Category Archives: Matching Wine with Food

Sherry obsessed

With the house project underway and a busy time at work, I think I picked quite possibly the worst week for a holiday, but when the name of the destination in question literally translates as ‘sherry’, nothing was going to stop me from getting on a plane to Jerez last week!

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Stand aside all other tapas hotspots, this place really knows its stuff when it comes to food and, as Jerez is relatively unknown compared to neighbouring Malaga and Seville, you can enjoy a selection of amazing dishes sitting out under the stars without being within earshot of a family of burnt, rowdy Brits. On top of that, you’ll be hard pushed to spend more than 15 Euros per head in an evening spent hopping from one tapas bar to the next, imbibing along the way – which brings me to my next topic, sherry.

I honestly can’t get enough of the stuff – give me a chilled glass of savoury Fino made from the Palomino grape to sip alongside a plate of salty Iberico ham, or a syrupy Pedro Ximénez matched to an indulgent chocolate dessert – either way, I’ll be your friend for life. That said, it was no surprise to my nearest and dearest when I announced Jerez as my next holiday destination.

One third of the famous sherry triangle (completed by Sanlúcar de Barrameda and El Puerto de Santa María) and home to tens of bodegas, here are my two top places to visit to sample the local speciality of Jerez.

Bodegas Gonzalez Byass

One of the biggest sherry houses in Jerez and home to the world’s best-selling Fino – Tio Pepe (named after the founder’s ‘Uncle Joe’) – this bodega is full of character despite its large size. With regular tours around the incredible cellars and a tasting thrown in at the end, this is the ideal place to learn about how this infamous white wine is produced. Bone dry and best served cold, Fino sherry is fantastic with all manner of nibbles from chorizo to salted almonds. Wander through the streets of Jerez and you’ll lose count of the number of locals sipping on Fino with their dinner. For a Spanish experience in London (weather permitting), enjoy a glass at Iberica alongside some tasty tapas. Or pick up a bottle of Tio Pepe from your local supermarket.

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Bodegas Tradición

Not only is Jerez famous for its Fino but it is also well known for producing mouth-wateringly intense aged sherries (and brandies) – from nutty Oloroso to rare Palo Cortado – which this house specialises in. Tucked away down a side street, you may be the only person shown around by the lovely Sabrina (who will also tell you where all the best tapas bars are) as you sample the exquisite sherries while viewing the family’s private art collection which includes works by Velásquez and Goya. Sherries from here will set you back a fair bit but if you’re tempted, they are currently stocked in Fortnum & Mason.

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If I haven’t yet convinced you to visit this beautiful town in the South of Spain (did I mention it was 36°c all week?), check this little lot out…

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Quick – while it’s hot!

Make the most of the sun today and head over to Ibérica La Terraza at Canary Wharf for a spot of Spanish tapas and a glass of wine or a cava cocktail. Located amongst the trees of Cabot Square it’s the ideal location to while away the hours!

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The terrace bar offers a limited edition menu but if you fancy something more substantial, cross the road to the main restaurant for a Spanish feast. To celebrate the upcoming Rioja Tapas Fantasticas festival (15th-16th June), for the next two weeks you can also enjoy a complimentary tapa when you order a glass of Rioja in a selection of Spanish restaurants. At Iberica, we enjoyed these mussels with cauliflower puree alongside a cold glass of Londoño Blanco.

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In true Spanish style why not go on a tapas trawl across London? Have a look here to find out where else you can enjoy a free dish alongside your Rioja.

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Happy Easter!

If you’re heading out for some last minute bits for a family gathering tomorrow, see below for my two top wine recommendations to pair with spring lamb…

Rioja
Lamb and Rioja is a classic pairing, and for good reason. The Tesco Finest Viña Mara Rioja Gran Reserva 2004, made from 100% Tempranillo grapes is full of toasty oak flavours with a rounded and spicy finish. At just £10 from Tesco, it is excellent value for such a complex wine.

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Côtes du Rhône
If you prefer something with a little more fruit, Chapoutier La Croix des Grives 2010 is packed with blackberry fruit and has a hint of liquorice and a savoury, moreish bite to it. Available for £10.99 from Laithwaites, this is one crowd pleasing red.

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Whatever you’re eating/ drinking this Easter, I hope you have a great one and fingers crossed for some ‘spring’ weather!

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Wine and pancakes?!

I’ve always thought that pancakes are a bit of a weird one to pair wine with (a bit like soup!) but here are my top choices if you plan on making them a regular part of your diet. That or keep them in mind for next year…

Savoury – ham and mushroom

Go for a dry white here such as this Gavi from the Tesco Finest range. Made from the Cortese grape in Piedmont, Italy, this crisp wine has all of the citrus characters you’d expect plus a slightly nutty edge.

Classic – sugar and lemon

This traditional combo is crying out for a racy German Riesling. With flavours of ripe lemon and peach, plus the perfect balance between sweetness and acidity, Dr Loosen’s Graacher Himmelreich Riesling Kabinett, available from Sainsbury’s, is the ideal choice.

Indulgent – chocolate sauce and banana
An indulgent pancake deserves an equally luscious wine and for me it has to be port. Taylor’s 10 year old Tawny has delicious notes of dried fruit and chocolate and is rich without being cloying.

Whatever the match, I hope you’ve eaten your fill of pancakes today. I’ve scoffed so many, I’m considering giving them up for lent!

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Christmas with Cono Sur

It’s that time of the year again – overindulgence is pretty much a necessity and eating/drinking out becomes a regular occurrence. With that in mind, I was thrilled to attend a dinner at Le Pont de la Tour last night, matching some amazing dishes to Cono Sur’s great selection of wines, explained by the enthusiastic Alvaro Marcos Garcia.

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To begin the evening, we enjoyed a glass of crisp Cono Sur Sparkling Brut alongside some tasty canapés while Head Chef Tom Cook gave us advice on how to get Christmas dinner perfect this year. *Top tip – remove the legs of the turkey and cook them separately from the rest of the bird to keep the breast meat nice and succulent!*

Just before we sat down to dinner, we had a taste of Cono Sur Los Gansos Chardonnay 2012.  This unoaked white is delicate with flavours of ripe peach and tropical fruit – the perfect pre-dinner wine!

Once settled, out came course number one – smoked salmon and trout paupiette, caviar crème fraîche, herb salad and lemon dressing paired with one of my favourite wines – Cono Sur Vision Riesling 2011. The racy lemon citrus and grapefruit flavours in this wine cut through the creaminess of the dish beautifully, and the full-bodied texture of both the wine and the food made this an excellent match!

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The second course consisted of grilled halibut, pommes galette, buttered kale and a red wine jus. I was initially a bit apprehensive about the red wine jus (‘with fish?’ I hear you yell), but it really worked alongside the charred flavours of the meaty halibut, and with Cono Sur Reserva Pinot Noir 2010 and Cono Sur 20 Barrels Pinot Noir 2008 to enjoy it with, we were spoilt for choice.

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The main event of our Christmas dinner was turkey and, clearly taking his own advice, Tom’s didn’t disappoint. The juicy roast turkey was served alongside brussel sprouts, Alsace bacon, and potatoes in duck fat with two different vintages of Cono Sur’s Ocio Pinot Noir – 2008 and 2009. Complex and full of black fruit, with hints of marzipan and sweet spice, the 2008 was intense enough to stand up to the rich flavours of the full turkey dinner.

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The final course was my personal favourite – white chocolate and passion fruit bûche de Noël. Not only was this dish delicious on its own but matched to Cono Sur’s Cosecha Noble Late Harvest Riesling 2011, it was a peaches and cream sensation (and I’m not usually a ‘pudding person’!)

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If you’re in the Shad Thames area, I recommend you pay Le Pont de la Tour a visit – their wine cellar is definitely something to see and the food is outstanding.

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If you’re currently stuck for Christmas drink ideas, Cono Sur wines are widely available in the UK and are incredibly versatile and crowd pleasing. For details on stockists, check out their website (play the Wine Pairs game while you’re there – I’m addicted).

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Winter comfort eating

The last week or so has been manic to say the least! Last weekend, after cooking a three course Christmas dinner for 41 air cadets and staff (I don’t know why I agree to these things), by Sunday afternoon all I wanted to do was chill out with a plate of cheese, a large glass of wine, and the remaining episodes of series one of Homeland (I’m a bit behind).

The wine I picked was Montes Alpha Pinot Noir 2010, an excellent value red from the Leyda Valley in Chile. Packed full of red cherries and strawberries with soft vanilla flavours and a delicate hint of toasty oak, this delicious Pinot Noir is a steal at £11.90, available from Slurp.co.uk.

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A hint of spice

The aromatic flavours and rich texture of Viognier make it the perfect varietal to pair with spicy oriental food, and Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier is one of my favourites. Priced at just £6.98 in Asda, it is also excellent value and a real crowd-pleaser!

Full-bodied with notes of apricot and ripe lemon, this white wine is lively, well-balanced and perfectly compliments intense flavours in food. Enjoy it alongside this Chinese salmon recipe with a light vegetable stir fry.

Chinese salmon parcels

Ingredients – serves 4
1tsp five spice paste
1 small hot red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1tbsp cooking wine
Juice of 1 lemon
Small bunch fresh mint, chopped
2 stalks lemongrass, finely sliced
2cm root ginger, grated
1tbsp honey
4 salmon fillets

Method
1. Preheat the oven to 190°c (170°c for a fan oven)
2. In a large bowl, mix the five spice paste, chilli, cooking wine, lemon juice, mint, lemongrass, ginger, and honey
3. Add the salmon fillets, cover the bowl with cling film and leave to marinate for 20 minutes
4. Wrap each salmon fillet loosely in foil with some of the marinade
5. Bake in the oven for 15-18 minutes or until the flesh is flaky and opaque
6. Serve with stir fried vegetables and a splash of soy sauce

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