Monthly Archives: August 2015

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

    J.Lohr, Wildflower, Valdigue 2014

    J. Lohr 'Wildflower' Valdiguie 2014

    This wine is vibrant and red-purple in color with bright aromas of boysenberry, Bing cherry, raspberry and pomegranate. The fruit complexion on the palate is equally bright, dominated by pomegranate and raspberry. Serve chilled.

    £11.95  £9.95

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

    Prices valid until 01.09.15

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

    Antu Ninquén Syrah 2013

    Antu Ninquén Syrah 2013

    Deep, brooding, inky purple in colour with a developed, aromatic nose dominated by ripe black fruits and smoky oak. The palate is full bodied and concentrated, dripping with spicy blackberry fruit and a fair wedge of toasty vanilla oak, finishing soft, supple and rounded.

    £13.95  £10.95

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

    Prices valid until 01.09.15

  • An evening with Howard Park at Allium Restaurant

    Great Western Wine and Allium Restaurant run some pretty good wine dinners, and I’ve been lucky enough to attend most of them. However, the prospect of a combination of Chris Staines’ magic culinary touch with the wines from one of the most revered wine producers in Western Australia, Howard Park, was one that grabbed my attention as soon as it was announced, and was heavily highlighted in the diary from an early stage.

    I’ve loved Howard Park wines since I first discovered them, when staying with my brother-in-law and his family, in a rather gorgeous Hispanic mansion in Elizabeth Bay, Sydney. I was over on my first buying trip to Australia, and had lots to learn… and I’m still learning.  In those days, Western Australia had yet to really strike a chord in the UK, it was all about Southern Australia and brands.  I was introduced to Leston Cabernet Sauvignon and Howard Park Estate Chardonnay at a barbecue overlooking Sydney Harbour and I've never forgotten their elegance, poise and indisputable style.

    Fast-track forward more years than I care to remember, and I've come to know Jeff and Amy Burch, the passionate and tirelessly enthusiastic owners of Howard Park, and Burch family vineyards. Owners of one of Western Australia’s top wine estates, they own vineyards in both Margaret River, and The Great Southern, and their philosophy is simple – quality, quality, quality – and keep it family-owned.  Established as recently as 1988, they are true pioneers in terms of how they are showcasing the true beauty of Western Australian wines, and creating the very best of wines from their region. They also get a big thumbs up for putting all their wines (yes, reds included) under screw-cap, rather than cork since the year 2000.

    Western Australia is renowned for its elegant, high quality wines, which have a thoroughbred, restrained and complex style, with freshness and poise. The Burch family own vineyards both in the iconic Margaret River and also in the Great Southern region, which lies about 5 hours away, and create award-winning wines in both areas.

    Jeff and Amy purchased the property in Margaret River in 1988, a beautiful piece of land, with a run-down cottage. Development started in 1995 and they made their first vintage in 1996.  With Jeff and Amy at the helm, and their children also involved in the business, they are now the largest family wine business in Western Australia. I love their pioneering spirit, I love their family values, and this is what great family wineries are all about. They have a very simple, but effective philosophy 'Premium wine can only come from excellent fruit, and therefore plant each grape variety in the best location to suit the climate and the soils' said Jeff.  Howard Park wines are only made in very small quantities, and are made with intense care and craftsmanship.

    Howard Park Great Southern RieslingSo what better showcase than at Allium Restaurant, for an evening starring some of their great wines, with the sublime cuisine of Michelin-starred chef Chris Staines.  The newly-revamped Allium Bar was buzzing, and amidst the eclectic décor, and spectacularly back-lit bar, guests were served the first wine of the evening, and one of my absolute favourites, the bright, citrussy, lime-drenched Howard Park Great Southern Riesling 2013.  It’s fresh, it’s bright, and searingly zesty, with a unique mash-up of fresh lime, lime cordial, rose petals, and a hint of fat, luxurious honeysuckle, with a searingly crisp finish – an amazing wine which was spot on with the little salmon tartare canapés.

    Howard Park ChardonnayHoward Park Estate Chardonnay 2012 was the first wine to be served, once guests had taken their seats.  It’s not easy to find the right partner to this award-winning wine, which is restrained, and almost Burgundian in style, with a silky-smooth, aristocratic demeanour – bright, lively, full of succulent, ripe peach fruit, but with a cool, very clean edge, and a nervy freshness. Chris’ salad of charred Atlantic prawns, avocado puree, seaweed and sesame salad, managed to sashay a beautiful dance with this wine .

    One of Chris Staines’ many skills is balancing textures, as well as flavours, and teasing guests with the unusual flavour combinations; smokey, gently-charred prawns wobbled atop a mound of crunchy, spiced vegetables and herbs, with the finest of shredded  carrots, asparagus, beansprouts, and leaves, mingled with a dressing of soy, tamarind and palm sugar, with hints of ginger, and a touch of mango thrown in… and all of this topped with a snap-sharp, crunchy, sweet sesame crisp… and tempered by a creamy avocado and sesame puree. The wine match worked, simply because the elegance, acidity and complexity of the wine was both able to match the riotous, exotic, sweet, sour, hot, salty flavours of the dish, and  it’s freshness also managed to lift the dish to another level. It was delicious – and, having saved a little of the Great Southern Riesling aperitif wine,   I felt that the multi-facetted characteristic of this wine worked even better.

    Howard Park Miamup ChardonnayNext up was my favourite wine and food match of the night. Howard Park Miamup Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is a perfect example of top notch Western Australian reds at affordable prices. It’s polished, elegant, and oozing class, yet with  a velvety softness and early-drinkability. I loved the purity and intensity of the ripe, perfumed blackcurrant fruit, mingled with hints of eucalypt, ground nutmeg and cedar.  There is also a definite waft of bitter chocolate in this wine, and it’s this component, that Chris very cleverly picked up in the matching dish – Lightly smoked wood pigeon with cauliflower ‘couscous’, cauliflower puree and bitter cacao. If I had to pick one dish, which really defines Chris Staines’ style of cuisine, this would be it – challenging, detailed, and juxtappositions of textures, flavours and colours, with that trademark Asian twist.

    There was a lot of sweetness in this dish, but this merely served to heighten the ripe, bright fruit character of the wine. Meltingly tender slices of pink pigeon breast were served alongside a dreamy, light-as-air little  oriental nem, with softly yielding rice paper pastry, within which nestled an aromatic, masterfully seasoned filling of minced pigeon and duck, spiced with Chilli, lemongrass, star anise and cinnamon .  Minute shreds of crunchy cauliflower and dabs of glistening, bitter chocolate infused sauce finished off this little masterpiece, with the cocoa, serving only to enhance even further the dark, silky richness of the wine.

    To  showcase two of Howard Park’s most prized reds, the final, fitting course was a  Short rib of beef, with shitake mushrooms, grilled broccoli and lightly pickled ginger. Once again, textures, colours, flavours, and that characteristic umami effect were to the fore. Chris Staines’ never goes for the easy option, and some of the intricate spicing and fusion of flavours in this dish may have looked challenging, on paper at least. But Chef worked his now familiar blend of craftsmanship and alchemy, and produced a sumptuous plate of artistry.  Succulent, sticky, oriental -spiced, melt in the mouth, tender beef, was topped with crunchy, charred spring onion shards, and a combination of  al dente broccoli, and  a  creamy puree of the same.  Nestled alongside was a  deliciously rich quenelle of  sweet, earthy, aromatic shitake mushrooms, combined with thai  green curry paste and herbs.

    Onto the wines – both Cabernet Sauvignons, both the same vintage, but oh so different. Western Australia produces world  class Cabernet Sauvignons – the weather is cooler than in most of South Australia, and also benefit from the nearby ocean. This gives the wines an added elegance, balanced with beautifully ripe, fruit intense wines.

    Howard Park Leston Cabernet SauvignonHoward Park Leston Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 is one of the flagship wines of the company. It’s from the Leston vineyard, named after Jeff’s father and mentor. It’s a wine of amazing purity and breeding, still a baby, with many, many years ahead of it.  With glorious, intense aromas of cassis, dark chocolate, mint and cedar, it is enchanting on the nose, and delivers  layers of dark, sweet dark berry flavours, with hints of violets, and a long, balanced finish.  It has all the nerviness of youth,  but the deep, subdued powers of this wine are already evident, and it will simply blossom, and reveal another layer of character and personality year after year. Now’s the time to buy some, and let it slumber gently for a few years.

    Howard Park Abercrombie Cabernet SauvignonHoward Park Abercrombie Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 was an altogether bigger, bolder red, at this stage of its evolution. Named after Jeff’s great grandfather (keeping it in the family), It’s produced from a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from both the Leston Vineyard in Margaret River, and also the Dennis vineyard, in Mount Barker, Great Southern. The  proportions vary, year to year, depending on the vintage and the quality of fruit. This wine has a majestic, brooding intensity and latent power. It’s bold, rich and savoury, with that characteristic blackcurrant and mint character, but with enticing hints of sandalwood, sweet spice, mocha and earthy, exotic truffles.  Still in its infancy, the textures and promise of things to come are all there – powerful, concentrated, with breeding and an aristocratic hauteur.

    Great Western Wine and Allium wine dinners are always special – this one definitely raised the bar on all levels.  Thanks to Jeff and Amy Burch and to Chris Staines and his team for a thoroughly tasty, entertaining and enjoyable evening.

    By Angela Mount

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

    Heartland Stickleback Red, South Austrailia 2012


    Heartland Stickleback Red

    Fragrant, spicy, juicy and full bodied. A rich violet / purple colour. Chocolate spice and black fruit characters of cherry and plum on the palate, with a vibrant blackcurrant lift. The Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon gives the wine a rich, savoury character. Dolcetto enhances the blend, offering firm tannins to the mix. Lagrein contributes spiciness and a fresh, crisp acid profile, enhancing the wine's structure.

    £9.95  £8.95

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

    Prices valid until 01.09.15

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

    Eidosela Albariño Rias Baixas 2014

    Eidosela Albarino Rias Biaxas

    Full of evocative summery flavours: apricots, honeysuckle and juicy white peaches. Wonderful sense of lightness; fresh and refreshing, yet with no shortage of intensity or length of flavour. Gentle mineral character, almost hidden beneath the beautiful aromas. The wine's freshness is surprisingly long-lasting, and it drinks well for 2-3 years after the vintage.

    Delicious on its own, we also recommend it with any kind of good quality, simply-prepared seafood. Try it with crab, mussels, langoustines..........or even fish and chips. Vegetarian? Try with mild, creamy cheeses or butternut squash and feta salad.

    Was £12.95 Now £11.40

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

    Prices valid until 01.09.15

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