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

Riesling helps to start a healthy New Year. Kind of.

Berry's Own Selection riesling wine review

GOOD luck to everyone who has decided to begin 2014 with a dry January – 31 days without touching alcohol.

I thought about it. It took less than 30 seconds to be convinced that as a person who writes a drinks column, I might find it difficult to give up alcohol for a month.

I’ve walked over hot coals, won comedy stand-up and jumped out of planes , all for charity,  but when it comes to saying “no” to a tipple, I have the backbone of a jellyfish.

So instead, I’ll be reducing my alcohol levels. This week, white wines, all riesling.
Lower alcohol rieslings are on the sweeter side, as not all of the sugars have been turned into alcohol in the fermentation process.

Max Ferd Richter Veldenzer Elisenberg Riesling Kabinett 2011, (£13.99, www.laithwaites.co.uk, 9.5%abv) is a spikey refreshing treat after days of festive feasting. It has crisp red apples and stone fruits on the nose; then to sip – and the reward is a mouth-filling juiciness of apples, berries and apricot with a slatey contrast of dry flint.Mosel Riesling Kabinett Berry & Bros review

Berry’s Mosel Riesling Kabinett 2011, J & H Selbach (£9.75, Berry Bros & Rudd, 10%, abv) is emboldened with citrus; has honey-edged flowers and a memory of marzipan on the nose plus a thrill of excited fruit-laden acidity with a seam of minerality.

Morrisons (www.morrisons cellar.com) give all their wines a profile rating from 0-12, with 0 being sweet and 12 being its most intense. Its M Mosel Riesling (£6.99, 8.5% abv) sits at number three on the scale; sweet but edging towards fresh. It has very light lemon sherbet and floral notes on the nose; wispy with nectarines on a distant breeze. To taste, there’s sharp-and-sweet apples and sherbert lemon, a tight acidity, but with little depth.

Over to the New World. The Paddler Marlborough Riesling 2012 (9.5% abv, £12.89, RannochScott.co.uk and other independents) is named after New Zealand winemaker Matt Thompson’s enthusiasm for kayaking. On the nose there’s some stone fruit but also flowers, honeysuckle and a wave of jasmine. Bright lemon flavours shoot sweet acidic, long-lasting bursts into the mouth, but there’s also a tongue-dabbing dryness too.