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.


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


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.



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


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


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

Winebird has a special way with words to help us enjoy wine

I LOVE social media. Yes, there’s lots of silly  twittering in more ways than one.  But I love the content  I  find about wine

Did you know I like wine?

On Twitter I follow the hashtag #wine, on Instagram the same; on both #winelovers throws up good content. Or be more precise with a grape hashtag such as #pinot
I’ve found several  blogs I like; one of my favourites  is Please Bring Me My Wine.  Billed as a “wine novice’s guide to getting stuck into grape juice”, its  creator, Mike Turner, explores a grape  each week.
Please Bring Me My Wine
The blog Please Bring Me My Wine
Mike tells me: “This whole thing of wine bloggers, journalists, and enthusiasts?  It is not an exclusive club.  If you drink wine and like it then we all love to hear what you think.  You’re the only person in the world with your tastebuds, so your opinion matters as much as the next one.  Just enjoy it!”

Perfectly true. I so agree with Mike. One of the bloggers I have been happiest to find is Winebird, in “real life” Helena Nicklin.

Winebird, Helena Nicklin
Winebird, Helena Nicklin
This week Helena launched a book which took her lovely descriptions of wine (vinalogies, where she gives wines human traits and personalities)  to an audience outside the Net.
Helena equates wines to things that  we can relate to. It’s not standoffish; not geeky.  Her descriptions make you go “oh yes,   I can imagine that”.
I asked Helena what makes her approach to wine writing so different.
She tells me: “It’s ‘edu-tainment’.  An awful word, but it sums up what I do.  Instead of dry winemaking facts, I tell stories and paint pictures about wine which makes it easier to remember.

“I felt there was a niche that needed to be filled, between the fabulously detailed wine writers out there and normal  people who just wanted some basics in memorable, bite-size chunks.

Winebird’s book, VINALOGY: Wine basics with a twist!
Winebird’s book, VINALOGY: Wine basics with a twist!
“I hope my ‘vinalogies’ do this, making  learning about wine more fun.”
To people nervous about trying out new wines, she says: “Often people think they know about a wine, but are surprised when they blind taste.  So, my advice is stop worrying and explore different wines.
“Go along to a tasting – it’s a great way to try wine without committing to a bottle and they are fun too.
“I always say: Aim to get to know the personalities of the 10 most famous red and white grapes and learn which  regions around the world are famous for them. This will give you an amazing base to enjoy great wines.”
Winebird ( has shared   exclusive  thoughts on a  couple of  wines   for you (and me)   to enjoy this summer.

Taste the Difference Chablis

Taste the Difference Chablis (Sainsbury, £10)  “Not your classic, steely Chablis as it actually tastes of the grape it’s made from: chardonnay, but it is a lovely  pure, melony wine. Buxom blonde, this is not! Think of it as your fresh-faced girl next door amidst a sea of glamour models.”

Three word #vinalogy: Girl Next Door 
A red. Santa Julia Seleccion Cabernet Sauvignon. (Waitrose £9.99) “Cabernet Sauvignon is the rugby player of wine grapes and in this version from Chile, he’s packed full of smoky  blackcurrant fruit and crunchy mint leaves.
“Get it open early so it can air and be sure to eat something with it. He packs a punch!”
Three word #vinalogy: Brooding Rugby Player 
  • Winebird’s VINALOGY: Wine basics with a twist!  is  in paperback at £8.99 and for Kindle £3.99 on Amazon. 

You can see Winebird’s own pictures of the event here

This wine column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine May 10 2014 
Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette  Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express