Category: Food matching

Rustenberg Straw Wine 2011

Rustenberg Straw Wine 2011The wine: Rustenberg Straw Wine 2011

The producer: Rustenberg www.rustenberg.co.za

They say: This wine has been made using a centuries-old process of drying grapes on straw in order to produce dessert-style wines. Grapes are harvested at the same ripeness required to make table wine and are then laid out on straw for a number of weeks. This allows the grapes to slowly dehydrate, concentrating their natural sugar, acid and flavour.

The straw also acts as a wick for any excess moisture, ensuring the grapes do not rot. After gently pressing the dehydrated grapes the concentrated juice is slowly fermented and aged in old oak barrels to create a balanced luscious dessert wine.

We say: A gorgeous golden wine with a luscious texture. Intense, alluring nose. There’s notes of ripe peach, orange rind, syrup, honey and maybe even a little fig. The incredible acidity balances the unctuous sweetness of the wine. Really nice stuff.

Try with: Apple tarte tatin

Price (RRP): From £8.99 for half-bottle.

Available from: Majestic

Chinese tasting notes and food match

品酒笔记: 丰盛美味的金黄色甜酒。闻起来激烈,诱人。有熟的桃子,橘子皮,糖浆,蜂蜜,甚至有点无花果的味道。酒甜与酸搭配很好。真不错。

中餐搭配: 糯米甜枣点心

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#HOTGV: On Vins Colombo with Laure Colombo

Last month, I met a young winemaker called Laure Colombo over dinner at 28:50 in London. She makes wines at the family vineyard, Vins Colombo, with her father Jean Luc Colombo. It’s a little domaine in Cornas, Northern Rhone, started by her parents in the 80s.

Jean Luc Colombo maison

It was just before the RAW Fair came to London and, knowing that I was going to make a podcast at RAW, I wanted to get her thoughts on natural wine. Unusually for someone so young (it didn’t seem polite to ask but I guessed at no more than 30), Laure had the confidence to speak about her wine as an extension of herself. The wine that she was making was about the way she feels and not about following trends or trying to conform to a certain cache. So she talked about that instead.

Laure Colombo in the vineyard

As a second generation winemaker, Colombo’s approach to wine is extremely food-centric and refreshingly non-commercial. She had an old world belief about wine as part of life and not as a commodity. Case in point, she has recently acquired her own domaine and, like that of her parents’, she’s keeping the “farm” busy with everything from chickens to fruit trees.

Anyway, I think you’ll get an idea of what she is like in this fifth episode of Heard on the Grape Vine where we talk about everything from making wine for food to living in a vineyard. And if you are interested in trying her wines, you can find some of these at Waitrose.

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#HOTGV: On natural wine with Isabelle Legeron MW

This episode of Heard on the Grape vine is all about natural wine, an unusually complicated subject in the world of wine. To throw some clarity on the issue, I went to RAW, one of the biggest natural wine fairs in the UK, and spoke to the industry insiders.

Tree in vineyard in Georgia

Natural wine is a complicated subject. Which is ironic given that the very definition of a natural wine is a stripped back and uncomplicated product.

It’s a complicated subject because there’s no legal definition of natural wine. This means that many people have their own versions of it while others deny its existence altogether.

I am, on balance, an uncommitted supporter of natural wine. This means that I like the idea of natural wine and I appreciate the results – because there are some very good natural wines out there – but I don’t want to commit to drinking just natural wines as there are also many wine makers who aren’t following the principles of natural wine making but who are creating equally delicious wines. Basically, I want to drink delicious and interesting wines, however they’re made.

But I love the infectious passion of the natural wine makers, so decided to make this episode on natural wine. To start, a few of the winemakers exhibiting at RAW will describe what natural wine is for them. Then we’ll hear from Isabelle Legeron MW, the organiser of RAW and long-time champion of natural wine.

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Japanese food, French wines: an evening with Luiz Hara and Bordeaux wines

 Luiz Hara, London Foodie Japanese Supperclub with Bordeaux Wine

French wine and Japanese food, why wouldn’t you?

After all, there are some surprising similarities between French and Japanese food. Stock, for example, features prominently in both cuisines, albeit with different basic ingredients. And then of course there are plenty of French restaurants, employing classical techniques but using Japanese ingredients. Joel Robuchon‘s empire, in particular, comes to mind.

So French wine and Japanese food, not too wild a path for the stretch of imagination.

And it was at Luiz Hara‘s (The London Foodie) lovely home that this combination came to life – a Japanese supper club hosted with Bordeaux wines.

Having cooked with Luiz at his supper club before, I sort of knew the food to expect – home cooked food done well. There were a couple of old-faithfuls like the salmon sashimi South American way and teppanyaki of rib-eye but it was also great to see Luiz’s new creations like “Ankimo” and “Deconstructing Sushi”.

And you know that well known fact about the expense of Bordeaux wines? About how it’s auctioned at record prices in Hong Kong? And how the buoyant Chinese wine market is what’s driving it up? Well this supper club dispels that myth too.

All the wines chosen to match Luiz’s dishes were under £20, and there were some interesting combinations too.

Take “Deconstructing Sushi” (essentially a Japanese version of Coquilles Saint-Jacques) and Roquefortissime 2010 from Château Roquefort for example, the dish was a lot spicier than I would have expected of Japanese cuisine but the wine was robust enough to stand up to that very powerful dish. It was also rounded enough to drink alone and would, I imagine, go rather well with pork or walnuts too. It’s probably something that I’d choose if I didn’t want to change wines between a starter and a main and I’m usually not a Sauvignon fan.

The dish that delighted me the most was definitely “Ankimo” – sous-vide ballotine of foie de lotte, shredded daikon and ponzu dressing. I had wanted to try the foie de lotte while in France but sadly never got round to it so this was a great opportunity to try something new. It’s a lot less rich in comparison to foie gras but no less delicious. The wine match was a 2011 rosé from Château Méaume which, while not something I’d drink on its own, did work surprisingly well with the dish.

The evening drew to a close with a Sauternes; what else could it have been? I was surprised to discover that the Ginestet 2009 we had was only priced at £10. It doesn’t hold the same intensity in flavour as some of the greats and will literally pale in comparison to say the golden hues of Château d’Yquem but it is also a tiny percentage of the cost.

That’s the thing you forget under the thousand pound a bottle umbrella of the Latours and Lafits – there are every day Bordeaux wines, quite capable of being matched to interesting food, that are also very affordable. Well, even the New York Times agrees with me.

(Check out the menu and additional photos here)

Bordeaux Wines hosted the supperclub. Amateur Wine was a guest at the event. You can find out more in our Editorial Policy.

Fish & chips at Kerbisher & Malt: But what to drink?

Lemon sole goujons

Fish and chips, so simple, British and… Actually surprisingly complex when it comes to drink pairings. Think about it, what do you have to drink when you go to your local chippy? Larger? Stout? Coke? Tea?

Actually I don’t know the answer to that question but the offer of a gastro-oeno experiment from Tom Harrow of Winechap enticed me. The posher than average chip shop Kerbisher & Malt was the location and the crowd was wine types, tea types and me, falling somewhere in between, arguably not particularly excelling at either except in quantities consumed.

Kerbisher & Malt, named after an old fishing boat and of course malt vinegar, opened in May 2011 by owners Saul Reuben and Nick Crossley. From the off, they promised “no to preservatives, no to food from a packet, no to dirty oil, no to neon lights and no to soggy chips”. And now they’re getting serious about their drinks menu, too.

Working through the Kerbisher menu, we had a selection that went from Chardonnay up to Champagne, and Oolong down to breakfast tea supplied by the Rare Tea Company (just for the purpose of the experiment). It was really a Marmite collection of matches that served well to divide the opinion of the table.

Starting with whitebait and calamari for light bites and the Cuvée des Croix Blanches Muscadet 2010 for refreshment, the discussion was already bubbling. For me, the muscadet worked with the whitebait but the light spice of the calamari fought its corner against the wine and won.

The De Telmont Grande Reserve Champagne that came next worked in harmony with the chips and copious amounts of ketchup but, it seems, possibly little else. Perhaps that was always a drink meant for supping on its own or with grander comestibles.

Next up was the La Gitana Manzanilla which, though refreshing alone, for me, was a terrible match for everything. While I blamed a particularly bad sherry cocktail for that conclusion, the rest of the table welcomed its acidity.

Haddock arrived at the table along with pours of Pilsner and Riverlands Sauvignon Blanc 2001, both proved to be poorly matched to the fish but worked well with the sides – the Pilsner overpowered while the sauvignon blanc was overpowered. Clearly this was a match with more than a few struggles.

More chips arrived and the riesling came in the form of Dr Loosen 2010 which I particularly enjoyed. It was a serious contender for matching with everything, especially the ketchup. But on second evaluation, not so good with vinegar soaked chips.

Wheat beer was the last alcoholic drink and was a relatively neutral finish – it didn’t add anything or take anything away and if you liked beer well then it must be a no-brainer.

Then came the soft drinks. The bitterness of the Fentiman’s Traditional Lemonade was much improved by the vinegar soaked chips which brought out more of its floral qualities, while its pink counter part faired a little better on its own. The Coca Cola did little to impress either way. But the winner must surely have been the Oolong which, on the first brewing at least, did well to work harmoniously with everything. On the second brewing, though, the tea became too bitter for the chips and needed a douse of milk.

At the end of the evening the table was divided on the favourites. It came down to wheat beer or manzanilla, which the beer narrowly won. The Oolong followed closely behind and came up crème in the soft drinks.

What surprised me, and perhaps everyone else, was the fact that ketchup smothered food seemed to work with everything. Is ketchup the wunderkind that will facilitate all wine matches? Guy Goodward, editor of Decanter, poses that we need to further test the drink matching capabilities of fish and chips with fine vintages. I’m inclined to agree. But then I am always hungry for a good feed, especially if well watered too.

(First seen on The Prodigal Guide)

The inappropriate use of wines

A couple of months ago I was sent three bottles of Bordeaux by a friend for tasting. The Avery’s Pioneer Range Bordeaux 2009, Chateau Grand Jean Bordeaux Millésime 2009 and Dourthe Reserve Montagne Saint-Emilion 2009, to be precise. Nothing mind-blowing as they say but a fine selection of tipple for every day drinking. Shortly afterwards, another friend sent me a further three bottles of wine as a thank you gift. This time it was a choice selection from the 90 point club – that’s excellent for savouring.

Suddenly I had a small portfolio of enjoyable wines. Some would say that’s pretty good going and yet months later, the wines remained untouched. Until this week, that is.

After much struggle with a new and unfamiliar bottle opener from the Harrod’s Wine Shop, I managed to uncork the Avery. A deep inhalation down its neck was met with pleasure – robust plummy goodness. And then the purple liquor went straight into a measuring jug at 290ml and onto some cubed lamb-soon-to-be-daube waiting expectantly in the Le Creuset for its fruity marinade. The rest, uncorked, went into the fridge. Not a drop touched my lips.

Something similar happened a few months ago.

Shallots diced, parsley chopped, garlic minced and mussels scrubbed, I realised I had no white wine. How was I going to pull together a moules marinière? The Pommery which sat in the corner caught my eye. Swiftly the metal cage was disengaged, the cork wrestled out and the bubbles poured into the pan with the lid replaced firmly. A short while later, I had an indulgent lunch watched disapprovingly by the empty bottle.

Moules mariniere

For the passionate oenophile, this must seem appalling. But for the avid gastronome? Probably quite appeasing.

My reasoning was this: since I spend much of the week at events, mostly involving some form of drinking, I really ought to curb my enthusiasm when at home. After all, drinking alone was never fashionable. Eating alone, however, was run of the mill business. Weighing up the probability of a guest who would genuinely appreciate the wine against the probability of me seriously enjoying the food, my ravenous hunger won out. I suppose that makes me a better gastronome than an oenophile, when alone at least.

Of course not every meal is as indulgent as the champagne moules marinière. On this lamb occasion, the Avery was chosen for its full fruited body and generous tannins though perhaps more so because I judged it as the lesser drinking wine out of my collection.

As it happens, I was cooking the lamb daube for a friend who had come to photograph me spatchcock a poussin. The perfect opportunity to sample some of that wine you say?

Well a small splash of the leftover Avery was supped with the lamb before it was filed back into the fridge – unfortunately I didn’t have the good sense to serve it at room temperature. Still, the dulled flavours of the chilled wine remained richly plummy and heavily tannic. It was not at its best for drinking but served rather well as a side to the already basked lamb, which my friend appreciated so much more.

See what I mean about probabilities?

And the rest of that bottle of Bordeaux? Well, it’s going into next week’s coq au vin. Naturally.

(First seen on The Prodigal Guide)

Rum ‘n’ Reason at Harrods

Lorena Vasquez with Ron ZacapaWith London Cocktail Week and Chocolate Week running at the same time, 11-17th October was pretty hectic. For me, there was one event that really helped to pull the week together – Rum ‘n’ Reason at Harrods Wine Shop – an evening of chocolates and rums.

I was given a glass and tasting sheets before being invited to make my way around the Wine Shop. The idea was to sample some of the premium sipping rums available at Harrods, along with the Godiva chocolates selected matched to them. This was an unusually relaxed consumer event held in Harrods’ newly renovated Wine Shop. In some ways it was also a special preview as the renovation hasn’t been completed yet. The official re-launch is currently planned for mid November and the new Wine Shop is said to contain 900 new lines plus an Aroma Zone, a Tasting Room and a temperature controlled Wine Vault. It all sounds very exciting.

Anyway, back to the rum. For most people, rum conjures up images of the Caribbean. While there were a fair few rums from the Caribbean, there were also many more that had their roots in Central and South America.

Take Ron Zacapa, for example, the rum created to celebrate the centenary of the city of Zacapa in Guatemala. Then there is El Dorado, the first brand in the world to produce a sipping rum, made in Guyana using old Navy rum distillation equipment. Of course Flor de Caña from Nicaragua, the rum with the highest number of accolades, was also present.

Unlike most tastings, there was no formal coaching. The different brands were laid out on different tables with a representative from the brand to assist the tasting. This was an opportunity to talk to the people who either produce or distribute the rums, who really knew their products inside out. It was very educational and eye-opening in terms of learning about the variety of different rums available, the different ways of producing rum and the different histories behind the brands.

All in all, there were 30 different rums available to sample and purchase at a special promotional price, including one very expensive 30-year-old rum from Appleton Estate which retails at £495. But if you wanted to fork out for some serious rum, the most expensive rum available for purchase that night was the Havana Club Maximo, priced at an astounding £1,350. There were none available for sampling unfortunately.

And if you were wondering how we all managed to stand up afterwards, there were lined vases acting as spittoons, mineral water for rinsing and canapés being served. No doubt, we all left feeling a bit merrier though.

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