The Austrians have got it sorted

Just back from a cracking week’s skiing, eating, drinking and sweating (in the steam room, darling!) in Austria.

We were in my fave resort of Mayrhofen in the Tirol region. We took the train from Munich which travels to the resort up the stunning Zillertal valley.

The skiing was, of course, ace, but what impressed me even more was the wine – both the quality and the price. The two euro glass of house white up the mountain was as good as most of the £5 house whites you find in UK pubs and bars. And it was local.

Everything was local in fact, so as well as the obligatory (and generally delicious) Gruner Veltliners, lots of Austrian Rieslings, Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs found their way into our glasses. Plus the odd beer, naturally.

The restaurant wine lists were also packed with pricey Italian numbers, but why cross the border when the Austrians seem to have it so sorted.

I was impressed wih Austrian wines before this trip, now I’m an evangelist.

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Weighing into the heavy bottle debate

A couple of years back I read an interesting piece about wine packaging written for the Guardian by then wine columnist Tim Atkin, take a look here.

At the time I fully agreed with him, and I still do, and was reminded of his packaging campaign when I slid a bottle of Chilean Carmenere from the Wilson rack recently and nearing toppled to the floor under its excessive weight.

This was a standard 750ml bottle of red wine, albeit really rather excellent red wine, but it felt like a magnum. I was convinced there was more then  750ml in the bottle, but alas that’s all there was.

It was, at Atkin points out, one of those ‘macho’ heavy glass bottles that are a kick in the teeth to the producers whouse PET packaging and the like in order to reduce their carbon footprint.

I weighed the bottle (empty) and compared it to a standard bottle I had lying around, and the results speak volumes. It was more then twice as heavy, coming in at 1.22 kilograms compared to 530 grams. Shocking.

The wine itself was lovely, really lovely. Silky smooth, but tannic and rich with stewed plum and dark chocolate cherry characters. Shame about the bottle.

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An unexpected Aussie treat

Australia, Australia, land of hopeless cricketers, fiesty half-pint poptarts and some truly terrible branded wines.

However I was in for an unexpected surprise when I cracked the dusty screw cap of this bottle of Banrock Station Crimson Cabernet Sauvignon that as been gathering dust in the wine rack for years.

I’d stuck it dans le frigo after a tasting class at Plumpton where sparkling Shiraz was discussed as I thought that’s what this was until I read the label properly.

Actually this wasn’t sparkling, but it was sweet and rather tasty in a guilty pleasures sort of way. There was immediate fruit, some helpful acid and a bucket load of sugar.

My wife didn’t like it, so I drunk the lot, but at 9% ABV it’s like necking one of those hefty Somerset ciders, just not as refined.

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Albarino, Tempranillo and more in glorious San Sebastian

A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending a weekend in sunny San Sebastian with my family. It was cold, of course, but sunny.

Just the weather for a trip to the fabulous old town and its many wine bars and pintxos palaces (that’s tapas to you and me, but Basque stylee).

These guys know how to live. The food was stunning, the best in Europe, the best in the western world perhaps…?

Pig is king in San Sebastian in the same way that cod is king in Lisbon, and we consumed a lot of pig-based snacks, from simple slithers of ham with their tasty, lip-coating white fat, to squares of suckling pig rib and crispy suckling skin. Delicious.

On the drinks front the simple white wines of the region were bright, young and morish, as were the myriad albarinos we tried. For me it was a white wine heavy trip – there was even a chance to try Spain’s signature white wine Belondrade Y Lurton (quite stunning) – but plenty of rioja flowed too.

Cider is big business here too, but we were a little late in he season for the cider parties/festivals, etc. Another reason to visit this smashing city in 2011.

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Champagne and travel: Getting busy with the fizzy in Champagne-Ardenne

Here’s a link to a travel feature in today’s Daily Mirror I wrote about my press and tasting trip to Champagne last spring.

I’ve got a fuller version of the piece, which I’ll put up here next week.

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Some lovely pics of Ickworth Vineyard in the winter snow

Snowy vineyards look great. Possibly not as great as mid-summer vineyards bursting with fruit and potential, but great nonetheless.

Here are some snaps I took on Boxing Day during a pre lunch stroll on the Ickworth Estate in Suffolk.

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Consumed many interesting wines over Christmas, here are a few worth a mention

‘Tis the season to be jolly, and in the Wilson/Renwick household, merry.

A quiet north London Christmas eve was followed by two days of boozing in Suffolk during which a number interessing and, on the whole, excellent wines were enjoyed.

The pick of the bunch was a 2005 magnum of Chateau Tour Prigac from the Medoc. It was treat; bold complex, sophisticated, brimming with blackcurrant and dusty tannins and superb with roast beef. The only problem being that with 10 of us aound the table, we could have done with another bottle.

This was decanted two hours before serving, but threw off little sediment.


On Boxing Day the Inniskillin Sparling Ice Wine came out and was just the ticket after a cold walk across the fields in the snow.

Sweet, slightly fizzy with a backbone of tight acid is was really rather special. At £45 for a half bottle, it ought to be.

Another wine worth mentionig is Denbies Greenfields 2002 sparkling English wine, which was better than many of the Champagnes we drank. There’s a lot to be said for English sparkling wine.

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Some good Waitrose Wines for under a tenner


A mate of mine has been trying and failing to get hold of some M&S Houdamond Pinotage and Laurent Miquel Viognier ahead of Christmas, which is a shame because they’re both excellent wines.

I’ve come up with a couple of alternatives for him, all from Waitrose, and not really like for like matches, but wines I think will stand up to the season and charm his palette nonetheless.

Here’s the rundown.

Porcupine Ridge Syrah, 2009: One of my all time favourite wines. Has a lot of the same characteristics of full-bodied Pinotage, but also lots of black fruits and a touch of spice. Delicious.

Sogrape Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde, 2009: This white is refined, understated, has a slight pettiance and grippy green fruit (apples, lime), all of whch add to its gravitas.

Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner ‘Terraces’, 2009: Or this white. Another stylish, bright, very dry wine, this time from fashionable Austria. Love the minerality!

Posted in Wine | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment’s Xmas 2010 wine guide is go

Follow THIS LINK to check out my Christmas 2010 wine guide on where the following wines are tried and tested.

Marks & Spencer Ouidinot Champagne, NV
Cono Sur Sparkling Brut, NV
Cremant de Jura, Blanc de Blancs, 2008
Taste the Difference Vintage Champagne, 2004
Inniskillin Sparkling Vidal, 2006
Mount Pleasant Elizabeth Semillon, 2005
Blason de Bourgogne Aligote, 2009
Dr L Riesling 2009
Laurent Miquel Nord-Sud Viognier, 2009
Montes Alpha Chardonnay, 2008
Taste the Difference Casablanca Chilean Sauvignon Blanc 2010
Pujalet Vin de pays du Gers 2009
Tio Pepe Fino Sherry
Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon Blanc, 2009
Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel, 2008
Kaiken Malbec/Bonarda/Petit Verdot, 2008
Chilano Cabernet-Petit Verdot, 2009
Taste the Difference Saint-Joseph, 2009
Boschendal 1685 Shiraz, 2008
Robert Mondavi Napa Valley Pinot Noir Carneros, 2007
Henry Fessy Broilly, 2009
Laurent Miquel Heritage Vineyards Syrah, 2008

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A surprise Slokenian package

Enjoyed an impresive Slovenian Sav Blanc with lunch last week.

Bright, fresh and bursting with classic SB characteristics (gooseberry, more acid than you’d like possible, but in a good way) it was also shot-through with bold elderberry notes on the nose and palette.

£7.99 (Waitrose) represents good value for this interesting white.

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