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

£18

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

£25

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

£25

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

£42

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

£44.99

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

£45

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

£50

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

£116

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

Wine Times Podcast: Episode 1 – Ed Gamble

Over a small glass of Aligoté, a taste of Pinot Noir and a fairly large glass of South African red, Miquita and I caught up with stand-up comedian and wine lover, Ed Gamble.

Like many of us, Ed’s formative years on the wine route were consigned to those curious few bottles on the lower shelves of his local newsagent until a few wine loving friends introduced him to the competitive world of wine tasting and the delights of Italy’s Barolo. I had an inkling that Ed knew a little about wine so I wanted to show him something he might not have tasted before and a wine he could perhaps impress his more knowledgeable friends with. Perhaps.

So, we travelled to Burgundy, vicariously from our studio in London and explored the region’s lesser known and third grape variety – Aligoté. 2020 Bourgogne Aligoté, L’Étrangère. The insiders’ choice? Maybe. It’s mainly grown on the highest and lowest slopes in Burgundy and produces a light white wine full of vitality, citrus fruit and taught, nervous energy.

From there are journey took us to one of the most beautiful regions in the world on the South Island of New Zealand for the 2019 Invivo Pinot Noir made in Central Otago, New Zealand. Delicate and early-ripening, its natural home is alongside Aligoté in Burgundy but in other pockets of the world such as California, Germany and New Zealand it can produce a wine that shines with approachable notes of dark cherry and spice. I mention the latter because conversation veered towards wine speak – just how do you describe wine?

We finished where else, but in the sunny climes of the Western Cape with the rich and velvety 2020 Excelsior Heritage Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon. Which wine did Ed enjoy the most? Tune in to find out here.

Will Lyons

Club Vice President

The Wine List

2020 Bourgogne Aligoté, L’Étrangère, Burgundy, France

2019 Invivo Pinot Noir, Central Otago, New Zealand

2020 Cabernet Sauvignon Excelsior Heritage Reserve, Robertson, South Africa

English Wine – the New, New World

The excitement surrounding English sparkling wine is palpable. In the last five years alone more than eight million vines have been planted, an astonishing increase of 70% giving us a total of nearly 4,000 hectares of vineyards. The English wine industry may still be very small, just 7.1 million bottles were sold in 2020, but it is growing – fast. Despite all the challenges and disruption caused by the pandemic, recently published figures from WineGB, the trade organisation that represents British winemakers, show that exports have climbed 51% in the last year with British wine now being shipped to 30 markets across the world. And we’re not just drinking it, we’re visiting the vineyards too. WineGB say that domestic wine tourism was up 57% last year as wine lovers hit the English wine route to explore the numerous cellar doors and tasting rooms we now have on our shores.

It’s all come a long way since the days of the mid-seventies when the likes of Bernard Theobald were producing red wine on the banks of the Thames and comparing the climate of Reading to Bordeaux. These days the British wine industry employs nearly 5,000 people with around 800 vineyards and 178 wineries.

Flowers blooming in English vineyard

As I said in The Sunday Times recently English wine is now entering its third chapter. The first chapter was loosely speaking post war to the late 1980s when a small group of hobby farmers, joined by a handful of commercial enterprises, began planting vineyards. Often these were with German grape varieties such as Müller Thurgau, Schönburger and Ehrenfelser, inspired by our then thirst for easy drinking white wine like Liebfraumilch and a belief that England enjoyed a similar cool climate to the slopes of Germany.

The second phase began in the mid 1990s with the emergence of high quality, internationally recognised sparkling wine made with the same grape varieties as Champagne: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier and by the same method – with a secondary fermentation in the bottle. The third phase is now – where not only has England established itself as a serious producer of high quality sparkling wine but there is also a growing enthusiasm for still wines as well.

England now has more vineyards than there are grape growers in the Napa valley and here at the Club we certainly haven’t missed the great English wine boom of the 21st century. We have our very own trio of vineyards: Windsor Great Park; the high and stony Wyfold vineyard located down a country lane in Oxfordshire, expertly cultivated by Barbara Laithwaite and on the slopes above the town of Marlow, Henry and Kaye Laithwaite’s Harrow & Hope continues its ascent recently winning a slew of medals at the WineGB awards in London. Henry’s Blanc de Noir is a stunning wine with a vibrant concentration of acidity and crisp, white fruit.

Winemaker, Henry Laithwaite

Next month Wyfold’s new 2016 Brut will be released and having tasted it I can confirm it’s a thrilling, complex wine with layers of flavour. Pop the cork and it falls into the glass with a classic golden hue, take a sniff and immediately there is a hint of creamy, toasty notes. But make no mistake this is an English wine to its core and when you sip it, a burst of citrus and summer fruits dance across your tongue before finishing with a burst of thrilling acidity. It’s exciting to witness the genesis of a new wine region, right here in our backyard – and enjoy a few glasses of British bubbly too.

Will Lyons

Club Vice President

Time to rebuild: How you can help South African wineries

Watching the news you will already know that South Africa’s winemakers have had a particularly dire 18 months.

The country became one of the only to introduce a total alcohol ban in light of the Coronavirus pandemic. On four separate occasions the country outlawed the sale of alcohol, and in addition winemakers were even unable to send any wine overseas in Summer 2020 due to a five-week ban on exports.

As well as having to deal with the same illnesses and grief that the rest of the world was struggling with, draconian rules brought in by the Government had wine producers on their knees.

And….Even before that, in 2019 the country was hit by the worst drought in 90 years.

Ryan Puttick, winemaker for Franschhoek Cellar

But they’re resilient, strong and in spite of everything have kept at what they love, producing amazing wines – the most delightful and the best  value for money on the planet right now.  

And when we talk to them, ask them how they’re coping and if we can help in any way, they always say the same thing: ‘Just Keep Supporting Us … keep buying our wine’.

So let’s throw them a lifeline. It’s no hardship for us to order extra from the likes of Bon Courage or Journeys End.

Best,

Tony Laithwaite

Heroes in the Cape

“The last 18 months have been very hard for a lot of people in their own ways,” said Becca Reeves, our South African wine buyer.

“Our wine-producing friends in South Africa have been especially affected by the domestic wine sales bans. Furthermore, many of the wine producers we work with provide essential services to whole families and communities which they have continued to do despite facing their own financial difficulties.”

Enter our Heroes in the Cape South African Showcase. We’ve put together a collection of 12 of our best-selling whites from some of our favourite winemakers, and are throwing in another three for FREE to help you discover some new gems.

It includes Fire & Foal Sauvignon Blanc from Henry Conradi’s Appelsdrift winery in Robertson. Despite the odds, they have continued to pay all their staff a salary, as well as making contributions to health and childcare, but only by the owners forgoing any wages themselves.

Then there’s the delicious Gooseberry Bush Sauvignon Blanc from the team at Bon Courage who have worked with the health department this year and opened up the winery as a vaccination centre. There’s also a special limited edition version of the Gooseberry Bush for you to try.

Also in the case is juicy, tropical scented Comeback King Sauvignon, crisp and aromatic Lobster Shack and the Gabb family’s Chenin/Viognier Bees Knees.

Finally there’s The Huguenot Chenin Blanc from Franschhoek, Excelsior’s full-bodies, lushly spiced Viognier and Journey’s End Wines St Sebastian Bay Sauvignon.

Our hope is that this offer will encourage you to support our South African winemakers by trying some wines you might not have had before

Support our South African winemakers and order your case at sundaytimeswineclub.co.uk.

Tony Laithwaite checks in at Windsor Great Park vineyard

Did you know, that in 2011 we gained permission from the Ranger of Windsor Great Park, the late Duke of Edinburgh, to plant a three-hectare vineyard within this Royal Park. Our inaugural vintage was 2013, launched to great global acclaim. Since then, this award-winning fizz has been served to Heads of State at Buckingham Palace, Windsor Castle and around the world. It even features in a new documentary about the origins of sparkling wine. The latest release, 2016, has just been awarded 94 Points by Decanter too.

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

Have an inside look at Windsor Great Park Vineyard with this video update from Tony Laithwaite. He talks you through the different tasks of June and the sustainable methods the team employs to keep the vines strong and healthy. 

Enough to inspire you to chill down a bottle of great English fizz!

Instagram Terms and Conditions – Wine Cans Giveaway

1. The promoter of the competition is The Sunday Times Wine Club operated by Direct Wines Limited, One Waterside Drive, Arlington Business Park, Theale, Berkshire, RG7 4SW (“STWC”).

2. The competition is open to all residents of the U.K. (England, Scotland, and Wales but not Northern Ireland) who have reached at least eighteen (18) years of age at the time of entry (the “Competition”). The Competition is not open to directors, officers, agents, contractors and employees of STWC, any of its affiliated or associated entities or divisions, their advertising and promotional agencies or members of the aforementioned individuals’ respective immediate families living in the same household.

3. By participating in the Competition, each participant accepts these terms and conditions of the Competition and agrees to be bound by them. The Competition is subject to all applicable laws.

4. To enter the Competition:

a. the entrant must at any time between 00:00:00 Saturday 14 August 2021 and 23:59:59 Saturday 21 August 2021, like, comment with the ideal location you would enjoy these over the Bank Holiday weekend and tag one friend on this Instagram post LINK; and

b. follow @sundaytimeswineclub on Instagram.

5. Only one (1) entry per person. Multiple entries may cause you to be disqualified.

6. There will be two winners of the prize. The winners of the prize will be selected at random by no later than 28 August 2021.

7. If STWC runs the same competition (i.e. a competition with the same dates and prize) across different sites or social media platforms and the same winner is randomly selected to win more than one competition, the winner shall only be entitled to win one prize.

8. The winners of the prize will be contacted by 28 August 2021. Three attempts will be made to contact the winners of the prize. If the winners do not respond via DM (Instagram direct message) within 7 days of STWC’s first message to accept the prize, alternative winners will be selected.

9. STWC will contact the winners via Instagram direct message and will request their details (name, age and address) for the purposes of claiming their prize only.

10.  STWC will send the winners one Handy Cans Mix (x1 Violette De Mireval 250ml Can 2020, x1 Le Malbec D’Hervé 250ml Can 2020, x1. Abbesse Rosé 250ml Can 2020, x1 Abbesse Sauvignon Blanc 250ml Can 2020 & x2 Laithwaites Sauvignon Blanc 250ml Can 2020) .  No refunds will be given

11. The prize will be sent out via courier, STWC cannot be held responsible for any prize not received by the winner.

12. Odds of winning the prize will vary depending on the number of eligible entries received.

13. STWC retains sole discretion to withhold the prize without liability if in its view a participant is ineligible, the entry is invalid, or a winner does not meet the necessary requirements as set out in these terms and conditions.

14. STWC reserves the right to withdraw or amend the Competition in the event of unforeseen circumstances or circumstances outside of its control.

15. You acknowledge that the Competition is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Instagram.

16. You acknowledge and accept that Instagram will not be responsible or liable for this Competition. 

17. STWC is not responsible or liable for:

a. Any entry for which the post or comment is lost, deleted or deemed abusive by Instagram;

b. Any accounts that are deemed to be fraudulent or not authentic;

c. Unforeseen changes in Instagram’s legal or commenting rules & regulations;

d. Any external factors that may restrict a participant from accepting their prize;

e. Any entries that cannot be found or seen by STWC; and

f. Any entries that cannot be opened or are otherwise inaccessible for any reason by STWC.

18. There is no cash alternative for the prizes.

19. If there is a dispute between you and STWC in relation to the Competition or these terms and conditions, you may take legal action against STWC, and STWC may take legal action against you in either the English courts or the local courts in the part of the UK where you live. The applicable law will be that of the location of the court.

20. The entrant must read and understand the privacy notice for this Competition at www.sundaytimeswineclub.co.uk/privacy. In addition, the following privacy notice also applies to the Competition:

When you enter this competition, you will provide us with your email address and the information you share in the email with STWC. If you are a winner, we will ask for your postal address so that we can deliver your prize to you, and we may ask for additional information in order to verify your age. We obtain all of this information from you directly.

We’ll use your personal data in order to run the competition fairly and properly, and if you are a winner, to tell you that you’ve won the competition and to make any further arrangements with you, including to repost your winning entry on social media, and to deliver your prize to you.  We may pass on your details to verify your age to ensure that we only give products containing alcohol to those aged 18 or over. The CAP Code also requires us (as the promoter of this competition) to either publish or make available certain information about prize winners. You can object to this information being published or made available by contacting us on 03330 142 776 or dpo@thesundaytimeswineclub.co.uk. Please note that, even if you opt out, we may still have to provide the information and winning entry to the ASA.

If your competition entry is a winner, we may share your details with the courier company we use to deliver your prize to you; the company we use to carry out age verification checks (if required); and with our core IT services providers.