Warming red wines to take the pain out of a tumble

warming red wines

I’ve been a bit under the weather past couple of weeks. I’ve been gearing up for Crimbo and sharing wine with friends –  and with you – and blow me if I don’t end up taking painkillers. A woozy head without even opening a bottle.

I had a little fall – no alcohol involved  – and the experts say I’m suffering from a bit of whiplash.  So I’ve avoided crunching over a laptop and bobbing onto One Foot in the Grapes to share any updates.

I’m almost back on track now though … fingers crossed.

Four warming red wines I enjoyed before my knees crumbled from under me.

Montes Alpha Merlot review

Montes Alpha Merlot 2012 (Majestic, £12.99, or £9.99 on the Mix Six Price) is produced in Chile using a dry farming method, where the vines aren’t watered at all unless absolutely necessary.

Vines which have struggled to find water produce really flavoursome wines.  Their roots have to stretch, tease and wriggle into the ground to seek the refreshment they need. The grapes will have more minerally character. They’re not sitting flabby, tasteless and bloated from too much water soaked up by greedy vine roots. 

The result is an interesting wine with waves of menthol, liquorice, a touch of chocolate, jammy blackcurrants and plums. Then to taste, sweet spice with lots more dark harvest fruits.

The Duke wine reviewThe Duke (Morrisons, RRP £7.99) does exactly what it says on the tin – except it comes in a bottle.

The label proclaims this Spanish blend of tempranillo, shiraz, merlot and garnacha to be a ‘Big. Big, Big Red Wine’ .

You might think that’s overdoing it a bit on the marketing front and, in fact, The Duke doesn’t need to be ‘bigged’ up at all.

This is an easy-drinking, full-bodied wine, packed full of fruit and easily one of the best reds under a tenner I’ve tried this year.


Les Jamelles Réserve Mourvèdre review

Les Jamelles Reserve Mourvedre 2013 ( £7.49 at the Co-op) is a great price for this tasty wine from Pays d’Oc.

It is ruby red but not too deep a red, so you can still see your fingers through it. There’s juicy black and red fruits on the nose, with a fleck of vanilla, a hint of pepper too.

There are soft tannins to taste, and a compote of black fruits. It’s a good buy to stock up ahead of Christmas.

ucumen Malbec 2014 Mendoza reviewMalbec is now associated with Argentina, but the grape’s origins are the south west of France and Bordeaux. Tucumen Malbec 2014 (£11.99 a bottle, Mix Six price £7.99 at Majestic) is a bronze winner at the 2015 International Wine Challenge.

It is rich and robust with red and black fruits, prunes too. It’s much better a day after opening, when, with a flash-fried steak and scrunchy fried onions, the wine’s peppery bite said “hey, look at me, I’m a nice weekday glass of something”.

Happy days.

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Which cream liqueur wins 14-bottle mystery taste test?

irish cream liqueur reviews

A cream liqueur is a snuggly comfort cushion as the cold winter wind whips around outside. Now its getting cold I asked some of my girlie pals to help me blind-taste 14 cream liqueurs.

They didn’t complain. We’re not industry experts but we’re typical comfort cushion girlies who love a cream liqueur especially at Christmas.

I wrapped all 14 bottles in tin foil and then popped a number on them – don’t worry, by the time it got round to the blind-tasting I’d forgotten which was which.

I gave my pals the rules  – drink lots of water – keep the glasses clean – be honest – write down your scores and your comments.

blind taste test cream liqueur bottles

Then get set, glasses at the ready .. let’s go.  One pal told me afterwards: “I really loved trying all these. Who would have thought they could all taste so different, it was a real eye-opener.”

I couldn’t agree more. There wasn’t much to choose from in the scores once we got beyond the top five, but our girlies’ thoughts were oh so varied.

Let’s move on … here’s our humble, fun and slightly scientific, results. 

Continue reading “Which cream liqueur wins 14-bottle mystery taste test?”

The winning cream liqueur:

Specially Selected Irish Cream, AldiSpecially Selected Irish Cream Liqueur (Aldi £6.99) This was by far and away the winner. When I did the Big Reveal there were plenty of oohs and aahs.

Two pals had been convinced this was Baileys and were quite surprised. I thought it had a little note of citrus – where that came from only knows.

It was powerful on the alcohol, but not as much as a Baileys by comparison. One chum said “this is creamy but not too strong” and another … “very smooth to taste”.

Second place

Baileys Irish Cream LiqueurBaileys Original Irish Cream (several retailers, in Tesco at  £12) This is probably the tipple we all think of when talking Irish creams. I’d challenged all the girls to see if they could spot it when blind-tasting. No-one did.

You don’t realise how much of a kick Baileys has until you try it alongside other creams –  I blindly said it was a gloopy glug of alcohol with a strong final alcohol kickback.

One of the girls said it was  “stronger than it smells” which probably explains why she was gradually leaning into the wall.

Third place

Sainsbury Taste the Difference Irish Cream LiqueurTaste the Difference Irish Cream Liqueur (£10, down from £12 until December 8, Sainsbury, 1 litre)

 “Ugh” said one friend who didn’t like it at all – but her sister declared it was her favourite out of all of the cream liqueurs.

She gave a *thumbs-up*. Although on second thoughts, she might have been trying to hang onto the chair. I thought the cream and some chocolatey notes combined really well. A nice fling with vanilla.

Fourth Place

Delaney's Irish Cream LiqueurDelaney’s Irish Cream Liqueur (£5.99 Co-op, 70cl) This tastes of Christmas! proclaimed one of my pals who should win a Guiding Badge for cream tasting  dedication (if only they did them). 

She described this as having aromas of nutmeg, mingling with vanilla. When she went back to the Delaney’s after tasting all the others, she said she also loved its creaminess.

I thought there was more emphasis on dairy cream than alcohol. One girlie threw a curve ball saying she could smell and taste butterscotch. I tried again – and you know, I did too.

Fifth Place

Feeney's Irish Cream LiqueurFeeney’s Irish Cream Liqueur  (£10, reduced from £12 until December 8, Tesco, 70cl) Feeney’s won a Platinum award and ‘Best in Class’ at the 2015 SIP Awards. It might not have been best in class with my ladies, but it was definitely holding its hand up and winning praise.

I thought it was a pick-me-up luxury in a glass, and our dedicated sipper said “it tastes of cocoa and is very rich”.  One of the sisters picked it as her favourite out of the bunch and said “lovely like Ovaltine!”

Though I don’t know what one of the girls  was doing, as she wrote “the alcohol goes up your nose”. Well – this was the 14th disguised bottle in the taste test line-up.