Sparkling reds, a Scientific Experiment and a barbecue

Bleasdale Langhorne Creek Sparkling Shiraz sparkling reds

I’VE SPENT ages wondering how to start off some words about sparkling reds which, it transpires, people love or hate. Just now, just this minute, I mentioned it to someone and they said, ‘Oh, just like Marmite’. So here we are. Some words about Marmite, aka sparkling red wines.

As this week has been National Barbecue Week it seemed as good a time as any to write about sparkling reds with a barbie, as, in Oz, that’s the way to go.

You’ve probably seen mass-produced sparkling reds in supermarkets. They’ve never done much for me, so I set the stall out to seek some off the beaten track. We threw up the barbie, held up brollies in the rain, gathered chops and chicken and sausages and sauces, especially one with chilli, and began a Scientific Experiment.

woolundry road sparkling shiraz review
Woolundry Road

Woolundry Road Sparkling Shiraz NV (£11.99, is a hug of blackcurrants, a deep dark concentrated sauce of sticky purple fruits. It is not a drink to rush.

With my barbie, it was amazing with the naughty-but-nice sweet bit of charred fat from a crispy grilled lamb chop that the health police say you shouldn’t eat but I ate anyway with a shrug and a ‘so-what?’ face.

It was moreish with a slice of extra mature Cheddar. Some dark intense Excellence Lindt chocolate too with cherry running through it. Very nice.

But you know what, these reds take a bit of getting used to. My Beloved wasn’t a fan. It was odd, he said, that the sparkles were so rich and red. It wasn’t “natural”, he said. Bubbles should be light and white, he said. Red and bubbles, together, are as out of context as Nigel Farage househunting in Romania. Perhaps. He said.

These wines are very rich and filling. Best for a crowd rather than a couple (me and him). One thing, each sparkler we tried was full on with bubbles. No simpering flurries of flighty froth.

Bleasdale Langhorne Creek Sparkling Shiraz review
Bleasdale Langhorne Creek Sparkling Shiraz

Bleasdale Langhorne Creek Sparkling Shiraz (£12.95, The Wine Society) was no exception with a waterfall of red bubbles. We chilled this for a few hours and alongside crunchy crispy chilli-smudged chicken and burnt sausages it was a rich match. It had chocolate and mocha hidden in its fruity depth. Again, a sipping drink.

Grant Burge Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon review
Grant Burge Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon

A mega treat was Grant Burge Shiraz Cabernet Sauvignon NV (£20.05,; it was a contrast of savoury and sweet; dark fruits dancing in a purple froth, but with rich cherry flavour as in a liqueur; added woody dryness you get from a cocktail stick. Burnt sausages were perfect.

All of these were Aussie wines. I tried another from the New World, Alma 4 Sparkling Bonarda 2011 (£16.95, Alma is made in Argentina, from handpicked bonardo grapes using the traditional method. This was spicy with tongue-stick dryness. There were cherry and black fruit aromas and to taste a something-or-other I couldnt put my finger on until I decided it was allspice. Who knows my nose.

Also in my glass … I’d never heard of white sangria, until I read about white sangria. And when I knew about it I decided to make one. I Googled and found versions including one by Nigella which included my teen drink Cointreau, and white wine.

My wine of choice was {Yellow Tail] Sauvignon Blanc (£7.99, Sainsbury) which on its own is a decent perky sauv blanc; bright and fruity, balanced and fresh. The white sangria was an eye-opener and I’ll definitely make it again. Oranges and herbs and lemon and lime cutting through from the sauv blanc. Try it with lots of ice when friends come round.

This wine column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine May 30 2014 

Viognier wine: Here’s some silky favourites to choose from

Co-operative Truly Irresistible Viognier review

LET me tell you about a wine called Veronica. Well, actually, it’s not called Veronica at all. It’s called viognier.

It’s Veronica because I bought my workpal  a glass and a few days later,  trying to remember the name, she plumped for Veronica.   We giggled.  So now I ask “do you want a glass of Veronica”?  “Yes, please,” says my workpal. “Only one though.” (Yeh, right.)

Once I asked for viognier and the bar didn’t have any. So I went for albarino and that was a hit with my pal  too. But that’s another tale.

So. Veronica / Viognier. I  love it.  The premium whites  come from its heartland in the northern Rhône. Look out for Condrieu and Château-Grillet and be prepared to pay for it. In the same region, viognier is  blended with syrah in Côte-Rôtie where it adds a floral lift.  Actually, it’s mainly added because enzymes in viognier help to stabilise the wine.

That’s stuff you might not give a hoot about. What is interesting (well, I think so) is that in the 70s viognier was close to extinction.

Thanks to some enthusiastic winemakers it was lifted to a new level, and is now planted in many parts of the New World as well as its native France.

Apricot, peaches, spice, and a silky mouthfeel are the signatures of Veronica. Sorry, viognier. Here’s a small selection.

 The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Viognier review
The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pays d’Oc Viognier 2013

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Pays d’Oc Viognier 2013,    (£8.99). This French wine has just won  bronze  at the International Wine Challenge 2014. It is a lovely balance of fragrant, elegant, creamy apricot. My  favourite description is from IWC judges who describe it as “cuddly and succulent”.

Now to South Africa (the Western Cape) and Hope Springs Viognier 2013 (£8.99, This was my Eurovision wine, not very Euro I know, but even so.  There was peach, but lemon too. A bit friskier and tighter than the other viogniers I tried.  It had the fruity depth  to match our tra-la-la  shoo-wop TV dinner of Thai green chicken curry.

Guigal Cotes du Rhône Blanc 2012 (from £11.99 at, Amps Fine Wines, Noble Green Wines). This is a five-grape blend with viognier leading the way at 70%.  There’s  rounded peaches,  silk-like and tactile as some touch-me plump fruits in a grocers;  but it has crispness, lift and perfume  from other grapes which include  rousanne and marsanne.

Secreto de Viu Manent Viognier 2012 (Spirited Wines, £10.64 and Oddbins, £11.25) Apparently the “secreto”  range has a closely guarded secret related to “land, proportions, and balance”. The grapes come from the Colchagua Valley in Chile, and this is 85% viognier, with 15% … well,  a secret. What you get after a nose hover of pears and apricots, is a mouthbomb of tropical fruit, with those creamy, silky sensations once again.

Also in my glass…

…. well the football season has finished.  I’m very giddy. My team has been promoted. Burnley that is. Up the Clarets. I celebrated with sparkles as it seemed fitting. The Society’s Cava Reserva Brut (The Wine Society, £8.50)  is made  in Penedès, the heart of cava country near Barcelona. It uses the traditional cava grapes parellada, macabeu and xarel.lo with a touch of chardonnay. Cava is fab.

This one was fragrant with  blossom and apples and on the palate was a soft fizz of apples  and a tickly lemon  finish. Perfect for summer.

The society has an offer on a six-bottle summer sparklers mixed case, £79 saving  £8.95,  which ends on June 15 or while stocks last.

First published in the saturday magazine, May 17 2014

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