Stuck in a rut?

We’re all in danger of getting stuck in a bit of a ‘rut’ – whether that be through eating the same sandwich from Pret day-in-day-out, wishing our lives away in search of our next holiday, or sipping the same old Sauvignon Blanc every Friday night. With this in mind, I wanted to flag a couple of interesting wines I’ve tasted recently to mix it up a little. 

German Merlot

If you have sipped a German wine, it’s likely to have been either a white Riesling or a red Pinot Noir, both of which are delicious and readily available in supermarkets and independent merchants. But like me, I imagine German Merlot is a bit of a mystery to you and it was with this in mind that I tried this one from wine-making brothers Alexander and Martin of Emil Bauer & Söhne, based in the Pfalz region.

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This red has all of the characteristic flavours associated with Merlot – vanilla and ripe plum – along with an enticing, spicy finish. Pick up a bottle of My Merlot is Not the Answer from online wine merchant Red Squirrel along with a range of other interesting varietals.

Bulgarian Cabernet Sauvignon and Mavrud

I first tried Bulgarian wine on a skiing trip to Bulgaria and was totally surprised at the quality of the house wine served in little tumblers at the bottom of the slopes. On our way home, we picked up a bottle of Pulden Winery’s Cabernet Sauvignon and Mavrud 2009.

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Made in the southwest Thracian region of Bulgaria, this red packed a punch with flavours of blackcurrant and raspberry leaf with a hint of menthol and chocolate on the finish – a lush red perfect to accompany those wintry stews you might be cooking up in the coming weeks.

I’ve yet to find a stockist for this wine in the UK but head to online wine merchant SWIG to discover some Bulgarian gems.

Have a great weekend!

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Trebbiano from Tesco

Midweek visits to my parents generally involve a quick and tasty meal alongside a glass or two of easy-drinking wine. It was this week that we discovered the jaw-droppingly good value ‘Tesco Italian White’. Never one to miss out on the opportunity to try something different, my mother is often on the hunt for something new and bargainous to sip on such occasions, and this – as the name suggests – Italian white was just the ticket.

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Mouth-wateringly juicy with tropical fruit and citrus flavours alongside a touch of floral quince, this white wine – made from the Trebbiano grape – has amazing length for a £3.99 bottle. Stock up for mass entertaining and drink it young with a tasty summer salad.

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Aperitivo time

A recent trip to Rome has reintroduced me to the tangy, bitter-sweet flavours of Aperol. An Italian aperitif made using a ‘secret’ blend of bitter orange, rhubarb, vanilla and various herbs, this orange drink is widely enjoyed in Italy and is fast becoming a summer staple of mine.

With a relatively low alcohol content of 11%, it is perfect in cocktails as a pre-dinner tipple. Create your own Aperol Spritz at home by combining two parts Aperol with three parts Prosecco and a splash of soda water in a large wine glass filled with ice and a slice of orange.

You can pick up a bottle of Aperol in most UK supermarkets for around £15.

Salute!

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Spring whites

My last post was all about red wine to see you through the coldest days of winter so it’s nice to be bouncing right into some refreshing whites to enjoy as the evenings get lighter. Here are my top picks for you to sip through the spring months.

It’s no secret that I’m a massive fan of German Riesling and, at this time of year, it really comes into its own. The zesty, lime-scented Cliffhanger Riesling is a relatively recent addition to the Tesco wine range and, at 10.5% alcohol, it’s a great white to enjoy in the early evening sunshine or over a long and lazy Saturday lunch.

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Another gem, currently on offer (reduced from £11 to £8.50), is the Asda Extra Special Chablis Domaine de la Levee. The perfect partner for fresh fish dishes, this is one of my favourite whites to have on standby in the fridge for a Friday night supper.

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Chilly! Brrr!

Today has got to have been the coldest of winter so far. When I arrived home this evening, it took a fair while to thaw out my icy fingers and toes, and that was with gloves and thick socks on!

If, like me, you’re in need of a glass of something warming on such an evening, pop down to Aldi and pick up a bottle of the plummy Vignobles Rousselet Pinot Noir or the rich, cherry-spiked Venturer Costières de Nîmes. Both are incredible value at less than a fiver a bottle – try the Pinot Noir with a creamy root vegetable soup and pair the Costières de Nîmes with your midweek sausage and mash.

Right, I’m off to find a blanket!

Venturer Costières de Nîmes

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Festive spirits

It’s nearly Christmas and that means the season of eating and drinking is upon us. I’m partial to a festive cocktail or two and these recipes are perfect for using up those extra ingredients you have lying around the kitchen at this time of year.

Got some cranberries going spare? Try the Christmas Southside. Made using Tanqueray gin, lemon, mint and cranberries, this is a seriously refreshing drink. Enjoy as you welcome friends and family to your home for a party this weekend.   

Christmas-southside-cocktai

Ingredients
35ml Tanqueray London Dry
15ml sugar syrup
25ml lemon juice
8 mint leaves
10 frozen cranberries
25ml cranberry juice

Method
Add all the ingredients (apart from the cranberry juice) to a long glass and mix together with crushed ice. Pour over the cranberry juice and top with a sprig of mint.

With any leftover mincemeat, go for a Mincemeat Irish. Created by Sainsbury’s and London Cocktail Club owner JJ Goodman, this delicious, comforting cocktail is made up of all the festive classics from Irish Cream Liqueur and cognac to mincemeat and clementines. It really is Christmas in a glass!

Sainsbury's mincemeat cocktail - high res

Ingredients
50ml Sainsbury’s Irish Cream
25ml Sainsbury’s Cognac
2 teaspoons Sainsbury’s fruit mincemeat
25ml whole milk
Clementine, whole

Method
Add all of the ingredients (apart from the clementine) to a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake for ten seconds, then strain into a martini glass or a short glass filled with ice. Zest a strip of clementine peel and twist it over the glass orange side down to spray the oils over the drink, giving an amazing aroma as you sip.

Merry Christmas!

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THE roast chicken wine

Despite an unseasonably warm day today, it is roast dinner season in my house and every Sunday until the spring, we’ll be enjoying a joint with all the trimmings. Today, it’s roast chicken and to match, the delicious, award-winning Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference Limoux Chardonnay 2013 (£8).

Limoux

With flavours of ripe peach, fresh citrus fruits and toasted hazelnuts, this creamy, vibrant white, grown from 50 year old Chardonnay vines in the heart of Limoux, is perfect alongside roast chicken cooked simply with lemon wedges. At £8, this French Chardonnay is much cheaper than most burgundies and not too rich so as to overpower the myriad of flavours on your plate.

Enjoy your Sunday afternoon!

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