Tag Archives: 5×50 challenge

Malbec Celebration

My blog-o-thon has slowed a little over the past week but the running is still going strong. So far I’ve clocked up just over 100k in the 5×50 Challenge and most of the time it really is quite enjoyable. Today’s incessant rain makes it a rather damp affair, ‘drenched’ being the operative word.

Today marks day 18 of the challenge, but it is also Malbec World Day. The day is significant in Malbec’s history as it was 160 years ago on April 17th, that Malbec officially takes root in the Mendoza region in Argentina. The variety originates in South-West France. It is one of the permitted grapes in Bordeaux as well, although these days it isn’t planted widely there. The region of Cahors is generally seen as the birthplace of Malbec. It is its wide recognition as the grape of Argentina that really put Malbec on the map and has prompted its wider planting in many other countries, particularly in the new world. But this popularity also means a more recent resurgence of popularity in its native land under the Appellation of Cahors, but interestingly the name of the grape is usually included on the label these days. Malbec typically produces concentrated, dark wines with intense black fruit flavours, often with a herbal or meaty character. The intensity and concentration ensure the wines are fantastic with beef, especially when barbecued or grilled.

Malbec is very easy to get hold of, so pop into your favourite retailer and pick up a bottle. I’m a great fan of the Zuccardi range, yet my personal favourites tend to come not from Mendoza, but from the higher altitude vineyards of the Salta region. Bodegas Colomé and its sister estate Amalaya make some brilliant wines and I’ve had very enthusiastic reactions to Michel Torino’s ‘Don David’ too. Recently I’ve also been quite taken with another area; Patagonia, in Argentina’s far south produces some fantastic examples, notably the Malbec Estate from Humberto Canale. A wonderful freshness combined with that trademark intensity of black fruit, owing to the long ripening season, make this a great choice too.

The Perfect Nightcap

Just a quick update today as I’m a little busy. Got my 5k run in early and although still a bit cold the sun felt wonderful soothing. Spring has been a long time coming.  My head was still a little fuzzy from a late night. After a meal out with family we got back home and got stuck into the chocolate Easter eggs and a gorgeous bottle of Calvados. Not just any Calvados, might I add. All too often it is more like rocket fuel, but not this one. It has a beautiful sweet smell of apples, very clean and powerful. Smooth on the tongue with a nice amount of warmth and complexity. This is more like a good Cognac.

L. Dupont Calvados du Pays d’Auge comes with its own ‘appellation controlee’, similar to many wines. The type of apples used (more than 40 different types are allowed) and where they are grown are all important as well as how it has been distilled and matured. Here it has more in common with Cognac than with other fruit-based eau-de-vie. This one certainly tastes like no corners were cut. Proper Calvados has to come from Normandy and the Pays d’Auge forms the heartland of the Calvados region. All Calvados has to be made from apples, however if you see one labelled ‘Domfrontais’ it will have pears in the blend as well. Sip it neat and at room temperature from a brandy glass and savour it.


How Terribly Middle Class

someecards.com - Honey, why did you buy that middle class wine again?Have you worked out what class you belong to yet. I had a go and was really upset to find out I didn’t belong to the ‘Elite’. Clearly that must be because of my chronic lack of money and the fact that the survey didn’t even bother to ask what kind of wine I drink. Fortunately it did ask about my exercise regime, which is probably what lifted me out of the ‘Precariat’ section, that and the fact I don’t watch Jeremy Kyle.

Talking about exercise, the 5×50 Challenge is going well so far. Six days and counting, a solid pace and a lack of injuries are all good. The wine-blog-o-thon is also going reasonably well. I thought I would run out of inspiration after two days but I have surprised myself. I just hope someone is reading it, I wouldn’t want to do it for nothing you see!

You might have gathered from the ramble that I am ‘established middle class’. Really? I’m from the Netherlands, surely that makes me classless! What wine do you need to drink to be established middle class? Probably something under a tenner, as we are the ‘squeezed middle’ you know. Maybe something from the ‘new world’, France is too elitist, so I’m opting for Chile. I duly went to M&S, which I thought was suitably middle class, and picked up a bottle of the CM Carménère from the Elqui Valley for £7.99. Just the thing with a nice Indian curry. Is that middle class enough? Only I didn’t have curry because the Spanish tapas were on special offer, but it worked anyway. Quite an intense nose, almost port-like, with a lot of dried fruit character, prunes and even coffee. It doesn’t quite translate to the palate where it feels a bit hollow, quite hot and lacks a bit of freshness on the finish. I also didn’t find it as smooth and supple as it promises. Still, it is decent for the money if you like the dried fruit characters, but only if you’re middle class.

No wines were harmed in the writing of this post, but some may have been offended at being called middle class.

Fine Wine. But not as we know it…

I was working with one of my clients at the Cross Stobs Bottle Shop last night. Surely being surrounded by wine should be enough to provide plenty of inspiration. I wanted to pick out a couple of wines I will be using in a tasting next week and decided to go for a new wine, the La Multa Blanca, Old Vine Garnacha.

The red version of this wine has been one of my longstanding favourites and so far I’ve had a very enthusiastic response to the white as well.

It smells peachy with a blossom-like character. Fairly full-bodied, peachy flavour, slightly honeyed and pretty complex, particularly for the money (just under £8). The finish is dry and fresh, leaving you craving the next sip.

La Multa is Spanish for ‘the fine’ and the label has that semi-official look of one too many parking fines, acquired by Scottish winemaker Norrel Robertson in the course of his winemaker travels. He is known as ‘El Escoces Volante’ (Flying Scotsman) and has found his niche with old vine Garnacha in Spain, particularly in Calatayud. His wines all have that sumptuous and smooth, easy-going character and at the upper end the El Puño is worth looking out for.

Give it a go, you’ll not be disappointed. Get your hands on it here. Anyway, must run, ahem, literally!


Hoping for a Miracle

As I struggle to get going on my next run for the 5×50 Challenge (and it’s only day 4!) I’m looking for a wine that can provide a real ‘pick-me-up’. Something with a spring-like aroma and a fresh, zesty taste. I opt for wine I often use in the Wine Unearthed workshops as the opening gambit.

The Amalaya Torrontes from Argentina has a wonderful balance. Torrontes can get a bit big and blowsy but this one is all ripe citrus with a subtle elderflower scent. The grapes are grown at altitude in an area called Salta, and the vineyards are amongst the highest in the world. This has quite a dramatic effect on the climate and does wonders for the resulting grapes. Dry, desert-like conditions and a big variation between day and night temperatures lengthen the ripening season giving real depth of character to the grapes. The other reason this wine has such a delicate balance of ripe grapefruit and zesty freshness is the addition of about 15% Riesling to the blend, giving it a wonderfully fresh finish.

The word Amalaya comes from an old indigenous Andean language and means ‘hope for a miracle’. That seems very appropriate under the circumstances and I keep hoping for a miracle to see me through 46 more days of keeping the legs as well as the inspiration going.

Find your local stockist here and expect to pay around £9.

Finding Value

Day 3 of the 5×50 challenge and I’m feeling the excesses of the Easter weekend as I complete my run slightly more sluggish than I should. Last night’s tasting with the Cafe Gandolfi wine club gives me plenty to choose from but the red wine that won the day reminds me of a piece of advice I regularly give to wine consumers at my tastings, how to find value in your wine purchases.

Image courtesy of BBR

The winning wine is a rather beautiful bottle of Cotes du Rhone Villages. It may not sound that special at first but this is one of those wines that reinforces my advice. It centres around paying a bit more for a lesser name. This wine retails around £12-£15 which is quite steep for a Cotes du Rhone. It is an indication we are dealing with a wine that is likely to deliver more than your basic plonk. Now think about spending £10 or £15 on a Chateauneuf du Pape. It’s a very popular wine from the appellation that finds itself right in the middle of the Cotes du Rhone area. However, with its elevated name it attracts a considerable premium, so your Chateauneuf is at the bottom end of the price range. In short, unless you’re willing to pay a decent price for Chateauneuf, you’re much better spending your £12 on a good Cotes du Rhone. It means you’re paying top end for that name and that should give you a cracking wine.

The proof was definitely in the tasting with this wine and if you want to try it for yourself, Domaine de la Renjarde, Côtes du Rhône Villages Massif d’Uchaux 2010 is all ripe fruit and spice and quite structured, which makes it very food friendly. A nice hearty stew or a juicy steak. It is available from BBR or, if you’re in Glasgow, the wine is April’s wine of the month in Cafe Gandolfi.

A is for Albariño

As I’m making my way through a sunny Glasgow Green on my second day of the 5×50 Challenge, thoughts turn to the next wine to review. I’m out in shorts and t-shirt, the sun seemed quite warm enough when I was indoors, but now I wish I put on an extra layer as the wind is quite a bit colder than I had anticipated. The fact everyone else seems to be wearing polar outfits should have been a hint.

Albariño on the vine. Image courtesy of Bodegas Fillaboa.

That feeling of spring in the air, with a bracing grip of the remnants of winter makes me think of Albariño. The grape variety is largely grown in Galicia in North West Spain (and in Northern Portugal as Alvarinho), a corner of the world where you might perhaps expect grapes to be super ripe with intense, tropical flavours. Not so Albariño. Galicia is heavily influenced by the Atlantic and that can give a chill to the weather that makes the ripening season longer. Albariño has that bracing character of high acidity, a good dose of ripe, yet fresh citrus fruit, can have a distinct floral edge and a crisp, dry finish, which can sometimes be a little on the bitter side. It’s those characters that make it a perfect seafood wine, particularly scallops and oysters or something like a ceviche.

A couple of weeks ago I managed to taste a dozen or so different Albariños, most of them pretty good. That makes it easy for me to recommend them. Pay around a tenner and you’ll more than likely get a decent one. The one that stood out for me is a bit more expensive but then I did write down ‘delicious’ as my tasting note. The Fillaboa 2011 is made by Gonzalez Byass and retails for around £15, although it doesn’t seem widely available in the UK (yet?).

Coming Home to Port

Happy Easter! I’ve just completed my first 5k of many more to come over the next 50 days. After a rather late night it was quite refreshing to get out in the spring sun even though the temperature still isn’t exactly warm. Yesterday involved a lot of fruit wine tasting at the Cairn O’Mohr winery in Perthshire. Quite a baffling range of different fruits, leaves and flowers get turned into the varying concoctions and the place just oozes quirkiness and fun. Ron, the founder and owner took us round and showed us where he grows the elderflowers and berries. He’s full of great stories and I will do a more detailed blog on this soon.

If you ever find yourself in Perthshire, between Perth and Dundee, go and see them.

We then popped into Gleneagles where I used to work back in the days, longer ago than I care to admit! A very juicy ribeye was washed down with a taster of Primitivo and a delicious Cannonau from Sardinia before heading home to some cheese and Port. And it’s that Port I’m choosing as my wine for today. The Fonseca ‘Terra Prima’ is an utterly delicious reserve Port made using organic grapes. The fruit is juicy, concentrated and jammy. And at around £16 a bottle it is amazing value too. You’ll probably need to head to your independent specialist for this one. If you’re in Glasgow go to the Good Spirits Co in Bath Street.

Keep on Running

At the risk of everyone starting to call me Forrest, I’ve yet again signed up for the 5×50 Challenge. I love running and love this challenge because it encourages everyone to get off the sofa, join and resolve to run, walk, jog, cycle 5 kilometres per day for 50 days. I did it back in the autumn last year and can’t wait to get started on the next instalment on Easter Sunday.

Trusty trainers ready for another challenge.
Trainers might need a polish.

On the face of it, it doesn’t sound like that much but when you’re doing this every day it makes a huge difference, but it’s also a tough challenge. I had quite a few days on the previous one where my body just didn’t want to go anymore but, mind over matter, you get out and get going and come back feeling better for it.

One of my other challenges is sharing some of the wonderful wines I taste on a weekly basis online, on this blog. Sometimes I just lack the motivation to write or say something meaningful, so in tandem with the running challenge I’m going to review 50 wines over the course of the 50 days right here. Hopefully they are going to span the weird and wonderful, the great and, perhaps, the not so great.

Wine Trade folks, if you want to help and you want me to review your wine, please get in touch! But at the very least, if you’re reading this, why not sign up for the challenge yourself? It may just change your life!

And please, drink responsibly!


Update 28 March:

I’ve decided the wine review challenge will now also have to cover 50 grape varieties. That should make for a very varied bunch.


One heck of a Challenge

The past 50 days I have been running a lot. I have covered over 340km in this period as part of the 5×50 Challenge. A challenge designed to people off the sofa and committing to regular exercise. Today marks the end of the challenge but it doesn’t mean I will now return to sitting on the sofa. This challenge has inspired me to stick with it and keep running through the winter and get ready for some longer runs next year.

The 5×50 core team also inspired me to something else. And that was to find some amazing wines that would appeal to the running types. Because believe me, it is not all health and fitness, there is plenty of room for the good things in life.

Working with Cross Stobs Wine, a local independent wine shop I have found five wines to inspire the runners and of course a sparkling wine to celebrate the achievements. A percentage of each case sold will go to the 5×50 chosen charity, Sport Relief, so not only will you taste some lovely wine, you’ll feel great about it too!

You can now get the six bottle case (one bottle of each wine) for £55,  or two bottles of each wine for £110 (delivery charges apply). And don’t forget you’ll be helping a worthwhile charity at the same time.

The wines?

Domaine de Montredon Picpoul de Pinet, Languedoc, France

An energetic, fast-paced sprinter with lots of energy. Perhaps struggles to keep up with Mo Farah, but who wouldn’t?

Raats Chenin Blanc, South Africa

The versatile type, can do fast-paced runs over long distances and still has a bit left in the bottle to pull out a sprint

Don David Malbec, Argentina

The rugged, outdoorsy type. Thinks nothing of running to the top of Ben Nevis and back for fun but needs some sweet ripe fruit on the way to keep the energy levels topped up. 

La Multa Old Vine Garnacha, Calatayud, Spain

The social runner. Not the fastest and keeping fit is a useful byproduct but it’s really about the chat on the way. Life is for living after all.  

Mas des Amours, Coteaux du Languedoc, France

One for the long haul. More marathon than sprint, but intense, runs it in well under four hours and still manages a beautifully graceful finish. 

Casa Defra Prosecco Spumante, Italy

Cooling down time, don’t forget to stretch and then toast your success and put your feet up. You’ve achieved your goal.

Help yourself to a case by clicking here and join me in next year’s challenge!