There’s more to white wine than pinot grigio

white wine but not pinot grigio

DO WINE shelves groaning with chardonnay and pinot grigio piddle you off?

Perhaps it is just me. Supermarkets must be selling what people want to buy. Or are they dictating the market?

This came home to me on my two-week fondly remembered sojourn by the coast.

I’m not one to leave myself short of wine – but it was two weeks, and sadly the bottles I’d taken didn’t magically refill overnight.

A quick trip to the small supermarket nearby. And there it was. Shelf after shelf of chards and pinot grigio. I wasn’t happy.

Then the next day my faith was restored. Twice I discovered little independent wine shops away from the beaten track. Fantastic choices; reasonable prices.

They were small shops too but sticking their necks out to offer more choice to you and me. Where am I going with this?

Well please, please spread your wings away from pinot grigio. Don’t stick to what you know; support the independents when you see them (they will actually talk to you too). Find more wines that you love; ask for them; create the marketplace.

Don’t even get me started on wines sold in pubs …

I was better natured when I tasted a couple of Italian wines from the Wine Society (

I’ve ditched my old club and joined for £40 life membership. I can bequeath it to my beautiful daughter, even if she might prefer the house.

Sannio Greco Janare, 2012 the wine society
Sannio Greco Janare, 2012

Sannio Greco, Janare, 2012 (13.5% £7.25 a bottle, £87 a dozen) There was a frizzle of bubbles, sometimes seen in young wines. It has peardrops on the nose, stone fruits, smoke-tinged apples. Complex aromas had me swirling and whirling. Now you can’t  say that about a pinot grigio. (Prove me wrong?).

To taste, a perkiness of stewed apples and pears, a mouth-coating of creamy brazil nuts. Cirò, Barone di Bolaro, 2011 (£7.25 bottle £87 dozen) is a spicy red from the gaglioppo grape.

My dad used to love those blackcurrant and liquorice toffees – and that’s the memory which floated up to me. Those sweets and a spicy pepper sprinkle. Bless dad.

Also in my glass …

It’s rounded, it’s rich with a little kick. That’s not Argentina’s Maradona but  Viña Ventisquero Grey Carmenere 2010 (£12.99, www.the
It is said Chilean carmenere is ideal to have with a curry and this wine did pair well with chicken marinaded in onions, chillis and brinjal pickle. Soft black fruits and smokiness.

Published in the saturday extra magazine August 24, 2013

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

Balblair 97 whisky is delicate and “Bryan Ferry smooth”

Balblair 97 whisky review

What was going on in the world in 1997? A  book about a  schoolboy  wizard hit our bookshelves, Pierce Brosnan enjoyed his second outing as a Martini-shaking secret agent, while Tony Blair became Prime Minister for the first time.

Oh, and a Scotch  whisky  was laid down in Bourbon casks.

Sixteen years on and the eighth Harry Potter Hollywood blockbuster is fading from   memory, Daniel Craig has enjoyed three outings as James Bond – and Blair has been and gone.

But the 1997 vintage of Balblair has just matured.  Balblair whiskies are unusual in that they are named after the year they were made.
When it comes to whisky I know that Irish whiskey has an ‘e’ in it. Scotch doesn’t. I know I enjoy whisky, with or without the ‘e’.  I even raised a glass to a Scot who won Wimbledon. Did you hear of him?

But when it came to an expert view,  I asked  a whisky  buff colleague  for his thoughts.

Dave – for that is his name –  says it  is “a lovely delicate spirit, aged perfectly, combining freshness with depth and complexity.  At around £55 a bottle it doesn’t tick every box. The colour is a little underwhelming.

 “Distillery notes claim a ‘deep golden amber’ – but in reality it’s more a pale, washed out yellow.
Balblair 97 whisky review
Balblair 97 whisky
“But the  tropical fruits, hints of honey, vanilla and butterscotch  which the label promises are all evident, as is a hint of Love Hearts for those who spent too much time in sweet shops as a kid. It has tingly spiciness, but is  Bryan Ferry smooth.
“Bourbon casks help import fudge, honey, spices, sultanas and hard toffee onto the palate – and there’s also a lovely, long creamy finish.”
I don’t think you need me any more.

In my glass this week …

A couple of  lovely summer whites from The Wine Society (

The Society’s Vinho Verde (£5.95) and Exhibition Albariño (£12.95) are on offer until August 11 (£5.50 and £11.50 respectively).

The vinho verde splashes into the glass  like sea foamily glancing onto a pebble. The bubbles frizzle, frazzle and disappear. On the nose there’s refreshing pears apples and … well,   garden daisies? Spritzy summer sipping.

The albariño was made for the  Society  by  Pazo de Señorans, one of the  top estates in  Rías Baixas.  It  has a classic  peachy, rich mouth feel. I love albariño and this has the classy balance of  an on-form Rafael Nadal serving an ace. From a tightrope.

Published in the saturday extra magazine July 13, 2013