Tony Laithwaite checks in with Jean-Marc Sauboua at Château La Clarière

For an update on what’s been happening this year at Château La Clarière, take a look at this video Tony Laithwaite recorded for his Confrères with head winemaker Jean-Marc. They have a relaxed chat about how the vintage has been so far, what’s new outside and inside the cellar, and how the wines are tasting.

Not yet a Confrère of La Clarière? Visit www.sundaytimeswineclub.co.uk.conf  to find out more.

Dry Delights in Sweet Wine Country

It’s been nearly 30 years since our club President, Hugh Johnson ventured over the then collapsed Iron Wall in a bid to rediscover one of Europe’s forgotten wine regions. Hungary’s Tokaj vineyards, which sit around 150 miles north east of Budapest boast a historical legacy few other regions can equal. The sweet, honeyed, tangy wines produced from these vineyards, which are always cloaked in a veil of their signature flickering acidity, were one of the great wines of the Hapsburg Empire. Proclaimed by King Louis XIV of France as the wine of kings – the king of wines, they conquered Europe with a swagger few wines could match. It is not surprising they were one of the first regions to classify their vineyards. As Hugh Johnson observes in ‘From Noah to Now The Story of Wine’ (republished 2020 by Academie du Vin library) they found favour with both Peter the Great of Russia and Frederick 1 of Prussia, while the Tsars of Russia delighted in their amber colour and explosion of sweetness.

“What did not go to Vienna, Moscow, St Petersburg, Warsaw, Berlin or Prague was snapped up by the grandees of Britain, the Netherlands and France,” writes Hugh. “The world had no wine to compare with it for sweetness.”

But history isn’t always an upward trajectory and if the Russian Revolution stripped its winemakers of their most important export market, Communism conspired to flip these ancient fine wine cellars into mass production. These days European royalty are as likely to serve Champagne (or in the case of our Monarch English sparkling wine, perhaps from Windsor) as they are to drink sweet wine. Even in today’s world where we crave sugar just as much as our 18th century cousins, let’s be honest with ourselves, we only really ever pull out a bottle of something sweet a handful of times a year: Christmas, anniversaries, maybe the odd dinner with friends. But never on a consistent basis.

Like many sweet wine producing regions, from the Douro Valley in Portugal to the mist filled vineyards of Bordeaux’s Sauternes, the 21st century has brought change in the form of dry, table wines. I was lucky enough to visit the vineyards of the Royal Tokaji Company in the company of Hugh several years ago, and as much as I was impressed with the range and style of sweet wines we tasted it was the dry wines which also caught my eye. Made from the region’s signature grape variety, Furmint, as I wrote in my September Wine of the Month for the Club these wines have found favour with the wine cognoscenti and are gaining increased recognition. At its best Dry Furmint is a wonderful food friendly, dry wine with high acidity and an attractive savoury character. One could liken it to a Riesling or a Pinot Gris and the range of aromas include fresh green apple, lemon, ginger and sometimes a herbaceous, fennel character. These are wines to chill down and pair with food, grilled fish perhaps, a meaty stir fry with noodles, roast chicken, pork is a natural fit but it has enough weight and texture to stand up to spice.

In January Hugh and I attended a tasting in London of several different vintages of Royal Tokaji. Sweet and dry. The best dry examples had a touch of spice about them with notes of chamomile, and a refreshing, biting acidity. As I walked home along the Thames the thought occurred to me that perhaps the region is due another renaissance, this time for its dry wines. Time will tell.

Will Lyons

Club Vice President

Tom Laithwaite checks in at RedHeads

Find out what’s been happening this year at RedHeads, when Tom Laithwaite catches up with head winemaker Alex Trescowthick. Pour yourself a large glass of something from RedHeads and enjoy a tour of the vineyard, the cellar and the studio bar, plus hear about what’s been happening in Oz.

Not yet a RedHead? To find out how to partner up with this great studio winery, secure yourself a case of RedHead’s fabulous 1888 Shiraz at a special ‘partners’ only’ price, and become a ‘RedHead’ yourself, visit www.sundaytimeswineclub.co.uk/redheads.

Real Olives & Wine: The perfect pairings

Our resident wine expert, Grant Hedley, had the pleasure of being joined by olive-heads Charlie Chambers and Karin Andersson from The Real Olive Company for an evening of wine and olive tasting. At a time of year when the sun is shining (or supposed to be), we are enjoying picnics, lunches and dinners with families and friends, wine and olives are a perfect addition to all of these. We selected three of our delicious Italian wines to go with three, tasty and organic olive blends selected by The Real Olive Company.

If you couldn’t join us on the evening, we’ve included the carefully selected wine and olive pairings below as well as a recording from the evening so you can order the products to enjoy the tasting in your own time.

The Pairings

Nocellara del Belice Olives is paired with our Sentiero dei Pini Pinot Grigio, La Verde Olives with Garlic & Basil is paired with our Vesuvium Greco di Tufo and lastly we paired Siciliana Olives with Garlic, Peppers & Mustard Seeds with the excellent Villa dei Ladri

It’s time for you to sit back, pour a glass of wine, put your olives in a dish and enjoy.

A virtual evening in Vineyards and Olive Groves

You’re invited to an exciting virtual wine and olive tasting event on the 6th August, with our friends at The Real Olive Company. I’ll be joined by olive-heads Charlie Chambers and Karin Andersson, who are as passionate and informed about olives as we are about wines!

I’ve picked out some real Italian gems from our cellars and found the perfect pairing from The Real Olive Company’s delicious selection. With Charlie and Karin’s help of course!

It makes perfect sense to follow one of my favourite food matching principles: ‘what grows together, goes together’ and pair these delicious olives with a few of our favourite Italian wines. Plus, at a time of the year when the sun is shining and we are enjoying picnics, lunches and dinners with our families and friends, olives are the perfect addition to any meal.

So let us whisk you off for a mouth-watering hour, to the land of sunshine, vineyards and olive groves to taste some fabulous wines and delectable olives.

Here are the Pairings I have picked: Nocellara del Belice olives will be paired with our Sentiero dei Pini Pinot Grigio, La Verde Olives with Garlic & Basil will be paired with our Vesuvium Greco di Tufo and lastly we’ll be pairing Siciliana Olives with Garlic, Peppers & Mustard Seeds with the excellent Villa dei Ladri.

I hope to see you there.

Best wishes,

Grant, Wine Expert

Thursday 6th August 7pm

An evening of top Rioja with Tony Laithwaite

Javier Murúa and his dad Julián sold most of their wines locally before Tony met them – and fell head over heels for their wines. Today this father-and-son team are our No.1 Rioja producers.

Join Javier and Tony and share in a glass or two as they taste through the bestselling Barón de Barbón red and white. See their recorded chat from Wednesday 3rd June.

Bring a bottle!

Wine Live with Will Lyons: Food & Wine Matching

Last week, Sunday Times Wine Club Vice President Will Lyons, took to our Facebook page in another exciting live Q&A as part of the Wine Live with Will Lyons series. In the live, he answered questions from our viewers. This week, it was all about food and wine matches.

In case you couldn’t join us on the night, here’s what you missed…

You can purchase the wines Will enjoyed during the live to try yourself below:

Oliver Zeter Riesling 2018

Les Hauts de Morin-Langaran Picpoul de Pinet 2019

Stay up to date with all upcoming virtual events on our Facebook and Instagram pages.

Also on the blog:

Rapaura Springs update us on their 2020 Harvest

It’s always enjoyable to receive video updates and messages from our winemakers across the globe with the latest from the vineyards and winery. During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve received multiple heart-warming messages from our winemakers, many of which have faced challenges in their harvests and production due to local Government restrictions.

Rapaura Springs, based in Marlborough New Zealand, produce great tasting wines for us including a Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

Matt Thomson, Consultant Winemaker and part of the team at Rapaura Springs, has sent us this video from their Bull Paddock Vineyard highlighting the challenges they’ve faced in the past few months and where they are currently at with production. They’ve just finished their 2020 harvest and are currently in the fermentation process before they begin to blend in the next few weeks.

Watch the video below to see how they’ve been getting on.

Wine Live with Will Lyons and Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl

Will Lyons, The Sunday Times Wine Club Vice-President, was joined by Monika Schmid from Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl family winery live on our Facebook page from Germany in the latest episode of Wine Live with Will Lyons.

They caught up on how things have been in the vineyards and winery in recent weeks, life in confinement and also sipped some of the delicious wine produced by Weingut Reichsrat von Buhl. If you couldn’t join Will and Monika on Tuesday, pour yourself a glass of something nice and catch up on the 25-minute live stream below.

Look out on The Sunday Times Wine Club Facebook and Instagram pages for upcoming virtual events, Q&A’s and live interviews with Will Lyons and winemakers across the globe.

Stay safe and drink responsibly.