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  • antoniamacfarlane1

Updated: Jan 7, 2021

I love this time of year, when the subtle change of season is upon us. Slowly we can see the leaves changing, temperature dropping and nights getting darker. With each flickering of burning candles and crunch of newly fallen leaves it is officially the start of cosy season...

I feel Autumn is the best time of the year. Tans from summer are still present, gardens still have sprinklings of colour from the more determined plants and the joys of the months just been with the clean slate of a new academic year allow for happiness and peace to settle in with the fall.

The playful summer dresses are swapped for chunky knits, the golden tones appearing on the trees and the warm summer sun is dimming to a beautiful glow. In my garden the brambles and apples have come out which has made me very busy in the kitchen. Last week, I decided to spend the day enjoying my home, making Apple Pie and Beef Stroganoff and accompanying this with a beautiful Côte du Rhone Village.

Beef Stroganoff is a heavy dish full of flavours. The mustard, tomatoes, pepper and beef stock are all rich and need a weighted wine to strike the perfect balance. This wine did exactly that. The spice, vanilla, leather and black fruit characteristics with the full bodied nature of this wine made the perfect partner for this dish.

This wine is produced by Michel Chapoutier, a excellent Maison from the Côte Rôtie area of the Northern Rhone region. This translates to 'the roasted slopes' which gives a picture of the terroir of the area. Côte Rôtie produces wines which are spicy, very full bodied with a beautifully deep colour. The best wine here benefit from a wonderful aromatic freshness.

The Côte Rôtie hug the hillsides around the valley and is slowly taking over Hermitage in the amount of wine being produced. Michel Chapoutier Maison has a long standing history and reputation dating back to 1808. The Maison has deep rooted values including printing brail on every bottle of wine and using biodynamic wine making techniques since 1991. This stemmed from Michel Chapoutier's love for the terroir.

The soil in which this wine was produced has been treated with biodynamic farming techniques. The vines sit on south facing slopes providing the perfect opportunity for the Syrah grape to benefit from the sun and ripen to produce floral yet powerful characteristics.

The grapes, due to local landscape, are all hand harvested and are fermented for 3-4 weeks then aged for 16-18 months. 80% of this is aged in new oak barrels and 20% are aged in stainless steel to preserve fruitiness. This is then blended to create the perfect balance and achieve the desired style.

This wine was beautiful. Achieving 4.1 stars on Vivino I would recommend this and buy it again. At £9 from tesco this wine was a steal, Vintage years cost closer to £80. The pairing of the rich Beef Stroganoff and this beautifully balanced wine was the perfect ending to a cosy day.

Followed with a warm slice of Apple Crumble and custard, it is safe to say Autumn is definitely creeping in... and I can't wait.

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  • antoniamacfarlane1

After the calmness lockdown provided, I have found it difficult to get back up to speed of real life. Over the last few weeks of rushing, I realised I needed the chance to catch my breath, so I whisked myself away to a remote island...

My new London adventure. Starting my WSET Diploma fills me with so much excitement, but also fear. The wine world  is so complex, every time I feel I have grasped a concept, I realise I have barely scratched the surface. Recently, I have been studying hard for the course while puppy-sitting my new niece (a perfect fluff ball called Penny), applying for jobs (thank you Covid) and doing a whole load of life admin that was forgotten about during the months of lockdown.

A few weeks ago, after coming to the realisation that we won't be hopping on a plane and jetting off to a sun soaked location, my friend and I decided we would see what Scotland has to offer. I have been fortunate enough to spend my Summers in Spain since I was born and therefore have never really appreciated the beauty of Scottish Summer. We loaded up the car, put on our cosy jumpers and headed to Gigha, a small remote island on the West-coast of Scotland about a three hour car journey from Glasgow.

Gigha is tiny, we were able to drive from one end of the island (on one of the two roads on the island) in 10 minutes. At the North of the island, there is a geographical wonder called 'Twin Beaches', major Chitty Chitty Bang Bang vibes.

The crystal clear water, white sand beaches and glorious golden sun could have been any island in the Caribbean not Scotland!

We set up out tent and spent the afternoon paddling in rock pools, playing scrabble and of course, having a glass of wine. Truly wonderful...

The wine of choice was an inexpensive Tesco Pinot Grigio Blush. It was nothing outstanding but did the trick as we sipped the pale pink wine and played in the sun. This wine is from Trentino- Alto Adige, situated at the foothills of the Alps in Northern Italy. The regions moderate climate, short summers and low rainfall enable light bodied red wines and aromatic whites to grow in the terraced vineyards. 

Pinot Grigio is the most popular grape variety in this region, the dry, light bodied and high acid style with green fruit and citrus characteristics are expected for this area.

The Pinot Gris (Pinot Grigio) grape can make a variety of styles, from full bodied aromatic to light bodied and simple. With a berry colour, which is much darker than other white varieties, a pinky tinge can be visible in some bottles dependent on winemaker style (hence why this bottle is delicately pink!). The grape is early budding and ripening, meaning it will grow and ripen earlier in the summer months compared to other varieties. The grape berries themselves can be very small with potential to produce high sugar content and low/moderate acidity.

Pinot Grigio originated in France but saw remarkable success in Northern Italy with planting of this variety doubling between 1900's-2000's due to customer demand in the USA and United Kingdom.

This bottle from Tesco cost £7. With floral notes of elderflower and orange blossom followed by delicate stone fruit flavours such as nectarine and peach rounded off with subtle strawberry, this wine was perfect for a evening in the sun.

I wouldn't rush back to get this wine and I believe the 4 star rating on Vivimo is generous. However, this wine was ideal when watching the sunset, lighting a fire and listing to the distant call of seagulls while looking over the Atlantic Ocean towards Ireland and relishing in the calmness of a Scottish Summer..

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  • antoniamacfarlane1

After waiting in anticipation for four months to receive my University results, the day finally came and it was worth the wait...

Last Thursday, the day finally arrived. The last four years of study have presented many opportunities, experiences and struggles. You can read more about my educational journey on the 'about me' section of the website. I have enjoyed studying International Hospitality Management greatly, in my final year I wrote my dissertation on climate change and how the wine industry is going to be impacted if steps aren't taken to develop and implement sustainable practices. Over the next few weeks I'm going to write a blog post concentrating on this!

I am delighted to say I got an 'A' in this dissertation and will graduate from University with a First-Class BA Hons. To say I am thrilled is an understatement. Unfortunately due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic my University is not hosting a formal graduation ceremony. However, I was surprised with a small family gathering to mark the occasion. In order to celebrate this accomplishment in style my mum treated me to my favourite Champagne - Taittinger.

Of the main Champagne houses, Moet Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Ruinart, Laurent Perrier Dom Péringnon and Taittinger, Taittinger is definitely my favourite. Although these are some of the main houses, the region is home to 1,500 smaller producers and approximately 350 houses (larger firms) which make up 10% of vineyard space. This indulgent sparkling wine comes from the Champagne region in France. Located in the North East of the country this region is only 45 minutes from Paris by train. The vineyards in this region are the most expensive in the world, the rich history and UNESCO world heritage site status contribute to Champagnes prestige, excellence and legacy.

The name Champagne originates from Latin and can be traced back to the sixth century but it was not until the 17th century that the wine we recognise today was in production. The cool climate of the region contributed to this. The region has an average temperature of 10°C, this along with altitude, limestone and soft chalk terroir and fermentation style, bubbles are produced. In simple terms, harvesting the grapes in the autumn and leaving the juice sitting over winter, causes the yeasts present to temporarily stop fermentation before all sugar has been converted to alcohol. Once summer returns the following year and the yeast strains have had the opportunity to warm up, small gentle bubbles will emerge.

Obviously, this process is more complex and is completed over years however, all wines in Champagne will be produced using the 'traditional method.' This process sees the wine undergo a second fermentation in the bottle after the base wine is produced (a simple dry wine with little flavour and high acidity). Sugar and yeast are added to the base wine and bottled, creating carbon dioxide and consequently bubbles!

These golden bubbles are adored by many, Champagne is a treat and is the image of celebration. Winston Churchill famously said "It's not just France we are fighting for, it's Champagne!"

"It's not just France we are fighting for, it's Champagne!"

Last Thursday I celebrated my achievement with this hallmark bottle. I prefer Taittinger for a few reasons. There are three grapes that will be used to make Champagne, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Chardonnay is the predominate component in Taittinger making up 40% of the Brut Reserve, enabling the constant signature style to be achieved. The grapes are grown in 35 different vineyards over Champagne and blended to create the elegant, light and balanced style which is so recognisable as Taittinger. I prefer this lighter style as the delicate bubbles, light peach aroma with honey, brioche, white flowers and vanilla are gentle on the palate and not overpowering in comparison to other styles.

Achieving a 4.2 rating on Vivino this bottle is perfect for any celebration or life achievement. Once you hear the psst of the popping cork, you can ensure all your family and friends will surround you ready to toast to your success...


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