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Vilarnau Rosé Cava

Bubbles make a party. But to be honest, this is not the world's most impressive sparkling rosé. It's fine. Absolutely nothing wrong with it at all. Pleasant flavours of red currants and raspberries plus a playful sparkle and that's about it. And often that is all you need. The Vilarnau Brut Rosado Cava might lack the weighty mouthful to cope with substantial food but throw a few light nibbles and canapés at it and its fine. A soft, lightly juicy character and those bubbles make this a great end-of-summer aperitif style wine. Something to make a party, not something to delve too deeply into, to philosophise over, it'll encourage the party atmosphere, not stop the conversation mid-flow like in that ridiculous cheese advert...

Vilarnau Brut Rosado, [Adegga / Snooth] available from Ocado, Winehouse and selected independents is only £10.49, comes in restrained, attractive packaging and for those who need the info is made from Trepat and Pinot Noir with 12.4% alcohol.

Rather than partying-it-up like its 1999, last weekend I cracked this open as a try-out with deep fried squid. I was rather taken with the simplicity of the squid recipe from Niamh's new cookbook - Comfort and Spice - and this rosé certainly worked, emphasising the heat of the pepper marvellously. Niamh's recipe calls for chunks of squid, coated in a mix of flour and plenty of hot Sichuan pepper, to be deep fried and served as is. While Dr. Who frightened the youngsters across the country I was dipping my squid in Stokes mayonnaise... and washing it all down with this pink cava. Seems I'm too old to party like its 1999.... Not that I can recall much of 1999...

vilarnau rosé cava

dee fried squid

Oscar's Red


Parcel Force dropped my latest Naked Wines order by the door of number 27, my 'across the hall' neighbours. One box was successfully lifted into No.29 but the retrieveal of the second was interrupted as a gust of wind slammed the door shut behind me. Bugger. Keys locked inside! Re-entering my apartment without a key is tricky, the outer windows while decorative are impossible to climb through. There is a skylight, two and a bit stories high, but as the escapade to reenter via that route has nothing to do with wine you will be spared the 'hilarious' antics. Needless to say it took a while to get in.

The delivery contained a mixed selection, although I seemed to have ordered mainly Portuguese reds... which wasn't intentional. Still, a wine was required for that evenings lamb dish. Nothing too heavy. Nothing overly tannic or, at the other end of the scale, it shouldn't be too light and airy either, thank you very much.

A bottle of Oscar's Red seemed ideal. It's a wine marketed solely through social media channels; so Naked Wines is the ideal UK retailer I guess. Having briefly met said Oscar at last years European Wine Bloggers conference and slurped through his range of ports I was interested...

Oscar heads up Quevedo, a family owned business in the Douro bit of Portugal (est. 1991). Port is the focus, naturally. They have 100 hectares of vines from the traditional array of Port grapes (Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão and Tinta Barroca). This, non-port, Douro red, is a mix of Touriga Nacional (60%), Tinta Roriz (40%). On the Quevedo website the wine is described as "a wine to uncork on a Wednesday evening when you're looking for something simple and delicious". And for that it works perfectly.

Certainly slipped down very nicely while cooking.

With this lamb dish however it is not quite right. It's the lemons you see. The acidity of these is high and doesn't match the wine. Mind you who likes eating lemon rind, cooked or otherwise? While the subtle taste remained in the delicious sauce most were slid off the pate and remained uneaten.

I'm now left wondering if a white wine - a Sauvignon Blanc perhaps, or something equally high in acidity - would have worked better? A white wine with lamb? Radical...

Oscar's Red, 2008, Douro, Portugal [Adegga / Snooth] is available from Naked Wines for £9.49. Balanced, red fruit characters, hint of smoke, easy drinking. Alcohol 14%.

The recipe, Lamb with Sages and Lemon, is detailed on SpittoonExtra and comes from Grillhouse: Gastropub at Home by Ross Dobson.

lamb with lemon and sage

Bornos Verdejo, 2010, Rueda, Spain

bornos verdejo 2010There use to be a tapas bar in my little country town; it didn't last. While the food was great and the prices ok there was just the one bar. Which rather defeats the whole tapas idea - a bite and a drink in one bar and move on to the next; you just don't stay in the one place all night. I recall the wines were not that great either, more drinkable international rather than regional Spanish. You just have to go to Spain to get the real deal...

There was one back street bar I stumbled upon in Madrid that served a rather scrummy morcilla dish; a dish I have been attempting to replicate ever since. I've also been trying to find an ideal tapas wine too (that isn't sherry). The dish I believe I've just about cracked. The wine I'm yet to find.

You can't really substitute black pudding for morcilla. The texture of black pudding is not the same, generally contains more fatty bits, and doesn't break-up as readily as morcilla. Brindisa stocks some decent versions and the pack I brought last week from The Tapas Lunch Company (£2.15 for 200g) worked beautifully too.

Just fry the morcilla in a little olive oil and near the end of cooking add a handful of pinenuts. Top some slices of rustic bread with a little tomato sauce (mine I enhanced with a little sweet pimenton, also brought from The Tapas Lunch Company) and warm in the oven (or toast first) then top with the morcilla. My original attempt to replicate the dish included adding an egg to the morcilla before the pine nuts; not totally convinced this is what was in the original dish. To make more of a substantial meal you could serve a chorizo and tomato salad alongside.

You obviously need a wine.

The Palacio de Bornos Verdejo, 2010, Rueda, Spain from Waitrose £8.99 [Adegga / Snooth] isn't too bad a match. Thinking maybe a bowl of freshly griddled prawns might be better... this is crisp, weighty (a touch of residual perhaps?) like a ripe, fleshier Sauvignon Blanc.

Another drinking option could be the rather excellent La Bascula Catalan Eagle 2009 an organically grown mix of Garnacha Blanca, Viognier, Roussanne, a blend which I adore. A touch too floral maybe for the morcilla but that complexity melds rather gorgeously with the spice of the chorizo in the salad.

morcilla tapas

Morrisons Australian Verdehlo Chardonnay, 2010

morrisons australian white wine

Five Days/Five Wines: Monday 18th July
'Left-overs'; always has a depressing ring about it. But since childhood Mondays has always been left-over day. Time has not been kind to the memory and I cannot actually recall what my mother conjured up; apart from chicken curry - which I always thought woefully under spiced for a 'curry'. (Sorry Mum, but you don't read this blog anyway so it doesn't matter).

A parsley garnish does wonders in enlivening my Monday evening 'leftovers'. Fried pancetta, a small chunk wrapped in some greese-proof, a brown paper bag enclosing a handful of almost-past-their-best fresh broad beans and a final scrapping of the delicious Rodda's Crème Fraîche all poured over a hulking great pile of linguine. Combined, not at all too shabby. Depressingly similar to last Thursdays meal though.

From the tasting rack a bottle of wine from Morrisons. Not a store I frequent and not one that you see mentioned that often in regards to their wine range. Aimed at a different market from the likes of Waitrose and Marks and Spencers. (Which shows how pissing middle class I am!)

The bottle was a 'left over' from a London tasting back in May - a session that matched various Morrison food stuffs with wines from their range. This bottle, retailing for just £6.49, stood out as being particularly 'food-friendly'. The tasting, with Arabella Woodrow MW (Morrisons Wine Development Manager) and Gyles Walker (Morrisons Italian and Australia wine buyer) pitched this against A Thai Chicken Curry ready meal. The match - the weight, impression of a little sweetness, full New World fruit, worked well.

I can report it as a decent Monday night match with 'left-overs'.

Talking of left overs; I caught a tweet the other day asking what people do with left over wine. Damn silly question...

Continue reading "Morrisons Australian Verdehlo Chardonnay, 2010" »

Matching Chapel Down Wines With Asparagus

chapel down wine tasting The White Swan, Fetter Lane, London, not exactly my local but when invited by Cooksister for a Friday night out complete with English bubbly and food, who could resist! The dinner, a celebration of English wines and English asparagus, offered five courses with five wines for a bargain £46 a head. Not insubstantial portions or measly tasting samples of the wines either.

A quick run through of the wines and the food matches. Opening with Charred Norfolk Asparagus, Truffled Ricotta and Watercress - a sublime match with the Chapel Down Vintage Reserve Brut NV [Adegga / Snooth]. The truffle dimension work gorgeously with the wine, opening out the complexity and adding much to the crisp, apple-led, pure flavours. The Vintage Reserve is a mix of Reichensteiner, Rivaner and Pinot Noir.

The second pairing saw Roast Fillet of plaice, sprue asparagus, samphire and lemon vinaigrette matched with Chapel Down English Rosé 2009 [Adegga / Snooth]. Another melange of obscure grapes here - Schönburger , Rondo, Regent, Dornfelder and Pinot Noir producing a dry rosé with a vibrancy that runs from the colour through to the closing line of the palate. Fresh, summery, cherry edged flavours and an edge of savouriness. Fuller than a Provance rosé and a stellar match with the fish and the delicate sprue asparagus. Lightish in alcohol too at 11.5% making an ideal lunchtime/picnic wine.

Then a red - the Chapel Down Trinity 2009 [Adegga / Snooth] (a mix of Rondo, Pinot Noir and a version of PN, Pinot Noir Precoce) was served with a succulent Rump of Herdwick Lamb, Jersey Royals and Minted Lincolnshire Asparagus. High acidity in the wine - understandable as England is a cool climate - cut through the fat of the lamb beautifully. In conversation notes of coffee, chocolate, pepper, spice and bramble were banded about. A surprising depth of colour too.

chapel down tasting first asparagus course

chapel down wine tasting - second course fillet of plaice

chapel down wine tasting - main course of Herdwick Lamb

A slice of cheese next Tymsboro with white asparagus with rhubarb chutney and buck wheat biscuits. The cheese was nice with the Chapel Down Bacchus Reserve 2009 [Adegga / Snooth] although the sweetness of the chutney clashed somewhat. The wine itself has the most gorgeous aroma; think English hedgerow with elderflower predominating and a distinct edge of exotic passion fruit. Wonderful. A full palate with a similar flavour to the aroma. The acidity is high but a fine alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.

Finally, Poached English Strawberries, Muscat and Strawberry Jelly, Honey and Thyme Ice-cream. Not a great match with the delicate and dry Chapel Down Brut Rosé NV [Adegga / Snooth] jarring with the sweetness of the dessert. Individually superb however. The evening was worth attending just for the ice-cream! Stunning.

chapel down wine tasting - the dessert

Ever heard that asparagus is a tricky thing to match with wine? That the flavour dissipates into something metallic or sulphurous and unpleasant? Poppycock. Avoid wines with heavy tannins or lashings of oak - all the wines here are unoaked - add bubbles too for a little decadence.

Chapel Down can be followed on Twitter with the wines purchased online from the English Wine Group website.

Continue reading "Matching Chapel Down Wines With Asparagus" »

A Wine For This Seasons Asparagus


Really sorry Mary Berry but your Hollandaise Sauce isn't a patch on the one served at Aubaine. Sure yours is a mass produced commercial product, and rather tasty it is too, but enlivening my Eggs Benedict at Aubaine last week was the best Hollandaise I've ever sampled. I assume they make it fresh and its not out of a jar...

Breakfast with Cooksister last Saturday was relished at Aubaine, Brompton Road, pre-V&A photo exhibition visit, and, despite some shoddy service (wrong dish brought to Jeanne, having to chase my coffee three times and a noise level only lessened when they pulled back the louvered windows) the food was superb. So good in fact I could only sedate a hankering for Eggs Benedict again by constructing my own version a day or so later.

Then of course I had this jar of Merry Berry's Hollandaise to finish.

Step forward asparagus. Specifically a bunch cut fresh that morning from a family producer just 40 minutes' walk from where I live. Asparagus needs Hollandaise. But does Asparagus with Hollandaise need wine?

Is there still much fuss made about matching wine with this seasonal green shoot? Most commentators don't have an issue so I assume it's one of those old time truism's that really don't hold much credence. Seems there are a lot of these in the wine world, passing through the years as steadfast fact. A little over a year ago Fiona Beckett asked, via twitter, for drink recommendations with asparagus. Answers ranged from Muscadet, to Aligoté to Muscat (?!) to Arneis. Good to see a smattering of Alsace and Austrian wine suggestions, for Riesling would be my initial choice. Surprising perhaps from a chap who is on record as not being a lover of the grape at all!

While those spears are a-cooking atop the griddle pan and Mary Berry's finest is chilling fridge-side, crack open a bottle of Dominique et Julien Frey's Riesling Vieilles Vignes 2009 [Adegga / Snooth]. Dry but weighty. Mineral and floral. Little of that 'petrol' edge that some find attractive, this is all fresh fruits and soft lime flavours. Alcohol is only 12.5%. Refreshing. Savour the play of vegetable and wine. The season is short after all. The estate, holding just 13 hectares just outside Dambach Le Ville, has been producing wines under biodynamic rules since 2001.

"We strive to convey to the wine the energy and life that we provide to our grapes so that the wine is the most palatable and alive possible."

And the Riesling with the asparagus? Just about damn perfect. Just go easy on the Hollandaise, that vinegar component isn't going to do any wine much good. Even with Mary Berry's deft touch.


Sampling Vinho Verde in Mesa Restaurante, Porto

wine maker from Quinta SoalheiroA touch tricky to match a dessert dish to a Vinho Verde wine. Next best, seeing as they don't 'do' sweet wines would be a sparkler, but for me the match of Fondant de abóbora com mousse de requeijão e amêndoas tostadas (Fondant Pumpkin Mousse with cream cheese and toasted almonds) with a dry sparkling didn't work at all.

It was the final flourish of a superb food/wine matching meal at Mesa Restaurante in Porto, Portugal. Basically a small, runny pumpkin purée encased in a pastry and served on a bed of 'soured' cream. Using a fork to break the pastry resulted in the unctuous puree flowing like the yolk of a deeply coloured duck egg. Not overly sweet and highly palatable at that hour (it was after midnight by the time our table was served dessert) the scrumptious pud simply didn't work with the dry Espumante Arinto Bruto 2002 from Ameal.

Earlier, much earlier, the canapés had been served with another sparkling wine, also from Ameal. It was further proof, I felt, that Vinho Verde just cannot do sparkling wine. Not that one could say so with the dapper winemaker seated on the adjacent table for this regional showcase dinner.

The tri-variety Quinta de Simaenes 2009 was far more palatable cutting through the (rather over) salty 4th course of Parco preto estufado com grelos à Brás (stewed pork) perfectly. The wine, so clean and precise, with a ripeness of fruit that changed my view of Vinho Verde totally. Prior to this 'revelation' those highly acidic, spritzy, tart but sugar-laden, thin wines were my sum experience.

Going in reverse with this five course extravagance Soalheiro's first vine pressing, Primeiras Vinhas 2009, was another eye-opener. Using a play on the old vines message the first vine comes from vines planted in the 1970's and an absolute stunning showing against Arroz cremoso de bacalhau com espargos verdes e tomate seco (a cod and asparagus risotto with dried tomatoes). Freshness and weight combined beautifully with the dish.


For me the previous course was the standout of the meal. A fatty round of suckling pork and apple topped with a crumbly, cumin laced, black pudding (Entrecosto de leitão com morcels da beira e maçã). The red wine, Casa do Valle Homenagem Reserva Tinto 2009 was overly chilled when initially poured but opened up wonderful as it warmed in the packed restaurant. First reaction? A Loire Cabernet Franc - the acidity, key in cutting through the richness, and the colour headed the similarities. But this is a blend, an experimental homage to the present winemakers father who planted the grapes - Merlot, Touriga Nacional and Vinhão. The latter is rather interesting, it is the main red grape of Vinho Verde (so should have expected to see it at a Vinho Verde session!) but it also red fleshed, one of the few in the wine world, so gives red juice.

The five course Mesa meal began as it ended with a wine from Quinta do Ameal. This still white was much more palatable than the finales sparkler. Quinta do Ameal 2009, is 100% Loueiro and combines, as with all top Vinho Verde's made from the variety, a mix of grapey, apply freshness with citrus crispness and a floral edge. Plus a distinctive minerality. Winemaker Pedro Araújo is firmly committed to organic production methods and has worked diligently with his Loueiro grapes to extract the most aromatic laced juice that he can. The accompanying dish was a delight, lightly dressed crab with mango (Caranguejo Rei do Alasca com manga e misuna).

crab dish at mesa

Even if the meal seemingly lasted forever, the matching of differing styles of wine from Vinho Verde was certainly a eye-opening delight into the modern styles of the regions wines but also demonstrated that the Portuguese, in all manner of ways across their culture in general and in the wine sphere specifically, are using tradition with a modern, forward thinking slant.

[Sorry for the poor photographs - a combination of a long day, poor light and an idiot holding the camera]

On French Wine and Food

chateau blomac 2008

How quickly our glorious Autumn has slid into Winter. Early this year are the snows, the ice, the school closures and the postmen ditching their shorts for scarves, gloves and woolly hats, just like us normal people.

Tastes too change with the seasons. Now it is all slow cooked stews, warming soups, breakfast porridge, deep red wines and autumnal flavours. The evocatively illustrated pages of The French Country Table have helped me along - its all bistro styled foods, simple to prepare but full of flavour. Those with more of an autumnal hue include Hachis Parmentier (Beef and Potato gratin), Poulet Sauté à l'estragon (Chicken with Tarragon) and Gratin de Courge et de Riz (Pumpkin and Rice Gratin) have all been created in my humble kitchen over the last few weeks.

Chou Rouge Aux Marrons et Aux Pommes (Braised Red Cabbage With Chestnuts and Apples) was one of the more successful and flavourful it has to be said. Basically slow cooked sliced red cabbage, cooked with onion and bacon lardons, with a cooking apple and chestnuts added too. It is recommended with an Alsatian Riesling - both in the dish and to drink with it. But with deep, meaty sausages and howling winds outside a red wine seemed more apt.

The cork therefore dutifully removed from a bottle of Chateau Blomac 2008 [Adegga / Snooth]. It's a typical Minervois blend of 50% Syrah, 30% Carignan and 20% Grenache - one of my favourite grape mixes regardless of percentages. Oldish vines for the Syrah and Carignan, 45 years apparently, from an estate brought just two years ago. Chateau Blomac's 200 acres of vines lie between Narbonne and Carcassone producing mostly Vin de Pays varietal wines (retailing for around £6.49). This Minervois goes for £7.99 a bargain for its silky palate, fine structure and berry-led flavours. There is more to the wine than a simple berry-fest though, a fine complexity of spice and thigh-hugging leather makes a recent Gold Medal win at some French wine competition more understandable. Justified too; a delight and gorgeous with the Beef and Potato Gratin (basically a glorified Cottage Pie) the following night.

The Absolutely Cracking Wines From France trade tasting seemed to manage without my attendance at the beginning of October. Superbly though Sopexa sent me a few left over samples to try but those trouser wearing postmen managed to deliver a dripping, crushed box - I hope that wasted Beaujolias made a right mess in the back of the Parcel Force van! What did survive though was a bottle from Domaine Sainte Rose. Their La Nuit Blanche Roussanne 2008 [Adegga / Snooth] was sublime! I've sampled it in the past and was underwhelmed; this though - due to a little bottle age perhaps or just maturing vines - was stunning. The perfect match to that Tarragon Chicken.

Way, way back in 'the early days' I visited Charles and his family not long after they had brought the estate just outside Péxenas. I've been a fan of their red wines since. This Roussanne was superb; coupling a wonderful textural quality with a rich softness and long lasting finish. There has been a little oak aging I think with some lees stirring to add to the complexity. I'm off down Waitrose to buy a bottle - £8.99 I believe - to see how it matches with Pintade aux Lentils (Guinea Fowl with Lentils), another tantalising dish from The French Country Table.

sainte rose roussanne 2008

Elyssia Gran Cuvee Brut

Did you know that Enoki mushrooms were first cultivated in the Far East as far back as 900AD? In the wild Flammulina Velutipes is a winter mushroom growing on deciduous logs. It's velvety stem gave rise to the English name of Velvet Shank. In Japan it grows on Chinese Hackberry trees aka Enoki trees. The cultivated version is much different from the wild. Delightfully attractive, like clumps of ball ended spaghetti, it is grown in the dark - to give it that ghostly white colour. Carluccio's mushroom book is packed with such information; recipes too.

Enoki Bundles is one and as simple as you could get. Take a small clump of the Enoki, trim the end, and wrap in a slice of parma ham. Dress with lime juice and olive oil, plenty of ground pepper and serve. Simple pure flavours and a delight as a tapas style dish.

A few experiments with a wine match and a cava came out tops. Not just any old supermarket cava - these are generally too rough and tasteless to bother with - but something a little more stylish, and sadly, a little more expensive.

enoki bundles
elyssia cava

Freixenet Elyssia Grand Cuvée Brut [Adagga / Snooth] is made from Chardonnay with the addition of the local varieties of Macabeo and Parellada, oh and a touch of Pinot Noir. These combine to give a decent mouthful offering of nuts, apple, pear and peach, a nicely rounded palate plus a crisp finish, a touch of residual balances too. Alcohol 12%.

Freixenet's black bottled Cordon Negro Cava is well known; it's a huge selling brand but in launching this new Grand Cuvée Elyssia (and a sister Elyssia Pinot Noir Rosé) Freixenet is aiming for "premiumisation" in creating this pair of limited edition wines. Waitrose added these to its wine list back in July at £14.99, the Gran Cuvée is currently on offer at 33% off.

Continue reading "Elyssia Gran Cuvee Brut" »

A Wine For Mushroom Ravioli

terra viva terre di chietiA simple mid-week pasta dish and, of course, a wine to accompany. "Drinking wine on a school night" I hear you cry. "Hell yes!" says I.

The people behind the new Giovanni Rana Pasta sent a couple of packs my way. It being the height of mushroom season the Porcini Mushroom Ravioli seemed apt to eat this week, topped in this instance with a creamy pancetta sauce.

If there is an issue with ready made dishes it is that they are far too small. This Giovanni Rana pasta comes in a pack marked "for two"; an issue indeed as I ate the whole pack myself! (As a main course, perhaps they intend it to be a starter for two?).

The sauce adds a delicious richness to the pasta, the finely minced filling nicely balanced between the mushroom and herbs. It required a wine to cut through the richness but not something so rich in itself to dominate and overpower. Keeping the Italian theme I plucked a bottle of Terra Viva Terre di Chieti Bianco 2009 [Adegga / Snooth] from the rack. A blend, it transpires of "mainly Trebbiano", organically grown. It's freshness and citrus flavours coupled with the acidity work well with the stuffed pasta and creamy sauce. Rather inoffensive but it's a decent enough wine with a nice texture and easy-to-drink qualities. Even better at the moment as it is on offer at Waitrose with a 20% off sticker, taking it down to a little over a fiver I think.

Giovanni Rana Trattoria Porcini Mushroom Ravioli with Pancetta
Serves 4

  • 2 packs Giovanni Rana Trattoria Porcini Mushroom Ravioli

  • 125g Pancetta

  • 10g butter

  • 150ml single cream

  • 1 tsp fresh oregano leaves

  • Salt and pepper

Cut the pancetta into thin strips. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add pancetta and cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until browned and beginning to crisp. Add the cream and oregano and allow to simmer until thickened. Add some seasoning.
Meanwhile add the pasta to a pan of boiling water and cook for 4 minutes. Drain and toss together with the bacon sauce.
Garnish with grated Parmesan.


Discover the Origin

michel chorey les beaune 2005To me rather an odd combination of partners but the Discover the Origin promotion unites the wines of Burgundy and the Douro Valley, Parma ham and Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese. As the publicity blurb states
"The aim of Discover the Origin is to unite the notions of Taste, Time, Tradition. Together - and the products within the campaign - in a true culinary experience... The aim is to educate on the benefits of the provenance indicator schemes, the relevant checks, controls and traceability systems that are out in place to ensure ongoing quality and to differentiate the products and raise their profiles"

A hamper containing three bottles of wine, a generous slab of the cheese and a pack of ham arrived awhile back. Included was a lovely little hard backed book containing details of the regions and their unique provenance and various recipes to match with each of the regions wines. Not sure the book is generally available but all the recipes in it are fully detailed available on the Discover the Origin website. There is plenty to discover on the site - videos abound, recipes to keep you in the kitchen for an age...

Each recipe has a recommended wine, obviously either a red or white Burgundy or a still or Port wine from the Douro. Extracted from the Discover the Origin hamper a dry white from the Douro to accompany a dish of Parma Ham, Melon and Mozzarella Salad with Chilli Mango Dressing; frankly it wouldn't have been my first choice to match with such a dish. I would perhaps have gone with a wine with some sweetness, a Chenin perhaps or even that rich Viognier sampled at my recent secret tasting. However the wine, full of citrus minerality, was actually fine. Consumed during the fine summer weather we had (remember that?) when the temperature decrees lighter foods it is actually designed as a starter.

parma ham salad

Not sure what my thinking was at the time (hey, this was back at the beginning of August) but the dish selected to accompany the bottle of red Burgundy (Domaine Martin Michel, Chorey-les-Beaune, 2005) was not one from the book. I've no recollection now of where the recipe originated but the dish - Lamb Fillet wrapped in Pama Ham served with haricot beans by the look of the photo, was a stonkingly good match. (There also seems to be a layer of stuffing between the lamb and the ham). My notes read "delicious".

lamb wrapped in parma ham

Less good, although individually superb, was the combination of a LBV Port with basically hot berries served on a shortcake. While sweet the ports tannins clashed and the wine just too full and rich for the more delicate fruits.

While any food and wine combinations are eventually down to personal preference - the suggested matches via Discover the Origin are a great start - was is indisputable is the quality of the individual stars of this little experiment - the wines of Burgundy, the ham and cheese from Parma and the ports and still wines from Portugal's Douro.

Mas d'Intras Cuvée d'Alphonse 2007 Vin de Pays des Coteaux de l'Ardèche

hix & buck alphonse 2007

To be honest a dish comprising goats cheese and baked apple would lead one to select a white wine - a South African Chenin Blanc, a Riesling from Alsace or, perhaps, a New Zealand Sauvingon Blanc. But a red wine? And one made from Merlot and Syrah? Probably not.

But this is exactly what Hix and Buck are recommending to accompany a dish of Baked Apple with Melted Goats Cheese, Potato Galette with Walnut Balsamic Dressing; the wine being their its Mas d'Intras Cuvée d'Alphonse 2007 Vin de Pays des Coteaux de l'Ardèche.

The dish was created by Sebastien Gagnbe Head Chef of Perfect Blend the "south London café, bar and restaurant". Hix and co had sent over a bottle so a try-out was in order.

The dish (recipe below) was fine, despite my disaster with getting the 'petals' of the galette to stick together (how do you do that??), resulted in a tasty, if light dinner. (More suited to a starter or lunch dish perhaps). But paired with the wine? And the wine itself, basking in Southern French rusticity was firm, strong and flavoursome in a red fruits and spice manner. But really, matching with sweetened apples and a salad? Not for me I'm afraid. My thoughts move to wild boar sausages or barbequed lamb burgers.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Mas d'Intras Cuvée d'Alphonse, 2007, Vin de Pays des Coteaux de l'Ardèche, France

Price: £9.99 From Hix and Buck [More on Adegga / Snooth]

Not for green fruits, bring fire charred summer meats, a match sublime

Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 86/100 [3.25 out of 5]

Hix & Buck is an importer of wine. Its aim is to bring good quality wines to the UK from undiscovered vineyards in Europe. In the spirit of discovery, the company's ambition is to surprise and delight the wine lover with unknown wines whilst offering them great value.

The wines are brought to the UK exclusively by Hix & Buck. The founders, Chix Chandaria and Dan Roebuck, are passionate about finding small producers, often with a family history of viniculture going back centuries, and bringing that wine, with its authentic qualities and characteristics, over here.

SPECIAL READER OFFER: All readers of Spittoon are offered 15% off their first 6 bottle case purchase at Hix and Buck an offer not restricted to the Alphonse detailed above. The promotion includes free delivery. Use the voucher code 'undiscovered'.

Continue reading "Mas d'Intras Cuvée d'Alphonse 2007 Vin de Pays des Coteaux de l'Ardèche" »

Bob Bob Ricard - Its Quite Nice

Kauffman Vodka at Bob Bob RicardThat evening found me knocking back shots of ultra-fine and ultra-expensive vodka with a Russian oligarch. The conversation revolved around the purchase of luxury yachts, women who lunch on boiled eggs and Krug and where to sink a few million in a vineyard. Around us flunkies and mafia types swirled and looked on.

That's in my world of course, the reality being a little more humble. The vodka was real enough mind. The chat was with Mr Bob Bob Ricard himself, Leonid Shutov, a most generous and genial host. He, I am assured, is not a member of the Russian mafia, might well be an oligarch, but is certainly a Russian.

It's not often a jaded and life-worn old soul like myself gets a revelatory moment; the vodka and food tasting session was one such incident. We were instructed not to treat the vodka as a wine. No pre-sniff, no little sips, no rolling around the palate but to engage in a shoot and eat. The palate was singularly purified and enlightened.

These ultra vodkas are distilled and filtered to the nth degree. Purity is the key. In comparison a Stolichnaya seemed oily, heavy and disjointed. With the palate enlivened and cleansed by the ice-cold vodka shot the food, little Russian-inspired tapas style bites, took on a level of intensity and purity that was sensational. 'Quite Nice' is my stock in trade saying for a highly enjoyable experience; these were bloody amazing.

Marinaded cucumbers (£2.50) heavy with dill were superbly clean cut and intense, the Beluga Caviar topped belinis were revelatory and the tongue in aspic simply delicious.

There was a different vodka with each dish. The Jellied Ox tongue (£7.50) was served with Kauffman Collection Vintage 2006 (yep, a vintage vodka, distilled 12 times and several different filtrations), the Caviar with Kauffman Luxury Vintage 2003 and some home cured herring (£3.50) an Imperial Vodka (filtered four times, distilled 8 times). And it was insisted that the vodka was chilled down to -18 degrees.

These are standard dishes/vodkas on the Bob Bob Ricard menu. A 25ml shot works out at £4.75 for the Imperia, £7.50 for the Kauffman Collection 2006, and £11.50 for the Kauffman 2003. I won't mention the price of the Beluga Caviar...

There was more to the meal after the excellence of the vodka; (the excellence of the 'Beef Wellington, 28 Day Aged Fillet of Aberdeenshire Scotch Beef
With Truffle Gravy' (£34) has to be experienced!) more Bob Bob Ricard pictures on SpittoonExtra. I have to admit the experience at Bob Bob Ricard was really quite nice indeed.

Continue reading "Bob Bob Ricard - Its Quite Nice" »

Portuguese Big Tasting Wines: With Beef Stew and with Pork Ribs

vida nova Syrah aragonez 2007

It's an ambitious series of linked events; live public tasting at Lord's Cricket Ground, others at Waitrose Canary Wharf and the food hall at John Lewis in Oxford Street plus the involvement of the twitter community... welcome to Portugal's Big Tasting.

My good friends Niamh and Denise launched another Guerrilla tasting onto London's streets - which Niamh reports "it went really well! We had 3 wines at the Green Onions Supper Club in Hackney. People loved them esp the Douro red" - and in deepest Thames-side Oxfordshire I made a stew, grilled some pork ribs and am about to throw some giant prawns on the barbie. Well, it would be a barbecue if I actually had a garden. And a barbecue. A griddle pan will have to suffice.

Failing to source all the wines involved in the tasting a make do and mend session, with two of the reds and the white, and matching them to the foods mentioned made for a fun weekend.

The Portuguese-created social wine discovery site Adegga has a full list of the Big Tasting events wines and you can track the activity on twitter via the #tbt2010 tag.

Of the wines the Vida Nova 2007 from the Algarve (that's a Cliff Richard wine), a blend of Syrah, Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet, and the Tinto da Ânfora 2007 (Aragonez, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, Alfrocheiro, Cabernet Sauvignon) were cracked open and sampled against a hearty beef stew and a pile of pork ribs that were marinated overnight in a chilli sauce. The one white in the six bottle line-up, a Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde, will be subject to a separate post, is about to be savoured with prawns, simply griddled and served with a little Lingham's Ginger, Garlic and Chilli Sauce mixed with a dollop of mayonnaise.

Price-wise there is little difference between the Vida Nova at £7.99 and the Tinto da Ânfora at £6.99 but the former was the deeper, richer, more classy, intense and more complex wine of the two. The Ânfora, obviously a different grape mix grown in a different region, is a touch more rustic and more hearty. The Vida Nova has a delicious top note of red berries while the Ânfora offers a fruity upfront sweetness before stroking the teeth with soft tannins and ending on a rustic lick of red fruits. Its combination of fruit, sun drenched earth and wafts of herbs and undergrowth is a winner.

Being hungry while the stew and rice bubbled atop the stove a chunk of Parmesan, being the only cheese in the fridge, was sampled with each. Not a great match with the Ânfora. The cheese stamped aggressively across the red berry flavours. The harder hitting Vida Nova had fewer issues. A rather nice combination.

And with the beef stew? Both were fine, its not a dish that many red wines would disagree with, but on balance I preferred the sweetness inherent in the Ânfora, the flavours melding beautifully with the richness of the sauce. The pork ribs - quite spicy from all that chilli sauce - did not disagree with either wine. A preference? The Anfora.

tinto da anfora 2007

Tinto da Ânfora, 2007, Alentejo, Portugal [Adegga / Snooth]
Waitrose £6.99
Trampling along crumbly red hillside path, crushing wild herbs here, sweating in the dappled sun.

Vida Nova Syrah Aragonez, 2007, Algarve, Portugal [Adegga / Snooth]
Waitrose £7.99
Mixed berry throwing contest, who can hit the red tiles at the top of the farm wall? Using those sour cherries is cheating.

Food & Wine Matching Notes from Naked Wines Latest Jamie Oliver Case

roquefort salad

Arriving at the tail end of last week the second mixed case of wines from Naked Wines forming a regular mailing under a Jamie Oliver Seasonal Picks selection. The case includes various recipes cards featuring Oliver's recipes, each linked to one of the wines wine.

The recipes:
Best Lamb Cutlets with Special Basil Sauce matched with Dusty Dog Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 This Australian red is big, deep and juicy. Not the most complex of wines but decent enough. Matched well with the lamb - such a wine friendly meat - and even leapt over the brown dollop of sauce (pummelled pine nuts and basil, loosened with olive oil, with zing added by lots of balsamic vinegar, hence the unappealing colour) with ease. Despite the slight derogatory stance of the description the sauce is delicious. (Recipe from Jamie's Dinners)

Char-grilled Pork Leg with Asparagus linked with Bain's Way Merlot 2008. (Recipe from Jamie's Kitchen).

Pan-Roasted Salmon with Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Anchovy-Rosemary Sauce with Gosling Creek Verdelho 2008 (Recipe from Cook with Jamie: My Guide to Making You a Better Cook)

Pasta Peperonata with Castillo de Tafalla Rosado 2009. (Recipe from Jamie's Dinners)

Incredible Roasted Shoulder of Lamb with Smashed Veg and Greens with Parrot Valley Red Blend 2009 (recipe from Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life)

Cheese and Onion Salad with Creamy Herb Dressing with Mistral Chardonnay 2008. Billed as a starter but a 'double' portion served as a late evening meal when served with a few slices of toasted French bread. The photo is a stylised shot of the salad; although in this form it could be served as hors d'oeuvres. Now, if you don't over-do the crumbled Roquefort, for it is strongly flavoured and would over power most wines, this un-wooded Chardonnay from Chile made for a rather satisfying combination. (Recipe from Jamie at Home)

Crispy Prawn Tempura with Ribbon Salad matched with Kimbao Sauvignon Blanc 2009. Good ol' SB; versatile in food matching. While the tempura is on the 'to try' list the first bottle was opened to accompany little filo pastry parcels stuffed with leek, caramelised onions and cheese; details on Spittoon Extra. A jolly decent match indeed.

Rhubarb and Custard Kinda Soufflé with Las Moras Late Harvest Viognier 2006 Not convinced this is sweet enough for a dessert, high acidity halts any cloying sensation; nice apricot flavours. Wouldn't automatically think of viognier though. Alcohol 12%. Sampled with a sorta trifle - layers of stewed rhubarb, crumbled ginger biscuits, custard, whipped double cream topping - the match was just 'OK'. Maybe the soufflé proper would work better. Thinking a pâté would be more suitable... or indeed the Roquefort left over from the salad! (Recipe from Jamie at Home)

The mixed case of 12 wines - some (the more expensive I imagine) are just single bottles, the others are doubled up - comes in at £70..

Slow Roasted Lamb with Cockburn's Late Bottled Port

a glass of cockburns lbv port

One of the oddest pairings I've sampled recently - roast lamb and late bottled port.

The lamb was cooked at a very low temperature for neigh-on 18 hours. This certainly results in a deeply juicy joint of meat so it was a fine choice indeed to accompany with a cannelloni bean mash laced with water cress and fresh spinach.

The next sentence is going to be contrary. The match - lamb and Cockburn's Port - was surprisingly lovely and beautifully paired only it was too rich and decadent! I loved it but drinking more than a glass or two could became a little too overwhelming for some. All down to the ports 20% alcohol.

The recipe was designed by chef Steve Bulmer as an Easter Day special. Even I know that roasting a leg of lamb for 18 hours isn't a standard way of preparing a Sunday roast but if you can't do something really special for Easter...

"This Easter, impress your guests with an extra special slow-cooked lamb dish matched with a glass of rich Cockburn's Late Bottled Vintage 2004. The recipe for this tender, 18 hour slow-cooked lamb was created by Steve Bulmer, head chef at Brook Hall Cookery School and inspired by the UK's favourite port.

This melt-in-the-mouth lamb is satisfyingly rich, and virtually cooks itself, making it the perfect dish for Easter Sunday lunch. Pairing it with Cockburn's Late Bottled Vintage 2004, a full and fruity port, will really complement the sumptuous nature of the lamb. The port's hints of cherry and dark chocolate on the palate will further enhance the depth of the dish, whilst its complex character will leave your taste buds tingling."

Cockburn's Late Bottled Vintage 2004 is widely available, 75cl, RRP £11.22.

Cockburn's have the recipe and a video on their site (direct link to load video here) describing the cooking of this lamb dish. The recipe is below if you wish to try it out.

Continue reading "Slow Roasted Lamb with Cockburn's Late Bottled Port" »

La Cuisine for the Wine Savvy

joel robuchon and bernard magrezLa Cuisine For the Wine Savvy: A Guest Post by Douglas Blyde:

With 25 to his name, the world's most Michelin starred chef, Joël Robuchon announced a culinary collaboration with 'true friend' and fellow super savvy businessman, Bernard Magrez, Wednesday. The venue: London's installment of his 'La Cuisine' restaurant, suspended between the leafy ground floor 'Atelier' and gilt, cut glass and onyx edged penthouse bar. Checkerpot tiled, with shiny ingredients mounted on racks, it felt oddly tempting to draw parallels between the formally informal decor here and that of a Pizza Express. Alas, big, black, bulbous apple sculptures blocked the view of fellow diners - a fillet of the good, greying and greedy members of the British wine world's glitterati...

Born in 1930's Bordeaux, press pack printings qualify Magrez's determination to succeed as stemming from a ruthless stonemason father. Indeed, the charming, confident, statuesque icon was apparently forced to endure daily hikes to school bearing the sign, 'I am lazy'. According to lucid top wine scribe Robert Joseph, Magrez was awakened to the world of commerce aged 25 whilst taking a bus road-trip around the US, being 'struck by supermarkets'. Back in Bordeaux, he purchased a small Port wine importer, channelling his energies into turning it into the vehicle for a best-selling whisky and budget, branded Bordeaux - an operation eventually bought by 'Castel' seven-years ago.

Whilst still fascinated by quantity, this collector of vineyards continues to harbour the ambitions of one who is 'rich and restless' (Peter Hellman). However, Magrez's focus now concerns solely top quality beverages, resulting in an enviable portfolio comprising Chateaux, Pape Clément, Tour Canet and Fombrauge (allegedly St. Émilion's largest) as well as plantings in Iberia, South America and North Africa.

Before being instructed to take root in a surprisingly warm chair at a long table today named after Magrez's estate, 'Les Grands Chênes' (winner of an '05 competition of 'Bordeaux versus California') smiling and occasionally winking staff plied guests with thickly chipped, joyously fatty slithers of Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. Aided by sticky '07 white Fombrauge (Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Sauvignon Gris) the ruddy, soft, salty meat provided epic culinary foreplay.

The soundtrack of piped whistling mercifully dimmed and everyone's cod liver oil lubed joints folded into place, it was time for lunch proper, prepped by chefs whose full names were embroidered on red-piped black tunics. Under starters orders, a creative statement 'par' Robuchon made a luxurious statement. Initially resembling a tin of boot polish, when its lid was clasped, as a mini closh, free, the 'en surprise' was tense oscietra caviar pressed over sweet crabmeat.

Substantial curls of pink foie gras with truffle discs on firm, but absorbent truffle marinated potato landed next, followed by moist, plancha cooked sea bass with baby leeks, poignantly fresh ginger and bright spiced honey. This trio of dishes were partnered with '05 Pape Clément Blanc (Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, Muscadelle). Powerful, oak bevelled, and despite an illusion of nectarine-like sweetness, dry, with a feint lag of tannin, this struck me as the finest Pessac-Léognan I've ever slurped. It worked best with the smooth bass, but least against the ascerbic dressing of the truffled dish. Frustratingly, its dramatic price tag of over £100+ per bottle is exacerbated by the diminutive quantity in which it is made.

magrezAfter hearing an engaging sizzling from the open plan kitchen, I delightedly fed on the milk fed result - two fragile looking lamb cutlets. Their cosy, greeting, fatty aromas mingled with a dried posy of fresh thyme and a gooey, roasted garlic bulb. A glorious plop of Robuchon's dare I say infamous, gluttonous, adhesive, mash potato was possessed by butter (against any doctor's advice, I begged seconds). Being soft, with silky tannins (the profile of many of Magrez's wines, beloved by critic, Robert Parker jnr.) the '00 magnum of Pape Clément (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot) enveloped the mashed pat, retaining acidity through to the end. Perhaps this was 2010's most seductive gastronomic combination, so far?

Surprisingly, the riper '03 (from an Impériale, equivalent to eight standard bottles) played out well with a fine, 'Haliborange' vitamin perfumed dessert featuring orange cream and sheerly cocoa rich Araguani chocolate. Adorned with a little flower, and brightly coloured, it was sufficiently inviting aesthetically and decadently perfumed to utterly ruin my Lent promise to avoid chocolate.

Magrez mentioned that with 35 estates, he could satisfy the most demanding of customers. 'As long as we listen to what they say, we won't get it wrong'.

Despite awful, over-stewed tea, and a slightly silly use of attractive but inedible garnishes such as coloured sandy grains to accentuate the pudding, Robuchon's meal had been as delicious as it was meticulous without being desperately filling, with dishes conversing well with Magrez's outwardly modern, but inwardly classic wines.

The duo will continue to 'celebrate their friendship' through food and wine synergy over all Robuchon's restaurants, which currently span eight cities worldwide. From where I sat, their mantra of kudos through quality and quantity seems believable.

Liefmans Fruit Beer

liefmans fruit beerA rich chocolate dessert is required. What I should have done is pick up a selection of top quality chocolate from the deli, plucked a half dozen free-range eggs from Highlands Farm and replenished the tin with local flour for the pastry. But I couldn't be arsed.

Instead a Seriously Chocolatey Waitrose Tarte au Chocolat landed in the hand-held basket. A sad sign of living alone but at least I can eat half the tarte in one sitting without being tutted at. And another slice the following morning as the sausages are frying!

Via twitter (another refuge for the company-craving single?) dark chocolate was recommended as an accompaniment to this new Liefmans Fruit Beer. The combination of rich chocolate tarte and the sweet, deeply fruit beer worked nicely. Not quite a perfect match as the complexity of the beer was slightly nullified by the food and the layers of fruit flavours - cherry, raspberry, strawberry - diminished into one sweet, juicy whole. Its a highly drinkable little brew coming in with 4.2% alcohol. The fizz adding to the freshness.

Sweeter than I was expecting, initiating thoughts of a grown-up alcopop, and not at all beery (malty/hoppy). Liefmans Fruit Beer is matured for 18 months on cherries then flavoured with cherry, raspberry, bilberry, elderberry and strawberry according to the rear label although the website lists juniper rather than elderberry). Sugar and Sweetener are also added but it comes in at just 99 calories in the 25cl bottle.

About to be filmed for another series of Come Dine With Me? A Chocolate Tart served with a little bottle of Liefmans Fruit Beer would make a fine dessert. Not that I watch Come Dine With Me at all you understand; that is reserved for the truly sad and lonely...

Liefmans Fruit will be available from all Waitrose stores from March 1st at £1.60 per 25cl bottle.

Liefmans' Fruit is a new introduction to the Liefmans range. It is based on older brother Liefmans Cuvée Brut (formerly Liefmans Kriek), a famous brown beer brewed just once a year and left to mature for 18 months on fresh, whole cherries. The new beer is then blended with fresh, natural fruit juices of strawberry, raspberry, cherry, elderberry and bilberry, before being crown-capped. The result is Liefmans Fruit, a highly refreshing fruit beer that is delightfully sweet, with the sparkle of Champagne and the freshness of a nicely chilled glass of wine.

A Wine For Macaroni and Cheese

macaroni cheese

My Macaroni and Cheese recipe calls for cooked pasta, doused in cheese sauce, topped with a mix of fried pancetta cubes, breadcrumbs, Parmesan and parsley, then baked for twenty minutes. On removal top with a little sprinkling of parsley and grated lemon zest.

Not a dish I'd make that often, the diet ain't that great, but lapping up a tasty rich dish once in a while can't hurt (can it?). It's all part of the challenge put out some time ago by The Cheese Lover to find the ultimate Macaroni and Cheese recipe. A local dimension earns extra points but sadly a really local cheese was next to impossible to find; the wine though was local...

A new-to-me vineyard and wine - Oakengrove Vineyard Dry White 2006. It's an Oxfordshire based winery although the basic website is short on specifics mentioning that they are "a small family run vineyard nestled in the beautiful Chiltern Hills of South Oxfordshire".

Only this one wine is available at present (local Waitrose stores stock it) although plantings of Pinot Noir are coming on stream for a rosé wine to be released in the summer of 2010.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Oakengrove Vineyard Dry White, 2006, Oxfordshire, England.

Stockist: Local Waitrose stores Price: £8.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

Fresh and crisp are the initial impressions; the peachy-honeyed edge comes though first followed by a more apple and pear like flavour. Very 'English' if you follow. A little expensive for what it is (but then are not all English wines a touch pricey?). Dry with a light, stony texture. Lemons with a hint of honeysuckle. A blend of Bacchus, Madeleine Angevine, Reichensteiner and Seyval Blanc coming in with a lowish alcohol level of 11.5%.

And with the macaroni cheese? Selected for its high acidity (you get high acidity in wine from cool climate regions; how could England be anything else but cool!) to cut through the richness of the cream and cheese the Oakengrove worked beautifully. Not 'complimentary'; more a delicious palate cleanser leaving you wanting more of both the wine and the food. The lemon edge to the wine linking with the lemon zest topping to the macaroni.

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

Also opened for a comparison and contrasting flavour combination was a Spanish red -

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Vega Escal, 2005, Priorat, Spain

Price: £9.99 available from Waitrose [More on Adegga / Snooth]I adore the texture of this thumping great red; all dusty gravel spread with a deep blackfruits and vanilla flavour profile. There is an overlay of melted dark chocolate wrapped up in a red berry dipped silken cloak. It just so happens to be made with my favourite red grape combination - Carignan (60%), Grenache (30%) and Syrah (10%). Robustly structured. Alcohol 14.5%.

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

For a highly drinkable, highly enjoyed wine the red wins. It wasn't however my favourite match with the food. The red turned softer and hugely drinkable when combined with the food; the white however was the palate cleanser leaving the mouth crying out for replenishment.

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Jamie's Seasonal Picks from Naked Wines

Jamie's winter wine picks

The first 'proper' mixed case of wines, linked in with Jamie Oliver recipes, arrived from Naked Wines shortly before Christmas. As I hoped for after receiving the initial launch case the box contains eight recipe cards and a folder to keep them in.

Ranging from Jool's Favourite Beef Stew through to Meatballs and Pasta each recipe is lifted from an existing Jamie Oliver book - sadly no original recipes (at least in this batch). Each recipe is linked to one of the wines in the mix, a couple of which I've tried since the case arrived:

Jool's Favourite Beef Stew* matched with La Croix du Chêne, Costières de Nîmes, 2007 [Adegga / Snooth]
With an aversion to parsnips (evil little blighters that they are) the Scribblers version of this hearty stew also lacked fresh sage. Waitrose let me down on that score! But after two hours in the oven, considerably less time than the stated 3-4 hours cooking, the dish emerged in all its bubbling glory. Cold weather needs such substantial dishes and the wine, in typical Naked Wines soft, drinkable-ness went fine with it. It didn't really 'shine' though. Would a lack of sage really make much of a difference or is the wine simply 'ok' rather than a value-packed stunner I was hoping for?

English Onion Soup with Sage and Cheddar*** with Nomada Rustica Sauvignon Blanc

Oysters With Chilli, Ginger and Rice Wine**** with Arabella Viognier 2009 [Adegga / Snooth]

Scrummy Warm Rocket Salad**** matched with Raats Parrot Valley Chenin Blanc, 2009, Stellenbosch, South Africa [Adgga / Snooth]
A very versatile food wine; not sampled with this pinenut/bacon/rocket based salad but was near perfect with roast pork complete with excellent crackling (if I say so myself, a triumph) and a homemade apple sauce served in freshly baked rolls for a boxing day lunch. The wines hint of sweetness and inherent lemon-apple-pear flavours and a streak of cleansing acidity made for a superb match. Got to try it with this salad next!

Hamilton Squash **** with Canepa Novisimo Chardonnay 2008, Chile [Adegga / Snooth]
The wine is in the fridge as I type, for this vegetarian dish is planned for tonight. "This warming veggie dish will develop lovely smoky flavours in the oven, so a lightly oaked Chardonnay will match perfectly"

Wild Mushroom and Venison Stroganoff** matched with Foley's Corner Reserve Shiraz, 2008, Australia

Spicy Pork and Chilli-Pepper Goulash** with Mistral Merlot 2008, Chile

Meatballs and Pasta** recommended with Milani Nero d'Avola Sicily 2008, Italy
Was maximum fun making the meatballs, getting your hands deep and dirty squishing the ingredients together and rolling the mix into balls is really what 'cooking' is all about. The simple tomato sauce matches nicely with the soft tartness of the wine. There's a kick of tannin and acidity to meld all the juicy, rich fruit together into a rustic-edged wine.

* Recipe from Jamie's Dinners

** Recipe From Jamie's Ministry of Food: Anyone Can Learn to Cook in 24 Hours

*** Recipe From Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life

**** Recipe from Happy Days with the Naked Chef

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Food and Wine Matching at Restaurante Vínico Galeria do Esporão


You would expect a vineyard based restaurant to provide a selection of superlative food matched perfectly with the estates wines. The Esporão Estate in Portugal doesn't disappoint. A meal highlight during the European Wine Bloggers Conference tour out to the Alentejo; Gabriella later informed me they hold a coveted Michelin Star...

The four course set menu comprised the following:

Cold Partridge Salad In Marinade matched with the delicate, rose and strawberry hinting Vinha da Defesa Rosé 2008. A 13.5% mix of Aragonês and Syrah vinificated with the "Blanc Noir" method. [Adegga / Snooth]

A delectable Dogfish Soup - they are big on soup in Portugal - with the crisp, peachy, waxy, grapefruit acidity, lightly oaked Esporão Reserve White (a blend of Antão Vaz, Arinto and Roupeiro with 14% alcohol) [Adegga / Snooth]

Loin of Wild Boar with Plum Sauce matched with the delicious Esporão Reserve Red 2007. A blend of Aragonês, Trincadeira, Cabernet Sauvignon and Alicante Bouschet with 14.5% alcohol. [Adegga / Snooth] A complex palate that cries out for a juicy meat dish such as this Wild Boar.

And for a dessert a Boiled Pear in Private Selection White Wine matched with a late harvest Semillon simply labeled as Late Harvest 2008. [Adegga / Snooth] A lovely wine offering hints of orange, peach and other fruits but nulled a little by the ice-cream served with the pear.

A charming selection of wines from an interesting, large, estate. Shame the wines do not seem to be available in the UK! Post lunch I annoyingly missed out on buying a bottle of the estates olive oil too...

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Wine and Food Matching - Notes from a Fells Tasting

Food and Wine Matching at Fells Annual Tasting

Given the synergy between wine and food it is somewhat surprising that of the dozens of trade tastings only one or two lay on food specifically for the wines available for tasting.

A prefect showcase you would have thought for the unique cuisine of South Africa to be displayed against the countries wines at the recent South African Mega Tasting. Rather than slithers of delicious indigenous game or slices of home-produced cheeses we had to slum it with an over-chilled sandwich, a bag of crisps and an apple. And a Mars Bar.

Logistics and cost I imagine are the main stumbling blocks but the attendees at the Fells Portfolio Tasting on the 22nd October put on a fine display of canapés matched specifically to a selected number of wines.

As this was the second consecutive year of offering such food and wine combinations the logistics can't be that tricky to overcome...

There was some real thought put into these matches; each dish accompanied each wine beautifully and in several instances revealed hidden depths to the wine and added greater complexity to the flavours.

While the dishes could possibly be recreated, even without specific recipes, at the very least the descriptions should give some indication of the flavours that married so well with the wines.

  • Domaine William Fèvre Chabils, 2007 (£15.99) matched with a Saffron Queenie Scallop, Roast Chorizo and Wood Fried Piquillo Pepper.

  • E Guigal Condrieu 2008 (£30) with Chinese Chinese Satay with Chili and Ginger and Black Sesame Sprinkle (apparently meant to match any from Hugel's Alsace wines; but we went to the Rhone instead!) Viognier plus Satay!

  • Murrieta's Well White Meritage 2007, Lovermore Valley, San Francisco Bay (£18.99) matched with Label Anglaise Chicken & Buttercup Cheddar Ploughmans with Perry Pickle, picturted to left (another we picked the wrong wine for; but a marvellous revelation. A disappointing wine by itself; spectacularly transformed by the food!) The wine is a blend of barrel fermented Semillon (52%) and Sauvignon (48%).

  • Guigal Cotes du Rhone Rosé with Toasted Maltbread with Double Gloucester, Carrot and Ginger Marmalade

  • Ibericos Rioja Crianza, 2006 (£9.49) matched with Cinnamon Smoked Lamb, Confit Pomme de Terre, and Roast Choke and Mustard (photo on flickr)

  • Edmeades Mendocino Zinfandel, 2006, (£17.99) with Tandorri Venison and Bombay Potato with Tomato and Juniper Chutney. A hearty beast and not just Zin either but also 7.2% Petite Sirah, 3.7% Merlot, 2.7% Syrah and 1% Grenache.

  • Chakana Reserve Malbec, Agrelo, Mendonza, 2007 (£10.49) with Roast Beef Fillet, Sweet Potato Chop, Beetroot Confit

  • Torres Moscatel Oro, NV, Penedes, Spain (£8.49) Coconut Cheesecake with Mango topping (photo on Flickr with a different wine!)

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A Wine For Fish Pie

fetch unwooded chardonnay

Chardonnay should be the wine of choice when matching with fish pie; unoaked preferably. You need something ripe and silky to accompany the creamy element; a wine also with a little herby complexity to the flavour to match the mix in the dish (in this instance parsley and dill).

The new Billingsgate Fish Market Cookbook supplied the recipe, as detailed on SpittoonExtra. Naked Wines provided the wine, a rich, unoaked Chardonnay brimming with ripe peach and nectarine flavours with that required herb component.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Amadio Wines Fetch Unwooded Chardonnay, 2008, South Australia

Stockist: Naked Wines Price: £7.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

Coupled with that New World Chardonnay richeness is a an edge of peach, pear and nuts, Good cleansing acidity keeps that creamy soft (and slightly sweet) palate in check and balanced; that forms a great little wine for fish and poultry dishes especially those in cream sauces. Alcohol 13.5%.

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

"After enjoying this wine recently with freshly caught King George Whiting from Kangaroo Island of South Australia , one of Austrlia's iconic, premium and most loved fish, served in a beer batter and lightly fried for 10 mins, accompanied by a crunchy loaf of fresh home made Italian Bread, with locally or home grown organic garden salad and roma tomatoes, finished with a dash of premium olive oil over the top. WARNING !!! This food and wine combination served amongst your friends and family will likely enusre that you are a requalr host amongst all."

The Fetch Unwooded Chardonnay was one of 15 wines Naked Wines sourced via their unique 'flash mob' auction.

"Part flash mob, part social networking and part online auction all rolled into one. It seems crazy that this hasn't been done before - it's the next best thing to visiting three dozen wineries in one night and picking products straight from the cellar."

Of the A$100,000 purchasing budget Amadio Wines, the producer received an order ammounting to A$8,050. The same auction also gave the Plunkett Fowles Ladies Who Shoot Their Lunch Chardonnay a listing at Naked Wines.

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Tio Pepe and Tapas at Iberica, Great Portland Street, London

iberica rice puddingA little odd perhaps to open a report, especially on a wine blog, of a dessert but this rice pudding was, to coin a phrase, historic.

At just £3.50 down at Iberica (195 Great Portland Street, London) it was also fantastic value. Perfectly judge crunch to the top, a judicious sprinkling of cinnamon and served just a little warm. Perfect.

The pud completed a light lunch ostensibly to sample Iberica's new Expressions Menu. The aim is to offer a mini 'desgustacion' menu of pinchos that can be "

enjoyed exclusively during lunch hours (12-3pm) Monday to Saturday, the Expressions menu highlights the cutting edge approach to tapas for which head chef Santiago Guerrero is fast becoming known in London's gastronomic circles."

The Expressions menu, served at Iberica's impressive 15 metre bar, comprises eight delicious pinchos delivered within 10 - 15 minutes of being ordered. The mix of hot and cold pinchos are presented on a single serving slate and are to be eaten from left to right. They are also served with a 100ml glass of Tio Pepe sherry. As the chef enthused the menu will change with the seasons, every month in fact, to reflect the freshest ingredients available.

Of the selection the ham croquettes were equally historic (so we ordered a further plate) with only the additional bean stew with black pudding being a little disappointing (the beans lacked a little bite and the black pudding was of miniscule proportions).

Not all the pinchos matched the Tio Pepe. The opening Cherry Gazpacho with arbequina olive oil was a particularily clashing match but the mix of ingredients - especially those difficult to match with wine - generally played well with the sherry.

The wine list offers 7 reds and 6 whites by the glass. The Adras 2004 from Bierzo, Vinos de la Tierra Castilla y Leon (£5.75 a glass/£24 a bottle) was a particularily succesful choice. A full and spicy Tempranillo with just enough structure and bite to offset the soft, rounded, berry-led palate to be a super little food wine. The Beronia Reserva 2005 from Rioja (£7/£29.75) was drier, more structured and would benefit from more meaty, hearty, dishes from the main menu.

There are four sherries available by the glass. In addition to the Tio Pepe (£4) Iberica offer a Palo Cortado Apostoles (£7), a Dry Amontillado, Del Duque (£8) and two sweet versions Matusalen, Oloroso Dulce (£8) and Noe Pedro Ximenez (£7.50). The wine list offers 2 rosés. 2 sparkling wines and 31 reds ranging from the basic Gonzlez Byass Altozano 2006 Tempranillo-Shiraz at £15.50 a bottle up to the extravagance of Arte Miro Reserva, 2001, Rioja at £92.50. Of the 13 whites the bins range in price from a Muscat/Sauvignon Blanc blend, Carla 2008, Catalunya (£18.75) up to an interesting white Grenache, Mar d'Avall, 2008, from the Costa Brava (£33).

While the Expressions menu and (another additional) plate of mixed hams were superb it is that rice pudding that really sticks in the memory; and that's from one who adores tapas. Actually those ham croquettes were also bloody fine too.

The Expressions Menu costs £16 per person and currently offers:

  • "Copita" of Tio Pepe Fino Sherry
  • Cherry Gazpacho with arbequina olive oil
  • Air cured beef cecina ham with almond vinaigrette
  • Fresh Cured Anchovies with peppers and onion 'pipirana'
  • Pan fried monkfish 'Pixin'
  • Iberica ham croquettes
  • Chorizo lollypop
  • Artichoke with pear aioli
  • Grilled Iberica Pork loin 'Presa' with mojo rojo

More photographs of Iberica are available on SpittoonExtra.

Tio Pepe Sherry at Iberica

Brewery Hill Chardonnay-Viognier from Naked Wines

Brewery Hill chardonnay-viognier with Jamie Oliver's Green Chilli

As part of their tie-up with Jamie Oliver internet retailer Naked Wines are offering a mixed case of wines (either six individual bottles or a double up for the full case) that link in with a JO recipe. (You can sign up to receive a regular seasonal case, with each wine linked to a recipe).

With the foodie-hero again in the lime-light with his American trip currently showing each Tuesday (9pm Channel 4) the recipes are taken from this TV series and the (rather good) recipe book - Jamie's America - that accompanies the programs.

Naked Wines are offering the mixed six pack for £34.99. The first two hundred cases ordered come with a free copy of Jamie's America. It's tricky tracking down the recipes from the wines (there were no notes included in the wine case which I expected) and there are no obvious links from the wines on the Naked Wines site to the recipes. You have to go to the Jamie Oliver website...

One wine-recipe combo I had a go at replicating over the weekend was the Brewery Hill Chardonnay-Viognier matched with the 'easy to cook' Green Chilli. It did strike me as a bit of a 'silly' recipe - pick as many green things as possible (sage, green chilli, mint, lettuce, spring onions) and mix them with minced pork. Tastes good mind; although a little more spice heat would have been good... and I would have peeled the tomatoes rather than ending up with bits of tom-skin in the mix.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Brewery Hill Chardonnay-Viognier, 2008, McLaren Vale, Australia.

Stockist: Naked WInes Price: £8.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

Don't overchill else the subtle peachy Viognier component will be swamped by the cool acidity. Medium to full bodied, ripe and rounded initially with a crisp acidity supplying life to the Chardonnay fruit. I rather like it - it makes for a good, easy-drinking wine and can hold onto the medley of flavours - especially the rather forceful fresh mint - in Jamie Oliver's Green Chilli rather nicely. A Naked Wines exclusive. Alcohol 13%.

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

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Bisol Prosecco and Cichetti (canapés)

The only thing I really wanted after a full days tasting at the London International Wine Fair was some food; the invite to a Bisol and canapé tasting was ideal.

Taking the Italian version of tapas, cichetti, and matching a different dish with a Prosecco from the Bisol range was the aim of the tasting at the newly opened Wine Theatre in Southwark. Not only a stylish venue and, I should add, free food and drink but a chat with the owner/chef too (who use to be the personal chef of Harrods owner Mohamed Al Fayed. Well, it impressed me!). They source their ingredients from the local markets of Borough and Smithfield and offer punters a free selection of cichetti everyday between 5:30 and 8pm. Surprisingly they find some reticence with us Brits on the take-up of the food; many expecting a hefty bill at the end I guess.

In Madrid I adore the tapas dishes - free or paid for; it is the main reason I returned there a couple of weeks back (for the tapas and seeing my old mate Roberto too of course). But this is cichetti, the Italian version, with the bubbles supplied by Bisol.

First with the 'basic' Bisol Jaio Prosecco a superb calamari brushetta

Bisol Jaio Prosecco and calamari brushetta

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Wine and Charcuterie Matching - Brief Notes from a Tasting

Wine and Charcuterie Tasting

All it needed was our 'lecturer' to lob a stick of chalk at my head and I'd be right back at school. I ended up, as I did at The Misbourne, in the back row, this time stuck between old boy Brett and cheeky-quipping Douglas. Brett found a fascination with the bread... Douglas was, well, being Douglas. I tried desperately to not indulge in their mischief...

We were here for a Circle of Wine Writers Wine and Charcuterie Tasting hosted by Fiona ( at the new Terroirs wine bar in William IV Street, London. The Charcuterie comprising a delicately flavoured Jamon de Teruel from Spain, a nicely textural Duck Rillette, Saucisson Sec from the Pyrenees and a garlic and spice Terrine Terroirs.

Rather than the 'usual suspects' to accompany charcuterie (simple rustic French wines) Fiona picked a more eclectic list of bottles to sample, each calling on the intrinsic flavours of the food (smoky, spicy, garlic). The only thing not offered was a sparkling...

Rose Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Maitres Vignerons de Saint-Tropez Rosé Carte Noire, 2008, France. Price: £9.99 Nicolas A nice opening shot - and as expected a fine match for the array of foods. Nice berry fruits and a decently long, dry, finish. A 'standard' rosé wine for such fare and I thought a superb foil to the Terrine, although others disagreed.
White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Assyrtiko Hatzidakis, 2007, Santorini, Greece. Stockist: Caves de Pyrene Waitrose Price: £9.00 Not a wine I would ever have considered, interesting but didn't really work for me lacking a bit of zip and zing. Seafood and shellfish apparently work better. The pepper edge in the saucisson was really emphasised by the wine.
White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Weingut Christmann Riesling IDIG Grosses Gewaechs, 2007, Pfalz, Germany. Stockist: Charles Taylor Price: £35 Not being a lover of Riesling - heresy I realise - I did enjoy this wine. Very young still but the way I like it; a touch of weighty sweetness, superb fruit but sadly not a wine that worked well with any of the food. Too delicate in flavour I think; but then what do the Germans eat with all their charcuterie?
White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Chapel Hill Verdelho, 2007, Australia. £9.49 in independents including Planet of the Grapes, Ongar Wines Ltd, Australian Wines Online, Rehills of Jemond, Badmington Wines A zesty citrus and nettle wine; far too forceful with the charcuterie though.
Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Lambrusco Reggiano Concerto, 2007, Emilia Romagna, Italy. Stockist: Everywine, Harrods, Booths Price: £8-£10 In terms of matching with the food this was the star. A combination of bubbles, a bitter twist to the wine and perfect acidity was great with the rillettes and the (positive) fat of the jamon.
Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Jean-Luc Matha Cuvee Lairis Marcillac, 2006, Marcillac, France Stockist: Caves de Pyrène Price: £9.99 Not convinced this rustic country wine (from the South West of France) really worked as well as others seemed to think. Remained rustic and overly tannic for me.
Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Jean Foillard Morgon, 2007, Beaujolais, France Price: around £16 a bottle from Caves de Pyrene, I believe there were a couple of markedly different bottles of this being poured; I managed to get some of the 'good' bottle. The lack of tannins and the soft fruit brought out the wonderful sweetness in the jamon particularly. For someone who never drinks Beaujolais this was a revelation; my second choice for the top match.
Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Isabel Estate Pinot Noir, 2005, New Zealand £18.55 Berry Brothers & Rudd A lovely fruit-forward Pinot that worked with the charcuterie much better than expected. Lovely spicy, sprightly palate that seemed particularly good with the duck rillette (duck plus pinot is always a good choice) and managed the garlic infused Terrine too.
White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Manzanilla La Gitana Sherry, NV, Spain. £8.49 at Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury, Majestic, Somerfield, Wine Rack, plus independents. Not a fan of Riesling nor Sherry; more howls of derision from my neighbours. Despite being a tapas favourite this wine just trampled over all the food. Far too forceful and strong. The salty component matched the salt in the jamon OK but the delicate flavour was lost. Unsurprisingly this was many peoples preferred choice.
White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: El Grifo Canari, 1997, Lanzarote, Spain. A cream sherry (or rather sherry-style wine) from Lanzarote. Far too sweet for the charcuterie but a marvellous opportunity to try such a delicious wine. There you go - sherry and delicious in the same sentence!

A learning experience; just much more enjoyable than my (detested) school days. I did miss the juvenile giggling at the cookery teachers hairy legs encased in green tights mind...

Fiona has posted her own take on the session on Matching Food and Wine.

Good With Seafood - Bodegas Fariña Malvasia, 2007, Toro, Spain

Bodegas Farina Malvasia 2007, Toro, Spain

A recurring event - a wine that ranks as 'just fine' by itself is raised in ones estimation when coupled with food. This nicely weighty white from Spain is another such example where a succesful match brings added pleasure to a meal.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Bodegas Fariña Malvasia, 2007, Toro, Spain.
Stockist: dunno [More: Adegga / Snooth]

A light simple nose - a touch of herbs, a smidge of yeast and a layer of lemon. More activity on the palate though with a gentle lemony start giving way to a sherbet, grapefruity palate and a tang of acidity. Pleasant enough and very drinkable but seldom is Malvasia ever going to knock yer socks into a cocked-hat (or something). Unoaked. Alcohol 12.5%.

Its clean, fresh crispness was a joy though with some crispy Calamari rings dunked in mayonnaise. While the squid wasn't the best - it was frozen rather than fresh and certainly not as good as the mammoth sized rings myself and Douglas devoured with passion at a local Italian last week - but the wine worked wonders. When they say 'good with seafood' this partnership is what they have in mind.

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

By way of proving that I don't just make these food and wine matches up, a picture of the very same calamari. And yes, they were cold by the time I had finished taking pictures!


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.

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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]

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Midweek Combinations - Nederburg Chardonnay Viognier

Nederburg Chardonnay Viognier 2007Midweek - too tired after a day in the office and too hot after the commute to want to do too much in the kitchen; a dive into the supermarket to grab a bottle and something to throw on to a plate without too much fuss. The wine should be cheap - lacking in energy to think too much about the alcohol we are slurping.

For me that supermarket is Waitrose. The wine is a bottle of £4.99 South African white while the eye is drawn to a tortilla from the new Delicatezze range. Specifically Edamame Bean, Artichoke and Lemon Pesto Tortilla made from free range eggs, which appeared better value than other dishes in the same range; and more substantial too. Add a salad and a meal is made.

Taking little more than 15 minutes in the oven you might need to make use of the quick-chill machine to get the white to non-shelf, drinkable temperature.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Nederburg Chardonnay-Viognier, 2007, Western Cape, South Africa.
Available from Waitrose for £4.99. [More on Adegga]
Crisp and refreshing - a touch acidic perhaps but nicely rounded with peach, melon and floral notes. The Chardonnay has seen some barrel ageing, but the whole is lifted by the lemon floweriness of the Viognier. It's fine and fine summer-garden drinking. Alcohol 13.5%. Fine with the salad-tortilla combination; you don't afterall, want anything you have to think too much about.

Scribblings Rating - 84/100 [3 out of 5]

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Château Laures Blanc, 2006, Bordeaux, France

Château Laures 2006

White WineWine Tasting Note: Château Laures Blanc, 2006, Entre-Deux-Mers, Bordeaux, France
Available from Bordeaux-Undiscovered [more] for £6.75 (normally £9.64)
The Semillon really comes though on the nose giving a lovely herby touch to the lemon-citrus that dominates. Palate is nicely rich and full with a slight spritz and good acidity balancing it all out. A honeyed touch to the lemony complexity all melds together wonderfully.

Château Laures is a 70 hectare estate owned and run for many generations by the same family. They've pulled together a typical Bordeaux blend for this bottle - 60% Semillon, 30% Sauvignon Blanc and 10% Muscadelle. Alcohol 12.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

While more than suitable for a wide range of foods - salads and fish particularly recommended - a match with a Marmade Tomato Tart worked superbly well. Based on a recipe in Rick Stein's French Odyssey this combines pesto, garlic, tomatoes and puff pastry into a lovely spring-type dish. I added a slice of ham and a little Mozarella to the topping just to make them a little more substantial.

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Food and Wine Match - Spicy Chickpea Fritters

Periquita White and Chickpea FrittersThese lovely little fritters will pretty much go with most white wines, at least those that are blessed with a crisp acidity and a medium-to-full body. I selected the Periquita White for the simple reason that it is currently reduced to a bargain £3.99 at Waitrose.

White WineWine Tasting Note: Periquita White, 2007, Setabul, Portugal.
Currently on offer at Waitrose for £3.99.

Even at the normal price of £4.99 it's a fine little blend of Arinto and Moscatel from the Setubal Peninsula, south of Lisbon. The Arinto gives the crispness and freshness, while the Moscatel lends a lovely aromatic component plus a level of spiciness to the flavour that proved to match so well with the fritters.

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

The fritter recipe comes from the regular food-blog event, Waiter There's Something In My..., that I co-host over on SpittoonExtra with this particular round, 'Pulses', selected and hosted by Cooksister. As a regular host I do try and make some of the dishes submitted to each round. The varied creations from across the globe never ceases to amaze. The Spicy Chickpea Fritters came from Australian blogger Kazari at I Think I Have A Recipe For That. The mix of caraway, cumin and coriander also complimented the wine; the yoghurt sauce is a must too!

Sparkling Shiraz and Food

Bundaleer ShirazIt was all the rage a couple of years ago for sparkling red wines to be served with Christmas dinner; no idea if you were allowed to drink them at any other time mind!

The delightful Joanne of Henley Fine Wines popped over the other week, brandishing, as his her want, a couple of bottles of wine - one of which was a sparkling red. The NV Bundaleer Shiraz is one of the prize offering that her small company imports direct.

I really wanted to do this wine justice with its food accompaniment and scoured another new addition - Rick Stein's French Odyssey - for something that would benefit from the bubbles and the red fruit flavours. Step forward Sautéed Lambs Kidneys on Toasted Brioche with Sauvignon Blanc, Mustard and Tarragon!

Champagne/Sparkling WineBundaleer Sparkling Shiraz, NV, Southern Flinders Ranges, South Australia
Available from Henley Fine Wines [more] for £8.50 More on: Adegga / Snooth
While there is a touch of sweetness it just makes this blackberry flavoured wonder all the more drinkable. Nicely balanced with plenty of classy fizz and good balance. Medium bodied. Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Sautéed Lambs Kidneys on Toasted Brioche with Sauvignon Blanc, Mustard and Tarragon.
Adapted from Rick Stein's French Odyssey [ £13]
For one
4 sliced lambs kidneys with white cores removed
Knob of unsalted butter
Large glug of Sauvignon Blanc
¼ tablespoon Dijon mustard
Fresh tarragon
Double cream
2 thick slices of brioche toasted

Melt some butter and fry the kidneys over a high heat for about 2 minutes on each side until lightly browned but still pink in the middle. Remove and keep warm. De-glaze the pan with the wine and reduce. Add the mustard, any free-run juices from the kidneys, chopped tarragon and cream and boil until a nice sauce consistency is reached. Season.

Top the brioche with the kidneys and spoon over the sauce. Garnish with tarragon.

The dish is very rich - all that glorious cream I guess - with the wines bubbles cutting through, leaving the palate refreshed (and hankering for more!). The sweetness of the brioche and the wine matched nicely; I was enjoying the combination so much I failed to notice the tannins. In fact I failed to notice much else until the bottle ran dry!

A dish for Howard Park Sauvignon Blanc

Pasta with Broad beans and Howard Park Sauvignon BlancThis is adapted from a Giorgio Locatelli recipe from the May 2008 issue of Delicious Magazine. The original is rather convoluted and excessive in its use of saucepans! Apart from time the most onerous part is podding the beans. As you can see from the photo I used Gnocchi pasta, Locatelli suggests fresh Pappardelle - which, curse my luck, was unobtainable in my little market town when I needed some! It worked fine with the smaller, standard, pasta.

Extremely Spring-like in its use of fresh broad beans and rocket it also proved a superb match for the 'green' flavours inherent in the Howard Park Sauvignon.

White WineWine Tasting Note: Howard Park Sauvignon Blanc, 2007, Western Australia
Soon to be available from Bibendum for £11 per bottle
The punch on the palate perfectly replaces what it lacks in colour; it is rather pale and lemon-juice in colour. The green, grassy, herby, mouth-wateringly juicy fruit is from the portion of grapes sourced from the Pemberton region of Western Australia. For the citrus characteristics and the weighty feel say thanks to the 50% from the Margaret River. Very focused. Very crunchy and fresh. Alcohol 12.5%.

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

A wine for Pasta with Broad Beans and Rocket

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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]

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A Wine For Ouefs Hollique

hollick_spk_merlot.jpg I admit to cheating for this one. The recipe, a breakfast type dish of smoked salmon served on a toasted muffin with a poached egg, fresh spinach and hollandaise sauce, was sent to me by the good folks at Hollick, Australia. The dish, apparently a favourite of Ian Hollick, they recommend serving with Hollick Sparkling Merlot.

Many an Aussie Sparkling Shiraz has passed my lips, but a sparkling Merlot? This may just be a first.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Hollick Sparkling Merlot, 2004, Coonawarra, Australia.
Available from Independents including Andrew Chapman Fine Wines for £13.99 & Australian Wines Online £14.20.

The aroma from this lovely wine leaps from the glass - pure blackberry fruit. The fizz, hardly noticeable in the glass, really explodes in the mouth giving a fine, frothy, sensation. A fresh palate followed by a mellow finish. A good, long, length and a lick of tannin evident but generally soft, fruity and hugely drinkable. Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

The problem with eggs, when matching with wine, is their mouth-coating qualities. What a sparkling wine does well is clean the palate and counter this effect. The thought that the salmon might be better replaced with a slice of black pudding might have worked better; as it is though it is a good, interesting, combination.

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Combinations #15 : A Wine For Ouefs Hollique

Amongst the sauce recipes submitted for the Waiter There's Something In My... over on SpittoonExtra were several advocating Hollandaise Sauce; a good link me thinks for a recipe/wine matching exercise.

Ouefs Hollique


Muffin - halved
Fresh baby spinach
quality smoked salmon
poached free range egg
Hollandaise Sauce

Simply layer the spinach on to a toasted muffin followed by a slice or two of smoked salmon. Carefully place a freshly poached egg or two on top and complete with a dollop of Hollandaise.

Eggs are never that easy to match - the mouth-coating texture can play havoc with a wine. It might be a touch tricky to find a top-notch wine match this time.

A Wine For Pasta with Walnut Sauce

Food and Wine Matching - a wine for Pasta with Walnut SauceI've sampled this wine before - same vintage - way back in December 2005. Time has not been that gracious; just hope the wine hasn't been sitting on the shelf for the year and a half. My preferred choice to accompany this dish would have been something pale and interesting from Italy but the Italian white wine section in Threshers was dismal. [see previous post]

White WineWine Tasting Note: Espiral Old Vine Macabeo Chardonnay, 2004, Somontano, Spain.
Threshers £5.99.
The flavour - lightly oaked, it has a distinctive waxy-edged flavour, due no-doubt to the extended age. Plenty of citrus and old pineapple flavours with a nutty dimension. There's a dry, almost tannic finish. Forceful acidity.

I'm being, perhaps, a touch harsh. The wine is certainly distinctive, refreshingly unusual and a food wine rather than for sipping on a warm summers afternoon. Alcohol 13%. The label depicts the old bush vines "from the cool climate of Somontano in the Pyreenees foothills."
Scribblings Rating - 82/100 [2.75 out of 5]

The pasta sauce was a rather richer affair than I anticipated, but exceedingly tasty despite a certain Mr May's derision! The wines acidity balanced the richness and the nutty edge became more noticeable; a good match overall.

The original recipe suggested the use of green fettuccine but, as can be seen in the photo, a substitute of Fettuccine all'uovo was brought into play.

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Combinations 14: A Wine For Pasta with Walnut Sauce

Combinations: Food and Wine matching ideasAn Italian slant I feel is in order for the next round of Combinations. This recipe is taken from a recipe book that I have had for years but do not recall ever cooking from - Antonio Carluccio's Passion for Pasta

The idea behind Combinations is to create the dish from the recipe and report on a wine match to accompany the dish. This dish requires the use of Fettuccine, a wider version of Tagliatelle, but a green/verdi version; of which, despite forays into a deli and Waitrose I have failed to find.

Fettuccine Verdi with Walnut Sauce serves 4.
  • 1 tablespoon fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 150g shelled walnuts or hazelnuts
  • 1 small clove garlic
  • 50g freshly grated Pecorino cheese
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon chopped Marjoram
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons strianed Greek yoghurt
  • 450g fresh green fettuccine
  • freshly ground black pepper
Soak breadcrumbs in water for 10 minutes, then squeeze them dry. Remove skins from the nuts by immersing them in hot water then rubbing. Dry on paper towels. Place in mortar with breadcrumbs, garlic, the Pecorino, salt and Marjoram.

Pound with a pestle to a fine texture. Slowly add the oilve oil, stirring constantly. Stir in the yoghurt to make a smooth sauce.

Cook the pasta for 5-7 minutes. Drain and toss the pasta with the sauce.

Not a terribly tricky dish to find a decent match for I would have thought - nuts, cheese a little herby edge... what can you suggest?

A Wine for Garlic Prawns

A wine for garlic prawnsThe recipe ended with a suggestion for Viognier as the perfect match. Indeed Francesca went this route and found a delicious match with a bottle of Jewel Viognier (see comments).

Alex at Eating Leeds went all sparkling on us with a bottle of Domenico de Bertiol Prosecco. Great with the prawns themselves but a very bad clash with the salad.

It's a fresh, light, citrussy wine with some residual sweetness and it went really well with the prawns - the citrus cutting through the richness of the butter and prawns, the sweetness mixing well with the fish sauce and lemon. A very happy match."

Something a little different for me too - a white Côtes du Rhône. I can't claim any great thought went on the choice; more a question of 'a white in the fridge lets use that'.

White WineWine Tasting Note: Jaboulet Côtes du Rhône Parallèle 45, 2006, Rhône, France.

Available for £7.99 from Surf4Wine [more]

A waxy, herby aroma very distinctive and unusual flavour. Quite full but dry with good length of flavour. The herby element picked up the coriander in the recipe but, rather than the wine being a complimentary match, the contrast was marked.

This is not to say it was a bad combination, rather that the flavours were contrasting and brought out subtle complexities in both. The wines quite substantial acidity cut through the garlic-buttery sauce beautifully. Served with noodles the dish could have benefited with a little peppering up with a dash of chili, as Francesca explained in her comment.

Parallèle 45 refers to the 45th latitude, half-way between the Equator and North Pole which runs through the vineyard. Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100

Combinations 13: A Wine For Garlic Buttered Prawns

Combinations: Food and Wine matching ideasA test both of wine-to-food matching and a recipe from a new recipe book. The Global Grub cookbook has 9 recipes aimed at the novice. Also good, I surmise, for a quick and easy mid-week dish.

As can be read in the Foodie List review the cook book makes it easy to both purchase the ingredients (a shopping list of requirements is supplied) as well as giving minute by minute instructions on cooking each dish. The shopping list suggests a wine or some other drink for each dish; for this recipe 'Sizzling Garlic-Buttered Prawns' they mention a Viognier. I wonder...

Garlic-Buttered Prawns hardly requires a recipe being basically uncooked tiger prawns tossed in a little butter with a little flavouring...

Sizzling Garlic-Buttered Prawns
Heat a 'large slurp' of olive oil in a frying pan or wok over a medium heat. Add about 1/4 block of butter. Add tiger prawns to the pan. Keep them moving.

Add a teaspoon of Thai fish sauce and some black pepper. Add 2 large chopped garlic cloves and the juice of 1/2 a lemon. Add 3/4 packet of fresh coriander, chopped. When prawns cooked serve over a fresh salad, topped with the remaining coriander and some crusty bread. I might serve with noodles, 'cause I like noodles.

A wine for Melon, Pecorino and Culatello Anti-Pasti

Val de Rayas FariñaI'm feeling particularly smug - the wine I picked for matching with this antipasti turns out to be a damn brilliant match.

I was after something a 'little different' to match this mix of sweet juicy melon, salty Iberian meat and firm Pecornio cheese, the twelth edition of Combinations. A Prosecco was initially top of the list until this half bottle of Vino Dulce came my way while in Spain last week.

Dessert WineWine Tasting Note: Fariña Val de Reyes, 2004, Castilla y León, Spain.
No idea of UK stockists. Decanter Wines list wines from Fariña, this bottle is not one of them.

Lemons all the way on the palate mixed with a little orange peel and a dash of sherbet. Val de Reyes is a mix of Moscatel and Albino according to the back label, with an alcohol level of 13%. It is just a lowly Vino de Tierra.

It just matched so deliciously with the food. The mix of flavours from the salty ham (I used Palata Ibérico from Spain), the fine Pecorino, the freshly plucked basil, the heat from the chili countered by the sweetest melon were all handled, tamed and emphasised by the wine. Just a superb match.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

In total contrast to my sweet wine selection Eating Leeds, a few weeks ago, selected a 'lightly chilled bottle of Brown Brothers 2005 Tarrango' as their choice of wine to match the food. An interesting choice and one that I would never have considered.

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Combinations 12: A wine for Melon, Pecorino and Culatello Anti-Pasti

Combinations: Food and Wine matching ideasThe flavours in this anti-pasti dish attract but leave me perplexed in what wine to serve; an ideal choice of food then for the next Combinations food and wine matching exercise.

The recipe for Melon, Pecorino and Culatello Antipasti with balsamic vinegar and chilli dressing appears on page 139 of the May 2007 issue of Delicious. Culatello, the focus of the magazines preceding article, is a select air-dried ham. I am sure other 'lesser' quality air-dried meats can be used as a replacement.

Finding a wine to compliment the mix of sweet melon, salty cheese and the ham plus some heat from the chilli dressing, is going to be tricky...

Melon, Pecorino and Culatello Antipasti with Balsamic Vinegar and Chilli Dressing.

Serves 4 as a starter (or 2 as a mains I suspect)
Per person take 4 wedges of melon (cantaloup, galia or honeydew) and pile 3 slices of culatello on top. Scatter with a few very finely sliced pieces of Pecorino and 6 small fresh basil leaves.

The dressing is a red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped, mixed with 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and seasoning. This is drizzled over the dish.

Combinations 11 - A Wine For Garlic Soup

Domaine du Tariquet RoseThere are two possible versions of this post. The first relays in graphic detail the making of the soup and how the blender top flew off half way through operating - one burnt hand, one garlic-infused jumper, one very splattered counter-top... The other version calls on the wine twitterers for wine matching suggestions.

I'll go with the second version.

Since Eating Leeds first put out the challenge for a wine to accompany garlic soup I have had several wine suggestions whirling around in my head - a Chardonnay, a Viognier or perhaps a full Pinot Gris.

The wine twitters (see the sidebar) suggested a Southern Rhone or a Priorat blend. An Italian white - Pigato, Vermentino, Arneis, Garganega, and interestingly a Prosecco.

Did I go with any of these ideas? Did I 'ell!

Rose WineWine Tasting Note: Domaine du Tariquet Rosé, 2006, VdP des Cotes de Gascogne, France.

Available from Everywine for £6.65 bottle min purchase 12 bottles. Also listed by Museum Wines [more].

A beautiful colour - grenadine has been suggested but it is the mirror of an old rose just outside my front door. The aroma is light and fresh - the suggestive rose image brings hints of flower petals. The palate has a hint of spritz, a nice medium weight and a good, long fruity finish with an edge of raspberries and a soft tannic finish.

It stood up very well to the powerful garlic soup. The acidity leaving the palate refreshed with the raspberry flavours amply able to force there way through the garlic.

A blend of Merlot, Syrah and Tannat. Alcohol 11.5%. Screw-capped with a great label design.

Scribblings Rating - 90/100

The wine is made by the Grassa family. Maïté Dubuc-Grassa and her brother Yves Grassa make wine from 900 hectares (2224 acres) of vines, making them the largest independent vineyard in France. They produce 7 million bottles of wine.

The Famille Grassa signature style relies on the winemaker capturing the first aromas of the grape, a process which involves meticulous care at every stage. Using state-of-the-art technology and facilities (Tariquet owns the largest pressing room in Europe), Yves Grassa has created a fine, unique and fruity style of wine that bears the Tariquet signature and corresponds perfectly to the taste of todays consumer."

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A Wine For Crispy Lemon Chicken

Alex over at Eating Leeds selected a rather tasty sounding New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc to accompany the food for this round of Combinations. It is round ten of the food and wine matching exercise; the food this month being an Oriental style Crispy Lemon Chicken.

Toyed with several possibilities - an off-dry Chenin (to match the vegetable element and counter the sweetness in the sauce) from South Africa or perhaps using the weight of an Alsace Pinot Gris, again often with a little sweetness - but settled on something sparkling. With a Champagne off the list due to budget constraints I plumped for a New World Sparkling.

Balbi Sparkling

Champagne/Sparkling WineWine Tasting Note: Balbi Sparkling Brut, NV, Mendoza, Argentina.
Available from Oddbins for £6.99.
Bubbles, green apples, a creamy touch - a note of mushrooms, a little pear but distinctly underwhelming on its own. Fine as an party aperitif but was hoping for a little more definition and excitement from Argentina. Made from a mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes. Alcohol 13%.
Scribblings Rating - 82/100

With the food it was rather submerged by the sweet lemon dipping sauce. Unlike Alex, who made her, I made-do with a packet of Blue Dragon. Which was rather too sweet for the wine; the whole dish in fact left the Balbi as little more than a palate cleanser and for that it worked well. I had hoped, the wine being from the New World, would have had a little residual sugar to counter the sweetness of the sauce, it didn't but met the lemon flavours head-on and even developed a little needed vegetal complexity when tried with the Pak Choi. Not a total disaster by any means but not that elusive 'perfect' match.

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Combinations 10: Pak Choi with Crispy Lemon Chicken

Something simple for this months little food and wine matching exercise - Pak Choi with Crispy Lemon Chicken.

I am sure it is not difficult to rustle up a lemon sauce but this recipe, lifted from the March 2007 issue of Fresh magazine, uses 2 packets of Blue Dragon Lemon Sauce. I am sure it is fine... But the soda water is something you cannot substitute, as I have heard several times this week - both on a TV cookery program and direct from a chef.

It is also Chinese New Year so this steamed pak choi and lemon chicken recipe seemed apt. The difficulty with a wine selection will be with the sauce - how sweet is it? And will the wine clash or marry with the flavours of the pak choi?

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A Wine For Paprika and Chorizo Baked Eggs

Dorio Primitivo Aglianico The Combinations challenge is a little exercise to match a wine with a specific dish. This month it is with a Baked Egg dish; eggs being a particularly tricky ingredient for a wine to cope with. A yolk of an egg has the effect of coating the mouth but with this dish, dominated by the rich, spicy tomato sauce, the effect was diminished. The footnote for the recipe suggested 'a light, smooth Pinot Noir' but I felt the spices would overpower something too light. The choice of wine was also dictated by the forthcoming Great Grape Day on Wine Sediments; Zinfandel/Primitivo.

Red WineWine Tasting Note:Dorio Primitivo Del Salento, 2001, Salento, Italy.
Listed by Oddbins for £6.99.

Intense in colour and restrained in that typical Italian way on the nose - although hints of leather and a floral, light note came through. Superbly delicious on the palate. An array of complex flavours - orange, chocolate, spice and so much more. A sweetness of fruit, a depth and juiciness that bowled us over. Excellent.

The distinctive nose is down to the 15% Aglianico included with the Primitivo. Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100

The wine stood up well to the spice-laced dish. The palate-ruining qualities of the eggs were washed away with by the acidity and, while perhaps the hot chili deadened the complexity of flavours just a touch, it worked rather well.

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Combinations 9: Paprika and Chorizo Baked Eggs

For the next wine and food matching exercise an ingredient that is a little tricky to match successfully - eggs.

The mouth-coating properties of egg yolks are what cause the problem. Breakfast-style dishes that involve eggs are often delicious with a sparkling wine or champagne, but here, with the addition of spices, tomatoes and chorizo sausage such a match is not a guaranteed success.

The recipe below is taken from the February issue of Delicious magazine. Another reason for selecting this particular dish is the large quantity of Choirzo I have; not all of it will be used in the Waiter There Is Something In My... Stew event.

Paprika and Choirzo Baked Eggs (serves 4)

  • 1 tbsp Olive Oil

  • 100g chorizo sausage skinned, roughly chopped

  • 100g thick cut Serrano ham, roughly chopped

  • 1 red pepper deseeded and diced

  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves crushed

  • 2 medium-hot green chillies deseeded and finely chopped

  • 1 tsp cumin

  • 2 tsp hot paprika

  • 1x400g cans chopped tomatoes

  • 1/2 tsp Tabasco

  • 1 tbsp chopped Oregano

  • 150ml vegetable or chicken stock

  • 8 medium eggs

  • 100g cheddar, grated (optional)

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Combinations A Wine To Match A Lamb Stew

I have to agree with Alex on the recipe - what exactly is the point of adding Cranberry Sauce to the gravy? Served separately the flavour of the cranberries shone against the succulence of the lamb but when dissolved into the sauce it became lost.

With no tinned green lentils on the shelf at Waitrose, and I'm buggered if I am going to simmer raw one for hours on end, I substituted Puy Lentils. Despite my loathing of parsnips I did indeed put one in the pot and actually had a couple of bites too. Still the devils vegetable though!

The dish was lovely; the lamb juicy and deliciously tasty and, while I should have reduced the gravy a little to aide its concentration, it went marvellously with the soft red I selected.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Bodegas Ribera de Pelazas Abadengo, 2003, Vinos de La Tierra Arribes del Duero, Spain.
Available from Oddbins for £7.49.
Juan Garcia, obscure, packed with potential for bigger league stuff - especially with juicy, smooth wines like these blazing the trail. Plenty of fruit, wrapped up in an oaky whole. Touches of spiced blackberries and red currants. Alcohol is quite high at 14.5% and noticeable when sipping as the stew bubbled away. But the palate feel is immensely attractive - soft and juicy before a gentle cascade into that fruit medley and a tannic burst into a long blackcurrant finish.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

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Combinations 8 - Wine With Lamb Stew

Combinations Food and Wine Matching ChallengeWith the wind howling through the trees outside my window, dumping great piles of soggy if gloriously coloured leaves on the doorstep, thoughts of deeply warming food invade. For this months Combinations little wine and food matching challenge, a slow cooked stew seems apt.

The recipe, below, is taken from the November issue of Delicious - lamb shoulder marinaded in garlic and rosemary, cooked for a couple of hours until the succulent meat falls from the bone and served with a gravy spiked with redcurrant sauce. A red wine is the immediate, perhaps obvious, wine choice; something mellow but rich...

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A Wine for Wagamama's Chilli Beef Ramen - Combinations #7

Coincidentally just a couple of days after selecting this dish as the basis for Combinations #7 the opportunity arose to eat at Wagamama; of course I selected this dish to see how it is supposed to be. At the time I ordered a large glass of white to accompany - an Australian off-dry blend of Gewürztraminer and Riesling which went beautifully. Full-bodied, powerful of flavour and the sweetness a superb match to the dish. Sadly I forget the producer, but it was probably an on-trade only bottling anyway.

Back home I hoped this Viognier from Australia would make another brilliant match. It didn't - quite. While the body and the vibrant flavours were of a type to balance out the fiery chilli in the food and match the teriyaki and sweet chilli the wine's inherent dryness let the side down; but only just.

White WineDuncan MacGillivray Beau Sea Viognier, 2005, Adelaide Hills, Australia.
Available from Oddbins for £9.99.
A gorgoues Australian take on Viognier. Lime is the basis but there is so much more - tropical fruits and more than a dollop of fresh, crisp apple flavours. It has had a touch of oak but this just adds a touch of creamy complexity rather than denuding the wine of fruit. A single vineyard wine which is listed on the Oddbins website as Longview Viognier. The grapes were sourced from Longview's vineyard at Macclesfield in the Adelaide Hills. Screw-capped. Alcohol 14%.

It is a lovely wine, perfectly balanced and just right with the dish, rather than a perfect match (a touch more sweetness required).
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

MacGillivray Viognier

Combinations #7 - Wine with Chilli Beef Ramen

I thought a little Oriental influence would be interesting for this round of Combinations. The dish (recipe below) combines plenty of flavours - teriyaki sauce, chilli, lime, chicken stock, coriander and steak; which could be tricky in selecting a decent wine match. Gewürztraminer is so often quoted as being the wine to accompany Oriental foods. Not sure it would work here, especially a dry version - but what else to try? Over to you.

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Food and Wine Matching - more on Combinations #6

The more thought I have given to the latest wine/food matching challenge – a wine to accompany an early autumnal dish of roast pigeon with a grape and walnut sauce – the more I think that a Pinot Gris would be a great match, as an alternative to the oaked Chardonnay I did select.

Generally the weight and slight sweetness evident in Alsace Pinot Gris’ are incredibly food friendly. Their full bodied nature is something I adore. A Pinot Blanc would also have been suitable.

Eating Leeds led the way in experimenting by trying a red wine (Balgownie Pinot Noir 2004, Yarra Valley, Australia); this would have been my initial choice if I hadn’t read the post prior to selecting my wine. The thought process is obvious – game = red wine. Even the few references I read suggested treating Pigeon as Pheasant. Now my little birds came from a quality Butcher (Gabriel Machin in Henley) and have had some ‘hang-time’. Even so the flavour was distinctly lighter than pheasant. The sauce is an important factor in selecting a good match hence something ‘sweeter’ or at least with a little weight and high alcohol that can give the sensation of sweetness.

Benito, not being fortunate enough for supplies of pigeon to reach Memphis used a chicken and selected a rosé - Château Marouïne Côtes de Provence Rosé, 2005, Provence, France - an interesting choice but being dry not my first choice. Benito concludes it as being a little too light for the dish; but a good wine all the same.

Wine With Roast Partridge - Combinations #6

Following EatingLeeds experiments with matching the dish (Roast Partridge with Grapes and Walnuts from Sophie Grigson’s Country Kitchen) with a red wine that didn't quite work, a white was selected for the Combinations dinner at the cottage last night. A red would have been my first choice, seeing as it's game an' all, but partridge turns out to be a relatively light meat more suited to a white wine. The slight sweetness to the sauce (Madeira with grapes and walnuts) points towards a fuller, richer wine while the slight smokiness imparted by the bacon (organic smoked streaky) would be flattered with an edge of oak influence. While oaky New World Chardonnay's are not my first choice for drinking in this case the match was superb.

Wine Tasting Note:Calera Chardonnay, 2000, Central Coast, California.
Currently on offer at Waitrose down £3 to £7.99.
Indeed there is a oak influence to the wine evident on both the nose and the palate but it is tempered with a mass of rich, ripe tropical fruit. Creamy, rounded, a touch of nuttiness and of peaches. The wine has a little bottle age to its benefit too. Alcohol 14%.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100

[As the wine is not listed online I am assuming it is a parcel brought by Waitrose for their current promotion.]


Combinations 6: Wine for Roast Partridge with Grapes and Walnuts.

The food and wine matching exercise reaches round 6. To recap the recipes featured on Combinations have been:
  1. An Austrian Dessert
  2. Baked Mackerel with Rhubarb Sauce
  3. Flatbreads with Spiced Chicken, Pistachios and Green Peppers hosted by Eating Leeds
  4. Fresh Herbs hosted by Beau of Basic Juice
  5. Southern Style Lamb Chicken hosted by Benito

For this round, as we slip into Autumn, something seasonal: Roast Partridge with Grapes and Walnuts. This is From Sophie Grigson’s Country Kitchen. I am hoping that some form of game bird are available locally where you live, any could be substituted if partridge cannot be found, and at a pinch I guess chicken could be used although the intensity of flavour will not match that of a ‘proper’ game bird.

Matching Game with Wine

Serving feathered game (partridge, quail, pigeon, grouse, guinea fowl, pheasant) is a great excuse for opening the best possible wines. Older vintages from Burgundy, Bordeaux and Rioja are superb accompaniments while the richer, fruitier wines from the New World should appeal to fans of the styles too. Depending on how strong you make the sauce you could also consider something spicy from the Rhône or, by taking the grapes and the walnuts as the starting point, a good white wine might be an option – a top Italian white to bring out the nut flavours perhaps or an Alsace Pinot Gris or Pinot Blanc with enough weight, (maybe even a touch of sweetness to match the grapes), to balance the richness of the meat. As the advert says – the possibilities are endless. .

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An Australian Shiraz and Lamb - Combinations 5.

The food was delicious. Not that I expected otherwise but the choicest slabs of finely marbled lamb, grilled until the outer edge was deeply crispy, with a mint infused honey and mustard sauce spooned over was mouthwateringly good... Sadly the wine didn't quiet match.

Combinations: Southern Dish Ingredients

Benito selected the recipe for this months Combinations; a truly Southern-inspired dish with mint-infused bourbon forming the basis of the sauce. Expecting some sweetness to the dish the wine I hoped would have a corresponding edge of sweet berry fruit to match. But in this particular bottle the tannins were too forceful, the wine as a whole a little too dry. I may have over done the Dijon in the sauce slightly but this flavour jarred slightly with the wine too.

Wine Tasting Note: Ravenswood Lane Off The Leash Red Max, 2005, Adelaide Hills, Australia.
Oddbins £9.99
The splash of Viognier in this amounts to just 6%, the remainder is Shiraz. Peppery, berry fruit with a dry, tannin-led finish. Flavours of raspberry and cherry snuggle around the palate. Medium bodied. Alcohol 14.5%. Without the sauce the wine was a great match with the lamb; to match the dish a little more richness, a touch of sweeter fruit and a softer palate would have helped.
Scribblings Rating - 84/100

Combinations #5: Combinations Goes South

We move to Memphis, Tennessee for some real Southern cooking for the fifth round of Combinations. Benito, our host this month, has selected a superb sounding dish imparting the real flavours of his home city - Grilled Mint Julep Lamb Chops with Slow Cooked Green Beans. The lamb is coated in a mint-infused bourbon before cooking while the beans (French green beans) are cooked with a ham hock (or a substitute as Benito details).

While this dish shouldn't cause too many problems with a wine match, which is the idea behind Combinations, you might want to move beyond the usual Bordeaux red match (a classic with lamb) to take into account those Bourbon flavours...

If you are planning to join in, entries should be posted on your blog by the 24th.

Combinations: Prawns and Fresh Herb Dip

Araldica Madonnia Gavi
There is nothing more vibrant than fresh mint; coupled with a little parsley, a little olive oil, lemon juice and zest and a splash of white vinegar it adds so much piquance to a simple dish that you would think it took hours to prepare. Summer personified. Beau is hosting this months little Combinations wine and food matching event. He has selected, not another snazzy shirt, but a bunch of herbs as the basis of this months pick-your-own recipe.

Is there anywhere in the northern hemisphere that is not bloody hot at the moment? It is humid in South Oxfordshire, barbecues are out, the wine is flowing freely to mellow the heat-frayed nerves, and, at Scribblings Towers, the prawns are skewered and thrown on the griddle pan, 'cause we don't have a barbecue. Combining a handful of mint and fresh parsley (plus olive oil, lemon juice and zest and a balancing slug of white wine vinegar) as a dip for a few prawns is about as summery as you can get - fresh, vibrant and punchy. It needs a wine to match. The Gavi, selected as the sauce was inspired by Carluccio's Italian Crayfish in A Green Sauce (from the August issue of Olive), was as crisp and lemony as you could wish. Coupled with a mineral finish and crisp acidity you would have thought it would have countered the oil, lemon and wine vinegar in the dip, but it lacked body and ended as little more than a foil for the food. Not a bad thing if you are coming from the food angle but for a wino a little disappointing.

Wine Tasting Note: Araldica Madonnina Gavi, 2005, Gavi, Italy.
Waitrose £6.99.
Cortesse is the grape in Gavi, and to me is always slightly overpriced and under flavoured. This is nice enough - mineraly, citrus and lemony and certianly clean flavoured but lacks a little weight and depth. A celebrated 'fish' wine is Gavi, perhaps the punchy herb flavours were too much for this slightly bland rendition.
Scribblings Rating - 82/100

What is it with Italian white wines? Why are they so unexciting?More photographs on Flickr.

Prawns and Herb Dip

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Combinations 4: Combos Goes Green

Basic Juice is hosting round 4 of Combinations. This is a simple event taking a specified recipe, replicating it, and finding a matching wine. Beau has twisted it slightly by offering a list of herbs, asks that three are used in a recipe. and then find a wine to accompany. This 'twisted' Combinations offers about as wide a field as you could hope for in terms of both the food and the accompanying wine. Should you go a Sauvignon Blanc route to pick out the herbs? Or maybe you fancy a Loire red with a herb crusted leg of lamb? Maybe cream is involved, in which case an unoaked Chardonnay or a Pinot Blanc might fit the bill. The possibilities are many. Entries should be completed by the 30th July.

Combinations 3: Flatbreads with Spiced Chicken, Pistachios and Roasted Peppers.

Begun as a little exercise between myself and Beau at Basic Juice, Combinations, was designed to generate interesting content for our respective blogs. Not that Beau has joined in yet as he has been too busy slumming it around Austria (looking for fancy shirts no doubt). But it is great that a couple of other bloggers have joined in with the wine and food matching challenge - especially given the reluctance of most food bloggers to venture into the world of wine and food pairings.

This month Eating Leeds has selected a very American recipe that includes za'atar, sumac and Aleppo pepper - none of which I could find locally! Improvisation required. A hasty attempt at blending a thyme heavy za'atar (sesame seeds, thyme, oregano) mashed with salt and olive oil before mixing with the chicken and other ingredients. Eating Leeds suggested the addition of chili powder in place of the cayenne for a little spiciness to an otherwise under-flavoured mix. The mix is slathered on a tortilla before baking and sampling with the wine...

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Combinations #3: The wine and food challenge.

The Combinations baton passes to Eating Leeds this month - they have selected Flatbreads with Spiced Chicken, Pistachios and Roasted Peppers as the dish for which we have to find a suitable wine to accompany. Full cooking instructions are supplied... but what to pick as a wine? Do we go for a red to counter the spice or a white to pick up the nutty flavour from the pistachios? Something neutral just to wash it all down or a something packed with flavour to bring out more complex flavours?

Combinations: Matching an Austrian Dessert with Wine.

It would seem I had a little more success with the semolina dumplings than Eating Leeds. Mine held up well, still a little lumpy perhaps, but fabulously tasty. The recipe is Griseknödel mit Grünen Paradeisern (Semolina Dumplings with Green Tomato Compôte), the idea of Combinations is to match a wine with the dish.

The trouble I had in finding the green tomatoes was, in the end, worth the expense and hassle. To be honest I was nervous in including them in the dish but they supplied a glorious depth and spiciness to the compôte but still managed to stay in balance with the apple and citrus flavours. The tartness and the fresh flavours of the fruit (I used raspberries in the end), the sour cream and the nuts, all worked so well together both in layers of flavour and in textures. I was well chuffed.

Oremus and the dumplings

To accompany a reasonably priced Austrian sticky proved elusive; instead I plumped for a Hungarian Tokaji (they are after-all neighbouring). The wine is too young, with the acidity still a little unintegrated. The Botrytis edge though matched well with the deep, complex flavours of the compote and the sweetness level matched beautifully.

Wine Tasting Note: Oremus Tokaji Late Harvest, 2002, Tokaji, Hungary.
Around £10 half bottle.
A wonderful deep golden colour and a great nose too. Deep and quite intense with that distinctive botrytis edge melding into a citrus, honeyed whole. The palate is similar with the honey flavours bursting through on the finish. Only the slightly aggressive acidity - which runs like a Samurai blade through the palate from start to finish - just a little too harsh at the moment. With the food though you hardly notice. The apparent level of sweetness drops with the food too. Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

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Combinations 2: Wine to accompany an Austrian dessert.

Beau, the fancy shirted chap behind Basic Juice, is off to Austria; and by heck don't he want everyone to know about it! Discovering an oldish book that covers Austrian wine and the countries cuisine a fun continuation of his Austrian-theme, I concluded, would make an interesting point for Combinations 2.

The recipe, detailed below, is for a dessert that interestingly utilises green tomatoes (just hope I can find some here in the UK). So no apfelstrudel for us, nothing so easy, instead Griseknödel mit Grünen Paradeisern (Semolina Dumplings with Green Tomato Compôte). Austria has a superb reputation for its sweet wines; Beau has sampled some recently and an Austrian tasting I went to last year yielded a few; but perhaps there are other wines, from other countries, that you would prefer?

Entries should be in by the 24th of the month. Background to Combinations can be read here.

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Combinations: Matching Baked Mackerel With Wine.

Defying its simplicity, the recipe for Baked Mackerel served with a Rhubarb sauce or compote, produces a delicious main course. Rhubarb is now in season, mackerel plentiful and cheap (at least here in the UK) coupled with the use of home grown cider in the sauce and served with the first crop of Jersey Royal potatoes the combination is local and seasonal.

In retrospect it was probably not the best choice of dish to kick off Combinations - my little idea to examine food and wine matching. I didn't consider that sourcing the ingredients would be next to impossible in San Francisco or Ohio. Fine in Edinburgh and Henley but not elsewhere. Benito substituted trout for the mackerel and picked a Chardonnay-Sauvignon-Semillon blend as the wine accompaniment. "It matched well with the fish--the forward fruit and balanced acidity provided a counter to the sometimes fatty fish, and yet it complemented the sweet rhubarb sauce going along."

After the initial announcement I tried the dish with a Greek white. An unusual grape variety, a lowly price and a hand scrawled shelf-barker proclaiming, as they so often do, as 'great with fish'. It wasn't. Last night, re-trying the recipe with a different wine choice was much more successful; a Sauvignon Blanc but from Australia rather than my usual choice of New Zealand.

Rhubarb and Mackerel

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Combinations 1: Wine to Accompany Mackerel.

For the opening round of Combinations the Wine and Food Matching Challenge I have selected a recipe that appeared in last weekends Times - Baked Mackerel with Rhubarb Sauce. Hopefully those who rise to the challenge of finding a wine to accompany will have no problems in locating fresh Mackerel and Rhubarb.

The recipe is detailed below and is also viewable online at the Times website. In selecting a wine for this dish consider that mackerel is quite an oily fish while the sauce is, in comparison, quite sharp. The deadline for entries is the 24th of the month. See a previous post for the full background to the challenge.

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Wine and Food Matching: Combinations.

Food and wine matching - taken to ridiculous levels of intricacy by some, ignored by the majority. As I have just written on Wine Sediments to me it is an integral part of a true gastronome but I can't recall many food bloggers posts that offer suggestions for their creations.

You may start with the wine and select a dish to accompany or take the other route and begin with the food and select a wine that emphasises a certain aspect of the flavour or enhances the dishes regionality. Alternatively you could just bung any old crap in a glass from that 'bottle with a nice label' and hope it works. It probably won't.

A new blog-event is called for, one where a dish be it nibbles, starter, mains or dessert, from the humblest late night snack to dinner party signature dishes, is replicated and a wine selected to accompany.

Why was that particular style/grape/region selected? Was the wine or the food enhanced in any way? Or did the wine totally over-power the delicate flavours? These are the questions that will need answering in each participants post with the overall aim being to assist those whose wine knowledge is limited to making informed decisions on matching food and wine.

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