Wine

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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How about making a cup of tea?

Bramah teapotGrowing a grapevine on the allotment or in a conservatory is not that unusual. I even know of a fully functioning coffee tree growing inside a house (each year the kitchen-bound tree produces about half a pound of coffee beans), but I know of no-one else with tea bushes growing in pots on their bathroom windowsill. They're still rather small but when they're fully grown (reaching about three feet high in larger pots) the Camellia sinensis plants should provide me with enough tea leaves to make about 250 cups of tea.

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What to do at a wine tasting

tongueAt a wine tasting event expect to sniff and taste up to six wines. Your host will encourage everyone to describe the wines for themselves, with perhaps a little prompting. So when the inevitable “so what do think this wine smells of?”, what’s the ‘correct’ thing to say? Expressing your thoughts to a group of strangers is nerve wracking, but you’ve got to say something it’s expected. Just say what the wine aromas smell like, you won’t be wrong.

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Spring forward with lighter wines

clockThe move into British Summer Time always leaves me time disorientated but by 7pm this Sunday I know my system will have accepted the change – I can now listen to The Archers and admire the colour of a glass of lightly chilled white wine without needing to put the light on.

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Half bottles of wine

half bottles of champagneHalf bottles of wine at half the cost? Not necessarily so, unfortunately. Because so few vineyards put their wines in 375ml bottles the price of this handy single-sized portion never gets lowered by mass production and so remains at about two-thirds the price of its 750ml equivalent. But half bottles aren’t all bad – they do allow you to assess the maturing potential of many wines without the risk and all the cost.

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£6 and under wines are getting better

coinsYou may think paying around six quid for a bottle of wine is expensive but to the wine trade this is the cheaper end of the market. Because of both inflation and consumer spending habits the wine producers have found that the under-a-fiver category is no longer worth the time and expense and so if you can remember the time when you could get a decent bottle for under £3.99 then hang on to the memory because there won't be any more. Instead we must look to the £5.99 and under category to find the everyday bottles.

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Saint David's Day meal and wine match

wine groupIt'll be easy celebrating Saint David’s Day tomorrow. Dish out some lamb cutlets and you’re well on your way to a delicious meal and an excuse to open several bottles in hope of finding a wine to match. Because as a young cut of Welsh lamb is neither quite red meat or white it matches both red and white wine equally well, so pacifying the food-wine matching theorists who insist on matching red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat and fish.

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How to become a wine writer

fountain penIf being a wine writer is all about ‘tasting vast quantities of wine’, why isn’t everyone doing it? Because as wine writer Geoff Adams explains in his chapter on Wine Journalism (Specialist Journalism, Routledge, £23.49): ‘it can be difficult to commission a sufficient amount of work within this speciality alone to make a good living’. But if that hasn’t put you off, then how do you go about becoming a wine writer?

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