Talks a good game?

Colin Harkness – you write as you speak, with enthusiasm as well as (dare I say it?) well rooted knowledge. This signature attribute of engaging dialogue is one of the many things that continues to draw us in to the nucleus of your inner wine guru, which you manage to channel so effortlessly. That, and your willingness keep the glass full!

Carol Corke

Following Part Ten of ‘A Season in the Life of a Vine’ blog

Hi Colin
We so enjoyed your latest blog and agree with you entirely these professional
Wine growers certainly earn their money. They say on stage you should never
Work with children. It seems to earn a consistent living it can be hazardous
To rely on any kind of a crop! So many forces come into play. No rain at the crucial
Growing time. Too much or destructive rain. Mildews or diseases and in America
And some other countries, plagues of locust! Thank heavens some of us are
Completely overtaken by the love of working in the fresh air. Our saviours, those
Who feed us so well.
Best regards
Sue & Roger

You wouldn’t classify these as BBQ wines, but Neil’s BBQs are also a cut above!


When we received our invitation to Neil and Carol’s BBQ, to celebrate the former’s birthday, it wasn’t entirely true that all the wines we would be tasting were largely down to my having introduced them to Neil, as he actually said.


I can’t claim credit for the super Luis Roederer Brut Premier Champagne, served as a welcome drink. In fact, it could be argued that, if anything, I have been trying to turn their heads away from Champagne, incessantly recommending Cava!  Also, the delightful M de Alejandria dessert wine, was a new Moscatel to me, but one to which I’m sure I’ll return.

However, I might perhaps have played a part in Neil’s choice of white wine, paired with the delicious BBQd fresh prawns; as well as the simply wonderful, exemplary DO Yecla red wine, Casa Cisca from Bodegas Castaño. After all, I did take Neil and Carol (as well as a coach load of others) to visit the bodega a couple of years ago.


It was one of those social events that one knew had to be a success! I was, obviously, very confident in the wines. Neil knows a thing or two about wine, that’s for sure, so whilst I knew very well the two I’d recommended, I was certain that the others would be of the same standard. Plus, as we’ve come to know over the years, Neil is several steps above being just an accomplished chef – his dinners, and BBQs are legendary! The food therefore was a given from the start – bound to be top class.


And of course, the company is even more important than the food and wine, albeit that this was to be a very gourmet affair. I was with the lovely Claire-Marie (, Classical Soprano and founder member of the Claire-Marie Latin Jazz Trio, of course.  And, we were delighted to find that our fellow invitees were: musicians, Pauline and Roger as well as bon viveurs, Jeanette and Dave, with whom I traded cheeky insults all afternoon and into the night, calling it an honourable draw in the end!


All was set for an excellent BBQ.


Roederer produces the hallowed Champagne Cristal Millesime Brut, retailing at well over 100€ per bottle and, as with so many wine producers, their other wines are, of course, of a similar standard, and not a lot cheaper! A high proportion of the base wine for this Champagne is barrel aged, giving the finished product greater depth and a little extra flavour too. On top of this, the Champagne stays on its lees aging in the cellars for a minimum of 48 months before it’s release! Balanced, elegant, full flavoured – a great way to start!


Regular readers may remember me singing the praises of the Albariño based wines of Bodegas Palacio de Fefiñanes, where Claire-Marie and I were once invited to attend a lunch within the castle-like, Manor House! Put simply, their whole portfolio of wines is excellent! I’d recommended them to Neil and he bought their ‘regular’ Fefiñanes Albariño as well as their rather special Fefiñanes III Año Albariño 2013, asking me to choose! Both are exemplary, but I opted for the latter, as it’s a bit different!


The Albariño grapes are hand picked, passing at least two inspections – only the best bunches are used in making this wine. It’s fermented in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks and then left on its lees, with gentle stirring for over 30 months. Albariño is a variety that revels in this treatment, giving the drinker in return a beautiful, golden hued wine which is dry and elegant redolent of peach and apricot. Excellent!


Bodegas Castaño’s Casa Cisca 2013 is probably sold out right now! It always sells out – and there’s a reason for this: it’s a wonderful wine. At 15% it looks like a big wine, and it is, yet for all its weight and body, it is fresh, plumy and elegant. If thinking yet about your Christmas Day meal – put this at the top of the list already.

When you put the glass to your lips, but smell, before tasting, the wine speaks to you, seduces you, before you’ve even tasted it. And its promise is delivered when you hold it on your palate and let your taste buds go to work, eventually swallowing. It’s a conversation stopper – and the huge rib of beef with which it was served, well, a perfect pairing if ever there was one!


Cristina Rodriguez Vicente’s childhood dream of producing a dessert wine made with her own Moscatel grapes came true in 2016, having replanted an ancient vineyard in the Teulada landscape of the Costa Blanca. The first commercial wine from this enterprise, M de Alejandria, made in the ice wine style, in fact by friend and colleague, Daniel Belda, of the eponymous bodega, is the one we enjoyed so much with a special peach dessert.

Sweet yes, as desired, but also with the crucial acidity which keeps dessert wines fresh. Honeyed ripe orange peel aromas and flavour with lovely honeysuckle and white flower fragrance!


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