International Wine Challenge announces Wine Merchant honours

The International Wine Challenge Merchants' Awards 2014

THIS girlie, as I write, has a mild red wine hangover. I have tried revitalising shampoo but it hasn’t worked, so I’m going to write to the Shampoo Ombudsman.

The reason for my “mild” head? This week the International Wine Challenge announced its Merchant Awards and I was there “quietly” enjoying the occasion.

Proof, if it were needed, that I was quiet at the International Wine Challenge Merchants' Awards 2014
Proof, if it were needed, that I was quiet at the International Wine Challenge Merchants’ Awards 2014

The headlines then (and it’s always nice to know these things when you’re shopping around for vino):

Marks & Spencer picked up the Supermarket of the Year gong. Highly commended was Morrisons.

Oddbins won High Street Chain of the Year (if there isn’t one near you, they have a website www.oddbins.com).

Wine Club of the Year was awarded to The Wine Society, of which this lady with the mild head is a firm fan. The cost of a lifetime share is £40 with no annual fee or obligation to buy; and you can bequeath membership to your kids. Great wines too. (www.the winesociety.com)

Great value sparkling wine was awarded to Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Prosecco Conegliano DOC which has graced this column on a couple of occasions.

You can find out more at www.internationalwinechallenge.com, plus you can search for individual award-winning wines.

In my glass … A workpal, who shall remain nameless, pointed me in the direction of some wines from Marks & Sparks. Anyway, Barrie (oops) said that he’d picked up a bottle of Indian wine and that it was very good indeed. The “very good indeed” wine turned out to be Jewel of Nasik Tempranillo Syrah 2013 and I can tell you, dear reader, that Barrie is bang on the money.

IMG_2043And talking about money, it comes in at £6.99, the same price as its sister wines Jewel of Nasik Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and Jewel of Nasik Zinfandel Rosé 2013.

I’m always one for a challenge and a glass of something new. M&S has worked with Sula Vineyards high up in the hills of Maharashtra north-east of Mumbai to bring this range of wines to our shores. Sula’s grapes are harvested during the dry season, to avoid the monsoon.

The sauvignon blanc was a crisp, citrus and gooseberry burst, with some herbs and a touch of stone fruit. M&S recommend you try it with chicken tikka masala.

Jewel of Nasik Zinfandel Rosé 2013, is salmon-pink deep and plump with fresh and dried strawberries. If you enjoy rosé then I can’t see any reason why you won’t like this; for me it was another rosé. It was OK. Again, M&S recommend either tandoori tiger prawns or monkfish tikka.

Jewel of Nasik Tempranillo Syrah 2013, is medium-bodied with deep cherry and blackberries. These two grapes are known for their intense peppery sprinkles, and this wine is no exception. Lamb rogan josh, say the M&S foodies.

Am liking all the food in these pairings; but these are old world grapes in a New World environment. Just  take a simple route … try them on their own.

Abbotts & Delaunay Zephyr Limoux
Abbotts & Delaunay Zephyr Limoux

Also in my glass … For a special occasion try Abbotts & Delaunay Zephyr Limoux (£16.99, www.averys.com), made from 100% handpicked chardonnay grapes created by a boutique winery in the Languedoc Roussillon region. It’s a subtle chardonnay humming with apricot and marzipan, and with a citrus in-the-mouth linger, akin to lemon tart.

This column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine July 19   2014 

World Cup gives wine-loving girlies an excuse to go Brazil nuts

Carnival Sparkling Moscato

THESE fair islands of ours have been pretty hopeless in the World Cup.  England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales. Are we there or thereabouts in the final stages?

Are we heck. Though it shouldn’t stop us settling down to watch the World Cup Final with a glass or two of vino.

The eventual arrival of the World Cup on our screens was an exciting moment. I love football. I love wine (you’ve probably noticed).

Coconova Brut NV
Coconova Brut NV

The marketing machine for Brazilian wines has been full pelt for at least a year and who can blame them. Eyes centre stage on the country full of carnival and pizzazz.

I found some Brazilian wines from M&S, which has been stocking them since March for the footie fest One thing you can say about the labels is they are full on carnival.

What of the wines though? I shared them at a girlie night where footie wasn’t a priority (so I couldn’t talk about Tim Cahill’s amazing goal against the Dutch).

I made it hard for them by wrapping the bottles in foil, so no clues and they had to write down their thoughts. We started off with  Coconova Brut NV, (£8.99).

The girlies spotted peach aromas in this sparkler, a blend of sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, and verdejo. One girlie: “It gives you a pang, making you screw your face up”.  I thought, great label great name, grapey with background tangerines.

Carnival Sparkling Moscato NV, (£9.99). One girlie, ”no scent, sweet, nice, smooth”. Another girlie, “sweet vanilla”. For me, a sweet fizz of lemon sorbet but shallow on flavour.

Araucaria Riesling Pinot Grigio 2013
Araucaria Riesling Pinot Grigio 2013

Araucaria Riesling Pinot Grigio 2013, (£8.49). It takes a lot to encourage me to try a pinot grigio, but the blend with riesling was enough of an excuse. The girlies: “Nice” “doesn’t smell of much” and “apple”. Me? It was OK; I’ve had much better for the price but thank goodness for the riesling to give the grigio a fruity dimension and depth.

Intenso Teroldego 2013, (£9.99). Teroldgo isn’t a grape I’ve come across before so open minds here. Girls: “fruity” “smoky” “blackurrant”. I say, enjoyable juicy bursts of blackberries and herbs.

Also in my glass … July heralds the start of 31 Days of Riesling, an initiative by Wines of Germany. I love riesling and don’t really need an “initiative” to enjoy it, but nevertheless, here are some thoughts.

The lovely Wines of Germany people suggested I try goats cheese salad with pear and walnuts with Mineralstein Riesling (Marks & Spencer, £8.99). I’m not a goats’ cheese fan so I used feta, and it was scrums. The wine is a blend of riesling from Mosel and Pfalz and contrasts fruity pears, a wet slate of minerality and a dash of spice.

Mineralstein Riesling
Mineralstein Riesling

I flash-fried some prawns with garlic and chilli and added coriander and a squeeze of lemon.  Crusty bread and Devil’s Rock Riesling (Co-op, £6.99) were the finishing touches. Devil’s Rock 2013 vintage won bronze at the recently announced Decanter World Wine Awards. It is full of zesty lemon, lime and grapefruit and was zingy-licious with the spicy prawns.

Another riesling – kind of – worthy of mention is from Alsace and specifically, the ever-reliable Wine Society (www.thewinesociety.com). The Society’s Vin d’Alsace, Hugel (£8.50) is “kind of” a riesling because it is a blend including sylvaner, pinot blanc, riesling, pinot gris with gewurztraminer and muscat. That’s a mouthful in more ways than one.   A great choice for a summer’s day; citrus, pears and hums of honey with a bitey-blitz of acidity.

Jane Clare and just a bit of wine tasting fun
Just a bit of wine tasting girlie night fun

This column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine July 5  2014