Wine Press: My favourite white wines for Chinese New Year

Chinese New Year is a fantastic excuse to heat the wok, twist the corkscrew and do one of the things I love best. Cook food and drink wine.

I picked some favourite things to cook for friends. Spare ribs marinaded overnight; salt and Sichuan pepper king prawns; aromatic beef, slow-cooked with garlic, ginger and star anise; a spicy chicken stir fry and a side of pak choi and oyster sauce. Finally, a sticky pudding finish.

Chinese New Year food and wine pairing
Spare ribs in their overnight marinade

I chose white wines – aromatic white wines perfect with the myriad of flavours and aromas from my Chinese feast.

Here are my five whites (and a dessert wine too):

Chinese New Year food and wine pairing
Sichuan pepper king prawns are perfect with an aromatic white wine

Extra Special Viognier (ASDA, £5). Peachy, perfectly peachy. Peachy and peppery in fact, with hints of apricots. This wine won a bronze at the 2014 International Wine Challenge and this was a winner too with the prawns. A slight spice in this French wine complemented the spicy but aromatic Sichuan blend which fireworked the prawns.

Asda Extra Special Viognier and The Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Riesling from Aldi
Asda Extra Special Viognier and The Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Riesling from Aldi

Tesco finest Tingleup Riesling (£9.99) It has juicy seams of lemon and lime cutting right through it. Mouthwatering rivers of citrus race and surge with flavour. Wow. What a star. Perhaps the spare ribs would be great with a red, but I’ll tell you what; the taste tangle of flavours in the marinade and the tingle of the Tingleup, was akin to a melting, sherbetty, Flying Saucer kiddies’ Penny Tray sweet. Trust me.

Chinese New Year food and wine pairing
Tesco Finest Tingleup Riesling

The Exquisite Collection Clare Valley Riesling (£6.99, Aldi) This wine is a ladle of lime, crisp and sparky. It didn’t shine as bright as the Tingleup by glass-to-glass comparison, but if this were the only wine in the world I wouldn’t complain. The prawns had a dipping sauce which included a multi-squeeze of three limes (and one mischievous wayward lime pip) and Aldi’s wine shrugged off the citrus competition.

Viñas del Vero Gewürztraminer, Somontano 2013 (£10.49,Majestic) is from northern Spain and is a veritable tease of aromas, with roses, tropical fruit and lychee. I love gewurtz. My slow-cooked gingery beef was hazed in aromatic, spicy perfume from the star anise. Along came the gewurtz which said, hey, I can match this.

Chinese New Year food and wine pairing
Viñas del Vero Gewürztraminer, Somontano 2013 and The Society’s Vin D’Alsace

The Society’s Vin D’Alsace (The Wine Society, £8.50) A favourite wine of mine, and it seemed right it should grace the table for a Chinese feast. It’s a blend of sylvaner, which gives the wine its structure, and riesling, gewurztraminer and pinot gris, with a touch of muscat. All wonderful Chinese matches in their own right; blended together a shoo-in.

This was brilliant with the simple pak choi which was stirfried in moments with garlic then graced with chilli. The wine is full and fruity, not too complex, but with a tastebud ping pong.

I don’t usually do puds, but I made toffee and sesame grilled bananas. With them, a “small” glass of Sticky End Sauvignon Blanc 2012, (£15.99, Majestic; mix and match two bottles and save 33% – £10.65). I can’t tell you how gorgeous this is. The wine is a treat of lychees, apricot, caramel topping, vanilla and a shake of spice. A Sticky End for a perfect sticky end.

A Sticky End Noble Sauvignon Blanc wine
A Sticky End Noble Sauvignon Blanc

(I took all my recipes from www.bbcgoodfood.com)

Also in my glass. … some last minute Valentine’s Day thoughts.  Louis Delaunay Champagne is reduced to £12.99 from £25.99 at Tesco until today (February 14th). It is apple crisp, with green apple and biscuit aromas. Cono Sur has included a gift tag for you to personalise a special Valentine bottle of its Sparkling Rosé (on offer at £7.49 in Tesco also until today, Feb 14).

Finally, Bloom Gin is created by the world’s first female master gin distiller, Joanne Moore. It is a lovely floral flirt of botanics, and comes complete with a pink bow and gift tag at Sainsbury and Waitrose (RRP £22).

Published in the saturday extra magazine February 14, 2015

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

Wine Press: Valentine’s Day sparkling pink wines (my Love Heart scores)

If you’re planning on a bit of canoodling, romancing and smooching over a glass of something sparklie on Valentine’s Day, then read on.

I’ve been dipping into some sparkling pink wines you could share with The Love of Your Life.

Valentine's Day sparkling pink wines
Valentine’s Day sparkling pink wines

From light gentle salmon pinks to wines of the deepest cerise; some with gentle flits of bubbles to others with excitable cascades; I’ve seen them all.

But first, a couple of tips on serving Champagne and sparkling wines. I’d like to take the credit, but I’ll doff my cap to the kind people at Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte (more of them later).

Champagne is best drunk chilled but never iced – around 8°C if served on its own and 12°C if served with food. Over-chilling will mean the Champagne is too cold to release its aromas and flavours.

Valentine's Day sparkling wines
Serve the wine in really clean tall Champagne flutes

When opening Champagne aim for a gentle sigh rather than a huge explosion as the cork leaves the bottle. Grip the bottle firmly with one hand and the cork with the other and twist the bottle until the cork is released.

Serve the wine in a pristine tall Champagne flute, washed with warm water, drip dried and then polished. This allows the bubbles to rise in long streams to release the aroma and soft flavours.

Here’s another tip (from me) when you’re looking at sparklers. If you see NV it means a wine is non-vintage. In other words, it will be a blend of wines produced from grapes grown in different years. If you see a Vintage wine, and a year, then that is what you get on the tin; the grapes will have been grown in that particular year.

I’ll move on to the pinks and my Love Hearts ratings (out of 5).

Graham Beck 'The Rhona' Brut Rosé
Graham Beck ‘The Rhona’ Brut Rosé

Graham Beck ‘The Rhona’ Brut Rosé (M&S, £13 from £15, until March 3). The wine, from South Africa, is a blend of nearly equal parts chardonnay and pinot noir. It is a pale salmon pink and has light cherry and fresh strawberry aromas; and to taste more gentle strawberries and a dry peppery bite. It’s quite creamy too. It is delicious, although the excited bubbles fade away fairly quickly.
Love Hearts: 5

Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Rosé NV (Tesco stores from this month, RRP £29.99) Salmon pink, with lots and lots of red fruits bursting out of the glass like a summer fruit dessert. But it isn’t too sweet and the taste is refined, with raspberries sliced and diced into a crisp but slightly creamy mouth linger. The glass is consistently ribboned with fine bubbles.
Love Hearts: 4

Extra Special Vintage Rose Cava Sparkling 2011 (Asda, on promotion at £6) There’s a good burst of excitable teenage fizz which settles down into middle age quite quickly. The cava is a lush cerise colour, with aromas of fresh strawberries and red fruit, and a citrus zizzang in the mouth. This doesn’t have the flavours depths of my other four wines, but my, it was easy to drink.
Love Hearts: 3 (but it could be a 4 for its price and drinkability)

Champagne Jacquart Rosé Mosaïc NV, left, and Cava Rosado from Asda
Champagne Jacquart Rosé Mosaïc NV, left, and Cava Rosado from Asda

Champagne Jacquart Rosé Mosaïc NV (Tesco, RRP £30) A soft salmon pink. The aromas are a dessert bowl of delights; ripe apples, vanilla and strawberries shortcake. Of my five, this had the most sniffable nose. I know that’s not a classy wine thing to say, but hey, I’m a Northern Bird.
Love Hearts: 4

Pink Champagne Monsigny Brut NV (Aldi £15.99, 75cl). This is new in Aldi stores this month. It is a luscious deep pink, with red berries and lemons on the nose. There’s bright acidity and a squiggle of lemon, and dried strawberries to taste. The bright bubbles are happy to stay around a good while to add to the celebration.
Love Hearts: 3.5

Published in the saturday extra magazine February 7, 2015

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

Wine blog: To help you grow old grapefully. As simple as.

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