I'm at the pizza Express launch of two Leggara low-alcohol wines; both Italian. The red, a Sangiovese, is from Sicily while the white, a Pinot Bianco, was sourced from up north somewhere (no, not Leeds) but Piedmonte I believe.
Pizza Express gave their wine buyer, Adrian Garforth MW, the brief to create two wines to accompany their low-calorie Leggara pizzas. This range, incidentally, have proved to be hugely popular and are now Pizza Express's 2nd best selling pizzas. Not bad for a low calorie pizza that has a round cut out of the middle filled with a mound of rocket and a tomato!
A small glass of these new wines plus one of the Leggara Pizzas supply just 600 calories. That's 30% fewer calories than a standard pizza; great indeed for a lunch or those watching that midriff more intently than I.
The wines, to repeat, are not aimed at the likes of me (meaning a dedicated wine-person). If you 'go out for a pizza' you don't pick Pizza Express for the wine list (however much Adrian would like you to) but for the quality of the pizza. If you like to drink wine you can - they offer a decent little selection - but for the majority the wine is immaterial, it is simply part of the total ambience.
Pizza Express is right on trend though. Lower alcohol and lower calories are highly placed criteria for many, so offering a crisp white with 9% alcohol or a medium-bodied red with 9.5% alcohol and 1.6 (1.7 for the red) alcohol units per glass is going to resonate with many.
Both wines cost £4.50 for a small glass, £5.90 for a large and £16.55 for a bottle, about standard for a house wine.
The white is fine - picked early to keep the sugar levels down it is of course quite acidic but does have enough weight and flavour in support. The red I thought less of. Little in the way of tannins it lacked a backbone, being too soft and fruity overall for me. It appeared rather sweet too, even with just 4g residual sugar. Interesting, talking to Adrian regarding its development, just by adding 4% Merlot to the Sangiovese "added so much more in terms of flavour". They have made 10,000 cases of the red and 6-7,000 cases of the white.
It's all about "striking the balance" as Adrian put it. A difficult one to pull off I imagine - you have to pick early to lessen the sugars (which turn to alcohol or remain as sweetness) but not so early so as to actually have some flavour and get some colour. There is no de-alcoholising allowed as this harsh process also strips flavour. In addition to keeping the calorie count low you have to watch the price; paying a premium for grapes that are not totally ripe for example. But Pizza Express have pulled it off producing two highly drinkable wines with flavour, but low in alcohol and calories.
There will be a rosé, also made from Sangiovese, currently in development and due for a spring/summer release.
Ever stood in the wine aisle and felt lost in a sea of wine bottles, then help is at hand in the form of Philip Laffer, legendary winemaker at Jacob's Creek. With so many wines to choose from, how do you make sure that you find the wine to suit your taste?
Internationally renowned winemaker Philip Laffer has been at the forefront of Australian winemaking for over 40 years. He heads up a 20 strong winemaking team, and oversees the process from vineyard to bottle, capturing the essence of Australia in every varietal produced. He is a true ambassador for fine wine the world over.
So whether you want to know how to choose the best wine to accompany that special meal, know more about Philip's winemaking philosophy or get a heads up on what's new in the wine industry, here's your chance to log on and chat with Philip Laffer to find out all you need to know about great Australian Wines.
Philip Laffer is live online at http://www.webchats.tv/chat/true_character_of_the_wine_trader today, Thursday 4th February at 3pm UK time.
Last Tuesday saw me padding around in Lords Cricket Ground. We (myself and Densie the Wine Sleuth) hit on a little patch of red wines from the Southern reaches of France, all grouped on the Wine & Dine table. These are described as a "showcase of sophisticated wines for accompanying sit-down meals, which are, typically, served at table with food, thus defining a very different experience" (when compared to the Easy Drinking, informal wines for example). Perhaps this is why I enjoy them so much - their superb food-matching credentials
The Estates Tamarius red and Balmettes white are both stocked by The Winey at £7.99 a bottle; the L'Envie is going to be more expensive.
Andrew BarrowScribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]
Not a dish I'd make that often, the diet ain't that great, but lapping up a tasty rich dish once in a while can't hurt (can it?). It's all part of the challenge put out some time ago by The Cheese Lover to find the ultimate Macaroni and Cheese recipe. A local dimension earns extra points but sadly a really local cheese was next to impossible to find; the wine though was local...
A new-to-me vineyard and wine - Oakengrove Vineyard Dry White 2006. It's an Oxfordshire based winery although the basic website is short on specifics mentioning that they are "a small family run vineyard nestled in the beautiful Chiltern Hills of South Oxfordshire".
Only this one wine is available at present (local Waitrose stores stock it) although plantings of Pinot Noir are coming on stream for a rosé wine to be released in the summer of 2010.
And with the macaroni cheese? Selected for its high acidity (you get high acidity in wine from cool climate regions; how could England be anything else but cool!) to cut through the richness of the cream and cheese the Oakengrove worked beautifully. Not 'complimentary'; more a delicious palate cleanser leaving you wanting more of both the wine and the food. The lemon edge to the wine linking with the lemon zest topping to the macaroni.
Andrew BarrowScribblings Rating - 86/100 [3.25 out of 5]
Also opened for a comparison and contrasting flavour combination was a Spanish red -
Andrew BarrowScribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]
For a highly drinkable, highly enjoyed wine the red wins. It wasn't however my favourite match with the food. The red turned softer and hugely drinkable when combined with the food; the white however was the palate cleanser leaving the mouth crying out for replenishment.
Chapters include an in-depth history of the industry, from pre-Roman Britain to the present day, charting the progress from the birth of the modern commercial wine industry post-war, and more latterly the surge of growth in the last decade. There is also a critical look into the crystal ball at the future of the industry and tackles the topical subject of the effects climate change on the UK's viticulture.
Viticulture, vinification and grape varieties are also covered in detail. The definitive list of almost all vineyards in England, Wales, Ireland and the Channel Islands provides the most comprehensive record available - extensively researched and featuring useful information on each. Additional lists identifying the organic and biodynamic vineyards, vineyards of 4 hectares and above and a breakdown of vineyards by country and size are also included, along with chapters recording the competition successes over the years and useful contacts relevant to the industry.
This book provides an essential reference book to all aspects of UK wines and their producers. Priced at £22.95 + postage and packing the UK VIneyards Guide 2010 is only available from www.lulu.com Reference: 7848482 or www.englishwine.com
It's all too easy to laugh off the effects of alcohol and forget that drink can put young people in vulnerable situations.
Recognising that alcohol is a serious issue and talking about the good and the bad sides can help young people stay safe, confident and responsible as they grow as teenagers.
Comedy legend Bill Bailey discusses his involvement with the Alcohol. It's no Joke campaign and shares his experiences of booze as a teenager. Bill talks about related dangers such as drugs, unprotected sex or becoming a victim of anti social behaviour.
The aim of this film is to show that alcohol can make young people vulnerable. Although parents worry about unprotected sex, drugs and crime, drinking alcohol is often not top of the list. Alcohol can be the thing which leaves young people vulnerable and in situations they might not know how to deal with.
This film is the one of a series featuring other comedians including Jo Brand, Russell Kane and Josie Long and is part of the build-up to a big campaign launch in mid-January.
In addition there is a 'behind the scenes' making off video:
There is so much info - ratings on wines of the year, regional maps, grape variety details, wine shops (in South Africa), styles and vintages, wine tour companies, wine-focused restaurants, wine land accommodation - that the guide to deciphering the listings doesn't appear till page 134!
Symbols for domain bottling, open for tastings, accommodation, other tourist attractions, picnic areas and disabled access ply for your attention with others showing if the wine is screwcapped, good value, organic and so on.
Take the Journey's End wines reviewed yesterday; the level of data supplied is frightening. Platter's Guide tells you that tastings are available by appointment, that the owner is the Gabb family, that the wine maker is Leon Esterhuizen (since January 2005), that the vineyard manager is Paul Fourie (since January 2008), that the estate has 30 hectares under vine (Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Shiraz, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc), that 80% of production is red wine... exhausting...
But for anyone interested in touring the South African wine lands totally invaluable.
The guide gives the Journey's End range high marks:
The Merlot four Stars "Mint & eucalyptus dominate green, herbal notes on 06; drier, tighter & less textured than savoury, elegant 05. 18mths oak, 30% new"
Chardonnay four stars plus "Smoky & earthy, subtle citrus highlights; richness from 9 months brl/lees-ageing lifted by zesty acidity, salty tail. 07 (four stars) similar to generous 06, perhaps less elegant; also natural ferm."
Cabernet Sauvignon 3 stars Pepper & pimento on shy-fruited 05, with restrained tannins. Shiraz 2 stars plus Gamey forest floor aromas on muscular 05. Haystack chardonnay 3 stars plus Smoky toffee & pineapple aromas, 08 neat & compact, fresh and persistent, new-oak element well judged.
"Platter's Wine Guide, South Africa's leading wine annual and one of its best-selling book titles, turns 30 in November this year with the unveiling of the 2010 edition. To mark this significant milestone, we're taking the guide's traditional strengths - credibility, breadth of coverage, readability, ease of use - and combining these with fully revised, up-to-the-minute content designed to appeal to everyone, from the novice wine drinker to the connoisseur."
John Platter's Wine Guide is not available via amazon, but you can purchase direct from South Africa via the John Platter Wine Guide website. Price is $13.28 / €8.85 excluding shipping.
"Journey's End Estate is a stunning boutique winery and vineyard located in the Stellenbosch region of South Africa. In 1995 the Gabb family (originally from Shropshire - Roger Gabb was previously the founder and MD of Western Wines) purchased this picturesque farm and the surrounding 20ha of vines. Their aim is to create top-quality single-vineyard, hand-crafted wines that are true to the terroir of the vineyards, whilst ensuring the local environment and nature are protected and preserved. The estate benefits from south-facing slopes and cool coastal breezes."
The Journey's End wine range is available from the various merchants as listed but are also available direct from Journeys-End-Wine.co.uk.
This was served with a couple of slices of warm Cheddar and Walnut and Sausage Rolls and a spoonful of macerated grapes. A nice little match although go easy with the grapes as the sweetness is a little overpowering. The sausage meat - from Porkinson Suffolk Ale and Herb Bangers - helped that earthy edge to become more expressive and forceful; nice indeed. The Sausage Roll recipe, by Tristan Welch of London's Launceston Place restaurant, is in the February 2010 issue of Delicious.
Andrew BarrowScribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]
Andrew BarrowScribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]
The powerful, ripe black fruit in this wine is lush and fleshy on both the nose and palate, with lots of cassis backed by dark chocolate. Eucalyptus, green pepper, herbal spice and underlying mintyness come through on the palate backed by sweet almonds. This is a voluptuously rich wine but it is not over jammy and the mid-acidity brightens the fruit and gives length to the wine. It has lots of ageing potential.
Andrew BarrowScribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]
The Journey's End range continues with a Chardonnay (£12.99), another Chard labelled "Haystack" (£9.99) (neither of which, to be honest, I took to) and a 'yet-to-be-broached' Cape Doctor Shiraz 2005 that comes with a £16.99 price tag.
Ranging from Jool's Favourite Beef Stew through to Meatballs and Pasta each recipe is lifted from an existing Jamie Oliver book - sadly no original recipes (at least in this batch). Each recipe is linked to one of the wines in the mix, a couple of which I've tried since the case arrived:
Jool's Favourite Beef Stew* matched with La Croix du Chêne, Costières de Nîmes, 2007 [Adegga / Snooth]
With an aversion to parsnips (evil little blighters that they are) the Scribblers version of this hearty stew also lacked fresh sage. Waitrose let me down on that score! But after two hours in the oven, considerably less time than the stated 3-4 hours cooking, the dish emerged in all its bubbling glory. Cold weather needs such substantial dishes and the wine, in typical Naked Wines soft, drinkable-ness went fine with it. It didn't really 'shine' though. Would a lack of sage really make much of a difference or is the wine simply 'ok' rather than a value-packed stunner I was hoping for?
English Onion Soup with Sage and Cheddar*** with Nomada Rustica Sauvignon Blanc
Scrummy Warm Rocket Salad**** matched with Raats Parrot Valley Chenin Blanc, 2009, Stellenbosch, South Africa [Adgga / Snooth]
A very versatile food wine; not sampled with this pinenut/bacon/rocket based salad but was near perfect with roast pork complete with excellent crackling (if I say so myself, a triumph) and a homemade apple sauce served in freshly baked rolls for a boxing day lunch. The wines hint of sweetness and inherent lemon-apple-pear flavours and a streak of cleansing acidity made for a superb match. Got to try it with this salad next!
Hamilton Squash **** with Canepa Novisimo Chardonnay 2008, Chile [Adegga / Snooth]
The wine is in the fridge as I type, for this vegetarian dish is planned for tonight. "This warming veggie dish will develop lovely smoky flavours in the oven, so a lightly oaked Chardonnay will match perfectly"
Wild Mushroom and Venison Stroganoff** matched with Foley's Corner Reserve Shiraz, 2008, Australia
Spicy Pork and Chilli-Pepper Goulash** with Mistral Merlot 2008, Chile
Meatballs and Pasta** recommended with Milani Nero d'Avola Sicily 2008, Italy
Was maximum fun making the meatballs, getting your hands deep and dirty squishing the ingredients together and rolling the mix into balls is really what 'cooking' is all about. The simple tomato sauce matches nicely with the soft tartness of the wine. There's a kick of tannin and acidity to meld all the juicy, rich fruit together into a rustic-edged wine.
* Recipe from Jamie's Dinners
*** Recipe From Jamie at Home: Cook Your Way to the Good Life
**** Recipe from Happy Days with the Naked Chef
A copy of his latest book - Oz Clarke 250 Best Wines 2010 arrived yesterday. It's of stocking filler size and price (£6.99, although Amazon have it at just £4.23) with 190 odd pages listing, as the name suggests, 250 selected wines.
Oz's independent, enthusiastic and reliable recommendations will help you find the wines you want at the prices you want to pay. He has tasted thousands of wines to select his top 250 wines for 2010 and describes his choices with his trademark wisdom and wit.
Here are Oz's top 50 wines, 100 wines for around a tenner, cheap and cheerful wines from around £4, festive fizz from Champagne to Proscecco and Cava, Sweet wines, sherry and port and many more favourites.
Oz Clarke 250 Best Wines is the must-have shopping guide to make wine buying hassle-free. The book includes a handy guide to finding the flavours you want, advice on storing, serving and tasting and the directory to the best places to buy wine in the UK, from regional fine wine merchants to supermarkets and high street chains."
The guide includes full details of where to buy, exactly what such a guide requires. A flick through shows a preponderance of Marks& Spencers (which is great as they have a fine range, just wish they would open a branch near me!) but many of those dynamic, smaller independent merchants also get a showing; companies such as From Vineyards Direct, Big Red Wine Company, Vin du Van and Bat and Bottle.
Each wine has a typical Oz style note. Take his description of the 2007 Fié Gris Vin de Pays du Val de Loire from Domaine de l'Aujardiè (Lea and Sandeman £13.95 in the guide, £14.95 online)
"The wine sent me into a reverie - sappy, fresh-turned earth in a springtime farmer's field, the smell of sunrise, the smell of dew, the smell of mist lingering in the eaves of cottages clinging damply to the hillside. Old crab apples, kicked about the lanes by muddy boys, then harvested and stewed, the mud and the raw fruit finally finding some vestige of sweetness. Sap, twigs, bent not broken. Moist bark, fresh, green and then here's a stem with that grey-green mould you find in dark, wet woods..."
I don't care what you think of his writing style; I just have to try that wine!
Oz Clarke's 250 Best Wines, 2010 Wine Buying Guide is available from Amazon.co.uk for £4.23.
The four course set menu comprised the following:
Cold Partridge Salad In Marinade matched with the delicate, rose and strawberry hinting Vinha da Defesa Rosé 2008. A 13.5% mix of Aragonês and Syrah vinificated with the "Blanc Noir" method. [Adegga / Snooth]
A delectable Dogfish Soup - they are big on soup in Portugal - with the crisp, peachy, waxy, grapefruit acidity, lightly oaked Esporão Reserve White (a blend of Antão Vaz, Arinto and Roupeiro with 14% alcohol) [Adegga / Snooth]
Loin of Wild Boar with Plum Sauce matched with the delicious Esporão Reserve Red 2007. A blend of Aragonês, Trincadeira, Cabernet Sauvignon and Alicante Bouschet with 14.5% alcohol. [Adegga / Snooth] A complex palate that cries out for a juicy meat dish such as this Wild Boar.
And for a dessert a Boiled Pear in Private Selection White Wine matched with a late harvest Semillon simply labeled as Late Harvest 2008. [Adegga / Snooth] A lovely wine offering hints of orange, peach and other fruits but nulled a little by the ice-cream served with the pear.
A charming selection of wines from an interesting, large, estate. Shame the wines do not seem to be available in the UK! Post lunch I annoyingly missed out on buying a bottle of the estates olive oil too...
You can understand why a wine-producer wants to show off the cleanliness of their winery, the mammoth financial investment in these fermentation tanks, but really they are the dullest things to make appropriate appreciative noises over. You know what... unless you specifically ask not one winery takes you out into the vineyard. I'd much rather compare the soils of the vineyards, the canopy/pruning/ground cover techniques and so on than look at another bloody stainless steel tank. (Although sometimes....)
I have to say that the various producers in Alsace - where I specifically asked to view the vines - were more than accommodating. To a man, Domaine Bernhard-Reibel, Domaine Frederic Mochel, Andre Pfister and the intense Marc Kreydenweiss were more than proud to tramp through their holdings.
Sadly, not so in Portugal. None of the producers we visited during the European Wine Bloggers Conference took us out to the vines; perhaps I wasn't vocal enough prior to the visit!
Stainless Steel Tanks: integral to the moden winemaking process but as dull as a really dull, dull thing to look at more than once...
These lovely specimens are at Herdade do Esporao, they do make for fine 'industrial' style abstract photographs I suppose. And they do make very nice wines there...
We visit the grass routes of Douwe Egberts coffee story, the beautiful coffee farms of Colombia. The final of the three films fittingly takes us back to where it all begins and introduces us to the passionate farming families who grow the finest beans, generation after generation. Narrated by James Nesbitt, we really hope you'll enjoy this and the other films in the series!
The competition as detailed in the previous Douwe Egberts post needs a question! What we need to know is "What is your favourite coffee based dish"? Closing date for entries (either emailed in or left as a comment) is December 25th.
What would YOU do naked for a year's free supply of wine?
"We wanted to have a bit of fun to celebrate the end of a fantastic first year," explained Rowan Gormley, Founder of Naked Wines. "And do something that gets our customers' imagination going."
"So... for any willing customer, follower or fan, what would you be prepared to do in the buff to win a year's free supply of wine? And to be clear, you have to be prepared to put your money where your mouth is as we will be asking for photographic evidence before we send the prize!"
To help get your creative juices flowing and to see what you're up against, a few suggestions so far include stripping off and:
"So if you think you can out-strip any of these, we'd love to hear from you!"
Terms and conditions and decency rules apply, Naked Wines' decision is final!