Month: December 2014

Celebrate With A Champagne & Port Cocktail

Here at Charles Rose Wines we love Champagne and we love Port. IF you struggle to choose between them then thankfully, there’s a celebration drink which uses both!

Nelson’s Blood Champagne Cocktail is so named for the bitter-sweet victory of the British fleet over the Franco-Spanish fleet at the Battle of Trafalgar on October 21st 1805. Sweet as this prevented Napoleon Bonepart’s ships from breaking the British naval blockade. Bitter as it cost Admiral Horatio Nelson, who commanded the British fleet, his life.

It’s up to you whether or not you acknowledge the history behind this particular cocktail, although if you had no reason to celebrate on the 21st of October, now you do! Either way, its a great drink, and here is our spin on how to make it.


Optional – for frosting:

  • fruit juice or syrup
  • fine white sugar, brown sugar or icing sugar
  • tea plate or small shallow bowl (larger than the glass you want to use)
  • flat plate for the sugar

Frosting Preparation (Optional)

Rinse a glass of your choice in cold water and put it in a freezer for half an hour.

Whist your glass is cooling prep your frosting by cutting a slice of fruit if you are using fruit, and putting your chosen sugar onto a flat plate so you can press your glass into it when it is ready.

When the glass has frosted moisten the rim of it so that the sugar will stick. If you are using an actual fruit you can gentry run some cut fruit around the edge. If you are using actual juice of syrup then pour or squeeze a little onto a tea plate and gently place the glass into the liquid. Then press the glass into the sugar.

To twist or not to twist… often debated, do what you think works best. Twisting will add more coating.

Your glass is now frosted!

Drink Mixing

Carefully pour a shot (40ml or so) of Port into your glass. Top this off with Champagne and gently stir to mix but not release too much of the fizz. Pour carefully so as not to disturb your beautiful frosting!

That’s it! A perfect celebratory drink combining two of our favourites!

If you have a favourite cocktail then get in touch and let us know what it is!

A Bottle Of Wine For 50p – Only In Australia!

Very occasionally in Australia water is more expensive than wine.

As crazy as it sounds, it’s true and happening again right now for a whole host of reasons.

Australia is one of the world’s big wine exporters, shipping 750 million litres a year overseas. Right now there is flagging demand internationally so much of the wine that was originally intended for export is now available to the domestic market.

Partly this is due to a strong Australian currency, particularly against the US dollar, depressing Australia’s export market. Around 17% of wine imported to the US is from Australia.

Furthermore, the strong currency makes it more likely that other countries will increase exports to Australia, further driving down local prices.

Another interesting aspect of this is that duty on wine in Australia is set according to price. So, the lower the price you charge, the less duty you pay.

Finally, there is a lack of retail choice. Currently two supermarkets, Woolworths and Coles, have 70% of the wine retail market, which means that there is little opportunity for producers to negotiate higher prices for their products.

All in all, this perfect storm means you can buy a bottle of wine in Australia for as little as one Australian dollar, or around 50p.

The full story from The BBC.

Love Champagne? Don’t Drink It From A Flute!

Champagne flutes are elegant and beautiful. With a long slender stem and tall narrow bowl they are undoubtedly attractive stemware – if you are into that sort of thing of course.

Order some Champagne at a restaurant and every nearby table will watch the bubbles delicately rising in your flutes and wonder what you are celebrating.

Eye catching and evocative they may be but flutes are frankly pants for tasting champagne.

Allegedly Dom Pérignon, a seventeenth century Benedictine monk before he became a luxury champagne brand, is thought to have adopted the flute for Champagne. Apparently this was so he could watch the steady stream of bubbles rising in the glass.

Flutes preserve carbonation in the Champagne as they have a narrow bowl and therefore little surface area exposed to the air.

However, the lack of surface area prevents the bouquet of the wine from coming through. And of course, it’s worth keeping in mind that Champagne is wine!

This must be what the Champagne coupe is for right? Sadly not.


Mythically modelled after Marie Antoinette’s left breast, the coupe looks a bit like a soup bowl precariously perched on a candle stick. In fact, it was actually designed in 1663 in England of all places predating Marie by a century.

The flute might be poor for bouquet but at least it concentrates the carbonation. The coupe does neither so unless you fancy making a Champagne tower or you are drinking a particularly gassy Champagne then it’s a poor way to experience your wine.

What should you use then? A white wine glass of course! Champagne is often partly or mostly Chardonnay so a white wine glass is most appropriate.


The best way to get the bouquet and the flavour is to treat it as a wine and drink it accordingly.

If you’ve got a favourite way of getting the best out of your Champagne get in touch and let us know!


Wine Grape Diversity Under Threat

Did you know that there are over 5,000 varieties of wine grape?

These predominantly come from just two families, Vitis Vinifera that is mostly grown in Europe, and Vitis Labrusca that is native to Canada and the eastern United States.

Despite this huge amount of choice over 70% of the world’s wine comes from just 30 varieties of grape.

In fact, in 2010 around a third of the grapes planted were from just seven varieties, with Cabernet Sauvignon leading a pack including Merlot, Tempranillo and Chardonnay.

Vineyards around the world have been slowly replacing the less popular varieties with the ones that produce more popular wines. In doing this growers have enhanced those varieties allowing them to produce bigger yields and better grapes.

This selective growing means that it is likely over time that the rest of those 5,000 varieties will be lost as they are no longer grown. In the future that might mean we will have less choice in what we drink, which would be a shame!

Worried? If so, fear not!

Fernando Martínez de Toda based at the University of La Rioja in Spain, is doing something about it. He noticed the loss of rare grape varieties and started storing them away. He also began working with growers to reintroduce rare varieties where they could.

Today his work to preserve the genetic diversity of grapes is one of a number of similar initiatives happening in Europe.

We are of course in love with Tempranillo (and our Beronia Rioja 2009 Reserva) but it is great to know that our pursuit of this amazing grape doesn’t have to mean the extinction of other grapes.

The full story is in The Guardian. The University of Adelaide’s Wine Economics Research Centre published a report on grape varieties grown around the world.

Image by Justus Hayes [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

The Hoggit (Not Anything To Do With J.R.R. Tolkien… or Peter Jackson)

“For the time will soon come when Hobbits will shape the fortunes of all.”

Prophetic words spoken by Lady Galadriel. However, there is an arguably more important but more obscure, similar sounding word, which you might not have heard of… the hoggit. For anyone familiar with farming we aren’t not talking about sheep either.

We recently posted about the port tradition of passing port round the table, periodically invoking the name of the Bishop of Norwich if necessary.

There is a traditional way of avoiding this awkward situation. That’s right, you can use a hoggit. Before you have visions of Frodo Baggins and Samwise Gamgee serving your drinks, let me explain that a hoggit is a kind of decanter.

It has a curved bottom which means that it cannot be set down on the table without falling over. It is designed to only sit on a special curved wooden rest, which usually sits to the right of the host. The host may then be assured that the port will be passed all the way around the table and can only be set down again on it’s base.

Why is it called a hoggit? Erm… ahem… because it means you can’t hoggit?!

Image is of a Hobbit Hole“ by Jeff HitchcockFlickr: Butterfly Catcher. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Mulling Over Mulled Wine

Tis the season to be jolly…..

At Charles Rose wines we love wine, but at Christmas time we really love mulled wine.

There’s nothing nicer than a glass of warm spiced wine on a cold winter’s night. While you could buy a ready made version from the supermarket, we think it’s more fun and more flavoursome to make your own – so here’s our favourite recipe.

Plus, if you bundle the spices together with a lovely bottle of wine it makes a fabulous gift!

  • 1 bottle of red wine – while you can use any bottle – our preference is something with a Tempranillo grape to balance the spices.
  • 2oz Demerara sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Grated nutmeg
  • 2 cloves
  • 1 orange – sliced
  • 1 dried bay leaf

Put the wine in a saucepan with the orange, sugar, bay leaf and the spices. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved. Add more sugar to taste.

Serve in heat proof glasses – preferably with friends, a log fire and mince pies.

Have a favourite mulled wine recipe? Why not get in touch and let us know what it is!

Image is “Vin chaud 2” by Clément Petit – originally posted to Flickr as Un bon verre de vin chaud. Licensed under CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Do You Know The Bishop Of Norwich?


“He’s a terribly good chap, but he always forgets to pass the port.”

Port etiquette is a little strange but also very helpful. Its considered bad form to fail to pass a port decanter whilst there is still some in it. Being British though, we can’t simply point this out, so instead the tradition is to ask the person in possession of the decanter if they know the Bishop of Norwich.

If they are familiar with this tradition they’ll apologise and pass it, otherwise you’ll have to politely explain using the quoted sentence above.

This oddity aside port etiquette is pretty practical and highly sociable. The tradition is that the decanter is passed to the left with the person receiving it pouring a glass for the person on their right before passing it on. Any pauses can be remedied with by an enquiry about the good Bishop.

Nobody knows why the Bishop of Norwich bares the historical brunt of this tradition, nor which Bishop it actually refers to. Similarly, nobody knows why port goes to the left. Perhaps using your left hand allows you to keep your sword hand ready to defend yourself against anyone who is about to impune your honour. Maybe its because Port is synonymous with the Navy and the port side of a boat is on the left when facing the bows (front).

Never-the-less the reason the decanter has to keep moving is because its highly likely the contents are a vintage port. Vintage ports start to lose their character and their quality as soon as they are opened, so you’d be wise to drink up and pass the decanter as quick as you can.

Image is of Richard Corbet, Bishop of Norwich 1632 – 1635, by Sylvester Harding (British Museum) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

How (NOT) To Open A Bottle Of Port

A little while ago we posted about the various ways one might attempt to open a bottle of champagne… of course, if you opt for Sabrage then on your head (or your hands) be it!

There is a unique and traditional way top open a bottle of port. It involves heat and tongs… oh and a steady nerve, don’t try this at home unless you know what you are doing!

Get yourself some port tongs

The worst thing you can do when preparing to consume a bottle of vintage port… you know… the one you’ve been waiting a couple of decades to drink… the absolute worst thing you can do is to disturb the sediment. If you do then you’ll have to wait a few days for it to settle before trying again!

Well there is an expert method of opening a bottle but it’s not for the faint hearted. The first step is to heat your port tongs until they are glowing red. Port tongs are specially shaped to close around the neck of a port bottle, and they glow red at around 500 degrees!

Once they are nice and toasty, place them round the neck of the port bottle just below the cork and grip the bottom of the bottle to stop it moving.

After waiting for a minute or so, twist the tongs sharply and hopefully you will have just snapped the top of the bottle off cleanly without sending shards of glass into your expensive vintage Port! Remember to put the very hot tongs down somewhere safe after carefully letting go of the bottle.

You can then smugly decant your port safe in the knowledge that you didn’t disturb the sediment, impressed any onlooker and avoided a horrific and painful injury.


Image of “Rabelo Douro en–Porto” by Photographer: Thomas Istvan Seibel – English Wikipedia: w:en:Image:800px-Blick über den Rio Douro auf Porto.jpg. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

Rabelos are boats traditionally used to transport barrels of port down the River Douro for storage and aging in caves at Vila Nova de Gaia near Porto.

Perplexed by Port?

Don’t know your ruby from your tawny? Wondering what the difference between vintage and late bottled vintage might be? Let us fill you in!

Why Is It Called Port?

Just to recap, Port is a fortified wine. In the EU port has Protected Designation of Origin status so that only such wine produced in Portugal may be called ‘Port’.

It is produced from grapes grown in the Duoro Valley. The river Duoro flows South-west across the Iberian peninsula from its origin in Spain to where it meets the sea at Portugal’s second largest city, Porto.

It is ‘fortified’ by adding Aguardiente – a spirit similar to brandy – which makes up around a fifth of the finished drink and increases the alcohol content.

There are many different types of Port, we’ll cover the main ones here so at the very least you can impress your friends the next time you open some.


The king of Ports. Produced in small quantities, these wines are independently certified by the Port and Duoro Wine Institute (IVDP). This body has been approving vintages since 1933.

If a shipper believes a wine from a particularly year is good enough they can declare it as a vintage. There are no rules governing how frequently this can be done, but getting it wrong can badly affect international reputation. Typically vintages are declared three of four times a decade.

Vintage Ports have the best flavour profiles and are incredibly desirable and valuable. Major shippers may declare between 5,000 and 15,000 cases. More recently shippers such as Quinta do Noval have declared as few as 1,000 cases.

The major disadvantage with Vintage Ports is that they generally do not reach their peak until they are 20 to 40 years old.

If you don’t have the patience to wait, and we certainly don’t, Aged Tawny Port is thankfully a fantastic alternative.

Aged Tawny

If Vintage is the king then this is most certainly the queen. So called as the ageing process changes the colour of the wine from a deep ruby red to an amber-tawny colour.

Aged tawnies are continuously monitored and blended to produce a wine with a deep and rich flavour. These are bottles as an approximate age (10, 20, 30, 40 and over 40) and are independently certified by the IVDP.

Although Vintage Port is undoubtedly the best, aged tawnies are almost as good and offer fantastic value. Best of all, you can drink them straight away instead of gazing at them lustfully for the the next three of four decades.

If you are sold on aged tawny then why not try our Quinta do Noval Ten Year Old Tawny Port or Twenty Year Old Tawny Port.

Late Bottled Vintage

This is wine produced from grapes from a single year but due to lack of demand is not bottled until four to six years after the vintage. These have evolved into two distinct types; filtered and unfiltered. Unfiltered wines need to be decanted to remove sediment. Filtered and fined wines can be consumed straight from the bottle and do not require decanting.

LBV’s do not tend to be as full bodied as vintage ports but are a fraction of the price. As they are left in barrels to age, once bottled they do not tend to improve much with age and are ready to drink immediately

Crusted Port

Often called ‘the poor man’s vintage port’, these are wines aged in large oak vats consisting of a blend of wines from several vintages. They are called ‘crusted’ due to the sediment they leave in the bottle.

Crusted ports can improve a little in the bottle but are generally intended to be consumed when purchased. The date on the bottle is the bottling date. Crusted ports are required to be aged in bottle for at least three years.


These can be great value. They are a blend of higher quality wines aged for around seven years in wood.


These are so named for their youthful colour and taste, aged for three years before bottling. These are intended to be enjoyed once purchased, like our own Quinta do Noval Ruby Port. Often wonderfully fun and do not need to be decanted.


These are made from white grapes and often bottled young. Great served with ice or as a refreshing cocktail. Our own Quinta do Noval Extra Dry White Port is a great example and you should definitely try it in a portonic!

Whichever type you choose remember that Port is not solely a Christmas drink! It can be enjoyed all year round so don’t restrict yourself to a few weeks of the year!

Image is by mat’s eye (Flickr: The Douro Valley) [CC-BY-2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Georgian Wine Exports Set To Ramp Up As EU Relations With Russia Ramp Down

According to legend, wine was first invented in Georgia in around 6,000 BC. Modern Georgia produces around 100 million bottles of wine annually. It would seem that Georgia’s burgeoning wine industry is eyeing up a new, more stable export market.

Traditionally Russia has been the largest wine market for Georgia, but this relationship has been volatile. Relations between the two countries worsened in 2006 with pro-Nato moves within Georgia prompting Russia to ban Georgian wine imports. The two countries then fought a brief war in 2008.

On the 27th of June this year Georgia and the European Union signed a free trade agreement allowing Georgian wine to be imported into the EU without incurring duty. Now it seems the Georgian government is set to invest in its wine industry by building a new winery to ramp up production. The facility at Keda in Adjara in Western Georgia is projected to have a processing capacity of 12,000 tonnes a year.

We recently posted about Russia increasing its investment in its own wine industry to break it’s dependence on foreign wine imports. This would have a big impact for the Georgian wine sector.

Georgia’s National Wine Agency reported that wine export volumes in 2013 were twice as high as in 2012 at almost 45 million bottles. 23 million of those bottles ended up in Russia after it lifted a ban on Georgian wine imports in June 2013. For the first nine months of this year total Georgian wine exports have already reached 43 million bottles.

With Georgia seeking to grow its wine exports the EU would now be a more attractive market, particularly with Russia seemingly looking to grow its own wine industry.

Full story in Decanter.

Image is “Tbilisi sunset-6” by Vladimer ShioshviliFlickr: Tbilisi sunset. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.