Burns night is around the corner on 25th January and this weekend we’ll be attending a magnificent Burns party at our good friends, wine lovers and blog readers Ave and Al’s place. What to drink is the obvious question. Whisky is the obvious answer. But here there is a problem. I don’t like Whisky. I’ve tried a dram from here, there and everywhere but just haven’t got a taste for it. I read Iain Banks’ brilliant book “Raw Spirit: the search for the perfect dram” and loved it and wanted to love the product too. But I don’t (which probably isn’t a bad thing as I can’t afford to burn a hole in my other pocket too!) So what should us non-Whisky lovers be putting to our lips instead?
Lets start with a few food and wine pairing basics straight from my WSET text book:
1. Match the flavour intensity of the food and the flavour intensity of the wine
2. Match sweet foods with sweet wines
3. Match acidic food with high-acid wines
4. Avoid combining very savoury foods with high tannin wine
5. Pair “chewy” meat with tannic wine
6. Pair salty foods with sweet wines
7. Pair fatty and oily foods with high-acid wines
8. Match the weight/richness of food and the body of the wine
Haggis is rich and spicy. Red wine will make you all happy as twice as many of you read the French Red Wine article compared to the one on French White! The spiciness takes me straight to the Rhone. The pepper and other spices just feels like a perfect match for Grenache. Not too tannic, lots of fruit and lots of spice. I could’ve gone to Priorat of course, but I’ve harped on enough about that wonderful region last year! Australia and California are also producing some great Grenache blends these days too, but I’ll stick with what I know.
After spending a week in the region last summer I just know its a great choice, I just need to decide which level to go in at. There’s some great Côte du Rhone on the market at very agreeable prices (20% off all Rhone wines at Majestic at the moment) or should I go to the top of the Rhone hierarchy and suggest a Chateauneuf-du-Pape? The problem I find here is that most supermarket C9DPs are too young – I’m not drinking anything after 2007 at the moment. Instead I’m going with Vaqueyras. We spent three days in the wonderful little village and as well as knowing I’ll get value for money it will also bring back some great memories.
Unfortunately I can only find one bottle accessible to the masses in Majestic, and one from my mate Jez, so there’s also some recommendations for Gigondas, the next village along.
La Bastide Saint Vincent Vaqueyras 2010 (Majestic £16.24, £12.99 in current deal)
Domaine La Garrigue Vaqueyras 2010 (Wine & the Vine £14.65)
Finest Gigondas 2010 (Tesco £13.49)
Taste the Difference Gigondas 2010 (Tesco £13.49)
But if you want the best then get online at www.winedirect.co.uk where you will find one of my very favourite wines, from an exceptional vintage, with a bit of bottle age:
Domaine Le Couroulu Cuvée Classique Vacqueyras 2007 (Wine Direct £15.75)
Brambles, spice and lavendar, blakberry nose – delicious nose. Massive fruit concentration, Full of Christmas spices, black, almost raisiny friut; you can really taste the heat – perfect for the Winter. Beautiful, silky tannins and great acidity and freshness. More please! Tasted great at 35 degrees, tastes better when it’s sub-zero. 92 points
Not another French post! Well no actually, it isn’t. Well not really. I know I’ve written a fair bit about French wine over the past couple of months but I do think its the best place to start and is a great introduction to most of the well known grape varieties. But most of these varieties are grown all around the world, so this post highlights the places to look. I’ll use the recent articles about decoding French wine to take us on a trip around the world. It’s a bit like Amazon… If you liked that, then you might like this!
My love of Burgundy has also taken me to a few other places over the past year and back in February I even bought a case of 6 bottles from Majestic of Pinot Noir from everywhere but France! New World wines, particularly New Zealand and USA,I have found to be more fruit focused, which lots of people like, but often without the earthy, forest aromas and flavours of Burgundy. Getting any Pinot for under £10 is never easy, but it can be done, and the best example I’ve found comes from Pfalz in Germany (M&S – find it!). Ive been told that the best up and coming region for Pinot is Tasmania, owing to its cool climate, so I’ll keep my eye out for a couple to try for you. I really am sooooo selfless!
From the epicentre of fine wine in Bordeaux, Cab Sav is grown all over the world and thrives in hot climates. We only need to go back to the famous “Judgement in Paris” in 1976 when the Californian wines whooped the asses of the Borderlais in a blind taste test to realise there are great Cabernets around the globe (get yourself a copy of the film “Bottle Shock” to learn more and to enjoy another superb performance from Alan Rickman). Then there’s the fabulous region of Coonawarra in Australia, famed for Cab Sav. And for value head to South America – Argentina and Chile are making some great stuff.
Same grape, different name! In fact Aussie Shiraz is probably better known to most casual wine drinkers in the UK than Syrah from the Northern Rhone! So where better to start than Oz! The Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale regions of South Australia produce some stunning Shiraz, as does the Margaret River region in Western Australia. Try “The Hedonist” from Waitrose at £12.99 – one of my favourite wines of the year.
The Grenache blends of the Southern Rhone are available all over the World. In Oz they are often referred to as GSM (Grenache, Shiraz, Mouvedre). The famous Chateau de Beaucastel in Chateauneuf du Papes even transported and planted some of their wines in Paso Robles, California! I’ve also written a lot about my love of Priorat in north-east Spain, usually made primarily from Garnacha (yep, same grape!). Hot country = spicy and fruity and often excellent.
This grand grape has had a tough time over the past 10 with the ABC gang getting into a tizz. Now it’s true that the supermarket shelves have been full of basically crap stuff from Oz and the States… But what do you expect at 3 for £10? There is so much great winemaking around the world now that Chardonnay is regaining its place as one of the most fantastic and flexible grapes out there, both with and without the use of oak. I’ve found some amazing wines from the US and Oz over the past 12 months and recently tasted a stunner from NZ. Also look to Chile for value. I also tasted truly excellent Spanish Chard on our recent trip.
Where else to start but New Zealand? Since the inaugural 1986 vintage of Cloudy Bay ( not Oyster Bay, repeat not Oyster Bay – never pay more that £5 for it!) those clever Kiwis haven’t put a foot wrong. Supermarket shelves are packed with the stuff, and there is some great value to be found as well as some real class if you’re prepared to go above £10. The up and coming country for this often gregarious grape is Chile, but prices are rising with improved quality. Also look to the south of France for some lovely clean wines.
Germany is the place to start as they probably produce some of the best anywhere in the world, but as usual the top stuff comes with a hefty price tag. However, if you like something really fun and a bit sweet then give the Dr. Loosen from Sainsburys a go. I’m a huge fan of Australian Riesling, especially from the Clare or Eden Valleys. They offer real concentration of limes and tropical fruit and lovely minerality. Also look to NZ who are really starting to get into the grape more and more. Recently I also tasted a lovely example from South Africa… Expect to see more and more on the shelves over the coming months.
Not unlike Oz and Shiraz, Chenin has become synonymous with South Africa and there are bottles at all price levels. I am really getting into these wines at the moment and have a blockbuster lined up for Xmas day. Australia is another country making some Chenin waves and these are generally easier to find in the supermarkets than the French bottling from the Loire Valley.
When you’re having a dinner party, try buying a French and other country example of a white and red wine and see who prefers what… My guests are probably getting fed up of the same old game but I’m still enjoying it!