Vineyard Partner or not, we urge you to ‘tune in’ and hear what four of our Vineyard Partners have been up to. They give us a fascinating, wide-ranging insight into life as a vigneron in today’s climate. Pour yourself a glass, pull up your armchair and listen in to the latest.
Introducing our participants, we have Jean-Marc Sauboua, winemaker for both Bordeaux’s Château La Clarière and Altos de Rioja, Norrel Robertson, our Flying Scotsman and the mastermind behind the fabulous, old-vine Garnacha Sierra de los Sueños from Calatayud, Paolo and Anna Rita Masi from Tuscany’s Il Corto, and Tony, with news from Windsor Great Park Vineyard.
Topics are wide-ranging – conversations you’d never find in ‘books’, virtual or for real. They talk about the pros and cons of the 2021 vintage and the wines you can expect when they’re released. Each explains the tasks currently underway in the vineyard or the cellar, how they are adapting to climate change and the considerable challenges it brings with it.
We hear about new projects, new vineyards, experimentation with clones, grape varieties and methods … these winemakers are really top of their game and always looking to push new boundaries in the name of exceptional quality, authenticity and uniqueness in their wines. You’ll also get a taste of what dishes they might enjoy with each of their wines.
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.
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!
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.
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.
‘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.’
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.
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.
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 Reservefrom Royal Tokaji in Hungary () perhaps? Or maybe something a little more full bodied such as theHunter’s Chardonnayfrom 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!
When we say Côtes du Rhône you’re probably already thinking of rich, plummy red wines. And you can certainly be forgiven for making that assumption, (reds make up 89% of the region’s wine production after all). But that doesn’t mean you should be discounting white wine made there.
Despite only accounting for 4% of the wine produced, what Côtes du Rhône whites lack in quantity, they make up for in character, charm and variety.
So, white wine lovers, forget Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon Blanc, even Chardonnay … and embrace the unique delights of the Côtes du Rhône.
So what’s so appealing about the Rhône’s whites?
As is the case with the region’s reds, the whites here offer a delicious and appealing range of styles. No surprise perhaps, when you consider the length of the whole valley (over 200km), the change of topography, soil and also the climate.
From the rounded peachy and apricot fruited, sometimes floral character of southern wines which gain their juicy ripeness from the area’s Mediterranean climate, to the more refined creamy, nutty and honeysuckle-scented wines of the north; the variety of the landscape and climate means there’s plenty to discover.
There is lots of encouragement from the press too: Decanter described white Rhônes as “weighty, food-friendly whites [that] are inexpensive”, while the Guardian’s Fiona Beckett praised them for offering “a broad range of full-bodied, complex whites that won’t burn a hole in your wallet.” Journalist Rose Murray-Brown MW in the Scotsman urges us,“grab what you can before Rhône whites become even more fashionable and prices start to rise.”
How does the region differ?
In Southeastern France, the valley starts between the granite-blessed Massif Central and the Alps in the north. Steep and narrow, as it heads towards Montélimar, Orange and the Mediterranean it gradually opens out to offer hills, then gentle undulations and plains. Soils change as well – from the granite and schist of the north to the clay-lime-marl of the south’s gentle slopes.
On this path south, the climate also changes. You start with typical inland continental – hot summers and cold winters, then gradually move into the appealing, temperate warmth of the Mediterranean – warm summers and moderate winters, accompanied by the strong Mistral wind.
Taking all that into account, it’s no surprise that the grape varieties change through the landscape as well, just like they do for its red wines. Northern vineyards champion floral and exotically flavoured Viognier, often a varietal wine (ie pure Viognier) or a blend of Roussanne and Marsanne, the two found in prized white Hermitage, Saint-Joseph and Château-Grillet.
Due to the labour intensity and expense of working these steep northern vineyards, most of the white wine output is cru or more expensive appellation wines. The most accessible Côtes du Rhône whites largely come from the south. There, winemakers promote white wines made from a delicious array of native varieties – Grenache Blanc, Roussanne, Marsanne, Viognier, Clairette and Bourboulenc, with small quantities of Terret Blanc and Picardin.
And what can you expect from these more southerly whites?
Broadly speaking, Côtes du Rhône Blancs are a gorgeous blend of the white grapes listed above. They have a satisfying weight and aromatic character (particularly if they include generous portions of Viognier or Clairette), with incisive, citrus-fresh minerality. These are perfect food wines, as well as being, for the most part, very appealing on their own. Largely they’ll remain fresh and unoaked, with only lees-ageing (lees are the sediment particles left after fermentation) bringing out the creamy roundness. Some will show a little oak, to lend extra toasty weight and complexity.
Côtes du Rhône whites – explore them now!
Now, more than ever, it’s a great time to discover the white wines of the Rhône – more advanced techniques have helped to produce brighter, more minerally and aromatic whites. Plus, of course, there’s an enthusiastic, new generation of winemakers taking charge, with greater knowledge and experience from all over the world. Armed with this, they bring with them new ideas and an energy to try new things.
So next time you want a wine to go with a chicken dish – chicken pie, spicy marinaded chicken with pecan rice, a creamy noodle dish or seafood, delve into the white wines of the Côtes du Rhône. You’ll find they make a perfect partner and are also appetisingly vibrant and fresh to enjoy all on their own. Cheers!
It’s that time of year where Christmas is approaching and we start to think about those thoughtful gifts for our loved ones. Wine is often regarded as a ‘safe’ present and there is always something to suit all tastes and preference whether that be for your parents, friends or even colleagues. It’s easy to throw a bottle or two into your trolley when doing your festive food shop. As this year’s Christmas may be a little different, why not put some extra thought into your loved ones’ gifts and give them something that will make them smile this Christmas. A gift from The Sunday Times Wine Club isn’t just a gift, it’s an experience. Let us show you our top picks for all types of wine lovers with something to suit every taste and budget.
Looking for that extra special gift for that very special someone? These four gifts will be perfect choices with something to please all tastebuds.
Delicious truffles and gold medal-winning Champagne… a match made in heaven if you ask us. This luxury gift will make the recipient feel well and truly spoiled. Not only does this set include tasty truffles and Paul Goerg’s gold medal-winning Champagne, you’ll also get two Dartington Crystal flutes to sip your Champagne from.
One of the most famous of all fine pink Champagnes. Champagne Laurent-Perrier’s rosé spends four years ageing in its cellar, developing great complexity. You’ll receive this presented in its special bottle and gift box, together with two Dartington Crystal flutes, and a Laurent-Perrier branded ice bucket, so you can serve these bubbles in style.
If you struggle to decide on red, white or fizz for your recipient, this gift is the perfect option with a taste of all three. These six wines will enhance any occasion with their quality and complexity of flavour. This selection compromises Didier Chopin Champagne, Saracosa Governo Rosso, Domaine Dampt’s Petit Chablis, the reserve edition of our exclusive Mussel Pot Sauvignon Blanc and Château la Vallée Montagne Saint-Emilion and last but not least, Limited Release McLaren Vale Shiraz… all presented in a luxury gift box.
Looking for that wow factor gift? This elegant hamper with luxurious blanket comes with two beautiful Dartington Crystal flutes and a bottle of Pol Roger Champagne, even more delicious well chilled. A generous gift which is perfect for couples. The upright hamper makes it a smart and convenient way to carry bottles to any occasion in the New Year to come.
Perhaps you’re looking for something slightly different to gift this Christmas. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. Here are our top picks:
This one’s for the Prosecco lovers out there. Your recipient will receive stylish sparkling wine flutes, making family-run Terra Batista’s creamy and complex Prosecco even more elegant.
Barbadillo Sherry & Olives Pack
Sherry and olives are the Spanish equivalent of cheese and crackers – the perfect pairing! Our Barbadillo Sherry & Olives Pack will see your recipient getting the taste of sunny Spain with the aromas and flavours of crisp and dry Manzanilla sherry paired with succulent, juicy olives.
This fine festive bouquet of elegant amaryllis, red roses and carnations are offset perfectly with pinecones and white thistles. Plus there’s more than a touch of splendour in the bottle of superb Louis Roederer champagne to add some sparkle.
You can now save the rest for later with this ETO Wine Preserver. This is the best of the best when it comes to keeping your open bottle in a drinkable condition. Not only is it highly praised for its ability to preserve wine, it also serves as an elegant decanter. A new, beautiful way to drink responsibly!
Gifts Under £40
Discover a selection of perfect gifts for wine lovers all under £40. We’ve got some great ideas for stocking fillers too.
Give the gift of wine discovery. In this duo you’ll find the fresh and fruity Il Basso Italian Merlot, a sure-fire crowd pleaser, and Viňa Tarapacá, our bestselling Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. A pleasing pair for someone who is just getting into wine.
Delight any wine lover with this gift set, presented in a luxury gift box. From winemaker Javier Murúa comes his Barón de Barbón, our bestselling Rioja. Our accompanying glasses will enhance the oak-aged aromas and flavours, opening up its toasty and spicy notes.
Harrow and Hope Brut Rosé
Give the gift of an elegant English sparkling wine this year. But this isn’t just any English sparkling wine, it was last year’s winner of Best English Vintage Sparkling Rosé. Harrow and Hope Brut Rosé use the classic Champagne grapes and traditional Champagne method. It’s got gorgeous berry and toasty richness. The lucky recipient will receive this fizz in a smart, wooden box.
We’ve picked wines from some of our most talented producers for this trio. Javier Murúa’s toasty and silky Barón de Barbón is our bestselling Rioja, the Zonin family makes our fresh and creamy Luminoso Leggero Prosecco, and our tropical and crisp Company Bay Sauvignon Blanc is crafted by one of Marlborough’s pioneering cellars.
Or why not try?…
Home Tasting Experience
Say hello to the do-it-yourself Home Tasting Experience. Not only will you SAVE 20% on a six-bottle showcase of delicious quality wine, which includes six glasses, and a Cabalié branded corkscrew, you’ll gain access to an in-depth tasting tutorial for each wine from our Wine Educator, Grant Hedley. Together, you will learn:
How to taste like a professional
All about the various grape varieties, regions and producers
Tasting notes for each wine
Perfect food and wine pairings
It’s the perfect gift for those wanting to learn more about wine, it’s also a great gift for yourself too. Find out more about what’s included in a Laithwaite’s Home Tasting Experience by clicking here.
We hope that you’ve found some inspiration for gifts to give this Christmas. You can view our full range over on our webpage.
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.
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.
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.