiness of the ’16 would no longer be there.  It was albeit chastened somewhat by the roundness of the fruit and the lusciousness of the texture.  This now would be the fish course wine, providing the dish was accompanied by some butter enriched sauce.  The ’16 would be needed again if taking oysters or scallops.

So next time you’ve got some enthusiastic but sceptical wine drinkers coming round, try this type of experiment early evening and I’ll guarantee you have people smiling with surprise as they start to maybe believe some of that stuff you tell them.

Talk soon


A Year in Provence…..Well a Week Anyway!

It’s been five years since we’ve been to Provence and we’ve missed it – really missed it. So The Commandant & I decided it’s time we went back.  The last time we were there, we were two children lighter so travelling may be more of a challenge now with the four of them but worth it for the spoils that await us.

Our destination is the quaint little village of Malemort-Du-Comtat, 12km South East of Carpentras in the shadow of the Giant of Provence – Mont Ventoux. Surrounded by equally pretty villages & towns such as Mazan, St Didier, Sault and Venasque, this is rural Provence where tractors rule and the mid-summer heat is truly intense.

We will not be visiting during that truly oppressive period, mainly because it’s no fun for kids at that time, particularly at night so we will be arriving at the beginning of June hoping for long days but slightly cooler conditions.

The only downside to being there in early June as opposed to the end of the month/early July is that the cherries will not be ripe. Malemort is surrounded by orchard upon orchard of cherry trees and during that later time, a stroll to the alimentation in the morning allows you to sample the wares of trees that are heavy with fruit in preparation for the annual cherry festival in the village.

It will be a welcome return to the local markets such as Sault on Monday, Pernes-Les-Fontaines on Saturday and the huge antiques market on Sunday at L’Isle sur la Sorgue – the home for a number of years of one of my heroes, Keith Floyd.



But of course what I’m looking forward to most is the wine. The Ventoux region is certainly not the most exhaulted of appelations in France.  It is, strictly speaking, part of the southern Rhone and the majority of production is red but with rose also prominent.  The grapes used are traditionally Grenache, Syrah, Cinsault, Mouvedre & Carignan and the wines are best drunken relatively young and are not designed for particularly long ageing.  They are also the sorts of wines that benefit at this time of the year from being slightly chilled.

There are around 150 producers and 15 co-operatives in the area producing wines of varying quality and some still produce the sort of quantity over quality-type wines than gave the region its historically average reputation.

Yet there are other growers here who have developed their properties to great effect and are now producing wines of increased delicacy and balance to rival their more famous neighbours in the Cotes du Rhone.

There’s Chateau Pesquie at Mormoiron, run by the current generation of the Chaudiere family and nearby Domaine de Fondreche where Sebastian Vincenti has been turning out sleek and sophisticated wines since his 20s.

There is Gay McGuinness, the Irishman bucking the trend of the region and making superb whites from Roussanne such as Archange.

But we are lucky to have, as our next door neighbours for the week, Chateau Unang. This estate is fast becoming one of the most well respected producers in the Southern Rhone region and has been under the control of Scots James and Joanna King since 2001.


The vineyard sits on the hillside above Malemort and under the protective gaze of ‘The Giant’ with sandy soils lying on top of limestone – the same limestone that forms the white cap of Mont Ventoux, visible for miles around.

One thing that has changed since I was there last is that the vineyard has become registered as organic since 2013 and I am keen to see how this has developed the wines and enhanced the flavour that this unique terroir affords them.

Whilst the Grenache & Syrah that dominate the reds show the traditional pepper and spice that these grapes are famous for, there is evidence of all those cherry trees that surround the property lending a fullness of fruit that balances the spice beautifully.

The rose is particularly good with a blend of traditional Provencal light pink crossed with a hint of Luberonesque orangey-copper hue.  The delicacy of the nose gives way to classical red fruits such as strawberries  and those afor-mentioned cherries.

Produced in less volume and using Roussanne, Clairette and Grenache Blanc, the whites are perhaps more geared towards the aperitif rather than great food wines but show a similar level of sophistication and delicacy to the rose.

We’re counting down the days now until we board the plane and head south. I will keep you posted on our movements and the wines I experience whilst we’re there and my recommendations once home.

Talk soon.



Wine & the Six Nations

Christmas is fading in the distance, New Year a recent blur.  We’ve had blue Monday where we’re supposed to hit rock bottom and so that can only mean one thing – it’s Six Nations time!

For those who do not like rugby I make no apologies about this particular post.  However, rather than an indulgent piece about how Scotland look rejuvenated with Glasgow playing so well and that France look more like France should under Guy Noves, this is definitely a wine blog (with one notable deviation) with a Six Nations theme.

The plan was simple – take the six countries that participate in the tournament and select a wine from each to accompany the viewing as they all chase the silverware at the end of the winter.  The execution not so easy – but we’ll come to that later.

We’ll begin with France as the obvious selection due to its wine heritage.  Should be easy right?  Not really – what to choose from the vast array on offer.  Well, in honour of Les Bleus head coach Noves who hails from Toulouse, I have selected a wine from that city – a wine from the Fronton appellation.  Fronton wines can only be called as such if they contain 50 – 70% of the ancient local grape; Negrette.  This is a grape that is straight forward to grow and yields well, perhaps too well so that wines with 100% Negrette can lack a little in the finished product.

For that reason, most producers blend with a dash of Cabernet (Sauvignon or Franc), Malbec or Syrah and the final wine will often exhibit a combination of violets and liquorice.  The thin skins give a deliciously deep purple colour to the wine but little tannin.

Try Chateau Le Roc 2014 Cotes du Frontonnaise Classique & a plate of Cassoulet as Le Marsaillais rings out!

Chateau Le Roc 2014 Cotes du Frontonnaise Classique

Image result for chateau le roc fronton

Another benefit of the Championship is that Italy are taking part and that gives us the excuse to open something grand.

Italy’s opening game is at home in Rome against Wales.  Rome is in the region of Lazio but it is the neighbouring region of Tuscany where I’m focussing for my Italian pick.

In Tuscany, the Sangiovese grape reigns supreme and wines from the Chianti DOC must have 70% minimum in their blends with Classico DOCG upping that to 80%.  Gone are the days of the old squat, straw covered fiaschi bottles and now the high shouldered Bordeaux-style ones that tend to indicate higher quality wines are more favoured.

Characterised by a red and black cherry character, the wines typically show notes of wild woody herbs, mint and spice.  The Chianti Classicos are similar in charm to the wines of the medoc and a great match with good steak.

Try this Classico with a good T-bone and sit back to watch the Azzuri battle Wales:

Peppoli Chianti Classico DOCG Antinori 2014

Antinori Peppoli Chianti Classico

Delicious red cherry fruit with chocolate and vanilla undertones leading to silky tannins on the finish.

England begin the 2017 Six Nations as defending champions and are looking for back to back titles as well as targeting New Zealand’s world record of unbeaten games.  For the English representation, it seems appropriate to celebrate the success of English Sparkling wine in recent times.

World class and Champagne-beating vineyards now exist in counties such as Sussex, Kent and Hampshire with heavyweight names such as Ridgeview and Nyetimber.  However, it is to Cornwall that I look to provide the accompanyment to watch the men in white defend their title.

The world famous Camel Valley vineyard run by the Lindo family sits on the outskirts of Bodmin in the heart of the valley and near the head of  the Camel Estuary.  However, there is a new kid on the block a little further west, near the village of St Merryn, in the form of Trevibban Mill.  This little jewel nestled in the countryside and is producing limited quantities of red, white & sparkling wines as well as a wonderful dry cider.

But it’s the sparkling wine I’m focussing on here.  It’s a wine made from 100% Seyval Blanc and is a really fresh citrus sparkler that is not too dominated by the traditional biscuity, bready taste that affords a lot of these types of wines.

Yellow stone fruit, a delicate mousse and a background floral tinge mean this is the perfect aperitif that would accompany some nibbles as England lock horns with France in their opening game of the tournament.

Trevibban Mill Sparkling White Brut

Wales is producing less wine in terms of quantity than its close cousin, but there are pockets of greatness being under-covered in this rugby-mad nation.

From Celtic Country Wines over in Pembrokeshire to Parva Farm Vineyard in the shadows of Tintern Abbey, Wales is producing top quality wines that are winning favour with experts across the globe.

The interest in Welsh wine stretches into the traditional enclaves of Bordeaux with orders being placed for Ancre Hill wines near Monmouth.  Indeed, the Monmouthsire area with its good drainage and sheltered areas is said to provide ideal conditions for growing both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes.

It’s one of their wines I would recommend to drink whilst watching Wales’ final game against the French – how poetic – and their Chardonnay is the perfect ‘match’.

Ancre Hill Estates Chardonnay 2013

Ancre Hill Chardonnay

Inviting nose of citrus and bright minerality, together with discreet vanilla notes. Opens into a palate of grapefruit, wet stone and a hint of vanilla cream. This wine will continue to benefit from bottle age, drink now to 2020.

I have to admit to not knowing of any produceable wines coming from Scotland and so I’ve cheated slightly and slipped in that most famous export from our old neighbours – Whiskey.

Now, I’m not a whiskey drinker and it would be disingenuos of me to simply skip over this fact and say that any good aged single malt scotch wwould be good drinking.  Instead, I’ve deferred to my friend Mike from Bin Two in Padstow and his team to provide more guidance than I could hope to provide.

Their pick is the lovely Asyla Whiskey.  Asyla is a blended Scotch from the Compass Box Whiskey range, named after the plural for asylum. The makers feel a word with such ambiguity suggests a delicate balance between madhouse and sanctuary, perfect for this blend.

It’s aged in new American oak casks giving it a much richer, sweet vanilla character than many Scotch whiskeys which are generally aged in pre-used casks. It’s light, elegant and refined with fruity, sweet notes making it the perfect choice for an easy drinking yet luxurious whiskey and has been known to convert multiple non-whiskey drinkers in BinTwo.

Try a wee dram when singing along to Flower of Scotland!

Asyla Blended Scotch Whiskey

Last but by no means least, we have Ireland.  I could cheat again here and suggest no drink from Ireland comes close to a pint of Guinness but that would be both lazy and unfair!

Whilst producing wine in the Emerald Isle is not without its challenges, it can be done and David Llewellyn is doing just that from his small vineyard in Lusk, just north of Dublin.

He mostly grows Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Rondo grapes on his 0.5 acre piece of land, with the latter of those grapes seemingly the most successful for the climate and the growing conditions.

Its hardy dark-skinned attributes mean that having been producing since 2005, David at last feels he has got to the stage where he is producing pretty good red wine.

You may be in a position to see Ireland complete a Grand Slam in the final game of the Championship and if so, what better way to do it than with a bottle from one of their own.

Luska Cabernet/Merlot

Available from www.fruitandvine.com

Whatever your tipple to see you through, by the time the tournament has finished we will be well and truly knocking on the door of spring which is enough to cheer everyone up.

Talk soon


The Wine within the Wine

In the world of wine and for that matter, outside it, we seem to be happy – or maybe accepting – that one can use a variety of colour, fruit, vegetal & floral aromas to describe a wine. We also make use of metaphor when comparing the nose or taste of a wine to maybe the sea, mountains or tobacco to name but a few.

Indeed, some of the world’s most revered wine can be at odds with its description if trying to tempt a would-be drinker. Some first class growth clarets have been described as having a hint of cold tea about them – cold tea at £750 a bottle! Or antique furniture – imagine eating the polish that one uses to buff up mahogany yet we hold this characteristic up as a sign of sophistication when in the glass.

Moreover, it is, on the face of it, not an attractive thought to be consuming something whose principle sensation & flavour can be described as ‘flinty’ when the thought of biting down on a piece of sharp rock usually reserved for saving stranded survivors of sinking ships on desert islands would make most normal people wince, yet that is how most of the top Chablis of the world are promoted.

It is true also, that no matter the level of fruit or acidity in a particular wine from a particular region, no matter whether the alcohol content moves from 12.5% to 13.5% within wines of a local, it seems there are certain characteristics that are associated with that grape, country, region & even village.

The French (albeit with a few other factors; climate, soil, cosmic influence) call it terroir but the concept is essentially accepted all over the globe.

For instance, Chardonnay from South-East Australia is oaky & fruity bordering on sweet. Californian Zinfandel – the wine of the people – is jammy & alcoholic. Sauvignon from New Zealand brings one thing to mind – gooseberries. And South African Pinotage is hot, heavy & spicy. These are but a few, admittedly stereotypical examples but it illustrates the broad point I’m making. Of course there are perfectly delicate Chardonnay from Australia – particularly from areas such as Margaret River, Mornington Peninsula & the Yarra Valley. I’m also sure the expensive lawyers from down at Cloudy Bay would argue forcibly that for £20 plus a bottle you get more that the taste of a little hairy green berry in your glass. But often it’s the archetypal images of food, drink or even people that we use to try and get our views across in the simplest way.

Therefore, if all of these descriptions already exist for different wine styles with all manner of experts having done all the dog-work for us, why can’t we utilise wines to describe wines???

I first started thinking about this recently when I used the phrase ‘The Pinot Noir of the Medoc’ to describe Margaux as a wine style. Clearly, the many many years of blood sweat and toil by dedicated wine makers that have gone into making some of the most exalted wines in the world are rendered irrelevant in my description and believe me, my intention could not be further from belittling the life’s dedication of oenologists in the Margaux region of Bordeaux toward their beloved vines.

Yet, in this day and age of immediate information, the world of ticker tape headlines, of snapchat, of push notifications & above all an interactive messaging service that restricts you to 144 characters, the need to inform people with a description significantly shorter than that of the traditional tasting note is a real one.

I guess the argument will be put forward with regards to dumbing down the poetic art of describing the intricacies of what is – to those of us who love wine – a living ‘breathing’ thing.

I accept that argument, I really do but I also argue that different audiences are looking for different things. Jancis Robinson’s readers would be appalled if, in her column for the FT Weekend, she were to start referring to her focal wine of the week as simply ‘Chardonnayesque’ or ‘Mendoza Malbec by another name’.

Nevertheless, for a lot of everyday drinkers that is how they refer to the drink of their choice. I have lost count how many times in my local pub, I’ve heard someone say ‘I love a Merlot’ or ‘I only drink Cabernet’. They’re not identifying a country let alone region or village and so they ‘get’ that sort of description when relayed back to them about other wines.

So, some examples; in my head, as well as the Margaux one, it seems entirely natural to me to think of Morgon or Moulin a Vent as the Chateauneuf du Pape of the Beaujolais world. Cotes de Provence Rose can be likened to the class-growth clarets within their own pink world. Viognier wines can almost mirror the Australian Chardonnay scale to describe their level of acidity & fruit particularly in displaying melon & pear flavours. And practically anything with a vanilla character to it can be referred to as ‘Rioja-like’ evoking thoughts of one of the most loved and distinctive wine-styles in the world.

But my favourite description would be probably that of Lambrini wines which I would say are the Blue Nun of the sparkling world – seems crap wine is crap wine however you describe it!!!

Talk soon


Favourite not ultimate……

It occurred to me the other day, that as much as I crave and treasure the concentration and complexity of a world class Bordeaux or top notch Rhone, I equally and sometimes enjoy more,  those wines that not only really hit the spot but are especially drinkable due to their character, flavour and structure.

For instance, I could not imagine sitting in the garden in the sunshine knocking back an ’05 Lynch-Bages, yet give me a lightly chilled Fleurie or Chiroubles to enjoy with friends and I’d be away.

Or, it’s a Wednesday, any Wednesday, I’m cooking a chorizo & butter bean stew – I don’t want to be diving into Louis Latour’s library when I can be gently sipping a sunny Tempranillo whilst periodically tasting the dish with its tomato & pimento spikiness.

On the other hand, we have friends over for steak, we’ve had a couple of pints or some fizz to kick off – I cannot think of anything better than opening one from the bottom of the rack.  A Cissac or St Emillion Grand Cru which I maybe decant & we savour with the salty fattiness of the ribeyes.

So I therefore wonder what I would say is my favourite wine – the one wine that if you said I could only drink this wine forever more; what would it be?

I will say this now – I think that is too difficult (& not much fun) to nail down to one overall wine – so I’m going to break it down to 1 in each category: Red, white, rose, sparkling & sweet.  I also stress that these are my current favourites and could well be different this time next year!


To illustrate the previous point perfectly, if I’d have written this a year ago, I’d have said Tanners’ House Claret straight away.  However, whilst I still like it very much, the blend has changed slightly and it now has a touch of dryness about it, which although certainly not stopping me drinking it, has stopped it from becoming my overall favourite.  Chateau Unang’s La Source Ventoux AOC is definitely worth a mention with its push to make a ‘country wine’ more elegant and refined than traditional Ventoux reputations – it has personal connections for me also as we holiday next door!

But the red I would choose for a lifetime supply is any type of old vine Carignan.  I love the South of France and I don’t think any other grape is so evocative of that dusty, dry, hot region as the Carignan – and especially if it is ever so slightly chilled!

carignan    old vines


Lots to choose from.  A number of Viogniers could make it on to the list.  With oysters I’m a Muscadet man.  I really like Vouvray demi-sec wines but might try and sneak these into the sweet section and so when it comes down to it, Tanners’ Dry Gascony White gets pipped by Louis Latour’s Chablis 1ere Cru.  Ultimately, in my opinion, nothing beats the steely dry minerality which translates into cleanliness and this is what makes Chablis so refreshing.

latour chablis


Easy – any number of Provence roses could make it but for me, Domaine Jean Busquet Premium Rose it has to be.  My wife & I drank several bottles of this with Tapas on an anniversary weekend and we have sought it out ever since.

Domaine Jean Bousquet  Bousquet Rose


Although I mentioned earlier my affection for Vouvray demise wines (particularly with cheese), I also have a liking for a Pedro Ximinez but my favourite sweetie is Domaine de Millet Cotes de Gascogne Moelleux – a wine which although in the demi-sec style has both perfume and freshness and has a light viscosity which is absent from a lot of dessert wines.  Heaven with crème brulee!

Domaine de Millet Moelleux


I cannot profess to having tasted all of the top names of the Champagne region, I do have a fondness for Deutz Brut Classic – particularly with a dozen oysters.  Our regular private label champagne ‘Les Amis du Chasse’ from well-known house De Saint Gall is also a nominee, but I have to say, that I have no need to look any further than the UK for my favourite sparkler – Chapel Down Brut Rose from Kent.  Summer in a glass.

Chapel Down vineyard  Chapel Down Brut Rose

I make no apology that there are not more of the world’s great wines in this list but as I said earlier, these are the ones that I currently enjoy the most.

Let me know what your desert island wine is too!

Talk Soon



Holiday cellar……

I’ll admit it, I’ve been on a break.  A mental break and a work break.  I don’t mean I had a break from work, I mean a break from writing to work…..things have been hectic.

But now it’s time to get back to talking to people through words and to follow up on a theme I started with one of my very early posts ‘The cellar under the stairs’.

That was a post about different cellars or collections different people possess – from the small handful in a wire rack in the kitchen to more substantial holdings.

The previous post on the subject was in relation to my Father’s ‘cellar’ in the cupboard under his stairs and at the end I referred to a Chateauneuf that I had yet to find. We planned to have it for New Year’s Day lunch with roast beef but unfortunately Dad had been storing it standing up and the cork had dried out completely crumbling & breaking in half having tainted the wine. No matter, we enjoyed a nice CDR instead, which was a lovely match.

So my next cellar to report upon is a slightly grander affair – an understatement in the extreme.

Back in the summer, we attended my cousin’s wedding at his newly acquired in-laws’ holiday residence in Pembrokeshire.

I am told that the cellar John (his father-in-law) has had created here is a secondary construction to his main underground lair at their home in Yorkshire.

In my eyes, second or not, it is a collection most of us can only admire with jealousy & lust and rejoice at John’s comments that these wines are ‘all for drinking’

I was lucky enough to be given a tour of the room and it was like Aladdin’s cave to an enthusiast like myself.

Although John’s main love is Burgundy, there were clarets aplenty, Riojas & Chiantis rubbing shoulders with a vast amount of Port.

I could have spent all afternoon down there – if it wasn’t for the 2011 Domaine Rollin Pernand-Vergelesses and fabulously drinkable 2010 Ronan by Clinet Claret.

In the short time I spent eyeballing his stock, here are some of the things I came across:

A case of Chateau Brane-Cantenac Margaux 2010


A 1996 Chateau Leoville Poyferre St Julien


A 2005 Chateau Pedesclaux Paulliac, 5eme Cru Classe


A hoard of aged port from Grahams, Taylors & Fonseca to name but a few


This was a memorable day all round and John & Dawn were wonderful hosts with a vivacious appetite for a good time and a determination to make sure everyone else absolutely had one!

I left John a gift to thank him for his hospitality – a modest BOURGOGNE HAUTES CÔTES DE NUITS “Clos des Dames Huguettes” 2011 Domaine Philippe Gavignet which I procured from Tom Innes at Fingal Rock, Monmouth.

I handed this to John the following day at the ‘clear up the food’ lunch before we left and in his true inimitable style, he accused me of nicking it from his cellar and wrapping it up!

Cheers John!

Talk Soon


Easter Wines……

I’m very lucky that Easter exists – not because I get a long weekend or because I love chocolate (quite the opposite) – but because at Easter the traditional meal contains my favourite meat:  Lamb.

I am also thankful (in the non-religious sense) that the traditional wine pairing with Lamb is also my favourite wine variety – Claret.

So really, this could be a very short post; get yourself a nice, grass fed shoulder of lamb & pair it with a good left banker like 2009 Chateau Cissac – a consummate performer offering consistent quality of black fruit, cedary notes which will eggsadurate (sorry couldn’t help myself) over time & a tannin structure that gives suppleness to cope with a wide range of foods, even if drinking it with lamb is still the best.

Or a 2013 De Chansac Carignan Vielles Vignes that, although fruity with a reddish/purple tinge to it, gives way to an almost salty tang which would be ideal, particularly if your lamb is of the salt marsh kind.  In addition, the menthol background provides a distant connection to the mint sauce – so complimentary flavours run all through the wine.

But a post like that hardly gets the juices flowing for long, let alone holding your attention, so I’ll investigate some alternatives to go with the sheep and some that will go with alternatives to the sheep.

Lamb, along with duck, is the favoured meat of the Gascons.  Farming  sheep & goats is a regional pastime in this corner of South West France and therefore I would suggest to try a Madiran with one’s shoulder, leg or loin.  The inky blackness of the wine conceals a depth of fruit that speaks of the sunshine of the region and the viscosity of the finished product created by the Tannat grape is perfect for cutting through fatty meats such as duck or lamb.  In fact, magret du canard with crispy fried potatoes, a well dressed salad and a bottle of Madiran might just make it on to my top 3 meals of all time!

Turkey tends to be popular at Easter as well as Christmas and is actually a versatile meat to match with wine as the contrast between the white and brown meat is much more noticeable than say on a chicken.  I would suggest white-wise something full bodied with some oak ageing and would probably look to Australia for a decent lick of golden honey and cream from a Margaret River Chardonnay or even an Alsace Riesling with a slightly oily, petrol complexion.

Reds can easily be drunk with Turkey due to the depth of flavour in the meat; burgundy is a good match, as is say a Samur but equally the fruitiness of a Sonoma Zinfandel would almost be like a liquid cranberry sauce accompaniment!

But what about something a bit different from a food point of view?  Well, a nice haunch of venison with a fine Vacquyeras or goose with a  perfumed Pinot Noir from New Zealand make pleasing breaks from the norm.

But one of the revelations for me over the last week was tasting a Spatburgunder in Augsburg, southern Germany.  This is the Pinot Noir grape in its German guise and it was soft, light bodied as one expects Pinot to be, but there was a fruit forward emphasis that may be less evident in traditional Burgundy styles where there is greater austerity and power.  This wine, on the other hand, was friendly and welcoming as well as light from an alcohol content which was refreshing.

I drank this with the most sublime Ox cheeks I had ever tasted which melted in the mouth.  A truly eggsellent combination!

Happy Easter!

Talk soon


Note to self……

I’m back!  My last post was the new year resolution post and that seems like a long time ago – which it was!!!  Sometimes you just need to take a break and not force a post for the sake of it.

However, one of those resolutions was to create a tasting notes page on the blog – which I’ve started and am working my way through posting my back catalogue – but it got me thinking about the concept of tasting notes & what they mean, how they’re crafted etc.

A lot of wine retailers now offer tasting notes to accompany wines you buy – I kind of think this defeats the object of the premise of individual reactions and reflections on wine.  I suppose, if one is a relative novice, this might assist with say pairings with food but surely if you’re a novice you are probably more concerned with whether you will enjoy drinking the wine before entering the realms of food & wine matching so really the notes should be available before you choose the wine (which in some cases they are to be fair).

If you spend time on any wine tasting course, go on any vineyard tour or watch any programme about wine, you’ll be shown or taught how to taste wine and what to think of when you are tasting it which inevitably and subconsciously, influences how you describe each wine you try.  Oh and I’m no exception to the rule, guilty as charged!

They teach you to think about the basic categories of smell including fruit, floral, vegetal, spice etc and then how that flows through to the taste including the dryness/sweetness of the wine, the same fruit, floral etc tones in the mouth, whether there is any oakiness in the wine as a result of barrel ageing & of course the length of the finish (the amount of time the taste of the wine stays on your palate) & tannin properties.

I have notice often though, that unless people’s individual tastes are not broadly similar to the ‘professional’ taster’s view of the wine, they tend to be dismissed which for me is a shame. This may also be more of an Old World/New World thing – in the UK we tend to be heavily influenced by the OW in terms of learning about wine and its basic properties before being introduced to the more flamboyant and slightly maverick approach from the NW.

Indeed, I would like to see more individual tasting notes which allude to taste recollections of past events, experiences or consumption.

For instance, we hear a lot that wine tastes like ‘wet autumnal leaves’.  Wouldn’t it be nicer to hear of a ‘soaking September day’ where ‘clothes were wet through’ & that ‘that dampness pervaded all other smells’!?!?

Wouldn’t it be preferable if, rather than simply describing a left bank claret as having ‘tobacco undertones’ or ‘cigar box notes’, the taster lovingly referred to a cigar or pipe smoking old relative who’s clothes used to smell of stale tobacco, the memory of which transported them back to a time when they felt safe & secure?!??

In a similar vane, fruitiness could be ‘specified’ to the point where childhood memories of the entire pallet of Rowntrees’ Fruit Pastilles are utilised to describe a wine’s conveyance of fruit in the same way an interior decorator would use a Pantone chart???

Ultimately, I would just like to see a little more originality in tasting notes in general. That said, it is difficult to get out of the habit of traditional note writing but my pledge is to at least try!

You may jump down my throat the minute you start to read my notes page and see references to flint & gravel & Lemon/Lime/Lychee but my line in the sand is now and a lot of the notes I’m posting at the moment will have been written historically.  Simply watch for the new approach to blend in over time.  In fact, the first time you see me describe tasting a Pinot Grigio as reminding me of swallowing mouthfuls of chlorinated swimming pool water when I was learning to swim, you will know this new way of working has kicked in – or that it is time for me to give up!

Any comments of your ‘alternative’ tasting notes are very welcome!

Talk soon