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The Grapevine

A blog from the team at Great Western Wine

  • Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

    Recommended by our wine producer Long Meadow Ranch

    Our Californian producer Long Meadow Ranch has shared this delicious recipe for a Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pie, and quite frankly, whether we celebrate Thanksgiving or not, we cannot wait to try this out!

    Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

    Il Poggione, Brunello di Montalcino 2009

    Il Poggione, Brunello di Montalcino 2009

    A ruby red wine with garnet hues and a very intense, lingering and stylish bouquet with small dark berry fruit notes. The palate is smooth and the after-aroma is long-lasting.


    Free delivery on orders over £100 | Save 10% on 12 bottles | Save 5% on 6 bottles

  • Twirly-Lamb

    Recommended with Rioja Reserva, Marqués de Riscal 2011

    "Lamb and Rioja are the best of friends. The rich, spicy, smokey and complex flavours of the wine marry stunningly well with the lamb as well as the redcurrant sauce. Why not try the Gran Reserva from the same producer as you've saved money on such a cheap cut of meat." - Patrick, Retail Sales Assistant

    Buy the Rioja Reserva, Marqués de Riscal 2011 here

    Twirly Lamb + Riscal

  • Edward Recommends

    Edward Recommends

    Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch

    Ken Forrester FMC Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch 2013

    The just landed 2013 vintage FMC has been awarded ‘Gold Outstanding’ by the International Wine and Spirits Challenge competition 2015, and even scooped up the ‘Chenin Blanc Trophy’ for the best Chenin Blanc in the World!

    Tasting Note:

    Bright gold with green reflections. Somewhat austere nose but all the characters begin to develop then take off. Ripe apricot, honey, fynbos, yeasty notes and fine oak. Floral notes of white flowers and honeysuckle. All repeats in the mouth with deep, rich flavours on a great oak platform. Beautifully balanced. Long , extended finish. Good now but will develop with magnificence over four to six years or more. IWSC 2015

    Click here to find out more

  • Wine Meets Spice

    A wine tasting dinner at The Mint Room, Bath

    I’m on a mission to break the myth that you can only drink lager Indian food.  So, with the combined support of Great Western Wine and The Mint Room Bath, we recently hosted a sell-out evening at the award-winning restaurant, showcasing a selection of signature dishes by talented head chef Soyful Alom, from different regions of the vast continent of India.

    Let’s face it, most people just don’t know what wine to choose when eating or cooking Indian food – selecting wine is scary enough, let alone with heat and spice; and the safe default option is always lager.  But wine does work with spice – brilliantly; you just need to have a basic knowledge of what will work.

    It’s all about balance and flavour; pour a glass of fresh orange juice in the morning and it will taste great; brush your teeth and go back to it, and it will suddenly taste like vinegar. Same with white wine and chocolate. It’s worth a try, if you can bear it, just to prove a point.  It’s all about enhancing and marrying levels sweetness, saltiness, sourness.

    There are a couple of very basic rules here – forget acidic, wimpy whites and hard-edged tannic reds, these would be marriages confined to the divorce courts within 24 hours. For any level of spicy food, you need warm, characterful, aromatic whites, with a bit of spice themselves, and reds that are soft, rich, and sweetly spiced. It’s all about matching the levels of intensity of flavours and heat… a bit like boxers in the ring.

    Consider this – Edinburgh and Marrakesh have wildly differing cuisines (haggis meets tagine); cultures are radically different; yet the distance between those two vastly different cities (roughly 2700km), is less than the distance from the Punjab in northern Indian to the tropical climes of Kerala in the south (about 3300km). However, the majority of us don’t realize the vastness of this amazing sub-continent unless we’ve been there, and lump the Indian provinces together into one amorphous mass in our minds.Let’s now take this one step further. The Indian continent is vast, yet there is still a view that, well, curry is curry, which completely belittles the dazzling richness, diversity, heritage and individuality of the various cuisines of this fascinating country.

    One of the great parts of my job is that I get to explore – wine, food, countries – and then try to put all of them together, and try to impart a tiny bit of knowledge and advice along the way.  The provenance and heritage of wine fascinates me, the provenance of food, and style of cuisine does equally.  So my challenge to Chef Soyful Alom, who trained at the Taj in Mumbai, and is a wizard at meddling traditional Indian with a modern twist, was to create a menu, which featured dishes from at least 3 regions of India.  My challenge was to find the best wines to match.

    Malvasia del Salento, Vigne & Vini VarvaglioneFortunately, Great Western Wine have a shedload of wines that fit the bill!  We kicked off the evening, with a selection of delicious canapé morsels - Chettinadu Satay chicken and Aloo Papaadi Chaat, a traditional Indian street food (little puffed up balls of wheat, looking just like cherubic baby pastry cases, with a filling of spiced chickpeas and potatoes, drizzled with a yoghourt and tamarind dressing). There’s sweetness in the peanut sauce and similarly in the tamarind, so we needed an aperitif white, with just enough sweetness and oomph to enhance.  Step up Malvasia del Salento 12 e mezzo 2014; this is a recent find of mine and a firm favourite whenever I’m cooking with spice.  It has a lovely, exotic, floral and peachy aroma, and smells almost sweet – which is just what it should do.  Delicately scented, yet, full of vibrant, musky, honeysuckle, lemon peel and ripe peach flavours, it entices with its scented promise and then gives you a welcome kick with its surprising zesty dryness, and zestiness.

    The Stump Jump, Riesling, d'Arenberg The Mint Room served a platter of Indian delicacies as a starter – their signature Chicken tikka, with a mint sauce; Peshwari lambchops; and Punjabi-spiced swordfish.  Lots of traditional Indian spices in the tikka, and for the northern Indian, Punjabi and Peschwari dishes, warm, woody spices, such as cumin, coriander, cardamom, star anise, cinnamon and cloves prevailed.  Each of these had been marinated and then char-grilled, each infused, with their individual spice mixes and meltingly tender; Peshwari lamb, in its marinade of paprika, ginger and yoghurt was arguably the outstanding one of a very fine trio. What to match?  When you’re dealing with marinaded meats, and fish, chargrilled, with lots of spice, and a bit of heat, head to the safety of the most reliable of grape varieties for spicy food – Riesling.  This amazing grape variety has a calming presence and seems to be able to cope with pretty much anything spicy.  On this occasion, The Stump Jump Riesling, D’Arenberg 2013, was the perfect choice – bright, edgy, with  squeakingly clean, zingy freshness, a tingling fresh lime verve, yet with hints of honeysuckle and ginger – enough oomph and personality to cope with all the spices thrown at it; a deliciously vibrant, and characterful glass, which should be a staple for any spiced-up dish.

    Chef Soyful Alom then transported

    us to the southern, tropical land of Kerala, one of the most beautiful parts of India, a tapestry of wide beaches, lapped by the ocean, with thick forests and verdant hills.  It’s a land of spice, and gorgeousness – fishing is one of the key industries here.  It’s hot, humid and tropical – and it’s yet another part of India, where food is at the centre of their culture.  Here, it’s all about spice, coconut, ginger, turmeric – but especially coconut.

    The second dish we enjoyed was a Seabass Moilee – a simple fillet of flakily soft seabass, perfectly cooked, with crisp, charred skin, served on a bed of spinach, with a Keralan sauce of coconut milk, mustard seeds, curry leaves, and traditional spices.   There is so much richness in this dish, and so many layers of complexity – sweetness, heat, creaminess, spiciness.

    Yealands Estate Pinot GrisWhat to match?  I’ve learnt that anything with coconut milk can kill a lot of wines – it all goes back to that balance I mentioned.  In this case, I needed to balance not only sweetness and heat, but also texture – coconut milk is very creamy, but anything with high acid would just curdle, rather than complement…. So I opted for a white wine, which has a bit of sultry spice itself, and a fuller, fleshier texture. This was one hot and successful date, based on how our guests reacted – Yealands Estate Pinot Gris 2014 hit the mark here - aromatic, exotic, and spicy itself, with enough fleshy, creamy texture to match the dish.  This is a polished, buxom yet elegant white with a dry edge, full of nuances of ginger, apricots and nutmeg, yet with a punchy, refreshing, citrus kick on the end - Big thumbs up for this one from all the guests.  The lesson here is to go for the richer, creamier aromatic whites – Pinot Gris, Gewurztraminer, Viognier.

    For our final course, we moved eastwards to Bengal…the traditional spicing used in Bengali cuisine is relatively simple, yet at the cornerstone of many classic Indian dishes - cumin, onion, mustard seeds, cardamom and fennel.  For this dish, Chef Soyful played on the ‘modern with a twist’ element, serving a grilled breast of Barbary duck, with a smooth, intense, tomato and spiced sauce.  This required a completely different style of wine; my initial thoughts veered towards Pinot Noir, but the intensity of this dish is striking, and we needed something with a bit more ‘oomph’, weight, and richness.

    Bogle Old Vine Zinfandel CaliforniaThe solution? Bogle Old Vines Zinfandel 2013, from California. Bogle, a family-owned winery in Sacramento.  Here they make wines from grapes grown on gnarled old vines, which increases the intensity and concentration of the wines.  Voluptous and velvety are the two first words that come to mind; dark, brooding, suave, and silky are others. This red is crammed with intense blackberry and blueberry fruit, sprinkled with a dusting of dark cocoa, and infused with the warmest, richest of spices, with a hint of ground black pepper.   It’s also very fruity.  This is proof that bold red wines can go with spice, but you have to get the balance right – this one is generous, but oh so soft, rich, and silky, with no harsh edges – no clashes, no vying for supremacy, just a glorious fusion of flavours and tastes.

    So there you have it… wine does meet spice… and can have a fairytale ending.

     By Angela Mount




  • Perfect Winter Wines

    As festive as it may make us feel in the build up to Christmas, that winter chill is coming in sooner than we'd like.

    It's not all bad news though, we've taken it as the perfect opportunity to fill the cellar with plenty of wholesome, hearty reds that will see us through the cold, hard months ahead.

    Take a look below at  some of the big, bold, carnivorous reds we think are worth stocking up on to match this season's hearty roasts

    2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, Martin Meinert
    Dense deep fresh red colour. The nose shows red berries, typical Cabernet herbs, spicy toasty oak and tobacco. Mouth filling and weighty but not clumsy on the palate, finishes crisp and lingering.

    Domaine Guy Farge 2012 Harmonie Cornas 
    Dark ruby with very densely furled aromas of blueberry, violets, a hint of bacon and wet gravel. Cornas power and complexity on the palate with extremely well-knit elegance for one so young (as Guy says "it's not an old war horse"). Layers of very fine tannins show pedigree, but also extreme drinkability. Long finish.

    2012 Selección de Familia Cabernet Franc, Humberto Canale
    The wine is bright ruby in colour with purple reflections. On the nose this wine is bursting with and intense mix of ripe red berries combined with hints of spice, jam, honey and vanilla. It is full bodied with rich jammy fruit flavours, soft tannins and a long finish.

    2012 Carménère Reserva, Viña Falernia
    Fairly deep red with a pale rim. Very sweet ripeness on the nose, possibly red gooseberry jam and a hint of green pepper. Ripe fruit on palate with soft texture.

    2012 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano, Poliziano
    A well structured wine with an intense perfume of juicy, ripe fruit and a rich palate, with just the right amount of tannin.

    2012 Crasto Douro Superior, Quinta do Crasto
    Lifted aromas of fresh Douro red forests fruits, very well combined with elegant bush and spice characters. Excellent approach, with upfront red fruits leading to a solid structure with fresh and elegant tannins. Great acidity, developing to a pleasant, well balanced and persistent finish.

    By Alice Gillespie

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

    Magnum of Cannonball Cabernet Sauvignon, Sonoma County

    Cannonball magnum

    Features aromatic tiers of ripe mulberry, spiced black tea and purple floral notes. Ample at its core with flavors of cherry, chocolate and roasted hazelnut, all contributing to tremendous depth, leading to a long and unstinting finish. Pairs beautifully with lamb chops, roasted duck, cassoulet, black and bleu burger, grilled eggplant, Stilton and dark chocolate chip cookies!


    Free delivery on orders over £100 | Save 10% on 6 bottles | Save 5% on 3 bottles

  • Richard Recommends

    Leyda Sauvignon Blanc Garuma Vineyard Leyda Valley

    Leyda Sauvignon Blanc Garuma Vineyard, Leyda Valley, Chile

    "If you were to take the best bits of a classic Loire Sancerre, and a tip top Kiwi Sauv Blanc, you'd get this. Leyda's cool climate Leyda Valley beauty oozes Loire class, with the delicious fruit character we all love in top Marlborough wines. A beauty."

    Tasting Note:
    Ripe gooseberry and citrus aromas such as grapefruit combine with fresh green lime and hints of green peppers, peas shoots and asparagus on the nose. On the palate this wine is fully concentrated and fresh, with mineral tones at the front, a rich mid palate and a well balanced grapefruit and lime character on the finish.


    Click here to find out more

  • Merguez Stuffed Squid

    Recommended with Malvasia del Salento Vigne & Vini Varvaglione

    "The aromatic and ever so slightly off-dry style balance the light spiciness of the merguez sausage whilst the wines fresh acidity and delicious ripe tropical fruit flavours match the squid beautifully." - Patrick, Retail Sales Assistant

    Buy the Malvasia del Salento Vigne & Vini Varvaglione here

    Stuffed Squid & Varvaglione

  • The Stars of the Show

    There are plenty of wine tastings around – but I haven’t seen many as well attended as the annual Great Western Wine Portfolio Tasting, with over 450 enthusiastic guests, creating bustle, noise and conviviality amidst the glittering and majestic surroundings of Bath’s historic Assembly Rooms last month. Throw in the entirety of the enthusiastic Great Western Wine team, a large serving of wine producers, almost 150 wines, and it’s a recipe pretty much made in heaven for a fantastic evening.

    Great Western Wine Portfolio TastingThis year, in addition to the vast portfolio of wines, there was further interest, with a range of Craft Ales from award-winning local beer producer Wiper & True, a selection of increasingly popular Sake from the Akashi Sake Brewery and a delicious, and irresistible array of cheeses from local cheesemonger, the aptly-named Pong Cheese – I particularly loved ‘the goddess’, an unctuous, washed rind cheese, produced locally at Ivy House Farm, near Beckington.

    I popped along to check out a few new wines, chat to some of the guests and catch up with the many wine producers, who make the trek to our beautiful city to support this event. And not just any producers…  most of them are ‘A’ listers, in the world of wine, including Taittinger Champagne, the renowned English sparkling wine producer Ridgeview,  New Zealand’s multi–award winning Yealands,  Marques de Riscal; a true classic of Rioja, and many others including the impressive Ixsir winery from Lebanon.  It’s great to have the producers and brand ambassadors at these events – no one is more passionate, or more knowledgeable about their wines, than they are, and you really get to understand the stories behind what’s in the bottle.

    ‘We love this event every year’ one guest told me ‘ it’s a fun evening out, but it’s our chance to try new things and wines that we wouldn’t normally choose. Buying wine can be a bit scary, and we don’t always like to ask, but this way, we can discover new things and then we’ll be more confident about buying them.’

    It’s an easy tasting to navigate, with each table of wines, given an apt name, to help guide the guests; from ‘The Christmas Table’, and ‘Fizz, Bang, Pop’, to Autumn Foragers Favourites, and ‘Big, Bold and Beautiful’ (glorious and busty aromatic whites, and broodingly rich reds), and  also included a table of top choices from Great Western Wines’ very own Master of Wine, Jon Pepper.  Everything in the tasting booklet is also helpfully labelled in terms of style.

    Annual Portfolio Tasting

    Great Western Wine take orders on the night, and I asked them to give me their top 5 or 6 most popular choices – there’s an interesting trend here, which point to Italian red grape varieties, and crisp, Sauvignon styles at the top of the leader board. What’s exciting on the red wine front, is that these wines aren’t the well-known tried and tested, but lesser-known ones, proving that when you give people a chance to try new things, they go for them!

    I was surprised but thrilled to see a personal favourite Negroamaro del Salento, Varvaglione at the top of the charts - a gorgeously smooth, generous, velvety red from the deep south of Italy, yet with a refreshingly moderate 12.5% alcohol.  Perfect with Autumn game, and lamb shanks.  It’s great to see people choosing wines that may not be that well known or recognised, and this is a classic example of why the Portfolio Tasting is such a fascinating and wonderful event.

    The number two spot went to the avidly-followed, and highly popular Heartland Dolcetto Lagrein, an Australian wine, made from two northern Italian grape varieties, and created with the alchemist wizardry of legendary winemaker Ben Glaetzer.  Soft, plump, textured, and bursting with bright, juicy, perfumed blackberry fruit.  Just the right weight, just the right balance – a very clever wine, perfect for winter nights and Christmas.

    The top selling white on the night went to a lesser-known style of Sauvignon, which was another welcome surprise.  Vina Leyda Sauvignon Gris, Kadun Vineyard, with its squeaky-fresh, crisp, tongue-tingling and zesty fruit, it’s just a bit spicier, and fuller-flavoured than the Sauvignon Blanc equivalent, with hints of ginger and gooseberry.  Other top whites included the ever-popular Yealands Sauvignon Blanc, and a classically-balanced Pouilly Fume cuvee de Boisfleury.

    As for me, I rediscovered old friends that I haven’t looked at for a while, and met new ones; I’m fortunate enough to have tasted a vast proportion of the Great Western Wine range, but there’s always more to learn. Here are a few of my favourite new findings:

    Ixsir Altitudes WhiteIxsir Altitudes White 2013 – an absolute delight, and thrilled to see such a fresh, intriguing, multi-facetted white coming from Lebanon’s Beqaa Valley.  It’s made from a melting pot of grape varieties – Muscat, Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, Viognier; with the Muscat and Viognier providing the exotic perfume, and floral, generous flavours, and the Sauvignon and Semillon cutting through with freshness, zest and liveliness.

    Planeta Eruzione 1614 CarricanteEruzione Bianco 1614 Carricante, Planeta – my love affair with all things Sicilian is well-known, and this is a new addition to my list. Named after the volcanic eruption of 1614, this is a razor-sharp, sassy white, from the crunchily-fresh Carricante grape which is grown 900m up on the dark, black, volcanic soils of Mount Etna. It has an amazing vitality and haughtily reined-in, beguiling power.  Bright, zesty, and crackling with fresh mint, and ripe lemon freshness, it’s softened and enhanced by a dollop of floral, lime-fresh Riesling in the blend.

    Souson, Ailala Ribeiros Do Avia Souson, Ailala Ribeiros Do Avia – my first introduction to the red partner of the lovely Ailala Treixadura from north-western Spain; made from a little-known red grape, which is known as Sousao in northern Portugal, it’s a vivid, bright, and very lively red, with a rich spiciness, but also remarkable freshness.  Full of ripe blueberry, mulberry and cherry fruit, it’s balanced and soft, with a juicy yet velvety style, softer and fruitier than many big Spanish reds.

    Massard, Licis Ribeira Sacra DOFinally, staying in the same region of Spain, another brooding Spanish charmer, this one with a seductive wildness; Licis Mencia.  Made by highly-respected sommelier-turned winemaker Franck Massard, Licis is the tiny plot where the wine is made, and Mencia is the grape.  It has a haunting, smokey, perfumed depth, not always seen in a red from this area.  Elegant yet bold, with deep, brooding richness, it has evocative scents of violets, wild thyme, and freshly crushed raspberries, and delivers a riot of flavours including black cherries, plums, sandalwood and fresh herbs – delightful, beguiling, with an untamed streak of wildness, which simply adds to its character. Loved it!

    Going to the Great Western Wine Portfolio tasting, is rather like letting a child loose in a sweetie shop (think Charlie and the chocolate factory without the nasty bits).  It’s a chance to explore, learn, try new things, talk, meet new people, listen to winemaking tales… and most of all to discover new wine gems, and catch up on new vintages of much-loved favourites, with great stories to tell.   It makes for some exciting and delicious wine drinking over the winter months. Be bold; explore; try something new.

    By Angela Mount

    If you feel like you've missed out then take a look at our upcoming events schedule here to see what else is in store.

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