Monthly Archives: May 2012

Tio Pepe En Rama

Earlier this week I was incredibly excited to taste this year’s release of Tio Pepe En Rama at Bar Pepito’s second year anniversary party.

Revolutionising the sherry industry, three years ago the team at Tio Pepe brought ‘En Rama’ (meaning ‘raw’) to the UK. Made from the best casks from each of the four ancient Tio Pepe soleras (I’ll let Wikipedia explain the Solera system), the liquid is taken straight from underneath the protective flor layer and bottled in its unfiltered and unfined state pretty much straight away in order to preserve its intense aromas and flavours.

This year En Rama’s release on the 24th May coincided with the 200th birthday of Gonzalez Byass’ founder – Manuel Maria Gonzalez and my, what a sherry it is! Rich and nutty, this is quite a step up from your average Fino. More rounded on the palate and a deeper amber colour, this sherry has a hint of saline and a delicious honeyed character. Savoury and enticing, it is an incredible food wine.

Each year the bottle is given a new label to signify the new release and this year’s label is an intricate hand-drawn piece from 1857, retrieved from the Gonzalez Byass library.

Because this wine isn’t messed about with, it does have a limited shelf life, so get your hands on this rare and sublime drink within the next two months for just £11.95 from Lea & Sandeman and enjoy it chilled in the sunshine (hopefully) with a plate of cured meats and some olives. Alternatively, head to Bar Pepito and have a glass of Fino in the courtyard alongside some tasty tapas (their tortilla de patata is amazing) – it doesn’t get much better than that!

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Morrisons Macon Villages 2009

It’s not exactly roast dinner weather, but if you’ve cooked a chicken regardless, have it alongside some summery side salads (homemade coleslaw recipe below) and a cool glass of Morrisons Macon Villages 2009. Winner of Best White Wine Under £7 at the Good Housekeeping Food Awards 2011, this wine is excellent value and delicious.

Refreshing on the palate with flavours of pear, grapefruit, and a delicate creamy finish, for just £6.19, this is definitely one to stock up on and, if you’re in the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) club, it just might convert you!

Homemade coleslaw

Ingredients – serves 4 as a side salad

Heart of savoy or other crunchy leaved cabbage, roughly shredded
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 large/ 2 medium carrots, grated
2 young celery sticks, finely chopped
1 green pepper, finely sliced
Splash of lemon juice or white wine vinegar
1-2tbsp good quality mayonnaise
Salt and black pepper

Method

Combine all vegetables in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice/vinegar and mayonnaise (use more or less mayo, as required). Season to taste.

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Drink Me! How to choose, taste and enjoy wine by Matt Walls

If you’re looking to learn about wine; whether it’s to impress the in-laws, or simply to ensure you make the right choice when deciding what to drink with dinner, Matt Walls’ book is ideal.

Split into two parts, the first section looks at the basics of buying, tasting and drinking wine. Matt talks you through how wine is made and aged, how to taste wine, some common wine descriptors (along with some useful, if a bit risky, blagging advice – Now say one of the following: If it’s from the New World: ‘Clearly New World; lovely, vibrant fruit’. If it’s a red: ‘Interesting tannins’. ‘If it’s a white: ‘Good minerality’…), which faults to look out for when tasting wine, how to match wine styles to different foods, how to navigate a restaurant wine list, and my personal favourite – how to open a wine bottle in an emergency (having used the ‘poke-it-in’ method on a bottle of Rioja not too long ago). In this section, Matt also offers some advice on what to look out for when buying wine. With various tips and recommendations on ‘safe bets’ to pick up at the local shop or supermarket (as well as the benefits of buying from an independent wine merchant), this chapter caters for all eventualities, such as friends coming round for lunch when the wine rack is somewhat depleted (this also happened to me not too long ago).

The second section covers the world’s most common wines in an accessible and fun way, looking at everything from Bourgogne Pinot Noir to Hungarian Tokáji. The layout of the whole book removes it from feeling like a textbook, and Matt’s light-hearted and unpretentious approach (at one point comparing the grape varieties of Alsace to breeds of dog!) make it a pleasure, rather than a chore, to read.

At the very end of the book, Matt includes an appendix on English wineries (having paid Ridgeview in East Sussex a visit on Friday, I can personally recommend casting an eye over this section), and a brief list of UK independent wine merchants worth popping into.

While you are more than welcome to read it from cover to cover, this book would be perfect sitting on the shelf as a reference for when you want to know what that Clare Valley Riesling is going to taste like, or how to store and serve tawny Port.

Part of the New Voices in Food Series, Drink Me! How to choose, taste and enjoy wine is due out on 24th May and you can pre-order it now from Amazon for just £6.62!

You can also see Matt talking about the book here.

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Asda spring/summer wines

Of all the major supermarkets, Asda isn’t usually at the top of my list for the weekly shop (the one near me is always packed with terrifying shoppers on the hunt for a bargain and it just stresses me out), but having tasted some superb wines at their spring/summer tasting and blogger food and wine matching event last week, I may have to brave the crowds every once in a while!

As a relative newbie to the world of wine, I can sometimes find press tastings a little intimidating – faced with a room filled to bursting with hundreds of bottles of wine and people who REALLY know their stuff, my palms have been known to get a little clammy! Asda’s evening blogger event however, was both relaxed and informative.

A small group of us began the evening with a food and wine matching masterclass with Asda Wine Selection Manager and Master of Wine Philippa Carr. With a passionate and non-judgemental approach, Philippa talked us through some basic guidelines on getting the match just right…

Acidity

Food
Lemon wedges

Wines tasted
Etoile de Nuit Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Gascony (£5.98)
Louis Bernard Brut NV Champagne (£21.98)

Acid (felt on the edges of the tongue) in food appears to lower the level of acidity in the wine, so the wine should be equally or more acidic than the food, otherwise it will cease to taste crisp and refreshing and become flabby and fat on the palate.

Salt

Food
Salted cashew nuts

Wines tasted
Etoile de Nuit Sauvignon Blanc 2011, Gascony (£5.98)
Louis Bernard Brut NV Champagne (£21.98)

Salty foods lower the perceived acidity of the wine, so opt for a crisp, fresh wine such as Champagne, Sauvignon Blanc or fino sherry with salty snacks and tapas dishes.

Intensity

Food
Prawn and rice sushi roll

Wines tasted
Dr L Riesling 2011, Mosel, Germany (£7.16)
De Bortoli Reserve Chardonnay 2010, South Eastern Australia (£7.98)

The intensity of the wine should match the intensity of the food. German Rieslings have fruity aromas and characteristically lower levels of alcohol so are ideal alongside the delicate flavours found in sushi. A fuller flavoured Chardonnay needs more powerful food so a spicy curry would be ideal.

Spice

Food
Bombay mix
Ground black pepper

Wines tasted
Asda Beaujolais 2011 (£4.48)
La Maison Elyse Cabernet Sauvignon 2011, Languedoc (£5.98)

I tend to find with spicy food, highly tannic wine can create an unpleasantly ‘grippy’ effect on the palate, so the light and fruity Beaujolais worked better for me. With black pepper, the fuller bodied Cabernet Sauvignon won hands down (think rare peppered steak and you’ll see why).

Sweetness

Food
Milk chocolate
Custard cream
Roquefort cheese

Wines tasted
Asda Asti Spumate NV (£5.13)
Château Haut Bergeron Sauternes (£10.07 for 50cl)

Sweet dishes require wines with equal or higher levels of sweetness, otherwise they take on an unpleasant tinny edge. The Asti worked well with a chunk of Dairy Milk as the bubbles cut through the cloying effect of chocolate, and the lusciously sweet Sauternes was dreamy with the creamy Roquefort cheese. As for the custard cream, I think I’ll stick with a cup of tea!

Following the masterclass we were set free to taste some (or all if we so wished) of Asda’s range. A nice touch at this stage was the addition of little tags from Asda’s wine experts to let us know which were their top picks. This allowed me to taste through some of the wines, without overwhelming my palate in a short space of time!

Asda’s wines in The Imagination Gallery

Of the range, here are my favourites –

Three Choirs Regalia 2011, Gloucestershire, England – new to the Asda range, created by Philippa Carr MW and Asda wine selector Katie Thompson from a selection of hand-picked grapes (44% Madeleine Angevine, 21% Phoenix, 15% Schonberger, 17% Siegerrebe, 3% Seyval Blanc) , this English wine is floral and delicious with lemon citrus and delicate elderflower flavours – perfect for a Jubilee party!

Lugana 2011, Italy – made from 100% Trebbiano di Lugana grapes this white wine is supremely smooth with peachy flavours, and would be perfect alongside a summery asparagus dish.

I didn’t get very far through the reds (and I fear I’ve harped on for long enough), but stay tuned over the next few weeks as I’ll be making a trip to Asda very soon!

If in doubt, try one of their ‘Extra Special’ wines – superb value and with some real gems, the Extra Special Chablis was crisp and delightful, and the Viognier was full of flavour and surprisingly complex.

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Bring on the sun!

I don’t know about you but I am so sick of this rain and in a bid to brighten up the drizzly weekend, my sister brought round a bottle of Sainsbury’s Taste the Difference Brachetto d’Acqui DOCG when she came for dinner on bank holiday Monday.

I’ve read numerous positive reviews on this wine over the last year and it’s easy to see why. Beautifully deep pink in colour with a gentle fizz and flavours of rose petals and sweet cherries, it was perfect on Monday night when work beckoned the next day.

A versatile treat, we enjoyed this wine before dinner and with our dessert (recipe below adapted from BBC Good Food).

While I’m on the subject of sparkling rosés from Sainsbury’s, I highly recommend the following which I had the pleasure of trying at their spring/summer tasting earlier today:

Taste the Difference Fairtrade Moscato Rosé 2011, £5.99
Made from 100% Muscat grapes in the Western Cape of South Africa, this lightly sparkling pink made me think of poached strawberries and ice cream on a hot summer’s day (swoon).

Taste the Difference Sparkling Pinot Rosé NV, £10.49
A blend of Pinot Bianco and Pinot Noir, this Italian pale pink fizz is an absolute bargain and is just what you need to brighten up what looks set to be a rainy month!

Rhubarb and ginger syllabub

Ingredients – serves 6
400g rhubarb, cut into small cubes
Thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
75g caster sugar
100ml white wine
100g mascarpone
300ml natural yoghurt
40g icing sugar
2 tsp glacé ginger pieces, for serving

Method
1. In a saucepan, bring the rhubarb, ginger, caster sugar and white wine to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5-6 minutes until the rhubarb is soft
2. Remove from the heat and leave to cool
3. In a large bowl, mix the mascarpone, yoghurt and icing sugar
4. Mash 5 tbsp rhubarb and fold into the yoghurt mixture
5. Divide the rest of the poached rhubarb between 6 small glasses and spoon over the yoghurt mixture, then top with a few pieces of glacé ginger and chill for two hours before serving

Bring on the summer!

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Italian supper

If you’ve got lots going on, keep it simple this bank holiday weekend with a tasty Italian classic – spaghetti bolognese. To complement the rich tomato-based flavours in this dish, you need an Italian red with a high level of acidity, and Marks and Spencer’s Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2010 fits the bill perfectly.

Deep inky purple in colour and full of cherry flavours with a spicy edge, this red is the ideal easy-drinking, food-friendly choice. Available for £6.99 from Marks and Spencer, make sure you pick up some olives, mozzarella balls and prosciutto while you’re there!

Spaghetti bolognese

Ingredients – serves 4

750g lean minced beef
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
250g button mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 chicken stock cube
1/2 tsp oregano
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp tomato purée
400g chopped tomatoes
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Splash of red wine vinegar
Splash of red wine
Salt
Black pepper
Small handful torn basil leaves

Method

1. Dry fry the mince in a large frying pan until brown
2. Drain off excess fat, add the onion and celery and cook for 5 minutes
3. Add the garlic, green pepper and mushrooms, and cook for a further 3 minutes
4. Stir in the crumbled stock cube, oregano, tomato purée, vinegar and wine
5. Add the Worcestershire sauce, bay leaf and tomatoes
6. Season with salt and pepper and bring to the boil
7. Turn the heat down, cover, and leave to simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if needed
8. Stir the basil leaves into the sauce for the last 10 minutes of cooking, and serve with spaghetti, grated Parmesan, and a green salad

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