New Zealand: Win a trip with Villa Maria and follow in my (clumsy) footsteps

New Zealand Villa Maria competition
Villa Maria’s vineyards in the Awatere Valley, Marlborough

I’m very excited that 2018 is underway.  Happy New Year everyone!! In just 22 days I’ll be heading to New Zealand to visit one of my oldest friends and of course I’ll be visiting vineyards too.  It would be rude not to.

I’m giddy.

My plans are quite well-formed  … well actually I’m not organised at all. Celebrating friendship is the main reason I’m heading to the other side of the world for three weeks and so I’ve been dillying and dallying in my plans to explore New Zealand wineries.  There’s just so much to see and so little time – where to start? It’s all coming together now though thanks to the help of my wine contacts and I’ll share updates very soon.

One thing’s for sure, I hope to visit Villa Maria’s vineyards either in the North Island near Auckland or at their home in Marlborough.  I’m excited to visit the wineries in their heartland as Villa Maria wines are consistently classy affairs. Last summer I chatted to Villa Maria’s Angla Lewis at the Chatsworth Flower Show and discovered their emphasis on sustainability in the vineyard (oh, and I enjoyed a little tasting of their wines).

While I’ve been dreaming of my visit I discovered that Villa Maria has launched a competition to give people in the UK the chance to win their own trip of a lifetime to New Zealand. What’s not to love.

Two Villa Maria prizes are up for grabs:
  • Return economy flights for the winner and one guest from the UK to New Zealand
  • 10 nights’ accommodation
  • Self-drive car rental for 10 days
  • NZ$2000 spending money

Shoppers can enter the competition via a hidden URL and entry code found on stickers or neck collars on a range of Villa Maria Private Bin wines. They include bottles of sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio and pinot noir.

Look out for the special bottles in retailers such as Sainsburys, Waitrose, Tesco, Asda, Co-op and Majestic and independent wine shops.

The competition ends on February 19 2018 (the day I return home!!) and the lucky winners will be drawn on February 24.

Good luck. xx


New Year’s Eve wine: Here’s some choices for your special celebrations!!

New Year wines 2017

Another new year is appearing round the corner as one slides off into the distance. How did that happen? Pop some bubbles and enjoy some New Year’s Eve wine as you say hello to 2018 and goodbye to 2017.

New Year’s Eve wine: A brace of cavas

Vilarnau Brut Reserva Cava (£11.99, Ocado, Booths and, 11.5% abv) With its artist-designed bottle sleeve, this cava from Barcelona looks like it’s put on a party dress to stroll along Las Ramblas. Traditional cava grapes macabeo, xarel-lo and parellada create a delicious blend with flavours of apple and a lemon sorbet finish. It is great with salty nibbles.

Cava Sumarroca El Gran Amigo Gran Reserva, 2012 (£10.95, 12% abv) A good price for a vintage cava, and it’s a delicious one too. Those same  grapes deliver a nutty, citrus-led wine which is easy on the palate and very elegant. There’s a touch of vanilla pastry, which will have developed from the wine’s aging on the lees for three years. I love cava; give it some me-time in 2018!!

New Year’s Eve wine: Buy champers on your Big Shop

Pierre Darcys Brut Champagne (£12, Asda, 12% abv) This is a fabulous fizz.  It is pale gold with a slight blush and plenty of bubbles. It would really look the part for a New Year’s Eve bash. It is crisp with flavours of apples and a hint of lemon. It slips down easily – perhaps a little too easily! Be sure to stock up before the big night.

Bissinger Champagne 1er Cuvee Brut (£17.99, Lidl, 12% abv) The fizz has a lush nose of apples and pears, dotted with caramel and a buttery biscuit base of brioche. The bubbles are elegantly eager and there’s a nice tingle in the mouth with a crisp apple bite.  

New Year’s Eve wine: A couple of pinks

Veuve Monsigny Champagne Rosé (£15.99, Aldi, 12% abv) This is the pop princess of New Year champagnes. Perky and pink, it bubbles away nicely and is a good party tipple. It might be a bit lightweight for when the clock strikes midnight but it is a nice treat to welcome visitors. (For thirsty guests, Aldi is also selling a magnum of premier cru champagne at £29.99 but a strong arm is needed to pour it!)

Irresistible Spumante Rosato Brut (£7.99, the Co-op, 11.5% abv) This sparkler is a vibrant pink colour and the fizz is giddy and can be a bit overpowering. On the positive, the long-lasting bubbles deliver a good mousse. The wine has a lovely light and gentle taste, with the flavour of the sweet grapes coming through.  Definitely one for parties.

New Year’s Eve wine: A class act for the midnight chimes

Charles Heidsieck, Brut Réserve

Charles Heidsieck, Brut Réserve (£35,, 12% abv) The original Champagne Charlie was the founder of this champagne house; Charles-Camille Heidsieck is the man credited with popularising champagne. Pour this as the clocks strike midnight. It has aromas of brioche and apples, as if baked in a tarte tatin, and notes of dried fruits, apricot and honey.

New Year’s Eve wine: If you don’t want fizz 

A New Year white: Tuna Club Verdejo Sauvignon Blanc (£7.99, Waitrose, 13% abv) Some sauvignon blancs can be a bit tart but this was zesty and light. A strong hint of melon and pear gives it a fruity finish. A New Year red: Nip to Marks & Spencer for the very affordable Vino Tavola Rosso (£5) It is a drinkable red with notes of cherries and black pepper at a good price to serve lots of guests.

I hope 2018 brings you everything you could wish for.  


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