Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Paso Primero - Great Spanish Wine!

Yesterday I met a lovely man called Tom who has a wonderful story and he gave me some incredible wines to taste. Paso Primero are wines that are made with love and care, yet are outstanding value for money.

Tom dropped out of uni and started stacking shelves at Tanners Wine Merchants, who were very supportive and encouraged Tom to study wine making at Plumpton in Sussex. With a wine degree under his belt he set off for New Zealand with his then girlfriend (now wife) Emma to make wine in Hawkes Bay. After a couple of years it was time for a change and they moved to Canada to make wines for Flat Rock in Niagara. After three years suffering through the bitter winters they decided to move home and settle in Shrewsbury, where Tom and Emma are able to juggle caring for their baby boy with making delicious wines at an affordable price in partnership with Batan de Salas in Somontano, 2hrs from Barcelona. Sounds idyllic... but obviously hard work as a breakthrough young wine maker in a crowded market where the big guns have the power. I'm hoping I can help Tom and Emma by featuring their wines at my pop up wine bar in Marlow and spreading the word about their wines. So what about the wines?

Paso Primero is the main wine they produce, a red blend of Merlot (72%), Cabernet Sauvignon (14%) and Tempranillo (14%). The bottle we opened was a little tight on the nose, but that's understandable being the 2016 vintage with only a few months in bottle, give it six months and it'll open right up. On the palate the first hit is the Cab Sav with its tannic bite, then the Merlot floods through softening the mouthfeel, finishing on a Tempranillo lift of red fruits - the strawberry and redcurrant finish makes you crave another sip. Very easy drinking, peppery, smooth, without the burn I would expect to receive from a wine so young and with such high alcohol (14.5%). Selling for a mere £8.50 at Tanners, this is a new favourite!

Paso Prima is Tom's vanity project, the opportunity to choose the grapes that are developing to his tastes, and have a little fun. Paso Prima today is 100% Cab Sav, but the next vintage might be 100% Chardonnay, who knows, a little surprise in wait every year. I think Tom should create a members club so we can get pre-release first dibs on the new Prima each year, and the membership should include an invite for a tour of the winery. I'm in! At only £11.30 at Tanners, this is a special wine. I don't think I've tasted a wine so good for less than £12. I do love a good Cab Sav and this certainly delivers, saliva rushes over the tongue on first sip which fades to reveal velvety tannins coating the roof of the mouth. The heat of the Spanish summer days encourage the grapes to become fat and juicy, and the cooler nights allow them to retain their acidity. Big bam blackcurrant fruit, but with soft edges.

Wonderful story, gorgeous wines, and I wish Tom and Emma the best Primero Paso (first step) into the wine world. You should too, and go buy their wines - or come to my pop up wine bar in Marlow to try Paso Primero. Click here to see if I am currently showcasing these wines.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Pop up wine bar FLIGHTS July 2017

Top tips
These are light-bodied white wines that are dry and refreshingly tart. They are best enjoyed young while they still retain their high acidity and bold fruit flavours. Citrus wines have high acidity, which you can detect if you take a sip then nod your head down (with your mouth closed!) and you will feel the saliva rush forward.
Borgo Magredo, Sauvignon Blanc, Friuli, Italy, 2015, 12.5%
Sauvignon Blanc is a white grape from western France, now successfully grown in wine regions all over the world, including Northern Italy in the foothills of the Alps. This straw yellow wine has greenish reflections. It has intense aromas of elderberry, nettle and blueberry, with apple, pear, lime and quince on the palate. Delicate, dry, balanced acidity and good persistence.
Available from Wine Rack, Henley £9.99
You & Me, Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain, 2015, 12.5%
Albariño is a green-skinned grape variety native to Galicia on the North Atlantic coast of Spain and Vinho Verde in Portgual where it is known as Alvarinho. This wine comes from the Rias Baixas DOC, which is where the finest Albariño wines are made. Pale yellow colour with hints of green. Intensely aromatic on the nose, and structured and oily on the palate. Floral and with apricot, lime and pear flavour characteristics. A lovely finish with a slightly salty tang at the end, where the salty sea air surrounding the vines influences the flavour profile. A great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.
Available from Ocado £11.99
Baily & Baily “Folio”, Riesling, Clare Valley, Australia, 2015, 11.5%
A racy Riesling with zingy citrus fruit, lime and a hint of petrol on the finish. Many Rieslings are off-dry, as is this one. However, its acidity is so high that without doing a sweetness test (dipping the tip of your tongue into the wine) you may not detect the residual sugar. This style is common in Clare and Eden Valleys in Australia. Sweeter wines tend to have lower alcohol, because the fermentation has been stopped before all the sugar has been turned into alcohol.
Available from Waitrose, Henley £8.49

Top tips
There are so many countries where grapes are grown and wine is made, and its fun every once in a while to explore a new grape or new region. Here are three regions that are making their mark on the wine world right now, Greece, Slovenia, and Uruguay. I first tried the Pizzorno at The Sampler in Islington and the Hatzidakis at a private wine tasting with Xavier Rousset MS, both in 2013. Luckily wines from more unusual countries are becoming more widely available and increasingly so in supermarkets. All three wines in this flight are available from Waitrose.
Puklavec & Friends, Sauvignon Blanc / Pinot Grigio, Slovenia, 2016, 12%
Slovenia is home to pure, zingy white varietals and a few up and coming reds. This dry white wine is from a family owned winery in Eastern Slovenia where grapes are handpicked. The wine is lively with aromas of passion fruit, lemon zest and red apple. A refreshing blend of two well-known grape varieties from a region that is not yet fully on the wine map.
Available from Waitrose, Henley £7.99
Hatzidakis, Assyrtiko, Santorini Greece, 2016, 13.5%
The idyllic Greek island of Santorini has been a source of top quality white wine for years. Santorini's volcanic soil adds acidity to the full flavoured Assyrtiko grape, which has been balanced here with Aidani and Athiri grapes which add softness and complexity to the palate. The vines are gown in a circular fashion to create baskets that protect the grapes from the fierce wind and heat on the island. A full-bodied white with jasmine, grapefruit, and pineapple, with great texture.
Available from Waitrose, Henley £13.99
Pizzorno, Merlot / Tannat, Uruguay, 2015, 13.5%
Tannat is Uruguay's flagship grape, which has high tannins and full body. Tannat is also grown in Madiran in South-West France, and is one of my favourite wines, but can be pretty pricey. The Tannat in this wine is softened by Merlot to deliver an affordable well-balanced juicy wine. Raspberry, plums and chocolate on the palate.
 Available from Waitrose, Henley £8.99

Top tips
Chile is a cool climate region well known for Bordeaux blends (namely Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) and its native Carmenère. Chile is a good place to look for good value wines for the varietals above, but also for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc which are building reputation here. The wines in this flight come from Central Valley, which is a large farming area, and produces some fantastic red wines at lower price points.
Cono Sur “Bicicleta”, Pinot Noir, Chile, 2016, 13%
This wine is the UKs best selling Pinot Noir, which you will understand when you taste the rich notes of cherry, blackberries and ripe plums. This wine is named after the vineyard workers who travel around the vineyards by bicycle tending the vines using natural methods. And for those of you who worry about air miles, this company is Carbon Neutral.
Available from Sainsburys, High Wycombe £7.00
Santa Rita, Merlot, Reserva, Central Valley, Chile, 2016, 13%
Santa Rita is the biggest wine producer in Chile and they have partnered with The National Gallery to support the arts, which is why the label is a J.M.W. Turner. Deep red, with plum and sweet spice. Rich and smooth with velvety tannins. A sumptuous, affordable Merlot. If you're having a party this wine will be a great crowd pleaser.
Available from Laithwaites, Beaconsfield £9.99
Carmen, Carmenère, Gran Reserva, Colchagua, Chile, 2014, 14%
Chile's signature Carmenère grape variety, thought to be lost from its native France, was discovered among Carmen's vineyards. It was previously thought to be Merlot and only in 1994 did DNA research confirm Carmenère's true identity. Black plum and vanilla, soft and velvety, with good length. The term Gran Reserva indicates it has been aged in oak, resulting in cedar and tobacco notes.
Available from Ocado £14.99

Top tips
South Africa is a hot climate region known for full bodied reds and rich whites. Pinotage is a native red varietal, with very high tannins that stand up to the heat. Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are other common red varietals grown in this region. South Africa is branching out with other grape varieties, including Malbec, but if you're going to go off piste I'd recommend you stick to producers you know and love.
Mulberry Bush, Shiraz / Merlot, Robertson, South Africa, 2015, 14%
This is what I like to call a telly wine - soft, easy drinking; you don't have to think too much about it, and a pretty price. This wine celebrates the mulberry flavours typical of Shiraz and Merlot from Robertson in South Africa. A cacophony of mulberries, plums and figs, with a smooth finish, this wine is much softer than the mainstream tannic reds coming out of South Africa.
Available from Laithwaites, Beaconsfield £8.99
Charles Back, Malbec, Paarl, South Africa, 2014, 14%
Malbec was originally known as Cot and grown in South-West France, but the winter of 1956 killed most of the vines, and is now grown prolifically in South America. Mendoza in Argentina has established a name for itself, and other new world countries including South Africa are following suit. The name Charles Back is synonymous with quality, and he is an expert in matching vines to specific soil types. This is a bold and spicy Malbec, with a deep plum red colour, aromas of blackberry and violets, and impressively smooth tannins.
Available from Laithwaites, Beaconsfield £11.99
Fairview, Pinotage, Paarl, South Africa, 2016, 14%
Pinotage is the most planted red grape in South Africa. It is a pretty unique varietal (a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, although the result is quite different to both parents), and if not made with care can taste like tar or nail polish. Look for producers you know (like this one from Charles Back), or go to a store where you can try before you buy. One trick is to look for descriptions of both red and black fruit flavours which would suggest a more balanced wine. Ripe plum, clove and a fresh finish.
Available from Waitrose, Henley £9.49

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Pairing wine with fish

I don't eat fish very often, and shellfish never, but I do know that many people love it and I get questions asking for best pairings. So here are my recommendations...

Person Holding White Ceramic Plate With Green Slice Vegetable

Fancy pants seafood, such as caviar, lobster and oysters, should be served with Champagne, I mean if you're going to indulge lets go the whole hog! Laurent Perrier Le Grand Siecle is something rather spectacular.

It might not be an obvious thought to pair fish and chips with wine, but sparkling wine matches very well. I'd recommend an English brut, such as Camel Valley NV from Cornwall (£26.99 Waitrose). The acidity and the bubbles cut through the batter, balancing the food-wine experience. #bestofbritish

White fish, such as sea bass, turbot, or Dover sole go well with acidic wines, such as pinot grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. Why not try a delicious blend of Pinot Grigio / Sauvignon Blanc by Puklavec & Friends from Slovenia (£8.79 Waitrose).

Smoked fish, such as haddock or mackerel, needs a full-bodied white wine, such as an oaked Chardonnay. Bisque, chowder and crab also work well with this creamy white wine - try Maggio Chardonnay (£13.00 Wine Discovery).

Sardines, mackerel and other oily fish should be partnered with aromatic white wines, such as Viognier. The aromatic aromas will balance out the strength of the fish. Try Organic Viognier by Yalumba (£9.99 Waitrose).

Spiced fish, such as Indian, Chinese or Thai should be balanced with wines that have a slight sweetness to them, such as Gewurtztraminer or an off-dry riesling. Try this Split Rock Riesling from New Zealand (£11.99 Laithwaites).

Shellfish such as clams, mussles or scallops work really well with citrus whites such as Albarino or Verdelho from Spain, Portugal or Australia/New Zealand. I love You And Me Albarino from Rias Baixas in Spain (£11.99 Ocado).

Tuna, Swordfish and other meaty fish can hold their own with a light red wine, such as Beaujolais or Pinot Noir. My favourite is this Fleurie by Georges Duboeuf, the "King" of Beaujolais (£12.99 Majestic).

BBQ'd seafood goes really well with a rose, something quite punchy, like this Oaken Grove Benham Blush rose from England (£11.49 Waitrose). It's full-bodied to hold up against the charcoal, yet dry enough to allow the seafood flavours to shine.

Seafood pasta deserves to stay true to its roots and be partnered with an Italian wine, a sangiovese will balance any tomato sauce, and Grillo will balance a white or herby sauce. Try this Chianti from Tuscany by Poggio Castagno (£10.79 Waitrose) or this Colomba Bianca Vitese from Sicily (£8.99 Wine Discovery).

I have been informed recently that prawns go well with dry fino sherry! Perhaps its that connection to 1970s prawn cocktails that started it, but apparently any prawn will do - langoustine, prawn stirfry, grilled King prawns... all match this Spanish tipple. I won't be giving it a try, but let me know your thoughts if you do.


To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Fruity Chardonnay Wine Flight

Chardonnay suffers from an image problem that was introduced by the oaky Chardonnays of the 1990s. Many people still label themselves as ABCs (Anything But Chardonnays), but it’s time for that to end. Chardonnay is known as the ‘tart of grapes’ because it can be made in any style you want – varying from earthy to fruity and from light to rich. In Burgundy and Italy Chardonnay wines tend to be earthy, and in the New World they tend to be fruity. I have chosen here to showcase three fruity Chardonnays that are quite different in style yet none have the overpowering over-oaked flavours that you might fear.

Emmanuel Delaille, Sauvignon Blanc / Chardonnay, Cheverny, France, 2015, 12.5%
This wine uses zesty notes of Sauvignon Blanc to balance the Chardonnay. Often blending
Chardonnay with another grape varietal, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, or Colombard will
move the focus away from the Chardonnay grape, making it appealing to more people. This light
wine has aromas of gooseberry, cut grass and guava and would partner well with a grilled chicken, spinach and feta salad.
Available from Wine Rack £9.99

Peach Garden, Chardonnay, Thracian Lowlands, Bulgaria, 2015, 12.5%
Chardonnays from newer regions, such as Chile, Bulgaria, and Oregon tend to be made in a fruity style, with light oak. This wine is a crisp Chardonnay with citrus and warm peach and hazelnut notes, subtly oaked to give texture and depth. Partner with roast chicken, baked fish and summer salads.
Available from M&S £7.50

Maggio, Chardonnay, Lodi, USA, 2015, 13.5%
This wine has gone through malolactic fermentation, a process that turns the green/citrus malic
acid into creamy lactic acid flavour compounds to produce a buttery full-bodied Chardonnay. Ripe
tropical fruit aromas combined with hints of vanilla on the nose, with butterscotch flavours and a long
finish. Best served with pumpkin ravioli with toasted pine nuts, or cajun chicken.
Available from Wine Discovery, www.wine-discovery.co.uk £13

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com

English Wine Flight

Top Tips
English wine has come a long way from the tart flabby wines that we used to make, to the 120 awards won at the International Wine Challenge 2016. Now even Taittinger, the French Champagne house, has bought some land in Kent to invest in English Sparkling wine. But it’s not just the sparklers that are outstanding, there are some English still wines that are worth a try, and here are three of them. Marlow (where I have my pop-up wine bar) is lucky to have several vineyards nearby, including Oaken Grove, Harrow & Hope, Chiltern Valley (Old Luxters), and Stanlake Park. Lets support our local producers and buy their wines, some of them are really rather lovely. Be aware that ‘British’ wine is different to ‘English’ wine. English wines are made from grapes that are grown here and then the wine is made here, whereas British wines import the juice to make here.

Chiltern Valley Dry, Reichensteiner, 2015, 11%
The Chiltern Valley Winery is based in Hambleden, between Marlow and Henley-on-Thames. It is open to the public and runs tours of the vineyard. This wine is made with the Reichensteiner grape, which ripens well, so is popular in England. This light and crisp white is refreshing and delicious, particularly if partnered with barbecued fish with a wedge of lime.
Available from Chiltern Valley Winery, Hambleden £11.95

Oaken Grove Benham Blush, Pinot Noir, England, 2014, 12.5%
Oaken Grove is a family-owned vineyard based in Fawley, near Henley-on-Thames. This wine is a
dry rosé made from 100% Pinot Noir. Enticing strawberries and cream on the nose with hints of
apple, peach and cherry cobbler flavour characteristics. Great served with pork chop and green beans.
Available from www.oakengroveyineyard.co.uk or Waitrose £11.49

Litmus, White Pinot Noir, England, 2013, 12.5%
Litmus is produced in the North Downs of Surrey. White Pinot Noir is richer than many white wines
because it’s made with red wine grapes. It has flavours of baked apple and pear, with zesty notes of honey, orange and ginger. A lovely full body with light oak. A great match for prawn tempura or turkey steaks in a creamy sauce.
Available from M&S £22

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Portuguese Wine Tasting

I recently attended another delightful Portuguese wine tasting at Exquisite in Marlow. Paulo and Maria are very generous with their pours and provide home-made canapes at the end of the evening.

We started the evening with a palate cleanser Maria Papiola, a lovely white wine from Vinho Verde in north west Portugal. Bright and crisp with low alcohol level, this wine is a delight. You can almost smell the sea its so fresh, with limes, yellow apple and no oak. Would go well with garlic prawns. It's made with the Loureiro and Alvarinho grapes. If you've tried the Maria Bonita at my pop-up wine bar n Marlow, this is quite different, because the Alvarinho brings a sharpness to the wine like a sword cutting an apple. £11.40.

Next we were served Andreza Codega do Larinho,a full bodied wine with peach and pear characteristics. This is made from the same grape as is used for Madeira, but n the Douro region it is grown in high altitudes giving it a lighter characteristic. Great served with pork loin in a creamy mustard sauce and sauteed potatoes. £11.40.

Album Reserva was the first red wine we tried, and with a Petit Verdot anf Syrah base I was delighted to try such a fruity and spicy red fromPortugal. Grown in the Alantejo region,  these grapesproduce a black fruit and black pepper profile. It has high tannins for a Syrah, making it a good candidate for ageing. Great with hard cheese. Also £11.40.

Leaving the best review until last, I have to say I fell in love with Tyto Alba Red. This wine comes from a very old estate within a conservation area. There are barn owls who nest in the forest surrounding the vines, which are believed to protect the vines. Besides the romanticism,this vineyard makes stunning wines. This is their entry level red, also producing a Merlot and a Touriga Nacional I can't wait to try. Beautiful black fruits and violets,accompanied by vanilla and leather. Would go well with roast duck. Not only are the wine and history a delight, but the presentation box is spectacular, with the owl design peeking out of the hole in the box. After taking the wine out of the box you can fix it to a tree for local birds to nest in it. Wine £13.90, box £5  (£2.50 donated to RSPB by Exquisite). Wine available now, box in store in time for Christmas 2017.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Pop-Up Wine Bar in Marlow

Princess and the Pinot runs a pop-up wine bar in Marlow to help local people to explore and enjoy wines in a relaxed environment.

The pop-up opens on occasional Friday and Saturday evenings 19:30-22:30 in The Perch coffee shop, 91 High Street Marlow. Next dates are:
Friday 22 September - Make Your Own wine flight night £25
Saturday 23 September - Charity wine tasting £30
Friday 29 & Saturday 30 September - South American Fiesta!

It is a pop-up because it is utilising the space of the cafe when it would normally be closed. I bring all my wine and equipment with me and then take it all away again at the end of the evening.

The pop-up is like a wine bar, because you can arrive at a time that suits you, there is no entry fee, wines are served by the glass or bottle, with table service so you can enjoy wine, cheese and charcuterie with your friends. We are different to a wine bar because we serve wines in flights, which are three wines that have been put together to showcase a grape, a region or a style. The flights change each month and previous flights have included:
  • Italian Whites
  • Crisp Whites
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Range of Roses
  • Roses and Chocolates
  • French Favourites
  • Brave New World
  • Aussie Shiraz
  • Italian Reds
  • Big Reds
  • New World Cab Sav
If you would like to find out more about these flights and the wines, please visit www.princessandthepinot.com

Flights are available as tasting flights (3x 50ml) and full flights (3x 125ml). The flights come presented in flight trees with information about the flight, the wines, where you can buy them, and for how much. This means if you find a new favourite wine you can buy it locally to drink at home. There is usually a premium flight which presents three of the best wines on the menu for you to enjoy. I am always available to talk about the wines, discuss your preferences, and answer any questions. All of the wines are wine I drink, so they are all good quality and all good value for money

We serve some light food, including cheese boards, charcuterie boards, bread baskets, and chocolates. Probably best not to consider these dinner unless you've had a big lunch.

If you would like to make a reservation please email soma@princessandthepinot.com

If you would like to keep updated with future events please visit www.princessandthepinot.com/events

We look forward to meeting you at our pop-up!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

English Still Wines

English wine has come a long way from the tart flabby wines of old to the 120 awards won at the International Wine Challenge 2016, and now even Tattinger, the French Champagne house, has bought some land in Kent to invest in English Sparkling wine. But its not just the sparklers that are outstanding, here are some English white, red and rose still wines I think are worth a try.

Ranked by price low-high, supermarket retailers shown where available.

Stanlake Park Hinton Grove, Berkshire (£10.49 Stanlake Park)
Although this is an off-dry aromatic wine, it is beautifully balanced so you don't notice the slight sweetness, making it an easy drinking tipple. Soft and interesting, like spotting an unusual butterfly. Made from Madeleine Angevine, Reichensteiner, Schonburger, Wurzer and Ehrenfelser grapes, this is a complex, well structured wine that will go well with Asian dishes like Thai Green Curry. Also Available from Rebellion Brewery in Marlow, Buckinghamshire.

Oaken Grove Benham Blush, Oxfordshire (£11.49 Waitrose or £50 for six if you buy direct)
A dry rose made from 100% Pinot Noir. Enticing strawberries and cream on the nose with hints of apple, peach and cherry cobbler flavour characteristics. Great served with pork chop and green beans. Reminiscent of sitting in an English country garden.

Chiltern Valley Dry, Oxfordshire (£11.95 Old Luxters)
Made with the Reichensteiner grape, this light and crisp white is refreshing and delicious, particularly if partnered with BBQ'd fish with a wedge of lime. Bright and breezy like standing outside on a ferry.

Sharpham Whole Berry Rose, Devon (£14.99 Waitrose)
A pale pink rose with strawberries and cherry blossom aromas. Made from 100% Dornfelder grapes and pressed as whole bunches, resulting in an off-dry wine with summer berries and soft tannins on the palate. Bright, fun and friendly, like a picnic in the park.

LDN Cru Bacchus (£15 London Cru)
Made from 100% Bacchus grapes grown in Kent with the wine made in London. Flavours of elderflower, cut grass and lemon rind, with a lovely mouthfeel from the lees-stirring (batonnage). Complex fleeting floral aromas, like walking through a meadow.

Bolney Estate Pinot Noir, West Sussex (£15.99 Waitrose)
A lightly oaked pinot noir, with medium body, packed with cherries, and a slight coconut aftertaste from the toasty oak. Fragrant and fruity, like walking around a farm shop. Great served with baked Camembert or glazed ham.

Litmus White Pinot, Surrey (£22 M&S)
An intriguing white wine made from red Pinot Noir grapes which results in a dry wine that mixes red and white characteristics, showing both red berry and spice with honey and floral notes. A lovely full body with light oak. A great match for prawn tempura or turkey steaks in a creamy sauce.

Trevibban Mill Black Ewe Red, Cornwall (£33 Trevibban Mill)
A violet colour accompanies forest fruits and star anise on the palate, with a lingering taste of raspberry leaf tea. Comforting and mildly exciting, like picking raspberries in your granny's garden. A complex full-bodied wine with soft tannins made form 100% Pinot Noir.

I ask you to try one (or more!) of the above and let me know what you think.

I will be serving a flight of three English wines at my next pop-up event in Marlow on 2nd and 3rd of June, come and say hello! Email soma@princessandthepinot.com to reserve a table.

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Portuguese Wine Tasting at Exquisite Marlow

An intimate tasting with only a dozen people, which meant we could really talk about the wines and listen to what others thought.

We started the evening with a beautifully pale pink rose from Lua Cheia. The vines are so old they don't know what grapes they are. pronounced aromas of peach, roses and strawberry sweets. Beautifully light and refreshing with subtle wild strawberry and mint flavours with a vanilla finish. Reminiscent of a sunny day with your feet dangling in an outdoor swimming pool. At £9.60 its worth a try for something different from Portugal.

Quinta do Alto Premium Selection, 2010

Another wine worth trying is the Quinta do Alto Premium Selection at £21.60. This is a very deep wine wit high intensity. Full-bodied but elegant with high refined tannins. The black spiciness of the wine ends with a lovely raspberry finish. This has won lots of awards, including from International Wine Challenge.

The Cartuxa from Alantejo at £30 was the wine of the night. Beautifully complex and rounded, this is a special wine and best served with BBQ meats. Alantejo is a region that is mostly machine-harvested which means you can get outstanding wines for reasonable prices.

As is often the case at wine club tastings the audience outvoted me. The other guests preferred EA by the same producer as Cartuxa and with the same grape varietals. Much more of an easy-drinking wine, this wine has been designed for the UK market, both the wine inside and the label outside the bottle. At £12.60 I will certainly agree with the consensus that this wine is good value for money.

The next tasting at Exquisite in Marlow is 23rd March 2017 8-10pm £20. Please note, I only reviewed four of the six wines we tasted, and I certainly feel the event is good value for money. Places are limited so please book in advance.

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com

Californian Wine - Marlow Wine Society Tasting

Some of my favourite wines come from California, but good ones are hard to find in the UK because the Americans tend to keep them for themselves, so when we do get them they tend to be at two extremes, gorgeous but pricey, or just plain rubbish. When Marlow Wine Society invited me to join their Californian tasting I jumped at the chance to find a new gem. The tasting was hosted by the delightful and insightful David Rittenhouse.

We started by sampling some Chardonnay, ooh yum! I loved the Saintsbury Chardonnay from Carneros. Bright lemon hue, with butterscotch and vanilla on the nose. Yummy and buttery with medium acidity and notes of brioche on the palate. £22.99 from Majestic, which I think is pretty reasonable for a wine of this quality.

The room disagreed with me, they much preferred the apple and soft bread aromas of Kirkland "Signature" from Russian River. Russian River is normally my go to region for Californian Chardonnay, but this was poor quality - the wine was unbalanced and simplistic. At £11.50 from Costco I felt this was overpriced.

After a disappointing Pinot Noir from Saintsbury (it's hard to impress me with a pinot!), we were introduced to a Merlot that had far more complexity than we were all expecting. With blackcurrant, cherry, plum, liquorice, vanilla, black pepper and tobacco, Redwood Road have done a great job producing this wine, Bravo! At £11.49 from Laithwaites its a great buy. The film Sideways may have given Californian Merlot a bad name, but I think its time for a comeback.

The Liberty School Syrah (Old Butchers Wine Cellar £16.99) was quite nice with warming hot cross buns and blackcurrant jam flavours, but the Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel won the room over with its beautifully balanced tannins and acidity, full body and complex flavour profile. Black plums, leather, cigar smoke, caramel and pancakes with a hint of brandy. Everyone was surprised by the price - £17.99 from Majestic this was voted wine of the night. I was really pleased they like it because I serve Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel at my Princess and the Pinot pop up wine bar in Marlow.

Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel product photo

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com

Friday, March 10, 2017

Simple wine scoring system

There are lots of different ways of comparing wines - people talk about the nose, the legs and length, the clarity and colour. Scoring can be complicated and experts tend to use a 100-point scale. I like to keep it simple.
Here is my scoring system:
  1. I won't finish this glass
  2. I'll finish the glass, but I won't have another one
  3. I'll have another glass
  4. I'll buy a bottle
  5. I'll buy a case
Please drink responsibly.
To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com 

Ask the Princess - new wine ideas

Dear Princess,

Send me some recommendations please. I normally go for solid and deep reds, or dry and fresh whites. I'm seeking new ideas...


Have you tried Fiano (Fox Gordon is excellent £18 from Wine Discovery) or Albarino for whites (Laithwaites has a Seleccion 19 coming out soon £12.99)? I tried a wine this week called Benufet which I'd never heard before but loved made with white Garnacha (£10.49 from Vinoa).

Same taste in red as me... Any Hewitson, Elderton or Red Heads brands will be up your alley. You might also like Primitivo/Negroamaro blend from Puglia in Italy. Ooh, I know... Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel is one of my favourites at around £10 a bottle although a little hard to find these days.

Ask the Princess - savoury wine query

Dear Princess and the Pinot,

I want to buy a nice bottle of wine and have a very particular idea about the sort of wine I would like it to be. But I am doubtful that if I go in to the shop I can put across what I want and expect will leave with the wine they want to sell me, not the one I want, and they will manage to make me feel awkward and embarrassed to boot. 

I want to buy a particularly nice wine to celebrate next week, and I really fancy a savoury wine, that is rich and sumptuous, with leather, tobacco and chocolate, but is also mellow. What I really don't want is something that is herby, earthy in any way green, or that has a bitter aftertaste. 

Anyway I have no idea how to ask for something like that except by how I just have, and when I go into a shop they never steer the questions to that sort of descriptor. Instead they normally ask for country, grape type, maybe age and price.

Any ideas?


Thank you for your question, and I hope I can help you choose the wine you're looking for. 

The best place for us to start is grape. You want to go for a full-bodied red wine that grows in a hot climate so it has the thick skins that produce the tannins, which will develop the leather, tobacco and chocolate flavours you're after.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional, Petit Verdot, Nero D'Avola and Nebbiolo all tend to have herbal/floral characteristics, so lets leave them aside for now. Malbec, although savoury, and full-bodied, tends not to have as much tannin that we're looking for. 

You could reach for a Syrah, with blueberry, plum, milk chocolate, tobacco and green peppercorn as the dominant flavour characteristics, but I suspect this won't be savoury enough for you. Petite Sirah might have the punch not answered by Syrah, with dominant blueberry, dark chocolate, black pepper and black tea flavours. Mourvedre could also be a winner with its blackberry, black pepper, cocoa, tobacco and meat flavour profile. Aglianico might also be a contender with its high tannin, something unusual, and savoury profile.

To avoid the bitter aftertaste from the tannins you should look for something that has had time to age, so ideally at least three years old. 

The next question is price, and since you've not given that to me, I'll give you some options below...

My first choice would be Hewitson Old Garden Mourvedre, Barossa Australia 2009 £54 from DVine Cellars. This is my most favourite wine ever, and is very special with dark plum, salted caramel, cinnamon and seductive smooth tannin with extraordinary depth.

If Old Garden is above your price range, and it is for most people, then I'd suggest Pedroncelli Petite Sirah, Sonoma Country USA 2012 £13.99 from Laithwaites. Purple and dense in the glass. Rich aromas of red berried, plums, cinnamon toast. Deep complex flavours of ripe plum and dark chocolate with a warm spice finish.

Alternatively you could go for something different, more of a risk, with Piccolomini Aglianico, Italy 2013 £20 from Pieroth. Garnet-coloured with high tannins and acidity. Harsh when young, but after some ageing softens to reveal lovely plummy flavours with a hint of chocolate. Famours for being great when paired with lamb.

I hope this answers your question. Enjoy!

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com 

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Pairing wine with chocolate

Matching wine to chocolate can be tricky, especially if you listen to the text books that state that desserts should only be partnered with wines that are sweeter. And if you're eating cheap greasy chocolate any dry wine will taste horrible with it. Having said that my favourite dessert in a restaurant is a chocolate brownie or chocolate fondant partnered with a fruity dry red wine, like a Zinfandel or Shiraz. So how else can you pair these two gorgeous food groups successfully?

It will be down to the quality of the chocolate, its origin and the cocoa content. I don't know the ins and outs but I do know this is becoming a well-studied area, but there's still not enough information to make any sweeping judgments. To be sure, I'd say stick to sweeter fortified wines like Sherry, Port, Madeira... but why not experiment?

  • ThirtyFifty do in-home chocolate and wine pairing evenings with Rococo for £35-40 per head CLICK HERE to find out more.
  • Scharffen Berger sell chocolate kits to be paired with wine for you to host a party in your own home, but you'll have to ship it in from the states. To find out more CLICK HERE.
  • You could try a chocolate flavoured wine called Rubis. To be honest, I don't like it, but I know many people who would rather drink it to normal wine any day! Find out more HERE.
I have, however, found perfect chocolate to pair with wine, from Brix. This is chocolate that has specifically been made to partner with wine, using high quality ingredients and methods. This is what they offer:
  • Extra Dark 70% Cocoa for Cabernet and Bordeaux
  • Medium Dark 60% Cocoa for Zinfandel, Merlot, and Shiraz
  • Smooth Dark 54% Cocoa for Champagne, Riesling, and Pinot Noir
  • Milk Chocolate 46% Cocoa for Dessert Wine and Burgundy

Totally delicious, and I was very surprised especially to find there is a chocolate to partner with Champagne. Come to one of my Pop-Up wine nights in Marlow, England (find out more HERE) and try some!

The message I will leave you with though, if you find a chocolate and wine pairing you enjoy, then do it, don't worry about what anyone else thinks!

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com

Friday, January 27, 2017

Wine for Chinese new year

Happy Chinese New Year! What shall we drink with our Chinese takeaway to celebrate?

It is Chinese New Year on Saturday 28 January, and I imagine many Brits will eat Chinese food for dinner, but which wine should you pair with Chinese food? The answer depends on what you're eating, what wine you like, and how spicy you like your food.

If you like white wine, Gewurtztraminer and Riesling are always a good choice because they have low acidity, and if you're having spicy food you should find something off-dry so your mouth doesn't feel like its on fire. If you're having Chicken Cashew then a Viognier would partner well. Again, a Viognier tends to have low acidity, but the flavour profile (aromatic, stone fruits) will match well with the nuttiness. If you're eating dim sum then go for a Champagne to truly celebrate! For Sweet & Sour dishes go for an off-dry rose, like the Petticoat White Zinfandel (available from Laithwaites £7.99).

I personally love to partner red wine with Chinese food because it increases the intensity of the spiciness, and something like a Merlot, which has lower acidity than many other reds, will feel well-balanced with spicy dishes. If you choose crispy duck then you should go for a Pinot Noir. For Beef in Black Bean you can go bod with a deeper red, like a Cabernet Sauvignon, perhaps a Bordeaux, or if you want to try a Chinese wine go for Moser XV Cab Sav (available at Wine Rack for £10.99).

If you'd like to read my review of Moser XV then CLICK HERE.

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com

Friday, January 20, 2017

Chinese wine? Chateau Changyu Moser XV Cabernet Sauvignon

Chinese wine is going to be a big deal in a few years. Lots of vines being planted, and by some highly regarded names, like Rothschild. When I saw this bottle in my local Wine Rack I just had to try it... is Chinese wine any good?

Smells like petrol, but in a good way. Like you're going on a road trip,  pulling into the petrol station and wondering what overpriced snacks you'll purchase for the journey. It's actually quite good! Black cherry jam, and clove. Lingers on the sides of the mouth. Unusually for a Cabernet Sauvignon it finishes with red cherry, a light fruity tone. The road trip was better than expected, with some ups and downs, through unfamiliar territory, and got lost, but found our way home.

Would go great with peppered steak or roast duck with plum sauce.

Worth a go for £10.99 from Wine Rack.

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

#wineshowxmas Wine Advent Calendar

Here is my review of all the wines featured in the Wine Show Christmas advent calendar:

1st Dec advent wine: Balbium, Terre di Balbia 2011 Calabria Italy. Soma notes: sitting in a warm pub in a leather chair at an oak table that has that slight tackiness from the days pint and wine glasses. It's raining outside, enjoying the quiet before friends arrive. Interpretation: almost purple in colour with a heady aroma of dried prunes. Spicy and warming from the alcohol, definitely a wine to be enjoyed in front of a fire, a great start to the advent. Tannins are teeth-coating but velvety. Enjoy with a cheese platter accompanied with the trimmings of celery, walnuts, and fig chutney.

2nd Dec #advent wine from The Wine Show Benufet, Herencia Altes 2011 #wineshowxmasSoma notes: Hot summer, sitting on a bench in a busy city square with heat reflecting off the pavement and sun reflecting off a fountain, as passers by chatter. Interpretation: An aromatic fruit-driven Garnacha with floral and melon notes with a long finish. It has had early harvesting which has preserved the acidity (some Spanish wines can get too flabby from over-sun exposure), and has had 2 months on its lees (sediment) to add texture and complexity. A very lovely wine (I want to find out where I can buy it) and would go well with roast pork or chicken casserole.

Estate Carmenere, De Martino Estate, Maipo Chile 2015: 3rd Dec #adventThe Wine Show #wineshowxmasIt tastes of cardboard, well, red-wine soaked cardboard, but still... I'd have said mines corked except it's from a bottle which has no cork! Lovely purple colour though. Sorry no appropriate tasting notes for this bad boy 

4th Dec #advent wine: Rioja Reserva Bodegas Ondarre 2010 The Wine Show #wineshowxmasSoma notes: Sitting in a sauna on a white fluffy towel after a long swim in an indoor pool. Feeling relaxed, invigorated, slightly achy, warm, with a tingle in the nose. Interpretation: beautiful oak on the nose, soft and fruity with lovely caramel. On the palate there are black cherries and spiced plum. Don't serve it chilled, it needs to be room temp so it tastes mellow.

5th Dec: Bacchus, Kenton vineyards, Devon 2014 #wineshowxmas#advent #wine The Wine Show. I'm not a fan of Bacchus generally. It's naturally a low acidity wine meaning the flavour flees from your palate leaving you wondering if it was ever really there. It's a German varietal that a lot of UK vineyards grow because it's hardy, doesn't mind what soil it grows in, and our crappy climate allows the grapes to retain their acidity. It has been dubbed "UK's Sauvignon Blanc". Bacchus can have deep and complex flavours, but only when it's allowed to fully ripen. So is this wine unripe with high acidity, or complex but fleeting? Let's find out... Aromatic with citrus and elderflower. Tastes almost like a sorbet. Good acidity, not very complex. Will go well with oysters or scallops. Worth a try, see if you like it.

6th Dec wine #advent: Paper Road Pinot Noir, Wairarapa New Zealand 2014 #wineshowxmas The Wine Show. Soma notes: you're actually in the vineyard, you can smell the solid earth and the green canopy of the vines. Nibbling at wild strawberries that grow with the roses at the ends of the rows of vines. Interpretation: an honest, delicate, fruity wine that is a true joy to drink. A pale Ruby colour, with fresh earthy tones on the nose, and luscious strawberries on the palate with a spicy finish. It doesn't need food, but if you must, serve it with a mushroom risotto or chicken chasseur, something that's equally grounded and honest. Available for £14.99 from The Dorset Wine Company

7th & 8th Dec #advent from The Wine Show #wineshowxmas
Soave Classico Pieropan Venetian Italy 2015. Gorgeous. Like you're walking through a field of wild flowers. Soave can often come across as watery, but this is full of flavour from the combination of Garganega and Trebbiano di Soave grapes which develops the complexity of the wine. It is wonderfully fragrant, with flavours of grapefruit and honey. 
Cedre Heritage Cahors 2014. This tastes like you're at a farm that uses old fashioned farming practices, a horse and cart ploughing a field. It's a wine that is packed full of blackcurrants and clove. If you like Argentinian Malbec you should try this, or another French Malbec (or Cot) to see how they differ. The French version tends to be a bit more rustic.

9th Dec #advent #wineshowxmas Limoux Toques et Clochers Languedoc Chardonnay 2012 The Wine Show. Wowsers! This is a pretty full on Chardonnay. If you're an ABC (anything but Chardonnay) this is not the wine for you. Having been matured in new oak I got cheese and pineapple on the nose! Very oaky and needs to be drunk with food, a cheese soufflé or smoked fish, or something with full flavour that can battle it out with this powerhouse.

10th & 11th Dec #advent #wineshowxmas The Wine Show
Chardonnay Bogle Vineyards California 2013: Lovely honey, lemon and vanilla to start with mango and coconut. Sitting on a beach in the Caribbean drinking a mango smoothie, wearing oversized sunglasses having just applied Malibu coconut sun cream.
Hochar Pere et Fils, Chateau Musar, Beckaa Valley, Lebanon, Cinsault Grenache 2011: Black cherry, black pepper, chocolate, not much tannin, very fruity, and has a sweetness to it. It's quite high alcohol but you don't notice it. I'm sitting at a bus stop... I'm waiting for something...

12th & 13th Dec #advent #wineshowxmas The Wine Show
Selezione Greco, La Guardiense, Sanrio, Italy 2015: Peach and almond on the nose, complex and intense. Full bodied, with lime and green olive on the palate. Walking along a brick road in Ohio on a hot late-summers day at corn harvest.
Ad-Hoc Avant Gardening Cabernet Malbec, Larry Cherubino, Western Australia 2014: Deep black cherry, eucalyptus, charcoal and chocolate. Hiking through a forest with an increasingly heavy backpack making shoulders ache, but feeling a sense of achievement. Looking forward to putting my feet up!

14th & 15th & 16th Dec #advent #wineshowxmas The Wine Show
Pinotage Groot Constantia South Africa 2014: Very juicy black currants and plums, surprisingly easy drinking. Earthy, brave, strong and friendly. I am Groot.
The Apple Doesn't Fall Far, Matias Riccitelli, Mendoza Argentina, Bonarda 2014: Deep purple, spicy on the nose with Black Forest fruits and chocolate, a bit rough around the edges. I'm standing outside a chocolate factory made of red brick. Would be a good wine to accompany a cheeseburger.
Torrentes Coloma Salta Argentina 2015: Pale lemon yellow, powerful Peach and melon on the nose. Almond, Apple and cinnamon on the palate. Visiting a rural countryside cottage, inside has a cool breeze, contemplating the energy for a bike ride. Homely, fresh, exploration.

Waitrose has named wines in their house range with one word, so I'm going to try the same...
Vina Almate Alfredo Maesto Valladolid Tempranillo Spain 2014: FRUITY
Albente, Feudi di San Gregorio, Campania, Falanghina, 2015 Italy: AROMATIC
Bourgogne Aligote, Domaine du Corps de Garde, Burgundy, France 2014: CRISP
Teroldego Rotaliano, Foradori, Trentino Alto-Adige, Teroldego, Italy 2013: DEEP
Good enough descriptions? Do you actually need any more??

Valle Hermoso, Carmenere, Valle Central, Chile 2014. Sorry but this wine only gets one word too: MEH. I think maybe I'm tasting too many special wines in the run up to Xmas I'm being spoiled 

Dry Tokaji, Chateau Dereszla, Hungary 2014, Furmint Muscat Kabar: Licking a gooseberry fool in a cafe next to a glass window... zingy, balanced with body and low acidity so good with spicy food like a Thai green curry.
Vino Nobile di Montepulciano Riserva, Carpineto Tuscany Italy 2011, Sangiovese: Elegant and soft, light but with layers of flavour. A very Xmas wine, packs a punch to counteract cola-glazed ham, pigs in blankets with cranberry sauce and turkey with stuffing and gravy.
Gruner Veltliner Terrassen, Huber, Traisental, Austria, 2015: In a scented garden, touching herbs and smelling wafts of fresh aromas as you brush past bushes. Green on the tongue, slight spritz.

25th Dec #advent thank you The Wine Show for such a wonderful #wineshowxmas🎄
Chianti Classico, Sangiovese, Nittardi, Tuscany, Italy 2012: Sitting on the sofa under a rug, fireside with logs burning in a brick hearth, a copper coal bucket containing paper kindling. Lights down low. Lovely blackcurrants and raspberries, an unusual combination, with soft tannins. Smoky aftertaste, complex, well-balanced, fruity yet dry. Spot on. Cheers!

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com