Sweet Pleasure Of Sauternes

Chateau Petit vedrines 2008If you plan to treat yourself once this week then make it a bottle of sweet wine from Sauternes in SE Bordeaux.  Sweet botrytised grapes (that have undergone a form of rotting whilst still on the vine which we refer to as noble rot) appear in nearly all wine shops and supermarkets but are very under-bought by the masses.  This is crazy as the depth of flavours are often out of this world.

This evening I have been drinking a Chateau Petit Vedrines 2008, Sauternes from Jeroboams in London.  It is relatively young but absolutely perfect with some Saint Agur blue cheese and Ryvita.  These wines are more versatile than they get credit for.  We often refer to them as "pudding wines" but they can also make great aperitifs as well.

The colour is very golden and rich.  It is an alluring drink that when you pour it in the glass you'll see that the glycerol grips the sides leaving a film coating (or "legs").  Dip your nose into the liquid and inhale deeply savouring as much as you can becuase more than likely there will be a shock of pleasure wafting over your senses.

This is made from a Sémillon-Sauvignon Blanc Blend and has hints of honeyed tropical fruit, a little apricot and underlying whiff of kerosene.  It is a perfect wine for cutting through the fat of the cheese, complimenting the flavours and inspiring a massive amount of "I want another glass"ism.

The best advice is look along the shelves of sweet wines in your local supermarket and pick one out from Sauternes, Barsac, Fargues, Preignac or Bommes.  These villages are situated at the extreme end of the Graves region in SE Bordeaux up the Garonne river.

Call a friend to come over and ensure the wine is chilled.  Perhaps treat yourself to some tasty blue cheese or fine paté.  That'll get you started.  From here you can go on to sample sweet wines from as far field Greece, Hungary, Moldova, Australia, the Americas... and so on...

Wine serving temperatures

Reds - I have walked into many a room to see eager incumbents with bottles of red warming next to an open fire whilst they rub their hands of expectant joy.  The trouble is with this practice is that the wine when heated loses a great deal of its flavour.  The subtle fruit characteristics, tantalising spice and hints of french oak (or whatever complexing factors are added by the wine maker) are all lost to the heat.  The only remaining taste is the alcohol.  To some that is all that is required but to a wine lover it is the true taste and expression of the wine that we're after.

Wines made from bigger grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah (Shiraz), Burgundian Pinot Noir, Tempranillo and Sangiovese are best served at around 14-16 C.  For lighter wines such as Beaujolais or Pinot Noir from Alsace, for example, it is best to serve them cooler at around 12-14 C.   I noticed in Spain recently that many Rioja's were being served cool straight from the fridge.  This is lovely and refreshing when the temperatures are high outside.

Whites - Just as with reds being served too hot, white wine is very often served t0o cool.  When the wine is served ice cold it can often eliminate many of the great flavours that are trying their utmost to get out and onto your palate.  Conversely, serve the wine too warm and it will lack decent structure and feel "flabby" in your mouth.  It is an easy characteristic to pick out.

The best solution is to simply check the wine for yourself and get confident at making a judgement.  If the wine has a nasty finish or is a bit aggressive in the mouth then you may as well chill it some more as it will mask the awfulness.  Otherwise let the wine cool down in order to release some of the great flavours.  The best serving temperature to aim for with white wine is 12-13 C.  This should cover the bases and you can chill up or down depending on how you assess the wine.

N.B. I've said this before but if you only drink half a bottle and want to keep the rest then put the top back on to stop air getting in touch with the fluid and then store in your fridge.  Aim for a storage temperature of about 10C and the wine will be good to go the next night.  This is a good tip for red and white wines.

2010 Riesling Trocken, Dr Burklin-Wolf, Pfal

Dr Burklin-Wolf reisling
People don't often get as excited as they should when a bottle of decent Riesling presents itself.  Dr Burklin-Wolf's 2010 Riesling that I have right now in my glass is wooing me at every turn.  The colour is bright golden straw and the nose is enticing butterscotch and honeydew melon.  

In the mouth the wine keeps on giving.  The acidity is perfectly balanced and puckers the inside of the cheeks with a mixture of fruit sweetness and more butterscotch, melon and hints of something tropical.  There are licks of the trademark kerosene but most of all I think this wine is an echo of joy.

£12.95 Jeroboams Wine Merchants

Daily Wine Tasting Tip: Decanting Young Wines

decanting young wineMore often than not we associate the decanting of wine with the pomp, ceremony and expectation of drinking something out of the ordinary.  But the truth is that decanting even less grandiose wines grabbed from the supermarket shelves in the £5-10 range can have a game changing effect on the tasting experience.

Decanting older wines has the very real purpose of separating the sediment from the wine that has built up over the years lying down.  The second effect of decanting is that it aerates the wine giving it a chance to breathe and release the finer qualities that otherwise might make us think the wine is tough or hardly drinkable.

For myself, I have a couple of nicer decanters for when I'm getting very excited about the drink on the table, however, for everyday drinking I simply pour the wine into glass jugs.  Pulling the cork out of the bottle/twisting the cap and leaving it for thirty minutes to breathe will not do very much at all.  Only a few centimetres of wine surface area is exposed to the oxidative process.  Pouring the wine into a glass jug and giving the surface of the liquid a ten centimetre exposure to the air will start the process of aeration working.  A good process to indulge oneself in is tasting periodically and making note of the changes that take place as the wine evolves in the glass.  

Decanting young wine can increase the please you get from drinking.  A quick signal is if the wine seems tough and tannic.  In this instance reach for the jug or decanter and rub your hands in anticipation.  Typical wines to try this out on might be 'Good Ordinary Claret' sold by many retailers in their own brand or a young Syrah from the Rhone.  

Go ahead, give it a try!

N.B. Leaving wine exposed to the air for more than sixteen hours (typically) will cause it to turn to vinegar and the oxidative process concludes by destroying the wines drinkability.  If you have enough worth saving pour it back in the bottle, pop the cork in and store in the fridge.

Chateau Bourjaud 2007 Blaye, Cotes de Bordeaux

Chateau Bourjaud 2007 Blaye Cotes de Bordeaux
85% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon - decant this wine and let it open up to get the best out of it.  A light balance of oak and fruit make this an excellent value hit for claret lovers.  I only drank half the bottle on Thursday evening and on returning to it on Friday it had fully evolved into a wholely good ordinary claret.  At this price it is an absolute bargain.

£6.50 The Wine Society
12.5% abv

Anciano Gran Reserva 2003 Valdepenas, Spain

Anciano Gran Reserva 2003 Valdepenas, Spain

This wine certainly looks the business on the shelf in the gold wire frame and antique style label.  To be fair it lives up to the pomp.  The fruits are what you'd expect from good quality tempranillo, light red fruits with hints of strawberry underpinned by mellow vanilla oak.  Thankfully the oak isn't overdone and that helps every glass slip down nice and easily.  I can strongly recommend this very pleasant wine at an excellently priced £6.74.  Don't forget to wheel out some good quality duck or beef to enjoy to the max!

13% abv Waitrose

Dourthe Reserve Montagne Saint Emilion 2009

Dourthe Reserve Montagne Saint Emilion

As you'd expect from Saint Emillion, this wine is Merlot driven but boy is it a good buy.  It is perfectly smooth with elegant fruit, light spice and, what we all are looking for: just one more glass drinkability!  I opened this with a few friends and everyone remarked on the quality.  Great drinking for a tenner - a good pick from Waitrose.

13% abv Waitrose

wine course

Averys Pioneer Range Bordeaux Rouge 2009

Averys Pioneer Bordeaux 2009
Mostly Merlot with 35% cabernet franc and 5% cabernet sauvignon - healthy nose of blackcurrents and smooth tannins on the palate. I had this with lamb shanks slow cooked in foil in oil and an inch of water with rosemary.  The result was a perfect match.  The tannins held up to fattiness in the meat juices and the bottle was consumed fast and with ease.  It is a strong wine at 14% abv so keep that in mind if you're working your way through a case!  Maybe open with weaker German Reisling from the Mosel to pave the way to South West France!

£8.99 from Averys

Chateau Grand Jean 2009 Bordeaux

Chateaux Grand jeanYouthful with typical Bordeaux character - needs decanting but there is real pleasure when this "morish" wine opens up.  Dark fruits and a good bite of tannin make this a perfect benchmark claret at pretty good value for money.  2009 is a great vintage worth familiarising oneself with.

Stockists: Direct Wines & laithwaiites.co.uk
13.5% abv

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.