White Rioja – an underrated classic?

Samaniego - Bodegas Remirez de Ganuza are next to the church

Rioja is so famous as a wine region that produces great red wines that many people remain completely unaware that the region makes white wines as well.

I think Rioja makes some really impressive white wines that are especially wonderful with food, of course there are many terrific white wines made all over Spain that will repay a little experimentation. Continue reading

Ribeiro – more excitement from Galicia


As mentioned before in these pages, I love the idea of Albariño white wines from Galicia’s Rias Baixas region, but am often disappointed by them. Other than at the top end they never seem to have either enough concentration at one end of the spectrum, or enough acidity at the other.

In order to keep the dream of great wines from this part of Iberia alive I have taken to trying as many wines as I can from the neighbouring Galician and Portuguese regions – as well as Basque Chacoli. Continue reading

Chardonnay & Pinot Noir – contrasting terroirs

The Côte de Beaune at Pernand-Vergelesses

The other day I was invited to present the Burgundy half of a masterclass tasting to contrast Chardonnay and Pinot Noir wines from two very different regions.

In order to have a control and a focus we were using wines from a single producer in each country; Chile’s Viña Ventisquero and Louis Jadot from Burgundy.

My job was to give an introduction to Louis Jadot and to explain the terroir and conditions of Burgundy before leading the tasting. Ventisquero’s winemaker, Alejandro Galaz provided the same function for their wines.

The event took place at Vinopolis and Tom Forrest, their chief wine educator, prepared some food that we tried with the wines. Continue reading

Roussillon Riches

I tutored a tasting of Roussillon wines last night and it was very well received. The line up was good and really showed what an exciting and extraordinary wine region the Roussillon is and how it really deserves to emerge from under the commercial shadow of its Languedoc neighbour and to be much better known to UK consumers. Continue reading

Return to Sonoma – the Russian River Valley

I have been hugely impressed and very excited recently by an array of wines from California’s Sonoma Valley.

The wines that I tasted were all very good and the people who made them interesting and dedicated, but what also made them fascinating to me was the chance it gives to really get to grips with understanding wine, winemaking and growing conditions.

This is because as a European I can look at the variety from Sonoma with a much more open mind than I can Burgundy, for instance. I can taste the wines and really get a grip on what makes them different and why – with no preconceptions as to what they should be like. Continue reading

Rosé – skin contact or blending?

In the UK wine world we are taught, as a fact, that the only decent rosé wines are made by skin contact – extracting a dash of colour from the skins of black/purple grapes, just as you do a red. Champagne that is made pink by the addition of still Pinot Noir, we are told, is an exotic exception. Continue reading

Wine & Fiction

Most wine books are reference books, I own loads and use them all the time, but sometimes I just want to read a book about wine. Sadly most of them do not work that way. The number of wine books that I have been able to sit down and read, as I would a novel, have been few and far between.

It is out of print and my copy is long gone, but I remember Hugh Johnson’s first book – still his best in my opinion – ‘Wine’ with great affection and seem to remember reading it at a single sitting.

Jancis Robinson’s ‘Confessions of a Wine Lover‘ was a good read, as was ‘Wine & War‘ which dealt with the the German treatment of France’s wine industry during the occupation.

Patricia Atkinson’s ‘The Ripening Sun‘ was a lovely read that made me want to run away and create a vineyard of my own.

I also enjoyed ‘Phylloxera‘ and learned a great deal from it, but these are rare instances of books about wine that are not primarily for reference.

I would like more of these please, if any publishers are reading this, and more travel writing about wine regions and culture while we are about it – feel free to tell us about any that you know and love.

However, I am always surprised by how little fiction there is set around the world of wine – I cannot think of many such books at all. I once read a dreadful murder mystery set in a Port Lodge – the name escapes me sorry. I suppose that some of the books by Joanne Harris might count, but I have not tried them. Continue reading