Rubicon, semi sweet wine, volcanic malvasia from Lanzarote

Many Brits can last a winter up until about mid January before they start falling apart. The jet stream delivers warm currents to our south western shores that deceives us into believing that we are further south than we really are. Unfortunately, come February, the jet stream itself seems to have abandoned us, so like migratory birds many people flee the UK for sunnier climbs. 

A favourite place for many with guaranteed warmth are the Canary Islands sitting off the coast of north Africa. In recent years these islands have had their reputation blighted (ironically) by us Brits who turn up there by the plane load and party like crazy. A colleague of mine has just returned from Lanzarote with tales of a much fairer nature.

The island of Lanzarote, we hear, is very beautiful. Step outside the tourist hotspots and you’ll find a treasure trove of small coves and villages. The beaches are black from the volcanic stone but the allure of sunshine, swimming and Spanish island culture is enough to wet the appetite.

Now add to this that Lanzarote is a unique wine producing place where vines grow in picturesque solitude in the Le Geria valley, in small craters especially dug out to protect them. In some cases stone barricades are built in small semi-circles to protect the vine from harsh storms that blow across the landscape. The brittle rock provides exceptional drainage allowing the roots to dig deep and rely on a constant source of drinking water.

Colleague Carolynn strolled back into the office, refreshed and brandishing a bottle of Rubicon, a semi sweet wine from the island. Very little of the wine washes up on these shores because production is small, quality is high and locals and visitors love it. Yup, they sell out.

Bodega Rubicon - in the heart of La Geria


The Bodega Rubicon first started out in the middle of the 18th century in the heart of the picturesque Le Geria valley in Lanzarote. The rugged landscape is dominated by the vines that grow in an orderly, precise looking arrangement. 

Bodega Rubicon uses new wine making technology to produce sweet and semi sweet wines. The sample that Carolyn returned with had a distinct light white peach aroma, with very balanced acidity that crucially preserves the freshness and avoids cloying. There is a mineral note to the wine, which I would use to describe a stoney, non-fruity domension. Some scientists say that minerality and the terroir where the wine grows are not related. In this case then, we can only point to a high-level of circumstantial evidence. It’s a perfect aperitif wine, serve chilled with an array of cold tapas. each glass begs another.

Malvasia grapes

Malvasia is an ancient grape variety grown predominantly but not exclusively in the Mediterranean. It is used almost exclusively to produce sweet wines and is very common in places like Spain, Italy and especially the Canary Islands. As evidenced here, malvasia can produce highly quality charming wines.

The tip: If you’re on the island, take a day out and visit some wineries (bodegas). If you spot a bottle here in the UK, pick up and take it home. If you can’t get any then at least try a malvasia wine from another country. It’s worth getting an idea of what this tasty grape can offer.


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Popping into Brixton? Make sure to drop in on Market Row Wines

Market Row in Brixton is a little hive of quality food outlets. If it is wine you are after then do make the effort to checkout Market Row Wines. It's a dinky little shop in the arcade that has a strong emphasis on organic wines. Keep in mind the distinction between organic and natural wines. In general I am not a fan of natural wines as there is no sulphur added to help preserve the wine in the bottle. However, organic wines, that often deliver great flavours without chemical additives in the vineyard have much to be admired. This can be a controversial subject as in times of wetness where damp can lead to rot, wine producers may start spraying their vines with copper. How healthy that must be in large quantities is debatable. However, on the whole, organic wines are a great way to ensure you getting the wine as nature intended, less the chemical pesticides and herbicides. It should also be mentioned that there are many wine producers who make their wines organically but do not bother to have them certified. Because the climate is so suitable for growing grapes, the vine growers can let nature do her work without any need to spray.

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This Vina Fuentenarro, Ribera del Duero, 2014 from Spain was a big hit in our office tasting. A big distinguishing factor is the 4 months in American oak which adds a vanilla flavour to the wine. Unlike in some instances in Spanish wines, the oak in the Vina Fuentenarro is really well integrated. It is not overpowering the fruit which is another really attractive dimention of this wine. Think dark berries and redberry, a lovely silky smooth body and good lingering flavours in the mouth. Really good wine.

Another big plus here is the price. At £11.50 this is a bargain. I noticed as I looked across the range in Market Row Wines that they have a lot of options at tis price point. I was particularly tempted by a couple of wines from the Rhone... next time!

Do give this a go if you're passing. Enjoy!

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Sicilian wine that sings: Donnafugata (+free recipe ebook)

Back in the Autumn I was invited to a lovely lunch at the Modern Pantry in Clerkenwell to meet the elegant José Rallo of Donnafugata wines in Siciliy. We tasted six wines from the portfolio, pairing each with a different course.

These are wines of character and there is no one better to present them than José. If you watch the video below you can see that we were serenaded as we tasted. Add a comment

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Dos & don'ts of Valentine's Day (it's simple)

Eating out on St Valentine's Day is cheesy (we all know that), so many of us choose to discuss this sensibly with our partners and agree to go out on another night close to the 14th. The palpable shudder of relief in being spared the grimness of other couples celebrating this valiant and noble saint's day, is also sometimes accompanied by a pang of missing out. Even if the man doesn't feel it, he ought to admit that it is worth hedging against.

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Opening night at wild + lees

InDulwich popped down to wild + lees at 2 Half Moon Lane for it’s opening last night and enjoyed a glass of fresh and fruity Cline Viogneer 2015, enough to buy a bottle to take home. It was a relaxed opening; Open bottles and some nibbles, couple sitting at the window counter drinking a bottle of cava and interesting labels to catch the eye.

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Cote de Brouilly: 1 sip & I'm loafing in bars on boulevards of #Paris.

Whilst walking at high speed through Herne Hill last Sunday I passed the newly established Wild & Lees under the railway bridge in Herne Hill and dropped in to see what was on offer. With so much talk of our amputation from Europe, I felt a pang of nostalgia for the boulevards and cafes of Paris at the sight of this bottle from the beaujolais subregion of Cote de Brouilly.  Add a comment

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Villa Maria Private Bin Shiraz, Hawkes Bay 2014

Attractive wine for Autumn, lots of plum and dark fruit aromas, a touch herb and even liquorice flavours. Very attractive and easy to drink. 

As temperatures fall through the floor here in Britain our veg turns heartier, Add a comment

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