Pernand-Vergelesses, Vallet Frères, 2009

Monday, April 15th, 2013

A good test of expensive Burgundy wines (white or red) is whether they go with beans on toast.

I paid Virgin Wines £23.99 for this Pernand-Vergelesses, gulp…. If you join one of the opaque monthly payment schemes, you can make it cheaper. Personally, I’m sick of trading £20 per month for a “discount” on wines, so I have stopped all such accounts (including Virgin) and I am sticking to retailers with simple principles: Join up, look at the website, decide whether to buy, secure in the knowledge that you can nearly always find a competitor price in the event of lingering doubt.

P-V Vallet Freres and a remote control...for some reason.

Clearly meeting the expensive moniker, this Vallet Frères is rounder than a grapefruit, zingier than a grapefruit, and fruitier than a grape. This is important because to stand up to the shock and awe of (Branston) baked beans requires a good slug of fruit, gentle tannins and battery like acidity. Tick. Tick. Tick.


De Martino, Las Cruces, 2008

Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

£17.99 is a lot to spend on any bottle. For a Chilean wine, this is like spending £20 on a burger. It better be bloody, and it better be bloody brilliant.

This De Martino is a field blend and, at 13.5%, sensibly low in alcohol for a Chilean red. Predominately Malbec with a fair bit of Carménère and other grapes chipped in from various corners of the field, it tastes of rich smooth chocolate, red apples and glacé cherries with pepper. I know what you are thinking and no, it’s a compliment.


Chénas, Château Bonnet, 2010

Monday, April 23rd, 2012

I’ve had a massive, Rowan Gormley style, fallout with Virgin Wines. Having restructured (read less favourable terms) their “Wine Bank” offer, I had the temerity to request the closure of my Wine Bank account. After three emails and two phone calls still no joy. So, no more Virgin Wines. I am storming (or maybe mincing) off in a huff.

Luckily, I joined The Wine Society many moons ago and they ruthlessly and relentlessly ship me top quality wines at fair (not cheap) prices. Here is yet another reason to stay a member.

Beaujolais 2010 was supposed to be a mere shadow of the magnificent 2009 vintage. However, this Château Bonnet Chénas (£9.50) begs to differ. Much more serious than “typical” bubble gum Gamay, juicy and fruity but with a smidgen of spice. Think of it as a higher class of jelly (yes, streets ahead of Haribo).

Sorry for the lack of humour in this post. Say thanks to Tony Laithwaite and his band of Virgins for that.

How to get tip top value from Virgin Wines

Wednesday, February 2nd, 2011

I must be honest and say that I don’t buy much wine from Virgin.  However, I have a legacy account which costs me £20 per month that I will probably never cancel and here is why.

Close your eyes and go and do your wine shopping at your favourite retailer (I like The Wine Society, Majestic, Naked Wines, BBR and a few others including independent shops both bricks and clicks).  A few months later, simply remember that you have been paying some dosh to Virgin and go and look at your account.

I just did this and discovered that I had £300!  This comprised £220 of my money plus £80 that Virgin had kindly added as part of their Wine Bank programme.

Next, click on the Champagne pages and you will find very reasonably priced branded champagne.  The prices even compare favourably with the supermarkets and that is before you account for the implicit 25% discount from the Wine Bank “interest”.

I selected a 12 bottle mix of Mumm, Taittinger, Roederer and my personal favourite brand, Perrier-Jouet.  They are arguably not going to set the world on fire but it makes quite a pleasant drink at about £18 per bottle and will impress your friends no end.

For friends you are not so keen on, maybe you should stock up with Freixenet.

A Naked, Virgin tale

Tuesday, November 30th, 2010

I’ve just placed my first order with Naked Wines.  Is this news?  Not really, I suppose, but the strange thing is the reason why.  Naked has persistently pestered me, offered free samples, discounts and special offers and I have resisted for over a year.

I attended EWBC 2010 and witnessed something very interesting.  Naked founder, Rowan Gormley,  (fortunately wearing clothes in front of several hundred people) standing side by side with Willi Klinger of the Austrian Wine Marketing Board, a top guy by any standard, running a mass taste-off between 11 Austrian Wines.


Araldica Barbera D’Asti 2006

Saturday, March 13th, 2010

This one does exactly what it says on the tin:  black cherries, spice, mint, plums.  It’s like chewing gum and walking….through a French orchard on a wet autumn day.

It cost me £9.99 from Virgin and is one of the better ten quid bottles from their stable.

Serve cool (not cold).  It accentuates the mint.  The perfect antidote for drab football matches, and a great partner for pizza.

Virgin Bubbles

Tuesday, February 9th, 2010

If you are a UK based champagne glugger who buys the brands you might want to check out Virgin Wines who seem to have some pretty sharp prices right now.

I haven’t done extensive research but bog standard Moet is £23.99 which is about the same price as Tesco and if you subscribe to the Virgin Wine Bank* there is an effective 25% discount on that.  Other champagnes look similarly discounted.

*Wine Bank asks you to make a regular monthly contribution (I pay £20 for example) and every quarter a monthly subscription gets added.  So I have just spent 6 months of contributions (£120) on £160 worth of bubbly.  Luvvly jubbly!

No, I didn’t go for the Moet, I did include some Perrier Jouet and Mumm in the mix though.

Fabre Montmayou Malbec 2007

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

I assured some French friends who visited recently, that ignorant southerners who claimed that it rained in Manchester 24 hours a day were plain wrong.  In my experience the average precipitation is a considerably more modest 23.  I am looking forwards to tomorrow between 8 and 9am when we are promised a refreshing spot of light cloud.

Rain again...and some Fabre Montmayou Malbec for some reason


Tin Shed Wild Bunch Riesling 2004

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

Most successful software is never the real deal until version 3.  This is the version that appeases the early, and even late majority, and therefore wins the market.  I have just downloaded the 3.0 operating system for my iPhone and it was worth the wait.

OS 2.0 had holes the size of moon craters.  If you own another brand I bet you can cut and paste.  I bet you can send multimedia messages.  I bet you can capture voice recording.  I bet you can remotely wipe your phone if it is stolen.  (OK this last one is fairly unique).  These yawning gaps have been filled in 3.0 and without having to download any more apps.  Need meteorite strike insurance?  There’s an app for that….

That having been said, the single greatest strength of the iPhone is that is has learnt, ironically from Microsoft, that to create a successful platform you have to create a community and allow them to expand your platform by building applications.  This happens much faster than you could ever build applications yourself so the usage of your platform spreads like wildfire.

Witness Steve Jobs who, a billion application downloads later, must be wondering if he will catch up Bill Gates in the software wealth stakes before the decade is out.

In honour, I was hoping to bring you a wine that tastes of apple, but this one is pure lemon.

Do you remember the war, sonny Jim?


Rowan Gormley’s Naked bollocks

Monday, June 1st, 2009

Well at first sight, you have to admire a man with cojones the size of decanters.  Rowan Gormley, not content with taking on the mighty Direct Wines (owners of the Laithwaites and Virgin Wines brands) at selling wine, is now considering a legal defence in the light of a provocative press release that Rowan put out on behalf of Naked Wines to which DW took offence.  Offence that was duly passed to their lawyers who promptly threatened to sue his ass.

Rowan’s blog offers the viewpoint of a man on one side of an argument that is undeniably exacerbated by the fact that the Virgin Wines founder left the employ of Direct Wines last summer under a compromise agreement (another word for a cloud).  The word “bollocks” is used to dismiss Direct Wines’ allegations.  Maybe storm in a teacup is better phraseology.

But before you dismiss this as a spat between two former lovers and tell them to grow up and get a life, be aware that this is a business tactic straight from the Virgin playbook (remember Virgin Atlantic/Richard Branson’s long term, bitter and very public fight with BA for example?).  Rowan certainly learned something from his years at Virgin.

Naked Wines needs publicity and hasn’t got a big advertising budget.  If I were Direct Wines, I would shut up and get on with running a successful business and starve Naked of PR oxygen.  Every time they react to one of Gormley’s prods they are adding fuel to his fire.

On the other hand, if I were Rowan Gormley, I would probably continue to aggravate my former employer and provoke whatever reaction I could.  The general public loves an underdog, especially one that looks like it is being grievously mistreated by the older school bully.