My interest in photography began when my grandad gave me an Olympus film SLR back in the 90s. I think he used to take it on trainspotting trips — but I had other uses in mind…
With two decades of practice, a pile of books and a course of evening classes behind me, I’m now familiar with all the camera jargon, know the basics of lighting and appear to have a knack for composition. I’ve also been told I have a good eye, although that’s not for me to judge. However… I’ve always found product photography a hassle, and I still have trouble photographing wine bottles at home.
They’re just so fiddly to light, with all that glare from the glass. A friend of mine who’s a brilliant pro food photographer (click here to see an interview I did with him) recently gave me an interesting wine photography tip: position the glare from your light source at the angle where the main portion of the bottle turns into the stem. That way the size of the glare will be minimised. It’s easy when you know, but not something I’d considered before.
Admittedly, I do do a lot of photography with my phone these days. It’s just so convenient, and the Huawei P20 Pro that I use does take very good shots (it has a triple lens, made by Leica for what it’s worth). But I also use retro-style Fujifilm X-T10, which I admit I mostly bought because it looks cool.
And while the difference between the shots isn’t very pronounced on the small screen (especially as the Huawei’s screen is superior to the Fuji’s), the Fuji really comes into its own when you look at the pictures close up. Phones are fine for Instagram, but I’d never recommend using one to take proper product shots, especially for print.
“Try to think of the story you want to tell with your image. I start with an idea and then I move on to finding inspiration for props. Pinterest and Instagram are great sources of inspiration. Try not to copy directly, but do grab ideas from other images and then combine them and alter them to create your own image.”
“I tend to cover three different styles: minimalist, contextual and fine art. I start with the subject on its own, creating a simple image and once I am happy with that, I add props to add context to the subject. When it comes to wine, adding things like a bottle opener, a cheese platter, or some grapes to the frame can really set the mood of the image.”
“Another great way of creating context is adding a human factor. Try a hand in frame, grabbing a glass, or some wine-pouring action. And for the last part of the shoot, I like getting creative. Adding flowers or some quirky unusual wine glasses, you can really create something special. Think of all your images as complementary to each other.”
Chio Fernandez is a professional food photographer who lives and works in London. She is also a Fujifilm X-Photographer. When shooting food (and wine) she uses a Fujifilm X-E3. www.chiophotography.com
I know what it’s like. You wait forlornly for that gilded envelope containing your VIP invitation to the British Academy Film & Television Awards to flop through the letterbox… and it never arrives.
Well dry your eyes, because now you can (if you’re lucky) pretend you’re there while guzzling the exact same booze that Amy Adams and Christian Bale will (might) be enjoying on the night. Use your imagination, and you might just be able to smell host Joanna Lumley’s perfume wafting past your face from your front-row seat.
The awards are (and have been for many years) sponsored by Champagne Taittinger and popular New Zealand wine producers Villa Maria, and I’m giving away a special BAFTA-labelled bottle of Taittinger Brut Réserve NV; a bottle of Villa Maria Private Bin Pinot Grigio; and a Villa Maria Private Bin Merlot/Cabernet Sauvignon to the winner of this competition.
To enter, share this post on Facebook and follow The Wine Ninjas page (if you don’t already). Don’t forget to tag me with @WineNinjas if required, so I get a notification. I’ll pick an entry at random and announce the winner within the next few weeks.
The prize will be sent out before the awards take place, which is on Sunday 10th February 2019 at the Royal Albert Hall — at a nice, safe distance from Dry Jan. Click here to see the full list of nominations. My money’s on Steve Coogan to waddle off with Best Actor.
When I gave my mate Olly a glass of this 30-year-aged Noé PX (made by González Byass from Pedro Ximènez grapes) he said it was the best sherry he’d ever had. Sure, his idea of sherry is probably stealing a swig of his nan’s Croft Original on Boxing Day, but it’s still quite the compliment. When I wasn’t looking, he helped himself to another glass.
Alas, my nasal passages were on strike because of a cold during Christmas, which put the kibosh on my plans for a sherry-and-mince-pies tasting. But when I finally did get around to tasting the Noé Pedro Ximènez, I discovered a remarkable depth of flavour: fig, coconut, nuts, treacle, vanilla and, of course… raisins are coupled with an intense sweetness. All these factors would have made it the ideal companion for those mince pies — if my rotten rhinovirus hadn’t got in the way.
Still, if you can’t face a post-Yule mince pie, there are other raisin-based dessert options that would work equally well. The humble Eccles cake, for instance, has been back in fashion for a long time now. Some like it with a slab of cheese on the side. I don’t. I’d serve it alongside some vanilla ice cream — with a drizzle of the Noé Pedro Ximènez on top.
Failing that, a Dundee cake or a spiced bread pudding would also do the trick. And if you want to keep things authentically Spanish, try serving churros with a melted-chocolate dip — no way you can go wrong with that.
I did a tour of a winery in Madeira last year, where some of the stock is nearly 200 years old. And this Noé reminds me of some of the better quality, oak-aged Madeira wines I tried over there.
It may not be two centuries old, but when this sherry was bottled, the Berlin Wall was still a thing, hardly anyone had heard of the internet and Crocodile Dundee II was “thrilling” audiences on the big screen. And those three decades in oak are what give it the mature complexity that is its major strength.
Just a word of warning for those unfamiliar with PX sherry: this is extremely sweet stuff. And although they often enjoy sherry as an aperitif on the continent, I would always pair this one with dessert. When I tell you that Waitrose describe it as “a dessert in itself”, while Majestic call it “a liquid pudding”, I reckon you’ll get the idea.
Noé Pedro Ximenez, 15.5% volume. £19.99 (37.5cl) from Ocado, Waitrose Cellar and Majestic online.
My eyesight has started to deteriorate in recent months (either that or everyone’s printing things smaller these days), so I initially assumed my vision was deceiving me when I looked at the alcohol volume on this award-winning Tesco Amarone Della Valpolicella — 15.5%. Surely that’s fortified wine territory.
Well, I guess I’ve just revealed how much I knew about Amarone Della Valpolicella before trying this one. Not a lot. Here’s what my research threw up…
What Is Amarone?
Hailing from the Valpolicella region in north-eastern Italy, just west of Venice, Amarone is a highly regarded red wine made predominantly from partially dried Corvina and Corvinone grapes. These are picked late to maximise sweetness, and then left to dry out, resulting in higher sugar levels, and ultimately a stronger alcohol content — of at least 15% volume. And because so many more grapes need to be used in this process, it also results in higher-than-average costs.
Ageing for between two and ten years in oak barrels further pushes up the price, and consequently, this wine’s tag of £18 is a relative bargain compared to many Amarones (I’ve also seen it on offer for £16, which makes it even more worth snapping up).
Cascading from the bottle a delicious deep garnet/purple colour with a rusty rim, the high ethanol content gives this Tesco Amarone legs longer than Usain Bolt on stilts. And, as you might expect, the predominant flavour is raisin. It reminded me in some respects of, say, a Pedro Ximenez or a Madeira, but far less sweet, with a vaguely bitter aftertaste. I also uncovered plum jam, prune, spice and strawberry notes in there, while a touch of tar emerges with oxidation. And, naturally, it tastes pretty alcoholic too.
The Tesco Finest Amarone Valpolicella picked up a gold medal at the 2018 IWC (International Wine Challenge) Awards (as did its cousin the Tesco Finest Barolo), racking up 95 points (whatever that means to you). I wouldn’t rate it quite that highly myself, but if you’re considering diving into the Amarone ocean, you’ll be lucky to find a better-value springboard than this.
4 NINJA STARS
Tesco Finest Amarone Della Valpolicella, 2015. £18 at the time of writing. 15.5% volume.