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Monthly Archives: February 2015

  • 5 Iberian wines you need to try

    As our Iberian promotion comes to a close, we take a look at the top 5 wines from some of our favourite producers. Don't forget until midnight tonight you can receive an extra 15% off all wines, including wines already in the Iberian promotion, making it a total saving of 25%.

    To receive the 15% discount enter FEBTREAT15 at the checkout

     

    Ailala Treixadura Rbeiros Do Avia 2013  Ailala Treixadura Ribeiros Do Avia 2013

    Powerful aromatics on the nose with apricot, white flowers, and spices such as clove, mint, and fennel. The palate displays sweet lemon and ripe melon with plenty of zing and grapefruit peel. A wine of great complexity and style and with bags of character. Treixadura is truly a noble grape!

    " ...very well made wine with a good, punchy finish" - Jancis Robinson 

     

    Quinta Do Crasto, Douro White 2014

    Quinta Do Crasto, Douro White 2013

    Bright and pale lemon yellow in the glass with an enticing minerality on the nose followed up with crunchy green apple, camomile and lemons. Fresh attack on the palate leading into a fresh and crisp finish.

    "...chalky lemony citrus fruit, cut with a salty green olive tang and mouthwatering, well integrated acidity" - Sarah Ahmed, The Wine Detective

     

    Ribera del Duero, Joven, Pago de los Capellanes 2013Ribera del Duero, Joven, Pago de los Capellanes 2013

    Aromas of black cherry and red forest fruit - complimented with a light touch of spice and vanilla. A fresh, vibrant wine with a velvety texture.

    "...bursts with terrific, lively, leafy, spiced black fruits and dark chocolate flavours. Perfect with everything from roasted red meats to strong cheeses." - Jane MacQuitty, The sunday Times

     

    Marques de Riscal, Rioja Reserva 2010Marqués de Riscal, Rioja Reserva 2010

    Dark cherry colour with balsamic aromas abd hints of ripe fruit. The attack is fresh and light, with soft, rounded tannins. Spicy and complex, the finish is persistent with subtle toasted oak character. Elegant, fresh and easy to drink.

    "This is showing some classy evolution, with a smooth, complete nose of spicy, vital fruit." - Top wines under £100, Decanter

     

    Massard, Huellas Priorat 2011Massard, Heullas Priorat 2011

    Extremely complex with nuances of mature fruit, minerality and herbaceous spice, with fine tannins and an elegant, long, lively finish.

    "...an inviting bouquet of Asian spices, smoke, mineral, black cherry, and black plum leading to a high-toned, racy style of Priorat. The wine has plenty of sweet fruit, excellent volume, and a lengthy, pure finish." Jay Miller, Wine Advocate

     

    15% off discount ends midnight 26.02.15 with the Iberian promotion available until midnight Sunday 1st March.

    By Olivia Moore

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

    Sincronia Negre Organic, Mesquida Mora 2012

     

    Sincronia Negre Organic, Mesquida Mora 2012

    The nose is lead by forest fruits with earthy notes and subtle touch of toast and spice. The palate is medium-bodied with plenty of up-front fresh fruit – redcurrant, blackberry and raspberry.

    A good match to both red and white meats, particularly roast pork, beef carpaccio and also a great match to tomato based pasta dishes.

    £14.95  £13.16 (+10% off 12+ bottles)

  • Tried & Tested: Paella with Franck Massard's El Mago Organic Garnacha

    I'm often put off making paella, down to a preconceived idea that the lengthier list of ingredients makes it a much much trickier dish to make.  Quite a firm fan of risotto as my go-to alternative, I tend to think I'm choosing an easier option, but this week, with just a few days left in our Iberian promotion, I thought it was about time I gave this classic Spanish recipe a go - and to my surprise I found the dish far lower maintenance, and significantly more flavoursome than a classic risotto can be.

    Paired with Franck Massard's El Mago Organic Garnacha, this Jamie Oliver recipe, created a creamy but rich dish with the sweet & smoky paprika coming through in both colour and taste, matching the Garnacha perfectly.  A particularly moreish match with the easy drinking, subtle berry fruitiness, and delicate spice of the this wine.  When adding a squeeze of lemon to serve, remember not to be too generous - you don't want the acidity to contrast with the wine, although a little is a welcome to enhance the paella flavours.

    Paella with Franck Massard El Mago Organic Garnacha

    Ingredients (serves 4-6)

    2 cloves of garlic
    1 onion
    1 carrot
    15g flat leaf parsley
    70g chorizo
    2 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
    olive oil
    salt + pepper

    1 teaspoon sweet smoked paprika
    1 red pepper
    1 tablespoon tomato purée
    1 cube chicken stock
    300g paella rice
    100g frozen peas
    160g prawns (raw)
    1 lemon

     

     

     

     

     

    Method

    Finely slice the garlic and the parsley stalks and put to one side.  Chop up the onion and carrot (these can be quite chunky).  Chop the chorizo and chicken into small strips/chunks.  Throw all of this into a large paella/frying pan with the paprika and some olive oil and begin to cook on a medium heat.

    Whilst keeping an eye on the ingredients in the pan and stirring regularly, de-seed and chop the pepper into small strips/chunks, and add to the pan for a further 5 minutes.

    Boil the kettle with 750ml water. Stir the tomato purée into the pan, and crumble the stock cube, stirring as you go. Pour the rice in and coat with the rest of the mixture, allowing it to soak up all of the concentrated flavour.

    Pour the boiling water in with some salt & pepper to season, stir, then cover with a lid and leave to simmer for 15 minutes.  Continue to stir during this time, moving the mixture around the pan and adding extra water if necessary.

    Stir in the prawns and peas, cooking for a further 5 mins, or until the prawns are pink all the way through.

    To serve, add a chunk of lemon and chop the leftover parsley leaves to sprinkle on top.

    If you're thinking of trying this out yourself, follow the link below for the wine match.

    Franck Massard El Mago Organic Garnacha, 2013

    on offer until March 1st for just £9.24 per bottle with an extra 10% off 12+ bottles

    By Olivia Moore

  • Which style of glass should I use to serve wine?

    One of the questions that I get asked most frequently, is whether the type, size and style of glass that is used for wine, matters.  The simple answer is - yes it does.  Having said that, please don’t think you have to spend a fortune on very expensive wine glasses – save that for the wine. Here are a few simple suggestions, to ensure you enjoy your chosen wines, at their optimum.

    Wine glasses

    The very best glasses to showcase wines are very simple and very plain; be they of a basic, supermarket origin or high-end and exquisitely hand-crafted. Avoid coloured, or cut crystal glasses, however sparklingly beautiful and beguiling they look, they will do the wine no favours and will simply detract from the star of the show; the contents of the glass.  The best glass is the one that shows off and brings to life the liquid that is in it. You don’ t need to spend a fortune – yes, Riedel glasses are wonderful and a treat, but you can pick up perfect glasses anywhere as long as you follow these simple rules:

    Plain glasses allow the wine to shine, however majestic or humble the chosen tipple – they will always bring out the best.  Whether white, rose or red, the colour of the wine will glint and beckon, with the sheer texture of the plain glass reflecting the shimmering colours, depth and texture, whatever the style. The enchantress that is wine, reveals so much through colour alone, and that’s why clear glass is so important. The crystal-clear, light-reflecting brightness of young white wines; the viscous, glass coating, golden hues of dessert wines; the kaleidoscope of red wine tones, from limpid, ruby red, to the brooding depths of dense, opaque styles – are all reflected perfectly in these simple, plain, long-stemmed glasses.

    Why is this important? If you are a wine enthusiast, your natural inquisitiveness will want to know more about the wine, and looking at it, is a good place to start. If you just enjoy a decent glass of wine, it will give you an additional perspective, and look more enticing. I can only liken this to comparing  the beauty and irresistible charm of fresh fruit and vegetables in a French or Italian market with the equivalent produce in an UK supermarket; the former entice, and seduce with their colour, scents and evocative charm, the latter sit their in their pre-packaged state and are functional -  there is simply no comparison.  The wine is the star, the glass is the backdrop at whatever level – but it helps to get it right.

    The best wine glasses curve in at the top, and are long-stemmed. Why? Firstly because long-stemmed glasses allow you to hold the glass lower down, on the stem, rather than having to hold the bowl of the glass. This means you’ll be less likely to heat up the wine - especially beneficial if it’s white. It also allows you to swirl the wine around the glass, which will help release the aromas.  Why should the wine glass curve inwards? Rather than immediately release all the promise in a showy way, curved glasses nurture and gently release the seductive charms and scents of a top wine, but also showcase simple, great quality wines at their best, and allow them to star at whatever level.

    As far as bubbles are concerned, the ideal glass is narrow, slim and tall. Please ignore the ‘Marie Antoinette’ champagne coupes at all costs. These should be strictly reserved for cocktails. A long, slim flute will showcase an elegant stream of tiny bubbles.

    Never overfill glasses – there needs to be room to swirl the wine around and give space to the liquid to  release its scents.

    Finally a tip on cleaning wine glasses -  whenever possible, hand wash and use the minimum of detergent. Of course, this depends on how precious, or expensive the glasses might be, but detergent can not only cloud glasses permanently, if over-used, it’s also kills bubbles in sparkling wine. The slightest hint of detergent in a glass will make fizz go flat. The best solution is to wash in hot water, dry with a clean cloth, and polish. It’s best not to leave glasses upturned to dry, they will become tainted with the air that is caught inside the bowl of the glass.

    By Angela Mount

    Read Angela's wine column in Bath Magazine here

  • Masterchef Champion Ping Coombes Recipe

    Cucur Udang – Malaysian Prawn Fritters, Ping’s Chilli dip
    Difficulty: Easy

    Cucur is a well known street food. Sometimes when my mum picked me up from school late afternoon, she would take me to a place called Rainbow City opposite my school, which is lined with different hawker stalls. They usually come alive later in the evening but there is this particular hawker stall that sells fried noodles and cucur udang which opens earlier. We used to devour them in quick succession knowing it would spoil dinner...

    They are very simple to make and it can be eaten hot or at room temperature. This dish is great for parties and can be made up to 2 hours in advance. They should be crispy but soft and pillowy inside.

    Method:

    - Put all the dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add water to the flour mixture to make the batter - it shouldn't be too lumpy.

    - Batter should coat the back of the spoon. Add chives and prawns. Rest batter for 5 -10 minutes.

    - Heat oil in a small saucepan. Oil should be hot enough when you drop a tiny bit of batter in and it sizzles and floats to the surface very quickly.

    - Using a metal dessert spoon, spoon a dollop, making sure there are prawns and spring onions, and drop gently into the oil. It should float to the surface pretty quickly.

    - Repeat and don’t overcrowd your pan. Turn occasionally with a pair of chopsticks or tong to ensure even colour on both sides. It takes about 3 - 4 minutes to cook through.

    - Remove and drain on kitchen paper.  Serve with chilli dip.

    Note: You can use a deep fat fryer if you have one and you can fry in bigger batches. You can add corn or beansprouts to the batter if you wish for a variation. 

    By Ping Coombes

  • 5 Auspicious Wines for Chinese New Year

    Follow our quick guide to help you celebrate the Year of the Sheep in style...

    Ridgeview, Grosvenor Cuvée Merret (Blanc de Blancs)

    Sparkling Wines - perfect with dim sum dumplings and fried foods. Cava and English sparkling are ideal: Try Franck Massard Mas Sardana Cava Brut Nature NV for its notes of apple, citrus and almond; made in the same way as a Champagne but with a few local grapes thrown in for good measure. Or maybe something from closer to home, like Ridgeview, Grosvenor Cuvée Merret (Blanc de Blancs) from Sussex – the orchard aromas and hints of freshly baked brioche lift the flavours of crunchy spring rolls and warm steamed buns.

    Ribafreixo, Pato Frio Cashmere Rosé

     

     

    Dry, fruity rosé - particularly good with sweet and sour dishes, but most of all it’s a real ‘all-rounder’. I would opt for something like Ribafreixo, Pato Frio Cashmere Rosé 2013, a Portuguese rosé that’s a little softer and more generous than the delicately structured rosés of Provence. This will go down a treat with a veritable banquet of dishes – from dim sum to unctuous BBQ ribs.

    Trimbach, Gewurztraminer

     

    Fragrant whites – best matched with fragrant, spicy dishes – anything with heaps of ginger, spring onion, white pepper or Szechuan spices. Gewürztraminer, like Trimbach’s 2012, would be high on the list as a classic accompaniment due to its distinctive aromas of rose and lychee. But another interesting twist could be Argentina’s very own Torrontes grape – a milder version of the floral aromas of Gewürz, delivering a bouquet of rose along with notes of Sauvignon grassiness. Also try Viognier – renowned for its hints of ginger and honey - perfect with sticky chicken pieces and noodles.

    El Mago Organic Garnacha

     

    Juicy, low tannin reds – drink with duck-based dishes, especially whole duck or peking style with pancakes. Wines with lower tannins can have a rich sweetness which is brilliant with plum sauce: try Grenache, particularly El Mago Organic Garnacha 2013 - a wine full of sweet fruits and delicious acidity that will coat the duck and heighten its rich, earthy flavours. Pinot Noir is also a great example, but make sure it’s a ‘new world’ version that’ll maximise the ripe fruit flavours – something like Leyda’s Pinot Noir Las Brisas Leyda Valley 2012 would be a top choice.

     

    Marqués de Riscal, Rioja 150th Anniversary Gran Reserva

    Soft, ripe reds – these wines are a go-to for meaty dishes in salty, caramelised soy sauce. The softness and oakiness of a mature Rioja, with its aged characters of bamboo shoots, mushroom and spice, will pair wonderfully with succulent beef, charred peppers and black bean. Feeling celebratory? Why not push the boat out and try the rare Marqués de Riscal, Rioja 150th Anniversary Gran Reserva 2004. Likewise, a smooth, plummy Merlot-based wine would trump anything with too much tannin-heavy Cabernet, despite this grape’s affinity with green peppers. A safer option would be Carménère which shares Cabernet’s distinctive capsicum aromas but has slightly softer tannins.

     

    Whatever you choose, make sure it’s a very happy and prosperous Chinese New Year!

    By Chris Penwarden
     

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

    Quinta Do Crasto, Douro Superior

     

    Quinta Do Crasto, Douro Superior

    The wine has beautifully perfumed fruit and spice aromas, reminiscent perhaps of Côte Rôtie or even of Château Cos d'Estournel. It's intense and vibrant, with velvety texture and so-subtle oakiness. Enjoy it immediately with grilled lamb or steak, or tuck it away for up to four years. Yum!

    £14.95   £13.16 (+10% off 12+bottles)

  • Tried & Tested: Pancake Day with a twist

    The Noble Wrinkled Riesling, d'Arenberg 2010

    & Blueberry Pancakes with Mango Cashew Cream

    Ingredients (Serves 2) 

    For the Pancakes:

    150-200g blueberries (washed & dried)

    2tbsp coconut oil (or butter)

    2-4 tbsp warm water

    2 eggs (room temperature)

    1-1 1/2 tbsp maple syrup

    1/2 tsp vanilla extract

    2 tbsp coconut flour (to be sifted)

    1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda (to be sifted)

    pinch salt

    For the Mango Cashew Cream

    (Serves 6-8, works as a great breakfast yoghurt too)

    85g whole cashews (soaked in double their volume of water for 3 hours with 1/2 tsp salt making sure you discard the water and rinse before use).

    40g dried mango (soaked in 350ml water for 1+ hour)- less for a thicker cream - keep the water)

    3/4 tsp vanilla extract

    1 tbsp honey

    Blend together all ingredients (including mango water, not cashew water) in a food processor.  Add more water if sauce is too thick.  This cream can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    I like to go all out on pancake day; savory recipes, sweet recipes (with a plethora of toppings), breakfast, lunch & dinner, but I've never tried my own 'fancy' pancakes.  Having recently invested in the Hemsley & Hemsley recipe book I thought I'd try their blueberry pancakes with mango cashew cream and as pancake day is a great chance to have some friends over and enjoy the sweeter side of life, I opened a bottle of The Noble Wrinkled Riesling, d'Arenberg 2010 to go with it.

    For me, this is a brilliant drink to share with friends with a dessert or sweet dish, as everyone is always keen for 'just a drop' at the end of the night, so there's certainly never any waste, and it finishes off a dinner perfectly.  The sweetness and flavours reminiscent of an apple pie, are an ideal pairing for the burst blueberries in the pancake, balanced by the creaminess of the mango and cashew.

    Pancake Day & The Noble Wrinkled Riesling d'Arenberg, 2010

    Method

    - Melt the coconut oil (or butter) over a low heat in a frying pan and allow to cool

    - Meanwhile, beat the water, eggs, maple syrup, vanilla, and a tiny sprinkle of salt together in a bowl until light and fluffy

    - Sift in the coconut flour and bicarbonate of soda and blend with the melted coconut oil/butter to make a batter - leave to sit for 5 minutes to thicken up, leaving the coconut oil pan with a little left in it ready for cooking.

    - Heat up the remaining coconut oil on a medium heat and pour a couple of spoonfuls of the batter in.  Gently place a few of the blueberries into the pancake once it has started to set in its shape. Cook for a couple of minutes until you can easily lift the pancake, and gently turn over.

    - Dollop some of your mango cashew cream in the middle, sprinkle with a few extra blueberries, and serve with a well chilled glass of the d'Arenberg Noble Wrinkled Riesling.

    By Olivia Moore

  • Rioja Rocks - Wines in the Press: Decanter

    Wines In The Press

    What we think of as ‘Rioja’ has changed. According to Sarah Jane Evans MW, in her Decanter article The many faces of Rioja, there may be a plethora of styles to choose from, but what today’s Riojas have in common is a modern approach that is producing wines that are more complex and terroir-driven than ever.

    2007 Finca Torrea, Marques de RiscalTo illustrate Rioja’s winemaking ‘new wave’, Evans has produced a list of her ‘Top 25 Riojas’, including Great Western Wine’s Marqués de Riscal Finca Torrea 2007:

    Finca Torrea is a wine made from Tempranillo and Graciano grapes sourced from the old vineyards surrounding the Torrea estate, adjacent to the Marqués de Riscal winery. The soil here is the classic clay limestone, typical of Rioja Alavesa, an area that has historically produced the finest Rioja wines. Riscal use French Allier oak casks to age the wine for 18 months, resulting in a more modern, fruity style, with less balsamic notes.

    In Evans’ words, this is a “modern approach from a bodega that well combines tradition with innovation. Shorter ageing (18 months in French oak) gives a fruitier, more approachable wine. 17/20

    Marqués de Riscal’s Finca Torrea is brilliant example of a new wave of Rioja winemaking, made by one of the region’s most established and well respected names. It is a wine which perfectly illustrates the fast pace of change that Rioja has seen over the past 30 years:

    The many faces of Rioja, Sarah Jane Evans MW, Decanter online, Monday 26 January 2015.

    Marqués de Riscal’s Finca Torrea 2007 is available here...

     

    By Chris Penwarden

  • Discovering the joys of Portugal

    Portugal has been one of the top holiday destinations for Brits for many years, but most head straight to the sunny coast and golf courses of the Algarve. Yet Portugal has so much more to offer – a sleeping giant in terms of wine,  and a relatively undiscovered gem in terms of holidaymakers. I was fortunate enough to spend 3 weeks in Portugal some years ago, as part of my wine training – this blog won’t be able to cover all regions, but here are some of my top recommendations should you decide to venture forth and explore this beautiful country, which produces some of the very best wines in the world, and which are still, in many cases, unsung heroes.

    Getting to Portugal is easy, with daily flights to both Porto, in the north, and Lisbon, further south.  One of the problems of tourism in the past was the notoriously poor road network (as I discovered), but a huge EU investment in the last few years has led to faster highways and road networks from cities to more remote areas.

    Porto and the Douro Valley, PortugalOne such area is the renowned Douro Valley, the jewel in Portugal’s crown, now a Unesco World Heritage site, and home of some of the most prized and revered wines in the world.  It is without any doubt, one of the most spectacularly beautiful areas, let alone wine regions, in the world, imbued with an almost mystical sense of tranquility, and serene majesty.  The imperious Douro river winds, like a slithering, coiled snake, from the coastal town of Porto, up through the granitic hills and low mountains of the Douro Valley, which get ever steeper as it progresses up into the remoteness of the Upper Douro.

    Vineyards, grown on steeply- shelved terraces, cling precariously to the dark, rock-hard sides of the hills, with the historic Port and wine estates (called quintas) nestled  in the hills, and by the shores of the river, each one a treasure trove of vinous delights, hiding some of the most prized wines in the world.

    It used to take hours to cover the small, pot-holed roads up into the Douro, which meant that this diamond of a region stayed in quiet slumber, in its remoteness. The new road infrastructure has changed all that, and in addition, the tourism industry has been quick to spot the opportunities, with guest houses and luxury hotels, including one of Portugal’s finest, the 5 star Aquapura, a blissful and calming spa hotel, set in a 19th century manor house, in a bend of the glittering, winding Douro river.

    Alternatively, go the traditional route and stay at one of the many guest houses in the regions, where tradition goes hand in hand with modern comforts. Port houses now often have accommodation – what better way to wake up, than to fling open the windows, and look out onto the vineyards, in the absolute still and quiet, immediately imbuing a sense of peace for the day!  Quinta do Crasto is one of these – one of the oldest and most respected wineries in the regions, perching precariously on a hilltop between Regua and Pinhao, it boasts a much-lauded architect-designed swimming pool, wine tours, lunches and dinners. The wines are as spectacular as the view from the vineyards; whilst Port is the better-known tradition in this region, Quinta do Crasto is arguably the foremost wine producing estate.

    Quinta Do Crasto, Douro SuperiorThe wines are perfectly matched to the cuisine of the region, which specialises in partridge, game and wild boar, as well as river fish.  Quinta do Crasto Douro Superior 2012 is spot on; this award-winning red is produced from a blend of traditional Port grapes, including Touriga Nacional and Touriga Franca, and is a rich, voluptuous delight, packed to the brim with super-ripe plum, fig and dark berry fruit, overlaid with hints of wild herbs and bitter chocolate. Of course a glass of Port, such as the broodingly rich Quinta do Crasto Late Bottled Vintage 2008 is a must, especially with the local cheeses.

    Moving south, Lisbon is an internationally known city, which has a vibrant tourism industry, but not enough people venture a little further east to discover the rustic attraction, beautiful adegas (country houses) and superb wines of the region.  In this part of the country, the land is much flatter, and the soils are sun-baked; it’s a very important agricultural area, producing vast amounts of grain, fruit and vegetables. The pace is gentle, the mood peaceful, and it also happens to be producing some of the least-known, best- value, high quality wines in the country.

    The Ribatejo region, situated close to Lisbon, is the second largest wine producing region in Portugal; a little further south east is the large, sun-drenched, fertile region of the Alentejo, where farms and wine estates slumber amidst the rolling hills; it’s an increasingly popular holiday destination – once again with private houses, villas and quaint farmhouse hotels to offer the visitor a myriad of options.

    Plansel Selecta ReservaThe wines are opulent, rich, and generous, balancing a rustic charm, with intensely ripe, voluptuous fruit, which work well with the bold, rich, produce and cuisine of the area – suckling pig, and lamb are local favouritesPlansel Selecta Reserva 2012 is a great example of the wonderful wines of the area. The focus is on getting the best out of local grape varieties – full of dusky damsons and dried figs, mingled with hints of vanilla, a sprinkling of dark chocolate and a generous dollop of sweet spices. These styles of wine compete brilliantly in international wine competitions all over the world, yet much of the wine drinking public in the Uk has yet to discover their merits.

    It’s not just red wines that Southern Portugal do so well – despite the heat, and searing sunshine, there are cooler patches, little oases, protected from the fiercest heat, and cooled by the mountain air of the nearby mountain ranges. There are delightful whites, once again, celebrating local grape varieties, rather than relying on the internationally famous ones. In addition, the region is producing some deliciously delicate rosé wines, beguiling in their charm, and delicacy, and surprising, given the general heat of the area.  Ribafreixo Pato Frio Cashmere Rosé 2013 is one such wine – a  whispering pale peachy pink in colour, and with haunting aromas of wild strawberries, it’s an absolutely delicious and dry Rosé, with freshness and zest.

    Whichever regions of Portugal you choose to explore, you will be rewarded with some fabulous wines – it’s worth the time to venture into the hinterland and discover some of the wonderful vistas, wines and food that this country has to offer.

    By Angela Mount

     

     

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