The perfect mulled wine (Part 1 of #FeelingFestive)


How it feels in London right now

This year, scientists uncovered an amazing revelation: contrary to prior belief, the human nose can detect one trillion distinct scents. If not more. Dogs still beat us, but we humans are doing pretty well.

To me, nothing quite smells like Christmas as mulled wine (glühwein in Germany, vin chaud in France). It has become as much a symbol of Christmas as tinsel, probably because it’s so damn cold this time of year that the notion of a hot and alcoholic drink makes the eyes of 50 million Brits light up like a Christmas tree.

You can buy it pre-prepared, but half the fun is in making it while shaking your booty to Mariah Carey’s All I want for Christmas is you”.

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Trading beer for wine at Oktoberfest


This counts as weight training, right?

For 99% of the Western population, the word “Oktoberfest” conjures an image of beer.

For those unfamiliar with the Bavarian festival, it is a 16-day beer-drinking, bratwurst-eating bonanza that takes place in Munich every year. Over six million beer lovers flock to Germany to participate in the festival, collectively consuming a staggering 1.8 million gallons of beer each September. (No, that isn’t a typo – Oktoberfest takes place in September. Honestly).

Although I am definitely not enough of a beer drinker to travel 600 miles for a pint, I did find myself donning a Bavarian hat for an Oktoberfest-themed brunch party last weekend.

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What Monday detox?

giphyMany people earmark Monday as a healthy day – hit the gym, eat kale, drink spinach smoothies and abstain from alcohol. Start the week on a good note and atone for the sins of the weekend.

I am usually successful at adhering to this philosophy – with the notable exception of last Monday. No acts of penance were paid to my waistline or general health after I reluctantly (who are we kidding?) agreed to indulge in steak, truffle chips and wine. Continue reading

A last-ditch attempt to hold on to summer

September 1st is a noteworthy day.

It’s the day the wreckage of HMS Titanic was discovered (and subsequently the ship’s magnificent cellar housing 12,000 bottles of wine – many of which were still intact). It’s independence day in Uzbekistan. It’s Gloria Estefan’s birthday. It is also the 244th day of the year – a scary thought, quite frankly.

On a personal level, I’m not a fan. The unwanted arrival of September means summer is coming to a close. We can wave goodbye to quiet roads in London. We must trade in our flip flops and dig out more sensible shoes. Yesterday I reluctantly binned the August page of my calendar (using a bit of artistic licence here; I don’t actually use a paper calendar but it’s far less impactful to say “click the September button on my Google Calendar”).

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Cesanese: the wine of the Romans

rome postWhat comes to mind when you think of Rome?

The cultured among us would say the Sistine Chapel or the Colosseum. The gluttons among us would say tagliatelle or gelato. The oenophiles among us would say Frascati or Chianti Classico (not that Tuscany is particularly nearby – but the wine is available almost everywhere).

Unfortunately, I am all three – an affliction that made a two-and-a-half-day trip to Rome a mildly stressful experience. Sixty hours was simply not enough to experience all that the capital has to offer. I was constantly torn by three competing persuasions: the desire to visit all of the historic sites, the temptation to go shoe shopping, and the gravitational pull towards al fresco wine bars in the middle of bustling squares (piazze) all over the city. Continue reading

Napa: the land of plenty

I never really understood the appeal of Twitter until a few months ago. I signed up for an account back in 2010 – admittedly because of the hype – but my bashful curiosity rapidly transformed into apathy when I realised that my 50 followers were not interested in what I had for lunch. Conversely, the Twittersphere is fascinated by the daily movements of my singing namesake – judging by her 26.4 million followers.

Since launching Grapeful in February, however, I’ve had no choice but to re-embrace Twitter simply because social media is a fundamental component of my marketing strategy. I’ve had to familiarise myself with the lingo – a rather harrowing process involving trawling through a “twictionary” (apparently a widely used term for Twitter dictionary – who knew?) and learning the meaning of acronyms such as SMH (“shaking my head”) and HAND (“have a nice day”). I’ve had to become extremely active on Twitter in order to promote my app and drive engagement.

One unintended – but rather pleasing – consequence of this is that I’m actually acquiring a great deal of knowledge from the almighty Twittersphere. Continue reading

Best sandwich ever? Quite possibly.

As Londoners, we are truly spoilt for choice when it comes to the mighty sandwich.

Two years of working in the City opened my eyes to the diversity of options available: pre-made (but always fresh, as they keep reminding us) baguettes from a Pret A Manger store, custom-made butties from an independent hole-in-the-wall, artisan wraps from a colourful-looking food truck boasting a queue of hungry bankers. Each a very respectable institution in its own right – some are better than others, yes, but none are notably offensive amongst a reasonably discerning Square Mile clientèle.

I believed I had found my sandwich soulmate after two years of hard work and serious research (Pret’s ham and pickle combo, if you must know). A recent trip to Burgundy, however, gave me a whole new perspective on the mighty sandwich.


After five hours of driving around the Côte de Nuits touring vineyards and tasting wines (hard life I know), I had built up quite an appetite. Continue reading

What do Lance Armstrong, Tony Blair and Beaujolais all have in common?

This week’s million dollar question is: what do Lance Armstrong, Tony Blair and Beaujolais all have in common?

beaujolais 2

…(drumroll)… A tarnished reputation.

Lance Armstrong for spending years indignantly telling porkies about his use of performance-enhancing drugs; Mr Blair for making a ghastly call on Iraq; Beaujolais for its association with the liquid bubblegum (more frequently referred to as Beaujolais Nouveau) that was all the rage a few decades ago.  Continue reading

Organic wine: what’s all the fuss about?

I can’t believe I’m about to complain about the fantastic weather we have been enjoying over the last few weeks – I guarantee I will eat my words when it reverts to characteristically British cold nights and rainy days. My complaint is as follows: the capital is simply not equipped for the battalions of sun-deprived Londoners seeking precious and coveted spots in pub gardens all over the city. I experienced this pain first hand on Saturday when I, along with two friends, went on a desperate and ostensibly futile hunt around the Regent’s Park / Camden area. Every pub we ventured into was so heaving that it wasn’t clear which would be the greater challenge: finding a table or getting served at the bar.20140726_181201

To cut a long story short, we abandoned Mission Pub Garden in favour of Mission Wine In The Park. The idea of walking into Whole Foods to pick up supplies and head into Regent’s Park seemed incontestably effortless. So that’s exactly what we did: we grabbed a bottle of vino (a screw cap of course), a few plastic cups (oh the horror!) and some snacks (walking the equivalent of a marathon had built up quite an appetite). The park was so bustling that I genuinely believe that all 8.3 million Londoners were, at that moment, either in a pub or in a park.

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