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The ICC group met on Thursday 20th June to taste wines made by female winemakers. It was an interesting tasting with a good range of wines from Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Spain, France and Portugal. Wines were sourced from three different wholesalers: Liberty, Enotria and Inverarity Morton. The prices are the RRP that the wines sell for (or would sell for) in Brigitte Bordeaux. Here are my notes:


MOUNT HORROCKS 2018 ‘Watervale’ Clare Valley Riesling, 12.5%, £22.99
A fresh, dry Riesling with plenty of minerality. Flavours of lime, green apple and blossom with some early diesel hints. Very enjoyable!
Quality: 15/20                    Value: 14/20

TINPOT HUT 2016 McKee Vineyard Grüner Veltliner, 13%, £16.50
A subtle nose of peach and honeysuckle is followed on the palate by more stone fruit, lime notes and delicate white pepper hints on a mid-length, dry finish. Good balance of fruit and acidity with a refreshing minerality.
Quality 15/20                     Value: 15/20

LEYDA 2015 Chardonnay ‘Lot 5’, 14%, £18.90
This is a big, full bodied Chardonnay, fermented and aged for 10 months in French oak, 30% of which is new. The oak influence is well integrated with plenty of tropical fruit. Only 10% underwent malolactic fermentation leaving a fresh acidity to complement the rounded texture and long honeyed finish.
Quality 16/20                     Value: 16/20

LOBBAN NV Sparkling Shiraz, 13%, £19.50
This Spanish sparking red made from 95% Shiraz and 5% Garnacha was unanimously unpopular at the tasting, though Decanter magazine rated it highly enough to award it a Silver medal at the Decanter World Wine Awards 2014. Perhaps it is an acquired taste, but the unusual savoury flavours which were difficult to pin down specifically, were reminiscent of some sort of herbal medicine. Not a patch on England’s Camel Valley Sparkling Red which some of us tasted during English Wine Week at the end of May.
Quality 11/20                     Value: 8/20

DOMAINE JONES 2015 Fitou, 14.5%, £20.95
A blend of Carignan, Grenache and Syrah, with some of the fruit coming from very old vines. The result is a full-bodied and intense wine packed with berry fruit. Slightly jammy but with some herbal notes giving more complexity.
Quality 14/20              Value: 14/20

QUINTA DOS CARVALHAIS 2015 Dão Touriga Nacional, 14.5%, £21.99
Pronounced aromas of red fruit and violets on the nose. On the palate, the red fruit and violet notes are supported by some warm spice. Smooth tannins and good acidity contribute to a well balanced wine with the floral and spicy notes persisting in a medium-length finish.
Quality 15/20                     Value: 14/20

I’m not sure we identified any particular shared characteristics in these wines by female winemakers, but it was an interesting and enjoyable tasting nonetheless.

See you next time,
Brigitte. x


woman wine

In a patriarchal world, it’s no surprise that the wine industry, like many other industries, has always been male-dominated. This androcentricity is perfectly illustrated by the name of the first Champagne House to be run by a woman when her husband died in 1805, ‘Veuve Cliquot’ or ‘Widow Cliquot’, defining Barbe-Nicole Clicquot Ponsardin by her relationship to her dead husband.

If we had attempted this tasting twenty or thirty years ago, I would certainly have had more of a job sourcing the wines. As it is, in 2019 there are plenty of great female winemakers whose wines I could have chosen, and whittling it down to my final line-up was quite difficult. That’s not to say any sort of parity has been reached in the world of winemaking but rather that there are many more female winemakers than there used to be and that they are producing some great wines.

Last year saw a new bar open in London’s Covent Garden, called Lady of the Grapes, which showcases wines made predominately by female winemakers. Prior to that, Daphne’s, a restaurant in Chelsea, created a 40-strong wine list of wines made by women.

Statistics on the global percentage of female winemakers are hard to find, but statistics from America seem to suggest that about 10% of Californian wineries are headed by female winemakers and less than 10% in other states. I looked at the portfolios of a few of my suppliers and found that out of all of the producers listed, again roughly 10% had female winemakers. So, I guess a global estimate of about 10% shouldn’t be too far off.

This figure of one in ten is bigger than it used to be and I’m sure it will continue to rise. After all, don’t a woman’s superior sensory abilities make her better equipped for the job of winemaker? Many may refute this, but there is a certain amount of scientific research to support the idea that women (particularly of child-bearing age) have a more receptive and accurate sense of smell and taste.

Linda Bartoshuk PhD of Yale University was one of the first to carry out research in this field, dividing the population into non-tasters, tasters and supertasters and finding that 35% of women were supertasters compared to only 15% of men.

Other research has found that women have on average nearly 50% more cells in their brains’ olfactory bulbs than men, suggesting a clear biological advantage when it comes to smelling and tasting.

There is also linguistics research that suggests that women’s descriptive vocabulary is more specific and precise than men’s, enabling them to more precisely identify and describe the smells and tastes that they encounter.

Whether or not biological and gender differences can be said to give women an advantage over men in terms of tasting, assessing and describing wines, women certainly have had to work as hard as men, if not harder, to get to the top in this male dominated world. Interviews with ten international female winemakers for a Wine Enthusiast article entitled, ‘Meet 10 Trailblazing Women Leading the Wine Industry Forward’, elicited many anecdotes and examples of challenges and difficulties they have faced in terms of being viewed as the equals of their male counterparts.

But such outdated attitudes cannot last in a wine industry that now has so many women producing great wine and winning awards. Nyetimber’s Cherie Spriggs, for example, won IWC Sparkling Winemaker of the Year in 2018. She and many others are paving the way for more and more talented women in the world of wine.


So, we should hopefully see the number of women winemakers continue to grow. But is the wine of a female winemaker different to that of a male winemaker?

In the same Wine Enthusiast article mentioned above, some of the 10 female winemakers were asked whether women make wine differently, or indeed make different wine to men. The responses were varied, but some general themes pointed to women’s attention to detail, awareness of subtleties and ability to ‘see the bigger picture’ and therefore take a more holistic approach to winemaking. Claims to be more ‘intuitive’ and ‘nurturing’ also featured. One female winemaker, whose wine we will be tasting on Thursday evening, said ‘I am sure that women make wines of different styles than men. I think we make less extracted wines. Rather than big blockbuster styles, we look for more finesse. Personally, I make wines with more minerality, freshness, vibrancy and identity rather than big structured wines.’

For Thursday evening’s tasting, I’ve gone for 6 very different wines from 6 different women in 6 different countries. Will we see any commonality between these wines? Will we notice anything that sets these wines apart?  I’ll look forward to tasting them with you and finding out!

See you on Thursday,

Brigitte. x

The W1ng group met at the ICC on Thursday 18th April to explore the theme of ‘Dinner Party Wines’. Here are my rather belated notes on the evening and the wines.


Caves S. João 2016 Reserva Brut. 12.5%. Brigitte Bordeaux £14.45
A really great aperitif wine from Barraida in Portugal. Made using the traditional method, this wine is a blend of Bical, Chardonnay, Maria Gomes and Arinto. Aromas of citrus, pineapple and peach. On the palate, as well as the fruit, it has some lovely biscuit and brioche notes.  A fresh and creamy attack and a beautiful acidity that gives it structure and persistence. On its own, this was the favourite wine of 4 group members on the night. Paired with a smoked salmon canape on Irish soda bread with crème fraiche and chives, it was the favourite pairing of 6 people.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 17/20


Lustau NV Manzanilla Papirusa. 15%. Brigitte Bordeaux £20.50
A light and dry Manzanilla which paired very well with gazpacho and anchovy stuffed olives. Almond, apple and a slight salinity. Some tanginess and herbal notes too. The sherry was the favourite wine of two of the group, whilst the gazpacho pairing was favoured by 3 people.
Quality: 15/20                    Value: 15/20

Trimbach 2016 Pinot Blanc. 13%. Brigitte Bordeaux £14.95
A lovely medium bodied wine with citrus, stone fruit and a hint of apple on the palate. Well balanced with good acidity. Paired very well with a cheddar and caramelised onion quiche. The wine had 3 votes for wine of the night; the food and wine got 5 votes for best pairing.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 17/20

Domaine Du Vissoux, Chermette, 2017 Brouilly. 13.5%. Brigitte Bordeaux £19.50
Pronounced cherry and redcurrant with some herbal notes. Very smooth and well rounded. Paired perfectly with charcuterie. The wine was the most popular of the evening with 11 votes and its pairing with Milano salami, coppa and beef chorizo was the most popular pairing with 8 votes.
Quality: 17/20          Value: 16/20

Chateau La Sabatiere 2015 Monbazillac. 13%. Brigitte Bordeaux £14.50
Rich honey and marmarlade with dried fruit and caramel. Very well balanced: like drinking nectar! A very good, less expensive alternative to Sauternes. Paired with a crème caramel. The wine was popular with 5 votes for favourite of the night; the pairing had no votes.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 17/20

Barao De Vilar 10 Year Old White Port. 19.5% Brigitte Bordeaux £18.70 for 50cl.
Lively acidity and great freshness with pronounced flavours of nuts, dried fruit, orange peel and caramel. On its own it didn’t get any votes for wine of the night, but its pairing with hard goat’s cheese was favourite with 3 members of the group.
Quality: 16/20                    Value: 16/20

A really interesting evening with some great wines and pairings. Interestingly, only 2 people in the group voted for the same wine as that of their favourite pairing.
See you next time,
Brigitte. x


We all love a good dinner party: convivial company, several delicious food courses and of course, the wine. But when thinking about what food to serve up and what wine to go with it, are there really rules that must be obeyed? Is it a social faux pas to serve oysters with anything other than blanc de blancs champagne or premier cru Chablis? Must the roast lamb be paired with a good Pauillac or St-Julien? And is serving the stilton with anything other than Vintage Port likely to cause quiet outrage amongst your guests?

Well, not according to Tim Hanni MW, who has recently dismissed the concept of food and wine pairing as ‘bullshit’. Speaking at the International Sauvignon Blanc celebration in Marlborough at the end of January, Hanni said “A perfect wine pairing doesn’t exist. We’re doing a lot of damage the way we’re matching wine and categorising it. We need to start a campaign to stop wine and food pairing as we’ve created a lot of bullshit around the idea… We need to celebrate the diversity of consumers, not make them feel stupid. You can serve Sauvignon Blanc with steak – why not?”

When Hanni’s comments were reported in an article in The Drinks Business, they unsurprisingly provoked many responses and much debate on the subject. Another Master of Wine, David Bird, agreed with Hanni’s comments, stating ‘it’s all about personal taste. I am doing some lectures for a sommeliers’ association and they spend hours on this subject, as if there is only one possible right combination. They were shocked when I told them I drink Sancerre with roast lamb! It’s perfect!’

Some of those responding to Hanni’s comments disagreed, whilst others agreed to a certain extent, but to me, the sensible standpoint seems to be that whilst tastes are, of course, subjective, and there may be some people who like nothing better than to wash down their fish and chips with a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, there do exist some food and wine combinations that are generally found to complement one another well and make the experience of both the food and the wine more enjoyable. There are undoubtedly also combinations that are less successful. Whilst I wouldn’t object at all to quaffing a Sancerre with my roast lamb, I’d personally try to finish my glass (or two) before making a start on my sticky toffee pudding dessert.

So whilst I don’t believe there are any hard and fast rules that always need to be adhered to or that there is only one possible perfect wine match for any dish, there is certainly some advice that can be followed to help you find wines and foods that have a good chance of complementing each other on the palates of the majority of your dinner party guests.

As a starting point, the website ‘Wine Folly’ provides these 9 handy tips:

  1. The wine should be more acidic than the food.
  2. The wine should be sweeter than the food.
  3. The wine should have the same flavour intensity as the food.
  4. Red wines pair best with bold flavoured meats (e.g. red meat).
  5. White wines pair best with light-intensity meats (e.g. fish or chicken).
  6. Bitter wines (e.g. red wines) are best balanced with fat.
  7. It is better to match the wine with the sauce than with the meat.
  8. More often than not, White, Sparkling and Rosé wines create contrasting pairings.
  9. More often than not, Red wines will create congruent pairings.

There’s clearly a lot to think about in terms of trying to create successful pairings but I do agree with Tim Hanni that we shouldn’t be too prescriptive or get too bogged down in searching for the perfect match. A lot of fun can be had in creating interesting food and wine combinations which hopefully enhance the experience of consuming both, but one person’s ‘match made in heaven’ isn’t necessarily another’s.

Puligny-Montrachet and Beef and Tomato Pot Noodle, anyone?

See you tomorrow,

Brigitte. x

The ICC group met on Thursday 14 March to taste wines from Spain (but not Rioja). Here are my notes:

spain wine

Mestres, 2011 Visol Gran Reserva Brut Nature. 12%. Gauntley’s, £25.80.
As a Gran Reserva Cava, this wine has spent a minimum of 30 months ageing on its lees and this comes through in its brioche and nutty notes. The mousse is quite subtle, with the bubbles seeming to disappear fairly quickly in the glass but a nice sherbet-like fizz persisting on the palate. Green apple fruit and even a bruised apple quality reminiscent of sherry. A very nice Cava!
Value: 15/20                       Quality: 16/20

Alma Atlántica, 2017 ‘Alba Martin’ Rías Baixas Albariño. 13%. Brigitte Bordeaux, £15.50
Meaning ‘Atlantic Soul’, Alma Atlántica displays the Atlantic influence with a hint of salinity combined with ripe peach and tropical fruit notes and a touch of fizz. Fresh and clean with juicy acidity and a long mineral finish.
Value: 17/20                       Quality: 16/20

Santiago Ruiz, 2017 ‘O Rosal’ Rías Baixas. 13%. Brigitte Bordeaux, £16.50
This wine from the Rías Baixas sub-zone, O Rosal, is a blend of native grapes. Albariño plays a central role in the blend but is complemented by the high-quality Loureiro grape which is particularly associated with O Rosal as well as Treixadura and others.  Peach, pear and apple combine on the palate with some floral notes and a touch of spice.
Value: 16/20                       Quality: 15/20

Cuatro Pasos, 2016 ‘Black’ Bierzo Mencia. 13.5%. Brigitte Bordeaux, £16.90
The Mencia grapes that form this wine come from 80 year-old vines. Living up to its name, this wine is very inky in appearance, disproving the old suggestion that the Mencia grape produces thin, dilute wines. Lots of red fruit, particularly cherry, complemented by vanilla and some spiciness.
Value: 16/20                       Quality: 16/20

Finca Villacreces, 2016 Pruno. 13.5%. Brigitte Bordeaux, £15.90
This blend of 90% Tempranillo (or Tinto Fino as they call it locally) and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon from Ribera Del Duero, has received some rave reviews, including being called ‘the best wine in Spanish history for under $20’ by influential wine critic, Robert Parker. Well, it is pretty good! Black cherry, plum and liquorice combine with subtle oaky spice. Very well balanced with a long, soft finish.
Value: 17/20                       Quallity: 17/20

Cop De Ma Fort, 2014 Priorat. 14%. Brigitte Bordeaux, £15.80
The name of this wine means ‘lend a hand’ in Catalan and is a nod to both the Catalan tradition of the castellars who climb up on each other’s shoulders to form human pyramids and also to the group of growers who work together to produce the wine. The raised hand on the label represents that of the ‘enxaneta’ at the very top of the human pyramid, raising his or her hand with four fingers extended to represent the four stripes of the Catalan flag. This Priorat red is a blend of 40% Garnacha, 40% Carignan (known locally as Samsó) and 20% Syrah. Blackberry and red cherry combine with pencil lead to create a smooth wine with an earthy finish.
Value: 17/20                       Quality: 17/20

A very enjoyable evening’s tasting, proving that Spain has a lot to offer beyond Rioja!

See you soon,
Brigitte. x

Spain has more land under vine than any other country in the world. In terms of the volume of wine produced, most years it comes in third after France and Italy (or Italy and France). The Tempranillo grape is now the country’s most widely planted, having recently overtaken the white grape Airén which is planted at low densities and covers more vineyard area than any other white wine variety in the world.

Just as Spain’s different regions have their own very distinct identities, so do the country’s different wines. From effervescent Cava to complex and diverse Sherry; from the dry, aromatic whites of Galicia to the intense reds of Priorat, there’s something for everyone!


Spain’s wine industry has greatly modernised over the last thirty years with the latest technologies arriving in most regions. Spain’s accession to the EU in 1986 led to increased investment in its wine industry and the introduction of irrigation ten years later also brought great benefits, especially in the drought-prone south.

The climate in Spain’s main wine producing regions varies greatly, from a maritime climate with the Atlantic influence in the North-West, to a very continental climate in the centre and a Mediterranean climate along the Eastern coast. Altitude is another factor that affects Spain’s vineyards and their growing conditions. Mountain ranges known as cordilleras divide the country and Spain’s centre is dominated by the plateau knows as the Meseta which ranges in altitude from about 600 to 1000 metres.

It is claimed that Spain is home to over 600 different vine varieties although its vineyards are generally dominated by only a fraction of these. Tempranillo, which has seen a major increase in plantings in the last fifteen years, is now the country’s most commonly planted grape variety; depending on where it is grown, it is referred to by a few different aliases including Tinto Fino and Cencibel. Bobal is the next most widely planted red, followed by Garnacha (Grenache) and Monastrell (Mourvedre). Cabernet Sauvignon is the most important international variety.

Airén, the drought resistant white variety that is planted at low density, is still Spain’s most widely planted white grape, accounting for over a quarter of Spanish vineyard area. Also important for their role in Sherry production are the white grapes, Palomino and Pedro Ximenez. Macabeo, which also goes by the name Viura, is common in Rioja and Catalonia and together with the grapes Parallada and Xarel-lo, is also used to produce Cava.

Other white grapes that are contributing to the recent success of Galician wines in particular are, most notably, Albariño and also Loureira, Treixadura and Godello. The red Mencia grape is also producing some good wines in Galicia and Castilla y León.

In terms of quality wine, the majority comes from the northern part of the country, above Madrid. From Galicia in the North-west through to Catalonia in the North-east, this northern band of Spain includes major appellations such as Rias Baixas, Bierzo, Ribera Del Duero and Priorat as well as Rioja. We’ll be tasting wines from the first four of these on Thursday evening.


Only two appellations, Rioja and Priorat have the highest classification for Spanish wines, DOC (or DOQ in Catalan) which stands for Denominación de Origen Calificada. The term Calificada translates as ‘qualified’ or ‘guaranteed’ and implies wine of consistently guaranteed high quality.

Below this is a much larger classification, DO (Denominación de Origen) which includes over 70 appellations. This classification indicates the geographical origin and the style of a wine. To gain the DO title, wines must conform to various rules concerning their production. Each DO has a Consejo Regulador, which controls and enforces its rules and regulations regarding permitted grape varieties, maximum yields, length of ageing and so on. The Consejo Regulador also assesses the wines in order to discern whether or not they deserve the DO or DOC classification.

Wines that don’t qualify for DO or DOC status are known as ‘Vino de la Tierra’ (Wine of the Land’) or more recently, by the European classification IGP. Below this was ‘Vino de Mesa’ (Table Wine), the most basic classification, now more commonly referred to as Wine Without Geographical Indication. Another classification is Vino de Pago, a special category granted to a small number of single estate wines of exceptional quality.

Other terms that you may see on Spanish wine labels refer to the length of time the wine has been aged in barrel and bottle. The terms ‘Crianza’, ‘Reserva’ and ‘Gran Reserva’ all indicate the length of time the wine has spent ageing, with Gran Reserva requiring the longest period. The exact length of time that these terms represent in barrel and bottle differ for Rioja, Ribera del Duero and the rest of Spain.

So, on Thursday evening we will be exploring Spain, beyond Rioja and hopefully discovering that the rest of the country has much to offer in terms of diverse, quality-driven wines.

See you then,

Brigitte. x

The Tutored Tasting group met on Monday 4th of March for a tasting of different Rieslings. I tried to select what I thought would be an interesting range of different expressions of the grape, from Old World and New and from dry to sweet. One thing that was missing was an example with more than five years’ of ageing, which was perhaps a shame.

Here are some notes on the six wines, partly mine, but mostly Laurie’s with Laurie’s accompanying scoring:


  1. Tinpot Hut, Barker Vineyard Riesling, 2018 – 11% – Brigitte Bordeaux, £17.90

This wine comes from the Marlborough producer, Tinpot Hut. Cool peachy notes but a hint of green acidity reminiscent of Sauvignon Blanc; a soda prickle too. Palate is mouth puckeringly sharp with a warm lime acidity and a slightly redcurrant and tropical fruit Sauvignon Blanc hint again – a slightly herby tinge and a hint of sweetness but maybe needs a bit more time in the bottle for all of its elements to become more integrated. Not a typical Riesling, but an interesting Marlborough take on the grape.
13 points

  1. Chateau Ste. Michelle, Eroica, Columbia Valley Riesling, 2016 – 12% – Brigitte, £23.80

This wine, the result of collaboration between Washington state’s founding winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle and Germany’s Dr Loosen, is credited with leading a Riesling renaissance in the USA. This wine is more obviously Riesling on the nose than the previous wine with aromas of confectionery fruit and the palate too is rather sweet with a candied citrus peel quality, some lime and saline minerality.
13.5 points

  1. Dandelion Vineyards, Enchanted Garden of the Eden Valley Riesling, 2016 – 11% – Brigitte Bordeaux, £14.50

A New World Riesling from Eden Valley, an area that along with Clare Valley, has become the Australian home for this grape. Not uncommon in Eden and Clare Valley Riesling, there is fairly pronounced diesel on the nose. and lime on the palate. The palate is very drying, limey and rather hard with a chalky minerality and a bitter pithy quality. Maybe not yet focused – or maybe grapes picked a little early..
13 points

  1. Trimbach, Riesling 2016

This Riesling is from Alsace and the Trimbach family, whose wine-making history dates back to 1626. The nose is very quiet to begin with but opens to hint at floral, citrus and peachy notes. The palate has a citrus line that supports a vaguely peach fruit – seems a bit young and opens with time as a well-balanced and mouth-watering example.
15 points

  1. Weingut Tesch, Queen of Whites, 2016

This Riesling is from the Nahe region of Germany. The nose is rather soda-ish again and palate has a slightly fizzy quality. Off-dry with flavours of green apple and some peach and honey on the palate. Mouth-watering acidity but quite short on the finish.
13.5 points

  1. Paulinshof, Brauneberger Juffer Riesling Spätlese, 2014.

This final wine is from arguably the most highly regarded Riesling producing region in the world, the Mosel in Germany. Hints of soon-to-be-diesel, elderflower and citrus. The palate is sweet (4 x as much sugar as any other) against which a citric warm acidity, white-peach fruit and a counterpointing slatey minerality weave an alluring pattern. As often with Mosel wines, the higher sweetness seems to liberate the complexity in the acidity, fruit, mineral.
16 points

Outright favourite of the night was the Paulinshof Spätlese. In second place, the Trimbach.

I also have the Paulinshof ‘Urstuck Riesling Trocken’ in the shop but in the interests of diversity, it didn’t make it to the tasting – perhaps it should have done as an interesting comparison… One to look forward to trying another time!

Thanks all for coming. See you again soon,

Kathryn. x



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