Martisor Pinot Grigio – 25% off at Waitrose

Martisor is an ancient Romanian tradition celebrating the beginning of Spring.  It’s believed that the wearer of the talisman will be strong and healthy for the year ahead’.

Tempted by this timely and appropriate quote written on the label, this is one of six wines I selected from Waitrose this week with 25% off.

Nothing like an Italian Pinot Grigio, the wine is described as ‘light and crisp with delicate aromas.  On the palate, bright lemon and lime flavours which balance beautifully with a deliciously vibrant and refreshing finish’.  I definitely got apples and would go as far to say, it you like the taste of apples/apple juice, you should give this one a try.

At just over £5.00 a bottle and only 12% alcohol – it’s definitely one for your Spring shopping list!

Anyone tried it yet?

 

 

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.

Whittle on….wines with curry

My husband and I have always been partial to a weekly curry – either in our local Indian restaurant where he insists we go on a regular basis to maintain our ‘VIP status’ as he calls it or a home-made curry – extra hot with chillies if cooked just for the two of us or a mild one if we are entertaining guests.

This weekend we were entertaining and my husband decided to cook Chicken Bhuna and also a Beef ‘Raj’ Curry (a Rick Stein recipe) with beef stock, coconut and sultanas accompanied by Aloo Gobi (a la slim Hairy Bikers) and a dhal preceded by dozens of poppadoms and dips etc and finishing with a delicious home-made kulfi ice cream.

My job was to do the research and find some wines to match (thank you in part Sarah Rowlands, friend, wine writer and educator) so on Saturday afternoon I headed off to Majestic.

The evening was a great success and this is what I came up with and would highly recommend.

To start and with the chicken curry – one of my favourite white grape varieties which I have personally not tried before with spicy food, the not so well known Gruner Veltliner -Austria’s ‘signature grape’ – this one from the Wachau Valley in Austria.   Weissenkirchen Gruner Veltliner Federspiel 2014.  £9.99 in Majestic.

The wine was easy to drink with a slight citrussy ‘tang’, some hints of mineral and a touch of white pepper on the nose.  Definitely a food and guest friendly wine and a bonus for me in that I was reminded what a great alternative it is to Sauvignon Blanc (Refer to Whittle Wine of the Week 22nd Feb ’16).  It is available in most supermarkets but you have to look carefully as there is usually only one variety on the shelf!

With the beef curry – Sarah recommended a Rioja Reserva – specifically one which had been aged in US oak (as opposed to French oak) such that it would give notes of coconut (as opposed to vanilla).  Tra la….I found two excellent wines and both at a good price.

Lagunilla Gran Reserva 2007 – definitely got dried fruits and maybe cinammon- £11.99 but on offer @ £8.99 for 6.  Majestic.

Vina Pomal Centenario Reserva 2011 -100% tempranillo, aged for only 18 months so still quite ruby in colour and fruity to taste.  £11.99 (£9.99 for 6).  Majestic.

Visit Majestic Wine Warehouse

The Periodic Table of Wine by Sarah Rowlands.  Available on Amazon

If you try these wines, please let me know what you think +

PS  Surely I can’t be the only person who enjoys a G&T with their curry too – my current favourite gin which is everywhere at the moment – Silent Pool – watch this space!

Nordic Walking – does wonders for your bingo wings!

I started Nordic Walking 5 years ago at the same time as I started my own business and started WFH (working from home and sitting on a chair alot). Most weeks, I manage to walk for an hour with a group of like-minded people in the forest I am lucky enough to have on my doorstep.

We generally walk 4 miles at a good pace and for me, it is not just about getting a dose of fresh air and exercise, I enjoy the social aspect.

There is a technique to Nordic walking and before you start out and invest in some poles (proper Nordic walking poles cost around £65.00!), you need to have some lessons.

Once mastered, it is fairly easy and before long, you won’t have to think about your stride all of the time.

As yet, I have not managed to convince a single one of my friends to take up this form of activity – “Catherine, don’t you need snow to go Nordic walking?” and “Why can’t you just go for a normal walk like the rest of us?” however, I have decided to share with you just some of the benefits in my experience:

  • Explore beautiful countryside and experience nature confused by our mixed seasons
  • You can even go Nordic walking on the beach!
  • Strengthens the arm and core muscles as well as the legs
  • Burns calories – anywhere from 300-400 in an hour (20-40% more than normal walking)
  • De-stress – a break from work and/or the highs and lows of working for yourself
  • Great cardiovascular exercise – good for our hearts
  • Relief from stiffness and pain in the legs, hips and back
  • Injury or post operative recovery (one member of our group had her hip replaced after a fall and used Nordic walking as part of her rehabilitation – she was back with us walking normally after only 5 months and the Surgeon put her speedy recovery down to the fact that she was a regular Nordic walker)
  • A healthy glow – believe it or not, in 5 years, I have only got soaked 3 times and I always end up with rosy cheeks
  • A chance to meet new people and socialise – great for anyone who enjoys chatting to people and like me, occasionally needs cheering up

But best of all, NO MORE BINGO WINGS!   Yes – Nordic walking takes care of those (for those of you who are not familiar with ‘bingo wings’, they are your triceps muscles underneath your arms which as we get older, tend to become a bit hanging/flabby shall we say!)

For more information or to find a Nordic walking Group or Instructor near you, visit nordicwalking.co.uk

Hotels which offer Nordic walking breaks include Ockenden Manor in Sussex and Rockliffe Hall Hall in County Durham.

If you would like any advice or recommendations, please let me know.

Who wants to win a spa industry award?

To win an industry award, you obviously need to enter (in some cases be nominated).  To enter, you need to believe that your spa is a good one.  To be good, you need to be confident in your team’s abilities, not only to deliver a 5 star customer service but to effectively promote your spa in a way that you are convincingly maximising your revenue and also the departmental contribution to the hotel.

There are lots of good spas.  But which ones are winning the hotel and spa industry awards in 2016?

Nominated and shortlisted in this year’s Professional Beauty Industry Awards (the winners being announced this Sunday 28th February) include:

Two of my favourite spas, Bedford Lodge Hotel Spa in Newmarket (who I have worked with recently) and Fawsley Hall Spa in Daventry (which I haven’t visited since Hand Picked Hotels took over).

Then, some good ‘destination’ spa hotels – Armathwaite Hall in the Lake District, the Carbis Bay Hotel in Cornwall, both Rockliffe Hall and the Headlam Spa in County Durham. Also featured Hoar Cross Hall in Staffordshire, Life House in Essex and Ribby Hall in the far North West.

I have been a judge for the past 5 years in Caterer and Hotelkeeper Magazine’s Annual Catey Award for ‘Spa Professional of the Year’.  This gives me a fascinating insight into what goes into making a successful spa.   Lucy Mingo who heads up the upcoming Headland Spa in Cornwall was the 2015 winner with the Spa Managers at Dormy House and Blythswood Square coming a close second.  Previous winners include the respected Spa Managers, Kerry Hudson at Chewton Glen and Anna Williams at Stoke Park.

Caterer and Hotelkeeper Magazine are seeking nominations NOW for the 2016 award.

Do you think you are good enough?  Do you need advice on how to win an award?

What is your favourite UK spa?  Who would you like to see win an award?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whittle wine of the week

Brief notes to the reader about my ‘Wine Journey’

Whereas I am a mere amateur when it comes to wine, you should note that I am an experienced wine taster and drinker having spent 10 years as Sales & Marketing Director at The Vineyard at Stockcross working my way through their cellar consisting of more than 20,000 wines (heavy emphasis on the Californian); then, 5+ years attending monthly wine tastings hosted by a couple of well known wine educators.  I have also studied wine and passed with Merit the WSET Level 2 exam.  Gutted that I missed the distinction by 2% in that I gave the wrong answer to the gin question!  Oh and I also spent a short stint working in a wine shop!

You should know that I am an ‘ABC’ when it comes to white wine (anything but Chardonnay!) and I am very fussy about my Sauvignon Blanc’s so I am always on the look out for alternative white wines and especially enjoy white wines from France, Spain and Italy.

In 2016, most women, like me, will be more conscious about the amount of wine they consume and let’s face it, none of us really like spending more that £10.00 a bottle (£15.00 for a special occasion maybe) so my focus in these blog posts will be about recommending small quantities of delicious wines at value for money prices – the lower the ABV the better.

So onto my ‘Wine of the week’ – this week I am enjoying a bottle of Soave Classico from the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference range.  “Crisp with a mineral finish, zesty with both lemon and lime flavours” this will take you forward to the summer months.  I get a slightly bitter after taste reminiscent of the skin of a peach which I am reliably informed is typical of the Garganega grape.

A bargain at only £7.00 a bottle.  12% alcohol and 86 kcal per 125 ml glass (=1/6 of a bottle).

One small glass hits the spot at the end of a hard day…..