Whittle (bargain) wine of the week

Reminding you that I am an ‘ABC’ when it comes to white wine (anything but Chardonnay and not really a fan of Sauvignon) so I like to try anything but…..

Whereas I would never normally buy a Gavi wine (made from the cortese grape and grown in Northern Italy), this one was given to me by someone who drinks it on a very regular basis.

It went down very well with my Sunday roast chicken and I can imagine, it would be great with fish and pasta – plus I can’t quite get over the very ‘easy to swallow’ price of £6.50.

The tasting notes describe it as ‘rich and citrussy with some orange blossom’ – the grapes are late harvest and it as been slowly fermented with a just a touch of oak.  A really long finish as they say – and great after a long day.  Now here’s to a long weekend…..

Available from Tescos

Coming soon – and in the words of my husband – ‘you can’t beat a Chilean Merlot’ or can you?


Save the Date – Global Wellness Day 2016

Certainly the spa and wellness industries will be doing all they can in terms of promotions and events on and around this day to celebrate Global Wellness Day 2016 – oh and the date, Saturday 11th June 2016.

Organisers have adopted the slogan ‘One Day Can Change Your Life’ and suggest that we might like to consider one of the following:

1- Walk for an hour. 2- Drink more water. 3- Don’t use plastic bottles. 4- Eat organic foods. 5- Do a good deed. 6- Have a family dinner. 7- Sleep at 10:00 PM.

I am sure we (spas themselves and wellness fans) can think of other more exciting things to do on this potentially sunny Saturday so I am going to work on it over the coming months…..

Suggestions welcome +

Bored of Prosecco?

I finally decided that I was bored of drinking Prosecco when at a party just before Christmas, this was all that was on offer and after drinking about six glasses all from different bottles I presume to have been brought by different guests, I decided that I didn’t actually enjoy any of them and that it was time to move on…..

So what are the alternatives?

  1. Cremant  – (made in regions outside of Champagne – amongst the most well known – ‘de Bourgogne’, ‘de Limoux’, ‘d’Alsace’, ‘du Jura’, ‘de Loire’) – these are delicious sparkling wines made using the same method as used to make Champagne but from local grapes.

Although I try to stay clear of the ones that are two Chardonnay-esque,  two that I have enjoyed recently:

Cremant de Loire Cuvee 1864 Brut – Gratien & Meyer Saumer £14.95 from The Wine Society (this is actually made in a lesser known wine growing region of Anjou-Saumur in the Loire Valley) and

Cremant de Loire Brut – Prince Alexandra – £12.99 from Waitrose Cellar – this one has the aroma of Chardonnay but tastes typically of the local Chenin Blanc grape.

2.  Cava – I am going to make 2016 the year of ‘Come-back Cava’.  I drank alot of Cava when I was 16 years old – getting a taste for it on my first ever holiday to North East Spain (which is where most of it comes from).  To me, Cava tastes more ‘fruity’ than Prosecco.

Sainsbury’s do an easy drinking vintage Cava in their Taste the Difference range and it’s currently on offer at only £7.00 a bottle (and 11% alcohol).  I wouldn’t be embarrassed to take this zesty wine along to any summer parties – best served really cold.

3.  English sparking wines – with hundreds of vineyards springing up all over the UK (including the North of England), sales of English sparkling wines have been increasing massively over the past couple of years.  I am lucky enough to live within close range of some of the best suppliers and have most recently enjoyed a vineyard tour and a tasting of these two sparkling numbers:

Jenkyn Place Brut 2010 – around the £24.00 mark check here  for you local stockist and secondly, close to the renowned Nyetimber Vineyards in Sussex –

Upperton Vineyard Nebula 2011 – £24.50 – I am loving the purple label and also, the view from The Vineyard is stunning.  Just off the A272 near Petworth if you fancy a visit.  Upperton Vineyards

Finally, one which has recently come to my attention in that Kate Moss and other super skinny celebrities have been seen drinking it – a ‘low calorie Champagne’ which claims to have only 60 calories a glass (1/3 of the calories of regular Champagne) and sticking with the theme…..however, it comes at a price Thomson and Scott do a version as do Laurent-Perrier which retail @ £50.00 a bottle!  Only for the serious (and rich) dieter!

Have you found any good alternatives to Prosecco?

Let’s give them a try this summer and at least give ‘Cava a Come-Back’!





A round-up of the top spas and spa booking websites in 2016

There  are not as many new spas opening as there were a few years ago although certain UK destinations have become more popular due to the number of quality spas (eg County Durham, The Cotswolds and Cornwall). These days, I maintain that most spa afficionados are familiar with the more established spas and tend to engage and book their favourite spas directly; they have come to realise that some of the cheaper spa deals offered by the spa booking websites at spas which are perhaps at the lower end of the quality scale, just do not deliver in terms of a satisfactory spa experience.

The national newspapers talk about their Top 10 and Top 20 spa hotels and it is generally the same names which crop up (Pennyhill Park, Chewton Glen, Lime Wood, Coworth Park, Lucknam Park, Rockliffe Hall and more recently Dormy House).  I am always pleased to see that The Vineyard still gets a look-in too (my ‘2nd home’ for 10 years).

The on line spa booking landscape has also seen some changes recently.  In 2015, the original on line spa break operator Spa Break.co.uk (known as Spa Breaks Direct or SB1 by some of us who have been around for a long time) was taken over by market leaders        Spa Breaks.com (SB2).  Spa Breaks.com claim that customers can book ‘instantly’ on line spa days at some 400 + day spas and over 330 spa break destinations in the UK.

In December 2015, sadly for me, BookaSpa.com (which I helped launch in 2010 and which turned over £1 million in its first year of trading) closed down after 5 years. Owners Golf Breaks.com decided to concentrate only on their core business – golf breaks – and having sold off Tee Off Times earlier in the year decided to invest their cash in their new golf sales offices in the US and Scandanavia.

Wahanda have re-branded as Treatwell.co.uk and continue to focus more on the salons (some 11,000) although they do feature 400 + day spas and 200 + spa break destinations and they do offer a book on line function.

Travelzoo’s local spa deals still continue to fill many spas midweek and during off peak times however, if you go to their website, you will not see the word ‘spa’ mentioned.  Lots of my friends book with them.  Many a day, I have shared the steam room in my local spa with ladies who have booked one of Travelzoo’s deals and contrary to what some hotel General Managers think, in my experience they are not a bad bunch of people!

The Good Spa Guide has come on in the last few years and they  now feature 7 luxury hotel spas with their ‘5 Bubble’ accolade (Pennyhill Park, The Vineyard, Galgorm, Rockliffe Hall, Dormy House, Seaham Hall and Chewton Glen) and a further 44 spas with ‘5 Bubbles’.Customers can ‘enquire’ about any of their 150 odd deals featured on their website.  The Good Spa Guide.

And lastly, the US based Spafinder Wellness 365 who again have come on in the last few years regaining their market share in the UK through sales of spa gift vouchers and who under new leadership, have launched several new initiatives on the spa and wellness scene including ‘Wellness for Cancer’.  Last year, they voted the spa at The Corinthia Hotel in London as their Wellness Travel Awards ‘Best in UK’ category and also, one of my favourites – The Mondrian in London too.

So which spas will you be visiting in 2016?   And how will you be booking your spa?

Let me know if you need any tips or advice.

For spas themselves needing advice on partnering with any of these spa booking websites, please contact me via my website spapartners.co.uk



Cheers to healthier wines…..

Last week at my monthly wine club, we tasted some delicious Sardinian wines.  Not knowing that much about their wines nor indeed their country, I was fascinated to learn that Sardinia has been named one of only 10 ‘Blue Zones’ around the world meaning that the people of Sardinia are amongst the healthiest people in the world and that the Island claims to have the highest percentage of people living to 100.

Apart from a healthy food diet, Sardinians are partial to a glass or two of an obscure red wine called ‘Cannonau’ grown throughout Sardinia.  This grape variety, based on the Grenache grape but with a thicker skin contains various compounds in particular, one called ‘resveratrol’ which is high in anti-oxidants thus contributing towards a stronger heart and the potential of a longer life.

The one we tasted was delicious but not readily available so I am on a mission to find a bottle – however, whilst searching the shelves of Waitrose on Saturday, I did find an excellent Sardinian white wine – one of my favourite grape varieties Le Stelle Vermentino. This definitely falls into my ABC (anything but Chardonnay) and under £10.00 delicious wine category.  The tasting notes sum it up very well – “lemon, zippy and fresh, mineral with a long finish”.  Recommended.

And lastly, to finish off the healthy wine theme, a couple of other low-ish ABV wines which have been brought to my attention lately –

Olly Smith’s wine of the week @ £5.99 – Lidl’s Axis Riesling from the Clare Valley in Australia.  ABV 12%.

And available from Marks and Spencer’s an unusual Spanish wine from the North East Coast of Spain – Alaia ‘Txakoli’ (pronounced Chack-oh-lee) at only 11%.

Let me know you you find a Cannonau or indeed any other really tasty low ABV wines.