Its always interesting to taste wines during flights because of the pressure placed on the senses. Wines can taste far different from when they're served on terre firma.
I am typing this on a British Airways flight back from Istanbul and have been served a couple of small bottles of Cape Spring Pinotage from South Africa. Pinotage is wine that often surprises people at how easy it is to drink, with tasty pungent cherry fruits. This is reflected now. As soon as the wine is in the plastic tumbler, I can smell the fruit even at 10 kilometres altitude. It's pleasant, welcoming and exactly what I hoped I might get in these circumstances.
It compares favourably to the flight out of London with Turkish Airlines where I was served a French country wine with no hint of the grapes used in production. At first sniff there was little, if anything, to humour the nostrils. I was a little disappointed. The wine was drinkable but not exciting at all. I am, please understand, only talking abbot the wine. The rest of the flight experience was absolutely fine with no complaints whatsoever.
The pinotage on this BA flight is worth a mention because it is actually reaching the senses and conveying a little of what we hope and expect from a glass of wine at odd times when confined, alert and trying hard to avoid mentally ticking away the minutes. The acidity is good in the mouth causing a little pucker of the lips. The fruit is attractive and light as we'd expect from a young wine; none of the complexities that age brings.
A good choice BA!
At meal time I opted for the merlot cabernet blend. This was a little unimpressionable at first but opened up nicely whilst I was talking to the lady next to me. The back label accurately describes "hints" of blackberry fruit which I think is probably quite accurate. Unfortunately, when flying, we need more than hints and nuance… we need a bit of punch and a little clout! So my tip is as was and remains… the pinotage!
We've been languishing down in Hampshire for a couple of days soaking up the sunshine, barbecuing, sun basking and reading books in warm sun kissed tranquility. Obviously all these activities require a small dose of vinous produce to aid digestion, precipitate a comfortable siesta and so on.
I found my peace today with this lovely Fleurie in the 'Exquisite Collection' from Aldi. The warm weather reds I tend to go for are Beaujolais Village, Fleurie, Alsace or Austrian pinot noir or menthia from Galicia; typically wines that are lighter, less tannic, with mouth teasing acidity and summer red fruits like raspberries and strawberries.
This wine has the lovely translucent ruby red colour, crushed ripe strawberry aromas and really refreshing fruity pleasant taste with a clean finish. A great summer wine for £6 a bottle … get a case and invite all your friends over!
For lovers of Spain, there can be nothing as pleasurable as sitting at the bar with friends, holding a glass of beer or wine and handpicking a plateful of delicious and artfully prepared bites of food called "tapas" in Spain, or "pintxos" in the Basque region. Myself and three friends descended on the Soho branch of Pix Pintxos for our bi-annual catch-up. Pix bar is a cosy little place on Bateman Street, bustling with activity. People buzz like bees around the counter loading their plates with delectable olives, patatas bravas, squid or iberico ham. We huddled at the back of the long narrow room on stools and ordered first a bottle of Ribera del Duero tinto and then a bottle of Hacienda Rioja. The latter was a third cheaper and, for me, more tasty, rounded flavours, familiar and friendly like laughter.
I enjoyed the tapas for its taste, presentation and the activity involved in seeking out more foods bits with my plate. My friend Ricardo, a seasoned veteran of San Sebastian's gothic "Pintxos" quarter, was adamant there was not enough bacalau (cod) in the croquetas but that seemed to be the only critical comment. Overall, the experience ticked many of the right boxes including ambiance and a reasonable level of quality in terms of food and wine. What more could we ask for?
Well, what we were given was a conundrum in the form of a 12.5% levy on our bill. We are very used to paying service charges but in this instance, the question had to be asked: "What is this for exactly?" The food was covered by the bulk of the bill itself, the wine we selected ourselves, unaided by a member of staff, the food was presented on the front counter which we retrieved ourselves, yet despite being very polite, there was a added levy for service, which one could deem, impolite. To be fair, when asking us to vacate the table for the next booking, the waiter was very apologetic but still, I don't pay for such ejecting prompts as a rule.
It seems to say more about how we are perceived by "businesses" that as "consumers" we take what is given to us even when that means bills. Tax is a contentious issue these days. I can't help feeling that it is perhaps for the wrong reasons. Paying tax means giving money one has earned to someone else who has not earned it. Yet we in society, hand led by governments and media, now make regular protestations regarding those who do not pay enough. It is branded "fair" or "unfair" ignoring the fact that it is more often that not completely legal. Who in their right mind would pay more tax than is necessary either to a waiter or to a government?
We stopped by the London International Wine fair and caught old friends Ewan Lacey and Edmund Sherman in the middle of a delicious champagne tasting...
The champagnes we produced by Champagne Veuve J.Lanaud, a 4th generation family producer. Edmund and ewan taste their way through three very fine examples of the range. Not a good profile of the champagne house but also some nice background different champagne styles and food pairings.
Thanks for watching!
I am really excited about this Falanghina, as you will see from this video of the tasting. Rarely is one surprised and delighted by an intensity of flavour, an elegance of balance, and wonderful "new" flavours with great persistence.
I have, subsequent to tasting, found out that this Falanghina comes from very old (80 years) vines, growing un-trellissed as bushes amongst the olive groves (for shade) high up on the slopes of the spent volcano Taberno.
Also if you choose from the menu below the 12x75cl pack you save an extra 10% and get the wine free delivered to your home!
I'd say 95% of the time the wine bottle back label is a waste of a moments read. In this instance I read as a post bottle finishing curiosity. The wine itself weighed in much higher than my expectations, with lovely creamy, lemony and fine butterscotch aromas. In the mouth the acidity is mouth tinglingly good with complex flavours of lemon grass and sweet pear. Really enjoyable. The flavours recede slowly like the moment of peace at the end of a massage. Very pleasant all round.
Hence I bothered to read the back label. This wine is a blend of grapes picked from from two different high altitude vineyards located in the Eden Valley and Adelaide Hills.
The rest of the label is par for the course but pretty accurate. Overall it is a well made wine and one that I'd quietly smile at if I saw served during someone else's dinner party or even my own!
£15.99 Eagle Wines, Le Canon Wines, Partridges of Sloane Street,North & South Wines, Field & Fawcett
We can all say quiet thanks for unexpected great value quaffing wines, easy party crowd pleasers and conversation enhancers, such as this Baron Amarillo Rioja Reserva 2007 from Aldi.
With 6 years of age to give it a little roundness, it has all the characteristics that one would expect from this region: hints of vanilla from the 3 years in oak cask, with ripe red fruits and light enough in alcohol not to worry about how many glasses you have until you're in triple digits. I can only ask: what's not to like?
At £5.99 we have a crowd and a wallet pleaser. Perfect for all Rioja drinking occasions!
Available in store from Aldi: Baron Amarillo, Rioja Reserva, 2007
By Nick Breeze
I was hunting around West London the other day looking for a half decent, well priced bottle of Bourgogne Blanc.
I asked the chap in my local wine shop, 'The Good Wine Shop' on the Chiswick High Road, what he could do for me and he offered a range that were all priced around £15 - 20. What actually caught my eye was nestled between them, this bottle by Domain Michel Chavet & Fils Saint-Véran, 2011 for £13.95
A few factoids about Saint-Véran: it is small region split in two, with the much more well known Pouilly-Fuisse, situated in the middle. It is in the far south of the Mâconnais, which in itself is a subregion of Burgundy.
I am a huge fan of Pouilly Fuisse, so picking up a bargain wine from its neighbour who shares the overlapping characteristics of rich bright acidity, white fruits and a delicious butteriness from the malolactic fermentation's that is a real treat.
This is a lip smacking wine and I urge you to seek out some from your local wine shop. Even if you cannot find the same producer, experiment with wines from this region as it offers a lovely expression of the chardonnay grape. I love it!
By Nick Breeze
This is a snappy little white wine from North West Italy made from the Cortese grape variety.
It definitely fragrant with attractive lemon, melon and pear flavours. It is very easy to drink, especially when lost in music or conversation. It is easy and uncomplicated.. and exceptionally good value for £4.99
If you have an Aldi store nearby then this is a great party wine or one for an easy evening. At this price we are advised to warn about pace - no more than a case per evening (amongst friends)!
The only link I can find on the Aldi site is here
I'm not a big fan of low alcohol wines (in the region of 5% etc.). The samples I have been sent previously have tasted foul; saccharine, over sweet and generally like a poke in an ulcers eye.
So it was interesting that I didn't check the ABV of this bottle before opening. I was more taken by the neat packaging and beer bottle top. Something about it looks summery and appealing.
In the mouth the gentle fizz gives way to a rush of liquidized ripe strawberries; refreshing and pleasant. Thus I have to say I am impressed with this bottle - a perfect little drop for those who have to drive or who are so infrequent drinkers that soft summer fruits and the ability to walk away from a scene are exactly what they're after.
Worth a go for a romantic aperitif before something more substantial later on perhaps?
£7.99 from Ocado or Oddbins (I can't find any online places to purchase!)
Supremely good quality from this class producer in the south-west corner of Western Australia... the tip: "get involved!"
Lovely pale yellow colour shining gold in the light. Aromas on the nose are pure fruit sweetness verging on kiwi, banana and ripe pears. There is a gorgeous honey and butterscotch taste to the wine adding a layer of luxuriousness. Excellent crisp acidity leaving the mouth feeling clean but with lingering pleasantness of the wines character.
A drink for all occasions, refined, elegant and too tempting. Moss Wood do it again with a top'o'th'pile suavity. Good work! It works about about £20- 25 GBP per bottle, which is not bad at all.
I rushed across to Dinah's to admire her new cheeseboard with ceramic inlay and brought with me a bottle of this trebbiano and chardonnay blend by Tavernello from Italy. It proudly states on the label that it is "No. 1 Wine In Italy" based on sales figures.
Well I have to say, wines at £3.99 a bottle more often than not do strange things to my complicated system of tubes and vessels. However, I am always happy to be surprised and this wine did just that.
Pale yellow in colour with fresh attractive fruit nose, it slips down a little too easily and requires that the bottle be both chilled and nearby for easy refills. White fruits blend nicely with touches of citrus and a very decent acidity that is perfect for cheeseboards, light soups, seafood etc.
At £3.99 a bottle, this represents a major coup for Morrisons. I hope they sell lots of it and reward this wine producer for their extremely good offering - drink on!
To try this wine click here to go to the Morrisons web site.
Jeepers creepers... like wine? You'll LOVE this!
This bottle of Moss Wood Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 from Margaret River, Australia, is absolutely delicious. Lots of people talk about the delectable pleasures of Aussie "boutique" wines. Well Moss Wood is one to get your arms around and sup to death.
This runs the mind with flavours of delicious red cherry and black forest gateaux with sweet rounded tannins making it the ultimate "one-more-glass" bottle of wine.
I can only say that one glass is not enough; the bottle must be sampled with steadfast concentration, a readied mind for pleasure and attendant good feelings. Pull the phone off the hook…
Bottle price between £39 - £45GBP ($66USD)
Doing the "ronda" in Valencia means dropping into as many tapas bars as you can fit in and trying a bit of what they have on offer. Here are a selection of my best 5 tapas bars that made up my main Ronda for three days.
1. Taberne de la Reina - Plaza de la Reina, 1, Valencia
Entering the Plaza de Reina from the south this fine modern tapas bar is half way up on the right. Why aren't there more bars like this in London?
A vast array of beautifully presented tapas to suit any palate. All washed down with sweet tasting Rioja tinto or a cold refreshing glass of Estrella Dam.
2. El Kiosko - Calle de los Derechos, 38
Top Rioja's to look out for - Contino:
A bit of a dive bar feel with a Galician style seafood menu. The chipironas fritos are to die for as are the gambas roman (deep fried prawns in batter) washed down with a stone cold glass of local white wine.
The bar is full of locals and perched on a small square that has about 4 buzzing little food and drink venues with Spaniard's and tourists all mixing it up and whiling away the hours listening to buskers, or simply dancing in the sunshine (on sundays). Get down there!
3. Boatella Tapas Bar, Valencia (Opposite the Mercado Central on the main road)
A great little tapas bar with inside and outside seating frequented by locals and tourists. Really nice atmosphere and a great place for an indulgent lunch or people watching stop-gap in the evening.
Grumpy men serve great big fillets of anchovy (boqueronas) in vinegar which is what we expect in Spain. Eye watering seafood tapas such bacalao (cod) or a plate of pulpo a la Gallega to make your mouth run with saliva.
Best thing to do is just start ordering what you like the look of and wash it all down with a few glasses of the local red wine that is great with seafood and really refreshing.
4. "Lizarran, Pinchos Tapas y mucho mas" - 8 Plaza Ayuntamiento
I walked upon this place on my first morning and enjoyed a good simple breakfast. Stumbling upon it again I was tempted in by the top-lit cabinets of self-service tapas.
This plaza is lively to say the least, like the Piccadilly of Valencia! With fun contemporary music, it's a 'munch, chat and get in the mood' bar. They had a good selection of tintos on the menu so I tried them all. The Rioja crianza and Ribera del Duero crianza's are so cheap and taste so good that ordering them is a no-brainer.
My tapas included: tortilla y jamon, mayonnaise with chopped pulpo (octopus), patatas y pulpo, peppers stuffed with mayonnaise, onion and shredded vegetables. I was edging towards the tuna and tomato empanadas but ran out of capacity (and that's not even mentioning the tapas desserts! see pics)
5. Bodega Sorolla - Tapas and very good wine - C / Derechos, 27, Valencia
House wine is an unlabelled Ribera del Duero crianza - a lovely touch to the passing aficionado. The barman, Martin, is easy to identify with his stout build, beret and Peter Blake-esque beard. The hospitality is warm and authentic with very good tapas ranging from meats to fish and peppers. I would suggest a few tintos and plate of "jamon y queso" (ham and cheese) the latter being manchego cheese which is a joy to behold when blended with the Ribera del Duero house wine - fruits blending with the cheese and washed away with little bite of tannin clearing the mouth perfectly. Yum!
After all this heavy working out, you should consider enjoying a few digestif's at one of the popular late night bars that are open until about 2am. The Cafe Lisboa is great to sit outside on a warm night under the large olive tree. Or for a bit more life head to the Cafe Negrito round the corner - there are lots of places to go, so just wonder and pitch up is the best advice.
Great Spanish Wines:
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Watch: Wine Tips from the Grape-Pickers Party
After days of picking grapes in one of the world’s most famous wine regions, the pickers get together to drink, chat and enjoy the drinks they are meticulously involved in the making of.
Also check out local winemaker, Nico’s, top tip for a white Burgundy from Saint Aubin that you don’t have to travel to Burgundy to get!
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What started in El Quatre Gats tapas bar in Barcelona, soon became an adventure in the Marche region of Italy, that lies along the east coast facing Albania across the Adriatic Sea. El Quatre Gats is famously where Picasso had his first solo exhibition as a young edgy artists in the Catalan capital and I was there dining with Dr Pia Casarini Wadhams, Director of Italy’s only Polar Institute, Il Polo.