Wine Press: A train journey with some travel-sized wine bottles

DRINKING wine on the move can be a bit of a challenge, particularly if one of those moves is a Northern Soul wiggle on a Christmas party dance floor.

That, my friends, is my kind of move. But holding a glass of wine at the same time is not recommended. Health and safety apart, there’s lots of spillage.

 travel-sized wine bottles
A selection of wine “journey juice” as my travelling pal Katie describes it

I’m much happier drinking on the move but sitting down at the same time. The perfect place is on a train. The other day I bought a selection of those travel-sized wine bottles (20cl bottles) from Marks & Spencer and Tesco for no reason other than I passed the stores en route to the train station ahead of a long journey.

Marks & Sparks opened the Train Test with a couple of cavas. The first didn’t last much further than   the end of the departure platform.

Rosado Cava Prestige, M&S
Rosado Cava Prestige, M&S

Rosado Cava Prestige (£3.95 for 20cl). A “fresh and fruity rosada”, declares the label on the bottle. This, along with the other M&S cava, is branded as exclusive and unique to Marks & Spencer. I thought … “strawberries and squeaky tart in a nice lip-smacking way”. Did I write that? That’s wine for you.  But a lovely little pink taster of a fizz.

Brut Cava Prestige, M&S
Brut Cava Prestige, M&S

Its sister wine is Brut Cava Prestige (£3.95, 20 cl).  My notes said “shortbread, lemon and apple blossom”.  My lovely traveling pal Katie said “it just takes like wine. But I like it”.

Are they worth the money? Well it’s almost £4 a pop (even though there are several poppety-pops in a bottle). I’d say perhaps you can justify one to start your journey, especially if you’re heading home for Christmas in  a few weeks’ time.

Now things go downhill.  I’m not a fan of the mass-produced Big Label whites and I had two of them.

Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014
Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014

First up, Brancott Estate Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2014. (£2.29 from Tesco, and as I write you can get four small bottles for the price three).  Of the two, this was the brightest. There was gooseberry, and citrus and an aftertaste at the back of the mouth  akin to sucking a quarter of a lemon. Sadly, a hint of metal.

Chardonnay 2013 from Gallo Family Vineyards
Chardonnay 2013 from Gallo Family Vineyards

Chardonnay 2013 from Gallo Family Vineyards (Tesco price as above) Oh dear. Melon and pineapple and a rather unpleasant manufactured rubber taste. I did not enjoy. I wouldn’t buy again, small bottle or otherwise.

Never again.
Never again.

My lesson learned. I won’t bother spending over a tenner on these little things. In future I will invest in a full bottle of what I like, take a bag large enough to carry it (and a plastic cup of course). There’s the added bonus of luggage being lighter at the destination. My head too, I imagine.

In my glass … On the upside, this week I really enjoyed two wines as a precursor to Christmas.

Wakefield Promised Land Shiraz 2013
Wakefield Promised Land Shiraz 2013

Wakefield Promised Land Shiraz 2013 (RRP £7.95 from The Wine Society and Rude Wines). I really loved this Australian shiraz, described as full of rich varietal fruit and a vibrant spiciness.  For me, a hug of a winter warmer. It’s a soft velvety shiraz, deep, dark and warming with vanilla clouds above a black fruit bombe. No harsh tannins, smooth all the way.

Aulee cremant 2

Château de l’Aulée Crémant de Loire ‘Cuvée Jeanne d’Arc’ NV (£12, www.oddbins.com) This is named after the Loire Valley vineyard where the chenin blanc grapes are grown and where Saint Joan is said to have once rested. 

The bubbles are refined and consistent, like a fine playful sunlit dapple on an autumn dew-dropped lawn. There’s pressed orchard apples and crunchy caramelised apple aromas, a little butterscotch and there’s some grilled pineapple waving in the background.

This first appeared in the saturday extra magazine November 29, 2014 

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

 

Wine Press: Christmas gift ideas for people in your life who like wine

The Big ‘O’ Red Wine Set from Riedel

Is it really that time of year again? Have you done your shopping yet? To be clear, I mean your Christmas shopping, not this weekend’s Big Shop.

If you have a wine lover in your life, or anyone who enjoys a tipple as a tonic, then here’s a handful of Christmas gift ideas. The only science applied is that if I ripped the wrapper off any of these, I would be a happy bunny.

I’ve had some complicated corkscrews in the past, designed by people who don’t want to crack open a bottle in a rush. Find a corkscrew with statement; not least so that if anyone takes it away at a party you can spot it at their house fairly easily.

fish corkscrew
Fish corkscrew from the RNLI

I love the simple little fish corkscrew from the RNLI website. (£12.95, www.rnlishop.org.uk) It’s a fun little thing in a fish shape with a foil cutter and corkscrew featuring white oak wood and stainless steel. It supports a very important charity too, with 100% of profits helping to fund ​ their lifesaving service.

Christmas gift ideas: Anna G, the corkscrew from Alessi
Anna G, the corkscrew from Alessi

A wine opener with style, and oodles of it, is Anna G, the corkscrew from Alessi, with her smiling face, quirky haircut, and vintage dress. To celebrate its 20th anniversary, Alessi has released special limited editions. It’s a pressie for someone you love very much, at £59. For stockist details go to www.alessi.com.

Christmas gift ideas: The Big ‘O’ Red Wine Set from Riedel
The Big ‘O’ Red Wine Set from Riedel

It’s useful to have a glass, or things could get messy. Riedel designs glasses around different types of wine grapes; the belief is that the correct selection of glass shape highlights the individual styles. The Big ‘O’ Red Wine Set (£37.50, www.riedel.co.uk) includes three glasses for syrah, pinot noir and cabernet sauvignon. Dear Santa, please don’t drop these when you bring them down my chimney.

Christmas gift ideas: Personalised wine bottle stopper from Menkind
Personalised wine bottle stopper from Menkind

You can have a special nickel plated wine bottle stopper engraved with your personal message (£15.99, from www.menkind.co.uk) Mine would say “hands off”.

Christmas gift ideas: Fun "birdie" markers for your wine glass from Lakeland
Fun “birdie” markers for your wine glass from Lakeland

For little stocking fillers, hop along to Lakeland for some cute birdy wine glass markers (£6.99 for a set of six, www.lakeland.co.uk). Clip one on the side of your glass and no more debates over “that’s my drink, not yours”.

Christmas gift ideas: Wine bottle gift tags from The National Gallery
Wine bottle gift tags from The National Gallery

From the National Gallery, some sweet bottle gift tags (£2.50 for four) with the message ♪Tis the season to be jolly, fa la la la la, la la la la ♪.

The gallery has its own wine range too, Delicious Art, with beautiful art depicted on the labels. (A mixed Bordeaux case of six is £80).

Christmas gift ideas: Bordeaux from the National Gallery's Delicious Art range
Bordeaux from the National Gallery’s Delicious Art range

For a Boxing Day walk (or, in my case, more likely a football match) WH Smith has the feminine Katarina Hip Flask, prettily decorated with flowers (£11.99). It can hold a warming nip of 170ml.

Christmas gift ideas: Katarina Hip Flask from WH Smith
Katarina Hip Flask from WH Smith

A “daft not to” gift would be £40 life membership of award-winning The Wine Society (www.thewinesociety.com) which sells some brilliant price-friendly wines.

Talking of which … the society has an offer on Spanish wines which runs until December 17 or until stocks last. Wines include best value for money reds, rioja, hidden gems and sherry.

imageOne is Malabarista Tempranillo-Garnacha Navarra 2012 (£6.25 bottle). Light, bright and worryingly easy to drink, this tempranillo and garnacha blend is pleasingly versatile. The light oak worked well with cheese and meat, and on its own too. Light as it was, it went well with pork chops, and might not have had enough body to partner up with a steak. Don’t let the contemporary label design put you off, this is a classic red.

Simonnet_Saint Bris Sauvignon BottleIn my glass …. An old-world sauvignon which has all the freshness, clarity and appeal of a New Zealand Marlborough. Simonnet-Febvre Saint-Bris Sauvignon (Waitrose, £9.99) lacks the oiliness and depth of many of its French counterparts. But it makes up for its superficial nature with a clean, sharp approach that suits anything grilled or a Sunday lunchtime roast.

This first appeared in the saturday extra magazine November 22, 2014 

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