Thursday, 20 December 2012

Champagne, please

There is something special about having a glass of champagne. The sound of the popping of the cork, the bubbles rising in the glass, always evokes feelings of excitement and pleasure.

However, drinking a bad champagne can be an unpleasant, and disappointing, experience. So If you are looking for quality and value for money, check out some of the smaller producers who put a lot of love and care into making fine wines.


Simon Field, buyer for Berry Bros. and Rudd, says that they are always on the lookout for good individual growers as they demonstrate a real sense of terroir. “What you are paying for is a reflection of what is in the glass as the smaller houses don’t have marketing budgets,” says Simon. “As there are so many different villages in the Champagne region, you get several styles.”

The vineyards surrounding Cramant and Mensil-sur-Oger in Cote de Blancs produce chardonnay grapes. Blanc de Blancs is the term used for champagnes made only from this grape. These wines are usually light and refreshing yet still elegant that, Simon says, become richer as they age. The Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Bar have a cool limestone terrain and is where pinot noir grapes are grown. The more robust pinot meunier thrives in the more clayey soils of Vallée de la Marne.

Most champagne is made from the three grapes. Producers may blend grapes varieties from different years, regions and villages.

Pinot noir adds body and structure to the wine, pinot meunier is used to add fruitiness and aromas, while chardonnay adds a hint of elegance and freshness.

Once you have discovered the taste profile that suits your palette, you can ask your wine merchant for suggestions.

Champagne Pierre Peters in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger,Côte des Blancs is a small producer that Simon rates highly. Its champagnes are characterised by their richness, subtlety and elegance.

Another one to look out for is Champagne R & L Legras which tends to produce soft, flowery chardonnay wines. If you prefer something richer, take a look at Champagne Lahaye, one of the leading small wine grower/producers in Montagne de Reims. He has vineyards in Bouzy, famed for its good pinot noir grapes. The style of champagne is earthier and bursting with red fruit flavours. 

Champagne Vilamart is also a sought-after producer whose wines tend to be rich yet lively and are great examples of fine wines from this region.

Simon points out that as less sugar is usually added to these wines, you are able to mark the authentic terroir as you savour each drop.

If you want to try champagnes from the grand marques, Simon recommends three which I put to the test to see why they stand out from the crowd.

Billecart-Salmon Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru NV, £58,
One of the few remaining champagne houses to be owned by the original family. The fine bubbles of this chardonnay cuvée are the hallmark of a first-class champagne. Deliciously creamy with a slight kick, this is an elegant wine that will tantalise your taste buds.

Gosset Grand Reserve Brut, £49.95,
A stylish rich and robust, champagne from the oldest wine house in the region. Chardonnay slightly edges pinot noir in this blend. Laced with fruity and biscuit tangs, it has a long and balanced finish. A champagne par excellence.

Pol Roger Brut Réserve NV, £39.95,
The small family-controlled house of Pol Roger is renowned for its superb champagnes. It was Sir Winton Churchill’s favourite marque and is beloved by champagne connoisseurs. Zesty fruity flavours are complemented with hints of nuts and honey, a  rich yet fresh wine. Exquisite.

By Daralyn Danns

Monday, 17 December 2012

Get clever with your hair brushing techniques

Although we all know that brushing your hair too much can damage it, we do need to use hair brushes when styling. There are so many types on the market that it can be hard to decide which one to buy. Sometimes changing your look means that you need to style your hair differently and a new brush is needed. The bristles and spacing have varying effects when creating your do.

Hair guru, Philip Kingsley advises choosing brushes with long, widely spaced, plastic bristles as they are smoother and blunter, so are kinder to your hair than bristles. 

Jay Goodwin, stylist at Daniel Galvin, advocates using Mason Pearson brushes (or Mason Pearson- styled brushes) for smoothing the hair. “The bristles are densely packed to create tension. The more bristle, the more tension. For styling try a combination of nylon and bristle,” he says.

Denman Paddle Brush

Paddle brushes, he advises are great for flattening the root and getting most of the water out. This wide, flat brush can hold a lot of hair and, therefore, speed up the drying process on long hair.

Denman Paddle Brush (£10, Boots) is a good one. If you want to get more root lift, try brushing the hair in the opposite direction to your parting while blow-drying, then let it fall into place once dry.

“A round brush creates bend in the hair,” says Jay. “If you have shorter hair they are not easy to use as they create lift which you may not need. They are good for straightening curly locks.”

Ceramic brushes have to be used with care, according to Jay. “They can smooth out coarse or processed hair, but the heat burns the hair and damages it, if you are not careful, especially if you hold the brush in one place for too long. They won’t get rid of frizz,” he explains.

Jay’s tip to get rid of frizz is to pull the section out with your hands and then point the nozzle of the hairdryer downwards as you dry it.

For a tussled look, he recommends smoothing out the roots and leaving the ends to dry naturally. Moroccanoil‘s new Frizz Control (£18.65) is perfect for those whose tresses are prone to the dreaded frizz as it does help keep it under control without weighing it down.

By Daralyn Danns

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Small is beautiful in the world of wine

As our knowledge of wine increases more of us want to know about the origin of the corkers we quaff and the producers who make them. Wines that come from smaller vineyards are often bursting with character and you get to sample interesting and rare ones.

It is a trend that Waitrose are well and truly on top of. With the increasing drive for true value (and not just price promotions) people are also more interested, according to the Waitrose wine buying team, in the care that has been taken in getting it from grape to bottle.

“At Waitrose, we are very proud of the close and sustainable relationships that we have with a number of small producers, working together to create the best possible product for our customers,” say the wine buying team.


One example is the Cederberg Wine Estate, which produces the Waitrose Foundation sustainable range. This is an amazing place. I was lucky enough to visit this winery not so long ago which is in South Africa’s Cederberg Wilderness Area, It was hard to believe that the Cape winelands’ highest-altitude wine farm, which now produces such amazing wines, was once a rugged, fynbos-covered area.

Waitrose also have relationships with small producers in more unusual  wine-producing countries such as Puklavec and Friends in Slovenia.

“We also work closely with suppliers (small on the world stage) such as Domäne Wachau with our 'Terraces' Grüner Veltliner,” say the wine buying team.

Here are five you can impress your friends with this Christmas: 

Domäne Wachau Terraces Grüner Veltliner 2011 Wachau, Austria £9.29, Waitrose
A lovely, light easy-to-drink white wine with punchy, spicy aromas and a peppery edge.

Cederberg Waitrose Foundation Shiraz 2009/10, South Africa, £8.99, Waitrose
This deliciously smooth red wine is packed with blackberry flavours with a hint of black pepper. This would work well with your Christmas turkey.

Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon Blanc 2011 Štajevska , Solvenia £8.99, Waitrose
Definitely one to tantalise your taste buds alight. Fruity and crisp on the palate.

Casa Marin Cipreses Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2010, £15.95,
Bursting with fruit flavours, this is a wonderfully refreshing dry and crisp wine from this highly-respected small producer in Chile.

Langlois-Chateau, Crémant de Loire Brut, £13.03,
Small in price and a good alternative to champagne!  The family company, Langlois-Chateau, founded in 1912 and now under the auspices of Bollinger, produces a sparkler that zings with appley freshness.

By Daralyn Danns

Monday, 10 December 2012

Easy hair

“We are going to lose the layers except for one at the back, and square your hair off so that it looks thicker and heavier,” says coiffure extraordinaire, Michael Charalambous.

I’m all for natural elegance and a style that is easy to look after, so as always I took Michael’s advice.

Having  fewer layers in my hair, which is fine although I have a lot of it, has certainly stopped it falling limp and lifeless the next day. So many hairdressers want to layer hair to create movement and give the style body, but I find, with my locks, the reverse is true.  My hair has more volume and is easier to manage.  Another tip for making fine hair look thicker is to keep it shorter – above the collarbone is a flattering length.

If, like me, you do have a lot of hair you can go slightly longer, but you may need to add a couple of layers so that it falls better.

The more the hair is weighed down, the easier it is to cope with frizz.“Firstly, try to identify what is causing the problem,” says Michael. “Frizzy hair is often dry and has the tendency to absorb moisture from the air. If your hair is dry and damaged or over-processed, it can make the problem worse.”

Dry hair is dull and brittle and lacks moisture. The ends can also be dry. “Naturally dry hair is often frizzy. Hair can also be dehydrated due to over blow-drying and colouring, especially if you keep having highlights,” says Michael.

“If your hair is naturally dry you need to use products that are moisturising and conditioning. If your mane has been damaged by blow-drying it excessively or from spending too much time with the colourist, get a good trim to get rid of any dry ends and do as little as possible to the hair. As well as adding moisture to your locks, it may also benefit from a protein treatment. Leonor Greyl has a good range of products as does Kérastase. You should also ensure that you are having a healthy, balanced diet.”

The humidity in the air can also make your tresses become frizzy if you leave them to dry naturally. The trick is to get your hair from wet to dry as quickly as possible so that the cuticle is flattened and you are less likely to have the dreaded frizz. Also ensure that your hair is 100 per cent dry before you leave home.

Using a conditioning treatment, instead of a regular conditioner, after you wash your hair  will help, unless it is extremely fine. I’ve just tried BC Oil Miracle Gold Shimmer Treatment (£14) by Schwarzkopf, which leaves hair feeling soft and looking lovely and shiny.  There is also the BC Oil Miracle Conditioner (£12.30) which you leave in your hair after shampooing. It helps detangle the hair and makes it look smooth and sleek without weighing it down.

If you are out and you get a frizz attack, in an emergency rub some lip balm or hand cream into your hands and run them through your hair.

By Daralyn Danns

For appointments with Michael Charalambous visit

Friday, 7 December 2012

Wines from Spain

Ask most people to think of a Spanish wine and rioja would be the one that springs to mind. But, Spain produces plenty of corkers which are well worth considering this party season.

Berry Bros. & Rudd, Britain's oldest wine and spirit merchant, has recently come up with its first serious Spanish Offer: 95 wines from 34 producers from 17 regions of Spain. 

I asked Simon Field, Berry Bros. & Rudd Spanish wine buyer, to give me some pointers regarding Spanish wine.

Simon has an on-going love affair with the traditional styles of wines from Rioja. “These are wines which flatter to deceive with their modest colour and extraordinary power and length,” says Simon. “They are wines that are invariably released to the market when they are ready to drink, which is rather refreshing in this day and age.”

But, Simon points out there are great finds beyond Rioja. Ribera del Duero could give the region a run for its money. The region’s Vega Sicilia regarded as Spain’s most prestigious wine estate – Grand Reserva Unico wines are not released on to the market until they are over 10 years old – including at least seven years of barrel-ageing.

“The challenge,” says Simon, “Is how on earth to disseminate the rest, to evade the increasingly desperate offers from the mediocre, all too prevalent in these parlous times, and, even more difficult, to select from the voluminous and impressive canon of wines now being produced in lesser-known regions.”

Although, the work is ongoing, Berry Bros.& Rudd has come up with a wonderful selection.  “Value, approachability and points of difference are the watchwords here,” says Simon.

Here are a few I have tried and enjoyed:

Gramona, Brut Nature, Gran Reserva Cava 2007, £16.60
Made by the traditional champagne method, the addition of chardonnay to the permitted grapes (the xarel-lo, macabeo and parellada being the mainstays), and improved winemaking, has led to the production of much better quality wines.  So, if you thought cava was a mass-market tasteless fizz, then you will be pleasantly surprised when you try this.

Bursting with stone fruit flavours, fused with hints of almond and sourdough, this is an extremely drinkable bubbly. No sugar has been added.

Pinot Noir, DO Catalunya, Celler de Capçanes, Monstant 2010, £19.95
Pinot noir is a hard grape to grow, but Celler de Capçanes has managed it. Red fruits are tinged with slightly smoky flavours that tantalise the palate. An elegant and enjoyable wine.

Pétalos, Descendientes de J Palacios, Bierzo 2010, £16.95 
Farmed biodynamically from  60 year-old vines, grown by Alvaro Palacios  – a producer to watch out for –  this vino, made entirely from the mencia grape, is bursting with rich juicy fruit with a savoury twang. Laced with smooth tannins, this wine has an almost velvety texture.

El Seque Do Alicante 2010, £24.95
This Spanish mourvèdre enriched with cabernet sauvignon and syrah is a superb complex wine brimming with coffee-flavoured damsons. Delicious!

By Daralyn Danns