Wine Seduction in London
The Sampler - Wine Machine

Our UK Correspondent, Alistair Scott, grapples with tasting protocol, wine-voyeurism and ravaging the credit card at, The Sampler, the dynamic north London wine merchant fast-making a name for itself for seducing palates on and off the premises.

Sip, spit or slurp? Difficult decisions at The Sampler

So does one sip, spit or slurp? The etiquette for wine tastings in usually pretty clear – rows of glasses, big buckets and lots of spit. But The Sampler presents a challenge. You are faced with a possible 80 wines to taste, all looking very appealing and mostly very tasty.

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In the mood for red
Chester Osborn d'Arenberg Winemaker, Australia

South Australian grenache is all you need on a winter’s evening. The only way to better it is to fly to Adelaide and drink it with an excellent meal.

With the shortest day of the year past and the winter monsoon bringing its unwelcome message from Siberia, the drinking mood has changed to cuddly reds.

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Grab it by the horns
Cheap Wines

Cheap wines doesn’t necessarily mean cheesy in the world of reds.

Internationally relegated to quaffing status, the wine world is finally starting to give grenache the respect it deserves. I doubt that grenache devotees are that concerned. Sometimes it’s best not to say anything about a bargain.

Whether you are a serious wine buff or just enjoy the odd glass, there will always be occasions that call for an inexpensive, everyday drinking red.

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Bubbly Beauties
Champagne, Bubbly Beauties

It’s time to put some fizz into the holidays – without flattening your bank account.

Why do bubbles captivate us so much?

Watching my daughter gleefully chasing soapy bubbles, I wonder if this is where the fascination begins. The tiny bubbles scrambling into a fine bead in a Champagne flute share the allure and sparkle of diamonds.

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Bring on the Soave
Soave Wine, Italy

Pieropan has shown just how great this white wine can be and what good value it is. Autumn is upon us and hopefully the last of the rains will give way to clear sunny days and pleasant evenings.

This is a time when evening meals and Sunday lunches of fish or prawns grilled on the barbecue and served with crisp salads are often enjoyed outdoors.

For most of us, the connection between warm weather and a chilled glass of white wine is purely a fundamental component of enjoying a particular wine that suits the mood.

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Mountain Fresh
Pfaffenberg vineyard, Austria

An Austrian wine is poised to leap to a wider acceptance. If you are looking for the best value for money in white wine, it is more than likely to have an unpronounceable name.

Easily misinterpreted as a tropical disease, or a robust German sausage and sauerkraut dish, Austria’s indigenous grape, gruner veltliner, is actually not that difficult to pronounce (groon-er vealt-lean-er) and bids fair to become more familiar as the wine’s popularity inevitably increases.

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Grenache into the light
Gigondas Domaine Raspail Ay, France

A supposedly second-division wine is finally earning the respect it deserves. Internationally relegated to quaffing status, the wine world is finally starting to give grenache the respect it deserves. I doubt that grenache devotees are that concerned. Sometimes it’s best not to say anything about a bargain.

But if we were issuing a tutorial on how excellent wines can be misjudged to create what might be called a mispricing opportunity – a bargain – it isn’t necessary to look much beyond the grenache variety.

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The East is Reds…
Grape Wall of China Bordeaux wine tasting, Shanghai

The world is already awash in wine. But it appears almost inevitable, given the explosive growth of China’s vineyards, that western producers face competition from yet another lucrative class of exports: bulk wines, which China is gearing up to make in vast quantities at costs far below what traditional vintners can match.

Already, at least one Chinese vintner has announced plans to become one of the top 10 brands in the global market by 2008. That is interesting news for Chris Indelicato, the chief executive of Delicato Family Vineyards of Manteca, California, one of the world’s top exporters of bulk wines, who toured China recently. And, in a telephone interview from California, Indelicato said: “Given how things work, it would be naïve to say about anything from China that it will never be a threat.”

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Judging the Judges
Judging Wines

The perils of rating wines are many and, well, perilous. Can it be that the educated palate isn’t educated at all? Is this an oenological dirty little secret?

A four-year study in the United States, made public last week, showed that only 10 percent of wine judges were consistently able to give the same wine the same rating twice, to wines sampled multiple times in blind tastings.

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Easy option
Trimbach Vineyard Alsace, France

Hugel Pinot Blanc is a perennial favorite of the hospitality industry. If you are looking for an excellent value crowd-pleaser white wine for your Christmas party, or any party for that matter, you need a good quality Pinot Blanc from Alsace, France.

In the 1980s, Chardonnay would fill this requirement, although more out of fashion than actually delivering the goods. But fashions change and the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) mantra of the 1990s has evolved, broadening and liberating our tastes.

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