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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Summer Looms

"Blimey, are they still at school?" remarked my husband as Eldest Boy scooted past in his school uniform. That was yesterday and yes, they were still at school. Today, happily, they are not. Instead, the weeks stretch ahead and - especially with this glorious weather - there's much to look forward to. We're off to Camp Bestival the weekend after next (apparently the tickets for the KMWC wine tasting on Saturday evening sold out in 8 minutes!). Then there's the relative lie-ins, barbecued food at every opportunity and an excuse to have a glass of wine in the garden (almost) every night. That, and picking up endless loom bands from the floor. Still, less painful than stepping on Lego.

He's got the whole world (supply of loom bands) in his hands. 
Current white in the fridge: Bruna Pigato Maje 2013, £11.50, Red Squirrel
After last week's summer wine bucket list, the very kind man behind Red Squirrel (an online wine company dedicated to souring some of the world's best left-field wines) asked me if I'd like to try his Pigato. Now there's an offer you don't get everyday. So I did and, tell you what, it's a brilliant wine. If you love crisp Italian whites with bite, this is one such. Pigato is the grape (also known as Vermentino but this is planet wine, where things are as confusing as possible) and it's from Liguria, near the Italian Riviera in the northwest of the country. Gloriously light, fresh, lemony and absolutely perfect for that early evening glass of wine in the aforementioned garden. With crisps, obviously. 

Current red in the rack: Retour Aux Sources Fitou 2011, £15.50, The French Wine Project
A friend of mine told me about the French Wine Project, set up by a friend of hers who relocated to France a few years ago. Rae now runs a wine business with her husband (who used to work at some of London's coolest restaurants) dedicated to finding small parcels of really good French wines that they -and their friends - enjoy drinking. They then buy bit more and sell it. I met Rae when she was last over and she gave me a few bottles to try. This was my favourite (although all were good) with its Southern French chunky red fruits and considerable spice. It's a 'natural' wine - think no make up and unbrushed hair, but still beautiful. Fitou is the region; Syrah, Grenache and Carignan are the grapes. Brilliant barbecue food-friendly red. 

Peace out, winos x

Next week: from left-field to camping field wines.

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Bucket List

A bucket. Of chips. 
I love a list. But I don't have a bucket list. So I thought I'd write one for this summer. Not the usual climb-a-mountain-run-a-marathon kind of list though. Rather, a wine bucket list: 10 wines I aim to find and buy and drink over the summer. Here it is:

1. Alpine fresh, crisp whites from France's Savoie region
2. Peachy Italian whites made from the Greco grape
3. Juicy, fruity Sicilian reds made from the Frapatto grape
4. Pale pink, gently fragrant, patio-friendly rose from Provence
5. Rich, spicy reds made from Californian Zinfandel
6. Light, frothy, raspberry-ish Lambrusco (the hipster's drink du jour)
7. As much Pinot Noir from Central Otago in New Zealand as I can afford (it's not cheap)
8. Rhone-a-like reds from the Saint Chinian region in the Languedoc, southern France (much cheaper)
9. Lively whites made from the Vermentino grape, wherever it pops up
10. Cremant from Jura or Limoux in France (basically, sparkling wine made in the same bottle-fermented way as Champagne but from different regions & grapes)

What's on yours? I'd love to know. In the meantime, here's two to kick us off:

Current white in the fridge: Cuvee l'Orangerie 2013, £10.95, Yapp.co.uk
Gorgeous, crisp white from a Savoie producer called Domaine de l’Idylle. Made from the Jacquère grape, it's refreshingly light at just 11% abv. You could say it makes an idylle lunchtime wine. Ahahaha. The vineyards are in the foothills of the Alps and there's something of the mountain air about the wine, for sure. Whatever, it shakes up the taste buds nicely. Just add olives. 

Current red in the rack: Barbera D’Asti 2012, £8.49, M&S
I know this isn't on the bucket list above but this one's so lovely, I had to share. Brilliant Italian food-friendly red made from the Barbera grape grown in Italy’s northern Piedmont region. Think dark cherries, freshness and spice all wrapped up in a bear hug of alcohol (it's 14.5%, you have been warned). This really needs food, especially good with butterflied leg of lamb it was too. 

Peace out, winos x

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Blanc Page

I'm starting to think about writing another book. One of my oldest friends wants me to write one about bubbles: Champagne, Cava, Prosecco, English Sparkling Wine and anything else that fits the bill and should be in your glass at some point. I love the idea, but secretly think she just wants an excuse for us to do lots of research. Any other volunteers? In other news, I did a live-streamed wine tasting this week (click here if you want to see an edited version) with Laura, a wine buyer from one of the big supermarkets. As the presenter, I had the easy part. Poor Laura had to do all the work, all the talking. I just got to sip wine and occasionally say 'tell us about this wine, Laura'. Marvellous. The theme of the tasting was summer wines, and below are my two favourites from the night.

Great rose for the fridge: Tesco Simply Garnacha Rose, £4.59, Tesco
This is a Ronseal wine: it does what it says. Simple, yes. But delicious, uncomplicated, honest, fresh, fruity and vibrant too. And unbelievably good value at under a fiver. Made in the Campo de Borja region in Spain, not far from Rioja. The Garnacha grape has a naturally juicy disposition, but it also adds a bit of spice to proceedings. Doesn't need food but as with all wine, having something to nibble on is always a good idea. Even if it's just the last of the children's Hula Hoops (I might have done that). 

Great red for the rack: Tesco Finest Frappato 2012, £7.99, Tesco
Such a revelation, this wine. Frappato is the name of the grape and this one's made in Sicily. And Laura was right, it's such a good summer red. It's lighter than most southern Italian reds, with blueberry and cherry fruit flavours taking centre stage. There's spice in support and best of all, it's completely refreshing. The flavours really are summery. All this needs is a table of cold meats - pork pies! - or a simple tomato-filled bowl of pasta. 

Peace out, winos x

Disclosure: I was paid to present the live tasting. But I'm featuring the wines here because they're great. And I may have already spent most of my fee in the my-wardrobe sale. 

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Wine Down

So, we've done Sports Day. Now we've just got the School Fete (cue calls for homemade cakes) and a School Play (cue more calls for homemade cakes) to go. As you may know, I sometimes resort to the fake bake at this stage. But one thing I can do is Teachers' Presents. Now, some of my children are in a class that has a mother who emails all the other parents and suggests we all contribute to vouchers for, say, John Lewis. Genius. But if flying solo, I've always gone for wine on the grounds that after a long summer term, a glass of something completely delicious is never going to go down badly. A small bottle of Champagne (20cl) is a particular favourite, normally under £10 and contains enough for a couple of glasses. Here are a few other ideas:

Top of the Glass sparklingPhilippe Michel Cremant Du Jura, £6.99, Aldi
This is a proper sparkler (the bubble-making second fermentation happens in the bottle, like it does in Champagne) from the trendy Jura region in France. It's properly gorgeous, with quite a light floral smell to it and lots of crisp apple flavours. Bottle looks lovely, price is unbelievable. 

Top of the Glass white: Tesco Finest Picpoul de Pinet 2013, £7.99, Tesco
I almost always have a bottle of this somewhere in the house, if not in the fridge door. People who love Sauvignon usually love it. People who love Chardonnay usually love it. In fact, I am yet to find someone who doesn't find the joy in a glass of the 'lip stinger' (what the name of the grape means). Summer in vinous form. From the Languedoc region in France, and in a fab looking bottle, too. 

Top of the Glass red: Heredad del Rey Reservada, £5.99 on offer, Waitrose
This one's got a couple of quid off at the moment, so really good value for money. It's a blend of Monastrell and Syrah grapes, made in Yecla which is one of Spain's buzziest wine regions. Really juicy, with lots of thick bramble fruits and some spice too (it's been aged in oak barrels). Fantastic barbecue wine, goes with anything meaty and chargrilled. Nice label, obviously. 

Peace out, winos x