So. Many. Wines.

I'm in the middle of a week of wine tasting for the International Wine Challenge, a huge wine competition. For the last two days I've tasted around 150 wines a day, mostly two or three times each. At the end of it your teeth hurt, your tongue feels like an Axminster carpet and the very last thing you feel like is a glass of wine. Which is a shame because there are so many really good wines around. Add to that a handful of proper bargains and it's beginning to look at lot like...ok, sorry. I'll stop. But seriously, there are more places to buy the good stuff, too. Aldi (who together with Lidl now account for 10% of the total market, double their share just three years ago) recently announced they'll be selling wine by the case online from next year. And as well as the supermarkets, there are a growing number of brilliant online wine shops like Private Cellar, along with the welcome reappearance of Oddbins and properly good independent wine shops. Also, a quick mention for the Co-op: their wine range is currently pretty fantastic. Most of their 'Truly Irresistible' wine range is just that, despite sounding like a really bad aftershave.

Current white in the fridge: Hautes Cotes de Beaune 2014, £8.99, Lidl
So, this is Chardonnay from the same region as the wines of Puligny Montrachet and Meursault. Obviously from different vineyards but you get the idea. You'll pay way more for those wines but if you want to get a taste of what this region can do with Chardonnay when made well, this is one way to do it. Fresh, crisp and with bright, lemony fruit and an almost creamy character to it, the wine is brilliant value for money. And looks more expensive than it is (always good).

Current red in the rack: Fire Flower Shiraz/Mourvedre 2014, £8.99, Waitrose
As with so many wines, the inspiration comes from France. In this case, it's the Rhone Valley, where it's common practice to throw a little Viognier (a white grape) in with a vat of Syrah (a red grape). This is South Africa's take on a Rhone classic and it works beautifully. Rich and ripe with black fruits and spice, it's best drunk fireside. 

Ps. For anyone who lives near the New Forest/fancies a trip to Lime Wood, I'm hosting a pop-up event there alongside Raw & Cured chef Sheila Hulme on the 14th December. We're talking amazing canapes and gorgeous wines. Limited number of spaces available - come if you can! More details here

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