Whilst Charlotte is out playing tennis it stands to reason that, even home alone, a man must eat. Thus I set out to the supermarket in search of a meal to compliment the dry wines of Anjou and thus evoke the tastings of last week.
The ingredients are simple: one decent size portion of hake, 1 big nog of butter, grated garlic, spinach and peas. As I was writing up more notes from the Loire trip I thought it only apt to buy a bottle of something native. I popped into Lea & Sandeman on the way home and asked if they had any Savenniéres to which the helpful assistant looked at me in anguish. "No, I don't. I did but I don't now and that's no use to you. I do have a similar wine, an Anjou blanc though… Chateau Pierre Bise 2008?" Good Lord, this ole' chestnut has reared its head again. Perfecto!
So back at home the wine is opened and in the glass. Loire paraphernalia is spread around the kitchen table and the mind acts in concert with the stomach. A half cup of wine in poured into a saucepan and a big lump of butter added too. This is brought to the boil with grated garlic added.
The fish is put in the oven with a small coat of olive oil and the two start to cook in unison. Once the fish is nearly done and the buttery wine and garlic sauce is reduced the spinach and peas are put on to steam.
The wine in my glass is being topped at regular intervals. It is a lovely drop, familiar in its deep golden colour, complex aromas of apple and feint oak with a lovely taste of white fruit sweetened honey.
The meal is served and proves to be a perfect match for the wine. The dryness cutting through the buttery and meaty fish. The bold intensity standing up well against the strong flavours in the food mix. A symphony. All very healthy too.
Now time to get down and do some writing!
It is a beautiful evening here in London, so much so that work has ground to a halt and I have been forced by the blinding light of my own decadent will to open a bottle of something chilled. So here it is, a Grand Enclos, du Chateau de Cerons 2006. This is a blend of semillon and sauvignon and has a very distinctive nose.
The red from Graves are famous for good reason. They are delicious and exude tonnes of terroir. This wine is distantly straw like in colour and has a very complex and pleasing aroma. There are slight hints of oak, butterscotch, lemon and even a bit of banana. Weirdly lovely. The acidity has softened with 6 years in the bottle but the flavours in the wine are very well integrated. It is a joy to drink.
To help the transition of mood from work to play I am playing Stravinsky's 'The Firebird'… the music is electric and setting the wine fantastically. So it is all high life, pleasure and movement here at the moment. The door will open shortly and Ch will return and the evening's outcome will depend on her mood.
Grand Enclos, du Chateau de Cerons 2006 from Graves
£15.99 exclusive to M&S.
Fancy a drop of gutsy red? I may have what you're looking for. The Errazuriz cabernet sauvignon 2009 is good bet for Tesco shoppers. The bottle has a tall straight sided proud shape so sensing something bestial on the horizon I pulled the Vinturi aerator out of its docking station and began to pour.
The Vinturi, as I said in an earlier post, is a very handy bit of kit for the wine nerd, allowing for some rapid opening of the wine. For balance sake I poured a control glass of un-aerated wine. Tasted side by side this was a little austere with hard tannins. The Vinturi'ed glass had more of the dark fruit starting to show through. Very rich, leathery with spice and liquorice.
The more it had time to breathe, the more fruitiness became apparent but this should be noted as a big wine. It is labeled 'Single Vineyard' highlighting the pride that is taken in producing this wine.
I enjoyed this wine as it started to soften a little more. No doubt it could do with a few years aging to give it a bit more roundness but still, I enjoyed it. Errazuriz make good wines across their range and are well worth trying out.
Errazuriz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Single Vineyard, 2009, Chile.
After a glimpse of morning sunshine and working all day on a long piece of work, the evening arrived accompanied by a light lemon chicken salad with good old fashioned salad cream, roasted baby new potatoes, shallots in olive oil and herbs.
Gasping for that final additive to make the meal complete I pulled a bottle of Scrubby Rise, a blend of sauvignon blank, semillon and viognier, 2011 out of the fridge. It is a bottle that's gives the outward appearance of refreshment, and the fact that I love these blended varietals made it all the more appealing. Wirra Wirra Scrubby Rise is made in the Adelaide Hills in Australia, a place where good value and quaffability converge.
I poured a measure into my stemless sauvignon glass and took a big inhalation: Light and apply with aromas of fresh cut grass, a hint of banana and more apples.
Then going straight in for the kill: The acidity is crisp and dry and yet deceiving in that the sensation on the inside of the cheeks is completely mouth watering. There is plenty of fresh but rounded apple flavour as well as elderflower that really washes onto the palate with its tingling attractive acidity and cleansing properties. A perfect partner for this light, tight with olive oily meal. Blended wines always offer something a little different as characteristics of each grape variety lend its' share to the overall result.
I find this wine strangely attractive being so pale in a tall clear bottle with simplistic label. At £9 it is a good buy. If the sun dares to show it self over the next couple of months and I am venturing outside, the chances are that I'll be clutching a chilled bottle of this scrubby number to accompany me.
Available from Anglia Wines and Rollings Wines
I've got a new wine toy. I am pleased to point out that it is not a funky corkscrew that looks like it has been designed to to pop rivets into rail tracks (if that is what rivets are popped into!). It is in fact, a wine aerator called 'Vinturi'. I can't help being sceptical regarding such devices but having been seduced by the sleek design decided to put it to the test.
This test took place at our neighbours flat before dinner where we were joined by their Portuguese wine importing friend, Javier. We started off with a couple of his samples from Portugal (it was a couple of months ago now so forgive me for not recalling what they were). The results were very good. We all agreed that the vino-test-tube (with its own docking station and suede travel pouch) really did open up the wine, allowing for some enjoyable fruitiness that was much more concealed in the non-Vinturi processed sample.
Then this evening I have just returned back from a trip and aroused a desire for minty lamb and a glass (or two) of red wine to warm me up against the backdrop of a most peculiar English "summers" day.
The Vinturi grinned back at me as an idea popped into my head. I thus took two glasses and poured a glass of Jean-Luc Colombo's Cotes du Rhone 2010 into one. Then seizing the Vinturi I poured through it another glass. The device gives off a wonderful gurgle and splutter as it blows through. After this I hid the bottle of wine and the aerator device.
With two loaded glasses on the starting blocks I shepherded by good lady into the kitchen asking, "Which of these two wines do you prefer?" I was convinced she'd call me an idiot and reply that they are the same.
But she did not. She simply took the sips, put the glasses down and pointed at the Vinturi-treated sample and said, "Definitely this one with the more fruit!"
Voila! Job done. This test acted as a good control as she did not know that they were even the same wine so there was no instinctive guesswork going on to guess which had been aerated.
I followed suit and had to agree that the aerated wine was much more open and lively. The difference was distinct. So, in conclusion, the Vinturi does what it says: it opens up the wine, making it more pleasurable "from the very first sip!"
Hats off to that!
Continuing on with the evening I am pleased to report that the lamb steaks came out coated in mint sauce and were laid over bed of cos lettuce, spring onion, vine tomatoes and mixed with more mint sauce and olive oil.
Jean-Luc's blended Cotes Du Rhone is excellent value at £9.50. The grenache gives it that strawberry sweet opening that is backed up by the spicy syrah which goes really well with the lamb and mint.
The whole ensemble was a pleasure.
Jean-Luc Colombo, Cotes Du Rhone, Le Vend, 2010.
Rhythm & Booze
One of my favourite mood shifting drinks for languishing on a sunny afternoon or early evening, has to be the Whisky Mac. The fine taste of Scotch Whisky and ginger wine takes the sharper edges off the worst of prickly days.
Thus it is worth mentioning that the celebrated creators of the finest ginger wine, Stone's, have brought out a limited edition of specially designed bottles to pack into your jubilee hamper.
I road tested the contents last week with visiting relatives. Having mixed up the rather long Mac, I was interrupted in my pleasurable supping by a text message luring me down to the Old Ship Pub on the Thames in Hammersmith. I slipped out unnoticed leaving Ch and her mother chatting over their Whisky and Stone's Ginger Wine (her mother being an inveterate whisky and ginger drinker).
Well the cocktail certainly came up trumps. By the time I returned about an hour later there was nothing but vapour trails and surreal guffawing going on. The conversation had unwound to nostalgic remembrances of times past. The brew had worked its tasteful magic. I'm promptly poured another round and soldiered on.
The Queen's Jubilee period is up on us. I urge you to arm yourself with a bottle of Stone's and Scotch for when the going gets tough. Deliciously fun!
I opened this wine with yesterdays Spaghetti Bolognese, looking for something big and bold to dance windmills around our taste buds and seal the food and wine partnership with a kiss. It is interesting to take a wine that one doesn't know and pour glasses for our dining companions before sitting back and waiting for comments. This signature blend of shiraz (sirah) and viognier did just that with Anthony holding up his glass and egging on other people to taste it. A good sign!
Blended wines often give us something special to enjoy. If a winemaker takes the trouble to blend two different wines and then declare it the signature wine then we can be assured it is worth a gamble. The aromas on the nose of this particular tinto nectar attractively mixed dark plum and spice with echoes of liquorice and oak vanilla rounding it off.
In the mouth the wine is smooth with plenty of its' own character - brilliant with red meat dishes that have bags of herb flavour. Needless to say this bottle didn't last long. It is a very enjoyable wine with a sophisticated edge… drink on!
Imported by Harlington Wines (awaiting UK stockists & will update).
A perfect red wine for Christmas period eating shenanigans. It's a rustic red cherry, hints of strawberry, raspberry and vanilla flavoured compote to tickle the taste buds of festive tinto fanciers.
Immediately one "gets" the 100% tempranillo grapes expressing themselves in a mellow mature style. The year and a half in American oak give it the vanilla bounce; the two years in the bottle round of any edges and soften the tannins so you are left with a glass of very fine Rioja. Time and effort has gone into this bottle so enjoy it!
RRP £12.99 Available from: Majestic, www.yourfavouritewines.com, www.everywine.co.uk and www.rhythmandbooze.co.uk
There is something about the label of the champagne Folies de la Marquetterie that reaches out to the natural born hedonist and screams: "Open me and drink me!"… and so we did - our first drink on Christmas morning.
The grapes are picked from the area close to the Taittinger family home and this wine is made in limited quantities, only containing the juice from the first press. Dip your nose in deep to catch the effervescing wine on the tip and breathe in through the nostrils to experience the brioche and hints of peach. The fruits express themselves more fully when the liquid gold asserts it self on the palate and the flavours of pear, peach and subtle toasted bread rebound like atoms in a hadron collider, propelled instead by an excellent balanced acidity.
All in all, a champagne to drink… and drink again!
Fortnum & Mason, Harrods, Alfred the Grape, www.everywine.co.uk
I was walking along the Chiswick High Road on Sunday and darted into the Wimbledon Wine Cellar, a really good fine wine shop with helpful staff and a few outlets spotted about London (Flagship store in Wimbledon strangely!). We’d been invited to our neighbours for a Christmas drink and I thought I’d see if there was something unusual I could take over for fun. I queried the girl at the counter for a suggestion and was promptly escorted to the back of store and introduced to a very helpful Gregg Glass from Compass Box Whisky Company (www.compassboxwhisky.com). Before us stood five bottles making up the Compass Box range and I readily accepted the invitation to taste them.
I personally struggle with very peaty whisky but it does still intrigue me. I was pleased that we started with the very subtle Asyla Whisky, a blend of malt and grain whisky. This is, Gregg pointed out, very unusual as there are not many producers blending grain and malt - we’re more familiar with the blending of different casks. As a non whisky drinker I found this a really accessible whisky to start with. It had a pleasant fruity sweetness and a complexity gained from being made from 10 and 12 year old whiskies.
As we moved through the range the intensity of the smokiness and peaty characteristics started to get stronger. As I said before, I am intrigued by the power in these drinks but have to limit my intake. The Peat Monster was delicious and packing the style of overt punch and peatiness emanating from the high quality Islay single malt, an Islay South Shore malt and a peated Speyside malt, all aged in American casks. It is worth ordering a bottle of this to taste with friends for fun - it is a great experience. Tasting it next to something milder or that has been aged in different casks is a great way to remember the differences between them.
The last whisky I tasted which I loved was called ‘The Last Vatted Malt’ and not part of the range before us but is about to be released (see the web site for more information). This was quite special. It had delicious subtle dried fruits and hints of smokiness but nothing overpowering. It had been aged in 36 year old sherry casks to give it a fully rounded body; definitely has that “just one more glass” factor!
If you’re looking for a whisky experience that will pleasurise and educate your palate then try Compass Box Whisky. The range suits all tastes and combines really good value and quality.
Also find more information at www.compassboxwhisky.com
Now the fifth largest wine producer in the world, it wasn’t until the 1990’s we started to see Argentine wine exported for the rest of the world to enjoy. Nowadays a mouth watering Malbec or a fresh glass of Torrontes are a wine tasters staple, but nothing can compare to acquainting your taste buds to the local flavours quite like visiting the vineyards themselves.
Here are three of our favourite places to stay on a wine fuelled trip to experience a truly unique Argentine wine experience.
Cavas Wine lodge
Sitting just 30 minutes outside of Mendoza – Argentina’s most famous of wine regions – Cavas Wine Lodge is nestled beautifully between 900 of Argentina’s finest Bodega’s (Vineyards). Worth the
trip for the stunning setting alone, this chic boutique hotel has a truly fantastic wine cellar showcasing 250 carefully selected wines from the local region. And for those wanting to find a new way with wine, Cavas Wine Lodge even offers a range of amazing wine based spa treatments – Crushed Malbec Scrub anyone?
Vinas de Cafayate
Cafayate is a lesser known yet stunningly beautiful wine region in Argentina’s North West region in the province of Salta. This up and coming region is becoming famous for its delightfully crisp Torrontés with help from the low humidity and mild weather of the valleys. Stay at Vinas de Cafayate, our favourite hotel at foot of the majestic San Isidro Hill, and the perfect base to visit the best wineries in the area - from the traditional and prestigious Etchart to small and premium wineries such as Finca Las Nubes de José Luis Mounier and El Porvenir.
For more information please contact
This semillon driven white wine from the Entre-Deux-Mers district is lovely. The blended grapes of sauvignon blanc, muscadelle and semillon are all very well balanced with perfumed aromas and hints of banana - unusual but very pleasant.
The taste is fruit sweet with lovely minerality that gives one a good sense of the "terroir" (Growing conditions including soil and climate) in this area of SW France. A really good wine selected by the ever dependable Wine Society, and a testament of good modern style wine making from the Despagne family in Bordeaux.
Château Bel Air, Perponcher Réserve 2010, Bordeaux
£8.50, stockist: The Wine Society
Buy it online here
Although your humble editor would not necessarily pair red wine and chocolate (I'd more likely suggest a bar of the dark stuff and a glass of Madeira for sweetness balance) I have to show respect to the eminent Sir David Attenborough who in an interview with the Mail On Sunday, attributes the food and wine combination of Cadbury's Fruit & Nut bars and red wine, especially in polar winter conditions, to his own longevity.
With Sir David's stout constitution and zest for bringing the natural world into our living rooms, this has to be a tip worth passing on!
This well made Beaune Premier Cru 2008 made by Louis Jadot is a very tasty intro to the wines of the Southern Côte-d'Or in Burgundy. The character of these wines is unique, yet very approachable and the fruit is intensely red fruit with mild tannins. The characteristic I love in these wines is the earthiness that sometimes verges on "farmyard".
Beaune wines go especially well with meaty dishes, casseroles, gamey foods and especially the Christmas cooking menu. If you can't find the Louis Jadot then ask your local wine merchant what wines they have from the Cote de Beaune; I'm sure they'll have some good advice of their own!
Louis Jadot Beaune 1Cru, 2008
Available in: Majestic, Leamington Wine Company, Rhythm & Booze and many other wine retailers for approximately £16
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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!
From Picasso to Pecorino Wine (not cheese!!)
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.