Wine for the Christmas season

It is well-known that food and wine consumed together can make the perfect partnership or end in a messy divorce! The ultimate goal is to succeed in providing more enjoyment than if the two had been consumed separately. Quite a tall order when we all have different sensitivities and our preferences vary so much.

That said the majority of people prefer their wines to have an attractive balance between fruit and acidity and will undoubtedly appreciate the generosity of any wine shared.


A great idea for keeping visitors happy over the festive period is to have some fun with a mixed case of wine. Fizz to mark the start of the festivities, red and white wine to comfort you through the meal and for something a little different, a well-chilled Tawny Port to enjoy with the Christmas pudding. If you need to look busy to avoid kitchen duties before your visitors arrive, double decant the red wine into a decanter to let it breathe and then pour it back into the bottle so people know what they are drinking! The wine will love being aired and the compliments will flow soon after!


Why not experiment this Christmas by offering both a red and white wine with the turkey. A well-rounded chardonnay is a delightful accompaniment, its rich creaminess and sweet spice notes can really enhance the mild and let’s be honest, often dry white meat. For the red winelovers there are lots of great wines that will match beautifully with the traditional Christmas lunch from the classic regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy and the Rhône or their southern hemisphere counterparts. Do try to avoid a wine that is too young or too tannic as it will be at odds with the leanness of the turkey.

2017 harvest – will it produce a good vintage?

The British are renowned for talking about the weather at every opportunity if only as part of a polite greeting. But it seems we have little to complain about, so many parts of the world are experiencing extreme weather conditions which devastate lives and livelihoods.


The wine community is full of comment as the 2017 grape harvest is well underway. Although picking is 10-14 days early, due to a pleasingly warm June, it has been a particularly complicated growing season in Europe, notably France & Italy, with late frosts in April, extreme temperatures in mid-Summer and hailstorms in August.


Encouraged by a mild March the vine shoots and buds emerged early, only to be decimated weeks later by widespread frosts. Despite the desperate efforts of vineyard managers, lighting fires between the vines to keep temperatures from dipping further, many hectares were lost. The result has been that yields are reportedly down as much as 40% in France and 25% in Italy compared to last year. In South America where grapes were harvested in April/May, yields were also down due to extreme heat, drought and wildfires but most Southern Hemisphere producers agree that 2017 will be remembered for excellent ripeness and impressive concentration.


But what does all this mean to the wine lover?

It is too early to say yet but the 2017 harvest in Europe also, with tiny yields and glorious ripeness, could potentially rival some of the greatest vintages of the 20th century.  Nothing is certain until the wine begins to show its paces in the Spring but, as night follows day, low yields and high quality mean price rises. The challenge for independent wine merchants like ourselves, who are not restricted to wines only available in large volumes, is to find good value even if it means that we have to go to lesser-known vineyards.  Those who do choose to fork out a little more on wine from the classic regions can, in due course, expect to be rewarded with 2017’s of character and excellent quality.

Pale & steely or dark & exotic – what’s your favourite Rosé?

A refreshing glass of rosé wine is undeniably the epitome of the summer drinking; thirst-quenching, delicate and versatile. Somehow being offered a glass of pretty pink wine lifts the spirits and relaxes the soul and the shoulders!

But what about the colour? We all know that part of the enjoyment of drinking rosé is delighting in the colour which is the reason why it is sold in clear, often beautifully shaped bottles. The enticing colours vary between the palest steely pink to the dark richer shades of pomegranate. All rosé wine comes from red grapes and the depth of the colour is dependent on how long the red skins are allowed to lie on the grape juice. This period determines both the colour and the delicacy of the final wine. In the EU, only Champagne can be made by blending red and white wine to produce a rosé.

Does the colour make a difference to the quality? It is the grape variety and vinification techniques used to make the wine that determines the colour difference and it is the skill of the winemaker and the terroir that defines the quality. However, the popularity of a paler pink rosé definitely seems to be a global trend with the Provence rosés setting the benchmark.

Rosé can be produced in 3 different ways: many vineyards, particularly in France, plant red grapes specifically for making rosé. Most of the common red grapes Syrah, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Grenache and Gamay are used to make rosé.  In the first example the grapes are grown purely for making a rosé wine. After picking, the grape skins are left to macerate in the juice for a just a few hours before fermentation occurs.

The second technique known as the Saignée method typically used by producers in Bordeaux. In this case whilst a red wine is being vinified a small quantity is “bled” off to make into an intensely flavoured rosé. Knowing the optimum time to do this is tricky and needs an experienced winemaker.

The final technique used to make rosé which incidentally is not permitted in the EU (except for making pink champagne), is known as the Blending method when a small amount of still red wine is added to white wine. New World producers use this method for making high volume, fruity inexpensive rosés.

We all know that rosé is a perfect apéritif but it also stands up well to food. For summer salads and cold meat platters go for the lighter styles. Darker rosés that are dry rich and full of cherry and pomegranate flavours will match well with more robust fish dishes and spicy foods and most offerings from the barbecue.

Don’t be afraid to pay a little more for a well-crafted rosé as you will be rewarded with a wine of depth and character.

Rosé is best served at around 7°C to get the full enjoyment of the flavours which is held back if it is too cold. If you haven’t got time to chill a bottle properly avoid the old ice-cube trick as this will dilute the wine too quickly but have a bowl of frozen grapes in your freezer ready drop into your glass.


We have five rosés at various price points on sale one of which was recently recommended by the Food and Wine writer Fiona Beckett. She said of the Bodegas Julián Chivite Las Finças “this should be a gastronomic rosé and it is. Clean, crisp and incisive with mouthwatering acidity, it could almost be a white.”  Try with prawns, fresh crab, langoustines, and gravalax all readily available locally just like our wine!

Come and try our rosés at our next FREE WINE TASTING on Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th August. Corks out 11.30-3.00pm. All welcome

Don’t forget we are open daily for you to buy wines and we offer FREE DELIVERY in the South Hams. Keep up to date with all our events by joining our mailing list, just email us your details.




Autumn Sherry Drinking

We enjoyed a very informative evening with Tim Holt from the sherry company Barbadillo. He came to talk to a lively group of customers in our cellar about how different sherries are made and how to match them with food. We all learnt a great deal from his presentation and from questions from the drinkers. We all retired upstairs to our office for some bowl food and a chance to try the 8 different sherries again. We finished the evening with some Dartmouth vanilla Ice-cream and Pedro Ximenez poured over it. A perfect end to such a fabulous evening!

Summer drinking & En Primeur

Summer seems to have arrived at last with warm settled weather, which can encourage impromptu gatherings with family and friends. In Dartmouth we were very lucky at the recent Music Festival to be blessed with wall to wall sunshine for 3 glorious days. Dozens of music-lovers sat around on an array of colourful rugs surrounded by many other like-minded people. Food and wine were being handed around from well-stocked picnic baskets as everyone soaked up the sunshine and the sounds coming from the bandstand. This tranquil scene reminded us of how lovely it is to share a bottle of wine with friends whether in a stunning setting like the River Dart or in our own back gardens.

Why not be prepared for such occasions by topping up your wine rack with wines for lazy picnic days and sizzling barbecues. Elegant whites match perfectly with summer salads and fish, punchy reds compliment any grilled food and our versatile Provence Rosé can be drunk anytime of the day.  Not to mention a refreshing glass of Prosecco or sparkling Rosé that gets any gathering off to a great start.

On a completely different subject we are expecting our list of En Primeur wines for sale shortly, if you are not already on our mailing list please do get in touch so you don’t miss out on a fabulous opportunity to buy 2015 Bordeaux, which everyone is very excited about, and other events and offers from Michael Sutton’s Cellar.

Come & taste new arrivals

We received wonderfully positive feedback from both our Open House events and our first Tutored Tasting evening. Tasting wine in either forum is interesting, thought-provoking and masses of fun. Discussions broke out in all directions about people’s likes and loves; taste is a very personal sense which lends itself to expressing opinions and understanding the complexities of different wines.

Over the last month or so we have attended tastings in London and Bristol to find new wines to complement our existing cellar list. As a result we have chosen some delicious, good value contenders which we will be featuring at our next set of Open House Days – Saturday 21st May, Saturday 28th & Sunday 29th May.

For those of you who are new to this website these tastings at Riversbridge are informal and fun. Just drop in between 11.30 and 2.00pm and enjoy a range of red, white and rosé wines. If you are out of the area rest assured you can order directly through the website and we will do the rest. We offer free delivery throughout the South Hams.

Our next Tutored Tasting evenings are 27th May “Bordeaux and its cousins” and 8th July “Australian Wines”. Booking is essential so do drop us an email which is easy from the Contact page.

Meanwhile our Master of Wine, Anthony Barne who guides us through our wine buying, has recently visited Bordeaux tasting the 2015 vintage. As I’m sure you are all aware last year’s harvest was received with much enthusiasm compared to recent years. The wine-writer Jancis Robinson said in the FT “2015 is not the vintage of the century but it is pleasing to taste – a modern version of 1985.”  We will keep you informed of our recommendations to buy En Primeur.

Do remember we are open most days, just give us a call/email beforehand and we will make sure we are here to welcome you.

Come to our next Wine Tasting!

Now the quiet days of dry January are well and truly behind us, it is now time to have some fun restocking those depleted Christmas wine racks in plenty of time for Easter.

To help you with this tiresome chore we are having a couple of Open House wine tastings in March. Regular customers will tell you that it is a very enjoyable experience tasting our wines which we always sell at a fair price. So if you happen to be in the South Devon area do come and see us. We will be tasting a varied selection of whites, and reds suitable for pairing with the inevitable roasted Spring lamb.

Saturday 5th & Saturday 12th March. Tasting from 11.30 – 2.00pm.




Learning more about wine


We hope you had a good festive break with plenty time to enjoy a bottle of wine – one of life’s great pleasures!

I suppose the best way to judge a business is to listen to what your customers have to say. During  November and December, the busiest time of year for us, we welcomed over a hundred people to the cellar and the feedback we received was hugely positive. The overriding consensus was that choosing wine from Michael Sutton’s Cellar is a fun experience. Our ethos is that wine is fun and we aim to be informal and yet informative.

It is very encouraging  to hear just how enthusiastic people are to learn more about wine. With that in mind we have been discussing with our trade partners and advisors about hosting educational evenings at MSC. We will finalise the details in the next few weeks but in the meantime if you would like to be involved please let us know.

It was also great to learn that in our local area there are some thriving wine clubs. We have already teamed up with our first club to host a tasting which should be a great evening. Of course you don’t have to be part of a club to come to such an event, we would be happy to host a group of friends or colleagues who would enjoy a relaxed tasting, just drop us a line via the contact page.

Happy New Year!

Last Weekend’s Wine Tasting

Thank you very much to everyone who came to our Wine Tasting Event at Riversbridge this weekend, bravely battling against the elements. On both the days our cellar was full of festive chatter and lively discussion with new friends made and old friends reunited. Our Master of Wine was kept busy with your questions and queries about how long to store wine and when treasured bottles should be at their best.

Our decision to provide Tapas to accompany the wines was well-received and something we shall be repeating at our next gathering. Quite a few of you expressed an interest in coming to a relaxed yet educational evening when we would gather in the barn above the cellar to learn about a particular wine area and sample some of it’s wines. We will be issuing further details in due course.

Many thanks again to all who visited us and we shall look forward to drinking with you again soon! Merry Christmas!

Welcome to the Michael Sutton’s Cellar Website

We hope you enjoy discovering the wines we sell. Do get in contact if you would like to buy some wine or have an enquiry.

Early in December each year we have our festive wine tasting at Riversbridge. We open about a dozen bottles for you to try with a sheet of tasting notes. It is a relaxed affair and our Master of Wine Anthony Barne will be on hand to answer any questions you may have about the wines.

 Wine Tasting & Tapas Open House

on Saturday 5th December 11am – 3.00pm

 at Riversbridge, Dartmouth TQ6 0LG

We will be opening some lovely crisp whites and warming reds to taste with a delicious mouthful of tapas. We will look forward to welcoming you, we are tasting from 11.00am until 3.00pm so do drop by and have some seasonal fun!