Great British Bake Off and drinks with sweet things

PX sherry: The Great British Bake Off

I WALKED around work with a Post-it note stuck to my jumper last October. It said: “Don’t discuss The Great British Bake Off … I haven’t watched it yet!!”

This year I’m at least four episodes behind and playing catch-up. I can see a Post-It note coming out again!

The other night I watched a man make a lion’s head out of bread and felt pretty useless so I’ve wimped out of making cakes for my Scientific Experiment (it had been my plan).

Instead, I’ve bought ready-made shortbread, lemon drizzle cake, a chocolate cake and a vanilla cheesecake to talk about wines with cakes, sweet bakes and fruity things.

Jane Clare, The Great British Bake Off
Last year I was determined not to find out who won The Great British Bake Off

There’s a couple of simple rules when pairing wines with sweet things.

Dishes high in sugar should be paired with wines that have at least as much sugar; so don’t pour wines that are less sweet than the yummy treat you’re eating.

What’s this? Babycham? I spotted it in Tesco (£4 for four 20cl bottles) and thought I’d give it a whirl.

It brings back memories of mum, aunties and my sister, though I think brandy was a pairing of choice back then. With a mouthful of lemon cake there was a dapple of lemony explosion but mainly from the cake. The Babycham was much better with shortbread whose buttery flavours shone through.

Sweetheart sparklies that would definitely fizz and flutter with a lemon delight are the dreamy Barefoot Bubbly Pink Moscato (£9.99, Tesco) or Lidl’s Allini Asti Spumante DOCG (£5.25) which pops with peaches.

Rustenberg Straw Wine 2012 (Majestic, £13.49, or £8.99 each when you buy two until October 26) is a blend of viognier, chenin Blanc and crouchen blanc grapes which are allowed to dry on straw mats for four weeks before they’re fermented.

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Then someone like me comes along and asks it to sit quietly in a glass while I slice tiny triangles of supermarket cheesecake.

There are aromas of pineapple, honey and the candied oranges and lemons you get in a Christmas box. Velvet peach cream oozes in the mouth, divine with the creaminess of the cheesecake. I think I’m in love. The lemon drizzle was too sweet (remember those rules) so stick with creamy fruity bakes on this one.

Plaimont Producteurs Pacherenc du Vic-Bilh Duc de Termes 2011 (£4.49 from £5.99, 37cl, Tesco) is lighter on the nose, with vanilla and candied peel.

The Great British Bake Off wines
I had a bit of taste-test fun with wines for The Great British Bake Off

The cheesecake was a decent match as the wine’s apricot notes weren’t overwhelmed.

You’ve got to love pedro ximinez sherry. You might have had PX as a drizzle over ice cream; now try it in a glass with chocolate cake.

Taste The Difference Sweet Pedro Ximenez Sherry (£8, Sainsbury, 50cl) is a sticky glug of liquid bonfire toffee. I bet ginger cake would be perfect, but I won’t tell the chocolate cake if you don’t.

This just doesn’t feel like sherry; it’s unctuous like a liqueur, all gloopy and mahogany-deep, with flavours of raisins and prunes and a lick of spice. Chocolate wonderland.

Over at Marks & Sparks, Rare Pedro Ximenez (£8 for 37.5cl) is a touch lighter and has more fruity freshness. Figs bring the X factor, there’s a velvet encore of coffee and balanced acidity as the curtain goes down.

Next time, I’ll buy ginger cake.

After that, I just wanted a cup of tea which is probably best for the excitable lemon cake. Talking of tea (tenuous link here) I tried a couple of chilled fruity teas (both RRP £1.99) courtesy of the Berry Company (

Berry’s Green Tea with Aronia and Blueberry has the haziness of just-squeezed blueberries and is really fruity with just the hint of green tea in the background.

Berry’s White Tea & Peach is a blend of white tea and concentrated peach juice and is pale golden, bright and sharp. Perky peach aromas are backed up with refreshing peach flavours.

To find out more about The Great British Bake Off, click here.

Published in the saturday extra magazine September 26, 2015

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

British Food Fortnight is great excuse to eat (and drink wine!)

Wines to go with British Food Fortnight

BRITISH Food Fortnight 2015 is well underway …  I enjoy British food the rest of the year too, but when these things come along it’s an excuse for one of my foodie Scientific Experiments.

For your benefit I’ve roasted a chicken, plated up a Ploughman’s and coaxed a crispy topping onto a cottage pie.

Chicken and chardonnay are quite nice though you forget these things.

I roasted chicken with lemon and onions in its tummy and tarragon butter squeezed under the skin. I love potatoes, so I did a creamy mix of leeks and potatoes as well as roasties.

Rickshaw Chardonnay 2014 (£15.99 at Majestic or £11.99 when you buy two until October 26) is from California to be precise. The wine is over a tenner even at a reduced price, but it’s worth it for a Sunday lunch.

From the Rickshaw there are aromas of pears, vanilla and a sidekick of citrus and then to taste, just enough acidity and freshness to cut through a mixed forkful of crunchy roasties and creamy leeks.

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The wine sought out the tarragon like a lost pal in a crowd, then, paired up at last, herby inflections from both had a bit of a natter.

Finca Constancia Seleccion 2012 (RRP £10.49 online from Ocado & picked up silver at last year’s International Wine Challenge. It’s a Spanish blend of syrah, cabernet sauvignon and petit verdot and was my sidekick for my cottage pie supper.

Blimey, I love cottage pie. There’s much debate in our household as to whether pickled cabbage or pickled beetroot is the way to go; but Finca is unflappable either way. There’s a mix of dried and fresh red fruits with a savoury note of its own. There’s plenty of spice and a velvety lick of vanilla which did a high five with the crispy mash topping.

I sit on the picket fence when it comes to English red wine. Whites are hard to fault, but reds, well I’ve never been convinced. Bolney Estate Linter’s Red 2013, (£13, M&S) was part of my ploughman’s experiment. I’d asked work chums to think of British foods and here we are, a great choice. Pork pie, cheeses, pickles and crackers made an outdoor spread and the Linter’s Red joined them. (Some wasps too, little blighters.)

My workchum has asked me to say “did you know” that the Ploughman’s Lunch was first promoted by the Milk Marketing Board in the 1960s as part of a campaign to boost the sales of cheese. There you go.

British Food Fortnight, a Ploughman's lunch and an English red wine
British Food Fortnight, a Ploughman’s lunch and an English red wine

The Linter’s is made from Rondo grapes in West Susssex and is aged in both French and American oak. On the nose there’s blackcurrant and plums and pepper; to taste, the acidity takes centre stage, and the fruits struggle to nudge it out of the way. But a slither of mature cheddar brought out the underlying fruit, and a new wine was born.

Alianca Bairrada Reserva Tinto 2011 (£7.50 for the 2013 vintage at is half the price of the English red but double the delight.

It was born in Bairrada in Portugal and is a blend of traditional grapes baga, touriga nacional and tinta roriz.

With a slither of pork pie it was peppery perfect; with the Ploughman’s cheddar it melted. There are fresh and dried cranberries, notes of chocolate and a frisky edge of spice which did a jaunty jive with a spoonful of pickle.

I’m sure the powers that be behind British Food Fortnight have put in more effort than me.

To find out more, including details of lots of events,  go to

Published in the saturday extra magazine September 19, 2015

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