The launch of Mr Vine: a brand new wine App.

Mr Vine - logo image 2Today sees the launch of Mr Vine: a brand new wine App that was created to make buying wine that you know you’re going to like both easy and mobile. As well as offering personalised recommendations and helping you discover new wines, Mr Vine allows you to buy bottles from UK independent merchants with just a few clicks on your phone. You can also build your own profile to keep track of what you’ve tasted and share your discoveries.

mr vine_crop_transparent_small

Some wine friends and I have been working behind the scenes as a crack panel of wine judges to give honest opinions on hundreds of wines. We put forward our favourites at every meeting and you can find them here on the Partners In Vine recommendations blog. My other panel-tastic friends are Richard Hemming, Zeren Wilson, Matt Walls and Nate Nolan.

Mr Vine - press image 7The App is currently available on the App store for iphones only, but is coming soon to Android. Download it here!

See more on mrvine.co.uk.

Photo by travelblog.org

Photo by travelblog.org

Jura – France’s smallest wine region – managed to pretty much elude me for much of my wine life. I think I always confused it with that bottle of whisky you see behind the tills at the Coop, but it’s nothing like that. Instead, think of the Jura as an antique shop that’s been there forever, but you’d never noticed it before. Once inside, it’s full of curiosities and has an earthy smell of creaking furniture and ancient stone. Some things are instantly attractive and have transcended time and others are just that little bit too.. well.. of another era.

Jura WinebirdHere are some quick and dirty Jura wine basics:

Where?

80km east of Burgundy on the low, western hills of the Jura mountains. It’s cool, damp and very rocky with plenty of clay and limestone. Together, this means wines that have high acidity and a characteristic, earthy minerality – like licking an ancient church wall. In a good way.

Jura wine styles to get to know

The Jura is famous for ‘oxidative’ wines, i.e. wines that have been deliberately exposed to oxygen while in the barrel and this gives them a characteristic taste…

clavelin winebird

The ‘Clavelin’ bottle used for all Vin Jaune wines

Vin Jaune: The Jura is most famous for its very particular Vin Jaune, which means ‘yellow’ or ‘golden’ wines. They must be aged for a minimum of six years and three months in old barrels and their particular nutty, stone-like flavour comes from the fact that they’re made in a similar way to Fino Sherry, where space has been left in the barrel for oxygen to come into contact with the wine and it grows a ‘flor’ type of yeast. Unlike Fino however, these Vins Jaunes have not been fortified with grape spirit and they maintain a stingingly high acidity. They can age for years, starting out with citrus flavours and a stony, saline tang, becoming more earthy, mossy, viscous and mineral with age. The searing acidity remains and they are beyond bone dry! Savagnin is the only grape that can be used for Vin Jaune and they must be bottled in the distinctive ‘Clavelin’ bottle which holds 62cl. If you like Fino Sherry, you’ll love this. 

Vin de Paille: This ‘straw wine’ is made using grapes that have been dried for three to four months before being pressed, fermented, then matured in oak for two to three years. It’s sweet and it’s thick and unctuous. If you like Ice Wine, you’ll love this.

Crémant de Jura: Sparkling white and rosé wines made using the ‘traditional method’ (like Champagne) with Chardonnay being the most important grape (Pinot Noir is often also added). These are generally fine like Champagne, but often with more fruit and a little softer.

Other white and red Jura winesChardonnay is the most widely planted white grape and is used for more ‘normal’, i.e. non-oxidative styles of still white wines. Savagnin is the other key white grape variety and is used for both normal and oxidative wines. The red wine are usually made using single grape varieties, with Troussard, Poulsard (aka Ploussard) and Pinot Noir being the big three. All reds are usually fairly light in colour with lots of tart, crunchy red fruit.

Want to try some? Head to The Sampler in London (thesampler.co.uk) and try the full range by Domaine Badoz. 

FACT! If the wine says ‘Château-Chalon, it can only be a Vin Jaune. It’s an appellation in its own right.

FACT! There are two AOC appellations that make all styles of wine mentioned above: Arbois and Côtes du Jura. If it’s from L’Etoile, it can only be white wine, including Vin de Paille and Vin Jaune.

Say Cheese!

Jura make some fabulous cheeses that you may well already know and love. These wines love milky Morbier, the golden, nuttiness of Comté, the delicate blue of Bleu de Gex Haut-Jura and the oozing deliciousness of Vacherin Mont d’Or.

Have you tasted wine from Jura? Let me know your thoughts!

WB x

Bacchus: Shakespeare’s Titania of wine grapes!

What is the Bacchus grape? What does it taste like? Who makes delicious Bacchus? Take a look…

Winebird loves…

Kingscote Estate ‘The Bacchus’ 2013

kingscote bacchus

Quintessential Titania-style Bacchus: Thirst-quenching and floral, light and leafy. This an elegant white with the captivating perfume of a fresh English forest. Perfect for sunshine drinking.

£16.45 direct from the vineyard or various shops around West Sussex. Also served at Gravetye Manor. 

Wine and chocolate pairing

chocolate scioltiI put this tasting together for the Ideal Home Show this weekend and with Easter around the corner and chocolate aplenty everywhere, I thought I’d share it. Come and taste with me for free this weekend if you can make it to Olympia!

Why is wine and chocolate so difficult to match?

Chocolate, especially commercial milk chocolate, is a notoriously tricky match for wine because it coats your mouth, stripping normal, dry wine of its fruitiness, leaving it tasting bitter, lean and acidic. The chocolate’s own flavour can rarely stand up to the wine either so becomes pretty tasteless. High quality, less sweet chocolate on the other hand often has a more intense flavour and should leave your mouth feeling clean and energised rather than claggy, which makes for much happier matching. A wine tends to needs some sweetness to stand up to chocolate. Sweet wines appear less sweet when paired with chocolate too which can be a good thing if you generally find dessert or sweet wines a little too much.

3 tips for wine and chocolate pairing

  • The sweeter the chocolate, the sweeter the wine needs to be.
  • The darker the chocolate, the less sweet the wine can be.
  • Fortified wines go well because they are particularly rich and powerful, so can stand up to intense flavour, sugar and texture.

How to taste chocolate with wine

Taste the wine first, swirling to aerate it. Sniff it, then take in a large sip with some air, swirling it all around your mouth, over your teeth and gums. Breathe out through your nose and experience those aromas and flavours. Now take your piece of high quality chocolate, snap it in two and smell it. Allow it to slowly melt on your tongue, concentrating on the aromas and flavours as you breathe out through your nose. Taste the wine again now and see what effect it has.

Classic wine and chocolate pairings

For simplicity’s sake, let’s look at white chocolate, milk chocolate, dark chocolate and a nutty, flavoured chocolate.

martiniWhite chocolate is made using just the cocoa butter (fat) from the cocoa bean and is usually sweet and creamy. A light and frothy, sweet wine with fizz such as Moscato d’Asti can make a really pretty match. The grapey, floral notes of the wine enhance a slight orangey flavour in the chocolate.  It’s a nice, low alcohol option too. I love this combination:

TRY: Asti Spumante Moscato d’Asti, £5.50 (bargain!) from Sainsbury’s with Fiona Sciolti’s Vanilla White Chocolate, £5 for 100g from scioltichocolates.com.

fletcher's portMilk chocolate  – both straight up and in chocolate mousse form – have sweetness and some darker, cocoa notes that need to be considered. Fortified red wines with lots of bright fruit flavours such as Ruby Port, Banyuls and Maury work well as they have enough sweetness to stand up to the chocolate flavour and enough power to cut through the texture. The wine still tastes fruity and the chocolate feels like velvet. Yes!

TRY: Fletcher’s Ruby Port, £6.49 ALDI (another bargain!) with Fiona Sciolti’s Cocoa Nibs & Sea Salt Chocolate, £5 for 100g from scioltichocolates.com.

jacobs creekDark Chocolate, especially if it’s flavoursome and not sweet will actually go with some still, dry red wines. The Syrah grape (aka Shiraz) is said to be a particularly good match because it makes wine that is fairly hefty and very fruity, but isn’t too dry and ‘tannic’. For something a little different, go for a sparkling Shiraz from Australia; it feels particularly indulgent and the fact that you serve the wine cold makes the combo surprisingly refreshing!

TRY: Jacob’s Creek Sparkling Shiraz, £10 from Sainsbury’s and other supermarkets with Fiona Sciolti’s ‘Afrique’ 80% blended dark chocolate, £5 for 100g from scioltichocolates.com.

sainsbry's madeiraHazelnut Praline is a very popular flavoured chocolate. It’s sweet, creamy and nutty, so needs something sweet and powerful, but if you can add a wine with a nutty flavour too, you will have a stunning pairing. Madeira is a white fortified wine with zingingly refreshing acidity and a characteristic hazelnut skin flavour.

TRY: Sainsbury’s Madeira, £7 for 35cl with Fiona Sciolti’s Hazelnut Praline Chocolate, £5 for 100g.

Do you have some amazing wine and choclate matches? Please share them with me here or tweet me @TheWinebird!

WB x

Easter wine recommendations

This week, I’ve picked some wines for each step of your Easter meal blowout! You can even taste through them for free with me this weekend at the Ideal Home Show in  Olympia. Come and see me in the food & drink theatre for some free samples. Yippee!

SPARKLING WINE

Wiston Estate Brut NV: Wiston EstateWe’re feeling patriotic this Easter, so what better to drink than a top class English fizz? I’ve chosen a wine that’s as beautiful outside as it is inside: Wiston Estate sparkling Brut NV (£24.95 from Corney & Barrow). This is the wine that the Queen used to launch the brand new, 141,000 tonne P&O liner Britannia two weeks ago. An enormous bottle called a nebuchadnezzar holding twenty one bottles of worth was used and yes, it smashed perfectly. This wine is made with roughly equal parts of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. These are the same grapes that go onto Champagne and they’re grown on the similarly chalky slopes of the Sussex downs.

VINALOGY: If Champagne is the Movie Star of sparkling wines, then English fizz is like Emma Watson; a quintessentially  English film actress, youthful, sometimes a little angular, yet still elegant with amazing potential to age. Crystal clear, pure and classy.

Food match: Drink it on its own, but it sings with salmon and seafood.

WHITE WINE

corder chardonnayCorder Family Cool Climate Chardonnay: Don’t recoil in horror from the C-word; this chardonnay from Elgin in South Africa is lusciously tropical and packed with ripe melon fruit, but it’s beautifully fresh with it.

VINALOGY: Think Kate Hudson: a girl next door type rather than a bubonic-boobied glamour model. A tiny touch of oak gives is a subtle caramel flavour, but there’s nothing synthetic or sickly about this delicious, golden wine. Find it for £11.99 at Capelondon.co.uk. It’s part of my Winebird’s starter case to get to know grape varieties!

Food match: Perfect with roast chicken and poultry with creamy sauces.

RED WINE

Momo pinotMomo Pinot Noir: : Pinot Noir (the grape) makes wines that feel like white wines, but taste like red. They are silky and elegant and when from New Zealand like this one, can show lovely ripe cherry fruit with bergamot notes. Find it from Capelondon.co.uk for £13.99. It’s also part of my Winebird starter case to help you get to know grape varieties.

VINALOGY: This is Audrey Hepburn in a cherry silk gown sipping Earl Grey tea. Soft, feminine and strokable!

Food match: Kiwi Pinot loves duck and lamb, especially with red fruit trimmings like a sour cherry sauce.

PUDDING WINE

fletcher's portFletcher’s Ruby Port NV: Chocolate, especially commercial milk chocolate, makes a very hard match for wine but a fortified red such as this ruby Port or a Maury or a Banyuls from France will be able to stand up to the sweetness and de-claggify your mouth! Yes, that is a word. Well, now it is. The Fletcher’s Ruby Port is outstanding value at just £6.49 from ALDI.

VINALOGY: Full-bodied, bright red and with plenty of spirit. Ruby Port is the father Christmas of wine!

If you’d like to taste these wines (and more) or free, come and see me this weekend (28th & 29th  March) at the IDEAL HOME SHOW at Olympia. I’m also running sessions on wine & chocolate and Old World Vs New World wines.

Mother’s day wine gift ideas

No one needs wine more than mothers. I know this because I have two children under four. The bouncy spaniel and shouty cat don’t help matters either; you can image what my house looks like. Anyhoo, here are a couple of things I’ve found that could make lovely mother’s day wine gifts.

Corkcicle Air – £19.99

corkcicle airThe wine gift that keeps your wine cool from the inside and aerates as it pours. Simple, but very effective! Watch my unboxing video for more:

‘Click for Clicquot’ – Veuve Clicquot rosé Champagne afternoon tea – £50 p.p.

Click for Clicquot (smaller)At the click of a button, you can treat mum to a stunning afternoon tea complete with scones, sandwiches, tea and a glass of Veuve Clicquot rosé Champagne at the St Pancras Renaissance Hotel in London. All you need to do is purchase through the app (itunes link here) and the recipient will receive a text message alerting them to their gift. They (or you) can then book for whenever the fancy takes them. How gloriously modern! (Reservations can be made by calling +44 (0) 20 7841 4840 or emailing stpancraschambers@renaissancehotels.com.

cape london logo Winebird starter case from Cape London  – £56.99

Six bottles; six superhero grape varieties, all with a new world accent. Get my book free with it while stocks last! Getting to know the characteristics of key grapes is where you start when you want to get into wine, so I’ve chosen six wines made with six different grape varieties. Open all six, compare and contrast them and call it a party! Please drink responsibly though, obviously…

Wine Flu T-shirts & hoodies. From £18.95

wine flu woneb

Nuff said, really. I like these a lot and they come in several colours and styles. See more at spreadshirt.co.uk

For more gift ideas, check out my wine product reviews on YouTube.

Happy gifting!

WB x

Why wine on TV and Youtube is like rugby stars making after dinner speeches

Winebird:

Do you agree? What is the answer for wine on TV? Thoughts please!

Originally posted on the joseph report:

I thought that you’d want what I want. Sorry my dear…

Send in the Clowns. Stephen Sondheim

Over the years, I’ve been at a number of wine competition awards presentations and similar wine events in London at which the after-dinner speech was presented to a multinational audience by a famous sports personality. On every occasion, I found the speaker highly entertaining and amusing but often, looking around the room, I made a mental note never to invite him or her to speak at any similar event for which I happened to be responsible. Why not? Because a significant proportion of the guests were not ‘getting’ it. References to Botham or ‘Blowers’ by a legendary former England batsman went straight over their heads, either because they hailed from a country that doesn’t apply willow to leather, or because – even as Brits, Antipodeans or South Africans – they just happened not to be cricket fans. Rugby stars may have…

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Beaujolais Ganache Truffles: A Valentine’s recipe

beaujolais trufflesIf you’d seen the state of some macaroons I once made and the fact that I burnt pizza last Friday, you might have thought twice about suggesting I knock up some chocolate truffles. This was a challenge that involved chocolate and Beaujolais wine however, so there was simply no way it wasn’t going to happen. I’m actually pretty chuffed with the results, so thought I would share this very easy recipe by the talented chocolatier Fiona Sciolti (more on her below). Stick them in a basket with a bottle of Beaujolais and it makes a lovely Valentine’s gift with a personal touch.

louis tete winebirdFor the Beaujolais, try to find the Louis Tete Brouilly 2012/2013 (M&S £10.99) as the recipe was designed with this particular wine in mind, but any Brouilly (one of the ten Beaujolais ‘Cru'; It’s a quality thing), should do. See my Vinalogy overview of Beaujolais here if you’re new to the style and want to know more.

Beaujolais Ganache Truffles – A  recipe by Fiona Sciolti

150 g Fairtrade dark chocolate (65-75% cocoa content)

75ml Beaujolais, room temperature

20g Maple syrup

20g Mild olive oil

50g Cocoa sieved together with1 heaped tsp of icing sugar

Method

Here’s my video with the steps which shows how easy it is!

Amazing Chocolate

image (15)In my gift basket, I also found some stunning chocolates designed by Fiona Sciolti to match the Louis Tete Beaujolais. The Peruvian dark chocolate complemented the acidity and fruitiness of the wine, which really impressed me.  They were so beautiful too and looked like grapes, complete with glimmering purple sheen! This lady can do anything with chocolate and everything is handmade and naturally flavoured. I will be sending @winehusband in this direction; he will not be getting his hands dirty this year. scioltichocolates.com

Discover all that Beaujolais has to offer here on the official Discover Beaujolais site.

Let me know how those truffles turn out!

WBx

4 tips to start speaking wine language

Part two of my video series on wine basics: 4 tips to start speaking wine language

Like this? Please tell you friends and subscribe to my channel for more videos! All content can be found in my book: Winebird’s VINALOGY: wine basics with a twist!

Do you have a wine question? Tweet me @TheWinebird or leave a comment below.

WB x