Cuvée Chassuer: A Good Vin de Table Supermarket Tip!

Vin de table, as the French call their everyday drinking wine, is something that we all need close to hand to cope with just about any emergency that may arise.  This could be for rapid consumption on the hearing of emotive news or simply to add to your lamb shanks to fuse the flavours into something heavenly. 

Cuvee Chasseur 2011 vin de table

Well, here is a good tip from one of my good friends, Dinah.  Dinah has been drinking this wine for many years and remembers paying something like £3.50 a bottle.  Now it retails in Waitrose for a princely £4.79.  

cuvee chasseur 2011 labelI needed a simple red wine to add to my mushroom, rosemary and lamb stock as it slow cooked with a couple of succulent chops, for a few hours.  With all the snow outside I also wanted something warm and pleasant.  Cuvée Chasseur is just the kiddy.  As third of the bottle went into the pot where the bright cherry fruits blended away into the meal, whilst the rest went into my mini decanter and glass.  The red fruits are bright and pleasant, and the wine has a good bite of tannin giving it a good clean finish.  I am very pleased with this Cuvée Chasseur Rouge 2011, so thank you Dinah!

Cuvée Chassuer Rouge from Waitrose £4.79

Belisario Terre DI Valbona Verdicchio di Matelica

Verdicchio is always a wine I buy and enjoy often when it crops up on bar menus.  A friend pointed out to me the other day that most of the Verdicchio's we enjoy are from the  Castelli di Jesi DOC area.  The "other" verdicchio producing DOC is the far smaller and inland 'Matelica' DOC. 

Matelica DOC Verdicchio

So I have been this last week dropping into various wine shops as I have passed them.  These have included Lea and Sandeman (Fulham Road branch), Jeroboams (Notting Hill) and Oddbins on the Chiswick High Road close to where I live.  None of these fine establishments had wines from Matelica for sale.  As a last gasp before settling on something different altogether, I dipped out of the snow this evening into the Good Wine Shop on the Chiswick High Road and asked the smiling chap on the till whether he had verdicchio from Matelica.  To my utter surprise he leapt up and instantly retrieved a bottle - even bothering to apologise for only having one producer.  

I marched at great speed to the supermarket and bought some fish and have placed it in the frying pan with lemon and garlic.  The fish in question is very much the catch of the day and being tagged "the fish of the Verdicchio Matelica Wine Italyfuture", "Tilapia", a farmed fish that grows to full size within six months.  If the hype is to believed this the fish that will keep the masses in vitamins and nutrients in the future days of limited fish stocks.  Let's see about that. It is sizzling away as I type.  

Please give me a few moments whilst we taste the wine and fish and see what the results are… I have been thinking of little else for the latter part of the working day.

Right, back!

The Terre di Valbona is a tasty little number with a fresh, almost lemony nose .  The acidity is very pleasant and is perfect for this fish, soaked in garlic and oil.  The fish itself is plain tasting except for my additions but has a fleshy white meat texture.  Give it a go - I imagine it it is great in curries and similar dishes that have an abundance of spice and flavours.

I want to taste more of these wines.  The mineral flavours are quite intense and full of vibrancy.  A good food wine.  I'd like to have it with monk fish next time.

A quick factoid:  Belisario is a co operative producer, the biggest in Matelica.  The word Belisario is also a tragic opera based on the famous 6th century General Belasarius, of the Byzantine period.  So there you go… a wine with mighty intentions.  The only tragedy is the difficulty in acquiring wines from this region!


2004 Domaine de Chevalier Rouge, Cru Classe Pessac-Leognan

domain de chevalier 2004

I've just finished the last drop of this lovely bottle of Domain de Chevalier '04.  Dark fruits with rich tarry aromas haunt the nostrils whilst in the mouth the fruits get deeper into their groove.  The tannins are silky and too easy to enjoy along with another layer of liquorice.  

That's it, the last drop is gone and the evening is ending.  Buy this wine if you're drinking with a good close appreciative friend… or simply just alone listening to Mozart's Symphony 29 in A Major (Just heard on BBC Radio 3 Iplayer) and life will certainly be worth living.

This is fine example of fine wine and priced around the £65GBP mark we'd expect an entirely hedonistic moment or two.  Expectation and satiety locked arms this evening.


You can buy this wine in the UK from Jeroboams


Wine In 3D and The Art Of Travelling Without Travelling

Leather and eucalyptus on the nose with herbaceous landscapes materialising in my mind…

Fetalone - Primotivo- Puglia - Italy

Non-physical travelling to Italy has been the biggest pleasure of this past week.  On Monday night I was the guest of my friend Andy, a distinguished editor of TV, film and documentary productions, to a screening of his new docu-movie-3d thingy-ma-jiggy in the heart of London's Westend in Leicester Square.

The film was in cutting edge 3D, crafted together from Leonardo da Vinci's Codexes.  A codex is an ancient manuscript or in this case, more specifically, a projection of the ideas of one of histories greatest geniuses.  Da Vinci exudes genius from every pore, so it was hard not to expect great things.

What was totally surprising is the capability of the 3D medium to bring to life foreign landscapes, detailed ideas and the machinations of a man who lived so long ago but, as he intended, left a mark on history that has touched millions of people.  There will be more intelligent uses of this technology so watch out for it and if you hear talk of Da Vinci being seen in 3D with a Scottish accent, pick-up your pencil and take notes of the picture house!

The second experience of transportation this week is to a more southerly part of Italy located about the heel called Puglia.  I am seduced by this part of Italy despite having never been there.  That is of course until this evening when I floated away out of the window, gliding in a cloud of euphoria towards the Mediterranean over Capri looking North to the Bay of Naples, scratching my bottom on the church spires in Ravello, on the Amalfi Coast, into the darkness of the mainland until I reached Foggia and taking instruction upon the coast, turned right to Bari (A certain amount of navigability is required or I'd end up in Albania in fancy dress with bygone Lord Byron!).

Once here I taste the air of ancient dry volcanic rocks gently covered in herbs that face down the vines growing out of the landscape.  These vines (the bottle tells me) have been tended for over five generations.  They taste mature and nurtured, loved and hospitable.  The nose is complex with aromas of leather and dark cherry.  Whilst tasting I have smell of lamb roasting in the background giving credence to my experience.  The cherries come alive with other dark fruits.  The wine is big but not too big.  It opens its doors carefully but not begrudgingly.  

It's a good wine and for fifteen pounds it is a good trip.

Many thanks Filippo Petrera or "il Fatalone" - the originator of this fine growing tradition.

Fatalone, Gioia Del Colle, Primitivo, 2008, Puglia, Italy.

I bought from but I am sure it for sale in other places if you Google it!

"Decant, decant, Tempra-ni-llo, shall pleasure thee, O her-man-o"

Are you, like me, dusting down the glasses and polishing the decanters?  Does the imminent festive spirit weigh heavy on your mind… the great grapes day loom wild in your thoughts?  

Beronia Rioja 2010 Especial

Maybe I am overdoing it, but the truth is I don't need much encouragement to open a bottle of wine.  Tell me it is International Tempranillo Day and I am all over it like a rash of itchy bacon.

The Great Grape's Saint's Day is on Thursday.  Consider this a warm up…  I have just opened a bottle of Beronia Rioja 2010 Tempranillo, Elaboration Especial.  Does it live up to the name?

Tempranillo is grape for many occasions, a grape that can aid laughter, food, ceremony or solitary confinement.  It is a grape that I have turned to in times of need and in times that found me bereft of fortune but yearning fun and pleasure.  So here I find myself eulogising in the warm-up to International Tempranillo Eve.

This Beronia Rioja 2010 is modern from the outside in.  The packaging doesn't look like a bottle of Rioja.  Perhaps this is a good thing.  Many lesser producers seemed to be going as far they could to exude an age-old antique Spanish charm and it worked… until you tasted the wine.  They tended to be too oaky or lacking the quality that one always hopes to relive when one opens rioja.  

I am pleased to say this wine is subtle on the oak.  The first flavour that strikes the senses is liquorice.  It is a good omen on opening as it often implies something complex lying therein.  After a little air, the wine starts to breathe freely and the more strawberry and cherry fruit aromas emerge.  It is not opaque but just translucent and light in the mouth.  I've enjoyed it with a chicken breast fried in onion and rustic herbs with peppers.  The whole formula is delicious.  The Beronia continues to lend kindness and support to the whole evening and I am still drinking it as I type.  

This is a good wine for enjoying at home or with friends.  Try to take a little time to savour the flavours.  Probably burn the evening oil with Radio 3 on the wireless playing their calming rythms.

You can buy this from Waitrose or for about the £10 mark.  

Rejoice, Rejoice, St Tempranillo!

Errazuriz Part 2: Max Reserva 2010 Chilean Chardonnay

Chardonnay seems to get a bad name among many regular quaffers and the only reason I can think of is that they are buying very lousy stuff.  I've just opened this bottle and as it has opened up it has reached out, lifting the spirits of my be-lipped entry point.

Errazuriz Max reserva Chardonnay 2010 Chilean

Bad chardonnay has a tendency to taste acrid with poor over-oakiness that's almost musty.  Good chardonnay can be luxurious with delicate fruits that titillate and tease and keep the arm steering the hand back to the mouth.  There is a hint of oak in this Chilean number.  It is balanced with soft white fruits which I really like.  I've been sipping for a while now and am certainly not bored and not in a mind to be negative.  For around £12.99 I think this delivers good quality and amplified richness for a chilled night in with Nicola Benedetti playing her Stradivarius violin in the background, providing light but not overbearing entertainment.  Maybe her performance of Bruch's Violin Concerto, as she played at the Last Night of the Proms, would be the perfect music and wine pairing.  

The wine has good character and can/should be bought in the UK from, Leamigton Wine Company and Dickens House Wine Emporium.

Sip sip!

Sutherland Rhine Riesling: Fuel For The Pleasure Receptors

I have to admit to being partly seduced by the 'Rhine' in the label of this wine and was confusedly clicking my lips when I realised it was made in S Africa.  The Rhine conjures images from my teens when I was jackbooted out of the house, put on a plane and sent to Switzerland to stay with Muller family.  I am not sure what wrongs they committed to be charged with my care for a few weeks for several summers but even so, the memories of the times spent touring up and down the Rhineland left a lasting impression.  I particularly recall the vastness of river up North of Baden-Baden and, on one occasion swimming across a large reservoir in the hot afternoon sun post picnic lunch.  It was an idyllic setting which would have been sublime if only the reservoir wasn't quite so large and I didn't have shooting cramp in both lower legs.  My lack of German and not-wanting-to-make-a-scene character meant I swam the other half distance extra to the opposite side and turned with the others and gently swam back exclaiming "das good!" to my hosts.

Sutherland Riesling 2009

Anyway, as I said, only the grapes in this wine are from the Rhine.  The rest is from vines grown in the Thelema Mountains in South Africa.  Dipping my rounded proboscis into the glass I loved the aromas of kerosene, clear and pungent.  It is especially there on first opening when it is also dry and steely.  Love that!  To taste it is dry with a fine acidity, hints of lime (as the back label says!) and butterscotch.  It is sweet but not saccharine sweet, more fruity sweet, which is a nicer taste altogether.  A good quality wine.

I had this with roasted vegetables and it was perfect.  Considering I like a healthy amount of olive oil in with the potatoes and parsnips etc. this wine cut through the oily residue like the bare front of Excalibre. A very good Monday evening wine.  Could also serve as a light aperitif or mezzo style chatting wine.

I bought this from the - good value at £13.50

'Kay, Syrah Syrah: Errazuriz Max Reserva 2009 Syrah from Chile

Errazuriz are a rapidly becoming a benchmark of solid Chilean quality wines - a brand that can balance quantity of production and quality.  I am always pleased to open a bottle.

'Kay, Syrah Syrah: Errazuriz Max Reserva 2009 Syrah from Chile

Never more so than this evening.  After a trip to the butchers this afternoon where I picked up a fine array of minty lamb chops to have with fresh curly kale from Kent, what better accompaniment than a bottle of Syrah (see photo above).

The aromas evoke dark fruits like black cherry and currants with spices; all very autumnal.  The colour is deep ruby red as one would expect.  It's a good mouthful of wine with relaxed tannin so I'm not left smacking my lips in search of water.  It is, as one would imagine, a food wine.  This is good news for me as I have decanted some to savour with the meat and also tipped a little into the oven dish.  

Due to a good all round balance, this wine could be stored for a few years... but what's the point?  Crack it open and get stuck in.  

I notice on Classic FM they're offering wine and music pairing tips.  Well mine for today is this Errazuriz Max Reserva '09 Syrah with Carlos Gardel's tango 'Por Una Cabeza'.  There's a lovely version on Nicola Benedetti's album, 'The Silver Violin'.

Villa Maria Sparkles

Sparkling Villa maria

I got home after a long patrol on Portobello Road and, I have to say, my feet were feeling tired and flat.  Strumming through the options of a evening sip on the couch, I was reminded of an email conversation with Nicky from RandR PR.  The conversation was about another sparking but the suggestion came that I try this.  Thus the good minded lady sent me a bottle to taste.

I think it is the first sparkling sauvignon blanc I have tasted, at least that I can remember.  Instantly it separates itself from the memory banks of champagnes, prosecco's and the like.  It provides another option.  Villa Maria in its still form is a point scoring fighter for quality and value.  It's success is built on this factor.  Sparkling sauvignon is a subjective challenge.  I could see myself buying this again to drink with others to gauge their opinion.  My own is that is a good palate freshener.  It hasn't the depth and personality of good benchmark champagne but it does have a sense of honesty about who it is and a place on the retailers shelves as a tasty alternative for an easy evening of chatting and guzzling.  Though strictly not for wine snobs (but I am betting Villa Maria doesn't aim for that anyway!).

Happy drinking!

Vermentino Toscana (Memories of Lucca)

Vermentino reminds me fervently of a visit to Lucca for a night exactly two years ago.  It was a strange adventure that took us from the civility of Northern Italy by boat to the buzz of Barcelona and on to the sizzling chaos of Fez, the old capital of Morocco, until we crossed the Middle Atlas mountains taking camels and a guide into the huge sands of the Sahara.

Vermentino 2011

In Lucca we took bicycles and rode around the top of the city walls before sitting down to eat in the small square outside the elegant town house that Puccini once inhabited.  The small restaurant called Paris Boheme was a tip from a couple of American's we got chatting to in the stunning Cinque Terra on the coast between Rapallo and La Spezia.  

Cafe Boheme was more cafe style in feel and the tables reached out to the theatrical looking statute of Puccini himself.  I asked for a wine tip and the owner literally sung "Veeeeermentinooooo!  A beautiful white wine of the local region.  It is very good."  What could I do but nod in acceptance.

To eat we shared a "insalata erotica" which was absolutely delicious.  The wine was young fresh and full of sweet life.  Perfect for a warm autumnal evening such as it was.  We each then succumbed to the tagliatelli and more of the same wine.  A memorable evening that closed with a gentle walk through the ancient walled city to our hotel just outside.

So back to the wine in hand.  I couldn't resist but climb into the warm suit of memory, pouring a large glass of Moris Vermentino Toscana 2011.  It has a lovely nose of fresh cut ripe pear and hints of sweet apple. To taste it is more of the same with a refreshing acidity that leaves the mouth feeling well up-turned.  Very nice indeed.

Vermentino Toscana 2011  available at Jeroboams stores or online at

Big 'n' Bold Triple Blend Kumala Zenith 2010 from S Africa

Kumala Zenith 2010

Kumala have done a good job packaging up this bottle making it look modern and stylish.  I like the screw cap as well which is perfect for giving my corkscrews the night off.

The wine is a very good table wine. It is a blend of three big grape varieties: cabernet sauvignon, merlot and shiraz. This in itself is interesting as it shows a desire to on the part of the producer to make something interesting with a degree of complexity.  It's a good effort and at the "under ten pound" price bracket quite commendable.  It has a lot of dark red fruit on the nose, quite jammy but just holding out on the limits of what my nasal passage can take.  I had this wine with a starter of tomato and basil soup followed by a bowl of pasta and fresh green pesto.  The large penne mixed with oil, basil and nuts was a good match for this wine.  It is rich with succulent fruit that washes the herbaceous away and leaves deep plummy flavours and a touch of its own autumnal spice.  Very drinkable but definitely one to have with food.  Enjoy!

Available at Tesco.  I also did a quick search and think you can buy it from Sainsbury's.

Le Ruisselet - Chardonnay Chasan

Have you ever heard the phrase: "That wine has got my name written all over it?"  Well, this one literally did!

Parklane Champagne

I received this wine courtesy of Park Lane Champagne who specialise in personalised wine.  A few immediate observations are that the wine arrived very smartly wrapped and looked like the perfect birthday wine for which it was served.  (Although it had Secret Sommelier on the label, my fellow drinkers assumed that this was some special wine I commissioned, or something like that!).

Personalised wine has its place with gifts, event wine and suchlike.  The crucial factor in my mind is that it tastes very good as it does, after all, have your personal brand emblazoned on the front.  So what did we think?

Le Ruisselet is a blend of chardonnay and chasan grapes.  These both compliment each other very well.  The first aromas that whistle up the nostrils are that of creamy coconut, most unusual.  This is very accessible wine, a perfect aperitif.  We had some Cornish cured pork to accompany that was a little spicy.  Le Ruisselet was a good choice as the fruit sweet taste blended with the sweetness of the meat, as the crisp acidity left the palate feeling very refreshed.  

Needless to say the bottle didn't last incredibly long as we were cheerfully celebrating.  Feedback from all parties was very good, so if you are in need of tasty wine with personalised labeling, you could do worse that contacting these guys.

For more information visit: Park Lane Champagne

In Anticipation Of An Absent Summer

Stich Jackson Estate sauvignon Blanc 2011When the sun fails to shine for more than an hour before ducking behind dark clouds laden with moisture, in order to avoid the dreaded onset of SAD, my internal self-defence mechanism kicks in and I start to hallucinate.  

These hallucinations carry the imagination away and make it think that there are blue skies and warm town squares with lawns that I need to lie on.  From here the fiction intermingles with reality and I reach for the fridge to see what wine awaits.

I am pleased to say that this bottle of Jackson Estate, Stich, Sauvignon Blanc, 2011 from Marlborough is the perfect wine to imagine that one is enveloped in summery environs.  

The wine is fresh as cut grass with a very pleasing aroma of mixed pineapple and a touch of passion fruit.  The crisp acidity leaves the mouth feeling perfectly refreshed and fruitiness lingers on.  I conferred with my other half and she agrees that this is delicious.  Well done John, Geoff and Mike, whose names append the end of the back label claiming responsibility for this wine; at £9.99 a bottle it is an excellent buy.  

A good tip and available from:  Waitrose, Majestic, Sainsbury's

Winemaker and owner Nicola D’Auria greeted us at the entrance of this fascinating cantina. The winery and cellars have been designed by Rocco valentini in the shape of a vertical barrel in order to immerse the tasters senses in wine.


East from Roma to Abruzzo

From Rome we headed east to Abruzzo, a region of Italy that rises up like a burly landlord to greet the traveller. The Apennine mountains at their tops are stark and beautiful, lonely, yet fulsome. Rustic doesn’t quite do this landscape justice. It’s a place for pilgrims, peace lovers and, of course, we followers of Bacchic and gastronomic pleasure.


After days of picking grapes in one of the world’s most famous wine regions, the pickers get together to drink, chat and enjoy the drinks they are meticulously involved in the making of. 

Also check out local winemaker, Nico’s, top tip for a white Burgundy from Saint Aubin that you don’t have to travel to Burgundy to get!


What started in El Quatre Gats tapas bar in Barcelona, soon became an adventure in the Marche region of Italy, that lies along the east coast facing Albania across the Adriatic Sea. El Quatre Gats is famously where Picasso had his first solo exhibition as a young edgy artists in the Catalan capital and I was there dining with Dr Pia Casarini Wadhams, Director of Italy’s only Polar Institute, Il Polo.


The Palazzo is located in the centre of Fermo, a small Roman hilltop town with a rich history dating back to antiquity. Flying from abroad, Ancona is the closest airport, 67km north (about an hours drive) along the coast of the Adriatic sea.