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Vinothec Compass – golfing and wine -ing on the Greenwich Peninsula...

Vinothec Compass – golfing and wine -ing on the Greenwich Peninsula Posted by on Aug 19, 2015

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Champagne for Beginners

Champagne for Beginners Posted by on Aug 20, 2015

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Picnic inspired Afternoon Tea at the Four Seasons Park Lane...

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Dining with the wines of NZ winery Jackson Estate...

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Brasserie Joel celebrates Eurostar’s 20th anniv. this May...

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Recent Posts

Awesome Amsterdam on a Budget: Eating Out, the Dutch Way

Mar 02, 15 Awesome Amsterdam on a Budget: Eating Out, the Dutch Way

Posted by in Travel

Amsterdam is one of those places that you need to experience at least once. I’ve been and I loved it. It’s a vibrant, bustling city with lots to discover on every corner. When it comes to city breaks, they can be a tad expensive. But, that doesn’t have to be the case with Amsterdam. In fact, this is one city where you can do a wealth of things for free. What’s more, you can tie in your foodie delights within the trip too. After all, you don’t want to break into your wine budget! There are some great things that you can do in Amsterdam on a shoestring. Let’s find out more about awesome Amsterdam and eating out the, Dutch way. Free Walking Tours (And Amazing Cafes!) There are a load of free walking tours within Amsterdam that you can be a part of. These operate on a daily basis. Head to Dam Square at midday to see the sights of what Amsterdam has to offer. You can take a relaxing strolling around Amsterdam with your friends. These take around three hours to complete, but they are a great way to soak up the excellent Dutch weather. Head to Singel 404 for a true taste of Amsterdam. They serve all of the traditional Dutch cuisine, but on giant sharing platters. Breads, wine and cheese are the perfect lunch. Lunchtime Concerts at Concertgebouwplein Despite the incredibly long name, Amsterdam is the home of free and live entertainment. During the peak summer months, free, open air concerts take place. These are a must for any culture vulture. You can sample the food, wines and watch the shows that are put on the centre of the city. The street food is a must with the Concertgebouwplein! Try the delicate rice pastries for a true taste of Amsterdam. Vondelpark Many European cities have luscious green spaces, but none is as beautiful as what Amsterdam has to offer. Vondelpark is a must for locals and tourists alike. The area...

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[PODCAST] Chatting with Beltran Domecq, President of the Sherry Council

Feb 27, 15 [PODCAST] Chatting with Beltran Domecq, President of the Sherry Council

Posted by in Podcast, Spain

Next in my podcast chats is Beltran Domecq, the president of the Sherry Council. If you have any comments about the podcast or podcasting, please feel free to leave a comment. You can subscribe and download the podcast here. I caught up with Beltran via Skype recently to chat about the ongoing 80th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the Sherry Council and the upcoming 50th anniversary celebrations for the designation of the Manzanilla DO (Denominacion Origen). Beltran also gave me some tips on how to best serve sherry and some great food and sherry matchings. The Feria de Jerez is coming up as well and there will be lots of sherry sampling and drinking going on as well as flamenco dancing and generally having a good time! For more information about sherry and the Sherry council as well as the Feria, visit their website here. You can download the podcast here or  listen to the podcast below: Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Mother’s Day Food, Drink and Travel

Feb 27, 15 Mother’s Day Food, Drink and Travel

Posted by in All

I’ve been turning my attention to Mother’s Day lately. Thinking about where I would go and what I would do in an ideal world. There would have to be plenty of wine or champagne involved of course. Feel free to leave a comment with your suggestions. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on how you would pair some delicious wines with food, drink and travel. Here are a few of the ideas I’ve come up with so far. Mother’s Day in Brussels. A little bit of luxury is a wonderful thing. Booking a holiday with a reputable company like Venere could be a good option to begin with. Finding somewhere that looks luxurious and suits your budget is the perfect starting point. Brussels is the perfect place for a relaxing getaway. You could even head to Paris from there and sample some fantastic food and wine from the many local restaurants. A Home-Cooked Meal Cooking a meal and spending some quality time with your mum could be the perfect way to spend Mother’s Day. I’m a big fan of traditional, hearty food. A roast dinner is the perfect choice. Get your hands dirty and get in the kitchen yourself. Cooking up a storm on Mother’s Day and giving mum the day off is a fantastic way to spoil busy mum’s who don’t get much time to themselves. If your mum prefers fish, then serve up delicious poached cod with new potatoes and a cool and crisp Chardonnay. Sweets and chocolates There are lots of ways to spoil your mum with a sweet treat. One perfect way is to take her to a chocolate masterclass. This is a great opportunity to get out and do something fun together. Getting hands-on and creating something together is a good bonding experience. Chocolate can also go well with wine if it’s done correctly. Come home and cook her a meal. Desert can be paired with a good quality red wine or for those who prefer something...

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Discount wine books on line at The Works

Feb 23, 15 Discount wine books on line at The Works

Posted by in Guest Post

I love to get my hands on wine books. Whether it’s a book about how to make wine, how to drink wine or a great story about the history of wine, I want to read it. I used to buy books for my Kindle but there is something to be said for actually having a solid, physical specimen in your hand. I’v now gone back to buying real books and my Kindle lives on a shelf in my house somewhere. I like books because you never have to worry about the battery dying out, you can toss them about with impunity, you can take them just about anywhere -including the tub, I don’t know about you but I always worry about taking electronic devices in the bath tub, jacuzzi, etc.,and my eyes don’t get tired from staring at a screen for hours on end. I’m always looking for bargains online and although I do buy occasionally from the Big Boys online, I found a book I’d been wanting to buy, “War and Wine” by Petie Kladstrup, on a great site called The They have a nice compact selection of wine books,the books are usually discounted and they offer free delivery. Not only do they sell wine books but they also sell books on just about any subject as well as Arts & Crafts supplies, Stationery and Toys & Games. I even found a few wine games on the site. Recently I was at a spa in Canada and took “Wine & War”  into the outdoor hot spring every afternoon for a bit of leisurely reading – no worries about the rising steam having an effect on the books pages,except for maybe a bit of sogginess but a few minutes by the fireplace later would sort that problem out. The book is all about the French wine industry during World War II. It chronicles the hardships that the Champenois endured during The Occupation as well as stories of vignerons in concentration camps and life in...

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[PODCAST] A Chat with Caroline Henry About Her New Book, Terroir Champagne

Feb 20, 15 [PODCAST] A Chat with Caroline Henry About Her New Book, Terroir Champagne

Posted by in Champagne

I’ve started podcasting again and my first new podcast is with my friend and Champagne expert, Caroline Henry. Caroline has been living in the region for the past 3 years in Hautvillers.  In that time she has become aware of the sustainable, organic and biodynamic movement in the region. So much so, that she is now writing a book about that subject. Here she has taken the time to explain why she decided to write “Terroir Champagne, The Luxury of Sustainable, Organic and Biodynamic Cuvees” and what it means to produce environmentally friendly champagne. The book was crowd funded but self-publishing is still an expensive proposition so if you’d like to buy the book, buy a Terroir Champagne T-shirt or visit the region with Caroline as your guide, visit her website here. Caroline is planning on publication in September 2015.   Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Want Unique Wine Gifts? Check Out Uncommon Goods Online

Feb 19, 15 Want Unique Wine Gifts? Check Out Uncommon Goods Online

Posted by in All

I often surf around the web just to see what kinds of wine related gifts there are out there for wine geeks (ahem, a certain Winesleuth is having a birthday soon, just saying).  I recently came across this lovely website that features quirky but stylish wine-themed gifts. You can have a look at some of their offerings here. The aim of the site is to showcase creative designs and offer high quality goods at reasonable prices. Uncommon Goods is the name of the site and after looking around, I can say they have a pretty cool selection of stuff. The site was originally created to act as a showcase for “…the creativity and the expression of individuality (which) represent two great human treasures. (They) have set out to create a business that makes uncommon goods accessible to everyone…” I like that idea and am glad to see unique artists and designers get the recognition they deserve. Another thing I liked about the site is that they are committed to working in harmony with the environment. All of their merchandise is produced without harming any animals and they donate a portion of each order to your choice of these non-profit organizations: American Forests, Women for Women International, City Harvest, and the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network (RAINN). I think that’s pretty nifty and it makes me feel good that I’m helping others out with my purchase. So, not only can I buy cool wine glasses, like these, but I’m also helping out a host of others. Although Uncommon Goods are based in NY, they can ship to over 100 countries. Check out their website for shipping options. As for me, I’m eyeing a certain decanter… Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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My Top 5 Favourite Tapas Bars in Barcelona

Feb 18, 15 My Top 5 Favourite Tapas Bars in Barcelona

Posted by in Food and Wine, Travel

I spent most of last Autumn hanging out in Barcelona and while I was there, I discovered plenty of little tapas bars around the well worn tourist path. There are SO many crap tapas bars in Barcelona. I hope my little list will at least give you brief glimpse into what you can find if you scratch the surface and get away from the tourist ghetto of Las Ramblas and Carrer de Ferran. As Barcelona is full of tapas bars, you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting one, the ones that I found were, for the most part, recommended to me by friends who live there or colleagues who visit often. So without further ado, here they are in no particular order: Bar del Pla (Born):  I found this place one night after we had visited a few other tapas bars in the area. The Born is part of the Barrio Gotic and Tourist Central but there are still great places to be found. Bar del Pla, while not exactly hidden, is not on a main street in the Born but off one of  its little alleyways and from the outside doesn’t look like much, although it always seemed to be packed with a mix of locals and tourists. Don’t let the tourists put you off, the menu features fresh and modern tapas with a twist and traditional foods as well as fresh salads. I remember ordering grilled calamares with chickpeas – so delicious, we ordered a second round! We also had a sardines on toast combo with mango and rocket, another inspired combination. The wine list is a mix of Spanish and foreign wines as well as house vermouth – which I love! The prices are a bit more expensive than the usual tapas bars but worth it and the staff was very helpful in making recommendations. I’ve been told the staff speak English, although as we all spoke Spanish, we didn’t put them to the test. Carrer Montcada, num. 2, 08003 Barcelona,...

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Tasting Vin Clair at Veuve Clicquot, Future Champagne in the Making

Feb 17, 15 Tasting Vin Clair at Veuve Clicquot, Future Champagne in the Making

Posted by in Champagne

I like to think that vin clair tasting is similar to Bordeaux en primeur in that it’s a tasting where you are given a glimpse of the wine to come. With vin clair though you have to use your imagination a lot more to envision how the final blend will turn out. Bear in mind also that it’s not 2 or even 10 vin clair that have to be tasted, it can run into the hundreds. The process often takes weeks before the final assessment of each wine is done and the blend selected. Vin clair is the wine that is produced after the first fermentation of the grapes. Just a reminder, to make champagne, the wine goes through 2 fermentations. Vin clair or base wines are blended together and then put in bottle for the second fermentation which produces all those lovely tiny bubbles. If you like champagne, you’ll hate vin clair but then again, it’s not made for consumption now but in 3 years time, at the very least. These are wines that are very young, they are usually tasted 6 months or so after harvest to access their potential. The aim is to have wines with lots of acidity as well as showing the typicity of the 3 grapes – chardonnay, pinot noir, meunier. This is where the winemakers vision comes in, he or she must imagine how the blend will taste after a minimum of 3 years in bottle and often the wine stays in the bottle for much, much longer. As I’m here in champagne at the moment, I was invited to taste a few vin clair with the Chef de Cave of Veuve Clicquot, Dominique Demarville. He had a few samples of pinot noir, chardonnay and meunier to taste with each wine coming from a different parcel of grapes and a different village. Dominique wanted to take us on a journey of the region with grapes from the north to the south and east to west. We had our...

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Dive Bouteille – wine tasting under the hills of Saumur

Feb 08, 15 Dive Bouteille – wine tasting under the hills of Saumur

Posted by in All

I was on Day 2 of my natural, biodynamic and organic wine tasting trip in the Loire and today we were in the town of Saumur for the 16th annual Dive Bouteille tasting. The Dive tasting is the oldest and most important natural wine tasting around. It was originally started by producers who wanted to showcase their wines outside of the annual Loire Valley Salon de Vins and has expanded to include wines from all over the world. The tasting took place under the hills of Saumur in the caves of Loire valley producer Ackerman wines. Ackerman are not organic, natural or biodynamic but the caves are amazing, with very high ceilings. The troglodyte caves are carved out of the tuffeau rock of the region and are used for art installations and exhibitions. The caves are strategically lit with coloured lights all of which make it a funky venue for a natural wine tasting. The lions share of producers were from France but there were also producers from Italy, Spain, Georgia, Serbia, The US, Argentina, Chile, Australia, South Africa and even sake from Japan. The Loire Valley was well represented but some of the most intriguing producers were from the US and Australia. Granted, they were not heavily represented but the few that I found had provocative wines. La Garagista’s wine maker Deirdre Heekin aims to put Vermont wines on the map. Deirdre is definitely of the no-intervention school of winemaking. Her vines are organic and she uses hybrids that are bred to thrive in cold climates. Cybele, La Crescent, Marquette and Frontenac  are the main grapes she uses. I first tried her sparkling wine made from the Cybele grape. It was relatively dry with good acidity. I didn’t know what to expect so this made for a pleasant surprise. I next tried the Frontenac. I was a bit dubious about red wine from such a cool climate but the Frontenac  had weight and body to it was well as a black fruit profile. Deirdre and her...

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Tasting natural, organic and biodynamic wines at the Renaissance des Appellations Greniers St. Jean

Feb 05, 15 Tasting natural, organic and biodynamic wines at the Renaissance des Appellations Greniers St. Jean

Posted by in All

What is ‘natural’ wine, exactly? Is it wine that is made without intervention – and what exactly does that mean? Is it wine that only has sulfur added at bottling? Or wine that has no added sulfur whatsoever? Or is it wine that is organically/biodynamically grown? After spending the weekend in the Loire at two of the biggest organic, biodynamic, natural wine tastings in France, I still don’t know what makes a wine ‘natural’ but it was interesting to taste through those wines. There were lots of hits but also some misses. Personally, I don’t like so called ‘natural’ wines and that term is a massive turn off for me. Wine is by definition a man made product. Grapes don’t usually pick, crush, ferment and bottle themselves, so I’m a bit suspicious of those ‘natural’ wine people. When I first was introduced to natural wines, many years ago, I was intrigued but since then I’ve had way too many faulty ‘natural’ wines to automatically think ‘natural’ means better or quality wines.  I admit I wasn’t going into these tastings with a very open mind but as I was there and had paid to get in, I should at least give them a try. The first tasting I attended was the Renaissance des Appellations Greniers St. Jean in Angers, France. The tasting is made of a group of mainly French winemakers with a smattering of other European countries included all of who are at the very least are organic and have to tend their vines in a biodynamic way. Some of the producers there called themselves natural wine makers, some didn’t.  Things are a bit murky when it comes to being certified biodynamic and some producers don’t want the certification because if they have to deviate one year from biodynamic principles they lose their certification and have to start the process all over again. I’ve always been drawn to producers who grow and make their wine biodynamically. When I taste these wines, I usually find...

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