Friday, 11 January 2019

Aldi 19th Tasting Panel

I have been very lucky to have been chosen to review wine for Aldi in the past and again just before Christmas. These are my previous tastings and review:

The 19th tasting panel had three tastings; This Italian Sangiovese Loves ..: Organic Prosecco; and Freeman's Bay Pinot Gris
This Sangiovese loves ... 

I really enjoy Sangiovese wine, a grape variety I think is always best with food, but not necessarily a full dinner. As we had eaten out at lunch we enjoyed this red wine with savoury snacks: nuts, crisps and mini cheddar biscuits. 

It had a very inviting glistening red colour when poured and a great fruity nose. I found it full of flavour, namely cherries and dark fruits with a medium body and good finish that had just a hint of tannins. 

Although branded as a wine with food .... pizza or pasta ... I really enjoyed this with our few snacks. 

Organic Prosecco
I usually find Prosecco has large bubbles, probably due to the carbon dioxide being added in a similar way to fizzy pop, but this glass of bubbles was light and very elegant. 

We didn't have the opportunity to open it over Christmas or New Year but did enjoy it in early January with a pasta bake.

It was superb, as I mention lovely soft small bubbles a plenty filled the glass. A nose and flavour of ripe pears and light citrus, it was very clean in the mouth with a long smooth finish, very soft. 

Hubby and I enjoy many sparkling wines; my preference is French  and a dry wine rather than overly citrus. This Extra Dry Italian Organic Prosecco is definitely one I'd buy again, especially as the winery is eco-friendly using renewable energy where possible. 

Freeman's Bay Pinot Gris
The final wine of this tasting was Freeman's Bay Pinot Gris, another Italian grape I enjoy. This wine I drank chilled and on its own. 

A great pear colour in the glass with a distinctive floral nose of honeysuckle, a little sweet in its aroma which did have me wonder if I would enjoy it. 

And on tasting I did ... a flavour of pear and white fruit. It was a light wine with a short finish and I was pleased I had not paired this with an food as i feel it may have been overpowered. 

It would be a perfect, chilled, on a warm spring day in the garden with the freshness of spring and the light blossoms.

Thank you Aldi for choosing me again to review your lovely wines.

Monday, 31 December 2018

An amazing 2018

It has been an amazing 2018, the highlight being my super Hubby retiring at the end of January allowing us to enjoy the year together.

When we bought this house in 1986, when we struggled to afford furniture, when we saved every penny for our wedding, when money was tight bringing up our two fabulous children, when I was diagnosed with MS, when I suffered a major injury to my left ankle in 2017, when all of these events happened I ... we ... never imagined we would both be retired in our 50s enjoying weekends away and many holidays. There's been a lot of pinching in 2018!

We have certainly enjoyed wine, food and travel - I've chosen my favourite photos (with the link to my actual blog post in the caption) - it's hard to pick my favourite but here are my highlights of 2018!

Hubby's retirement  - Time's they are a changing
Love Wine Guildford - a superb weekend in March 
It was tough but I climbed up Glastonbury Tor
Glastonbury and Wells
Cuvée Reserve is my online wine forum;  we have great fun sharing tasting notes, recommendations and new discoveries. Each spring we have a weekend away and this year six of us enjoyed a holiday in Burnham on Sea where we discovered a fantastic English Vineyard and enjoyed a private wine tasting in Weston Super Mare.

A top highlight - discovering Oatley Vineyard
Private wine tasting at Majestic Wine 
After missing a visit in 2017 due to my accident it was a delight to spend a week in Turkey at our favourite hotel.

Icmeler Sea Star and Turkish Wine
In May Hubby and I visited The London Wine Fair as a blog writer I am classed as Press, something I find quite surreal. I was taken away with how big the event was, if we visit again it will be over a couple of days.

London Wine Fair - familliar faces  - French wine - west to east European  
A superb week in France in June
Saint Vallery sur Somme
In June we celebrated our wedding anniversary with a few days in Birmingham enjoying the atmosphere of being in a pub for World Cup football game, an afternoon wine tasting and an amazing Zimmer v Williams concert.

Anniversary celebrations in Birmingham
As well as holidays abroad we also had some great England visits including discovering new vineyard, a favourite vineyard and many National Trust Houses. There is so much to discover here at home as well as new places overseas.

Dedham Vale Vineyard
The Bolney Estate
Shugborough Hall and Baddesley Clinton
In August we had an amazing week touring the Champagne region of France with our friends.
Champagne - Les Grandes Maisons - Les Autres Maisons
Our champagne tasting selfies
September saw us on a very special holiday, the first time in ten years that our son and daughter came on holiday with us - a holiday for four! We decided to go to Portugal as it was a country new to us all. Our villa was superb with it's private pool and so much space we nearly lost each other.

Portuguese Food and Wine 
It was definitely a pinch me moment when I was asked to be a Round 1 judge at The People's Choice Wine Awards; I had to pinch myself even harder when I was chosen as a Supertaster to be a judge in Round 2!
People's Choice Wine Awards 
October was all change as our booked Danube River cruise was cancelled due to low water levels - we rebooked for a Yuletide Cruise but decided to still go away .... a week in a caravan in Dorset..... it was fabulous, we visited so many National Trust Houses, discovered a new beer and visited one of the best English sparkling wine producers.

Cerne Abbas Brewery 
Langham English Sparkling Wine 
National Trust Houses 
Our year got busier and busier with November being a month of wine tasting events, all very different ending with a wine tasting hosted by myself and Hubby.

Love Wine Birmingham - a great day with great friends 
A bag of goodies from Waitrose Wine Festival 
Our wine tasting Scout Leaders - Wine Tasting Christmas Ideas
Although not planned it being an alternative booking, our final holiday could not have been more perfect. Our first, and certainly not now our last, river cruise from Budapest to Vienna with Rivieria Travel was superb.

Crusing the Danube at Christmas 
Hubby's first year of retirement has been amazing, not just our trips and visits but time together at home enjoying our garden. Weekends are no longer rushed and 'here we go again' is no longer a phrase in our house

I wonder what 2019 will bring; initially a few difficult weeks for our son who had a slight accident on his motorbike just before Christmas. He suffered a badly broken right wrist/arm and needed an operation to straighten and plate it and will be off work for quite a few weeks. I am waiting another operation on my ankle, this time to remove the metal plate and pins as they are causing restriction and irritation on my tendons.

Whatever the year brings I'm sure we will still be enjoying holidays, trips away, good food and superb wine ....
..... wishing everyone a Happy New Year ! 

Sunday, 23 December 2018

Cruising the Danube at Christmas

It's very hard to put into words just how amazing this, our first river cruise was ..... and so this is a photo post!

First view of Budapest as we arrived at the MS Thomas Hardy

5 star floating hotel - superb surroundings with an amazing team of nautical and hotel crew,
our holiday could not have been better!

Matthias Church - Buda side of the Danube with amazing views over Pest

Views of Pest and it's stunning Parliament building

Our Hungarian picnic lunch in our room - delicious selection from the local market

Esztergom Bazilika as we cruised by overnight to Bratislava

Bratislava Castle, Town Gate and Town Square - a  beautiful city

The Watcher - one rumour says that he's communist era worker who is not bothered
about the work he’s supposed to be doing, another rumour is he’s
looking under the women’s skirts!

Thomas Hardy moored at Bratislava and the Novy Most or UFO Bridge built in 1972

Stunning Vienna, a city we will be visiting again to enjoy all it's glory

At the top of the bell tower of St Stephen's Cathedral - there was a lift!

St Stephen's Bell Tower, overlooking the Cathedral's intricate roof

Our overnight to midday sailing gave us the opportunity for room service breakfast -
it was just perfect sitting at our full length window watching the snowy banks pass by.

Snowy scenes as we sailed back to Budapest where the Parliment building looked even more
majestic with it's dusting of snow - first the city has seen in 6 years!

Artwork by the crew of our sister ship MS Emily Bronte 

Superb finale dinner - the amazing crew of 42 made our holiday very special

Good fun, great cruising companions, superb holiday

High above Budapest, drinking Hot Punch in Vienna, cruising by Parliment Building,
on deck in the snow and our very special floating hotel.
It wouldn't be our holiday without a few selfies!
A massive thank you to Riveria Travel; Peter and Sarah our tour organisers; our onshore tour guides with their great knowledge delivered with humour; our two Captains for their piloting skills, especially through the locks; third Captain Alina for her great hospitality; and all the crew on MS Thomas Hardy - it was an amazing holiday full of Christmas cheer!

The biggest thank you is of course for my amazing Hubby 
- I'm a very very lucky lady!

Monday, 10 December 2018

Wine tasting - Christmas ideas

Since doing the first wine tastings for our Scout Leaders in 2014 they have become very popular events. We now hold about 3 each year and being the start of December it's always good to look at wines for Christmas

Our tastes have changed and developed since those first wine tastings. Everyone can now appreciate the difference between Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and Shiraz so it's good to offer a wide variety. It's always fun to set the Headquarters up and prepare tasting notes.

Table set
Tasting notes ready
We began this time with a bottle of Arestel Cava made from Xarel-lo, Parerlada & Macabeo. A Lidl Cava that is usually £4.99 but was a special offer a few weeks ago at just £3.49. We offered orange juice to make a bucks fizz however only one person in the group added it to their glass of bubbles everyone else preferring it unaccompanied. It was quite citrusy with plenty of  lively bubbles. I paired this Cava with some sea pearls from IKEA, not caviar but seaweed, served on blinis it matched perfectly.

All of the wine for the evening came from ASDA, they have a great range with reasonable prices. Taking advantage of their 25% for 6 bottles offer it enabled me to buy some great wines for our set budget.

Our white selection
Extra Special  Soave Superiore Soave this wine was recommended by our daughter. She is still learning about all the different styles of wine and selected this to go with seafood. I really enjoyed this light fresh Italian wine with it's slightly nutty flavour, it would be a great seafood pairing.

Our second white was Graham Norton's Own Sauvignon Blanc. Such a great tropical nose, rich apple and citrus flavours this wine was loved by everyone. I served salmon pate as a pairing. It would be perfect served with a fish starter at Christmas.

The story of how Casillero del Diablo got its name with the disappearing wine thought go be the Devil stealing it is very interesting. This Pinot Grigio from Chile was full of pears and apples, quite a refreshing drink with a hint of tangerine on it's finish.

No-one had tried 19 Crimes before: quite a striking range with its photo labels of convicts.  The history behind the bottles is linked to the 19 crimes that if committed would result in you being banished to Australia. This Australian  Chardonnay was creamy, buttery with plenty of honey notes. It really matched with pigs in blankets and chicken sausage and would be perfect with a roast turkey dinner.

Louis Jadot  Les Petites Pierres Chardonnay was our final white. A beautiful  white from burgundy this was a more traditional wine full of  apples. This wine is often served with roast dinners and this would also be perfect with a Christmas turkey dinner. It was the favourite wine of the evening.

Our Rosé was another from Casillero del Diablo. This Rosé's the striking bottle caught my eye. It was a Shiraz wine with strawberries, raspberries and a touch of spice, not the usual sweet Rosé that most people like. Everyone thought it's a very different wine but quite liked it's dryness.

Our red selection
Trivento Malbec is a favourite wine with all of us. We've had this wine from Argentina at many of our tastings. If you are looking for a Christmas red you can't go wrong with this beautiful Malbec; deep colour, full of fruit with a super kick of space at the end. It always pairs well with steak so we tried some Jerk Beef.

Extra Special Valpolicella Ripasso made from Corvina Veronese, Rondinella & Molinara was an interesting wine. It has added body and depth which is produced by semi dried grapes being added for the second fermentation. It certainly added a richness and was the favourite out of all the reds we tried

19 Crimes The Banished Shiraz another wine from Australia linked to the crimes of England. This wine was very rich not as spicy as other shiraz wines but a full fruity round bodied red that paired really well with mature cheddar cheese.

Apothic Red was another deep fruity red with a background of mocha. Everyone thought it would be perfect with Christmas pudding with its blackberries, plums and deep fruitiness.

Fruitiness was abundant in our final red, Jam Shed Shiraz. I was very impressed with this wine especially as it comes from a village called Clare! It was packed full of jammy fruit perfect with our mini mince pies and Liebekuchen. A really rich red that you could sit back and enjoy at the end of a meal.

Our final drink of the evening was Cerne Abbas Gurt Coconut Rum Stout. A beer that we brought home from our Dorset holiday had mixed reviews  as not everybody enjoys a dark beer. I'd made rocky road with rich chocolate, salted peanuts, marshmallows and cherries to pair with the coconut and chocolate flavours in the stout. It was a split room based mainly on whether people liked coconut or stout or didn't like either.

In all our 'Christmas' glory 
Overall we had a great night and discovered some super wines that would be great with a festive dinner. It's always fun at our tastings and I'm sure there will be many more such nights in 2019!