Monthly Archives: May 2015

  • Bubbly...with personality

    Champagne is the world’s most famous sparkling wine, with Italy’s Prosecco hot on its heels. But France isn’t just about well known designer labels, designed for the well-heeled. There are plenty of alternatives to the famous Champagne houses which won’t break the bank – many using the same methods; all with their own unique styles.

    Here are five refreshing wines that will open your mind to French fizz:

    Chateau Rives-Blanques Blanquette de LimouxChateau Rives-Blanques Blanquette de Limoux 2012

    There are those that argue that the bottle fermentation method was invented by an Englishman, Christopher Merret. But whatever you believe, one thing is for sure; the winemakers of Limoux in the Languedoc-Roussillon were making fizzy wine before their counterparts in Champagne, 560 miles to the north. Here, the local Mauzac grape is blended with the more familiar Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc to create an elegant, appley wine which has some toastiness from its time left on the lees in the bottle - a wine of freshness and character.

    Domaine Didier Champalou Vouvray BrutDomaine Didier Champalou Vouvray Brut NV

    Back up north in the Loire Valley is Vouvray, a winemaking region around 230 miles from Épernay in Champagne. This is the homeland of Chenin Blanc, made in various guises from sweet to dry sparkling. Like Limoux, the fizz is created in the bottle, just like Champagne – but the finish is softer and more appley. The Didiers are modern winemakers, respecting tradition while delivering the fresh, honest flavours of baked apple and honey with crisp, yet creamy, fine bubbles.

    Domaine de Brizé Saumur Brut RoséDomaine de Brizé Saumur Brut Rosé NV

    Domaine de Brizé also make a delicious fizz from Chenin Blanc, just down the road in Saumur.  But this one is a pink, made with Cabernet Franc and local grapes Grolleau and Beaujolais’ Gamay.  The nose is alive with redcurrants and summer fruits, leading to a vibrant palate of crunchy red apple, cranberry and blackberry. Priced like a Prosecco or Cava, this is a fun, fruity bubbly that’s ideal for spring and summer BBQs and picnics.


    Champagne Premier Cru, Blanc de Noirs, Gonet-Medeville Champagne Premier Cru, Blanc de Noirs, Gonet-Medeville NV

    If it’s got to be Champagne – and sometimes nothing else will do – then why not pick a grower-producer who creates distinctive artisan wines. Made with only red grapes, this clear, bright white sparkler is ripe and bold with rich, red fruit flavours and hints of brioche and hazelnut. The family-run business is owned by Julie Médeville, renowned winemaker at Château Gilette, a famous Sauternes property, while husband Xavier Gonet is a winemaker from an old family of Champagne vignerons from Le Mesnil sur Oger – a pretty impressive CV.

    Champagne J-M Gobillard, Brut Grande Réserve Premier CruChampagne J-M Gobillard, Brut Grande Réserve Premier Cru NV

    To quote co-owner and winemaker, Thierry Gobillard: “my house is ten metres away from Dom Pérignon’s grave” - you don’t get much more Champenois than that! A Premier Cru Grower Champagne at an unbelievable price, with a scrumptious nose of baked Bramley apples, spiced with a hint of star anise. The flavours of greengage, honey and fresh herbs are layered over a creamy palate balanced by minerality and lime citrus acidity: A GWW customer favourite that consistently out plays the big boys.

    By Chris Penwarden

  • Alan's Wine of the Week: Chateau Rives Blanques 'Le Limoux' 2012

    Chateau Rives Blanques 'Le Limoux' 2012

    Le Limoux

    £12.50  £11.00

    A blend of Mauzac, Chenin Blanc and Chardonnay. Complex and very winey on the nose, with notes of Calvados, apple pie, cloves and herbs, and with oak very much in the background. Apple and peach flavours on the palate. Really quite refined and complex - and very persistent. Lovely.

    Prices are valid from 29.04.15 to 31.05.15

    Free delivery on orders over £100 | Save 10% on 12 bottles | Save 5% on 6 bottles

  • Tried & Tested: Beef Bourguignon with Henri Delagrange Hautes-Cotes de Beaune

    The recipe:

    I looked at recipes from Larousse Gastronomique, James Martin, Delia Smith and Anthony Bourdain for this recipe – all classics in their own right. The addition of the carrots came from Bourdain as I fancied something to counteract the rich, beefy stew. The can of beef consommé happened to be in the cupboard and I thought it would be a nice addition, especially as I was lacking any decent beef stock, which the recipes required. Careful when you flambé the beef – watch your eyebrows!

    The wine:

    Burgundy’s regional beef dish surely needs a red Burgundy and you can pick and choose depending on your preference. This youthful 2014 Pinot Noir from Henri Delagrange  was positively brimming with cherry and strawberry aromas, the fresh, zingy acidity cutting through the rich meaty sauce while complementing the sweet, melting carrots. Equally you could choose something with a bit of age and some oak as this would work well against the rich sauce too. Of course, the older, more complex styles will set you back a few more quid, so I’ll leave that decision to you...


    2x small shallots, peeled and finely chopped

    2 medium brown onions sliced

    1 garlic crushed

    4 carrots chopped at an angle into four or five pieces per carrot

    900g stewing beef with plenty of marbling

    2 tblsp seasoned flour

    130g pancetta

    500ml red burgundy

    Can of beef consommé - 400ml

    50ml brandy

    Bouquet garni of 2 bay leaf, 2 sprigs thyme, couple stalks of parsley


    100g baby onion, peeled and browned in butter

    Parsley to serve











    Cook the pancetta until golden then add the floured beef in batches to brown. Add sliced onion, chopped shallots and garlic and soften.

    Add the brandy and light with match, leaving the flames to do their work until they die down. Add the wine, a can of beef consommé or stock and the bouquet garni - plus the sliced carrots. Bring to a simmer and cover for 2 hrs.

    20 mins before end, add the sautéed baby onions.

    Before serving, drain off the liquid and reduce slightly, then add a teaspoon of beurre manié (a mix of flour and butter in equal parts) to give gloss and to thicken.

    Return meat and veggies to sauce, add parsley and serve with jersey royals or mashed potatoes.

    By Chris Penwarden

  • A Simple Guide to Food & Wine Matching

    Solving one of the most frequently asked questions, here’s my guide to some simple suggestions for choosing the right style of wine, for whatever you’re cooking.

    There’s a great deal of nonsense talked about food and wine matching, and I’m probably as guilty as any wine writer.  We shouldn’t get too serious about this, and actually, there is no right or wrong; taste is entirely subjective. However it’s true that some partnerships work better than others – it’s no different from combinations of different foods – roast beef and horseradish, lamb and mint, cheddar and chutney, strawberries and cream.

    It’s the same with wine – a few simple pointers will help bring out the very best in both the dish and the wine. Try a curry with a thin, acidic white, and the wine will taste sour; try it with an aromatic , rich white, or a juicy red, and the entire experience will be more enjoyable, with the wine and the spices, bringing out the overall richness of flavours.

    I’ve put together some simple ideas to reduce the uncertainty of what to select, and to dispel some of the myths – and yes, red wine does go with fish… if you choose the right one.  One of the key things to remember is that it’s usually not the main ingredient that dictates the best wine choice, it’s the sauce or the spices. It’s all about balancing flavours, spice, saltiness, sweetness and heat.


    White wine is the obvious choice here, but it’s not so much the fish, it’s how you cook it:

    Seafood, and simply cooked white fish, with maybe lemon and herbs are best with fresh, crisp, unoaked whites – Italian whites, Chablis, Sancerre, zesty Sauvignon and Albarino

    Salmon -  unoaked or lightly oaked chardonnay to go with this richer fish

    Tuna – Dry Rosé is great with tuna ( and also prawns), or chilled, light reds

    Smoked fish Riesling, and aromatic whites

    Thai and Indian fish and seafood – aromatic whites – Riesling, Sauvignon blanc, Viognier and Gewurztraminer

    Fish and chips – Sauvignon Blanc or fizz!


    Once again, match the style of the wine to the richness or spiciness of how the bird is cooked

    Roast chicken – buttery chardonnays, fruity Pinot Noir and Chianti

    Chicken in red wine – Pinot Noir, Cotes du Rhone

    Chicken pie – creamy chardonnay, Gavi, Beaujolais

    Chicken with fruity saucesChenin blanc, Viognier

    Spicy Thai and Indian chicken  - Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Viognier

    Duck  - Pinot Noir or Tuscan reds

    Pheasant and game – Pinot Noir, Burgundy, Chianti, Rhône


    Roast beef and steak – good, full bodied reds – Bordeaux, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec

    Roast lamb and lamb chops – Bordeaux and Rioja are classics, but other Spanish reds, and Rhone work well

    Rich lamb or beef stews – Southern French reds, Southern Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and New World Shiraz – big and bold is the key thing

    Roast pork -  Chardonnay and Chenin blanc

    Moroccan tagines – rich, spicy Southern Italian or Spanish reds

    Sausages – Southern French, New World Merlot and Spanish reds

    Gammon, ham ,pate – Beaujolais, Spanish Garnacha, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay

    Asian beef curries and stir friesZinfandel, juicy soft reds, Merlot, Shiraz



    Asparagus – Sauvignon blanc all the way – classic match; or unoaked chardonnay if with hollandaise

    Tomatoes and peppers– southern French or Italian whites

    Otherwise, it depends on how the vegetables are cooked:

    Frittata/omelettes – unoaked Italian whites, and juicy young Italian reds, or Cotes du Rhone

    Quiches and vegetable pies -  fresh unoaked Chardonnay, lively Spanish and Italian whites, Verdejo

    Roasted vegetables – Viognier, Chenin blanc

    Mushroom pasta and risotto – a dream with northern Italian reds



    Forget the old adage that  cheese only goes with red wine, play around a bit, and try some of these matches:

    Goats cheese – perfect with fresh Sauvignon blanc styles of wine

    Camembert and brie style – best with creamy Chardonnays, and juicy, unoaked light reds

    Cheddar and hard, mature cheeses – Rhone, Shiraz, Cabernet – good, full on reds

    Blue cheese – best with Port, or perfect with sweet whites, Sauternes and Muscat


    Light, creamy fruit desserts – Asti, sweet sparkling, and sweet Bordeau

    Chocolate, toffee and rich puds – Muscat, liqueur Muscat, sweet Tokay, dessert reds, sweet sherry and Port

    By Angela Mount

  • Alan's Wine of the Week: Sauvignon de Touraine, Domaine de Pierre 2014

    Sauvignon de Touraine, Domaine de Pierre 2014

    Sauvignon de Touraine, Domaine de Pierre 2014

    £10.75   £9.46

     Beautifully fresh, complex aromas of spring flowers, fresh mint, capsicum and pea pod. Rounded texture, kept fresh with vibrant acidity. Freshly-picked home-grown tomato flavour leading to a citrus and mint finish. More subtle than New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc yet more complete and textured than other similar wines from France. Outstanding wine and excellent value.

    Prices are valid from 29.04.15 to 31.05.15

    Free delivery on orders over £100 | Save 10% on 12 bottles | Save 5% on 6 bottles

  • Tried & Tested: Steak Night with Janasse Côtes du Rhône

    Last Friday I invited my carnivorous twitter-loving friend @baconchop around for dinner. His steak eating prowess is legendary, beating fellow tweeter and award winning food blogger @hollowlegs in a steak eating contest a few years ago. The contest, Man vs Legs, contributed to him doubling both his twitter followers overnight and his weight. Now leaner and meaner, Mr Chop was ready for the challenge: 3 different steaks, a bottle of Côtes du Rhône and some bone marrow for kicks. Read on...

    The menu:

    Rib eye, Sirloin and Onglet served with bone marrow and a pepper sauce.

    We sourced the steaks from a brilliant butcher, Ginger Pig, in Borough Market;  none of that supermarket, pre-packaged stuff for us! Please use your local butcher - you'll see the difference.

    The idea for the pepper sauce came from an email sent by Bluebird restaurant’s PR people which included a Cheat’s Pepper Sauce video. It takes 2 minutes so can be done while you are resting your steaks – a good way of de-glazing the pan too.

    The bone marrow recipe is borrowed from St John’s restaurant in Farringdon, London, via food critic Matthew Fort. This is a classic dish – just right for our meaty challenge.

    For a little respite from the carnivorous delights we prepared a green salad with our mate Vincent’s famous French dressing.

    The result:

    Meat-fest! We decided to leave out the chips (controversial) due to large amount of meat products available and the toasted bread mopping up the bone marrow. The rare-to-medium rare steaks were excellent:  we voted the rib eye and onglet as top choices – the onglet slightly pipping the rib eye to the post in terms of sheer beefy flavour.

    The Janasse Côtes du Rhône was peppery and smooth with some refreshing redcurrant acidity cutting through all that meaty richness – particularly useful with the bone marrow. We also tried the steaks with a pricier, rich, hearty, oaky Spanish red – and this also worked a treat with the robust flavours of the meat. Red wine, red meat – you can’t go too far wrong!

    You’ll need:

    • Rib eye x 250g
    • Sirloin x 250g
    • Onglet x 250g
    • Piece of 10 inch long-ish bone marrow, sliced through the middle


    Vincent’s green salad:

    • 2 x little gem lettuce
    • 1 tsp Dijon mustard
    • 1 tbsp olive oil
    • Dash of water
    • Dash white wine vinegar


    Parsley salad for bone marrow:

    • Half bunch parsley - chopped
    • 2 shallots, very thinly sliced
    • 1 small handful extra-fine capers
    • 1 lemon, juice of
    • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
    • Freshly ground salt and black pepper
    • Crusty bread - toasted


    Cheat’s Pepper Sauce:

    • 100ml Worcestershire sauce
    • 200ml single cream
    • Meat juices










    Get healthy first. Adam (Mr Chop) has been seeing a personal trainer and is in tip top condition. I have been ‘walking around a bit’ which constitutes ‘match-fit’ as far as I can tell.

    Put the oven on and heat to 190°C. While you’re waiting for the oven to warm up you can prep your salad.

    Salad with Vincent's French Dressing

    Take two little gems, wash and drain then dress just before serving with Vincent’s French dressing. Take the Dijon mustard, olive oil and water, whisking to emulsify, then add a spike of white wine vinegar. Voila! Add the dressing at the table just before serving.

    St John’s Roasted Bone Marrow on Toast with Parsley Salad

    Combine the parsley, shallots and capers in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the lemon juice and olive oil to make a dressing. Add the dressing to the other ingredients and season.

    This can be spread on to the bone marrow once it has cooked for 20 mins in the oven – the marrow should be loose and giving, but not melting away.

    Once cooked, season the marrow with some sea salt and spread onto toast with the parsley salad.

    Cooking the steaks:

    While the bone marrow is cooking, get your frying pans on – you want them nice and hot to seal the meat and cook rapidly.

    Baconchop acted as consultant and wingman, manning the stop watch while I flipped the steaks. He came up with an ingenious plan of cooking the three different steaks in 3-2-1 formation. The thicker, more marbled rib eye was to be cooked for 3 minutes each side while the slightly thinner, leaner sirloin would be cooked for 2 minutes per side. Lastly the Onglet would be cooked for just 1 minute per side as it was very lean and thin.

    Each steak was then rested on a warmed plate for around 5 mins before serving.

    Cheat’s Pepper Sauce

    While we waited for the steaks to rest, we made a Cheat’s Pepper Sauce:

    Take 100ml of Worcestershire sauce and reduce by ¾ in the frying pan. Pour 200ml of single cream into the pan and bring the sauce to a boil for 30 seconds. When the steaks have rested for five minutes you can whisk the juices into to the sauce.

    By Chris Penwarden

  • Roaming through The Rhône

    For those familiar with the French Autoroute A7, which leads to the South of France, as it runs like a major artery down the East of the country, there is a defining moment, as you crest the hill near the turn off to Valence. This, to me, has always represented the opening of the gateway to Provence and Southern France. There’s a change in the landscape, a perceptible change in the luminosity of the sky, and in the temperature. Spirits lift, shoulders relax, and the weight of daily life drifts away, as the holiday mood descends, and the warmth of the Mediterranean climate seeps into the skin.

    This point of reference also pretty much marks the divide between the steep, narrow, imposing hills of the Northern Rhône, and the broader, flatter, olive-grove scattered, sprawling topography of the Southern Rhône.

    The Rhône is a majestic and fascinating region, France’s second largest wine producing region, and one of the areas showing most growth and fascination in terms of wine sales. We love Rhône wines in the Uk, with almost 20% of all their wine  production exported here.  The region also happens to account for almost 60% of all French wine exported, proving its popularity all over the world.

    It’s also one of the most diverse wine regions in terms of style, with a great contrast between the north and the southern sections, although the 2 areas are only separated by around 40km. The Northern region accounts for only 5% of the total production, but is the proud home of some of the most famous wine names in the world –  the names Hermitage, Côte Rôtie, Condrieu, and more, signal the pedigree.

    The vast majority of the region’s wines is to be found in the lavender and wild-herb scented South, where the hazy sun warms the fields and the grapes, to help yield vast quantities of deliciously drinkable and seductive whites and reds.

    The Northern Rhône begins just south of the bustling, noisy, cacophonous, but charismatic city of Lyon, a city of gastronomical, as well as historic, splendour, boasting a clutchful of Michelin-starred restaurants, as well as hoards of ‘bouchons lyonnais’, as  the local wine bars are known.

    The heartbeat of the city is powered by two of France’s main rivers, the Saone and the Rhône. Follow the latter, and as you emerge from the long, overcrowded tunnel south , where traffic moves at a snail’s pace, you emerge into the glory and breathtaking grandeur of the vertiginous, imposing slopes of  the northern Rhône. Here the steep, craggy hills loom over the river, as it snakes its way southwards, and some of the most prized and revered vineyards in the world cling precariously to the granitic cliff-faces, as though stuck on with glue.

    In this part of the region, Syrah is the undisputed king, and is in fact, the only red grape variety permitted for AOC wines. Planted here, since Roman times, on rocky terraces, the prized wines from this area have demanded blood, sweat and tears from the labourers who have had the arduous task of tending the gravity-defying vineyards.

    But the results have been worth it; with quite remarkable and extraordinary character these reds have an intense, haughty, majestic splendor about them, yet tinged, with a wild, convention-flouting, rock star edge. These aren’t well behaved wines – they have uniqueness, they have a mesmerizing, seductive, irresistibility, with their dense colour, outrageously voluptuous perfume and nectar-like richness and depth – sip a glass and I defy anyone, not to be smitten by their smouldering and captivating powers.

    The weather is more extreme than the balmy climate of the Southern Region – it’s hot in the Summer, but the winters can be cold and harsh, particularly higher on the rocky mountains of the Massif Central. The main cities are Vienne and Tournon, both of which are worth a visit, particularly the former, with its historic Roman building and artefacts.

    Luxury, boutique hotels have been springing up, but some of the most charming places to stay, are the numerous, upmarket ‘Chambres d’Hotes’ (our equivalent of Bed and Breakfast, but somehow more welcoming) and ‘Gites’, where guests will really discover the vibe and the feel of the region. The local gastronomy is as rustic, rugged and characterful as the region itself – lots of meat, offal, sausages, rich stews, and a plethora of cheeses, as well as river fish.

    The excitement starts in the Côte Rôtie area, where the slopes hit a vertigo-inducing angle of 60 degrees, and vineyards have been hewn into the rock face over years and years. The vines are protected from the Mistral winds, and their south-facing exposure gives them the best of the Southern sun and heat reflection from the river. The wines are rich, dark and brooding with a unique character – a bit like the vignerons who  must have passion and determination in barrel-loads to cope with the exigencies of growing vines in these precarious spots.

    Domaine Yves Cuilleron, Condrieu Les Chaillets, Vieilles VignesThe king of the Rhône, is joined by his queen, the perfumed, voluptuous, beguiling Viognier white grape, which is responsible for the heady, scented, multi-layered and enchanting top whites from Condrieu and Château Grillet,  which lie just to the south,and is often used, in tiny proportions, to add a waft of fleshy, scent and freshness to the biggest of the red wines.  Chateau Grillet is one of France’s tiniest appellations, with under 10 acres of vines, whereas Condrieu, such as Condrieu Les Chaillets Vieilles Vignes 2013,  is more extensive, albeit still unique and premium, with its opulent, apricots and cream- stashed whites.

    Terre de Granit, Saint Joseph, Domaine Guy FargeAbout 40km south, you’ll reach the vineyards of the increasingly popular Saint-Joseph ( Terre de Granit Saint Joseph 2012), still carved into precipitous rock on the narrow right bank, which looms over the river. The wines are rugged, dense and perfumed, with violet, white pepper and stewed blackberry richness. Hop over the river and you’ll hit Crozes-Hermitage, one of the areas that produce some of the most reliable, best value and earliest drinking Northern Rhone reds, just like the  Crozes Hermitage le Papillon 2013, Domaine Gilles Robin, with its spicy, peppery intensity and sweetness.

    Tain de l'HermitageJust south of this, visitors will come across one of the most revered, and one of the oldest  wine spots in France and indeed the world, the magnificent Hermitage and Tain de l’Hermitage. Enjoying the best of the sun on their precarious terraces, and limited to a tiny production, the grapes produce storming, voluptuous, powerful reds, with wildness and exotic richness in spades, which captivate the senses, and can leave grown men weak at the knees at their sheer gloriousness.

    Harmonie Cornas, Domaine Guy FargeThe southernmost outposts of this northern part of the Rhone are St-Peray, which stands out from the norm, since it produces mainly sparkling wine from the Marsanne and Roussanne grape, and the bold, sinewy, brooding , violet-scented and captivating Cornas (Harmonie, Cornas, Domaine Guy Farge 2011). The name means ‘burnt earth’ and refers to the vineyards planted in the suntrap hills around the village. Many of these wines are world-class and frequently outshine other northern Rhone reds in international wine competitions.

    Many words to describe just 5% of the region’s wines, but they deserve every accolade they receive… but now, time to focus on the wide, sprawling, scenic vistas and vineyards of the south.  From Valence onwards, visitors are on a headway towards the scintillating, glittering seas of the Côte d’Azur, but the beauty, and rich, intoxicating scents and attractions of the southern Rhone region beckon, and cause welcome diversions.

    There is a fascinating contrast between the two sub-regions; the looming, granitic, narrow hills, in which the Rhône river nestles and meanders, give way to a huge, flat, fan-like area, as the sleepy villages and vineyards sprawl out, with gently undulating hills puncturing the landscape.  It’s a region of abundance, sunshine and warmth, with an surfeit of ripe, colourful produce, shady olive groves, and miles of purple-hued lavender fields. Go to the local markets, see the richness and kaleidoscope of colours at the vegetable and fruit stalls, smell the wild herbs and the wafts of lavender, and you’ll never want to leave.

    This area is the workhorse of the region’s wines, with vineyards scattered both sides of the Rhone River , running from Montelimar , famous for its nougat, to the Papal city of Avignon, as it snakes on its journey southwards. The hot southern sun beats down on the dry, gravelly earth, which is typically covered by stones,  characterized by the large, pale smooth ‘galets’ stones of Chateauneuf du Pape, which can be hot as an oven to the touch. Vines are planted low to the ground, and are thus protected from the vicarious Mistral wind, which whistles across the land.

    Côtes du Rhône is the generic name given to the millions of wine produced here,  with the familiar names of Coteaux du Tricastin, Côtes du Ventoux and Coteaux du Vivarais, representing wines from smaller areas within this. There are 18 individual villages, nestled among the dusty, sun-drenched countryside, which can call their wines by the higher appellation of Côtes du Rhône Villages, with their rich, spicy intensity.

    Domaine Brusset, Côtes du Rhône Cairanne Les TraversRed wines dominate here, but there are also large quantities of increasingly good, citrussy, peach-scented whites, and juicy, red-berry streaked Rosés. The style of reds varies from soft and fruity, to more intense, pepper, herb and dark fruit-laden wines.  With the Grenache grape at the core of most of the blends, giving an intense fruitiness and fleshiness, the Syrah plays more of a supporting role here, alongside the fresh Cinsault, and the intense, brooding richness of Carignan and the wild perfume and darkness of Mourvedre. Simple, well-made, straightforward Côtes du Rhône and Côtes du Rhône Villages should be soft, ripe, spicy, with an easy charm – perfect with platters of charcuterie, local cheeses and tiny, pink-fleshed, succulent cutlets of the sweetest of local lamb. There are 18 individual villages, within the area, which can put their name on the label alongside the words ‘Côtes du Rhône Villages’, such as the Domaines Brusset Côtes du Rhône, Cairanne, les Travers 2012.

    Mont Ventoux vinesSome of the most interesting wines are to be found on the eastern side, on slightly higher ground, in the foothills of some low, beautiful hills and  mountains. One such is the Mont Ventoux, which rears up amongst the stillness and gentle undulations of its surrounds. It is here that one of my favourite Rhone producers, Domaines Brusset makes one of the  very best value Rhone reds around, Côtes du Ventoux  les Boudalles 2014, a veritable treasure, oozing mid-weight, silky soft, super-ripe black cherry richness, with a typical twist of black pepper.

    If you’ve ventured this far, opt for the ultimate indulgence and treat yourself to a night or two of luxury, at one of my top ten favourite boltholes in the world, which I discovered 15 years ago, and which has just gone on to greater and greater glory. Hostellerie de Crillon le Brave is a luxurious, boutique, and utterly charming hotel, which is the brainchild of 2 Canadian business men. Opulent, indulgent, yet retaining every centrimetre of authentic Rhone charm, the hotel is actually a cluster of individual, Medieval stone houses, linked by cobbled courtyards and winding, terracotta steps, all stylishly refurbished. The hotel has expanded and occupies a large chunk of the tiny hamlet of Crillon-le-Brave, on a hilltop close to Mont Ventoux. With its relaxed charm,  jewel-like swimming pool, and highly esteemed restaurant, it’s a magical spot to stop, and take in the calm, the stillness, and the beauty of the surrounds, whilst succumbing to some unashamed cosseting and relaxation.

    Domaine Brusset, Gigondas Tradition Le Grand MontmirailSlightly north, but still on the eastern side, rise the picturesque peaks of the pretty mountain range, known as ‘Les Dentelles de Montmirail’, literally translated as ‘the lace of Montmirail’. Nestled below are the vineyards of Gigondas (Domaine Brusset Gigondas Tradition, le Grand Montmirail 2013) and Vacqueyras, which both produce rich, fleshy, herb and blackberry-scented reds of depth and complexity.

    Finally, between the cities of Orange and Avignon, sits, the famous town of Châteauneuf du Pape, with its 3200 hectares of vines. The cobbled streets snake below the 14th century Papal residency, home of the Catholic Church in Medieval times – the Papal keys are the familiar logo, embossed on the majority of bottles of its just as familiar wine.  This is where the Southern Rhone is at its opulent, voluptuous, sumptuous best, the very pinnacle of what this region is about. There are top notch white wines, produced from Marsanne, Roussanne and Viognier, but it is the majesty of the reds, which take the breath away, with their heady, succulent depth, oozing sweet fruit, wild herbs, and a wild, intoxicating Southern opulence, produced from differing blends of up to 13 grape varieties. Domaine la Janasse make both reds and whites, which typify the area.

    With alcohol levels frequently hitting 15%, these are definitely food wines. The cuisine of the area is some of the best, yet simplest in France, based on the glories of what the sun-baked fields produce. Lamb is the main meat here, often served griddled with wild herbs, garlic and the freshest of tomatoes, courgettes and peppers. In winter rich, lamb stews, studded with olives make a perfect foil to the rich wines. There’s game, there is a cornucopia of intensely-coloured vegetables, and a glut of heavily scented, richly fleshy peaches, apricots, nectarines and melons. With river fish from the Rhône, and daily catches from the nearby Mediterranean, it’s a foodie’s dream.

    At the far south of the Rhône Valley, lie the regions of Tavel and Lirac, the former known for its robust, dry Roses, Thereafter, the olive groves and and fruit trees become ever-more abundant, the heady scent of the Mediterranean beckons, and the majestic Rhône Valley gives way to the golden glory and azure skies of Provence and its own charms.

    By Angela Mount





  • A Summery French Cheese Board

    Cheese and wine is not just for after a meal or for a cold winter’s night. As most cheese is better matched with white wines it makes sense to make a meal of it and create a summer cheese board that can be eaten with some crusty bread and a mouthwatering salad.

    Comté and a Jura Savignin

    Comté cheese comes from the region of Jura, eastern France – a beautiful area of mountains, rolling pastures and pristine fresh air. This hard cheese is rich, concentrated and nutty with a savoury, brown butter flavour that develops as it matures. The 36 month aged cheeses have an almost roasted chicken skin flavour and these are brilliant on a cheese board matched with one of the local wines, Domaine de la Renardière Les Terrasses Savignin Arbois Pupillin, Jura 2012. This really is a unique wine full of flinty minerality, walnuts and brown spice, with lip-smacking freshness and a savoury dry texture. It is one of the best wine matches you’re likely to come across – the two were made for each other.

    Brie de Meaux and Champagne

    Brie de Meaux is made just outside Paris, and what do Parisians love? Champagne! Made only 45 minutes away by TGV, Champagne is the ideal accompaniment, particularly those made just from white grapes, Blanc de Blancs. Brie is a creamy soft cheese which can have buttery flavours of mushroom and almond as it ages. The acidity of Champagne works well here, the bubbles caressing the milky texture of the cheese and the hints of nut and brioche matching those in an aged example. Try Jacquart’s Blanc de Blancs 2006 – now almost 10 years old, this wine is rich and complex with hints of brazil nuts and brioche but lots of refreshing lime and apple acidity.

    Goat’s cheese with Sancerre

    France’s most famous French goat’s cheese is made in the Loire Valley - the birthplace of Sauvignon Blanc. Crottin de Chavignon is made in a tiny village of just 200 people and is the perfect partner to the local wine, Sancerre.  The acidity in a good goat’s cheese is the key to why this pairing works – the high natural acidity in Sauvignon Blanc grown on the flinty soils of Sancerre is the ideal accompaniment. Try Domaine des Vieux Pruniers, Sancerre 2013, full of citrus and herby green leaf flavours or a great alternative like the fresh, minty Sauvignon de Touraine, Domaine de Pierre 2014 - also recommended with a bowl of Moules Marinières; see our recipe here.

    Camembert with Vouvray

    Normandy’s Camembert is a classic with the local ciders, so why not try a sparkling wine that’s all about the baked apple-scented fruit flavours. Aged Camembert is richer and more pungent that Brie so needs a little more oomph from its wine partner – step forward Chenin Blanc. Didier Champalou’s  honeyed Vouvray Sec 2013 has lovely notes of warm hay and red crunchy apple which work brilliantly, while his sparkling Vouvray Brut NV is cool and refreshing with light bubbles and hints of quince and Bramley - particularly good with baked Camembert.

    Sauternes and Roquefort

    The classic British cheese and wine combo at Christmas is Port and Stilton, but the French prefer the sweet, honeyed, richness and refreshing bite of Sauternes with their blue cheeses. Roquefort’s salty taste and high toned acidity is perfect with the apricot and mushroomy aromas of Sauternes. The sweetness complements the salty tang while the natural acidity in the grapes is the perfect foil for the cheese’s acidity. Try a chilled Clos Dady’s Sauternes 2011 - a great match for blue cheese but equally a wine which can be drunk with your al fresco desserts – perhaps a crème brûlée or tarte tartin?


    Cheese and white wine? Let's take this outside...

    By Chris Penwarden

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

     Domaine de la Janasse, Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2013

    Domaine de la Janasse, Côtes du Rhône Rouge 2013

    £11.75    £10.34

    Another producer with a talent for making great wines at different prices is the never-less-than-superb Domaine de la Janasse. The brother and sister act of Christophe and Isabelle Sabon make some of my favourite Châteauneuf du Pape...But my pick is their red Côtes du Rhône, with its meat, herbs and sweet spice.

    David Williams, The Observer

    Prices are valid from 29.04.15 to 31.05.15

    Free delivery on orders over £100 | Save 10% on 12 bottles | Save 5% on 6 bottles

  • Tried & Tested: Nonya Chicken Curry with Trimbach Riesling

    The dish:

    I was told that Trimbach’s Riesling would be a great match with curry as it’s renowned for being a perfect partner with kedgeree. I thought I’d try it with a Nonya curry recipe, a style of cuisine particularly popular in Singapore which combines the heritage of Malaysian and Chinese cooking.

    I must admit that I was blow away by both the curry and the wine match: The curry itself was fantastic – a warming dish of fragrant herbs and spices with cooling, rich coconut. It’s probably the best curry I’ve ever made and one which was utterly complemented by the wine.

    The wine:

    I’ve tried the Trimbach Riesling before - it’s a bone dry, crisp, citrusy wine which makes a mouthwatering aperitif. But I wasn’t prepared for its complete transformation with food.

    The austerity and steely acidity of the wine fell away to reveal layers of complexity when paired with the spicy curry. The wine became creamier in texture, its lime flavours echoing those in the dish, while the fruit became peachy and tropical. I started to detect hints of coconut, coriander leaf and grapefruit on the finish along with... (yes, this was one of my tasting notes)...“ripples of pandan leaf”. I might have started to go over the top at this point, but I became convinced that this was the best food and wine match I’d ever tried!

    Rick Stein’s Chicken Curry Kapitan from Far Eastern Odyssey

    Serves 6


    1 Kg skinned boneless chicken thighs

    4 heaped tbsp desiccated coconut

    2 tbsp vegetable oil

    Curry paste made up of below, whizzed into smooth consistency in blender:

    • 6 dried red Kashmiri chillies, soaked in hot water for 30 mins then drained
    • 275g shallots or onions, roughly chopped
    • 2 tsp five spice powder
    • 2 tsp turmeric powder
    • 25g garlic, roughly chopped
    • 50g peeled fresh ginger
    • 4 fat lemon grass stalks, core chopped
    • ½ tsp shrimp paste
    • 2 tbsp vegetable oil

    400ml coconut milk

    2 x 7.5cm cinnamon sticks

    2 tsp palm sugar

    Juice of half lime

    Handful of coriander leaves – roughly chopped as garnish

    (I also added an orange pepper and some baby corn for some veggie crunch – these were cooked about 5 mins from the end)

    Serve with boiled basmati or Thai fragrant rice.


    Cut the chicken thighs into thick strips. Heat up a wok or large fry pan over medium heat and add desiccated coconut – toast for a few mins until golden. Leave to cool then whizz in a processor, grinding finely.

    Add oil to wok or fry pan on low heat. Add spice paste and fry for five mins, turning occasionally. Add chicken and fry for further 2-3 mins. Add coconut milk, cinnamon, sugar and teaspoon of salt and simmer for 30 mins until chicken tender and sauce reduced and thickened slightly.

    About 5 mins from the end I added some orange pepper and baby sweetcorn, but feel free to add any veggies you like or omit.

    Add the lime juice and toasted coconut and simmer for 1 more minute. Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with rice.

    By Chris Penwarden

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