Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Portuguese Wine Tasting at Exquisite Marlow

An intimate tasting with only a dozen people, which meant we could really talk about the wines and listen to what others thought.

We started the evening with a beautifully pale pink rose from Lua Cheia. The vines are so old they don't know what grapes they are. pronounced aromas of peach, roses and strawberry sweets. Beautifully light and refreshing with subtle wild strawberry and mint flavours with a vanilla finish. Reminiscent of a sunny day with your feet dangling in an outdoor swimming pool. At £9.60 its worth a try for something different from Portugal.

Quinta do Alto Premium Selection, 2010

Another wine worth trying is the Quinta do Alto Premium Selection at £21.60. This is a very deep wine wit high intensity. Full-bodied but elegant with high refined tannins. The black spiciness of the wine ends with a lovely raspberry finish. This has won lots of awards, including from International Wine Challenge.

The Cartuxa from Alantejo at £30 was the wine of the night. Beautifully complex and rounded, this is a special wine and best served with BBQ meats. Alantejo is a region that is mostly machine-harvested which means you can get outstanding wines for reasonable prices.

As is often the case at wine club tastings the audience outvoted me. The other guests preferred EA by the same producer as Cartuxa and with the same grape varietals. Much more of an easy-drinking wine, this wine has been designed for the UK market, both the wine inside and the label outside the bottle. At £12.60 I will certainly agree with the consensus that this wine is good value for money.

The next tasting at Exquisite in Marlow is 23rd March 2017 8-10pm £20. Please note, I only reviewed four of the six wines we tasted, and I certainly feel the event is good value for money. Places are limited so please book in advance.

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit

Californian Wine - Marlow Wine Society Tasting

Some of my favourite wines come from California, but good ones are hard to find in the UK because the Americans tend to keep them for themselves, so when we do get them they tend to be at two extremes, gorgeous but pricey, or just plain rubbish. When Marlow Wine Society invited me to join their Californian tasting I jumped at the chance to find a new gem. The tasting was hosted by the delightful and insightful David Rittenhouse.

We started by sampling some Chardonnay, ooh yum! I loved the Saintsbury Chardonnay from Carneros. Bright lemon hue, with butterscotch and vanilla on the nose. Yummy and buttery with medium acidity and notes of brioche on the palate. £22.99 from Majestic, which I think is pretty reasonable for a wine of this quality.

The room disagreed with me, they much preferred the apple and soft bread aromas of Kirkland "Signature" from Russian River. Russian River is normally my go to region for Californian Chardonnay, but this was poor quality - the wine was unbalanced and simplistic. At £11.50 from Costco I felt this was overpriced.

After a disappointing Pinot Noir from Saintsbury (it's hard to impress me with a pinot!), we were introduced to a Merlot that had far more complexity than we were all expecting. With blackcurrant, cherry, plum, liquorice, vanilla, black pepper and tobacco, Redwood Road have done a great job producing this wine, Bravo! At £11.49 from Laithwaites its a great buy. The film Sideways may have given Californian Merlot a bad name, but I think its time for a comeback.

The Liberty School Syrah (Old Butchers Wine Cellar £16.99) was quite nice with warming hot cross buns and blackcurrant jam flavours, but the Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel won the room over with its beautifully balanced tannins and acidity, full body and complex flavour profile. Black plums, leather, cigar smoke, caramel and pancakes with a hint of brandy. Everyone was surprised by the price - £17.99 from Majestic this was voted wine of the night. I was really pleased they like it because I serve Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel at my Princess and the Pinot pop up wine bar in Marlow.

Cline Ancient Vines Zinfandel product photo

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit

Friday, March 10, 2017

Simple wine scoring system

There are lots of different ways of comparing wines - people talk about the nose, the legs and length, the clarity and colour. Scoring can be complicated and experts tend to use a 100-point scale. I like to keep it simple.
Here is my scoring system:
  1. I won't finish this glass
  2. I'll finish the glass, but I won't have another one
  3. I'll have another glass
  4. I'll buy a bottle
  5. I'll buy a case
Please drink responsibly.
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Ask the Princess - new wine ideas

Dear Princess,

Send me some recommendations please. I normally go for solid and deep reds, or dry and fresh whites. I'm seeking new ideas...


Have you tried Fiano (Fox Gordon is excellent £18 from Wine Discovery) or Albarino for whites (Laithwaites has a Seleccion 19 coming out soon £12.99)? I tried a wine this week called Benufet which I'd never heard before but loved made with white Garnacha (£10.49 from Vinoa).

Same taste in red as me... Any Hewitson, Elderton or Red Heads brands will be up your alley. You might also like Primitivo/Negroamaro blend from Puglia in Italy. Ooh, I know... Gnarly Head Old Vine Zinfandel is one of my favourites at around £10 a bottle although a little hard to find these days.

Ask the Princess - savoury wine query

Dear Princess and the Pinot,

I want to buy a nice bottle of wine and have a very particular idea about the sort of wine I would like it to be. But I am doubtful that if I go in to the shop I can put across what I want and expect will leave with the wine they want to sell me, not the one I want, and they will manage to make me feel awkward and embarrassed to boot. 

I want to buy a particularly nice wine to celebrate next week, and I really fancy a savoury wine, that is rich and sumptuous, with leather, tobacco and chocolate, but is also mellow. What I really don't want is something that is herby, earthy in any way green, or that has a bitter aftertaste. 

Anyway I have no idea how to ask for something like that except by how I just have, and when I go into a shop they never steer the questions to that sort of descriptor. Instead they normally ask for country, grape type, maybe age and price.

Any ideas?


Thank you for your question, and I hope I can help you choose the wine you're looking for. 

The best place for us to start is grape. You want to go for a full-bodied red wine that grows in a hot climate so it has the thick skins that produce the tannins, which will develop the leather, tobacco and chocolate flavours you're after.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Tempranillo, Touriga Nacional, Petit Verdot, Nero D'Avola and Nebbiolo all tend to have herbal/floral characteristics, so lets leave them aside for now. Malbec, although savoury, and full-bodied, tends not to have as much tannin that we're looking for. 

You could reach for a Syrah, with blueberry, plum, milk chocolate, tobacco and green peppercorn as the dominant flavour characteristics, but I suspect this won't be savoury enough for you. Petite Sirah might have the punch not answered by Syrah, with dominant blueberry, dark chocolate, black pepper and black tea flavours. Mourvedre could also be a winner with its blackberry, black pepper, cocoa, tobacco and meat flavour profile. Aglianico might also be a contender with its high tannin, something unusual, and savoury profile.

To avoid the bitter aftertaste from the tannins you should look for something that has had time to age, so ideally at least three years old. 

The next question is price, and since you've not given that to me, I'll give you some options below...

My first choice would be Hewitson Old Garden Mourvedre, Barossa Australia 2009 £54 from DVine Cellars. This is my most favourite wine ever, and is very special with dark plum, salted caramel, cinnamon and seductive smooth tannin with extraordinary depth.

If Old Garden is above your price range, and it is for most people, then I'd suggest Pedroncelli Petite Sirah, Sonoma Country USA 2012 £13.99 from Laithwaites. Purple and dense in the glass. Rich aromas of red berried, plums, cinnamon toast. Deep complex flavours of ripe plum and dark chocolate with a warm spice finish.

Alternatively you could go for something different, more of a risk, with Piccolomini Aglianico, Italy 2013 £20 from Pieroth. Garnet-coloured with high tannins and acidity. Harsh when young, but after some ageing softens to reveal lovely plummy flavours with a hint of chocolate. Famours for being great when paired with lamb.

I hope this answers your question. Enjoy!

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit