Friday, 10 December 2010

Dreaming of a white (and red) Christmas

Have you ticked off all the items on your Christmas gift list? At least thought about a Christmas tree? Ordered the turkey, goose, or veggie nutroast? Have you been to far too many Christmas Bazaars and felt obliged to buy something that you will later feel too embarrassed to give? Have you fed the Christmas cake with just a few more drops of brandy and stocked up with all sorts of weird and not so wonderful alcoholic concoctions – which will probably still be in the store cupboard next year? If you said yes to more than one of these - join the club. It is Christmas madness time.
Surrey's towns are agleam with twinkling lights and gorgeous festive displays vying to attract the money from our purses. The streets are thronged with manic shoppers – at least those of us who haven't embraced the joys of internet shopping. In the seasonal spirit of goodwill we would like to save you time and a bewildering choice by listing some of the better wine buys that will make your festive season go with a ding dong, merrily....

Get the party started with a sparkler. Don't splash out on anything expensive, there are plenty of fizzy options including the ubiquitous Prosecco and keenly priced Cavas. They are great for mixing: with orange juice for Bucks Fizz, cassis for Kir Royale, peach juice for Bellini or brandy-soaked sugar lumps and a dash of Cointreau for a great party cocktail. If you'd like to serve something that will stand up to being sipped on its own, then give Cuvée Royale Crémant de Limoux, £8.99 at Waitrose a go. In Limoux, in the foothills of the French Pyrenees, they have been making sparkling wines for centuries – long before Dom Perignon and the widow Clicquot they reckon. This toasty blend of chardonnay, chenin blanc and pinot noir would make a great Christmas Day aperitif.

“I get no kick from Champagne” - it definitely wasn’t us who said that! Champagne prices have been taking a hammering this season – but the deals come and go so quickly that you need to follow us on Twitter (@wineandwords) to keep up. But here's a Champagne top tip – buy now and squirrel away a few bottles for NEXT Christmas and New Year. It will only improve with a few months under the stairs. If for some reason you do not wish to finish off the bottle in one go, then buy a Champagne stopper from, based near Guildford. They have lots of great wine related gifts and innovative ideas.

Deep breath: here's our wine-based sprint through the Big Day...listen very carefully, we shall say this only once.

White wines for turkey – drink up the Chablis with your aperitif, the big bird and all the trimmings needs something with more weight and fruit. Head to the Mâcon, in Burgundy, and get a bottle of Christophe Cordier's Mâcon-Peronne 2008, £11.25 at The Wine Society. Floral-tinged fruit and subtle oak make this a classy option.
But the colour of Christmas is red. The Heathers are in agreement that one wine is tantalizing with turkey, gorgeous with goose, and holds no truck with duck – pinot noir. Kiwi Daniel Schuster's Twin Vineyards Pinot Noir 2008, £14.49 from local heroes Caves de Pyrène at Pew Corner is a perfumed, delicate yet heady delight from downunder. Claret may be classic at Christmas, but pinot is, er, prettier.

Save your claret for a roast rib of beef and you'll appreciate the natural harmony between the tannin in the wine and rare meat. Rupert Pritchett of Taurus Wines in Bramley has a good selection of reasonably-priced clarets and knows his stuff – he can of course provide some more luxuriously-priced clarets too. In the same vein, style-wise, is Le Faîte Red, £16.99 at Adnams Cellar and Kitchen (Richmond). Le Faîte means “the peak” in the local Occitan dialect, and this is the top banana of the Plaimont Co-operative – a juicy, inky, full-bodied blend of indigenous and international varieties – one for those who don't like to be a slave to tradition.
Cheese and wine are regarded as a classic pairing but take care: some matches are made in heaven, and others in hell. Try tawny port with the Christmas cheeseboard. Look for something that says 10 year old or 20 year old, to ensure you get the real nutty, mellow tawny experience. Taylor's 10 year old Tawny Port is widely available from around £18 a bottle – great with hard cheeses and stilton. The more adventurous amongst you might be tempted to try Sauternes with stilton – readers, trust us, it's delicious. The Co-operative have Chateau Roumieu 2007 at the tempting price of £7.99 for a half bottle.
Don't forget to set fire to the Christmas pudding – having first soaked it in brandy, or you'll find it rather a disappointment. THE wine for the pud (and any stray mince pies you might encounter) is an Australian Liqueur Muscat, which is like dried fruit in (just about) liquid form, so a natural match. Caves de Pyrène has the classic Stanton & Killeen Rutherglen Liqueur Muscat at £12.10 for a half bottle.
For many of us, there is a certain amount of slumping in front of the TV over the festive period. While you're there, try a glass of Langmeil Cabernet Sauvignon, from the Barossa Valley in Australia (£13.99 at The Vineyard in Dorking). This full bodied, lively as a gazelle red is what we'd call a DVD wine (as opposed to a food wine) – but a DVD wine de luxe, as befits the season.
If you have really over-done it, the kill or cure is port and brandy mixed. Some people swear by it...or perhaps because of it!
We are off to join the masses and, no doubt, over-indulge in some seasonal retail therapy. Next time we will provide a last minute panic buy list - and New Year fizz. Happy shopping!

Friday, 26 November 2010

Wine writing doesn't get tougher than this...

Your two fearless wine correspondents set off to London Olympia last week in search of The Wine Show, which does what it says on the tin – it's a show, and it's all about wine.

However, on arrival we discovered that the Wine Show's Jonah had been swallowed whole by the Masterchef Live whale. The clamouring crowds were flocking in, drawn not so much by the prospect of tasting wines in the company of Tim Atkin MW and the like, but in the hope of rubbing shoulders with Gregg “the pudding” Wallace, Michel Roux Jr and John Torode – or even “mad eye” Monica Galetti.

We entered the gaping maw of the beast and were immediately surrounded by flashing knives, busy julienning vegetables like it was going out of fashion. Professional chefs were cooking up all manner of delicious-looking and smelling dishes which did an excellent job of sharpening the appetite. However, we and our fellow hungry cheapskates soon discovered that there were few opportunities to score free food as we found ourselves crowding round stand after stand where people seemed to be munching away, only to find yet another small pile of cheese parings.

There is no such thing as a free lunch at Masterchef Live. Their plan is to tempt you into parting with your hard-earned cash on some of those freshly and chef-ly prepared dishes. Still hungry, we battled our way through the kitchen gadgets and gizmos and finally found ourselves at the back of the hall and The Wine Show itself.

What a difference a few steps can make. On the Masterchef side of the hall, visitors were practically trampling the old and infirm underfoot as they craned their necks for a distant look at Greg and Michel as they judged a round of The Invention Test. Meanwhile, across the hall, Susy Atkins (wine columnist for the Sunday Telegraph and a well-known wine face on TV) was delivering a wine masterclass to no more than five people.

If there is a battle between food and wine, then wine is clearly not on the winning side. Part of the problem must be that tasting wines is not as engaging as tasting food that you have just seen prepared in front of you. You've watched as literally raw ingredients are transformed and combined to make something that Greg Wallace likes to call a “nice plate of food”. Until someone invents a way to transform freshly-picked grapes into drinkable wine in a matter of minutes, wine just cannot compete.

Those who did most to engage visitors to the Wine Show managed to combine food and wine to great effect. It's heartening to discover a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc that stands out from the crowd – in this case it was the memorably-named O:TU, available at £9.99 from Hennings Wine in Petworth. But discovering for yourself the joys of new ways to serve foods and wine together takes things to a new level.

Campo Viejo scored a hit with their tapas demonstrations and sampling, accompanied by their range of Spanish wines, of course. The Discover the Origin stand had simple but delicious pairings of quality ingredients – we were bowled over by the 22-month old Parmesan served with tawny port. An easy and delicious twist on the traditional cheeseboard.

In the battle for consumers' hearts and minds (not to mention wallets), it seems wine cannot fight alone and needs to forge an alliance with food.

Wines of the week

This is the time of year when price wars break out amongst the big retailers, in an effort to encourage us to buy in quantity in advance of the festive season. The supermarkets have been taking turns to run 25% off 6 bottles of wine and Morrison's were recently offering Taittinger Champagne for under £17 a bottle. The nature of these deals is that they come and go too quickly for us to keep you up to date with them via a newspaper column. If you want to stay in the loop with the latest offers, then follow us on Twitter – you can find us as “wineandwords”.

Meanwhile, here's an offer that is not here today, gone tomorrow:

Chablis Premier Cru Vaillons, 2009, Bertrand Capdevigne – usually £14.99, down to £9.99 from 29th November at Morrison's.
Chablis is a go-to wine for Christmas and many of us will be tucking into a bottle or two in the coming weeks. However, the stuff available at under a tenner is generally underwhelming and does little to communicate the cool-climate charms that epitomize Chablis. Premier Cru Chablis is a step up from straight Chablis and comes from specific sites that are judged to have superior soil, favourable sun exposure – all those elements that are summed up in the French word “terroir”. That makes this special offer very welcome, as it gives you an idea of what Chablis is all about, at an affordable price. It manages the trick of being delicate and elegant without being remotely weedy or insipid – and it has the hallmark fine, piercing acidity that is only right and proper from the region.

Claudeval 2009 – White and Red, £5.99 or 2 for £10 from Vicki's Wine Merchants in Chobham

Here is a pair of smart-looking bottles from the Languedoc that make great house wines for a fiver. The white is my favourite, a winter-weight blend of six different varieties, no oak and bags of tropical fruit. The red, made from grenache, carignan, syrah and merlot is less refined, but has plenty of slightly musky black fruit – again with no oak, to let the fruit shine. The rustic edges were noticeably softened after 24 hours in an opened bottle, which is a good sign.  It would make a friendly companion for an autumnal stew or bangers and mash.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Back to the future - it's the Seventies

Many of you reading this (have you got your specs on?) and indeed we writers, remember the colourful and hedonistic hippy happy days of the 70’s.

Listening to Johnny Walker’s (yes he is still alive) Sounds of the Seventies on the radio (wireless if you will) we were reminded of not just the fabulous music that emerged in that decade, but all the parties and indulgences of the era, not least the growing popularity of wine as the fashionable beverage.

Today Seventies parties feature such delectable items from the past such as cheddar and silverskin onions on sticks, melon with Port, curried eggs, Black Forest gateau and prawn cocktail. ... Ahh, you still eat these? OK, then we'll talk about the wines which, thankfully for all our palates, have moved on a bit.

Who loves ya, baby?” Lt. Kojak - Or, wines that have made it through...and some that haven't

Mateus Rosé is one of the wine world's most enduring brands. Born in the depths of the Second World War, its heyday was the 1970s. The wine itself is inoffensive enough: pink, off-dry, slightly sparkling. Its fame was largely down to the winemakers' inspired decision to put it in a distinctive flask-shaped bottle – perfect for turning into a table lamp base or candle holder. In fact it has been said, rather uncharitably, that Mateus is the only wine that is worth more when the bottle is empty.

Aside from the contents, Mateus Rosé is the cause of one of the most infamously bad business decisions in wine trade history: the Mateus Palace story.

The Guedes family started making Mateus Rose in 1942. To complement the unique bottle shape they wanted to include a picture of Palacio de Mateus, a picturesque property near the winery, on the label. The property didn't belong to the family, so they offered the owners either a one-off payment for the use of the picture - or 15 cents per bottle sold. They owners took the one-off payment option.... Nowadays Mateus sells around 20 million bottles around the world, but in the Seventies it was double that – amounting to a tidy $3 million dollars annual income, up in smoke...or down the drain.

Mateus also has the dubious honour of being a favourite of Saddam Hussein and quantities of it were, reputedly, found in his presidential palaces following the US-led invasion of Iraq.

Today you can – and many still do – drink Mateus rosé. The bottle design but not the iconic shape has been changed to suit the times and we are not averse to its charms on a sun-drenched beach whilst savouring freshly-caught seafood. It is, after all, from Portugal, boasting 364 days of sunshine, and still the best place to drink it.

Don Cortez – hazy memories of something in litre-sized bottles labelled Full-bodied Spanish Red linger in the mind from parents' dinner parties, served alongside the cheese and onion nibbles, cheese straws and smears of paté on Ritz crackers. This wine seems to have sunk without trace...and probably rightly so.

Poor old Lutomer Laski Riesling, or rather, poor us for having to drink the stuff. White, sickly sweet and sulphurous, it was a mainstay of seventies bring a bottle parties: a few bottles of this, together with your Watney's Party Seven, was instant karma. It also played a role in sullying the image of true Riesling – Laski Riesling is not the same variety, but they weren't in any hurry to point this out. Every cloud has a silver lining though, and at least the break up of the former Yugoslavia resulted in the demise of this bilious beverage.

Other “great whites” of the decade were Blue Nun and Black Tower. These sickly, lolly-water wines probably put the German wine industry back decades, making us associate anything in a tall green bottle with cheap and nasty. Oscar Wilde's adage, “The only thing worse than being talked about, is not being talked about.” seems to hold true – both these brands survive and even prosper in the present day..

I want it all and I want it now” Freddie Mercury.

The French adore Le Piat d'or” - great catchphrase, but what of the wine? Launched in 1979, this Johnny come lately to the seventies wine scene carried a bit of cachet at the time, but from memory the wines were rather sugary and bland. It is, however, still going, and going strong in the UK, and is, to coin a phrase, big in Japan.

The epitome of cool was the Italian vermouth, Martini, “any time, any place, anywhere”, which promised a taste of the glamour of newly accessible cheap foreign travel. Still hugely popular and great as a long summer drink, preferably with tonic water rather than lemonade as was the fashion at the time.

We are coming up to the annual release of Beaujolais Nouveau, Thursday 18th November this year. In the Seventies this was a highly celebrated media event with races to get this alcoholic fruit cordial of a wine to Blighty via all means possible - from canoe to Harrier jump jets. Today it retains a mere soupçon of its former glory but is still a feature of not only major wine distributors but also for those participants who build a luxury holiday around the event. Try your Beaujolais Nouveau with a ripe camembert and crusty bread – but please do not include the pickled onions!

We could continue our reminiscence but think it about time we embraced the present and focus on two distinctly modern wines from Spain.

El Molino Loco Macabeo, £6.25 from Banish all thoughts of deep-coloured, oxidised Spanish whites from your mind – this is bright, fresh, crisp and unoaked.

Carchelo, £10.99 from Oddbins – a blend of Monastrell, Tempranillo and Cabernet Sauvignon with a whisper of new oak. This full-on mouthful of deep, dark blueberry fruit is a world away from the Old Spain of the Seventies.

Our tastes in wine may have changed and become more sophisticated over the years, but hey, the old music still “does the biz!”!

It’s only rock ‘n roll, but I like it”. Rolling Stones

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Babes in the Wood

..........not quite a pantomime!

Once upon a time (as all good stories begin), a jolly band of walkers set off along the Wind in the Willow-ish River Wey. They wound their way with much huffing and puffing up into the leafy hills to view their Surrey kingdom - and to ramp up the calorie burning before the Red White & Rosé wine tasting lunch.

All was well and happy until, just past a three-pronged fork in the woods, it was noticed that two of our travellers were missing! Chris and Janet (those are their real names as we only protect the innocent), had stopped to make a frivolous phone call and lost the party and the plot as they then took the wrong turning in the track. Meanwhile, Heather A (for it was she who was leading the vinous expedition), was frantically scouring the hillsides and scaring the wildlife with her hollering in search of the missing minxes. 

You will be relieved to hear that our missing maids made it in the vagueley right direction having followed their nose for wine - and by walking downhill, where they were found in the nick of time for lunch. The moral of this story is......actually we don’t do morals, just learn from our experiences. The happy ending is that everyone had an enormous appetite from their exertions, felt fit and full of energetic endorphins and enthusiasm for wine and lunch and laughter. 

Pre and during lunch we sampled several Autumnal wines including Vesevo Greco di Tufo 2008 at £11.75 from Greco bianco is one of the ancient grape varieties found in the Campania region of Italy. As the name “Vesevo” suggests, the area is rich in minerally volcanic soils from nearby Mount Vesuvius, which add to the depth and character of this satisfying mouthful of a wine. We felt it was just right on a dampish autumn day and a great wine to match chicken or game bird dishes even with a strongly flavoured or creamy sauce.

Most people agreed that the favourite wine enjoyed over lunch was Villa Tonino Nero d’Avola 2007 from Sicily and also available from Slurp. It's made from Nero d'Avola, Sicily's foremost native red wine grape. Bright and aromatic, it's what you might call a kind wine - in that it is easy drinking and goes with most foods, roast lamb perhaps being the optimum choice. It is also easy on the pocket at only £6.95.

We finished our meal with what we could topically describe as a “Halloween Wine” in that it is deep blood red, and has something of the rusty blood taste about it, as well as a great name. D’Angelo Sacravite Aglianico 2007 is from Basilicata, the “instep” of the boot of Italy. Aglianico is not just an old wine variety – it is an “ancient world wine”. Sacravite will slowly draw you into its clutches with its seductive aromas of horse blanket, graphite and suction-like tentacles of tannins (hey - this is meant to be appealing to our dark side)! You can buy this distinctive and chewy vampiric red from Majestic at £9.99....if you dare!

What must surely rate as most people’s nightmare is the ordeal experienced by the Chilean miners trapped for so long in the dark underground recesses of the earth. As this article went to print, we are joining in the universal celebration of their safe return to the surface and we will be opening a delicious Chilean wine, Viu Manent Chardonney – £6.99 from Caves de Pyrène, to mark this amazing “Victory snatched from the jaws of death”. Like so many people we were moved by their plight and this simple poem goes well with the wine.

Out of A Copper Mine ~ by Lucy Berry
When the whole world shifts and creaks
In the press of the rock above you;
And there are no doors from the night
To the ones who love you.

(and the silly, bright metal you prized
And the zeal with which you mined it
Is part of the dark, and the dark,
And the dark of eyes blinded).....

You yearn for the sameness of light,
And a breeze. And your parents faces.
And the kiss of a loving child.
And your wife’s embraces.....

.....and hailing a friend on the street
As if there was nothing to it;
The ordinary things which are blessed
Though you never knew it.

And long after you have been freed
From that outer and inner night
As an old, old man you’ll recall
Your first new glimpse of the sight
Of human faces – and hands –
And the blessed greatness of Light.

Enjoy the darkness of Halloween for just one day. Try our some spooky sybaritic suggestions for a haunting Halloween happening and for a bacchanalian bonfire bash on the Event Ideas page of our website (

Due to popular demand we plan to make our Walks with Wine a regular feature so do phone us or check out news and dates on our website. It is a great way to meet people and you don’t need to know a thing about wine...or walking...just enjoy it. It is a great way to tone up physically and gives you the feel good factor in all sorts of ways. Oh and by the Wey (excuse the pun) we would particularly like more men to join “the babes in the woods “!

Be seeing you
for all your liquid assets

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Out of Africa

Imagine...colonial Africa sometime between 1850 and 1900, a paradise for the rich, a land of biblical beauty brimming with herds of wildlife: gazelle, zebra, leopard, lion. A land of un-mined riches: gold, diamonds and the passport to adventure and earthly treasures. It is also a time of great savagery with huge losses of life incurred by the two Boer Wars. This land was every boy’s dream – to become an adventurer, and to pit his manhood against the rigours of the “Dark Continent” and boldly be the “Great White Hunter”. Every woman emerging from suffragist restraints would swoon at the thought of adventures under the canvas of the safari. This was the final frontier of its time.

We recently created an African Safari themed event for the American Women of Surrey, featuring a wonderful variety of South African wine, food and stories around the bush campfire. Of course, being England in October, it was pouring with rain, so our campfire was of the indoor variety.

The heat and dust of the savannah, or even the 6.34 pm from Waterloo to Guildford, can create a thirst for refreshment. Nederburg Première Cuvée Brut NV, £7.59 from SA Wines Online, a light but distinctive sparkler from The Cape Floral Kingdom, will give you the kick of a Springbok, the sporting symbol of South Africa.

The French Huguenot and Germany influences in Africa can be clearly experienced with the 49% Riesling Blanc de Mer by Bouchard Finlayson at £8.95 from Lea & Sandeman. Its piquancy is tempered with a blend of Viognier, Chenin and Chardonnay grapes. A crispy, fruity easy drinking wine to gently wake up the palate and refresh the taste buds after a hard day out in the bush.

The Walker Bay area from where this wine hails, and specifically Hermanus, is renowned for being the best land-based whale-watching destination in the world.

We think The Mullineux Family White Blend 2009, £15.50 from Berry Bros & Rudd, which is made predominantly from the much loved African Chenin Blanc grape, is a complex, concentrated warm and honeyish mouthful. From Swartland, meaning black land, a rugged, stark and highly sought after region for wine production. This area is also known as “the land of the Rhinoceros”.

The famous expression “LIVINGSTONE I PRESUME” was the very conservative British greeting of Henry Stanley when finding the missing David Livingstone. Livingstone was a missionary explorer who in 1864 was on an expedition to discover the source of the River Nile, when he disappeared. After some years and no news, The New York Herald commissioned the explorer Henry Stanley to find him. This he eventually did - after many adventures - near Lake Tanganika, and it was here that the famous verbal exchange was said to have taken place. Being two well- mannered Victorian gentlemen, despite being in the middle of nowhere, their incredible and long hoped-for meeting was extremely formal with the drawing room greeting of “Livingstone I presume” and a brief handshake.

Livingstone was said to be the first white man to have seen Victoria Falls, named by the natives “The Smoke that Thunders”. It is an amazing sight and Livingstone described it as “The scene that must have been gazed upon by Angels in their flight”.

A final and we think touching fact is that Livingstone is buried in Westminster Abbey, but his heart is buried beneath the tree where he died in his soul home – Africa. Henry Stanley is himself buried in Saint Michael’s Church, Pirbright, in leafy Surrey.

If your quest is for a slinky, lithe bodied, sensuous and powerful leopard of a wine, look no further than the Paul Cluver Estate Pinot Noir 2008 from the Elgin Valley at £12.95 from Lea & Sandeman. Paul Cluver is recognized as a pioneer in eco wine production: the estate is part of a UNESCO world heritage site and even boasts a biosphere and an amphitheatre. This cherry-like wine has a minerality and something of the night about it, with power, and an elegant finesse.

The real deal and uniquely what African wine is meant to be all about is the quirky mix that is known as Pinotage. This is a real “Marmite” of a wine – in that you either love it or hate it. Kaapzicht Pinotage 2007 from Stellenbosch is a big elephant of a wine in its gravitas, complexity and intelligence. £12.95 from Lea & Sandeman.

This brave wine is from South African pioneering stock like Sir Percy Fitzpatrick, who wrote the true, endearing and enduring story of his friendship and real life adventures with his dog. “Jock of the Bushveldt” was published in 1907 and garnered huge acclaim in South Africa and internationally. It is a classic amongst African literature and a great and stirring read for young and old alike.

Fairview Jakkalsfontein Shiraz 2005 is rated as one of the best wines coming OUT OF AFRICA at present. Priced £17.87 from, it should be good. Full of wonderful elderberry fruit, it conjures the throbbing intensity of the savannahs, the promise and richness but also the savagery of this vibrant landscape.

In 1937 Baroness Karen von Blixen from Denmark went to live in what was then known as British East Africa, now Kenya. She had an unhappy marriage but fell in love with this paradisical land and its native peoples. It was she who, under the pseudonym Isaak Dinesen, wrote the book “Out of Africa”.

The story of her life and love affair with the great white Hunter Denys Finch-Hatton was in 1985 made into the now classic film of the same name, starring Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, both managing fairly good imitations of aristocratic English accents. Finch-Hatton was killed when he crashed his De Havilland Gypsy Moth. Karen von Blixen returned eventually to Denmark where she reportedly died of a broken heart - and syphilis.

Keep well
JAMBO from Heather & Heather don’t have to do a Mandela Long Walk to Freedom, we have regular Walks with Wine and lunch. Take a look at our website, or phone us for information. 01483 892678.

Friday, 1 October 2010

Portugal's tales of the unexpected

Portugal is a land of surprises.

When we imagine ourselves there, it's all white villas on sun-drenched hillsides, impossibly green golf courses, grilled, just-caught sardines on the beach, washed down by sharp, lightly fizzy Vinho Verde.

But outside this slightly hazy, Algarve villa-inspired memory, Portugal confounds stereotypes. Far from the sun-soaked and Brit-packed south, the country's cool north is rainier than Manchester – and this is the region that makes that very Vinho Verde that we down so enthusiastically on holiday.

The same country that is responsible for mass market Mateus Rosé (yes, that seventies icon whose empty bottle served as a handy candle holder, and which still sells 20 million bottles around the world each year, is going strong) is also home to an almost vertigo-inducing array of native grape varieties. Some of those varieties – like Touriga Nacional – have developed a profile for themselves and been planted in other parts of the world. Most, however, languish in obscurity – glass of Fernão Pires or Baga, anyone?

All this diversity is what makes Portugal one of the most exciting places for a winelover to explore – albeit virtually, without actually leaving Blighty's shores.

Mount your steed, in the manner of a modern day cowboy, to discover the vast expanses and rolling hills of the Alentejo in the south east, Portugal's own New World, where producers combine native varieties with a cocktail of international grapes to make crowd-pleasingly ripe and soft, but unmistakably Portuguese wines. This is also the home to Europe's largest area of cork forest – Alentejo might have a New World attitude to its wines, but screwcaps and synthetic corks are definitely not part of the picture.

Then, head north, take a travel sickness pill (trust us, it's the only way to enjoy looking at the scenery without incurring crippling nausea) and head off along the winding Douro Valley, inland from Oporto. For centuries we Brits have enjoyed the fortified wines made from the vines grown on the steeply-terraced slopes of the Douro. In recent years, our appetite for Port has waned but, happily, Douro's grape growers have discovered that they are sitting on the perfect raw material to make characterful and unique table wines. The Douro is now, arguably, Portugal's best region for fine wines.

Portuguese wines to seek out

Douro Valley

Pinga do Torto 2005 - £10.99 from Guildford Wine Company in Shalford (2004 vintage currently)
The Torto is one of the tributaries of the Douro River and is, as the name suggests, torturously winding. This wine, made at Quinta Macedos, has an unexpected Surrey link: the owner is Paul Reynolds, until a few years ago a resident of Farley Green in the Surrey Hills. The 2005 vintage of this wine was selected as one of Portugal's 50 Great Wines this year, so he is clearly getting plenty right. Pinga has hints of violet on the nose, with dark chocolate and savoury notes and has the heft to stand up to an autumnal beef stew.

Alves de Sousa Abandonado Red 2007, £56.95 from Surrey-based online merchant,
OK, not your everyday wine - it would have to be a pretty special occasion to justify cracking open something this expensive. But the eye-watering price gives you an idea of the level of ambition of the Douro Valley's winemakers. Made from the fruit of a previously abandoned vineyard, whose mixture of grape varieties is lost in the mists of time, this highly individual wine smells of roses and tar and has a medicinal edge to the palate – this description might not win you over, but believe us it's utterly charming.

Vinho Verde

Contrary to what you might imagine, Vinho Verde is in fact the name of the region, rather than the actual wine itself. Indeed, there is such a thing as red Vinho Verde – though we're not sure it's worth getting excited about.

Quinta de Azevedo, Vinho Verde 2009 - £5.49 if you buy 2 currently at Majestic or £6.99 at Waitrose
This is exactly what a decent Vinho Verde should be – light, bracingly refreshing and affordable. The ultimate seafood (and yes, sardine) wine.


Azamor 2006 - £8.95 from
Owned by the Anglo-Portuguese combination of Alison and husband Joaquim Luiz-Gomes, this is a crazy mix of syrah, touriga nacional, merlot, trincadeira, alicante bouschet, mourvèdre and petit verdot. It sounds like they couldn't decide which varieties to plant, so they just slung them all in – but, amazingly, it works. Deep, inky-tinged flavours with soft tannins that you want to curl up in front of a warm fire with.

So Portugal isn't all sun and sardines. It's high time we embraced the diversity and quality that this fascinating country offers – Europe's own wild west.

Portuguese Wine and Food Evening with the two Heathers
Tuesday 12th October, 7.30pm
Guildford Institute, Ward Street (off North Street), Guildford

This is an opportunity to explore for yourself some of the delicious flavours that Portugal has to offer, in the company of Heather and Heather. Take a virtual tour of Portugal via its wines – helped along with some delicious Portuguese food over the course of the evening.

Tickets: £20 per person, including wine tasting, food - and of course our sparkling company!

Book your place or find out more via our website on:, or you can email us on

Also booking now:

Walk and Wine
Saturday 9th October, departing 10.30am from The Parrot in Shalford.
An invigorating walk followed by a tasting of delicious Italian wines to suit the season, plus a pub lunch with coffee.

Tickets: £20 per person, booking details as above

We hope to see you at one – or both – of these events!

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Grape fun: wine harvest festival

Harvest, from the old English “Haerfest”, translates to Autumn, and the Harvest moon is the full moon within a fortnight of the autumnal equinox of 21st September.

Determining the best time to harvest grapes is a critical decision for any winemaker and is governed by the ripeness of the grape, measured by sugar content and acidity levels, depending on the style of wine they wish to produce. The weather of course is a crucial factor, as too much heat (some chance in this country) can make it hard to gather in all the grapes before they become flabby and overripe; rain on ripe grapes creates a wonderful breeding ground for rot; hailstorms can practically wipe out an entire harvest. So, as in most things in life, timing is crucial.
Denbies, near Dorking, is England’s largest single vineyard with 265 acres under vine. It produces an astonishing 400,000 bottles of wine a year and is cleverly commercial in that it encourages the general public to help harvest its grapes, a pleasure for which you have to pay! We are all for this idea of getting the public in on the act, however, as it not only educates but makes an enjoyable foray into the fresh air as you partake in the picking, which is an integral part of our farming tradition. 
Hand-picking has great advantages over mechanized harvesting as it is, of course, a more gentle and selective way of handling the delicate fruit of the vine. In areas where grapes are grown on steep hillside terraces it is impossible to harvest any other way than by hand. Those highly-prized sweet wines such as Sauternes and Trockenbeerenauslese require that individual berries from the grape cluster have to be selected – one of the reasons these wines are so highly priced, as well as prized. 
Mechanized harvesters are widely used as a machine is cheaper to run than human labour, and can work through the night if necessary. The action of these machines can be compared to that of a playground school bully, as they go around beating and shaking the vines 'till they drop their goodies: the grapes. However, amongst the treasures collected on the conveyor belt along with the grapes is a percentage of bad grapes, leaves, twigs, insects and so on – collectively known as MOG (or Material Other than Grapes) and at some stage this will have to be scanned and sorted....or not, as the case may be. Another good reason to be selective about the producer of the wines you buy. 
Talking of beating, reaping, scything, let alone wilful drowning, all these acts of some savagery have been employed for centuries in the service of mankind and feature in the famous harvesting song “John Barleycorn”.
This is an ancient folksong stemming from Anglo Saxon paganism (read Frasers Golden Bough). Barleycorn is the personification of barley, who encounters great trials and suffering before succumbing to an unpleasant death. However, as a result of this death, bread is produced: John Barleycorn dies so that others may live. The tune for this ancient folksong is the same now used in churches for the not too dissimilar hymn “We Plough the Seed and Scatter”, a favourite at Harvest Festival time. 
Poet, balladeer and Scottish icon, Robert Burns penned the most famous John Barleycorn Ballad in 1782 and subsequently there has been many a version by the likes of Steeleye Span, Stevie Winwood’s Traffic and Jethro Tull (naturally) to name but a few. But why, you ask, does the song enjoy such continuing popularity? Perhaps the answer lies in the line: “the reviving effects of drinking his blood”, which of course refers to barley being the main ingredient of beer and whisky!
Rupert Pritchett of Taurus Wines at Whipley Manor Farm gave us a taster of some rather unusual, but nevertheless popular (particularly amongst the” huntin’ shootin’ and fishin’” set), winter warmers, pre- the turning on of the central heating.
Berry’s The King’s Ginger Liqueur (KGL to its many aficionados) – £17.99 from Taurus Wines. As Rupert says “possibly one of the most politically incorrect drinks available”. It became famous when King Edward VII was prescribed it by his doctor as a warm up before venturing out in his “horseless carriage”. We think it delicious for when you return home.
Other seasonal hedgerow tipples from Taurus wines are Sloe Gin, especially the Bramley-based Juniper Green Organic version at £19.99. Or Roxtons Damson Vodka at £16.99.  
If you're looking for something unusual, then for the non-kingly price of £5.99 you can walk away with a plastic flask-like container of Buck Shot’s Bullshot Mixer. Recommended as a winter warmer whilst pursuing field sports, (we think you probably add it to whisky), it's apparently one of Rupert’s top sellers. Heather A was brave enough to try it despite the ingredients including game paste and chillies. The verdict was delivered quickly and emphatically and is not repeatable here, but we later decided it tasted like Bovril. Your choice! 
With relief, it's back to wine, and to suit the Autumn we need something less than the big bodied reds, but still soft, warm, and fruity. Try Urban Tempranillo 2008 from Mendoza Argentina £8. 99 from Ben Watkins of The Guildford Wine Company in Shalford. The ripe fruit has a vanilla overtone and its medium body is enough to give you a seasonal cuddle.                                                                               

Robert Burns was renowned for many things, not all of a literary nature. His love encompassed more than just a “red, red rose” and here is his ode to one of them.  

Here's a bottle and an honest friend!
What wad ye wish for mair, man?
Wha kens, before his life may end,
What his share may be o'care man?

Then catch the moments as they fly,
And use them as ye outght, man:
Believe me, happiness is shy,
And comes not aye when sought, man.

Watch out for our next Walk and Wine event on 9th October, from the Parrot in Shalford.  Details are on

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Last of the summer wine

September, the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.  According to the French Revolutionary Calendar, we are bang in the middle of Fructidor, the name celebrating the abundance of the season.

For the young this time of year marks the start or continuation of their school or college life, and for some of us the return to a routine not based on making the indolent most of the fickle British summer weather.
Happily, September is the most reliably sunny month of the year in the South East of England, so we can look forward to the harvest-gold sunshine and intensely blue skies that characterize this changing season. The days get shorter and there is a sharper coolness to the mornings and evenings; birdsong becomes more apparent as cheery, cheeky Robins re-instate their territorial rights.
Everywhere there is fruit of the season, from trees laden with apples, plums and pears, to hedgerows of blackberries, sloes, elderberries, hips and haws. They constitute a veritable feast for the opportunist forager and are a sign of continuing bounty and re-birth for future seasons. Taking advantage of all this food for free really makes you feel part of the bigger picture, as nature calls, as it has since time immemorial, us to go out and gather the fruits of the field and to cook, bottle and store against the coming winter’s shortages.

If this whets your appetite for foraging, then you should track down a copy of “Food for Free” by Richard Mabey, originally published in 1972, when we first got a taste for ecology and all things green, and rarely out of print ever since. Once you've leafed through it, you won't be able to look at a hedgerow or roadside verge without getting a rumble in the tummy.
You can, of course, make wine from almost anything, depending on your own preferences, but also it is quite satisfying to make a rather stronger cordial from fruits and leftover cheap bottles of vodka, gin and brandy. Heather A has made some amazingly tasty, blow your head off Elderberry Vodka, which is tasty and not so lethal if mixed with tonic water, mking a warming alternative to a naked summer vodka. Try also steeping rosehips in gin, pears in brandy and, of course, your own brand of sloe gin would be stunning. Take it easy with all of these concoctions: they are perfect for sipping at home on a darkening evening when you don’t have anything too demanding to do. You could also pour some of your home brewed mixture over fruit and ice cream for a lively pudding.
With the distinct smoky whiff of Autumn in the air our palates are leading us towards something more mellow and satisfying than the flippant summer white and rosé wines we have been slurping with salads and bolting by the barbeque. Ideal for this time of year is a light red with a little zip of warmth and spiciness, nothing too weighty but with fruit enough to reflect the season. Words like silky, mellow, juicy and evocative seem reflective of the right wines to drink now.

Our selections this week:
Falanghina 2009, Terredora, £9.99, £7.99 if you buy 2, from Majestic. Falanghina is the name of one of Italy's many fascinating native grape varieties, even though it sounds more like a radical Middle Eastern organization. Its perfumed, fleshy body is just the kind of white that suits this time of year. 
Domaine des Anges, Ventoux Rouge 2006/7 - £7.35 from online merchant Big Red Wine Company. This wine proclaims itself to be from the place of angels, we think it is a heavenly balance of juicy damson fruit and soft spices.
Cuvée de Tête, Brouilly 2007, £7.99 from M&S. Beaujolais (for this is one) is hopelessly unfashionable, but maybe this will win a few people over: soft tannin, light, juicy strawberryish fruit with rose-scented overtones. If the sun makes an appearance, you can even chill it.
TH Pinot Noir 2009, Undurraga £11.95 from the Wine Society.The TH stands for Terroir Hunter, conjuring images of adventurous vignerons searching out long-forgotten vineyards in dangerous and remote areas of Chile . The truth is doubtless more prosaic, but the wine delicious, like a walk through damp woodland with the scent of bonfires on the air, juicy, ripe berries in your hand.
If you thought September marked the end of summer festivals, then joyfully seek out your wellies once more and head for Weyfest at the Rural Life Centre in Tilford this weekend, 3rd to 6th September.  Celebrate the countryside while you listen to new local bands and nostalgic giants of the past such as Focus (remember the yodelling?), The Zombies (still the epitome of ageless cool) and our very own Stranglers (Guilford's local gone global band). A “Strange Little Girl” might suggest a bottle of homemade Rosehip and Sage wine to accompany the day's rustic frolics, though we think that around your “Golden Brown” campfire, “Nice N Sleazy” and snugly wrapped against the damp, reminisce with wine to match the music, try the Domaine des Anges as you indulge your senses in this Surrey heaven.

No Spring nor Summer beauty hath such grace, as I have seen in one Autumnal face.” John Donne

Walks with Wine
...or how to Indulge your passion and feel smugly righteous at the same time!
Our first "walks with Wine" event will be this Saturday 11th September - meeting at 10.30 am at The Parrot pub, Broadford Road, Shalford, Near Guildford, GU4 8DW. (Tel: 01483 561400).

The walk will be approximately 2 hours and around 7 to 8 kilometres, it will be at a comfortable pace to suit most people and levels of fitness -something more than a stroll but certainly not a power walk. On this particular walk there will be gentle hills, but nothing too strenuous. Please wear comfortable walking shoes/trainers and bring water in case it is hot.

When we return to the pub we will be conducting a fun informative wine tasting followed by lunch.
Our charge for the event is £20 payable upon arrival by cheque to Red White & Rosé which is for the conducted walk, wine tasting and pub lunch. Please look at our website "Events" section.

We hope this appeals to you and we would love to hear from you to discuss further and/or confirmation of numbers as places are strictly limited. PLEASE DO PHONE TO BOOK - 01483 892678

Monday, 23 August 2010

The dark side of the moon

Collect some fresh cow manure, put it into a cow horn and bury it at the Autumn
Cow horns being unearthed
equinox. Six months later, at the Spring equinox, dig up the horn, remove the manure and put it in a barrel of water. Using a long stick, stir vigorously for one hour: the biodynamic preparation 500 (cow horn manure) is now ready to spray on your vineyard, preferably when the moon is descending and in front of a “fruit” or “root” constellation.
Stirring the "prep"

Sound a bit weird? It might surprise you to learn that spraying cow horn manure on vines is spreading (excuse the pun), as the practice of biodynamics becomes more popular. Once thought of as folklore or hippyish bunkum, nowadays biodynamics is becoming an accepted part of sustainable viticulture combining traditional farming practices with scientific and herbal knowledge.

This kind of New Age thinking might have you cackling into your cappuccino, but biodynamics is moving into the mainstream. Distinctly non-New Age companies such as M&S and Tesco consult the Biodynamic Calendar (2010 edition yours for £4.71 from Amazon) to ensure that they stage tastings on “fruit days”, determined by the orbit of the moon around the earth and the associated zodiac element, which apparently affect the taste of a wine.

So what is biodynamics and where did it come from? Biodynamic agriculture was inspired by the teachings of Austrian philosopher Rudolf Steiner (best known in this country for Steiner schools) at the turn of the twentieth century. In essence, it takes organic cultivation as a starting point and adds elements of Astrology (the influence of the Moon and planets) along with Homeopathic techniques and principles – applying various “preps”, such as the cow horn manure spray above. If you will, it's organic for people who really mean it.

Driving forward to the present, Jody Scheckter, of Formula 1 fame, is a great exponent of this principle and has successfully farmed Laverstoke Park in Hampshire biodynamically for six years. His creed is that you aren’t just what you eat, but you are (if not vegetarian), the animals that you eat. You can judge the results for yourself by buying at the Laverstoke online farm shop:

How do you spot a biodynamic wine? Easier said than done sometimes. A fair number of biodynamic growers choose not to mention the fact on their labels: their decision to use biodynamics is to make what they consider better wine, rather than a marketing technique to appeal to the consumer; a refreshingly uncommercial attitude.

To further confuse things, the term “natural wine” is hot right now: you might come across it at hip London eateries such as Galvin Café a Vins, Artisan & Vine and Terroirs – or even at your local Oddbins. Guildford's very own Les Caves de Pyrène could be said to have started the whole natural wines phenomenon, but what does it mean?

Any attempt to define natural wine could fill a book, but in general these are wines made in as non-interventionist way as possible, often using organic and/or biodynamic methods and with low or no use of sulphur. As wine writer and scientist, Jamie Goode, puts it: “You just know one when you see one.” Helpful?

Putting aside attempts at classifying and defining these wines, then, let's just have some concrete recommendations that are delicious to drink – the proof of the pudding is, as always, in the eating – or drinking.

Domaine Huet Le Mont Sec 2005, Vouvray - £18.49, Waitrose (certified biodynamic)
A consistently delicious Loire white, whose many layers of flavour make it the vinous equivalent of expertly made flaky pastry. It's dry with chenin blanc's typical piercing acidity, but with honey, almond blossom, beeswax, apple skin and more.

Champagne Fleury Carte Rouge NV - £25.75, Vintage Roots (certified biodynamic)
No home-grown hemp jumper needed to drink this. Fun and frothy, as it should be and a very sensible price for a reliable fizz. Waitrose stocks an almost identical Champagne Fleury Brut NV for £29.99.

Saumur-Champigny, Les Terres Chaudes 2008, Domaine des Roches Neuves - £16.99, Les Caves de Pyrène, Guildford (biodynamic)
Another Loire wine (a hotbed of biodynamic growers), but a red. This 100% cabernet franc is sinewy and muscular rather than fleshy – one for claret lovers to enjoy with roast lamb.

Coyam 2007, Vinedos Emiliana - £12.20, The Wine Society or £13.50, Vintage Roots (biodynamic)
Biodynamics is perhaps strongest in France, but this moreish Chilean shows that the New World is not being left behind. It's a veritable cocktail of syrah, carmenère, merlot, petit verdot and mourvèdre and provides a nice contrast to the more austere Saumur-Champigny. Enjoy its full-bodied, robust fruitiness now – or keep it for 4-5 years, if you can.

Talking of keeping wine in optimal condition - Bodegas Amezola de la Mora in Rioja will be storing some of its wine on the seabed at a depth of 12-15 metres, close to the port of Bilbao. The specially designed pods will allow water to flow freely around the bottles and the bodega plans to see if the constant temperature of the seabed provides a better ageing environment than a cellar – and if the seawater has any effect on the wine!
“Age is just a number. It’s totally irrelevant unless, of course, you happen to be a bottle of wine.” Joan Collins

We are sure that the Spanish will be cheered to learn that divers have discovered thirty bottles of Clicquot Champagne (now Veuve Clicquot) believed to have been made between 1782 and 1788, pre the French Revolution, on the Baltic seabed – and still drinkable! It is thought that the champagne was en route to the Tsar of Russia from Louis XVI and is said to be perfectly preserved by the cold and darkness, retaining its fizz and fabulous taste. Proof perhaps that the old ways are not to be scoffed at and we can learn much from the past.

“I love everything that is old: old friends,old times,old manners, old books, old wine” Oliver Goldsmith

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Doing it outside...wines for alfresco dining

Summertime and the living is easy: warm days and long nights, the long-promised barbecue summer...may still materialise. Forget your brown lawn, get out there and soak up the sunshine, rejoicing in the fact that, like wine in moderation, the sunshine is now acknowledged to be good for you, hooray! So now that you have the green light for indulging in feelgood pursuits, we thought we would offer a few sybaritic suggestions to enhance your experience.

The Rules
Wine complexity and subtlety tends to get a bit lost outdoors – so this is not the time to uncork your treasured bottle of white burgundy or revered claret.

Go for simple, bold aromas and flavours that can stand up to the different smells, temperatures and conditions of alfresco dining.

If it’s lunchtime keep it light – both in terms of the wine’s style and the alcohol level, or write-off the afternoon for siesta!
Prosecco, the Italian fizz is a perfect lunchtime wine: light and fruity in style, but dry and only around 11% alcohol. Majestic stock the cracking Prosecco La Marca NV at £7.99 if you buy 2 bottles. You could mash up a few red berries or soft peaches and mix with the fizz to make a pretty and delicious summer cocktail.

Talking of strawberries and cream, try this classic summer pudding with a Moscato d’Asti also from Italy, it’s sweet, lightly sparkling with loads of fizzy pear fruit, but just 6-7% alcohol. Local wine merchant Les Caves de Pyrène has Vittorio Bera’s delicious Moscato d’Asti for £14.04.

Ah, Salad Days, and for anything with a vinaigrette dressing, then a rosé is the best wine to serve. White wines end up tasting too sharp and lose their fruit; the tannins in red wine react really badly with the oil and vinegar making a horrible match!

As for which rosé to choose – our last article provided plenty of food (or drink) for thought. You can read it online on Liquid Assets here 

To BBQ or not to BBQ, that is the question with apologies to William Shakespeare

Chargrilled meat needs wine that is bold and big on fruit and flavour. The words Australia and Barbie go together like, well, cork and bottle, so it’s perhaps no surprise that Aussie Shiraz is the ultimate barbecue wine. Big, juicy fruit, a subtle whack of tannin and a sometimes not-so-subtle whack of alcohol to go with it. Chateau Reynella, in McLaren Vale, South Australia, have been making classic Aussie shiraz for years, but the price has been creeping up to frankly silly levels. But get thyselves to Waitrose sharpish and you can snap up a bottle of this for the relative bargain price of £10.99, “beauty, mate!”

For white wine drinkers, something made from the Viognier grape has plenty of apricot and peach fruit to stand up to “toss the shrimp on the Barbie” situations. But it can sometimes lack a bit of refreshing acidity – so Chilean winemakers Anakena have come up with the idea of a Viognier, Riesling and Chardonnay blend, which they call Ona, available at Oddbins for £10.99, or £8.79 as part of a mixed case.

Keeping your cool - You need to think about how you’re going to keep the white wines cold of course. Fridge space can be taken up with food, so consider putting ice in cold water (much more efficient than ice alone) in a bucket for your white and rosé wines.

Consider chilling the reds, very chic and continental. On a hot day, red wine at room temperature can seem a bit soupy and un-refreshing. Chilling could be the answer and some red wines respond well to the treatment. In general, red wines that work well chilled need to have plenty of fruit and not much tannin. So think juicy, fruity, jammy and young.

Brown Brothers’ Tarrango from Australia was designed to be chilled – and also to accompany spicy foods. It’s widely available in supermarkets including Waitrose at around £6.50. Beaujolais is the classic French wine for chilling and drinking in the summer months. It has bags of raspberry and cherry fruit and, importantly, not too much tannin. Try Louis Jadot’s Combe aux Jacques Beaujolais-Villages 2008, £8.97 at Waitrose.

Libatious corruptions, such as Sangria are a great accompaniment in the garden or on the beach. Having lived in Portugal for a long time Heather A has smuggled in a couple of special Sangria recipes from celebrated restaurants:

Alambique is family owned, and probably the most popular restaurant in the Algarve “Golden Triangle”, the canteen for visiting celebs.

Recipe: Half fill a large jug with ice and a handful of chopped citrus fruit and apple. Add a cinnamon stick and a sprinkling of sugar. Fill your jug one third full of either red OR white wine, then one third of lemonade. Add a generous dash of Brandy and ideally a gulp of Liquor Beirao and a shot of Triple Sec. Stir well and top up with lager. (If these liqueurs are not available use your imagination.) Serve on ice.

Evaristo – a hut on a small beach hidden and protected by rocks, reached by dinghy expertly navigated by tanned and muscular young men, all of whom answer to the name of José! You are really ready for refreshment after jumping out of the boat!

The signature drink is Champagne Sangria Evaristo and is a knockout. Chopped strawberries, Rum, Triple Sec and Brandy are mixed with Champagne and loads of ice to add the necessary water content. Blissful and guaranteed to make all your barbecue guests so happy that they will not care if the burgers are burnt.

Spare rib anyone?” Adam

For more recipes and ideas visit our website

Friday, 23 July 2010

A bunch of rosés

The psychology of summer: sunlight lifting the spirits, warm days, short nights, perfumed gardens, the happy social scene, the lightness of being; and sipping rosé wine.

We Brits have taken to the pink drink like the proverbial ducks to water and many of the bottles we buy are slung into the supermarket trolley along with our sausages, burgers and beans. There's nothing wrong with this, but it can be much more satisfying to search out quality and diversity and to buy from people who can advise you, and often give you a tasting too: our local independent wine merchants.

We are really lucky in the Guildford area to have three good wine shops, run by knowledgeable staff who are in the business because they love their product.

Our quest this week:  to find the perfect rosé wine, so we asked them all to recommend rosés that they thought were good value and that they felt happy to represent as their choice.

Rupert Pritchett of Taurus Wines near Bramley belies his years, as he tells us he has “been around for a long, long time”! It is a delightful experience to visit Rupert in his converted cowshed at Whipley Farm. Useful too, as, after stocking up on the wines, you can buy your animal feed next door. We were offered a whole host of rosés to try, but decided on one classic Provençal and one trendily dark-skinned Chilean.

M de Minuty 2009 is £12.99 and has the lovely and distinctive shapely bottle of Provence rosés, which was modelled, of course, on a woman. Or more prosaically it could be said to have a handy waist to hold on to. In southern France wine is often drunk “on the rocks”, further diluting the alcoholic content and flavour, so the fine but clear acidity of this wine has to be well pronounced to hold up to this treatment. The quintessentially Provençal pale shell pink colour, aromas of rose petals and flat stones baked by the sun and a clean minerality combine to make this a taste of holidays. Drink with or without food - great with grilled fish.

Torres Santa Digna Cabernet Sauvignon Rosé - £7.99. The Torres family name has been linked with Spanish wine for more than three centuries and in 1979 they opened a winery in the wine-grower's paradise of Chile. This rosé is a pale cherry colour with intense and exuberant aromas of red fruit and a hint of blackcurrant. It still retains Spanish roots and makes a great marriage with tapas, salamis - or butterflied lamb on the barbecue.

Real men drink rosé” is a sentiment that Ben Watkins of The Guildford Wine Company in Shalford subscribes to and he is happy to prove this with his wide range of samples chilled and ready to taste.

His Les Cerisiers Côtes du Rhône Rosé- £8.49 or £6.99 if you buy 2 bottles is not as pale as a Provençal rosé and has more oomph. The weighty stone fruit and herbal flavours, together with a definite acidity, show this wine means business.

Canforrales Garnacha Rosado 2009 from La Mancha in Spain, £7.99 a bottle, is a lively translucent red, just the shade of Heather A's favourite lipgloss. Its delicate bouquet of tinned strawberries might not sound complimentary, but is a classic description of garnacha-based wines and rather delightful. It has a robust dryness and is the rosé to accompany barbecued bangers – a bloke's rosé.

“And now for something completely different”, Ben brought out a dinky little half-bottle called Innocent Bystander (£5.99), an Australian sparkling pink muscat. This quirky wine, crown-capped like a beer bottle, is bursting with effervescent tutti -frutti flavours and would be a wonderful gimmick to bring out for parties....with a straw! Sweet, pink, fizzy and only 5.5% alcohol, it could be just the thing to splash around with a picnic fruit salad.

Les Caves De Pyrène on the Old Portsmouth Road, Artington, always seem to be in a state of chaotic upheaval , but then “busy” is their middle name as one of the premiere suppliers to the restaurant trade, including Terroirs, their own vinous eatery in London. Our man on the spot, Adrian Scholes, when not engaged in endlessly complex conversations with suppliers and clients, unfailingly guides us towards unusual items for our opinion.

Unusual is perhaps just one of the first words that comes to mind when sipping Alquézar Tempranillo-Garnacha Rosado 2009, £7.99 a bottle. The colour and flavours call to mind sour cherries, so an acquired taste or perhaps one for those who want to get away from the “cute” label of many rosés. Treat it more like a summer red that you can chill down for full-flavoured refreshment.

By contrast and oh, such an easy quaff, is Bergerie de la Bastide Vin de Pays d’Oc Rosé 2009 - £6.49. A delicate shade of pink with good, balanced acidity, light and floral, but not at all cloying. Easy and undemanding drinking.

Do seek out your own local wine merchants, buy from a real person and you will get so much more enjoyment from your wine shopping.

Think pink
Most rosé wines are made pink in one of two ways:
  • Lightly crushing black grapes and letting the grape flesh remain in contact with the skins for just long enough to colour the juice pink
  • Blending in some red wine to some white wine, to make pink. Sounds simple (not to mention cheap) but this is the way that most pink Champagne is made
  •  Always seek out the most recent vintage of rosés, as they don't improve with age. Look for 2009’s Europe and California – and we will soon be moving onto 2010s from the southern hemisphere.