Wine Times: Episode 10 – Jamie Cullum

Pulling the crackers, lighting the candles and eyeing up the mince pies for our Christmas special is none other than the super talented jazz musician – Jamie Cullum.

Jamie, who has just released his ninth studio album, ‘The Pianoman at Christmas’, recorded where else, but at the at the temple of music recording – Abbey Road, is not only an interested wine lover but also an old friend of Miquita’s, so it’s a very happy table at our Christmas get together.

The jazz route has taken Jamie to some spectacular venues which at times have coincided with the wine trail, such as the music festival held in the northern Rhône.

Jazz à Vienne takes place just a short distance from one of the most famous white wine producing villages in France, Condrieu, home to the heady white made from viognier, a wine that can smell of anything from apricot to May blossom. It was the scent of this wine which first opened the singer’s eyes to the complexities and layers of flavour that can be achieved in a glass of wine.

More from Wine Times Podcast

He says it’s wines ability, like reading great literature or listening to beautiful music, to open another world and expand your imagination which appeals. ‘When you taste a beautifully made wine, you are tasting thousands of years of developed expertise,’ he says. The analogy is with music, where you are taking in ‘hundreds of years of culture.’

Jamie is of course married to the model Sophie Dahl and they both share a love of food and cooking, so we start Christmas Day with what else? A glass of bubbles, not from Champagne but from the Limoux in the South of France and a club favourite the 2019 Roche Lacour.

This was soon followed by the classic 2020 Julien Bouchard Bourgogne Chardonnay, before finishing in Tuscany, a region where Jamie first experienced a sophisticated foreign holiday experiencing not only how delicious food can be but also what a ceremony there is surrounding the meal.

‘It was a time of coming of age,’ he says. ‘Where I started reading Kerouac, Hemingway. Getting into art and starting to love jazz … going off into a sort of private world.’

We sip our Governo and think of the ordered landscape of Tuscany with its perfect hills and tended rows of vines. ‘It feels like there should be a part 2 to this podcast,’ he says taking a sip. ‘Recorded in Tuscany…’ I’m already persuaded.

Will Lyons

To listen to Wine Times download it from wherever you get your podcasts.

The Wine List

2019 Roche Lacour Crémant de Limoux

2020 Julien Bouchard Bourgogne Chardonnay, France

2020 Governo, Saracosa, Toscana, Italy

Wine Times: Episode 9 – BOSH!

It was an absolute delight to explore the world of plant based food with the charming Yorkshire duo, Henry Firth and Ian Theasby aka BOSH!

With Veganuary upon us and the inevitable call for abstinence, it’s probably not a bad idea to enjoy a couple of days off meat and dairy a week– a flexitarian approach if you will.

But did you know that you might have to keep a close eye on the wine too? A lot of winemakers use animal products to ‘fine’ their wine such as fish products, gelatines and egg whites.

Fortunately, there are a swathe of wines that avoid the use of these in their production although you will need the club to do the sifting for you as it probably won’t say on the label.

Keen to learn more and to improve my plant based wine matching skills I picked out three French wines whose traditional pairing you might describe as being either meat or dairy. How did we get on? Well, we started in the Loire Valley with a glorious Sancerre from Domaine Michel Thomas, which the lads suggested pairing with their Cacio e Pepe, a sort of Italian mac and cheese which, (as they describe) should be obliterated with plenty of pepper. I can see that working and what I do like about their cooking is they are men from my own heart, in other words they are not ashamed to go for simplicity or in their words, keep it ‘unashamedly basic.’

More from Wine Times Podcast

From Sancerre we headed East to Beaujolais for a silky and floral Fleurie, Les 3 Madones, which they described as ‘super easy to drink and tutti fruity’. Mushrooms, a vegan platter and even a tofu sandwich were all suggested.

Now, for the biggest challenge of them all. What does one pair with a full-bodied Claret from Bordeaux’s Left Bank? In this case Chateau Roquegrave. For meat eaters, it is of course roast beef so what did Ian and Henry suggest? The ‘Impossible Burger’ of course! A vegan burger I first tasted, entirely by accident, in Napa Valley – we didn’t set it up honest!

And with that it was time to go; with our new friends describing it as ‘genuinely the best podcast we have ever done.’ We’ll certainly raise a glass to that!

Will Lyons

To listen to Wine Times download it from wherever you get your podcasts.

The Wine List

2020 Sancerre, Domaine Michel Thomas, Loire Valley, France

2020 Les 3 Madones, Fleurie, Beaujolais, France

2018 Chateau Roquegrave, France

Wine Times: Episode 8 – Ian Rankin

We met in the sumptuous surroundings of Edinburgh’s spectacular Prestonfield hotel for our episode with the best-selling crime writer Ian Rankin.

Although his lead character, Inspector Rebus, is better known for enjoying a pint of real ale in his beloved Oxford Bar (or a dram of whisky for that matter) his creator has a passion for wine.

With Ian having ‘trod the grapes’ in arguably the most famous post-war vintage in Bordeaux, 1982, nor far from Château La Clarière in Castillon, we did of course enjoy a glass of red Bordeaux.

As Ian pointed out, Edinburgh has a rich history of drinking claret. We know from the memoirs of Scottish judge and literary figure Lord Cockburn, expertly summarised in Billy Kay’s vinous history “Knee Deep in Claret” that in the 18th century a cargo of claret would arrive in the port of Leith to the north of the City. A hogshead would then be carried through the town in a cart with a horn. Anyone who wanted to have a little taste could stop the cart and fill up their jug for sixpence.

More from Wine Times Podcast

But our vinous journey began across the border, in Oxfordshire with a Club favourite – Wyfold rosé, which we agreed would be absolutely ideal with a simple plate of smoked salmon and buttered bread on Christmas morning.

Throughout it’s nearly 50-year history the Club has always been good at sniffing out interesting new wines from undiscovered wine regions. In that vein, we journeyed to Moldova for the perfumed and summery Viorica from Château Vartely.  As Tony once said, many club members would be forgiven for not knowing where Moldova is, let alone that it made wine. And good wine too!

We ended with a brief discussion on blind wine tasting and wine clubs. Ian once joined me for the 20th anniversary of the Edinburgh v St Andrews match. I did think he might be a crack blind wine taster as on the Edinburgh street on which Ian used to live, there was a wine circle, where they would meet and sample various wines. However they didn’t learn much – after years, Ian admitted they were no further forward in trying to discern what the wines were. Somebody would host it and at the end they would say: ‘more research needed.’ Which was a bit cheeky as I gave them a tasting a few years ago!

Will Lyons

The Wine List

Wine Times: Episode 7 – Emily Dean

The broadcaster and author Emily Dean has a request. Emily, who has a hugely successful podcast series called ‘Walking the Dog’ where she takes her canine companion Ray out for a walk with a raft of well-known celebrities (and their dogs of course), has refined her tastes in recent years.

Emily’s looking for lighter styles of wine or even wines with no alcohol at all. The latter was a little too challenging and this is a wine podcast after all so I opted for an exploration of lighter styles.

I have some sympathy with Emily’s plight. When I began my wine studies, nearly 25 years ago now, we had a tutor who always used to say wouldn’t it be nice if the alcohol of all wine was around 5-9%? Back then I never understood the appeal but now I see that you don’t always want a huge slug of alcohol in your glass.

Traditionally, the place to look for lighter style wines was of course the steep sided valleys of Germany’s Mosel river where the Riesling grape variety is glorious at 9%. As a rule of thumb I would extend that to cooler climates such as England, parts of Canada, Tasmania and the upper reaches of France.

More from Wine Times Podcast

So our journey began in the Loire Valley with a retro choice – a Muscadet that was gloriously fresh and tangy made by Domaine Gadais.

After a brief discussion on the merits of corks v screwcaps we headed down to Provence for a wine that can’t fail to lift the mood – the PS Pétillant Rosé NV, France – which Emily loved.

Swapping sin for sin we ended with a sweet wine where you replace the alcohol with residual sugar, with Seifried’s heavenly Sweet Agnes Riesling, which Emily said she loved almost as much as Jeremy Paxman’s dog – Derek.

Will Lyons

The Wine List

Wine Times Podcast: Episode 6 – Gregory Porter

‘Wine is analogue, not digital. It’s you putting the record on the record player, dropping the needle, sitting back and slowly enjoying the wine.’

We’re at Universal Music Studios in London and the Grammy award-winning jazz singer Gregory Porter is sharing his love of wine with us on Wine Times.

Out of all the guests we’ve enjoyed sharing a glass with, Gregory Porter has the most thoughtful approach.

Perhaps it’s because in Germany his tour manager was for many years a sommelier, or that the presidents of the record companies he is signed to have shared with him some of the world’s greatest wines, toasting his many successes. Or maybe because as a hugely successful artist he has enjoyed meals and wines across Europe in Spain, Portugal, Italy and France.

‘I always want my family to have the experience as well,’ he says and so when he returns from his travels he buys wine and prepares a meal at home. Quite what he serves depends on where he has been and what he has tasted as ‘wine is about exploration,’ he says ‘because you never know what you are going to get.’

More from Wine Times Podcast

We started in Champagne with a glass of Bollinger where we discussed the importance of the social aspect of food and wine. I was reminded of the Scottish writer Alexander McCall Smith who writes that ‘wine is something which involves fellowship, shared interest and conviviality.’

From Champagne we dropped down to the Rhône Valley and perhaps to the most famous of all its wines – Châteauneuf-du-Pape, where we discussed its flavour not in terms of fruit but in reference to the savoury notes you can sometimes pick up on in wine such as vegetal, oaky and ‘farmyardy.’ Like smelly cheese, although to some the aroma can seem unattractive, within the right context it is heavenly. What might be the perfect food pairing with Châteauneuf-du-Pape? Andouillette perhaps?

And with that thought we emptied our glass with a brief discussion on whether listening to great music can make the wine taste better. In the case of Gregory Porter – certainly.

Will Lyons

Club Vice-President

Listen to Wine Times Podcast with Will Lyons and Miquita Oliver here.

The Wine List

Bollinger Special Cuvée, Aÿ, Champagne, France

2019 Le Prince de Courthézon Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Rhône Valley, France

Wine Times Podcast: Episode 5 – Giovanna Fletcher

We started where else but in Italy for Giovanna Fletcher.

The actress and author of ‘Walking on Sunshine’ enjoyed childhood summers with red wine always on the table, a legacy from her Italian father.

Our journey began in the north west on the hauntingly beautiful slopes of Piedmont, where, sandwiched between Genova and Milan  lies the small city of Alessandria.  Just south of here the Cortese grapes produce the crisp white wine, Gavi, which we imagined pairing with a fresh Bruschetta or a table laden with delights from Southern Italy.

As conversation meandered from Strictly Come Dancing (Giovanna’s husband Tom from the band McFly is competing) to tearing up the wine rules and trusting your own judgement, we headed west to Spain to perhaps their most famous region – Rioja. But I couldn’t resist pouring, not the most well-known wine from that region, but a glass of the insider’s choice – white Rioja from Los Hermanos which seduced Giovanna with its oaky, creamy character.

Completing our travels we headed back over the Pyreenes for our final wine, the 2018 Carignan Vieilles Vignes from a region within the northern foothills of the Pyreenes.

Here in the Agly valley to the West of Perpignan the landscape is wild and empty with many vineyards planted at high altitude. It is this combination of poor granite soil, dry heat and altitude which imparts in the wine a pleasing purity of fruit. From the top of Château de Quéribus, which is more than 600 metres above sea level, you get a spectacular view of the region, if of course you are brave enough to drive!

Listen to this week’s episode of Wine Times with Will Lyons and Miquita Oliver here.

The Wine List

2020 Gavi, Broglia Gavi di Gavi, Italy

2020 Los Hermanos Manzanos, Rioja, Spain

2018 Carignan Vieilles Vignes, Vallée des Aigles, Côtes Catalanes, France

Wine Times Podcast: Episode 4 – Rob Rinder

Can a sip of wine transport you to another place? The French countryside perhaps, the still, quiet sunshine of mid-summer.

Memories of languid holidays, long, balmy evenings, sun drenched terraces and of course that first wine of the day, something cool, crisp and dry.

It’s the smell that does it, filtering through to our olfactory bulb, which is also the home of long term memory and emotion. One sniff and you’re off! For a split second you’re back in the vineyard or by the pool or wherever it was you tasted and smelt something similar.

This is what happened to Rob Rinder when I poured him a glass of the club’s 2020 Château Le Coin Sauvignon Gris, Bordeaux, France. One sip and there it was – memories of happy times in Saint Emilion.

With a distinguished background in the legal profession it wasn’t a surprise to learn that the broadcaster and columnist has tasted a fair few rare vintages having sampled wines from the cellars of Inner Temple. But in a wide-ranging discussion touching on history, the origins of Champagne and the art of serving red wine with fish we agreed that you simply cannot delight in life unless you enjoy food and wine.

It was our club President Hugh Johnson who said: ‘nothing lifts the mood like a glass of Champagne,’ and so it was we started our tour in Champagne with one of the best non-vintages on the market, Charles Heidsieck before travelling, vicariously, down to Bordeaux for a glass of Sauvignon Gris where Miquita admitted that over the course of the series she has fallen in love with white wine.

We ended in South America with a red I suspected neither Miquita or Rob had tasted before – a Tannat from Uruguay.

Which wine did Judge Rinder enjoy the most? Listen to find out.

Will Lyons

Club Vice-President

The Wine List

Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve

Château Le Coin Sauvignon Gris

100 Anos Reserva Tannat

The ultimate Christmas gift guide for the wine lovers in your life

So here it is, merry Christmas, everybody’s having fun. Christmas is officially in full swing here at The Sunday Times Wine Club. There’s nothing quite like families getting together under the same roof, friends popping round for an impromptu glassful … maybe even the odd office Christmas celebration. And gift giving in person – how wonderful.

We know that finding that perfect Christmas gift for your loved ones can sometimes be a struggle, but the Gifts Team here at Sunday Times Wine Club HQ have been working hard all year to bring you the most spectacular Christmas gift range. There really is something to suit everyone with gifts perfect for the wine lovers, gin lovers and even beer lovers in your life. Look at what the range has to offer …

Sipsmith Crackers


Forget paper hats and plastic toys. Our London dry gin, lemon drizzle gin, zesty orange gin, and sloe gin crackers are more fun. Four crackers per pack.

Sipsmith Bramble Gin Liqueur


Sipsmith has captured the scents and flavours of autumn hedgerows in its Bramble Gin Liqueur, which is sure to thrill gin fans everywhere.

Pickering’s Festively Flavoured Gin Baubles


Made with natural flavours, our baubles include classic festive tastes like spiced pear, figgy pudding, and even brussel sprout, and can be hung on the tree.

Mince Pies & Wine


We’ve selected four bottles that will be scrumptious with these cranberry and orange mince pies, encased in rich pastry. There’s fruity Merlot and Shiraz plus zippy Prosecco and Sauvignon Blanc.

Loose Cannon Pub in A Box


If they can’t get out to the pub this Christmas, you can bring the pub to them, thanks to our friends at Oxfordshire’s Loose Cannon Brewery. This clever gift is effectively a pub in a box (hence the name), comprising a five-litre keg, two glasses, and a tasty Salami Chips snack.

Fine Dining Mixed Trio


Deciding what to eat at Christmas is almost as much fun as picking the wines to match. The Manzanos dynasty has made Rioja on its estate for 200 years and it’s ideal with a wintry casserole, while the Villa Broglia Gavi di Gavi is a classic food-friendly Italian white, and Château Le Bonalguet from Bordeaux will fly with pan-fried duck or roast lamb.

Treats of the Season


This delicious array of goodies is accompanied by a very enjoyable Aussie Shiraz Cabernet blend, all bramble fruits and black pepper. There is no nicer gift at Christmas than a hamper, and this one from our friends at Cartwright & Butler is a great example!

Champagne & Truffles 12 Days of Christmas Gift


Only the finest bubbles will do for the 12 Days of Christmas and so we’ve selected Laurent-Perrier La Cuvée, Möet & Chandon Imperial and Piper-Heidsieck Cuvée Brut for this exclusive gift. We’ve paired six high-end (200ml-size) bottles with six delicious packs of truffles, finely crafted by Holdsworth Chocolates in the Peak District, to pair perfectly with the luxurious sparklers. An ideal gift for the fizz fans and chocoholics in your life.

Feeling inspired? That’s just a handful of our spectacular gifts from this year’s range. Start your Christmas shopping today and shop the full collection on our website now.

Wine Times Podcast: Episode 3 – Isa Guha

There is a natural synergy between the Summer game of cricket and a glass of wine. A Test Match is played over the course of a day invariably against a background of popping corks and chilled glasses of white as any number of amateur wine lovers seek refreshment. Many cricket playing countries from Australia to South Africa boast some of the most beautiful spots in the world to play the game and also produce wines of outstanding quality. Think of the Adelaide Oval and the Barossa Valley, just an hour’s drive away. Or Newlands in Cape Town and its proximity to the vineyards of the Western Cape. In England, we now have vineyards in the three traditional cricket playing counties of Hampshire, Kent and Sussex whereas India also has a burgeoning wine industry clustered around Mumbai.

To explore this happy marriage this week me and Miquita caught up with the former England cricket player turned commentator Isa Guha. We began, where else? Just 40 miles west of the home of cricket, Lord’s Cricket Ground, with one of the club’s favourites – a glass of sparkling Rosé from Harrow & Hope. Test Match Special may have changed since the days when John Arlott would enjoy an occasional glass of claret on air but Isa did let slip that during commentary at the Oval a generous wine lover passed them a glass of fizz through the window of the commentary box.

From the slopes of England we headed to the Southern hemisphere for a taste of Hunter’s Sauvignon Blanc, whose green pyrazine aromatics of freshly cut grass can evoke in our olfactory bulb long term memories of Spring, which is of course the beginning of the cricket season.

As conversation meandered to the future of the game and the success of Women’s cricket we poured our final wine from just over the Tasman Sea, with a look ahead towards the forthcoming Ashes series. The RedHeads MC1R, is made in the Barossa Valley but tastes almost like a ‘Southern Hemisphere Beaujolais,’ – you could enjoy that at the cricket, might taste even better if England are winning.

Which wine did Isa enjoy the most? Tune in to find out here.

Will Lyons

Club Vice President

The Wine List

Harrow & Hope Brut Rosé 2018

2020 Sauvignon Blanc, Hunter’s, Marlborough, New Zealand – Back in stock mid November

2018 MC1R: Rouge, Red Heads, Barossa, Australia  

Wine Times Podcast: Episode 2 – Nat Parker

Sharing a chilled glass of wonderfully crisp dry Furmint, a rich, almost waxy Chardonnay from New Zealand and a luscious red made deep in the heart of the Mediterranean’s largest island, this week we sat down with award winning actor Nat Parker.

Nat, who is in the middle of a run in the West End in ‘The Mirror and The Light’ at the Gielgud, was terrifically entertaining company.

He admitted to Miquita that after coming off stage, playing Henry VIII, there was nothing he craved more than a small glass of something cool, crisp and refreshing. A Dry Furmint Special Reserve from Royal Tokaji in Hungary () perhaps? Or maybe something a little more full bodied such as the Hunter’s Chardonnay from New Zealand. Just to make sure, we tried them both.

I suspected Nat knew a little more about wine then he let on and after a few glasses, and some outlandish name dropping of the cast of his latest Ridley Scott film The Last Duel, he declared his love of all things Italian describing himself as a ‘Puglian Bunny.’ So we took a short ride across the Ionian Sea to Sicily for an old club favourite the Nero d’Avola from Tenuta Fenice which rounded off a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. Ciao!

Will Lyons

Club Vice President

Which wine did Nat enjoy the most? Tune in to find out here.

The Wine List

2020 Dry Furmint Special Reserve, Royal Tokaji, Hungary

2019 Hunter’s Chardonnay, Marlborough, New Zealand

2020 Tenuta Fenice Nero d’Avola, Sicily