I was recently invited up to the Waitrose School of Cookery to attend the Waitrose Autumn wine tasting event. It was a real eye opener for me as I was surrounded by ‘proper’ wine tasters who were there to secretly source out the best of the autumn collection. Wine writers, wine connoiseurs and my friend Knackered Mother who I managed to chat with before she got back to her proper job.
You may have seen Helen McGinn on the Alan Titchmarsh show on a Friday? She is his in-house drinks expert, how cool is that?
Anyway, I asked her for her top three tips from the collection and here they are, do take note as she really knows what she’s talking about :-
Knackered Mother’s Top Waitrose Tips
White – Waitrose English Dry White The Limes Selection, £9.99
Brilliant white from English vineyards! Packed with lime fruit (happily, given the name on the label!), this was a real surprise. And I love that Waitrose are such great supporters of local and regional producers.
Red – Sant’Ilia Cabernet Sauvignon/Cabernet Franc/Melnik 2012, £8.99
This is from Bulgaria, an area I used to buy from when I was a wine buyer. Sadly, many of the vineyards fell into disrepair but over the last few years, a new generation of winemakers have been making some fantastic wines. This one’s a blend of grapes, including the inky, fruits-of-the-forest tasting Melnik. Gorgeous, mellow red. Just add a hearty bowl of beef stew!
Sparkling – Waitrose Blanc de Blancs Brut NV Champagne, £24.99
This is such a good champagne, it beat some of the others on the table (including ones that were twice the price) hands down on quality and value for money. Made from Chardonnay grapes only, it’s really smart stuff.
You must subscribe to her blog Knackered Mothers Wine Club for weekly tips on the best wines out there and add her really helpful book Knackered Mother’s Wine Club to your Santa list as it’s amazing how many great tips are in there. I even think there may be a new book in the pipeline but ssshhhhh on that one ok?
I on the other hand didn’t use the spittoon as I wasn’t there to taste them all, some of us have a school run to do at 3pm *ahem* I was there to learn what special wines Waitrose have in store for us this time of year.
We head over to the Homegrown Talent which is an area that really grabs my interest – can us Brits make a decent glass of wine? Well apparently yes and not only a good glass of wine but award winning wines and Sparkling too.
I was very pleased to see a local vineyard to me Meopham Valley present with a delicious Rose. Breaky Bottom sparkling gets my vote for the most fantastic name and we tried the Lukford Estate sparkling from Hampshire. It was delicious.
Moving on to the spirits the first to catch my eye was a Heston concoction – Cherry Bakewell Vodka. I know, it sounds phenomenal doesn’t it? I didn’t try it as it was only 10.30 and I’d already had the British fizz but the smell was exactly what you’d expect, scrumptious.
Next to catch my eye was the superb lineup of gins on the bar. Burroughs Reserve Oak Rested Gin definitely one for my Christmas shopping list.
If there is one thing I was really amazed at is the thought that has gone into the bottles this year, all different shapes and sizes that really add to the product and of course will make beautiful gifts.
Sparklings, fizz and Champers
All present and laid out jostling with one another to catch your eye, all of the most famous brands were there, other brands who I am informed are even better and all that will grace the festive tables superbly.
It feels a lifetime ago since I last tried a sweet wine, in Italy we loved a Vin Santo and ate the biscotti known as Cantuccini to accompany it. A really good way to finish off a meal in good company and keep the conversation flowing. Eiswein caught my eye in the Waitrose selection and reminded me of some excellent holidays in Austria and a Sauternes which was probably my introduction to sweet wines many moons ago.
If you haven’t tried a sweet wine I really would advise you too but save it as an after dinner treat to enjoy with some beautiful chocolates, biscuits or dessert of course.
What a fabulous range of beautifully packaged and interesting products there are to choose for Christmas gifts this year. Take a look at The Chocolate Block, the Champagne and Truffle sets and this dream of a case in a gorgeous box with a tray included too plus enough wine to keep you merry for days. Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.
Italian wines to watch out for
Of course I made a beeline for the Italian section and I wasn’t disappointed. There are some real special wines from Italy included in this season’s list including some of my favourite reds
Melini 2011 Chianti Riserva Tuscany by £9.99
Terre di Faiano Organico Primitivo Appassimento £9.49
Prunotto Bussia 2007 Barolo from Piedmont £50.00
Masi Campolongo di Torbe 2007 Amarone della Valpolicella Classico £85.00
Waitrose Crisp and Floral Italian Dry White NV Veneto £4.99
Alta Italia Pinot Grigio 2013 from Trentino £9.99 – I used to live in this region ;)
Inama Vigneti di Foscarino 2013 Soave Classico, Veneto Italy £18.99
Thank you Waitrose Cellars for inviting me, I had the most amazing time and even had time for lunch and cake before I started my journey back for the school run