Thursday, January 14, 2021

Wines for our webinars

Amelia Singer and I have enjoyed hosting webinars during 2020, connecting the people who make the wine, the people who sell the wine and the people who drink the wine. In case you missed our webinars you can watch any of them on my YouTube channel and sign up to the channel to be notified of new ones. You can sign up to my mailing list HERE to be notified of future events. I've listed the wines we tasted below. The tasting packs are no longer available, but most of the wines you can still buy individually (price and vintage may vary).


An Adventure in the Old World (wines from Novel Wines)

The 'New' Old World (wines from Novel Wines)
SWIG Wine pop-up! (wines from Swig)
  • The Age of Grace Viognier
  • Greyton Chardonnay
  • Syrah
Winemaker: Saint Clair, New Zealand (wines from Corking Wines)
  • Pioneer Block 3 Sauvignon Blanc
  • Origins Viognier
  • Origins Pinot Noir
Winemaker: Gerard Bertrand, France (wines from Corking Wines)
  • Picpoul de Pinet
  • Hampton Water 
  • Saint Chinian
Winemaker: San Marzano, Italy (wines from Corking Wines)
  • Il Pumo Primitivo
  • Il Pumo Negroamaro
  • 62 Anniversario Primitvo Manduria Riserva
Winemaker: Balla Geza, Romania (wines from Novel Wines)
English Wine Week: Stanlake Park
  • Bacchus
  • King's Fume
  • Grand Reserve
Wines Unpacked
The New World of German Wines (wines from Novel Wines) - we also featured natural wines by Jan Matthias Klein available from Modal Wines.
  • Oliver Zeter Grauburgunder
  • Oliver Zeter Sauvignon Blanc Fume
  • Oliver Zeter Pinot Noir Reserve
Food & Wine Matching (wines from Berkmann Help4Hospitality)


Sake (wines from Sorakami)

Wines of Portugal (wines from Exquisite Portuguese Wines)
  • Maria Papoila Alvarinho
  • Insurgente Dao
  • Andreza Reserva Douro
  • Azul Sparkling Rose
  • Lua Cheia Reserva Douro
  • Azul Tawny Port 10 yrs
California (wines from Stannary Wine)
  • Liquid Farm White Hill Chardonnay
  • Chanin Pinot Noir
  • Foxglove Cabernet Sauvignon
Wines of the Rhone with Cellier des Dauphins (available from Asda, Tesco, Waitrose)
  • Les Dauphins CdR White
  • Les Dauphins CdR Red


Wine& Mindfulness - Re-Wine & Re-Wire (wines from BinTwo)
  • Lagravera Onra 
  • Mas d'Alezon
  • Les Escures

Friday, September 25, 2020

A Basic Guide to Sake


If you’re a Sake beginner like me, join my webinar with Amelia Singer, Rie Yoshitake (Sake Ambassador in the UK) and Sorakami (quality Sake retailer) on 8th October 2020 at 8pm (UK time). Register HERE 

Sake is a mystery to me, so I’ve read a bit about it to put together my basics guide to Sake, to help you choose a bottle to taste along with the webinar. Sources are quoted at the end – if you find any errors or you would like to add more detail, please comment below. You can do a Sake course with WSET if you would like to learn more. 


“Sake” means alcoholic drink in Japanese. “Nihonshu” is the Japanese word for what we call Sake. It is known to be refreshing and for its umami flavour.

Four things are needed to make Sake – rice, water, koji and yeast:

  1. Sake is fermented rice. The rice “sakamai” is different to table rice and has a higher level of starch. The starch is in the centre so the rice is polished, or milled, to reveal the pure starch. The more polished it is, the better the quality, and this is how it is graded.
  2. Water is important as the purity and pH of the water used affects the quality of the sake.
  3. Koji, a cultivated rice mould, breaks down the starch into sugars.
  4. The yeast converts the sugar into alcohol. Like in wine, the type of yeast used encourages different aromas.

The alcohol level of Sake is 14-20% which is high for a fermented drink. Sometimes alcohol is added for balance and to increase the intensity of the aromas. Acidity is lower than in wine.

Sake becoming popular as with the increase in popularity of Japanese food, and Sake cocktails are popping up as mixologists seek interesting combinations of flavours. Sake can also be added to cooking. Sake has a delicate umami flavour so pairs well with Asian food and earthy dishes like wild mushroom risotto.


There are many varieties of sake, many more than I will describe here, but as an introduction here are some terms you should know:

  • Junmai – no added alcohol or sugar (so is considered “pure”), polished to at least 70% of original volume, a rich, full body and some acidity. Serve warm or room temperature. Junmai is often used alongside another term, such as Junmai Ginjo (which is pure with 60% polishing).
  • Ginjo – Polished to 60% of original volume, light fruity, complex, fragrant, and easy to drink. Generally serve chilled.
  • Daiginjo – Premium Sake polished to at least 50% of original volume, with light complex aromas. Serve chilled.
  • Nigori – Cloudy, coarsely filtered, may have very small bits of rice floating in it, sweet and creamy.
  • Sparkling – made sparkling by secondary fermentation (similar method to Champagne), tends to have lower alcohol levels, and best served chilled.
  • Nama – unpasteurised.
  • Koshu – aged
  • SMV – number on the label indicating sweetness level, with 5+ being dry and 2- being sweet
  • Umeshu – green plums and rock sugar are added for flavour and sweetness… can be added to Champagne as a great alternative to a Champagne Cocktail or Bellini!

When weighing up which to buy, one tip I read was to buy a lower polishing level from a premium brand, rather than a high polishing level from a cheap brand.


Generally, aged sake has rich flavours so should be served warm. Sake with delicate flavours should be served at room temperature. Fruity sake should be served chilled. If you’re warming it, please heat gently so as not to disturb the aromas.

Traditionally Sake is served in small pottery cups, small glasses, or wine glasses for chilled Sake. Store Sake like wine – in the cool and in the dark. Drinking within a year of purchase. Once opened, to store close tightly and keep in a cool place and drink within one month. Keep Ginjo in the fridge to retain fruity flavours.


We have partnered with Sorakami to offer a selection of Sake to suit all tastes. If you’re not sure, pick the Gingo.

  1. Kamoizumi Nigori Summer Snow (Cloudy) - rich & creamy, serve cold
  2. Tedorigawa Kinka Gold Blossom (Daiginjo Nama) - full & clean, serve cold
  3. Kamoizumi Shusan Three Dots (Junmai) - woody, serve cold or warm
  4. Koshi no Kanbai Tokusen (Ginjo) - light and clean, serve cold

Order HERE

“Kanpai” (cheers)!



Friday, February 7, 2020

How to buy wine at £6 - getting value for money

This morning I was asked to share my tips for buying wine at £6 with BBC Radio 5 Live. The previous guest slot overran so I had two minutes to talk and ran out of time before getting my five tips across. Therefore, I thought I'd write a post to share what I was planning to say.

The price of wine is increasing. With high duty costs and the weak pound, the average bottle price is predicted to tip over £6 at some point in 2020. More than half of UK adults aren't willing to spend over £6 per bottle, so how can you be a savvy shopper at this price point?

First up, it is important to say that all wine that is imported into the UK is of at least acceptable quality (the trade scale being Poor - Acceptable - Good - Very Good - Outstanding). A lot of wines around the £6 level are of Good quality, including the main brands found in supermarkets. Some of those brands make very good wines along side their entry level brands, such as Wolf Blass or Casillero del Diablo. This is called brand laddering - where a brand will provide different wines at different price points in the hope you will buy the different levels for different occasions. Their cheaper wines are often good value for money because they want to build trust in the hope you will move up a level. At the £6 price point brands also look to deliver consistency, so you can be sure if you buy another bottle it will taste the same.

So, my top tips...

  1. Buy wines from lesser-known countries as these can provide better value for money. For example, you could buy Pinot Noir or Pinot Grigio from Romania or Moldova. Or you could go for native varieties, such as Fateasca Alba or Fateasca Neagra. If you want to stick to countries you know, then go for lesser-known regions, such as Languedoc in France or Sicily or Puglia in Italy. Or consider countries like chile or Argentina who deliver good value for money because they have lower labour costs so can keep the price of wine down.
  2. Bag in box wines and single-serve bottles or cans can help too. Bag in box tend to have cheaper per bottle prices, but of course they have a higher initial outlay. Cans can cost more per ml, but they have lower price out of pocket.
  3. Bulk shipping, where wine is transported in special containers and then bottled in the UK, is increasing, and quality is improving, so look out for the UK postcode on the back of the bottle.
  4. Discounters, like Aldi and Lidl, and the Co-op are making their mark with their wine selections and can offer very good value for money.
  5. Check out wine writers recommendations in newspapers, they can often highlight wines at the £6 price point.

However, it does all come down to personal preference, so you should find what YOU like. At one of my pop up wine bars I served a flight of Aussie Shiraz, one wine was £6, another £10, and the third £15. I was able to help people identify the benchmarks of quality - balance, complexity, intensity and length, and how to identify what THEY preferred. The higher end one had beautiful oak ageing, but some people preferred the simple £6 wine.

For every £1 you spend you are improving the quality of the wine, and its not linear. If you spend £5 on a bottle of wine, once you've paid for tax, bottling, marketing etc you are left with 50p spent on the actual wine. Whereas if you spend £10 on a bottle of wine, you will get £3 worth of wine. So sometimes it is worth splashing out on a bit more to drink better wine, and when doing so it might be worth asking knowledgeable staff to help guide you so you walk away happy.

Don't be fooled by offers, the offer price has usually been agreed with the winemaker upfront, so that is the value of the wine. That said, if you find a wine you like that's above your usual price point, then do keep an eye out for when it goes on offer.

If you do buy cheap wine and you're a little worried what others might think, then if its white, make sure you chill it right down before serving as this will dampen the aromas, or add a dash of sparkling water to make a spritz. If it's red, then decant it (pour it into anything, a jug even, then back into the bottle) as this will soften the wine. Or serve with cheese - everyone's favourite pairing! - as the cheese will coat the tongue so your guests taste less of the wine.

And above all, don't worry too much, wine is to be enjoyed!

Monday, March 18, 2019

Blind wine tasting is hard!

This week I attended a blind wine tasting hosted by Wine Australia, and I thought, "easy, I'm going to smash this", and although Aussie wines are some of my favourites, I haven't done any blind tasting since my WSET exams five years ago (gosh is it that long?!). I got it wrong. I got it all wrong.

We were given a piece of paper where we could write our notes, and given another which posed 7 questions about the wines, which we had to hand in at the end. Answer papers were marked and the top 4 people given recognition (no-one listed below the top 4, and no scores revealed - thus preventing any (my) embarrassment). It was a lovely experience and my fellow wine tasters were charming.

There were three flights of wine - Flight 1: four white wines, Flight 2: three red wines, and Flight 3: four red wines. We had to guess the single grape variety in each flight, decide which wines were from the same region in each flight, and identify the one wine of the day that was not from Australia (and where it was from). Straightforward right? It would seem... until you throw the way my brain works into the mix. Let me explain...

Flight 1:
My first thought was Chardonnay, of course these are Chardonnay, but hang on wine #1 is oily - in the way that cocoa butter is oily, and lemon aroma, so a bit like eating a Hotel Chocolate Lemon white chocolate. Yum. But not typical of chardonnay. There's a slight spritz on the tip of my tongue - again atypical for Chardonnay, hang on could this be Semillon? It has a full body - tick - and is not very complex (i.e. doesn't have many different flavours coming through - similar to a pinot grigio) - tick. Then I looked at the legs (the viscous drops down the side of the glass, which indicates alcohol level), and wiped it from my mind, no, no it can't be a Semillon, as Semillon has low alcohol, these thick legs mean high alcohol... so I continued tasting Flight 1 thinking the wines were Chardonnay (both wines 2 & 3 had buttery notes - typical of Chardonnay, but also possible for Semillon). But then, Wine 4 threw me - it was quite light and pale, with citrus and mineral, and dental floss (or, rather, a medical tasting eucalyptus flavour) - this can't be Chardonnay screamed the devil on my left shoulder! The angel on my left was too timid to remind me of the typical Chardonnay characteristics I had experienced with the other two wines.
I wrote Semillon on the answer sheet. These wines were Chardonnay. Then they asked which wine is from Barossa and although the eucalyptus is blatantly a clue for Wine 4, I wrote down Wine 1, because that white chocolate flavour made me think it had to come from a hot climate. I wonder now if that white chocolate is a result of a process during winemaking (such as Malolactic fermentation - I can cover this another day), rather than a characteristic representative of the terroir (the place where the grapes are grown). Bobbins!

Flight 2:
The wines were very pale in colour and had delicate aromas (i.e. you can't smell a thing), the wines had brownish edges, a sign of ageing. Wine 5 tasted of charries and burnt toffee, Wine 6 reminded me of eating fresh red fruits and buttered toast in the mountains, and Wine 7 felt like red velvet and made my lips tingle. It must be Pinot Noir - it's a widely-grown grape in Australia, it's pale, and ages well. But then, my brain switched again, I know that Austalians are using a much wider variety of grapes than we normally think of, and there was something distinctly savoury about these wines, and that brown colour that made me think it could be something else... ooh... Nebbiolo?! I wrote that down. WRONG - they were Pinot Noir - Doh! I saids wines 5 & 6 were made in the same region: wrong again! Wines 6 & 7 were.

Flight 3:
These wines showed characteristics of jammy fruit, blackcurrants, and vanilla. Where they differed to each other was Wine 8 had cooler climate sturcture (less jammy, higher tannins), Wine 9 was more Ribena-y and spicey and was ABSOLUTELY DELICIOUS, Wine 10 had a brick colour to the edges, Wine 11 was cherries, chocolate, and a bitter finish, Wine 12 had a tar aroma. So the debate was Shiraz versus Cabernet Sauvignon. Now, none of the wines had the characteristic Eucalyptus found in Aussie Cab Savs, so these wines were more typical of Shiraz. However, cherries, chocolate and a bitter finish (Wine 11) are atypical for Aussie Shiraz, as is the roughness of a tar aroma (Wine 12). So I wrote down Cab Sav. What I didn't think to consider was Wine 11 was not an Aussie Shiraz, it was from Chile; and Wine 12 was a £9 bottle of wine, which caught me out! In my blindness, I wrote that Wine 9 was the not-Australian wine, and because a) I had convinced myself these were Cabernets, and b) my other favoured region for wines is California, I wrote down Cali as the origin of the non-Aussie wine.

Stung on every question. I may have studied extensively and passed my WSET exams, but without practice you lose your touch. I intend to go back next month and try again, this time I hope to report better results! #practicemakesperfect

Thank you @Wine-Australia

Sunday, September 30, 2018

Vegan Wine - HYO Wine Club

VEGAN: The biggest growing health trend at the moment, with now over 500,000 vegans in the UK (more than 3.5 times the number 10 years ago). As soon as I mention vegan wine to most people, it is swiftly followed by the question: isn't all wine vegan?! And the answer is: mostly, no.

You'd think that picking grapes, fermenting them and putting the liquid in a bottle would be a vegan process, but wine-making is far more complicated than that. Animal products are often used during the fining process. After filtering (removing the lumpy bits in the wine leftover from the fermentation process), the wine must go through a process called fining, which is where the small particles that make a wine hazy are removed. Most consumers expect, and prefer, their wine to be clear. It is only natural wines that you will usually find are hazy. To remove the small particles a compound must be stirred into the wine that attracts the proteins in the particles, and then the compound with particles attached is removed. Many wines will have gone through this process with the use of isinglass (a protein found in the float bladder of a fish). To make a vegetarian wine the winemaker may choose to use casein (milk protein) or albumin (egg protein). To make a vegan wine bentonite clay is used.

I also get asked: Do vegan wines taste nice? Well, there shouldn't be much difference, and if the winemaker has taken care to fine the wine well enough using a vegan method, you'll probably find they care enough to make a decent wine! At our next pop up wine bar in Marlow on 26th October 2018, we will be serving a flight of vegan wines. If you're hosting your own wine night, why not try these vegan wines (or others) to see if you can notice any difference to what you normally drink. Majestic have over 30 vegan wines, and here are three that taste wonderful and offer great value for money.

Excellence Ormarine Picpoul
£9.99 (£8.99 Mix Six)
Picpoul translates as 'lip-stinger' - a nickname due to its high acidity. The Picpoul (or Piquepoul) grape is grown in the Langedoc region in Southwest France. Picpoul de Pinet only became an appellation in 2013 and was often previously used to make Vermouth. This crisp white wine can be easily spotted by its slender green bottle and is a great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc. Excellent with seafood and shellfish, traditional Mediterranean cuisine, and cheese... and chocolate!

Rey Noble Garnacha
£10.99 (£9.99 Mix Six)
This Garnacha (or Grenache) was grown in the Navarra region of Spain. A vibrant unaoked red wine with cherry and raspberry aromas. This medium-bodied red is easy drinking, yet has a lovely earthiness that will go well with rustic food like BBQ and burgers. This wine can be served slightly chilled. 'Rey Noble' means 'Noble King' and the giant blue heart on the label represents the blue blood and kindness of Navarra's King Carlos III. 

Vinalba Malbec Bonarda
£9.99 (£8.49 Mix Six)
When we think about wine from Argentina we almost always think of Malbec. However, Bonarda is Argentina's second most widely planted red grape and is making its way onto the UK wine scene. Bonarda produces wines that are fruit-forward with quite high acidity, adding a balance to the tannins when blended with Malbec. Black cherry, plum and allspice characteristics, with a floral aroma.

But then you could say that no wine is ever truly vegan... If you've ever visited a vineyard during harvest, you will know that all sorts of bugs and spiders get picked along with the grapes and will sometimes get missed from the sorting table before the grapes are pressed. I'll leave you with that thought!

If you want to know more about our pop up wine bars, visit 

Friday, August 31, 2018

South African Wines - HYO Wine Club

South African Wines
South Africa has a Mediterranean climate and is known for full bodied reds and rich whites. Pinotage is a native red varietal, with very high tannins that stand up to the heat. Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are other common red varietals grown in this region. South Africa is branching out with other grape varieties, including Malbec, but if you're going to go off piste I'd recommend you stick to producers you know and love.

Swartland Winery, Chenin Blanc, Western Cape, South Africa, 13.5%
Chenin Blanc is a versatile grape which can be made in a variety of styles. Chenin from the Loire in France, is fresh with pear and chamomile because of the cool climate. This South African wine is richer with baked apple, honey and dried fruit. It is creamy on the palate and is a perfect match for turkey dinner!
Available from £15.50

Mulberry Bush, Shiraz / Merlot, Robertson, South Africa, 14%
This is what I like to call a telly wine - soft, easy drinking; you don't have to think too much about it, and a pretty price. This wine celebrates the mulberry flavours typical of Shiraz and Merlot from Robertson in South Africa. A cacophony of mulberries, plums and figs, with a smooth finish, this wine is much softer than the mainstream tannic reds coming out of South Africa.

Available from Laithwaites £8.99

Bain's Kloof Black Frost Reserve, Pinotage, Breedekloof, South Africa, 14.5%
Frost in the Breedekloof Valley is almost unheard of, but in 2016 the worst fronst seen in a generation descended on the vines and the whole vintage was wiped out. A few barrels of Pinotage that had been put aside in 2013 were rediscovered. Named after the devastating black frost that struck, this wine has seductive richness and power, bramble fruit, spice cake and toasty oak. Enjoy with warming venison and redcurrant jelly or at your next barbecue.

Available from Laithwaites £11.99

Host Your Own Wine Club

We have been serving great wines at our pop-up wine bars and would like to get more people involved with trying the wines we recommend. Once you join HYO Wine Club we will send you a list of wines that we recommend to try each month. When you try the wines please tell us what you think on Twitter using @HYOwineclub and #HYOwineclub, or on the PrincessAndThePinot Facebook Page - we would love to chat to you about the wines you've tasted based on our recommendations. Most of the wines will be available on the high street, but some come from independent stores or winemakers. You can try the wines in the comfort of your own home at your leisure, or you can come to our pop-up wine bars to try the wines, or we can help you to Host Your Own wine club. The flights of wine served at our pop-up wine bars will feature the wines recommended for HYO Wine Club.

To find out more about our pop up wine bars please visit

To find out more about our wine club please vsiti

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Host Your Own HYO Wine Club - Aussie Shiraz

Australian Shiraz

Top Tips
McLaren Vale and Barossa Valley in South Australia are two areas best known for quality Australian Shiraz (Syrah). However, this flight explores Shiraz from other regions of Australia. Orange in NSW is an up and coming region of Australian wine. Clare Valley is better known for its Riesling wines, but winemakers are diversifying their crops. When a bottle says “South Eastern Australia” the grapes can come from anywhere, which means that they can make cheaper wines with consistent quality.

Wollemi, Shiraz, South Eastern Australia, 12.5%

This wine has been bottled in the UK, which is why the price can be so low. By law the label must state where wine has been bottled, so look for a UK postcode. If you pay less than £6 for a bottle of wine like this one then you will generally get better wine if it has been bottled here, because of the savings in transport costs.
Available from Sainsbury’s <£8

Climbing, Shiraz, Orange, Australia, 2014, 14%
Trying wines from newer regions can lead to finding hidden gems. Orange is not yet known for winemaking, but soon will be. This wine is deep red with purple edges. Plum, dark cherry and blackberry, with hints of spice, and subtle oak. Soft and drinkable, this is a great-tasting Shiraz for less than a tenner.
Available from Waitrose £8-10

The Hedonist, Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia, 14%
Black and silky, aged in new American oak with a long velvety finish. Blackcurrant jam, sweet spices, vanilla and coconut. This is a vegetarian and organic wine. It has been made with minimum interference so represents Australian Shiraz at its best.
Available from Wine Rack or Waitrose or independents >£10

Host Your Own Wine Club

We have been serving great wines at our pop-up wine bars and would like to get more people involved with trying the wines we recommend. Once you join HYO Wine Club we will send you a list of wines that we recommend to try each month. When you try the wines please tell us what you think on Twitter using @HYOwineclub and #HYOwineclub, or on the PrincessAndThePinot Facebook Page - we would love to chat to you about the wines you've tasted based on our recommendations. Most of the wines will be available on the high street, but some come from independent stores or winemakers. You can try the wines in the comfort of your own home at your leisure, or you can come to our pop-up wine bars to try the wines, or we can help you to Host Your Own wine club. The flights of wine served at our pop-up wine bars will feature the wines recommended for HYO Wine Club.

To find out more about our pop up wine bars please visit

To find out more about our wine club please vsiti