The Grapevine

  • Spirit of the Week

    Spirit of the Week - Chase Vodka

  • Make it at home....Crasto seared foie gras & pear with port reduction

    Crasto Recipe

    Appetiser - Serves 6

    - 1 lobe fresh foie gras,
    - about 18 to 21 oz (500 to
    600 g)
    - Coarse sea salt
    - Black pepper from the mill

    Pears with port
    - 3 fine pears
    - 1 tsp superfine sugar
    - 1¼ cups (300 ml) red port

    Port reduction
    - 2 cups (500 ml) port
    - 1 tsp superfine sugar
    - Juice of 1 lemon
    - 6 Sarawak black

    Pears with port
    Peel the pears with a knife, then cut in two. Pour the port into a saucepan, add the sugar, and then the pears. Cook covered over moderate heat for 5 minutes. To concentrate the aromas, reduce the port until it forms a syrup. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool.

    Port reduction
    In a small pan, mix together all the ingredients and reduce until the liquid has a syrupy consistency.

    Preparing and cooking the foie gras
    Choose a nice rounded foie, shiny and firm, without any blemishes. Dip the blade of a knife in warm water and cut slices ¾ in (2 cm) thick. Heat a skillet 11 in (28 cm) in diameter until very hot without adding any fat. Put the slices of foie gras in the frying pan and turn the heat down: 3 minutes will be enough to cook the foie gras on both sides. If necessary, turn them over several times so that they are cooked and pleasantly colored. Prick the foie gras with the point of a knife to the centre: the knife must come out warm but not burning hot (in that case the foie gras would be overcooked). Transfer to a plate lined with paper towels, then season with coarse sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve immediately with the syrupy pears and the port reduction.

    Quinta Do Crasto, Late Bottled Vintage Port 2011 available to buy here 

  • Time to Sizzle

    Bank Holiday BBQ Wines

    There’s nothing like the unmistakable smell of a smoky, sweet, aromatic BBQ!  We’re in the peak of the holiday period, and in true British spirit, barbecues are being lit all over the country, in the sun, on beaches, and under umbrellas.

    Burgers, steak and sausages are barbecue naturals, but these days it’s all about the marinades, the seasonings, and a touch of the exotic. Here are some of my favourite quick and easy marinades with wine ideas to match:

    (Vary the quantities of each ingredient depending on taste)

    Elki Pedro Ximenez Elqui ValleyJapanese style chicken – mix teriyaki sauce with some soy sauce, clear honey, crushed garlic and lime juice.  Pour over boneless chicken thighs, marinade for an hour, then BBQ or grill.  The marinade is sweet, but the spicing is delicate, so I opt for aromatic whites; Elki Pedro Ximenez is a great value, a firm favourite, and perfect for a weekday treat; from the northernmost outposts of Chile’s wine regions, it’s full of peach, apricot and lemon zest, with a honeysuckle scent, but a deliciously dry finish, which copes perfectly with the sweetness of the teriyaki and the soy sauces.

    Ribafreixo, Pato Frio Cashmere Rosé

    Seared tuna or swordfish – marinate in olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and a selection of fresh Mediterranean herbs, flat-leaf parsley, salt, and black pepper.  Give this a good 3 hours, for the flavours to penetrate. Sear for 3 minutes each side. Bone dry whites, or crisp rose wines are best with this, and really bring out the fresh, vibrant flavours – try this with the delicately pale, and appropriately-named Cashmere Pato Frio Rose 2015 , a bone dry, subtle, strawberry and redcurrant-infused pink from Southern Portugal, with a citrus tang.

    Mas Delmera, Monastrell Reserva Spiced leg of lamb – mix ground coriander, ground cumin, paprika, dried thyme, crushed garlic and a pinch of both cayenne pepper and cinnamon into softened butter – cut deep slashes into a leg of lamb (this also works, with boned shoulder, or with lamb steaks), and rub the spice mix in, pushing it into the incisions. This sweet, Middle Eastern spice rub calls for a bold, yet sweetly spiced red, with softness and richness – it works a treat with the brooding richness of Mas Delmera Monastrell 2009, a glorious, and ridiculously great value, velvety, seductive red from the South East of Spain – dark fruit, rich spice, hints of mocha, - it’s got the lot.

    Yealands Estate PGR Pinot Gewurztraminer RieslingIndonesian satay -  whizz up garlic cloves, shallots, red chilli, paprika, cumin, coriander, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime zest, palm sugar, fresh ginger and crunchy peanut butter in a food processor.  Chop your meat of choice (I normally use chicken or pork) into bite size chunks, and toss in the marinade.  Leave for a couple of hours, put onto water-soaked wooden skewers and toss onto the BBQ coals until cooked through.  This is a punchy, strongly spiced dish, which needs a wine with enough ‘oomph’ to balance out the flavours.  My pick would be Yealands PGR 2015, a heady, exotic, yet refreshingly zesty blend of Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurztraminer from one of New Zealand’s leading wine producers, and one of my go-to choices for most Asian-inspired marinades.

    Heartland Shiraz Langhorne Creek Limestone CoastSteak – there are a million and one ways to marinade and tenderise steak – from simple oil, balsamic vinegar, herbs and lemon, through many variations of Asian rubs, to spicy chipotle/chilli infused Mexican inspired styles. If you stick to the classic Italian marinade, then delicious Tuscan reds will match well; however, throw in challenging spice and sauces from Asia to Mexico, and you need big, bold, spicy reds – my top picks would be Heartland Shiraz 2013, with its rich, heady cocoa and blackberry character, and rich, sumptuous depth, or push the boat out and try the multi-award winning Unanime 2011 La Mascota, winner of trophies and awards across the world, and the very best of what Argentina has to offer – a blend of Cabernet and Malbec, it’s about as intense, voluptuous, and gorgeously rich as you can get – sink into its mesmeric charms and enjoy the heady richness of this dark fruit, licorice, cinnamon spice and dark chocolate- stashed delight.

    By Angela Mount

  • Summertime, and the livin' is easy...

    Gerschwin’s iconic ballad epitomises the lazy, hazy days of the summer vibe, regardless of our British weather. Alice Cooper’s more rebellious ‘ School’s out for Summer’ and Madonna’s early disco classic ‘ Holiday’ offer different takes on the musical theme for Summer hols – laid back, upbeat, off-beat…. Diametrically opposed styles… and it’s no different with wine.

    Whatever the mood, there’s a wine to match; whether you’re going abroad or on staycation, there are wines to greet you at the end of the day, or for weekend picnics, and evening bbqs. Personally,for an early evening pick me up, I’m ever more tempted to sink into the increasingly impressive range of on-trend gins that Great Western Wine have just started to stock, but that’s for another blog

    First up, let’s look at wines that work for picnics and alfresco lunches, be it at the beach, by a river, or in the garden – keep it light, keep it fresh.  What you don’t want is rich, oaky Chardonnays, and full-on, meaty reds at this time of day.  Go for crisp, refreshing wines that will keep the mood high.

    Domaine de Brizé Saumur Brut RoséPink Fizz is never more popular than at this time of year, but go off-piste, try something new,yet still get great value for money with a lesser-known gem. Saumur Rosé NV, Domaine Brizé  (£12.95 down to £11.50 throughout August) – far better value than pink Champagne and more interesting than most other pink sparklers – from the Loire valley, deliciously fruity, bursting with ripe strawberry fruit, bone dry, with a citrus squeak, and utterly perfect for Summer – and made on a small family estate by people who nurture what they create.  Stick this bottle in a tub of ice and enjoy the glories of the beautiful Loire valley.

    Quinta da Lixa, Vinho VerdeKeeping it light at lunchtime is important; modern style Vinho Verde is making a big comeback – squeaky clean, bone dry, and mouth-puckeringly fresh, the prettily-labelled Quinta da Lixa Vinho Verde 2015 (£8.95), with its delightfully crisp, green apple and grapefruit zestiness, and teeny touch of spritz, is the epitome of summer. And at a lowly 10.5% alcohol, it’s pretty much perfect for picnics, especially with its screwcap top.  Pack it in the hamper or rucksack in a chilled wine sleeve; for emergency chilling if you’re close to a river, take a length of string, tie the bottle to an overhanging branch and chill it down in the water!  Forget picnic sandwiches, pack up salads of feta, tomato and mint, and chargrilled prawns.

    Château Gassier 'Le Pas du Moine' Côtes De Provence RoseThe delicately pale Cotes de Provence wines are riding the crest of a wave of popularity, and nothing is more spot on for Summer drinking. Award-winning Le Pas du Moine Chateau Gassier 2015 (£13.95) fits the bill, with its delicate, strawberry and citrus flavours, and scents of pomegranates, wild herbs and raspberries. Surprisingly creamy, with lovely depth, you can’t beat it for laid-back, alfresco entertaining, especially with seafood, Tuna Nicoise, olives and tapenade.

    Planeta, Cerasuolo di Vittoria

    For those who love a glass of red at lunchtime, here’s a holiday classic:

    Cerasuolo di Vittoria, Planeta 2014 (£14.05 down to £13.50 in August) –  Bright as a button, cheery, cheeky, and fun-loving, this is my go-to Alfresco lunchtime red – a Sicilian beauty, from the leading winery on the island, the revered Planeta, who have done so much to transform the reputation of Sicilian wines across the world.  Don’t expect dark and brooding, this is a wonderfully light, upbeat, zippy juicy red, bursting with ripe raspberry and red cherry scents, with a deliciously fresh, red berry fruit flavour. Chill it down and then enjoy with platters of charcuterie, Mediterranean salads, and even English style pork pies!

    Happy holidays

    By Angela Mount

  • Tickets now on sale - we're teaming up with London Restaurant Festival!

    We are delighted to announce our involvement in this year’s London Restaurant Festival and hope to see you all there! Following our hugely successful London pop-up tasting in February, some of our favourite winemakers will be joining us once again to showcase some of their stunning wines for all you wine lovers, in conjunction with the team at London Restaurant Festival. You will be able to take part in a huge range of exciting wine and food events, in a month-long celebration of eating and drinking out in the gastronomic capital of the world.

    Events will include:

    • Tasting Menus hosted by our producers and winemakers, with menus created to match their wines and an opportunity for you to chat to the winemakers.

    • Restaurant-hopping tours – themed tours which take you on a journey to five restaurants, to experience a series of tasting plates paired with complementary wines, with the producers on hand at each location to explain each match.

    • Restaurant wine tastings – intimate themed events where you will be able to get up close and personal with the people behind the wines, and discover the best wines to order in a restaurant.

    We have secured a stellar line-up of producers for the events, and each of the producers below will be taking part in one or more of these exciting events, with more to be confirmed in the coming weeks.  We can't wait to see you there!

  • Demistifying Chablis

    What is Chablis? Is it a brand, is it a region, is it a grape variety?  Everyone’s heard of it, but not everyone knows what it’s all about. And it’s even more confusing, when the already complex French labelling add in various monikers, such as ‘Petit Chablis’, ‘Premier Cru’, ‘Grand Cru’, and a variety of vineyard names.

    No wonder many people get confused. The labelling isn’t easy to work out, and the prices go from great value to soaring off the radar; and there isn’t one style. There’s fresh, citrusy, tangy Chablis; there’s the rich, buttery, creamy style; and there’s the downright nasty and green style.

    Because Chablis is so well-known, many wine drinkers assume they know what it’s all about, and don’t like to ask, for fear of looking silly.  I’m sure there will be many reading this piece who know the ins and outs, but equally, many who don’t.  So here’s the simple guide to deciphering Chablis.

    First of all, let’s deal with one of the most frequently-voiced misconceptions about Chablis.  Ask any audience which styles of white wine they like, and there will inevitably be more than a smattering of ‘I don’t like Chardonnay’.  However, ask the same group if they like Chablis, and they will nod and approve.

    Fact number one – Chablis is produced 100% from the Chardonnay grape. A lot of damage was done to the reputation of Chardonnay by the influx of cheap, over-oaked Australian Chardonnays 15 years ago, and the grape has unfortunately become stereotyped to far too many.  But Chardonnay is a marvellous grape; capable of creating some of the most sublime wines in the world.  It is the ONLY grape variety allowed for Chablis, and indeed all white Burgundies, from the most humble, to the stellar reaches of some of the most prized, and coveted white wines in the world.

    Fact number two – Chardonnay doesn’t have to be oaky, and full of super-ripe pineapple fruit flavours.  Chardonnay can be nervy, highly-strung, poised and haughty, with an aristocratic, steely, restraint, and thoroughbred structure – if well made.  Chardonnay is a very friendly, adaptable grape, which adapts to its environment, and in Chablis the move is increasingly towards totally unoaked wines.

    Chablis is a region; it’s the most northern area of Burgundy, in fact separated by about 100km (to the north) from the rest of Burgundy.  In geographical terms, it’s only 4 degrees south in latitude from London, even less from the Kent and Sussex coast.  So it gets cold; very cold.  The grapes keep their freshness and their acidity, and couldn’t be more worlds apart than their Australian counterparts, who bask in the hot sunshine and yield up voluptuous, tropical styles of wine.  These weather conditions can however be risky business; harsh spring frosts can devastate vineyards and decimate the crop for the year.

    This in itself, is where danger can lie; there are still many producers, keen to hop on the Chablis bandwagon, who are making thin, green, acidic wines from grapes that haven’t ripened properly.  So it’s important to know what you’re buying and from where. There are a couple of incredible co-operatives in the region, where small growers bring their grapes; there are also the big well known Burgundy houses, who buy up the grapes and make the wines their own.  There are also some fabulous growers, who are committed to making their own wine from the grapes that they cultivate and nurture. These are family businesses, which have been passed down from generation to generation, and are the lifeblood of Chablis.

    What are the styles of Chablis, and what on earth does the complicated labelling mean?  French wine law demands wines to be labelled by region, and within this by sub-region – a vinous equivalent of the Russian Babushka nesting dolls, which fit neatly inside each other, becoming increasingly smaller.  It’s the same with Chablis!

    Domaine Bernard Defaix ChablisThere are four tiers of Chablis.  Let’s start with the core Chablis – an area, spiralling out from the town of Chablis.  Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 2015 is a cracking example of lovingly-crafted, well made Chablis, produced under the watchful eyes of two brothers, who manage the family firm.  With not a whiff of oak in sight, it manages to  combine racy lemon and green apple freshness, with a bold, ripe, creaminess of ripe orchard fruits. Elegant, poised, and balanced, good Chablis works well with creamy fish pie; the freshest of oysters, and langoustines; and is also a dead cert and posh choice for fish and chips.

    Domaine Louis Michel, Petit ChablisPetit Chablis is the simplest, and most lowly of the Chablis denominations – but actually, for those in the know, frequently some of the best value Chablis out there. It’s viewed as the least prestigious of the Chablis tiers, because of the less favourable locations of the vineyard sites, but these days, wine makers are turning out some deliciously fresh  lemon and lime-tangy dry whites, at cracking prices. Domaine Louis Michel Petit Chablis 2015 is a classic example; this family business, running since 1850, switched to modern, unoaked styles about 25 years ago. The Petit Chablis is refreshing, and lively, full of crunchy apple, and lemon zest character, and a zingy, steely finish.  These styles work well with all manner of seafood, chargrilled prawns, crab salad, sashimi or a bowl of steaming mussels.

    Domaine Bernard Defaix Chablis 1er Cru Les VaillonsMoving up the scale, wines labelled Chablis Premier Cru are a step up. The complicated French laws mean that wines from 89 different vineyards, deemed to produce higher quality wines can be called Premier Cru.  Some of these Premier Cru names are well known, such as Montmains and Vaudevey.  Domaine Defaix Premier Cru Les Vaillons 2014 is one such example – a ripe, buttery style of Chablis, with real personality and finesse; plump, supple, yet still with that characteristic steely edge.

    Domaine Louis Michel, Chablis Premier Cru ForêtsLesser known, but equally impressive is Domaine Louis Michel Premier Cru ‘Forets’ 2012, which recently won a gold medal at the prestigious Sommelier Wine Awards in London – rich in texture, yet mouth-wateringly dry, it has elegance, and a cool, steely edge , overlaying deliciously creamy baked apple fruit.

    Premier Crus Chablis are perfect with richer styles of food, and classics would include salmon with hollandaise, pan-fried scallops, and simply cooked sole or sea bass in a butter sauce.  They’ve also got enough weight to handle herb-roasted chicken, and a great match for the local soft cheese Chaource, as well as brie and camembert.

    Finally, at the top of the tree sits the majestic Grands Crus; wines produced from only 7 vineyards, deemed to be the pinnacle of excellence, due to location, topography, soil type and more.  Don’t be surprised if you see lots of grands crus from different producers.  They may be individual vineyards, but within these, there are lots of small plots and different owners (yet more complications of French Burgundian law).

    These wines have finesse, elegance, poise, and a lingering and beguiling complexity.  These are wines to keep, and their structure will have been enhanced by careful use of oak.  If you’re a fan of top Chablis, buy a case or two, try one bottle, and then pop the rest away and try a couple once a year, as they evolve, and go on the journey with them.  Domaine Louis Michel Grand Cru Les Grenouilles 2013 is imperial in its style, verve and freshness, with deep, brooding layers of intense minerally flavours, and a piercing edge to balance the depth of character.  An absolute classic.  Domaine Defaix Grand Cru Bougros 2012 is equally stylish, with entrancing aromas of toasted hazelnuts and baked apples, and a simply gorgeous, aristocratic elegance and depth, with richness, but without ever losing the classic Chablis steely edge.  Wines to be treated with the respect they deserve.

    What to drink with them?  Bring out the very best you can – Lobster; the creamiest of langoustines, juicy scallops, rich chicken dishes, or the very best of soft-rind cheeses.

    Chablis – complex, complicated, but in a class of its own.

     By Angela Mount




  • 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

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

    San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2013

    San Fabiano Calcinaia Chianti Classico DOCG 2013

    Red ruby color, with light garnet hues, perfume persistent end with signs of violet mature fruits and spicy. Structure of consistence and to the taste it distinguishes for a good personal note of freshness that accompanies the notable load of strong and velvety tannins, long persistence wine, it is well balanced, uniting in pleasant way the feeling of heat to the soft elegance of the tannins and the correct acidity.


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

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

     Man O' War Gravestone Sauvignon Semillon 2012

    Man O' War Gravestone Sauvignon Semillon

    Taking it’s name from the fluted basalt boulders that solemnly surround our volcanic hilltop vineyards, Gravestone is bequeathed upon the finest blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon we are blessed with each vintage.

    Intense aromatics of guava, gooseberry, nettles and black currants dominate with undertones of lychee and chalk dust. The palate is fresh and vibrant with high natural acidity balanced by weight, texture and a long persistent finish.

    Was £19.50
    Now £17.16 

    Free delivery on orders over £100 | Save 10% on 12 bottles | Save 5% on 6 bottles
    Prices are valid until 26.04.16

  • Alan's Wine of the Week

    Yealands Estate Sauvignon Blanc

    Alan's Wine of the Week

    Yealands Estate Sauvignon Blanc is selected from two parcels of fruit from Yealand's Seaview Vineyard. This aromatic wine shows pure fruit flavours of guava, blackcurrant leaf, fresh herbs, layered with bright citrus notes. The palate is textured and elegant, with the distinctive mineral finish that Yealand's Estate Sauvignon Blanc is renowned for.

    Was £11.95
    Now £10.52

    Free delivery on orders over £100 | Save 10% on 12 bottles | Save 5% on 6 bottles
    Prices are valid until 26.04.16

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