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  • 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.

  • Côtes de Provence - The Essence of Summer

    Azure blue skies; sun-kissed landscape; glittering sea; the smell of lavender, rosemary, olive groves, and hot, baked earth; local market stalls groaning under the weight of a kaleidoscope of  ripe summer fruits, and vegetables; pastis in the shade of the local bar, watching boules – this is Provence, in all its entrancing evocativeness, and it brings memories of lazy, hazy Summer holidays, and all that is good about life.

    Provence has an infinitesimal magic, and beguiling charm – the sun, the pace of life, the light, the sheer beauty of the landscape; once you’ve left the buzz and glitz of the Riviera, there is a mesmerizing charm about the Provence hinterland, almost a step back in time.  This is real Provence, and nothing epitomises it more than its produce and its wines.

    Côtes de Provence Rose, that tremulously pale peach, delicately fragrant, dry Rosé has taken the UK by storm over the past couple of years. Sales are booming, and there’s no better time than balmy May to stick a few bottles on ice, and enjoy an early taste of Summer.  With new season vegetables now in, and a trend to Mediterranean flavours in our food, these lovely palest pink beauties are also the perfect foil to their freshness, and evocative of the Riviera mood.

    But which to choose?  Great Western Wine has captured the zeitgeist of the moment, and  added to their existing haul of these delicious wines… not just in bottle, but in magnums also…. What better way to make a statement and create the ‘wow’ factor than to serve a splendid looking large bottle, rather than two smaller ones to your guests?!  And now’s the best time of the year, with the freshest of the recent 2015 vintage hitting the shelves.

    Comtes de Provence Rosé, La VidaubanaiseProvencal food is all about freshness, vegetables, herbs, seafood, and the pinkest of lamb – simplicity, colour and flavour on a plate.  A classic to serve with drinks on the terrace, (or in the garden in good old Blighty), would be Tapenade, an aromatic, dark paste, made of olives, capers, anchovies, garlic and olive oil, and Anchoiade, a similar dip , based on anchovies and garlic, served either with slices of toasted baguette, or with crudités. Throw in a platter of charcuterie, or a slice of Pissaladiere, the Provencal equivalent of pizza, topped with onion, olive and anchovy, and you have the perfect, simple lunch.   Try these with a bottle or two of  Côtes de Provence Rosé, La Vidaubanaise 2015, one of the best value Provence pinks on the shelves -  bright and breezy, in the characteristic Monroe-esque hourglass bottle, full of strawberry and lemon balm charm, it’s the perfect, fruity, alfresco pink.

    Château Gassier 'Le Pas du Moine' Côtes De Provence RoseIt’s easy to generalize Provence rosé – just like any other area, there are different levels, different qualities, wines made by co-operatives, wines made on private estates.  Step up Château Gassier ‘Le Pas du Moine’ 2015, a sophisticated rosé produced on an estate, managed by the 5th generation of this wine-making family. This is a wine with real personality; raspberry fruit, scents of thyme and rosemary, and a polished, elegant style, which  would work deliciously with a platter of char-grilled prawns, or a plate of a local dish, Petits Farcis, which are vegetables (normally courgettes, peppers, aubergines or tomatoes), stuffed with seasoned minced beef and slow roasted. I reckon it would also be pretty smart with a tangy goats cheese, pomegranate and rocket salad.

    Château Sainte Marguerite, Grande Réserve, Organic Rosé, Cru ClasséMoving up the scale, the freshest of fish, from red mullet to seabream, together with a cornucopia of seafood, is always great with Rosé, simply pan-fried with herbs, lemon and olive oil, bringing out those evocative fresh herb and citrus aromas. Château Sainte Marguerite  Grande Reserve, Cru Classe 2015 has incredible verve and style; balancing poised, restrained elegance, with racy, luscious red berry fruit flavours, and a lascivious twist of wild herbs. You’ll enjoy it even more in the impressive-looking magnums.
    Clos Mireille Rosé, Domaine OttFinally, an old classic Domaines Ott, Clos Mireille Rose 2014 (also available in magnums) is up there with the top 5 iconic Southern French Roses, a carefully-crafted peachy-pink wine, full of verve, redcurrant and citrus flavours; it has an aristocratic wild edge about it, but embodies the spirit of the region.  I would be very happy if I could sit and  drink this with a colourful plate of fresh Tuna Niçoise, the tuna steak, seared on the outside and rare inside, with the brightest of green beans and tomatoes, combined with the slightly oozing yolks of barely hard-boiled eggs, salty anchovies and tangy olives.  Heaven.

    Summer is coming. Enjoy a taste of Provence.

     By Angela Mount

  • Shades of Rosé

    Glance at a shelf full of pink wines, and you’ll see a startling, and potentially confusing diversity of colours, from the palest shade of onion-skin to neon Barbie pink. The range of Rosé hues is as widely varied as a tonal paint palette from Farrow & Ball, which doesn't make the job of choosing your weekend pink tipple any easier – unlike paint, you can’t really buy a sample pot, try it out at home and go back for the bigger size (although I’m reliably informed, that there will be lots of Rosés to taste in the Great Western Wine shop this weekend).

    So how do you choose? What are the different styles? And what do the colours mean? More importantly, what do they taste like?

    Firstly, a snapshot summary of how pink wine is made – most Rosé wine is made from red grapes; the grape skins are left to soak into the grape juice after the crushing for a controlled amount of time, during which the colour leaches out of the skin and into the juice. The colour and style of a Rose wine depends on five things:

    -         the type and quality of the grape
    -         the length of time that the grape skins are left to macerate in the juice
    -         the temperature of the wine vat
    -         the region
    -         the winemaker’s skill

    Whilst there seems a general pattern that paler coloured pinks come from cool regions, and the darker, cerised-hued ones from hotter regions, this assumption doesn’t always hold true. Take the sun-soaked, hazily-hot, dusty world of Southern Italy and Sicily – it’s hot there; seriously hot, with temperatures hitting 40 degrees mid summer.  Yet they produce Rosés of very different styles …

    Planeta, RoséSicily’s leading wine producer makes a delicate, peach and tea-rose hued pink Planeta Rosé 2014, from Syrah and Nero d’Avola grapes, which is silky, crisply dry and bursting with bright cranberry and redcurrant fruit; in contrast, just over a narrow strip of the Ionian sea,  the Candido ‘Le Pozzelle’ Salice Salentino 2014 is  bright pomegranate and dark coral in colour, with ripe, raspberry and red cherry flavours. Both equally delicious, but very different.

    The easiest way of understanding Rose is to look at them by style...

     

    Sparkling Rosé

    Cantina Cleto Chiarli, Rose Brut

    This is the exception to the rule that pink wines are made from red grapes. Many of them are, but with Champagne in particular, Rosé can be made by adding up to 15% of red wine, in Champagne’s case, Pinot Noir.

    But for easy, Summer drinking and entertaining, you don’t need to splash out on Champagne. One of the freshest, best value pink fizzes around at the moment is an Italian sparkler not from the Prosecco-famous north west, but from the north east. Cleto Chiarli Rose Brut NV, is a perky, strawberry-hued and scented fizz, made from the local Grasparossa grape and a dollop of Pinot Noir – fresh, bright, and juicy, it’s zesty, delicate and infused with gentle strawberry fruit.

    Light Pinks

    Comtes de Provence Rosé, La VidaubanaiseLight Rosés are those that have the most delicate colour – they are often from cooler regions, such as the Loire, but also are typical of southern France – Côtes de Provence Rosé is now iconic as ‘the Rosé for Summer’, and is a breath of sunshine and holiday memories.  Served icy cold, with its tremulously pale peach colour, it comes in various guises; easily recognizable by Provence Rosé’s  trademark hourglass shaped bottle  is Côtes de Provence La Vidaubanaise 2014, enchanting in its delicacy, with soft strawberry, redcurrant and citrus flavours.

    Château Sainte Marguerite, Grande Réserve, Organic Rosé, Cru Classé

    Equally charming, and a notch up in terms of quality and depth of flavour is Chateau Sainte Marguerite 2014, elegant & stylish with zestily fresh strawberry, peach and wild herb touches, and a bone dry finish.

    Ribafreixo, Pato Frio Cashmere RoséBut it’s not just southern France that produces the palest of pale pinks. Move south to Portugal, and you’ll find the most fragile coloured rose from the sun-baked plains of the southern Alentenjo region, east of Lisbon. Ribafreixo Pato Frio Cashmere 2014, is gossamer-light in both colour and style, with very delicate wafts of summer berry fruit and hints of lemon peel, with a delicate citrus finish.  Move to the far south of the Southern Hemisphere, and you’ll find a similarly light coloured, peachy-pretty pink, in the form of Ken Forrester Petit Pinotage Rosé 2014, with its delicate colour, but ripe-flavoured raspberries and cream-infused flavours, with a hint of sweet cherry tomatoes; very savoury, very pretty and a perfect lunchtime wine.

    Medium Pinks

    I find these some of the most elegant and enchanting of Rosés, with their pretty, rose-pink and crushed strawberry hues. They also have juicy, succulent flavours of ripe berry fruits, laced with cream, and hints of citrus and fresh herbs.  They also make excellent food wines.

    Château du Donjon Rose MinervoisMany of these are from Bordeaux and South West France, such as one of my current flavours, the intensely-fruity, red cherry and raspberry-stashed Domaine du Donjon, Minervois Rosé 2014, with its generous, yet squeakily clean style.  Côtes du Rhône rose is also highly popular, and exudes scents and flavours of the Mediterranean summer, ranging from pale to mid pink in colour, with the Grenache grape, most prevalent. Spain is another a top producer of quality Rosés, many of them from Rioja, Navarra, and the north eastern area of Catalunya,  with the Garnacha grape dominating.

    Massard, Más Amor Rosado

    For a bold, dry but flavour-packed style, try the modern, graffiti-labelled Massard Mas Amor Rosado 2014, truly vibrant and exciting in its intensity of freshly-crushed summer pudding fruit, and hints of pomegranates and rose petals.

    Darker, Fuller Pinks

    The longer grape skins are left on the juice, the darker the colour will be – this also means that many of these fuller pinks will be deeper and richer in colour; some even resemble light reds more than rosés.  Richer coloured pinks often come from hotter climes, such as Australia, Chile, and California.

    There is still far too much dominance of sugary, luridly-pink bubblegum wines from Californian, although, there are a few sweeter styles which are well made and work remarkably well with spicy Indian food, with lots of chilli heat.

    Leyda Pinot Noir Rose Loica Vineyard Leyda ValleyNew Zealand produce some delightfully vibrant, sassy, rosé from Pinot Noir, with elegance and perfume. Chile is developing a bit of a reputation for delicious super-ripe pink wines, which have fragrance, opulence and bold, fruity flavours.  Leyda  Pinot Noir Loica Vineyard has a delightful freshness, with a bold colour , yet remarkably fresh raspberry-infused flavours, due to the cooling breezes from the neighbouring Pacific Ocean.

    Skillogalee RoséSkillogalee Handpicked Cabernet Malbec Rosé 2013 is a dark cerise-shade of pink from South Australia. As owner Dave Palmer told me recently ‘it’s Rosé with attitude’. It certainly is – bold and laden with rich raspberry and dark cherry-scented fruit, it’s dry, but the ripeness of the grapes give it an added fleshiness and richness of style, with an intensely of crunchy cranberry, pomegranate and hedgerow fruit flavours.

    Serving Rosé Wines

    The first rule is to chill all pink wines. They will taste deliciously fresh, refreshing and vibrant; even the boldest and darkest of roses will benefit from being chilled, as this will bring out the delicious, fruity flavours.

    Serve delicate, lighter style elegant pinks as an aperitif, a picnic wine, or with simple seafood and nibbles. Riper, pinker wines are great food wines, especially with dishes such as char-grilled prawns, tuna niçoise, grilled vegetables and platters of charcuterie.

    I’ve always been a fan of big, bold, succulent pink wines with oriental and spicy food – this is where the darker coloured, richer pinks, sometimes with a hint of sweetness, come into their own, and are vibrant and characterful enough themselves to match up to the heat and exotic spices of Thai, Indian and Chinese cuisine.

    Whichever you choose, enjoy, alfresco whenever possible; don’t take  wines too seriously – it’s all about fun, enjoyment and supporting the occasion. Happy Holidays.

    By Angela Mount

  • Things To Do | Moreish Treats On Movie Night

    Wine of the night: Château Gassier 'Le Pas du Moine' Côtes De Provence Rose 2013

    It’s the end of the month, which means its close to payday, unless you’re one of the lucky ones who don’t have to wait patiently until the very end of the month!  For the rest of us, it gets to around this point when there’s jut a few days left so we have to be a little more inventive with our ideas for the weekend in order to save the pennies.

    Its still important to feel like you get the most out of a weekend, even if you spend your evenings curled up on the sofa, you can make sure you do it in a certain way - starting with gourmet popcorn.  There are endless sweet popcorn recipes, but for a change why not make it into a savoury snack?

    Garlic, Rosemary & Parmesan popcorn is a pretty good place to start.  Its easy to make, takes no time at all and its the perfect moreish treat for a classic movie night at home.  A great wine match for this savoury treat is the equally moreish Chateau Gassier ‘Le Pas Du Moine’ Cotes De Provence Rose, 2012’.  This highly recommended award-winning wine is great value too at just £12.95.  It’s always good to have these things at home ready for this time next month when perhaps you’ve overindulged in the first few weeks and a couple of nights in are on the agenda to balance it all out, so you can make the most out of our case discounts with 10% off 12 bottles of the same wine + free UK mainland delivery.

    Fancy trying out this popcorn recipe yourself?

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  • 5 Ways To Wind Down After The Weekend

    5 Ways To Wind Down After The Weekend

    Whether you’ve been taking it easy or had a pretty hectic weekend, it can often be a shock to the system getting back into the working week routine, especially after that dreaded Monday morning alarm.  Sometimes all we need is a little extra time to wind down, so we can dip our toes in the water rather than plunge straight into our 9-5 schedule (or for most perhaps it’s more like 8-6).

    There are just a few ways you could go about this, and Monday evening is realistically the best time to give it a go, so first things first....

    Try and switch off

    It doesn’t take long for the hustle and bustle of the office to get everyone’s stress levels rocketing but it’s only the first day of the week, so pace yourself.  There’s plenty of time to fret later, so instead, get home and open up a lovely bottle of wine.  If you’re tired of the classic red or white decision, opt for a change and try out an Argentinean Malbec Rose; a combination of fruity flavours with a crisp, dry finish.

    Cook a meal

    There’s no need to be too adventurous with this, but cooking is known to be quite therapeutic, so throwing together a basic meal could be just the thing you need, and the perfect opportunity to make the most of those leftover ingredients from the weekend!

    Watch a mini series

    Other social commitments may not allow for this in the long term, but working your way through a mini-series can be an incredibly effective way of giving yourself an instant time out.  There is a risk here however, that you can get hooked onto the likes of Sherlock (my personal favourite) but there’s nothing better than a quality British drama that you can really sink your teeth into.

    Give yourself a change of pace

    This may come across as a little unnecessary, but it’s very apparent how quickly we all go into autopilot and run around like headless maniacs, quite simply, because everyone else does it.  Take your time doing something for a change – even if it’s just a stroll to the shops rather than a quick scurry down the road, you’ll be surprised at the difference it makes!

    Have a bath

    N.B. This one is not just directed at women out there.  There seems to be a misconception that relaxing in the bath is a very feminine pastime.  But what’s not to love? Maybe you can take or leave the candlelight and bubbles but a glass of wine in the bath is something that we can all appreciate, and the perfect way to finish off your wind down evening so that maybe, you’re a little more prepared for the rest of the week ahead!

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