Travel vicariously with Will Lyons as he recalls a memorable trip with club members and readers of The Sunday Times along the Rhône River

Timing is everything on the water. No sooner had we sat down for our main course than we were told that we were approaching the confluence, the area in the heart of Lyon where the Rhône and Saone rivers meet. From the top of a river boat the flood lit, bohemian quarter provides a dramatic backdrop. On a Friday night with the town’s youth spilling out, lining the banks of the Quai Saint Antoine and bistros, full to the brim, their windows steamed up by the throng inside, it felt like sailing through an opera set. We had arrived about an hour ahead of schedule, hence our presence in the dining room and not on the upper deck. The great wine enthusiast Oz Clarke had just embarked our voyage at Vienne and was already, glass in hand, soaking up the view as we snaked our way through the nightscape of Lyon. There was nothing for it. The cheese would have to wait, timetables are there to be broken so our happy table upped sticks and joined the assembled throng as we glided under low bridges and floodlit embankments through Lyon on that balmy, early, autumnal evening.

The hills of the Rhône Valley, dotted with pine trees and olive groves, have always produced some of France’s most drinkable red wines. Here the luscious, sweet-fruited reds, often a blend of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvèdre, can produce wines that in the north of the valley have a vivid colour, wonderful, rounded-texture with a distinctive smell of white pepper. In the south of the valley the wines are more generous, easy to like, drinkable and often reasonable in price. In autumn, the valley comes into its own as the temperature drops, throwing up spectacular sunsets, atmospheric, misty mornings and the odd sun drenched afternoon. The Sunday Times River Cruise, with club members, subscribers and Riviera passengers was a perfect way to explore its charms. We began our journey in Avignon, stepping off the TGV we were met with an ochre sky, the early evening air heavy with the smell of pine, lavender and wild herbs. “Provence!” We exclaimed as we left the confines of the north behind us.

Will Lyons with fellow passenger onboard the William Shakespeare as they sailed up the Rhône River

Over the course of seven nights we explored its charms, following in the footsteps of Romans as we stopped off in Arles, admiring its amphitheatre and terracotta coloured rooftops, before we reached the granite outcrop of the hill of Hermitage, sailing past the vineyards of Condrieu and Ampuis home to the prized vineyards of Côte-Rôtie. We finished in the cellars of Burgundy where two grape varieties dominate, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, although it is the region’s third variety Aligoté, which produces a light, crisp white wine that is seeing an upswing in quality.

As our ship, The William Shakespeare, heaved its way along the river through precarious locks, past the ruined castle of Châteauneuf-du-Pape and dramatic gorges we made many friends, from Hollywood producers to amateur hot air balloonists as we all gathered for two wine tastings ‘on the water’ enjoying club wines from along the river and across the world. Wine brought us together. Sitting down with a glass of something special, sharing memories and stories amidst laughter and conviviality is what The Sunday Times Wine Club is all about.

Understandably we don’t yet know when we will be able to come together again but rest assured at the club we have been busy planning a series of events so we can come together virtually and enjoy some interesting wines to discuss and enjoy. At the end of this month I will be sipping three spectacular wines inspired by the season we find ourselves in. Join me on the evening of the 28th October as we travel vicariously along the wine route. Tasting a Syrah, inspired by those ancient examples in the northern Rhône, from Hawke’s Bay in New Zealand, to a delightful, supple Rioja from Spain. Finishing with a glorious white wine which punches well above its weight from the southern hills of the Languedoc. I do hope you can join me. So pull up a chair, pour yourself a glass and drink along as we travel vicariously together along the wine route.

Buy Will Lyons Autumn Trio here.

Will Lyons

Club Vice President

Wine and Chocolate tasting with Grant Hedley & William Curley

Wine and chocolate are two of the most wonderfully indulgent and delightful products that we can enjoy. Our in-house wine educator, Grant Hedley, was lucky enough to be joined by William Curley, the immensely talented chef and chocolatier. William Curley became the youngest Chef Pâtissier in the Savoy’s history. He works with only the finest ingredients to create handmade morsels from heaven.

Together, they worked hard on some fantastic wine matches for his fabulous chocolates. Three of our wines and six of his chocolates were to be enjoyed for a tasting evening, and you at home could purchase them yourself and join in virtually over Zoom as they discuss the pairings.

For those who could not join us on the evening, you can catch up and find out more on the delectable matches in the recording from the session below. The featured wines are available to purchase if you wish to sip alongside the video.

F.W. Nalbach Sonnenschein Riesling 2019

£14.49 a bottle or £12.99 when you mix 12 or more*

Marqués de Murrieta Capellanía Reserva 2015

£24.00 a bottle*

Pillastro Selezione d’Oro 2019

£13.99 a bottle or £11.99 when you mix 12 or more*

*Prices correct as of 21st October 2020.

A virtual evening of Wine and Chocolate tasting with William Curley

Hi everyone,

We’re inviting you to our very special virtual event on Thursday 15th October at 7pm, chocolate and wine tasting with myself and William Curley. These are two of the most gloriously indulgent and delicious products, I’m so excited for this virtual tasting I can hardly contain myself.

For those of you who don’t know William Curley, he is an immensely talented chef and chocolatier. He works with only the finest ingredients to create handmade morsels from heaven. He’s so talented he became the youngest Chef Pâtissier in the Savoy’s history – that’s quite impressive! I don’t think I am stretching matters when I say, you haven’t tried chocolate until you have tried William’s chocolate, it’s like a fine dinning or Michelin Star experience for chocolate lovers.

I spent an evening with William recently, hard at work, matching some of my favourite wines to his fabulous chocolates. We managed to narrow down the selection to just three wines and six of his chocolates, I can’t wait to share and talk through the fruits of our labours with you alongside William on the evening.

But don’t worry, it won’t just be us tasting theses delights. We’ve put together the trio of wine for you to order for yourself and a selection of William’s chocolates, so you have the choice to taste along with us from the comfort of your own home. You can purchase the trio of wine by clicking here and the selection of William Curley’s chocolates here.

We will be hosting this event via Zoom Meetings. For more information, to book your free place and to receive joining details, please click here.

I hope to see you on the evening.

Best wishes,

Grant, Wine Expert

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!