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.

cattleFollowers of biodynamic theory spray infusions made with dandelion, valerian and chamomile flowers; water and cow dung on their vines. These ‘teas’ are a crude supplier of essential plant nutrients and are supplemented with the composting remains of cow horn and stag’s bladder stuffed with manure. Their great advantage to any grower is that they’re free. All the vineyard owner needs do is walk to an untended corner and pull up a few weeds and tidy up anything dropped from the cattle wandering about their vineyard.

This my kind of gardening. Why spend hard earned cash on petrol driving to the local agri-merchant and on fertilisers supplied in uncompostable plastic containers? Biodynamicists do have to spend some money on getting in crushed quartz stone to make preparation '501' - quartz dynamised with water (that's stirred vigorously to you and me). Sprayed on grapes it helps to concentrate their flavour.

astronomyQuartz rock contains silica. Silica absorbs water – just think of those small silica-gel sachets found in new shoes that help remove moisture – and it's very useful in taking excess moisture from over-rained on grapes that have become swollen and diluted.
Biodynamic grape-growing practice contains some sound gardening chemistry and common sense. If it didn't surround itself with mumbo-jumbo words like 'dynamising' and 'life forces' it might have a lot more followers.

Devil's Peak Chenin BlancPG Wine Reviews

Sainsbury's Winemakers' Selection South African Shiraz Cabernet 2015

£4.50 Sainsbury's (down from £6 until June 7)

Plum and milk chocolate flavours.

Finca Las Moras Argentinean Pinot Grigio 2015

Co-op £4.99 Sainsbury's (down from £6.99 until June 7)

A really nice white wine at a very reasonable price. Refreshing fruit flavours of peach, pear and apricot make a warm-weather wine.

Sainsbury's Winemakers' Selection Spanish Gran Reserva Cariñena 2008

£5 Sainsbury's (down from £6 until June 7)

A really interesting tasting wine with creamy redcurrant and chestnut flavours.

Castillo de Cavanegra Spanish Reserva Monastrell 2011

£5.99 Co-op (down from £7.99 until June 7)

Juicy plum and blackcurrant with some cocoa dryness. Smooth.

Sainsbury's Taste the Difference French Languedoc White 2015

£6 Sainsbury's (down from £8 until June 7)

A blend of Grenache, Marsanne and Vermentino grapes results in a light peach and banana tasting wine.

This article also appeared as Paula's Wines of the Week on

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.

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?”.

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.