New Zealand - The Lord of the Rieslings

The world of wine has its rotation of darlings of the moment. Years ago it was the sickly sweet German Liebfraumilch, then the buttery oily Chardonnays followed by the often thin and tasteless Pinot Grigios. One of the more recent additions is New Zealand.

Hitting the shelves with as much oomph as the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the clever marketing folk at Cloudy Bay created an exclusive and high quality brand image that was backed by an interesting mouth-watering Sauvignon Blanc. The New Zealand version of the grape variety was much crisper and juicier than the French Sancerre version and often had a grassy/limey/capsicum edge to it. In a world of bland Pinot Grigios, these taste sensations had as big a wow factor as the special effects of Peter Jacksons trilogy. Limited availability meant this only added to the buzz and the desirability factor – New Zealand wine suddenly became very exciting and fashionable.

But it’s been some time since the Kiwi wines made their initial impact in the UK. Is popularity starting to wane? Are people looking for the next taste experience or fashionable region to take its place? Is Kiwi wine starting to head towards the big Black Tower in the sky?

Absolutely not. Many of the ‘one hit’ wonders mentioned already have been relatively one dimensional, often to the detriment of the wine region.  Germany was solely focused on low alcohol very sweet whites for the mass market which has tainted peoples perception of German wines. To this day, this damage is still being felt. I brought a very nice bottle of German Riesling to a dinner party recently and as soon as people saw the funny label and learned where it was from, the facial expressions were being set to ‘grimace’. It was only when I was not force-feeding people to try it did they realise that it was probably not a prank and potentially very nice, And it was. Yes it was sweeter than other whites being sampled that night but the Riesling had gorgeous fresh acidity that provided the wine with excellent balance; very different from those German wines we guzzled in the eighties and nineties.

Of the recent public favourites, Australia has been facing some criticism in the press for not moving with the times. The trademark full bodied and [often] high alcohol Shiraz and oily Chardonnays are still very much in full view on supermarket shelves (though more up market offerings are moving with the times). The British public are apparently more concerned about their alcohol intake and are growing wary of wines with alcohol levels in excess of 13%. Many Aussie reds are well in excess of this with 14.5% being more like the norm. Much of this alcohol is as a result of the sugar generated in the berries because of the extreme Aussie temperatures and managing this while still producing a wine with balance is incredibly difficult.

You could quite rightly state that New Zealand is at risk of becoming a one [or two] trick pony with its lead characters being zingy Sauvignon Blanc and spicy Pinot Noirs. They have been star performers but we are easily bored; we need variety in our lives. Does New Zealand deliver this? It does. In fact the wonderful Pinots and Sav Blancs are only the first instalment in the blockbuster that is the Kiwi wine trilogy.

The second instalment is all about regionality. The Kiwis are very proud of the distinct characteristics of their wines that make them unmistakably NZ. More often than not even novice winetasters can pick out a Kiwi wine in a blind tasting. But some of the winemakers there are looking to impart a sense of local terroir to give them that additional complexity. How this is handled is very important; it is vital that there still is s distinct New Zealand style to the wines. After all that is what has made them incredibly successful. A number of years ago I visited one of the most famous Pinot producers in Marlborough. It was on this very site that I fell in love with Kiwi wines and an event that started a particular fascination for Pinot Noir, one of the most difficult grapes to make good wine with. When I went to the cellar door I was giddy as a school boy on Christmas morning – I could hardly contain my excitement. The I tasted the wine. That New Zealand Pinot Noir with its powerful fruit structure, hints of spice, and excellent balance with soft round tannins was gone. If I’m being honest, it tasted like they had added water to the wine I had drank there previously meaning the characteristics were significantly less pronounced.  The wine was actually very boring. Seeing my shocked expression, the host thought this was surprise at how wonderful their wine was. “I know what you’re thinking”, she proudly proclaimed, “just like the great wines of Burgundy in France!” She couldn’t have been further from the mark.

While imitation is a form of flattery, in this case it really wasn’t. Instead of producing some of New Zealand’s best and exciting Pinot Noir they decided to make something no better than very cheap French table wine. Oh, but charged 10 times the price.  Why??? We’re in New Zealand at an award winning winery noted for their full, complex Pinot Noirs and they are proudly serving Ribena light. Also, pardon the obvious but if I would have wanted to taste French Pinot at a winery I could have achieved that with a few hours on a train rather than a day stuck on a 747 with screaming kids, snoring parents and dodgy movies to pass the time. The French also do the French style significantly better than other nations.

Thankfully, this copycat mentality did not catch on. Kiwi winemakers are very proud of their product and are looking to improve its complexities and ageing potential rather than mimic what other regions produce.

One excellent example of this focus on regionality is being spear headed by Villa Maria. One of the largest producers and exporters of New Zealand wines they have recently begun showcasing wines from individual vineyards which indeed have a distinct flavour of the local terroir. They have taken Pinot and Sav Blanc, and produced wines with interesting individual nuances that reflect the soil and climate of the region they hail from while remaining unmistakably Kiwi. What is astonishing is how varied the tastes and textures are from plots of land that are on some cases only a hop, skip and a jump away from each other. It’s obviously much harder work producing wines from single vineyards but the results are well worth the effort.  Villa Maria recently held a very interesting tasting event that involved a blind comparison between their wines and the main Old World players. This included France for their Sav Blanc and Pinot. The results were impressive; not only were the Kiwi wines the general winners on the night, when the price of Old and New world wines were compared, the Kiwis were always cheaper and usually significantly so. In most cases you could pick the Kiwi wines from the Old World version but New Zealand tended to be more interesting and complex and significantly better value.

The third and probably most spectacular instalment of the trilogy is a bit of a ‘card up the sleeve’ of NZ.  While the World has marvelled at its Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir, the Kiwi’s haven’t been resting on their laurels. Instead they have been working hard to exploring new potential wine regions and experimenting with other grape varieties. The results are very exciting.

Chardonnay has been established for some time now and the New Zealand style is very different to their Aussie neighbours; the cooler climate leads to lighter style wines that are elegant with little oak. Also expect some fresh green notes and tinges of minerality. Many of us that are generally not Chardonnay drinkers are pleasantly surprised at how delicious the New Zealand versions are.

Next up is Syrah [aka Shiraz].  Again the cooler climate leads to wines with more complexity and layers than those from hotter climates. One of the most exciting regions for producing Syrah and other Bordeaux blend reds [Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon] is a region called Gimblett Gravels. This may sound like a region somewhere in the depts. Of Mordor but actually it is in Hawkes Bay on the East Coast of the North Island. Up to the late 1980’s this was regarded as the worst piece of land in the area, not fit for growing crops or grazing sheep – the only use the land had was for mining gravel. It amused the locals no end when people started planting grapes on this barren and stony land but it was the innovative and slightly daft vineyard owners who had the last laugh. After some fine tuning the area was found to produce wines of exceptional flavour and complexity, the hostile soils making the vines work ridiculously hard to produce fruit which would be low yielding and full of flavour. In many peoples opinion, this is potentially the holy grail for wine production that could rival or even [dare we say] better the examples coming from Bordeaux.

Back to the white wines, Riesling is fast becoming an established wine from New Zealand with styles to suit all palates. In hotter parts of the country such as Central Otago, the Rieslings have a more mineral, flint character often with that trademark petrol smell. In cooler climes such as Marlborough, Rieslings tend to be fruitier, and sweeter with fresh acidity. In our big Kiwi tasting we were surprised to find that there was a Riesling to suit all tastes, even for those who originally classified themselves as Riesling-haters.

Completing the set are two more white wine varietals; Gewürztraminer and Pinot Gris. Both of these wines vary in style significantly between producers with the key difference being levels of sweetness.  Expect the traditional aromas of Lychees and Turkish Delight  with the Gewürztraminer but with more fruit and a fresher style than the Old World versions. The Pinot Gris varied more dramatically with some versions being a more interesting take on Pinot Grigio with others rich and  syrupy.

And if you’re looking for a sequel [if they exist where there is a trilogy] the left fielder to keep an eye out for is Kiwi dessert wines. Last time I visited NZ and did a cellar tour I was absolutely blown away by their pudding wines – an intense experience where fruit, sugar and acidity are in perfect balance. But for many years we have been denied access to these little bottle wonders because of EU regulations on alcohol levels. But after 15 years of relentless campaigning the EU has been convinced [finally] that we are old enough to take care of ourselves and a green light ha been giving to import them into the UK. Halleluiah.

So we come to the end of our journey around the wines of New Zealand. A voyage less harrowing than Mr. Frodos and a lot more fun to be a part of than fighting ugly looking wart covered monsters. If you want to do that I suggest you try our local Walkabout on a Thursday night.

It's Pinot Grigio kids but not as we know it...

At a recent visit to a very reputable restaurant in Amsterdam, I noticed on the wine list that a Pinot Grigio was the most expensive white wine. Intrigued, I asked the friendly wine guy about it explaining that typically in the UK, Pinot Grigio was seen as the entry level house wine and not the flagship event. He told me that it was his favourite wine on the whole list and I am easily led astray. We ordered a bottle and it looked...interesting.

I don't like the look of yours much...

I don't like the look of yours much...

When I looked at it, it didn't look appealing. Thankfully we had been pre-warned that this was an Orange Wine. For those folks who have never heard of Orange Wine, here's why it looks (and tastes) so funky.

Traditionally, white wine is made by pressing the white wine grapes and then avoiding any subsequent contact with the skins. For red wine, this is generally preferred as the skins give the wine extra colour and add tannin. Tannins on most white wines are generally seen as a no-no.

However, for the production of orange wine, the wine maker employs more of a red wine making approach ensuring that there is sufficient contact with the grape skins to give the wine some tannin and colour; it can look odd if you're not expecting it.

As for the taste, this orange wine was a Radikon Pinot Grigio 2014 from Italy and was clearly a wine that sat between a white and a red. Initial flavours were more red wine dominant with gentle blackberry / strawberry fruit flavours followed by a white wine pear drop finish that was rich and buttery. 

Not an experience that would appeal to everyone but you never know until you try!

Gift ideas for the wine lover in your life!

We all have wine lovers (or wine lover wannabes) in our life. We're here to here to help take the stress out of panic buying the right gift for your favourite wino.


Our pick of top wine gifts for this Christmas

1. Decanter: No wine lovers house is complete without a decanter as a centre piece. If you're feeling generous, Riedel are the Rolls Royce equivalent and have some amazing decanters that are nothing short of wine porn. However, you can get really nice decanters from other brands from around the £35 mark. Try John Lewis as a starter.

2. Glasses: Not courtesy of specsavers but nice glasses to hold your wine in. Again, Riedel set the benchmark for the serious wine professional, but there are some cute and trendy alternatives that are very successful at holding wine while also looking rather trendy. A nice selection of plain and pattern glasses for all budgets are at Debenhams at a variety of price ranges.

3. Wine books: If you're not drinking wine, why not read about it? Want some excellent wine tips, try Hugh Johnson's excellent Pocket Wine Book to identify great value bottles. Fancy something a little more fun? Go for 1001 wines to try before you die. Or for those who would like to learn about wine in a very non-stuffy way, you can't beat Wine Folly's A Visual Guide to Wine

4. A Wine log: Many serious wine drinkers like to keep notes of wines they had. While there are lots of wine apps out there that do the job, there's something special about having an old fashioned paper based version. Here's a really nice one that can be personalised from notonthehighstreet

5. Nose trainers!: The real wine geeks love the challenge of identifying smells within a wine and this kit allows your wine lover to practice without having to open a bottle. Available from WineWare at the starting price of £28.

6. Wine Society Subscription: This is an absolute no brainer for us. For a measly £40 you get membership of the best wine membership there is where you are part of a not for profit organisation that sells exceptionally good wines that represent fantastically good value for money. Oh, and you get a £20 credit for your first order! Check them out at The Wine Society.

7. Wine course: We believe that a little bit of knowledge makes wine a lot more fun. There are lots of wine courses out there from fun to factual. On the fun side, check out providers such as LocalWineSchool. If you want to get a bit more technical, the WSET provide industry recognised qualifications for all levels.

8. Wine taste lab: Something we have tried from Honest Grapes this excellent wine tasting lab forces you to taste wines without knowing what they are and not be influenced by the label. You answer some questions and they come back with some real insight as to what wines you like and why you like them.

9. Corkscrews: There is real ceremony in opening a bottle of wine and we all have a favourite corkscrew. Trendy wine drinkers just love having a good old-style corkscrew which is much better at delicately extracting a fragile cork from an old bottle. Check out WineWare for a great selection but we're hoping Santa brings us a hand crafted Laguiole.  

10. Bottle of wine: An easy one to end on. Who doesn't like to get a bottle of wine as a gift? But don't go to your supermarket and pick up one on offer, instead find a good local independent wine shop, tell them a little about teh recipient and get them to pick one for your budget. Places like The Sampler have a fantastic selection of wines across most price ranges.

So there you have it - all your Christmas shopping concerns sorted. Now you can put your feet up and enjoy a well earned glass yourself.

Drinking wine can save your relationship!!!

Man, that's one hell of a sales pitch. My initial reaction having seen this curious headline was that this must be a piece circulated by Hallmark or some other empire that profits off the forced romance of Valentines Day. Then I realised that it's not actually February...

So, on digging further, it seems that the research has in fact been published in the Journals of Gerontology ( a much better 'ology' than the Scientology crew) which makes it seem even more official. They even titled the article as Drinking Patterns Among Older Couples: Longitudinal Associations With Negative Marital Quality which suggests that those involved with the publication were taking their task quite seriously and didn't have the time, resources or inclination to devise a punchy or humorous title....

If you want to read the official report, knock yourself out (or at least sedate yourself heavily) and click through here. However, to save time, let us instead argue the case based on many years and bottles of wine that drinking wine can indeed save your relationship.

  1. Wine makes you and your surroundings more interesting. This is achieved either through people sharing a common passion for wine, increasing your animation levels and making you more interesting to those around you or providing a level of intoxication that acts as a diffuser to unwanted interference. Political debate is like nails on a blackboard to many, but add a bottle of Rioja and all of a sudden its a Punch and Judy show for adults.
  2. Nice wine makes you happy. And euphoria is infectious. They say misery likes company but company would much rather silliness and Chardonnay.
  3. Arguing after (too much) wine doesn't count. If we do remember having an argument, we usually can't remember what it was about. It gets all the angry out of the system in a controlled manner where slip ups such as 'you are turning into your mother' and thankfully forgotten by the next day. This release mechanism means we don't need to have real arguments which is nice for all involved. 
  4. Wine collections keep couples together. Of those possessions where there is a genuine concern as to what happens post relationship, the order of priority is (1) dog, (2) wine and (3) children. If your dusty bottles all of a sudden have some fingerprint marks, these could be a sign of your other half weighing up his or her options before making a call to stay or to go. If you don't have a dog and do have nice wine, best cook something special, wear something clingy and suggest an early night.

So in conclusion, it is interesting to note that, (without scientific qualifications or substantial lottery funding) we have managed to come to the same conclusion as our intellectual superiors. However, I bet we had a lot more fun completing our research... ;-) 

Get off chardonnays case, and get on to a case of chardonnay.

There’s a crime happening in your country, in your town, probably in your kitchen. Many of the people you know are chardonnayism. Hell, you might be guilty of it yourself. As is often the case of many ‘ism’s’, ignorance is to blame for this hate crime against one of the most widely planted white grape varieties on the planet.

Without wishing to exacerbate on any hate crimes, the finger can be pointed fairly squarely at the Aussies as one of the main reasons for this loathing of Chardonnay. Those big gloupy buttery examples that graced the supermarket aisles c15 years ago were more like alcoholic olive oil than anything resembling a pleasant and elegant drink to accompany some fancy fish dish. Many have suffered and few have forgotten the experience.

But this was not wine, just like Crossroads was not really television. It’s time to open your mind and your palate and experience the wonder of what good chardonnay is like.

The catalyst for my rant is a very delicious French white Burgundy that is tickling my senses and tantalising my taste buds in the most amazing way. Yes, the wine is a little rich (very little!) but this is balanced with a hint of citrus acidity and a delicious long finish with a nutty edge (like many of my friends). This wine is elegant, not sickly. And it is Chardonnay.

I admit I was very much in the ABC camp (Anything But Chardonnay) but thanks to my very good friend, the very wise Holly, I have seen the light. 

So don’t listen to UKIP or any other crazy folk who try and talk you out of trying Chardonnay again. Chardonnay is not stealing your jobs and your women nor is it the reason for petty crime in your City Centre. Instead, check out our knowledge section about Chardonnay including some excellent examples to try.

Majestic Definition range definitely delicious

We have previously tasted and reviewed see of the wines on the Majestic 'Definition' range within our wine reviews section.  

We felt that they represented good value for money with a nice range of grape varietals and regions to suit most shoppers.

Turns out we were not alone. Since the launch of the range in Autumn 2015, Majestic have seen sales top the £5m mark with their Prosecco, Sauvignon Blanc and Rioja Reserva being the most popular.

At the recent International Wine Challenge and Decanter World Wine Awards the range came away with 24 medals including 2 gold medals at the IWC for their Chardonnay and Rioja Reserva (both reviewed here). 

Recently the range has grown from 12 to 14 wines with the addition of a Pouilly Fume and a Chianti Classico. 

Pricing is between £8 and £14 and are available in-store and online.

For more details visit Majestic Wine.

Pinot Noir can save your life

Anyone who knows me will tell you how much I adore Pinot. I am definitely a Pinot-groupie. I don't believe there is another wine out there that tantalises the senses quite like it.

What's my desert island drink? Definitely a bottle of Pinot though whether it's from Old World France or New World USA / New Zealand will be dependant on who is picking up the tab.

Many of you will have seen (or heard of) the movie Sideways. It was a movie that caused the sale of Pinot to skyrocket while castrating the Merlot market with one (unjustified) line in the movie. Not an Oscar winner but worth a view with a pizza and a nice bottle of vino.

This weekend in the Guardian there was a very interesting article about the author: "I was ready to shoot myself - then I found Pinot Noir". Nice to see there is another avid fan of the grape though I think he may be taking things to a whole new level...


Are you a Mary Poppins or a Mr. Hyde??

Before you open that next bottle of wine and over-indulge yourself, do you know what kind of drunk you are?

The Corrs were caught without their makeup on a night out in Dublin.

The Corrs were caught without their makeup on a night out in Dublin.

Before we proceed can we point out that we are in no way encouraging intoxicating behaviour! [Health and safety point - tick].

In fact, the categorisation of types of drunk people was the subject of a scientific study in the US. The University of Missori-Columbia studied 4 distinctive personalities when people became drunk.

The Mary Poppins Drunkards are friendly, cooperative, compassionate and agreeable. This category made up 15% of the sample and was female dominant.

The Mr Hyde Drunks become less conscientious and intellectual and also less agreeable with an increased propensity to spend the night at the pleasure of her Majesty. Memory blackouts are also common. Worryingly 23% of the drinkers fell (no pun intended) into this unsociable category.

The Nutty Professor category was male dominant and made up 20% of the overall sample. People in this category showed significantly higher extroversion with a decline in conscientiousness.

The Hemingway category was the most popular category with over 40% of people who displayed very little decrease in intellect and are considered 'reliable'.  

Christmas wine tips

Tis the season to be jolly and all that. Tis also the season of the greatest meal of the year - the mighty christmas dinner. For such a momentous occasion it’s important that the wines are also up to the task. To help you pick suitable worthy wines, here’s as couple of pointers on what to ask Santa for this Christmas (assuming you’ve been sufficiently well behaved)….


There’s something special about having a glass of bubbles in your hand and Christmas Day is as good a reason as any to crack open a bottle of fizz. 

Champagne is the obvious choice but with its high levels acidity might be too much for some particularly for Christmas lunch. If that’s the case, there are some great alternatives within Prosecco or Cava. For both of these, avoid entry level wines and go a little further up the food chain to find something that can resemble the complexity of a champagne. On Prosecco, the Prosecco La Marca Cuvee from Majestic is soft with gentle peach flavoured acidity that makes it work as a very quaffable aperitif. On the Cava side, the Codorníu Selección Raventós NV (also available at Majestic is vibrant and crisp with peach and lemon flavours.


Wines with dinner

Traditional christmas dinners posses a wide range of flavours from the sumptuous turkey smothered in rich delicious gravy, to the sweet and tangy roast ham to the antique naval shavings flavour of brussels sprouts. To ensure that all these flavours can be appreciated (or avoided in the case of the horrible little green sprouts) you need a wine that can complement a broad range of flavour without overpowering. 

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of


A white wine is a safe bet though some ground rules still apply. Some suggestions include:

Chardonnay: this will massively upset the ABC brigade (anything but chardonnay) but a nice elegant chardonnay is a great match. A good French Chablis (some excellent examples in M&S around £12) has a wonderful citrus and nutty profile that go so well with turkey and trimmings.

Riesling: this is a trickier wine to get right as Riesling comes in so many shapes and sizes. Some rieslings have strong petrol-like aromas which are generally ok but personally find it a little too much for the Christmas dinner. Others can be overly sweet which can be a little too much sugar for the savoury Christmas meal. A dry Riesling however can have just a hint of sweetness wonderfully matched with citrus and minerality that makes it an excellent choice. This style of Riesling tends to be more commonly found in New World wines and New Zealand are bringing out some crackers. A good choice would be the Villa Maria Riesling at c£11 which has pleasant floral and lime aromas, a touch of sweetness but well balanced acidity to give nice complexity on the palate. 

Red wines: Personally I like a nice glass of red with our turkey. Many reds will be too big and tannic for white meat so we need something soft and elegant so we’ll be drinking a sumptuous bottle of Pinot Noir with our dinner. Pinot is a personal favourite - it’s one of the most difficult grapes to grow but when done well has layers of silky fruit, elegant tennis and a delicate shot of spice; a wonderful combination. Because the grape is expensive to grow, good Pinot does not come cheap. Avoid anything sub £10 and be wary sub £15. If you’re looking at French pinot, it’s even bigger minefield (I've tasted £50+ and had too many disappointing encounters). A decent well priced French example is Mâcon Rouge 'Les Roches Rouges' 2014 Louis Jadot available in Majestic amongst other places, this has gentle hints of strawberry candy and vanilla and is very drinkable (I used to call this our ‘house wine’).

Again it’s hard to ignore New Zealand for this grape variety. the Kiwis originally made their name with the white Sauvignon Blanc but their Pinot followed very closely behind. This year the main event wine will be Seresin Rachel Pinot Noir from Marlborough New Zealand, well worth the £20 spent with The Wine Society. This wine is very elegant but complex with plum flavours and a savoury edge. 

After dinner

The groaning has started and everyone is removing belts and opening the top button on the trousers. However, the meal isn’t done. Goading you from the dinner table will no doubt be a lump of Christmas pudding or perhaps a vat of sherry trifle and therefore an opportunity (or need in my case) to have some suitable matching wines.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Port: for us port at Christmas is an institution. It’s like crack-cocaine for the mother in law and it helpfully aids her along the way to her afternoon nap thus giving us full control of the afternoon TV schedule.  Port comes in different styles with Tawney port being ripe and jammy in style whereas Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) has more silky plum flavours. Both of these are a good match for Christmas Pud or purely as something to sip while getting depressed over the Eastenders Christmas special. I personally like the look of the Taylors Quinta de Vargellas from Waitrose at £30 or the Taylors LBV at £12.

Dessert wines: if port is not your style, don't give up the opportunity for a delicious tipple with your unnecessary dessert. There are a couple of very interesting wines that come to mind, both available from Majestic. First of all the Elysium Black Muscat 2014 at c£10 which has rich bramble flavours and pairs well with Christmas pudding. Secondly the out of this world Royal Tokaji 5 Puttonyos is unique with flavours of marmalade, fig and caramel and a great companion for blue cheese. Well worth it's £22 price tag..

So I hope you found this helpful in getting your wine selection spot on for the Christmas Season. What I would recommend to everyone is that they get out of the supermarket shelves and find themselves a good local wine merchant (a Majestic or independent shop) where you can have a conversation about what works and doesn’t work for you and they can help ensure that you pick the right wines. 

If you don’t do this already, you should make it your new year resolution to do so - your palate and your drinking buddies will thank you!

Happy Christmas everyone and best wishes for 2016.

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

Our kinda boot sale @winecarboot

When you hear 'car boot sale' you immediately think of ridiculously early mornings to tramp around a field with a pile of fuddy-duddies selling their partially used lightbulbs and betamax tapes fighting for pitch space with some hippies who make cabbage and elderflower jam in their bathtub at home. There are many, many other activities I would like to undertake to pass away my precious weekends....such as removing corns from my mother in laws' feet. With my teeth. You probably have guessed, I’m not really a fan.

But here’s a car boot sale with a difference; it’s called Wine Car Boot (or @WineCarBoor for you Twitter types). The idea is simple and delicious. They pop along to a car park (hopefully) near you, each car is an independent wine shop that brings along a sample of their favourite wines for you to taste, try or buy and you don’t spend your day arguing over 50 pence on the price of a 3 legged table that used to have 4.

We love their slogan - ‘taste your way out of the supermarket!.

Entry is £12 which you buy online through their website and this gets you entry to the event, five samples tastings, a bottle of water (for those ok with mixing their drinks), a tasting glass and a six bottle wine carrier. There are some cracking independent wine shops that are going to be there so sod the Christmas shopping and give it a go. Plus who wouldn't love a bottle of tasty wine under their tree?? 

The tastings are done in five hour slots and the next event is this weekend at Kings Cross. I would really really really love to be going but alas the mother in law is visiting. Note to self, buy more dental floss.

Musings from Majestic trade tasting

People may think that running a wine website is all fun and glamour and parties and Pinot. Well it's not. Recently we had to trek all the way into Central London and work our way through 140 of the wines on Majestic's list for the good of our readers. You're welcome...

In summary, it was a very good tasting with lots of quality wines at good price points. Some highlights include the introduction of their first own-label range 'Definition' which is a selection of 12 wines with a good spread of regions and grapes. These wines were pretty solid (though one or two on the pricey side) with a couple of stand outs.

As we've come to expect from Majestic, there were some wines of fantastic character over-delivering in the £10 and below price point. Here's what to watch out for:

Majestic own label - Definition range

As mentioned above the Definition range is a welcome addition to their excellent line up. the Definition Chardonnay £12.99 (multi-buy £9.74) will turn the head of the most adamant Chardonnay avoider; rich with apple, toast and pear this is quite delicious. Also within this range their Definition Marlborough Pinot Noir at £15.99 (multi-buy £11.99) was rich and savoury with raspberry and dark cherry fruits, silky smooth. Finally in this range the Definition Rioja Reserva at £12.99 (multi-buy £9.74) was our Autumnal pick of the evening. Lovely heady aromas of black fruits with a smidgen of vanilla, this was rich and tasty with a hint of leather and smoke.

White wines

From France, their Symbioses Piquepoul Sauvignon Blanc Cuvee Florence at £9 (£6 on multi buy) was excellent value for anyone liking the fresh acidity of 100% sauvignon blanc but looking for something a little different. This was softer with hints of pear and made an interesting change from the fashionable Kiwi Savvy Blancs. If you fancy something a little sweeter, their Mas Neuf Muscat Sec at £10 (multi-buy £7.49) was floral and rich with some honey and pear, dangerously drinkable. 

New Zealand whites are a customer favourite at the moment and Tu Meke have 2 excellent value examples with their solid middle of the road style Sauvignon Blanc (£6 multi-buy) and tasty Chardonnay (£6 on multi-buy) that taste like it should cost more. A major surprise was Graham Norton's Own Sauvignon Blanc £11.99 (£8.99 multi-buy) which was surprisingly interesting with blackcurrant leaf aromas and a hint of pear.

As a treat, the Saintsbury Chardonnay from Carneros at £20 (£14.99 multi-buy) was excellent with fresh green apple, minerality and wonderful length. 

Going a little off piste, the Bellingham 'The Bernard Series' Viognier from South Africa £12.49 (£9.99 multi-buy) was rich and slightly sweet with lovely pear flavours and a hint of vanilla.

Red wines

I'm always very suspicious of Pinot Noir at sub £10 but the Romanians have done pretty well here. Their Incanta Pinot Noir at £8.99 (multi buy £5.99) is surprisingly drinkable. Soft red fruit flavours with a smidgen of spice, very good value at £6 and would keep a pizza in very good company. Similarly the Parcel Series from New Zealand is great value of £9 multi-buy price; dark cherry aromas with soft dark fruit flavours and a hint of pepper, nice length. As a treat (and a bargain) the Roaring Meg Pinot from New Zealand at its current multi-price of £15 is a steal for pinot of this quality; brooding dark fruit aromas this is rich and complex with slightly sweet black fruit; totally gorgeous.

Portugal is a region that regularly over delivers at the sub £10 price point and the Ramos Reserva is a cracking example of this, dark and savoury aromas with rich red fruit flavours and some vanilla on the finish, this wine is dangerously drinkable. For a few quid more, you can get the Quinta de Quercus also from Portugal which has those big dark fruit aromas with a hint of eucalyptus and rich blackcurrant flavours, it's knock your socks off stuff.


All in all a very solid range of wines were on show with wines in the £8-£15 price range performing best. While Majestic have recently removed their 6 bottle minimum buy, the discounts when you buy 6 or more are pretty hefty going all the way up to 33%. Wines at their full price typically represented reasonably good value with the real bargains when you took advantage of the discount so plan ahead and buy by the case.

Major changes at Majestic

Majestic Wine has today announced a new pricing proposition following feedback from customers who wanted 'simpler, clearer pricing and an end to the six bottle minimum' purchase. 

This is a significant and welcome shift in strategy for a retailer that has sold wine 'by the case' since its inception in 1980. This allows them to compete more directly with the supermarkets for those who tend to buy a bottle at a time.

We can also breath a sigh of relief that their discounting schemes no longer need a Carol Vorderman-esque mathematical mindset; discounts marked against that wine are offered on that bottle when 6 or more wines (of any mix) are purchased.  We are genuinely delighted to see this change as it was one of the biggest turn-offs when shopping there.

Finally, if you don't like the wines you buy, there's a hassle free money back guarantee.

All in all this is a very welcome change of focus for one of our favourite wine retailers. However, it's worth noting that Majestic talk about these changes (excluding the 6 bottle minimum) being 'for Christmas' so whether the model is tweaked further in 2016 remains to be seen.

Honest Grapes Taste Lab Test!

With lots of online wine retailers competing for your attention and hard earned cash, it’s becoming more and more difficult for these folk to stand out from the crowd. 

Wine is a very personal purchase and everyone is different. Buying wine outside of supermarkets is less about good (well made and with character) and bad (cheap, nasty, manufactured plonk) wine and more about buying nice wine, i.e. wines you like.

The benefit of a bricks and mortar wine shop is you have a human being to interact with, to discuss what you do and don’t like and to build a relationship with where they hold your hand through a discovery of new and interesting wines. 

Honest Grapes ( have a very interesting way of trying to bridge the gap between human interaction and online retailer - it’s their Taste Lab. The idea is simple but brilliant; a selection of 5 red and 5 white wines that you taste without knowing what they are, make notes on elements that you do / don’t like and they use this information to understand your profile and make wine recommendations. Genius? Quite possibly - we thought we should try it out.

The cost of the kit is £29 which might seem like a lot. When it arrived we quickly realised that this is actually a very well priced investment on helping you understand more about wine and what melts your butter. The kit looks very slick, well packaged in fancy black corrugated cardboard, the wine samples in sophisticated looking viles and the instructions are detailed and clear.  You need 5 suitable glasses for each tasting and need to follow the instructions carefully. 

Despite the fancy-shmancy packaging, we expected each wine to be an entry level example of the main grape varieties. We were very wrong. Without giving too much away, the wines were top notch, interesting examples that really caused some noodle scratching. We would drink quite a lot of different wines and we found a couple of eye-openers in the selection.

There was plenty of wine to complete the test; in fact, it’s probably worth involving a partner if you share wine purchasing and drinking responsibilities but note that each kit will only create one profile.

We would also recommend doing the whites and reds on 2 separate sittings. The white wines we found the most interesting and diverse. The reds felt a little samey compared to the whites and given the bigger taste profile of reds, this took a little more time and effort so best done in a separate session so not to overload the palate. 

At the end of the test, you’re allowed open the secret envelope to see what the names and prices of the wines sampled and to get the ‘expert’ answers to the test questions. We drink a lot of wine but there were definitely some interesting surprises when the results were read. As well as learning a lot, it also made the England v Uruguay rugby match much more interesting. 

Results were then entered online and a week later we got a very informative and detailed personal wine profile together with some tempting recommendations which we will definitely be ordering.

Overall, this is a cracking piece of kit for wanna be wine lovers. The best advice we got when we were budding winos was to taste lots of wines blind so as not to have any preconceived ideas before you even pick up the glass. This offering is fun, engaging and educational and is a great tool for understanding why you like what you like and helping you, with guidance from Honest Grapes, find new and exciting wines. The journey begins here! 

Burger King Wine? Please God no!

I had to double check my calendar this morning to be sure that I haven't just woken up on April 1st. 

Photo courtesy of Facebook / Burger King  Based on their food photos, I must assume that the real bottle of wine bears no resemblance to the photo above.

Photo courtesy of Facebook / Burger King

Based on their food photos, I must assume that the real bottle of wine bears no resemblance to the photo above.

To mark Burger King's 40 years of operating in Spain (I refuse to use the word celebrate in this sentence) they have 'innovated the wine making process' by flame grilling the barrels to deliver a wine that has a taste perfectly suited to their flame grilled whoppers.

I really wish this was an April Fools Joke. Really really...

Golfers who make wine

For a number of professional golfers, being successful on the course usually leads to your own wine label off the course.

But can they successfully manage a golf career and be decent wine producers? Or is it a case [pun intended] of 'don't give up the day job'.

A master Sommelier blind tasted 5 whites and 7 reds produced by professional golfers to see if they were below par. See the results in the video link below:

Celebrate international Grenache day!

Today, Friday the 18th September, is International Grenache day. While it's unlikely that you need an excuse to drink wine on a Friday, here's some good reasons for making it a glass of Grenache.

Why should you drink it? Chester Osborn of d'Arenberg wines in Australia said; "Once people taste a good Grenache they are converted, but the challenge lies in getting them to try it. As a variety, it has wonderfully fresh, sweet red fruits, beautiful spices and lively tannins. It's a great blending tool, but also makes brilliant single variety wines." Master of Wine Jancis Robinson states that "Grenache is an unlikely hero of a grape". 

You may have been drinking Grenache without even realising it; it's one of the most widely planted varietals, being particularly popular in Spain (as Garnacha) and France where it is dominant in many Southern Rhone wines including the delicious (and often expensive) Chateauneuf-du-Pape. 

In isolation, Grenache exhibits red fruit flavours of strawberry and raspberry with a spicy / peppery edge. This flavour profile makes it a good blending candidate and is commonly added to Shiraz / Mourvedre often labelled by Australia producers as 'GSM'.

Grenache wines to try:

La Garnacha 2014 Salvaje del Moncayo, Majestic, £7.49 (on offer)

"Powerful aromas of wild berries and tobacco leaf are tempered by a sense of freshness and floral edges. The middleweight palate has ripe red fruit, minerality and subtle French oak."

Blason des Papes Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Waitrose, £14.49 (on offer)

Finding decent Châteauneuf-du-Pape at sub £20 is difficult but this is good value for money (it's currently discounted from £22). "Rich texture and spicy red fruit flavours, bursting with heady redcurrant fruit followed by a smooth layer of cherry liqueur and a spicy finish. Best enjoyed with grilled lamb or pork."

Rioja Reserva 2010 CVNE, Majestic, £7.99 (on offer)

This award winning wine is described as "a soft luxurious wine, mid garnet in colour with a lovely brambly nose and a hint of spice. Nuances of warm leather, caramel and coffee over rich autumn fruit. Excellent balance and a lingering finish".

Decanter Wine Retailer Awards

Decanter, the well known UK based wine magazine, recently announced its winners of their annual Wine Retail Awards for 2015.

The awards aim to offer the UK wine drinker guidance on those wine retailers who, in the view of Decanter judges, show imagination, drive and evangelism across key categories ranging from high street supermarkets to specialist retailers.

Asda - best supermarket retailer. Decanter 2015 wine retailer awards. Photo courtesy of Decanter.

Asda - best supermarket retailer. Decanter 2015 wine retailer awards. Photo courtesy of Decanter.

There were some new names on the winners podium this year with Asda winning best supermarket, usurping the multiple winning M&S who took second place.

The Wine Society was a worthy repeat winner of the National Retailer of the Year (we are big fans) with Oddbins coming second.

Other notables were Uncorked of London taking the award for Small Independent Retailer and the crowd funded and quite fabulous New Zealand Wine Cellar recently opened in Brixton winning the award for the best Specialist Retailer of Australian and New Zealand wines.

Congratulations to all the winners - we will look at a number of these in more detail in the near future.

@Tescowines reduces range, shuts down online wine community

It has been announced that Tesco are to close their online wine community which had been established back in 2011 to act as a forum for wine lovers to communicate, gone too are the tastings that will cease in October.

Focus for the supermarket is around reducing its online and in-store wine ranges inline with an overall focus driven by the current CEO to reduce product ranges across the board.

The closure of the site has upset many of its members and it is expected that the reduction of its wine range is likely to disappoint many of its customers. 

Where to buy your wine

We at mywinespace believe that to find great value interesting wines you need to get out of the supermarket bargain buckets and into grown up wine retailers who know their stuff and will deliver a very personalised service.

One of the sections on our developing site will be around which outlets (high street and online) are worth a visit.

Our first article on where to buy your wine focuses on the award winning Majestic where down to earth qualified staff will hold your hand through the whole selection and help you find a bottle of something special. 

You can read the full article here: