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A Wine For Curry 1 : Murgh Masala and Viognier

Date: Mon, May 10, 2010 Wine Tasting

I've never understood the 'lads night out' curry thing. The hottest, mouth-numbing, curry they can stomach and copious jugs of lager. I want to taste my food. I don't want to drink pints of nats-pee either thank you very much. Curry nights therefore are not on my calendar. An Indian take-away might make an appearance but the order results in the same old thing each time.

Cooking Indian at home doesn't happen often either. The thought of all those ingredients is rather off putting and anything too spice-hot is just going to ruin any decent wine. With interest then thumbing through the recipes in Mallika Basu's new book, Miss Masala, discovering some accessible and wine-friendly (hopefully) dishes.

Page 80 details Murgh Masala - the ultimate simple chicken curry - the key it seems is cooking the chicken on the bone "to enjoy the full flavour of spiced stocked in the curry"; quite surprised too with the number of recipes that utilise yoghurt, Greek yoghurt at that. There is a fine level of spice in this basic recipe, just a teaspoon of chilli powder and half a teaspoon of turmeric, root ginger, garlic, garam masala, onion completes the flavour. Also interesting was the instruction to add a pinch of sugar to the hot oil. This caramelises and lends the dish a "lovely red glow later without the need for food colouring".

The other issue with an 'Indian' is that several different dishes are served at the same time, making it tricky to get a decent wine match. Here, with just this one chicken dish, and some simple rich to accompany the choice was easy - something weighty, full and rounded with a hint of mysticism. Step forward a decent Australian Viognier... leap-frogging over a new-world Chardonnay, which would have been an alternative.

The wine of choice then to accompany Murgh Masala is Yalumba Eden Valley Australian Viognier. The current vintage in Waitrose is 2008 and comes in at £9.99. The wines plumpness and exotic peach and apricot flavours melding very nicely with the dish.

White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Yalumba Eden Valley Viognier, 2008, Eden Valley, Australia.

Stockist: Waitrose Price: £9.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]
Melded with the peach and apricot silkiness is an exotic spice twist plus a hint of lemon, and honeysuckle. Weighty palate, delicious drinking. Alcohol 14.5%

Andrew BarrowScribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

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On the Celebrity Eclipse: The Cellar Masters Lounge

Date: Tue, May 4, 2010 Wine Tasting

I fell asleep during the opening scenes of Terry Gilliam's Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus just as someone I vaguely recognised trunded off on a horse drawn caravan. I blame a hectic day of reviewing the joys of the Qsine restaurant, a full meal in the Blu restaurant and one or too Bacardi and cokes in the bar. The mid afternoon wine tasting didn't help much either. Even the staterooms (that's a cabin to you and me) widescreen entertainment system couldn't keep those eyelids open.

The Cellar Masters bar utilises the 'Enomatic Wine Preservation and Serving System' were you can serve yourself tasting samples, half glasses and a full-on glassful of various wines.

If you haven't encountered the Enomatic system before it 'dispenses wine directly, in a multi-portion fashion, direct from the bottle using inert gas preservation. The flavours and characteristics of the wine remain intact and you can be assured that the wines dispensed are fresh and flavourful, as if the bottle was just opened'.

While you are free to taste and drink which ever wines you like they have linked several into 'destination wine tasting' groups [Cellarmasters Wine Menu pdf]. So you could go for a Drouhin Chablis, Chateau Les Tuileries from the Graves, a Mont-Redon Chateauneuf-du-Pape and a Chateau Coufran from the Haut-Medoc under 'Tour de France' or a 'California Dreaming' selection that gives a Freemark Abbey Chardonnay from the Napa Valley, a Murphy Goode Fumé Blanc from the Alexander Valley, a Sequioa Grove Napa Cabernet and a Foley Vineyards Pinot Noir. The Exploring Down Under selection is good offering a Brancott Reserve Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, A Leasingham Riesling, a Norman Estates Shiraz and a Grove Mill Pinot Noir. Each of these flights are available at US$15 for a 2oz serving. A nice way to explore new wines before settling on a wine to drink a full glass of...

A couple of interesting (ie not tried before) wines were available during the two-nighter cruise; all twittered of course, although a couple exceeded the 140 character limit...

wine_scribbler: Wild Rock Sauvignon 07 marlborough a sandwich filling of lemon slices & grapefruit skins gently pressed to a smooth paste, pressed until the pips burst

wine_scribbler: Automoto 07 California Chardonnay smooth as a beach heading convertable but note that lemon scratch on the rear fender. Simple to repair.

wine_scribbler: Murphy Goode Cabernet 06 Alexander valley in celebrity eclipse cellar masters bar. Straining blackberries through a used tea strainer, bits of leaf, seldom catch a rouge mushroom ...

Incidentally the stateroom entertainment system includes a graphical location map - we went way passed the Channel Islands I believe - and full room service ordering. I did try and order a bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal 2002 (US$750 if I recall correctly) but the system crashed with an error...

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On the Celebrity Eclipse: QSine by JVS

Date: Sun, May 2, 2010 Wine Tasting

For a few brief moments I played with an Apple Ipad. Rare as hen's teeth in the UK is the Ipad. Aside from the computer-geek thrill the interesting thing was I was checking out various dishes in a restaurant and perusing their wine list. Plus I was on a cruise ship!

New to the Celebrity Eclipse is the QSine restaurant. It aims to be 'different'. No three set courses, no limit to the dishes you can order, no set method of plating either. As the ipad was whisked away - I had managed to view a red wine with a perfunctory tasting note and a full scan of the label, in addition to the dish description as shown in the photo - a series of sample dishes were thrown our way. Far too quickly really to appreciate their individuality or to take photos of them all.

I'm a little confused as to the roll of the IPad, do you order a dish or a wine directly from it? I'm unsure. There was a full illuminated 'menu', again in a non-standard format (pdf download), that lists all the dishes. I forget all we tried: a meatball trilogy made from Kobe beef was slightly disappointing in texture and flavour (each had a different stuffing), a superbly presented tapas or mezi selection (think different dishes, pots, wraps etc on a giant thimble collection stand), make your own burgers (sliders in American with a brioche bun, miniature Kobe burger, American cheese, onions, tomatoes, three sauces), an illuminated prawn cocktail, Sushi Lollipops (as pictured), delicious spring rolls served in giant springs, decorate your own cupcake, the fun element is exciting, you really have no idea what to expect next...

I think they are missing a trick though. Little attention is paid to the wine. By expanding the innovation and fun to bring in the wine or other drinks would have enhanced the while 'experience' greatly. A different wine sample or cocktail with each dish or even presented different drinks in an equally novel fashion as the food. Something more than a sparkler in cocktail obviously, but with all the attention lavished on the food it was disappointing that little was offered on the drink side of things.

The wine menu has echoes of the quirkiness (pdf download, prices in US$ per bottle), printed off-kilter, with plenty I'd like to try (those at this press presentation were a decent enough Chardonnay and an OK-ish Pinot Noir, exactly the same as served with our other meals in the other restaurants). Although the IPad had wine label scans and a few lines by way of a tasting note wine obviously takes a back seat...

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The Definitive List of UK Wine Bloggers

Date: Fri, Apr 23, 2010 Wine Tasting

The definitive list of UK wine bloggers - no ratings, rankings or popularity scores, just a simple list of those who blog predominately about wine in its various forms.

One non-UK based blog is intentionally in the list due to their growing influence and rapport with the UK wine trade, their marvellous work in promoting social media in the wine field and organising the European Wine Bloggers conference.

Just following half of those listed will give an excellent overview of the UK wine scene - what's hot, what's chilling, what's good down the supermarket...

It would be great for a comment or email altering me to any I have missed, as I am certain to have done. The only criteria is that the blog must be predominantly about wine (sorry Douglas) and be based in the UK or write about the UK wine scene. Each authors twitter tag is also listed.

These are personal blogs only. I'll look into compiling a list of retailer blogs and winery blogs if there is enough interest and people send me their details.

The UK's Wine Bloggers:

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Three Wines from A A Badenhorst

Date: Mon, Apr 19, 2010 Wine Tasting

"Here he goes again - banging on about how grape blends are soooo much more interesting than single varietals... he'll be raving over some South African wines next, I'll bet"

"Yeh, repeating himself again. You wait he'll pick on some wine-maker with 'character' and imply that being a maverick or whatever can only influence the wine in a good way!"

"Better than moaning about a perfume-doused floosy at a tasting out smelling the wines"

"or a cigar-chomping lard-arse hogging the spittoon"

Three quick recommendations sampled at a trade tasting (SITT 2010 held in Vinopolis last February). They are from the A A Badenhorst stable, a project by Adi Badenhorst one of "the Cape's more colourful characters". After a series of vintages at Rustenberg, Adi set up, with a cousin, this new estate building on vineyards and facilities last used in the 1930's. The old vines are unirrigated, farmed and made into wine with as little intervention as possible. Adi was at the tasting, perched on the end of the Swig table, looking hot and tired but mercifully near the open door for some cool air. A wild hair cut, a slight manic gleam to the eye and as you spied his wines he was round the front of the table pouring and enthusing...

Can't say the labelling does anything for me. Bottle pictures from the estates website (which is in need of an update!).

A A Badenhorst Secateurs White, 2009, Swartland, South Africa.
Swig £8.50 [Adegga / Snooth]
Complexity in droves. Chenin Blanc forming 14% of the blend. "coming together nicely, will age beautifully" said Adi.
Andrew BarrowScribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

A A Badenhorst Family White, 2007, Swartland, South Africa
Swig £22 [Adegga / Snooth]
Another stunning mix. Rousanne, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Sauvignon, Chenin all melding into a delicious intensity. An underlying crispness keeps the rich palate in check. Alcohol 15%
Andrew BarrowScribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]

A A Badenhorst Secateurs Red, 2007, Swartland, South Africa
Swig £9.50 [Adegga / Snooth]
Nine varieties in this one. "Slightly left field". A delicious softness, quite firm and rounded.
Andrew BarrowScribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]

"there you see - a character! And a South African too"

"at least he restricted the listed wines to just three. I do find being presented with a long list of wine tasting notes so, so dull. 'Specially on this blog... "

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    Portuguese Big Tasting Wines: With Beef Stew and with Pork Ribs

    Date: Sun, Apr 11, 2010 Wine Tasting

    It's an ambitious series of linked events; live public tasting at Lord's Cricket Ground, others at Waitrose Canary Wharf and the food hall at John Lewis in Oxford Street plus the involvement of the twitter community... welcome to Portugal's Big Tasting.

    My good friends Niamh and Denise launched another Guerrilla tasting onto London's streets - which Niamh reports "it went really well! We had 3 wines at the Green Onions Supper Club in Hackney. People loved them esp the Douro red" - and in deepest Thames-side Oxfordshire I made a stew, grilled some pork ribs and am about to throw some giant prawns on the barbie. Well, it would be a barbecue if I actually had a garden. And a barbecue. A griddle pan will have to suffice.

    Failing to source all the wines involved in the tasting a make do and mend session, with two of the reds and the white, and matching them to the foods mentioned made for a fun weekend.

    The Portuguese-created social wine discovery site Adegga has a full list of the Big Tasting events wines and you can track the activity on twitter via the #tbt2010 tag.

    Of the wines the Vida Nova 2007 from the Algarve (that's a Cliff Richard wine), a blend of Syrah, Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet, and the Tinto da Ânfora 2007 (Aragonez, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, Alfrocheiro, Cabernet Sauvignon) were cracked open and sampled against a hearty beef stew and a pile of pork ribs that were marinated overnight in a chilli sauce. The one white in the six bottle line-up, a Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde, will be subject to a separate post, is about to be savoured with prawns, simply griddled and served with a little Lingham's Ginger, Garlic and Chilli Sauce mixed with a dollop of mayonnaise.

    Price-wise there is little difference between the Vida Nova at £7.99 and the Tinto da Ânfora at £6.99 but the former was the deeper, richer, more classy, intense and more complex wine of the two. The Ânfora, obviously a different grape mix grown in a different region, is a touch more rustic and more hearty. The Vida Nova has a delicious top note of red berries while the Ânfora offers a fruity upfront sweetness before stroking the teeth with soft tannins and ending on a rustic lick of red fruits. Its combination of fruit, sun drenched earth and wafts of herbs and undergrowth is a winner.

    Being hungry while the stew and rice bubbled atop the stove a chunk of Parmesan, being the only cheese in the fridge, was sampled with each. Not a great match with the Ânfora. The cheese stamped aggressively across the red berry flavours. The harder hitting Vida Nova had fewer issues. A rather nice combination.

    And with the beef stew? Both were fine, its not a dish that many red wines would disagree with, but on balance I preferred the sweetness inherent in the Ânfora, the flavours melding beautifully with the richness of the sauce. The pork ribs - quite spicy from all that chilli sauce - did not disagree with either wine. A preference? The Anfora.

    Tinto da Ânfora, 2007, Alentejo, Portugal [Adegga / Snooth]
    Waitrose £6.99
    Trampling along crumbly red hillside path, crushing wild herbs here, sweating in the dappled sun.

    Vida Nova Syrah Aragonez, 2007, Algarve, Portugal [Adegga / Snooth]
    Waitrose £7.99
    Mixed berry throwing contest, who can hit the red tiles at the top of the farm wall? Using those sour cherries is cheating.

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    Food & Wine Matching Notes from Naked Wines Latest Jamie Oliver Case

    Date: Tue, Mar 30, 2010 Wine Tasting

    Arriving at the tail end of last week the second mixed case of wines from Naked Wines forming a regular mailing under a Jamie Oliver Seasonal Picks selection. The case includes various recipes cards featuring Oliver's recipes, each linked to one of the wines wine.

    The recipes:
    Best Lamb Cutlets with Special Basil Sauce matched with Dusty Dog Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 This Australian red is big, deep and juicy. Not the most complex of wines but decent enough. Matched well with the lamb - such a wine friendly meat - and even leapt over the brown dollop of sauce (pummelled pine nuts and basil, loosened with olive oil, with zing added by lots of balsamic vinegar, hence the unappealing colour) with ease. Despite the slight derogatory stance of the description the sauce is delicious. (Recipe from Jamie's Dinners)

    Char-grilled Pork Leg with Asparagus linked with Bain's Way Merlot 2008. (Recipe from Jamie's Kitchen).

    Pan-Roasted Salmon with Purple Sprouting Broccoli and Anchovy-Rosemary Sauce with Gosling Creek Verdelho 2008 (Recipe from Cook with Jamie)

    Pasta Peperonata with Castillo de Tafalla Rosado 2009. (Recipe from Jamie's Dinners)

    Incredible Roasted Shoulder of Lamb with Smashed Veg and Greens with Parrot Valley Red Blend 2009 (recipe from Jamie at Home)

    Cheese and Onion Salad with Creamy Herb Dressing with Mistral Chardonnay 2008. Billed as a starter but a 'double' portion served as a late evening meal when served with a few slices of toasted French bread. The photo is a stylised shot of the salad; although in this form it could be served as hors d'oeuvres. Now, if you don't over-do the crumbled Roquefort, for it is strongly flavoured and would over power most wines, this un-wooded Chardonnay from Chile made for a rather satisfying combination. (Recipe from Jamie at Home)

    Crispy Prawn Tempura with Ribbon Salad matched with Kimbao Sauvignon Blanc 2009. Good ol' SB; versatile in food matching. While the tempura is on the 'to try' list the first bottle was opened to accompany little filo pastry parcels stuffed with leek, caramelised onions and cheese; details on Spittoon Extra. A jolly decent match indeed.

    Rhubarb and Custard Kinda Soufflé with Las Moras Late Harvest Viognier 2006 Not convinced this is sweet enough for a dessert, high acidity halts any cloying sensation; nice apricot flavours. Wouldn't automatically think of viognier though. Alcohol 12%. Sampled with a sorta trifle - layers of stewed rhubarb, crumbled ginger biscuits, custard, whipped double cream topping - the match was just 'OK'. Maybe the soufflé proper would work better. Thinking a pâté would be more suitable... or indeed the Roquefort left over from the salad! (Recipe from Jamie at Home)

    The mixed case of 12 wines - some (the more expensive I imagine) are just single bottles, the others are doubled up - comes in at £70..

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    Cordon Rouge and Patrick Jouin

    Date: Sun, Mar 28, 2010 Wine Tasting

    Tastes change as you age. I've long held a dislike of mushy peas, parsnips and champagne for example. Bubbles in drinks leads to an expectation of sweetness in a drink, which is of course the opposite of what you find in glass of champagne. But where once a few sips at a wedding or christening were plenty thank you very much, I can't get enough of the stuff now! In fact some of the most enjoyable of lifes episodes have involved opening a bottle of bubbly - the Taittinger training it from London to Portugal for example, the Bisol Prosecco and the helicopter ride over the vineyards in Italy or even the cheap (and frankly awful) bubbly watching the sun slip away on a boat in Cape Town all made so memorable by the glass in hand.

    As a dog is not just for Christmas, champagne should not be kept for just special occasions. A particularly gruelling week ended with a Chinese takeaway and a bottle of Cordon Rouge; now that is 'special'! A starter of tempura coriander prawns - brilliant, sweet and sour chicken balls with special fried rice - enlivened, and not forgetting a huge bag of prawn crackers - perfectly decadent.

    The bottle of Cordon Rouge [Adegga / Snooth] came complete with "George", a specially designed ice-bucket by Patrick Jouin. I'm not really up on designers but Patrick (subject of an exhibition in Paris "la substance du design" until May 24th) has designed interiors (the Gilt restaurant and bar in New York, Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester, Jules Verne in the Eiffel Tower), theatre sets, urban furniture (automatic public toilets and the bicycle rental stands and terminals in Paris) and some stunning cutlery too (Zermatt flatware collection, a teak and plastic spoon for nutella).

    Always a sucker for a bit of designer stuff the bucket is actually rather good. Taking the distinctive red sash of Cordon Rouge the bucket has a red lick that lifts at the back to act as a handle. There's a lip in the base to cradle the bottle too. A little designer piece of plastic to lift any moment to somethin special. Now if only they can do something similar to make parsnips palatable.

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    Speed Tasting Sonoma

    Date: Thu, Mar 25, 2010 Wine Tasting

    It was all a bit mad really. Four wine makers, a duo of wines opened in front of them and us given just ten minutes to talk to them. A speed-tasting. It certainly cut the flannel and got them wine makers to get to the point pretty darn quick! I'd compiled a few questions to ask each of them from twitter but once they had marked their cross on the regional map and given a potted history that darn bell forced us on; before I'd had more than a solitary sip of their wines!

    The map location I thought important for Sonoma has differing regions - rolling hills here, sea influence here, heavy fog influence due to the San Pablo Bay here or higher temperatures up towards the north. Flowers ranch for example is just a stones throw from the Pacific coast - a dramatic wild location surrounded by virgin forest while Pedroncelli is right up in the wild north where the Dry Creek Valley has temperatures suitable for Zinfandel.

    Present were Jim Pedroncelli, Proprietor and Director of Sales and Marketing at Pedroncelli (Adegga / Snooth) with 2007 Mother Clone Zinfandel, Rod Berglund President and Wine Maker at Joseph Swan Vineyards (Adegga / Snooth) with a 2005 Zinfandel and a 2007 Pinot Noir, followed by Jeff Stewart Vice President Winemaker at Buena Vista with a 2007 Chardonnay and 2007 Pinot Noir and finally Tom Hinde, President and CEO of Flowers Winery with their 2008 Chardonnay and 2007 Pinot Noir.

    It is so easy to club all Californian, indeed all American, wines into one. But these examples demonstrated individual aspects modified by the location. Most had a story to tell. The Pedroncelli Zinfandel for example uses vines cloned from the original "mother" vines of which one quarter of acre exist to day and fruit from these 100-year-old vines are included in the blend. It is also a tradition to blend in the fruit from another old plot, the Buchignani vineyard, where vines are 40-50 years old.

    I adored the two Flowers offerings. Both exhibited a real 'European' textural quality, but still with a ripe new-worldliness. Shame they have a retail price of £50-£60 a piece.

    Due to the time constraint I had to email each of them with a couple of questions after the event; surprisingly two even found the time to reply!

    From Tom Hind of Flowers Winery [Adegga / Snooth]:
    a) In FIVE words what makes your wines stand out from the crowd?
    High natural acidity and balance
    b) In FIVE words why us Brits should buy your wines?
    The most pure example of California Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. (ummm, I count ten....)
    c) Can you give me a quick titbit about your wines/a wine/the winery ie food matching, historical fact, something new etc etc
    We are the western-most vineyard in all of California one mile from the Ocean. Our wines go with a wide range of foods due to their high natural acidity lower alcohols, balance and finesse.

    From Jeff Stewart of Buena Vista Carneros [Adegga / Snooth]
    a) In FIVE words what makes your wines stand out from the crowd?
    Elegance, concentration, sense of place
    b) In FIVE words why us Brits should buy your wines?
    True expression of California quality
    c) Can you give me a quick titbit about your wines/a wine/the winery ie food matching, historical fact, something new etc etc
    Buena Vista Carneros is the first premium winery in California, founded in 1857. Today we produce special wines from a special place - our Ramal Vineyard Estate in Carneros, Sonoma County.

    The tasting was at Goodman's Restaurant, where a meal after - complete with trademark steak - turned into a jolly, impromptu, wine and food matching event. The Zinfandel's tearing into the 8oz strip loin with gusto and the Chardonnay's matching beautifully with slices of Irish Smoked Salmon.

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    The Public House, Islington

    Date: Sun, Mar 21, 2010 Wine Tasting

    So what would you think if a guy you've never met before serves you a glorious cocktail on a coaster bedecked with impressively endowered Greeks doing stuff? Personally if the guy happens to be rather good looking and the owner of a rather decent and quirky bar-cum-restaurant you can't help but be envious at his cool style!

    And this style - sorta cool-gay with a dash of irreverence and humour pervades the whole of The Public House. It's up in Islington, not as out-of-town as I assumed, but not a part of London I've ever stumbled though just a minute from Highbury &
    Islington tube. Its not an overly styled 'too-cool-for-school' place. Not imposing. Not uncomfortable. The drinks menu ends with a list of the furniture and other fixtures and fittings: £1,500 for a couple of marble columns with candles? £650 for a deco stove? £450 for a free standing lamp? £800 for a 1950's French Butterfly Chandelier? You can buy them all. A quirky element that adds to the fun. I don't suppose they sell much, most was a bit too camp and boudoir for my taste (although I was rather taken with a couple of the chairs... and one of the other, more moveable, elements).

    I rather wish we had arrived earlier to fully explore the drinks list for this too exhibits some of this quirkiness. They list a Bulgarian Muscat Ottonel by the glass (£4.50), a Patrucius Dry Furmint from Hungary (£30 a bottle) and a Viognier made by Zaca Mesa from the States (£36) for example. On the red side there is an Oregon Pinot Noir, Four Graces, (£45), great to see a Portuguese red Frontaria from the Douro (£19.50) and a Bogle Petite Syrah from California (£7.50 glass, £30 bottle). I would like to have indulged in a glass of the Chateau Du Donjons from the Minerviois (£4.50/£16.60) or maybe one of the four sparkling wines available by the glass (sadly no producers detailed but there is a Prosecco £6/£32 and a Saumur Brut Rosé £6/£32 for example or if you can only suffer champagne a Joseph Perrier at £7.50/£42)

    A short list - but grief, I hate having a wine list so long it makes selecting a bottle a horrific chore.

    My companion, the affable Mr Blyde, selected a Bouza Albarino from Uruguay (£27). I ask you, can you get more obscure and quirky?! It certainly wouldn't have been my choice but I did rather enjoyed it; a decent weight, a broad palate and a fine food matching style. It work rather well. Honeyed pears mixed with grapefruit; fresh, crisp acidity.

    Our discussion of the food was rather intense, critical and 'dissectional'. Starters of Duck Terrine, Roasted Beetroot and Beetroot Leaf Pesto (£7.50) for me was generously sized and neigh-on perfect but the Scallops with Haggis and Champagne Rhubarb (£8.50) offered a little too much in the way of flavours. Beautifully presented and delicious scallops indeed, but either the haggis or the rhubarb have to go...

    Mains. I can't think of a more perfectly cooked Pork Tenderloin that I've eaten. Absolutely perfect. Generous in size (although the 'wrapped in pancetta' bit seemed absent) served with a roast apple and a cauliflower puree. The puree was little more than a smear, the apples stuffing, liver I believe, was little more than a teaspoons-full in size. So I could have done without the cauliflower and wished for more of the liver stuffing. Greed perhaps, more than a critique. Pork Tenderloin wrapped in Pancetta, stuffed roast apple and cauliflower puree is on the menu at £12.95.

    The mix of flavours in the Halibut with Venison Stew and Wild Mushrooms (£17.95) was as unbalanced as the haggis and rhubarb. An expensive and generous portion of superbly cooked fish, the venison dividing the attention. Unlike some of the odder pieces of furniture they didn't quite gel together to make an over-arching statement.

    Dessert I couldn't fault. The Apple and Berry Pie (£5) was consumed with remarkable celerity. Not due to any problem but rather my need to make a 'last of the evening bus-train connection'. Amazing how the passage of time alters - a little wine, damn decent food, an interesting location and a lively catch-up with an old friend and before you know it the chat turns to train times.

    The conversation pre-dinner, was dominated by that coaster - was the middle figure actually a guy? Impressively muscled or wearing man-boobs? The coasters weren't for sale.

    The Public House
    54 Islington Park Street
    London N1 1PX

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    Slow Roasted Lamb with Cockburn's Late Bottled Port

    Date: Tue, Mar 16, 2010 Wine Tasting

    One of the oddest pairings I've sampled recently - roast lamb and late bottled port.

    The lamb was cooked at a very low temperature for neigh-on 18 hours. This certainly results in a deeply juicy joint of meat so it was a fine choice indeed to accompany with a cannelloni bean mash laced with water cress and fresh spinach.

    The next sentence is going to be contrary. The match - lamb and Cockburn's Port - was surprisingly lovely and beautifully paired only it was too rich and decadent! I loved it but drinking more than a glass or two could became a little too overwhelming for some. All down to the ports 20% alcohol.

    The recipe was designed by chef Steve Bulmer as an Easter Day special. Even I know that roasting a leg of lamb for 18 hours isn't a standard way of preparing a Sunday roast but if you can't do something really special for Easter...

    "This Easter, impress your guests with an extra special slow-cooked lamb dish matched with a glass of rich Cockburn's Late Bottled Vintage 2004. The recipe for this tender, 18 hour slow-cooked lamb was created by Steve Bulmer, head chef at Brook Hall Cookery School and inspired by the UK's favourite port.

    This melt-in-the-mouth lamb is satisfyingly rich, and virtually cooks itself, making it the perfect dish for Easter Sunday lunch. Pairing it with Cockburn's Late Bottled Vintage 2004, a full and fruity port, will really complement the sumptuous nature of the lamb. The port's hints of cherry and dark chocolate on the palate will further enhance the depth of the dish, whilst its complex character will leave your taste buds tingling."

    Cockburn's Late Bottled Vintage 2004 is widely available, 75cl, RRP £11.22.

    Cockburn's have the recipe and a video on their site (direct link to load video here) describing the cooking of this lamb dish. The recipe is below if you wish to try it out.

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    On Sauvingon Blanc and Villa Maria's Cellar Selection Sauvignon

    Date: Sun, Mar 14, 2010 Wine Tasting

    There is an issue with Sauvignon Blanc. When it's cheap, it's nasty, rough, acidic and one dimensional. Even modest examples can lack complexity and a layering of flavour that should be there to tamper the inbuilt high acidity. Wine makers can rely on rounding it out with the addition of Semillon of course (i.e. Bordeaux) or call on the terrior providing a level of minerality to supply interest (i.e. Loire). But it is easy to tire of wines that give a little more than an acidity punch lined with gooseberries or a green grassiness. New Zealand has built its reputation on stunning Sauvingons vibrantly punchy with gooseberry and asparagus but even from here you can find wines lacking in body and texture (wines that needs a brave man to drink down the throat rasping juice!).

    Last week the good wine folks on twitter indulged with a day of tastings and discussions on Sauvignon Blanc. The tag to read through is #sauvblanc. My plan was to tweet this Villa Maria offering in conjunction with the 'event'; but being run and dominated by Americans it didn't kick off until way past my bedtime and anyway a few friends dragged me out to the pub with the evening ended with a Chinese takeaway and laughing at the ridiculous pap put out by various TV stations of an evening...

    I did sample a Sauvignon while out (in our drinking hole of choice, the Old Post Office) and had planned to sample a sauvignon with some goats cheese. The tweets were limited to: #sauvblanc in old Post Office Wallingford Riscal lovely honeyed acidity minerality to fore, quite full so different from a kiwi version

    Then #sauvblanc ooooh baked pineapple

    And discovering the pre-purchased Pouilly Fume - pont du milieu pouilly fume 08 dosent go with chinese takeaway #sauvblanc

    In regards to food matching the classic pairing of Sauvignon is with goats cheese, rather than a mixed plate of Cantonese take-away. Try topping cut rounds of thick walnut bread, topped with goats cheese and walnuts, warmed though in the oven, and served with slices of pear and lambs lettuce. Drizzle the dish with walnut oil. Paired with the Villa Maria Sauvignon this made for a stonkingly good lunch (equally it would be a classy starter).

    White Wine Review/Tasting NoteWine Tasting Note: Villa Maria Cellar Selection Sauvignon Blanc, 2009, Marlborough, New Zealand.

    Stockist: Majestic and Tesco Price: £9.99 [More: Adegga / Snooth]

    Pushy grapefruit acidity - passion fruit - lime - straw - herbaceous - herby edge - weighty palate - punchy - crisp - mouth watering - green beans - juicy. Alcohol 13.5%.

    Andrew BarrowScribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]

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    Olly Smith's Drink Tank

    Date: Wed, Mar 10, 2010 Wine Tasting

    Channelflip Media, a London-based production company specialising in making three minute video shorties has released a "a light-hearted, funny wine show, called Olly Smith's Drink Tank"; the latest episode is entitled "Zinging Whites". I just watched it with the sound off - simply hilarious! I imagine it'll be rip-roaringly funny with the full audio experience...

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    The Big Portuguese Tasting with Oz Clarke

    Date: Tue, Mar 9, 2010 Wine Tasting

    A mamouth "wine tasting with a difference" s being organised for the 12th April - The Big Portuguese Tasting. You can participate from the comfort of your armchair (as I'm likely to do, perhaps with a gathering of friends) or you can go to Lords Cricket Ground, John Lewis in Oxford Street or Waitrose Canary Wharf. Details are a bit sketchy at the moment, the big tasting website isn't up and running for example, but the early announcement gives us a chance to plan and get some friends invited... and get those wines purchased...

    1) You can join in tasting with the irrepressible Oz Clarke starting at 7.30pm at Lords Cricket ground. (Tickets available from www.seetickets.com £15 per person)

    2) Join in one of the 'on-line' outside events at John Lewis in Oxford Street, or Waitrose Canary Wharf.

    3) View the tasting with Oz on-line at www.thebigtasting.com from the comfort of your own home.

    All the wines being tasted are available from Waitrose so you can purchase in advance . There are six that will be tasted (links go to Waitrose online):

    1. Tagus Creek Cabernet/Aragonez

    2. Quinta de la Rosa Waitrose Douro red

    3. Arco de Esperao Alenjejo

    4. Tinta da Anfora

    5. Vida Nove (assuming this is the red rather than the Vida Nova Rosé)

    6. Quinta da Azevedo

    You can also follow ViniPortugal and their preparation for the event on twitter at 'vpwine'. These details have been lifted from a facebook event.

    The BIG Tasting with Oz Clarke
    Date: Monday, 12 April 2010
    Time: 19:30 - 22:30
    Location: Lords Cricket Ground, Waitrose Canary Wharf, John Lewis on Oxford Street or from the comfort of your own home!

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