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N.V. Janisson Baradon & Fils Champagne Non Dosé

Wednesday, October 5th, 2011

Vintage: Non vintage
Type: Champagne
Country: France – Champagne

This is a good non dosage champagne. Very dry,  high acidity flavours of apple and toasty biscuit.  A perfect to start an evening.

N.V. Gratien & Meyer Saumur Cuvée Flamme Brut Rosé

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Vintage: Non Vintage
Type: Crémant
Country: France – Loire Valley- Saumur

Nice notes of strawberries, though this wine lacks depth. A good sparkling drink for a hot summer day, but nothing too serious.

N.V. Offley Porto Rosé Porto

Friday, September 30th, 2011

Vintage: Non Vintage
Type: Rose Port
Country: Portugal- Douro- Porto

This is a straight forward pink port that I picked up in the Waitrose Wine Hall. Served chilled between 10-12 degrees Celcius and it releases its fruity aromas. Try drinking this in the early afternoon when it is hot outside, maybe while snacking on honey roasted peanuts. This could easily replace a Pimm’s when you are enjoying the sunshine in your back garden … because everyone has a sunny back garden in Central London, right?

Technical Analysis


Clear medium pink.


Clean, strawberry aromas.


Sweet. Medium acidity and medium body. Low tannin. Flavour characteristics of strawberry. Medium finish.



Warburn Estate Shiraz Yarrunga Field Black Label 2008

Thursday, September 15th, 2011

Vintage: 2008
Type: Shiraz
Country: Australia – Barossa

This wine has nice oak hints with black fruit, chocolate, vanilla and tobacco. Still quite dark, almost purple colour. Good effort.

Quinta de la Rosa Douro Aguia 2006

Saturday, September 10th, 2011

Vintage: 2006
Type: Red Blend
Country: Portugal – Douro

I am generally a fan of Douro table wine, though I was a bit disappointed with this one. The wine has a deep colour, typical of the area and the grapes used (Touriga Nacional, Touriga Francesa, Tinta Barroca, Tinta Roriz.) The flavours of dark berries are evident has hints of pepper with a decent finish.

I love a “Bad Boy”

Monday, September 5th, 2011

Why do I find a man who does not follow the rules so attractive and intriguing? In the City, there are millions of men, all wearing similar variations of the same suits, all wearing silk ties, all wearing polished black leather shoes, all talking about how America’s credit rating has been downgraded by S&P to AA+.

So when I meet someone who wears worn-out and fraying jeans, has a uniquely printed t-shirt and he speaks about a colourful past, I feel an instant chemistry.

This is a metaphor for how I feel about a special St. Emilion wine: Bad Boy. A cute blond guy in a wine shop pointed our tour group to a box of bottles with cartoon-ish sheep on their labels. It was in the corner of the shop and none of the tourists were paying it any attention. Interesting. What’s so special about this 2007 St. Emilion? Firstly, it is part of the garage movement. Eh? I mean that the Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon fruits are processed, fermented and aged in a garage. Not in a chateau’s cellar, in a garage! Around the corner from the wine shop, the cute guy opened his doors to the garage and within were stainless steel vats and barrels. Everything you would find at a chateau was here but on a micro scale. Talk about different! Secondly, the histories of the wine makers are interesting in themselves (nursing, journalism, restaurants, etc.) but I will leave you to speak to the cute guy about those details. Thirdly, this wine experiment has been highly rated by the wine critic, Parker, and the Chinese consumer market is hungry for it.

So here, Bad Boy, offers the perfect combination for women (or just me): unconventional, rule-breaking, modern, has a dramatic past, and is a cute devil. I love a Merlot-dominant wine with a twist. Leave my Bad Boy alone … he is all mine!

Vintage: 2007
Type: Red Bordeaux Blend
Country: France – Bordeaux

La Villa Saint Simon

Monday, August 8th, 2011

In the beautiful, historic town of Blaye, you will find a gem of a guest house called the Villa Saint Simon.

Allow me to describe the approach to this delightful hotel. On arrival into the town, you notice that the buildings are set closely together, many shades of grey and ochre. These buildings, although many in disrepair, are beautifully set against the blue skies. Here is an eclectic mix: fashion boutiques, bakeries, grocery stores that you know have belonged to the same families for centuries, and curious art galleries. Driving in from the North, you have the UNESCO world heritage site of the Citadel to your right, a massive stone fortification that still has residents and restaurants within its walls. Through the thick tree cover of the park, you catch a glimpse of the fast-flowing Gironde and think that you wouldn’t want to get caught in its tide. You slow down along the high street, craning your neck to look for a sign for the hotel. You don’t know what you’re looking for exactly but when you see a colourful 2CV parked on the street, you instantly know that you have found the Villa Saint Simon. You have found your home away from home for a week, a fortnight, or if lucky, for much longer.

Stretching your legs after the four hour drive from Chinon in the Loire Valley feels good. The Villa looks so welcoming: there are old bicycles leaning against its front wall by the main entrance and the window shutters on all floors are wide open like arms wanting to embrace you. You are focused on getting your luggage inside but at the same time you are having thoughts of freshly baked croissants and baguettes. You enter the Villa and see that the front room is indeed set for meals and there are pastries galore! Your senses are suddenly awakened: there is Flamenco music, the aroma of full-fat semi-salted butter, the sound of laughter coming through from another room, and dark wooden shelves stocked with Bordeaux wines.

You are greeted by a vivacious woman with dark hair and blue-green eyes. Her name is Clarissa and her giggle is infectious. You immediately like her and know that you will enjoy your stay. Later you meet Les, who urges  you to partake in a wine tasting with friends in his cellar or art gallery. He is a smart-talking local businessman who knows everything about wine in this region. This is going to be a fun and educational trip!

So now that I have set the scene (the Villa is as gorgeous and wonderful as I describe), shall I tell you what I love about this special place? I love the people: I love how Julian talks passionately about restoring old cars. I love how Les looks at Clarissa and says that he could live in her eyes forever. I love that the coffee is strong and tastes distinctively French. I love the market that appears out front on Wednesdays and Saturdays and no one speaks any English. I love that the ferry to the Left Bank departs on schedule. I love the feel of white cotton sheets and how the sunshine filters in through the curtains. I love the squeaky floor boards and can hardly believe that this Villa was totally restored as a labour of love. I love that the rooms are named after local vineyards like “Rousselle” or “Monconseil Gazin”. I love running down the spiralling staircase and blurring the modern art pieces in my head. I love choosing any bottle of wine from the front room and knowing that it will be excellent. I love that I sleep all through the night without stirring, and wake up so refreshed. I love that the Villa trusts me.

When your departure draws near, you feel a heaviness in your heart. Your heart and mind are filled with memories and a great sadness overcomes you. All you can do is sit in the front room writing in your journal, staring out the window at the passing traffic, desperate to recall all the significant moments you experienced in this place. Your stay was magical, romantic, hilarious, indulgent … perfect. You look up and see Clarissa’s face. She is stroking a kitten named Ziggy in her arms and she looks hopeful. Although no words are spoken, you are reassured and understand that you will not be gone long and that you will return again next year, if lucky, sooner.

(Is this place for real? Mais, Oui! Seek it out as your base in Bordeaux. It is perfect. The Villa is well-known and beloved among its visitors and is mentioned in a number of publications, including “Les itineraires de Charlotte.” Here I am on the second floor balcony, enjoying the view of the Citadel and showcasing Charlotte’s book of journeys through Bordeaux vineyards.

Sherry Masterclass with Gonzalez Byass

Wednesday, July 6th, 2011

Last week at my local Waitrose Food Hall (Oxford Circus), there was a free Sherry Masterclass in the bar area. Little did I know that winemaker, Senor Antonio Flores would be there to tutor us in person!

Wow, Gonzalez Byass is a name to remember. Die hard Port drinkers should give this Sherry house a try. Gonzalez Byass is an IWSC Winermaker of the Year recipient (2010).  Here are six reviews of his wines … it was a journey through Jerez.

Let’s begin.


The first Sherry Antonio introduced me to was his Elegante Fino. It is made of 100% Palomino grape and is therefore bright and clear. Inspecting your glass, you see that it is light yellow with tinges of green, as if infused with olive skins. This is not a sweet wine at all but it is rather salty and yeasty. The Elegante would go fantastically with Fish & Chips because it would cut straight through the grease. On a hot summer’s day, you could drink this straight or on the rocks while eating marinated artichokes and olives.  Note that this wine has been kept for 3 years in American oak barrels.


The journey continues with Tio Pepe Fino, another 100% Palomino grape wine. I had tasted a wine within the Tio Pepe line at the Spanish restaurant, Iberica (Great Portland Street) but somehow, having Antonio explain it to me en espanol made me feel differently about it. This is an incredibly dry Sherry. Your palate is left feeling like sandpaper, which is strange because the taste is rather fruity, like apples and pears! Try drinking this when you are alone at the bar waiting for your boyfriend to arrive. It would go well with the free bowl of nuts. Note this wine has been aged 5 years in American oak barrels.


The next Sherry up is La Concha Amontillado. This is a blend of Palomino and Pedro Ximenez grapes, which is why the wine takes on the colour of amber. The wine is slightly bitter but then you get stuck into it, you detect flavours of dried fruits (raisins and sultanas, in particular) and caramel. This is quite soft on the palate. Note this wine has been aged 3 years in American oak barrels. We ate this with a bit Italian Pannetone – yum!


Oh, Antonio. Our journey is half way finished. The next wine stop was Apotoles Palo Cortado Rare Old Solera. This is on a higher level of sweetness (aged 30 years in American oaked barrels) and has double the sugar content than the previous Sherry. This Sherry is the perfect marriage of oxidation, dried fruit fragrance and oakiness. The flavours of vanilla, dates and figs come through clearly.


Dear Antonio, our time is almost finished but I will take bottles home with me and build new memories. Next stop is the 2011 IWC Gold winner, Matusalem Oloroso Dulce Rare Old Solera. This is such a delicious Sherry that I have few words for it. It offers you aromas of toasted nuts, chocolate, coffee and mocha. Substitute your Port for this wine and then eat Stilton blue cheese. This wine is aged 30 years in American oak barrels.


Oh, Antonio. How bittersweet that the masterclass ends with this fantastically sweet, molasses-like nectar, Noe Pedro Ximenez 30 year old Rare Old Solera. Now this is a man’s Sherry. Take out your Cuban cigar and relax with a glass of Noe. Try swirling the liquid around your glass. You’ll be impressed that it coats the inside so thickly that it takes two rinses to clean off! The notes of basil, raisins, figs and treacle are very obvious.


Enjoy! I hope you loved the journey as much as I did! You can buy these wines at Waitrose or through Ocado.

McGuigan Debuts The Shortlist

Friday, May 20th, 2011


Last week we were invited to the lovely Kensington Roof Gardens to try McGuigan Wines’ new premium range, “The Shortlist”, to have a bite to eat and to have the chance to talk to Neil McGuigan about his wines.

Kensington Roof Gardens

The lovely Kensington Roof Gardens on a great evening in London

We tried 7 wines over the evening, including a nice sparkling Pinot Noir (accompanied by canapés) to kick off the evening.  Here is a quick review of the wines that were matched to the meal:

2005 McGuigan Shortlist Riesling

This wine was quite interesting.  It had an almost oakey-petrol flavour, which was brought out simply by age.  It had hints of citrus, especially lime and nice florals on the nose. It certainly doesn’t taste like an Alsatian/German Reisling, which is not a bad thing.  Overall, it was the surprise of the evening and a great experience.

2010 McGuigan Shortlist Chardonnay

First off, I’m not a huge fan of Chardonnay in general so take my review with a grain of salt.  Plenty of citrus and peach/nectarine fruit on the pallet.  I personally found the oak on this wine a little overpowering.

2009 McGuigan Shortlist GSM

This wine was a little disappointing to start with, but was probably the best wine matching with the food, which was where it started to shine.  The hints of chocolate and oak on the nose with the fruits and spice on the pallet complemented the fillet of beef perfectly.  Definitely a wine best enjoyed with food!

2009 McGuigan Shortlist Shiraz

This wine is a great example of why Shiraz is a speciality of the Barossa Valley.  Big flavours of black fruit, cherry, vanilla and leather dominate this powerhouse.   The tannins are well integrated and the finish is impressively long.

2009 McGuigan Shortlist Cabernet

This was my favourite wine of the evening.  The oak is well-used in the wine and the flavours of blackcurrant and spice are well mixed with a nice level of acidity.

We finished off the evening with some Handmade Shiraz, which was an excellent dessert wine.

It was great to meet Neil McGuigan and hear him talk about his wine and his £50 bottle of wine philosophy — though I suspect it is actually the “$100 bottle of wine philosophy” 🙂 It is nice to hear from a winemaker who is passionate about his trade and the McGuigan family’s commitment to quality.

Neil McGuigan talking about the Shortlist

Neil McGuigan talking about the Shortlist and his £50 bottle of wine philosophy

You can find the Shortlist at Majestic Wines:

I suspect that Majestic will not have much trouble selling off the entire lot quite quickly!

McGuigan Shortlist Launch Video from Majestic

Press release below:

McGuigan Debuts The Shortlist

– Majestic Lists New Premium Range-

Leading Australian producer McGuigan Wines has unveiled the latest addition to its multi award-winning portfolio – The Shortlist.

Due on shelf late May, the premium range has been listed by Majestic with an RRP of £14.99. Majestic has taken on the entire UK allocation of the limited release label in what is one of the largest orders of premium Australian wine ever placed by the retailer.

Majestic Wine Buyer Matt Pym explains: “On a recent visit to Australia I tasted through The Shortlist range with Chief Winemaker Neil McGuigan. These limited release wines showcase McGuigan’s best vineyard sites and really prove once and for all that Australia can deliver at the premium end of the market. Excited by what I tasted I immediately snapped up the entire UK allocation.”

IWSC Winemaker of the Year and IWC White Winemaker of the Year Neil McGuigan officially launched the new premium range at a gala winemaker dinner in London on 12th May. Attended by over 70 members of the wine trade, including Majestic staff, industry influencers and the media, The Shortlist range highlights McGuigan’s commitment to pushing the premium credentials of what is now the 14th biggest selling wine brand in the UK.

The five-strong regionally focused range features Adelaide Hills Chardonnay, an aged Eden Valley Riesling, Coonawarra Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Shiraz and a Grenache Shiraz Mouvedre blend, also from the Barossa.

Commenting on the development, Paul Schaafsma, UK & European GM for brand owner Australian Vintage said: “The addition of The Shortlist range to the McGuigan portfolio is a great boost for not only McGuigan, but the Australian category in general.  The potential for premium Australia in the UK is untapped – one of our key areas of focus for 2011 is to really drive the premium message behind McGuigan and Australia as a whole.”

“We’re delighted that Majestic are have taken the entire allocation of The Shortlist, which further cements McGuigan’s standing as the fastest growing global wine brand in the UK top 20 with 62% growth in the past 12 months and annual sales of £65M.”


The Opportunist (A competition)

Friday, March 4th, 2011

The Challenge

One of the companies that I have bought form in the past, Find Wine — they sell wine from Some Young Punks and the excellent Conan the Barbera to name a few —  is running a contest (details here) for the chance to be their wine critic for three months.  The contest involved reviewing a bottle of wine (which they sent to me free of charge) with 5 or more friends and posting the results.  A fee bottle of wine and the chance for even more wine from a supplier that I have been quite happy with in the past?  It was a no-brainer!

Of course getting 5 people together in London to try the wine proved quite the challenge.  Fortunately, the stars aligned on a Friday and here is the result.

The Opportunist

The bottle around the taster glasses ready to be drunk

The Opportunist group just before trying the wine

The group, just before consumption of the wine.

The Results

Like its name, this wine seeks to capitalise on the prevailing popularity of Shiraz among wine lovers.  Seeking a “crazy” description to this wine from a diverse group of professional 30-somethings was near impossible! Overall, the group felt the wine was a bit to light on the nose (“barely fragranced”), young, darkly coloured, lightly oaked, and typical for a Shiraz. Flavours of  cassis, chocolate and tabacco.   One of the group likened the wine to a White Chocolate Magnum!

Here is my review:

Vintage: 2008
Type: Shiraz
Country: Australia – Limestone Coast

The wine is a bit weak on the nose, but with a hint youth and alcohol that is typical from Australia.  A dark ruby colour with  rich cassis, chocolate and a hint of tabacco.   I would not be disappointed to be served this in a restaurant with a steak.

Remember to go to check out Find Wine’s Facebook page and Like the review!