Wednesday, 18 December 2013

Let’s get fizzical

From the very first moment that those bubbles burst on to your tongue, you feel that you are drinking something special. A glass of fizz is almost certain to get you into the festive mood.  

Sparkling wine should be served between 5C to 10C, (8C – 10C for champagne), so pop the bottle into the fridge a few hours prior to serving. The more you chill a wine, the less you will be able to taste it. So, it you want to mask the flavour of a cheaper wine, keep it in the fridge for longer.

Here are my favourite sparklers to celebrate with.

Jewels in Champagne’s crown

Champagne is a versatile wine that is so easy to drink. It can be drunk anytime, any place and goes with a wide variety of food.

Gosset Grande Réserve, £49.95, Berry Bros. & Rudd (
From this highly-respected and  oldest known wine producer in Champagne comes this rather seductive Grande Réserve. A well-balanced blend of chardonnay and pinot noir with a hint of pinot meunier, it is a rich and complex wine. Reminiscent of figs and a smattering of rich biscuity flavours, this is perfection in a bottle.

'R' De Ruinart Brut , £45,
(25 per cent discount when you order a case of six bottles until 31 Dec)
Ruinart (now part of LMVH) is said to be the first established champagne house. This vibrant fine-bubbled golden fizz is bursting with ripe apples and pears with a touch of brioche. Subtle and elegant, this is an extremely classy champagne which works well as an aperitif wine. Lingers long on the palette.  

Berrys' United Kingdom Cuvée, Grand Cru, Mailly, £26.95,
When Britain’s oldest wine and spirit merchant Berry Bros. & Rudd (its flagship store has been at 3 St James's Street, London since 1698) puts its name to a champagne, you know it has to be good. This classic blend of predominantly pinot noir with chardonnay is elegantly structured and rich. You know you are drinking a top-notch champagne.

The perfect gift 

Billecart-Salmon Duo Giftbox, £105,
Any champagne connoisseur will be delighted to receive this beautiful black box containing two superb champagnes from one of the finest houses. The Brut Réserve is an exceptional fizz. Elegant with just the right amount of freshness, this champagne works well as an aperitif. Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru is a chardonnay cuvée with lovely delicate bubbles that has intense lemon and apple notes mixed with hints of pear and biscuity tangs. Has all the trademarks of the class of champagne that you would expect from this house. Works well with grilled fish and seafood.

Italian romance

Prosecco, which comes from the north east of Italy, is an alternative to champagne, although it is different in style. The Italian wine tends to be slightly lower in alcohol and acidity as well as being sweeter, and of course, is kinder on the wallet.  

This tipple is made by the Charmat method, which utilises large tanks for the secondary fermentation process.

Champagne, which is only produced in France’s Champagne region, has a more costly production operation than prosecco. It uses individual bottles for its second fermention –  not tanks – as per the traditional method. Champagne has a longer ageing process (at least 15 months) than most sparkling wines, which tends to make the wine richer and more complex. 

Prosecco Asolo 'Millesimato', 2012, Bele Casel, Veneto, £16.95,
From this artisan producer comes this rather sophisticated prosecco. It is minerally, yet at the same time sweet, but not too sweet. This is a lovely, pleasant wine that is perfect for any occasion.

Waitrose Prosecco NV Italy, £8.99, Waitrose
Waitrose has come up trumps with this corker. On the palate, this light zippy prosecco is fresh and fruity with just a dash of sweet almonds. It is an easy-to-drink wine that goes down a treat. Also mix it with peach juice to make a Bellini, the cocktail that made Harry’s Bar in Venice world-renowned. Serve well-chilled.

Happy Holidays!

By Daralyn Danns

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Choosing wines from Alentejo, Portugal

After a wonderful trip in Alentejo discovering wineries including the Cartuxa Adega  that produces the wonderful Péra Manca Tinto and Herdade do Monte Novo e Figueirinha, where I  tasted some wonderful examples of touriga nacional including the delicious Fonte Mouro Reserva 2011, as well as visiting the Vinipax wine fair, I discovered that Portugal’s Alentejo region has some real corkers.

Of course, the best way of sampling them is to go there, but if you want the Alentejo to come to you, here are some great wines to try at home.


Courtesy of Turismo Alentejo

Styles of wine

Traditionally, the red wines from Alentejo are made from indigenous grapes and are complex and robust, full of fruit with a smattering of earthly flavours. 

The more modern ones tend to resemble in character wines from the New World, bursting with plenty of jammy, intense fruity flavours. Grapes such as cabernet sauvignon and syrah are now being blended with local varieties producing some impressive full-bodied wines. The wines from this region are now up there with the best of French, Spanish and Italian tipples.

Wines to try in the UK

Dom Rafael Tinto, Herdade Do Mouchâo, 2010 Alentejo, £11.75 Berry Bros. & Rudd
Oozing damsons and blackberries with a savoury finish. A great wine for winter.

Esporão Reserva Tinto, 2010, Alentejo, £19.99, Selfridges
Made from the Alentejo DOC grape varieties, this classic wines has wonderful flavours of blueberries and blackcurrants with a hint of pepper. A most enjoyable wine.

Vinha do Monte 2011 Alentejano Tinto, Alentejo, £8.99,
From the Herdade do Peso estate, this typical Portuguese blend has lovely fruity aromas, and tastes reminiscent of plums and mulberries with a hint of spice on the finish. 

Cortes de Cima Syrah, 2010, Alentejo, £11.49,
A wonderful example of a modern wine made entirely from syrah. Laced with black fruit, this is deliciously rich and spicy. 

Grous Moon Harvested red, 2011, £30.99, Carruthers &Kent Wine Shop, Newcastle, Luso Trading Wine Shop, London, The Wine Chambers Wine Shop, Tynemouth, Gullane Deli, Gullane, Scotland
Made from 100 per cent alicante bouschet. The grapes are hand-picked in “in the cycle of greater influence by the moon in the sap transport”. This complex full-bodied wine with aromas of deep fruit and subtle hints of oak is superbly silky on the palette. 

By Daralyn Danns

Getting there
TAP Portugal (0845 601 0932, flies from Manchester, London Heathrow and Gatwick to Lisbon up to 9 times a day. Return fares start at £116 including all taxes and surcharges. I’m a fan of this airline. A friendly crew that delivers good service

I stayed at the Pousada de São Francisco, Beja, Largo D. Nuno Álvares Pereira
7801-901, Beja,
tel: (+351) 284 313 580
Double rooms including breakfast from €90
For more info and special promotional rates visit
Where history and the present collide. Staying here is a wonderful experience

For more info on Alentejo visit Turismo do Alentejo,

For more info on Portugal visit