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Tag Archives: Tristan Darby

  • Music & Wine

    Columnist Tristan Darby explores the sensory world of Vinyl & Vine...

    I love the idea of introducing audiences to new wines and new experiences, so over the last few years, I've watched with increasing interest as different ways to pair wine have emerged. There's wines with books (not for me - after half a glass I doubt I'd even finish a page). Then there’s film and wine - tasting wines consumed in the film as you go (think 'Sideways' or 'James Bond'). But my favourite pairing idea combines my two greatest sensory pleasures - music and wine.

    Surely this idea isn't so far-fetched? There's an age-old cultural link between alcohol and music, and you may have read about the numerous studies into the effect that different types of music have on flavour perception. Taking this idea a step further, husband and wife team Russ and Lacey of Stylus Vinyl have created a subscription service sending out monthly boxes of classic albums on vinyl paired with a great bottle of wine and a custom-commissioned artwork. It's a smart idea, and as a music and wine nut, I'm delighted to be on the pairing panel at their wine supplier, Great Western Wine.

    Sometimes we choose a wine that matches the artist's character or story, sometimes it's the album's tone or theme and occasionally - it's both.

    Take Prince's iconic album Purple Rain, for example. Prince was truly one-of-a kind. Quirky, eccentric, visionary and a virtuoso multi-instrumentalist to boot. Purple Rain was a huge commercial hit that merged styles, took risks (e.g. Prince removed the bassline on "When Does Cry") and inspired a generation. It brims from start to finish with energy, sex and soul, and is full of contrasting themes - pleasure, sadness, celebration, isolation, hope, despair, religion, sex - that all work seamlessly together to make this timeless album, which although 'of its time', sounds as fresh and relevant 33 years on.

    The perfect match is d'Arenberg's Love Grass Shiraz. Winemaker, Chester Osborn, is also one-of-a-kind and one of the wine world’s most colourful characters. He's an art-loving maverick famed for his loud shirts and larger-than-life personality, and luckily for us - he's also a brilliant winemaker who has helped to establish d'Arenberg as one of Australia's leading family-owned wineries. Their commercial success hasn't stopped Chester from pushing boundaries, and The Love Grass is one of their many brilliantly quirky wines. Shiraz is the main grape here, blended with an eclectic mix of contrasting international varieties such as Cab Sauv, Merlot and Petit Verdot (Bordeaux), Tinta Cao (Portugal), Viognier (Rhone) Tempranillo (Spain), Sagrantino (Italy) and Pinot Noir (Burgundy). Quite a blend, but they work in perfect harmony to produce a big, bold red with complex layers of aroma and flavour. There are juicy black and red fruits, some peppery spice, dark chocolate, liquorice and a touch of smoky savoury herbs. Love Grass is a wonderful wine that's ready to drink now, but like Purple Rain will still be in fine shape a few years down the line.

    If you fancy trying some pairings out for yourself, join Tristan on 19th October at GWW for a Vinyl & Vine tasting. Tickets at greatwesternwine.co.uk

  • Tristan Darby gets crafty with local beers

    Beer drinking culture in the UK has changed dramatically over the last ten years. Since 2007 the number of breweries in London has grown from ten to one hundred, and the overall number of breweries across the UK is at an eighty year high, with an 8% rise in the last year alone.

    We're fortunate to have some awesome breweries on our doorstep here in the south-west, and it's great to see numerous local pubs, restaurants, and shops supporting them by offering a wide range of local brews. This month I had the arduous task of tasting the brand new beer portfolio at Great Western Wine to seek out my favourites... It's a hard life.

    Bristol's Lost & Grounded have only been brewing since July of last year, but are already making waves. My pick is the quirkily-titled NO REST FOR DANCERS. A deeply coloured red ale that has an enticing hoppy/malty nose and a berry-like fruitiness with a touch of spice on the palate. Bestowed with just the right amount of sweetness and light malty caramel flavour to balance the underlying hoppy bitterness, before delivering a clean refreshing finish.

     

    Founded in 2007, Bristol's Arbor Ales are a busy forward-thinking outfit who have brewed over three hundred different beers to date. Their SHANGRI-LA is a generously hopped session IPA with crisp bright citrus notes complementing a well-judged touch of sweetness. Exotic tropical fruit flavours lead to a dry and slightly chalky finish. Gentle carbonation adds a lovely texture and helps underline the soft appeal of this rather brilliant and highly quaffable brew.

     

    Kettlesmith is a small independent micro-brewery based in Bradford on Avon. I'm a big fan of their beers for sheer quality, but an added pull is that they highlight food pairing options. RIDGELINE is a rich American Rye IPA with nutty peppery hints. It's a pretty full bodied beer, but superbly smooth, well balanced and utterly delicious. Kettlesmith suggests this beer 'plays nicely' with beef bourguignon, cassoulet, spicy bean burgers and firm, tangy cheese. I can't wait to get into the kitchen to investigate.

     

    Wiper & True started from humble beginnings as home brewers experimenting with raw ingredients on the kitchen stove. Based in the St Werburgh's area of Bristol, the operation has grown somewhat, picking up many followers along the way, whilst keeping innovation and the spirit of experimentation as a core principle. The excellent MILKSHAKE is a milk stout which includes a generous dollop of chocolate malts and vanilla pods to add an extra depth of flavour, along with a wonderful aroma. Milk stouts use lactose, which is the sugar made from cow's milk, to add sweetness and creaminess to the beer. As you would imagine, this is pretty rich, full and jam packed with seducing notes of toasty vanilla, chocolate, and coffee. However, there's a surprisingly refreshing balance here. If you drink this lightly chilled you'll retain the lovely rich notes and get enough mouth-watering lift to quaff it in the sun with smoky barbecued meats.

    Taste these beers for free at Great Western Wines "Best of the West Beer Tasting" on Saturday 19th August. Click here for more information >

    Happy supping!

  • SOUTHERN ITALY

    Tristan explores the ancient indigenous sun-kissed vines of Southern Italy

    Whether you’re heading there on holiday, or just looking for some great alternative summer wines to add to your shopping list, this month’s column explores a few of southern Italy’s ancient indigenous grape varieties.

    Fiano has been cultivated in southern Italy for two thousand years. Volcanic slopes surrounding Naples in Italy’s Campania region are the grapes traditional home, producing one of Italy’s great white wines, Fiano di Avellino, but Fiano does well in other regions, too. Mandra Rossa Fiano 2016 from Menfi in south-west Sicily is one of my top tips for a reasonably priced summer white wine.

    At the risk of sounding like a wine toff, this really does taste like Sicilian sunshine in a glass. A refreshing well-balanced medium-bodied white, where ripe exotic tropical fruit flavours are tempered by a refreshing lick of basil-like herbs and an edge of citrus to make your mouth water. Deliciously drinkable and good with all manner of simple summery fish, vegetable, pasta or chicken dishes.

    Indigenous to eastern Sicily, Carricante has been grown the slopes of Mount Etna, for over a thousand years. Etna is Italy's largest and most active volcano, and the Planeta 'Eruzione 1614' Carricante 2015 is named after her longest eruption in 1614 which lasted over 10 years. Made from vines planted at 800m on Etna (Carricante performs best at altitude) by Planeta, one of Sicily's most respected and pioneering winemaking families, this is a remarkably fine, stylish, fresh and elegant wine.

    Pretty floral aromas pull you in for a mouth-watering sip where the intense sensation of minerals marries with crisp green apple and lightly honeyed citrus flavours, carrying the wine to a satisfyingly long, fresh and dry finish. Utterly delicious. I could happily enjoy a glass of this on its own in the heat of summer, but it'd also be great with grilled white fish, seafood risotto, crab linguine or pan fried scallops.

    You’ll be hard pushed to find a better value Italian red than Biferno Rosso Riserva DOC Palladino 2012. The wine comes from Southern Italy’s second smallest region, Molise, on the other side of the ‘leg’ from Naples, nestled between neighbouring Abruzzo and Puglia and flanked by the Apennine Mountains and Adriatic Sea. Molise is rustic, agricultural, and relatively ‘undiscovered’ in terms of both tourism and wine - meaning there’s great value to be found here.

    Made from Montepulciano, one of southern Italy’s superstar grapes, blended with the ancient dark Aglianico grape for extra depth and richness, the wine ages for three years in big old Slavonian oak barrels to soften it and add complexity. Full of slightly dusty rustic charm, with mouth-watering sour cherry flavours, a hint of spice and refreshing savoury herbs. Smooth, quenching and interesting enough to enjoy on its own, but with enough boldness to pair with grilled meats, pizza, and hearty meat or aubergine based pasta. A fantastic staple wine to stock up on, and well worth the money.

    Discover more at Tristan’s Southern Italy & Islands tasting on 12th July at Great Western Wine. Tickets are £15. Click here to book now >

  • NEW ZEALAND

    Beyond Marlborough Sauvignon

    Since the first commercial wines were released in the 1980s, New Zealand’s pungent, herbaceous, tangy, tropical-fruited style of sauvignon blanc has proven to be a smash hit, now accounting for three-quarters of NZ wine production and around 85% of wine exports - with the most famous and productive region, Marlborough, leading the charge.

    However, New Zealand is 1000 miles long with a latitude equivalent of Bordeaux to southern Spain, a diverse geography and geology (mountains, coast and volcanic plateaus), and a wide selection of grape varieties - so there’s plenty more here to be discovered.

    Central Otago is located in the south of south island. It’s the world’s most southerly wine region, plus New Zealand's highest altitude and most Continental (no vineyard here is more than 80 miles from the sea). Spectacularly beautiful - adorned with dramatic snow-capped mountains and blue lakes, this is also one of the world’s top spots for Pinot Noir, which thrives here. Relatively warm daytimes with high UV levels bestow the grapes with plenty of ripeness and flavour, which is locked in place by cool night temperatures - producing characterful wines full of vibrant ripe fruit flavours, depth and balancing acidity.

    I like the Mohua Pinot Noir 2014 from Peregrine wines, with lovely floral and fruity aromas and a juicy, quite rich, yet smooth palate where cherry and black fruit flavours combine with a savoury edge and a touch of spice - just the ticket for early summer drinking.

    'Central' also produces world-class chardonnay, and Carrick Chardonnay 2015 is a splendid example. Complex, elegant and fine. Deliciously ripe tropical fruit flavours and a lemon-like acidity are complemented by creamy, nutty notes and a lick of spice from fermentation and ageing in French oak. Classy and very much worth the money, it'll keep and develop in bottle over a couple of years, too.

    Around the art-deco Mecca of Napier in north-island is NZ’s oldest and second largest wine region, Hawke’s Bay. A relatively large and diverse area, but perhaps best known for its age-worthy red blends made with classic Bordeaux grapes. The Crossroads Winemaker’s Selection Cabernet/Merlot 2011 uses top fruit from the acclaimed Gimblett Gravels sub-region. Yes, it’s big and pretty concentrated - but not heavy. Juicy blackcurrants and plums supported by a toasty complexity from French oak barrels. This would be perfect with roast lamb/beef or a juicy steak.

    The superb Man ‘O’ War Dreadnought Syrah 2013 hails from another large and diverse wine region surrounding NZ’s largest city, Auckland. It’s a warm and relatively humid here, but Dreadnought is produced a short boat ride away from the mainland on the winemaking island of Waiheke, where the climate is drier and the warmth is tempered by the cooling effects of the sea. This stellar Rhone-style syrah had me at first sip. Concentrated and rich, yet elegant, fine and balanced with a mineral touch. The seductive smoky and meaty/savoury characters mingle with blueberries, blackberries and black pepper spice. Awesome and age-worthy - if you can keep your hands off it.

    Tristan is hosting a NZ tasting on 14th June at Great Western Wine - tickets £15: Click here to book now >

    - By Tristan Darby - Bath Magazine -

  • Ginspiration

    TRISTAN DARBY offers advice for balmy summer's evenings, on where to seek the perfect ginspiration

     

    Anyone who’s visited a bar or spirits retailer over the last few years will be aware of the gin bloom. Last year saw record UK sales of more than 40m bottles, with 2016 being dubbed ‘the year of gin’. This meteoric rise is far from over (with more than 40 new distilleries opened in the UK last year alone), and with an increasingly dynamic and diverse range of quality-led gins on offer – who’s to complain?

    Gin has a fascinating history from its likely beginning as a medicine, through the whisky-like Dutch Genever, Mother’s ruin and Victorian gin palaces to the present day. I’ll be hosting a Gin and Tonic Tasting on Wednesday 31st May at Great Western Wine where you can learn lots more about the history and world of gin in a fun, hands-on way. Click here to book tickets >  But for now, here are a few labels I recommend adding to your collection:

    Jensen’s Bermondsy London Dry Gin | £26 After tasting vintage gin from a long-lost London distillery, Christian Jensen set out to create an uber-traditional London Dry using only botanicals available in the 1800’s (no cucumber or seaweed here). Made at a small distillery located in railway arches near London Bridge, this is a gloriously traditional juniper-led gin with a strong pine note from the Italian juniper berries, and a touch of violets, spice and herbs. Rich and complex yet subtle and smooth. Delicious in a dry Martini, or a classic G&T with premium Indian tonic water and lemon or lime.

    Martin Miller’s Gin | £25 was a trailblazer for the gin renaissance, launched in 1999 at a time when gin was a business few in their right mind would go into. It was made with martin’s uncompromising vision to create the perfect gin. The lighter botanicals are distilled separately to the earthier ones, then blended together for balance, along with distilled cucumber. The resulting strong spirit is then sent on a 3000-mile round-trip to Iceland, where it is ‘cut’ to bottling strength of 40% abv with the purest water source available; mountain-filtered glacial melt water. Why shipped to Iceland? Back in the 90’s import laws meant water had to be ‘demineralised’ to transport across the EU (negating the whole point of using it). Does the effort make a difference? Yes. Awesomely fresh, pure, crisp and balanced. This is my go-to end of a long day gin served neat over ice. Also great in a Martini or G&T. Try it with Dr Polidori’s Cucumber Tonic or with Fever-Tree Elderflower Tonic as a relaxing spring/summer sipper.

    Brilliantly berry-infused Brockman’s Gin | £32, uses ten botanicals including blueberries and blackberries. Flavoursome and fruity, but beautifully balanced, I love to sip this neat.

    Warner Edwards Victoria’s Rhubarb Gin | £35.50 is cleverly made using the pressed pink juice of a rhubarb crop originally grown in Queen Victoria’s garden. Fully flavoured, tangy and a little sweet, but again a beautifully balanced gin that’s a huge treat on its own served over ice or in a G&T.


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