The guides are written by experienced local specialists who live in the regions and can offer travellers up-to-date information. They include independent recommendations for wine producers to visit, places to stay, eat and shop, as well as an inside guide to local attractions, food specialities and, of course, the wines.
Rioja wines have long been enjoyed internationally and recently the region has dramatically increased its wine tourism offering. Architecturally splendid new wineries have been built, along with new hotels, restaurants and museums - the proximity to Bilbao with its famous Frank Gehry-designed Guggenheim museum has had a direct influence.
On the other hand, Tuscany has long been known as a tourist destination, with wine considered part of the enjoyment of this beautiful region. Wine tourism has been given a boost with the increase in high quality accommodation and restaurants offered by wine producers as part of the general development of agritourism throughout Italy."
Owner Wink Lorch comments: "I am delighted to extend our guides beyond France, something that visitors have been asking for since the beginning. It was important to find the right authors who could offer an insider's view to their regions. Our Tuscan contributor, Michèle Shah is a long-term resident of Florence and a very experienced wine and travel writer; Rioja contributor, Tom Perry has worked and lived in Rioja in Spain for over 20 years."
The Wine Travel Guides website was launched in 2007 as a purely on-line venture offering wine lovers comprehensive information to plan a private wine tour. There are now 50 guides available on the website to download, print or view on-line through an annual subscription. Interactive mapping is available and all guides are regularly updated.
Alongside its website, Wine Travel Guides also seeks to encourage discussion with lovers of wine and travel about visiting wine regions all over the world through its blog, its Facebook page and its Twitter conversations. "In today's economic climate, independent travellers need to plan trips even more carefully than before. The ability to obtain up-to-date information and get feedback on-line is a great bonus." comments Wink Lorch.
Wine Travel Guides publishes independent on-line travel guides to wine regions. A sample guide is available on registration and further guides must be purchased through various annual subscription options including gift subscriptions. Visitors may register first to view and download a full sample guide. The website accepts no advertising and all the recommendations are independently selected.
Tasting Bordeaux Wines - from A to Z (Technical level for beginners)
Two complete days for a comprehensive review of Bordeaux wines, covering soil types, grape varieties, the classifications and the different appellations of the region. Over thirty wines will be tasted and students can create their own blend. At the end of the first day there is a Wine Tasting Dinner in a château, providing an opportunity to meet the winemakers.
Dates: 15-16 May, 16-17 October 2009
Bordeaux wines explained in the glass! (Practical level)
Open to those who have completed the Technical level. Over two days students will improve their ability to taste wine; stimulating their senses and enriching their wine tasting vocabulary. The course takes the form of a blind tasting and also teaches the principles of successful food and wine matching.
Dates: 17-18 May, 18-19 October 2009
Discovering the Grands Crus of Bordeaux (Grands crus level)
Open to those who have completed the Technical or Practical levels. Travel through Bordeaux's vineyards over three days and visit four areas: the Médoc, Sauternes, Graves and Saint-Emilion. Students will perfect their knowledge of Bordeaux's classified growths by discovering the origins of the classifications and the appellations. The course includes visits to classified growth properties where students can taste the wines and understand why they are the elite of Bordeaux's offerings.
Dates: 19-21 May 2009
In addition to these intensive daytime courses, the École du Vin de Bordeaux also offers Summer sessions: A two-hour introduction course in English every day (except Thursday and Sunday) from June to September
The Bordeaux Wine School can organise tailored courses for 1-24 people.
To book onto any of these courses, please visit http://ecole.vins-bordeaux.fr/. Please note that prices do not include flights or accommodation.
The four day show brings you a chance to sniff, spit, sip and swirl with various wine critics: Olly Smith of BBC1's Saturday Kitchen, Anthony Rose of the Independent, Joanna Simon of the Sunday Times and the Observer's Tim Atkin MW.
Visitors get a not-to-be-missed opportunity to meet some of Italy's most exciting wine producers, sample their wines and explore new regions. A whole host of producers will be attending, from small family producers working organically and biodynamically to bigger names producing delicious and very affordable wines in vineyards located throughout Italy.
Foodies seem well cared for with lessons at the popular Cookery School (Scuola di Cucina), where visitors can take part in the creation of delicious Italian dishes for themsleves,
La Dolce Vita Italian Festival takes place in the Grand Hall at Olympia from Thursday 26th March - Sunday 29th March 2009. Opening hours are 11am to 8pm, Friday and Saturday and 11am to 5pm on Sunday.
For the smaller merchant the excessive use of 'finest vintage ever', 'amazing value' and so on can verge on the desperate. The Flying Corkscrew hawked this Viognier shortly before Christmas as 'fabulous' and resorted to various press quotes to extol its wonderfulness. In this case though, they are correct. It's an absolute star.
Wine Tasting Note: Domaine Saint Ferréol Viognier, 2006, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
Stockist: Flying Corkscrew Berry Brothers Price: £11.50 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Lovely complexity and a richness that is perfectly balanced by the acidity. Nutty with hints of apricots, orange pith, peach blossom and vanilla. Smooth and highly drinkable. Alcohol 12.5%. No flabbiness, no excessive floweriness just excellent poise, balance and flavour. While others have compared this to the best Condrieu Viogniers it doesn't quite have the depth and texture of the great Rhone wines, but as it stands it is a stonker and well worth the eleven quid.
[ out of 5] Scribblings Rating - 94/100
Seafood, butter sauces, rosemary and nuts are regularly pushed as ideal partners for Viognier ; so you would expect a dish of Rosemary Seared Scallops With Pancetta, Salad and Hazelnuts to be a sublime match; and it was!
Other foods to try would include crab, chicken, cream sauces, and lightly spiced dishes with cinnamon, cumin or nutmeg.
As the sauce splutters in the pan, the pasta draining in the sink, chopped herbs and grated cheese waiting as a garnish on the side, a thought manifests - "we need a bloody wine!"
A hideous silver label clings to a bottle of Dolcetto; frankly it is so bad it is degrading my wine rack! Inside though a crisp little number that is soon splashed into the sauce and dripped over my brand new tasting note book...
I watch as a dribble escapes down the bottles side, a victim of gravity, and think how that is going to ruin the photograph I am going to take tomorrow.
Hunger entices a chunk of crunchy Parmigiano into a hand; a slurp of the Dolcetto and a moment of pleasure as wine and cheese flavours meld and intermingle.
A joyous vibrancy, a lightness that lifts the brooding, deep flavours of the well-flavoured pasta sauce. Lifts is perhaps the wrong word. The wine counters the deep autumnal flavours of the sauce with a burst of freshness and red berry and cherry flavours. Medium-bodied, simple, fresh flavours, reasonably good length. Alcohol 13.5%.
[ out of 5] Scribblings Rating - 86/100
Not a wine to linger and ponder over but occassionally a light, fresh, drinkable, immediate wine is all you need - great with the tomato based sauce and also recommended with pork or risotto.
[An entry to Wine Blogging Wednesday #54 A Passion for Piedmonte]
"The MBA in Wine Business Management consists of a number of different modules dealing with business elements such as Strategy and Finance as well as focus modules looking at the wine industry, viticulture and vinification and wine business planning. In addition there is a study tour arranged to a European wine growing area during the Easter holidays (we're going to Bordeaux this year) and the 25,000 word dissertation is on a wine business topic of the student's choice. The course is assessed by a mix of course assignments and exams and can be completed in 15 months or part-time over a number of years. (We're hoping to be able to offer a Distance Learning option in the future but this is not available at the moment.)
For people wishing to progress their career in the wine industry then this gives a broad base of sought-after commercial skills as well as a deep understanding of the challenges and peculiarities of the wine trade. It is very much business focussed and ideally people will already have some wine knowledge (it's not compulsory at the moment but it does help when we do our wine tastings!). It's hard work but lots of fun!"
For anyone wishing to register for the Postgraduate Open Day on 28th March, follow this link: http://www.rac.ac.uk/?_id=3649.
All the wines are listed with an individual bottle price of £8.49. Buying the mixed case brings the bottle price down to £6.66 per bottle; good value for the reds, a better price for the white.
Wine Tasting Note: Angel's Share Reserva Merlot Mouvèdre, 2007, Maipo Valley, Chile
[More on Adegga / Snooth]
What really stood out here was the long, long lasting flavour and a complex one too - a little sweetness, deep black fruits, a savoury, meaty edge, good gravelly tannins and an inky finish. Alcohol noticeable however. Alcohol 14%.
[ out of 5] Scribblings Rating - 88/100
Wine Tasting Note: Angel's Share Reserva Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Bio-Bio Valley, Chile.
[More: Adegga / Snooth]
A fruity, crisp, bean shoot and pea core with a touch of sherbty complexity. Light to medium bodied, fresh, clean. Lacks a little concentration and texture. Nice with a selection of cheeses. Alcohol 13.5%.
[ out of 5] Scribblings Rating - 82/100
Wine Tasting Note: Angel's Share Reserva Cabernet Carmènere, 2007, Rapel Valley, Chile
[More on Adegga / Snooth]
Give this a little time to open up and if offers an amazing, pronounced, fruit-forward aroma. The combination of Cabernet (blackberries, blackcurrants) and Carmènere (plum, herbs) works beautifully here. The palate, while offering quite the same complexity as the aroma, is nicely balanced, decently tannic but fruity with a gravelly, inky, creamy edged, finish.
[ out of 5] Scribblings Rating - 90/100
Wine Tasting Note: Angel's Share Reserva Syrah, 2007, Aconcagua Valley, Chile
[More on Adegga / Snooth]
Full-bodied, spice-laced palate. Nicely textured and balanced acidity. Really good, long blackberry finish with inky depths. Highly drinkable and a nice match with a beef/mushroom/tomato pasta dish enlivened with Worcester Sauce. Alcohol 14%. Exclusive to Naked Wines.
[ out of 5] Scribblings Rating - 88/100
Still to taste: The Angel's Share Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
The three programmes in the series will follow the company's wine buyers, Jasper Morris MW and Simon Staples, around their daily routines over a year. The programe will concentrate on how the duo work with the winemakers and chateaux owners of Burgundy and Bordeaux.
The press release promises 'From the unassuming winemaker David Clarke of the small village of Morey-Saint-Denis, in Burgundy, to the wily General Manager of Chateau Cos d'Estournel, Jean-Guillaume Prats, - one of Bordeaux's premium chateaux, the programme explores the eccentric and compelling world of wine.'
"After 310 years of business there is still a Mr Berry at the helm as bombs, wars, kings and queens have come and gone, but this charmed existence may be under threat as the credit crunch bites deep. The film unwittingly becomes a chronicle of the changing world order, where the super-rich look alarmingly as though they are about to turn into the ancient regime.
Quaint anachronism it might seem from the outside, but this is the firm that turned fine wine into the sine qua non of the super-rich. Everyone here, from Berry's larger-than-life Bordeaux and Burgundy buyers to the eccentric and ambitious chateau owners and producers they do business with, services what seemed to be the ever-increasing demand for the finest wines available to humanity, until the rot creeps in and threatens three centuries of history."
'Wine: The Firm' will be be shown on BBC Four on Monday February 16th 2009 at 9pm.
As an introductory sampler then, of the types of vino South Africa is producing, two wines from the supermarket aisles
Wine Tasting Note: Flagstone Dragon Tree, 2005, Western Cape, South Africa.
Stockist: Tesco Price: £10.19 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
What a mix! Cabernet Sauvignon 49%, Pinotage 21%, Merlot 10%, Cabernet Franc 10%, Shiraz 6% and Petit Verdot 4%. And just to complete the percentages there is 14% alcohol. Really though would anyone miss the 4% Petit Verdot? Or even notice the absence of 10% Cabernet Franc?
As the rear label states this mix is the result of the challenge of blending Pinotage. The great P is much like Marmite, you either love it or you don't. Plenty of examples in the past were barely drinkable - those with a rusty nail edge to the palate being particularly nasty.
Richly smooth, full, plentiful tannins. Complex flavours (maybe that mix of six has something after all). Warming alcohol on the finish. Very approachable. Creamy edge. While only accounting for 21% the Pinotage peaks through with a distinctive twist on the finish that you don't get with Cabernet alone. It is almost 'rusty' but seems to work here, rather than being a criticism.
[ out of 5] Scribblings Rating - 92/100
Wine Tasting Note: Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Western Cape, South Africa.
Stockist: Sainsbury's Price: £7.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
To counter the rich tannic Dragon Tree hows about a punchy Sauvignon Blanc? Where the Loire and New Zealand are usually offered as the two quality extremes of Sauvignon (one textural, the other extreme punchiness) South Africa is touted as a mid-point.
The Vergelegen edges towards the New Zealand in aroma with a clean, green, pea-shoot smell with a touch of fennel and lemon pith. The palate, as Sauvignon should be, is fresh, crisp and squeaky clean. The intensity will get that palate a-quivering via the acidic backbone. Hints of straw, green peppers, peas and a slight touch of sweetness lessens that firm acidic crispness.
[ out of 5] Scribblings Rating - 90/100
None is paid in money, only wine. But with each bottle worth around a grand I don't suppose the latest artist, Lucian Freud, is complaining. He is to receive ten cases of the stuff.
Freud, 86, was not 'persuaded' to paint the work but rather thought it was an amusing thing to do.
'The word persuade is not quite right, though, because you cannot persuade Lucian Freud to do anything, He either does something because he wants to or he does not do it. In this case, he thought it would be an amusing thing to do.'
But is the stuff inside any good? Yeh, it's fine. Rather nice in fact. Lighter in style than a traditional port it is sure to garner many a fan.
Wine Tasting Note: Croft Pink Port, NV, Douro, Portugal.
Stockist: Sainsbury, Asda, Morrisons, Costcutter Price: £9.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Stonkingly gorgeous cherry colour. Raspberry fruit aromas and an attractive softness to the palate with notes of dried red fruits. A subtle hint of tannin and a surge of alcohol and weight reminds you that this is a port and not a simple pink wine. Not hugely complex but with a certain liveliness. Drink chilled. Alcohol 19.5%.
[ out of 5] Scribblings Rating - 86/100
First released early last year (2008) Croft's Pink Port was applauded as 'breaking the mold' of the Port houses normal offerings. An obvious step you would have thought, especially during a period of increased sales of rose wines. Catavino discussed the wine at the time of its release; their conclusions on the wine itself were a bit flat (perhaps Croft have tweaked the wine since?) but were impressed by the innovation.
With red ports produced at around 20% alcohol, this new pink proved a challenge for winemaker David Guimaraens and his team at Croft from the outset. How to create a rosé style with a light, bright pink colour which is soft and approachable but with a crisp light finish? The solution was to use traditional red port grapes, extract a light amount of colour from the skins and produce a pink version using white port technology. The grapes were pressed before the juice was cold fermented for 7 days off their skins. This slow fermentation, which is twice as long as standard port, produced these fine berry flavours with the crispness required to produce a light, refreshing style.