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The Grapevine

A blog from the team at Great Western Wine

  • Alan's Wine of the Week: Sauvignon de Touraine, Domaine de Pierre 2014

    Sauvignon de Touraine, Domaine de Pierre 2014

    Sauvignon de Touraine, Domaine de Pierre 2014

    £10.75   £9.46

     Beautifully fresh, complex aromas of spring flowers, fresh mint, capsicum and pea pod. Rounded texture, kept fresh with vibrant acidity. Freshly-picked home-grown tomato flavour leading to a citrus and mint finish. More subtle than New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc yet more complete and textured than other similar wines from France. Outstanding wine and excellent value.

    Prices are valid from 29.04.15 to 31.05.15

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

  • Tried & Tested: Steak Night with Janasse Côtes du Rhône

    Last Friday I invited my carnivorous twitter-loving friend @baconchop around for dinner. His steak eating prowess is legendary, beating fellow tweeter and award winning food blogger @hollowlegs in a steak eating contest a few years ago. The contest, Man vs Legs, contributed to him doubling both his twitter followers overnight and his weight. Now leaner and meaner, Mr Chop was ready for the challenge: 3 different steaks, a bottle of Côtes du Rhône and some bone marrow for kicks. Read on...

    The menu:

    Rib eye, Sirloin and Onglet served with bone marrow and a pepper sauce.

    We sourced the steaks from a brilliant butcher, Ginger Pig, in Borough Market;  none of that supermarket, pre-packaged stuff for us! Please use your local butcher - you'll see the difference.

    The idea for the pepper sauce came from an email sent by Bluebird restaurant’s PR people which included a Cheat’s Pepper Sauce video. It takes 2 minutes so can be done while you are resting your steaks – a good way of de-glazing the pan too.

    The bone marrow recipe is borrowed from St John’s restaurant in Farringdon, London, via food critic Matthew Fort. This is a classic dish – just right for our meaty challenge.

    For a little respite from the carnivorous delights we prepared a green salad with our mate Vincent’s famous French dressing.

    The result:

    Meat-fest! We decided to leave out the chips (controversial) due to large amount of meat products available and the toasted bread mopping up the bone marrow. The rare-to-medium rare steaks were excellent:  we voted the rib eye and onglet as top choices – the onglet slightly pipping the rib eye to the post in terms of sheer beefy flavour.

    The Janasse Côtes du Rhône was peppery and smooth with some refreshing redcurrant acidity cutting through all that meaty richness – particularly useful with the bone marrow. We also tried the steaks with a pricier, rich, hearty, oaky Spanish red – and this also worked a treat with the robust flavours of the meat. Red wine, red meat – you can’t go too far wrong!

    You’ll need:

    • Rib eye x 250g
    • Sirloin x 250g
    • Onglet x 250g
    • Piece of 10 inch long-ish bone marrow, sliced through the middle


    Vincent’s green salad:

    • 2 x little gem lettuce
    • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • Dash of water
    • Dash white wine vinegar


    Parsley salad for bone marrow:

    • Half bunch parsley - chopped
    • 2 shallots, very thinly sliced
    • 1 small handful extra-fine capers
    • 1 lemon, juice of
    • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • Freshly ground salt and black pepper
    • Crusty bread - toasted


    Cheat’s Pepper Sauce:

    • 100ml Worcestershire sauce
    • 200ml single cream
    • Meat juices










    Get healthy first. Adam (Mr Chop) has been seeing a personal trainer and is in tip top condition. I have been ‘walking around a bit’ which constitutes ‘match-fit’ as far as I can tell.

    Put the oven on and heat to 190°C. While you’re waiting for the oven to warm up you can prep your salad.

    Salad with Vincent's French Dressing

    Take two little gems, wash and drain then dress just before serving with Vincent’s French dressing. Take the Dijon mustard, olive oil and water, whisking to emulsify, then add a spike of white wine vinegar. Voila! Add the dressing at the table just before serving.

    St John’s Roasted Bone Marrow on Toast with Parsley Salad

    Combine the parsley, shallots and capers in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil to make a dressing. Add the dressing to the other ingredients and season.

    This can be spread on to the bone marrow once it has cooked for 20 mins in the oven – the marrow should be loose and giving, but not melting away.

    Once cooked, season the marrow with some sea salt and spread onto toast with the parsley salad.

    Cooking the steaks:

    While the bone marrow is cooking, get your frying pans on – you want them nice and hot to seal the meat and cook rapidly.

    Baconchop acted as consultant and wingman, manning the stop watch while I flipped the steaks. He came up with an ingenious plan of cooking the three different steaks in 3-2-1 formation. The thicker, more marbled rib eye was to be cooked for 3 minutes each side while the slightly thinner, leaner sirloin would be cooked for 2 minutes per side. Lastly the Onglet would be cooked for just 1 minute per side as it was very lean and thin.

    Each steak was then rested on a warmed plate for around 5 mins before serving.

    Cheat’s Pepper Sauce

    While we waited for the steaks to rest, we made a Cheat’s Pepper Sauce:

    Take 100ml of Worcestershire sauce and reduce by ¾ in the frying pan. Pour 200ml of single cream into the pan and bring the sauce to a boil for 30 seconds. When the steaks have rested for five minutes you can whisk the juices into to the sauce.

    By Chris Penwarden

  • Roaming through The Rhône

    For those familiar with the French Autoroute A7, which leads to the South of France, as it runs like a major artery down the East of the country, there is a defining moment, as you crest the hill near the turn off to Valence. This, to me, has always represented the opening of the gateway to Provence and Southern France. There’s a change in the landscape, a perceptible change in the luminosity of the sky, and in the temperature. Spirits lift, shoulders relax, and the weight of daily life drifts away, as the holiday mood descends, and the warmth of the Mediterranean climate seeps into the skin.

    This point of reference also pretty much marks the divide between the steep, narrow, imposing hills of the Northern Rhône, and the broader, flatter, olive-grove scattered, sprawling topography of the Southern Rhône.

    The Rhône is a majestic and fascinating region, France’s second largest wine producing region, and one of the areas showing most growth and fascination in terms of wine sales. We love Rhône wines in the Uk, with almost 20% of all their wine  production exported here.  The region also happens to account for almost 60% of all French wine exported, proving its popularity all over the world.

    It’s also one of the most diverse wine regions in terms of style, with a great contrast between the north and the southern sections, although the 2 areas are only separated by around 40km. The Northern region accounts for only 5% of the total production, but is the proud home of some of the most famous wine names in the world –  the names Hermitage, Côte Rôtie, Condrieu, and more, signal the pedigree.

    The vast majority of the region’s wines is to be found in the lavender and wild-herb scented South, where the hazy sun warms the fields and the grapes, to help yield vast quantities of deliciously drinkable and seductive whites and reds.

    The Northern Rhône begins just south of the bustling, noisy, cacophonous, but charismatic city of Lyon, a city of gastronomical, as well as historic, splendour, boasting a clutchful of Michelin-starred restaurants, as well as hoards of ‘bouchons lyonnais’, as  the local wine bars are known.

    The heartbeat of the city is powered by two of France’s main rivers, the Saone and the Rhône. Follow the latter, and as you emerge from the long, overcrowded tunnel south , where traffic moves at a snail’s pace, you emerge into the glory and breathtaking grandeur of the vertiginous, imposing slopes of  the northern Rhône. Here the steep, craggy hills loom over the river, as it snakes its way southwards, and some of the most prized and revered vineyards in the world cling precariously to the granitic cliff-faces, as though stuck on with glue.

    In this part of the region, Syrah is the undisputed king, and is in fact, the only red grape variety permitted for AOC wines. Planted here, since Roman times, on rocky terraces, the prized wines from this area have demanded blood, sweat and tears from the labourers who have had the arduous task of tending the gravity-defying vineyards.

    But the results have been worth it; with quite remarkable and extraordinary character these reds have an intense, haughty, majestic splendor about them, yet tinged, with a wild, convention-flouting, rock star edge. These aren’t well behaved wines – they have uniqueness, they have a mesmerizing, seductive, irresistibility, with their dense colour, outrageously voluptuous perfume and nectar-like richness and depth – sip a glass and I defy anyone, not to be smitten by their smouldering and captivating powers.

    The weather is more extreme than the balmy climate of the Southern Region – it’s hot in the Summer, but the winters can be cold and harsh, particularly higher on the rocky mountains of the Massif Central. The main cities are Vienne and Tournon, both of which are worth a visit, particularly the former, with its historic Roman building and artefacts.

    Luxury, boutique hotels have been springing up, but some of the most charming places to stay, are the numerous, upmarket ‘Chambres d’Hotes’ (our equivalent of Bed and Breakfast, but somehow more welcoming) and ‘Gites’, where guests will really discover the vibe and the feel of the region. The local gastronomy is as rustic, rugged and characterful as the region itself – lots of meat, offal, sausages, rich stews, and a plethora of cheeses, as well as river fish.

    The excitement starts in the Côte Rôtie area, where the slopes hit a vertigo-inducing angle of 60 degrees, and vineyards have been hewn into the rock face over years and years. The vines are protected from the Mistral winds, and their south-facing exposure gives them the best of the Southern sun and heat reflection from the river. The wines are rich, dark and brooding with a unique character – a bit like the vignerons who  must have passion and determination in barrel-loads to cope with the exigencies of growing vines in these precarious spots.

    Domaine Yves Cuilleron, Condrieu Les Chaillets, Vieilles VignesThe king of the Rhône, is joined by his queen, the perfumed, voluptuous, beguiling Viognier white grape, which is responsible for the heady, scented, multi-layered and enchanting top whites from Condrieu and Château Grillet,  which lie just to the south,and is often used, in tiny proportions, to add a waft of fleshy, scent and freshness to the biggest of the red wines.  Chateau Grillet is one of France’s tiniest appellations, with under 10 acres of vines, whereas Condrieu, such as Condrieu Les Chaillets Vieilles Vignes 2013,  is more extensive, albeit still unique and premium, with its opulent, apricots and cream- stashed whites.

    Terre de Granit, Saint Joseph, Domaine Guy FargeAbout 40km south, you’ll reach the vineyards of the increasingly popular Saint-Joseph ( Terre de Granit Saint Joseph 2012), still carved into precipitous rock on the narrow right bank, which looms over the river. The wines are rugged, dense and perfumed, with violet, white pepper and stewed blackberry richness. Hop over the river and you’ll hit Crozes-Hermitage, one of the areas that produce some of the most reliable, best value and earliest drinking Northern Rhone reds, just like the  Crozes Hermitage le Papillon 2013, Domaine Gilles Robin, with its spicy, peppery intensity and sweetness.

    Tain de l'HermitageJust south of this, visitors will come across one of the most revered, and one of the oldest  wine spots in France and indeed the world, the magnificent Hermitage and Tain de l’Hermitage. Enjoying the best of the sun on their precarious terraces, and limited to a tiny production, the grapes produce storming, voluptuous, powerful reds, with wildness and exotic richness in spades, which captivate the senses, and can leave grown men weak at the knees at their sheer gloriousness.

    Harmonie Cornas, Domaine Guy FargeThe southernmost outposts of this northern part of the Rhone are St-Peray, which stands out from the norm, since it produces mainly sparkling wine from the Marsanne and Roussanne grape, and the bold, sinewy, brooding , violet-scented and captivating Cornas (Harmonie, Cornas, Domaine Guy Farge 2011). The name means ‘burnt earth’ and refers to the vineyards planted in the suntrap hills around the village. Many of these wines are world-class and frequently outshine other northern Rhone reds in international wine competitions.

    Many words to describe just 5% of the region’s wines, but they deserve every accolade they receive… but now, time to focus on the wide, sprawling, scenic vistas and vineyards of the south.  From Valence onwards, visitors are on a headway towards the scintillating, glittering seas of the Côte d’Azur, but the beauty, and rich, intoxicating scents and attractions of the southern Rhone region beckon, and cause welcome diversions.

    There is a fascinating contrast between the two sub-regions; the looming, granitic, narrow hills, in which the Rhône river nestles and meanders, give way to a huge, flat, fan-like area, as the sleepy villages and vineyards sprawl out, with gently undulating hills puncturing the landscape.  It’s a region of abundance, sunshine and warmth, with an surfeit of ripe, colourful produce, shady olive groves, and miles of purple-hued lavender fields. Go to the local markets, see the richness and kaleidoscope of colours at the vegetable and fruit stalls, smell the wild herbs and the wafts of lavender, and you’ll never want to leave.

    This area is the workhorse of the region’s wines, with vineyards scattered both sides of the Rhone River , running from Montelimar , famous for its nougat, to the Papal city of Avignon, as it snakes on its journey southwards. The hot southern sun beats down on the dry, gravelly earth, which is typically covered by stones,  characterized by the large, pale smooth ‘galets’ stones of Chateauneuf du Pape, which can be hot as an oven to the touch. Vines are planted low to the ground, and are thus protected from the vicarious Mistral wind, which whistles across the land.

    Côtes du Rhône is the generic name given to the millions of wine produced here,  with the familiar names of Coteaux du Tricastin, Côtes du Ventoux and Coteaux du Vivarais, representing wines from smaller areas within this. There are 18 individual villages, nestled among the dusty, sun-drenched countryside, which can call their wines by the higher appellation of Côtes du Rhône Villages, with their rich, spicy intensity.

    Domaine Brusset, Côtes du Rhône Cairanne Les TraversRed wines dominate here, but there are also large quantities of increasingly good, citrussy, peach-scented whites, and juicy, red-berry streaked Rosés. The style of reds varies from soft and fruity, to more intense, pepper, herb and dark fruit-laden wines.  With the Grenache grape at the core of most of the blends, giving an intense fruitiness and fleshiness, the Syrah plays more of a supporting role here, alongside the fresh Cinsault, and the intense, brooding richness of Carignan and the wild perfume and darkness of Mourvedre. Simple, well-made, straightforward Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages should be soft, ripe, spicy, with an easy charm – perfect with platters of charcuterie, local cheeses and tiny, pink-fleshed, succulent cutlets of the sweetest of local lamb. There are 18 individual villages, within the area, which can put their name on the label alongside the words ‘Côtes du Rhône Villages’, such as the Domaines Brusset Côtes du Rhône, Cairanne, les Travers 2012.

    Mont Ventoux vinesSome of the most interesting wines are to be found on the eastern side, on slightly higher ground, in the foothills of some low, beautiful hills and  mountains. One such is the Mont Ventoux, which rears up amongst the stillness and gentle undulations of its surrounds. It is here that one of my favourite Rhone producers, Domaines Brusset makes one of the  very best value Rhone reds around, Côtes du Ventoux  les Boudalles 2014, a veritable treasure, oozing mid-weight, silky soft, super-ripe black cherry richness, with a typical twist of black pepper.

    If you’ve ventured this far, opt for the ultimate indulgence and treat yourself to a night or two of luxury, at one of my top ten favourite boltholes in the world, which I discovered 15 years ago, and which has just gone on to greater and greater glory. Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave is a luxurious, boutique, and utterly charming hotel, which is the brainchild of 2 Canadian business men. Opulent, indulgent, yet retaining every centrimetre of authentic Rhone charm, the hotel is actually a cluster of individual, Medieval stone houses, linked by cobbled courtyards and winding, terracotta steps, all stylishly refurbished. The hotel has expanded and occupies a large chunk of the tiny hamlet of Crillon-le-Brave, on a hilltop close to Mont Ventoux. With its relaxed charm,  jewel-like swimming pool, and highly esteemed restaurant, it’s a magical spot to stop, and take in the calm, the stillness, and the beauty of the surrounds, whilst succumbing to some unashamed cosseting and relaxation.

    Domaine Brusset, Gigondas Tradition Le Grand MontmirailSlightly north, but still on the eastern side, rise the picturesque peaks of the pretty mountain range, known as ‘Les Dentelles de Montmirail’, literally translated as ‘the lace of Montmirail’. Nestled below are the vineyards of Gigondas (Domaine Brusset Gigondas Tradition, le Grand Montmirail 2013) and Vacqueyras, which both produce rich, fleshy, herb and blackberry-scented reds of depth and complexity.

    Finally, between the cities of Orange and Avignon, sits, the famous town of Châteauneuf du Pape, with its 3200 hectares of vines. The cobbled streets snake below the 14th century Papal residency, home of the Catholic Church in Medieval times – the Papal keys are the familiar logo, embossed on the majority of bottles of its just as familiar wine.  This is where the Southern Rhone is at its opulent, voluptuous, sumptuous best, the very pinnacle of what this region is about. There are top notch white wines, produced from Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier, but it is the majesty of the reds, which take the breath away, with their heady, succulent depth, oozing sweet fruit, wild herbs, and a wild, intoxicating Southern opulence, produced from differing blends of up to 13 grape varieties. Domaine la Janasse make both reds and whites, which typify the area.

    With alcohol levels frequently hitting 15%, these are definitely food wines. The cuisine of the area is some of the best, yet simplest in France, based on the glories of what the sun-baked fields produce. Lamb is the main meat here, often served griddled with wild herbs, garlic and the freshest of tomatoes, courgettes and peppers. In winter rich, lamb stews, studded with olives make a perfect foil to the rich wines. There’s game, there is a cornucopia of intensely-coloured vegetables, and a glut of heavily scented, richly fleshy peaches, apricots, nectarines and melons. With river fish from the Rhône, and daily catches from the nearby Mediterranean, it’s a foodie’s dream.

    At the far south of the Rhône Valley, lie the regions of Tavel and Lirac, the former known for its robust, dry Roses, Thereafter, the olive groves and and fruit trees become ever-more abundant, the heady scent of the Mediterranean beckons, and the majestic Rhône Valley gives way to the golden glory and azure skies of Provence and its own charms.

    By Angela Mount





  • A Summery French Cheese Board

    Cheese and wine is not just for after a meal or for a cold winter’s night. As most cheese is better matched with white wines it makes sense to make a meal of it and create a summer cheese board that can be eaten with some crusty bread and a mouthwatering salad.

    Comté and a Jura Savignin

    Comté cheese comes from the region of Jura, eastern France – a beautiful area of mountains, rolling pastures and pristine fresh air. This hard cheese is rich, concentrated and nutty with a savoury, brown butter flavour that develops as it matures. The 36 month aged cheeses have an almost roasted chicken skin flavour and these are brilliant on a cheese board matched with one of the local wines, Domaine de la Renardière Les Terrasses Savignin Arbois Pupillin, Jura 2012. This really is a unique wine full of flinty minerality, walnuts and brown spice, with lip-smacking freshness and a savoury dry texture. It is one of the best wine matches you’re likely to come across – the two were made for each other.

    Brie de Meaux and Champagne

    Brie de Meaux is made just outside Paris, and what do Parisians love? Champagne! Made only 45 minutes away by TGV, Champagne is the ideal accompaniment, particularly those made just from white grapes, Blanc de Blancs. Brie is a creamy soft cheese which can have buttery flavours of mushroom and almond as it ages. The acidity of Champagne works well here, the bubbles caressing the milky texture of the cheese and the hints of nut and brioche matching those in an aged example. Try Jacquart’s Blanc de Blancs 2006 – now almost 10 years old, this wine is rich and complex with hints of brazil nuts and brioche but lots of refreshing lime and apple acidity.

    Goat’s cheese with Sancerre

    France’s most famous French goat’s cheese is made in the Loire Valley - the birthplace of Sauvignon Blanc. Crottin de Chavignon is made in a tiny village of just 200 people and is the perfect partner to the local wine, Sancerre.  The acidity in a good goat’s cheese is the key to why this pairing works – the high natural acidity in Sauvignon Blanc grown on the flinty soils of Sancerre is the ideal accompaniment. Try Domaine des Vieux Pruniers, Sancerre 2013, full of citrus and herby green leaf flavours or a great alternative like the fresh, minty Sauvignon de Touraine, Domaine de Pierre 2014 - also recommended with a bowl of Moules Marinières; see our recipe here.

    Camembert with Vouvray

    Normandy’s Camembert is a classic with the local ciders, so why not try a sparkling wine that’s all about the baked apple-scented fruit flavours. Aged Camembert is richer and more pungent that Brie so needs a little more oomph from its wine partner – step forward Chenin Blanc. Didier Champalou’s  honeyed Vouvray Sec 2013 has lovely notes of warm hay and red crunchy apple which work brilliantly, while his sparkling Vouvray Brut NV is cool and refreshing with light bubbles and hints of quince and Bramley - particularly good with baked Camembert.

    Sauternes and Roquefort

    The classic British cheese and wine combo at Christmas is Port and Stilton, but the French prefer the sweet, honeyed, richness and refreshing bite of Sauternes with their blue cheeses. Roquefort’s salty taste and high toned acidity is perfect with the apricot and mushroomy aromas of Sauternes. The sweetness complements the salty tang while the natural acidity in the grapes is the perfect foil for the cheese’s acidity. Try a chilled Clos Dady’s Sauternes 2011 - a great match for blue cheese but equally a wine which can be drunk with your al fresco desserts – perhaps a crème brûlée or tarte tartin?


    Cheese and white wine? Let's take this outside...

    By Chris Penwarden

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

     Domaine de la Janasse, Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2013

    Domaine de la Janasse, Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2013

    £11.75    £10.34

    Another producer with a talent for making great wines at different prices is the never-less-than-superb Domaine de la Janasse. The brother and sister act of Christophe and Isabelle Sabon make some of my favourite Châteauneuf du Pape...But my pick is their red Côtes du Rhône, with its meat, herbs and sweet spice.

    David Williams, The Observer

    Prices are valid from 29.04.15 to 31.05.15

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

  • Tried & Tested: Nonya Chicken Curry with Trimbach Riesling

    The dish:

    I was told that Trimbach’s Riesling would be a great match with curry as it’s renowned for being a perfect partner with kedgeree. I thought I’d try it with a Nonya curry recipe, a style of cuisine particularly popular in Singapore which combines the heritage of Malaysian and Chinese cooking.

    I must admit that I was blow away by both the curry and the wine match: The curry itself was fantastic – a warming dish of fragrant herbs and spices with cooling, rich coconut. It’s probably the best curry I’ve ever made and one which was utterly complemented by the wine.

    The wine:

    I’ve tried the Trimbach Riesling before - it’s a bone dry, crisp, citrusy wine which makes a mouthwatering aperitif. But I wasn’t prepared for its complete transformation with food.

    The austerity and steely acidity of the wine fell away to reveal layers of complexity when paired with the spicy curry. The wine became creamier in texture, its lime flavours echoing those in the dish, while the fruit became peachy and tropical. I started to detect hints of coconut, coriander leaf and grapefruit on the finish along with... (yes, this was one of my tasting notes)...“ripples of pandan leaf”. I might have started to go over the top at this point, but I became convinced that this was the best food and wine match I’d ever tried!

    Rick Stein’s Chicken Curry Kapitan from Far Eastern Odyssey

    Serves 6


    1 Kg skinned boneless chicken thighs

    4 heaped tbsp desiccated coconut

    2 tbsp vegetable oil

    Curry paste made up of below, whizzed into smooth consistency in blender:

    • 6 dried red Kashmiri chillies, soaked in hot water for 30 mins then drained
    • 275g shallots or onions, roughly chopped
    • 2 tsp five spice powder
    • 2 tsp turmeric powder
    • 25g garlic, roughly chopped
    • 50g peeled fresh ginger
    • 4 fat lemon grass stalks, core chopped
    • ½ tsp shrimp paste
    • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

    400ml coconut milk

    2 x 7.5cm cinnamon sticks

    2 tsp palm sugar

    Juice of half lime

    Handful of coriander leaves – roughly chopped as garnish

    (I also added an orange pepper and some baby corn for some veggie crunch – these were cooked about 5 mins from the end)

    Serve with boiled basmati or Thai fragrant rice.


    Cut the chicken thighs into thick strips. Heat up a wok or large fry pan over medium heat and add desiccated coconut – toast for a few mins until golden. Leave to cool then whizz in a processor, grinding finely.

    Add oil to wok or fry pan on low heat. Add spice paste and fry for five mins, turning occasionally. Add chicken and fry for further 2-3 mins. Add coconut milk, cinnamon, sugar and teaspoon of salt and simmer for 30 mins until chicken tender and sauce reduced and thickened slightly.

    About 5 mins from the end I added some orange pepper and baby sweetcorn, but feel free to add any veggies you like or omit.

    Add the lime juice and toasted coconut and simmer for 1 more minute. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with rice.

    By Chris Penwarden

  • How to spot a corked wine, and other faults...

    When is a wine corked or faulty? In fact, what does a ‘faulty’ wine mean? And what should you do about it?

    Most people are reluctant to complain about a wine they don’t like. Many others wonder why the very same wine that they have enjoyed before, tastes very odd the next time around. There’s a hell of a lot of insecurity in complaining about a wine at a restaurant, especially when there’s a particularly haughty sommelier in charge – so the majority will just grin and drink a bottle that they aren't really enjoying, because of the potential embarrassment and uncertainty.

    It’s no different if you’re buying a new, or a favourite bottle, and don’t enjoy it. Even though just about every single shop will have a policy of replacing the bottle, I’d hazard a guess that most customers don’t request it because they’re too unsure. Don’t be worried – any good restaurant should simply replace the bottle, and then deal with the problem with the wine supplier.

    There’s a lot of difference between a bottle that you simply don’t like, in terms of style, and a bottle, where you think something is definitely wrong, but you’re just not sure what. Here’s a simple guide to two of the most common problems that can spoil a wine:

    CORKED WINE - Cork taint is a perennial problem, and one of the reasons why the arrival, and massive success of screw-capped wines is so great for all wine drinkers; only 15 years ago, almost one bottle in every 10 was affected by cork taint – now, that’s far less.  A corked wine is nothing to do with bits of cork that crumble into the bottle – it’s not great, but the wine isn’t corked, it’s just a poor quality cork.

    If you smell mould, old mushrooms, damp dog hair, or mouldy old cloths on a wine, that’s when you know a wine is corked. It happens when bacteria from a cork (particularly with lower grade corks), gets into the wine and contaminates it. The degree of ‘corkiness’ can vary, but any amount will detract from the freshness of the wine, leaving it dull, whilst the worst will reek of mould, must, and mushrooms.  Be confident; complain!

    OXIDISED WINE - This is where oxygen has managed to get into the wine and spoiled it; it’s a bit like a pear or an avocado going brown once its cut – the oxygen takes away the freshness and spoils the flavour. The first sign is the colour – if a fresh, young white wine looks rancid and yellow, or a juicy red looks brown, chances are its oxidised (just like an apple going brown). If it smells and tastes of old, rank, cheap Sherry, or vinegar, you definitely know it off, so don’t hesitate in complaining.

    Anything else is likely to be pure taste, although there are wines that have too much sulphur (used as a preservative to keep a wine fresh), but that isn’t technically a fault.  Similarly, if you find deposits in the wine, for rich, aged reds, sediment is often a naturally occurring by product, which is removed by decanting, whilst white wines occasionally have little white crystals, that can be mistaken for glass, but are in fact innocent tartrate crystals, that occasionally occur when the wine has been stored in exceptionally cold places.

    If it’s just the style you don’t like, don’t buy it again. But if you find that one of your favourite wines is not up to scratch, or a wine has any of the symptoms I’ve described above, don’t hesitate in returning it!

    Angela Mount

  • Five reasons to adore Alsace

    Alsace is a picturesque region of France which has its own unique personality. Separated from Germany by the Rhine, and from France by the Vosges mountains, Alsace takes in cultural influences from both countries. The same mountain range provides shelter from the wind and rain, making this one of driest regions in France. And it’s this isolation which means there’s much to be discovered in this land of vinous delights...

    Unique and modern - although they’ve been making wine since 1626, Trimbach – one of the region’s greatest producers – has a style that is decidedly modern: bone dry wines (see exceptions below...) which are aromatic, fruity and complex. These are great aperitif wines on their own, but they truly come alive with food. 

    Not only are they a brilliant foil for the rich textures of the local cuisine of goose, foie gras and buttery sauerkraut, one of the world’s greatest surprises is just how amazing these wines are with modern, international cuisine and its influences from Asia.

    From the Turkish Delight fragrance of Gewurztraminer to the floral and lime burst of a great Riesling, these are wines crying out for a food matching contest. Next week we’ll show you how to make a Malay-Chinese curry with a Trimbach Riesling – mind-blowingly good!

    Great Value – great value doesn’t necessarily mean ‘cheap’, but these are literally ‘hidden gems’ that the world hasn’t cottoned on to yet. It helps that the wines are packaged in rather unfashionable long bottles and look ‘a bit German’. For those not in the know, this is an instant turn off, which leaves all those incredible bottles of wine for those who appreciate the beauty inside. For around a tenner you can get one of the world’s classiest wines – just don’t tell anyone, or they’ll be none left.

    Simple quality steps - The structure of Trimbach’s range is very simple: their Classic (yellow label) range is a benchmark for the region rather than an ‘entry level’, a glimpse of the high standards to come. For a few quid more, you get a Reserve wine (yellow label plus 'Reserve'), made using grapes from older vines with increased intensity of fruit flavour.

    Another step up is the Reserve Personnelle selection, known as the ‘gold labels’ – the grapes are picked from the estate’s best sites and are only made in the very best years. Again prices are fair – the mid £20 mark seems justified for the rarity alone, let alone the flavour. At the top of the tree are their Prestige and collection wines – these represent the priciest of Trimbach’s production and include sweeter styles which are revered as some of the best in the world. Expensive? Don’t ask...

    Simple Labelling - Alsace seems to have bypassed those impenetrable labels of neighbouring Germany and the often confusingly labelled wines from the rest of France - like those of Burgundy for instance. There’s no need to learn a heap of new rules and regulations, as wines are labelled with the grape variety, style and where it’s from. Simple eh? Well not completely...

    Forget the word ‘Grand Cru’ on an Alsace label – although it means something specific, and was created with the best intensions, critics argue that there are too many nominated vineyards of mediocre quality and many are just too big to guarantee any kind of consistency.

    As with any region, it’s best to get to know a great producer, and luckily here at GWW we have Trimbach to rely on. Trimbach rejected the principles of Grand Cru labelling long ago, even if they happen to have vines in the region’s top Grand Cru vineyards. One of Trimbach’s most sought after wines is the famous Clos Ste-Hune Riesling which comes from the Grand Cru site of Rosacker, yet there is no mention of its Grand Cru pedigree on the label. Their quest for quality at all levels, from Classic to Prestige, means that the name of Trimbach alone is a guarantee of quality.

    A range of styles - As we've mentioned, the wines are modern, crisp and aromatic – and great with food. But the sweet wines of Alsace are legendary, and it’s here that the labels make complete sense.

    The word ‘vendange tardive’ on the label indicates that the wine is ‘late-harvested’ so lots of sugar has accumulated in the berries. Sélection de Grains Nobles is a name used for wine from grapes that have reached even higher sugar levels, usually with a proportion of grapes affected by botrytis - that benevolent rot responsible for the flavour of the world famous sweet wines of Sauternes.

    But it’s not just a white wine producing area - there is also a tiny amount of red produced, and despite the rarity, the prices are, as usual, very reasonable. The locals serve these chilled in the summer - sounds like a great idea.

    So, give this undiscovered corner of France a go – you’ll recognise the grape varieties but will be astonished by the depth of flavour in these incredible wines.

    By Chris Penwarden

  • Alan's Wine of the Week: Domaine Paquet Saint Veran 2013

    Domaine Paquet Saint Veran 2013

    Domaine Paquet Saint Veran 2013

    £15.95    £14.04

    Saint-Véran is the southernmost appellation of the Mâconnais region of Burgundy where Chardonnay is king. This Saint-Véran has notes of tropical fruit and hints of honey and toast which balances beautifully with the zippy acidity and mineral freshness. Delicious!

    Prices are valid from 29.04.15 to 31.05.15

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


  • Tried & Tested: Moules Marinières and Sauvignon de Touraine

    This week I followed a recipe by The Guardian’s Felicity Cloake, devised following extensive research into how to make the perfect Moules Marinières. Her mammoth task included attempting recipes by such greats as Rick Stein, Elizabeth David, Raymond Blanc and Tom Aikens.

    My task was slightly simpler – making the foolproof dish below while matching it with a French white wine. The classic combo is a glass of Muscadet, and you could look no further because it’s a brilliant pairing. But I thought it would be a nice idea to try something else from the Loire, a little bit further from the sea, to see if would also pass the test.

    The wine I chose was Domaine de Pierre’s Sauvignon de Touraine 2014, a crisp, dry white with bright lemon and lime acidity and a hint of mint and sage leaf. The parsley, thyme and bay in the dish worked well with the herbaceousness of the wine, while the creamy texture of the mussels and buttery sauce contrasted with the citrus notes in the wine. Mussels are a strong flavoured seafood and this well textured wine coped admirably, developing a salty tang when paired with the dish.

    This is a wine match fit for a king, but at a price you can afford everyday. Great as starter with crusty bread or make it a classy midweek main course with a side of French fries.

    Moules Marinières

    Serves 2

    1kg mussels
    2 shallots, finely chopped
    2 sprigs of thyme, leaves picked
    1 bay leaf
    150ml dry white wine
    50g butter, cubed
    A small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

    Serve with crusty bread or a portion of French fries

    1. Rinse the mussels in cold running water, and then give them a good scrub and scrape to remove any barnacles or dirt. Discard any with broken shells, and give any open ones a sharp tap: if they don't close, then throw them away too, because they're dead. Pull out the beards – the fibrous little appendages which the mussels use to attach themselves to ropes or rocks, by pulling them sharply towards the hinge end of the mussel, then leave them to sit in cold water for a couple of hours until ready to use.

    2. Put the chopped shallots, thyme leaves, bay leaf and wine into a large pan, and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down, and cook gently for 10 minutes, then turn up the heat to medium-high.

    3. Drain the mussels and tip into the pan. Cover and cook until most of them have opened: about 3 minutes.

    4. Add the butter and put the lid back on for 30 seconds to allow it to melt. Add the parsley and shake the pan well to distribute, then season gently and serve immediately, discarding any mussels which remain closed.

    The original recipe was published on the Guardian's website  - the link is below:

    By Chris Penwarden

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