Wine, walks and healing swims: Why Italy’s Trentino region will soothe your soul

Published on The Independent on 1st September 2021

“Touch the label,” says Andrea Romanese, as he offers the bottle of blush rosé around the table. He cradles its neck in one hand, the body resting against his arm, as if he’s not quite ready to part with it. I lean forward and do as I’m told, tracing the faint bumps with my fingers. It’s a simple design: a Picasso-esque sketch of a face in bold, black lines, set against a plain white background. Beneath it, the name Gabriella, printed in a demure font, refuses to betray the secret of the bottle.

We’ve been at Cantina Romanese – a small winery in the Italian province of Trentino – for the best part of an hour. Most people come to the Cantina to try Lagorai, a sparkling wine named after a nearby mountain chain that’s aged under the cool waters of Lake Levico. But as Andrea, who runs the winery with his brother Giorgio, regales us with Romanese lore, it’s soon clear that their most interesting wines have stronger ties to the family.

Several varieties are named after family members. Among them are Narciso, a bold, red representing their grandfather; Laetitia, an elegant white wine named after their grandmother; and Fides, a robust chardonnay that takes after their great grandmother. But every time we got to Gabriella, he would furtively brush questions aside.

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Discover local producers on a makers’ break in Herefordshire

Published on The Independent on 22nd July 2021

“What happens during fermentation?”

James Marsden, the outspoken owner of Gregg’s Pit Cider & Perry in Ledbury, has thrown me yet another question – one that I suspect he didn’t really want an answer to.

I had just driven in from Goodrich, a little Herefordshire village about 20 minutes away. After repeatedly crawling along the same stretch of country lane, I finally managed to spot the un-signposted opening squeezed between two homes. Past this, and along a single-lane dirt track, was the elusive smallholding responsible for supplying fine ciders to Michelin-starred restaurants in London and beyond for upwards of £10 a bottle. But instead of a warm welcome, James has been bombarding me with questions – questions to which I just can’t seem to come up with the right answers.

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8 best mattress protectors: Help prolong the life of your bed

Published on The Independent on 21st July 2021

The mattress we sleep on every night has a huge effect on how much rest we actually get. It’s no surprise then that the price tag that comes with something so important is not a number to be sniffed at.

That’s why many of the biggest mattress brands offer three month trials so you know that the one you’ve picked will offer the right amount of support for your back and is breathable enough to keep you cool at night.

And yet, once it’s on our bed, few of us proactively try to prolong the life of the mattress we spent so long picking out and spent perhaps hundreds of pounds on.

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Madeira: the island of sun, sea and eternal youth?

Published on The Independent on 8th July 2021

When the first drops of warm massage oil made contact with my back, it should have been a cue for my body to instantly relax. But after months hunched over my laptop in the confines of a studio flat, the dark circles under my eyes echoing its soulless blue light, those muscles had apparently forgotten how.

Exasperated, I sank my cheeks further into the cushioned face-cradle, hoping it would accelerate the process. Any minute now, I thought, relaxation will wash over me. But it never did.

That’s not to say the massage at Laurea Spa, the wellness centre inside the newish Savoy Palace Hotel in Madeira, wasn’t any good. Quite the opposite, in fact; I’m convinced that I would have melted into a puddle had I experienced another hour of it. But I was only in for a 30-minute taster as part of a wellness weekend on the Portuguese island and, well, there were only so many knots my poor masseuse could untangle in that time.

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8 best santoku knives: The Japanese tool you need in your kitchen

Published on The Independent on 7th July 2021

Most of us are familiar with the traditional chef’s knife, with its piercingly sharp tip, straight spine and a distinctly curved cutting edge. Its shape makes it incredibly versatile in the kitchen and you can use it for everything from carving meat to finely slicing herbs in that classic rocking motion chefs love to demonstrate.

But hot on its heels in recent years has been the santoku knife – a style of chef’s knife that has its roots in Japan, although many models you get now are made in other parts of the world.

Santoku translates to “three virtues” in Japanese, which signify the three uses this style of blade is best known for: slicing, dicing and mincing. Visually, it looks just like a reflection of the traditional chef’s knife – the spine curves downwards into a point resembling a sheep’s foot while the cutting edge of the blade is almost completely straight.

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