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.

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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.

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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.’

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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 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