Sparkling wines put fizz into food and drink festival

Sparkling wines review

I got a bit giddy a few days ago. I was in the right place to be giddy, at a food and drink festival. Alongside me were several other giddy people, though they were only giddy after they’d been with me for a while.

I helped to run a wine tasting session (with fellow wine writer Andrew Campbell) on sparkling wines at Feast, a festival in the beautiful setting of Conwy. I didn’t need much encouragement to be involved, only the promise of a bed before the journey back home the next day.

Jane Clare wine tasting
Jane Clare, giddy

It was great to share “geeky” things with new people. They just kept popping out of my mouth in my overall  giddiness as I talked about the wine.

First Geek Lesson:

Don’t be afraid to say you don’t like a wine just because other people do.

Second Geek Lesson:

Be brave and step outside your comfort zones. If you like something then embrace it; but try not to like it to the exclusion of other wines.

Third Geek Lesson:

Chill sparklers in a bucket with ice and water, not just the ice on its own. Then the entire bottle is in contact with the cold blast, not just the pointy icy bits.

Fourth Geek Lesson:

Hold a glass by its stem, not the bowl of the glass. This isn’t a stick-your-little-finger-out posh thing to do, but stops you warming up white wine as you grasp it.  (Note to people at parties: Who gives a hoot about this Geek Lesson.)

The wines. First up prosecco and a fun fact for my giddy gang. Last Christmas one supermarket chain sold more prosecco than milk. Not a bad choice for the cornflakes.

Sainsbury Conegliano prosecco
Sainsbury Conegliano prosecco

Taste the Difference Conegliano  Prosecco  Superiore DOCG 2013 (£10, Sainsbury)  was this year’s International Wine Challenge Great Value Sparkling under £12, and the IWC Champion Great Value Sparkling Wine this year. I’ve praised this pear and apple-fresh wine before, and no doubt I’ll do so again.  (General geeky tip:  Look out for a DOCG prosecco, which is higher quality than DOC).

Okhre Natur Brut Cava (M&S, £10.99) I was excited to share this with my giddies.  I love cava and was disappointed to read a reviewer say that this was a “nice alternative to prosecco”. No! At what point does one-dimensional prosecco have any of the characterful nuances of cava?  This had multi-layered apple and lime freshness, with bready hints and burnt caramel (much like butterscotch).

Next up and some oohs and aahs around a peaches and cream soft fizz with undercurrents of apples and limes. A real squeeze of acidity watered the mouth as bubbles danced. More oohs and aahs when I revealed it was Aldi Cremant de Loire, a perfect snip at £6.79 for any occasion. Who needs an occasion?

Franciacorta Brut M&S
Franciacorta Brut M&S

Other gorgeous wines we showcased included Franciacorta Brut  (M&S, £18.99) which was a new one on me and stunning. If you have just under £20 in your pocket and fancy a change from Champagne then head in the direction of this Italian delight. I wrote down marzipan and almonds, with melting buttery biscuits.

Les Pionniers Champagne review
Les Pionniers Champagne

The Co-op’s Les Pionniers 2004 vintage champagne (£24.99) is a world-beating champion treat,  zesty and nutty.

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee
Nyetimber Classic Cuvee

Nyetimber Classic Cuvee 2009(£35.99, Majestic )  is another IWC gold winner and was served on  Royal occasions to mark the jubilee last year.  English wine royalty in its own right,  it is creamy, complex, with apricots and wisps of melon and brioche.

Araldica Brachetto d'Acqui review
Araldica Brachetto d’Acqui

Finally, Araldica Brachetto d’Acqui (£10.99, Virgin Wines) this scrumptious deep pink strawberry pot of sparkles didn’t last long in anybody’s glass. I can see the chappie in front of me now, like Oliver, who kept asking for more.

All in all, I think we managed to put a sparkle into everybody’s weekend.

Published in the saturday extra magazine November 1 2014 

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

Support your independent wine merchants if you can

It’s always nice to know that people read my wine columns. I know, because occasionally people get in touch with me.
Here is an email from Deiniol ap Dafydd, the managing director of
The note reads:
“Enjoyed your ‘Raise a Glass’ article again today, but had to smile that you were promoting Bruno Paillard through London and distant firms whilst we operate in the North Wales Daily Post area.
“We have offered the Champagne Bruno Paillard Brut Premier Cuvee as part of our 700 odd selection of wine for the last twenty years and our current price is £40.75, considerably cheaper than London.
“As part of a dozen mixed bottles it would cost £37.69!!  Beats £44.99 by £7.30 – enough to buy a cracking Ontanon Rioja Crianza here.
“Further than that we offer free delivery throughout Wales for delivery of any 12 wines – which beats the various ‘aites and ‘imes wine merchants & clubs.
“This happened a couple of weeks ago as well when the Saturday Telegraph promoted an M&S own label Gavi that was reduced from £9.99 to £7.25 – whilst our normal price is £7.15 and our case discount price is £6.61.”
Thanks for that Deiniol.
So people. Two lessons learned here.
Don’t always take my word as gospel – seek and ye shall find.  I rely on several sources for my wine prices. But they’re probably not the Be All and End All even though I try my hardest.
You’ve just got to love independent wine merchants. If there’s one near you  then go along and show your face.
People will talk to you. These guys have businesses to run, businesses they believe in.
It’s a totally different experience than buying wine in Rice Krispiesa  supermarket aisle, where you try to negotiate around trolleys full of Rice Krispies and Tetley Tea, whose  owners are stretching eager arms out for the pinks from Gallo et al.
Of course Indies may have wines you’ll be familiar with, but they’ll be selling wines that you won’t have seen before, very probably at great prices.
A quick glance at the site and I see they are selling Welsh wines. Here’s a link.
I’m very excited.