Groucho Marx harpooned American winemaker Paul Masson’s famous tagline of the late 70s “We serve no wine before its time” by adding, “OK, it’s time.” Wine is perfect for making 2020 seem like a dim and distant memory. It’s also a great use for all those Zoom calls you’ve done for work and relatives. For my first Zoom tasting I was more concerned with how I looked and if all the crap on the countertop had been tucked away. For my second Zoom tasting, the proximity of the bottles was key. One of the most relaxed ways of virtual tasting is to head to Wine Events Scotland. Although it is virtual, you get all the fun and information from a tasting in real life, without the sometimes competitive atmosphere. Thirty years of experience and multiple awards won means Diana Thompson’s tastings – which until now were Scotland’s big secret – can now spread their mirth wherever the wines can be shipped. As she also works with brands such as Lidl (hey! Come back!) and M&S (on their new Classic wine range) among others, if you can’t get the big box of wine to your place in time, you can probably get a few of the bottles in the fridge. Plus, you learn what to buy when you want to buy wine unlike taking a punt on a bottle when you’re buying food.
Princess Prosecco is the Joan Rivers of fizz: you can’t make fun of her because she’s done it herself already, proving that she’s smarter, richer and funnier than you
Tasting champagnes and sparkling wines is actually not that easy. Most tastings are still or other. If you do find them, the bottles are far from affordable. This is why I want you to know about Diana Thompson’s tastings: they’re casual, easy to follow and there’s never any shaming if you don’t know your chardonnay from your pinot noir. (Although for that, I’d shame you probably). The last tasting I did with Diana introduced me to the new sparkling wines at Lidl where a £16 bottle of champagne came out on top. Lidl’s Champagne A. de Sennevale Premier Cru is a toasty, biscuity bottle with a little fruit action on the side and enough mouth-lingering loveliness. I was verging on hysteria tasting this one and it was then I noticed how calm Diana was. Soothing. Knowledgeable. I relaxed and tasted a bit more. Yes, this bottle has earned a score of 90 from Lidl’s head master of wine – one of my favourite wine masters, Richard Bampfield. When a bottle carries the signature of someone whose buds you trust, you buy a case. So get ahead of me in the queue at Lidl. And for those who are too snobby to go, just think of it as Ikea with booze. As Bampfield says, “After a glass of good champagne you never feel bad, do you?”
But I am a cheap snob. I cling to stupid beliefs like a tired warthog on a rotten log washing out to sea. Blame it on positivity exhaustion: it is harder and harder to be supportive of everyone you know. So, imagine the tremor that coursed through me when I was told by friends about Princess Prosecco. What kind of a name is that? Turns out, it’s a mutual friend’s prosecco business. Corine Sellers, using her business skills honed in the TV industry, bottles a tongue-in-cheek take on the pinky-fluffy, hen-nightyness of prosecco. It is darned good. My limited edition bottle came hand-wrapped in paper, nestled within a reusable ice-bucket bag, with a straw. The straw had me wishing I didn’t have to drink it. Short story, Princess Prosecco is the Joan Rivers of fizz: you can’t make fun of her because she’s done it herself already, proving that she’s smarter, richer and funnier than you. According to Corine, Princess avoids single-use plastic, opts for smaller local industries and the wine itself is organic, bio-certified and vegan. Hand-harvested, bottled at the vineyard, I was waiting for her to tell me no grapes had been harmed. Princess Prosecco really is a lovely, soft, sweet sparkling extra dry wine that I’d really recommend, whether she was a friend of friends or not. But more importantly… it has a straw. You’re supposed to smile. C