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Tag Archives: Bath Life

  • 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

  • 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.

  • SUMMER SIPPING

    Inspired by the Bath Boules, Angela Mount recommends celebratory wines which are best enjoyed outdoors in the sunshine

     

    There’s something special about June in Bath, as we kick into Summer, with a more laid-back, languid vibe, “alfresco” being the mot du jour. There’s also lots going on, not least the legendary Bath Boules weekend (9th-11th June), held in the historic Queen Square, with a fiercely contested competition between over 60 teams – if you want to see accountants, solicitors, wine merchants et al at their most competitive, get down there!  But it’s also a great big party, with street food, pop ups, music – all in all, a fabulous family day out.

    If you fancy a more sedate afternoon, head for one of Bath’s numerous Alfresco slots (weather permitting) to enjoy the sunshine and an indulgent afternoon tea; and, of course, a glass of wine. But what vinous delights work for daytime sipping?

    Champagne is ‘le best’. Jacquart Champagne, have been proud sponsors of Bath Boules, alongside Great Western Wine for a number of years, so pop along and try a chilled glass of their Jacquart Brut Mosaique NV (£32.50), with its creamy, delicate, fresh flavours.  But if you’re indulging in afternoon tea, I’d suggest you opt for Jacquart Demi-Sec NV (£35). Don’t be put off because it’s off dry – this is actually a far better match with the sweet richness of scones, jam and cake, than a traditional brut Champagne – trust me! It’s all about the balance. With its moreish, creamy richness and ripe peach and apricot flavours, it’s also the perfect fizz for light Summer desserts, as well as scones, cream and strawberries..

    If you’re looking for fizz for an afternoon party, but don’t want to break the bank, look no further than Domaine de Brize Saumur Rose Brut NV (£14.50), an award-winning fizz from the Loire valley, and the epitome of Summer with its dry but exuberant strawberry and raspberry flavours. Fabulous value. Red Summer fizz? Why not? I like to surprise my guests with a glass of the highly moreish Birbet Brachetto 2015 (£11.95), serve it chilled, with a bowl of strawberries – it’s truly summer pudding in a glass, gently sweet, but light, with delicious freshness; even better, it’s only 5% alcohol, so the perfect, if eclectic, afternoon wine. A glass of this, with a bowl of scented local strawberries gets my vote.

    Back to Les Boules, and since the event celebrates le most traditional of French sports, it would be impertinent not to suggest a few summery delights from La belle France.  In sleepy southern village squares, dappled with golden sunlight, the locals can be seen with glasses of Pastis, but I’d suggest a glass of something lighter, especially for the competitors intent on victory, to keep their focus sharp.

    Just as we change wardrobes and adapt to le fashion du moment, our drinking styles change for the Summer also. What I look for in a glass of wine at this time of year is freshness, liveliness and clean, crisp fruit, be it white or red – and yes, I often chill my red wines, it’s brings out the fruit and stops them tasting heavy.  Rosè is a Summer classic, but more of that next month.

    For a vibrant, zingy white, which just begs for a plate of seafood, look no further than Picpoul de Pinet, Domaine de Belle Mare 2016 (£9.95) - Picpoul is on trend right now and provides a refreshing alternative to the ubiquitous Sauvignon blanc or Pinot Grigio.  From vineyards close to the Languedoc coast, it’s crisp and zingy, with a lovely lemony freshness, but also a hint of wild herbs; you can almost smell the sea.

    Want to impress your friends, and look knowledgeable with a little known and great value Summer red?  Look no further than Braucol Vigne Lourac, Cotes de Tarn 2014 (£8.95), my go to picnic and bbq red. Braucol is the grape (not many people know that), and is hails from the south-west of France. Juicy, fruity, and on the lighter spectrum of reds, it’s a bouncy delight, crammed to the brim with sweet raspberry and cherry fruit, with a brush of wild herbs.  I love to serve it chilled, it brings out the fruit and the brightness; perfect with charcuterie for alfresco lunches, and also spot on with baby lamb chops and spicy sausages.

    Zut alors. Time to go. Take the family  to Les Boules and support this event fantastique for local charities. It’s a great day out.  I’ll be back next month with my top tips for best Summer Rosè wines. Bonne chance to all the teams.

    By Angela Mount - Bath Life

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