Wine Press: Call My Bluff Wine Tasting fizzes perfectly

A few years ago there was a TV quiz show, Call My Bluff. My mum and dad loved it. I remember the 70s brown and beige shirts and the quizmaster technology included a simple bell.

A team would give three definitions of a word; but only one was true. Another team had to guess which.

Bring that up to 2015, add gaffer tape, wine, human guinea pigs, yours truly, some lovely helpers, and what you have is a Call My Bluff wine tasting.

We disguised wine bottles with the tape and split my guinea pigs into teams.

Call My Bluff wine tasting
Call My Bluff wine tasting with yours truly

I like fizz so I pretty much went all out on the stuff.

With the first wine I said: “I’m sauvignon blanc, and I’m from Marlborough in New Zealand.

“I was recently described as having a ‘very catty aroma’ and being ‘the spring onion side of sauvignon’.”

I threw in a Bluff line: “My homeland is France and this is the first time that French winemakers have turned me into Champagne”.

FALSE!!! Sauvignon blanc would never be used in a Champagne.

Freemans Bay New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc
Freemans Bay New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

This was Aldi’s Freemans Bay New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc (£8.99). Did my guinea pigs like it? Well yes, most of them did. Though for some, the jury was out.

Next: “I’m a prosecco. I’m one of the best you can get. My grapes are grown on steep limestone hills between two villages. They are so special I have a high DOCG status. I have apricot and citrus and you can even taste a little bit of the limestone if you concentrate really hard. I’ve won awards. I’m so proud of myself.”

If you find a prosecco marked DOCG it is indeed one of the best.

In this case it was multi-award winner Sainsbury’s Conegliano Prosecco, Taste the Difference (around £11). My guinea pigs really loved this one.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Conegliano Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut 2013
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Conegliano Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut 2013

Moving on. My clue on Codorníu Gran Cremant Vintage, Brut (several retailers, RRP £9.99) was: “Just like Champagne, three dominant grape varieties are used to make me: paralleda, macabeo and xarel-lo. Each of them is difficult to say, but each of them makes me special. I don’t know why people like prosecco more than me, as I have more flavours and tasty layers. You might be able to smell citrus, honey and almonds.”

call my bluff wine tasting
Death by Powerpoint

Several guinea pigs didn’t think this was cava at all, but my made up Bluff description, of a sparkling chardonnay “bright and zesty with a ping of lemon and scrunched red apples”.

Next, an ooh-ahh of a Wine Bluff reveal. I said: “I have a golden hue. I have a nice crisp and intense flavour of lemon and honey. I’m an award-winning champagne at less than a tenner.”

A bluff line included… “you might think I have a smell of peach – that’s the peach trees which grow very close to the vineyard.” (Ha! See how easy it is to make it up!)

Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut Philizot Aldi
Veuve Monsigny Champagne

The wine reveal was Aldi’s Veuve Monsigny Champagne Brut by Philizot (£9.99) and it was praised by the guinea pigs; A tenner for a really lovely drop of champers.

We turned to another of my faves. “I’m the Gracie Fields of the champagne world. I taste of brioche and toast and citrus with little hints of stone fruit.”

A bluff line included: “If I was featured in Hello! magazine I’d have a footballer boyfriend and a villa in Marbella. I’m more full in the face than most champagnes with stewed apples and cinnamon sticks.”

My guinea pigs worked out that this didn’t smell of cinnamon and some rightly guessed it was The Co-operative Les Pionniers NV Champagne, £16.99 and very nice it is too. My clue was that Gracie Fields is from Rochdale, which is also the birthplace of the Co-op movement.

Sometimes you have to live inside my head.

Published in the saturday extra magazine April 25, 2015

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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, www.virginwines.co.uk). 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 vintagemarque.com, 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

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