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

Wine Press: A selection of wines for Fairtrade Fortnight 2015

Co-operative Fairtrade wines

IT IS 20 years since the first Fairtrade Fortnight and it’s around the corner again. So it seems only right that I look at Fairtrade wines.

Buying Fairtrade helps ensure that farmers and workers are receiving a fair price – as well as money to help their community invest in services such as education, sanitation and healthcare.

Fairtrade Fortnight 2015
Fairtrade Fortnight 2015

The UK’s fairtrade website (www.fairtrade.org.uk) explains: “Wine producers across South Africa and South America face unique economic, social and political challenges. Farmers are exposed to an unpredictable future.”

Fairtrade wine doesn’t always have a great reputation where flavour is concerned. I mentioned to someone I was tasting Fairtrade wine, and their reply? “I bet it’s horrid,” Despite that perception, in 2013 more than 11 million litres of Fairtrade wine were drunk in the UK.

Some of it isn’t perfect, but that can be said about many wines on the shelves today.

Co-op Fairtrade Fortnight wines
Some of the Co-op’s Fairtrade wines

The Co-op sells 52.5% of all Fairtrade wine in the UK and is the world’s largest seller of Fairtrade wines. A secondary school in Tilimuqui Argentina, is educating 315 pupils, and is one project funded by the Co-op’s Fairtrade wine.

The Co-op, by the way, has been named the UK’s top Ethical Drinks Retailer at the Drinks Retailing Awards 2015.

Let’s look at some wines.

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Fairtrade Sauvignon Blanc
The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Fairtrade Sauvignon Blanc

The Co-operative Truly Irresistible Fairtrade  Sauvignon Blanc 2014 (£4.99 during Fairtrade Fortnight) is from South Africa and might surprise if you’re expecting a grassy-green hum and vibrant gooseberries on the nose. It is full-on with pears, lemons and tropical fruit, with a vibrant taste that delivers the more familiar apples and gooseberries.

The Co-operative Fairtrade Malbec Rosé
The Co-operative Fairtrade Malbec Rosé

The Co-operative Fairtrade Malbec Rosé (£3.99 from £4.99 until March 17) may surprise too. Aromas of mandarins lead from the front, together with a sprinkle of pepper. To taste, squidgy, newly picked strawberries.

Sainsbury’s is the largest retailer of Fairtrade products in the UK with 100% of the Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference South African wines Fairtrade.

Taste the Difference Fairtrade Chenin Blanc (£6) is very refreshing, green apples with limes, pears and a squeak of acidity.

I was not blown away by the Fairtrade reds I tried. I threw down a foodie gauntlet to three by trying them with a Thai takeaway.

The trio gave it a healthy stab but didn’t beat the whites and rosé.

Children enjoying a play park in South Africa, supported by Sainsbury's Fairtrade collaboration
Children enjoying a play park in South Africa, supported by Sainsbury’s Fairtrade collaboration with their Fairtrade Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot

Taste the Difference Fairtrade Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot (£6, until March 3) is a South African wine and was deep with cherries, very drinkable and had good body. Sainsbury’s helps to support playgrounds, a computer centre, sports club and a gardening project through this wine.

Taste the Difference Fairtrade Carmenere, also £6, and from Argentina, had a peppery spice but not much lingering flavour. It offered much in drinkability, and was inoffensive, but I wanted more from one of my favourite grapes.

Extra Special Fairtrade Shiraz (£5, ASDA) was commended in the International Wine Challenge last year. It proclaims blackberry flavours and a spicy finish. It was more spice than fruit and didn’t float my boat.

Fairhills Cape Original Chenin Blanc Grenache
Fairhills Cape Original Chenin Blanc Grenache

Finally, a white from Tesco. Fairhills Cape Original Chenin Blanc Grenache (£5.99) sees the two grapes create lemon, lime and tropical fruit aromas, which peep out of the glass modestly, and charm in the mouth. Very easy to drink.

Fairtrade Fortnight 2015 runs from Monday, February 23 until March 8 2015.

 You can follow this link to some Fairtrade wines available in the UK at www.fairtrade.org.uk

Published in the saturday extra magazine February 21, 2015

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