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Wednesday, 27 May 2015

Hush. Puppies.

We've just returned from a few days staying with old mates in Scotland and joining us on our long journey home were a couple of new additions to our household. Meet Yankee & Zulu, our eight week old cocker spaniel puppies. Half term just got a whole lot more hectic, in a good way. Like babies, they sleep a lot, eat a lot and there's so much puppy poo. The children watch them whilst they're sleeping, willing them to wake so they can play in the garden. And just as I remember my mother telling me never to wake a sleeping baby, so I'm telling them to let sleeping dogs lie. Gina Ford would be horrified.

Current white in the fridge: Markus Huber Gruner Veltliner, £7.99 (normally £10.79), Waitrose
It's not often you get to pick up such a groovy Gru-V at this price but the offer's only on until next Tuesday. Made by one of Austria's most awarded producers in the Traisental region, Markus Huber has bottled a benchmark Gruner Veltliner (that's the name of the grape) with classic peach and pear fruits, and a sprinkle (as opposed to a kick, see below) of spice. Perfect half term pour. 

Current red in the rack: Maretti Langhe Rosso 2013, £11.99, Majestic
Langhe lies in Piedmont, a region in northern Italy famous for truffles (the fungus kind rather than the chocolate kind). Wine-wise, Barolo is Piedmont's big hitter, an enormous red made from the Nebbiolo grape. This Italian red blends a bit of Nebbiolo with the other great grape of the region, Barbera. Think of it as a baby Barolo, with chunky bramble fruits and a whack of spice. Fantastic when there's a plate of cheese to be picked at on the table. 

Chin chin x

Thursday, 21 May 2015

Fun Fair

Yesterday, I spent the day at the London Wine Fair. It's an annual trade fair that I've been to almost every year since I began working in the wine industry 20 years ago. Obviously things have changed enormously in that time, not least the fact that I now no longer have the energy to go to post-fair parties. Also: the diversity of wines available to try has exploded. Nowadays, we're completely spoilt for choice. Yesterday's highlights included Koshu (a white wine from Japan), terrific Touriga from Australia and single vineyard sparkling wines from Sussex to name just a few. What hasn't changed so much is the people. Hotel California-like, most never leave - because it is such fun. I caught up with friends yesterday (like wine, some maturing more slowly than others) and came home happy. And well before 9pm.

Current white in the fridge: Furmint Tokaji, £10, M&S
One of the highlights of the Fair for me was meeting up with winemakers including the amazing Eva Keresztury, a Hungarian vineyard owner and wine producer. She makes brilliant wines, including this one, from the Furmint grape. It's one of the main grapes behind the famous sweet wines of Hungary from the Tokaji region but here it is in dry, crisp, aromatic form. Think apples, pears and a touch of honey. Gaw-gus. 

Current red in the rack: Tesco Finest Vina Mara Rioja Crianza 2010, £5.99 on offer, Tesco
Made by a rather smart producer in Rioja, Elguia, this is unbelievable value. With a year spent in oak barrels and a year in bottle, it's smooth and juicy with black cherry fruit and lovely toasty flavours. Tempranillo is the main grape in Rioja and is - as in this case - characteristically savoury. Definitely needs food. Sausages especially good. 

Chin chin x

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Spending Pennies

'Where's your wee wine gone?' asked Eldest Boy earlier today. He was referring to the wine I've just made. As a wine buyer I spent much of my time in cold cellars tasting wine samples from tanks but until now, I'd never made my own wine from start to finish. Granted, the grapes came in the form of grape concentrate in tins. I didn't have to grow anything. I just had to unpack the home winemaking kit, chuck the contents of the tins into a fermenter and add some yeast. And at about £1 a bottle, it really is cheap as chips. But the thing is, it looks like pregnant wee and smells like an old pub floor. It's for a piece in the newspaper and of course I'll report back once tasted but in the meantime, here are some wines that don't look like urine. Much more appealing.

Current white in the fridge: Blind Spot Pinot Gris 2014, £8.50, The Wine Society
Sent to me by The Wine Society to try, this is one of a new range of wines made exclusively for them by Mac Forbes, a great Australian winemaker. He's scooped up a few limited quantity parcels of wine that might have otherwise been missed, ending up as part of a bigger blend. This gorgeous Pinot Gris (same grape as Pinot Grigio, just a different name) is from the King Valley in South Australia and tastes of apples and pears. Definitely more interesting than most Pinot Grigio wines I've tasted recently - and way better than my wee wine could ever possibly be. 

Current red in the rack: Wine Atlas Marzemino 2013, £5.97, Asda
If Asda had a blind spot, it was for small parcels of wine that were a little off the beaten track. They've fixed that with the launch of their new Wine Atlas range, a collection of wines made from (some weird and) mostly wonderful grape varieties from all over the place. This is one of my favourites, made in Italy's northern Trentino region from the Marzemino grape. It's quite light, tastes of cherries and is kind of savoury. Completely refreshing in flavour, it's got a definite summery feel about it. One for the ice bucket. 

Chin chin x

Thursday, 7 May 2015

Words and Pictures

I know it's what's on the inside that counts but when it comes to wine labels, I'm a sucker for a good looking label. Whether it's wine, a book or something in Anthropologie (make that anything in Anthropologie), liking the look of something is what makes me pick it up in the first place. And given that some wine labels require the code breaking skills of Turing to understand what's inside, sometimes aesthetics are all we've got to go on. So when I try a wine that's delicious and has a gorgeous looking label to match, I'm very happy. Here's this week's wines with pictures below.

Current white in the fridge: Hen Pecked Picpoul de Pinet 2014, £7.99, Waitrose
Picpoul is one of those easy to remember names - or so I thought. Turns out one of my friends refers to it as Pitbull and Eeh Bah Mum uses one of the finest mnemonics I've ever heard in wine: Quick Pull My P*nis. Anyway, this one makes a refreshing change from Sauvignon Blanc. Still citrussy but with something apple blossom-y about it too. Gets its name from the chickens that pick up seeds from under the vines, apparently. Let's hope so. From the Languedoc, in southern France.  

Current red in the rack: Frappato 2013, £8, M&S
Sounds like coffee, but happily it's wine. Made in Sicily from the Frappato grape, this is fairly light in colour and tastes of baked cherries. It's fresh, medium-bodied and the locals drink this chilled as a pre-prandial or with anything from antipasti to fish. It feels like a summery wine and it too has a chicken on the label. And a fox. Not sure why, but it looks lovely. 

Chin chin x