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Now all the cooking has been done, we select the best wines to pair with Nick Nairn's festive recipes
THE final descent into Cape Town's international airport is as spectacular as any. After a sunrise over the Namibian coast, Table Mountain, partly enveloped by a wisp of cloud, stands proud against the pale light of early morning.
Could the drink more associated with Caribbean pirates than
connoisseurs give the whisky market a run for its money?
DOES anyone understand Italian wine? I mean really understand the country and its wines in the same way as we do with France or New Zealand perhaps.
IT HAS been years since I went on a first date – 13, to be precise. I remember it well. Having plucked up the courage to ask the future Mrs Lyons out for the night, I rather romantically used the opportunity to cash in some wine vouchers that had been sent to me from a well-known vegetarian restaurant in Edinburgh. The deal was simple: dinner for two with a free bottle of wine thrown in.
THIS year's autumnal round of press wine tastings has fallen appropriately during the Scottish government's Alcohol Awareness Week. So as I slurped my way through hundreds of supermarket wines, I made a mental note to diligently record the levels of alcohol in each.
THE rise and rise of New Zealand sauvignon blanc is nothing short of remarkable.
Fives. Ever played? I'm not talking about five-a-side football or mini rugby, or whatever.
WE'RE missing a trick. Britons love wine but when it comes to choosing a bottle on a Friday night it has almost become a competition to see how far it can travel to make it on to our shelves. Argentinean malbec anyone? New Zealand sauvignon blanc, South African pinotage ... the long-haul list is endless.
WHITE rioja is changing. That gloriously esoteric tipple from a region, just a short drive from Bilbao, that made its name with its red wine characterised by dollops of buttery vanilla infused with ripe, strawberry and blackcurrant fruit is on the cusp of reinventing itself. Plans are already afoot to increase production of white wines in the region by more than 2,000 hectares.
IS Majestic the new Oddbins? Off the top of my head I can think of one person who might disagree. Simon Baile, the colourful new owner of Oddbins, has recently revamped its wine list with more than 170 new lines and is probably getting more than a little tired with comparisons to past glories.
HENRY Blofeld refuses my offer of a glass of Serge Dagueneau's Pouilly Fumé. The voice of English cricket, whose Wodehousian exclamations have lit up the BBC's Test Match Special for more than four decades, is quite happy with tap water.
IT'S time to celebrate. According to the British Chambers of Commerce, the worst of the recession is over. I don't know about you, but the last 18 months or so of intensely dramatic and depressing economic news have taken their toll. I now feel the need to indulge, spend and be frivolous – if only for a night. So here we go, for one week only, this column is dedicated to über-luxury, the treat of all treats, a wine fit for oligarchs and oil barons. In short: rosé champagne.
AS A nation, the UK spends more than £9 billion a year on wine. Whichever way you slice it, that is an enormous sum of money, higher than our entire foreign aid budget and three times the total value of whisky exports.
CHILEAN wine is getting more expensive. A double whammy of increased domestic inflation, presently running at about 8 per cent and a savage exchange rate has hit its wine industry hard.
VALUE for money doesn't always mean the least expensive wine. A wine that costs £4.99 reduced from £7.99 may appear good value but if it tastes flabby, flat and astringent it is nothing of the sort.
SOME wine regions become so synonymous with one product that it is difficult to imagine drinking anything else from their cellars.
BERNARD Hine flares his nostrils as he sinks his nose into a glass of toffee-coloured cognac. "Rich," sighs the Frenchman. "1983 was a warm year and this has plenty of body. There is a strong gingerbread character but also a honeyed flavour on the nose." Drawing in a large breath he smiles, exclaiming: "Figs; with a notable citrus feel on the palate and a pleasing sweet sensation on the tongue."