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


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


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!


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

London Wine Scene: Cape London

What’s new on the wine scene right now? Today’s profile is on Cape London: “Britain’s brightest, tastiest retailer, where the wines all have stories to tell”.

cape londonI was naturally intrigued when the email came in asking me to meet Andy Leach and Tony Cooper, the founders of Cape London. I mean, check out that logo! A quick look at their site and their hilarious Twitter feed told me instantly that these were people who had started a project to spend more time with their favourite subject rather than simply to sell wine, so I went to find out more. Indeed, they describe themselves as enthusiasts rather than experts and this refreshing approach is reflected in what they do. Yes, on paper Cape London could be seen as just another online wine merchant, but people buy from people and enthusiasm and fun, so this is why I think this team will go far.

MeerlustThe explore factor

Cape London is a ‘principality of wine’, they say with a portfolio that’s still growing. With a strong bias for South African wines and other New World countries, about 50% of their wines are exclusive to them with the other 50% being excellent, well known producers such as Dog Point, Klein Constantia and Meerlust Rubicon. The thinking behind this which I like very much is that with wine, people often start with what they know. Then, once they know and trust you, they can be encouraged to try different things.

Choosing wines by occasion

When the Cape Londoners pour wines, they won’t be telling you what you should be tasting. Instead, it’s about setting the scene where the wine in question would be perfect. A pre lunch footy/cricket/rugby game on a lazy Sunday afternoon, perhaps? A sun-soaked afternoon by the pool? Yep. That’ll do nicely. An when you go to their website, you’ll see that there is a story behind the label of every single producer and wine.

Putting something back

women in wineThe great thing about designing a wine merchant from scratch is that you can add elements that mean something to you and make a difference. Cape London has the  Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund as their official charity partner.  They have also teamed up with the Women in Wine of South Africa to give them a store front in the UK. Women in Wine is an inspirational  group of black women from Stellenbosch who were determined to give women a bigger voice in the South African wine industry and you can read more about them here.

Check out Cape London’s website at www.capelondon.co.uk and

Follow them on twitter @CapeLondonWine

Have you tasted their wines yet? Have you had experiences with them? Check them out and let me know what you think!


Winebird’s Wine Wednesday Wecommendations

Happy 2015 everybody! PAH to dry January, I say. If you’re still tasting, here are two very different reds that have blown me off my perch:
image (10) The lighter red: Montes Pinot Noir 2012pinot montes winebird

A Chilean Pinot that looks pale and interesting is actually quite hard to come by, but this is it! Soft and silky, this is more in line with a lighter New Zealand style with is spicy, baked cherry-wrapped in velvet deliciousness. Easy drinking and elegant. Stockists: Circa £12.99 from Noel Young Wines, Sheldon’s Wine Cellars, Whole Foods Market Kensington. 

See my VINALOGY video for down and dirty basics on the Pinot Noir grape.

The knock-your-socks-off red: Plaisir de Merle Grand Plaisir 2010

merle winebird

You know the expression ‘a curl up by the fire wine’? Well, this is exactly that. Brooding, rich and structured like a big chabal winebirdpair of arms giving you a cuddle. Made from a ‘field’ blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (40%), Petit Verdot (18%), Malbec (6%), Cabernet Franc (15%), Shiraz (15%) and Merlot (6%) from the Paarl wine region in South Africa. A pro rugby player of a wine if ever I tasted one. Class and brawn. Yum! Stockist: £20 from M&S. Well worth splashing out.


See my VINALOGY video on why Cabernet Sauvignon is the rugby player of wine grapes.

Cin cin!


Ice Wine: Queen Elsa of wine!

♫ ♪ The snow glows white on the vineyards tonight. Not a footstep to be seen… ♪ ♫

Elsa wineIsolated on the frozen slopes, her potential was unknown until one particularly harsh winter, the ice and snow helped her concentrate. Finally, she has come of age and is ready to transform. With a stunning voice that’s pure and clear, smooth as golden honey and with just a hint of sauciness, Ice wine is Queen Elsa of wine styles!

What is Ice Wine?

Ice wine (AKA Eiswein or Icewine) is a sweet wine made from frozen grapes. The grapes are left to hang on the vines over winter and are harvested and pressed while still frozen. As only the water freezes, it can be removed by crushing to leave a much more concentrated, sweeter grape juice with which to make wine. This process was discovered in late 19th century Germany after farmers decided to leave grapes hanging on the vine for their animals to eat during a particularly harsh winter, then realised how lusciously sweet they had become.

Which grapes are used for Ice Wine?

More often than not, Ice wine will be white with Riesling being the most famously used white grape, especially in Germany. The Vidal grape is huge in Canada however and experiments are being done with both red and white grapes worldwide, such as Chardonnay, Seyval blanc and even Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon!

How it is different from other dessert wines?

1701_SvenandOlaf_37x90Ice wine is different from Sauternes, Tokaji and Trockenbeerenauselese because the grapes should not be affected by ‘noble rot’ (botrytis cinerea). This is a rot that’s deliberately allowed in certain winemaking regions in order to shrivel grapes and concentrate the juice. What noble rot also does however, is impart a particular, marzipan-esque flavour to the wines. Ice wine grapes are made with pristine grapes without noble rot, so the resulting wine is a little fresher and purer in taste. For more information on noble rot, check out what Kitchn.com has to say about it here.

 ♪ ♫ The mould never bothered me anyway!* ♪ ♫

Liquid gold

Ice wine must be made according to vigorous standards and very little is produced at a time, which is why it can be very expensive. It’s worth it though once you taste all those unctuous, tropical fruit-dipped-in-spiced-honey flavours. It really is liquid gold! Try it as an excellent foil to the saltiness of blue cheese or to match the sweetness of lemon meringue pie. I’m drooling now.

Ice Wine Tasting Tour

Ice wine 1: GERMANY (where it’s called ‘Eiswein’)

Germany, particularly the regions of Rheingau and Mosel set the benchmark for Eiswein that is pure, pristine and crystal clear (just like a snowflake) that gets more minerally as it ages. In German wine classifications, Eiswein is part of the ‘Prädikatswein’ quality category.

icewineIce wine 2: CANADA (where it’s written as ‘Icewine’)

Canada is the perfect country for making Icewine with its consistently warm summers which fully ripen the grapes and consistently freezing winters to do the Icewine thing. Ontario is THE production area, with the Niagara Peninsular and its sub appellations in the south being the most significant area. Okanagan Valley in British Columbia is another well known Icewine production area and both use a lot of the Vidal grape but they also love a bit of Riesling and flirt outrageously with the red grape, Cabernet franc!

Ice wine 3: AUSTRIA (where it’s also called ‘Eiswein’)

Austrian Eisweins are richer and fuller than the German versions, just like their non-dessert wines. This is because the grapes have had a chance to ripen more fully before they freeze. Austrian producers also tend to use more of a mix of their native grapes such as Gruner Veltiner and Traminer.

Ice wine 4+: US and other European countries

New York’s Finger Lake region is not to be be ignored and there are many wineries in northern Michigan that produce good ice wine. Many other European countries also produce versions, such as Croatia, Italy, even Luxembourg (where it’s known as ‘vin de glace’), but none are as famous and revered as German Eiswein.

Stuff the Port; try Queen Elsa with your Stilton this year.

Merry Christmas!

WB x  *This brilliant line suggest by Robert McIntosh from ThirstForWine

What is Amarone? Notes on a special masterclass

appassimento masiMy last tasting before christmas was awesomely geeky and I loved it. Verona’s Masi Agricola treated us to a masterclass in why winemakers blend wines and what it means to make great Valpolicella and Amarone wine. Here’s what you need to know about two of Italy’s best known wine styles:

What is Valpolicella?

Valpolicella is a red wine from the Veneto region in north east Italy and is traditionally made with a blend of the three principal Veronese grapes: Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara.

What is Amarone?amarone

Amarone is essentially a Valpolicella wine with a twist. The twist is the use of semi-dried grapes rather than fresh grapes, which give extra character and concentration to the wine. This process is known as the ‘appassimento’ method.

The Appassimento method

Appassimento is an ancient and traditional winemaking method whereby grapes are laid out on bamboo racks and semi-dried for 100 days. The shrivelled grapes are then pressed and the resulting wine is much more concentrated than normal. This method also increases colour, softens tannins and can increase particular, highly desired tasting notes such as cherry, nuts and spice. Amarone wines tend to be a touch heavier in alcohol at around 15% abv.

Why blend grapes?

One grape by itself may be quite dry and tannic, but lack fruit. Another may have lots of colour but little flavour. Getting the right blend of grapes can result in beautifully balanced and complex wines. In Valpolicella and Amarone, the principal grape varieties all have their own positives and negatives;

chocCorvina – Adds the famous ripe cherry flavours and aromas as well as the classic purple-red colour. Makes up 45-95% of a blend.

Rondinella – Great for adding backbone with its tannin and colour, but not so great for fruit. Makes up 5-30% of a blend.

Molinara – Great for acidity and spiciness. Helps make a wine feel fresh. An optional grape making up 0-10% of a blend.

Who are Masi?cherryraspberry

Masi are one of the leading producers of Amarone and Valpolicella with vineyards all around Verona. The special thing about Masi is that they have a fabulous technical side (Masi Technical Group) that consults, researches and brings its winemaking methods right up to date while still incorporating traditional methods where it can. The result is a range of wines that show all the hallmarks of fantastic wines typical to the area and styles, but that are at the same time modern, clean and fresh. Masi are also using more and more secondary grape varieties from the Veneto region in their wines so are in some ways more traditional now than the generations that went before! You can see more about MASI on their website here.


Masi COSTASERA Amarone 2010 (£30 Majestic) Like an elegant stag, this bold red conjures up images of cocoa powder, cherry and raspberry fruit with a sprinkling of dried herbs and a touch of meatiness. Perfect with red meat and game.

Masi BONACOSTA Valpolicella 2012 (£10.95 Allaboutwine.co.uk) Gorgeous, benchmark Valpolicella with a silky, saline texture and sour cherry fruit. Lively acidity. Great with Italian dishes as very forgiving with tomatoes.

Have you tasted any great Amarone or Valpolicella recently? Tweet me @TheWinebird or comment below!

Happy tasting.

WB x