Category Archives: Vin Santo

Perfect Wines for a Dinner Party

With hit shows like Come Dine With Me and Masterchef, together with a dint in some of our funds, ‘staying in’ is the new ‘going out’ .

Other than choosing a menu and selecting the guests (which in itself can be a total nightmare – are Uncle Henry and Great Aunt Maud talking again – will your bosses wife end up under the table again?) Choosing which wines to serve with your meal to compliment your food and impress your guests can be a hard decision.

I always like to start a dinner party with a glass of Prosecco. It is an excellent way to greet guests and most people will accept a glass of fizz. When all your guests have finally arrived then you can seat everyone.

I will very often serve a seafood starter or a soup for my first course and I can think of nothing better than a Verdicchio to compliment any seafood dish. With hints of honey and lemon this wine will enhance any starter. Your guests will also be thrilled with the elegance of this wine. (I love to make a crab meat and smoked salmon parcel as a starter – it never fails to satisfy.) 

For a main course I like to have something that does not need a lot of final finishing, a new favourite of mine is a Steak and Smoked Oyster pie with roasted vegetables. For this I need a big flavourful red. Something that can compete with the rich flavours but not drown out the subtle smokiness of the oysters. I have a great organic Malbec from Argentina called Ruca Malen and this will be beautiful. Tight berry fruit and a long finish. (I think I am going to have to have a dinner party soon – this is making my mouth water)

I am not really a pudding person but an old favourite which is easy to make and will not leave me stuck in the kitchen away from my guests for too long is a light and dark, Tia Maria chocolate mousse – heaven. As it is prepared earlier in the day I just need to serve it out. But what with? A Vin Santo is of course a great traditional pudding wine and with its sweet, tangy flavours would be perfect, however I also have a Spergola from Reggiano with hints of peach and a refreshing cleansing fizz that is only 6% proof and an incredible pudding wine.

Finally the Cheese and biscuits and then the washing up…. oh well. the Late Bottled Vintage Port from Niepoort will go down beautifully…. lets hope I get some invites back.

Whatever you serve – I am always ready to help with food and wine matching so please-

Talk to me

Alex the Wine Lady

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Filed under Alex the Wine Lady, Bat and Bottle, organic wine, Uncategorized, Vin Santo, Wine

Tasting the Wine, Close to the Vine!

A room with a view... Tuscany

I realise that not all of us are lucky enough to visit a vineyard or wander around a winery however if you do ever get the chance to taste wine close to the vine say “YES PLEASE!”

I have just returned from Tuscany where my family and I had a wonderful 10 day holiday. (Apart from a couple of near death experiences on some hair-pin bends climbing into or descending from some hilltop village.) We visited Firenze, Siena, San Gimignano, Volterra, Pisa and many other wonderful little villages whose names I can neither pronounce nor spell!

We stayed in an agriturismo which was also a Vineyard (A bit of a busman’s holiday for me!) as well as visiting a Vineyard that we are hoping to buy from before Christmas, Castello Sonnino, which is in Montespertoli a sub region of Chianti. Alessandro and I had met before in Venice (Did I mention that being a wine merchant is quite fun?) and so we chatted for a while and then went straight into the wine tasting. We tasted the full range of his wines (sadly that day I was driving so I had to use the spittoon) and then had a guided tour of the Winery. Bottling was taking place and any bit of machinery fascinates my son so he was thrilled to watch the process.

We went deep into the cellars where we saw small concrete vats, barrels laid in long lines, stainless steel vats (for the house wines only!) and scores of bottles waiting to be shipped. We then got to taste straight from the barrel which is quite an experience. (Wine still in the barrel will often not have the finesse or elegance of the final wine and can be quite harsh and raw.) Then we went high into the tower where the Vin Santo grapes are dried on straw mats. The barrels for the Vin Santo are kept here too. (If you want to find out more about Vin Santo press the link to Wiki my favourite source of information.)

We were then shown to a private room where a gorgeous, traditional Tuscan lunch had been prepared for us by Federica. All the half full bottles (Yes I am a half full not half empty girl) from our earlier tasting were set out on the table for us to drink with lunch, which my husband and daughter proceeded to do! I sipped the lovely cool water. (Driving round nightmarish bends and steep dirt tracks when sober is hard enough, but after tasting 7 wines – impossible)

For dessert we had cantuccini biscuits with the glorious golden Vin Santo, which was the perfect end to a wonderful day. The only thing missing was a little couch for me to have a siesta before driving back to the agriturismo for a swim.

If you have ever been lucky enough to visit a Vineyard and taste wine close to the vine – let me know – or if you want to visit some of our producers when you are away in Italy or Portugal then let me know and we will see what can be done.

Talking about wine is almost as lovely as drinking it!

So Talk to me!

You can follow me on Facebook or pop and see me at Ben’s Wine Shop or at Bat and Bottle in Oakham. You can even email me

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Filed under Bat and Bottle, Tuscany, Vin Santo, Wine