That smell of damp dog

dog asleepOpening a bottle of wine and then drinking its contents should be an enjoyable experience. But if instead of inviting fruity aromas wafting out of the bottle you're met with a disgusting smell of wet woollen blanket or damp dog then the wine is not fit to drink and is said to be 'corked'.

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Over 70s to drink tea and wine

tea in cupWine, dark chocolate and tea improve thinking and memory skills in men and women aged over 70. A study conducted by researchers from the universities of Oxford and Oslo found that a combination of wine, dark chocolate, and tea, consumed in moderate amounts, enhanced cognitive performance in the elderly. All three food stuffs contain relatively high levels of flavonoids.

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Lidl's Wine Cellar: new Summer Collection

Lidl logoLidl have added 40 new wines to their posh Wine Cellar range. All hail from from our European partners – with wines from France, Italy, Germany. Spain and Hungary – and all priced to appeal to the average-spending consumer with the majority of the new arrivals retailing at £5.49, £5.79 and £5.99. And all tasted appealing too – with the exception of one which get's the Paula warning klaxon.

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Don't put champagne on the label

Cava neck labelUnless champagne's marketing men disappear, their sparkling wine will always be the first choice for celebrations. But many countries get their wines to sparkle using the same techniques as those of champagne. But they can't say so on the label.

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Biodynamics: just pull up a few weeds

Biodynamic Wine bookNicolas Joly, of the French vineyard Coulée de Serrant, is one of the strongest advocates of the super-organic method of making wine known as biodynamics. In his book What Is Biodynamic Wine?: The Quality, the Taste, the Terroir (2007 paperback and still available from Amazon from £4.39) Joly explains that only by putting back into the soil everything nature produces, and I mean everything, can vines can grow and wine be made in harmony with the earth’s rhythms.

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Getting the cork out

corkscrewSeeing cork tear and crumble as you heave on the corkscrew is enough to bring an oath to the lips, the cork sometimes seems out to frustrate our primary goal - drinking the contents of the bottle. A horizontally stored bottle will keep a cork moist through contact with the wine – the cork's integrity is retained and it should remain whole when removed.

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Frequently asked questions about wine

red grapesWhen I'm giving a wine talk there will inevitably be questions from the audience keen to understand more about the wine they've just bought on their last visit to the supermarket, or some question that's been niggling away waiting to be answered from someone who knows. While I try my best to fit into this category I don't claim to know all the answers but here are a few of my answers to the questions I get asked most frequently – which usually starts with “Why do the French spell it Syrah and the Aussies Shiraz?”.

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Have an indoor picnic this May Day

flameIt’s going to be a cold and unsettled Bank Holiday weekend according to The Met Office. But don’t let the dampness and lack of sun deter you from enjoying a picnic - a picnic with a difference that is. Instead of sipping light whites and rosés with your lettuce-filled sandwiches sitting outside on a blanket, why not sit under the blanket while sitting indoors next to the fire and get in a couple of cockle-warming reds and hearty whites for your May Day soup and sarnies.

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Dandelion wine

dandelionsTraditional picked on St. George's Day, the flower petals of the dandelion can be brewed into a country wine. It turns out that its leaves can also be eaten as a salad leaf and its horrendously long tap roots that seem to grow down as far Australia make a passable coffee substitute: but now the humble dandelion has another use – it can be turned into car tyres. That milky-white substance that oozes onto your fingers whenever you break the stem or root of this useful plant/weed (delete as appropriate) is actually latex. And German tyre maker Continental is about to turn its research project into a facility that makes dandelion rubber by the ton.

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A good wine list

restaurant menuJudging a restaurant on their food will only ever give you half the story. A competent wine list is just as important as the menu as it not only matches the food but also the expectations of the diners. It should also describe the wines in enough detail so that the paying customer can make an informed choice. A notable wine list, though, must do this and more.

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