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 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

Delve in to the world of wine … from your very own home

Who said wine can’t be enjoyed from the comfort of your very own home? As times change and we aren’t heading to our favourite bars, pubs and restaurants as often, we’re instead exploring new recipes, pouring ourselves a glass and logging on virtually to catch up with friends and keep ourselves entertained.

For the wine lovers, the new to wine and all of the in between, our Home Tasting Experience is here, with everything you need to host your own wine tasting from home. Whether you choose to order the kit as an indulgence for yourself or you decide to gift it to a loved one, it’s the perfect way to learn more about wine.

So, what’s included?

A wine tasting wouldn’t be a wine tasting without the wine. We’ve selected six delicious wines from our range for you to discover, three reds and three whites.

The reds include our classic, velvety-smooth red Cabalié from France, a deeply-fruited blockbuster from Portugal and a luscious and plummy Malbec-Bonara all the way from Argentina. Whites boast zingy Grüner Veltliner, Austria’s mouth-watering speciality, alongside a ripe, juicy Pinot Gris and tropical, satisfying Cabalié Blanc. If you much prefer a certain style over the other, there is an all-whites or an all-reds case available too, each of which include the full home tasting experience essentials.

So that’s the wine sorted, but those new to the wine world might be thinking ‘how will I open the bottles and what will I drink them from?’ Our Home Tasting Experience includes a Cabalié branded waiters friend corkscrew and six Sunday Times Wine Club tasting glasses. Alongside the import bits (aka the wine), you’ll also be emailed wine-tasting tutorial videos from our expert wine educator, Grant Hedley. Our fun and informative taste-along videos go through the following:

  • All about the various grape varieties, regions and produces
  • Tasting notes for each wine
  • Perfect food and wine pairings

You’ll be able to access these whenever best suits you, so if you don’t want to try all six wines in one evening then you can revisit the videos as and when you please. Alongside being emailed the videos, you’ll also get a scorecard to rate each of the wines and tasting notes to download.

What are you waiting for? Order your very own Home Tasting Experience at just £80, that saves you £21. We’d love to see your pictures of you enjoying your own Home Tasting experience, do tag us on your Instagram posts and stories. You can find us at @sundaytimeswineclub

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