Monthly Archives: December 2016

  • Ring the changes this Christmas

    Christmas WineStuck in a wine rut?  Bored with the same old tried and tested?  Dare to be different this Christmas with a selection of wines that will keep you in your comfort zone of style, but may tempt you to try a few new gems.

    At their recent, sell-out Portfolio tasting, Great Western Wine introduced a new add- on –  the wine walks.  Every half hour a group of guests who wanted to explore new wines but needed a bit of direction signed up for a 20 minute wine speed- date; call it personalised wine shopping if you will.  They told me the styles of wine they liked, we went and found something similar, yet completely different to their norm.

    Fascinating; it got guests trying wines that they admitted, they would have ignored otherwise. My point; if you’re not sure, ask advice, and don’t be afraid of branching out, be it from Sauvignon blanc or Malbec.  And the proof?  Guests loved the new wines they were guided towards, and sales indicated that the new discoveries were some of the most popular of the evening.

    Here’s a quick guide for ringing the changes this Christmas including some that you voted favourite of the night at our October tasting

    Estacion 1883 Bonarda, TrapicheIf you like Malbec…. Dare to be different by staying with Argentinian wine, but trying out Argentina’s most widely grown, but lesser-known grape variety, Bonarda.  This proved hugely popular with Malbec-lovers at the Portfolio tasting.  Estacion 1883 Bonarda, Trapiche 2014 ( £11.95). Similarly rich, and sultry, Bonarda is the softer side of Argentinian reds – Packed to the brim with meltingly tender, seductive blackberry fruit, hints of violets and a smooth, spicy finish.  Bold, brazen, and with just as much personality as Malbec, but with a hint of softness. If Malbec is the muscular male lead in an Argentine tango, Bonarda is the feisty, seductive and entrancing female. Oh, and perfect for the festive feast!

    If you like fruity whites … Some of the most popular requests on the tasting night, were to search out fruity whites. Wines that are not overly acidic, dry, but with more richness than many; succulent, full of flavour, great on their own  or with food. Two of the most popular wines on the night were lesser-known, deliciously mouthwatering whites that ticked all the boxes -  Yealands Estate Pinot Gris 2016 ( £12.95) – this is not a New Zealand version of Pinot Grigio, this is a vibrant, dynamic gem of a white, jam-packed with style and flavour – fleshy peach, ginger, nectarine, nutmeg, wild herbs, honeysuckle, with a lipsmackingly crisp finish – you name it, it’s probably got it.  This is one of my top choices for a white with Christmas lunch.  The other , lesser-known discovery of the night takes us back to Argentina Don David Torrontes El Esteco 2016 (£11.50).  What’s Torrontes? it’s Argentina’s white grape equivalent of Malbec, but far less known.  If you like aromatic, spicy, yet citrus-fresh whites, such as Riesling, give this one a try.  Exotic, fragrant,rose and apricot aromas almost trick the senses, and you might expect a sweeter style of wine; but don’t be fooled. This crisply fruity white has attitude, character and a killer finish ( back to my Argentine tango analogy!).  Our wine walk guests loved it – classy, bursting with as much tropical fruit character as could be packed in, and then soaring to a crescendo of  lemon and lime streaked freshness and zestiness on the finish.  Another top white wine match for Christmas – salmon, seafood, goose, turkey.  This one can take them all on.

    Planeta, Cerasuolo di VittoriaIf you like soft, lighter reds -   it’s not always easy to whittle out these styles, although Pinot Noir is the obvious route if you don’t like heavy reds;  quite frankly, I often prefer a more gentle, less assertive red, which isn’t overloaded on the alcohol or tannins front, but has a vibrant, juicy fruitiness, especially at Christmas time, with the overload of rich foodCerasuolo di Vittoria 2014, Planeta (£15.50) is just the ticket. Cerasuolo means cherry, and this is exactly how this wine tastes. From a blend of the Sicilian grapes Nero d’Avola and the lively Frappato, it’s bright, bouncy, and crammed with lively, juicy cherry and strawberry fruit, with a soft, velvety yet fresh flavour, a modest 13% alcohol, and a refreshing edge which will perk up jaded taste buds over the festive season.

    Happy Christmas!

    By Angela Mount

  • Delicious mulled wine you can make at home

    Festive Mulled Wine recipe

    Nothing best describes Christmas in a glass, like mulled wine. Steeped in tradition, this seasonal staple has origins stretching as far back to the time of the Ancient Greeks and Romans. Now hallmarks of this classic treat, herbs and spices were originally added to mask the taste of unpalatable wine. Luckily, as winemakers have perfected their art, wines these days don’t need their flavours masked with a gamut of spices. However, the tradition of mulled wine has withstood the test of time – something we’re incredibly thankful for.

    So loved is mulled wine, that the tradition permeates across a raft of countries and cultures around the world. In Germany it's called Glühwein and is occasionally made with fruit wine; head north to Scandinavia and you'll find Glögg, which is usually served with a homemade spiced biscuit or cake; and in Quebec they mix in maple syrup and hard liquor and call it Caribou. Now a global phenomenon, iterations of mulled wine can include everything from red and white wines, to sangria blends and those calling for vermouth and port.

    Remember, when you’re shopping for plonk for your scrumptious holiday treat, look for a big, bold, and full-bodied red – think Syrah and Malbec. Delicate wines with nuanced flavours, such as Pinot Noir and Tempranillo, will be overpowered by the punchy spices in the mulling process.

    So, now you’ve got the background, it’s time to whip yourself up a steaming mug of mulled wine.

    2 bottles of red wine
    2 shots of port
    2 oranges cut into 5 segments and stuffed with cloves
    1 lemon (peel only)
    1 cinnamon stick
    1 teaspoon of nutmeg
    5 cloves
    5 cardamom pods
    2-5 tablespoons of brown sugar

    Heat all the ingredients in a pan on a gentle heat for 20 minutes. This will allow the spices to infuse into the wine; but remember, don’t let the liquid come to a boil as this will leave behind a bitter taste. Plus, it’ll mean the alcohol in the wine will boil away. Slow and steady is the way to go.

    Once the mulled wine is warm – not piping hot – strain the mixture and pour it into a jug ready to serve.

  • Roaming through the Rhone

    Domaine Brusset DinnerIf any Rhone wine lovers reading this have not yet made acquaintance with the delights of Domaine Brusset, I recommend that you do before Christmas.  Not only are the majority of the wines perfect festive fair, and brilliantly friendly with turkey, goose, and various party gatherings,  but they’re fascinatingly good, and superb value to boot.

    Last week, Great Western Wine’s Fine Wine Manager Tom King, hosted a delightful evening at the award-winning Allium restaurant, where executive Chef Chris Staines, created a stellar menu to showcase each of the wines.  Tom deserves extra praise for stepping in at the last minute  when winery owner Laurent Brusset was unfortunately delayed in a road pile up close to Dijon, but Tom was on expert form, and did Laurent proud, with his customary mix of intense knowledge and humour.

    This was a red wine only dinner; challenging for Chef, but ably delivered.  Chris Staines is undoubtedly one of the most wine-knowledgeable chefs around, and it’s refreshing to see his stance on wine dinners.  Unsurprisingly, his palate is fine-tuned, but unlike many chefs, who will take heed of wine styles , or pay lip service to them, before devising their menu, Chris insists on tasting each wine, and will then build the menu to showcase the wine – scents of ginger and nectarine? Chris will work something in. Mocha and dark chocolate on the palate? Again, I’ve seen Chris weave cacao into spicy meat dishes. Genius.

    Brusset’s world is the southern Rhone, that vast expanse of France, below Valence, leading to Provence; a land of heat, sunshine, olive trees and lavender fields, with sleepy villages, full of golden-hued houses, cafes, and village squares, where communities congregate.  In terms of wine, this is the land of Cotes du Rhone; within this, there are 18 villages, which now lay claim to their own appellation.  Unlike many regions, the magic of the southern Rhone is the mix of grape varieties, which all add to the unique mix of complexity and difference. Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre and Cinsault are the classics, but many more abound.

    Domaine Brusset, Côtes du Ventoux Les BoudallesIn an unusual twist, one of my favourite, great value reds Côtes du Ventoux ‘Les Boudalles’ 2015, was served as an aperitif.  Had it been Summer, I’d have loved to have seen this served chilled. Côtes du Ventoux lies just south of the main Côtes du Rhone region, and produces some of the very best value Rhone wine around. Soft, juicy, with gentle, sweet plum and cherry fruit, at under £10, it’s a steal – stock up for Christmas Eve and Boxing Day parties, it’s a real crowd-pleaser.

    It’s not easy to pair a red wine with a starter, so Chris Staines was challenged and came up with a perfectly seared piece of pepper and sesame crusted tuna, enhanced, in his own unique way with a melange of chilli, turmeric, coriander and cumin infused lentils with a spicy mooli relish and a kick of yuzu.

    Tuna, like monkfish is a meaty fish that can cope with red wine.  Brusset Côtes du Rhone 'Laurent B’ 2015 was juicy,and packed with forest fruit flavours and hints of black pepper.  Bright, fruity, and another absolute Christmas bargain.  However for this dish, I found the alternative wine, Cairanne 'Les Travers’ 2014, the winner, with its sweet, rich, concentrated fruit, which matched with the natural sweetness of the tuna and the pepper spice. I’d certainly recommend this to anyone looking for a rich, silky red to impress, and tasting far more expensive than it is!

    For the main course, we moved to two wines from one of the best-known areas within the southern Rhone, Gigondas, known for its rich, meaty, well structured reds.  Top end Rhone wines are known for their natural match with rich, wintry dishes – this one didn’t disappoint. Meltingly tender, slow-cooked braised beef, with an enticing medley of autumnal favourites – slow-roasted and pan-fried, earthily sweet Jerusalem artichokes, on a bed of crunchy winter cabbage, sweetened with bacon, carrot and celeriac, atop a creamy and pungent artichoke puree, all infused with the heady scent of truffles – Autumn on a plate.

    Domaine Brusset, Gigondas Tradition Le Grand MontmirailTwo wines to stand up to this heady dish – both Gigondas; the first a dazzling, perfumed, rich red, with a bewitching orange peel and Christmas spice scent, and a bold, sweetly enticing flavour Gigondas ‘Le Grand Montmirail’ 2014 – from grapes grown in the shadows of the Montmirail mountains, sharp, jagged-edged hilltops and hot sunshine.  If you’re serving game, or slow roast lamb over Christmas, this will make you smile. What will make you smile even more is the utterly delicious and majestic ‘Les Hauts de Montmirail 2014 a stunningly crafted red, produced from the Grenache and Carignan grapes, oozing richness, concentration and class.  Packed with inky, licorice and dried fig character, it was absolutely spot on with the beef, and would serve as a worthy red to serve on Christmas Day.

    Rhone wines from the inky, Syrah-dominant reds of the north, through to the fragrant, yet rich diversity of the southern Rhone offer great value at every price point.  If you haven’t explored this producer yet, it’s a great time to start.  Enjoy!

    By Angela Mount

  • Winter Warmers

    With November more than half way over, there's no more denying it: winter is well and truly on its way. So now's the time to pull the woolen scarfs and beanies out from the depths of your cupboard, whack your central heating into gear, and stock your wine rack up a collection of warming winter reds. Which is where we come in. With an impressive line-up of some of the most soulful reds from around the world, we've got a tipple to suit just about any palate. While we've picked out just five, rest assured we have plenty more to keep you going through the chilly winter months.

    Bertani Amarone Valpantena 2013

    Bertani Amarone Valpantena

    Deep dark ruby with a violet rim. Notes of black and sour cherries, berries, spices and dried fruit. The palate is creamy with soft tannins and integrated oak.  This is a lighter, fruitier and younger version of Bertani’s icon Amarone Classico.

    Quinta do Douro Red 2014

    Quinta Do Crasto, Douro Red

    An incredibly well-crafted, moreish wine that you can enjoy with lamb or other seasonal winter dishes. On the nose, we have intense aromas of blackberries and raspberries, while the palate is bursting with wild berry characters. Very ripe fruit with ample tannin and spice.

    Melodias Malbec, Trapiche 2015

    Melodias Malbec, Trapiche A rich, red-colored wine with violet hues, redolent of plums and cherries. Round in the mouth with a touch of truffle and vanilla.  The ideal wine for grilled meat. It also goes very well with pasta, mild to spicy cuisine and semi-hard cheeses such as Gouda, Edam or Gruyere.

    Are you Game? Pinot Noir 2013

    Are you Game? Pinot Noir

    With a dash of Zinfandel, this Pinot Noir blushes bright ruby red. Aromas of cherry and red plum play with earthy characters and notes of oak. The palate is fresh with rich red fruits.

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