Tag Archives: wine tasting

Guest Wines Private Tasting

This week saw us hosting our first private tasting event. We decided to focus the tasting theme around our wine adventures and had brought along one or two wines we hoped would be something a little different for the group to try.

It was great that our tales of our adventures and the wines we had selected provoked much discussion and to see that everything had been drunk up by the end.

For us, it was a satisfying achievement after much planning and pre-event nerves. Post event, happy but tired, a celebratory glass of English fizz brought the curtains down on an eventful day.


Wine Trekkin 2012

2012 was a momentous year for Great Britain in many ways that gave us much to be proud of. For us, it was also the start of our new life, after an accumulation of over 6 years of planning this new direction.

It was now time to take things up a notch and begin to immerse ourselves fully in the world of wine, if we were to be serious about the jump that we were about to make.

Enrolling on the WSET Advanced course was a good way to begin on an academic level,* though to really get down to the nitty-gritty, would involve simply getting out there, so as to begin to create the vehicle that would catapult us into 2013…

In our next few blogs, we shall take a step back to the year that was 2012 and the beginnings of our 2013 adventure.

* We both successfully passed the WSET Advanced, which we are extremely proud of! Diploma next …

Here in the first of these blogs, we would like to begin by telling our story in pictures:

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… and the beginnings of 2013 included:

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Our next instalment will focus on our 2012 travel around English vineyards.

The Three Wine Men in Edinburgh

An occasion that we had been looking forward to was a trip to The Assembly Rooms on George Street in Edinburgh to see Oz Clarke, Tim Atkin and Olly Smith at their Three Wine Men event. A leisurely drive up to Edinburgh didn’t leave us much time to check into our B&B, Dalry Guesthouse, and get across the assault course of tram works between Haymarket and the City Centre. Therefore, we arrived with all of 30 seconds to spare at Olly Smith’s Waxing Lyrical about Weird Wines.

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Featured wines were:

Rockburn Pinot Gris, 2011, New Zealand, #strictlywine

Gaia Wild Ferment Assyrtiko, 2012, Greece, #hedonismwines – Our top pick

Roccolo Grassi Valpolicella, 2008, Italy, #wineman- Kel’s top pick

Andeluna Malbec, 2012, Argentina, #spiritedwines

Kel got a mention from Olly and round of applause in celebration of his stripy jacket …


Later in the day, Tim Atkin presented cheese and wine matching with Tanny Gill of Tanny Gill Cheese and what a fabulous matching it was:

Chapel Down Bacchus, 2011 with Connage Crowdie (cow’s milk), Inverness, Scotland.

Jurancon Sec, Chant des Vignes, Domaine Cauhape, 2012 with Bonnet (hard goat’s milk), Stewarton, Scotland.

Faldeos Nevados Malbec, 2011 with Admiral Collingwodd (hard cow’s milk), Northumberland (stinky but oh so good!)

Bleasdale, The Wise One Tawny 10 year old, Langhorne Creek with Harrogate Blue.

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In between these wonderful Masterclasses, we did a tour of the main hall where 27 suppliers were showcasing wines, cheese, fudge, Riedel glassware, as well as a WSET stand. Tim Atkin was displaying his photography, whilst Olly and Oz were promoting their latest books.

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Our tasters:

Majestic Wine, Caixas Godello Martin Codax, 2012, Spain – very drinkable.

Wines of Portugal, Alvarinho Solar de Serrade, 2012, Portugal – zesty.

Wines of Portugal, Pato Frio Antao Vaz, 2011, Portugal – nice to taste again.

Wines of Portugal, Quinta de Saes Encruzado, 2011, Portugal

The Wine Society, Castillo del Baron Monastrell, Yecla, 2012, Spain

The Wine Society, Vinha do Reino, Douro, 2010, Portugal – we liked this.

The Wine Society, Pitti (Pittnauer), 2011, Austria – impressed.

Falcon Wine Ltd, Herdade Tapada do Falcao, Rocha Rosa, 2009, 2010, 2011, Portugal

Wines of Brasil, Aurora Pinot Noir, 2012

Wines of Brasil, Lido Carraro Dadivas Pinot Noir, 2010

Lidl UK, Medoc AC, 2011, France

Lidl UK, Chateauneuf du Pape AOP, 2012, France – not bad at all.

Wines of Chile, Valdivieso Reserva Pinot Noir, 2011, Casablanca Valley, Chile

Wines of Chile, Valdivieso Single Vineyard Merlot 2009, Sagrada Familia, Curico Valley, Chile – full bodied, dark and smooth, ummm.

Wines of Chile, Carmen Carmenere Gran Reserva, 2011, Apalta, Colchagua, Chile

Wines of Chile, Novas Gran Reserva Carmenere Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010, Colchagua, Chile – Kel liked this one.

Vino Wines, Thorn Clarke Mount Crawford Riesling, 2012, Australia

Diemersfontein Coffee Pinotage, 2011, South Africa

California Wines, Parducci Small Lot Petite Sirah, 2009, California

California Wines, Bonterra Zinfandel, 2010, California – juicy, fruity and drinkable.

Morrisons, Jackson Estate Stich Sauvignon Blanc, 2011, New Zealand

Morrisons, Castigilione Barbaresco, 2009, Italy – Kel liked this one.

L’Art du Vin, Velvet, Gerhard Pittnauer, NV, Burgenland, Austria – light and fruity.

L’Art du Vin, Mencia, Pittacum, 2007, Bierzo, Spain

Yapp Brothers, Savoie L’Orangiere: Tiollier Freres, 2012, France – fresh and smooth lemon.

Yapp Brothers, Crozes Hermitage: Alain Graillot, 2011, France

Waitrose, Magnus Hill Chardonnay, 2012, Australia

Reuben’s Wine Store, Circle of Life White, 2011, South Africa

Halewood Romania, Sebes Alba Sauvignon Blanc, 2012, Romania

Mud House Wine Company, Mud House South Island Pinot Gris, 2011, New Zealand

Mud House Wine Company, Mud House Gewürztraminer, 2010, New Zealand – we liked this one. 

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The day was nicely rounded off by a trip to Bon Vivant, Thistle Street, for a lovely glass of Villa Wolf, Riesling Dry, 2011 for Ruth and Alvarinho, Adega de Moncao, Portugal for Kel, followed by The Oxford Bar, Young Street (drinking hole of Ian Rankin’s TV Detective Rebus) for a pint with Oz Clarke.

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London Wine Trail

Since our train home wasn’t until 10pm, we were fortunate to have the whole day available after the Taste of Gold event, a trip to London just wouldn’t be the same without checking out one or two wine establishments.

We had pre-booked onto a Vinopolis tour at 3pm, so we took the opportunity to check out the jewels in the Hedonism Wines crown on Davies Street, Mayfair … and what sparkly (and eye wateringly pricey) jewels we did indeed find!

A particularly funky touch was the decks and vinyl record collection, which provided great background music whilst you browse in the store.

The store is attractively laid out to showcase the wines, including interesting little alcoves housing individual producer collections such as Penfolds (priced at £1.2 million) and Sine Qua Non, cult Californian wines. Enomatic machines allow you the chance to taste a good number of samples. The staff are very friendly and informative, willing to spend time chatting enthusiastically about the wines and the store.

On show is an extremely impressive collection of large sized bottles from Magnum (1.5L) to Paramount (27L), including the Torbreck Laird, 2006, Barossa Valley, signed by the Chief Winemaker Dave Powell, a snip at £29,942.70! Although that’s a bit of a bargain compared to the Chateau D’Yquem 1811, one of 10 bottles left in the world, the last one sold at auction in 2011 fetched £75,000!

Overall a fantastic place to visit, if you find yourself in London make sure you pop in.

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The tour with Elodie at Vinopolis was great, informative and educational. Afterwards you are left to your own devices to taste your way through the different zones, from Champagne to white and red wine, discover different styles from light to powerful, different regions, grape varieties and compare the new and old world. Also discover wines you might not have come across before, Nyetimber English Sparkling and Georgian wines were available to taste.

Staff are on hand to talk through any of the wines you are tasting, Patrizia was most helpful with her knowledge of the wines and recommendations. We also had the opportunity to speak with Tom Forrest, Executive Manager, who we had the pleasure of first meeting at IWC 2013.

It was easy to while away the hours here and we came away feeling that we had added to our wine knowledge and experience.

We tasted the following:

Canard-Duchene, Brut, NV & 2005 

Tbilvino Rkatsiteli, 2008, Kakheti, Georgia

Qunita de Porrais, Rabigato, codega do Larinho, Douro, Portugal

Mount Horrocks, 2011, Semillon, Clare Valley, Australia

Nytimber Blanc de Blancs 2007, Chardonnay, Sussex, England

Pieropan, 2011, 85% Garganega, 15% Trebbiano di Soave, Soave Classico, Italy

Dourthe No1, 2012, Sauvignon Blanc, AC Bordeaux, France

Montagne Noire, 2012, Sauvignon Blanc, IPG Pays d’ Oc, France

Reichsrat Von Buhl, Deidesheimer Maushohle Qualitatswein, 2012, Riesling, Pfalz, Germany

Louis Jadot, Bourgogne Rouge, 2010, Pinot Noir, Burgundy, France

Babich Family Reserve, 2010, Pinot Noir, Marlborough, New Zealand

Collezione di Paolo, Chianti Reserva, 2009, 95% Sangiovese, 5% Colorino, Tuscany, Italy

Celita Sangiovese di Romagna Superiore DOC, 2010, Sangiovese, Emilia Romagna, Italy

Ken Forrester Le Petit Pinotage, 2012, Pinotage, Stellenbosch, South Africa

Giesta Dao, 2010, Touriga Nacional, Tina Roriz, Jaen, Dao DOC, Portugal

Balnaves Cabernet Merlot, 2009, 72% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, Coonawarra, Australia

Vinzavod Ententa, 2003, Cabernet Sauvignon, Mavrud, Rubin, Assenovgrad, Bulgaria

Barbadillo Manzanilla NV, Palomino Fino, Sanlucar de Barrameda, Jerez, Spain

Barbadillo Dry Oloroso NV, Palomino Fino, Jerez, Spain

La Tirela Amarone della Valpolicella Classico DOC, 2009, Corvina, Rondinella, Molinara, Valpolicella, Veneto, Italy

Torres Floralis Moscatel Oro NV, Moscatel, Spain

Fattoria Dei Barbi Vin Santo del Chianti DOC, 2006, 55% Trebbiano, 35% Malvasia, 10% Sangiovese, Tuscany, Italy

Torres Vendimia Tardia (Late Harvest), 2008, Riesling, Curico Valley, Chile

We particularly enjoyed these wines:

Vesuvium Greco di Tufo DOCG, 2011 Greco, Campania, Italy – lightly smoky nose with hints of apple, melon and nectarine, quite creamy mouthfeel, rather lovely.

Mont Destin, 2010, Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa – a really good example, rich honeyed apples, gorgeous.

Nytimber Classic Cuvee, 2008, 79% Cgardonay, 13% Pinot Noir, 8% Pinot Meumier, Sussex, England – crisp and fruity, pears and apples, lovely English bubbly.

Grosset Polish Hill Riesling, 2010, Riesling, Clare Valley, Australia – loved this one, classic riesling zesty lime, apple and pineapple, that touch of kerosine and mineral freshness.

Luigi Bersano, Bric di Bersan, Monferrato DOC, 2009, Dolcetto, Monferrato, Piedmont, Italy – rich berry and cherry fruits, nicely balanced.

Weingut Paulinshof, Brauneberger Juffer Kabinett Pradikatswein, 2011, Riesling, Mosel, Germany – luscious mouthfeel with great flavours and body, spicy orange citrus and honey, nice touch of residual sugar, all at 10% abv. 

Ballard Road, 2011, Pinot Noir, Southern Oregon, USA – lovely combination of red fruits and savoury smoky notes.

Napier Medallion 2000, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Wellington, South Africa – fabulous to have an aged South African Bordeaux blend, full bodied, still very fruity and complex.

We would highly recommend a visit here, easily situated near Borough Market, where there are quite a number of interesting little wine haunts.

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Our final stop, a short walk from Blackfriars tube station and over the railway bridge, was Copa de Cava, the UK”s “first dedicated Cava bar” located in intimately lit underground vaults on Blackfriars Lane. We tried four Cavas by the glass, ranging from the house Brut at £4.75 to the Gran Reserva at £8. The drinks came with a complimentary shot glass of cold vegetable and garlic soup, which isn’t quite as strange as it sounds, it was rather tasty but the garlic was a tad overpowering for the Cava.

Vilarnau Brut – Macabeu 50%, Parellada 35%, Chardonnay 15%. Crisp, fresh, appley fizz with a creamy, brioche finish, good structure. Decanter 90/100 – this turned out to be our favourite, each time we went back to it, it still held up.

Mont Marcal Brut – Xarel-lo 40%, Macabeu 30%, Parellada 20%, Chardonnay 10%. Fuller bodied than the Vilarnau, with more yeasty, creamy, brioche notes, with reasonable finish. Guía Peñín 90/100 – we both felt it was served a little too warm. 

Gramona Brut Nature 2007 – Xarel-lo 50%, Macabeu 40%, Parellada 10%. Rich, ripe white fruit, hints of brioche and almonds. 93/100 Guía Peñin.

Raventós i Blanc de Nit Reserva 2010 – Macabeu 55%, Xarel-lo 30%, Parellada 10%, Monastrell 5%. Crisp and dry with strawberry, raspberry fruit, hints of biscuit. 93/100 Parker.   

This was a fantastic end to a great day.

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A Taste of Gold 2013

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Following on from our exploits working at the International Wine Challenge in April, we arrived back in London to crew the Taste of Gold event, a showcase of medal winning wines, including those awarded Trophies, Golds, Silvers, some Bronzes and Commended.

It was great to be back working with the gang again.

The first part of the day focused on trade tasting only, to be followed by public tasting in the evening.

Between us we looked after and promoted the following producers’ wines:


Trivento Reserve Malbec, 2012 – Gold

An easy drinking wine, juicy with fresh red fruits and soft tannins, great value retailing at £8.99.


Cono Sur 20 Barrels Limited Edition Pinot Noir, 2011 – Chilean Pinot Noir & Chilean Red Trophy & Gold

A beautifully crafted new world Pinot, cherry and raspberry entwined with savoury characteristics, complex and approachable. One of my favourites (^R). Retails at £19.99. 

Vina Underraga ‘Terroir Hunter’ Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 – Maipo Valley Trophy & Gold

Intense blackcurrant nose with hints of cedar and mint, good structure and long finish. This wine received very positive attention from those who tried it. Retails at £12.99.

Cono Sur Ocio Pinot Noir, 2011 – Gold

More subtle than the 20 Barrels Pinot, depth of red fruit flavours with hints of nutty savouriness and oak. Retails at £35.

Cono Sur Single Vineyard Syrah, 2011 – Gold

Very well done Syrah with red fruit and bramble flavours, peppery spice and good oak balance. Another firm favourite for me (^R) and many who tried it, especially at this price. Retails at £11.49.

Marques de Casa Carmenere, 2011 – Silver

A powerful wine, spicy red and dark fruits, chunky tannins. Retails at £12.99.

Marques de Casa Chardonnay, 2011 – Silver

Lovely, fresh, tropical, pineapple, flavours, nicely integrated oak adding body and structure. I could quite happily quaff this one (^R). Retails at £12.99.


Calmel Joseph Cotes du Roussillon Villages, 2011 – Cotes du Roussillon Villages Trophy & Gold

Fresh, summer fruits with black pepper spice. Retails at £10.99.

Villa Blanche Chardonnay, 2012 – Commended

Tropical fruit aromas with citrus hints, good acidic balance. Retails at £8.99.

Calmel Joseph Caramany, 2011 – Guest wine from producer not entered in IWC

The 50% Carignan in this blend highlighted violets and spice. The winemaker described this as the big brother to his Cotes du Roussillon Villages. Retails at £14.99.

This was a really enjoyable event, as much by meeting and chatting with members of the trade and the public, as well as the IWC crew and Co-Chairs, Charles Metcalfe, Derek Smedley, Oz Clarke, Tim Atkin and Peter McCombie. Look forward to seeing you all again soon!

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Our own personal International Wine Challenge

Our own personal International Wine Challenge

“The Challenge can break you! Are you prepared for really hard work, emotionally and physically demanding, relentless and exhausting! You need to be sure you can handle this. Do you think you can?” Was more or less what we were asked at our interview in February when we jovially hopped into Chris’s office in London all excited about the prospect of being selected to work as part of the crew on the International Wine Challenge 2013. We were under no illusion that it was going to be tough and were already mentally preparing ourselves for it, but still to hear someone say that it has broken people was slightly freaky and I just hoped to God I could keep up the pace and not be weak.

Wow – we survived. We learnt a lot about wine and tasting, the competition judging process, working as part of an eclectic team of people, who we are proud to have worked with.

What a great experience!


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