Basqueing in the sun – the perfect Summer wine from northern Spain

The perfect summer wine is now easily available and you must give it a try!

I have long been a fan of Chacoli wines which come from the Basque country and so are properly called Txacoli in their native tongue and I really urge you to try them.

Chacoli mapThe 3 Chacoli D.O.s,  Bizkaiko Txakolina/Chacolí de Bizcaia around Bilbao, the miniscule inland Arabako Txakolin/Txacolí de Álava and the slightly more widely seen Getariako Txakolina/Chacolí de Getaria produce exciting light, dry white wines that partner shellfish and salads to perfection. Continue reading

Carmen(ère) in Italian from Verona

I love Carmenère it is a terrific grape variety worthy of being better known. Virtually all of the world’s Carmenère is to be found in Chile nowadays, where it was incorrectly thought to be Merlot for decades, but a little still exists in north east Italy – where perversely it was thought to be Cabernet Franc. I have tried a few from Italy, but you will not find a more attractive example than this: Continue reading

A steal from Toledo


I always think it is such a pity that most supermarkets and wine shops seem to think that Spanish wine stops and starts with Rioja. This makes most consumers think that Spanish wine is all about Rioja. It is apparently now very hard to sell Spanish wines  in the UK that do not have the word Rioja on the label.

So, imagine how excited I was when putting together a Spanish wine tasting session for a wine club recently to find this splendid wine, it is interesting and different as it comes from an area not historically associated with wine, but an estate in Toledo that has its own D.O. – indeed it was the first of the 7 Vinos de Pago to be created, what is more it is easily available, great value for money and is rather good.

Marqués de Griñon Caliza 2005

D.O. Dominio de Valdepusa

Syrah-Petit Verdot Continue reading

Glass Pichet, Pichet Glass

pichet pic copyIn my time I have created and written hundreds of wine lists for restaurants. My views about how to put together a great list have changed over my 25 years in this business, but my basic premise has not.

A wine list is a selling tool. There should something on it to make a wine leap out at the consumer, to entice them to part with their money and to make them want that particular wine with their meal.

Therefore certain information is needed on that list; the name of the wine, the vintage, the producer and, preferably a description that brings the wine alive. To me that is the minimum necessary to do the job – of course you can add maps, photographs and little articles about the regions, but most restaurants seem to regard that as too much. Continue reading

Casa Botín – a large portion of tradition

GW500H333I had heard about it for years, I had even read about it, in guide books and on the web, but I had never been there. Given a day in Madrid I decided to change that.

I am talking about the the world’s oldest restaurant, the famous Botín. It has always appealed to me, really traditional Spanish restaurants just do, they have an attraction to me that I cannot really define. I think it is the way the menus never change, food in some cultures is not an evolving art form, but a commitment to their past, almost an anchor to their traditions. Well good traditional Spanish food can be just that and I love the experience when it is done well, it is like being in a really good interactive museum.

Continue reading

The Araujo Estate – a Napa legend

The Napa Valley showing the Araujo Estate

The Napa Valley showing the Araujo Estate

Ever since working for the late Geoffrey Roberts in the mid 1980’s I have loved good California wines. I have found it irritating, therefore that the types of California wine that most people drink bear no relation to the greatest examples. The trouble is that they are shockingly expensive to most of us and so they get relegated to special occasion wine status, or never get tasted at all and consumers go around thinking that all wine from California is like Blossom Hill. Continue reading

Schloss Proschwitz – a story of Meißen men


I had always been aware that eastern Germany made wine, even that the old DDR had a couple of wine regions, but had never been in a position to try any until recently. There was a lovely young German couple attending one of my courses, he was from Bavaria and she was from the countryside near Dresden in the east. I had never before met anyone from the German Democratic Republic, so it was very interesting hearing her talk of Trabants, the Communist Young Pioneers and holidays in Hungary and Bulgaria. Interestingly her husband was quite dismissive of her past life in the east, which angered her, so I hope they are still together.

One week she mentioned the wine of her region and when I said that I had never had any she immediately said that she would bring me a bottle back the next time she visited her mother. She was as good as her word and a couple of weeks later handed me an elegantly tall fluted bottle of:

Schloss Proschwitz 2001 Scheurebe Trocken Kabinett. Continue reading