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  • MIDDLE EASTERN MAGIC

    The magic of food is like fashion; ever changing, ever evolving, exploring new territories, and rediscovering old classics. Food goes hand in hand with wine, a symbiotic relationship. It’s no different from how spices, herbs, flavours combine, enhance, fuse, attract, and partner.

    There’s a lot of debate about wine and food pairing – whether it works, whether it’s important, whether we wine people get a bit over - obsessed with the whole subject. But it’s all about playing with flavours, styles, and enhancing the whole experience of enjoying food and drink, in a far more relaxed manner than simply wine tasting.

    I’ve always loved the challenge of matching just the right wine, with the right dish, and it’s only when you try it, that you find out how tastes and flavours can blend or clash so dramatically. Having matched up recipes from pretty much everywhere around the globe, the latest one has been a new one for me, since we are working with Iranian cookery school teacher Simi Rezzai - Ghassemi.

    Unlike the more heated, feisty flavours of Tunisia, Morocco, India and the Far East, there is a wondrous delicacy, subtlety, and sweet gentleness about Iranian food, and Simi’s cooking. Showcasing some classic dishes from her homeland, we’ve already had a little practice session to pair up the wines. I’ve given up protesting that my job is tough, since no one ever believes me, but this was genuinely a fun learning curve for me.

    To tantalise and tempt, here’s a teaser, and some suggestions for those of you who want to explore ideas at home.  The main rule is to keep the wines fragrant, aromatic, juicy, pretty, and evocative, just like the style of the food. Avoid the heaviness of oak in both whites and reds, and as I learnt, gentle, fruity dry roses are also great.

    Having said that Simi put me straight to the challenge, with a traditional broth called ‘Osh’, bursting with the heady fragrances of coriander, chives and parsley. I’ve always struggled with drinking wine with soup, it just doesn’t seem to work. But a punchy, lip-smacking, tangy small glass of Fino or Manzanilla sherry does the trick. The popularity of sherry is running high again, so join the revolution. Try La Guita Manzanilla, from the seaside town of Sanlucar de Barrameda, with its blazingly white houses, cobbled streets and seafront tapas bars, where the seafood is about as fresh as it gets. My idea of heaven. Crisp, tangy, with a nutty, salty bite, and searingly dry, it sends a tingle down the spine with its intensity.

    Another dish that Simi has created is ‘Kookoo’ a type of Iranian frittata, using more herbs, but also turmeric and walnuts, with the addition of punchy, crunchy barbaries, which bring both sweetness and lemony freshness. Wherever I can, I like to bring in wines from the region, and as Lebanon isn’t a million miles away, I’ve paired this with the zesty fresh, yet alluringly exotic Ixsir Altitudes White, a crisp, citrusy, white, from the Sauvignon and Semillon, enhanced by a dollop of perfumed Viognier and Muscat. Similarly any aromatic, fragrant white, with an off-dry edge would work.

    The beauty of Iranian food, like so much in Mediterranean and also Asian cultures, is the aspect of sharing; it’s all about families and friends. Beautifully fragrant rice, delicate saffron and lemon-infused chicken, the most gorgeously pretty of seasonal salads, packed with herbs and embellished with edible flowers, and a little accompaniment of yoghurt with thyme and rose petals. I’ve always loved dry rose wines with Middle Eastern food, in fact with most gently, and more intensely spiced foods. Most dry fruity pinks will work, you need bolder, fleshier New World style for hot dishes, but with the exquisitely tender style of Persian food, lighter, crisp European wines work to.  For this colourful, elegant feast, I’ve picked Chivite Las Fincas 2016, in its stylishly curvy bottle, gossamer pale, and exuding scents and flavours of ripe strawberries and cranberries, fruity, yet characterful, with a lingering citrus finish.

    Red wines also work, but they need to be soft, juicy, and velvety, with a lightness of touch. The softness of Pinot Noir works, as does the juicy style of Garnacha, but again, with the opportunity to staying close to Iranian roots, I’ve gone for a smooth, lighter style of  red from neighbouring Turkey, K of Kapadokia 2012, full of gentle, velvety plum and spice character, with a softness of touch. Turkish wines are getting a lot of attention in the wine world these days, and there are some real gems to be discovered, from one of the countries with the oldest heritage of wine production.

    By Angela Mount

  • NORTHERN ITALIAN IDYLL

    Italy seduces at every level. The language, the culture, the cuisine, the landscape, the wines. Running over 700km from tip to toe, its multi-faceted, in just about every respect, captivating in its charm and beauty. I’ve been lucky enough to travel the length and breadth of this beautiful country and witness the wide diversity of traditions, food styles, climate, terrains and wines, and it’s one of my favourite places in the world.

    The wines are as diverse as the regions and the climate, from the cool of the northern Alps, to the searing heat of Sicily. Tuscany has long been a favourite holiday haunt, with its magical Castello’s, cypress trees, rolling hills, picture perfect vineyards, and olive groves. Chianti is world famous.

    But so is Barolo. Unlike France, where most people know the difference between Bordeaux and Burgundy, Italy, with more grape varieties than anywhere else in the world, and a plethora of styles confuses. Names are familiar to many, but locations less so.

    So this month I’m exploring the north west of this intriguing country, and putting a little bit of background to some of the most famous wines from the region. Piedmont, is the land of one of the most prized, evocative, expensive products in the world, white truffles, with their intoxicating scent and flavour, addictive to many; it is also famous for game, mist-covered mornings, spectacular autumns, a region boasting some of the most spectacular cuisine in the country. It’s about as far north west as you can get in Italy, nestled in the foothills (Piedmont means ‘foot of mountain’) of the soaring peaks of the French Alps to the west and north, and bordering the Mediterranean coastline of Liguria, the glittering beautiful Italian Riviera.

    Chianti and Barolo are the most famous Italian wines; the former is produced from the sour cherry and lively plum flavoured Sangiovese grape in Tuscany; the latter from the deep, violet and licorice- scented Nebbiolo, which reigns supreme in Piedmont, the home of Barolo. Nebbiolo is a maverick grape, capable of creating some of the most magnificently dark and brooding wines in the world, but also sulkily turning out thin, harsh, fruitless wines in poor vintages if not treated with skilled hands and craftsmanship. Knowing the right producers is crucial.

    Conterno Fantino Barolo Vigna Del Gris 2011 is well worth the investment for a wine of concentrated, unique depth and beauty. The 2011 vintage was a forward wine, and the wines will keep for years, but this shows a perfumed, beguiling elegance, redolent of violets and rich dark fruits, ending with a spicy finish. Silky, sensuous, with endless depth and complexity. An absolute classic.

    For a lighter style Barolo, try renowned producer Ascheri Barolo 2013, softer, bright, again with an intoxicating perfume, and more gentle, but perfectly formed structure.

    But you don’t have to spend a fortune to enjoy the red wines of Piemonte.  Barbera is the other main red grape of the region, softer, more feminine than the more muscular Nebbiolo.  For a great value, everyday drinking red try Amonte Barbera 2015 – bright, and breezy, with lively plum and cherry fruit, it’s a great midweek pasta wine, or great with a late summer weekend platter of prosciutto.

    For a bright, softer, juicier style, Dolcetto is Piemonte’s other red grape variety, cheeky, lively, more modest, and perfect for those who prefer softer, unoaked styles. Conterno Fantino Dolcetto d’Alba Bricco Bastia 2016, is just the ticket, shimmers with bright ruby colour, and seduces with its ripe, juicy, opulent plum and raspberry character, and pure fruit character. Perfect with herb-dusted chicken, and slow roasted pork belly.

    White wines are often overshadowed in this region of red wine kings, with their heady character, but don’t ignore the delightfully elegant, creamy and smooth whites from the region. Ascheri Gavi di Gavi 2016, is squeaky clean, and taut as a finely-tuned violin string.  Oozing style and elegant restraint, it’s a super-cool, nervy dry white from the Cortese grape, produced by Matteo Ascheri, a vinous master craftsman. Creamy, refreshing, and packed with bright lime, grapefruit, pithy lemon and green apple character, it shimmers with zestiness and tang. Polished. Sophisticated. Try this one with all manner of seafood, lemon-infused seabass, and creamy prawn linguine.

    At the other end of the scale, from the Alba area comes the frivolously sweet Asti Spumante, derided over the years, but a much underrated, deliciously frothy, lively fizz. Equally good, Is Moscato d”Asti, in this Case Fontanafredda Moscato D’Asti Moncucco 2016, with its light, fragrant, honeysuckle-infused style – and with only 5.5% alcohol, a great lunchtime or afternoon alfresco drink.

    If you’ve played safe with Italian wines so far, know Barolo and Chianti, but haven’t experimented further, it’s well worth the journey to discover the lesser-known gems.

    By Angela Mount

  • Crumbs!

    Chilli Con Vegan, Saffron Rice, Avocado & Lime Salad

    Ingredients
    2 medium onions, finely diced
    4 garlic cloves, grated
    1 medium leek, finely sliced
    3 red chillis, finely sliced
    5 tbsp premium rapeseed oil
    3 heaped tbsp coriander seeds
    3 heaped tbsp cumin seeds
    3 tbsp smoked paprika
    1 tsp ground cinnamon
    3 tbsp dried oregano
    6 lime leaves, chopped
    1 whole nutmeg, for grating
    3 tbsp tomato purée
    250g dried green lentils
    2 x 400g tins red kidney beans
    2 x 400g tins black beans
    3 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
    bunch coriander, stalks and leaves seperated and chopped
    1.2 ltrs vegetable stock
    1kg easy cook rice
    good pinch of saffron
    5 limes (zest of all, juice of 3)
    1kg cherry tomatoes, halved
    4 avocados, peeled stoned and sliced
    mixed salad leaves
    sour cream, to serve

    Method
    1. For the chilli, place the onion, garlic, leek and chilli into your largest, heavy-based pan over a medium heat with 3 tbsp rapeseed oil. Fry for about 5 mins, or until softened.
    2. Meanwhile, toast the coriander and cumin seeds together on a medium heat, then grind in a pestle and mortar.
    3. Add the spices, dried herbs and a good grating of nutmeg to the large pan and fry for 2 more mins - if it's a little dry at this point, add a splash of water to help it out. Stir in the tomato purée and cook for a further 2 mins.
    4. Stir in the lentils. Drain, rinse and stir in the beans, followed by the tomatoes, chopped coriander stalks and the stock.
    5. Bring it all to the boil slowly, then reduce to a low heat and let it bubble away for atleast 1 hour, or until thickened and reduced, stirring every 15-20 mins. Season to taste.
    6. For the saffron rice, put the rice in a pan with twice the amount of cold water, add a few strands of saffron and season well. Bring to the boil gently, and simmer until the water is nearly gone and the rice is light and fluffy, with a little bite.
    7. When ready to serve, combine the lime zest and juice with the tomatoes, avocado, coriander leaves, and mixed salad leaves.
    8. Serve the chilli with the rice, and top with the salad and sour cream.

     

    A Grape Match...

    Trapiche Melodias Malbec 2016

    There's a whole stack of spicy flavours going on in this dish, so a soft, spicy red is the way to go. This is a fresher, lighter style of Malbec, full of bright, cherry and plum fruit, with hints of cocoa and vanilla; it's lively enough to cope with the heady combination of chilli, smoked paprika and cinnamon in the mix.

  • Crumbs!

    Moroccan-Inspired Pacific Bowl

    Ingredients
    glug of olive oil
    2tsp sweet paprika
    1tsp ground cumin
    1tsp ground coriander
    8 organic chicken thighs, boned and skinned (reserve the skin)
    4 tomatoes, cut in half
    2 tbsp harissa paste
    2 medium-sweet potatoes
    1tbsp ras-el-hanout
    1 x 400g tin chickpeas
    200g couscous
    bunch mint, chopped
    bunch coriander, chopped
    handful flat leaf parsley, chopped
    1 red onion
    juice of 1 lime
    1 pomegranate, seeds only
    250ml organic natural yoghurt
    handful of dill, chopped
    garlic clove, grated
    handful of baby spinach per bowl
    1 red chilli, finely chopped
    1/2 lemon, juice only

    Method
    1. Mix the olive oil with 1tsp of the sweet paprika, the ground cumin and ground coriander. Season the mixture, and cover the chicken in it. Leave to marinade, ideally overnight.
    2. Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.
    3. Roast the thighs for 25 mins or until cooked through.
    4. Season the skin and place on a tray between 2 sheets of greaseproof paper. Place another tray on top and roast for 20 mins or until crispy.
    5. Meanwhile, season the tomatoes with salt and pepper and mix with the harissa paste. Roast this in the oven too, for about 20 mins.
    6. once there's room in the oven, roast the sweet potatoes in the ras-el-hanout with olive oil, salt and pepper.
    7. Drain and rinse the chickpeas, before drying them and laying them on a baking tray. Roast in the oven; they can take anywhere from 40 mins to an hour to become crunchy and golden.
    8. Meanwhile, make the couscous. Put the grain in a bowl, sprinkle over 1tsp sweet paprika, add a little olive oil and cover with boiling water. Cover with cling film and leave for 15mins. When it's ready, fluff with a fork and mix in a handful each of mint, coriander and parsley.
    9. Thinly slice the red onion and add to a bowl. Squeeze over the lime juice and add a pinch of salt, and mix. The onions will soften and slightly pickle/cook in the acidity. Add the pomegranate seeds and leave to let the flavours infuse.
    10. Mix the the yoghurt with another handful each of chopped mint, coriander and ill, and the garlic. Stir to combine.
    11. To assemble, place the couscous in each bowland scatter over the chickpeas and sweet potatoes. Next, add a handful of spinach on one side, and the tomatoes the other. Slice the chicken thighs and place two in each bowl. Top with the yoghurt dressing and pomegranate and red onion salsa and crumble over the crispy chicken skin. Finish off with the sliced chilli and lemon juice.
    TIP. To make this vegetarian, use feta and avocado instead of chicken.

     

    A Grape Match...

    Planeta Rosé 2016

    Dry rosés are perfect with this style of Middle Eastern food. This one's strawberry and pink grapefruit flavours pick up the delicate and varied character of the fresh herbs, crunchy pomegranate and sweet ras-al-hanout spice. Vibrant and refreshing, this is the very taste of summer.

  • Crumbs!

    Harvest Burgers

    Ingredients
    thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger
    1/2 garlic clove
    250ml toasted sesame oil
    100ml cider vinegar
    100ml tamari
    1 block of smoked or plain tofu
    2 large portabello mushrooms
    1 avocado
    2 bread rolls of your choice
    1 pack of Violife vegan smoked gouda
    2 handfuls of rocket

    Method
    1. First, knock together the marinade by grating in the ginger and the garlic and combining with the sesame oil, vinegar and tamari in a bowl.
    2. Cut the tofu block lengthways and put that and the mushrooms into the marinade. Cover and leave overnight.
    3. Whack the tofu and mushroom on the barbeque.
    4. Mash 1/2 the avocado onto each roll.
    5. Turn the tofu, making sure its gone a little bit crispy. You don't want jelly-like tofu, or to overcook it either. There's a fine line!
    6. Once the tofu is cooked, put two slices of the smoked gouda on top and let it melt for 20 seconds.
    7. Stack up the tofu, a handful of rocket leaves, and the mushroom inside the bun.
    8. Enjoy!

    A Grape Match...


    Columbia Valley Estate Riesling 2015

    The Asian-style marinade here calls for a chilled, aromatic white. This elegant, fruity version from Washington State brims with green apple, lime zest and nectarine, so it has the fruitiness to cope with the sweet and sour flavours.

  • GIN-TASTIC

    Gin. Twenty years ago, a drink that anyone under 40 would probably have sneered at, the tipple of the older generation, the least hip of all spirits. Vodka was the flavour of the day with rum also on the radar. Fast forward and gin is about as cool as it gets in the spirits world, with over 43 million bottles sold last year in the Uk, helping spirits overtake beer sales in the Uk, and a plethora of new distilleries popping up all over the Uk, double the number from 2010.

    I bucked the trend in my youth; I worked as brand manager for Smirnoff for a year in my early career, but never really got vodka. My spirit of choice was always gin, although in those days, choice was far more limited. But the scent, the botanicals, the flavours fascinated me, in a similar way to wine.

    The best news for me this month is that Great Western Wine, already well-known for their extensive range, have increased their number of gins to 101; gin lover’s heaven. But this in itself starts to make choosing a gin even more complicated than selecting a wine. With a plethora of styles from all over the world, from the big brands to tiny craft distilleries, where do you start? 101 gins is a bit of a challenge, even for me, so I decided to take things slowly and make a start on about a dozen of them.  Here are my top tips...

    As well as the myriad herb and spice botanicals that are used in gins all over the world, gins are now infused with fruit, leading to a totally different taste experience. If you like your gin fruity, in cocktails or even neat, then Brockmans Premium Gin with its intense aromas and sweet flavours of blackberries, blueberries and pink grapefruit would be the perfect Summer choice. Prefer the tropical style? Then try the super-hip Hoxton Gin, a sweeter style, dominated by coconut, pineapple and pink grapefruit.

    Personally, I’m a classic G&T girl, but, just like wine, I love the stories, and the difference in styles of every gin I taste.

    If you like your gin pure and simple, you won’t go far wrong with the memorably-named Death’s Door Gin, produced on the 22 square mile Washington Island, Wisconsin, named due to the reinvigoration of the island’s farming culture from 2005, after the island’s economical decline in the late nineties. With a local story at its heart, it’s a very pure style, savoury and clean with coriander and fennel at its core, and hints of citrus.

    Chase Elegant Gin, in its strikingly etched bottle, has been gracing the shelves of cocktail bars around the country for a while now, and is another soft, citrusy style, with hints of peach, grapefruit and angelica. Distilled from apples from Herefordshire orchards, and mingled with fragrant elderflower, it’s deliciously fruity, and silky smooth. Perfect for a martini.

    Staying with gins on the fragrant and fruity spectrum, Silent Pool gin, produced in the Surrey countryside, seduces with the bottle alone, and has a delightful fruity femininity, in tune with the eye-catching packaging. If you like your gin, fruity and fragrant, with a delicate edge, this is a very pretty one, full of citrus, kaffir lime, lavender and a gentle hint of honey. This one came into its own with Fevertree’s floral Mediterranean tonic, lemon and a sprig of thyme.

    Another gin with a lavender and citrus edge is the whistle-sharp Sipsmith London dry gin, super-clean and zesty, with a lip-smackingly fresh, bold citrus and wild herb aroma, with candied lemon and orange to the fore. A lovely classic.

    Gins cover botanicals and flavours from all over the spectrum. Whilst tangy and citrus-fresh styles are great Summer gins, as we approach Autumn, if more warming, spice-infused gins are more the order of the day, here are a couple, which could fit the bill.

    Bertha’s Revenge is a warm, soft, almost creamy style of gin distilled from whey in Ballyvolane, near Cork. With cardamom, cumin, orange peel and coriander at its heart, as well as local botanicals, it has hints of licorice, and clove, with a waft of vanilla and tonka bean. Try this with classic tonic, or in a warming, ginger-based cocktail.

    On a similarly spicy spectrum is Bathtub Gin, a robust navy strength at 57% alcohol, in its stubby, paper and twine-wrapped bottle. Despite the strength, it’s a remarkably fresh, crisp gin, with a strong juniper element and a herbal, almost salty tang, combining with the richer elements of coriander, clove, cinnamon and orange peel.

    Gin and food matching?  Well it’s not a mainstream idea yet, but when you look at the botanicals, a lot of it makes sense, particularly with spiced foods, such as Indian and Thai, with the warmth of coriander and cardamom to the fore in many. Try it. You won’t be disappointed. Or just explore; I’m constantly learning.

    By Angela Mount

  • Crumbs!

    Crispy Skinned Pork Belly With Apple And Onion Veloute

     

    Ingredients
    5 garlic cloves
    100ml pomice oil
    handful rosemary, chopped
    handful thyme, chopped
    pork belly (2kg), ribs off
    1/2 pint cider
    knob of butter
    4 shallots chopped
    3 apples, cored, peeled and sliced
    200ml double cream
    12 baby potatoes
    12 baby leeks

    Method
    1. Preheat the oven to 210C/415F/gas mark6
    2. Chop or crush the garlic and mix it with the oil before adding the chopped rosemary and thyme.
    3. Brush the pork belly all over with the mixture (apart from the skin) and season it with salt and pepper.
    4. Put it in the oven, skin side up, for 10 mins. Then pour the cider on the pork belly, put baking paper on the top of the skin, and cover the tray with foil. Turn down the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4 and let it cook for 90 mins.
    5. Once the pork is ready (the skin should be golden brown) remove from the oven and leave it to cool. Then, press the pork - use an oven tray with something heavy on top - and refridgerate for a minimum of 12 hours. The next day the pork belly is ready to get portioned.
    6. For the veloute, heat the butter in a pan and add shallots and the apples to sweet down until soft. This should take about 10 mins. When they are soft, add the cream. Take the pan off the heat and, using a food processor or a hand blender, puree the mixture. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    7. Chop the new potatoes in half and boil until they are soft. Heat some butter in a pan and fry the baby leeks. Just before they are ready, add the new potatoes and season.
    8. Once the veloute and vegetables are almost ready, heat some oil in a pan and preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Salt the skin side of each portion of pork belly and place in the pan, skin side down. Fry for 5 mins before putting in the oven for 10 mins to warm the meat through.
    9. To serve, spread 1 tbsp of veloute across the plate, put the new potatoes and baby leeks on top and, when the pork belly is nice and crispy, put it on the top of the vegetables as the hero of the dish.

     

    A Grape Match...

    Ken Forrester's Reserve Chenin Blanc 2016

    Chenin blanc is always a great match for pork with apple, so opt for this multi award winner, which combines a creamy richness of flavour with bold apricot and baked apple character, balancing perfectly with the intensity of the veloute, and the fresh acidity of the apple and herbs.

  • Tasting with Trimbach

    Great Western Wine recently hosted a sell-out evening with Julien Trimbach at the Allium restaurant. Angela Mount went along to report...

     

    A tasting of Trimbach wines is not a bad way to spend an evening at the best of times, but teemed with not only some rare gems from old vintages, but also the exquisite cuisine of new Allium Restaurant chef, Rupert Taylor, it became a must do event in Bath’s social calendar.

    Trimbach is one of the most revered wine producers in Alsace.  Established in 1626, and with the young and urbane Julien Trimbach, the 13th generation of the family, hosting this spectacular evening, guests, many of whom have followed and enjoyed Trimbach wines for years, were in for a treat.

    Alsace, nestled in the foothills of the Vosges mountains, forms a long, narrow strip between northern France and Germany, and has a chequered history, having changed nationality several times between the two countries over the centuries and wars.  Trimbach are based in Ribeauville, a chocolate-box pretty town, with characteristic timber-fronted houses and steep flat clay tile roofs, in the heart of the vineyard region.  Using mainly Germanic grape varieties, Alsace has created a worldwide reputation for extraordinary wines with Riesling at its heart, but in a totally unique way.

    It’s always fun to break the rules; instead of a customary glass of fizz on arrival, we were greeted with a chilled Trimbach Pinot Noir Reserve 2015, which surprised some and delighted many.  Pale ruby red in colour, fresh, bright and lively, this gentle, light red was packed with crunchy pomegranate and raspberry fruit, with a wild herb edge.  With its northern location, Alsace doesn’t produce much red wine, but the cool climate-loving Pinot Noir does perform well here, albeit producing far lighter styles than neighbouring and more southernly Burgundy.  Spot on with Chef Taylor’s irresistible canapes of tomato and smoked aubergine, sumptuous foie gras mousse spiced up with saffron and pink peppercorns, together with a tangy citrus cured morsel of salmon with ponzu jelly.

    Onto dinner; first up was a beautifully presented plate of plump, caramelised and pan-fried scallops, meltingly tender, with their luxurious, sweet texture; these were nestled on an intense creamy puree of cauliflower, and served alongside perfectly roasted and singed cauliflower florets, and a bright, tangy verjus to balance. Tom King, Great Western Wine’s Fine Wine Manager had worked closely with Chef Taylor to showcase the very best of Trimbach’s wines, and cleverly picked a grape variety, whose ripeness and more voluptuous style, would marry the indulgence and sweetness of the starter. Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve 2014 combined aromas of tuberoses and nutmeg, with a deliciously fresh, dry palate, with vibrant citrus to the fore, tinged with a hint of acacia honey.  This was served alongside Trimbach Pinot Gris Reserve Personelle 2013, a masterpiece in the balance of richness and acidity, opulent and intense.

    The main event was inevitably going to be Riesling, accounting for over 50% of Trimbach’s production.  As Julien told us “Riesling is in our blood, it’s our heritage”. We were treated to a hedonistic quartet of Rieslings, with over 30 years between the youngest and oldest. Trimbach Riesling Reserve 2014 is but a baby, grown on the chalky, quartz and sandstone Gres des Vosges stone.  2014 was a fabulous vintage in Alsace and this little gem showed its promise, all nervy and fresh with candied lemon peel aromas and zippy acidity. If you have of this vintage, snuggle it up, and don’t touch till it’s at least a toddler, as it will blossom into a beautiful teenager and beyond.

    Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile 2008 is Trimbach’s signature wine, produced from two grand crus vineyards, with vines averaging 45 years in age. This is an extraordinary wine from a vintage which produced wines of purity and precision.  This wine, despite its 9 years, is still in its youthful, nervy thoroughbred stage.  Intense, rich, creamy and incredibly complex, it has a gorgeous richness of fruit, interwoven with grapefruit peel, Manuka honey and a smattering of citrusy sumac.

    Matching a main course that isn’t fish, to white wines isn’t always easy, but Rupert Taylor and his brigade stepped up to the mark with a fillet of Rose Veal, glisteningly pink, tender and delicate, served with a creamy sweet langoustine puree, earthily pungent girolles mushrooms and tangy choucroute. A wealth of flavours on a plate, whose different textures and balance of flavours worked seamlessly with the wine.

    Still on Riesling, wizard Tom King then waved his magic wand and brought out two wines from the cellar collection – wines that have been slumbering in the cellars for years, and are now starting to emerge from their chrysalis into rare and stunningly beautiful butterflies.  Riesling Clos Sainte Hune 2008 is Trimbach’s flagship wine, produced on limestone soils, from a single vineyard, and only in the very best of years. As Julien stated ‘if Riesling is in our blood, Sainte Hune is in our heart’. This wine is extraordinary – racy, nervy, taut as a tightly-wound violin string, bursting with a myriad flavours of marmalade, lime and those typical petrolly characteristics, all bound up with outstanding purity and minerality – if you have some, it’s another toddler to leave to develop a while longer.

    Proving the point, beyond any reasonable doubt, that Alsace, and in particular Trimbach makes wines that can last decades, Riesling Cuvee Frederic Emile Vendange Tardive 1983, a 34 year old, very rare wine, produced in tiny quantities, from botrytised grapes, which are very rare from this vineyard – the epitome of elegance, redolent of white flowers, roses, rosehips and honey; rich, intense, multi-layered, with marvellous depth – mature, but still with trademark steely acidity coursing through its veins. A rare treat.

    How to follow such a majestic wine?  Chef Taylor finished off the evening with a Peach Bavarois, wobbling in its creamy unctuousness, accompanied by a tangy, perfectly spiced Schezuan pepper and bay leaf ice cream.  Picking up on the delicate, floral notes in the dessert, our final wine was Gewurztraminer Selection des Grains Nobles ‘Hors Choix’ 2007, amber in colour and steeped with rich nectarine, honey and candied fruit flavours – exotic, decadent and supremely balanced.

    Four hundred years on, Trimbach is still proving why its iconic wines are revered all over the world.

  • SUMMERTIME SIPPING

    Barbecues, Beaches and Picnics…

    By Angela Mount

    With teachers all over Bath looking happier by the day as their summer sojourn approaches, parents considering the challenges of entertaining their little darlings for over six weeks, and residents braced for the next influx of tourists, it’s safe to say summer is truly upon us.

    Whatever the weather, we all love a bit of Alfresco, and new outdoor drinking spaces are popping up all over the city. With entertainment and escape at the top of the agenda, barbecues, picnics and day trips to the beach are often the order of the day, regardless of the weather.

    Barbecues and picnics have become an art form, far removed from the charred burger, or limp cheese and tomato sandwiches of old. Be it beach, outdoor concert, day by the river, or impromptu party in the garden, my job is to ensure that your vinous choices match up to the culinary delights that you will be enjoying.

    First up, a few tips; for barbecues, stock up on ice, fill a couple of large buckets, or plastic storage crates, and add water to keep everything chilled. For spirit-lovers, put a bottle in the freezer (it won’t freeze), to keep cocktails icy cold. For days on the beach invest in a wine cooler sleeve or two, and keep everything even colder in the cool bag. Impromptu picnic by the river? Take a ball of string! Yes, I mean it - if your wine or beer is too warm, tie the string round a tree or rock, tie the other end to the bottle and dangle in the dabbling brook –it’s tried and tested, and yes it works. And finally, screwcap is definitely easier.

    Onto the wine itself. Let’s start with fizz – this isn’t the time to bring out your vintage Champagne; keep things light and fresh. With the Prosecco craze in overdrive, try a similarly fresh, but more flavoursome fizz from the eastern side of northern Italy.  Cleto Chiarli Pignoletto brut NV is zesty and lively, with a welcome citrus and green apple tang.

    Sundowners in the garden?  You can’t go wrong with a thirst-quenching G&T – try Jensens Bermondsey gin, a classic London dry gin with floral and citrus verve; or, ahead of a seafood extravaganza, conjure up the spirit of Andalucia, with a searingly cold, super-fresh glass of tangy, salty La Guita Manzanilla, just perfect with olives and salted almonds.

    At this time of year, keep things light, in terms of both style and alcohol. Avoid heavily oaked wines, and opt for fruity, fresher styles.  Cotes de Provence is now a Summer staple, and Great Western Wine have an impressive array of these, but if you’re looking to drink pink with your barbecue, why not move a little further west from the Riviera and try the vibrantly fruity, and ridiculously good value Domaine du Donjon, Minervois 2016, stashed with red berry and citrus-licked fruit; bring on the seared tuna.

    For lunchtime picnics, Vinho Verde is the perfect choice, and rapidly coming back into fashion – forget the sweet fizzy stuff of old, today’s versions, are crisp, dry, and lemony-bright with the merest hint of spritz, and utterly refreshing both in taste and in lightness of alcohol. Vinho Verde Quinta da Lixa 2016 is ideal, at a mere 10.5% alcohol, and won’t have you dozing off after lunch. Enjoy with the freshest of salads.

    Staying with the bright and breezy theme, but veering into unchartered waters, the little-known Txakolina Adur 2015 would be a worthy addition to your summer wine collection.  From the wild and rugged hills of the Basque country, this dry white is as pinpoint–sharp as a laser beam, with mouth-watering green apple and lemon tones, and a lip-smacking zesty, bone dry finish – and crying out for grilled sardines, the freshest of prawns, or calamari.

    My final white is much closer to home – just down the road in Dorset; English sparkling wine now stands up to Champagne in international competitions, but still wines are less well-known. I recently discovered the appropriately-named Lyme Bay Shoreline 2016 – light and pretty with a citrus tang and floral notes. Perfect for a day by the sea, or a holiday BBQ, and a mean match with take away fish and chips, watching the sun set over the water.

    As far as reds are concerned, either opt for lighter, fresher styles, in which case chill them lightly, or go for bold, soft and spicy, the perfect partners for flavour-packed barbecues. In the former camp sits the rather delicious and award-winning, Austrian red, Hopler Blaufrankisch 2013 – ripe and juicy, with lashings of sweetly-spiced blackberry fruit, it’s delightfully soft and silky; spot on with sharing platters of prosciutto, salami, antipasti and also barbecued chicken. And finally, my choice of red for steak, minted lamb and spicy kebabs would be the Aussie Skillogalee Basket Pressed Shiraz 2013, a decadently rich, indulgent and velvety red, oozing with voluptuous dark fruit and spice, and perfect for sultry summer evenings (if we get them).

    Happy holidays!

  • SUMMER LIFE THROUGH ROSÉ-TINTED GLASSES

    Chilled pretty pink wine is a summer staple according to Angela Mount. Here are a few of her favourite suggestions...

     

    There are things in life that evoke a strong sense of place and season; for Summer, near the top of the list must be the salty, ozone-fresh tang of the sea, the soothing sound of waves lapping a sun-drenched beach, the incessant chirping of crickets on a warm Mediterranean evening, the exhilarating, cooling splash of a clean dive into a glitteringly azure pool – the list goes on. We’ll ignore the smell of diesel and hot tarmac on the M5 to Cornwall for the purposes of this piece. Memories, perceptions, associations – all buried for eternity in our brains and senses.  And for me, and many, the sight of a chilled glass of tremulously pale pink wine, with tiny beads of condensation shimmering down the sides – and of course the aroma and taste, as you take that first, welcome sip - immediately conjures up the thought of holidays and downtime.

    Is the scene now set in your mind?  Regardless of where you’re reading this, and even if our lovely city is downcast beneath leaden skies, in a familiar deluge of rain, let me transport you to sunshine and relaxation for just a few minutes, and encourage you to pick up a few bottles of wine, of the pink variety, to enjoy this evening, whatever our maverick weather pattern may throw at us.  We wine writers harp on about how rosé isn’t just for Summer, and I’m one of them (I happen to think that Rosé is about as good as it gets with Middle Eastern food, and also a great deal of Asian food, all year round) – but, you can’t get away from the fact, that it always seems to taste just that bit better in the sunshine.

    Enough of mindfulness exercises, now that I’ve hopefully transported you to a happy place, here’s what will be chilling in my fridge, of the pink vinous variety, this Summer….

    Whilst there are some fabulous rose wines from the New World, I’m sticking to a European theme this month. Firstly, let’s talk about the contentious subject of which shade of pink.  Rose wine has been done no favours by the presence of lurid, neon-pink hued, cloyingly sweet wines from big brands, which dominate supermarket shelves – and therefore the perception is that, the deeper the colour, the sweeter the wine. That’s not strictly true, as the colour is all down to how long the winemaker leaves the grape juice on the grape skins to soak up the colour. But the style ‘du jour’ is definitely pale, driven primarily, by the recent phenomenal success of ‘Riviera Rosé’, more properly known as Cotes de Provence. Last year, in the UK, we drank over 12 million cases of pretty pink wines, with Provence Rosé at the top of the pile.

    Chateau Gassier ‘Le Pas du Moine’ Cotes de Provence 2016, is the wine that transports me back to the lavender fields, sleepy villages, and chic beach restaurants of Provence, although Great Western Wine have an enviably wide selection of other options also.  With its ethereal pale peach colour, and entrancingly gentle flavours of wild strawberries, pomegranates, and wild provencal herbs, this award-winning wine from a family-run estate, pretty much sums up Summer in a bottle; and even more so in an impressive magnum ( big bottle) for £29.50, which can’t fail to impress guests and imbue the feel-good factor. Simply add tuna nicoise, and you have the Riviera on your doorstep.

    Staying with the ethereally pale, onion-skin theme, one of my long-standing favourites is a delicately- scented pink from Sicily, Planeta Rose 2016, from the island’s leading wine producer. Gossamer-pale in hue, with a pretty floral label, it epitomises the perfect Summer aperitif. The colour and lightness of this wine belies its origin and proves that, with care, the hot, southern Mediterranean isn’t all about rich, voluptuous reds. Fresh, fragrant, with pink grapefruit, lemon peel, and gentle red berry flavours, chill it right down and enjoy with a platter of antipasti, or the freshest of seafood. It’s my go-to picnic pink.

    Moving on to Spain, I recently discovered the deliciously fruity Sierra Cantabria Rioja Rosado 2016. Bone dry, and seductively perfumed, it has a similarly pale colour, but a bit more oomph and weight than many. I recently had the enviable task of matching wines to the delicately spiced and fragrant dishes created by local Iranian cookery school teacher Simi Rezzai-Ghassemi, and this emerged the star. The bright, raspberry and wild herb-stashed, super-fresh style makes it a brilliant food wine with juicy prawns, grilled salmon, middle-eastern dishes, and tapas.

    And finally, to prove my point about colour, a dry rose with a much bolder pink colour, and an equally bold, funky, graffiti-inspired label.  The appropriately named Mas Amor Rosado 2016 (meaning more love), is bright and breezy, packed to the brim with succulent raspberry and all manner of red berry fruits. Bursting with character, this one’s the pink of choice for barbecues, chargrilled prawns and piri-piri chicken.

    And there you have it - your Summer Rose collection has arrived. Enjoy.

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