Sicily – Part 3 – Monday Cantine Settesoli – Mandrarossa

Back again…

So after the tasting at Feudo Arancio it’s back on our bus and off to Settesoli winery and our overnight stay at their Hotel and restaurant  IL VIGNETO Resort.




Super fast check in, dump our bags and a very quick shower it was already time for dinner, we walked through their beautiful gardens to a delightful garden room for an introduction to who they are, dinner and of course some of their great wines.


Let’s start by telling you about Settesoli, they are a Cooperative, but not just any “COOP”. They have 2000 growers with 6000 Hectares of land under vines. You can check out a really good video at the end of the blog made by them.

The growers work with the central winemaking and vineyard team, this gives the same quality across all of the 2000 growers. Made up over 4 main villages in the Menfi area, these are Santa Margherita di Belice, Contessa Entellina, Sambuca de Sicilia & Montevago, making up the Terre dei Sicani district.

This was one of the first areas colonised in Sicily.  Sicily is extremely diverse with people originating from  North Africa, Greece, Spain & most of northern Europe.. This shows all over the island with many traditions, dialects and architecture.

After the war and at the end of the 1950’s there were no vineyards, plenty of olive & citrus trees and also vegetables, notably artichokes. The Coop was conceived in 1958, as a union of villages, to plant vines with the first vines planted on the 21st December.

Their first harvest was 7 years later in 1965. All the wines made in those days were the indigenous varieties  of Grecanico, Inzolia & Catarratto and all sold off in bulk. 1n 1973 with a new president of the Coop the decision was taken to bottle their own wines, which happened the following year. These were initially for the Italian supermarkets but within 2 years the UK and USA became very important markets too.

Settesoli and its growers ARE the whole community, their wines are in all the shops, hotels and restaurants in the area.

The estate is Cantine Settesoli, with the wine brands, Settesoli, Inycon and Mandrarossa and a total production of 24 million bottles per year.

Mandrarossa is their flagship brand with only 500 hectares of the best plots and vines used. There are just 167 growers involved for their premium wines and 1 million bottles production. These vineyards have been selected after a study of their land, which started in the mid 80’s with the university in Milan. Key worldwide wine gurus played  part also. Alberto Antonini – one of the top 10 flying winemakers in the world & Pedro Parra- from Chile who is known as one of the worlds greatest terroir experts. From their 500 hectares, 75 hectares with 37 growers involved to produce the best of the best wines which were launched in 2018.

With such a huge amount of land under vine this is a huge amount of work. Cantine Settesoli is involved in planning the vineyards, where to plant and what variety and then to the harvest and all that happens day to day in between. They really do need the best team in place to run such an enormous operation.

Now if they grew a couple of varieties this would be much easier, however they produce 32 grape varieties!. 

Native Varieties grown: Catarratto, Frappato, Grecanico, Grillo, Inzolia, Moscato, Nerello Cappuccio, Nerello Mascarese, Nero D’Avola, Perricone, Vermentino & Zibibbo.

International Varieties grown: Aglianico, Alicante, Alicante Bouchet, Cabernat Franc, Cabernat Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Ciliegiolo, Fiano, Merlot, Petit Mansang, Petit Verdot, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah, Tannat, Trebbiano & Viognier.

For this team of vineyard managers and winemakers this is their combination to deal with.

32 Grape varieties, 5 soil types  & 6 different areas and then you can throw in North, South, East & West slopes with elevations from 0 to 408 metres!.  

Stick with me for a minute to explain in the next few photos (2 mins max)   

The 5 main soil types.

Clay-rich soil

Its texture contains minerals, silica, iron and humus. It’s generally very compact and dense, with a high potassium content. It has a great water retention characteristic and absorption power, helping the vines to grow strong and healthy even during droughts. The wines produced from this soil are soft, extract-rich and with good acidity.


Clay-rich soil

Limestone soil

Rich in nutrients, it is among the best suited to grow vineyards. Its white colour reflects the sunlight, supporting grape ripening. The right balance between rocky and clayey elements gives life to dynamic and structured wines, rich in minerals.

Clay-rich soil

Silty soil

It contains silt, sand and clay and has the ability to absorb water and gradually release to the plants’ roots. It’s a compact and versatile terrain, nutrient-rich. The resulting wines are light, aromatic and elegant.



Medium mixture soil

Mainly containing sand and clay, which makes it permeable and very fertile, providing calcium and magnesium that are necessary for the vine’s nutrition. This soil produces elegant and full-bodied wines, with great persistence and balance.


Clay-rich soil

Sandy soil

It contains sand and is mineral-rich and rocky, ensuring an excellent drainage and capillary distribution of the water. The roots penetrate deep into these soils, which are easy to farm thanks to their lack of compactness. The grapevine that grows on sandy soils produces delicate and aromatic wines.


Clay-rich soil


These soil types are spread across 6 areas.

THE COAST: 0-55m elevation

THE SLOPES: 100-180m elevation

THE SEA TERRACES: 93-180m Elevation

THE HIGH HILLS: 316-408m Elevation

THE SAMBUCA LAKE: 180m elevation

THE MAGAGGIARO FOREST: 300-405m elevation.

The wines of Settesoli

So now we sit down for dinner and sample the wines. Starting with the most amazing raw fish to be paired with the Grillo.

Amazing how the raw fish works with the Strawberries!

Grillo, “Costadune” is perfect for this raw fish, it’s a citrus mineral beauty with perfect acidity.


With the first few starter courses… we also enjoyed the Grecanico, which had racing acidity, citrus blasts over your palate, super light and fresh and very mineral. After was the Zibbibo Secco, this wonderfully dry but aromatic wine had the most incredible nose of white flower blossom, on the palate it was dry and long. All these first 3 wines were fabulous with our incredible fish starters of the raw fish above, then Prawns, Octopus & Calamari.

Now for a Sauvignon Blanc, I really didn’t know what to expect here, was it going to be a French or NZ style… IT WAS A SICILIAN STYLE! 

“URRA di MARE” This is one of their flagship wines that is sold all over the world.

This is  Mediterranean SB. The vineyards are 100 metres above sea level in sandy soils.

Its made with 100% SB in stainless steel. They harvest at the end of July and only between 12 Midnight and 5am when the temperature is 10-15c degrees cooler than the daytime, then the grapes are at the winery before 6am. 

Its a very complicated wine, initially its very green, herby, even basil with vegetal notes, then it becomes more tropical, lime citrus, mint and so fresh. Overall a really good wine, I think some of the greenness at the start will fade as it spends another 6 months in the bottle.

Now another Grillo, called “Bertolino Soprano” 2017. This time its a single vineyard Grillo which is aged for 16 months in concrete tanks and then 4 months in large untoasted oak barrels. The key difference from their standard Grillo vines is that they harvest normally 2.5kg of grapes per vine and for this wine its only 1kg from there best vines. 13,000 bottle production for this wine. 

Immediately with the first taste this is a totally different style to anything I’ve ever tasted. It has the usual citrus, salinity and acidity, but now its more rounded on the palate with the slightest butter brioche notes complimenting. Now this wine was only bottled one month before it was opened. This wine in 6 months will be very very good.


Now the last white. Santannella 2018. Its a blend of Fiano 60% and Chenin Blanc 40%. The production of this is wine was 60,000 bottles. The Fiano is aged in barriques but the Chenin Blanc is in stainless steel. The wine is then blended and aged for 3 mths in the bottle before release. It’s a complex wine, white peaches, apricots, a smidge of vanilla, then the Chenin does its job and gives you some fresh citrus zestiness and ends with a wonderful mineral finish.

Now for a ROSE.


Perricone (grape variety) Rose, typical onion skin colour and the maceration is only 2 days. Its super light and fresh, red berry concentrated and medium bodied. Everyone loved this wine. They have tried making Rose from all their red grapes and have found that the Perricone grapes made their best Rose wine by far.


Next was the Frappato (grape variety), this red wine is generally drank slightly chilled, it’s fruity and light and actually pairs beautifully with fish as its quite mineral and salinity. 

Amazing dinner, and as it was all fish we tasted the 3 Nero D’Avola after.


The Nero D’Avola was a delight, 2017 was a super hot start to the vintage with temperatures reaching 42c 1st week of August. Thankfully these temperatures didn’t continue and it ended with a good harvest a week earlier than normal. Ruby red in the glass with a touch of purple on the edges. Immensely fruity and fresh with black cherries and red berries. 

“Cartagho” 2016 This is a real step up. 8 days in cement during maceration followed by a year in barrique, 4 months then in the bottle before release. This wine will age for a long time. Much more intense deep red colour. Blackberries, red berries still, but much more powerful, much more richness, with dates and pine needles too.

The last wine is Terre dei Sommacco, Nero D’Avola. Now this is one of their new flagship wines. Maceration for 6-8 days then maturing for 8 months in concrete and steel vats. The wine is then placed in large oak barrel for 19 months before bottling. Another 8 months in the bottle before release. On the palate this wine is elegant, delicate tannins soft cherry and blackberry fruit now. Beautifully soft, balanced and fresh. 

It was definitely a busy first day in Sicily. It’s late need to get some sleep as it’s a very early start in the morning.

Check out this fabulous video from Mandrarossa before you go.


Here are a few links to Mandrarossa


Twitter: MandrarossaVini

Instagram: mandrarossawines





Sicily – Part 1 – Monday

Hi Again,


After my blog on Sunday, which was a brief introduction to the wine industry of Sicily, I will now walk you through my weeks experience over the next few blogs.

My group turned out to be a fantastic bunch of people from Italy, Germany, USA, Russia and of course me from the UK.

Woke up……. but to not to the sunshine of Sicily!


My itinerary on Monday didn’t actually start until that afternoon as there were still many people arriving. I had got talking with Andrew Catchpole (Editor – Harpers Wine & Spirits) we decided to go for a wander and check out the local area as we were right near the airport in Palermo and close to the sea…. I needed to explore and find the sea!

It was very overcast, BIG black clouds, bloody cold & blowing a gale but off we went and  after about 20 minutes (ok it was 40 but we got lost so now working on Italian time = divide by 2) we got to the sea and was spectacular with the wind blowing in a large swell.



After our walk where we were blown to bits and covered in sand, and felt at times like we were being sand blasted, we headed back for lunch and our pre lunch cookery demo.

It was a demonstration from ” Le Signore della cucina Menfitana” which is an association of women only!

They were all mothers and Grandmothers who represented the community and territory on Menfi.

What I was about to find out was Menfi is a food lovers dream, its all about local produce, oil, wheat, vegetables, fruit and of course….WINE.

It was about gastronomic heritage, handed down generation after generation of mothers and grandmothers with simple ingredients making the most delicious dishes.

This is Tagghiarini with sardines and wild fennel, as you can see the pasta is made from scratch with organic DURUM wheat flour and the sauce is made with SELINUNTE sardines, pine nuts, raisins and crumbed atturta (toasted bread crumbs) and of course lashings of olive oil.

Also we had Pasta a “mezzu furnu” which is a mixture of organic durum wheat flour with ” Criscenti” (natural leavening) with olive oil and oregano.

They made 2 desserts ….. I only ate one as the first one, albeit i’m sure delicious, as everyone scoffed the lot.

Pignulata do mennuli, a sweet made from Atturrati (toasted almonds) honey and sugar.

Ovu ‘ncannulatu. this is a poor mans cake made with beaten eggs cooked in the pan and then rolled out, filled with ricotta and seasoned with sugar and grated lemon. OMG I am salivating now writing this, I LOVED THEM SO MUCH!

Ok its time for wine!!!! On the bus, its an hours travel….. that’s 1 Italian hour… haha

Arrivo Feudo Arancio.


Feudo Arancio have 2 vineyards along the Southern coast of Sicily, these are located in Sambuca di Sicilia (AG) and Acate (RG).

Seven hundred hectares mostly dedicated to vines so this is a pretty large estate. They cultivate both native and international grapes. 

With Sicilian tradition and respecting the environment, the winery has been built as a traditional rural building surrounding a large courtyard known as the “baglio”.


This traditional rural building seamlessly meets a high tech winery. It’s equipped with lots of technology in a completely thermal-conditioned environment and a very cool vaulted barrel room. What’s funny is that I never get bored visiting barrel rooms, to me they are always like cathedrals of wine especailly this one at Arancio.

First, it’s off to the vineyard for a quick tour, it’s cold and blowing a gale but we were in for a really interesting talk.


So we start off with all the normal info, hectares, varieties, soil types which is very interesting however then the discussion started on their environmental position as a winery.

What was soon apparent was the emphasis was completely about sustainable farming.

In 2002 they were the first wine cellar Italy to be awarded the EMAS 2 which is  certification created by the EU for environmental sustainability and management.
“THE REDUCTION OF CHEMICAL TREATMENTS” is a huge part of their sustainability.

They have introduced alternative techniques such as the use of copper and sulphur (allowed in organic farming) which dramatically reduces the need of traditional, harmful to the environment, chemical usage. Also the use of beneficial insects which basically involves adding insects that have no impact on the vines but like eating the bugs that do harm the vines.

However the most interesting part for me is the introduction of PHEROMONES into the vineyards…. this method is known as “reproductive confusion”!

This is a biological method to combat harmful insects by limiting their reproduction by using these (pheromones) “reproductive scents” which then prevent the harmful male insect from finding and fertilising the female.

They have grassed the land around the vines to protect from erosion and also planting plants rich in nitrogen which has reduced the need of fertilizers. Conservation of the local flora too with many orchids, some being extremely rare, which are now protected species on their property. A newly planted lemon grove inside a quarry thus rejuvenating previously damaged land.

Solar panels are installed for their hot water supply (used for cleaning wine cellar equipment) and photovoltaic panels for their electrical supply (400 kWp installed). This makes the winery two-thirds self sufficient.

The wine cellar is underground to ensure a correct temperature, therefore reducing the need for air conditioning and unnecessary electricity.

Water is a precious commodity in most of Sicily. Feudo Arancio has built seven artificial lakes which can hold over 900,000 m3 of water, the equivalent of 300 litres for each individual  vine (this is approximately 10 uses of water per vine during periods of drought without needing to draw from any external water supplies).

This is delivered by computerised drip irrigation system which maximises the efficiency of water delivery to the vines and guarantees that the water is used only where necessary. To conserve the water supply the waste water is channelled and purified in an organic mud water purifier so that it can be put back into the reservoirs.

Back to the Winery to taste some wines!


So we start with Dalila 2017.

This is a Grillo but a Riserva which has 20% Viognier also in the blend.

The 20% Viognier is fermented for 8 months in 3 year old wooden barriques, and the Grillo is completely done in stainless steel. Grillo was originally grown to make Marsala in Sicily, this was because of its ease of oxidation. This is why now the Grillo is made in stainless steel tanks where no oxygen is present.

The wines are then blended in stainless steel for 4-5 months and then a further 4 months in the bottle before release.

Varieties: Grillo 80%, Viognier 20% – 13% Alcohol

Appearance: Soft yellow with a touch of green tinge on the rim

Nose: Very fragrant, orange blossom, jasmine & some underlying tropical fruit too.

Taste: Instant freshness and zesty character from the Grillo then apricots, peaches with a spatter of honey and touch of toasty vanilla from the oak.

This wine just won best white wine of Sicily in the show at Mundus Vini 2019.

Next was a big Riserva Red.

Hedonis 2015 Riserva 100% Nero D’Avola – 2015

Their explanation of the name below:

“Hedonis is a true interpretation of the Sicilian pursuit of pleasure, inherited from the ancient Greeks and now refined in our island paradise. It indulges the palate, captures the senses and warms the heart with its powerful and sensual character”.

This is a massively tannic red wine and their first release of this wine which will age for years.

Its made in 2 parts all from Nero D’Avola grapes. The first 50% are harvested as normal and but the remainder are left on the vines to over ripen Appassimento style but on the vines and not airdried on mats.

After both wines are pressed and in tank they are blended and then put in 50% French and 50% in US Oak barrels.

Varieties: 100% Nero D’avola – 14% Alcohol

Appearance: Dark Ruby red with violet edges

Nose: Dried red and black fruit and the power of this wine hits you straight away.

Taste: This wine will be a great, currently pretty tannic although its well structured with a balance of acidity to these tannins. You get spice, tobacco, some vanilla from the oak, with the black and red berry fruit being very prominent. I really want to try this wine in 5 or 10 years with a great big T-Bone steak. It sure has all the characteristics to make this a great wine.

The next 2 wines were brought to the table…. pre production unlaunched wines.

Both Organic, A Grillo and Nero D’Avola and just vineyard block numbers hand written on the bottles. These are for discussion another day as they were far from ready when we tasted them, although showing great promise for their new totally organic range.


Next was HEKATE, a “Passito” dessert wine

Let me tell you how this Passito is made.

Firstly they start by making a base wine at 14.5% alcohol with good acidity. Using, Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Semillon & Viognier, they then take very ripe Zibibbo grapes (that have had long exposure to the sun and wind) and add into the base wine. When all of the base wine is absorbed by the Zibibbo grapes they then press.

The 3 key parts to these Passito wines are  SUGAR (120g/l) ACIDITY 6.5ph and AROMA.

Varieties: Base Wine – Blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon, Semillon & Viognier, & then Zibibbo added.

Appearance: Golden AMBER

Nose: Rich & aromatic, with orange peel, apricots and floral hints.

Taste: For a dessert wine this is not cloying but it has a wonderful freshness. This rich amber nectar envelopes your palate with apricots, white fleshy peaches, honey and then a spicey touch…. just needed some Cantucci biscuits!

An absolute delight to finish on….. Or so we thought

The winemaker brought out some limoncello that they had made from their lemon grove which they had planted in the quarry. WOW, was super lemon blast of alcoholic greatness!

Check out Feudo Arancio

Twitter: feudoarancioIT

Instagram: feudoarancio

Website: feudoarancio

Below is a short video about them .

Salute Back soon for part 2.


Hello again,

Well this this is my first blog of 2020 and unfortunately due to my hectic work load the first in some time.

Thats about to change starting with my whole series on Sicily, starting with my press trip last year to 16th Edition of Sicilia en Primeur.


I’ve been travelling 5-6 times per year to Italy for the last 25 years and have been to most provinces, but until Oct 2017 I had never been to Sicily. I have now been 3 times, and I now intend to try and get a trip in every year!.

Over the next few weeks there will be a series of blogs about my time at Sicilia en primuer in May 2019 and also my return holiday trip which I did in September.

During these blogs there will be a huge range of different types of wineries visited, many grape varieties you may not be familiar with but also amazing landscapes and of course I cant write about Italy with out adding in some gratuitous food shots too!

So lets give you some basic facts about Sicily and its wine industry.

Sicily is the largest Island in the Mediterranean sea and the largest region in Italy. With a coastline of 1040km (650 Miles)  and a land mass of 26000 Sq Km (16250 Sq Miles).

Due to the sheer size of Sicily and the diversity of its landscape it really is like a small continent. Along its coast it’s pure Mediterranean climate but venture inland or to the mountains and its much more like continental Europe. The famous and still very active volcano “Etna” is close to 3400m (11,000ft) high. Also interestingly because there are so many micro climates on the island harvest starts in late July and goes right through until November.

Most people would associate Sicily with it’s enormous volcano with volcanic soils, however there are as many locations with Clay, calcareous and tufaceous soils too. Over coming weeks you will see more about these soils in my forthcoming Sicily blogs.

There are 98992 hectares of vines which is about 3.5% of all of the Island! It is the largest wine growing region in Italy in terms of this land, however it is only 4th in overall production as the yield per acre of grapes is lower than many other regions in fact some 40%. Average yields in Italy are 10200kg of grapes per hectare and only 6200kg in Sicily. (Figures from ISTAT).


Sicily is often called the Island of sunshine, it has 2500 average hours of sunshine a year (about 2499 more than the UK haha) compared with only 2000 in mainland Italy and 1800 in the south of France. This additional sunlight allows for healthier vines and reduces the need for chemical products to be used.

Over 60 grape varieties grown on the Island and about 20 are native. Over the coming weeks you will read about tastings we had at wineries with grapes such as:

Reds: Nerello Mascalese, Frappato, Nerello Cappucio, Nero D’Avola and Perricone.

Whites: Grillo, Cataratto, Inzolia, Grecanico, Zibbibo, Carricante, Malvasia & Moscato bianco.

Also many non native ones too, Fabulous Voignier blend, Chardonnay and the Syrah is extraordinary too….. and before I forget… MARSALA fortified wine…. and of Course Passito desert wine.

The event is run by Assovini Sicilia which is an association of 90 Member vineyards with €300m+ revenues in wine sales. Their whole purpose is to bring more Sicilian wines to the worldwide market place. All of the 90 companies have three elements in common, these are 1) total control of the grape growing and wine making production chain from the vine to the bottle  2)Producing high quality wines 3) Internationally promoting their wines. Currently the market for Sicilian wine is 45% Europe, 31% USA, 16% Asia, 6% Oceania and 2% in the African market place.

Between the 90 they produce around 900 different wines. 95% of the companies produce controlled DOC or DOCG wines of which there are 23 DOC Siciliane classifications and 1 DOCG Siciliane. The quality is definitely rising here for sure, and the wine offers great value for money too. Also what most people don’t think about but the aging potential of some of the wines too. More about that later in future blogs.

They are also promoting come to Sicily and visit the vineyards. 40% even have accommodation and many provide restaurants on site too.

Just Sicily and Sopexa organised a fabulous trip, there were over 100 press from all over the globe.

I will leave you with a taste of what’s to come…. next Sicily blog in a few days






The wines in the POST & Its saving the planet!

Hi Folks

Well actually the wine bottle was literally in the letterbox….


Let me explain…. and before you ask, it is a full size bottle of wine.

I saw this idea a while ago and liked what I had seen and wanted to find out more as I was very intrigued, so the kind people of Garçon Wines sent me a sample…… IN THE POST! In the UK most houses have small letterboxes as seen above, built into your front door.

Since the 19th century most wine bottles have followed the standard Bordeaux style.


These days many people are producing different bottles to be more unique and of course certain areas that have always been different, like Burgundy and Rhone.

An estimated (hard to nail down exact figure)  31-36 Billion bottles of wine are produced each year. Most of which will be glass, but in that number there are boxed wines, canned wines, single serving cup wines to name just a few of the ways we now consume wine.

One of the biggest issues in the wine industry is that its just not environmentally friendly using glass, when you open an outer case of wine you can see that there is a lot of wasted space due to the design of the bottle.

So Garçon Wines decided to rewrite wine bottle design for which they have won many accolades & global packaging innovation awards.


Their bottles are plastic…. and flat.


Its made from 100% recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic, they are made in the UK from plastic that has already been in circulation,  so not adding any more waste to the plastic mountain on our lands and in our seas that we see on the television almost daily. Interestingly Coca Cola have a target of using 50% recycled PET in their products by 2020…. Garçon have started with 100% from day 1.


So the bottles have the advantage of being light. At only 63 grams, they’re 87% lighter than an average glass bottle of the same volume. This dramatically reduces the cost of shipping for suppliers & consumers. In addition, the novel, flat design makes the bottles 40% spatially smaller.

Their 10 Flat Bottle Case holds 10 full-size, flat wine bottles in a compact case which would otherwise carry approximately just four regular bottles, hugely reducing shipping costs.

By using material that was already recycled and is recyclable after isn’t the only way that they are helping the environment. Garçon bottles offer a radical way to reduce the carbon footprint created by the transportation of wine. for them it’s about driving beneficial change in the wine industry supply chain.

An estimated reduction of weight of the near 2 billion bottles of wine consumed in the UK alone each year, by as much as is practically possible, could save 90,000 tons of CO2.

The screw cap is super technical too, it includes a special “oxygen scavenger” featuring both active scavenging and passive barrier technology to give their bottles a much longer shelf life than other innovative wine packaging solutions. When you drink wine from a Garçon bottle, you can do so confident that they have provided excellent protection for the great wine inside.

Is this the greenest bottle of wine to date?

Currently in their range they have 6 wine

Garçon Wines - Portfolio

Chilean Sauvignon Blanc
Chilean Merlot
Spanish Garnacha Rosé
Spanish Tempranillo
South Australian Chardonnay
South Australian Shiraz

 So currently these are being stocked by some wine merchants but also they are being used by the gift sector as an alternative gift too. Some large companies have already taken the product on, like Moonpig, Next Flowers, Bottled & Boxed, Bloom & Wild, Funky Pigeon to name but a few.

Now most of these wines retail for under £15. So they are pretty drinkable daily wines. 

The big question is whether the wine industry can embrace getting away from glass.

Who will be the first big winery to start botting in plastic?.

Can I see a top Bordeaux, Brunello, Burgundy or Barolo producer using this…..

Unfortunately I doubt it any time soon. But I hope one day that they will. 

I completely understand that people like tradition as with corks, however look how much is produced in Australia now with no cork….. I’m sure hundreds of millions of bottles per year.

I can see these bottles being used a lot more in the future as the environment becomes an even bigger issue than it is today. Plastic is in the headlines daily, due to the images of huge amounts, in the water ways and seas of our planet. There is no doubt that this recycled product can dramatically reduce waste and C02 emissions.

Inside the lid of the wine box is the below advice!


So to wineries what are the key benefits:

  1.  Storage of bottles on site
  2.  Cheaper distribution costs for their wine
  3.  Environmentally its a sustainable product, if they are already working environmentally,  I can see wineries moving across to this type of packaging.
  4.  Also no cork issues.
  5.  Larger amount of stock can be placed on shelves within the same footprint of normal glass bottles


Unfortunately I don’t have any data about how wine will age in these bottles, will they be able to let in tiny amounts of oxygen like cork does over the years…. Time will tell how this product evolves.

I’m sure you will start to see the bottle revolution on shelves near you soon.

Salute, and thank you for taking the time to read.







Many thanks to Garçon for the sample, I am not being paid to write this article or am I associated in any way to Garçon Wines. All views are my own.



Hi Folks

Well  “Have I got NEWS for you”  and also a first to ever be done in the UK.

It all started when myself and Jeremy Palmer (from Barbados – @JeremyPalmer7  – Twitter) got into a conversation around Christmas time last year as he was seeing Rathfinny English sparkling wines on twitter and social media and couldn’t get any. We jokingly said they should sell it En-Primeur and then a big conversation ensued……. everyone in the wine industry then commented….. its not the done thing!. Mark Driver owner of Rathfinny then commented…. well that’s an interesting idea, he obviously had other thoughts.

Well TODAY it’s turned from an idea to reality.  26th July YES TODAY!! the Rathfinny website or cellar door will have a new option.


This new service will give private individuals the opportunity to reserve cases of Rathfinny Classic Cuvee Sussex Sparkling wine a few years before it is released onto the general market.

Since launching their first wines last year they have been so popular it’s nearly impossible to purchase by the case.

Last weekend I returned to the estate to talk to Mark about RESERVED. I need to give Mark & Sarah Driver and of course my mate Richard James a huge thank you as they have asked me….yes little old me to make this huge initial announcement… because it started with that Christmas conversation on twitter.

Its a brand new wine too, and I was privileged to be the first person outside of a select  few at the winery to taste the 2017 Classic Cuvee last weekend.  Its tasting superbly after 1 year and is going to be a truly amazing Sussex sparkling wine when launched.

Obviously it wont have a crown cap and it will be labelled prior to delivery


The wine for Rathfinny RESERVED will be the Classic Cuvee 2017. The 2016 Cuvee is being launched next year but the RESERVED will be for 2021 delivery as the 2016 does not have the volume of wine to start such an innovative project.

So some basic facts about RESERVED.

  1. 2017 Classic Cuvee is 66% Pinot Noir, and 17% each of Chardonnay and Pinot Muenier.
  2. 800  x 6 bottle cases made available for RESERVED.
  3. In Regular 75cl bottles or 150cl magnums.
  4. Minimum 4 cases per customer.
  5. Available Summer 2021

So your options are as follows:

A minimum of 4 x 6 bottle cases of CC 16. or 4 x 150cl Magnum 3 bottle cases or have a mix up of both….the best idea!

RESERVED is only 4800 bottles that are being offered on it’s release so it’s going to be first come first served, this allocation will sell out fast. There is no maximum that you can buy.

The 2017 Classic Cuvee is an exceptional vintage for the estate, however most vineyards in the UK, and most of northern Europe including Champagne and Rioja had huge problems with the frost in April 2017. The week commencing the 23rd April there were three frosts… the 26th was the worst and down to -6c over most of the south coast where the largest vineyards are in the UK. Most producers got hit hard (some as much as 30-40% loss) as the vines were well into bud after a pretty good spring. Rathfinny is set in the Cradle valley, the estate meanders down to the estuary of the sea. What this does is draw away the cold from the vines. Rathfinny lost 1-2% only in 17′ vintage, due to its south facing and proximity to the coast.

After this early budburst the grapes benefitted from a long ripening period and a phenomenal ‘Indian summer’, with unseasonably warm September weather producing fantastic ripe fruit, with great flavours, balanced acidity and sugar levels.

 So how does Rathfinny Reserved work in practice?

Rathfinny ‘Reserved’ wine has spent its first year in the bottle. The wine will spend a further two years lying in the bottle ‘on-lees’ in their temperature-controlled cellar, allowing the ‘autolytic’ flavours to develop. They plan to disgorge the wine at the beginning of 2021, removing the yeast lees and will then release the wines to ‘Reserved’ customers in the summer of 2021.

The wine can be purchased from today under “In Bond”, what this means is that you only pay for the wine on your initial purchase. MR UK GOVERNMENT will then have to be paid (Duty and VAT) once you release your wines from Bond in 2021.

So why would you do this…..

a) You get an allocation of the RESERVED WINE

b) It Actually works out cheaper

So what do you pay?

The price of the wine is £19 per 75cl bottle or £39 per 150cl Magnum, exclusive of excise duty and VAT. Once the wines are released, excise duty and VAT will be payable.

So to take delivery of your wine…. unfortunately you then have to pay her Majesty’s revenue and customs (HMRC) = Government some dough! Current duty rates for sparkling wines for the UK are £ 2.86 per 75cl bottle and then you add 20% Vat. So under current tax arrangements, which can always be changed by HMRC it works out that for each 75cl bottle it will cost £26.23 and each magnum would cost £53.66.  The wine will retail for £29/£30 (for 75cl bottle) once on general release, so quite a cost saving overall. However, rates of excise duty and VAT are subject to change by the UK government at any time. 

Well you can buy these wines direct from the Rathfinny website with your plastic flexible friend as of right now 26/07/2019 or order at the cellar door at the vineyard directly.

You don’t have to worry once you place your order as Rathfinny take very good care of your wine for the next 2 years, while its developing nicely. Rathfinny will remain responsible for insuring the wine at the original invoice value until you collect or request delivery. Ownership of the wines will pass on settlement of all outstanding charges.

When can I get my mits on my purchases I hear you ask….

The wines will be disgorged in early 2021 and then rest in the bottle for a few months, you will then be notified by email when the wine is available for collection or delivery. Generally Rathfinny release their vintages in May or early June.

So you get your email, pay Rathfinny the tax which they sort with HMRC for you and you collect your wine or they will deliver world wide, obviously delivery is at normal shipping rates. The wines need to be collected within one month of the notification or they may start to charge storage fees on your bottles!

If you are an international customer these wines can be purchased free from United Kingdom VAT and duty. However your country will also have rates for duty and tax per bottle which will need to be applied by the shipping agent before they would deliver to your address. These vary across the globe and if you ask Mr Goggle nicely and I’m sure he will have the rates for your country for importing wine.

You may have noticed I mentioned I had the opportunity to taste this 2017 Classic Cuvee  with last weekend, Mark very kindly left the bottle with the tasting room staff so we could finish it off with dinner.

So what is it like?

Well you have to understand that this wine is only 1 year into its three year aging, but after only one year this wine is already spectacular. When I tasted the wine it had not yet had dosage added (added sugars).

On the nose it’s pears and red apples with a vibrant perlage. The palate is fresh and rich with summer fruit which then turns to cherry on the finish…. which goes on and on. I cannot believe that this wine is zero dosage at this stage.

Rathfinny will be adding dosage to the wine before release but as usual for them it will be only for balance and structure and not trying to add new flavours to the wine with sugar.

What’s interesting is that Rathfinny dosage is generally low 3-6g per litre. Brut Champagne will usually be between 9 & 12g per litre. If you want to experiment yourselves get a litre of water and add 6g of sugar….. Most of our palates can’t ever notice it!

Hope you love the wine in 2021!


Here is Mark Driver talking about Rathfinny RESERVED


Here is the link for RESERVED on the Rathfinny website.

Website and social media links for Rathfinny below:





I’m not being paid by Rathfinny for this blog. I am a huge advocate of the fabulous English sparkling wine industry, especially with what Rathfinny are doing. I will always promote free of charge for great wines and wineries. Rathfinny did provide me with overnight  accommodation as I live 200 miles away.









I need one of these!

Hi Again

I have been sent some items recently that I will be reviewing over the next few weeks which include interesting wine bottles (new design & eco friendly), a fabulous wine preservation system and also a few goodies I already have at home.

However, this week I received a press release from Michele Chiarlo, the famous wine producer from Piedmont. Interestingly it wasn’t about wine or the expansion of buying new vineyards, it was about a new product SommOled.

This new product will be launched in July.

If you are a wine geek like me, when you open a bottle and pour out your sample to try the wine the first thing you do is look at it before tasting. Well with my overhead spotlights in the kitchen it has no comparison to a natural light source at all.

MC Logo

This new SommOled light provides you with the perfect natural light source to check out your wine. Place your wine glass on the light and you see the colour in all its glory and not just in the normal light of your home which usually means you have no real idea about the wines true colour. In fact unless you are in daylight…. pretty much outside its so hard to assess the exact colour of the wine.

Below is an example of wine photographed in my kitchen (left image) and also outside (right image) , against a white plain paper background. Difficult to show exactly but in real life they are worlds apart in colour.

The PRESS Release:

SommOled: The True Color of Wine

Michele Chiarlo Winery launches the first portable OLED lamp for the visual analysis of wine


The true color of wine has a new name. It’s called SommOled and it promises to illuminate an often overlooked aspect of wine tasting: what we see. The visual analysis of wine is the fundamental first step in evaluating the quality of a wine. It is an aspect of wine inspection that is regularly disregarded due to poor lighting of many settings of consumption; bars are too dark, wine shops have lights that are too warm, and trade shows have bright, artificial lighting. SommOled, thanks to OLED (organic light-emitting diode) technology, is the first portable lamp to guarantee lighting that is the most similar to natural lighting. This is because OLED lighting creates “area” lighting, as opposed to point or line lighting created by LED or halogen bulbs. The light emitted is uniform with no glare, shadows or UV rays, guaranteeing that the truest color of the wine is visible.

The innovation of SommOled is not just technological but also ergonomic. A pocket-sized lamp, the OLED panel has been installed in a light-weight oak base, and it is easy transportable thanks to a small steel chain and snap hook. The lamp’s small size ensures its versatility. A tasting glass can be placed atop the plexiglass panel that protects the OLED panel, or the lamp can be help up to the cup’s rim. The light can be directed in a variety of ways in order to best see the true color of the wine. The long-life battery (8 hours) is integrated into the oak base and easily recharged with a magnetic-attach cord charger. SommOled combines practicality and professionalism with the same dimensions as a pocket tastevin.

The quality of the materials and ergonomic design of the SommOled make it a multifunctional and desirable product. Beyond its professional use, the SommOled can be used as a unique bar coaster, a luminous centerpiece, or thanks to a detachable stem, an elegant table lamp. The OLED panel in the SommOled does not produce any noticeable heat and the light is adjustable. It is the most advanced portable lighting system on the market to show the true color of wine.


Michele Chiarlo is the exclusive distributor of SommOled. Beginning July 2019, SommOled is available to purchase in two options: Deluxe, which includes a single lamp with chain, or Work, with contains four lamps and one chain.

Will update you guys when I have more information on where this is available to purchase from and also how much it costs.

I cannot wait to get one of these to try out.



DISCLAIMER: I am writing this because I was sent a press release, I don’t have one of these, although I want one when they are released. I am not being paid to promote this product or Michele Chiarlo. I am writing this because its a bloody marvelous idea!

Twitter: @michelechiarlo




Campochiarenti Part 2 – The tasting

Hi again folks

Just in case you missed the first part of my Campochiarenti blog here is the link.

Well after a fabulous albeit very windy tour of the vineyard and the winery it was time to taste the wines.

Daniele is the perfect host!


Well the first sample was not wine… It was olive oil.

Amazing Oil, SO fresh and so natural, NOTHING ADDED.

So a little introduction into Campochiarenti’s olive oil production, their philosophy is very simple. To make natural olive oil, nothing sprayed on the tress nothing added in production, just natural.

The process is as follows.

  1. Pick the olives
  2. Press the olives
  3. Centrifuge the liquid to remove the water, but not filtered.
  4. Bottle the OIL.

The Centrifuge is used because amazingly there is a massive water content in the olives. For every 100kg of olives you end up with between 11-14kg of oil only.

The ideal growing season is for some rain at the beginning of the summer and then a dry hot summer, with little rain during the season as the olives are not harvested until October. If they get too much rain in September all that will do is make the olives bigger and fatter and all its actually doing is adding water content therefore adds nothing to the production of the oil. These days the hot summer is essential as there is a fly that is becoming a menace within all olive growing regions. Its an Olive fruit fly that lays its eggs on the olives and the larvae eat there way out! Hence a real nightmare for the growers that want to grow naturally and not spray to kill these flies.

They bottle the olive oil in their standard wine bottle as they want to show everyone that this is an artisan product of small production.

The oil was so smooth full of flavour and was a delight with traditional Tuscan bread (NO SALT). Just a quick note, sometimes you get olive oil that has a bitterness to it and this is due to harvesting unripe fruit, usually for mass production and when you taste these small production oils they are a world away from this mass production taste.



Before I move on to the wine tasting I have to tell you about visiting San Gimignano that morning. I was amazed as outside all the wine shops there  were little 3 bottle carry cartons and these were all Vernaccia and also Chianti….. THEY WERE ALL €12 per pack! Seems the coach loads of  tourists will never understand the great wines of the area if this is their only introduction to these great  wines. There are amazing producers locally  without spending much more per bottle. About €6.50!


  • 90% of Vernaccia made by only 3 huge producers
  • 1.2m bottles made by these guys
  • 30% of all Vernaccia is sold in San Gimignano, hence the tourist boxes.
  • Wine released only 6 months after harvesting for most of these wines. Hence quality is poor to say the least. Most of these wines are bottles in JANUARY and have never had time to evolve and develop.

Well let me tell you that Campochiarenti is far from the normal production of Vernaccia and Chianti in the area. Daniele is making the wines in the same way that they have for centuries.


The first bottle opened is Kalòs kai Agathós, which is 100% Vernaccia.

The name is from ancient Greek meaning “The Beauty and the Goodness” or in Italian

“Il Bello e Buono”

Basically the old philosophy says that what is made in a good natural way for the city and citizens comes back to be good for everyone. Was also used for Sculptures and politics too. Its all about respecting the beauty of nature.

The wine, this is the 2017 vintage, is the first bottle that Daniele had opened. Hugely honoured Daniele. (FEB 2019)

In the glass its a pale straw yellow in colour with golden edges, Its fresh on the nose, with a zesty touch. Serving temperature is important for Vernaccia to really let it shine. Its very much a food wine and should be served at around 10-11ºc. At this temperature it pairs beautifully with fish dishes, as the wine gets warmer 12-17ºc it then is fabulous with pasta, chicken and pork.

The key elements of Vernaccia are for sapidity (a saline note) almonds, ripe fruit flavours and white flowers. These all change depending on vintage but I think its best to get an overview for the variety when done well.

Daniele adds no sulphites to his wines.

So unlike most Vernaccia, this wine has only just been released on the 1st of March this year, has been in the concrete tanks since harvest and pressing for fermentation, then filtered with natural bentonite sand. Then when ready it gets bottled and laid to rest until release. Normally Vernaccia from other producers would class this as a riserva but for Daniele its the standard.


These next two Vernaccia di San Gimignano really show how the variety evolves over time. the 2014 & 2009.

I have visited Daniele in 2018 and had previously tried the 2014, so I thought I knew what I was expecting….

NOPE! Completely changed in the last year, the colour is still straw bright golden but when you put the glass to your nose this is where the evolution of Vernaccia is really coming into its own.

On the nose it was pure caramel, toffee, smelled so sweet it was like smelling a desert wine. The green notes and herbaceous notes have subsided.

On the palate its nothing like it smells…. No sweetness, its fresh ripe green apples,  and almonds, and its full and rich on the palate. The finish has a sapidity , mineral and long satisfying finish.

2009, Well this poured into the glass and looked the same as the 2014, even though now this white wine is ten years old.

What was instantly obvious on the palate is how again different this wine is from the 14′  More fruit, yet much fresher even though 5 more years of aging. Similar in fruit profile but now with the slightest hint of balsamic and also fresh mint too.

NO OAK is used in making these white Vernaccia wines, the rounded full mouth feel and development is from the period of aging only.

It will be fabulous to see how this wine evolves over the next few years and how long it will actually age for. Based on how fresh this 2009 is currently and the levels of fruit and acidity still in the backbone of the wine I can see this may go another 10!

On to the REDS


Amor Divino 2016 IGT Toscana

Sangiovese 85%, them 15% blend of Tuscan varieties of Canaiolo, Colorino, Ciliegiolo, Mammolo e Foglia Tonda. All these grapes are planted across Tuscany and mostly used as blending grapes for Chianti. However there are some producers that make wine exclusively from these varieties too, although not so many. Even the Foglia Tonda has a couple of producers making single variety wine…. even though most people will never see or even hear about some of these wines.

Fermented in the cement tanks and then a long maceration on the skins.

Cherry on the nose and palate, feels big on the mouth feel, no oak at all but because of the long maceration on the skins this gives it a big feel. A great value wine at €6.50 from the vineyard to order direct.

Now onto Chianti, Campochiarenti is in the Colli Senesi area.

People get confused about Chianti.

A quick idiots guide for you below (sorry for all the people that know!!)

8 Areas of Chianti in Tuscany

  • Chianti Rufina
  • Chianti Montalbano
  • Chianti Montespertoli
  • Chianti Colle Aretini
  • Chianti Classico
  • Chianti Colline Pisane
  • Chianti Fiorententini
  • Chianti Colle Senesi

Out of each of these there is Chianti (then followed by the area above)

Chianti Superiore.

Chianti Riserva.

and in Chianti Classico only, Gran Selezione. It can be confusing! One key thing that you need to know is that Superiore is made in six provinces across Tuscany and the only difference between this and standard chianti is that its from estate grown fruit…. so actually might not be superior at all.

Chianti Colle Senesi 2016 San Nicola 2016

Sangiovese 85% and Canaiolo, Colorino, Ciliegiolo, Mammolo e Foglia Tonda 15% so a similar makeup to the IGT Amor Divino however this has spent time in large OAK barrels, this changes the profile completely. Its forest fruit on the palate, the addition of the large format oak gives a silky roundness to the wine without a huge vanilla and toasty input.

Vivi 2007

This is made up of 50% Sangiovese, 30% Merlot & 20% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Even though there is 30% Merlot, it doesn’t feel like it at all. The clone planted is early ripening so gains so much from the summer sun and does not feel dominant in the blend at all, but obviously gives the wine depth and of course flavour. Its a big wine, 30 months in 550 litre oak barrels then bottle stored until release. Sublime black & red fruits enveloping your mouth in a rich and silky delight, the finish is so long.

The balance of this wine 12 year old is wonderful, tannins, acidity and fruit all balanced though each still powerful so this wine has many years of aging. It could really be drinking well in another 12 years.

I talked at length about aging the wine with Daniele.

“I release the wines when they are enjoyable to drink, however if you wish to store you are more than able to for many years. If you want to see the development of a wine its best to buy a few bottles and see how the wine evolves over time”. GREAT ADVICE TO FINISH ON.


Mille grazie Daniele, sempre molto gentile.


I did add the disclaimer in my last blog but I am not paid by Campochiarenti I am writing because Daniele has become a good friend and more importantly his wines are brilliant. I wouldn’t be writing about them if they were not.

Distribution is so hard for the smaller producer and although he distributes to many places, there are also many places that there are no distributors. But the great news is you can buy directly from Italy and the freight cost wont kill you as the wines start at €6.5!! only.




Tuscan Heaven at Campochiarenti

Hi Again

Just over 30 miles south of Florence lies the beautiful hilltop town of San Gimignano, with majestic towers and stunning vistas across the Tuscan countryside.

Six miles east you will find the beautiful tiny hamlet of Campochiarenti.

Image Courtesy of Daniele from Campochiarenti


The Campochiarenti history begins at the end of the 10th century when the church of Saint Nicholas was built (finished in 998).


The Church still stands here today 1021 years later.

Inside the chapel is very tranquil, it even has a tiny confessional booth, I didn’t use as we could have been in there all day…. Forgive me father but I have consumed the odd glass of Vino…. on a daily basis….like forever….haha

This church is named in the “Bulla pontificalis” (official document signed by the Pope) made by Pope Alessandro II in 1070. The power of the owners increased between 1100-1200 because of its alliance with San Gimignano.

San Gimignano was in allegiance with Siena, which was a power house of a city in Italy at that time, however always at war with Florence. The Florentines wanted produce and San Gimignano was rich with spices and oil so Campochiarenti became the go between. The small hamlet around the church was originally built as a convent, which then became the trading point for the Florentines.




Wine & olive oil has been sold from this site since 1276. Vernaccia is one of the most important wines in Tuscan history as over the centuries it has maintained the same single grape variety and quality characteristics.

Today the estate is owned, including the little church, by Daniele, the estate was bought by his father back in 1977. He then started renovating the hamlet and bringing the vineyard back to its former glory as it was not in the best of condition. Nearly all the vines were replaced 40 years ago with better clones which they knew would enable more control of the quality of wine. Additionally there were also more vines planted ten years ago. The estate is just over 120 acres, 34 of which are the vineyards, there are also about 1000 olive trees.

Sangiovese and Vernaccia di San Gimignano are the main grapes planted, although Colorino, Canaiolo, Mammolo, Ciliegiolo & Foglia Tonda also used in small parts with the Sangiovese for the Chianti Colli Senesi DOCG.

Vernaccia di SG is a single variety wine although they have a few different clones on the estate enabling small changes to the flavour profile and structure when making the wine.

Over the last 25 years the vines have been treated by cutting out any infection, using a chainsaw very carefully I might add, to keep the old clones alive and well.

Incredibly the rot was cut from this 40 year old vine using a chainsaw. It has deep roots in this Tuscan terroir and amazingly produces fabulous fruit.

It’s about low production, the main concentration is top quality fruit. There are no weed killers used, all the weeds are mechanically or manually removed. They are not an organic vineyard as they sometimes use products to deal with pests or disease. Daniele believes for the best grapes its important to minimise the affect of any products used. It’s about using the 1000 years of experience of many generations with these ancient varieties for the best results.

The key word here is NATURAL, the wines are made as naturally as possible with minimum intervention in the vineyard and with the winemaking.

These images above are from the nightly digging of the Cinghiale, WILD BOAR! They like digging for the roots of the weeds, lets hope they leave the grapes alone.

Their terroir is made up mostly of sand and lime soil, although millions of years ago this area was under water…. it was the sea. Because of that it has very rich mineral soil with many fossils of sea creatures in it too. This provides a beautiful minerality to the wines.

On to the winery,

For a fairly small production winery, Campochiarenti has everything in house, from the grape press, tanks & barrels, to bottling the wines and of course storing them for aging too.

As you walk into the tank & barrel room its quite impressive as the first thing you see are large HL95 (12,000 Bottles) concrete tanks that were built in 1956.

As you can see from this huge tank 12k bottle tank the wall thickness of the concrete is about 10 inches so the temperature inside is very stable no matter what the outside temperature is. The outside of the tank is painted in a light colour to add more light in thee winery and to deflect heat also.

These tanks have a special non transferring resin coating specifically for wine due to the high acidity when the wine is fermenting. This coating allows the tank to be meticulously cleaned for the next use, as after clarification the deposits need to be blasted out so its squeaky clean inside. Although there is a hatch in the top to allow access inside I really wouldn’t want to be in there to clean it!! Claustrophobia would soon set in.

The grape process for these tanks is quite simple.

  1. Sort Grapes
  2. Crush Grapes
  3. Put in the tank…… and that’s it!
  4. Finally before removing it is treated with a natural product which is called Bentonite which clarifies the wine so it becomes clear. This has to be done for the Italian classification of the DOCG as the wine has be clear in appearance.

In this part of the winery there are also various sizes of steel tanks and large Slavonian Oak barrels.

Daniele uses large format oak barrels up to 20HL (2660 bottles) from Garbelloto who are based in Conegliano, Veneto in northern Italy. These guys know something about barrels…. they have been making them since 1775. It is key that the barrel room has high humidity to prevent evaporation within the oak barrels as without humidity you can lose up to 50 litres per year.

I asked Daniele, why do you use large format barrels and not Barriques that I see so often in my travels around Italy.

“For me its about producing more traditional wines, a large barrel allows more control over a longer period of time. A barrique barrel at 300 bottles is nearly 9 times smaller than the barrels we use and only has a wall thickness of 20 to 24mm so the wine has far more contact with the oak. With our large format 20HL (2660 bottle) barrels there is a lot less contact with the oak and the wall thickness is 40-70mm so the flavour from the oak is softer and a much slower evolution of the flavours in the wines. For us it’s an ancient tradition of using the large barrels”

Onto the bottle aging room, where the magic finishes in the bottle.

What is very clear here is that Daniele is doing something extraordinary compared with most of the producers in the area.

The reason I say this is most people making Vernaccia di San Gimignano are releasing the wine within 6-9 months and meant to be consumed within 1-2 years…… as opposed to Daniele that wouldn’t even dream of releasing that early as the Vernaccia is still in the making.

Proof of this was the 2009 we had during the tasting.

The tasting will be in part 2 next week.




Just for the record I have become good friends with Daniele over the last few years and have enjoyed some great meals and wines together in Florence, however I am writing this completely unpaid and because he makes epic wines!!

My long weekend at the Rathfinny Wine Estate. 🇬🇧

Hello again

I have been looking forward to staying at the Rathfinny vineyard estate ever since I went to their launch, last April, of their Sussex Sparkling wine at the very glamorous venue of Somerset house in London. Here is my blog from last year. Rathfinny Launch

After a few emails back and forth to sort  dates (I wanted to make sure Richard James – (my buddy from twitter) was there as I wanted the guided tour of the estate) I booked to stay for a long weekend, which I did two weeks ago.

The Estate, owned by Mark and Sarah driver, is in the Cradle Valley on the South Downs in the county of Sussex near to the village of Alfriston. The estate is only 3 miles from the sea, 17 miles from Brighton and about 60 ish miles from central London.

A 200 mile drive from home and with a pitstop in Brighton for lunch, we arrive in the very picturesque village of Alfriston, just the other side of the village is the entrance for the Rathfinny Estate.

Immediately, after turning off the road, what strikes you, is the sheer attention to detail across the whole estate.

The Rathfinny Logo welcomes you as you pull into the driveway, the logo is based upon the Sussex coat of arms, however the birds have been replaced by Grapes.

Up the drive way we began, within a hundred metres the road winds up the hill and  you are surrounded by vines. Its about a mile until you reach the winery and tasting rooms but we were going to the end of the estate to stay at the Flint Barns.

On arrival you can only be impressed by these once derelict old barns that have been lovingly restored, using reclaimed and locally sourced materials.

We checked in, best check in ever… as it doubles as the bar too.

Alice and all of the Flint Barn team were brilliant and nothing was too much trouble even though It was a busy weekend for them  with lots of people staying and eating there.

We were shown to our room, everything is of the highest quality with all the fixtures and fittings to a very high standard. Wetroom bathrooms are always a winner. There are no TVs in the rooms or the lounges, which I think is fabulous. This is a getaway and you really do not need a TV! Pets and even children!(haha) are  welcomed too.


Dropped the bags in the room and headed back to the bar…. well it was way past wine o’clock, opting for a large glass, as would be drinking wine later with dinner and  Rich was joining us after,  of the estates only still wine, which I believe is unfortunately for the estate only. The wine is called Cradle valley, vintage 2017, its a blend of Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris and is really delicious indeed. With glasses in hand it was time to relax in the lounge before dinner. You can buy this wine at the estate to take home though…. as I did.

The lounge is a wonderful place to relax, loads of comfy sofas, armchairs and a log burner too. There are loads of books to read, including a great wine book shelf.

I did notice “Wine for Dummies” too…. I forgot to ask Rich if it had been planted there for me…. HAHA. Also lots of board games available too. This really is a great place to relax.

After a 30 minute rest to chill out and enjoy the wine, I decided to go and have a wander amongst the vines, as the sun was going down, before dinner.

What strikes you immediately as you step out of the flint barns and into the vines , which is literally a few steps, is that the Cradle Valley is so serene and absolutely stunning. The birdsong, which was plentiful, in the early evening was a great backing track to my walk. This estate has been thoughtfully planned, to become one with the environment.

Just a hop skip and a jump over the bank and your overlooking the sea.

Back in for a freshen up and off to dinner in the Flint barn dining room.

We perused the menu, produce  all locally sourced Sussex where possible which is part of sustainability ethos that the estate has. The kitchen is open to the dining room, you can see the chef making your dinner.

Opting for fresh tomato and pesto soup, lamb with seasonal vegetables, and then Rhubarb  compote …. oh and the most delicious Chocolate tart with Ginger ice-cream.

There is quite a good wine selection too, by the bottle and by the glass. We opted for glasses of Rioja and a Cabernet Sauvignon.

After supper Rich joined us for a great evening chatting about the estate and chewing the fat about wine….. while drinking a couple of bottles epic vino.

DAY 2 up early as I wanted to see the valley in the morning light and boy oh boy was it worth it….


Now down to the serious business…. BREAKFAST… nothing to disappoint here for sure.

I always judge breakfast initially on COFFEE! perfect start and then cornflakes and onto a very good full English breakfast indeed.

All cooked to perfection! Thanks Chef.

Superb breakfast time for another quick wander around the vines before Rich was to show me around the winery. I am going to write another piece about the winery because to give it justice it really needs to be a stand alone blog. Wont be too long!

So after an amazing tour from Rich I had 20 mins to kill before going to the tasting room for lunch.

I decided to check out the terroir.

What is interesting is the level of flint in the soil, which they are repurposing to build walls on the estate.


The top soil is approx. 10cm ONLY in depth and then it is pure chalk. This is the same chalk also found in the champagne region.

Showing the band of chalk from Reims (Champagne Country) to the South Coast of the UK and beyond.

The following day we went down to the coast to get some images of the white cliffs which are known as the Seven Sisters, these images show the make up of the soil from sea level. The level of retained moisture in the chalk is approximately 70% water!

Now it was time for lunch!

The tasting room is attached to the winery building and is a superb piece of architecture and was nominated for awards in architecture too.

Into the dining room, with stunning décor and an even more stunning view.

The menu was fabulous, here was our lunch menu for that day. It is constantly changing depending on seasonal produce. Most produce is from sourced locally in Sussex.


Their take on the bread basket was divine, rosemary and grape bread with radishes.



For the first course we chose the Rosé Veal and Salt cod.


Second course was the Halibut with local leeks, potted shrimp and chip shop mash..

JUST WOW…. if you have never tried chip shop mash… you haven’t lived.


Last but by no means least came the puddings, Guanaja bitter chocolate crémeux, fig, salted caramel, crème fraiche and Yuzu tart, with black sesame

IMG_2757IMG_2758 Continue reading “My long weekend at the Rathfinny Wine Estate. 🇬🇧”

Rathfinny at the Ritz 🇬🇧

Hi again all, 

I wrote last year about the launch of Rathfinny’s new English sparkling wines, from Sussex, England, you can check that out here. Rathfinny Blog.

After a very successful initial launch their new vintage 2015 Blanc de Noirs & 2016 Rosé are about to be launched on the 1st of May and then released in June 2019.

The launch is at the Ritz in London. The Ritz is one of the most iconic hotels in the world so this truly is a fabulous achievement for Rathfinny as the Ritz are having their new 2015 Blanc de Noirs as their wine of the month in May.

Its only the 2nd time in the 113 year history of the Ritz they have had an English Sparkling wine as their wine of the month.

Giovanni Ferlito, Head of Wine and Beverage at The Ritz:

“We’re delighted that the launch of the first release of Rathfinny’s Blanc de Noirs, the 2015 vintage, will be taking place at The Ritz London on 1st May. I have been a fan of Rathfinny since I had the privilege to visit the Estate in 2017, and believe that the quality of their wines marks them as a leading light within the industry. Rathfinny is the second ever English sparkling wine to be featured in our ‘sparkling wine of the month’ calendar, in the hotel’s 113-year history. With a premium and complex style, I firmly believe Rathfinny represents some of the finest quality in sparkling wine production today, and I look forward to sharing with our hotel guests.

The 2015 Blanc de Noirs, made from 65% Pinot Noir and 35% Pinot Meunier, has been aged for thirty-six months on the yeast lees.

Rathfinny Tasting notes: (as not yet released) 

It has an enticing blush that sets the scene for perfumed peony and wild strawberry on the nose, while on the palate, its rich mousse of raspberries and toasted almonds gives way to a caramelised red-apple finish.

English sparkling wine is booming folks!! 2018 was the best harvest to date with record yields across the English wine industry, of course record yields does not necessarily mean amazing wines but all the indicators so far are very good indeed. 

Two weeks ago I spent a long weekend on the  Rathfinny Estate as they are far more than just a very good vineyard, they have a fabulous restaurant and also great accommodation for up to 30 guests too. I cant give this justice within this blog so there will be a new Rathfinny estate blog out very soon.


Cheers all, and get yourself down to the Ritz to sample Rathfinny Blanc de Noirs 2015 (from the 1st May) before its even released in June.


A few links below for Rathfinny:

The Rathfinny Estate


The Flint Barns (To stay)


The Tasting Room (To eat and drink)


The Ritz, London :