Wednesday, 23 April 2014

Seriously Funny

Image from The Poke
The funny thing about wine is that, despite being one of the perks of life, it's often treated very seriously indeed. Which is why things like this (points to the picture) really make me laugh. And if you've ever wondered just how to pronounce Chateauneuf-du-Pape properly, watch this*. But if I can be serious for a moment: when you buy a bottle of wine for £6, more than half of that goes on tax alone. Once you add in the packaging, shipping and the retailers’ cut, you are looking at less than 50p’s worth of wine. At this end of the market, you really do get what you pay for – wine at a very low cost. By spending a few quid more (and choosing wisely, obviously) chances are you’ll find better value for money as the quality of the wine increases. Once you get to £7, chances are you’re getting more than double the value of wine than a £5 bottle. Beyond £20 and you’re buying something that is probably in limited supply and priced by desire. Still, it’s far cheaper than buying a pair of limited edition, desirable trainers. Which explains why I’ve got a lot more bottles than desirable trainers in my house.

Current white in the fridge: Tesco Finest Pecorino, £5.99 (normally £7.99), Tesco
There's 25% off any 6 wines bought in store until Sunday, so if you have any tried and tested favourites, now's the time to fill those boots. This is one of mine, and actually you only have to buy a single bottle to get this for under £6 until the 29th April. A few bottles found their way into the trolley at the weekend and given that our Easter included a broken boiler and The Husband being struck down with tonsillitis, they were just the thing. Pecorino is the grape and this one's made in the Italian region of Abruzzo. Brilliantly lemon-fresh, and to my knowledge no actual nuns were used to make it. 

Current red in the rack: Sette Vigne 2010, £8.99, Waitrose
This one's limited edition, according to the label on the shelf. And happily, it's pretty desirable too. It's all about seven: that's the number of grapes in the blend and the number of regions across Italy that it's made from. The grapes include Nebbiolo (the one used to make Barolo), Sangiovese (the one used to make Chianti) and Corvina (the one used to make Valpolicella), along with Barbera, Montepulciano, Aglianico and Primitivo. It's a clever idea and the result is a bit of a mish mash. But it's a big, black fruit-flavoured, spicy mish mash and I loved it. Not a quiet wine; needs big flavours when it comes to food. Sausages were a great match. 

Peace out, winos x

*with thanks to Becky and Laura for making me laugh with this one. And the red definitely doesn't taste of snozzberries.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Booby Trap

Last weekend, Youngest Girl was 5 years old. She had a little party at home with her friends from school, involving a game of Pass the Parcel, Musical Statues and an early Easter Egg Hunt in the garden. I decorated the house with bunting and the cake with a tub of Betty Crocker chocolate fudge icing. Then there were the balloons. Pink heart balloons. At least, that's how I saw them. Only, every other grown up who walked into the kitchen that day asked why I'd gone for Hen Party ones. Personally, I'm deflated.

Current white in the fridge: The Society's Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2013, £9.50, Wine Society
A gooseberry-scented, lime fruit filled gem, sent to me by The Wine Society. Now, you do have to be a member to order their wines. But at £40 for lifetime membership, you could join on on behalf of - say - a godchild and then make use of it until they're 18. Just a thought. Anyway, this super savvy Sauvignon is made by masters of NZ SB Villa Maria and the grapes come from their own Marlborough vineyards. At Youngest Girl's family birthday lunch on Sunday (the day after the party: like the Queen, she had two birthdays) my father denounced all Sauvignons as cheek-suckers. So I didn't let on how lovely this one, from the vintage of a generation, was. All the more for the rest of the table. 

Current red on the side: Asda Extra Special Marques Del Norte 2008, £6, Asda
This is normally £8.50, so at £6 it's properly good value for money. A blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano (v. smart grape in Rioja blend), this is delicious thanks to good quality grapes, great winemaking and three years ageing in barrels and bottle. It's all blackcurrant and black cherry fruit and spice, just as good Rioja should be. This was also on the table on Sunday, along with a butterflied leg of lamb and Diana Henry's sekenjabin sauce (a Persian mint syrup, apparently). Make it, it's delicious. My mother, mother-in-law and step-mother all asked for the recipe (it's here).  

Peace out, winos x

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

Challenging Behaviour

So far this week, I've tasted at least 100 wines a day. But I couldn't tell you what they are. Seriously. Each one is covered in a bag, you see. Then, together with a team of professional winos, I taste and score the wines based on quality. The best ones will emerge with an International Wine Challenge medal and we'll come back to those when the results come out. But in the meantime, here's what I've learnt so far this week.

1. Brangelina aside, rose wine is getting way more interesting. And paler. Hooray for pale & interesting.
2. Like Clooney, Semillon from Australia's Hunter Valley region definitely gets better with age.
3. The Nebbiolo grape, the one that's behind Italy's Barolo wines, is popping up everywhere.
4. Really good dry Riesling makes me want to do a little dance.
5. Really bad French red doesn't.
6. There are lots more wines from Brasil heading our way. Something to do with a World Cup.
7. Hungary, Romania, Slovenia and Bulgaria's wines are getting better every year.
8. Peru's got a way to go, though.
9. If I could, I'd drink a small glass of slightly chilled aged tawny port every single day.
10. After a full day's tasting, I'd rather have a cup of tea and an early night than paint the town red, white or rose nowadays.  

I'll be back with wine recommendations next week but in the meantime, here's a little film made by the kind people behind The Alan Titchmarsh Show. A little show(off) reel, as it were, of me talking about wine. Or sometimes just talking.

Peace out, winos x

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Drinking From The Bottle

Today, I have mostly been drinking from the bottle. Of Pholcodine, that is. What started as a sore throat is now a cold which, seeing as I taste wines for a living, is a bit of a bugger. So I'm throwing linctus (horrible word, almost as bad as moist) at the problem. That and a glass of red wine, of course. I'm not that ill. In other news, Masterchef is back. As you all know, I'm a close personal friend of John Torode (not. Read my John Torode story here). So it was with fire lit, kids in bed, and glass of red to hand I settled down to watch it. And felt much, much better. Just wish I didn't have jump up and cross my legs every time I sneezed.

Current white in the fridge: Zenato Villa Flora Lugana, £9.49, Waitrose
You know how I feel about Italian whites (mostly: yes please). This one, made from the Trebbiano grape, comes from vineyards on the southern shore of Lake Garda. See, even the sound of that makes you want to go on holiday, right? Anyway, in the glass it's all apple and pear fruit flavours, along with something that's just the right side of slightly nutty. Doesn't need food but made my leftover mashed potato and spring green 'hash' taste not quite so hashed. 

Current red in the rack: Ravenswood Lodi Zinfandel 2011, £9.99, Tesco
Made from old vines (not sure quite how old but I'm guessing more than 40yo, because if they class 40yo vines as old, I'm not sure I can buy this one anymore). And it's a blend of (mostly) Zinfandel and Petite Syrah grapes, grown in California's Lodi Valley. It's a fruit bomb, with almost indecent amounts of blackberry, smoky oak and spice. Oh, and alcohol. Lots and lots of alcohol. 14.5%, roughly speaking. Any more than two glasses of this and I too will be roughly speaking. Lovely in small doses, though. 

Peace out, winos x