I don’t need an excuse to take up British food and wine challenge!

Laithwaites food and wine pairing

I can spot a food and wine Scientific Experiment a mile off. When online wine merchant Laithwaites told me they were bigging up Britain’s regional dishes with food and wine pairings it didn’t take me long to get out the pans and start cooking. This is how I got on.

Château Le Coin Sauvignon Gris 2015

Sauvignon gris is a white grape typically used in white Bordeaux blends. The wine is a pale gold, and apricot aromas ping from the glass, together with a wet day in a barn, gooseberry and a speck of spice.  (12.5% abv, £8.79) Find it here.

laithwaites food and wine pairing sauvignon gris
Welsh rarebit and sauvignon gris

Food and wine: I cooked Welsh rarebit and managed to drop melted cheese everywhere, including on the dog. The wine found a hint of sweetness it didn’t own before, the spice developed and Yowzah this grape wasn’t hiding in the shadows any more.

Von Reben Riesling 2015

This wine is a pale lemon colour and a nose-dip brings squidgy apples and stone fruit. A taste is rewarded with long-lasting mouthwatering lemon and limes. (12% abv,  £9.99)

Food and wine: Balti curry, which was created in Birmingham curry houses. In the spirit of the experiment I bought a chicken balti takeaway. The wine’s acidity cleansed the palate between each mouthful and the citrus sparked perfectly against the spices. The stone fruits were lost but the citrus rose above like a soprano in a choir.

Los Rosales Chapel Vineyard Merlot 2014

It’s a huggable Chilean deep red and aromas flirt with plums and black fruits; a sip brings soft tannins and spice-dashed black fruits. (13.5% abv,  £8.29) Find it here.

Laithwaites food and wine pairing
Merlot and a slither of Cornish pasty

Food and wine: A Cornish pasty was the suggestion. I’m just about to get it from the oven … I’m back. My pasty is full of warm melting potato and peppery pork. The pairing doesn’t take the wine and food to another level – but neither do they have a tastebud fall-out. Merlot is a food friend but it sulked a little at the pastry. You know what? The sauvignon gris welcomed the peppery flavours and was perkier with the pastry.

Altitude By Duorum 2014

This is a full-bodied deep deep red, like a dark velvet dress worn by a brooding Scarlett O’Hara. It hails from the Douro in Portugal and is a blend of three native grapes, touriga nacional, touriga franca and tinta roriz. It has a big fruity nose, together with hints of earth and violets; a year in oak adds spice to flavours of black fruits.
(13.5% abv  £12.99) Find it here.

Laithwaites food and wine pairing
Scouse – and a yummy red

Food and wine: Scouse – diced lamb, potatoes, onions and carrots. I’d thrown in lots of pepper and the wine was up for that – and the lamb was rich enough to stand up to the wine’s boldness.

I’d better get back to the diet.

Reviews first published in Raise a Glass, Trinity Mirror regionals  

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

I cook pies and drink wine for British Pie Week

Wines for British Pie Week

I’m a bit flaky around the edges because this week I have mainly been eating pies. I’ve been trying wines too because you don’t get many pies to the pound in a wine column.

What scientific experiment have I cooked up this week? Well, it’s British Pie Week from Monday (March 2). As a Northern Bird worth my weight in eating pies, it would be wrong of me not to give that a passing nod.

There’s something wonderful about a pie; reminiscent of family gatherings, homely, comforting, and hugged by mitts at a footie match.

Wine reviews for British Pie Week
British Pie Week saw me take to the kitchen, cook (and drink wine)

I cooked five pies, from a spicy Bombay potato scrunched in filo pastry to a fish pie with a perching potato topping; a chicken and leek pie in creamy tarragon sauce; butter pie (a mix of potato and Lancashire cheese from my homeland) and a warm indulgence of steak and wine.

Which wines to drink with that little lot?

The first rule is to drink what YOU want to drink and throw a cork at people who tell you otherwise. If you like it, then go with it. But for a general rule of thumb, if you’re eating light food, aim to have a light wine. Likewise, if your meal is rich and heavy, a light wine would be overpowered, so opt for a wine with depth. Don’t go for spicy with lots of tannin.

Here are some of the wines I tried with my pie feast.

Kaiken Ultra Chardonnay wine review
Kaiken Ultra Chardonnay

Kaiken Ultra Chardonnay 2013 (£13.99 from independents including Vinomondo, The Fine Wine Company, Amazon, and Aitken wines).   This had a silky feel which worked well with the creamy sauce snuggling the chicken. Vanilla complemented the tarragon as did touches of tropical fruit, pineapple and peach.

I couldn’t believe how simple the fish pie was to make, the sauce was just crème fraiche with a squeeze of lemon, poured over a seafood compote of smoked haddock, salmon and cod. Then along comes McGuigan Reserve Chardonnay (£9.99, Sainsbury’s, Morrison’s) which has just enough creaminess to not fight the fish; just enough acidity to lift it, and just enough citrus fruit, grapefruit and peach to turn a mouthful into one big burst of flavour.

McGuigan Reserve Chardonnay review
McGuigan Reserve Chardonnay

I think I overdosed on peeling potatoes with my butter pie and my Bombay potato pie; but it was worth it. And worth it alongside, was Blackburn & James Chardonnay/Pinot Grigio (Waitrose, £10.99) a white blend from California. I usually stay clear of the dreaded pinot grigio words, but here was a mix of melon and tropical peachy fruit, punched right through by a lime edge which enjoyed a tastebud tangle with the Bombay spices.

Arte Argento Malbec review
Arte Argento Malbec

I tried reds, of course I did, one of them contributing to the melting mix of steak for a couple of hours. Arte de Argento Malbec 2013 (Tesco, £7.99) is a juicy mouthful bright with blackberries and a layer of chocolate, similar to that moreish kind you find flirting on the top of a creamy coffee. There was a fling of spice too, which worked well with the beef.

Beaujolais Domaine Romy 2013 review
Beaujolais Domaine Romy 2013

Beaujolais Domaine Romy 2013 (£9.99, Majestic, mix and match two and save 25%) is a slurpy kind of a wine. It’s as simple as that. Lots of easy-to-drink fruitiness, redcurrants, and easy on the tannin. Because of that it went nicely (and quickly) with the spicy pie.

Domaine de la Clairiège 2013, (£5.50, M&S) the cheapest wine in my experiment, and a great value one too. This is a merlot, cabernet sauvignon and syrah blend, with cherries oozing from the glass. It would be perfect as an instant relief “had a long day wine” but with the beef was also very nice indeed.

By the way, I didn’t eat five pies on my own. I like pies, but not that much.

Here’s the recipes I used, all from BBC Good Food

Chicken and leek pie

Butter pie

Bombay Potato and Spinach pie

Spring Fish pie

Beef pie with crisp potato crust

Published in the saturday extra magazine February 28, 2015

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