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A Rosé for a Picnic (5)
Andrew wrote: Well I'm glad you asked me that Hookie - It's when all ... [read more]

A Choice of Two Reds (2)
Andrew wrote: Glad the post had the desired effect Dylan! Not sure wh... [read more]

Alsace Wine with Food - thoughts from the Hugel Twitter Tasting (4)
sandrine wrote: Great picture of the table ! Thanks ago for the lovely... [read more]

Hugel Wines Twitter Tasting (3)
Andrew wrote: So do I Jeanne! Great aint it! A lucky shot really as w... [read more]

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A Choice of Two Reds

Tilia Malbec 2007
What I should have been concerned with was folding the pastry up and over to retain the heavily (overly!) mounded filling. Instead my concerns rested with wondering if the meat would cook fully in he suggested time and which of the Aussie or the Argentine red I should open to accompany. The dilemma was resolved by cranking open both.

Of course the meat cooked fully; seldom does a recipe in Delicious magazine let me down. The filling, a mound of beef topping a teaspoon of superb (English Provender Co) Spicy Onion Marmalade, had spilled and slid around the baking tray. The sticky residue from the marmalade just beginning to catch at the edge and the mozzarella doing its stuff by crisping against the hot pan edge. Gonna be a devil to clean. The smell though was gorgeous. The dish, simplified from the Delicious recipe, is Beef, Onion, Rosemary and Pine Nut Parcels, the full recipe being on SpittoonExtra.

In selecting the wine there were several considerations - the fresh rosemary should match the herby top-notes found in the Argentine Malbec while the sweet edge of the marmalade should be balanced by the inherent sweetness in the Aussie blend (of Cabernet and Shiraz). Red wine of course being a natural partner with beef. Finally the mozzarella - being relatively mild in taste practically any wine should accompany.

On balance the Australian, (Alpine Valleys Cab Mac Cabernet Sauvignon 2006), with its sweeter fruit and softer structure, was the more successful match. The Argentinean red, (Bodegas Esmeralda Tilia Malbec, 2007), with a more full-bodied palate, heartier tannins and drier structure struggled and clashed with the buttery pastry and the Marmalade.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Alphine Valleys CabMac Cabernet Sauvignon Shiraz, 2006, King Valley, Australia
Stockist: Threshers Price: £9.99 [More on Adegga/Snooth]
Interestingly the name, CabMac, is Aussie-speak for Carbonic Maceration, a wine making process. Alcohol 12.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 86/100 [3.25 out of 5]

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Bodegas Esmeralda Tilia Malbec, 2007, Mendoza, Argentina
Stockist: Threshers Price: £7.99 [More on Adegga/Snooth]
Scribblings Rating - 84/100 [3 out of 5]

Meaty Puff Pastry Parcels

Alsace Wine with Food - thoughts from the Hugel Twitter Tasting

A pleasant way to spend a couple of hours - delving through recipes from books and magazines with the aim of matching 5 dishes to 5 different wines. These were all white wines from the Hugel stable in Alsace ready for the Twitter Tasting organised in America but stretching across to these shores and down to France with Etienne Hugel himself participating.

With each course to be as simple as possible a couple of matches were easy: with the Gewürztraminer a foie gras (with toast and a little fig chutney) and with the Pinot Blanc an Alsace speciality (or the closest we could locate) an onion tart. I read somewhere that coconut macaroons were a sensational match to sweet Gewürztraminers, so that was the final dish sorted which left a course for the mixed grape blend and another for a top-notch Riesling. The host, Rob, insisted on a pork dish and I came up with Pork Medallions with Mustard Mash with Apple and a Cider Reduction. A triumphant match as it transpired. Scallops from Borough Market formed the opening course; which I was unexpectedly asked to cook!

A few shavings of fresh ginger, a little garlic, slithers of a mild, fresh red chilli and a sprinkling of dried coriander were added to the pan before the scallops turned rubbery. A splosh of white wine and a pinch of pepper, a quick shake of the pan and a squeeze of lemon and then out to the expectant guests. To be honest I thought I had overdone the spice but nods all round seemed to indicate a success!

Twitter Tasting - table
Hugel Fleurs d'alsacePan Fried Scallops with Ginger, Garlic and Chili - a superb match to the myriad flavours in the Hugel Tradition Fleurs d'Alsace 2006 (Averys £8.79 Adegga / Snooth). A blend of Gewürztraminer, Pinot Gris and Muscat is bound to give a complexity of flavours - ginger, citrus, spices - which I think I caught well with the scallops. A lovely little wine and a great match to my invented dish!
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Hugel Pinot Blanc Red Onion Tarts with baby leaf salad - some I believe had asparagus tarts, both having been brought form a deli at Borough Market. The pastry was divine, the filling eggy with a delicate sweetness from the red onion. Eggs are always tricky to match with a wine but the Hugel Pinot Blanc 2006 (around £9.99 Adegga / Snooth) had just the right edge of acidity to keep all in check. By itself the wine was less than stellar; with the food an excellent foil.
Scribblings Rating - 84/100 [3 out of 5]

Hugel GewurztraminerFois Gras Mi Cuit with toast and Fig Chutney - Foie Gras maybe controversial but it's also damn expensive so you really need a top-notch wine to make the most of the pairing! The Hugel Tradition Gewurztraminer 2006 (£14.95 Wine Society Adegga / Snooth ) was just such a wine. A excellent combination indeed with the full-styled wine (showing elements of lychees, ginger and pineapple and an light oily texture) melding beautifully with the smooth, richness of the Foie Gras. Sublime.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [4.5 out of 5]

Hugel Riesling Jubilee Medallions of Pork with Apple and Cider and a Mustard Mash - perfectly cooked pork with apples just edged with caramelised crispness was set against the Hugel Jubilee Riesling 2004 (2005 vintage Wine Society £19 Adegga / Snooth). A wonderful match, even for someone generally unimpressed with Riesling in general. While the slight edge of kerosene/petrol (a revelation to some at the table) to the aroma divided the table, I thought it a delightful match with the subtle apple flavours of the dish and the wine playing along very nicely. The dish was rich requiring a wine of equal body; the Alsace style of Riesling being fuller than those of neighbouring Germany worked beautifully.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]

Hugel Vendege Tardive GewurztraminerCoconut Macaroons - time being of an essence for the last-train-to-catch guests the fresh fruit salad sadly did not make an appearance. The Hugel Gewurztraminer Vendage Tardive 2001 (£34 Wine Society Adegga / Snooth ) was a delight by itself. Smooth, with a lovely balance between the peachy-apple blossom fruit flavours, perfect acidity and delicate complexity. It was rather good with the coconut macaroons too!
Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

Overall a most delicious series of wines and food. ample thanks to Rob of the Wine Conversation for hosting and to Nick Clarke of Dreyfuss Ashby for supplying the samples. Other guests at the dinner have also written up their thoughts - EatLikeAGirl, James Cridland, Kai Chan ng and Sandrine Plasseraud.

Hugel Wines Twitter Tasting

Twitter Tasting - the dinner table

For those who didn't follow last nights ground-breaking Hugel Twitter Tasting a transcript of my 'tweets' through the evening. To be read in reverse order as they are displayed in newest first order. For accompanying photos there is a flickr group where all who were there have posted images.

Ten of us sampled each of the wines in turn; each with a different course, twittering as we did so. Later, once the Americans sat down to their meal and tasting, we twittered about the wines. Finally collapsed to bed about 2AM.

Andrew Barrow
binendswines - still here enjoying the VT its only 1:25am
2008-08-22T00:24:06+00:00 from web
Andrew Barrow
Richardpf we went for coconut macaroons
2008-22T00:21:20+00:00 about 15 hours ago from web in reply to RichardPF
Andrew Barrow
the VT Gewurzt? yeh, it was OK ;-)
2008-08-22T00:18:17+00:00">about 15 hours ago from web

Andrew Barrow
catavino aaah, now I know!
2008-08-22T00:11:35+00:00 about 15 hours ago from web in reply to Catavino
Andrew Barrow
Sonadora wtf is elephant ear pastry?
2008-08-22T00:08:32+00:00 about 15 hours ago from web in reply to Sonadora

Andrew Barrow
leasimpson a few glasses of wine help! 2008-08-22T00:05:59+00:00 about 15 hours ago from web in reply to leasimpson

Andrew Barrow
lesimpson you didnt enjoy it much then?
2008-08-21T23:56:49+00:00 about 15 hours ago from web in reply to leasimpson
Andrew Barrow
Riesling - apples, rubber, not generally a fan of Riesling but this I enjoyed
2008-08-21T23:53:13+00:00">about 15 hours ago from web
Andrew Barrow
met some great people this evening; with wine being the centre didnt get to chat about other stuff
2008-08-21T23:49:46+00:00 about 15 hours ago from web
Andrew Barrow
for several of our dinner party it was the first gewurz they had tried - and were impressed!
2008-08-21T23:46:22+00:00 about 16 hours ago from web

Andrew Barrow
Jaspermcdell gewurz 2008-08-21T23:41:46+00:00 about 16 hours ago from web
in reply to jaspermcdell

Andrew Barrow
Gewurz was superb with some top quality foie gras
2008-08-21T23:40:34+00:00 about 16 hours ago from web

Andrew Barrow
not hugely impressed with the PB, vastly better with food - the onion tart was beautiful - the wines acidity cut thru the egg perfectly
2008-08-21T23:28:30+00:00 about 16 hours ago from web
Andrew Barrow
Gentil went rather nicely with gingery, garlic scallops. wine, bright, lemony very drinkable
2008-08-21T23:14:54+00:00 about 16 hours ago from web
Andrew Barrow
Stuffed but vendange tardive and coconut macaroons are great
2008-08-21T22:19:16+00:00 about 17 hours ago from txt
Andrew Barrow
Main course - wonderful mustard mash potatoes with some meat thing rob put together as an accompaniment 2008-08-21T21:41:58+00:00 about 18 hours from txt

Andrew Barrow
Foie gras!! Oh and a gewurz !!!
2008-08-21T21:08:05+00:00 about 18 hours ago from txt

Andrew Barrow
Out come the tarts i didnt make these look good mind. Talk is of how rubbish the iphone is
2008-08-21T20:38:39+00:00 about 19 hours ago from txt
Andrew Barrow

Scallops first course - seems to have gone down well with the wine
2008-08-21T20:12:43+00:00 about 19 hours ago from txt
The foie gras course

Not entirely sure how useful this is especially as it does not include the dozens of others who twittered through the evening, their questions and replies but I requred a record of the evening.

Domaine du Vieux Vauvert Vouvray, 2007, Loire, France

Thumbnail image for Vieux Vauvert Vouvray 2007
After discovering the delights of Chianti it was to the Loire that my burgeoning interest in wine led next. Much fun was had working from the Atlantic coast East and inland along the 620-odd miles of the river discovering each areas predominant grape variety - Melon de Bourgogne, Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Gamay, Cabernet Franc...

There are something like 85,000 acres of vineyards within spitting distance of the Loire, many bearing names I recognised from my parents dinner table - Rosé de Anjou appeared often (remember this is the 1970's), Vouvray too. The latter obviously appealing to the 'oldens' due to its sweeter nature, over, say, the minerally crispness of a Sancerre.

Searching the archives it would seem 2006 was the last time I wrote up a Vourvay; high time then to give this Waitrose exclusive a once-over.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine du Vieux Vauvert, 2007, Loire, France.
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £6.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]

Medium-Dry the shelf- barker in Waitrose proclaimed and there it is confirmed on the front label; personally I'd put it down as off-dry. Whatever. The residual sugar gives a more rounded, gentle feel to the palate.

I've over chilled it slightly which has deadened the aroma somewhat but the palate, smooth and rounded, as mentioned, has a long creamy pear and apple finish. While a hint of sherbet and some minerally acidity keep the mid-palate fresh, clean, tight and focused. There is an edge of orange citrus under the apple flavours with a different type of apple being apparent on the nose. Not a sign of the 'blossom aromas' mentioned on the label though. An easy-drinking style but a wine that just lacked a little something to really make it sing, especially at near seven quid a bottle.

Scribblings Rating - 82/100 [2.75 out of 5]

Have Wine, Will Twitter

Two Wines for the Hugel Twitter tasting
Mr Hugel himself kindly arranged for samples to be dispatched so us UK wine bloggers (myself and The Wine Conversation at least) can join in the fun of next Thursdays Twitter wine tasting. So have wines, will Twitter!

Organised by a new American retailer (Bin Ends Wine) the idea is that a host of twitterer's will taste and debate the wines in unison. Bin End Wines offers the wines at a discount I believe to those who wish to join in the fun across the States.

Also participating will be Etienne Hugel himself. Lets hope Etienne can provide some illuminating info even when limited to Twitters 140 characters per tweet!

The plan is for me to lug the wines (Hugel's Gentil 2006 (sold in the UK as Les Fleurs d'Alsace), Pinot Blanc 2006, Gewürztraminer 2005, Riesling Jubilee 2004 and Gewürztraminer VT 2001) up to London and join Rob of The Wine Conversation for a evening of fine Alsace wine and delicious food. And the blogging/twittering too of course.

You can follow the tasting on twitter (adding such wine gurus as Wanna Be Wino, Tim of WineCast, Ryan and Gabriella of Catavino, Dale of Drinks Are On Me, and Joe of 1 Wine Dude to your list of friends. And not forgetting BinEndsWine and Etienne Hugel too).

Back to Your Roots for Wine Blogging Wednesday #48

It is the seminal wine blogging event Wine Blogging Wednesday's fourth birthday. This momentous occasion being hosted by the creator Lenn Thompson at Lenndeavours, with the theme 'back to your roots'.

Being of an age when the memory is not quite what it was, that mystical 'first bottle' is pure conjecture. I assume the setting was sometime in the '70's - the decade I thought we had power cuts to give the coal men time off at Christmas. The time, so I am told, of prawn cocktails and Black Forest Gateau and the heights of vinos sophistication being bottles of Blue Nun, Liebfraumilch and, holy of holies, Mateaus Rosé.

And there was me, several years later, drinking the damn stuff overlooking Macau harbour and thinking how cool I was! It wasn't cool. It was naff, even then. It was also damn expensive for a destitute traveller. But actually the evening was made by that bottle of wine - the colour of the sunset mirroring the rose-tinted liquid in the glass, the light shimmering across the South China Sea as a sea breeze threw off the tropical heat of the day.

Another memory surfaces, again from some time in the 70's, of my late Grand Mother sticking sea shells to an empty bulbous-shaped wine bottle with a candle stuck in the top. That distinctive shape can only have been a Mateus. Luckily I can recall little else, 1970's or Mateus related, but that is probably the fault of personal excesses during the following decade!

No attractive photo to accompany these misty-eyed recollections, sadly, nor a tasting note. The famed Portuguese rosé no longer graces the shelves of the purveyors of alcohol in my small town. I expect, back in its day, whole rafts of the stuff were glugged by the local Wallingfordtonians or whatever they are called. All long since moved on to Australian Chardonnay I imagine. You can always pick up a nice shell-covered, dumpy candle stick at the weekly car-boot sale though.

A Rosé for a Picnic

 Agronavarra Perdido Rosé, 2007, Navarra, Spain
The UK wine world is expecting great things from the 'under new owners' Oddbins. I wonder though at the fate of the Nicolas chain, into which many Oddbins stores were converted. Leaving a Nicolas store, at the back-end of last week, with a distinctly underwhelmed feeling, as I failed to buy anything.

At least in today's Oddbins, still far from its award-winning hay-day, there is usually something of interest; in Nicolas there isn't. Even their wine list was boring and staid, just a list - no descriptions, tasting notes, food matches, not even a bottle photo to enliven the list and provide a soupcon of that Gallic flair so missing from the wine range.

But the grand ol' daddy of the high street, Threshers, managed to entice a few squibblies from my pocket. Twice. Not often does a wine, let alone a wine on a deal, find itself purchased more than once. Or four times; as this Spanish Rosé is on offer at two for £8 (or £5.99 each).

Rosé Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Agronavarra Perdido Rosé, 2007, Navarra, Spain.
£5.99 each or 2 for £8 Threshers [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Cherry coloured, enticingly so, with a bright, fresh, medium-bodied palate. Gently fruity flavours, cherry again, offering a firm whole and a refreshing tingle on the finish. It's not overly complicated, but refreshing, food friendly and - making use of the offer - good value. Alcohol 12.5%.

While holding enough interest for drinking on its own, the subtle level of tannin and freshness of acidity the Perdido makes for a fine picnic wine. Something none to serious is required when lolling by the side of a river or perched on a daisy strewn hillside. As a change from crust-less cucumber sandwiches hows about Chicken Wraps with Apple, Bacon and Pine Nuts as a picnic dish.

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

Bisol Prosecco and Certiquality

Bisol Winery from a Helicopter
The prices asked for bottles of Bisol Processco will certainly dissuade those looking for a light-hearted fizz. The humble Prosecco elevated to prices near Champagne levels. The care, attention and dedication of the producers, viticulturists in Valdobbiadene since 1542, surely reflected in each and every bottle.

Now, Bisol can guarantee, in a more precise manner, the added value of it's prestigious Cru di Valdobbiadene Prosecco: Certiquality - an authoritative institute for Quality Assurance - has released the Certificate for Traceability Systems to the company. Bisol is among the first in the Doc to receive this certification. This means that Bisol is able to certify with precision every phase and detail of the production cycle of each bottle of the Cru di Valdobbiadene Prosecco. Based on a lot number, Bisol will be able to specify from which exact vineyard the grapes in any one bottle come.

"We will be able to recount the story of each of our Cru and give a further quality guarantee to the consumer" comments Desiderio Bisol, Technical Director of the company.

The company has vineyards amounting to around 100 hectares, scattered over 20 locations but in the very best areas of the Denomination. The flagship is the three hectares owned in the uppermost reaches of the Cartizze hill, currently valued at around 1.5 million Euro per hectare.

It is wonderful following the developments of a specific wine producer. Bisol is one of the few I have visited that send regular updates. As the WineDude can attest, it is only by following and regularly tasting in informal settings and with food, that you really understand and appreciate the work behind a humble bottle of wine, regardless of cost.

Fattoira le Sorgenti Respiro Chianti, 2005, Tuscany, Italy

Sorgenti Respiro Chianti
I fondly recall, during my first exploratory steps into wine, becoming very excited in sorting out the various sub-zones of Chianti and believing I could detect the subtle nuances in flavour of a Chianti Colli Senesi over a Chianti Classico or Chianti Rufina. Even pin-pointing the names on a map added a fizzle of excitement when drinking said bottles. Whichever guide book I referenced at the time listed those mysterious terrior-based differences with reverence.

Today I wouldn't have a clue on how to spot a Senesi over a Arentini and, all thse years ago, I'm sure it was all suggestion and imagination rather than a fully-developed palate.

There are seven sub-zones covering Chianti. The heart of the region is Chianti Classico, Chianti Rufina lies to the north-east while Chianti Montalbano and four hillside areas are named after near-by cities Colli Fiorentini (Florence), Colli Senesi (Siena), Colli Pisane (Pisa) and Colli Arentini (Arezzo).

This example hails from Colli Fiorentini, a classic blend of Sangiovese with just a splash of the white Trebbiano (2%). The local rules have removed the 'traditional' requirement for a white grape component and allow up to 15% of foreign varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Le Sorgenti Respiro Chianti , 2005, Chianti Colli Fiorentini, Tuscany, Italy
Stockist: Cadman Fine Wines [More on UKWOL] Price: £9.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Upfront tiz mellow and fruity, wood envelopes the rounded pleasantness, then a savoury edge develops with tannins raising and acidity cleansing. A long mellow finish, with an edge of chocolate covered cherries, porcini and something 'autumnal'. Alcohol 13.5%.

Chianti should really be enjoyed with food - the medium-bodied quite acidic wines were created for food. Tomato based dishes are often quoted as ideal matches; my choice would be a rich, slow cooked, Bolognese based pasta dish, as pictured.

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

The name 'Respiro' simply means breath. "To stop making Chianti for us would be like stopping breathing" is the phrase used by the passionate and dedicated Ferrari family. Rarely do you meet a family as focused and as in touch with the land and its produce.

Grown high up in a natural amphitheatre, the grapes from the 'La Sala' vineyard and feature primarily Sangiovese but with a small percentage of the white grape Trebbiano added ot give the wine freshness and vitality"

Food for Chianti - Pasta Bolognese