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 :


Root Cause – New book by Steven Laine

Hi folks

I’m currently reading a wine book….

Ok that’s not very unusual!!

However this is a thriller! It is an uncorrected proof sent to me so there may well be some changes (guessing only technical details) within the book but overall its a great read and a real page turner. Even if you are not a wino like me I still think that you will thoroughly enjoy this book.

I was sent this pre-published copy of “Root Cause” by Steven Laine by Turner publishing.

Root Cause Novel Cover FINAL.jpeg

Synopsis: From Turner Publishing.

Can you imagine a world without wine?

Corvina Guerra is a flying winemaker who dreams of one day settling down in her native Italy on her family’s vineyard. On a visit to a vineyard in Italy, Corvina makes a startling discovery: Phylloxera, a menacing plant louse that devastated vineyards in Europe more than a hundred years ago, has infested the vines.

After reporting her findings to her company, Universal Wines, Corvina is charged with
investigating the spread of the bug. Nicknamed Philomena by the media, the aphid is soon discovered in vineyards around the world. To aid in her investigation, Corvina recruits a wine expert in London, Bryan Lawless. In pursuit of its origins, Corvina and Bryan embark on a thrilling globetrot on which they uncover that Philomena is being intentionally spread.
The deeper Corvina and Bryan search, the more they become convinced that Universal Wines holds the answer to everything, and the harder they pursue their investigation the more surprises pile up. In spite of devastating consequences, Corvina and Bryan vow to continue their investigation and do what they can to contain the spread of the infestation – but time is running short and they always seem to be a step behind. Unless they can find a way to stop the Philomena – vineyards around the world will be ruined for decades; potentially causing the collapse of the wine industry. Can Corvina and Bryan get to the root cause and save the international wine industry from ruin?

About the Author:

Steven Laine

Steven Laine was raised in Ontario, Canada and has dual Canadian and British citizenship.

He has travelled the world working in luxury hotels for international brands including The Ritz, Hilton, Starwood, Marriott, and Jumeirah.

When he was Beverage Manager of a five star hotel in London, he learned all about wine and has since visited over one hundred vineyards and wineries in Napa, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Champagne, Spain, Portugal, Germany, Switzerland, Lebanon, and South Africa.

As the only North American ever invited to be a Member of the Champagne Academy, he had the privilege to tour the major Champagne Houses in France. His circle of friends is made up of winemakers, Masters of Wine, Master Sommeliers, restaurant managers, and wine distributors from all over the globe.

Steven’s debut novel, Root Cause will be released on February 19, 2019, published by Turner Publishing.

Steven currently lives in Singapore and is now working on his next novel.

To learn more, go to

@StevenLaine on Twitter

@TurnerPub on Twitter

Not just labels, Incredible Artworks!

Hello again 

First blog for 2019.

Labels…. I see and hear about people buying wines all of the time because of the labels. Its obviously a great marketing tool at a certain price point to distinguish one wine from another on extremely crowded and competitive supermarket shelves to make them stand out.

Of course some of them are good, no, some of them are even great wines however more often than not at a certain low price point the label is truly the best thing about the wine!


This is not always the case, but you do need to research your wines a little before you are just buying “that shiraz” or “that Chardonnay” because of the cool label.

Which brings me on to, in my opinion the masters of the modern art wine labelling, but I hasten to add also fabulous wine makers.

The image of the woman’s face with the wind swept hair for their company logo is that of Gabriella Rallo the “Donna-Fugata” (woman in flight)


There have been many blogs, published articles about Donnafugata, but I thought I would take a slightly different slant and concentrate on the superb labels and artwork. These are not just well labelled bottles to sell the wine, its about the story, the passione! and of course great winemaking. I have included all of the tech info, tasting notes and  pairing ideas for each wine from Donnafugata too.

The name Donnafugata refers to the novel by Tomasi di Lampedusa entitled Il Gattopardo (The Leopard). A name that means “donna in fuga” (woman in flight) and refers to the story of a queen who found refuge in the part of Sicily where the company’s vineyards are located today. An adventure that inspired the corporate logo: the image of a woman’s head with windblown hair that dominates every bottle. Donnafugata labels are also works of art created or inspired by Gabriella Rallo, as are the names of the wines, and homage to art and literature.


Donnafugata are from Sicily & the Island of Pantelleria, which is about half way between Sicily & the north African coast of Tunisia.


Giacomo and Gabriella Rallo created Donnafugata in 1983, and were then joined in the business in 1990 by their children José and Antonio. They are one of (if not) the most successful wineries, internationally, from Sicily.


01_la-famiglia_ph-fabio-gambina (1)
Giacomo (who very sadly passed away in 2016), Jose, Gabriella & Antonio Rallo

Before you start to explore the wines and the serious ART (wine bottle labels) here are a few images from my visit to Donnafugata. If you are visiting Sicily make sure you contact them for a tour and a tasting…. you will not be disappointed. I had emailed them and arranged for exactly this. Laura was an absolute delight and extremely knowledgeable and passionate about all aspects of the winery. 


Winery in Marsala, Western Sicily.

The Ranges of wines in Catagories

The Barrel room cellar is a literally a Cathedral of Wine, wines calmly resting, waiting patiently to one day provide lots of wine joy to all of us!

You need to visit to experience the true expression of Art and wine.

So on to the wines and the labels.

There are 21 wines currently in the range, all of them below. They also have grappa and olive oil too.

Yes 21 wines below… IT IS WORTH THE READ! I promise! These are fabulous wines and labels. 

Stephano Vitale

“Donnafugata are a homage to art and literature. Unique and inimitable, they represent a way of being, a style. Inspired by Gabriella Rallo they are designed by Stefano Vitale, an exceptional artist with a unique stroke, capable of making the personality of each wine shine”

White Wines.


An autochthonous single variety with marked scents of citrus

Prio 2017 has a brilliant straw yellow color. The nose offers a fragrant bouquet with marked citrus scents of grapefruit and citron combined with notes of Mediterranean scrub. The palate is fresh and perfectly reflects the nose.

Food & wine

Perfect when paired with raw fish, mixed fried fish, stir fry veggies.

Excellent at 9 – 11°C/48 – 52°F°


Sicilia DOC Catarratto


Production zone

Contessa Entellina Estate and Nearby Areas


Label & Original artwork. 

Joy, happiness, this is the meaning of prio in Sicilian dialect. It is the unexpected and authentic joy of a woman, sitting on a beach at sunset on a day in early summer, sweetly kissed by a butterfly that lands on her face. A lively and sensual label like the Catarratto signed Donnafugata

Stefano Vitale, the author



The most enjoyed Donnafugata wine in the world

Anthilia 2018 has a straw yellow color. The nose presents a fresh and fruity bouquet with notes of white-fleshed fruits (apple) combined with scents of wildflowers. On the palate we find the evident fruity note again, refreshed by agreeable sapidity. It finishes with good persistence.

Food & wine

Perfect when paired with tomato and basil bruschetta, seafood pasta, blue fish. Try also with cesar salad.

Excellent at 9 – 11 °C/48 – 51°F°


Sicilia DOC White


  • Catarratto
  • the predominant variety; the blend is complemented by other autochthonous and international varieties

Production zone

Contessa Entellina Estate and Nearby Areas

Label & Original artwork.

The label depicts the face of a woman, mysterious and fleeting like the Elymian civilization. Anthilìa is the name given to the city of Entella on the top of the Rocca in Roman times. Today, Anthìlia is the name of a win that is identified with the ancient territory where it has its roots. It is the first wine to have been conceived at Donnafugata and still remains to this day in the hearts of many admirers.

Stefano Vitale, the author  


An aromatic Mediterranean white

Lighea 2017 has a brilliant straw yellow color with greenish reflections. The nose offers a rich and fragrant bouquet with classic notes of orange blossom combined with citrusy scents (citron, bergamot) and nuances of Mediterranean scrub. The nose is perfectly reflected on the palate, enlivened by a fresh mineral vein.

Food & wine

Recommended with all types of oily fish, baked pasta in white sauce, fried fish.

Excellent at 9 – 11°C/48 – 52°F°


Zibibbo Sicilia DOC


Production zone

Island of Pantelleria (South-Western Sicily)

Label & Original artwork. 

“From the disheveled tresses the color of the sun, seawater flowed over the green, wide-open eyes.” Thus Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa describes Lighea, the bewitching siren and principal figure in his novel. She has inspired the creation of a complex and innovative wine and an equally original label. “It was not easy to print this label”, Gabriella (founder of Donnafugata, with her husband Giacomo) recalled, “and preserve the thousand shadings of colors of Pantelleria Island, painted in the original drawing.”

Stefano Vitale, the author

Sul Vulcano Etna Bianco

A small production, with great mineral elegance.

Elegant notes of aromatic herbs, citrus fruits and flint. Fresh and savory, Sul Vulcano 2016 presents fine notes of aromatic herbs, citrus fruit and flint. In the mouth it is embracing, fresh and savoury, characterized by distinctive minerality and remarkable persistence. A wine of great elegance and complexity.

Food & wine

Perfect with crustaceans, vegetarian first courses and porcini mushrooms.

Excellent at 10-12°


Etna Bianco DOC


Production zone

Eastern Sicily, north side of Etna

Label & Original artwork. 

A goddess-volcano stands out on the Etna Bianco label by Donnafugata “Sul Vulcano”. Its intense colors, red, yellow, iridescent blacks, are those of the highest active volcano in Europe. An ancient, powerful and feminine deity: “the Mountain” as Etna is called by the locals. “Sul Vulcano” is a declaration of love: a pure wine with a marked minerality that makes you breathe the energy of this unique place located in the center of the Mediterranean.

Stefano Vitale, the author

La Fuga

The Chardonnay from the night harvest

Brilliant straw yellow, La Fuga 2017 offers a fragrant bouquet with notes of tropical fruit (pineapple) and white peach, combined with floral scents. In the mouth it amazes with its intense sapidity combined with a pleasant vein of acidity.

Food & wine

It matches well with Risottos, herbed chicken, savoury pies and fish second course.

Excellent at 10 – 12°C/50 – 54°F°


Contessa Entellina Doc Chardonnay Sicilia


  • Chardonnay

Production zone

Contessa Entellina Estate and Nearby Areas

Label & Original artwork. 

Gabriella Anca Rallo (founder of Donnafugata, with her husband Giacomo) thought of “fleeing” and beginning a new life, passing from the arts to the land. Gabriella is a woman with the wind in her hair who is never at rest. Gabriella invented La Fuga, a label that not only suggests movement but also sunshine and the land.

Stefano Vitale, the author

Vigna di Gabri

The cru wanted by Gabriella Rallo

Vigna di Gabri 2017 has a brilliant straw yellow color with light green reflections. The bouquet is intense and goes from floral scents (elder and acacia) to notes of white fleshed fruits (peach) combined with hints of Mediterranean maquis. The palate is enlivened by a fresh savory streak. A fine and elegant white, with an intriguing personality and surprising longevity.

Food & wine

Perfect when paired with seafood pasta, flans, baked fish.

Excellent at 10 – 12°C/50 – 54°F°


Sicilia DOC


  • Ansonica
  • blended with
  • Chardonnay
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Viognier

Production zone

Contessa Entellina Estate and Nearby Areas

Label & Original artwork.

“Vigna di Gabri” is not a fantasy name, because the wine bears the name of Gabriella (founder of Donnafugata, with her husband Giacomo), who originally wanted to create it and strongly believed in the full flavored fragrance of Ansonica. The graphics, already renewed on the occasion of the wine’s 25th Anniversary, with the 2017 vintage, pick up and emphasize some elements present in the original illustration by Stefano Vitale: a master-label that tells the link between Gabri and her Cru. The introduction of the Burgundy bottle also wants to enhance the preciousness and elegance of this wine which is one of Donnafugata’s most beloved wines.

Stefano Vitale, the author



A Chardonnay with a Mediterranean soul, elegant and long-lived

Chiarandà 2016 has a straw yellow color. The nose offers a complex bouquet with scents of fresh tropical fruit, aromatic herbs, and toasted hazelnuts. The palate is ample and well-structured, with pleasant savoury notes and a long mineral finish. An important white with a long and satisfying persistence and great aging potential.

Food & wine

Perfect with lobster, cream of vegetable soup and smoked fish, we suggest it also with roast quail.

Excellent at 11 – 13°C/52 – 55°F)°


Contessa Entellina DOC Chardonnay


  • Chardonnay

Production zone

Contessa Entellina Estate and Nearby Areas

Label & Original artwork.

The wine made its debut in 1992 as Chiarandà del Merlo from the names of the two vineyards where the Ansonica and Chardonnay grapes were grown. Ten years later the name has been simplified to Chiarandà and the label has been enriched with a female figure that suggests complexity and refinement.

Stefano Vitale, the author

Sparkling Wines.

Donnafugata Brut 2013

A metodo classico with surprising elegance

Marked by a mild winter, with good rainfall (767 mm of rainfall, a slightly higher figure compared to seasonal averages), which was followed by a cool, ventilated spring.

Food & wine

Pleasant for an aperitivo, excellent paired with finger food, seared scallops, sole meunière.

Excellent at 6 – 8°C/42 – 46°F°


Vino Spumate Sicilia DOC


  • Chardonnay
  • Pinot Noir

Production zone

Contessa Entellina Estate and Nearby Areas


Donnafugata Brut Rosè

Vintage rosè with a pleasant delicacy and structure

Marked by a mild winter, with good rainfall (767 mm of rainfall, a slightly higher figure compared to seasonal averages), which was followed by a cool, ventilated spring.

Food & wine

A rosé table wine, excellent with raw or cooked crustaceans and fish tartare. We recommend it with thinly sliced prosciutto crudo San Daniele.

Excellent at 6 – 8°C/42 – 46°F°


Vino Spumate Sicilia DOC


  • Pinot Noir

Production zone

Contessa Entellina Estate and Nearby Areas

Label & Original artwork.

An elegant woman, her face lit with a slight smile… how can we not help thinking of Mona Lisa or Lady with an Ermine by Leonardo da Vinci and the many Italian portraits of women in the 1500s. A perfect balance of the elements, including, art, culture, nature. Compared with the very elegant original sketch, made on a wooden board, we just added a few touches of gold foil into the perlage, as beams of light that let us predict all the fine liveliness of its content.

Stefano Vitale, the author

Rosé Wines.


An unconventional rosè, the fruit of a targeted selection of red grapes

Brilliant pink, Lumera 2017 offers an ample and fragrant bouquet with fruity notes of wild strawberries and pomegranate combined with delicate flowery scents of violets. The palate is fresh and savory with good structure and pleasant persistence of fruity notes.

Food & wine

Match with hot and cold seafood antipasti, raw seafood (especially crustaceans) and first courses based on vegetables. We also recommend it with fried fish, fresh cheeses and second courses of roasted fish.

Excellent at 10 – 12°C/50 – 53°F°


Sicilia DOC


Production zone

Contessa Entellina Estate and Nearby Areas

Label & Original artwork.

Lumera is an evocative name, in full Donnafugata style. It’s the beloved woman, the sublime being who inspires joy and fullness of life. It’s the woman portrayed on the label, it’s the wine that bears her name. Lumera is the protagonist of a Sicilian poem that celebrates courtly love and experiments a form, the Dolce Stil Novo, which decidedly anticipates the Italian language. “Or come pote sì grande donna intrare / Per gli occhi mei, che sì piccioli son? / e nel mio core come pote stare […], ma voglio a lei Lumera asomigliare […]

Stefano Vitale, the author

Red Wines.

Sul Vulcano Etna Rosso

A surprising volcanic red

Light ruby red, Sul Vulcano Etna Rosso DOC offers an elegant bouquet with notes of wild berries (strawberry and red currant) and flowery scents, along with delicate spicy nuances of cinnamon and nutmeg. Perfect harmony between aroma and taste, with good freshness and harmonious tannins. A long, balanced finish.

Food & wine

Perfect with mediterranean antipasti and first courses based on eggplant or mushrooms, meat and roast stew. Pairing options are numerous: from North-American cuisine (chicken wings, hamburgers) to moderate spicy Asian dishes (beef stir-fried, dumplings) to fusion cuisine like Tex-Mex based on meat and beans.

Excellent at 18°


Etna Rosso DOC


Production zone

Eastern Sicily, north side of Etna

Label & Original artwork.

A goddess-volcano stands out on the label. Its intense colors, red, yellows, iridescent blacks, are those of the highest active volcano in Europe. An ancient, powerful and feminine deity: “the Mountain” as Etna is called by the locals. “Sul Vulcano” is a declaration of love: a pure wine, fragrant and elegant, that lets you breathe the energy of this unique place located in the center of the Mediterranean.

Stefano Vitale, the author


The Etna cru, volcanic elegance

Pale ruby red coloured, Fragore presents an ample and profound bouquet featuring spices (sweet tobacco and nutmeg), floral notes (violet) and wild berries merging with mineral (flint stone) and balsamic notes.  On the palate it reveals extraordinary complexity and elegance characterized by outstanding minerality and important tannins. Remarkable long finish.

Food & wine

Legumes, mushrooms and tasty meats. Fragore perfectly matches turkey and barbecue ribs. Try it also with Asian food as Peking duck, beef and pork hot pots.

Excellent at 18 °C°


Etna Rosso DOC – Contrada Montelaguardia


Production zone

Eastern Sicily, north side of Etna

Label & Original artwork.

Donnafugata is “projected” towards the future, like an object launched into space, attracted by invisible gravities. Illustrator Stefano Vitale captures this perpetual motion perfectly in the latest label of Fragore that represents the volcano’s roar. Donnafugata continues its journey towards the most remote corners of Sicily: east to Vittoria and then up to the highest point on the island, on the Etna volcano.

Stefano Vitale, the author


A fragrant red that amazes with its immediate pleasantness.

Brilliant ruby red with violet reflections, Bell’Assai offers a fragrant bouquet with intense flowery notes of violets and roses combined with scents of fresh red fruit (strawberries and raspberries). In the mouth it surprises with its great freshness, a perfect harmony between aroma and taste, supported by soft tannins. A fragrant red that amazes with its immediate pleasantness.

Food & wine

We suggest it with salumi, tasty fish dishes such as soups or guazzetti, try with tuna sushi.

Excellent at 16°C (60°F)°


Vittoria DOC Frappato Sicilia


Production zone

South-Western Sicily-Vittoria

Label & Original artwork.

Bell’Assai is a girl with personality who offers to the sweet Sicilian breeze the fruits of the vineyards and the scents of the countryside. She represents the spirit of those enterprising families with the love for beauty which have always been animating the territory of Vittoria. An artistic label with which Donnafugata wants to celebrate the love for the beautiful.

Stefano Vitale, the author


A refined Cerasuolo di Vittoria with a flowery soul

Intense ruby red with brilliant purple reflections; it offers intense fruity aromas, black cherry and plum notes stand out; the bouquet opens with delicate flowery nuances and characteristic spicy notes of black pepper. The palate is supported by freshness and softness that make it juicy and a real pleasure to drink. Fine and well integrated tannins. Floramundi 2017 expresses the harmonious balance Cerasuolo di Vittoria can achieve.

Food & wine

Tasty first courses, grilled meat, important fish baked in the oven. Try with pulled pork and meat dumplings.

Excellent at 15- 16°C (59-61°F)°


Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG


Production zone

South-Western Sicily-Vittoria

Label & Original artwork.

Floramundi is a fantastic figure of a woman who is giving the gift of wonderful interlacements of flowers and fruits with velvety tones. It is a dialogue between two souls, the elegant and sophisticated one of Floral Liberty, of which Vittoria is rich in testimonies, and the fascinating and suggestive one of the tradition of the Pupi Siciliani  (Sicilian Puppets). A dialogue between Nero d’Avola and Frappato to listen to with pleasure. A refined artistic label for a prestigious denomination: Cerasuolo di Vittoria DOCG.

Stefano Vitale, the author


The red you don’t expect, ideal for the aperitivo

Sherazade 2017 has a brilliant ruby red color with violet reflections. The nose offers a pleasantly fruity bouquet with fragrant notes of red plum and cherry, combined with light spicy scents. The palate is fleshy and perfectly reflects the bouquet revealing an extraordinary freshness. The well-integrated tannin, completes this fragrant and pleasant wine.

Food & wine

We suggest it with fish soup, pizza or classic tomato spaghetti.

Excellent at 15 – 16°C/59 – 61°F°


Sicilia DOC Nero d’Avola


Production zone

Contessa Entellina Estate and Nearby Areas

Label & Original artwork.

Sherazade, fascinating female protagonist of the Arabian Nights has a fruity flesh voice, wrapped in a spicy drape, that tells you the fairy tale of this masterpiece of Oriental literature. An intensely Mediterranean label in lush Donnafugata style that gives you an unforgettable tasting.

Stefano Vitale, the author


A glass of quality, perfect for everyday drinking

Ruby red, Sedàra 2016 offers a fruity bouquet with scents of blackberries and blueberries combined with a light spicy note of black pepper. The palate displays good structure with suave tannins and pleasant freshness. A soft red, versatile for food pairing, perfect for every day.

Food & wine

Serve with lasagne, chicken cacciatora, BBQ, seared tuna.

Excellent at 16 – 18°C/61 – 64°F°


Red Sicilia Doc


Production zone

Contessa Entellina Estate and Nearby Areas

Label & Original artwork.

Dedicated to the irresistible and ambitious Angelica Sedàra with green eyes, the fashinatig Claudia Cardinale, protagonist of the film “Il Gattopardo” (The Leopard) directed by Luchino Visconti. The label, also in the new version, refers to the Contessa Entellina winer

Stefano Vitale, the author


A soft red with an international taste

Ruby red, Angheli 2015 is characterized by an enchanting bouquet with notes of red fruits, blackberries and plums, combined with intense balsamic and spicy scents of chocolate and liquorice. Fragrant on the palate with soft tannins. It finishes with good persistence. A red with an international taste with great balance between structure and pleasantness.

Food & wine

Perfect when paired with charcuterie board, meatball in tomato sauce grilled meat and chops.

Excellent at 16 – 18°C/ 60 – 64°F°


Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon Sicilia Doc


  • Merlot
  • Cabernet Sauvignon

Production zone

Contessa Entellina Estate and Nearby Areas

Label & Original artwork.

“… of loves and ladies, knights and arms…”. Would that be Angelica of Orlando Furioso fleeing on the horse portrayed on the label? Donnafugata has many “women in flight;” each of these has a past of history and tradition but, for sure, a future of softness and seduction.

Stefano Vitale, the author


An elegant red. An affordable luxury

Deep ruby red, Tancredi 2015 is characterized by a fragrant bouquet with notes of red fruit (cherry and plum) combined with delicate tertiary scents of sweet tobacco, chocolate and spices (black pepper). In the mouth it offers a structure with important and well-integrated tannins. An enveloping and persistent finish.

Food & wine

It will find its best pairing T-bone steak, gourmet burgers and game. Delicious also with beef Stroganoff
with mushrooms.

Excellent at 18°C/64°F°


Terre Siciliane IGT


Production zone

Contessa Entellina Estate and Nearby Areas

Label & Original artwork.

If you remember Alain Delon in the famous movie that Luchino Visconti made from Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa’s The Leopard, you will see that this wine reflects the elegance and ambition of that “revolutionary” man. With the vintage 2015, the labels offers a new illustration by artist Stefano Vitale who has dedicated this artwork to Giacomo Rallo, visionary captain of Donnafugata. The winery of Contessa Entellina is always there, in the clouds, almost like a mirage. In the upper right, the beloved village of Sambuca di Sicilia where some of the vineyards contribute to the blend of Tancredi. All the places where the memory of this man remains indelible and where his dreams have become reality.

Stefano Vitale, the author


Mille e Una Notte

An icon of Italian excellence

Intense ruby red colored, Mille e una Notte 2015 is characterized by an ample bouquet, with fruity notes (blackberry and black mulberry) and balsamic (liquorice) and spicy scents followed by hints of cacao. The palate is soft and embracing, surprising with an extraordinary silky tannin. A remarkable long persistence on the finish.

Food & wine

We suggest it with Slow-cooked rack of lamb, pappardelle with pork ragout, roasts, tournedos Rossini.

Excellent at 18°C/64°F°


Red Sicilia Doc


Production zone

Contessa Entellina Estate and Nearby Areas

Label & Original artwork.

The palace illustrated on the label is Palazzo Filangeri di Cutò where Queen Maria Carolina took refuge fleeing from Naples, the house lovedby the writer Tomasi di Lampedusa.

Gabriella captures the image and embeds it into a “Mille e una Notte” sky. A tribute to the masterpiece of oriental literature capable of recounting a thousand and one tales.


Sweet Wines.


A very pleasant naturally sweet wine

Bight straw yellow with golden reflections, Kabir 2017 is characterized by a rich and fragrant bouquet with scents of ripe fruit (nectarines) combined with flowery notes of orange blossom and delicate savoury nuances. The nose is perfectly reflected on the palate, combined with a fresh mineral vein that balances the pleasant sweetness well. A good persistence on the finish revealing hints of pink pepper and nutmeg.

Food & wine

Perfect with anchovies, goat’s cheese, ice cream and fruit-based desserts.

Excellent at 12°C/54°F°


Moscato di Pantelleria DOC


Production zone

Island of Pantelleria (South-Western Sicily)

Label & Original artwork.

From the Arabic term “The Great,” this is the name Donnafugata chose for its Moscato di Pantelleria, for its broad and noble perfumes. The label speaks the language of the island, expressing the colors, the freshness and the aromatic richness of Zibibbo. A label evoking the heroic soul of the viticulture of an island battered by wind and waves.

Stefano Vitale, the author

Ben Ryè

One of the most appreciated sweet Italian wines in the world

Ben Ryé 2016 offers an extraordinary rich bouquet with outstanding aromas obtained from the dried grapes: apricots and candied orange peel. It presents delicate hints of Mediterranean macchia. The palate is very fresh and intense, balancing perfectly the sweetness followed by a long and satisfying persistence.

Food & wine

It matches with caramelized duck, foie gras and blue cheeses. It goes well with pastries and gourmet chocolate like gianduja. Extraordinary alone, as a meditation wine.

Excellent at 14°C/57°F°


Passito di Pantelleria DOC


Production zone

Island of Pantelleria (South-Western Sicily)

Label & Original artwork.

From the Arabic term “Son of the Wind” because the wind sweeps constantly around the grape clusters on Pantelleria. And the island’s winds bring with them a profusion of fragrances so powerful that you can touch them. An author label telling the love, the care and the effort of heroic viticulture on an island unique and fascinating. A fresh and enchanting portrait that reveals its essence.

Stefano Vitale, the author


I know this has been quite a long piece but thought I really needed to give Donnafugata justice as ALL of their wines have amazing labels. I hope some are of you are still reading at this stage!!

I have no affiliation to the winery and I am not being paid for writing this piece.

I am good friends with Donnafugata and they always send me a great box of wine for Christmas, and the least I can do is give them a huge shout out for their stunning wines and a bit of info into the labels, the passion and the wines.

They are much more than labels, they are an expression of the wine from the family, terroir, the artist and of course the wine itself.

They are a large international brand and you should be able to buy in most markets locally. Please take the time and try some Donnafugata.


Donnafugata :




All photos are my own or from the Donnafugata website or from the book “Inseguendo Donnafugata” an amazing book they also sent me at Christmas.

If you would like to visit Donnafugata please follow his link:



Jackson Family Wines – Part 1 Vérité

Hi all,

A few weeks ago I was extremely privileged to be invited to the prestigious Dorchester Hotel in Mayfair, London for a very special wine tasting. A tasting to celebrate the release of the 2015 Vérité wines.


Well, this was not going to be any old wine tasting.

Vérité Chalk Hill Vineyard

Vérité & Cardinale are epic wines with huge reputations too.

If you drink (and taste a lot more) a few bottles of wine a year like me (I KNOW!! Understatement of the year) you will surely know of the Jackson family wines in the USA, hugely famous for its Chardonnay. I knew a little bit but thought I must do a bit of research for information before I go to this great tasting.

So here is a brief of history into JFW. You can check out loads more on their website

1974 Jess Jackson buys 80-acre pear and walnut orchard in Lake County and replants to grapes.

1983 Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay

Kendall-Jackson debuts with 1982 vintage Vintner’s Reserve Chardonnay and wins first-ever Double Platinum Award in the American Wine Competition.

From 1986 to the present day they acquired many vineyards across California, Oregon, Tuscany, Bordeaux, Chile, South Africa and Australia. 

In 1991 the Jackson family purchased a stave mill in France to guarantee high-quality French oak barrels.

2003 Jess was selected by Robert Parker Jr. as wine personality of the year, and won a lifetime achievement award in 2007. 


Sadly on April 21st 2011 Jess passed away.



Tasting at the Dorchester Hotel.
The Tasting was compared by Patrick Schmitt MW, the wine maker behind Vérité – Pierre Seillan, The Jackson Family master Sommelier Dimitri Mesnard and Barbara Banke – founder and Chairman and her daughter Julia Jackson.
We started the afternoon with Vérité 2015.
Winemaker Pierre walked us through the vintage of 2015. What stood out immediately is that this was going to be an epic vintage. He explained that in 49 vintages making wine this was certainly one of his finest, definitely in the top 3!.
The weather meant that the grapes were ready to harvest earlier than ever before at the end of August for the first of the 50 micro crus used in the wine, ending the harvest on September 12th. Yields were modest in small clusters but had quality and good concentration making the 2015 harvest outstanding.
He went on to explain about the micro crus further, how the different elevations, aspects and the make up of the soil on each hillside has its impact on the wines. 
So each of the micro crus are harvested by hand and fermented separately, then barreled in French oak, which have also have been toasted in different ways to suit each wine. This allows Pierre hundreds of options to make sure that the final blending of the 3 wines is perfect. 
Pierre uses the term micro-cru to define his approach, which is to find the very best of each particular plot within an already outstanding vineyard
His passion exudes when he is talking about Vérité, 21 years making this wine and why it is an incredibly special wine indeed.
Vérité (the French word for TRUTH) comes in 3 wines. La Muse, La Joie & La Désir 
These wines are a combination of old-world experience with new world fruit. The grape varieties are all tradition Bordeaux grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Although Bordeaux varieties this is no copy of Bordeaux, these wines stand tall by themselves.

La Muse.

Merlot dominated like the Pomerol wines of the Right Bank style in Bordeaux.
Merlot 90%, Cabernet Franc 7% & 3% Malbec blend.
Ruby red in the glass, on the nose its like a wild meadow but a little restrained due to being a youngster. On the palate Blueberry, blackberry and crème de cassis. Has a spiciness which we are told is from the deep roots in the soil of the old vines which stress the vines to work harder and creates this spice. The finish of this wine just keeps on going and going. This wine is still in its infancy however a classic wine that will age for decades to come. Outstanding wine.
97 pts Lisa Perrotti-Brown , Robert Parker
97 pts James Suckling
95 pts Antonio Galloni. 

La Joie. “The Joy”

Cabernet Sauvignon dominated like the wines of Pauillac –  Left Bank style in Bordeaux.
Cabernet Sauvignon 75%, Merlot 14%, Cabernet Franc 7% & 4% Petit Verdot.
This Vérité is obviously quite different to La Muse, as its CAB SAV blend shouts out blackcurrants, ripe cherry & some slightly tart damson plum in there too. Its more mineral also. This is a FINE wine also and will age stunningly over the next several decades.
99 pts Lisa Perrotti-Brown , Robert Parker
97 pts James Suckling
96 pts Antonio Galloni. 

La Desir. “The Desire”

Cabernet Franc dominated like the wines of St Emillion Bordeaux.
Cabernet Franc 64%, Merlot 27%, Cabernet Sauvignon 5% & 4% Malbec.
The first two Vérité wines were brilliant….. however…. this really turns up the volume to 11!
It is so elegant, the nose and palate has finesse, its soft yet with a core of minerality that runs all through from the nose, to palate onto the long finish. Waves of flavours abound each taste, Dark berries, liquorice, tobacco, cedar and oh so silky. This wine has robust tannins but the wine is structured so you could decant and drink today, but of course this wine will unfold to be a beauty for many decades to come.
100 pts Lisa Perrotti-Brown , Robert Parker
98 pts James Suckling
98 pts Antonio Galloni.
So are these Bordeaux copies? ABSOLUTELY NOT!.
These are wines without compromise, they are NOT working to the 1855 classification rules in Bordeaux. With Pierre’s micro cru it allows him to make wines that are respectful of that particular vintage and not to a formulaic recipe. When each barrel is tasted he starts to understand his vision for the blend to make that years vintage the best it can be.
These wines are full of passion and spirit. True greats. 
Oh and by the way ….. if the French ever change the 1855 classification rules (cant see it in my lifetime) I think they may be trying some Sonoma wines for a new Vision of great  wines.


Well it didn’t stop there….

We are then treated to a ” La Muse” Vintage overview

I will give a quick run over these before I send you to sleep with tasting notes….

2012 Robert Parker 97pts Liquorice, tar , light oak and spice. 

2009 RP 96 pts Very Elegant & oh so long.

2007 RP 100 pts OH BOY! One of California’s greatest vintages. 

2004 RP 98 pts Cigars!

2002 RP 99pts Super fresh has years! Interesting in a decade.

All of them truly great wines.

Many thanks to Fiona at Luxx PR for the invite.

Twitter: LuxxPR

Huge thank you to Barbara, Julia, Pierre, Patrick and Dimitri for a spectacular wine experience.

Twitter: verite_wines

Twitter: Jackson Family Wines


PART 2 SOON….. Cardinale