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Wine Press: Carmenère and Chile go hand in hand … but for years the grape was forgotten

CARMENÈRE. Chile’s signature grape. I’m intrigued by this wine’s story, so I’m sharing it with you.

As I write, I’m still on staycation, staring out at blue Welsh skies brushed with rolling grey clouds, but happily sipping Viña Koyle Alto Colchagua Reserva Carmenère, 2012 (£8.95, The Wine Society) at the naughty wine time of 5.15pm. The dog is asleep, so she won’t spill the beans. The wine is ruby-red deep, with pepper and cloves, some violets, lavender and vanilla, and that’s even before I sip.

Viña Koyle Alto Colchagua Reserva Carmenère, 2012
Then the dog woke up. Viña Koyle Alto Colchagua Reserva Carmenère, 2012

Then pepper that tingles the top of your mouth and juicy black plums smooth and cajole tastebuds.

So, carmenère. This is a grape which up to a few years ago was thought to have disappeared. In the 1870s a phylloxera plague of small aphids destroyed most of Europe’s vines.

Carmenère was as good as lost in its heartland of Bordeaux.  But some early winemakers in Chile had taken the grape across the ocean, where for many years it was thought to be merlot. In 1997 DNA tests discovered that it was in fact carmenère and the following year Chile hailed it as an official variety.

Carmenère plantings have since shot up in Chile. I like that story. I like the wine too. Very much.

Adobe Carmenère, Emiliana Organic 2012 (£8,  from winetrust100.co.uk). Winetrust 100 selects its wines on a Quality Price Ratio basis; three masters of wine pick their favourite wines at tastings and only those which reach a certain QPR appear on the site.

Adobe Carmenère, Emiliana Organic 2012
Adobe Carmenère, Emiliana Organic 2012

This wine has a rating of 93. Adobe is a brick dried in the sun. We have sun in a glass … and it is Fairtrade and organic too. It is a blend with syrah and merlot, true to its French roots where blending is King.  A ruby red, with spicy peppered cherries on the nose, rippling and tingling in the mouth.

Ulmen Carmenère 2013
Ulmen Carmenère 2013
Pintao Reserva Carmenere 2012
Pintao Reserva Carmenere 2012

Ulmen Carmenère 2013 (£6.50) and Pintao Reserva Carmenere 2012, (£9.99, both M&S). The Ulmen is bright spice and jammy black fruits. No oak here, a bundle of rich fruit, simply that. The Pintao is a more complex thing.  Six months in French oak. The spice is there again, the cherries, plums, some green pepper skin; what’s this? Some smooth chocolate too? I think so.

Marques de Casa Concha Carmenère 2011, (£11.95 Wine Direct). Plums, black peppers, violets and herbs. This includes 15% cabernet sauvignon and the wine has also been aged for 18 months in French oak barrels. Vanilla creeps in.

Finally, look out for these … Estevez Cabernet Sauvignon Carmenère Reserva 2012 (Aldi, £4.99) with the chain hitting the spot again with a great wine at a great price; and SPAR has an award-winner in SPAR Chilean Reserva Carmenère (£6.39) which won silver at the 2014 Decanter World Wine Awards.

SPAR Chilean Reserva Carmenère
SPAR Chilean Reserva Carmenère

Also in my glass … a vodka spritz. Nola Vodka Spritz is available in Raspberry & Elderflower and Watermelon & Strawberry. (Tesco and Asda, RRP £2.99, 250ml can; £7.99, 700ml bottle).

Both, I’m told, contain half the abv and 35% fewer calories than a standard glass of pinot grigio. Though why would you want a glass of pinot grigio? Raspberry and elderflower has 81 calories in 175ml with an abv of 6.4%; the watermelon is the same abv and 79cals.

That may be a hook for some people to buy; for me, did it taste good? Well with lots of ice both were refreshingly tasty as an after-work-sit-in-the- sunshine chill-out. For when you need something pink and sweet like a rosé but don’t want wine.

This column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine August 16,  2014 

Liverpool Echo South Wales Echo - Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

Baked beans and wine

Wine Press: Baked beans and wine, well, yes, you can have anything with wine. Even just wine.

SOME nights you can’t be bothered going overboard cooking food, but you still neeeeeeed a glass of wine.

Beans on toast may be the way to go. Or sausage and mash. Or chippie shop fish and chips. A tikka masala ready meal?

If you want to perk up your plates (and who can blame you) any wine will do if it’s a wine you like; but here’s some easy peasy thoughts on your easy peasy weekday meals.

Baked beans in tomato sauce: Think barlotti beans in a rich tomato sauce. Does that conjure up an Italian red? Tomatoes are sweet and acidic, but cooked they can go well with chianti or sangiovese.

Sausage and mash: Let’s compare it to a French rustic stew, though they probably woudn’t serve that with a wonderfully gloopy buttery mash measled with black pepper. But perhaps a red, with a hint of spice and fruit; a light pinot noir or a red from southern Rhone.

Chip shop chippie tea: I had a chippie tea last night, the first day of my staycation holidays. Because it was the first day of my hols we had some sparkles. With fish? Yes and why not. Cava bubbles really cut through the greasy batter but played softly softly with the fish.

Chicken tikka masala: There’s cream, there’s chicken and there’s spice in this British invention. A toughie for a wine perhaps. Carmenère is a good choice for a meaty Indian, and for Chinese or Thai spicy meals (a nice noodly stir fry with lots of chilli on a Wednesday night?) think of a riesling or chenin blanc. For a tikka masala, look for a viognier which is full of creamy stone fruits; or even a sauvignon blanc which will lift and mingle.

Echo Falls Fruit Fusion Rose Wine with Summer Berries
Echo Falls Fruit Fusion Rose Wine with Summer Berries

In my glass … some new kids on the block.

Echo Falls has brought out a new Fruit Fusion aromatised wine-based drinks range, with three “flavours”. There’s a rosé with summer berries, (9.5% abv), red wine with raspberry and cassis (11% abv) and a white wine with white peach and mango (9.5% abv). They’ve been launched exclusively in Asda this summer, and I’ve found them at £4 online.

The bottles shout “I AM FRUIT”, “I AM GIRLIE”, “I AM SO PRETTY”.

So what we have are white and red wine blends in turn blended with fruit extracts. I tried the rosé and red. They are sweet, oh yes they are. Each bottle declares (even the red!) “serve chilled or with ice”.

The pink was pinkly perked up with rose-hips, raspberries and ripe, ripe strawberries. I wasn’t sure about a hint of “metal”. I added some Chambord and it gave it a pleasant enough edge.

The red? Well I chilled, as per request. It’s easy to forget this is alcohol, it is so driven through with sweet blackberries and raspberries like a summer pudding. I wasn’t keen at first, it felt over-produced, a step too far on the flavour factors. Much like when you add an extra herb to a casserole and it spoils the whole thing. But I finished off the bottle happily enough thinking “well, I quite enjoyed that”.

Tesco Finest  Riesling

Tesco Finest Riesling
Tesco Finest Riesling

Another new kid on the block is delicious Tesco Finest* Riesling (£7.99) which is just appearing in stores. It is produced from a family-owned winery in eastern Slovenia. I tasted this with some trout baked with ginger, spring onions and chilli; citrus in the riesling was perfect, a lemon-bite was pals with the chilli, and stone fruit cushioned and mellowed the whole affair.

This column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine August 9,  2014 

Liverpool Echo South Wales Echo - Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express

Fruit ciders

Fruit flavoured ciders. Forget Question Time, this one really divides opinions

FRUIT ciders. Well. I haven’t known such divided public opinion since Deirdre decided to stay with Ken and abandon her lover Mike Baldwin.

For weeks my eyes have been drawn towards fruit ciders in shops. “No!” said the good fairy on my right shoulder. “Yes!” said the cheeky little devil sitting on my left. The devil won.

The other night I queued up with lots of red berries in my shopping basket, most of them emblazoned on cider bottles, and some in a well-known brand of cereal. Breakfast. (The cereal, that is. Perhaps.)

Fruit cider shopping basket
You thought I made it up

I like a glass of cider now and again. Usually on a Saturday afternoon as I watch the footie results. Fruity ones, no, not really. So roll on a Scientific Experiment.

I contacted Bulmers and they told me: “The cider category has experienced meteoric growth in recent years, as consumers increasingly look to widen their drinking repertoires and experiment with new flavours. Flavoured ciders are forecast to deliver 80% of total cider growth this year.”

I told workpals. Now that stirred up a debate. “A cider is a cider. … These aren’t ciders … they’re pandering to our nation’s sweet tooth.”

I trawled a couple of stores – Tesco and the Co-op – and picked up a handful of fruity ciders. All 500ml, about 4% abv and early to mid £2 mark.

Stella Cidre Raspberry: Stella My favourite. Lots of raspberry aromas popping out of the glass. It was a raspberry pink colour, tasted sweet but natural.

Kopparberg with Strawberry & Lime: IMG_2339An unmistakable strawberry aroma; couldn’t chase down the lime though, either tasting or sniffing. The colour of a deep rose wine; and reminded me of ice cream syrup.

Magners Orchard Berries: IMG_0601To look at, I wondered if someone had been let loose with a paint palette of pinks. So bright. Unnaturally bright pink. It put me off. Sorry.

Strongbow Dark Fruit: IMG_0599The colour of Ribena and smells much the same. But watery on the finish. If this had been served with ice – I didn’t – as many of the brands recommend, then it would have been more watery. Not convinced.

Bulmers Red Crushed Berries and Lime: photo (1)After a long hot car journey this was refreshing. There. I’ve said it. No trace of lime.

In the interests of balance, I took to social media for my pals’ thoughts. Here’s some.

“You can’t beat Rekorderlig strawberry and lime – so refreshingly lush on a hot summer’s day! The Stella Artois Cidre Pear is surprisingly nice too!”

Kopparberg pear or mixed fruit are gorgeous. Very light and not too fizzy. Lovely over ice.”

“I love the Bulmer Bold Black Cherry. It’s proper lush.”

“Fruity cider is the drink to drink when you want to pretend you’re not really drinking. Rekorderlig Strawberry and Lime and black cherry Bulmers.“

“Having extensively tested the range Strongbow have on offer we think they should stick to what they know best.”

“I had a toffee apple flavour one that was very drinkable.”

{After research I think this was Brothers Toffee Apple Cider.}

I leave the final word to my best chum: “I don’t like cider, me.”

People eh.  We’re all so different.

Also in my glass … A good bottle of chardonnay from Argentina.  Trivento Reserve Chardonnay 2012 (RRP £8.99, Tesco online and selected stockists).

 Trivento Reserve Chardonnay 2012
Trivento Reserve Chardonnay 2012

This is one of those wines which has flirted with oak just enough to bring an interesting layer of flavours and aromas, with green apples, stone fruit and honeysuckle. Three months in oak has added a brush of silky, subtle vanilla. Watch out for the 14% abv. It sneaks up.

This column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine August 2  2014 

Vilarnau Brut Gaudi

Wine Press: Winning sun-kissed wines from Languedoc-Roussillon and some pretty cava

TO celebrate the British Open last weekend I opened some wine. That is the closest affinity I have to golf. I didn’t even have a British “open” it was a French “open” with wines from Languedoc-Roussillon.

It is the most prolific wine-making region in the world. Yes, there are some mass-produced so-what wines, but there are lots which are good value sun-in-a-bottle delights.

Sud de France Top 100 wines
Sud de France Top 100

I was interested when the good people of Sud de France Top 100 contacted me and told me about their competition which is now in its second year. The Top 100 team do exactly what it says on the tin … find 100 of the finest wines from the region.

Over 650 wines were narrowed down to 100 during a rigorous blind tasting by a UK panel of industry experts, chaired by Tim Atkin.

White wines led the way: 40% of the Top 100 were white, even though they only account for 13% of the region’s production.

Says Isabelle Kanaan from Sud de France Développement: “Languedoc- Roussillon is an extremely diverse region, with talented winemakers producing every variety of wine; but is best known for its reds.

“It is fantastic to see that the Top 100 has helped highlight the overwhelming quality of Languedoc-Roussillon white wines, which are deserving of as much praise and attention as the region’s outstanding red wines.”

So there you go. One third of the Top 100 wines are available in the UK. I tasted two of them.

Les Domaines Paul Mas, Paul Mas Estate Marsanne 2013
Les Domaines Paul Mas, Paul Mas Estate Marsanne 2013

Paul Mas Estate Marsanne 2013 Top 100 Awarded (Majestic wines for £8-10). These grapes are grown in rolling hills just a few miles from the Mediterranean.

I love marsanne. Some of this wine was aged in oak barrels, so what you get is lots of stone fruits on the nose, apricots, pears and some vanilla from the oak. To taste, firm, juicy and creamy stone fruits.

Château L’Hospitalet, Grand Vin, 2012
Château L’Hospitalet, Grand Vin, 2012

In a higher price range is Château L’Hospitalet, Grand Vin, 2012 Top 100 Awarded (available from Majestic wine for £20-25) from Coteaux du Languedoc la Clape. La Clape was once an island and grapes grown on the limestone here have a distinctive character.

So much care has gone into this ruby red delight; syrah, grenache and mourvedre grapes are hand-picked, fermented separately and then aged in new barrels for up to 16 months. Only the best are then blended into this wine. There are spices and dried and fresh red fruit, hints of muskiness and brittle wood. A rounded burst of spicy fruit on the palate.

Look out for the Top 100 sticker on bottles in stores near you. You can also check out more details at www.suddefrance top100.co.uk

Also in my glass … Cor blimey, we’ve had some warm weather. So I opened bubbles. First up, the most beautiful bottle I’ve seen in a long time … if you like the Catalan architect Gaudi.

You can admire lovely Gaudi-style blue and pastel swirls on the sleeve of Vilarnau Brut NV Cava (£11.49, stockists include Ocado, The Oxford Wine Company, Cambridge Wine Merchants and TheDrinkShop.com) while enjoying its all-round prettiness.

Vilarnau Brut NV Cava  with a Gaudi sleeve
Vilarnau Brut NV Cava with a Gaudi sleeve

It has apples, pears and some lemons with a steady stream of delicate bubble and is from the very reliable stable of Gonzalez Byass.

Codorníu Brut NV (RRP £9.49 at Tesco and Sainsbury’s) has its own limited edition, a gold-wrapped bottle sleeve featuring a print of Barcelona’s key landmarks. Codorníu has won several awards over the years for its cava. For under a tenner you get a fizz popping with citrus and flowers.

This column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine July 26   2014 

The International Wine Challenge Merchants' Awards 2014

Wine Press: International Wine Challenge honours and an Indian wine tip-off from my lovely pal

THIS girlie, as I write, has a mild red wine hangover. I have tried revitalising shampoo but it hasn’t worked, so I’m going to write to the Shampoo Ombudsman.

The reason for my “mild” head? This week the International Wine Challenge announced its Merchant Awards and I was there “quietly” enjoying the occasion.

Proof, if it were needed, that I was quiet at the International Wine Challenge Merchants' Awards 2014
Proof, if it were needed, that I was quiet at the International Wine Challenge Merchants’ Awards 2014

The headlines then (and it’s always nice to know these things when you’re shopping around for vino):

Marks & Spencer picked up the Supermarket of the Year gong. Highly commended was Morrisons.

Oddbins won High Street Chain of the Year (if there isn’t one near you, they have a website www.oddbins.com).

Wine Club of the Year was awarded to The Wine Society, of which this lady with the mild head is a firm fan. The cost of a lifetime share is £40 with no annual fee or obligation to buy; and you can bequeath membership to your kids. Great wines too. (www.the winesociety.com)

Great value sparkling wine was awarded to Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Prosecco Conegliano DOC which has graced this column on a couple of occasions.

You can find out more at www.internationalwinechallenge.com, plus you can search for individual award-winning wines.

In my glass … A workpal, who shall remain nameless, pointed me in the direction of some wines from Marks & Sparks. Anyway, Barrie (oops) said that he’d picked up a bottle of Indian wine and that it was very good indeed. The “very good indeed” wine turned out to be Jewel of Nasik Tempranillo Syrah 2013 and I can tell you, dear reader, that Barrie is bang on the money.

IMG_2043And talking about money, it comes in at £6.99, the same price as its sister wines Jewel of Nasik Sauvignon Blanc 2013 and Jewel of Nasik Zinfandel Rosé 2013.

I’m always one for a challenge and a glass of something new. M&S has worked with Sula Vineyards high up in the hills of Maharashtra north-east of Mumbai to bring this range of wines to our shores. Sula’s grapes are harvested during the dry season, to avoid the monsoon.

The sauvignon blanc was a crisp, citrus and gooseberry burst, with some herbs and a touch of stone fruit. M&S recommend you try it with chicken tikka masala.

Jewel of Nasik Zinfandel Rosé 2013, is salmon-pink deep and plump with fresh and dried strawberries. If you enjoy rosé then I can’t see any reason why you won’t like this; for me it was another rosé. It was OK. Again, M&S recommend either tandoori tiger prawns or monkfish tikka.

Jewel of Nasik Tempranillo Syrah 2013, is medium-bodied with deep cherry and blackberries. These two grapes are known for their intense peppery sprinkles, and this wine is no exception. Lamb rogan josh, say the M&S foodies.

Am liking all the food in these pairings; but these are old world grapes in a New World environment. Just  take a simple route … try them on their own.

Abbotts & Delaunay Zephyr Limoux
Abbotts & Delaunay Zephyr Limoux

Also in my glass … For a special occasion try Abbotts & Delaunay Zephyr Limoux (£16.99, www.averys.com), made from 100% handpicked chardonnay grapes created by a boutique winery in the Languedoc Roussillon region. It’s a subtle chardonnay humming with apricot and marzipan, and with a citrus in-the-mouth linger, akin to lemon tart.

This column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine July 19   2014 

Jane Clare, an old vintage

Wine Press: Vintage doesn’t always mean quality, and I’m proof of that

I’M a woman of a certain vintage. Which means I still have a soft spot for David Cassidy, despite the fact he’s gone a bit off the rails lately.

I can sing all the words to Barbados by Typically Tropical and I know the correct dance moves to Come On Eileen. I pogoed to Going Underground by The Jam and then spent two weeks off work with a sprained ankle.

I even own K-Tel’s 20 Power Hits record. (I asked workpals if they recalled K-Tel. One asked who she was; another asked what a record was.)

K-Tel 20 Power Hits
K-Tel 20 Power Hits. Yes I am ashamed.

You may say this is nothing to be proud of. I can’t deny it. Good or bad, I’m a certain vintage.

But that’s just it. A vintage isn’t always perfect. In fact, in the wine world, don’t get carried away that a wine will be really good just because it declares itself a vintage.

What exactly is a vintage? It indicates the year that the grapes were grown and harvested. You’ll see the year on the label.

If you see NV on a label, it means simply that a wine is non-vintage, that it is blended from grapes harvested in different years.

Don’t underestimate a non-vintage wine. Winemakers can blend “reserve wines” from previous years with the latest harvest to maintain house style. The proportion of the blending may vary from year to year, depending on the quality of any particular harvest.

This is common in Old World wines – especially Champagne – where the weather patterns of our dear old European summers can seriously affect the quality of the grapes.

Hail-damaged grapes in Entre deux Mers in 2013
Hail-damaged grapes in Entre deux Mers in 2013

Hail, rain, winds, cool or overhot seasons all make a difference. So a vintage one year may not be as good as another purely because of the weather conditions. If you read “XYZ Year is a good vintage” it means that all conditions must have swung in the favour of the winemakers … but another XYZ Year will still be a vintage by default, but not a good wine. Follow?

Vintage Champagnes are made when there’s a good year, but even then winemakers can only use 80% of that year’s grapes in a blend to make sure there’s enough wine in reserve. Confused? Open some wine.

New World wine vintages, where grapes grow in fairly consistent conditions from one year to the next, maintain the same standard. So if you buy a wine from Chile for example, no matter what the year, you can be pretty sure it will be there or thereabouts the same quality wine as in previous years.

A quick word though, if you buy a 2010 something, or a 2012 something else, check on the label when it should be drunk. You might be proud of the bottle bearing a certain year in your wine rack, but it’s no good if it’s gone past its best. It’s there to enjoy.

Beronia Crianza Rioja
Beronia Crianza Rioja

In my glass … Smooth is the adjective trotted out most when it comes to Beronia Crianza. Though sometimes smooth is just a kind word wine critics use instead of bland.

Bland though, this Rioja, definitely isn’t. It was choc-full of fruit and, well, choc. It was a great slump-on-couch-thank-goodness-it’s-Friday glass, but was equally satisfying with a piece of beef on Sunday lunchtime.

Bodegas Beronia has launched the Beronia Txoko Club to celebrate its love of combining food and wines. For recipes and more, visit the Facebook page Beronia Txoko UK or follow on Twitter @BeroniaTxoko.

This wine is now available at Waitrose for £10.69 and can be kept for two years.

As if.

This column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine July12   2014 

 

Carnival Sparkling Moscato

Wine Press: The World Cup gives the wine-loving Girlies an excuse to go Brazil nuts

THESE fair islands of ours have been pretty hopeless in the World Cup.  England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales. Are we there or thereabouts in the final stages?

Are we heck. Though it shouldn’t stop us settling down to watch the World Cup Final with a glass or two of vino.

The eventual arrival of the World Cup on our screens was an exciting moment. I love football. I love wine (you’ve probably noticed).

Coconova Brut NV
Coconova Brut NV

The marketing machine for Brazilian wines has been full pelt for at least a year and who can blame them. Eyes centre stage on the country full of carnival and pizzazz.

I found some Brazilian wines from M&S, which has been stocking them since March for the footie fest One thing you can say about the labels is they are full on carnival.

What of the wines though? I shared them at a girlie night where footie wasn’t a priority (so I couldn’t talk about Tim Cahill’s amazing goal against the Dutch).

I made it hard for them by wrapping the bottles in foil, so no clues and they had to write down their thoughts. We started off with  Coconova Brut NV, (£8.99).

The girlies spotted peach aromas in this sparkler, a blend of sauvignon blanc, chenin blanc, and verdejo. One girlie: “It gives you a pang, making you screw your face up”.  I thought, great label great name, grapey with background tangerines.

Carnival Sparkling Moscato NV, (£9.99). One girlie, ”no scent, sweet, nice, smooth”. Another girlie, “sweet vanilla”. For me, a sweet fizz of lemon sorbet but shallow on flavour.

Araucaria Riesling Pinot Grigio 2013
Araucaria Riesling Pinot Grigio 2013

Araucaria Riesling Pinot Grigio 2013, (£8.49). It takes a lot to encourage me to try a pinot grigio, but the blend with riesling was enough of an excuse. The girlies: “Nice” “doesn’t smell of much” and “apple”. Me? It was OK; I’ve had much better for the price but thank goodness for the riesling to give the grigio a fruity dimension and depth.

Intenso Teroldego 2013, (£9.99). Teroldgo isn’t a grape I’ve come across before so open minds here. Girls: “fruity” “smoky” “blackurrant”. I say, enjoyable juicy bursts of blackberries and herbs.

Also in my glass … July heralds the start of 31 Days of Riesling, an initiative by Wines of Germany. I love riesling and don’t really need an “initiative” to enjoy it, but nevertheless, here are some thoughts.

The lovely Wines of Germany people suggested I try goats cheese salad with pear and walnuts with Mineralstein Riesling (Marks & Spencer, £8.99). I’m not a goats’ cheese fan so I used feta, and it was scrums. The wine is a blend of riesling from Mosel and Pfalz and contrasts fruity pears, a wet slate of minerality and a dash of spice.

Mineralstein Riesling
Mineralstein Riesling

I flash-fried some prawns with garlic and chilli and added coriander and a squeeze of lemon.  Crusty bread and Devil’s Rock Riesling (Co-op, £6.99) were the finishing touches. Devil’s Rock 2013 vintage won bronze at the recently announced Decanter World Wine Awards. It is full of zesty lemon, lime and grapefruit and was zingy-licious with the spicy prawns.

Another riesling – kind of – worthy of mention is from Alsace and specifically, the ever-reliable Wine Society (www.thewinesociety.com). The Society’s Vin d’Alsace, Hugel (£8.50) is “kind of” a riesling because it is a blend including sylvaner, pinot blanc, riesling, pinot gris with gewurztraminer and muscat. That’s a mouthful in more ways than one.   A great choice for a summer’s day; citrus, pears and hums of honey with a bitey-blitz of acidity.

Jane Clare and just a bit of wine tasting fun
Just a bit of wine tasting girlie night fun

This column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine July 5  2014 

 

Cono Sur Bicicleta Sauvignon Blanc

Wine Press: Celebrate Grand Départ du Tour de France with the Bicicleta wines from Cono Sur

I’M NOT known for my fitness levels, but I‘m pretty good at running to a bar at last orders. So cycling? Not a chance. And don’t even think about me in Lycra. No. Don’t. 

But watching cycling is a different matter, and next weekend the much-heralded Tour de France 2014 begins in Yorkshire.
York prepares for the Grand Depart Tour de France 2014
York prepares for the Grand Depart Tour de France 2014

York prepares for the Grand Depart

For Chilean winemakers Cono Sur the bicycle is a symbol of the winery’s commitment to sustainability, with  workers travelling around the estate on environmentally friendly bikes.  The symbol on the Bicicleta range is a bike.  Naturally.

So it seems to make perfect sense that  Cono Sur is an Official Supporter of the Grand Départ du Tour de France 2014.
There’s  several wines in the range, but  Bicicleta ‘heroes’  for the Grand Départ are sauvignon blanc, viognier, pinot noir, and merlot.
And there’s plenty of mileage in each of them.
Whites: The sauvignon blanc is typically fresh and grassy with gooseberry and green pepper skin. The viognier is a perfumed cloud of apricots, tinned mandarins, and orange blossom. It delivers mouthfuls of bright peach. Very nice indeed.
Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir
Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir
Reds: The pinot noir has a savoury mushroomy nose and pecks of spice. It is black-fruity rich with fine tannins and is perfect with roast beef on a Sunday. The merlot packs a velvet-gloved punch with plums and blackberries and just the hint of toastiness.
There are several supermarket offers around on the Bicicleta range to mark Le Tour. Shop around and you could get all four wines for just over £20 and you can’t complain at that.
Cono Sur Bicicleta
Cono Sur Bicicleta

Tesco: Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are reduced to £5 from July 2 to  August 12.

Sainsbury: Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc are reduced to £5.49 from  July 2 to July 22.
Morrisons: Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc, Viognier, and Merlot are reduced to £5.49 from July 20.
Asda: Cono Sur Bicicleta Pinot Noir, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier are £5   to August 1.
To continue the Tour theme, Sainsbury’s has selected seven French
wines to mark places “en route” which you can enjoy from the comfort of your armchair. Wear cycling shorts if you must to get in the zone. Here’s three of them … Taste the Difference Alsace Gewürtztraminer 2013  (£8) is a flurry of lychees and roses and a thoroughly enjoyable wine.
Taste the Difference Beaujolais Villages 2013 (£7.25). There’s beaujolais and then  there’s beaujolais villages  … this  is a step above the basic (ignoring nouveau here) and only certain villages are allowed to  class their wines as such.
Taste the Difference Côtes de Provence Rosé 2013
Taste the Difference Côtes de Provence Rosé 2013
This was awash with red berries and was a juicy fruity light  refreshing garden treat.  Taste the Difference Côtes de Provence Rosé 2013 (£8) is a blend of grenache, cinsault and syrah. If you haven’t had a rosé yet this summer why not? This is crisp, dry, with a good bite of cherries and strawberries  from  Provence in  the south of France. Think of those chappies cycling away and just enjoy.
Les Jamelles Syrah 2012
Les Jamelles Syrah 2012
Also in my glass …   staying in France,  Les Jamelles Syrah 2012 (£6.49, the  Co-op). This dark  red beauty from the Languedoc won a silver outstanding medal at the 2013 International Wine and  Spirit Competition.  It has bowls full of ripe bramble fruits and is lush and deep and herby too.
Chambord liqueur

Wine Press: Add dash of Chambord to your glass for a summery cocktail treat

I’VE been sitting here thinking about strawberries and Wimbledon and the Longest Day (because, scarily, we have reached that daylight milestone).

Where do I take you this week, I’ve been asking myself. What homework do I set you in my continued challenge to encourage you to drink something new. To cast away the grigio and run free, barefoot across the bottled landscape; wind billowing through your hair, the sun glinting off your clasped shiny corkscrew. (Not sure running barefoot across bottles is a good analogy. So tread carefully.)

I‘ve been torn. But no more. I’ve shrugged off the image of my one reader (that’s you) running around crazily looking for wine, and have landed on Chambord.

Plaza Centro Prosecco
Plaza Centro Prosecco

Purely by chance. I poured a glass of prosecco, Plaza Centro Prosecco (Tesco, £6.49 until July 1, reduced from £12.99). It‘s OK. It’s prosecco. A good light lemon flurry of pouring bubbles enjoying the contact with fresh air longer than most, and a burst of citrus in the mouth. You’re never going to get a complexity of tastes with prosecco, unlike a cava or a crémant. I needed an added “something” to liven up the brain cells I use for words.

Then I remembered I had a bottle of Chambord one of my closest friends had bought me.  (A 20cl bottle is in Tesco for £7.50).

If you’ve never tried it, I urge you to do so.  The Chambord website tells me:

“Chambord is the premium black raspberry liqueur with a fine French heritage. Chambord stands alone in its category — and in its iconic, captivating packaging.”

The bottle is so pretty.  It should be gracing a dressing table.

Chambord liqueur
Chambord liqueur, oh so pretty

I poured a little glug into the glass and it turned a glass of sparkles into  a fruity cocktail treat. A weekday luxury as I’m tapping on this laptop with Corrie on the TV. Come on Peter Barlow, shape up.

Chambord is 16.5% abv and gave the prosecco more oomph and a delightful raspberry depth. Sparkles aside, there’s a heap of cocktail ideas you can create, including vodka, Chambord and soda (pop a raspberry in too). Or Chambord suggests a French Martini, which is vodka, Chambord and pineapple juice.

Yums. Lovely little summery treats.

If you want to look for other sparklers to celebrate the summer, then a good starting point could be a handful of supermarket own-brand wines which dominated the Great Value Sparkling category in the recent International Wine Challenge Awards.

Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Conegliano Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut 2013
Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Conegliano Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut 2013
  • Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Conegliano Prosecco Superiore DOCG Brut 2013 (£10) was awarded the Great Value Awards for sparkling under £12.
  • The Co-operative picked up the mid-range Great Value Award (sparkling wines between £12 and £20) for its Les Pionniers NV Champagne (£16.99). 
  • Waitrose won the Great Value sparkling under £25 award with its Blanc de Noirs Brut NV (£24.99).

If you want a pink sparkle without the home-made element then Freixenet has two lovely cavas Cordon Rosado (RRP £9.99) and the classy-looking Elyssia Pinot Noir (RRP £14.99).

Freixenet Pinot Noir Elyssia cava
Freixenet Pinot Noir Elyssia cava

Both are widely available. The rosada uses two “stand up and be counted grapes” trepat and garnacha and delivers bright red fruits and blackberries. Elyssia is one to grace a special dining table and has a lightness of touch that pinot noir brings and lots of summer fruits.

So what do I always say? Go forth and experiment.

This column first appeared in the saturday extra magazine June 21  2014 

Gin tasting

Gin, cucumber and elderflower are a perfect mix

MANY moons ago,  before Facebook and  text messaging, I used to talk to people face to face,  generally in pubs.
When I was a young-ish  pup my brother introduced  me to gin with slices of  cucumber in his  village  local.  Most gin lovers there  drank gin that way, so  much so that the bar staff  kept cucumber on a plate  next to the lemons (the  sliced ones that is, not the  sad tipsy lads at the  opposite corner of the bar).
There was one bar staff  wag who  always asked “do  you want salad with your  gin?” How I laughed.
I praise cucumber to my  pals.  Some try it, others  look at me as if  I’m suggesting eating a Jaffa  Cake with baked beans.
To mark National  Cucumber Day  and World Gin Day I‘ve tried gins with  cucumber and tonic;  as a shot (not my  idea) and with elderflower cordial  and soda.
Why  cucumber and  not lemon?  Lemon can be  tart and  cheek clenching;  cucumber has  spring-water   green crisp  freshness and is perfect on a  warm sunny  day. Or any  day, with gin.
Gin is a base  white spirit,  commonly  made from  grain,  flavoured by botanicals. Some distillers  use 10 or more  botanicals.  Juniper is dominant.
IMG_1957
My ingredients for this  week’s Scientific Experiment  have included Greenall’s  The Original London Dry  Gin (on promotion from  £12 at Sainsbury until  July  2, normal RRP is £15.49 for  70cl); Tanqueray London  Gin (£21.70 in Tesco, 70cl  but down to £18 until July  1st); Bombay Sapphire  Distilled London Dry Gin  (£20,  Asda); Broker’s Gin  (£18.95, Slurp.co.uk);  Warner Edwards  Harrington Dry Gin (RRP   £33,   independent merchants  and direct from www.warneredwards.com) and Bottlegreen  Elderflower Cordial (RRP  £3.15, widely available).
Some fun with Broker’s  gin. It had a  clip-on and off  plastic bowler hat.  Andy  Dawson one of  Brokers’  creators (which won  World’s Best Gin at the  Ultimate  Spirits Challenge in New  York) told me to taste-test  his gin much like a wine;  and compare alongside
other gins. This was the  basis of my first experiment  and it nearly blew my head  off.
I managed to sip two  gins.  Broker’s is rich and full  of flavour. It was interesting  to sense the infusions  within the gins;  waves of  fruit and herb gardens.
Gin tasting
Now my favourite bit;   cucumbers. Three slices in  each gin and a good glug  of plain tonic water.  In April  this year Warner  Edwards  Harrington Dry Gin won  the top prize, a  Double  Gold Medal at the San  Francisco World Spirit  Awards.
My word what a  lovely gin. Botanicals  include  juniper,  coriander, elderflower,  angelica root,  cinnamon, orange  and lemon peel,  and a “secret  ingredient”.
Warner  Edwards  Harrington Dry Gin
Warner Edwards Harrington Dry Gin
This  was my winner.   To taste with the  cucumber, it was  smooth, gentle,  soft, herbal, light,  fruity, a cushion  of gin and  cuddles of  infused love.  Look out for  Warner’s  limited edition Elderflower Infused Gin (from June 20,  which sold out in  eight  weeks last year).
Tanqueray London  Gin
Tanqueray London Gin
The Tanqueray was declared the winner by my  Beloved.
But  the surprise  of  my mini-experiment was  the elderflower cordial.
I  combined a good glug of  cordial and a decent  measure of soda water and  tumbled into the gins with  cucumber.  Every single gin  sang with this.  The  Greenalls was bright and  perfect; the Bombay  Sapphire (which is always  lovely in every way to me)  was sublime. I have found  myself a new cucumber  chum; elderflower. Now go  forth and experiment.
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