What’s on my list 1st Feb – 31st Oct 2017?

Yes, ‘Dry January’ is finally over (for me it was 27 long days v 15 last year!).  So liver rested, a few pounds lighter and a few pounds saved, I am now looking forward to treating my taste buds to some new drinks in 2017….and I will be doing ‘Dry November’ this year as ‘Dry January’ is just too hard….

1/  Wines from Rioja – Tonight we are tasting 9 red wines from the Rioja region at our monthly wine club.  Until I discovered the Baron de Ley 2010 in December 2016, I was not convinced I liked Rioja …. but if you are keen to explore more – WATCH THIS SPACE!

2/  The Negroni Cocktail – named after Count Camillo Negroni in the early 1900’s, first mixed in Florence, the Negroni originally started out as an Americano – until the bartender swapped the soda water for gin.

Made from one part Gin, one part Campari, and one part sweet Vermouth (Martini Rosso)  with a strip of orange peel over some ice.  Or, you can add 2 dashes of Angostura Orange Bitters.

This is my favourite cocktail and in 2017, I plan to play around with it a bit – and try it HOT – yes HOT!!!

3/  Fino Sherry – When Jo Fattorini, presenter of ITV’s The Wine Show was on Mastermind recently (I think it was him!) – asked what his favourite wine tip was – he replied “You can’t beat fish and chips with a drop of Fino Sherry”!.  On the list.

4/  The Skinny Bitch – the skinny girls in my yoga classes all drink this – Grey Goose Vodka with Soda….got to be done!

5/  Rum, coconut water, mint and lime – will wait for the summer for this one.  I was interested to watch on this week’s Food Unwrapped how Rum is made – pure sugar cane and water mainly!

6/  Coffee from Guatemala – Sainsbury’s do a nice one – Modern Standard Momentum Blend whole beans @ £4.50;  and also fresh Jasmine tea leaves – I hate Green tea!

7/  Cava – yes more Cava – I spent 2016 trying to move my friends away from the sickly sweet Prosecco’s to Cava – the best one I have found so far is Cordoniu which is widely available – Majestic stock it for £6.99.

8/  I can’t remember why I put this on my list to try – it’s from Waitrose, it’s organic and it is from Puglia.   Terrie de Faiano Primitivo 2015 @ £9.49.   When I have tried it, maybe I will remember the reason….and I promise I will report back!

I need to stop at 8.   9 & 10 should be white wines but I am debating cutting down on my consumption of white wines and am going to try and stick with reds and the above for a while…..

Please let me know if you discover any fabulous new wines.  Here’s to a happy, sunny and healthy 2017!

Next blog – What is trending in spa and wellness in 2017?



Jumping on the Christmas Wine bandwagon with a few good finds!

Well I could not let this one go with only 12 days left until Christmas…..so here are just some of the wines I will be enjoying over the next fortnight and before my attempt at a dry January!

My top tip if you can find it:

Baron de Ley Rioja Reserva 2010 – it must be the 2010!  Just google it read some of the reviews.  Decanter Magazine gives it an ‘outstanding 95+’.  I found mine on the bottom shelf of Costco hidden amongst the 2011!

Sticking with the reds:

Tour Chapoux Bordeaux Superieur – if you like Merlot, the 2015 has 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet and is on sale now in Waitrose @ the bargain price of £8.99

Gigondas Puech Morny 2015 – one of Lidl‘s new range of French wines @ under £10.00, this one is from the Rhone region based on Grenache but not too spicy.  £9.99

German Pinot Noir – I have tried a couple of these and find them very clean and drinkable wines. I will certainly be keeping an eye out.

And ‘easy drinking’ whites:

At the quite unbelievable price of £3.99, I found this little baby in Lidl. La Meridionale – It is from South Africa and is a blend of Chenin, Grenache and Rousanne and what I really enjoyed was the lingering length/after taste.  Serve with or without food.

Domaine Vieux Vauvert Vouvray 2015 – a beautiful ‘aroma of lime flower and citrus blossom’ @ 11.5%, a lovely aperitif.  Waitrose £6.99.

And finally, a delicious dessert wine – Vina Casa Blanca Late Harvest from Chile.  If, like me, you don’t go for Christmas pudding and prefer to stick with the cheese, just try this. The label reads ‘honeysuckle, lychee, citrus, floral on the nose’; ‘rich and smooth with beautifully balanced sugar and acid made all the more interesting to taste with a touch of honeyed botrytis’!  From The General Wine Company (also available on Amazon)

Enjoy.  Merry Christmas.




My Top 5 Gins plus a review of the Gin Festival

Guildford Gin Festival – a slick, well organised event – sold out I am told in that they added a 3rd evening.  Held nationwide, these Gin Festivals are organised by a couple from Yorkshire who also are obviously huge fans of this juniper based spirit and go mad for the garnish too!

There were 100 mainly artisan gins on offer divided into 3 sections – British, International and Fruit based eg Sloe, Damson etc.  The event was sponsored by Fevertree – not a Gordon’s and Schweppes in sight!

I was keen to stick with the British and as you can imagine, I did my research to ensure I selected gins I had never tried before and would potentially like.  The Gin Guidebook featured a good description and tasting notes for each gin, where it was from, which botanicals were used in the distillation and which garnish/tonic was recommended to accompany it.

So here goes, my Top 5 favourite gins:

1/ Sir Robin of Locksley Gin, Sheffield, Yorkshire, 40.5% – named after Robin Hood! Slightly sweeter than some with infusions of elderflower, pink grapefruit and dandelion….can be drunk neat but was recommended with the Mediterraean or Elderflower Fevertree Tonic.  A favourite with alot of people.   Locksley Distillers

2/ Rock Rose Gin, North Scotland, 41% – this one was extremely aromatic with strong juniper notes and tasted amazing with a fresh rosemary and orange garnish.  Check that combination out!

3/ Whittakers Gin, Harrogate, Yorkshire, 42% – mmm going to Harrogate soon, must get some!   Loving the rabbit label on this one!  You can smell the juniper and spice on the nose and a first for me, it was actually served with a couple of juniper berries and some thyme as the garnish.  Naturally light tonic of course.  Delicious.

4/  Bathtub Gin, from my county of birth, Kent, 43.4% – billed as an ‘exciting concoction’ and great with lime!  As well as the juniper, coriander, cloves and cardamom – this one contains sweet orange and comes in an orange bottle!

5/ Wicked Wolf Exmoor Gin, North Devon, 42% – the Kaffir line, hibiscus, citrus, pepper, coriander drew me in.  A very clean gin and served with thyme and lime.  I can feel a theme coming on here….

Other gins worthy of mention – Surrey’s Silent Pool Gin which I blogged about following my visit to their distillery earlier this year.  Gaining momentum and should now be stocked in Majestic Stores nationwide.  Everyone talks about their sublime bottle.

Gin Mare from Guadalajara in Spain – loved this aromatic gin and have seen it in British supermarkets and wine merchants.

No 209 – I discovered this on a trip to the wine regions of California as it is made by the Rudd Vineyard in the Sonoma Valley and is available here in the UK.  All my friends said they enjoyed this one.

And finally, a gin cum whisky – served neat – and does what it says on the tin – Strathearn Oaked Highland Gin.  A great way to finish off the evening…..

For more information, visit Gin Festival 

Can you recommend any amazing gins?








Last of the Summer wines….

Wow, was that summer?  I read that sales of Rose wine have doubled this summer which I find somewhat surprising in that I can’t be the only one who drinks it when the sun is actually OUT!!

As for me, I have bucked the trend that says ‘It’s summer, you must drink Rose!’ and I have been enjoying some more cold, red wines from the fridge, Cava as opposed to Prosecco and have been re-discovering Vinho Verde and the occasional Sauvignon Blanc!  Majestic has been my favourite wine shop and I am very excited that my local branch is having a makeover soon!

So, my top 3 recommendations to take you into the Autumn:

1/  Love the name ‘La La Land’ – loving even more the label – it’s a Tempranillo from Australia, it’s all ‘cherries, berries, liquorice and spice’ yet light, fruity and refreshing – and only £7.99 @ Majestic.

2/  Rocca Grimaldi Chianti, also 2015, the perfect accompaniment to meats and cheeses – I enjoyed it with a lunch time picnic!   £8.50 from Hennings Wines

3/  Quinta de Azevedo, Vinho Verde, 2015 a ‘green wine’ from the Minho region of Northern Portugal.  Retaining that classic spritz, this is great served as an aperitif.

It was on offer at Majestic and again a great find at under £10.00.



Don’t we all want to live to 90 like the Queen (Global Wellness Day this coming Saturday 11th June)

It is still not late.  This day is not just for spas and wellness organisations, it is a reminder that we can all do something to contribute towards our own wellness – both physical and mental.

For me, I recently took up a new sport – Pickleball – at my local spa/gym.  A bit like Nordic walking, none of my friends have ever heard of it which is forgivable in that it is very new to this country.  Apparently very popular in America and Spain, Pickleball can be played indoors and outdoors  and is a combination of tennis and badminton, played over a mid-height net (usually as doubles) with a bat which is called a paddle.  The ball is plastic and about the size of a tennis ball but with holes like a plastic golf ball.

Anyway, you can watch a video here if you are interested.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UwqIav5zGx0

BUT the BEST BIT is that since I started playing 6 weeks ago – for 1.5 hours a week, once a week, I have lost a couple of pounds!

For my part, as well as planning to keep it up and improve my serve, I have decided following a recent health check to cut back on my vices over the summer – cheese, butter and bread and go for quality rather than quantity wines…..

Is there anything you can do too?


Happy Birthday to the Queen!


Some odd tips for odd days when the English sun is out…

Slightly irritated by all of the wine companies pushing out their summer wines when quite frankly, with some of the cold days we have been having, all you want to do is drink a warming, full bodied red…..

However, here are few of my latest tips for what to drink in the English sun.

1/  Young Greek wine – If you can find any, the grapes to look out for are from the beautiful island of Santorini, Santorini Assytiko (available in some Waitrose stores) and also the Malagousia grape which is very pale has a lovely orange blossom nose, is clean, fresh and minerally with a long aftertaste.  Up coming Greek wines can be found for around the £10 mark and you won’t be disappointed.  Just avoid Retsina!

2/  Have you tried a quality French Pinot Noir straight from the fridge?   Enough said.

3/  Vouvray – the Chenin Blanc grape from the Loire Valley – I have found a few I like recently one of them at Majestic and good value – La Grille by Paul Buisse.

4/  Rose – stick with Provence / France and unless you like Princess Petrol, go as pale as you can.


Still wines. England v Wales?

I couldn’t help but notice one or two English still wines appearing on our supermarket shelves in recent months,  and when spending a beautiful, and as it turned out sunny weekend in Wales a couple of weeks ago, I popped in to visit The Sugarloaf Vineyards which sit at the foot of the romantic sounding Sugarloaf Mountain, near Abergavenny to find out whether the Welsh soil and climate would make a difference to the taste of the wine.

So these are the four I tried and compared – in common were that they were all 11-12% alcohol and produced in 2014 (I am told English wines need to be drunk young).

Starting with my least favourite:

Denbies Wine Estate, Dorking, Surrey – Flint Valley – Too much lemon/citrus on the palate.  I preferred the Surrey Gold I had tried a couple of years ago.  £12.99

Chapel Down, Tenterden, Kent – Bacchus – Again, the tropical fruits not really coming through the lemon/lime/green pepper flavours.   £12.99

The Bolney Estate, Sussex – Autumn Spice  The most aromatic, fruity and easy drinking of the  whites and I would buy this again but not at the steep price of £12.99.

So, now to my favourite wine – you’ve guessed it, it was the Welsh Sugarloaf Vineyard’s Rose or Blush.   It reminded me of part Provencal Rose and part Pinot Grigio Blush.  Definitely the most quaffable of the lot and I would buy this again – even at £11.99.

Has anyone found an English (Welsh) still wine in one of the supermarkets that they have enjoyed and would pay £10 + for?



How can you participate in Global Wellness Day?

Join in the celebrations on Saturday 11th June 2016 along with spas, other organizations and their consumers in 83 countries across 7 continents.

How to participate?

  • Any spa, organization or company with a wellness philosophy can participate by organizing an event on this day without any charge.
  • Global Wellness Day’s goal is to create awareness and to motivate people to lead a healthy lifestyle, kick starting them to making lasting changes that will impact their wellbeing 365 days a year.
  • Global Wellness Day cannot become a commercial event and this is a non-profit organization.
  • The event must be free of charge to consumers.
  • Use of all logos and materials must be those of the official organization and must meet corporate identity standards and guidelines.
  • Event organizers can take advantage of sponsorship opportunities in order to meet the costs from promoting Global Wellness Day all year round.
  • Publicity is positively encouraged.

It’s as easy as that!  All you have to do is “Say Yes”.

For more information, visit www.globalwellnessday.org or for advice as to how you can make the most of this opportunity, contact me at Spa Partners catherinewhittle@spapartners.co.uk.

A visit to the haunted Silent Pool Gin Distillery

According to the Wine & Spirit Association, gin sales in the UK have grown by 35% since 2010 and are set to hit the £1 billion mark next year.  The fascinating book I have been reading   ‘Gin Glorious Gin’  written by Olivia Williams tells us about the history of gin and what she refers to as the ‘Ginaissance‘ and it was this which inspired me visit to my local gin distillery last week – Silent Pool in the beautiful Surrey Hills.

The British have been drinking gin for 300 years and if you are lover of gin as I am, you will be familiar with the traditional names in gin – Gordons, Beefeater, Bombay Sapphire and Tanqueray and last summer, you probably enjoyed a Hendricks and tonic with a slice of cucumber along with many of the new, younger fans of the spirit.  Apparently, Gordons still supply around 50% of our gin but unbelievably, it was only in 2009 that Sipsmith became the first new-wave distiller to set up shop in London so it has only been in the last 7 years, that we have seen so many newcomers and artisan gin distillers, such as Silent Pool come onto the scene.

The Silent Pool Gin Distillery started up in 2014 and was created by a small team of business people and industry specialists – including American gin expert Cory Mason.  Cory carried out a huge amount of research before coming up with the complex formula for their gin containing everything from black juniper imported from Bosnia to chamomile grown locally on the land around Silent Pool to kaffir lime leaves which are specially grown in Essex.  Something like 24 botanicals in total are steeped in alcohol for around 24 hours to draw the oils out and then the liquid is heated and pumped through a beautiful a series of beautiful copper distillation tanks and then finally, water from the silent pool is added to produce each batch of gin (around 400 bottles).

I love the design of the bottle and @ 43% proof, Silent Pool gin is stronger than other gins however, it goes perfectly in a tall glass with Fevertree tonic and a slice of lime.  I have been impressed at how quickly the gin has become available in my local wine bars, restaurants and wine merchants and Majestic tell me that they will soon be selling it all over the country.

Oh and the ghost!  Yes, legend has it that Silent Pool is haunted by the ghost of a woodcutters daughter who drowned along with the hat of a local nobleman.

Not surprising no one wants to work the late shift!

Silent Pool gin us available on line at Silent Pool and in merchants throughout Surrey and will soon be available at Majestic.  Olivier Williams book Gin Glorious Gin available at Amazon.

Let me know what you think and what is your favourite gin cocktail?

My new best friend Nathalie….

Whilst searching for a suitable wine to serve up to my wine connoisseur friend Nathalie this weekend, I stumbled upon this superb Sauvignon Blanc called believe it or not ‘Nathalie’ – even though as a rule, I don’t do Sauvignon Blanc……

So meet my new friend Nathalie….from Reuilly in the Loire Valley.

She is classic of the Loire Valley with a well balanced blend of gooseberry and lime but the bit that impressed me was the subtle after taste of honey – so not expected but sooo delicious.

Recommended as an aperitif and only 12.5% – I will definitely be drinking this chilled over the summer.  I challenge you not to like it.

Just £9.99 from Majestic.   (Although it doesn’t appear to be on their website, I am sure they will do you a deal for 6)