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Combinations - A Wine for Steak and Mushroom Pie (4)
andrew wrote: thanks Noble Pig - glad you like the pictures... [read more]

A Wine for Spring Lamb (3)
Andrew wrote: While I feel this same wine would be suitable for the m... [read more]

Bellingham The Maverick Winemaker Chenin Blanc, 2007, Coastal Region, South Africa (2)
Andrew wrote: looks like a consistantly good wine too - you rave abou... [read more]

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Combinations - A Wine for Steak and Mushroom Pie

Caiarossa 2004 Tuscany, Italy and Steak and Mushroom PieTo be honest just about any decent red wine would go with this puff pastry topped Steak and Mushroom Pie. The herby flavours, juicy meat and buttery pastry is food-friendly to the core. Personally I prefer something with a little weight and a tannic back-bone (as opposed to something softer and easy drinking) which edges the wine choice to an old-world bottle.

The recipe is another of African Vanielje's creations. I just couldn't face making my own puff pastry (especially as the ready-made stuff is just so good) but followed the instructions pretty well (apart from serving the peas separately). I do wish I had included some kidneys though; the texture contrast, in addition to more depth and complexity to the flavour, makes for an improved dish I believe. That is not to say this version lacked anything!

The wine eventually selected was Italian.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Caiarossa, 2004, Tuscany, Italy
Available from Berry Brothers for £33
They have packed a massive amount into this bottle - not only the mix of eight grape varieties - but also a heck load of tannin and flavoursome, full, powerful fruit. It benefited from several hours opening (in fact 24 hours!) which then showed so much more on the nose and to the flavour. Delicious, individualistic, complex and very long lasting in flavour. Plentiful tannins mind! Therefore, a food wine. Simply delicious with the Steak and Mushroom pie.

The grape mix is quite amazing too - Merlot (33%), Sangiovese (22%). Its well honed tannic structure is given by the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon (15%) and Cabernet Franc (18%). There are also small quantities of Petit Verdot (6%), Alicante (3%), Syrah (2%) and Mourvèdre (1%). Alcohol 15%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Immersed in nature and its silence, Caiarossa, situated in the heart of the Val di Cecina, on the Tuscan coast, exists within its own area of unspoiled beauty. A winding, country road, keeps the estate hidden, until the final curve when the winery unexpectedly reveals itself, perched on the side of the hill, surrounded by its fourteen hectares of vineyards.

The location of this estate is part of its attraction, giving the sensation that one is the first to discover the property. Yet, Caiarossa, with its sensations of subtle luxuriousness, has existed since 1998. Prior to this, there was just the old manor house and the red, gravelly soil after which the estate has been named. What exists today has been created from the land, from nature, from the region's history and the adoption of a philosophy that harmoniously combines the forces of earth, grape and man.

The fruits of this labour are two red IGT Tuscan wines, Caiarossa and Pergolaia. Both unconventional blends in which, despite local tradition, Sangiovese does not play the only leading role. Eleven different grape varieties make up this vineyard, each one planted on an appropriate soil, highlighting the complexity of the land.

For the rest, what shaped Caiarossa was not everyday logic but vision; the desire to create a true oasis in which to live and make wine, the Tuscan dream linking not only beauty and simplicity but also simplicity and value. In 2004 Caiarossa was acquired by Eric Albada Jelgersma, a Dutch entrepreneur with a great passion for wine and also the owner of Château Giscours and Château du Tertre - two Grand Crus classé in Margaux, Bordeaux."

There are currently two Caiarossa wines, both IGT Tuscan reds. This multi-grape wonder is the flagship being a cuvée of the best grapes of the year. The second wine is Pergolaia, and is predominantly Sangiovese, in keeping with the regions' wine-making tradition.

Caiarossa 2004, Tuscany, Italy and Steak and Mushroom Pie 2

Combinations - A Wine for Baked Sea Bass

Pinot Grigio and Sea Bass
A heck of a while since the last food and wine matching exercise so today a wine matched to a simple, but delicious, fish dish.

The recipe for Oven-baked Sea Bream/Bass with Fennel and Dill (specifics below) was created by Giancarlo and Katie Caldesi to accompany the Gabbiano Pinot Grigio 2007. The producers also suggest that the wine would be great with Baked Lemon and Herb Crusted Salmon but the Sea Bass looked so tempting from Oxford's Covered Market I plumped for this recipe instead.

White WineWine Tasting Note: Gabbiano Pinot Grigio, 2007, Venezie, Italy.
Available from Sainsbury's and Tesco for £5.99.
A soft, gentle wine. Not one that makes you sit up and explode with adjectives but pleasurable and with a touch of character - hints of almonds, orange rind and citrus. Its lightly herbed edge would make it a fine partner for salads and most fish dishes, so with this specific partnership it was understandably a great match. I might have overdone the garlic a little and under-utilised the dill (I often find it a little overpowering in flavour and I'm not a huge fan) but the Pinot Grigio melded all together - a recommended pairing.

Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]

Oven-Baked Sea Bream With Fennel And Dill

Serves 4


4 sea bream or sea bass, cleaned and de-scaled

50 ml extra-virgin olive oil

2 bulbs of fennel, finely sliced

50ml Gabbiano Pinot Grigio white wine

For the stuffing:

Large handful of dill, chopped finely

4 garlic cloves, skins left on but crushed

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


1) Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 4. Brush a baking sheet with a little of the olive oil and scatter over the sliced fennel. Drizzle over half the remaining olive oil and sprinkle over some salt and pepper.

2) Hold one of the fish open with one hand and with the other hand put a quarter of the dill and one garlic clove into the cavity. Add a generous pinch of salt and pepper inside and out. Repeat with all the remaining fish and lay them over the fennel. Evenly pour over the rest of the oil and bake for 20-25 minutes until cooked through, depending on the size of the fish. Half way through the cooking time, baste the fish and fennel with the juices.

The Ingredients - Seabass

Three Wines from France: The Montagnac Range

montagnac labelsJudging an independent wine merchant on its cheapest wines is a great indication of the overall care the merchant puts into its overall range. It is relatively easy to list great wines at the £10/£20/£30 price range but much harder to find something exclusive at under a fiver that is not one of the huge brands available from everywhere else. If consideration has been given to the most basic of wines you should trust the choices at higher prices too.

These wines come in at under five pounds a bottle. All are available from run by the able hands, and discerning palate, of Nick Stephens.

White WineWine Tasting Note: Montagnac Chardonnay, 2006, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France.
Listed by Bordeaux-Undiscovered for £4.75.
For those who relish the smooth, unoaked style of Chardonnay. Abounds with crisp apple, citrus and pear flavours with a nice little sherbet bite on the finish. Lovely drinking on its own but made for a great combination when served with (Waitrose) Fish Skewers with Thai Spices - Thai Style Salmon and Cod fish Patties lightly spiced with fresh coriander, lime and chili, served with a sweet chili and soy dipping sauce. (I should mention that the dipping sauce killed the wine as it would with almost anything bar water and beer! The sauce itself was terrible to burnt in flavour and very glutinous). Alcohol 13.5%.

Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

White WineWine Tasting Note: Montagnac Sauvignon Blanc, 2006, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France.
Available from Bordeaux-Undiscovered £4.75
Produced by a small co-operative that dates back to the 1930's; their vineyards stretch from the banks of the Thau Lagoon to the foothills of the mountains on the right bank of the River Herault.

Not a gooseberry in slight on this lemon-juice coloured wine. The palate is distinctly crisp with an element of smoke and flint. Soft, supple and easy to drink. Nice mineral-led finish. Alcohol 13%. [See also The Spirit World]

Scribblings Rating - 86/100 [3.25 out of 5]

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Montagnac Merlot, 2006, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France.
From Bordeaux-Undiscovered for £4.75
This held my interest right the way through an easy mid-week meal of herby sausage and tomato sauce topping a pile of steaming pasta. Good concentration but again, easy drinking, with soft black fruits, chocolate and coffee complexity. A good pleasing finish. Alcohol 13%.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]

Small Plates, Perfect Wines

small plates perfect wines by Lori Lyn Narlock
Small Plates, Perfect Wines, a new cookbook from Andrews McMeel Publishing, featuring mouthwatering recipes and wine pairing tips, is now on bookstore shelves and available to order online.

Meze, tapas, antipasti, antojitos–no matter what you call them, small plates offer big flavor, and this is a style of dining and entertaining that has taken the country by storm.

Searching out those small dishes with big flavors, Wine Country cookbook author Lori Lyn Narlock presents more than 50 recipes by Kendall-Jackson Executive Chef Justin Wangler and the Culinary Team, with assistance from Lou Rex, Jackson Family Wines Director of Special Events. Wine tips are provided by Kendall-Jackson Winemaster Randy Ullom.

The book is divided into chapters on salads, vegetables, meat, seafood, and desserts, with each delicious recipe paired with one or two wines. The wine information is presented in a conversational fashion, and includes the basics of pairing wine with food.

Each recipe has been beautifully captured by photographer Dan Mills, with pages exquisitely produced by graphic designer Jennifer Barry. Small Plates, Perfect Wines is colorful, festive and informational, making it the perfect gift for wine and food lovers, and anyone who loves to entertain.

Small Plates, Perfect Wines is available from £5.99 and $12.71

A Wine for Spring Lamb

martin sarmiento 2004
It's the time of year for lamb; spring lamb and daffodils epitomises Easter for me. Nothing could be better than a few jucy slices of roast lamb accompanied by a decent bottle of red. Cooking lamb simply brings out the strident flavour and maximises the juiciness of the meat, adding a few springs of rosemary too of course. There are plenty of other opportunities through the year to stew it or spice the meat with cumin or coriander; during Spring a simple grill or roast is best.

I tried out two of Vanielje Kitchen's recipes at the weekend - Loin of Free Range lamb grilled with rosemary and garlic coupled with Oven Baked Potato Slices in Garlic and Rosemary Cream. Heavy on the garlic, heavy on the rosemary. Delicious.

For a wine you need something that will cope with the fat of the lamb in addition to the forceful flavours. Many wines would 'fit the bill' a Chianti perhaps, a Claret or even a Rioja. I went for something a little more unusual - a Spanish wine from the Bierzo region.

I travelled through the area last year but don't recall encountering this particular wine, Martin Sarmiento, made by Martin Códax.

Martín Sarmiento was an 18th century Galician monk famed for his studies on botany and agriculture. Part of his signature appears on the label.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Martin Códax Martín Sarmiento, 2004, Bierzo, Spain.
Waitrose £8.99
A tough one on its own. Forcefully flavoured high is acidity and not insubstantial on the tannin front either. As they say 'a food wine'. With the lamb it shines; is gorgeous in fact. The acidity cutting through the richness of the meat and the cream. Coming in with 14% alcohol. The rear label states that 22,000 bottles were produced from this vintage made under the direction of Ignacio de Miguel, winemaker of the year 2006.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Wine Book Club 2 - Noble Rot: A Bordeaux Wine Revolution

noble rot by william echikson Following the round-up of reviews by David McDuff for the first Wine Book Club (Vino Italiano The Regional Wines of Italy), Tim over at WineCast has selected the book for round two.

Head on over to for a copy of Noble Rot: A Bordeaux Wine Revolution by William Echikson; the paperback is just £7.75.

I selected this book because it gives the back story of what is wrong and right in Bordeaux in an engaging and very readable style. Also, since it's been out for a few years, it's very reasonably priced used and available at many libraries."

You should aim to read the book by the 29th April and either post a review on your blog/site or you can you can sign up at the new Wine Book Club blog and post there.

Bellingham The Maverick Winemaker Chenin Blanc, 2007, Coastal Region, South Africa

Bellingham Maverick Winemaker Chenin Blanc 2007No great debate in selecting a wine to accompany a Lentil and Bean Salad with a Chive Dressing - a Sauvignon Blanc would have been an obvious choice but I fancied something a little different. Thoughts of cress aromas sometimes discovered in Chenin's led the way to this little beaut from South Africa. With the food a great success.

White WineWine Tasting Note: Bellingham The Maverick Winemaker Chenin Blanc, 2007, Coastal Region, South Africa.
Available from Waitrose for £8.99.
One of the most perfectly balanced and gorgeous Chenin's it has ever been my pleasure to drink. Some lovely complex flavours going on in the full-bodied palate. 'Lavishly refined'. A creamy element combines with spicy, tropical fruit flavours and a long aftertaste. All good Chenin's have the capacity to age, this should do wonders with a little time in bottle. Alcohol 14.5%. (No cress! Very disappointing; but superb with the salad)
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

To his friends and family, he was 'Pod', (Bernard Podlashuk, founder of Bellingham) but to the cape winelands he was the Maverick Winemaker. Never quite satisfied to be just ordinary, he is recognised for his daring version, sheer audacity and unabated drive that helped place South African wine on the map."

The previous vintage of Bellingham The Maverick Chenin Blanc 2006 was placed second in a recent Wine Magazine Chenin Blanc Challenge. Out of 122 wines only 34 went through to the second round and only 6 were chosen as finalists. The 2006 is still listed at Waitrose Wine Online.