Tag Archives: wine and food matching

Thumbs up for Riesling

I remember my delight when, during one of the blind exam tastings for the WSET Diploma a few years ago, I was faced with three wines sharing a common grape variety. The very first whiff told me I was dealing with Riesling. The task was to work out where each of the three wines came from. Fortunately they were textbook examples and I recognised the bone-dry Australian Riesling with its trademark high acidity and that typical lime-like and characteristic petrolly smell. The richer and rounder Alsace Riesling stood out for its remarkable balance and finally there was the lighter, peachy sweetness from a Mosel Riesling, which was balanced with a lively, lemony freshness on the palate, owing to the ever-present acidity in the wine as well as a little bit of a sparkle.

It’s that Mosel style I absolutely love but I’m acutely aware of the association this has in many people’s minds. Sweet German Riesling equals Liebfraumilch I seem to hear all to often. Let’s put that one to rest. Although Riesling is allowed in the blend for Liebfraumilch, in practice this is much more likely to be dominated by a grape like Müller-Thurgau, which has nowhere near the nobility of Riesling. Frankly, most Liebfraumilch is not much more than sugary water, made from overcropped vines on the flat lands, quantity over quality. Compare that to the steep, slate-covered slopes facing the Mosel river, where Riesling finds its characterful side.

The blue slate soils in Dr Loosen’s vineyards

German Riesling comes in a multitude of different styles and these days the dry Rieslings (look out for ‘Trocken’ on the label) are increasingly popular. One thing that can provide a key is the level of alcohol. If it’s around 12% you’re more than likely dealing with a dry version, below 9% and it’s almost certainly sweeter. Invariably I try to convince people of the merits of German Riesling, with mixed success, but I was absolutely delighted with the reaction when I presented a sweeter style from the Mosel with a chicken and mushroom paté starter served with toasted brioche at the Wine Unearthed workshop in Edinburgh this weekend. I don’t know if it was the wine itself, the combination that worked so well, or if the tasters just had an open mind. The wine, Dr Loosen ‘Blue Slate” Riesling from the Mosel (around £11, Bibendum), is from one of the top producers in the region, which clearly helped. The name refers to the steep blue slate slopes the grapes were grown on. Quite a sweet style, but its fruity freshness and zippy character worked beautifully with that paté as well as the sweetness of the toasted brioche. Combine with that the gentle 8% alcohol level and it made for a perfect lunchtime wine.

I’m sure I won’t be able to convince everyone of its merits but you should really make time in your wine calendar for this amazing grape. It might just pleasantly surprise you.

Prosecco: The Wines of Nino Franco

The sales figures speak for themselves. Prosecco is hugely popular and seems to be going from strength to strength, outperforming those of Champagne. Perhaps it is a sign of the times but I would like to think the recent tightening of the laws, enshrining Prosecco into the DOC(G) system has done it now harm whatsoever even though it has taken the cheapest versions away from the market. There is still some dreary stuff that carries the name Prosecco, but if you’re willing to pay a little bit more you can get some truly interesting wines.

I’m one of those people who loves Prosecco but I see it very much as a simple, fresh, lightly sparkling wine that is at best a refreshing aperitivo and a good party drink. But a serious wine able to cope with a variety of foods? Boy, how wrong was I.

Nino Franco Prosecco and Oysters
Prosecco and Oysters

When I caught up with the importer of producer Nino Franco recently, the venue was not entirely random. HIX Soho is a hip and happening place and the menu seems almost too perfectly matched. The pork crackling “Mark Hix style” is something to behold, the crispy texture and saltiness crying out for a fresh, soft wine with that little touch of sweetness that takes any sharp edges away. It’s where the Rustico comes in. If you’ve never had oysters with a Prosecco, I’d urge you to try this too. No good if you don’t like oysters, but I’m pretty certain scallops would do nicely too.

The revelation arrived with the slow cooked veal. The single vineyard wine we tasted is a Prosecco the like I’ve never tasted before.

Nino Franco Grave di Stecca
The single vineyard ‘Grave di Stecca’ perfect with slow cooked veal.

The ‘Grave di Stecca’ has been given a little ageing in tank but on the lees, the deposit formed by the dead yeast cells after the fermentation. This gives the wine an extra depth and complexity that was completely unexpected and was unbelievably tasty with the veal. Deliberately left unclassified, the word Prosecco never appears on either the front or back label. The vineyard is walled, something of a rarity in the area, and the vines, by all accounts, are ancient. I suspect that means they were never affected by the phylloxera pest that blighted most of the world’s vineyards in the 19th and 20th century. That story reminds me of the ‘Vieilles Vignes Francaise’ from Bollinger, so perhaps Nino Franco is the Bollinger of Prosecco?

Nino Franco RusticoTwo of the wines also make pretty smooth dessert matches. They are not really dessert wines but the sweeter styles each have around 35 grams of residual sugar, a bit like demi-sec Champagne and both the Prosecco Primo Franco and Superiore di Cartizze work well with my saffron infused custard tartlet and rhubarb compote, but the apple fritters might be an even better match here. It may seem like quite a bewildering array of wines but putting them into the context of food really shows off their uniqueness and excellent quality.

And the quality is undisputed. Nino Franco is one of the oldest producers of Prosecco in the heartland of the region known as Valdobbiadene. Third generation Primo Franco seems a trailblazer for Prosecco and a stickler for detail. By all accounts he’s not a great friend of the ‘flute’ glass, preferring to drink the wine from a white wine glass to fully appreciate its intricacies.

These wines are really worth searching out and if you can, go for the ‘Grave di Stecca’, it may well change your whole perception of Prosecco. It certainly put a smile on my face.

Thanks to Tim McLaughlin-Green from importer Sommeliers Choice and Dacotah Renneau for introducing me to the Nino Franco range.

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.

The Scottish Connection

Food, Fun & Fizz – Burns in Love!

Wedged firmly between Burns Night and Valentines, the twain did meet in a very special Scottish food & wine tasting in Glasgow on February 6th. In conjunction with Brenda Anderson from Tasting Scotland we showcased Scotland’s infinite variety of produce while matching this with some superb wines from around the world that can trace their proudly Scottish roots.

When I started researching this tasting I was amazed by the sheer amount of wine I could chose from. The Scots really do get out there, making wine from Spain, to New Zealand, from Australia to South Africa and even a little in Scotland itself.

Kicking off the love was a Scottish Sparkling Strawberry wine from the quirky Cairn O’Mohr winery, made using local Perthshire strawberries. The medium-sweet fruity character makes it very easy drinking, which means you can have it on its own or pair it with lighter, fruit-based desserts.

The seven-stage menu provided plenty of opportunity to sample Scotland’s produce.

 

Some hae (smoked) meat

A taste of Smoked Beef & Smoked Venison from the Rannoch Smokery

These cold smoked meats call for quite a powerful wine and I chose the white Huia Gewürztraminer, from New Zealand’s Marlborough region, (£14) with its pungent nose and spicy character. It is rich and creamy enough to stand up to the food. The owners of the winery, Claire and Mike Allan make some very characterful wines and can trace their roots back to Scotland.

The La Multa Old Vine Garnacha (£8) is made by Scotsman Norrel Robertson MW. He is known as ‘El Escoces Volante’ or the Flying Scotsman. After starting his career with Oddbins he travelled the world, making wine in a variety of countries. He is now based in the Spanish Calatayud region where he makes a number of different wines, among which is this juicy, and far too easy drinking Garnacha.

 

The Rigs O’ Barley

Pearl Barley risotto served with Smoked Chicken & Smoked Duck from the Rannoch Smokery

The creaminess of the risotto and the different meats gave me an opportunity to experiment with two Australian wines. The Skillogalee Rose from Australia’s Clare Valley (£13) is a juicy blend of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. It really shows off the ripe fruit. The winery is owned by David and Diana Palmer who both originally came from Edinburgh and are now producing stunning wines in South Australia. Look out for their amazing wines from the Riesling grape as well.

The second wine is produced by the third Baron of Glenguin, Robin Tedder MW. This means he has a direct connection with the Glengoyne distillery just outside Glasgow. Robin Tedder’s grandfather was the first baron of the land the Glengoyne distillery occupies and was an excise man. I’m told he had a hand in bringing about the law that Scottish Whisky should be aged in oak for three years and one day. Glenguin Old Broke Semillon (£15) from Australia’s Hunter Valley. The tasters loved this wine with the smoked duck in particular. Despite its age (it was 2005) the wine was still full of zippy lemon and lime flavours, the acidity providing a good balance to the duck. Also keep a look out for a Glengoyne malt whisky finished in Robin’s Shiraz barrels.

 

Bard’s Broth

A modern take on the traditional ‘Scotch Broth’

Urlar Sauvignon Blanc (£12). Urlar is New Zealand winery and is the Gaelic word for earth. The winery was established in 2004 by Angus and Davina Thomson after they left their farm in the Scottish Highlands. Organic viticulture and sustainability are their driving forces and they even have a herd of Highland cattle on the estate, providing that magic Scottish ingredient by way of organic fertiliser. Their Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is pretty textbook. Fresh, a mix of gooseberry and tropical fruits and characteristically mouthwatering.

 

The Great Chieftain o’ the puddin’ race

Haggis from Ramsay of Carluke

Iona the Gunnar (£14) is made by Andrew Gunn, who traces his family roots back to Scotland and even has Viking roots. Not only is the name Iona very Scottish, it is situated in Elgin. The vineyards were planted in an old apple orchard and the Sauvignon Blanc is outstanding, but I’m a big fan of ‘The Gunnar’ a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and a little Petit Verdot, like you get from Bordeaux. The proximity to the ocean lengthens the ripening season and it shows in the gorgeous ripe fruit.

 

The Poet’s Ploughman

Barwheys Cheese from Ayrshire

For the cheese I chose a classic southern French blend of Syrah, Grenache and Carignan. The Cotes du Roussillon Special Reserve Charles Rennie Mackintosh (£11.50) is an homage to Charles Rennie Mackintosh, who spent the last few years of his life in Port Vendres in the Western Languedoc, the heartland for these vines. Many of his paintings depict Port Vendres, a small port near the Spanish border, and the nearby landscapes.

 

Cupid’s Dessert Cocktail

An adult and liquid version of Cranachan. Shaken not stirred by our good friend Richard Duffy

 

Luscious Lots of Chocolate Love

White, Rose & Vanilla, Milk, Dark and The Chieftain by the Chocolate Tree, Edinburgh & East Lothian

With the dark and Haggis flavoured ‘The Chieftain’ we had a taste of El Puño (£18), one of my favourite Garnachas made by El Escoces Volante, Norrel Robertson who also produces the La Multa. This is full bodied, full of flavour with a chocolatey feel on the finish. Although I would have this with big, meaty dishes normally (think Sunday roast) but the ripe blackberry and plum fruit and chocolate make it work with the dark, bitter chocolates.

 

The various wines were supplied by:

www.rose-wine.com

Bibendum Wine

Cross Stobs Wine

Great Western Wine

 

 

Address to a Haggis

It’s that time again, when anyone with even the merest link to Scotland celebrates Burns’ Night with the traditional Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, piped in with great ceremony by kilt-clad Scotsmen and addressed with a recital of Robert Burns’ famous poem, ‘To a Haggis’. As any self-respecting Haggis fan knows, this rarely seen, four-legged animal comes in two varieties. One has a longer set of right legs, the other a longer set of left legs. This allows them to run around the mountains of the Scottish Highlands without tumbling down the slopes, but clearly only in one direction, depending on which set of legs is longer.

When it comes to the question of what to drink when this ‘beastie’ finally makes it to the dining table the traditionalists opt for Whisky and it would clearly have to be a Scottish one at that. But I’ve been having a go at wine with haggis and there is plenty there that can work well. Youthful whites provide a refreshing balance to what is an earthy dish. I’ve had Australian Pinot Noir Rosé where gorgeous ripe red fruit characters and a little toastiness work beautifully with the richness of the dish. This makes me think that a Champagne could work well here too. Or is that just too decadent? Spanish and Italian reds made from Garnacha or Sangiovese seem to be some of the most popular matches. The earthiness combined with plenty of fruitiness in the wine means they combine well with the meatiness of the dish, but the slightly higher levels of acidity and juicy, ripe fruit give it plenty of freshness to add a lighter touch to it all.

I suppose what it comes down to is personal taste. Doesn’t it always? But it also shows that this ‘great chieftain o’ the puddin’-race!’ is actually very versatile and easy to match with your favourite wine or whisky. If you feel like a little experimentation yourself then the Food, Fun & Fizz evening – ‘Burns in Love’ is a great opportunity. We’ll be doing some food & wine matching (and it’s not all haggis!) with wines from all over the world, yet firmly rooted in Scotland. Intrigued? Come and join us on February 6th. Slainte!

Burns in Love – Food, Fun and Fizz

Robert Burns painting by Alexander Naysmith

Why not join ‘Tasting Scotland’ and ‘Cork & Bottle’ in killing two birds with one stone? Having planned our next Food, Fun & Fizz night to take place on 6th February 2013, it makes sense to celebrate Burn’s night and Valentine’s day with us in one fell swoop.

Bring loved ones, friends, family or colleagues to enjoy a unique experience consisting of a perfectly executed blend of pop-up tapas dining, traditional wine tasting & some gourmet ‘look what’s on your doorstep’ education!

Your evening starts with a glass of fizz and nibbles, followed by a 7-stage tasting menu that gives you a unique insight into some of Tasting Scotland’s favourite local artisan food producers.

The accompanying wines from around the world all have a unique Scottish connection which will be shared with you during the ‘Cork & Bottle’ wine matching masterclass.

 

 

Where?           The Tasting Room at The Good Spirits Co.  23 Bath St, Glasgow

When?             Wednesday 6th February  2013

Time?               19:00

Cost?                £35

To book?          email pieter@corkandbottle.co.uk  or call  07939 272532

 

Tasting Menu

7 Scottish Artisan Food Producers in 7 stages

‘Some hae (smoked) meat’

The Rigs O’ Barley

 Bard’s Broth

The Great Chieftain o’ the puddin’ race

The Poet’s Ploughman

Cupid’s Dessert Cocktail 

Luscious Lots of Chocolate Love xxx

Food, Fun and Fizz – a stage for artisan producers

Firstly congratulations to all who managed to get themselves a ticket for our sold-out inaugural Tasting Scotland ‘Food, Fun & Fizz’ event in conjunction with Cork and Bottle on Thursday 22nd November in Glasgow. Sorry to everyone else who had their sights set on the best value ticket in town, but who we couldn’t quite squeeze into the Tasting Room at The Good Spirits Co.

We described the event as being the first of what is sure to be a fabulously different wine & dine event. Friends, family or colleagues came together and enjoyed a perfectly executed blend of pop-up tapas restaurant, traditional wine tasting & some gourmet ‘look what’s on your doorstep’ education. We are delighted that the feedback has been resoundingly positive.

We can’t wait to release tickets for the next event! Join us and be amazed at how we can merge a celebration of Burn’s night with Valentine’s Day, on Wednesday 30th January.

We promised a run down on the suppliers from Thursday night’s event so here is the complete list.

The websites provide details on where to buy the products we tasted and others in their range. We hope you will give consideration to these producers when shopping or designing a menu for a special occasion. Farmers markets often give the most direct access to the producer.

 

Fizz: Syn Cuvée Blanc – McLaren Vale, Australia

The Smoked Salmon Taste Trail

Hot and cold cured salmon canapés

Artisan food producer: Rob Gower, Dunkeld Smoked Salmon*

Products tasted: Farmed Smoked Salmon, Gravadlax, Hot Smoked Salmon

www.dunkeldsmokedsalmon.com

 

Artisan food producer: The Scottish Handmade Oatcake Co.,

Products tasted: Perthshire Oatcakes Traditional (Cocktail)

www.perthshireoatcakes.co.uk

Wines

Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel – Austria

Raats Unoaked Chenin Blanc, Stellenbosch, South Africa

 

The Taste Test

Artisan food producer: Mark Bush, Summer Harvest**, Madderty, Perth

Products tasted: Cold Pressed Rapeseed Oil, Raspberry / Apple & Walnut / Bramble & Juniper Dressings.

www.summerharvestoils.co.uk

 

Artisan food producer: Tapa Bakehouse, Glasgow

Products tasted: Organic sourdough bread

www.tapabakehouse.com

 

The Rare & Native ‘Irn Bru’ Pig

Pork Rillette

Artisan food producer: Arlene & Thomson McKenzie, Nethergate Larder*, Stewarton

Products tasted: Tamworth Pork Belly

Their butcher shop No 1 Avenue Larder, Stewarton, Ayrshire.

Wines

Luis Cañas Barrel Fermented Rioja Blanco, Spain

Luis Cañas Rioja – 5 months barrel maturation, Spain

 

The Smoky Soup of Scotland

Cullen Skink

Artisan food producer: Sourced by Stuart Taylor, Pisces Fishmongers & Poulterers*, Rutherglen, South Lanarkshire

Products tasted: ‘Haddies’ (Smoked Haddock)

Their fish shop 193 Main Street, Rutherglen

Wine

Bodegas Argüeso San Leon Manzanilla, Spain

 

The Game Stew is on!

Venison, Chestnut, Bramble & Juniper Stew

Artisan food producer: Mark Gibson, Edenmill Farm*, Blanefield, Glasgow

Products tasted: Venison Shoulder

www.edenmill.co.uk

Wine

Mathilde – Cotes du Rhone, France

 

Little Miss Muffet’s Dairy Box

Cheese platter

Artisan food producer: Ann Dorward, Dunlop Dairy*, Stewarton

Products tasted: Dunlop (Hard Cow’s Cheese), Bonnet (Hard Goat’s cheese)

www.dunlopdairy.co.uk

Wine

Andrew Quady Starboard Batch 88, California

 

A wee bit of fudge

Artisan food producer: Joyce Brady, The Wee Fudge Company*, Glasgow

Products tasted: White Chocolate & Sicilian Lemon oil, Belgian milk chocolate & Valencian orange oil, Belgian milk chocolate, stem ginger and mixed spice

www.weefudge.co.uk

Wine

Familia Zuccardi Tardía Torrontes, Argentina

 

Vegetarian Dishes

Artisan food producer: Eileen Wilkinson, Petrie Fine Foods, Fenwick, Ayrshire.

Products tasted Vegetable Haggis, Mediterranean Vegetable Loaf

www.ayrshirefoodnetwork.co.uk

 

Wines were supplied by the Cross Stobs Bottle Shop* with exception of the Manzanilla, which came from the Good Spirits Co*.

We’d like to thank the producers and suppliers who part sponsored* or fully sponsored** their relevant inclusion in ‘Food, Fun & Fizz’ – The Inaugural One.

We look forward to seeing you at the next one at the same place on Wednesday 30th January 2013.

Brenda & Pieter.

 

Wine list Food, Fun and Fizz

Last night saw the first of what is to become a series of food and wine matching evenings with Tasting Scotland. 30 enthusiastic food and wine lovers got together at the the Good Spirits Co tasting room in Glasgow to get the low down on Scottish food and match it to some tasty wines. I’m going to devote a bigger post to this soon but I’ve had a few requests for the wine list, so without further ado, here it is. All wines are available through Cross Stobs Wine with exception of the Manzanilla which can be obtained from the Good Spirits Co. Alternatively drop me a note and I’ll help you source what I can.

The next event is in the planning and will be on January 30th next year. Might there be a Scottish theme to the wine?

 

Fizz

Syn Cuvée Blanc – McLaren Vale, Australia £10.95

 

The Smoked Salmon Taste Trail

Domäne Wachau Grüner Veltliner Federspiel – Austria £8.85 (reduced price)

Raats Unoaked Chenin Blanc – Stellenbosch, South Africa £9.90

 

The Rare & Native ‘Irn Bru’ Pig

Luis Cañas Barrel Fermented Rioja Blanco, Spain (white) £9.95

Luis Cañas Rioja – 5 months barrel maturation, Spain (red) £9.95

 

The Smoky Soup of Scotland

Bodegas Argüeso San Leon Manzanilla, Spain £13

 

The Game Stew is on

Mathilde – Cotes du Rhone, France £10.50

 

Little Miss Muffet’s Dairy Box

Andrew Quady Starboard Batch 88, California £15

 

A wee bit of fudge

Familia Zuccardi Tardía Torrontes, Argentina £8.95

 

Food, Fun and Fizz

‘Tasting Scotland’ and ‘Cork & Bottle’ join forces again in what is sure to be a fabulously different wine & dine event. Bring friends, family or colleagues to enjoy a unique new experience consisting of a perfectly executed blend of pop-up tapas dining, traditional wine tasting & some gourmet ‘look what’s on your doorstep’ education! Your evening starts with a glass of fizz and nibbles, followed by a 7 stage tasting menu that gives you a unique insight into some of Tasting Scotland’s favourite local artisan food producers. I have selected 9 accompanying wines that have a story of their

own to tell which I will share with you during the ‘Cork & Bottle’ wine matching masterclass.

Where? The Tasting Room at The Good Spirits Co. 23 Bath St, Glasgow

When? Thursday 22nd November 2012

Time? 19:00

Cost? £35 per person

Menu? 7 Scottish Artisan Food Producers in 7 stages

1. Fizz and nibbles on arrival

2. The Smoked Salmon Taste Trail

3. The Rare & Native ‘Irn Bru’ Pig

4. The Smoky Soup of Scotland

5. The Game Stew is on!

6. Little Miss Muffet’s Dairy Box

7. A wee bit of fudge

 
To book? info@tastingscotland.com or 0141 239 4907

Cork and Bottle Live@29Studios

Thursday October 4th I was fortunate enough to host a wine and cheese tasting at 29Studios in Glasgow. About 35 cheese and wine lovers had gathered to work out which wines and cheeses they liked best. The fire was on, the glasses were full, the cheese plates were showing their best and not a drop was left at the end of the night.

I’ll do a full blog post on the various wines and cheeses we tasted next week, but for the moment I wanted to post this video of the event, produced by the team at 29Studios.

I also want to thank Brenda Anderson from Tasting Scotland for co-hosting the event and Ann Dorward from Dunlop Dairy and David Prow from Cross Stobs Bottle Shop for their generosity in supplying the tasters.

Hope you enjoy the video. If you were there on the night, let me know how you found it!