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. Read More…

Marisco Makes A Crafty Move

Two bottles from Marisco Craft Series range

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. Read More…

Past The Tucci To The Right-Sized Glass

A wedding anniversary. A long-awaited return to a favourite Italian restaurant. A well-known American actor. A discovery about wine glasses.

These are the circumstances that made Jermann Vinnae 2009 a truly memorable bottle of wine [back in 2012*]. Read 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. Read More…

Steak Me I’m Yours

Penfolds wine dinner

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. Read 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. Read More…

Once In A Lifetime Wine

Glasses with Henschke Hill of Grace and Mount Edelstone 1994 in them

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? Read 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. Read More…

The Don of Chilean Cabernet

Corks from bottles of Concha Y Toro's Don Melchor icon 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. Read More…

Wine Duty: Enough Is Enough

Sometimes, being a wine lover feels like you’ve made a pact with the Devil.

You’re labelled a “snob” for turning down a glass of cheap wine.

You’re branded a binge drinker because you dare to have a glass or two on a regular basis.

If you drink wine in the week, it must be a coping mechanism – especially if you’re a woman. And obviously, you have no control.

Rarely is it mentioned that many of us like wine for its taste and its alchemy with food – not for its alcohol levels.

Now, it looks like the UK’s wine lovers are about to get punished again. Read More…