Author Archive


Wine In The Time Of Guidelines


Hello, my name’s Paola and I’m a peddler of death. I have a licence – to kill. Entering my shop could seriously harm your health.

An exaggeration, of course. But, if you’re in wine retail, like me, it does feel a bit like, following the new government drinking guidelines.

My fears of a future where the windows of wine shops will have to be covered up, and all wine labels utilitarian, may not seem so outlandish after all. (more…)

Marisco Makes A Crafty Move


Brent Marris has a lot to answer for.

The Marlborough winemaker was responsible for my New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc crush back in the day, when I would pile my Majestic trolley high with Wither Hills Sauvignon Blanc. When I would smugly inform my passé Oyster Bay-guzzling friends that the winemaker had moved on.

He was also, it turns out, partly responsible for my utter contempt for the tropical fruit-scented gloop that became the dominant style for a while. (more…)

Wine On TV: Why The Price Isn’t Right


In a recent episode of the BBC’s Food & Drink, chef and presenter Tom Kerridge visits The Ginger Pig in London’s Borough Market and picks up a 500g of fillet steak. Not a cheap cut, I think you’ll agree.

Later, he cooks two large tuna steaks. No mention is made of how much they cost. No apologies either for using what many people would see as luxury items.

Yet when it comes to the wine matches, much is made of the price. We know first that both are under a tenner. Then we find out that the Jacob’s Creek Pinot Noir is £7.50 and the Casillero de Diabolo Carmenère is “seven or eight pounds, something like that”.  If the cost of the food doesn’t matter, why is the price of the wine so important? (more…)

All The Wine Blog Posts I Didn’t Write


The role of the wine blogger is something the industry loves to debate. As someone who entered the wine industry late, it’s quite startling to see how much energy is expended on the topic, often by other writers themselves.

The latest misdeed getting everyone’s knickers in a twist (mine included, obviously) is whether bloggers have an obligation to write about wineries who wine and dine them, a response by ex-critic and now blogger Steve Heimoff to an article in trade magazine Harpers accusing bloggers of bad behaviour if they didn’t write anything after visiting a winery who’d paid for their trip.

“In other descriptions of commerce, a one-way transfer of value could also be called ‘theft’,” opined Dr. Damien Wilson, who leads the MSc Wine Business programme at the Burgundy School of Business.

It seems *gasp* that wineries are just like any other client who has spent a bit of money on PR and expects coverage as a result. If you want guaranteed coverage, pay for advertising. (more…)

Steak Me I’m Yours


One of the most frequent questions I get asked as a retailer is: “What wine goes with steak?”

The answer? Depends on the cut and how you’re cooking it.

Pinot Noir, for example, works well with a fried fillet steak. There’s not much fat and, frankly, not much flavour to battle it out with the Pinot. Add a mushroom sauce and you’ve got a bit more potential magic.

A chargrilled ribeye can handle something more robust, like an Argentinian Malbec, a gutsy Southern Rhone or a Shiraz. But these are broad brush strokes. There’s no exact science. It depends, for example, on the age of the wine and the style of the producer. And what you’re in the mood for. Still want Pinot Noir? Try a more concentrated style, like one from Central Otago in New Zealand.

I go to a fair few wine matching dinners. Often, these matches are theoretical; this wine should go with this dish.  Like blind dates, though, what might look compatible on paper doesn’t always produce sparks in real life.

I reckon Barry Vera, executive chef at STK London, had done a little road testing ahead an evening with Penfolds wines, called Red & Red. (more…)

Unlocking The Door To Chablis


You’ve got to hand it to Chablis. A name even those who claim to know nothing about wine can trot out when asked what they like.

But with this brand familiarity comes a huge amount of ignorance. I’m not talking about people who say they hate Chardonnay but love Chablis.

I’m talking about me.

Before my recent visit to Chablis, about the only thing I really knew was the grape, location and soil. The taste? Lean and steely, of course. The rather lush one I stock in my shop had to be an anomaly.

Now, after tasting my way though 100+  Chablis over three days, I may not be a Jedi Master, but I can now feel the force. (more…)

Once In A Lifetime Wine


WHAT a dilemma!

It’s 10.30am and, faced with an iconic wine that I may never get the chance to taste again, do I spit or swallow? (more…)

The Modern Pantry Own-Label Wines


To The Modern Pantry in London’s Clerkenwell where owner, the chef Anna Hansen, has introduced two own-label wines.

Unsurprisingly, for a restaurant with New Zealand roots, the wines are a Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinot Noir.

What is surprising, to me at least, is that these aren’t the house wines. (more…)

How A Wine Rack Helped Restore My Writing Mojo


Dear Rich

I’m sorry. Really, really, REALLY sorry.

You sent me a lovely wine rack from Black Country Metalworks to review back in January. And here we are, at the tail end of June and I haven’t posted anything yet.

You see, I was full of great ideas back in January. I could have just written a quick piece about the rack. But I had bigger ideas. Oh yes. Ideas about a wide-ranging feature on wine storage, where I’d skillfully weave in a review of your wine rack. Blimey, I’m even boring myself just thinking about that post. (more…)

The Don of Chilean Cabernet


If you ever get the opportunity to visit the vineyard where Concha Y Toro’s flagship Don Melchor wine starts its life, you are likely to find yourself in a ditch. An actual ditch, dug just so that you can see, close up, the composition of volcanic stony soil in which the vines struggle to survive. Beats being handed a stone or rock by a winemaker, as is so often the case. (more…)