Got post-Olympic blues? I prescribe a strong, fruity Syrah

Bicester Advertiser: 2010 LAM Syrah from SH Jones in Banbury for £11.69 a bottle

12:53pm Monday 1st October 2012

Summer is most definitely over. The autumnal equinox flew by us this past weekend. The Olympics, Paralympics and Victory Parade are a distant memory and the Jubilee- a shadow.

The moose eyed the Syrah that stood up to the beef

Bicester Advertiser: Chef Mark's excellent Onglet at the Oxford Blue.

10:32am Monday 24th September 2012

I feel like I’m being watched. I look over my right shoulder and there, eyeing up my vino, is head of a moose. The giant mammal is part of the charm of the Oxford Blue and it will have to put up with a lot of people scratching its nose as the autumn changes to this local pub come in full swing. Thursdays Chris Murray and his talented Chef Mark Bradbury are launching a steak night, Tuesdays they will start a live performance and a new seasonal menu are all part of the exciting plans, but what I really wanted to find out about was the wine. The thing about Chris is he is passionate about his wine and local beers. Before we even sat down he was showing me the Oxfordshire Ales and chatting excitedly about his new finds. 

Keeping it local . . . . with Champagne?

Bicester Advertiser: Tom Ellis shows off the Chassenay d'Arce to Oxford Castle Unlocked manager Mike Speight.

3:34pm Friday 14th September 2012

Last Thursday I began the day with a glass of Champagne in the sun. This uncommon occurrence was a preview to the wines on offer at “Keeping It Local” at the Oxford Castle Quarter this weekend, and one of the stars is the Champagne.

Reds need chilling as room temperature rises

Bicester Advertiser: Charles Metcalfe leads a class in "Unlocking the secrets of champagne."

10:35am Thursday 30th August 2012

This weekend’s foodie festival wasn’t all about food.  There were plenty of libations to keep even the thirstiest satisfied.  Besides the drinks master classes and without even mentioning the Casillero del Diablo wine stand I counted, three separate coffee stands, as well as milkshake, smoothies, juices of varying ingredients from fruit and vegetable to herbal, organic milk products, spiced hot chocolate, a range of teas, cider, water, beers, Oxfordshire Ales, sangria, rum, three further wine stands, a bubbly import stand, ginseng spirit and gin. By the time I got to men serving Mojitos I had lost count and decided maybe I should just stick with the master classes.

Plenty left to toast as summer draws to close

Bicester Advertiser: Nick Holzherr

11:28am Friday 24th August 2012

The final summer bank holiday is upon us.  With the Jubilee celebrations a distant memory and the Olympic flame doused, you might wonder what there is left to toast? Well, if you live in Oxford, then there is plenty.

Spirited offerings deliver tastes of summer

Bicester Advertiser: Alex Clarke, the founder  and creator of Bibicka.

10:09am Saturday 16th June 2012

Impressed by Christopher Gray’s description of the Gavi di Gavi Cru Maddalena he drank while at the Garsington Opera, I decided to revisit this often-overlooked white wine. The Gavi is a small region in Italy Southwest of Milan and offers a zesty alternative to Pinot Grigios. I popped by the Oxford Wine Company, to pick up a bottle of Comprosso Gavid di Gavi, for £11.99. It is a wonderful example of the wine, pale straw in colour, with light aroma of apples. It’s full bodied, with high acidity and minerality giving it crispness. It has a long finish and at only 12.5% ABV, it isn’t too heavy for summer.

Gin makes a revival as a Jubilee tipple

Bicester Advertiser: Jeremy du Plessis, General Manager of the Feathers  and Jack Brockbank official adjudicator.

12:45am Saturday 2nd June 2012

For years, the “it” drink has been Vodka.

Jericho's Jubilee is the place to be

Bicester Advertiser: Cardigan Street in 1977. Thosands attend the party.

10:05am Friday 25th May 2012

I don’t drink beer. I can taste it. I can sip it. I can even appreciate the flavours and how it’s made, but I don’t drink it. Even when beer is the only alternative, I will happily drink water.

The complex code of natural wine

Bicester Advertiser: Gamay Raisins Gaulois Lapierre 2010

5:34pm Thursday 17th May 2012

May is the month to celebrate organic, biodynamic and natural wines.

Tricky vegetable demands precise match

Bicester Advertiser: Charlie Gee with asparagus from Medley Farm, Binsey.

9:12am Friday 11th May 2012

Organisers cancelled the Asparagus Festival in Evesham because of rain and flooding. Now we are told British asparagus is in crisis. Luckily, Medley Farm in Binsey continues to supply local shops, restaurants and the public. Millets farm shop in Abingdon sells their asparagus daily. They are growing a portion of their crop under poly tunnels meaning even the cold May start can’t stop the crop. As the rest of the country suffers with imports from Peru, Oxonians will be eating the fresh British veg.

Rain, rain, go away, come again another day

Bicester Advertiser: Bob Nielsen among his vines at Brightwell Vineyard

5:17pm Monday 7th May 2012

Weather experts claim we are in the “wettest drought on record.” Does this mean we should bring a brolly and wear wellies while we use the watering can? Despite the wacky weather, Oxfordshire vineyards are using it to their advantage.

Taste of South Africa comes to Banbury

Bicester Advertiser: SH Jones on the High Street in Banbury.

1:07am Friday 27th April 2012

Friday I found myself on a train heading out of Oxford to visit one of the oldest wine merchants in the country.

Rich aroma rises from a Bajaian Beauty

Bicester Advertiser: L. A. Cetto, Petite Sirah 2008 found at the Anchor in Walton Manor for £22.50.

12:29am Friday 27th April 2012

We are starting to hear the whisper of summer. Black clothes and boots are being banned to the back of the closets. Emerging in their place are bright colours and skimpier skirts. Of course being Oxford, we will still need a sturdy over coat when we venture outside. That doesn’t stop us from longingly looking at the picnic blankets and wishing for those crispy whites of summer.

Take simple steps to create a great brew

Bicester Advertiser: Andy Hamilton, in the Great Hall, at Christ Church,   showing plants he uses to make his home brews.

11:00am Thursday 12th April 2012

Climbing the 16th century stairway up to “The Great Hall” at Christ Church I wasn’t sure what to expect. I could sense the years of knowledge, intelligence and culture leaching out of the walls.

Prepare your pick-me-ups for busy break

Bicester Advertiser: Bollinger La Grande Année 2000, £60, from Waitrose.

4:37pm Friday 6th April 2012

Easter dominates Sunday, while one of the countries most historic sporting events, the Oxford vs Cambridge Boat Race, entertains hundreds of thousands on Saturday. What will you be drinking?

£3 for every bottle of wine sent to Treasury

Bicester Advertiser: Budget for alcohol.

6:21pm Thursday 29th March 2012

There was a lot of talk on Friday about the announcement of the Government’s Alcohol Strategy. This included a minimum unit price (mup) of 40p a unit of alcohol. This means that those of us that regularly spend £6-£10 on a bottle of wine probably won’t see a price difference due to the mup. However, those that partake in Aldi’s £2.99 a bottle or three bottles under £9, will now be paying more unless those bottles are under 9.97% Alcohol By Volume (ABV) which is doubtful.

Raising a glass to tales of tasty tipples

Bicester Advertiser: Sally Dunsmore, director of Oxford Literary Festival at Christ Church.

12:35pm Thursday 22nd March 2012

Starting Saturday the city of Oxford will be taken over by authors and authorities on prose, plays, poetry and similar such bumf. Christ Church will be the core of all things culture (if it is not all ready).

Apps open up wide world of wine online

12:22pm Thursday 22nd March 2012

Since the launch of the new Oxford Times iPhone and iPad app, can we discard our diaries and notebooks, pick up our mobiles and tweet our way into the wine world? -Actually yes.

County vineyard's high hopes for top crops

Bicester Advertiser: Richard Liwicki at Bothy Vineyard

12:19pm Thursday 22nd March 2012

Just nine miles from Oxford city centre is Bothy Vineyard, one of the oldest vineyards in Oxfordshire. Originally it was a glorified garden building on the outside of Oakley Park. More than 30 years ago it was turned into a vineyard. In 2002 Sian and Richard Liwicki bought it and have created an eco friendly vineyard, winery and lifestyle.

Top tips for venturing into buying wine online

Bicester Advertiser: Turk Gruner Veltliner from the Oxford Wine Company.

11:47am Monday 5th March 2012

Buying wine online from Oxford Wine Company to Virgin Wines, it's easier than you thought.

Royal red is good crowd pleaser

Bicester Advertiser: Dufouleur Monopole red table wine.

9:25am Friday 10th February 2012

When you buy wine for an event, your main consideration is cost. Generally this means the wine is cheap. But what do you do if you are the Queen?

The Oxford Blue- Wine bar and local pub

Bicester Advertiser: Chef Mark Bradbury tastes the Omrah Chardonnay.

11:31pm Sunday 29th January 2012

Just as Bottega on Walton St. closed to make room for a grocery store and student housing, Chris Murray, the proprietor, started work on his next project, The Oxford Blue in Iffley.

Wines to add kick to your 2012 resolutions

8:00am Thursday 19th January 2012

It’s almost the middle of January and your determination to detox is beginning to dwindle. You don’t want to ruin the weeks of healthy living, but you are longing for a bit of zest to energize your life.

Wines add to Christmas spirit

8:40am Thursday 22nd December 2011

As families come together over Christmas lunch, a flight of wine and champagne that chimes with a traditional turkey feast is a successful recipe to capture the holiday spirit.

Gift selections can ease present problems

12:52pm Thursday 15th December 2011

Eat, drink and be merry . . . with the big Christmas rush upon us, shopping for wine or spirits can be the best recipe for spreading some festive cheer.

Sunshine valley offers highly-prized crop

4:23pm Thursday 8th December 2011

Shiraz and spice and all things nice . . . the sun has shone on vines in South Australia’s Barossa Valley since the 1840s, when settlers first planted their highly-prized crop. The most famous and largest wine region of the “big four”, the Barossa’s flat valley floor is blanketed with vineyards and has never been plagued by phylloxera.

Top tips to stack racks for Christmas

7:30am Thursday 1st December 2011

Resistance is futile . . . Christmas and all its associated pleasures (and occasional frustrations) are just around the corner.

Nervous moments over carbon neutrality

7:50am Thursday 24th November 2011

It seems to be the season for wine tastings — not (for me anyway) the imbibing sort, but the leading and showing of wines to all sorts of groups. The other night I returned to a society I first spoke to some 12 years ago.

Grapes are a smashing asset to Greece

7:20am Thursday 17th November 2011

As a family we went to Greece a lot when my sister and I were children. It satisfied my mum’s love of the heat and my dad’s fascination for Ancient Greece. I am not sure that we were sufficiently appreciative. I spent the entire two weeks lurking in the shade, desperate for the damp shroud of a Scots mist whilst my sister, later an architecture student at Cambridge, once famously denounced Knossos by saying “not another heap of stones…”

Eurozone wines to wake the palate

7:00am Thursday 10th November 2011

I fear we are turning into a family of slouches. I returned home the other day to find my dog curled up in front of the telly that he had (inadvertently) switched on and that was showing some hideously trashy programme which, most alarmingly of all, appeared to have captured his interest.

Modest finds deliver great pleasure

7:00am Thursday 3rd November 2011

I have only seen the Mona Lisa once. I was about nine years old and my most vivid recollection of the experience was being bitterly disappointed by its diminiative size and how exhausted I was trying to get anywhere near it, so thick were the rows of tourists between me and the painting.

Time to toast New Zealand's success

6:00am Thursday 27th October 2011

So, New Zealand are the new rugby world champions. I am no expert but the final appeared to me closer to tug of war: you sensed the New Zealanders had that trophy in their teeth and they weren’t about to give it up!

Alternative matches for wine with game

7:40am Thursday 20th October 2011

There are pheasants everywhere at the moment; free to roam (mostly, it seems, on a road near me) until someone does the deed to bring them to a plate near you.

Hunting out bargains from Spain

6:50am Thursday 13th October 2011

So, the builders have moved in and I have moved out . . . again!

Choose different wines and share

7:40am Thursday 6th October 2011

In the 1980s I had a part-time, pre-university job in the cigarette / wine and spirits section of my local supermarket. The department was positioned at the back end of the fruit and vegetable isle at the time and one of the things that used to astonish me were the number of people who I would watch ‘sampling’ the grapes to “make sure they were okay” before putting (sometimes) a bunch in their trolley.

Struggling to find a place for Madeira

7:50am Thursday 29th September 2011

Does anyone drink Madeira wine? I am fairly confident that in all of the time I have been writing about wine I’ve never once mentioned it and I’m equally sure that since I sampled some as part of my wine exams (a distant memory) I haven’t tried it since. Shoddy me.

Recreating a magic moment with mussels

7:30am Thursday 22nd September 2011

I cannot believe the speed at which autumn has arrived.

Pondering the perfect desert island grape

11:36am Monday 19th September 2011

I spent a rather miserable day or two in bed the other week, struck down with some nasty bug that rendered me incapable of doing anything — not even reading.

'I turned as pink as the raspberry sorbet'

7:20am Thursday 1st September 2011

I have just had a visit from a rather earnest young man, who represents a particular winery in the UK.

Four suggestions for wines to give as gifts

7:20am Thursday 25th August 2011

My friends arrived for lunch the other day carrying a bottle of bubbly. How nice! I was even happier to see that the bottle in question was Duval Leroy Fleur de Champagne Premier Cru (£28.49 www.waitrosewine.com) — very much a favourite of mine and one that I tend to take to people as a thank you.

Delicate Riesling perfect for summer

6:50am Thursday 18th August 2011

Stereotypes may be the source of some cracking jokes but that they so often reinforce a negative idea of a place or peoples can be extremely frustrating. Just the other night we were out for dinner with friends and the wine list came to me for a decision.

Sporty clues to picking a winning wine

6:40am Thursday 11th August 2011

We are now well into the holidays and I have just picked up a text message from a friend whose nine-year-old son has just won two bottles of wine on a tombola whilst on holiday. I am not entirely sure of the legalities there (bottles went direct to parents, clearly) but I have to say that he’s the sort of child that I need to spend more time with.

Remember to leave space for a holiday bottle

9:46am Monday 8th August 2011

I am on a ‘stay-in-Britain’ extended-family one-week holiday. Just before you think ‘ah, how nice’, be aware that I arrived in a two-seater sports car, mindful that come the time when I need to escape there will be limited space for hangers on.

Only way is up for Chile's Leyda Valley

7:50am Thursday 28th July 2011

I only recently learnt that Leyda (as in Chile’s Leyda Valley) means ‘the way’; significant because the blue train station that is depicted on the certain labels of Viña Leyda wines was the last stop for trains travelling from Santiago to the Pacific Coast.

Challenge of picking quality Lambrusco

7:00am Thursday 14th July 2011

A buddy of mine went to see Take That at Wembley the other week; she was outrageously excited before she went and has barely calmed since she came back!

Glorious Chardonnay brightens bleak week

7:40am Thursday 7th July 2011

Did anyone read the recent recommendation from the Royal College of Psychiatrists that people over the age of 65 should moderate their alcohol intake to 1.5 units a day?

Time to get in the pink

6:30am Thursday 23rd June 2011

There is a great scene in the wonderfully entertaining film, Legally Blonde where the ‘pink’ heroine Elle Woods is standing in a computer store scantily dressed as a bunny rabbit purchasing a laptop. Spurned by her ex and mocked by her fellow Harvard students, her purchase represents her first step to be taken seriously.

Finding Slovenian wine is worth the effort

6:40am Thursday 16th June 2011

Generic wine tastings is the name we wine trade folks give to events that focus on a particular country. The likes of Wines of Australia or Wines of Argentina are typically vast affairs, in substantial venues with an impressive gaggle of importers, sommeliers and journalists making their way from wine to wine. Tastings organised for emerging countries tend to have a more modest feel and it is noticeable that attendees tend to be those looking for something new with less journalists about because there are typically fewer wines with representation in the UK.

Costly ice wine worth every penny

7:00am Thursday 9th June 2011

I have a wine maker friend from Spain with whom I have had a lot of fun, selling his wine all over the UK over the years. We have spoken at fancy dinners in plush surroundings and stood behind trestle tables in windswept markets . . . wherever we’ve ended up, it’s always been fun. I believe it was the first time that we met that we found ourselves standing in the same — very lengthy — queue to taste a sweet, sparkling wine from Canada.

Ignorance and mistakes have enriched my life

3:42pm Thursday 2nd June 2011

I enjoyed following the Obama visit to the UK. A particular highlight was the sight of Ken Clarke dozing contentedly through Mr Obama’s address at Westminster Hall. Priceless stuff.








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