It rained the day I went to Chatsworth but at least I found some wines for summer

Chatsworth summer beans

I haven’t worked out what the weather is supposed to be doing as one minute I’m absolutely roasting, and the next the dog refuses to go out because of the rain. In that spirit of confusion, here’s some white and red wines for summer which can be flexible for a barbecue or offer a hug as you stare at a downpour.

Whites for a summer’s afternoon (sunny or not)

I popped over to the  RHS Chatsworth Flower Show  where Villa Maria Wines were showcasing the very good eco-friendly, sustainable work they are doing back in their New Zealand vineyards. Here’s a handful of pictures … and don’t you just love the beans at the top of this post?! (They’re nothing to do with wine or Villa Maria – but I spotted them at Chatsworth and love them.)

There was an extra bonus as Villa Maria were serving little tasters of their wines. Well you know, I couldn’t say no. Here’s three of them.

Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling 2016 (£7.99 in a buy six price, or £10.49 per single bottle, Majestic, 12% abv) is a straw colour with floral notes of spring blossom and freesia, with pear apple and lime; the acidity is good and refreshing and it lifts along flavours of pineapple and juicy lime. Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Grigio 2016 (Waitrose, £10.99, 13% abv) has red apple on the nose, pear and stone fruit, and is soft and supple in the mouth with flavours of ripe apples and pears and a flash of cinnamon. Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Marlborough (£8.61 in a buy six price or £11.49 per single bottle, Majestic, 13% abv) This has reflections of  gooseberries and sorrel together with good acidity. A friend who was with me said “it is quite winey”. Enough said, you don’t need me.

I had to show you this picture from Chatsworth. I said to my friend, ooo look, a sheep.  IT’S A COW she said. Bottoms Up.

Bottoms up Chatsworth Garden Festival

Two barbecue (or rainy day) reds

Santa Rita National Gallery Series Pinot Noir 2016 (£8.50, Sainsbury’s 13.5% abv) is one of a special release of wines from Chilean wine producer Vina Santa Rita. The National Gallery wines (which also include sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and merlot) will use images from the gallery on their labels over the next three years. The pinot noir label depicts Camille Pissarro’s ‘The Boulevard Montmartre at Night’.

This wine has aromas of fresh raspberries and strawberries squished into a summer pudding, with spice and vanilla taking the lead on the palate, with the fruit saying I’m here!! Don’t forget me!!  A percentage of the profits of each bottle will go to the National Gallery.

Domaine Jones Grenache Noir 2014 Côtes Catalanes (£12.50, The Wine Society 14.5% abv)  Rich plums and hedgerow fruit can deliver a cuddle if  the summer forgets to make an appearance. The wine adds in a shake of spice, a grip of tannin and oh, if I must contribute I’ll cook a steak with a peppery sauce (no cream, mind) and I’ll then forgive the sun for not shining.

A Gin Makeover

In this day of craft gins and all kinds of hullabaloo around the gin industry then perhaps Greenall’s Gin has felt the time is right to shout about its roots. Greenall’s Gin (RRP £21 a litre, widely available) was created by Thomas Dakin in 1761 and the brand has now released a new bottle inspired by those available 250 years ago. It has 1761 embossed on the neck, together with a Greenalls crest. If you serve the gin simply with two slices of lime, and tonic, and lots of ice, then what’s not to like.

*Prices correct when published – June 2017 – in over 20 Trinity Mirror regional newspapers including:

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express


Champagne on ice that’s great, yes please. But what’s this? Champagne WITH ice?

Moet Ice Imperial champagne with ice

I know I’m not fashionable. I only have to look in my wardrobe to know that. I don’t listen to the latest tunes and I prefer to watch a Doris Day film rather than a superhero leaping from a building dressed as a spider.

But I am what I am.

The other week I was invited to a special tasting with winemaker Marie-Christine Osselin from Moët & Chandon. I love meeting people who are at the heart of making wine, its a great chance to pick their brains.

But back to my fashion sense, or should I say awareness. We went through Moët’s range of champagnes and then … what’s this? A champagne to drink with ice? Sacre bleu!!

Yes indeedy, Moët have created Moët Ice Impérial which is designed to drink with ice (£45 and Selfridges, 12% abv). I’d never heard of this idea but it seems a few people have – some folks at the tasting said, oh yes, this is great, and a workpal tells me she’s seen the champers on holiday. (The workpal was on holiday, not the champagne – I don’t think it would be very good at packing a suitcase).


Part of me was kind of, well, why would you spoil a champagne with ice? But it’s fashion apparently. There you have it, I’m not fashionable.

Marie told our little gathering that the ice is even used as part of the blending process – this is when the winemaking team decides what proportions of each of the core champagne wines – pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay – they will use to create the flavours and style of wine they want.

I tried the champers both on its own (no ice) and with ice, together with a slice of pink grapefruit. I wasn’t a huge fan of the champagne “neat” but yes, with the grapefruit and ice it went up another level and was fruity and refreshing, but a tad sherberty. It is sweet, that’s for sure. I can imagine it being a wow in the heat of the Mediterranean sun.

Then – just days after my Moët experience, along came another wine in a similar vein. Freixenet ICE White (RRP £12.99. Morrisons, Tesco and Ocado, 11.5 % abv) is also designed to be tasted with ice.

This cava is a blend of the traditional cava grapes macabeo, xarel-lo and parellada, together with chardonnay, and has been aged in Freixenet’s cellars for up to 14 months. I chunked some ice into a bowl of a glass (my gin glass) and glugged in the cava.

Again, sweetness is king here and the fizz had aromas of honeysuckle, sweet peas and tropical fruit, with an underlying lift of vanilla and biscuit. It’s one to consider for summer afternoons on the patio.


Also in my glass …. I’ve moved from one chapter of my life to another. To mark it, I had a sip of more fizz. And why not. Gremillet Rose d’Assemblage Brut, (£24.99, WineTrust100, 12% abv) is a champagne made from pinot noir (70%) and chardonnay (30%) and is a lush salmon pink colour with bubbles that are happy to greet you. It has aromas of ripe strawberries and red berries and that oh-I-so-love aroma of vanilla and freshly-baked biscuits. To taste, its a fizz whizz of red fruits and citrus with a good acidity.

*Published in May 2017 in over 20 regional UK newspapers including:

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express