It rained the day I went to Chatsworth but at least I found some wines for summer

Chatsworth summer beans

I haven’t worked out what the weather is supposed to be doing as one minute I’m absolutely roasting, and the next the dog refuses to go out because of the rain. In that spirit of confusion, here’s some white and red wines for summer which can be flexible for a barbecue or offer a hug as you stare at a downpour.

Whites for a summer’s afternoon (sunny or not)

I popped over to the  RHS Chatsworth Flower Show  where Villa Maria Wines were showcasing the very good eco-friendly, sustainable work they are doing back in their New Zealand vineyards. Here’s a handful of pictures … and don’t you just love the beans at the top of this post?! (They’re nothing to do with wine or Villa Maria – but I spotted them at Chatsworth and love them.)

There was an extra bonus as Villa Maria were serving little tasters of their wines. Well you know, I couldn’t say no. Here’s three of them.

Villa Maria Private Bin Riesling 2016 (£7.99 in a buy six price, or £10.49 per single bottle, Majestic, 12% abv) is a straw colour with floral notes of spring blossom and freesia, with pear apple and lime; the acidity is good and refreshing and it lifts along flavours of pineapple and juicy lime. Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Grigio 2016 (Waitrose, £10.99, 13% abv) has red apple on the nose, pear and stone fruit, and is soft and supple in the mouth with flavours of ripe apples and pears and a flash of cinnamon. Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2016 Marlborough (£8.61 in a buy six price or £11.49 per single bottle, Majestic, 13% abv) This has reflections of  gooseberries and sorrel together with good acidity. A friend who was with me said “it is quite winey”. Enough said, you don’t need me.

I had to show you this picture from Chatsworth. I said to my friend, ooo look, a sheep.  IT’S A COW she said. Bottoms Up.

Bottoms up Chatsworth Garden Festival

Two barbecue (or rainy day) reds

Santa Rita National Gallery Series Pinot Noir 2016 (£8.50, Sainsbury’s 13.5% abv) is one of a special release of wines from Chilean wine producer Vina Santa Rita. The National Gallery wines (which also include sauvignon blanc, cabernet sauvignon, chardonnay and merlot) will use images from the gallery on their labels over the next three years. The pinot noir label depicts Camille Pissarro’s ‘The Boulevard Montmartre at Night’.

This wine has aromas of fresh raspberries and strawberries squished into a summer pudding, with spice and vanilla taking the lead on the palate, with the fruit saying I’m here!! Don’t forget me!!  A percentage of the profits of each bottle will go to the National Gallery.

Domaine Jones Grenache Noir 2014 Côtes Catalanes (£12.50, The Wine Society 14.5% abv)  Rich plums and hedgerow fruit can deliver a cuddle if  the summer forgets to make an appearance. The wine adds in a shake of spice, a grip of tannin and oh, if I must contribute I’ll cook a steak with a peppery sauce (no cream, mind) and I’ll then forgive the sun for not shining.

A Gin Makeover

In this day of craft gins and all kinds of hullabaloo around the gin industry then perhaps Greenall’s Gin has felt the time is right to shout about its roots. Greenall’s Gin (RRP £21 a litre, widely available) was created by Thomas Dakin in 1761 and the brand has now released a new bottle inspired by those available 250 years ago. It has 1761 embossed on the neck, together with a Greenalls crest. If you serve the gin simply with two slices of lime, and tonic, and lots of ice, then what’s not to like.

*Prices correct when published – June 2017 – in over 20 Trinity Mirror regional 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


Wine to share with your Valentine, from pink fizz to romantic prosecco

Valentine wines 2017

It’s great that when love is in the air you can buy special treats for your Valentine. Even better, you can buy a treat you’ll enjoy too, which is a win win. Or perhaps it’s wine, wine. Here’s some ideas.

Me & Monsieur Jones 2015 (£15.99,, or £11.99 if you’re one of Naked Wines’ investing Angels, 14% abv) Love was in the air when English girl Katie Jones moved to France to make wine and met and married local winemaker Jean-Marc. This wine is a blend of grenache grapes from his vineyard and old vine carignan from hers. It is deep red, velvety, with lush fruity aromas and soft tannins. It’s as cuddlesome and snugly as your Valentine.

If prosecco is your Valentine’s favourite fizz this one fits the theme. Prosecco Romeo & Juliet NV Treviso (£11.99, or £8.99 in a buy six deal at Majestic, 11% abv) I love the arty label which helps it stand out from the prosecco crowd. The wine has typical aromas of pears and apples and signature prosecco favours. You’ll find cheaper prosecco, but if you want a message of love, it’s all there in the name.

Veuve Monsigny Pink Champagne Brut (£14.99, Aldi, and, 12% abv) This pink sparkler is new in store this week, just in time to turn your thoughts to love. Enjoy a flirtatious evening with this good value champagne which has a shimmer of red berry fruits, a flutter of fizzy bubbles and delicate fresh and dried fruit flavours.

Vin Mousseux Beaumonde Rosé Brut 2015 (£11.99,, 12% abv) Beaumonde Rosé is the pink of a blushing English bride – well, a bride that hasn’t been on the sunbed for hours and hours before the wedding. It is made from grenache grapes grown on limestone just down the coast from the hills of Provence, the home of elegant pink wines. There’s flavours of fresh red fruits and strawberries, together with a wisp of herbs on the nose.

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Lanson Rose Champagne (£28.99, from £34.99 until February 14 at Bargain Booze, 12.5% abv) This champagne is such a pretty rose petal pink. It has aromas of my favourite strawberry tarts, you know the ones; crisp shortcrust pastry, fresh strawberries and a peak of cream. Fresh red fruit flavours tingle with a juicy flash of acidity. What’s not to love.

Laurent-Perrier Cuvée Rosé (RRP £58.99, down to £43.99 at Waitrose until February 21, and £44.99 at Majestic in a buy six deal) This extra-special champagne is presented in a 16th-century style bottle and speaks class. It has elegant fresh aromas of red fruits, raspberries and strawberries, and to taste, delicious red fruits dance on the tastebuds, as a peek of cherry emerges from the shadows. Light some candles and enjoy.

Finally for small budgets …. Lambrini has released special bottles of Very Cherry and So Strawberry (both RRP £3.29, 5% abv) and Always Original (RRP £1.99, 7.5% abv). They’re bang on trend for this Valentine season, as they’re festooned in hearts and flowers. The limited editions are in Asda, Tesco, Morrisons, Co-op and Sainsbury’s while stocks last.

*First published in February 2017 in over 20 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