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Food and Wine Matching Videos

Wanna giggle at various MW's looking rather uncomfortable in front of a camera while eating and drinking? It's a nice little video extoling the virtues of ConoSur wines and matching them with food through the four seasons. Nice to see the inclusion of prices and UK stockists...

You'll see the same people involved in the second video; this covers the judging in this years What Food, What Wine? competition.

The third video has someone called Leslie Sbrocco in a short piece concerning texture in pairing food and wine.

Domaine Roux Pere et Fils Meursault Vieilles Vignes, 2009, Burgundy, France

Domaine Roux Pere et Fils Meursault Vieilles Vignes 2009

Five Days/Five Wines: Sunday 9th July

In the great scheme of things Waitrose being out of stock of fresh Tarragon is just a minor, trivial, insignificant, unimportant inconvenience. Shame the chap waiting alongside me for the 'weekender lad' to return from a warehouse forage for said Tarragon didn't realise this. The lad returned empty handed. Swearing, stomping, moaning to anything that would listen. I heard him bellowing to his wife from the other end of the store a good ten minutes later. All that anger over tarragon. Embarrassing. No wonder I generally dislike people. I wonder what his wife is like...

It might not be quite the same but I sprinkle dried tarragon in the Sunday one-pot chicken dish. Midsomer Murders is running in the background - "oh look that's Wallingford town hall..." "oh, isn't that the road into Ewelme..." "They've used the pub in Warborough... again" - Chicken thighs, browned shallots, garlic, wine and chicken stock, tarragon and bay leaf... later, just prior to serving and pressing play on the blu-ray player, Rodda's Crème Fraîche is stirred through the sauce.

As for the wine, something special is called for seeing as it's a Sunday. A Meursault.

A wine, retailing for twenty five quid is one that even a non-wine expert mentioned as being something a little special. Texturally interesting (tumbling fresh water gravel), herbed edges, decent length, pear and apple skins, weighty. Finesse. A lovely drop to accompany the Chicken.

My local Waitrose has been out of Vegimite for at least three weeks; now THAT is something to get steamed up about!

Domaine Roux Pere et Fils Meursault Vieilles Vignes, 2009, Burgundy, France [Adegga / Snooth] is another wine to be in the Bibendum Summer Sale. Normally £27.08 it will be reduced to £18.05 from the 19th July through to the 1st August.

Freixenet Cordon Oro Semi Seco NV

Freixenet Cordon Oro Semi Seco

Five Days/Five Wines: Saturday 9th July
Siva and Phil pop round for a coffee; forewarned I picked up three Butterscotch Pecan Yum Yum's from Waitrose (99p each if you were wondering). Phil arrives just after 2. Siva ten minutes later but hovers outside, phone in one-hand, cigarette in the other. He tits around by ringing the door-bell incessantly. Phil pokes him through the letter box with a garden cane - oh, the larks we have. We are still chatting, bitching, moaning, laughing as I crack open a bottle of white at 6. Siva doesn't drink and with a two hour journey to endure announces its time to depart - having ignored his wife's 'where are you' calls for the last half hour. He eventually gets in his car at 7.

One of our 'crap TV evenings' (is there any other?) await. A Chinese takeaway is ordered. Why is it only Pizza places deliver and not Indian restaurants or Chinese? It is hardly an ordeal mind as The Beijing Diner is only five walk minutes away, but still...

The Californian white was destined for the Sunday Chicken dish (A recipe from the August issue of Delicious Chicken with White Wine, Shallots and Tarragon), so the dregs are returned to the fridge and, with an inspirational flourish a sample of Freixenet Cordon Oro Semi Seco Cava is extracted from the salad tray.

This is a new Cava just launched for the Summer, created in "an easy-to-drink style with fruity apple, pear and citrus notes, it is wonderful as an aperitif, or the perfect smooth accompaniment to dessert and cheese". We can also report that it was rather decent with plates stacked with Peppered Ribs, Spring Rolls, Chicken Balls with Tibetan Curry Sauce and Egg Fried Rice. Plus Prawn Crackers.

Freixenet Cordon Oro Semi Seco NV traditional method sparkling [Adegga / Snooth] is available from Waitrose and the Co-Op for £9.49.

Spy Valley Pinot Noir Rosé 2010

Spy Valley Pinot Noir Rosé

Five Days/Five Wines: Friday 8th July
All I can manage this evening is a Bingham's Ready Meal. It's been a heck of a week, a hell of a day; so that even a Sipsmith/Fever Tree Gin and Tonic fails to raise the spirits. Slumping in front of Channel 4 news again I forget what time I had put the rice in the boiling water...

The posh 'ready meal' is a frim favourite - Charlie Bigham's Indonesian Chicken Satay (Currently 20% off at £4.79). I even seem to have picked a box with a more generous portion of red pepper this time. A bottle of Spy Valley Pinot Noir Rosé 2010, Marlborough, New Zealand [Adegga / Snooth] has spent 20 minutes in the freeze box. I'm lost in thoughts of visiting South Sudan - a new country, impoverished, wild - wondering if they have an international airport? a hotel even? How easy would it be to tour...

Rice drained, its perfect. The wine is distinctly salmon coloured, fresh, strawberry and plum flavours and slightly off-dry or is it just full and deliciously fruity... Too tired to worry and anyway enjoying it immensely with the Bigham's Satay. Another glass and these old bones and creaking muscles begin to relax, which will be down to the 14% alcohol I guess. Jamie Oliver seems overly intense as he turns ice into snow for some 30 minute dessert or other... I dip into twitter and discover bigpinots is a dad for the second time. In a clichéd manner I raise another glass of this rosé...

The Spy Valley Pinot Noir Rosé is also to be reduced during the Bibendum Summer Sale. Get 35% off was £11.83 down to £7.71 from the 19th July to the 1st August.

And talking of New Zealand I see Robert Giorgione has released his first book - An Epicurean Odyssey - A Road Trip Around New Zealand where a portion of the book sales will be donated towards the New Zealand Earthquake Appeal Fund.

Ceretto Blange Arneis 2010, Piedmont, Italy

pancetta peas and pasta

Five Days/Five Wines: Thursday 7th July
Lightly fried pancetta, warmed through petit pois, a few spoonful's of Rodda's Crème Fraîche turned through a plate of pasta plus a topping of chopped window-box chives - Friday evening dinner joined by twitter on the Xoom and John Snow on the telly engaged in the News of the World closure both over-shadowing a bottle of white wine. With such astounding news the wine is not taking centre stage.

It's a Thursday night, Channel 4 News moves on to the last flight of the Shuttle, mine back to the pasta dish; quick and simple preparation, flavour engaging, filling and satisfying. Just the thing. The wine loses the fight for attention with the shuttle; the hefty spritz puts me off. Some might say it lifts the palate giving freshness, a zing. The alcohol is just 12.5%. The lemon meringue flavours are pleasant and works superbly with the pasta. On a Thursday night alongside unbelievable news with a sprinkling of spacey-stuff that is all you need.

The Ceretto Blange Arneis 2010, Piedmont, Italy [Adegga / Snooth] is to be available from Bibendum in their Summer Sale with a price of £10.88 down from (I have to say an expensive) £17.01. The Bibendum Sale is to run between the 19th July and the 1st August 2011. Over 250 wines will be included with discounts up to 50%.

Seven Springs Sauvignon Blanc

seven springs sauvingon blanc 2010

I've received two bottles. Plus a stream of links to glowing reports on various blogs and websites. If Seven Springs in the UK have got one thing right it is their immersion into the social-networks. Not that I play on facebook but I assume the twitter activity is replicated there too.

Their first Sauvignon Blanc release, the Seven Springs Sauvignon Blanc 2010, [Adegga / Snooth] arrived in the UK in mid-November but was only released from customs/dealt with by the London City bond last week. A couple of early birds managed to pick up the first bottles from Warwick wine merchant Underwoods last week. My samples have been resting on the sample shelf for most of this week... I opened one just a couple of hours ago.

Very pale in colour, crisp and limey on the nose with a fresh and crisp palate. Light, appley and grassy with a nice bitter lettuce twist on the finish. Fresh and lively, enhanced by a little spritz. Length is a little short. Alcohol 13.5%.

A typical wine tasting note for a South African Sauvignon Blanc. What is more interesting, and what really brings wine alive though, is the background...


Passionate about wine, I had long dreamt about owning my own vineyard, this is story of my dream becoming a reality.

For a number of years our family holidays had been taken in Europe and South Africa where my enthusiasm for great wine and knowledge of complexities of production grew. In 1993 I had the opportunity to visit the London International Wine & Spirits Fair and I was truly hooked.

In 1994 I worked for six months in South Africa and although back in the UK was lucky enough to make contact with two of South Africa's leading winemakers, Beyers Truter from Beyerskloof in Stellenbosch and Danie de Wet from De Wetshof Estate in Robertson.

In 2005, during a return visit to South Africa to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary, my wife, Vaughan, and I explored the possibility of buying a small wine farm or some land which could be brought into production as vineyard.

During the trip we looked at land near Stellenbosch with a local agent but due to the cost of the land felt my dream would stay just that, a dream. However during our visit we travelled through much of the Cape winelands and drove on to Hermanus where we visited Hamilton Russell Vineyards and Bouchard Finlayson in the picturesque Hemel en Aarde (Heaven on Earth) Valley. It was at this point that Vaughan said "if we are going to buy anywhere, this area would be the perfect place". The challenge was now to find suitable land in this truly beautiful valley, where top class wines were being produced, but land would be extremely hard to come by.

Returning to the UK and my job as Managing Director of my cleaning company, Goldcrest Cleaning Ltd, I set about using the internet to search for any suitable land in the area. To my absolute amazement, in December 2005, I discovered some land for sale 10 minutes drive down the valley from the Sumaridge Winery. After contacting the sellers, father and son farmers, Brian and James Davison, and receiving several reports on the suitability of the soil for wine grape production, Vaughan and I decided to travel back to the Cape in January 2006.

During the visit we made the decision to buy a portion of the land available (called Vrede which in Afrikaans means Peace) and purchased 12 hectares of north and south facing land, suitable for the production of red and white grape varieties. Much viticultural advice was sought regarding the choice of planting and eventually we settled on Pinot Noir and Syrah for the red varieties and Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc for the whites.

July 2007 saw our first 2 hectares of Syrah planted on north facing slopes and 1.87 hectares of Chardonnay on the south facing slopes. Later in that year 1.9 hectares of mature Blue Gum (Eucalyptus) trees on the edge of the land were grubbed up to make way for planting Sauvignon Blanc grapes, although time is required for the soil to recover and improved for optimum vine growing.

During July and early August of 2008 we planted 3.41 hectares of Pinot Noir on north facing slopes (the reason for not planting Pinot Noir in 2007 was that KWV, our rootstock supplier, did not have suitable clones of the variety in stock. These had to be ordered and then grafted onto the correct rootstock for planting in 2008). The very best virus free rootstock has been used in all plantings.

2008 also saw the planting of 200 Frantoio olive trees, from the Morgenster olive farm, around the perimeter of the vineyard area to allow future production of a single variety olive oil.

2009 saw the planted vines mature with a view to a test harvest in 2010. The final parcel of land will be planted with Sauvignon Blanc in 2010 and our first true harvest will be in February and March of 2011 with launch into the market likely later that year. Over time our vineyard will produce in the region of 50-60,000 bottles and bringing it to market will no doubt be our biggest challenge. It was in the latter part of this year that we established our branding with Marcel de Quervain. Marcel was responsible for creating the branding for the iconic Innocent range of products in the UK.

January of 2010 saw the appointment of Riana van der Merwe as our winemaker. 25 year old Riana comes highly recommended to us by our friend Guillaume Nell, winemaker at Backsberg. Our first harvest started on Thursday the 11th of February with the picking of our Chardonnay grapes, the quality looks excellent. Our Sauvignon Blanc (from grapes grown by Peter, our vineyard manager, on his family vineyard next to ours, will be picked in the last week of February and our Syrah 2 weeks later. We will produce approximately 9,000 bottles from our first harvest as we are limiting grape quantity and concentrating on quality fruit. This will also allow our young vines to develop fully. Riana will make Seven Springs first vintage at the award winning Iona Vineyards in Elgin. Our website ( was launched on the 16th February 2010 as was the Seven Springs Vineyard Facebook site and the 7SpringsWine Twitter.

Our first grapes, Sauvignon Blanc, were hand picked on the 22nd of February 2010 followed by the Chardonnay a week later and our Syrah in early March. All of our vines were harvested at optimum fruit ripeness and the grapes were then fermented in stainless steel tanks. Our Sauvignon Blanc remained in the tank whilst our Chardonnay and Syrah were transferred to French oak barrels. We have used second and third fill barriques to gently 'marry' with our wine, allowing our fruit to express itself with the oak providing a supporting role. The style we are looking for with our Chardonnay and Syrah is ultimately one of delicate balance between fruit and oak.

Sauvignon Blanc has now been planted in a 1 hectare site on the highest, and coolest, point of our south facing slopes. The vines were planted in June 2010 below the watchful eye and slopes of Shaws Mountain

Our Sauvignon Blanc from the 2010 vintage was bottled on the 6th of August (4,400 bottles) and then labelled on the 11th of October. The wine will be sold in South Africa and the UK and will be in the UK during the latter half of November. South African sales will commence 25th of October. Our Chardonnay and Syrah are snug in their French oak barrels with the Chardonnay being bottled early 2011 and the Syrah later in the year.

Our winemaker Riana is spending the 2010 harvest (September to the end of November) in Oregon, USA, at Adelsheim Vineyard. This will give Riana great exposure to some of the best Pinot Noirs produced in the USA, helping her to understand the complexities of this variety. Our first small production of Pinot Noir could now be as early as 2011 as our young vines seem to be of an excellent quality.

Tim Pearson

Anticipatng that Pinot Noir? I know I am. Meanwhile I'm currently enjoying a couple of glasses of the Sauvignon while nibbling on a few toasted Goats Cheese and Walnut toasts and thinking that the second bottle might just be reserved for a little baked trout...

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.

Tsantali Organic Cabernet Sauvignon 2005

tsantali organic cabernet sauvignon 2005

That portion of Greece, Khalkidhiki I believe, looks like some deformed crustacean. Not sure it should grace a wine label but there it is, thrusting it stylised pincers across a bottle of Tsantali Organic Cabernet Sauvignon.

The grapes - organically grown Cabernet Sauvignon - come from this region, and from one of the larger producers in Greece, Tsantali. There website incidentally shows a different label; something not quite so muted, colourful almost,. Perhaps as this wine is from the 2005 vintage they have made some changes since.

But as I am so often reminded its the stuff in the bottle that counts. (But then I brought it simply because it DOES have a three pincered crab on the label, and for the fact it is on offer at Waitrose at the moment).

With a need for something to accompany a plate of Beef Stroganoff (yeh, I know kinda retro but damn quick to cook) using the superlative Pipers Farm Entrecote Steak I was hoping this Cabernet would have a touch of rusticity and power to match the food. I weren't wrong as it happens.

Braced by a decent structure the flavours of blackfruits and blueberries ride high; a great punchy little Cabernet from an unusual source, for Greek wines, despite the efforts of many, are not at the fore-front of the wine-drinkers thoughts.

This bottle would also be a great sample for any Cabernet Day tastings you might be attending. Cabernet Day, September 2nd, is being organised by the Napa based St. Supery Winery. I've had one invite to a tasting meal at Bute Rotissere in London, but I just can't make it... this would have been perfect...

Use the #Cabernet hash tag when posting on Facebook, Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter, blogs and all the other sites you hang out on. Search the hash tag on social sites to see what other wine drinkers are saying. You'll be able to connect and chat with other Cab drinkers around the world. Cabernet Franc and Cabernet dominated blends are welcome!

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Tsantali Organic Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005, Halkidiki, Greece

Price: £8.75 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Smack my black fruits! Roll them in gravel. Smack my black fruits; sieve 'em with raspberries.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Orovela Cuvée Chandrebi, 2007, Georgia

orovela cuvee chandrebi mtsvane rkatsiteli 2007 white wineThis match really didn't work and I'm not too sure why. Pairing this Georgian white with a Mediterranean Haloumi Salad - onions, tomato, olives, grilled red peppers, basil and fried haloumi cheese - you would have thought would have partnered well with a crisp, dry white. But no.

Perhaps the saltiness of the cheese was the main culprit or the raw red onion clashed with the slight tart finish to the wine. Or more likely I just wasn't paying attention; the summer sun and those sultry days of a few weeks back (remember them?) can do that.

Now Rkatsiteli as a grape I am familiar with (much planted in Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and of course the Ukraine) but Mtsvane? According to the Georgian Wine Society, who supplied this wine, Mtsvane means "new, young, green" (referring to the unusual colour of the fruit when ripe), is often blended with Rkatsiteli adding a fruity, aromatic balance. Here the Mtsvane dominates, comprising 85% of the blend. (Either way its another addition to the Wine Century Club list of tasted varieties)

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Orovela Cuvée Chandrebi, 2007, Georgia.

Stockist: Georgian Wine Society Price: £12.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Deeply coloured, dry with an acidic bite on the finish but balanced by the weighty palate and honey-dipped tropical fruit flavours. An engaging aroma. Rather nice actually, let down a touch by the price.

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

Continue reading "Orovela Cuvée Chandrebi, 2007, Georgia" »

Diemersfontein Pinotage 2009

Diemersfontein Pinotage 2009

Now liver is one of those dividing dishes - you either love it or can't abide the stuff. Me? I'm firmly in the lover category. One of my favourite food/wine matches is 'Venetian Style' Liver served with Sauvignon Blanc; I'll have to blog about it one day.

But this is a red wine, another dividing food stuff though in being made from Pinotage, but a different style of Pinotage, the original 'coffee and chocolate' pinotage. An experiment which began 9 years ago to discover a style of Pinotage that would appeal to younger drinkers has created a unique style, the launch of which each year involves a vineyard party. Gone are the rustic edges, the off-putting rusty/rubber dimension (not that all Pinotage arrives with these characteristics of course) and in comes a toasted coffee and chocolate led palate, all down to toasting the oak in which the wine is aged apparently. There is a ripeness, a soft drinkability, a depth of sumptuousness that doesn't really overpower the pinotage-ness of it all.

I can't say I really picked up on any overly powerful coffee-style flavours being more entranced by the smokey, dark fruits and pepper notes. It's young so expect more pruney edges to develop with age. It also went superbly with my liver dish!

Last year, while in South Africa, I was lucky enough to pick up a recipe collection by famed South African chef Reuben Riffel (Reuben Cooks, which I don't think is available outside South Africa). Each dish comes with a wine recommendation and it just so happens the Pan-Fried Liver with Colcannon and Brown-Onion and Marsala Gravy was paired with Diemersfontein Pinotage! Result!

For those no-liver indulgers (bet you hate Marmite too!) the wine would be equally good with steak, game, and as Fiona Beckett suggests Moroccan spiced quail. For me though its the liver...

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Diemersfontein Pinotage, 2009, Wellington, South Africa

[More on Adegga / Snooth]
Jack the Ripper: Robbie Coltrane largeness, blooded fruits, dragon scales(?), broken carriage wheels, but overly smooth and lusting as Johnny Depp, sans Absinthe. No Opium.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Continue reading "Diemersfontein Pinotage 2009" »

Wine For Curry 2 : Lamb Chaaps and Spanish Rose

marques calatrava rose 08A further play with matching an Indian dish with wine. These are lamb chaaps, lamb marinaded in various spices and yoghurt and then barbecued or in my case cooked on a griddle pan. The interesting edge though, adding much to something relatively simple, is the sprinkling of rose water on the lamb after cooking.

Rather nicely utilising more of the, overly expensive, rose water purchased for a fruit smoothie the flavours added such an exotic edge that it threw me for a while for which wine to serve with them. A red wine for lamb chops would be the obvious choice but the strident flavours rose water threw this out thinking a clash would result with anything too tannic (Bordeaux or Rhone red would be the first bottles I'd reach for normally) and felt anything new world would be too overpowering.

A panic in the isles of Waitrose?!

Step round the corner to the rosé shelves, whispered that shoulder lounging devil.

The recipe is again taken from Miss Masala by Mallika Basu but involves little more than puréeing various spices (garlic, root ginger, cinnamon stick, a red chilli, nutmeg, coriander and pepper) and mixing with Greek yoghurt, slathering this over the lamb chops and leaving them for a couple of hours. (Thanks to the PR people for KitchenAid for sending me a blender the other day, the puréeing would have taken a while otherwise...)

And the wine choice? A bottle of Marques de Calatrava Tempranillo Rosado 2008, complete with 'man-styled' label and 12.5% alcohol. A hearty coloured rosé from La Mancha. Not expensive, and on offer until 9th June, at £4.99 but punches above this price point brilliantly.

Rosé Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Marques de Calatrava Organic Tempranillo Rosé, 2008, La Manacha, Spain
Price: £4.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Dry but weighty. A lick of tannin. Importantly offers a delectable edge of strawberry and rose fruitiness that melds so well with the rose water in the Lamb Chaaps dish. The weight coping well with the meat too.

Stock up on a few to accompany those summer barbeques...

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

Continue reading "Wine For Curry 2 : Lamb Chaaps and Spanish Rose" »

A Wine For Curry 1 : Murgh Masala and Viognier

yalumba eden valley viognier 2008
I've never understood the 'lads night out' curry thing. The hottest, mouth-numbing, curry they can stomach and copious jugs of lager. I want to taste my food. I don't want to drink pints of nats-pee either thank you very much. Curry nights therefore are not on my calendar. An Indian take-away might make an appearance but the order results in the same old thing each time.

Cooking Indian at home doesn't happen often either. The thought of all those ingredients is rather off putting and anything too spice-hot is just going to ruin any decent wine. With interest then thumbing through the recipes in Mallika Basu's new book, Miss Masala, discovering some accessible and wine-friendly (hopefully) dishes.

Page 80 details Murgh Masala - the ultimate simple chicken curry - the key it seems is cooking the chicken on the bone "to enjoy the full flavour of spiced stocked in the curry"; quite surprised too with the number of recipes that utilise yoghurt, Greek yoghurt at that. There is a fine level of spice in this basic recipe, just a teaspoon of chilli powder and half a teaspoon of turmeric, root ginger, garlic, garam masala, onion completes the flavour. Also interesting was the instruction to add a pinch of sugar to the hot oil. This caramelises and lends the dish a "lovely red glow later without the need for food colouring".

The other issue with an 'Indian' is that several different dishes are served at the same time, making it tricky to get a decent wine match. Here, with just this one chicken dish, and some simple rich to accompany the choice was easy - something weighty, full and rounded with a hint of mysticism. Step forward a decent Australian Viognier... leap-frogging over a new-world Chardonnay, which would have been an alternative.

The wine of choice then to accompany Murgh Masala is Yalumba Eden Valley Australian Viognier. The current vintage in Waitrose is 2008 and comes in at £9.99. The wines plumpness and exotic peach and apricot flavours melding very nicely with the dish.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier, 2008, Eden Valley, Australia.

Stockist: Waitrose Price: £9.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Melded with the peach and apricot silkiness is an exotic spice twist plus a hint of lemon, and honeysuckle. Weighty palate, delicious drinking. Alcohol 14.5%

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

Continue reading "A Wine For Curry 1 : Murgh Masala and Viognier" »

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.

On Sauvingon Blanc and Villa Maria's Cellar Selection Sauvignon

villa maria sauvignon blancThere is an issue with Sauvignon Blanc. When it's cheap, it's nasty, rough, acidic and one dimensional. Even modest examples can lack complexity and a layering of flavour that should be there to tamper the inbuilt high acidity. Wine makers can rely on rounding it out with the addition of Semillon of course (i.e. Bordeaux) or call on the terrior providing a level of minerality to supply interest (i.e. Loire). But it is easy to tire of wines that give a little more than an acidity punch lined with gooseberries or a green grassiness. New Zealand has built its reputation on stunning Sauvingons vibrantly punchy with gooseberry and asparagus but even from here you can find wines lacking in body and texture (wines that needs a brave man to drink down the throat rasping juice!).

Last week the good wine folks on twitter indulged with a day of tastings and discussions on Sauvignon Blanc. The tag to read through is #sauvblanc. My plan was to tweet this Villa Maria offering in conjunction with the 'event'; but being run and dominated by Americans it didn't kick off until way past my bedtime and anyway a few friends dragged me out to the pub with the evening ended with a Chinese takeaway and laughing at the ridiculous pap put out by various TV stations of an evening...

I did sample a Sauvignon while out (in our drinking hole of choice, the Old Post Office) and had planned to sample a sauvignon with some goats cheese. The tweets were limited to: #sauvblanc in old Post Office Wallingford Riscal lovely honeyed acidity minerality to fore, quite full so different from a kiwi version

Then #sauvblanc ooooh baked pineapple

And discovering the pre-purchased Pouilly Fume - pont du milieu pouilly fume 08 dosent go with chinese takeaway #sauvblanc

In regards to food matching the classic pairing of Sauvignon is with goats cheese, rather than a mixed plate of Cantonese take-away. Try topping cut rounds of thick walnut bread, topped with goats cheese and walnuts, warmed though in the oven, and served with slices of pear and lambs lettuce. Drizzle the dish with walnut oil. Paired with the Villa Maria Sauvignon this made for a stonkingly good lunch (equally it would be a classy starter).

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc, 2009, Marlborough, New Zealand.

Stockist: Majestic and Tesco Price: £9.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

Pushy grapefruit acidity - passion fruit - lime - straw - herbaceous - herby edge - weighty palate - punchy - crisp - mouth watering - green beans - juicy. Alcohol 13.5%.

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

goats cheese with walnut bread and pear salad

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.

Pizza Express Leggara Wines

leggara red at pizza expressI'm not the target market for these wines that's for sure. While some may mention the need for a little midriff weight reduction, low calorie wines are not the way forward!

I'm at the pizza Express launch of two Leggara low-alcohol wines; both Italian. The red, a Sangiovese, is from Sicily while the white, a Pinot Bianco, was sourced from up north somewhere (no, not Leeds) but Piedmonte I believe.

Pizza Express gave their wine buyer, Adrian Garforth MW, the brief to create two wines to accompany their low-calorie Leggara pizzas. This range, incidentally, have proved to be hugely popular and are now Pizza Express's 2nd best selling pizzas. Not bad for a low calorie pizza that has a round cut out of the middle filled with a mound of rocket and a tomato!

A small glass of these new wines plus one of the Leggara Pizzas supply just 600 calories. That's 30% fewer calories than a standard pizza; great indeed for a lunch or those watching that midriff more intently than I.

The wines, to repeat, are not aimed at the likes of me (meaning a dedicated wine-person). If you 'go out for a pizza' you don't pick Pizza Express for the wine list (however much Adrian would like you to) but for the quality of the pizza. If you like to drink wine you can - they offer a decent little selection - but for the majority the wine is immaterial, it is simply part of the total ambience.

Pizza Express is right on trend though. Lower alcohol and lower calories are highly placed criteria for many, so offering a crisp white with 9% alcohol or a medium-bodied red with 9.5% alcohol and 1.6 (1.7 for the red) alcohol units per glass is going to resonate with many.

Both wines cost £4.50 for a small glass, £5.90 for a large and £16.55 for a bottle, about standard for a house wine.

The white is fine - picked early to keep the sugar levels down it is of course quite acidic but does have enough weight and flavour in support. The red I thought less of. Little in the way of tannins it lacked a backbone, being too soft and fruity overall for me. It appeared rather sweet too, even with just 4g residual sugar. Interesting, talking to Adrian regarding its development, just by adding 4% Merlot to the Sangiovese "added so much more in terms of flavour". They have made 10,000 cases of the red and 6-7,000 cases of the white.

It's all about "striking the balance" as Adrian put it. A difficult one to pull off I imagine - you have to pick early to lessen the sugars (which turn to alcohol or remain as sweetness) but not so early so as to actually have some flavour and get some colour. There is no de-alcoholising allowed as this harsh process also strips flavour. In addition to keeping the calorie count low you have to watch the price; paying a premium for grapes that are not totally ripe for example. But Pizza Express have pulled it off producing two highly drinkable wines with flavour, but low in alcohol and calories.

There will be a rosé, also made from Sangiovese, currently in development and due for a spring/summer release.

[Flickr hosts a series of photos taken during the wine launch event; you may see me in there making pizza, along with friends Dimas and Natalie. The Wine Sleuth popped in late ;-) ]

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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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

A Selection of Wines from Domaine Paul Zinck, Alsace

The sign outside Restaurant Au Vieux Porche

First halt in a four day Alsace wine tour, a delightful restaurant Au Vieux Porche in the village of Eguisheim. Seeing as the restaurant manager is the sister of winemaker Paul Zinck, it is understandable that the domaines wines are served here. The winerey is right next door!

Lunch opened with a delicious courgette soup, fresh, crisp flavours that ended with a underlying edge of curry, nicely done. No wine with this course but being seated near a window (lending an enchanting diffused light to the table) a delightful photo resulted. So forgive my indulgance for posting here rather than, as usual, on SpittoonExtra.

Courgette and Curry Soup at Au Vieux Porche, Eguisheim, Alsace

The first Paul Zinck wine - Pinot Gris Prestige 2007, proved an absolute delight with a fine, thick, slice of Foie Gras. The course only let down by being served with two toasted slices of white processed bread rather than something more artisanal like the homemade bread in the basket..

Paul Zinck offer three ranges. The more basic, introductory wines, are labelled as Terrior with Prestige being the next rung up before hitting the Grand Cru range. The vintage of this PG, 2007, is rather young; without exception all the wine makers and producers we met and visited acclaimed 2007 as one of the very best vintages in Alsace for many, many a-year. Well worth storing regardless of grape variety.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Paul Zinck Pinot Gris Prestige, 2007, Alsace, France.

[More: Adegga / Snooth] Alcohol 13%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

Foie Gras at Au Vieux Porche

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English Wine Week : Tasting Five English Wines with Cheese

english cheese

The local deli did me proud. Salvador's of Wallingford sourced three stunningly delicious cheeses just for this English Wine Week bloggers meet-up. Each was perfectly ripe and at the perfect temperature; not cheap but near perfect.

Especially good - by itself and with the various wines - was the Godminster Vintage Organic Cheddar. Next to it laid a perfect boxed slab of Cranborne Chase Alderwood (unpasteurised semi-soft rind cows milk cheese from Dorset) with the third being Simon Weaver's Kirkham Farm Organic Cotswold Brie. Coupled with a handful of fresh tomatoes and a salad of local mixed leaves (from Down To Earth) all I forgot was to add a handful of basil I was growing on the window sill...

FoodStories: #aeww back at Andrews now, more English wines and cheeeeese! He also has fabulous windows.

Three of the wines were brought from Festival Wines of Chichester. The Brightwell Sparkling was brought from the vineyard after our tour and tasting while the Balfour Sparkling was a free sample.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Sedlescombe Vineyard, Sedlescombe, East Sussex a blend of Ortega, Faber, Bacchus, Huxelrebe and Siegerebe. £8.19 wine_scribbler: #aeww sedlescombe dry white organic and vegan not much on the nose but nice flavours chalky wine_scribbler: #aeww sharp finish - not greatly liked - made from vegans thewinesleuth: #aeww organic vegan english wine- um, not very interesting Horsmonden - Dry White

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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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Brief Notes from a Tasting: Vergelegen, South Africa

the gardens at Vergelegen, South Africa

A 300 year history permeates Vergelegen; one of South Africa's most prestigious, reknown and visited wineries in the Cape. The original homestead was built in 1700; originally a barren wilderness it was transformed into a vibrant farm with fruit orchards, orange groves, oak trees, vines, cattle and sheep. Passing through a succession of owners the estate was eventually purchased by Anglo American Farms in 1987. The last 21 years have seen a renaissance.

It is a wonderful spot for visitors; even if you have only a passing interest in wine - there's the oldest oak tree in Africa (a hollow Old English Oak believed to be 300 years old) and gardens aplenty (rose, herb, camellia, fynbos, hydrangea). The homestead is open to visitors and is full of classical Cape Dutch furniture and there are picnic areas too (although you don't bring your own food but buy pre-packed boxes at the estate) and, for posher-nosh, the Lady Philips Restaurant.

We were there for the wines though. A pouring of the Sauvignon Blanc was served alongside fresh oysters - to general acclaim of my compatriots, but not moi as I 'don't do' oysters. But my 'line fish' in the Lady Philips restaurant, later, was beautifully moist and accompanied the lightly oaked Vergelegen Chardonnay 2008 superbly [picture].

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Western Cape, South Africa. [More: Adegga / Snooth] 97% Sauvignon with the remainder being Semillon. Lovely crisp, frim fruit, fresh. Touches of fig, gooseberry and a pleasant leafy-ness (straw, green peppers, peas) Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]
White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Vergelegen Chardonnay, 2008, Western Cape, South Africa. [More: Adegga / Snooth] Medium bodied by design, 60% in oak giving a subtle oak-complexity, not too heavy either (medium bodied). Pear, cream, apple flavours; a typical Chardonnay.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]
Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Vergelegen Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Stellenbosch, South Africa [More on Adegga / Snooth] A single vineyard wine - the 2 hectare vinyard on the lower Schaapenberg. More complexity here with a little lees contact giving a creaminess to the flavour and a more rounded texture. Floral touches enliven the herbaceous palate. Minerals, peach stones and citrus play around too. Beautiful. Alcohol 14.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]
Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Vergelegen Cabernet Reserve, 2005, Stellenbosch, South Africa. Price: £9.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth] Cabernet dominates here (91%) with Cabernet Franc and Merlot splitting the remainder. Superb berry aroma - very, very Bordeaux-like. Savoury depths, touches of herbs. Firm palate, but smooth until the great burst of tannin led blackfruits hits the tastebuds. The grapes were selected from Vergelegen's Stonepine, Rondekop, Rooiland and Kopland Vineyards. Alcohol 14.5%. Age worthy; a 2004 was also sampled.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Continue reading "Brief Notes from a Tasting: Vergelegen, South Africa" »

Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc 2007 Stellenbosch, South Africa

fmc chenin blanc

It's a long, long story but I didn't have that long with the mighty Ken Forrester; as the others drank and ate in the marvellous Salt River Food Market in Cape Town I languished in the N1 City Hospital. Don't ask...

I did make it back for a brief hello and a slurp on the stunning Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc. Ken plonked a delicious Almond Croissant in my hand - which was a stonkingly good match. There is a little residual sugar in the FMC that made it such a superb match with the pastry. I'd also try it with Chinese and other oriental foods; and try it you must for it is excellent.

Sorry for the red colour-cast this is due to the red umbrellas shielding this part of the food hall.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc, 2007, South Africa.
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £17.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

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

Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Box

Rudiger Gretcher

Rudiger Gretcher is a fine fellow. Not only an excellent host during our meal at Reubens but entertaining plus he gave each of us a bottle of the Chocolate Box to take away...

Rudiger is the wine maker at Boekenhoutskloof, a boutique operation at the far end of the Franschoek valley. He first cracked open two Semillons for comparison both from a small vineyard strip and well worth trying if you can get hold of them. The younger, a 2006 I believe, was deliciously fresh and vibrant compared to the elder bottling from the 2003 vintage that had developed plenty of honeyed, waxy complexity that, incidentally, worked beautifully with my tempura starter.

(Photos of the food are on SpittoonExtra).

In the wide ranging discussion - everything from the state of the UK wine trade, through to the importation of bottles and cooks - Rudgier also explained his own thoughts that blends would rise to be the 'spearhead' of South African wines. His current fascination with Southern Rhone/Languedoc styled blends stemmed from a recent in-depth trip though the vineyards of Southern France. Boekenhoutskloof is also well advanced in its plans to embrace bio-dynamic wine making. Rudigier's passion for these ideals had us all convinced that 'everyone' should follow such practices.

Surprising though to find Cabernet Franc also seems to be a champion variety for Boekenhoutskloof - Rudiger was not the last wine maker during the trip to mention this.

Other wines sampled included a mint-edged Syrah (although my fellow tasters didn't really agree with me on the mint aspect so that might be down to the deep fried mint that my main dish - Quail - came garnished with). The style was aging rich but restrained with an edge of peppery chocolate.

The star wine for me was the Chocolate Block - again reaffirming my belief that blends work better than single varieties (talking red wine in general here and not just South African wines, although it holds true here too) - but for a Rhone inspired blend the addition of a little Cabernet Sauvignon was unusual. But it works. The wine a blend including Viognier was a cross over in style taking in the new worlds natural ripeness and the old world's structure.

Pinotage though is not seen by Rudiger as being the standard bearer for South Africa that many think it should be. To paraphrase -you start with poor quality grapes and you end up with poor quality wine. Pinotage vines are often stated as being of poor quality and of poor parentage.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block, 2007, Stellenbosch, South Africa.
Stockist: SA WinesOnline Price: £18.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Syrah 55%, Grenache Noir 20%, Cabernet Sauvignon 16%, Cinsault 5%, Viognier 4%. Production just 586 barrels. 14.5% Alcohol.
Served slightly chilled in the warmth of South Africa I also chilled it briefly back in a, significantly cooler, UK to the wines benefit.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

Continue reading "Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Box" »

Iona Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Elgin, South Africa

iona sauvingon blanc

To reach Elgin take the N2 from Cape Town and keep going through the wine lands of Stellenbosch. Compared to the rash of vineyards covering the valleys and hills of Stellenbosch and Franschoek, Elgin has little more than a handful of wineries (with Paul Cluver being perhaps the most well known) in this traditionally apple-growing region. Iona stands alone in the south of Elgin and sadly wasn't on the itinerary of my recent trip.

While flicking through the Reuben's Cooks recipe book a mention of the Iona Sauvignon as an ideal accompaniment to one of the salad dishes - and by the fact that the wine is readily available at Waitrose - led to its purchase.

The salad, (Avocado Salad With Toasted Pine Nuts, Rocket, Parmesan and Balsamic Syrup) a superb starter or with added bread a lighter lunch, is simplicity to prepare. Using the freshest and highest quality ingredients of course, the dish was a most joyous match - about as perfect as you could wish - even if the use of rocket was usurped by pea shoots.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Iona Sauvignon Blanc, 2008, Elgin, South Africa.
Stockist: Waitrose SAWinesOnline Price: £9.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

A super example of a classy, restrained, refined, Sauvignon Blanc. An edge of fig and peach stones lifts the complex mineral-led palate. Lovely balance- crisply done on the finish married with a weighty feel and nice - not overly assertive - acidity. Alcohol 13.5%.

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

Brief notes from a tasting: Kleine Zalze Estate, Stellenbosch

Kleine Zalze Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc

An ideal introducton to the wines and foods of South Africa - the award winning Terrior Restaurant in the Kleine Zalze Estate - one of South Africa's top 10 restaurants.

The wine range is split into four - The Family Reserve Range is at the top "produced from the best hand-picked grapes of selected vineyards. Available in limited quantities and only in certain vintages". Next the Vineyard Selection "Quality grapes from premium vineyards, aged inthe best oak barrels to provide wines with flavour, complexty, structure and cellaring potential" followed by the Cellar Selection (such as the Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc) "These wines are made to be be more accessible and friut driven. They represent good value, to suit our customers' tastes. This range reflects our motto: "We make wine for people to enjoy". The bottom rung is the Foot of Africa range "named after one of our farms situated at africa's southern tip. These wines are produced from selected grapes from various vineyards in the Western Cape".

Full pictures of the meal are over on SpittoonExtra.

Blown away by the Family Reserve Sauvignon Blanc, 2007, around £15. [More: Adegga / Snooth] A combination of green bean herbaceous flavours and minerality (the latter from West Coast fruit apparently) Clean, fresh, green pepper, not too grassy. Ages well according to our host Ross Sleet. Stonkingly good with the meal's starter - Crumbed Goats Cheese with Figs.

First introduction to the Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc [More: Adegga / Snooth]
- 30% of the grapes in this have been influenced by botrytis adding depth and complexity. Totally unwooded.

8,000 case production for the Vineyard Selection Chenin Blanc [More: Adegga / Snooth]. Available to the on-trade in the UK. Barrel fermentation creating a different beast than the Cellar Selection Chenin but similar in style with a fruity, delicious, roundness. A little young still, 2008 vintage.

Interesting wine selection for the Seared Scallops, a choice of lightly chilled Pinotage Cellar Selection over a Pinot Noir Vineyard Selection [no links as unsure on vintages]. The balsamic reduction picked up in the Pinotage but the Pinot worked beautifully too being a little lighter in style with softer tannins. Table split between the two - I'd edge toward the Pinot Noir if only for those seductive tannins.

The estate is having an exciting time with Pinotage experimenting with terrior and vine placements.
Salze Shiraz-Mouvèdre-Viognier blend, 2007, Cellar Selection range, [More: Adegga / Snooth]
with a split of varieties at 65% Shiraz, 20% Mouvèdre and 15% Viognier. Delicious in a robust, characterful way. Designed to be drinkable/accessible. Screw-capped and 14.5%. Available from Waitrose in the UK.

Family Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005. [More: Adegga / Snooth] Lovely concentration, smooth, richly textured, perfectly matching my main course of Springbok. Plentiful tannins but supple and wonderful with the meat. I was so enraptured with the partnership I failed to note any Madeira flavours in the sauce...

kleine zalze barrels

Kleine Zalze
Die Boord
Stellenbosch, 7613, South Africa
PHONE: +27 (21) 880-0717
FAX: +27 (21) 880-0716

Domaine Saint Ferréol Viognier, 2006, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France

Saint Ferreol Viognier

Wine merchants exist for one single reason - to flog us wine. Their sales patter can verge on the obscene leaving the feeling that they should be in advertising. Which I guess they are. Laithwaites has whole departments dedicated to producing purple prose for the volumes of leaflets and sales letters they despatch. Oddbins in its distant heyday regularly got me excited with page after wine list page extolling the virtues of this newly discovered wine or that gem of a tiny parcel. Funny but all I remember is that they only offered these 'little' parcels...

For the smaller merchant the excessive use of 'finest vintage ever', 'amazing value' and so on can verge on the desperate. The Flying Corkscrew hawked this Viognier shortly before Christmas as 'fabulous' and resorted to various press quotes to extol its wonderfulness. In this case though, they are correct. It's an absolute star.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Saint Ferréol Viognier, 2006, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France
Stockist: Flying Corkscrew Berry Brothers Price: £11.50 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Lovely complexity and a richness that is perfectly balanced by the acidity. Nutty with hints of apricots, orange pith, peach blossom and vanilla. Smooth and highly drinkable. Alcohol 12.5%. No flabbiness, no excessive floweriness just excellent poise, balance and flavour. While others have compared this to the best Condrieu Viogniers it doesn't quite have the depth and texture of the great Rhone wines, but as it stands it is a stonker and well worth the eleven quid.

Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

Seafood, butter sauces, rosemary and nuts are regularly pushed as ideal partners for Viognier ; so you would expect a dish of Rosemary Seared Scallops With Pancetta, Salad and Hazelnuts to be a sublime match; and it was!

Other foods to try would include crab, chicken, cream sauces, and lightly spiced dishes with cinnamon, cumin or nutmeg.

Paul Autard Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 2007, Rhone, France

Paul Autard Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2007 and lamb shanks

Another of those pre-release samples I received awhile back; this Chateauneuf-du-Pape, while entirly too young was a delicious joy partnered with roasted Lamb Shanks.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Paul Autard Chateauneuf-du-Pape, 2007, Rhone, France
Stockist: Bibendum (link to 2006 vintage) Price: £26 approx [More on Adegga / Snooth]
The colour of Valerian's blood-soaked Imperial cloak; the aroma of dusty, sun-lashed dark red fruits, subdued, reticent but harbouring hints of greater complexity that will come with age. Tannins as rough as a barbarians beard but the richness and strength of flavour smoothers them initially into a palate as smooth as Celopatras bossom.

Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

The 2006 vintage is a blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah and 10% Mourvedre; going further to demonstrate my favourite red blends begin with Grenache...

"Jean-Paul Autard is a classic artisan French vigneron and one who is blessed with the talent to make exceptional wines. Everything Jean-Paul does shows a respect for tradition, terroir and, above all, quality. His 30ha are split half and half between Chateauneuf and some very superior Cotes du Rhone vineyards which lie just over the appellation border. He is without doubt one of the rising stars of the Rhone."

Le Roc du du Chateau Pellebouc

Le Roc du Chateau Pellebouc, Bordeaux

Food magazine Delicious gave away, as with many other magazines, a 2009 calender with a recent issue. Each month displays a recipe, tuned to the season. What fun, thought I, to challenge my food and wine tasting 'skills' in recreating the recipe each month and selecting a wine to accompany. Here then is a wine, a Bordeaux red to accompany January's Baked Venison Sausages with Lentils (recipe on SpittoonExtra).

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Le Roc du du Chateau Pellebouc, 2006, Bordeaux, France
Stockist: Bordeaux Undiscovered Price: £8.75 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Smooth, rounded, nicely textured. A blend of Merlot (90%) 'for its roundness and balance' plus a little Cabernet Sauvignon (10%) 'to add to the body'. Deeply coloured with flavours of red fruits plus hints of spice. None of that tart, hollow, dusty-dryness you can find in cheaper Bordeaux reds - this has good fruit, a firm structure and lends itself nicely to the food in question; very nicely in fact.

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

Le Roc du Château Pellebouc comes from the Entre deux Mers, just a few miles away from the Saint Emilion appellation. Château Pellebouc is owned by Pascale and Baudouin Thienpont - members of the famous wine making family who own Le Pin and manage several other top flight châteaux.

A Wine For Bacon Sandwiches


Wine Blogging Wednesday rolls round again and some fairly stringent criteria for this months challenge. Select a Wine for Breakfast but no sparkling wine, no rosés, no dessert wine, and no mixing with anything - i.e. no wine cocktails. So says El Bloggo Torcido this months host. My breakfast dish? The humble, yet oh so tasty, bacon sandwich.

This is a proper bacon sandwich - three rashers enclosed by the freshest bread possible. Nothing added bar the obligatory tomato ketchup. No floppy lettuce leaves, no runny fried egg (as good as the addition of an egg can be) and certainly no manky cheese. The bacon will be crisp and salty wit the soothing ketchup adding just a hint of tomato flavour. As it is breakfast a not-too-heavy wine is required. I turned to one region I seldom venture - Beaujolais.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Dupré Haute Ronze Régnié , 2007, Beaujolais, France.
Stockist: Oddbins (small parcel) Price: £9.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
It's Gamay; a Cru Gamay admittedly but a wine that is never going to slap you across the chops with forcefulness or complexity. What you have is a light(ish) red vibrantly young in colour with a splash of acidity and pleasant level of tannin. Pleasantly fruity and a delight when up against the salty bacon in the delicious sandwich. It even manages to cut through the tomato ketchup with ease.

You can probably realise I'm not hugely impressed - but that is the way it is with Beaujolais in general. Light, fruity and sorta nice. Alcohol 12.5%. A breakfast wine.

Scribblings Rating - 86/100 [3 out of 5]

Continue reading "A Wine For Bacon Sandwiches" »

Wine Matching With A Winter Salad

Fish Hoek Pinotage Rosé

A little food and wine matching experimentation - the food being a roasted beetroot salad (Baked Beetroot with Pancetta and Rocket Aioli) with the choice of wines being dictated by two replies to a twitter 'which wine?' plea. Wink, who writes the hugely informative wine travel guides suggested going for a rosé

I think that both Pinotage and Torrontes might fight with the rocket - I'd go for the rosé - bon appetit!"

While Rob at the Wine Conversation went for the Torrontes

Torrontes! Def not Pinotage, but depends on how good the rose is, however Torrontes still best bet. Sounds yummy"

The rosé (Fish Hoek Pinotage Rosé, 2008 from South Africa) and the Torrontes (Catena Alamos Torrontes, 2008 from Argentina) were duly opened. The other bottle options, a Sauvignon Blanc and a Pinotage, both from South Africa, and a Bordeaux red remain for another day. Why I thought a Bordeaux red would be any good I have no idea but I did think the rustic nature of a Pinotage would go well with the earthy quality of the beetroot, hoping the wine would match the inherent sweetness of the beetroot too.

Rosé Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Fish Hoek Pinotage Rosé, 2008, Western Cape, South Africa.
Price: £6.19 From Tesco and Somerfield [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A splurge of cherry and strawberry opens this rosé, tinge of spritz, creamy edge, rounded and very drinkable. Dry finish. A Silver Medal winner at the International Wine Challenge 2008. Alcohol 13%.

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

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Catena Alamos Torrontes, 2008, Salta, Argentina.
Stockist: Bibendum Price: £7.00 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Peachy, apricot, honeysuckle but not in a sweet Gewurz-type way. Palate is lighter than the aroma would suggest and while similar flavours are present the palate is more limey, crisp and refreshing. Dry too. The acidity is the key here, forming the wine into a fine food wine.

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

Now, while it was the Alamos Torrontes, that as a wine was preferred, from a food and wine view it was impossible to select one above the other (and by heck did I try - a seemingly endless switch between glasses and mouthfuls of the food in various combinations). The Pinotage Rosé, while a simpler wine, worked superbly well - countering the (overly) forceful garlic, the dryness of the walnuts and the pepperiness of the rocket. The slightly sweet fruit also matched the sweetness of the beetroot.

Conversely the Torrontes utilising the full powers of its acidity acted as a palate cleanser rather than a complementary partner. But still the floral nature of the wine made an interesting and tasty counter to the sweetness of the beetroot and even developed an affinity with the peppery rocket.

Photo an entry for Click Photo Comp

Alain Voge 'Fleur de Crussol' Saint-Péray, Rhone, France

Voge Saint-Peray

Not something you see much of is Saint-Péray; most of the production is concentrated towards sparkling wines (not that I've come across any Saint-Péray sparkling mind!). My Guide Hachette des vins de France 2008 dismisses the region with little more than a quarter page entry and three producers but does state that it is "one of the best sparkling wines in France"; so something to look out for.

Saint-Péray lies across the river from Valence in the Rhone, if you have been reaching for your wine maps. Marsanne and Roussane being the grape varieties grown. Incidentally Oz Clarke's Pocket Wine Book 2009 (Pocket Companion) rates Alain Voge's Fleur de Crussol as "an excellent wine or producer in its category - one especially worth seeking out". Anticipation is therefore high for this.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Domaine Alain Voge 'Fleur de Crussol', 2007, Saint-Péray, Rhone, France.
Stockist: Contact Bibendum Price: around £20 [More: Adegga / Snooth ]
Classy and rather refined. Smoothly textured and offering plenty of complexity to the flavour. Minerality obvious on the finish with a long, lingering aftertaste. Flavours of stony fruits, peaches, plenty of Tangerine/ Clementine with citrus pith and white flowers. Delicious. Alcohol 14%.

This is 100% oak-aged Marsanne, the grapes harvested from Voge's oldest vineyard (70+ years). Recommended for up to 10 years aging.

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

Food match: Served with a Salmon and Potato Bake. Sublime - even though this particular sample is a pre-release 'straight from the barrel' sample (hence the hand-written vintage year; they haven't printed the labels yet!). I was so impressed with this and have to ask - what is it going to be like with some age!

Sorry for the red-wine splattered bottle in the photo. It would appear that the shipment suffered a casualty - not one single bottle escaped some damage.

Wine and Food Matching - Ideas From A Recent Tasting

Food Matching at the Fells Tasting

Given the synergy between food and wine I have long wondered at the lack of 'combinations' at tastings. While the industry thrives on gourmet meals (to which I receive far too few invites!) tailoring, usually, a single producers wines to each dish these events are exclusive and limiting in the number of participants.

Of course wine tastings offering dozens if not hundreds of wines are hard enough, and expensive to mount, operations without worrying about food samples. Back in October though the wonderful people at Fells hosted a tasting with various wines matched with food.

"This is a tasting with a difference. Not only does it offer you the opportunity to taste award winning wines from our portfolio of family owned producers but, for the first time, we have matched a selection of our wines to a range of delicious canapés to demonstrate the breadth and versatility of our range".

I met up with Douglas and duly sampled said food and wine matches (expect the oysters... I can't 'do' oysters). Of the 200 or so wines available to taste the following were offered with a food match (I'm sure Douglas has blogged about this tasting too, but I can't find the post to link to direct).

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: E Guigal St Joseph Blanc, 2006, Rhone, France
Price: £12.95 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A 95% Marsanne, 5% Rousanne blend matched with chèvre, dressed radicchio, walnut croutons, ripe pear and toasted walnuts. A lovely wine restrained richness, almond, hazelnut and lime nose but the goats cheese was a little too strong for the wine, deadeneing it somewhat. But the radicchio and walnuts worked beautifully.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Hugel Pinot Gris Tradition, 2005, Alsace, France
Price: £9.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
A 100% Pinot Gris and a super match with the canapé - Butter Chicken with coriander on a tiny poppadom - the butter really balancing the wine and the coriander bringing freshness adding to the lovely long-lasting taste.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Mouton Cadet Reserve Graves Rouge, 2006, Bordeaux, France
[More on Adegga / Snooth]
An on-trade only wine with an easy drinking style, but it didn't match with the Chargrilled Rosemary-Marinated Lamb fillet, served pink, with babaganoush to dip. OK with the lamb but the dip killed the wine. The dish however was superb with the Rothschild Escudo Rojo, 2006 ( a blend of 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Cabernet Franc, 27% Carmenere, 7% Syrah).

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Bodegas Torres Salmos, 2006, Priorat, Spain
Price: £11.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Matched with Cochinillo Asado - organic roast suckling pig stuffed with juniper and rosemary with wild rocket and a Cox's Apple Sauce - this blend of Spanish and international varieties (Garnacha Tinta, Syrah, Cariñena and Cabernet Sauvignon) was a deliciously superb match hiting every spot.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Edmeades Mendocino Zinfandel, Mendocino Valley, 2006, California
Price: £11.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
A lovely wine - big, fruity, slightly sweet with a nice crunchy berry finish went well with the Confit of Duck with Cranberry Relish on a Polenta Croute. Teh wine is a blend of 85.45 Zinfandel, 7.2% Petit Syrah, 3.7% Merlot, 2.7% Syrah and 1% Grenache. High alcohol at 15.5%.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Tyrrell's Winemaker's Selection VAT 1 Semillon, 2002, Australia
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £7.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Not often a fan of Australian Semillon disliking the waxy/herbyness but this particular version sings beautifully with food. In this case Bite-Sized Salmon, Smoked Haddock and Cod Tartlets.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Chakana Malbec, 2007, Argentina
Price: £5.50 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
A simple, basic wine with an upfront richness but came across as good with the food - bite-sized beef empanadas.

Many thanks to Fells for providing such an interesting tasting. While some of the matches didn't quite work the effort in providing such an interesting array of canapés was well worth the trouble. While the Argentine Malbec was a rather disappointing end to the wine and food matches the rest of the tasting awaited - hell, they had a Room of Discovery and Room of Excellence left to explore.

[Tastings are not that suited to taking photographs, this snap, via the mobile phone, is out of focus but shows the Hugel Pinot Gris and the Butter Chicken with coriander on a tiny poppadom.]

Fleur de Luze, Bordeaux Blanc, 2007

Fleur de Luze, Bordeaux Blanc, 2007

Who ever makes scampi at home? A dish one may assume is now relegated to certain 'family' restaurants and frozen ready-meals. Of course the home-made version is leagues ahead of any ready-meal.

The inspiration for a little home deep-frying was a recommendation by Bordeaux Undiscovered in the press pack they supplied with a few samples. The match, Scampi with Tartare Sauce and this Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc was sensational and highly recommended.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Fleur de Luze, 2007, Bordeaux, France.
Stockist: Bordeaux Undiscovered [More on UKWOL] Price: £5.62 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Fresh, light, gently grassy, lemony and refreshing. Hints of lime, grapefruit, apple and just a smidge of orange.

And simply THE best match for scampi - or in my case deep-fried, breaded prawns. Even handling the spiky tartare sauce wth aplom. Not being as forcefull as, say,a New Zealand, Sauvignon or as minerally as one for the Loire this, relativey simple, Bordeaux blanc seemed perfectly matched.

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

San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva 2004, Tuscany, Italy

San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Reserva 2004

Its a struggle drinking Chianti without food; insufferable punishment on the taste buds in fact. That sharp, acidic, slightly earthy finish is how the wine is supposed to taste but it's a struggle to consume more than a glass. Rasping if you are subjected to a poor quality bottle.

Add food and it's like drinking a different wine.

But, I hear the masses yell, that is what Chianti is designed for - drinking with food. It is like a television without an aerial; you can use it but it just doesn't work very well. You know you are missing out on the bigger picture.

Two bottles of this rather decent Chianti have been consumed over the last few days. A Sunday roast of beef and Yorkshires was fine. Further complexity was revealed in the flavour but there remained something lacking.

What the roast lacked was the sweet acidity of tomatoes to balance. Step forward a superbly thrown together lasagne. Combining mince beef, plenty of fresh parsley, a splash of red and a tin of chopped Italian tomatoes the wine shone like a beacon . The wines refreshing acidity makes it all the more drinkable. (I'm also thinking lamb would have been a better match, over beef, with the wines acidity cutting through the inherent fat beautifully).

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva, 2004, Tuscany, Italy
Stockist: Everywine £257 for 12, Italian Wine Society £15.19 £182.28 for 12 [More on Adegga / Snooth]

A richness of dark cherry fruit leads into a twist of acidic bitterness on the finish. Smooth and robust with hints of leather and mixed herbs. but shines with food. Shown to both Slavonian and French oak barrels which adds complexity. 100% Sangiovese. Alcohol 13%.

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

Continue reading "San Felice Il Grigio Chianti Classico Riserva 2004, Tuscany, Italy" »

What Food With A Gewürztraminer?

Espiritu de Chile Gewurztraminer

A combination cited as a classic food and wine combination is Munster cheese with Gewürztraminer. But how many people sit down to a meal of just cheese? What I'm after is a main meal dish.

Ruling out Gewurz with Chinese or Thai dishes (a combination I've never found remotely enjoyable) a recipe sent with a bottle of Espiritu de Chile Gewürztraminer sounded at once interesting, autumnal and tasty.

The wine itself is not hugely expensive (around a fiver) but works well as a mid-week slurp and did work deliciously well with the food - a Thai-Spiced Chicken Salad.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Espiritu de Chile Gewürztraminer, 2007, Central Valley, Chile.
Price: £4.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

A pleasant nose - hints of violets, limes and roses with similar flavours on the palate only more focused and noticeable. Hints of sweetness balance the wine but this is not a full in-yer-face Gewurz some can verge on the soapy, almost violent in intensity and spicy sweetness. This does have a little of the rose and ginger coupled with a suspicion of strawberries but, as expected for a humbly priced wine, is quite gentle and more subtle.

With the food: Despite the generous dollop of Thai Chili Paste the salad is not overly spicy (in the heat-hot spectrum) it still has a decent level of background heat but not enough to dampen the taste buds and, in turn, ruin the wine. Pear and apple flavours appear in the wine leading to the question should the dish have a little sliced pear added for additional autumnal flavours (not terribly Thai I suppose. Mind you is Savoy cabbage?)

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

Duck pâté and Foie Gras (although I find this too rich a combination, especially if the wine is of the sweeter style) do work well with Gewurztraminer.

Robert Mondavi Winery Fumé Blanc, 2005, Napa Valley, California

Mondavi Fume Blanc 2005 Napa Valley

As many will know Fumé Blanc is the name invented by Mondavi to describe their Sauvignon Blanc's that had undergone oak aging. While Sauvignon's typical crisp acidity remains, the grassy flavours and punchy 'greenness' of the aroma are going to be subdued after a period in oak. Forget the vibrancy of those New Zealand Sauvignon's; this is a different fish.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Robert Mondavi Winery Fumé Blanc, 2005, Napa Valley, California.
Stockist: Majestic Price: £13.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Full in the mouth, there is a mineral edge too - the citric acidity comes to the fore on the finish while citrus is also the primary flavour. To this though you can add a segment of orange peel, a little melon, a drip of honey and a dash of vanilla. A good intensity and finish.

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

I love mackerel - even more so since discovering its sustainable and on the list of 'can eat' fish - its meaty in a tuna type way and, when simply pan-fried with a little lemon, a great match to this Mondavi Fume Blanc. The fish was served with roasted potatoes and beetroot. The beetroots sweetness slightly deadened the wines complexity however; but not enough to deem the match a poor one. The recipe for Pan-Fried Mackerel with Roasted Beetroot and Potatoes is detailed on SpittoonExtra.

Mondavi Woodbridge Shiraz, 2006, California

Mondavi Woodbridge Shiraz 2006

As I write I'm sipping a glass of Californian red - a Robert Mondavi Woodbridge Cabernet Sauvignon 2005 to be precise.

It's fairly typical of the type of Californian wine readily available in the UK. Following the WineDudes request for some foreign thoughts on Californian wine the Woodbridge is 'research'. Not sure if the Wine Dude is going to utilise my barely coherant scribbles in a post or (update - he has) not but the crux of the article was that, while we can get hold of American wines in the UK most are the large brands (such as Gallo and this Mondavi) and the small quantities of boutique wines that many American wine bloggers rave about are never seen over here.

I hesitate to mention the ubiquitous Gallo in the same paragraph as Mondavi for both the Cabernet and this similar but slightly spicier Shiraz are very drinkable examples which offer more than a modicum of interest, something those massed Gallo brands never will.

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Robert Mondavi Woodbridge Shiraz, 2006, California
Stockists: Threshers and most supermarkets Price: £7.20 [More on Adegga / Snooth]
Very similar in style to the Cabernet - sweetish full fruit, soft but evident tannins combine to make a highly drinkable fruity style of red. Broad flavours enveloping the blueberry/blackberry spectrum, not complicated but enhanced by some varietal spice. Not sure where Jancis Robinson gets the "very pinched and ungenerous" idea from as the wine appears fleshy, broad, lightly spiced and very drinkable. Alcohol 135%.

Aiming for a modicum of seasonal eating a dish of acorn squash with a tomato and cream minced lamb stuffing was paired with this red, the sweetness of the fruit playing nicely with the inherant sweetness of the squash and the stuffing. The softness held enough in the acidity and tannin stakes to counter the creamy richness.

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

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!


A Not Too Sweet Dessert Wine - Farina Val de Reyas 2005

Farina Val de Reyas 2005Designed as an aperitif the Farina Val de Reyes Vino Semi-Dulce is recommended with foie gras, pates and soft cheeses. Back in May of 2007 a bottle (of the previous vintage, 2004) was matched with delicious results with a Melon, Pecorino and Culatello Anti-Pasti.

A requirement for a wine to accompany Little Windfall Apple Tarts resulted in this being opened as a proper dessert wine.

Dessert  Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Fariña Val de Reyes, 2005, Castilla y Leon, Spain
[More: Adegga / Snooth]

The Botrytis effected Moscatel is really evident on the aroma with hints of orange, honey, pear and a heady honeysuckle edge. Is it the botrytis that gives that nice weight to the palate in addition to the sweetness? A good long spicy finish is clean and fresh from the citric acidity. Behind that spice is there a dimension not too dissimilar to that of autumn - well-kept apples, damp leaves, wild mushrooms and all? Alcohol 13%.

It is not a rich, sickly dessert wine being more fresh and lively than many. With the Little Windfall Apple Tarts it was rather scrummy with a lemon dimension matching the tarts lemon curd. With desserts you need the wine to be sweeter than the food; this match worked perfectly.

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

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Port and Chocolate - Cockburn's LBV and Chocolate Bavarois

Cockburn's LBV 2003 Port

Do you do anything with port other than drink it or serve it with stilton?

I'm not a great fan, by the way, of port with cheese, especially stilton. Two strong totally strong flavours that clash. Just because it is 'tradition' doesn't make it right! I'm out on my own I think. A quick twitter poll resulted in an almost universal condemnation for my heretical views.

Although the wine mutineer agreed

"Nope, I've tried it, and in my humble opinion, the complexity of the port combats the cheese, I like a desert Riesling or Sauternes instead"

Chocolate is the way to go when matching food with port; especially the Late Bottled Vintage version. I've just enjoyed a rather scrummy Chocolate Bavarois (made 'em myself, he says with a triumphant gloat) with a generous glass of Cockburns LBV - pure bliss. You have to be generous with the drink serving, none of your namby-pamby little glasses, splash a generous measure into a wine glass.

Port Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Cockburn's Late Bottled Vintage (LBV) Port , 2003, Portugal
Stockist: Asda and Morrisons 10.69 [More on UKWOL] Price: £9.99 [More on Adegga / Snooth]

Distinct chocolate notes in the wine are mingled with a deep richness and mellow complex fruits. Mulberry is often noted but to me is more sweet raisins with a little plum and sweet strawberry thrown in. A nice sweetness tempered by the tannins and a creamy mouthfeel.

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

A full recipe and instructions for Chocolate Bavarois is available on SpittoonExtra.

St Hallett Poacher's Blend, 2007, Barossa Valley, Australia

St Hallet Poacher's Blend Semillon Sauvignon Riesling, 2007, Barossa, AustraliaThree grapes Semillon, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling. All of which you can detect in the wine. Individually. Which is a criticism as the wine was not a 'sum of its parts'- disjointed, rambling, and unformed. Planning on it improving with age I doubt would help either.

But it has a saving. It was rather excellent with a salmon tart!

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: St Hallet Poacher's Blend, 2007, Barossa Valley, Australia.
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £7.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Fresh, distinctive, disjointed. Joyous though when partnered with food - in this instance a warm Salmon Tart. The wines crispness cutting through the rich pastry, and matching the egg component face to face (eggs being a tricky when matched with wine). The Sauvignon component, of course, went well with the Salmon with the fuller Semillon revelling in the harmony with the herbs and the spinach. Alcohol 11.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 86/100 [3.25 out of 5]

The background to the blend is interesting - the wine is bottled just four months after vintage with the Semillon picked at three different ripeness levels. Part adds natural acidity (the Riesling and Sauvignon obviously not sufficient), the mid-pick supplies an 'herbaceous lift' in support of the Sauvignon and the fully ripe portion adds mouth-feel and richer grapefruit flavours. Their website fails to give details of the actual percentage components in the blend - anal I realise but something I find fascinating - which is a shame.

Caldora Colle dei Venti Pecorino 2007, Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy

Caldora Colle dei Venti Pecorino 2007, Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy

An old envelope, rescued from the recycling, with a few scribbles on the reverse; the initial notes before transfer to the main, missing, tasting note book. So basically a few words on a Pecorino and a reference to the book where the accompanying food recipe was taken. Enough info for a blog post (just) especially as the photo has been lounging in the computers photograph folder for an age...

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Caldora Colle dei Venti Pecorino, 2007, Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy..
Stockist: Planet of the Grapes Bon Coeur Fine Wines Price: around £10 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Lemons, nectarines, minerals, lime rind, orange pith, fresh, clean and quite full. Summery. Long lasting, dry, interesting, complex. Delicious. Alcohol 13%

A superb match with the Ricotta-stuffed Chicken with Roasted Red Pepper Sauce (recipe below).

Sadly the notes neglect to mention who supplied this bottle - it was neither of the stockists listed. It might even have been Waitrose.

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

Pecorino, the grape variety, is so named due to the resemblance of the grape bunches to a head of a sheep and has nothing to do with the cheese. Colle dei Venti translates as the Hill of Breeze.

Continue reading "Caldora Colle dei Venti Pecorino 2007, Terre di Chieti, Abruzzo, Italy" »

Quinta de Covela Escolha, 2005, Minho, Portugal

Quinta de Covela Escolha 2005 Minho, Portugal

Many will realise, may even respect, my ongoing search for the unusual wine - the striking label, the interesting blend or individual grape, the obscure region...
While the label can't really be described as attractive, stylish perhaps in hip and happening down-town Lisbon circa 1980, the blend is the thing with the Covela 2005. Take a little Chardonnay, pour into a vat of the local Avesso and add 'others' (which the Waitrose website details as Gewürztraminer).

Avesso is a Vinho Verde grape; so one would expect a high level of acidity. The region this comes from, Minho, is also where Vinho Verde originates.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Quinta de Covela Escolha, 2005, Minho, Portugal.
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £9.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
An upfront crispness, a weighty Chardonnay-led, mid-palate and a minerally 'wet stones' finish. Add the complex flavours of unripened pears, a touch of greenness, a little lemon, a hint of sandpaper and plenty of tropical fruit medley and the result is the delicious Covela. Dry and full. Alcohol 13.5%.

Scribblings Rating - 94/100 [4.25 out of 5]

The other joy of this wine malarkey is matching these interesting and tasty wines with food. Here I suggest Breast of Chicken with Pancetta and Creamed Leeks - where the wines acidity counters the creamy richness. Chardonnay is very chicken-friendly; just ensure they are free-range and they will get along brilliantly!

The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Wine Note Book

Montes Alpha Syrah and Cheese

Lying somewhere between a missing spy masters lap-top and a cd full of a high street bank's customer details is my wine tasting notebook. It has been missing for a few weeks now; I've not seen a mention on the Mail's front page as being discovered on the 8:15 from Waterloo though.

In addition to a great many tasting notes, many destined to be written up on Spittoon, there were two full articles planned for the Guardian, the notes and thoughts on the Montes Alpha range (the 'gimmick' being to serve the wines with specific music) and several very interesting wine and food matching experiments. Greatly saddened it has vanished.

My memory recall is not great; wracking my brains for a descriptive of a wine tasted last week is bad enough, let alone something slurped back in May! But my pictures folder has many shots destined to accompany those notes; one being the Montes Alpha Syrah used here.

This amply flavoured, high alcohol (14.5%) wine was an absolute joy with a little Grana Padano cheese even with Pavarotti belting out Nessun Dorma in the background. Love the wine, not a fan of the music. Did it change my perception of the wine... impossible to say with or without my notes. All I do know is that the four wines supplied were deliciously excellent.

"When a particular style of music is heard it stimulates or 'primes' specific areas in the brain. Subsequently when wine is tasted these areas of the brain are already active and prime us to taste the wine in a corresponding way"

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Montes Alpha Syrah, 2006, Colchagua Valley, Chile
Stockist: Waitrose, Tesco Price: £10.99 [More on Adegga/Snooth]
Great with Cheese - Grana Padano especially. Alcohol 14.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

A Choice of Two Reds

Tilia Malbec 2007

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

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

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

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

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

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

Meaty Puff Pastry Parcels

Alsace Wine with Food - thoughts from the Hugel Twitter Tasting

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

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

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

Twitter Tasting - table

Continue reading "Alsace Wine with Food - thoughts from the Hugel Twitter Tasting" »

A Rosé for a Picnic

 Agronavarra Perdido Rosé, 2007, Navarra, Spain

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

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

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

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

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

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

La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica, 2006, Marche, Italy

La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica 2006 Marche Italy

A wine for a damn-decent-if-I-may-say-so seafood risotto. Waitrose have this new(ish) deli range; one item of which is a tub of mixed seafood in a herbed olive oil. Rather tasty I must say. Mixed in with a decently flavoured risotto it makes for a superb meal. An Italian wine to accompany, obviously, and you can't go wrong with this bottle also available from Waitrose.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: La Monacesca Verdicchio di Matelica, 2006, Marche, Italy.
Stockist: Waitrose Price: £7.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Wonderful deep golden colour, none of your wishy-washy, thin, bland Italian whites here thank you very much. Not much to the floral aroma but a weighty palate that matches wonderfully with the food. Flavours are laced with a touch of honey, a minerally texture, and plenty of stony fruit that power right through to the herby finish. Refreshingly crisp acidity on the finish. Elegant.
Alcohol 13.5%.

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

100% hand-picked Verdicchio grapes from a great estate in the upper Esino Valley. The difference between Verdicchio grown just a stones roll from Umbria and that grown down near the coast (Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi) is substantial. In the highlands the climate is cooler, the growing season longer and slower. Down by the coast the Adriatic plays a part with harvesting often 10 days earlier than those nearer the Apennines.

Fattoira le Sorgenti Scirus, 2003, Tuscany, Italy.

Sorgenti Scirus.jpg

This has to be the best hunk of roast lamb to come out of my oven. Juicy. The perfect level of pinkness in the centre. A most delicious taste. To accompany, a little salad and some chunky chips. For the wine though something classy, something a little special...

Red Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Fattoira le Sorgenti Scirus, 2003, Tuscany, Italy
Stockist: Cadman Fine Wines [More on UKWOL] Price: £24.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

Textured and smooth, wonderful richness but balanced. A flow of savoury edged fruit - hints of tomatoes laced with chocolate, raspberries, cherries and other fleshy fruits. Very 'Bordeaux' on the nose - hailing from the blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot (mixed in a 60%/40% blend) thrown in a little oak.

All rather scrummy, full and rich. Perhaps a tad young and missing a little development and complexity and also a tad short on the finish but highly drinkable. Accompanied that delicious lamb dish beautifully. Alcohol 14.5%.

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

Normally only 8000 bottles are produced annually, however the hot summer of 2003 reduced this to a meagre 6000 bottles, where deft handling, skilled winemaking and the benefit of vineyards at 400 metres have ensured that another outstanding wine has been crafted by Paolo Caciorgna and Le Sorgenti.

This months Wine Blogging Wednesday has, as its theme, 'The Letter S'. Sorgenti Scirus I guess qualifies!

Clos des Rochers Pinot Blanc, 2006, Moselle, Luxembourg

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

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

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

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

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

Alcohol 12%.

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

Mid-week Combinations - M&S Australian Chardonnay

M&S Chardonnay and Food Matching

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

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

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

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

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

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

Continue reading "Mid-week Combinations - M&S Australian Chardonnay" »

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]

Continue reading "Torre Beratxa Garnacha Rosado, 2006, Navarra, Spain" »

Domaine Félines Picpoul de Pinet, 2007, Languedoc, France

Felines Picpoul de PinetI don't recall which wine Rick Stein was drinking at the Mediterranean end of his barge tour through France. Perched on a balcony overlooking the Bassin de Thau there was a large platter of seafood in front of him over looking the sparkling waters.

Well, that's how I recall that particular episode! The wine should have been a chilled bottle of Picpoul de Pinet, the local wine from this sea hugging edge of the Languedoc. Its a classic with sea food; just a perfect match.

But, despite having a tub of fresh seafood in the fridge, a 'really near its use by date' chicken won out and became the food accompaniment for the evening. A free-ranger stuffed with a mix of Goan Red and Wild rice mixed with chopped, fried, liver and onions. A stridently flavoured stuffing.

The wine/food combination was not a bad match by any stretch, the high acidity taking the liver and wild rice stuffing in its stride. The lemony, floral edge was fine with the chicken.

But you just have to ask... what would the partnership with the mixed seafood have been like?

White Wine ReviewWine Tasting Note: Domaine Félines Picpoul de Pinet, 2007, Languedoc, France.
Waitrose £4.99. [More on Adegga]
Fresh, crisp and lively. Lemony, a touch of herb and a mineral edge give this a distinctive flavour. Dry. Alcohol 13%. Medium to full-bodied.

Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 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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A Dish For Howard Park Scotsdale Cabernet Sauvignon

Howard Park Scotsdale Cabernet Sauvignon 2005No apologies for featuring another wine from the excellent Howard Park stable; this is their old vine Cabernet Sauvignon from the Great Southern Region of Western Australia. It was an absolute star with this lamb dish although don't go too heavy with mint sauce.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Howard Park Scotsdale Cabernet Sauvignon, 2005, Great Southern, Western Australia
New vintage available soon from Bibendum for £13
They make great play on the 'old vines' description on the rear label. The grapes for this bottle come are sourced from a single estate in Mount Barker (in the Great Southern region) in Western Australia. The vines were planted in 1974 and are therefore 34 years old. Old vines and extra attention in the vineyard results in a higher quality wine, in this case one brimming with wonderful blackberry and bramble flavours laced with a herbal, dark chocolate edge. It is also blessed with a long length and tannins that should see it though for several years. In fact the recommend 5-8 years cellaring. Alcohol 14.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

It's a touch young at the moment but still a joy to drink. Served with Lamb Baguettes with Fresh Mint Sauce (recipe below) it was a delight. Wareing's sauce is rather sweet and, depending on how much mint you add, quite powerfully flavoured. The sweetness will swamp the wine so use sparingly.

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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!

Château Tonnelles, 2004, Fronsac, France

Château Les Tonnells 2004More banging on from me about how we should look to the independent merchant for the more interesting wines - small producers, interesting flavours, unknown grapes etc etc but such purchases do not have to be the idiosyncratic, often you just need something decent and mainstream but still retaining that small producer mentality...

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Château Les Tonnelles, 2004, Fronsac, France.
Available from Bordeaux-Undiscovered [more] for £7.99 (normally £11.99) More on: Adegga / Snooth .
Very French (for which read Bordeaux) in style and structure - the aroma has a lovely fruity edge that needs a little teasing (swirl/decant) to really reveal itself - don't forget that aroma offers so much to the overall enjoyment of wine - is that blackcurrant, blackberry, leaves, undergrowth?

The Bordeaux Undiscovered website states that this 'drinks well on it's own' but I disagree - it's a classic French food wine - unless you enjoy hearty tannins - and in that regard is highly recommended with a simple roasted game bird. In this case it is stuffed with herby sausage and served with a potato-parsley-garlic mash and a broad bean puree (the latter left over from the Pappardelle with Broad Beans and Rocket dish).

The wine is 100% Merlot. Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

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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 Wine For Scotch Woodcock

One of those peculiarly named Edwardian or Victorian dishes, like Welsh Rarebit, Scotch Woodcock is simply scrambled eggs on toast with the addition of anchovies. The recipe appears in the May 2008 issue of Delicious (and is detailed on SpittoonExtra) where they top the dish with lightly steamed asparagus. It might sound odd but it's really fantastic.

A tricky dish to match with wine, you would assume, but I have found a great partner - another wine from the Howard Park stable, this one being the 2007 Riesling. The wine just 'worked'. The acidity cut through the 'tricky' richness of the egg while the fresh flavours were superb with the asparagus. I also think that Howard Park's Sauvignon Blanc would also be a fine choice.

White WineWine Tasting Note: Howard Park Riesling, 2007, Western Australia
Available (soon) from Bibendum for £11
Fresh and lively, but rather too young (although this style worked brilliantly wit the Scotch Woodcock). As Howard Park states "This wine will greatly reward the patient enthusiast. Secondary characters with start to develop after two years and will continue to add complexity to this wine for at least 10 years".

As it stands the wine is very pale, limey on the nose with a flowery edge with the palate offering great acidity, cool, pure flavours and, as mentioned, great capacity to age. Alcohol 12.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]

The production process is very interesting - only free run juice, all from the Great Southern region, was used with different batches cool-fermented separately in (the ubiquitous) stainless steel tanks which preserves the delicate Riesling fruit flavours. The blending trials of these different batches must have been fascinating.

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 Steak and Mushroom Pie

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

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

The wine eventually selected was Italian.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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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Three Wines from France: The Montagnac Range

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Wine for Spring Lamb

martin sarmiento 2004

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Wine for a Frangipane Fruit Tart; or not

Frangipane Apricot and Fig Tart with Antinori DonatoIt wasn't a perfect match - brought to accompany a Fig and Apricot Frangipane dessert I was hoping for better. The fruit and sweet pastry were just too much for this Vin Santo. It is usually served with biscotti or amaretti biscuits; even the distinct nutty edge did little with the desserts pistachio topping.

Dessert WineWine Tasting Note: Antinori Donato Vin Santo, NV, Italy.
From Waitrose for £6.99.

A mahogany colour with a lightly alcoholic nose. The palate does have an edge of sweetness but far from being 'sticky' it has a nutty, sherry-like, almost dry finish. Hints of caramel and coffee permeate the burnt fig flavour. Very distinctive. Alcohol 16.5%.

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

Food and Wine Matching at The FrontLine

FrontLine wine tasting Luckily my diary for last Saturday was empty¹; so the invite for a meal at the FrontLine Restaurant was taken up with gusto. The evening was advertised as a 'Special evening with Malcolm Gluck and John Taylor'; a food and wine matching event to all intense and purposes. Malcolm Gluck is the wine buyer for the Front Line restaurant.

While Malcolm Gluck was obviously there, entertaining us with a great evening-long impression of a drunken Worzel Gummidge, I never did find out who John Taylor was.

I did run into the Cooksister, whose skillful hand with the compact camera provided the images here and had an all too brief chat with Fraser Lewry who writes over at BlogJam and is eating his way through the alphabet over on the Guardian's Word of Mouth (where you can also find me occasionally).

We also had the pleasure - which impressed the rest on our table no end - to be interviewed by the delightful Chris. We were forewarned that "Chris is keen to record a radio feature on food bloggers for BBC Radio 5 Live" and to "come equipped with wit". This I think we did with gusto but perhaps I should mention (if on the off-chance I actually make it through the cutting to the broadcast) that it was quite late in the evening; and the wine had been quite free flowing.

The meal:

Aperitif: Henri Bourgeois Petit Bourgeois Sauvignon Blanc, 2006, France - Grassy with a touch of Lychee and a nice softness. Enjoyable.

Starter: Cock-a-Leekie Soup served with Voyager Estate Margaret River Semillon, 1998, Australia. A revelation and really a sublime match. Normally I dislike waxy aged Semillon, and the grape can be dull without age, but when matched with the soup a real harmonious combination resulted.

Main Course: Boiled Beef with a pearl Barley and carrot Broth, Parsley and Beetroot Dumplings accompanied by Fairview Estate Agostinelli Barbera, 2006, South Africa. A couple on our table didn't enjoy this at all. I can see why but I found it very interesting. It is big, ripe, perhaps a little over-extracted but with good structure and acidity. It cut through the rather mouth-clogging, unusual, dumplings wonderfully. Not totally convinced it was a good match with the salty beef. Interesting grape variety though with high alcohol.

Cheeses: I forget the cheeses - something from Ireland, a Lancashire and a Stilton I think. The wine, a Segna Le Roc des Domaine Anges Cotes du Roussillon, 2006, was not good. A heavily accentuated 'feral' aroma (I think I used the word 'shit' during the BBC interview). Underneath this though was an interesting wine full of dark fruits. I found it undrinkable.

Dessert: A Bread and Butter Pudding matched with a Don PX Toro Albala Dulce de Pasas Montilla-Morales, 2004, Spain. The pud was very flavoursome, which we put down to a layer of Quince jam. It was a typical English pudding, big and filling. It failed to match the wine which, while excellent in its own right, was extremely big and rich. The sweetness was enough to be a dessert in its own right. I would have served it with some simple biscuits or matched something lighter and less sweet with the Bread and Butter Pud.

¹ - for which read 'rubbish social life'

Continue reading "Food and Wine Matching at The FrontLine" »

Campbells The Barkly Durif, 1997, Rutherglen, Australia

Campbells Barkly Durif 1997

Mine was the very last bottle at Cooden Cellars; how lucky was I! It arrived too late for December's Wine Blogging Wednesday (where I had to slum it with a Mexican Petite Sirah) so it sat in the rack until the Christmas Day meal.

Guys and Gals, it was well worth waiting for - the match with Oven Roasted Partridge was sensational!

The locally shot brace (brought from the covered market in Oxford) was subjected to a Slater recipe (Roast Partridge with juniper and thyme) from a November issue of the Observer Magazine and was served with Brussels Sprouts stir-fried with Chestnuts and Pork Chipolatas and huge amounts of bread sauce. Simply delicious.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Campbells The Barkly Durif, 1997, Rutherglen, Australia.
This vintage purchased from Cooden Cellars [more] for £15.99.
Full-bodied, ripe but with a good structure. Nice tannic backbone supporting the red berry fruit with a complexity of dusty spice, a cherry edge, inky depths and a plummy whole. A long lasting, chocolaty almost port-like finish. The acidity is still lively and balancing. Good length to boot.

Scribblings Rating - 96/100 [4.5 out of 5]

The 2003 seems to be the vintage currently available in the UK and one that is highly recommended for placing in your cellar for 5 plus years. As soon as funds become available I'll be buying!

Durif is an extremely rare variety first propagated by Dr Durif in the Rhone Valley of France in the 1880's. It is now virtually extinct in France. It arrived in Rutherglen in the early 1900's and has become synonymous with the region. Its unique qualities have been recognised by other Australian producers and plantings are increasing throughout Australia.

We have experimented and refined our techniques for handling durif over several decades. In 1992 we introduced The Barkly Durif, the ultimate expression of this variety. Only the very best parcels of fruit from good vintages are used and the resultant wine is carefully aged in a mix of oak barrels, both old and new,
from France, Germany and America."

Wine Tasting Note: Tusk 'n Red, 2004, Mendocino County, California

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Tusk 'n Red, 2004, Mendocino County, California
Available from Waitrose for £9.99

What this wine has with Italy is anyones guess. This blend is far removed from anything from Italy - 45% Syrah 25% Zinfandel 13% Sangiovese 11% Petite Sirah 6% Grenache. Oh hold on, there's a little Sangiovese...

It's a nice little wine with great, humorous packaging (similar irreverence to the Goats do Roam range from South Africa). Lightly spicy, not at all sweet (as many a Californian wine can be) and surprisingly drinkable and food friendly. Not a superlative match with the Pork with Apples and Chestnuts (a white would have been my ideal) but interesting. Style-wise the Italian edge materialises with tannins and acidity more than welcoming with an Italian-food-friendly stance.

Medium bodied. Alcohol 13.5%.

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

Sauvignon Blanc and Cheese

Cornish Brie

There are going to be detractors of course but really the ONLY wine to have with cheese is a decent Sauvignon Blanc. I'm not fussed if it is a pungent, passion fruit laced, bottle from New Zealand, a more minerally, gooseberry led wine from the Loire or a pea-green version from Chile - as long as it's a Sauvignon Blanc with high acidity it is going be marvellous with cheese.

Not all cheeses admittedly. But most.

The high fat content of cheese needs a wine with high acidity to cut through and balance the flavour sensations. One of the best 'rules' to follow is eat local - drink local. So cheeses from the Loire should marry well with wines from the same region. While other wine and cheese combinations are superb (Munster and Gewürztraminer, Manchego with Rioja, Cheddar with a Cabernet Sauvignon, Stilton or Roquefort with a Sauternes) for a wine to cover a mixed cheese board you really cannot get better than a decent Sauvignon Blanc.

Sauvignon Blanc and Cheese:

  • Asiago - Italian cow's milk cheese from the Veneto

  • Bougon - A goat`s milk camembert

  • Boursin - French spreadable cream cheese

  • Boucheron - French goats cheese

  • Brendon - A strong matured goats cheese from Exmoor, UK

  • Brie - French/English cow's milk cheese

  • Camembert - French cow's cheese

  • Caerphilly - Welsh cheese

  • Chaource - French double cream cow's milk cheese

  • Chavignol - French goat's cheese from the Loire

  • Cheddar - English cow's milk cheese

  • Cheshire - English cow's milk cheese

  • Chèvre - French goats cheese

  • Crottin - French goats cheese

  • Double Gloucester - English cow's milk cheese

  • Emmenthal - Swiss cow's milk cheese

  • Feta - Greek sheep's mIlk cheese

  • Fontina - Italian cow's milk

  • Garrotxa - Spanish goats cheese

  • Gruyere - Swiss cheese

  • Havarti - Danish cow's Milk

  • Montasio - Italian cow's milk cheese

  • Pecornio - Italian sheep's milk cheese

  • Raclette - French or Swiss cow's Milk

  • Reblochon - French cow's Milk

  • Robiola - Italian goat's milk cheese from Lombardy

  • Saint Andrews - Scottish cow's Milk cheese

  • Taleggio - Italian cow's milk cheese

  • Tetilla - Spanish cow's Milk

Wine Tasting Note: Bodegas Añadas CARE Cabernet/Garnacha/Merlot Crianza, 2003, Cariñena, Spain

Wine Tasting Note CARE Cabernet/Garnacha/Merlot Crianza, 2003, Cariñena, Spain Living equidistant between the university city and Reading, as I do, Oxford wins every-time. Reading is something of a culinary dessert. True you have Smelly Alley with a couple of grocers, a fish monger and a butcher, a decent deli down by the Church and a Carluccio's hidden away behind the Court buildings but all this pales in comparison with Oxford's Covered Market.

I went there yesterday. Lunch was a tasty, meat-packed pie from the Pie Minister and an urge for something sweet sedated by a slice of freshly baked flapjack from one of the many delis.In the bag went onions and potatoes from the fruit and veg man and a brace of plump partridges (two pence under a fiver) from M Feller, Son and Daughter. What the market lacks though is an independent wine merchant; one of the few remaining Oddbins opposite acted as a handy substitute. I came away with a funkily packaged Spanish red to accompany said partridges.

The birds were cooked as per a recipe from Slater's Kitchen Diaries with Spanish sausage substituting for the Italian he recommended. (Sausage briskly fried in a pot with a little oil, chopped onions added and softened. Partridges browned in the same pot before the addition of 500ml chicken stock, a splash of the red and a bay leaf. Popped into the oven, covered, for half an hour).

They were served with a simple salad of fresh spinach and toasted walnuts plus homemade wholemeal bread to mop up the sauce. Most satisfying.

Doubly delicious when served with the Oddbins red - CARE Cabernet/Garnacha/Merlot.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Bodegas Añadas CARE Cabernet/Garnacha/Merlot Crianza, 2003, Cariñena, Spain.
Oddbins for £8.49.
First reactions - not very 'Spanish', rather new worldy in style. Soft tannins, smooth, full-bodied, oak hardily evident. Black-fruits and damsons. The blend retains a smidgen Spanishness with the Garnacha component. Tasty indeed and certainly worth the asking price. Alcohol a noticeable 14%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

Wine Tasting Note: Marquis de Pennautier Chardonnay, 2005, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France

Marquis de Pennautier 2005 Chardonnay

White WineWine Tasting Note: Marquis de Pennautier Chardonnay, 2005, Vin de Pays d'Oc, France.
Available from Waitrose for £7.99.

An edge of orange peel, a smidgen of grapefruit (on the nose at least) and a distinct nutty finish. A weighty palate, some richness but fresh and blessed with a long length. The wine does have some character, a refined feel and, as the rear label states some 'elegance and charm'. This is not a big, buttery wine but it does lack a little in texture and layers of flavour.

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

It was that nutty edge that intrigued with the idea of pairing it with partridge stuffed with a liver/onion/chestnut mix. Chicken had to do as a substitute as no partridges to be found in my local Waitrose. (Unlike nearby Henley there is no butcher in Wallingford where such delights would be plentiful).

You can't really go wrong with matching a Chardonnay with chicken but the stuffing - with the full-on flavour of liver and chestnuts - was taken in its stride by the wine.

An oak-aged Chardonnay from the foothills of the Montagne Noire to the North of Carcassonne in the Languedoc region, where the limestone clay terrior and the relatively cool micro-climate combine to produce a wine of elegance and charm.

Wine Tasting Note: Beblenheim Pinot Gris Reserve, 2006, Alsace, France

Wine Tasting Note: Beblenheim Pinot Gris Reserve, 2006, Alsace, FranceAlways amazing how few people consider Alsace when selecting their wines. OK, so they come in those suspiciously Germanic-looking bottles (with all those negative associations) but at least they have the grape variety on the label. Maybe Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris are too closely related to the poorer quality (generally) of Pinot Grigio.

This superb Pinot Gris is certainly not a Pinot Grigio!

White WineWine Tasting Note: Beblenheim Pinot Gris Reserve, 2006, Alsace, France.
Available from Waitrose for £7.99 (£6.64 online).

Weighty - a little sweetness perhaps - but a dry finish. Honeyed with a hint of greenness in the lightly spiced, musky palate. Delicate and stylish. Apple and quince flavours with a nutmeg edge apparent.

Highly recommended with chicken (flambéed with Apple Brandy) served with a rich cream sauce mixed with butter-fried apples, topped with a little grated nutmeg to emphasise the flavour in the wine. Absolutely delicious. With he acidity cutting through the cream, the flavours of spice and apple complimenting each other the whole match worked wonderfully. Even the steamed green beans served with the chicken worked, with a little green complexity appearing.

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

Wine Tasting Note: Duque de Viseu Tinto, 2002, Dão, Portugal

duque_de_viseu_red.jpg The swinging pendulum of time takes us to another Wine Blogging Wednesday. This month hosted by Catavino with a theme of Portuguese table wines. If the intention was to highlight the myriad local grape varieties used for wine making in Portugal, then with this wine that aim has succeeded. Seldom do you see single varietal red wines from Portugal, blends are the norm - this is a blend of Touriga Nacional, Jaen, Alfrocheiro and Tinta Roriz.

Red WineWine Tasting Note: Duque de Viseu Tinto, 2002, Dão, Portugal
Waitrose £5.99
It actually has a very port-like flavour but one without the weight and added alcohol. So it is medium to full-bodied with a complex spicy palate. A nice level of tannin and a food-friendly red berry bite on the finish.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]

Half a bottle went into poaching pears an accompaniment for Roast Chicken Stuffed with Pears, Pistachios, Sausage and Bacon as suggested in a new Spanish cookbook - 1080 Recipes by Simone and Inés Ortega. Chilean Pinot Noir was a better match with the food, the Duque de Viseu being a little heavy to match well. The Pinot also had a little sweetness of fruit that mixed with the stuffing and those poached pears to a more harmonious degree than the Portuguese wine.

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.

Continue reading "A Wine For Ouefs Hollique" »

Devaux Ultra D Champagne

Devaux_Ultra_D_Champagne.jpgChampagne/Sparkling Wine Wine Tasting Note: Devaux Ultra D Champagne, NV, Champagne, France.
Available from independents and Surf4Wine £43.50.
Is this the 'ultimate food champagne' as the producers claim? Not far from the truth to be honest. It has an intense combination of maturity and freshness. Elegant, complex with a delicate finish. At a recent function I attended it was served with a mix of Canapés: Crostini with Seared Salmon and Pickled Cucumber, Foie Gras Mousse with Peppered Pineapple (delicious) and Feta Cheese and Red Onion Marmalade Filo Parcel.

A superb match to all. I was well impressed!

Surprised at being served North Sea Cod for the main lunch course - I thought it was so endangered it was no longer being eaten - I managed to snaffle another glass of the Devaux to try alongside. The flavours were totally different than with the Canapés, no doubt altered with the wilted Spinach and Mussel Broth served alongside. A different complexity entirely and just as delicious.

Stylishly packaged with a minimum of 5 years bottle ageing. A mix of Pinot Noir (66%) and Chardonnay (34%).

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

Wine Tasting Note: Penny's Hill McLaren Vale Footprint Shiraz, 2004, Australia

pennyshill_footprint_shiraz.jpgTwo burgers. A little posh perhaps being Tesco's finest (beef with sun-dried tomatoes), but nothing you could call gourmet. Each is sandwiched between two slices of plain white Warburton's bread.

A couple of salad leaves, two slices of tomato in each, two torn basil leaves and a dollop of Hellmans mayo. Oh, and a slice of cheddar strategically placed in the burger to melt slightly as the top layer of bread is pressed down - forcing a squidge of mayo and a few tomato pips down the side of the sarnie.

I'm outside, enjoying the garden of my childhood home as I house-sit for the parents. This really is the most beautiful part of the Chilterns. The weather is warm, slightly muggy. A wood-pigeon is cooing in the wood and I've just knocked over a glass of the most gorgeous, perfect-accompaniment to a cheap, knocked together burger, you can imagine: Penny's Hill McLaren Vale Footprint Shiraz, 2004. A silky smooth mass of blackberries and blueberries, a little vanilla, a touch of mineral complexity and a ripe, gently tannic finish.

Retails for about £28. Perfect.

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.

Continue reading "A Wine For Pasta with Walnut Sauce" »

Prosecco and Food

L'OrtolanNow of course you don't have Michelin starred food at home - or maybe you do and it's just me that has to slum it - but these fine-wine/meet the winemaker dinners are a superb opportunity to sample high quality cuisine and enjoy some innovative wine and food matching combinations at the same time.

They do have relevance on a more everyday level in that the matches can be 'replicated' at home with more humble fare. At the very least they can provide indications of the versatility of the wines in question as I discovered at a Bisol Prosecco dinner held at L'Ortolan in Berkshire the other week.

The menu is detailed below. The wine and various notes were scribbled at the time on the back of the napkin. Sadly no images of any of the beautifully presented dishes are available.

One of the most interesting and 'extreme' matches was the combination of roasted pork with a Prosecco. The Cartizze bottling, with its hint of sweetness, would not have been my initial choice of wine to accompany such a dish, but the Roasted Loin and Braised Shoulder of Suckling Pig had an inherent sweetness and made for a sublime match with the wine. The apple butter sauce and sage gnocchi, served alongside, picked up similar flavour components in the wine. A heavenly match.

Bisol Dinner, L'Ortolan, 23rd March 2007

  • Chefs Appetiser
    no wine with this frothy chicken soup. Really, really good.

  • Ballottine of Organic Salmon, Herb Creme Fraiche, Purple Potato Mousse and Horseradish Relish

    with Bisol 'Garnei' Prosecco di Valdobbiadene 2004
    The horseradish was a revelation. So accustom am I to the shop brought generic jars that the flavour here was astounding - fresh, vibrant with a burst of heat on the finish but not at all over-powering or burning. The Prosecco was in perfect balance with the food, refreshing the palate after the horseradish and complimenting the salmon superbly. It would seem that there are more options to matching wine with fish than Sauvignon Blanc!

  • Bisol Cartizze Label
    Foie Gras and pan d'Epices 'sandwich' with Quince Jelly

    served with Bisol 'Duca di Dolle' Passito
    The Duca di Dolle is the sweet wine in the Bisol line-up. (A substitue for Sauternes, the usual partner for Foie Gras). Consternation from some unadventurous quarters of a dessert wine served before the 'main course' but, for me, a perfect partner to the smooth and 'meltingly lovely' foie gras. Slicing through the 'sandwich' revealing a little smoked bacon adding further complexity to the flavour. These myriad tastes lifted the wine, imparting an astounding spicy, ginger edge. It all added to the gorgeousness of the whole.

  • Roast Monkfish, Homemade Linguine, Mussel and Mild Curry Cream

    Bisol 'Molera' Prosecco di Valdobbiadene 2006 - a still wine.
    The richness of the previous course did effect the flavour of this still wine; unless you cleansed the palate with a glass or two of water the sweetness of the Passito would make any still, dry wine taste a little flat. To me this is the least inspiring of the Bisol line-up but it worked very nicely with the perfectly cooked Monkfish, with its Sauvignon Blanc-like crispness, but it lacks a little 'something'.

  • Roasted Loin and Braised Shoulder of Suckling Pig, Sage Gnocchi, Apple Bitter Sauce, Roasting Juices
    with Bisol 'Cartizze' Prosecco di Valdobbiadene 2005
    An unusual pairing - a meat dish with a Prosecco. Even the Italians on our table were at pains to state that this is not a typical Italian combination. But it worked stunningly well - the sweetness of the pork was simply superb with the wines touch of residual sugar. The apple puree matching with similar flavours in the wine. A surprising but welcome pairing.

  • Pre-Dessert

    A rhubarb compote with a ginger and champagne cream topped with a rhubarb ice. Wonderous.

  • Lemon Possett, White Chocolate Mousse, Meringues and Lemon Zest Confit
    with Bisol 'Crede' Prosecco di Valdobbiadene, 2005
    The least successful match of the evening. The wine was too dry and too delicate in flavour to match the sweetness of the dish and the vibrant lemon flavours. Was this a case of 'oh, we have one more wine to squeeze in'? The Bisol Duca di Dolle Passito, the sweet wine from the Foie Gras course was a hugely superior match. The dish though was 'divine'. The Crede is a lovely wine by itself but just a little too dry for this dessert.

Continue reading "Prosecco and Food" »

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.

A Quick Guide to Wine With Chocolate

Having devoured with gluttonous gusto the Hotel Chocolate Easter Egg over the weekend, thereby revealing yet again a total character weakness for all things chocolate, I felt a need to compile a collection of 'wine with chocolate' scribbled notes into a post.

As with wines there is more than one type of Chocolate Dessert

Light Chocolate Desserts such as mousses - go for a Moscato d'Asti or Vin Santo. Try Malvasia delle Lipari with fruit based desserts such as Pears in Chocolate Sauce.
Rich Chocolate Desserts - profiteroles, chocolate roulades, Black Forest Gateaux - sensational with Recioto, raspberry liqueurs. If orange involved try Orange Muscat or Tokaji. Berry fruit based desserts match well with a Maury.
Richest Chocolate Desserts - Rivesaltes, Banyuls, Australian Liqueur Muscats, Recioto or Marsala Superiore Dolce
Chocolate Cake - Sachertorte, Devil's Food Cake Try with Ruby or Tawny Port, Liqueur Muscats

Red Wine? Bittersweet chocolate can be accompanied by red wines, specifically New World styles of Cabernet Sauvignon. One experience I had matched Howard Park Leston Shiraz from Western Australia with a Dark Chocolate Marquis, crème Chantilly and Griottines. The match didn't quite work [read more]

One To Try: Sweet Sherry might not be the first wine you think of as an accompaniment but lightly chilled they can go rather nicely. Decadently, for the sweetest of dishes, a Spanish Pedro Ximenez, full of gloriously rich raisin and toffee flavours is one to try. Some though might find a glass of PX enough of a dessert by itself. Pour a glass over a mix of chocolate and vanilla ice-cream for a sensational flavour explosion.

Wines To Avoid:
With desserts the rule is to select a wine that is sweeter than the food. A wine less sweet than the food will appear hollow, tart and generally unpleasant. So avoid anything dry - Chardonnay, Sauvignons and the like.

Pear Walnut Brownies great with Marsala Superiore Dolce

White Wine With Cheese

I have just updated one of the most popular posts here on Spittoon - Matching Cheese and Wine. A few new wine pairings have been added and a couple of cheeses we never see in the UK - an American and a Mexican suggestions taken from What To Drink With What You Eat.

I've been mulling over their suggestion that Gewürztraminer is the top white to serve with cheese. They quote Alpana Singh from Everest in Chicago and Jean-Luc Le Dü of New York who both attest the same -

Alsatian Gewürztraminer is the most cheese-friendly wine in the world

I have to disagree. Reading through my cheese and wine list Sauvignon Blanc appears more frequently than any other white. Sauvignon is classically matched with Goats Cheese of course - and a glorious pairing it is too - but a decent Sauvignon is also delicious with a host of British cheeses (Cheshire, Lancashire, Caerphilly etc). It is also a blast with Raclette, Taleggio and Graddost. Gewürztraminer lacks the acidity I feel, which of course Sauvignon Blanc offers in abundance.

What is it with cheeses, though, that makes people always want to serve Red wines? White is best!

Cheddar Cheese

Champagne Food Pairings: Champagne and Caviar

It is not every day that you have the opportunity to sample the likes of Cristal, Dom Pérignon and Krug side-by-side with Caviar (and at £180 a ticket I am probably not going to either).

With sturgeon eggs from the Caspian off the endangered list - why, when stocks are still down 80% on ten years ago? - the decadent and rich can now indulge in paring Caviar with Champagne again. A report in The Times suggests that French Caviar from the Aquitaine makes for a passable alternative. Still hugely expensive though at £50 for a 30g tin. The French version is available in three varieties, humorlessly called No.1, No.2 and No.3.

For matching with prestige Champagne they conclude that

the Cristal falls apart, the Dom Pérignon has enough citrus fruits to work well with all three and the Krug would be fine at a push. And the best caviar? Number Two."

So now we know.

What To Drink With What You Eat ( £16.07) have two quotes, the first from a Daniel Johannes in New York, the second, opposing view, from Jean-Luc Le Du of Le Dû's Wines, again in New York.

I think Champagne and Caviar can be a great match. I just think you have to be careful what Champagne you serve. The Champagne should be really vibrant and crisp, and Blanc de Blancs is a great Champagne with it. Whereas if you're going to serve a barrel-fermented or wood-aged Champagne with body, I think Caviar can really destroy the flavours. Also regarding the age of the Champagne: I think it should be young and crisp and fresh"
Caviar and Champagne? Forget about it! Champagne is too sweet with Caviar. I once did a huge tasting and 99 percent of the Champagnes I tried were unsatisfying because they clashed with the caviar. I prefer vodka: it is dry, without a lot of taste, so you can concentrate on the flavour of the caviar"

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.

Continue reading "A Wine For Crispy Lemon Chicken" »

Five Rules For Matching Wine With Food

Reams and reams of writing have been produced on matching wine and food. Entire books in fact - some of them rather excellent* - have been published on the subject. But in my experience you can boil the 'facts' down to five simple rules -
  1. Regionality Rules - if a dish comes from a specific region or country then it is highly likely the local wines will turn out to be perfect accompaniments.
  2. Match Light with Light - and consequently heavier foods with heavier wines. You don't want the wine you are drinking to be overwhelmed by the wine and vice versa.
  3. Match Sweet with Sweeter - a dessert that is sweeter than the wine can make it taste nastily sharp. Select a wine sweeter than the dessert.
  4. It's All In The Sauce - if you are struggling to find a wine look to the sauce. How many times have you seen a rear label proclaim 'good with chicken'? The differences between a spicy chicken curry and a coq au vin are immense.
  5. What Else We Got? Full flavoured chutneys or salsas can all affect the taste of the wine, you might need to trade up in the body stakes to cope.
  6. * One such recently published book published at the end of last year I am enjoying immensely; review post to come.

Wine Tasting Note: Altano Reserva, 2000, Douro, Portugal

Altano Reserva BottleRed WineWine Tasting Note:Altano Reserva, 2000, Douro, Portugal.
Bin-end stock at Waitrose £4.99 down from £6.99.
Bought to accompany a spicy, rich, Spanish-inspired Chorizo and Potato Stew the flavours of which, while simmering away, invaded the whole flat with the most delicious aromas.

The stew, heady with rich spices, could have been tricky to match with a wine; the spice-heat itself enough to dominate a less powerfully flavoured wine. But the medium-bodied Altano stood-up to the task wonderfully. The acidity cutting through the richness and the deep, spicy flavours complementing those in the food.

A blend of Tinto Roriz (aka Tempranillo) and Touriga Francesa grapes common to this corner of Portugal. Alcohol 12.5%. >.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

Waitrose have this reduced as the newer vintages are coming on stream - the Altano website currently lists the 2004 vintage. A little age to a Douro red does wonders. A bargain at £4.99 if you see it.

Wine With Reindeer and Kangaroo

A request - suggestions for wines to accompany Kangaroo and Reindeer. My knowledge is sadly lacking in this important culinary sphere so I called on a couple of internet friends to lend some advice.

For Reindeer one of course turns to Anne in Sweden - "I do indeed eat reindeer! It's a very lean meat, and it doesn't taste of very much in itself. Not very "wild". I haven't had much deer, but it's pretty similar. I usually buy frozen reindeer meat, flaked (like for Japanese yakiniku?) and fry it with onions and mushrooms, then in a cream sauce. I like it with rice or pasta - great comfort food. And very readily available here. A lot harder to find it fresh though.

Now, I'm not much of a pairing-wine-with-food person, preferring generally to stick with water for dinner and wine by itself or with cheese, but I'd say go with the flavors of the rest of the dish. The reindeer won't be very overpowering, at least."

Down in Australia from Matt the Abstract Gourmet - "Kangaroo eh... well I have to go right back to the start of my archives to find the last time I cooked it, but I do like to savour our national emblem on occasion... this recipe turned out really well... but make sure you let people know that kangaroo need to be cooked till just above pink if you really want to get the flavour and texture without turning it to rubber."

No wine suggestions but I would go for a bouncing Australian red.

Jeanne, the famous CookSister!, has surpassed herself in providing the following info -

It seems zebra is not that popular (together with elephant, monkeys and carnivores) as it's not spectacularly tasty. However, that's what some people say about liver, so who knows. One reference that I found said that it tastes more like beef than horse, but sweeter. Who woulda

Here is a recipe from a 1958 South African cookbook:

Zebra Stew

  • 1 ½ lbs. zebra meat, using topside

  • 1 tablespoon flour

  • good pinch of mixed herbs

  • 1 lb. tomatoes, peeled

  • salt and pepper

  • pinch of celery salt

  • 3 tablespoons oil

  • 1 large onion

  • pinch of paprika

  • 1 cup stock or Knorr-Swiss onion soup

  • ½ cup cream

Cut meat into stewing pieces, dip in seasoned flour and brown in oil. Add tomatoes, quartered and seeds removed, then the stock or soup and seasoning. Simmer until tender, depending on age of zebra. Just before serving add cream and a little red wine, if available.

Continue reading "Wine With Reindeer and Kangaroo" »

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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Wine Tasting Note: Danie de Wet Earth and Sky Chardonnay, 2006, Robertson, South Africa

Dinner was Organic Roast Chicken with Oranges and Winter Herbs lifted from the November issue of Delicious served with Baked Onions with Parmesan and Cream (Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries) and Petite Pois. The bird is marinaded for 5 or 6 hours with the juice and skins of four oranges plus rosemary and bay leaves, then roasted in the same juices.

The wine, plucked from the shelf for the sole reason that I hadn't seen it before, was an absolute superb accompaniment. You couldn't ask for a better match or a better wine for the price. Superb. And bugger to those who profess to a dislike of Chardonnay! It might not be trendy but it is not classed as a 'noble grape' for nothing!

White WineWine Tasting Note: Danie de Wet Earth and Sky Chardonnay, 2006, Robertson, South Africa.
Waitrose £8.99.
Rich, yet elegant says the rear label. Who am I to argue! Weighty, with superb concentration and balance, coupled with a citric acidity that just set the taste buds a-tingling. While the flavours matched the orange element in the dish, the acidity cut through the richness of the cream/Parmesan - joyous. Alcohol 14.5%. Unwooded.

The website,, lists many Chardonnay's - just not this one. So new that it is not listed on the Waitrose website either. The acidity is going to keep this wine going for a few years - I recommend buying a few bottles; it's what I have done!
Scribblings Rating - 94/100

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

Howard Park Wines at Hotel Du Vin

The Wines of Howard Park, AustraliaTo my right is Michael Kerrigan winemaker for Howard Park and on my left sits Henri Chapon, something very important in the Du Vin hotel chain. I polish off the last of the aperitif – Howard Park Sauvignon Blanc 2005 – as the first course arrives.

Du Vin hosts regular wine making dinners across the estate this, covering the wines of Western Australia’s Howard Park wines, just happened to be in their Henley branch – built in part of the old Brakspear Brewery.

Being seated next to the winemaker was a coup; had a great chat about his aims for the estate, his constraints (more terroir based than anything) , his passions (a white wine lover) and his hates (don’t mention Pinot Gris!), screw-caps verses cork (“who cares? The debate is over”) and future plans (“Nebbiolo and Tempranillo; but it takes an age to get cuttings into WA”). And it’s nice to get his views on each wine as they were poured.

Howard Park is the premium range; the more familiar Madfish Bay comes from the same people. Grapes are sourced from two distinct regions that of Margaret River south of Perth in Western Australia and the lesser known Mount Barker down on the south coasts aptly named Great Southern region. While the soils are similar – for those who relish in such things it is a mix of gravely loams and loamy sands – the climate between the two are where the variations arise. While Margaret River is maritime influenced by the warm currents from the Indian Ocean, Mount Barker is cooler taking its influences from the cooler waters to the south.

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New Book: What to Eat With What You Drink

What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea - Even WaterIf you read a number of food blogs on a regular basis you wont fail to see a mention of a new book during October as the authors of What To Eat With What You Drink attempt to capture a bit of buzz as the book is reviewed.

"On each of the 22 weekdays during the month of October, we'll visit different Web sites that have graciously offered to feature an announcement or review of the book, an author Q&A, or something else they've dreamed up on their designated date." Kicking off the marketing is a great interview by David Lebovitz with the authors.

The full title is 'What to Drink with What You Eat: The Definitive Guide to Pairing Food with Wine, Beer, Spirits, Coffee, Tea - Even Water - Based on Expert Advice' listed on for £16.52 and US$23.10 on More details on the book itself on a dedicated website. Now all I need is to skank a review copy and see if the content measures up to the blog-hyping to come!

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.]


Wine and Mushrooms.

Torres, the Spanish producer, sent out an email yesterday. Generally unexciting except this month they have a little advice on matching mushroom dishes with wine giving examples from their own range (obviously). "Whether we gather them ourselves in the wild or buy them without further poetry from the market, we are going to look at the best wines to accompany them. The first thing to bear in mind is that there are numerous types of wild mushrooms and infinite ways of preparing them.

Selecting a wine depends on both factors. In general, the gelatinous texture of mushrooms is better complemented by red wines. But that does not prevent them, if prepared in simple, lighter ways, from being perfectly paired with white wines that have seen some ageing (for example a Gran Viña Sol or a Nerola White). For stronger mushrooms with more flavour you can choose a red varietal such as Pinot Noir (for example a Mas Borràs or a Marimar Pinot Noir). As it is smooth and elegant, it will not mask the flavour of the mushrooms. For more potent stews accompanied by wild mushrooms, choose red wines that are intense and full-bodied (such as a Gran Coronas or a Terrasola Syrah). And remember that the best pairing is one where wine and food are perfectly integrated without either losing their singular flavour."

Wine Tasting Note: Gosset Brut Excellence Champagne

Gosset Champagne
Gosset Champagne

Wine Tasting Note: Gosset Brut Excellence Champagne, NV, Champagne, France.
Independents around £30.
Straw yellow in colour with a fine stream of bubbles. There is a touch of maturity to this bottle – reflected in the straw yellow colour, the complexity of the aroma and the fine array of flavours to the palate. Yeasty, bready notes dominate the aroma while the palate has a softness. Rather good with a fine flow of the bubbles and a fullness that I rather like.

I undertook a little research into food matching with champagne; as one of the stipulations for this round of Wine Blogging Wednesday was matching the wine with food. While duck was not specifically mentioned, Chinese spring rolls were; mini duck spring rolls stuffed full with scrummy strips of lightly spiced meat seemed an interesting choice. It would need a full wine, which the Gosset luckily is, a lighter wine may have been swamped by the rich flavours.

Weight is not all though as a high acidity is need to cut through the richness. The crispness to the roll itself with the richness of both the meat and oiliness of the roll was perfectly cut and cleansed by the wines acidity. I suggest that little duck rillette canapés would also be a suitable match; although I found the mouth-feel of the warmth of the deep fried spring rolls contrasted wonderfully to the crisp coolness of the wine.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Gosset Champagne

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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: 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 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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Wine for Risotto - WBW #21 & IMBB #26 Fabulous Favourites Festival.

Wine Blogging Wednesday #21 and Is My Blog Burning #26 (two of the grand ol' dames of the food blog world) combine this month in a wine and food matching exercise.

I am sure everyone knows how to make a risotto - my particular culinary tour de force. Chicken, decent chicken stock, onion and garlic, plus whatever vegetables are on hand combine with rice to a rich, creamy 'comfort food' dish. Here we have chicken and broad beans; there are a few chopped porcini and sun-dried tomatoes lurking in the mix too.

Wine Tasting Note: Lurton Finca Las Higueras Pinot Gris, 2005, Mendoza, Argentina.

From Waitrose for £4.79.
I was certain I had detailed this wine here in the recent past (a search reveals otherwise). It is one of the few wines that I repeat-purchase. Offering great value it is a versatile food wine that pairs perfectly with a risotto; whether enhanced with a little Parmesan, a splash of cream or one with a citric blast of lemon. Reasonably full and rich the weight, coupled with a gingery bite to the flavour, lifts the palate from the humdrum you often find at this lowly price point to a great mid-week tipple. Alcohol 12.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Wine Tasting Note: Gaia Estate 14-18 Rosé, 2004, Peloponnese, Greece.

Wine Tasting Note: Gaia Estate 14-18 Rosé, 2004, Peloponnese, Greece.
Available from Oddbins for £5.99.
A few friends, some wonderfully warm weather, a free-flowing rosé to accompany a simple salad - what more do you need? Throw in some fresh bread with the rocket/spinach/watercress/asparagus/boiled eggs and forget all about writing a tasting note. The wine eased us through lunch and on into the afternoon...

The wines name perhaps could do with a little explanation. 14-18h refers to the number of hours that the grape skins where left in contact with the juice. While Agiorgitiko is a red variety here they have produced a highly drinkable rosé; recommended. Alcohol 13%.
Scribblings Rating - 94/100

Wine Tasting Notes: Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, 2002, Tuscany, Italy.

Wine Tasting Note: Salcheto Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, 2002, Tuscany, Italy.
Unknown Stockists. Price on Italian website is E17.60 (£12.20 approx).
A food wine - marked tannins and forceful acidity that makes for harsh drinking on its own but changes with a food accompniment. A good complexity to the aroma - fruit, herbs and something sunbaked and earthy. Made from Sangiovese although, in this case, a local clone known as Prugnolo Gentile.

As a food match this was recommended with Arista alla Fiorentina (Florentine Roast Pork) which is is a popular Tuscan dish, often served cold, although I had it warm from the oven. The pork is studded with chopped garlic and rosemary, doused with olive oil and, interestingly, has a few cloves stuck in the flanks. Before roasting several hours marinading is recommended. The wine was a superb match with the tannins and marked acidity disappearing and a more rounded whole present. A little pricey if it is £12 a bottle but that's Vino Nobile di Montepulciano for you! Alcohol 13%
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

Salcheto Nobile di Montepulciano

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Wine Tasting Note: Shepherd's Hut Shiraz, 2003, Western Australia.

Wine Tasting Note: Shepherd's Hut Porongurup Shiraz, 2003, Western Australia.
Available from Travelling Grapes, price TBC.
With a mass of blackberry fruit and plenty of soft tannins this medium-bodied wine from Western Australia is a delight. Pepper and spice notes enliven the palate and finish with a plummy, light oaked flourish. Alcohol 14%. Fusion food is recommended here - try a traditional Shepherd's Pie with the mince spiked with a selection of Indian spices; the match was lovely.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100


The vineyard, sited in the eastern foothills of the Porongurup Ranges in the Great Southern region of Western Australia was established in 1996 . Back in the 1850's there were four stone huts that were used by shepherds who were tending their flocks in the regions lush pastures. One of these old, now dilapidated, huts was on estate property. It was rebuilt overlooking the vines and is used by the family when working in the vineyard. It is apparently built from the original a honey-coloured Mt Barker stone and has sweeping views to the Porongurup and Stirling Ranges.

Wine Tasting Note: Chateau de Nages Cuvee Joseph Torres

Wine Tasting Note: Château Nages Cuvée Torrès, 1998, Costières de Nîmes, France.
Available from Oddbins for £5.99
At the far eastern edge of the Languedoc, clinging to the last surge of the Rhone lies the Costières de Nîmes. Part of the Languedoc or the Rhone? Influences from both regions intersect here. In general red wines are highly praised so a white, if spotted, is something to try. This is totally Roussanne; a grape prone to oxidation and blessed with a golden colour that can only deepen as it ages. Such as here. A few years in bottle now and both the colour and the mature aroma are typical of the grape. Is it too old and past its best or supposed to be like this? Full-bodied, distinctively orange flavoured on the finish with hints of spice and more elusive flavours. The acidity is quite high, keeping it all fresh.

It needs food - a rustic-styled bean and chicken stew, slowly cooked with herbs and balsamic vinegar as we tried worked superbly. Mash or bread to soak up the delicious juices is all that is required to accompany.
Scribblings Rating - 86/100

Wine Blogging Wednesday reaches its 19th round hosted by Wine Expression. The theme is Rhone grapes either from the region itself, such as here, or from elsewhere across the globe.

Wine Tasting Note: Philippe de Sivray Vouvray, 2004, Loire, France.

Wine Tasting Note: Philippe de Sivray Vouvray, 2004, Loire, France.
Listed by Oddbins for £5.49.
Personal preference edges towards a touch more development in Loire Chenin's - at the moment this ain't bad with a rounded palate laced with pear and custard flavours but with a touch more age should reveal more depth in the way of quince and cress. The finish harbours the acidity, cutting through the touch of sweetness to end dry and crunchy.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100

A splash or two of this white soaked some Agen prunes overnight that were then utilised in a creamy Porc Aux Pruneaux de Tours (Pork and Prunes) dish - not a bad match. Certainly good with the cream sauce but perhaps lacking a just a touch in sweetness to match the prunes. Good though in keeping everything regional - the town of Tours being just a hop from the Vouvray region of the Loire.

Wine Tasting Note: Clavel Les Catalognes, 2003, Coteaux du Languedoc, France.

A hearty meal was called for tonight; something warming, unfancy and wholesome; a Shepard's pie seemed ideal. Fine mince lamb, chopped onion, a few herbs and Worcester sauce simmered under a topping of locally produced potato, mashed with double cream and butter and spiked with grated nutmeg.

The urge for a Rhone red remained unfulfilled; at the price I wanted to pay there was nothing available. A compromise with a Languedoc red seemed ideal.

Wine Tasting Note: Domaine Clavel Les Catalognes, 2003, Coteaux du Languedoc, France.
Available from Oddbins for £6.49.
A blend of Grenache, Carignan and Syrah - which is just about Rhoney enough. The nose is a little bretty, mushrooms, undergrowth and shit mixed in with squishy black-fruits and some oriental spices. The palate is distinctive. Rough tannins coupled with fruit that has melded into a spicy, coffee-laced whole over the years. There is a touch of port-like richness initially, before the flavours evolve into an inky, blackberry finish. It needs food; with the pie it was fine mixing deliciously with the creamy potatoes and lamb base. Alcohol 13.5%.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100

Domaine Clavel is in Pic St Loup, just a stones throw from the Rhone area. They maintain a website. Sadly the English translation part of the site doesn't load, but translating part of it, it would seem that the wine offers "Great moment of table" and "assured laughter". While the site lists Grenache, Carignan and Syrah as the constituent grapes the Oddbins page adds Mourvedre, Muscat Petit Grians and Pinot Gris to the mix. I think they must have that wrong.

Wine Tasting Note: Alpha Domus Unoaked Chardonnay, 2004, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

Served at lunch with feta cheese stuffed pitta bread and later a dinner of prawns and homemade ciabatta bread.

Wine Tasting Note: Alpha Domus Unoaked Chardonnay, 2004, Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.
Independents and Delicatessens for around £9.
An intense aroma - a cascade of tropical fruits - opens this gorgeous little number. The palate, fresh, lively and full is unadorned by oak leaving a mineral-edged texture and a rich, ripeness packed to the rafters with pear, melon and apple flavours. Acidity is crisp. Ends with a sherbet/citrus edged finish. Screwcapped. Alcohol 14%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

Alpha Domus is owned by the Harn's, family of Dutch extraction. The wines taken their name from the initials of each member of the family. Domus is Latin for home.

Bloggersmeet - Six Wines From Spain.

A superb time spent in East London last Saturday. Six foodie bloggers met-up for a little wine and food from Spain tasting. When I say little I lie. There was a mass of the most delicious foods and some great wines too (notes below). Write-ups on SlashFood and SpittoonExtra and if you follow the individual participants blogs they are sure to have some details of the event there too. I had a splendid time.

UPDATE: Passionate Cook has posted her thoughts on the wines and a full run-down of the food.

Continue reading "Bloggersmeet - Six Wines From Spain." »

Wine with Beef Stew.

Beef stew or beef casserole - is there a difference? It matters little. We cracked open two wines to accompany beef slow-cooked in stock and red wine, tomato and onions plus chopped carrots, mixed herbs, a few porcini mushrooms and a dash of Beneden sauce. The whole house was filled with the most delicious, mouth-watering aromas as the stew bubbled gently on the hob for a few hours. It was worth the wait. And the two wines? Both delicious with the meal and distinctly different too.

Maurel Verdeau Minervois.
Wine Tasting Note: Maison Maurel Vedeau Le Minervois, 2003, Minervois, France.
Waitrose normally £5.99 now 20% off at £4.79.
A mix of Grenache, Syrah and Cinsault - a typical southern French blend. Gravelly tannins, chalky almost, perhaps mirroring the chalk terraces of the Montagne Noire. Peppery aroma, a little disappointing, more action on the palate. Like the slow cooked stew here the flavours are all mellow and melded together. Deep black fruits, a twist of juicy acidity and those gravelly tannins complete an excellently priced wine. Alcohol 13%.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

Domaine du Fraïsse Label
Wine Tasting Note: Domaine du Fraïsse Fleur de Cuveè, 2001, Faugères, France.
Handfords £7.99.
No details of the exact composition here but Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache, Mourvèdre and Syrah are the usual blending suspects. A gorgeous aroma with a floral edge, more intense than the Minervois, a touch of herbs and an inky edge too. A richer, fuller palate, juicy, licorice nuances adds to the full flavours. This is lovely.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

Wine With Partridge.

If both my new cookbook (Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries) and the Times 2 section from last Friday mention Partridge then I can only conclude they must be in season. I have a bit of a food-lust with game, feathered or otherwise, so I required no excuse really to indulge.

I had to use Gabriel Machin now that my preferred local butcher has retired, and came away with three plump little birds having exchanged £7 to the haughty counter-hand.

Following Slater's October 15th entry I simply smeared them with butter and crushed juniper berries and popped them in the oven to roast for thirty minutes or so. Served with honey-roasted parsnips, new potatoes and a few green beans they were delicious; and all the better for getting the fingers greasy by picking at the crevasses for the hidden morsels of meat.

I selected a red Burgundy to accompany. What I actually forgot to do was record a tasting note at the time - hey, I was hungry and the food looked sooo good! Needless to say the Cave de Pommard Beaune 1er Cru 'Les Aigrots', 1998, Burgundy, France was a superb match. A lusty wine, smoothed out superbly with the food. The bottle was a gift, so I have no idea how much it cost and I can't seem to find any details of the producer or wine online to assist, sadly.

Wine Tasting Note: Doña Paula Los Cardos Sauvignon Blanc, 2004, Mendoza, Argentina.

Wine Tasting Note: Doña Paula Los Cardos Sauvignon Blanc, 2004, Mendoza, Argentina.
Available from Oddbins for £5.99.
New to the shelves of Oddbins I believe, along with a red stablemate a Malbec. Los Cardos means 'The Thistle' a plant widespread in Mendoza and depicted on the label. It is 100% Sauvignon Blanc with a hint of green to the colour. Good aroma - a rampant (rampant, no less!) green/herb/grapefruit/lime/sherbet pungency. The palate is good, medium bodied. Crisp, squeaky clean and very lemony. Refreshing. Alcohol 12%.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100

Vina Dona Paula was founded in 1997, when the Claro Group acquired more than 760 hectares of land in the Ugarteche Area, High lands in Lujan de Cuyo and Tupungato (where the grapes for this wine come from) at the bottom of the Los Andes Mountain Range.

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Wine Tasting Note: Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc, 2004, Western Cape, South Africa.

Wine Tasting Note: Vergelegen Sauvignon Blanc, 2004, Western Cape, South Africa.
Listed by Sainsbury's for £7.99.
This wine was selected to accompany a recipe from Nigel Slater's new book as detailed in the latest Observer Food Monthly; the dish is the Courgette and Lancashire cheese crumble. The food was rather a good match for a fine, mineral-boned Sauvignon such as this one. The green-grassiness complemented the courgettes in the dish; the crisp acidity cut through the cheese. Elderberry and green peppers add to the complexity. Alcohol 13%. More at the Vergelegen Website.
Scribblings Rating - 90/100

Wine Blogging Wednesday 13 - With Chocolate.

Chocolate and Zucchini is hosting this months WBW; the theme being wine with chocolate. Clotilde kindly supplied a recipe for making the cake. I duly followed the instructions deviating only slightly by adding a little splash of my wine choice into the mix. The resultant cake is very chocolaty and perhaps a little too sweet for my wine.

My choice? A Marsala. I was looking for something a little different; port was too obvious, an excellent Australian fortified muscat I have detailed before and while there were several likely candidates sampled at a recent tasting I can't recall ever sampling a Marsala. Then I noted that I could use some in a recipe for Guinea Fowl and the decision was sealed!

Produced on the western end of Sicily, Marsala is a fortified wine; brandy is added during the production process, much in the same way as sherry is made. Rather than using a solera system, Marsala is aged in simple casks. The time spent aging dictates the quality; 1 year and the wine is Marsala Fine, 2 years minimum and it is Marsala Superiore and so on up to 10 years aging with the grand Marsala Vergine Stravecchjio o Riserva.

The level of sweetness can vary too - there are dry (Secco) versions and Semisecco (off-dry) and Dolce (Sweet). My bottle is labeled sweet but was not as sweet or as sticky as I was expecting.

Pellegrino Marsala
Wine Tasting Note: Pellegrino Marsala Superiore Sicily, Italy.
Widely available for £6.99.
A wonderful amber-mahogany colour with a powerful aroma. The palate is sweet(ish) with a complexity of nuts, dried fruits and wood. Cleaning acidity. Long length enlivened by the alcohol; which is 18%. Made from Catarrato, Grillo and Inzolia grapes.
Scribblings Rating - 88/100

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TN: Marotti Campi Rubico, 2002, Marche, Italy.

Wine Tasting Note: Marotti Campi Rubico Lacrima di Morro d'Alba, 2002, Marche, Italy.
Available from Oddbins for £7.99.
Lacrima is the grape variety one that is only grown on the hills north of Jesi in the Marche region of Italy. It produces a strangely scented wine - not unpleasant, just uniquely different and even more pronounced the following day. Notes of roses and blackberries with a unpinning of tar on both the nose and palate. The wine is dry, approachable with a good level of tannin making it more suitable for food than drinking on its own. Very distinctive.
Scribblings Rating - 92/100

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A Wine for Paella.

There must be a hundred recipes for paella on the internet alone. A simple dish of rice cooked in chicken stock with as many variations of other ingredients as there are laughs in an episode of Faulty Towers. Mine was resplendent with chicken and prawns plus green beans, sliced red pepper, a nice mix of herbs and saffron.

For a wine choice I did initially look to Spain - obvious really - but in Waitrose this Portuguse white caught my eye. It's not expensive at £4.49. The match was a good one.
Cork Grove Fernao Pires
Cork Grove Fernao Pires
Wine Tasting Note: Cork Grove Fernao Pires, 2003, Ribatejo, Portugal.
Stocked by Waitrose £4.49.
Floral aroma, fresh and fruity in a peachy type way. Palate is dry and quite soft with just a lick of acidity giving interest. Very drinkable both with and without food. Alcohol 13%. The grape variety is a native of Portugal and produces good, if not very complex, wines. Worth trying.
Scribblings Rating - 86/100

The Waitrose website describes the wine as:

"From the Casal Branco estate near to the River Tagus estuary in the Ribatejo, this white wine is part of a range of new Portuguese wines made for the international market. With its delicately dry, fresh citrus palate and supple, soft approachability, the native Fernao Pires variety makes wine that has good potential to partner all kinds of foods, including the more spicy meats - or try on its own."

What food with Gewürztraminer?

Gewürztraminer intrigues me. The cinnamon-spiced, lychee and honeysuckle laden wine, full-bodied and most often touched by a level of sweetness is just so distinctive and individualistic. Reaching its quality zenith from tiny vineyard plots in Alsace, Gewürztraminer is usually sited as being an excellent match for Oriental cuisine. Such a vague catch-all in my book. Are those heavily spiced Sichuan dishes or Malaysian Satay really the right match for a wine that often has great finesse and subtly of flavour? The flavours will get swamped, surely, by hotly spiced food.

So the search is on for recipes to accompany decent Alsatian Gewürz.

I discovered a rather complicated French recipe involving far too many ingredients, reductions and faffing about for my liking but, if simplified, looked promising for a first attempt. The combination of spices plus grapefruit and pineapple juices not only mirrors the flavours in the wine but implies an Oriental influence.
Duck Breasts in the frying pan
Spiced Duck Breasts with Pineapple and Grapefruit Juice.

Ingredients to serve 2

  • 2 duck breasts

  • Fresh Grapefruit Juice

  • Fresh Pineapple Juice

  • mixed spice

  • ground cinnamon

  • cayenne pepper

  • clear, strained chicken stock
  • Combine the two juices, stock and spices and boil until reduced to a thick sauce. A little sugar may be added to adjust the sweetness to the level of the wine perhaps. A knob of butter should give a shine to the sauce too. Pan fry the duck breasts and serve with the strained sauce. Accompany with new potatoes and watercress.

    Another recipe that you might like to try with Gewürztraminer has just been posted over on Thorngrove Table. This dish, Stir-fried Chicken with Chinese Chives, involves ginger and sesame oil, a combination that should bring out different flavours in a wine than the sweeter sauce detailed above. The Thorngrove recipe would need a drier version of Gewürztraminer.

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    Wine Blogging Wednesday 11: Off-Dry Whites.

    Sivray Label
    Sivray Vouvray Label
    Wine Tasting Note: Philippe de Sivray Vouvray, 2002, Loire, France.
    Available from Oddbins for £5.79.
    Vouvray is, of course, made from Chenin Blanc, the grape that can produce wondrous long-lived sweet wines in the Loire. This isn't one of them. It is only off-dry and surprisingly dull. Little to the aroma apart from a touch of floral and herby cress. High acidity, as would be expected, and a lightly honeyed edge to the pear and citrusy flavours.

    With food however this wine improved immensely. The ratings below are for this wine when partnered with food.
    Scribblings Rating - 88/100

    This is the spittoon entry to July's Wine Blogging Wednesday. Set and hosted by Beau of Basic Juice

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    Chocolate Tart with Cherries in Red-Wine Syrup.

    Chocolate Tart with Cherries in Red Wine Syrup
    Sugar High Friday Entry
    This Friday is a special Friday. It's A 'Sugar High Friday' Friday! The Spittoon entry this month is Chocolate Tart with Cherries in Red Wine Syrup, served with a rich and unctuous Australian Rutherglen Muscat.

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    Matching Cheese and Wine.

    Wine & CheeseMatching food and wine is one of most difficult and subjective things to get right. Using up the bottle of red with a cheese selection may seem an easy option but is seldom successful. With the variety of cheeses
    almost matching that of wines a little planning is necessary - hence this list.

    But it's common knowledge that red wine goes with cheese? Not from our findings. It appears white wine comes out on top with Sauvignon Blanc the most frequently mentioned grape type. Check out the recommendations below.

    Vacherin Du Haut-Doubs Cheese

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    Spring Salad and Sauvignon Blanc.

    Spring Salad
    Spring Salad
    It seemed rather apt making a fresh green salad on what has been the hotest Spring day since... well, the last hotest Spring day. But this is no ordinary Salad, oh no!

    Forget your iceberg and your cucumber - get out some runner beans, a trimmed and sliced leek, stir fry both with some salad onions (I found some little white things in Waitrose) and some asparagus tips for about five minutes. Arrange these delightfully on a round of puff pasty (or, as the pictures demonstrate, totally smothered so you can not actually see the pastry) and top with a lightly boiled egg or two. Season with a drizzle of olive oil and some black pepper. Top with a little red pesto stirred into mayonnaise.

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