A mulled wine for contrarians (Part 2 of #FeelingFestive)

Fun fact about traditional mulled wine – you can make a couple of bottles in advance and they won’t spoil as the spices act as preservatives.

Useful to know – if you like mulled wine. Not so useful if you are one of those who find that it triggers a booze-induced semi-restful Christmas coma.


Going… going… gone.

If you are in the latter camp, you need not resign yourself to regular wine (the horror!) over the festive period. There’s an alternative…

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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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A futile attempt to resign from the role of ‘Chief Wine Selector’

I have failed in my objective.


I feel ya, sister

The whole reason I launched Grapeful – the inspiration behind the idea – was that I was fed up of choosing the wine at dinner. As a level 3 qualified wine nerd (whatever that means), I frequently found myself handed the wine list by friends. Choosing wine for a large group isn’t as easy as it sounds – you have to cater for all tastes and budgets, and you are inevitably in the firing line if there are any problems.

So I decided to launch an app to absolve myself from the position of ‘chief wine selector’. My logic was as follows: offer a man a wine and food pairing, and he’ll drink for a day; teach a man to pair food with wine, and he’ll drink for the rest of his life. Makes sense, right?


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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

Why I dislike the phrase “Anything But Chardonnay”

anigif_enhanced-buzz-19719-1403867617-10There are a number of cringeworthy phrases in the English language. My carefully cultivated list of most annoying expressions ranges from corporate guff such as “move the needle” (what does that even mean?) to everyday sentence-starters such as “to tell you the truth” (why is this necessary – do you usually lie?). While these phrases are mildly aggravating, there’s one that practically sends me into a state of convulsions: “Anything But Chardonnay“. Continue reading

Beauty comes in all shapes and sizes

I spent the better part of a fortnight racking my brain for a relevant and (hopefully) interesting wine-related topic to blog about; unfortunately I was suffering from an emotionally crippling condition called writer’s block. Every single one of my pens stopped working and I forgot how to type (admittedly I am brazenly abusing the figurative sense here).

Eventually, Tesco stepped in to lend me a hand on the inspiration front.

A few days ago, I was on my way to my cousin’s house for dinner when the bright lights of Tesco Express lured me in. I gave in to temptation under the premise of picking up a few healthy snacks – a mission which failed miserably given I walked out with a pretty sizeable bag of maltesers and a bottle of wine.

But it wasn’t just any ordinary bottle of 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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The height of decadence

When the first Burger & Lobster opened in London, the whole world and his brother wanted a taste of what was touted as “the cheapest lobster in Mayfair”. The restaurant has chosen to follow London’s latest trend of “please queue in the rain because we don’t take bookings” and, although torn between my love of lobster and my fathomable dislike of queuing, I tried to get a table on a Friday evening.

I suppose it was inevitable that I was turned away at the door. When I arrived, a man energetically controlling the list of lobster-eaters that night looked down at his clipboard briefly before suggesting I return at a less busy time. Although slightly peeved, I heeded his advice and ended up scoring a table for lunch the following week.

Burger lobster

Oh my, what a lunch. 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