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Ginger Beer Taste Test (8)
Andrew wrote: Overall the Belvoir was not liked - the fiery kick was ... [read more]

Ses'Fikile Wines, South Africa (2)
philisa ngculu wrote: hey dabs just popped in to see the progress you've been... [read more]

Clos des Rochers Pinot Blanc, 2006, Moselle, Luxembourg (3)
Andrew wrote: I think the answer to your question Fred is in the comm... [read more]

London City Vineyard (2)
sean wrote: Might just have to check that out.... [read more]

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Clos des Rochers Pinot Blanc, 2006, Moselle, Luxembourg

Domaine Clos Des Rochers Pinot Blanc 2006. LuxembourgLike I real clot I've forgotten to mix in the spinach. Having just spent ten minutes washing and dry-frying it there really isn't any excuse (I can hardly claim jet - lag) apart from being an idiot of course. With the pies half way through cooking it's a touch late in trying to add the 'vital' ingredient!

The Spinach and Feta Pies with Toasted Pine Nuts, with the recipe in yesterdays Sunday Times, were selected specifically to accompany this interesting wine I picked up in Waitrose. A Pinot Blanc from Luxembourg of all places.

Unaware that Luxembourg actually produced wine in exportable quantities it is quite a find; hearty back-slaps and raucous cheering for the Waitrose team who tracked it down.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Clos des Rochers Pinot Blanc, 2006, Moselle, Luxembourg
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £8.99 [More Adegga / Snooth]
A spritz to the creamy, full-ish, palate. While weighty there is also a delicacy to the fruit and texture. A touch of lime, a smear of pear, a little apple and, on the finish, a subtle nuttiness and a creamy texture. Just a hint of sweetness I think.

In style a cross between Alsace and German; picking the best bits from each! Must be the first wine from Luxembourg I have tried. Very enjoyable it was too - both on its own and with the Spinach and Feta Pies with Toasted Pine Nuts.

Alcohol 12%.

Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Mid-week Combinations - M&S Australian Chardonnay

M&S Chardonnay and Food Matching
Ok, so serving chunky chips with a potato topped pie was a little thoughtless; but hunger and a need to escape a tourist-heaving Oxford were upper-most. At least I managed to resist an M&S Dessert!

Many of Marks and Spencer's ready meals are on double offer - buy one get 1 half price plus a 1/3 discount and includes the Gastropub King Prawn, Cod, Salmon and Smoked Haddock Pie and Chunky Chips. Throw in a bottle of wine and a meal for two worked out at just over a fiver-a-head. Which also includes 5p for a carrier bag.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: M&S Australian Chardonnay, 2007, South Australia
Stockist: Marks & Spencer Price: £5.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

Generously flavoured - all guava and pears with a nice dash of apple and crisp, stone fruits. A small part has seen some oak for 'a subtle dab of extra richness'. Full, firm but balanced with good acidity.
Produced and bottled by the Yalumba Wine Company, states the small print, for this, like all M&S wines is an 'own-label'. On-line a case of 12 is listed at the equivalent of £4.49 a bottle - great value (add 2 value points to the rating). Alcohol 14%.

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

Maybe just a touch too flavoursome for the fish pie but the creamy elements in both wine and food really complimented each other. The wines acidity at the same time cutting through the richness. Hell, its mid-week, who cares! Buy and enjoy.

M&S Gastropub Pie and Wine

London City Vineyard

McGuigan City Vineyard
Stand aside Vienna. Take a back-seat Paris; grand old London town is about to join the elite ranks of cities boasting their own vineyards.

Sadly though it will be just a temporary planting.

The McGuigan City Vineyard will grace the centre of Liverpool Street and is open to the public, for free, over just 3 days in July (9th - 11th). As the name suggests it is a unique marketing event to launch two new wine ranges from the Australian McGuigan vineyard.

Visitors to the vineyard will be encouraged to walk amongst the 50 year old vines, visit the cellar door and taste through a selection of new wines under the guidance of the McGuigan winemakers. The new ranges being the £6.99 McGuigan Classic range (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Shiraz and Merlot varietals) and McGuigan Discover at £7.99 each (Adelaide Hills Sauvignon Blanc, Langhorne Creek Shiraz Viognier, Victorian Pinot Grigio, Limestone Coast Cabernet Rosé and South Eastern Australia Moscato).

The McGuigan City Vineyard website should be live on Wednesday. The image is an artists impression; I don't think he has got the vines looking old enough...

Torre Beratxa Garnacha Rosado, 2006, Navarra, Spain

Torre Beratxa Rosado 2006
Rather than using a packet mix for falafels, as the recipe in Delicious suggested, a pack of ready-made falafel's were picked up in the local supermarket. Wrapped in warmed tortillas with cherry tomatoes, slices of cucumber and crumbled feta cheese these made for a great summery meal while enjoying the evening warmth. On the side a tub of yoghurt mixed with plenty of shredded fresh mint leaves.

For a wine match a rosé seemed the obvious choice.

Rosé Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Torre Beratxa Garnacha Rosado, 2006, Navarra, Spain.
Stockist: Threshers Price: £5.49 [More on Adegga]

A touch of paint on the nose but little else. Deep red fruits, a smidgen of licorice and a tannic splash on the finish. A touch of sour cherry, a little blackcurrant all mixed with a soupçon of raspberry. Fresh, crisp and lively.
100% Garnacha/Grenache. Alcohol 13.5%.

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

Falafel and Minted Yoghurt Wraps

Origin Fairtrade Viognier, 2007, Western Cape, South Africa

Origin Fairtrade Viognier
The main issue in living in my small market town is the lack of a decent independent wine merchants. It would be so cool to be able to just nip down the road and pick up a decent bottle. My choices are limited though to a Waitrose (good selection but practically every wine reviewed recently was picked up in Waitrose) and a Threshers, friendly if unexciting range.

Like many this month Wine Blogging Wednesday caught me unprepared; nothing to hand to fit Dr. Debs choice of Rhone varietals. Threshers then. Of course when in said Threshers you have to make use of the buy 2 get a third free else the prices are a little steep. No Rhone whites on the shelves and precious little else that caught the eye. I exited with a bottle of Spanish rosé and an Italian Pecorino. The third bottle being a South African Viognier; a little ubiquitous but with a saving grace of being Fairtrade.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Origin Fairtrade Viognier, 2007, Western Cape, South Africa
Stockist: Threshers/WineRack Price: £6.99 [More on Adegga]

Origin is Threshers own-label range; so this has immediately clouded my thoughts with some negativity. But the Origin Viognier ain't that shabby. The bonus through is being branded with the blue, green and black logo; a real plus point for me. The range of FairTrade wines in the UK has grown marvellously over the years from a little under 150 wines available in 2003 to over 2000 today.

A pea-pod and honeysuckle aroma, nice weighty palate too. An edge of spice - quite gingery on the finish with a finishing 'bite' very reminiscent of the ginger beer tasting. Apple and apricot flavours add to the enjoyment. By the time I realised there might be a touch of residual sweetness, adding to the weighty mouth-feel, it was too late. Bottle emptied! Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Through buying Equality Fairtrade wines, the producers are guaranteed to receive a fair and stable price plus a premium which a democratically elected farmers committee ensures is used for projects that directly benefit farmers, workers and the local community.

By choosing Fairtrade wines, consumers are supporting growers to receive a fair price for their grapes, improving access to health care for the Cooperative members and their families, increasing access to education for the workers' children, delivering a higher standard of living for the workers and their families and assisting in housing projects.

Alcohol Units - Measure Up Campaign

Measure Up Alcohol Units - sorry for the poor quality
How many of us know what our daily alcohol consumption should be or how many units are in a pint or a 175ml glass of Rosé?

Such knowledge has taken centre stage following a stream of alcohol related articles appearing in the press (notably ones highlighting the health concerns surrounding our love of a few drinks) and the recent nationwide Department Of Health 'Know Your Limits' campaign.

Press articles have to be viewed with some scepticism but recently The Evening Standard published an article warning that soaring alcohol intake is responsible for an increase in breast cancer in the UK and the Daily Mail printed statistics that 1 in 3 employees go to work with a hangover.

The Market Place, a 6 year old bar situated near Oxford Circus, launched Measure Up yesterday. This is a (working) week-long initiative running through to Friday 13th June 2008 to make their customers more aware of the number of units they consume whilst at the bar.

An initiative that the industry should perhaps replicate on a more permanent basis? On beer mats?

The Market Place will place on the glass or bottle of every alcoholic drink served during the Measure Up Week that specifies the number of units in the drink. Although no mention is made of the recommended maximum units for men and women.

But sensible drinking is the key . The owner of Market Place, Richard Bigg, explains:

We may be in the business of selling booze, and essentially rely on the drinking public's desire to keep drinking, but we say little and often! Binge drinking isn't good for anyone, and you only have to look to the Mediterranean to see how right they've got it: people live longer and with healthier hearts because they have a good diet and drink a glass or two of wine with most meals, food being key to slow down the absorption rate. Very rarely will you see a Spanish person intoxicated. We're not trying to launch a policing exercise or an AA clinic, but how many people actually know how many units they consume in an evening? We value our customers and want them to be aware of the facts and ultimately live longer, sustainable lives!"

Customers will also be invited to choose what size drink they want rather than automatically be served the larger option by bar staff

In short a bar being-active in helping to educate their customers by making them more aware of their alcohol unit consumption.

The Department of Health advises that men should not regularly drink more than 3 - 4 units of alcohol per day, and women should not regularly drink more than 2 - 3 units of alcohol per day. A unit of alcohol is 10ml of pure alcohol. The list below shows the number of units of alcohol in common drinks:-
  • A pint of ordinary strength lager (Carling Black Label, Fosters) - 2 units
  • A pint of strong lager (Stella Artois, Kronenbourg 1664) - 3 units
  • A pint of ordinary bitter (John Smith's, Boddingtons) - 2 units
  • A pint of best bitter (Fuller's ESB, Young's Special) - 3 units
  • A pint of ordinary strength cider (Woodpecker) - 2 units
  • A pint of strong cider (Dry Blackthorn, Strongbow) - 3 units
  • A 175ml glass of red or white wine at 13 percent strength - 2.3 units
  • A pub measure of spirits - 1 unit
  • An alcopop (e.g. Smirnoff Ice, Bacardi Breezer, WKD, Reef) - around 1.5 units


Ginger Beer Taste Test

ginger beer taste test
A fun idea we thought - a taste test of a non-alcoholic drink style. Duly armed with 5 lightly chilled Ginger Beers and six willing and thirsty volunteers the follow we did deduce!

Each ginger beer was tasted blind and ranked out of 5, with 0 being undrinkable and 5 being damn tasty. The average scores are detailed below with the products listed in taste order. The tasters, who incidentally were of a wide span of ages (from early teens to 'getting on a bit'), were encouraged to write a few words some of which are quoted.

Ginger Beer 1 - Whole Earth Sparkling Organic Ginger (can) Score 3.6
"lacks body/light", "fizzy, long after-taste", "subtle taste, pale in colour" "my favourite"

Ginger Beer 2 - Fentimans Botanically Brewed Ginger Beer (bottle) Score 2.6
"odd smell" "really strong taste of ginger", "ginger kick", "strong after-taste"

Ginger Beer 3 - Bunderberg Diet Ginger Beer (bottle) Score 1.6
"lemon like smell", "cloudy, very lemony", "too much lemon", "a ginger kick on the finish but why so lemony?"

Ginger Beer 4 - Belvoir Fruit Farms Organic Ginger Beer (bottle) Score 0.8
"smells horrid", "dirty water smell", "unpleasant", "chemicals, burning aftertaste", "yuck!"

Ginger Beer 5 - Old Jamacia Ginger Beer (can) Score 3.4
"Best, if slightly sweet", "quite nice", "very sweet, very pleasant, syrupy"

Prior to organising this tasting I had tried the Belvoir Fruit Farms version; and was astounded at just how terrible the drink was - a smell of dirty washing up water, and an unbelievably bad, dirty, taste made worse by the ginger kick that is suddenly sprung on you. So bad, so undrinkable yet sold at a premium at various delis. I actually thought I had an off bottle but it would seem not.

Personally either of the two canned products I would be happy to drink as they are over ice. The strong ginger kick in the Fentimans would be my choice for a cocktail mix, as in some of the Pimms cocktails.

With thanks to the various members of the extended Barrow-clan for conducting the tasting.

Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, Rhone, France

Muscat de Beaumes de VeniseWhy are dessert wines so expensive? Is it the producers simply trying to create a cache, a luxury item just like those rosé champagne producers? The production techniques are pretty standard and really, just like pink champagne, shouldn't command a premium.

Perhaps because they are so expensive, people simply do not purchase them in quantities required to grasp a profit. But wouldn't reducing the price entice people to buy more?

As an example, this half bottle of sweet Muscat costs £6.99. A full bottle therefore would retail at around £12. Why so expensive?

Many would baulk at paying this for a Sunday splash out wine let alone a simple, dessert wine. One that also happened to be the cheapest off the dessert wine shelf at my local supermarket. With long lived, small production, wines such as Sauternes the high prices are comprehendable; but for a relatively simple, are I say bog-standard, wine...?

Don't misunderstand; it's a nice enough wine. I just ponder the elevated price.

Dessert/Sweet Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Muscat de Beaumes de Venise, NV, Rhone, France
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £6.99 half bottle. [More on Adegga]
Simple, lightly honeyed with a slightly elderflower, grapey aroma. Sweet palate with a correspondingly cleansing level of acidity that keeps it fresh and clean. Floral, lemons, lychee's. Reasonable length. Alcohol 15%.
Scribblings Rating - 84/100 [3 out of 5]

Half this bottle was used in the making of Baked Figs with Muscat; a rather nice dessert that was a little too sweet to match harmoniously with the wine. The baking reducing concentrating the sugars I guess.

Ses'Fikile Wines, South Africa

Sesfikile Ladies
Ses'fikile Wines is owned and controlled by empowered women, three pioneering ex-school teachers actually, in one of the largest black townships, Khayelitsha, in the Western Cape.

Although they don't own their own vineyards the wines are made in conjunction with the winemakers from the Flagstone winery.

Showing a distinct 'estate' character and an over-riding style, the wines come highly recommended. The style encapsulates a new-world level of sweet upfront fruit married with old-world structure - exactly what one should expect from a decent South African wine.

Ses'fikile 'we have arrived'. These three words are built on a foundation of personal and communal struggle, yet they also look forward positively, with the hope of a better tomorrow. Most importantly the words sparkle with a sense of adventure. This is a pioneering exploration of new South African opportunity in one of our most glamorous and exciting industries."

Other wines from Ses'Fikile are listed by Marks and Spencers.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Ses'fikile Folklore Chardonnay, 2007, South Africa
Price: £8.99 [More on Adegga]
A delicious unoaked Chardonnay enlivened with a touch of Viognier (2%).
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Ses'fikile Rainsong Chardonnay, 2007, South Africa
Stockist: Marks and Spencers Price: £6.99 [More on Adegga]
A Chardonnay with a small proportion fermented and aged in oak, giving a smooth, creamy palate. Pear and spice flavours abound.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Ses'fikile Rainsong Pinotage, 2006, South Africa
Price: £7.19 [More on Adegga]
A fresh, juicy Pinotage. I love the idea of matching this, as they suggest, with Calves Liver with Bacon and Mustard Mash Potatoes. A touch of upfront sweetness initially that folds into a smoky, deep fruit whole.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Ses'fikile Folklore Cabernet Franc-Cabernet Sauvignon, South Africa
Price: £8.99 [More on Adegga]
A blend of 65% Cabernet Franc and 35% Cabernet Sauvignon. Superb structure and deliciously drinkable. Alcohol 13.5%
Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Ses'fikle Matriarch Shiraz Reserve, South Africa
Price: £18.19 [More on Adegga]
Excellent depth, good concentration and depth and a complexity of flavour that is quite captivating.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

With thanks to Cooksister for providing the two images, snapped at the recent London International Wine and Fair, where the wines were tasted. Sesfikile Wines