New Zealand: Win a trip with Villa Maria and follow in my (clumsy) footsteps

New Zealand Villa Maria competition
Villa Maria’s vineyards in the Awatere Valley, Marlborough

I’m very excited that 2018 is underway.  Happy New Year everyone!! In just 22 days I’ll be heading to New Zealand to visit one of my oldest friends and of course I’ll be visiting vineyards too.  It would be rude not to.

I’m giddy.

My plans are quite well-formed  … well actually I’m not organised at all. Celebrating friendship is the main reason I’m heading to the other side of the world for three weeks and so I’ve been dillying and dallying in my plans to explore New Zealand wineries.  There’s just so much to see and so little time – where to start? It’s all coming together now though thanks to the help of my wine contacts and I’ll share updates very soon.

One thing’s for sure, I hope to visit Villa Maria’s vineyards either in the North Island near Auckland or at their home in Marlborough.  I’m excited to visit the wineries in their heartland as Villa Maria wines are consistently classy affairs. Last summer I chatted to Villa Maria’s Angla Lewis at the Chatsworth Flower Show and discovered their emphasis on sustainability in the vineyard (oh, and I enjoyed a little tasting of their wines).

While I’ve been dreaming of my visit I discovered that Villa Maria has launched a competition to give people in the UK the chance to win their own trip of a lifetime to New Zealand. What’s not to love.

Two Villa Maria prizes are up for grabs:
  • Return economy flights for the winner and one guest from the UK to New Zealand
  • 10 nights’ accommodation
  • Self-drive car rental for 10 days
  • NZ$2000 spending money

Shoppers can enter the competition via a hidden URL and entry code found on stickers or neck collars on a range of Villa Maria Private Bin wines. They include bottles of sauvignon blanc, pinot grigio and pinot noir.

Look out for the special bottles in retailers such as Sainsburys, Waitrose, Tesco, Asda, Co-op and Majestic and independent wine shops.

The competition ends on February 19 2018 (the day I return home!!) and the lucky winners will be drawn on February 24.

Good luck. xx


Wine Press: Pink fizz to share on Valentine’s Day

Tesco Finest Rosé Champagne review

VALENTINE’S. It’s the time of year when the card shops  make a killing, florists’  fingers flurry, men panic and wine shelves empty  quicker than Old Trafford  in the 80th minute.

What better reason  to taste  some sparklie glasses of  pink fizz.

Champagne Jacquart, Brut Mosaïque Rosé NV (£30, online at and you’ll see  it in several other  stores) is a soft  salmon pink in  colour. It has  aromas of  doughnuts and  icing sugar.

That probably  doesn’t sound as  classy as it should.  But imagine the lovely  sweet, warm, bakes, with  soft icing sugar clinging  on top and the rising  scent of a dab of  strawberry. That’s what I  mean. To taste, lovely  fresh strawberries folded  in with some peaches and  a touch of acidity.

Tesco Finest Rose Champagne review
Tesco Finest Rose Champagne

Tesco Finest Rosé Champagne (£19.99, reduced from £23.99 until February 25) is an elegant little glass of fizz. It has won bronze at the International Wine Challenge and I’d be very happy if it was my Valentine’s Day treat.

It is more unassuming on the nose than the  Jacquart. There’s  redcurrants and a wisp  of citrus, which also flirts in the mouth with a good crisp long-lasting  aftertaste. A sparkler to  savour and relish.

I tried ever so hard to  enjoy Blossom Hill Italian Sparkling Zinfandel Rosé (I  bought in Tesco for  £6.99, reduced from  £8.99 until February 14.  It is widely available  elsewhere). It has a  heart-shaped label so  it should be a shoo-in  for romance.

It has very sweet  strawberries on the  nose; a hit of jam,  or one of those very  sweet cake fancies.  The two elements  which should balance  – fruit and acidity  – didn’t tie together. It had syrupy sweetness.

 Sorry if you like the wine; it’s just not for me.

On the upside, for a  fiver at Asda you can pick  up an award-winning  cava, Berberana Gran  Tradicion Rose Brut, NV,  and it’s pretty nice too. It  won a silver at last year’s  International Wine  Challenge.

Cava shouldn’t be  overlooked by  sparklie-seekers. It has far more complexity than a simple fizz-driven prosecco which is made by fermenting just one grape inside a steel tank.

This hums with smoky,  herby, red fruits and  cherries. It has a decent  cherry-laden fizz which  sadly disappears too   quickly, but hey, so does  the wine.