Monday, 31 March 2008

Australia Build Fake Stonehenge For Wine Tourists

An Australian brewer plans to build a replica of England's Stonehenge for wine tourists at Margaret River by the next summer solstice on December 21st.

The structure, to be known as "The Henge", will be made with 2,500 tonnes of granite quarried from Esperance on the southwest Australian coast and will span 33 metres, local media reported.
"Nowhere in the world has a complete Stonehenge been built," Margaret River brewer Ross Smith told Australian Associated Press.

"I think it will attract a lot of tourists to the region, about 200,000 to 300,000 per year," he said.

But unlike the ancient original, which is off limits to tourists, the Aussie version of Stonehenge will be open to tourists and will be available for hire for weddings.

Saturday, 29 March 2008

Sam Neill Releases New Affordable Wines

New Zealand actor Sam Neill (famous for his role in Jurassic Park and more recently The Tudors) is expanding his wine business, with the release of what he describes as an "affordable" label in the USA. Neill planted his first vineyard, Two Paddocks, in 1993 and reckons that wine is in his blood – Neill is the son of 3 generations of importers of French vintages to New Zealand.

The new wines are in addition to the Two Paddocks Pinot Noir label and are called Picnic Wines. The new range will include merlot, sauvignon blanc, chardonnay and riesling. Neill will expand production from his base in the Central Otago area of New Zealand's South Island by buying in grapes from Marlborough and Hawke's Bay.

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Thursday, 27 March 2008

The Secret of Johnny Depp's Youth

The Mirror has reported that Johnny Depp's youthful good looks are down to his exercise regime and his diet. At a recent stay in Vancouver Johnny's fridge had to be stocked with blueberries, strawberries, pineapple, kiwi and soy milk. Johnny's diet, hotel staff were told, must be low-sodium, not greasy and any dressings must be low-calorie. Depp also had his favourite tipple to hand – Bordeaux. He was given a bottle of Château Haut Brion wine.

Depp's favourite wine is Château Calon-Ségur, a Saint Estéphe and red wine has long been held responsible for the French Paradox – the fact that the French live a long and healthy life due to their love of red wine. Roger Corder's book The Red Wine Diet has investigated this phenomenon and resveratrol (found in red wine) is being proclaimed a wonder drug which is claimed to induce, amongst many other things, longevity.

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Wednesday, 26 March 2008

The Bruce Willis Wine Bar

Bruce Willis – the 'Die Hard' actor is the joint owner of Manhattan Bowery Wine Co., which is set to open the doors of a new wine bar – Bar Q - in the trendy East Village.

Owner Chris Sileo said: "It's upscale and loungy. We'll have high-end, light fare that will include paninis, salads and desserts."

Last week, Willis threw his own pre-opening private bash to christen the venue, where guests included his close friends, Sopranos stars Vincent Curatola and John Ventimiglia. During the evening's festivities, the 52-year-old star took his place behind the bar and served drinks.

Willis previously opened the Planet Hollywood chain with Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sylvester Stallone and also owns The Mint nightclub and The Liberty Theatre.

The Sopranos stars already have a wine maker amongst them – Lorraine Bracco. Bracco Wines was established in 2005 when she visited vineyards in Italy to hand pick wines (Pinot Grigio, Montepulciano, Primitivo, Chianti, Barolo and Amarone.) Bracco has Italian roots and loves Old World wines and cuisine – she even named her daughter Margaux after Château Margaux in Bordeaux!

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The Two Faces of Chardonnay

Chardonnay is what vintners call a “malleable” grape as it can make wine in a variety of styles reflecting the wine maker's art and the terroir in which it is grown. It originated in Burgundy and is used to make the great white Burgundies, Chablis and Champagnes. In Jura, Chardonnay is sometimes treated to the same type of flor yeast found in Sherry and it is used to create vin de paille dessert wines.

Champagne, Chablis and Burgundy account for more than three-fifths of all Chardonnay plantings in France. The next largest concentration is found in the Languedoc. It is one of the most widely planted grape varieties and became immensely popular in the 1980s and 90s. In 2002 there were 66 British babies named Chardonnay and another 14 named Chardonnay; in 2003 there were 91 Chardonnays born in the UK.

The style of Chardonnay in the 80s and 90s was the oaked variety – buttery and with flavours of vanilla, caramel, cream, smoke, spice, coconut, cloves and cinnamon. There was a global backlash against the grape as Chardonnay flooded the market and the phrase ABC was coined (Anything But Chardonnay).

Yet there is Chardonnay . . . and there is Chardonnay – the unoaked variety, made in steel vats which is completely different to the oaked variety. It can have the flavours of tropical fruits such as mango and pineapple but more commonly has those of apple, pear, almond lime blossom and citrus. They are bright, brisk and minerally with palate cleansing natural acidity.

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Monday, 24 March 2008

Montagnac Sauvignon Blanc

Montagnac Sauvignon Blanc (£4.75) is quite simply my favourite white wine of the moment. It's a pale yellow gold, with an attractive light orange tinge. It has aromas of honey, peach, apple and orange peel with smoky and floral hints. In the mouth it has flavours of zesty lemon, herbs and spice, and a touch of caramel and crystallised fruit. Soft but certainly not creamy, with superb balance and a very decent length.

It's made in the Languedoc which has been one of France's up and coming wine regions for a while now. Blessed with some fantastic terroirs and micro-climates this is one of the most southern parts of France, facing the Mediterranean and looking on to the Pyrenees. Produced by a small co-operative dating back to the 1930s the vineyards stretch from the banks of Thau Lagoon to the foothills of the mountains on the right bank of the River Hérault.

The vines are grown in small parcels on old terraces on limestone and clay slopes and are pruned using the Cordon de Royat which means that a single spur is trained along a wire allowing for plenty of sunlight to ripen the grapes and greater control over yields. The co-operative's motto is “the terroir of the sea” as the warm breezes from the Mediterranean nurture their grapes.
If you'd like to learn more check out Nick's Blog: Discovering Montagnac Sauvignon Blanc.

Sunday, 23 March 2008

Sauvignon Blanc – A Walk on the Wild Side

Sauvignon Blanc literally means “wild white” in French and it originates from Bordeaux and south west France. It makes the famous white wines of Bordeaux (Château Margaux's Pavillon Blanc), Pouilly Fumé and Sancerre in the Loire Valley and the great dessert wines of Sauternes (Château d'Yquem being the most famous) and Barsac.

The flavours of Sauvignon Blanc depend very much on where it is grown and on what soil. It has a natural acidity and is used in dry, medium, sweet and sparkling wines . Sauvignon Blanc can have the taste of freshly mown grass, gooseberries, elderflower, apples, green peppers and lemons. However it can also have the flavours of passion fruit, melon, vanilla and dried fruits. The dessert wines taste of honey, candied fruits, toasted nuts and dried pineapple. Pouilly Fumé is made on Sauvignon Blanc grown on flinty soil with deposits of limestone and has a smoky, gun flint flavour - hence Fumé, the French word for "smoke" was attached to the wine.

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Saturday, 22 March 2008

Home Made Chocolate Easter Eggs

Home made Easter Eggs are easy to make:

300g/10½oz chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
icing for piping Easter eggs
8 x small egg moulds - (available from specialist kitchen shops)

Wipe the interior of each mould with a little sunflower oil – this gives a shine to the chocolate when it is finished as well as stopping the chocolate from sticking. Break the chocolate into small, even pieces and melt gently in a bowl over a saucepan of hot, not boiling, water. Place a cooking thermometer into the chocolate and heat until it reaches 43C/110F. Take off the heat and cool to 35C/95F.

Pour spoonfuls of the chocolate into each mould. Swirl around until coated, use the pastry brush if necessary and then remove excess chocolate. Leave to set, flat side down on a surface. You will have to repeat the process another two or three times to build up a good layer of chocolate in each mould. Wait for about 20 minutes for the chocolate to set in between layers. Draw a clean ruler or the flat edge of a knife across the chocolate to ensure a clean edge every time you add a layer. This is important so that the two sides of the egg stick together evenly. Leave to chill in a larder or cool place until set.

Carefully take out the egg halves from the moulds and place on a clean surface. To stick the two edges of an egg together, heat a baking sheet and then place the edges of two halves on it for a few seconds, then gently push the edges together. To decorate the eggs, sit an egg in a glass or small cup and use as a stand while you pipe your desired message on the egg.

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Friday, 21 March 2008

Chocolate Easter Eggs

Easter eggs hail from an ancient custom where the egg represented fertility and new beginnings and were given as gifts long before the arrival of Christianity. The tradition of colouring eggs in bright colours - representing the sunlight of spring - goes back to the Middle Ages. In medieval times eggs were traditionally given at Easter to all servants. King Edward I had 450 eggs boiled before Easter, dyed or covered with gold leaf, which he distributed to the members of the royal household on Easter Day. The most famous and ornate of Easter eggs must be the jewelled and enamelled eggs that Fabergé was commissioned to make for the Russian Tsars.

The chocolate Easter Egg came into being on the continent with France and Germany taking the lead in its development. However it is claimed that Frys Chocolate invented the first Easter Egg in 1873. The Milk Chocolate Easter Egg was invented in 1905. Cadbury's later took over Frys and the Cadbury's Creme Egg was created in the early 1920s, although the Creme Egg as we know it was not released until 1921.

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Thursday, 20 March 2008

Montagnac Chardonnay

Montagnac Chardonnay (£4.75) is an unoaked wine which has flavours of summer flowers, green apples, tart lemons and vanilla with a sherbet bite on the finish. In the mouth it is smooth and simple with good acidity and plenty of fruit flavours coming through with the added attraction that there is no presence of oak! It leaves you with a “clean” mouth feel unlike the Oaked Chardonnays at the other end of the spectrum which are heavier and has gone through a process called malolactic conversion/fermentation to give it a thicker, more viscous feel in the mouth.

Montagnac Chardonnay comes from Hérault in the Languedoc. The Languedoc-Roussillon region shares many terrain and climate characteristics with the neighbouring regions of Southern Rhone and Provence. The region stretches 150 miles from the Banyuls AOC at the Spanish border and Pyrenees in the west, along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea to the Rhone River and Provence in the east. The northern boundaries of the region sit on the Massif Central with the Cévennes mountain ranges and valleys dominating the area. Many vineyards are located along the Hérault River. Some of the vineyards are laid on top of ancient riverbed stones similar to those of Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

If you'd like to learn more check out Nick's Blog: Discovering Montagnac Chardonnay.

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Wednesday, 19 March 2008

Wine and Chocolate

Chocolate originated from the Aztecs in Mexico and was a drink called xocolatl made from Cacao. The Olmecs, the oldest known civilization of the Americas, were the first users of cacao. It was a bitter, spicy drink and was often flavoured with vanilla, chilli and annatto. It was believed that it could fight fatigue and that it was an aphrodisiac. Hernando Cortez was the first European to note chocolate when he visited the court of Emperor Montezuma of Mexico in 1519.

It became popular in Europe and the first chocolate house was reputedly opened in London in 1657 by a Frenchman. The 17th century French Cardinal Mazarin never travelled without his personal chocolate maker. King Louis XIV of France established in his court the position of "Royal Chocolate Maker to the King."

In 1847 the Fry's Chocolate Factory located in Keynsham, near Bristol, moulded the first ever chocolate bar suitable for widespread for consumption and the rest is history.

There is much talk over pairing wine with chocolate - some say it's an impossible task. There are rules of thought that say you should pair a dry wine with the chocolate – and rules that say that the wine should be at least as sweet, if not a touch sweeter, than the chocolate you are serving it with. Otherwise, the taste may quickly veer towards sour.

To be perfectly honest it depends on your own palette. I find that I prefer a drier more acidic red like Cabernet Sauvignon with Milk Chocolate and a Merlot based wine with bitter sweet Dark Chocolate. If White Chocolate is on the menu then you need a nutty, citrus flavoured wine – perhaps a Chardonnay or a Sauvignon Blanc. As chocolate can have complex flavours I wouldn't try to compete with it by drinking a complex wine – single grape varieties are a good choice.

Try the Montagnac range (all at £4.75) – Montagnac Cabernet Sauvignon, Montagnac Merlot, Montagnac Chardonnay and Montagnac Sauvignon Blanc.

If in doubt the one thing to remember is that Champagne or Sparkling Wine will go well with both Dark and Milk chocolates!

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Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Salad Days - With Wine

Long gone are the days of a floppy lettuce and half a tomato – salads are now sumptuous affairs crammed with crisp green leaves and vibrant vegetables. Summer salads can be notoriously tricky to pair with wines – but not if you know what you are doing.

The main culprit is not the salad but the dressing due to the fact that it is acidic. Too much aggressive acid will make the wine taste flat and dull, even when the wine starts out bright and crisp. The best advice is to avoid starting a "war of acids" between the two partners. A little bit of acid can harmonize beautifully with wine; just keep acids in balance.

Vinegar is just plain unfriendly to almost any wine and should be used sparingly. Balsamic, Sherry or Rice Wine vinegars tend to be sweeter and less astringent. You could use an alternative to Vinegar and an old restaurant trick is to substitute the Vinegar for wine in the dressing.

You can replace acid ingredients with other liquids that are intense, but not sharp, such as rich chicken, veal, fish or vegetable stock, Worcester sauce, soy sauce, juices from roasted meats or vegetables or roasted garlic purée.

Using different oils can make an important link with the wine – there are plenty of fruit and nut oils available as an alternative to olive oil. Salads with nut oils bring out the nutty, toasty taste of Chardonnay - try the Montagnac Chardonnay (£4.75), as it's un-oaked, clean and has flavours of apple, citrus and pear with a nice little sherbet bite on the finish. Andrew over at Spittoon tried it with Fish Skewers with Thai Spices from Waitrose and rated it 90/100.

The other tip to is include lots of ingredients in your salad whose flavours and textures complement and contrast with (and in some cases mitigate) the wine. These can echo the flavours in the wine, such as fresh berries that pick up the ripe berry flavors of Rosé, for example, or a slice of sweet pear that's similar to the sweetness in a White Bordeaux. Another type of bridge ingredient might contrast with - not echo - the wine. The heat of a chilli laced dressing will play nicely off a sparkling wine.

Sometimes ingredients can play down troublesome characteristics of the wine. For example, the tannins in a robust red wine would be too much for a simple salad of greens and vegetables, but some slices of rare grilled beef or a round of smoked mozzarella will make the tannins much milder and more agreeable. If you love red wine then Château Au Berton (£6.75) is your perfect partner for salads. It is low in tannins and can even be served chilled. Château Au Berton is a 1998 Medoc and has a nicely balanced, clean fruity flavour with a silky finish.

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Monday, 17 March 2008

Crémant d'Alsace, Josef Pfister

Crémant is the French word for "creaming" - this means that they are made with slightly more than half the pressure of champagne. This doesn’t give them any less sparkle but makes a wine with a dense, fizzy mousse of bubbles and a delicious refreshing tingle on the tongue.

Crémant d'Alsace, Josef Pfister is a sparkling wine from Alsace made with Pinot Noir, Pinot Auxerrois and Pinot Blanc grapes. It has the flavours of apricots, plums, almonds and lime blossom.

Today, Crémant d’Alsace is the market leader in at-home sales of AOC sparkling wines in France. It’s an undiscovered gem. Crémant d’Alsace is a favourite of those vintners who make Champagne and you’ll find it gracing most celebrations and parties in France.

Rose Murray Brown has recommended Crémant d'Alsace Joseph Pfister £8.49 in her article “Sparkling Company” in the Scotsman as one of the best sparkling wines for under £10.00:

“Lime blossom aromas, very creamy deep fruits, good finish for the price.”

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Sunday, 16 March 2008

Pinot Blanc – The Poor Man's Chardonnay

Pinot Blanc almost certainly originated in Burgundy where it once flourished alongside Chardonnay. It's an often overlooked grape and is known as the Poor Man's Chardonnay. As luck will have it the Chardonnays of today have spurned ageing in oak barrels and are returning to a lighter style which is more typical of Pinot Blanc. Today, while some patches may be found in Burgundy, most of the Pinot Blanc grown in France is found in Alsace, where it is one of the most widely planted varietals.

Pinot Blanc from Alsace is one of the best bargains in the wine world. The use of new oak in Alsatian wine making is extremely rare, so Pinot Blanc here must rely on its fruit. It is more acidic than Pinot Auxerrois and has the flavour of creamy lemons, lime blossom, vanilla, spicy pear and anise. Albeit clean and refreshing, it can also be nutty and rich, with a delicate smoky character. Pinot Blanc will make your mouth water – and it makes racy, viscous wine. The best examples are immediately appealing, offering a delightful plumpness with rich, juicy fruit.

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Saturday, 15 March 2008

Aromatic Pinot Auxerrois

Pinot Auxerrois is thought to have originated in Lorraine, rather than near Auxerre, the town from whence it takes its name. Auxerre is a commune in the Bourgogne region of central France more famous now for its Chablis. Pinot Auxerrois is found in Alsace, located on the border between France and Germany. It makes aromatic, dry, crisp, full bodied wines with balanced acidity and flavours from honey through to asparagus, dependent on the method of production. It can have hints of peach, pear, nectarine and almond.

Recent DNA fingerprinting suggests that it is a cross dating from Medieval times between the Gouais Blanc grape and Pinot Noir with the same ancestry as Chardonnay. It's quite rare with only about 500 acres planted world wide. Being softer in texture and lower in acidity it is used as a blend to make the sparkling Alsatian wines known as Crémant.

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Friday, 14 March 2008

Passionate Pinot Noir

People get passionate about Pinot Noir – perhaps because it's one of the most difficult grapes to grow but is also one of the most desired. It has the wonderfully heady perfume of raspberries, mulberries, cherries, strawberries, violets, peppermint and even green tea.
Pinot Noir was popularised by the film Sideways which did more for the grape than any sustained marketing effort. Sales rose due in large part to sustained moviegoers’ enthusiasm for their new found wine. It may be a new found wine for some but Pinot Noir has an ancient and noble history.

This is the famous grape variety used for the greatest Burgundy wines and Champagnes. Pinot Noir takes its name from the French for “pine” and “black” as the the grapes resemble pine cones with their tightly clustered fruits. It's an old variety which is only 1 or 2 generations removed from the wild grape vine itself and is thought to have originated in Burgundy. Reference is made to it in the 1st century AD growing there and the vines were probably transported to France by the ancient Greeks.

The grape is rich in resveratrol – the anti-oxidant in red wine that been widely associated with health benefits ranging from anti-ageing to boosting anti-viral treatments. Pinot Noir is 3 to 4 times higher compared to other varieties. It is also the first fruit plant to have its genome (genetic map) decoded. Last year French and Italian scientists unravelled Pinot Noir's genes and it showed the handiwork of master wine growers going right back to the Stone Age.

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Thursday, 13 March 2008

Montagnac Merlot, 2006, Vins de Pays d'Oc

The more I drink this wine, the more I fall in love with it. It's a single grape variety and hails from the Languedoc. The Languedoc is famous for its garagiste wines with dense and complex aromas reflecting the diversity of the terrain. With the mountains on one side and the Mediterranean on the other this is becoming a popular wine growing region.

Montagnac Merlot is produced by a small co-operative dating back to the 1930s and its vineyards stretch from the banks of Thau Lagoon to the foothills of the mountains on the right bank of the River Hérault. The vines are grown in small parcels on old terraces on limestone and clay slopes.

It's an easy drinking wine and is great for first time wine drinkers. It's a deep, dark garnet colour – think of damsons and that's the perfect hue. What I love about it is its mouth feel – it's soft, sensuous and smooth. It has the aroma of ripe perfumed cherries with a hint of dark chocolate and hay. The flavour is of blackberries and currants. It's outstanding value at £4.75 and worth every drop.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Marvellous Merlot

Merlot wine has been much maligned in recent years thanks to the film Sideways. Unbelievably sales of wines made from Merlot dropped after it was sneered at in the film. Subsequently people have been missing out on the gorgeous wines that this grape makes. Merlot is one of the 6 grapes permitted in the blend which makes claret in Bordeaux – it's added to give body and softness. In the regions of Pomerol and Saint Emilion it's not unusual for Merlot to comprise the majority of the blend - one of the most famous and rare wines in the world, Château Pétrus, is almost all Merlot.

Merlot-based wines usually have medium body with the flavours of damson, black currant, blue berry, mocha chocolate and can also spiciness, grass and bell pepper notes. They are smooth, rounded wines with mellow tannins.

Merlot means “little blackbird” in French either because of the grape's beautiful dark colour or because of the blackbird's fondness of the grapes. It's thought that merlot originated in Bordeaux and the earliest recorded mention of Merlot was in the notes of a local Bordeaux official who in 1784 labelled wine made from the grape in the Libournais region as one of the area's best.

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Tuesday, 11 March 2008

It's Not In The Nose

If you think you smell a wine differently to those around you, chances are you do according to the online magazine Nature. So whilst someone waxes lyrical about the hint of vanilla that you just can't smell in the wine there is no need to think that you have a faulty sense of smell.

New scientific evidence that proves people smell the world differently because of their genes. Scientists from Rockefeller University in New York found that small changes in one gene can cause people to variously perceive a key ingredient of male body odour as smelling sweaty, urinous, floral, sweet, odourless or even of vanilla!

It is known that some people are blind to smells like vanilla and musk that can be part of the smell of wine. To them, wine will smell different. It is likely that at least some of these effects are caused by variability in odorant receptors.

If an aroma in a wine reminds you of something – for example pears, green peppers or plums – it's because all food and drink is made up of a complex combination of molecules, some being more aromatic than others.

One of the typical compounds found in pears, hexyl acetate, is also responsible for the scent of pears in a wine – likewise green peppers (often associated with Sauvignon Blanc) share a similar compound – methoxy 2 isobutyl 3 pyrazine.

As for a wine that smells closest to a grape, the best examples are those made with the muscat grape, also known as muscadelle.

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Monday, 10 March 2008

New Channel 4 Wine Series – Château Monty

Top wine critic and author Monty Waldin is making a new television series for Channel 4 which will be aired later this year. According to Channel 4 Sales who are looking for sponsors for the programme:

“Monty has decided to put his money where his mouth is and pack it all in to make wine bio-dynamically in rural south west France. He has just over a year to achieve his dream to turn a few hectares into top selling organic wine. Once ensconced, his only company will be a donkey, visiting friends from the UK, incredulous local peasantry and occasionally, Monty's high maintenance girlfriend, Silvana who jets in from Italy.”

The series follows Monty in his bid to produce a viable wine within 18 months of renting a vineyard in the Roussillon region of the French Pyrenees. Waldin's wine is made under biodynamic strictures, which include harvesting according to lunar cycles and a reliance on nature to protect and feed the vines.

An official tie-in book, with the same title, will be released to coincide with the series and covers all aspects of the project.

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Sunday, 9 March 2008

Avril Lavigne and Wine

The Canadian Grammy award nominated pop punk singer Avril Lavigne has become a connoisseur of wine. Ironically enough her name actually means “April Vine” translated from the French. Lavigne has also fledged as an actress – she made her film début in the animated film Over the Hedge and has appeared in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, performing Sk8er Boi with her band as well as acting in the Richard Gere film The Flock. She also wrote and recorded the song Keep Holding On for the Eragon soundtrack with Dr Luke as well as recording the theme song for The Sponge Bob Square Pants movie.

The singer now enjoys spending evenings in sampling rare bottles of wine with her rocker husband Deryck Whibley.

She told American magazine Maxim, "I'm really enjoying wine now. I signed up to be on this wine list where they send you stuff that isn't sold in stores."

Last night we drank some Opus One."

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Saturday, 8 March 2008

LeAnn Rimes New Wine Release

You may remember the talented singer/song writer LeAnn Rimes from the film Coyote Ugly. LeAnn has 2 Grammy Awards under her belt and is the youngest person to win a Grammy and her version of How Do I Live is currently the longest charting song in the US charts at 69 weeks.

LeAnn's new song Good Friends And A Glass of Wine was released 4th March with Estancia Winery in California as the official sponsor of her new music video. The video will feature LeAnn and her friends relaxing on white antique couches sipping glasses of Estancia Pinot Noir and Chardonnay while chatting away the stresses of the day.

You can listen to Good Friends And A Glass of Wine here.

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Friday, 7 March 2008

Benzema or Bordeaux?

Manchester United's Sir Alex Ferguson has been told by Lyon president Jean-Michel Aulas that he will not be able to sign the highly rated striker Karim Benzema.

Aulas has told Ferguson that the closest he will get to signing Benzema is a free bottle of wine from the year of the player's birth.

"As we are people of fair play, we have brought a bottle of red wine chosen from the year Benzema was born," he told The Sun. "It's from 1987 - a very fine wine.”

"Instead of buying Benzema, he will get a bottle of fine Bordeaux."

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Thursday, 6 March 2008

Dr. Dre Launches Sparkling Vodka

Dr Dre, the famous rapper and record executive (who is known for producing Eminen, 50 Cent and his step brother Snoop Dog) has branched into the drinks industry. He is partnering with Drinks Americas (the same people behind Trump Vodka, Willie Nelson's Old Whiskey River Bourbon and Paul Newman’s Lightly Sparkling Fruit Juice Drinks and Flavoured Waters) on a new line of non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages.

The first products will be a premium cognac selection, followed by a sparkling vodka. He also has plans to create a tequila.

My first thought is “what in earth is sparkling vodka?” Vodka and Soda? (Yuck). There is only one other Sparkling Vodka I can find and that is Vodka O2. It is made by International English Distillers who claim it is the world's first 80 proof sparkling vodka. It took 18 months to develop the process that puts oxygen bubbles into the smooth tasting vodka to leave a lightly effervescent texture that gently tingles on the tongue.

This British vodka is produced predominately from wheat and a small amount of malted barley and is distilled and filtered three times in 100 year old copper pot stills.

The makers have created a range of over 20 original vodka based cocktails they call Tapastini, inspired by Spanish tapas. The classic vodka Martini is served with tasters of complimentary foods either presented on a cocktail stick or placed in the vodka, for example a Caviartini or Sushitini and for the sweeter tooth Jellybinis and Truffletini.

I like Vodka but I am afraid I am just not a Jellybini kind of girl! And as for Dr Dre – talented genius he may be – but there is a lot of competition there, eg: Damon Dash's Armadale Vodka, Jay-Z's Cognac, and Dipset's Sizzurp Purple Punch Liqueur. . .

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Wednesday, 5 March 2008

Lil' Jon To Make Wine

The hip hop entrepreneur Lil' Jon, who brought us Crunk Music, is getting into the wine business - the rapper is producing a line of wine from his own Little Jonathan Winery. Lil' Jon is the multi-platinum man behind hits for Usher, Ludacris and Ciara.

According to Black Voices, Jon recently unveiled the wines in California and anticipates it going national within the next two months:

"I love wine and I think that it's an untapped market for the urban consumer. I wanted it to be the best, so we chose a world renowned wine maker, Alison Crowe, to bottle and create my Little Jonathan Winery,"

Lil' Jon is offering a merlot, chardonnay and cabernet sauvignon. The idea being spawned during ESPN's Winter X Games, Lil' Jon and company planned on making the wine exclusive for just events that came up:

"We thought it would be a cool option to have for people that didn't want to drink hard liquor or beer that weekend," he explained. "My partners are in the wine business and when they mentioned the idea to their friends, who are wine brokers, they loved it and suggested we make the wine available for the masses. Of course, I was down with the idea!"

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Tuesday, 4 March 2008

Wine in a Can is Not As New As You Think!

Allan Green, owner and winemaker of Greenwood Ridge Vineyards in Anderson Valley (Mendocino County), has the largest wine can collection in the world. It's an interesting honour because, as far as he knows, he is also the only person accumulating them.

Green received his first wine can in 1980 and now most of his 400 or so cans he keeps at home in a room that's lined floor to ceiling with shelves. That first can was an attempt to jump on the bandwagon of the successful tin packaging of beer in 1935. Acampa Brand California Muscatel from Acampa Winery in Lodi (San Joaquin County) was one of the first to give it a try in 1936. With this can in his possession, Green's fledgling collection was off and running.

An early addition that remains a favourite is "Smile-with-Vin-Tin-Age" California Port, produced in Elk Grove (Sacramento County). It features, as he describes, "a bow-tied, red-faced guy lifting his glass in salute who looks as if he is enjoying his wine to the extreme." Contents: 20% alcohol.

If he has what he calls the "unfortunate circumstance" of obtaining the wine cans when they're full, he disposes of the contents. After all, canned wines aren't exactly meant to be aged. When asked the inevitable question, "Would Greenwood Ridge ever consider cans?" Green's answer comes as a question of its own: "If you made a fine wine that you were very proud of, would you put it in a can?"

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Monday, 3 March 2008

The First Native American Winery

North Carolina can now boast to having the first Native American Winery. When Darlene Gabbard started bottling wine, it was a hobby, something she gave away as gifts. Ten years later, her winery has become the first Native American-owned winery in the country. Native Vines Winery doesn't have expensive bottling equipment; instead they rely on simple manual machines to fill each bottle of wine individually.

Most of the wine names honour Gabbard's Indian heritage. She designed each bottle's labels with a turquoise arrowhead and traditional Indian design. You can choose between Warhorse Red Pinot Noir, Red Hawk Merlot and White Buffalo Chenin Blanc.

Gabbard says she hopes to be able to produce 10,000 gallons of wine a year, just enough to support their farm and their family. The farm also makes wine jellies, fruit wines, soaps and traditional home made preserves and pickles. The family hopes to have the renovations and an expansion of the winery completed by mid-April. That's when they plan to celebrate the grand opening with a Pow-Wow, a ceremony and a meeting among Native Americans.

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Sunday, 2 March 2008

Wine Wins Over NASCAR

Nick blogged about NASCAR falling in love with wine last year. Wine is mixing with the whine of NASCAR engines. Wineries are forming racing teams. Drivers are making wine and visiting tasting rooms.

Cars are being daubed with images of the grape - Bennett Lane, a winery in Calistoga is a NASCAR Grand National Division West sponsor and car Number 2 sports a yellow finish with purple grapes! Bennett Lane cites some figures that maintain NASCAR fans are taking to wine-drinking at a rate 15% ahead of the nation at large.

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Saturday, 1 March 2008

The Largest Champagne Fountain in the World

An attempt is under way to break the record for the largest champagne fountain in the world at the Wijnegem shopping centre near Antwerp.

The 22.9 foot (7 meter) high pyramid of 43,000 glasses weighing 19,590 pounds (8,750 kilos) will attempt to break the record held by Luuk Broos, director of Maison Luuk-Chalet Fontain.

Luuk’s 56-story champagne fountain was made from 30,856 traditional long-stem glasses at the Steigenberger Kurhaus Hotel in Scheveningen, Netherlands on December 30 1999.

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