Matt Walls’ first book arrives at the Quadrille office

Fed up with mediocre wine but not sure how to go about spotting the diamond bottles from the dross? Fear not! With Drink Me!, part of Quadrille’s exciting New Voices in Food series, as your guide you will soon be extracting the maximum pleasure from every mouthful.

In this exciting new book, vintner and blogger Matt Walls points you towards the right bottle for every occasion, revealing the main different types of wine, the wine styles within each type and the brands or producers that are the most reliable.

Here’s some images from the book:

the cover

the inside front cover!

a sample chapter

a lovely quote from Fiona Beckett

and an equally lovely quote from Tim Atkin

The book will be out in the shops in around 2 months time. For further details about the book, just click on any of the images above!

Tesco Wine Fair: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Matt Walls’ book Drink Me! How to Choose, Taste and Enjoy Wine is the latest in the New Voices in Food Series, due for publication in May 2012. Matt is the author of a fabulous wine blog, providing tips, tricks and info on how to get the most out of wine.

With the festive season approaching many of us will be cozying up at home with a glass of wine in hand and hoping not to be disappointed. But what to buy? Especially if you are not an expert. Fear not, Matt has done the the work and here below gives you the lowdown on the best and worst wines he recently tasted at the Tesco Wine Fair.

Tesco Wine Fair: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

by: Matt Walls

I’m not going to lie to you. The masochist in me just couldn’t wait to go to the Tesco Wine Fair. I’ve been before. I always go; usually alone. It’s my naughty little secret.

This is the ticketed event they put on every year for their customers. It costs between £6 and £10 to get in, and they have either one or two sessions during the course of a day. I went to one of the London sessions, at the Royal Horticultural Halls in Westminster. Previously the Fair had called at Manchester, Bristol, Brighton and Edinburgh, spending two days in each city. Every session on every day sold out. The queues to get in are biblical.

Once inside, there are about 80 stands. I must admit that I tasted a lot of wines that were pretty average. But there were several very good wines on show as well that I would be more than happy to buy and drink. Over the coming festive months, if I happen to pass a Tesco on my way to a party, I’m sure I will. But sure enough there were wines at the other end of the scale… I think it’s fair to say that most of the worst wines on the market are made by big commercial wineries – and a good number were in attendance here.

Working in wine, you get spoiled. It would be easy to lose touch with the average wine drinker. There are multiple industry tastings on every day, many exhibiting unusual, rare or valuable wines. The Tesco press tasting will, of course, only show what they consider to be their very best wines, but many of these will be limited to their bigger stores. I want to taste the other stuff they sell too. The big names you see in all the supermarkets. The ones that are often on promotion; which are the wines most people in the UK take home and drink. So every year I go to the Tesco Wine Fair to see which brands are improving, and which are sliding downhill. There are always a few surprises.

Consistency of quality across whole brands was rare. Many producers only offered a small number of wines from a large range. As such, it is difficult to generalise here about the entire production of any particular brand. For each brand, I tasted all the wines they had on show. Next time you find yourself in Tesco in need of a decent bottle I hope this is a useful page to pull up.

Needless to say, it’s not just the big brands that you can find at Tesco. Many of their Finest range are very good, and they also stock some quality wines by some interesting smaller producers. The Tesco Wine Fair I attended was packed, and it was well organised, with useful regular 20 minute smaller guided tastings on specific topics. It’s great to see so many people, and so many different types of people, all getting stuck in and tasting. As a beginner it’s not such a bad place to start – after all, these are the wines with the widest distribution. It’s good to know which ones are good – and which ones are not.

Photo: Flickr/xlibber

The Good

Wolf Blass

The Chardonnay, though admittedly not the cheapest, was one of the best wines I tasted all day. The sparkling wines were less successful.

All prices quoted are in-store prices per bottle when off promotion.

Silver Label Chardonnay 2009 £13.00: 89 points, good value

Silver Label Shiraz Cabernet 2008 £13.00: 88 points, fair value

Sparkling Rosé NV £9.49: 85 points, fair value

Sparkling Brut NV £9.49: 84 points, not great value

Jacob’s Creek

Another very good Chardonnay, one of the best sub-£10 wines on show. Their Moscatos, while interesting to see they are experimenting with this style, tasted a bit confected, especially the rosé.

Reserve Chardonnay 2009 £9.99: 88 points, fair value

Reserve Sauvignon Blanc 2010 £9.99: 87 points, fair value

Moscato 2010 £7.49: 85 points, fair value

Moscato Rosé 2010 £7.49: 82 points, not great value

Hardy’s

These two were relatively elegant compared to many of the Australian branded wines I tasted, not overdone.

Nottage Hill Chardonnay 2010 £7.99: 87 points, fair value

Nottage Hill Cabernet Shiraz 2010 £7.99: 87 points, fair value

Penfolds

Reasonably solid stuff, particularly their dry Riesling. 

Koonunga Hill Riesling 2010 £8.54: 88 points, good value

Koonunga Hill Retro 76 Shiraz Cabernet 2009 £8.54: 87 points, fair value

McGuigan

One of the most consistent ranges I tasted, not brilliant but not at all bad.

Classic Chardonnay 2010 £7.79: 87 points, fair value

Classic The Semillon Blanc 2011 £7.79: 86 points, fair value

Classic Shiraz 2010 £7.79: 86 points, fair value

Classic Merlot 2010 £7.11: 86 points, fair value

Classic Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 £7.79: 86 points, fair value

Classic Pinot Grigio 2010 £7.79: 85 points, fair value

Oxford Landing Estates

Consistently decent quality cheaper options.

Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz 2009 £6.99: 87 points, fair value

Sauvignon Blanc 2011 £6.99: 86 points, fair value

Chardonnay 2010 £6.99: 86 points, fair value

Merlot 2009 £6.99: 86 points, fair value

Oyster Bay

Their white wines are definitely their stronger suit.

Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2011 £9.79: 87 points, fair value

Marlborough Chardonnay 2010 £9.79: 87 points, fair value

Hawkes Bay Merlot 2010 £9.79: 85 points, not great value

Sparkling Cuvée Brut NV £13.00: 84 points, not great value

Marlborough Pinot Noir 2010 £10.79: 83 points, not great value

Casillero del Diablo

Though not as good value as they once were, the quality is still pretty good.

Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 £7.79: 87 points, fair value

Malbec 2009 £7.40: 86 points, fair value

Sauvignon Blanc 2010 £7.79: 86 points, fair value

Pinot Grigio 2010 £7.40: 85 points, not great value 

Trivento

Pretty big wines as you would expect, but with some complexity of flavour.

Golden Reserve Malbec 2008 £10.99: 88 points, fair value

Reserve Malbec 2010 £9.00: 87 points, fair value

Canti

If you need some cheaper options, you could do worse than opt for the first two here. The more expensive wines aren’t worth the extra.

Negroamaro Zinfandel 2010 £4.55: 85 points, good value

Catarratto Chardonnay 2010 £4.99: 85 points, good value

Pinot Grigio Veneto 2010 £6.48: 85 points, not great value

Merlot Sicilia 2010 £6.99: 85 points, not great value 

Photo: Flickr/gfairch

The Bad

Arniston Bay

With better quality and value elsewhere, though not awful, these have little to recommend about them.

Orginals Chenin/Chardonnay 2010 £7.29: 83 points, poor value

Originals Cabernet/Merlot 2010 £6.99: 83 points, not great value

Originals Pinotage Rosé 2010 £6.79: 83 points, not great value 

Black Tower

There was something about these wines that tasted unnatural.

Black Tower Silvaner Pinot Grigio 2010 £5.79: 82 points, not great value

Black Tower Rosé 2010 £5.68: 82 points, not great value

Black Tower Fruity White 2010 £4.58: 82 points, not great value

Blossom Hill

Confected flavours, and surprisingly expensive really, especially the White Zinfandel.

Vineyard Collection White 2010 £5.99: 82 points, not great value

Vineyard Collection Red 2010 £5.99: 81 points, not great value

White Zinfandel 2010 £6.29: 79 points, poor value

The Ugly

Gallo Family Vineyards

I can understand the appeal of these in as much as eating a bag of sweets. The wines are all in fact slightly sweet – not in itself a bad thing – but the flavours are reminiscent of jelly sweets. And hey, I like jelly sweets. But at the end of the day, there are more delicious, more authentic and more nourishing things to eat, if you know what I mean.

Sauvignon Blanc 2010 £6.48: 84 points, fair value

Pinot Grigio 2010 £6.48: 82 points, not great value

Cabernet Sauvignon 2010 £6.48: 81 point, poor value

Merlot Rosé 2010 £6.29: 81 points, poor value

Summer Red NV £6.16: 79 points, poor value

Last, and indeed least:

White Grenache 2010 £6.48: an unprecedented 78 points, poor value

Steven Joyce - have you heard of him?

As you may all well know, we recently published a book by James Ramsden,

entitled ‘Small Adventures in Cooking’.

The book is the third to be published in our New Voices in Food series.

You may well know his name… as well, James is pretty well known.

He has written for various well known national publications, such as Sainsbury’s magazine, The Times, The Guardian, The Indie and now has a column every Thursday in the Evening Standard.

But we (in the publicity department) hadn’t heard of the photographer before… he’s called Steven Joyce.

But we think that he did such a great job that we’d thought we’d showcase his work.

So this is a photograph from the opening/title pages…

and we really like this pic too..

And this pic is of the Chilli vodka…

So there you go. Now you know who he is - so go check out his website

James Ramsden’s Small Adventures in Cooking is published by Quadrille and is available at Amazon, Waterstone’s and all good bookshops.

For more on James, visit his website http://www.jamesramsden.com/