Photo memories: My 2016 year in pictures and a drop of something now and again

Jane Clare wine 2016 year in review

Farewell 2016, you  strange old year, you little monkey. Putting the madness of Brexit, Trump and Celebrity Deaths to one side, there’s been a lot of change for me personally, changes that will see me taking a route yet to be determined, sometime around May in 2017.

Meanwhile  – here’s some 2016 photo memories, ahem, and of course they all have a theme linked to a wee drop of something.


PHOTO MEMORIES: January

In 2016 I was determined to spend more time at press and trade tastings but they’re mostly in London. I live in Liverpool so inevitably travel, time and cost can be a problem. This year I set time aside in advance to head down to the Big Smoke (and get cheaper train tickets by booking early) !!!! Here’s the first wine trip of the year to the capital – I loved the shadows both people and bottles cast on Lidl’s Wine Cellar branding.

Lidl Wine Tasting January 2016


PHOTO MEMORIES: February

There’s a chap on Twitter I’ve followed for ages, Mike Turner, aka Please Bring Me My Wine  who also wears a business hat  20h33. I’ve followed Mike’s progress with interest as he’s developed his wine business, built his social media profile and become a really interesting wine-talking chap to boot.  I ordered a case of crémant de Bordeaux from him as a Valentine’s treat for me and The Better Half. Very nice it was too.  I met Mike at a London tasting a few weeks ago and hey, turns out he went to school about a mile from where I live. This world is a small one populated by Northerners.

bordeaux-cremant


PHOTO MEMORIES: MARCH

I love my doggie. Millie, the miniature schnauzer aka The Moo. I also love my wine; I think I’ve mentioned that. Here she is, the Moo, snoozing, as I took part in a Twitter taste test run by the Wine Society. She clearly didn’t get my excitement vibes. The Wine Society hosts a live tasting every month #TWSTaste with a couple of bottles of something nice. The Moo slept through it, as you can see.

Wine Society twitter tasting dog


PHOTO MEMORIES: April

Not a great month on the job front,  but hey yeh right.  I’m moving on. I popped up to my pal Denise Mullen’s house on April 16  to meet her friends Ian and Sarah Hewitt. We didn’t half have a giggle, which was much needed as the day before I’d been made redundant from my Proper Job.
Ian, Sarah and Denise had created a new gin, Spitfire Heritage Gin which was about to be launched on the market. At Christmas 2015 the gin had been a Lightbulb Moment, a dream, an idea, a “can we do this” temptation. I’ll bring you forward to a couple of weeks ago to December 2016 and Spitfire Heritage Gin went on sale in Harrods. A terrific year for them.

Spitfire Heritage Gin


PHOTO MEMORIES: May

Another month, another tasting; two in fact. May is big in the London wine tasting calendar – but days off work, train fares and hotel costs could only stretch to a couple of days. Me and my mate Cambo opted for Asda and Waitrose on consecutive days and Cambo’s dad came along too. I nicknamed him Dadbo. I remember Dadbo streaked ahead of us tasting the wines, as me and Cambo did what we always do, overdose and linger by the sparkles. This Asti from Asda was one of Cambo’s favourites.

Asda Asti wine tasting

Photo memories: June

We went to the pub. The World Cup was on and watching footie in the pub with a pint in my hand is one of my favourite past-times. I won’t linger on this  theme too long in case anyone mentions Iceland (oops, I did it); but even though the England exit was a #facepalm moment, every credit to Wales, Ireland and Northern Ireland for giving me many pint-raising opportunities.

World Cup pub pint


Photo memories: July

I mentioned the redundancy thing, but don’t go fretting. I’m still working at the Mother Ship for now.  In July that new role saw me in London back in my old office haunts and it was a grand opportunity to catch up with my London-living daughter Emma so we / she could hammer Mummy’s Purse.
Which we did at Gaucho steakhouse restaurant on Canary Wharf. Emma’s pal had worked there once and after much text-toing-and-froing (and stalling the wine waiter) this was the Argentinian wine we opted for. Trapiche Fincas 2010 Maipú, Mendoza, a petit verdot.  I posted a piccie on Instagram describing the aroma of this wine (£49.50 !! eek !! ) as like pencil shavings. Well, OK, I’d been drinking.  But not much, at Mummy Purse prices.

Trapiche Fincas 2010  


Photo memories: August

My oldest friend (not OLD, please note that) has lived in New Zealand for many years and travels back to the UK every couple of years or so – and 2016 was one of those years. My daughter Emma is her god-daughter, so we both flew over from Liverpool to Douglas on the Isle of Man on a bumpy propeller plane, my fists white-clenched on the flight that lasts no longer than a gin and tonic (if only they served them). We had a lovely few days, with beautiful sunsets too. One night we popped the champers to celebrate our long friendship.

Isle of Man champagne


Photo memories: September

I’m a bit of a sad wine geek and have loads of email alerts set up for wine, wine, wine, wine, wine, wine, wine. In the summer one wine almost broke the internet. La Moneda Reserva Malbec  from Asda was declared the “best red wine” in a blind tasting by those clever people at Decanter. It was under a fiver. My wine alerts were groaning under this news  so I kept a look-out on the La Moneda Malbec-shaped holes on Asda’s wine shelves. A few weeks later I was tipped off that the winning 2015 vintage was back in stock – High Five. I sipped a bottle with friends at my pal’s house  and I also bought a bottle for my sister’s Christmas present. I drank that too. Sorry Sis.
asda malbec the best wine decanter


Photo memories: October

I mentioned I’ve been trying to get to more London press and trade wine tastings; but I’m well-placed to jump on a train to Manchester to the Co-operative’s HQ in Angel Square. I’ve been three times now to meet the marketing peeps and have a good one-to-one chat with their buyers.  On days like that I appreciate how lucky I am; it’s not just about tasting wine, its also about learning from people who are working on the ground running in that lovely drinkable stuff. Ben Cahill enjoys his work. That’s him, peeping.

Ben Cahill Co-op wine tasting


Photo memories: November

Oh my, what a Christmas build-up. Fizz, Christmas and New Year wine choices, all to be found, tasted, recommended. I buried my head in notes from the various tastings I’d been to in the autumn; Oddbins, Sainsbury, Majestic, the Co-op – then there were wines from Asda and some good choices from online merchants such as The Wine Society and WineTrust 100. My brain was drowning in wine. I ran a fun wine tasting with pals, during which we were totally unimpressed by Skinny Prosecco; and I also went with my pal Katie to one of the Wine Gang’s pre-Christmas wine events. It was there I had a reminder why I find wine so fascinating; we sipped some wines with little mouth sensations such as salt and lemon. It was so interesting how they changed the wine. It was right up my wine geek street.

WIne Gang tasting


Photo memories: December

This isn’t so much a memory as a nod to the future. I have no idea what 2017 will hold for me but I’m beginning to think ahead, I have no choice as a mortgage has to be paid. This month, December, I’ve made the leap and signed up to study my wine diploma in a spare time online capacity. I guess it will be like the Open University for two years but with alcohol.
And as I write, Burnley FC have just beaten Sunderland 4-1. That’s great news for the end of this s****y year.
Later I’ll be heading out with the Better Half to shake a fist at 2016 and after a meal we’ll head back home to quietly welcome in 2017 and its known knowns, its known unknowns, and unknown unknowns.
I wish you all the best for 2017. Keep your nerve against Russian hackers, Trump, Brexit, and beyond. If all else fails, pour wine.
Jane x

Jane Clare wine diploma

Your best-buy supermarket champagne… here’s the festive fizz factor scores

Champagne bubbles in a glass

supermarket prosecco supermarket champagneYup – that’s me on this page. Sadly not the pretty thing in the middle, but the old blob on the left wearing a grey cardie. You’ll see we ran a supermarket festive fizz taste test … here’s the supermarket champagne ratings. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

SUPERMARKET CHAMPAGNE: BEST BUY

Wm Morrison Champagne Brut NV supermarket champagneWm Morrison Champagne Brut NV (Morrisons, £15, down from £19 until January 1st)  This is a silver winner at the International Wine Challenge and is a champagne which is happy in its soul. It has honeysuckle, the juicy tease of ripe red apples, vanilla, cream cake and a summer breeze on the nose. It is soft and subtle with gentle flavours and acidity and the juiciness stays with you long after the last sip. Which is what we want, right?
Fizz Factor: 5/5

SUPERMARKET CHAMPAGNE: BARGAIN BUY

Lidl Champagne Comte De Senneval

Champagne Comte De Senneval (Lidl, £9.99) I really, really liked this. There’s aromas of fresh apples with a touch of cinnamon and a yummy ooze of baked apples too, with some sweet temptation of a baking cake. It’s not in your face though, it is subtle like a spring freshness. Apple flavours are very refreshing, and the bubbles, well, they’re happy little bubbles.
Fizz Factor: 5/5

 Supermarket Champagne: The best of the rest

Champagne Veuve Monsigny Vintage Blanc de Blancs Champagne (Aldi, £19.99) You might find this a bit overpowering unless you have a head start in knowing Champagne nuances.  I love this wine. Its an award-winning seasonal  offering which has aromas of apple compote, super-fruity apple tarte tatin, butterscotch and nuts. Side by side with other champers it is almost toffee-like. It has a good acidity and lovely complex rich apple flavours.
Fizz Factor: 4/5

Duval-Leroy Fleur de Champagne Premier Cru (Waitrose, £17.99, down from £26.99 until January 3)  Ah, this is subtle and feminine, delicate and wistful. There’s fresh apples and apple crumble on the nose, with a “hey notice me” wave from lemons. It is more fruity than complex, has a soft mouth-feel and is confident in itself. The name is inspired by the scent of the vine flower.
Fizz Factor: 4/5 

Les Pionniers Champagne Brut NV (the Co-operative, reduced by £1 to £15.99  until January 3) Ah. One of my evergreen favourites. It is a super-reliable Champers, named after the Rochdale Pioneers who founded the Co-operative movement, and it has a reputation of beating big names in blind tastings. It has a nose of biscuit, brioche and apples, and tastes of toffee-dipped green apples. Very drinkable.
Fizz Factor: 4/5

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Tesco Finest Premier Cru Champagne (£16, down from £19, until January 9) The grapes for this champagne come only from premier and grand cru vineyards, which makes for a special experience from beginning to end. The champagne has a rich nose with lots of ripe apples, vanilla and brioche. It has a good balance of fruit and acidity and some lovely fizzy giddiness plays around your tastebuds. It’s not an overbearing style but has finesse and elegance.
Fizz Factor: 4/5

Sainsbury’s Champagne Blanc de Noirs (£20) There’s three main champagne grapes, one white, two black. If champagne is made   from the white grape only it is blanc de blancs; if just the black grapes are used, the wine is blanc de noirs. That’s what we have here. There’s sumptuous, tempting aromas of brioche, vanilla, butterscotch and citrus but the taste doesn’t live up to the aromas. Saying that, it has a good balance of acidity and a nice fruity flavour.
Fizz Factor: 3/5

Louis Vertay Brut NV, (Marks & Spencer, £16.50, from £33 until January 1) A High Five to M&S for just scooping 60 medals, including six golds, at the International Wine Challenge last month. This champers has subtle aromas of fresh and dried fruit, with a sweep of tropical fruit which tickle the senses. Lasting bubbles liven the glass and a taste reveals touches of fruity complexity.
Fizz Factor: 3/5

Marquis de Belrive Champagne Brut Reserve (SPAR, £16) I was surprised when I had my first nose dip of this champagne. I said “oooo” because I wasn’t expecting it to have such pretty aromas. It’s not a flag-waving champers, but it’s definitely one you’d be happy to pick up on your way to a party or a family visit. Grapefruit and toasty apples play on the nose and to taste a creamy texture is fizzled with citrus and brioche.
Fizz Factor: 3/5

Champagne Pierre Darcy (Asda, £10, reduced from £18 until  December 27)  Well it’s a tenner so you can’t complain at that, but it needs perking up with fresh raspberries to make it a festive treat. The aromas have buttery edges but there isn’t much fruit; to taste there’s no depth or complexity. In fact it is bland and leaves a bitter aftertaste.
Fizz Factor: 1/5

*First published in December 2016 in several 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