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Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Spitting Image

I know that tasting and writing about wine for a living is a ridiculously lovely job. But given that wine is usually enjoyed in the company of friends and with food on the table, attending a wine trade tasting is somewhat different. Take a room and fill it with wines, winemakers, press and buyers. Add bright lights and a lot of noise. Here's a video taken by a friend of mine at yesterday's Australian Wine Trade Tasting in London, to give you a flavour of what goes on. As I said, a ridiculously lovely job. Even if I do have to spit in public.





Current white in the fridge: The Shy Pig Crisp White, £3.49, Morrisons
I figure that if a producer does a great job with their cheapest wine, then it's likely to get better as you go up the price scale. So at a big trade tasting I usually start with the cheapest on each table. This one stopped me in my tracks yesterday: it was the cheapest in the room. Turns out this isn't strictly wine, rather it's a wine-based drink. Using wizard winemaking technology, the producer behind it then strips out some of the alcohol (it's just 10.5%) but leaves enough flavour for it to still taste pretty wine-y. I'm rather hoping they'll add a rose to the range in time for summer and call it Shy Pink Pig. 

Current red in the rack: Plan B Shiraz Tempranillo 2011, £11.50, The Wine Society
From Western Australia, which is generally much cooler than most of the other wine-producing regions in this vast place and makes some of Australia's smartest wines. You get lots of Shiraz here (known as Syrah in France) but not so much Tempranillo, the grape that's the driving force in Spain's Rioja region. By adding a dollop of Tempranillo to Shiraz, it lightens and brightens the wine up. Juicy and ripe, this one's a black cherry beauty. I plan to buy another bottle. 

Chin chin x

Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Burns, Baby. Burns.

Every year, on or around the 25th January, we do Burns Night. I'm married to a sort-of-Scot (my father-in-law was born and brought up in Edinburgh; the Husband's more of a Hampshire Highlander) so Burns is big in his family. One year, my sister-in-law and I took on the cooking with the help of Pippa Middleton. Or rather, using her recipe book that my sister-in-law had got for Christmas. We spent the evening asking 'what would Pippa do?' as we decorated the table, mashed the neeps and made the whisky sauce (basically loads of whisky, cream and grainy mustard). In hindsight, I don't think Pippa would have had quite as much pre-prandial whisky as we did. And she probably would have had food on the table before 10.30pm but it was great fun. This year, I'm just providing the wine. That, I can do.

Current white in the fridge: Waitrose Cederberg Chenin Blanc 2014, £8.99, Waitrose
Money from each bottle of this South African wine sold goes to the farm that produces it to support community projects as part of the work of the Waitrose Foundation. And as for the wine itself, it's brilliant. Ripe and juicy - just as young Chenin should be - and tastes of baked apples. I'm going back to get a bottle of this to go with the haggis for those who might want white rather than red wine on Saturday night. It'll cope with the flavours of a Burns supper, nae bother. 

Current red in the rack: Kutra Red 2013, £8.99, Tesco
Made from a blend of Argentina's calling card - Malbec - along with some Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes. The amazing thing about this wine is that it comes from a region called Salta, in northwest Argentina, which boasts some of the highest vineyards in the world. With altitude comes cooler weather and, if done right, incredibly intense fruit flavours. This one's done right. It too should work with the gutsy (literally) flavours of haggis. 

Chin chin x

Ps - there will, of course, be whisky for Burns. I've been sent some Haig Club to try, David Beckham's new single grain whisky. I'll report back.

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Blurred Lines

Friday night fizz. Small things.
You know my feelings about January. I don't much like it. Which is why it's important to have things to look forward to, however small. As I type, the Husband is on his way back from a week in Taiwan. And he's just texted from Duty Free to ask if I need anything. I've aimed high with a request for Estee Lauder's Advance Night Repair. Sali Hughes' beauty blog says it's brilliant. The price will bring tears to his eyes but hopefully it'll help the lines around mine.

Talking of things to look forward to, I'm going to be at this year's Bath Festival. Here's a link to my wine tasting event on Friday 6th March, come if you can! I was at the festival last year and loved it, not least because my friends Editor Liz, Kari & I got invited to Red Magazine's amazing cocktail party in the Roman Baths (well, round the sides of them) and I got to see Lionel Shriver across a crowded author's Green Room. For now, some wines to look forward to.

Current white in the fridge: Truly Irresistible Viognier, £6.99, Co-op
I was sustained almost entirely by almond croissants from our local Co-op when I was pregnant with Youngest Girl but now I can walk past them as long as there's a bottle of this on the shelves. Made by a very good winemaker in southern France, this is ripe and round thanks to the combination of this particular grape variety and lots of sun. The result is fairly generous alcohol and buckets of peach and apricot flavours. A cracker with scrambled eggs.  

Current red in the rack: Recchia Bardolino, £7.99, Waitrose
This is from northern Italy, the Veneto region. If you're in the mood for red but don't want a monster in your glass (or head the next day) then Bardolino is the answer. Really juicy and jammy, this one tastes like just-crushed black cherries laced with (not too much) alcohol. It's made from the Corvina grape and like so many Italian wines it's obscenely food-friendly, especially anything with tomato-and-pasta-y. 

Chin chin x

Monday, 5 January 2015

Never Give Up

Follow your dreams and never give up, goes the saying (and Cara D on Instagram). So I'm going to do exactly that and not give up wine in January. Obviously I will be drinking less owing to the mince pie & madeira madness of last month but otherwise I hope to be sipping something delicious in the evening more often than not, albeit slowly. Flicking through the food pages in yesterday's papers, everything was green (kale, leeks, savoy cabbage). It all looked pretty amazing, just what I should be cooking right now. But instead of concentrating on the food, I was dreaming about the possible wine matches. So I will indeed follow my dreams and not give up. Wishing you love and happiness in 2015. Now, pass your glass.

Current white in the fridge: Cono Sur Reserva Especial Sauvignon Blanc 2013, £7.99 on offer (normally £9.99), Waitrose
All that green food made me think of green wine. Not literally, but in terms of flavours - limes, grapefruit, gooseberries. All of which can be found in liquid form in a glass of this. Now that's what I call a ready meal. Gorgeous, bright and lovely, this throws rays of light on the taste buds. And because it's on offer, I'm practically saving money when I'm drinking it (same goes for buying clothes in the sale). This'll last all week in the fridge door, unless my mother pops in for a glass tomorrow night.

Current red in the rack: Dark Horse Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, £6.74 on offer until Wednesday (normally £8.99), Tesco
This bottle was one of the few survivors post-Christmas and so it was scooped up and taken to the in-laws for lunch on Sunday. After a 14 hour car journey back from France the day before (our first family skiing holiday - was amazing!), it was such a treat to be cooked for. And my MIL's Mediterranean lamb (slow roasted with tomatoes, olives, rosemary and garlic) and a mountain of mash and vegetables worked a treat with this smooth, black-fruited beauty from California. 

Chin chin x