It would be an understatement for me to say that I like Henley Regatta. I love Henley Regatta, even more so when the sun is shining. I have a lot of great memories from over the years, from the times I’ve camped with good friends, having left work in time to pitch up and catch the last couple of races over a Pimms or two, to the few times I’ve been lucky enough to get my hands on a pass to Stewards’ Enclosure. I also rowed myself for a few years at Maidenhead, so not only can I appreciate a nice stroke action, the stress of a racing start and the pain of a 40 strokes per minute rating, I’ve also been part of the rowing community so tend to know a few friendly faces around and about. All in all it’s a brilliant few days and if you like sitting by the river with a drink, people watching, I can imagine you’d enjoy it too.
The last time I went to the Cote d’Azur and Provence, was 10 years ago to the month. We (my husband and I, in the early days) spent 3 days under canvas on the beach at Port Grimaud as part of a 2 week tour of France, living out the back of my 1989 BMW E30 convertible. This time, we’ll be in a much more sensible diesel estate (stationwagon, for my American readers), accompanied by our 2 kids (20 months and 3 years) and staying in a ‘Tiki Hut’ (a.k.a a thatched mobile home) – oh, how times change.
What will not be changing however, is the delight of buying inexpensive local rosé wine by the refillable carton from the local marché. It was on our previous trip, sat in a bar watching how the other half live on St. Tropez harbour, that we discovered the delights of Provençal rosé. From that moment on, we have continued to quaff the stuff every summer and share the love with whoever will listen – we even chose a cheap and cheerful rosé as an alternative to white wine for our guests to wash down the barbecue at our wedding.
Something else that has changed since my last trip, is that I now know a little more about wine, so I will be branching out beyond just the entry level to try and find the perfect rosé – I’m not expecting that I’ll have too venture far.
Port Grimaud is just outside of St. Tropez and then we’re staying on a vineyard just to the east of Orange. Do you have any recommendations of vineyards to visit or specific wine producers to keep an eye out for? Please do comment!
What: Kleine Zalze Pinotage, Stellenbosch, South Africa 14.5%
Where Out: Hand and Flowers, Maidenhead, Berkshire £4.85 175ml glass/ £19 a bottle
Where In: Templar Wines, online, £7.99 (as part of a case of 12)
Occasion: Long overdue, Yummy Mummy mid-week catch up over pizza and wine
Food match: This fruity, medium bodied Pinotage stands up well to the SCRUMMY Taco Beef Pizza.
Conclusion: A warm and well rounded wine with good oak and pleasing chewy blackcurrant. Much better in comparision to anything that used to be on the wine list here before the previous owners took over. Back to being the best pub in town by far.
Bonus point: At last, the grown ups of Maidenhead have somewhere nice to go for a drink and a decent bite to eat in the centre of town! Not to be confused with the magnificent Marlow eatery of Tom Kerridge fame just up the road, but a lovely local all the same, and you’re more likely to get a table.
Surely this year, here in the UK we deserve a good summer? The jet stream owes us more than just a few random non-rainy days and in anticipation of a heat wave or two, in my next couple of posts, I will share my idea of summer wine choices whilst dining al fresco.
Part One: Picnics
What: Fairtrade Organic Unwooded Chardonnay, Santa Florentina, Famatina Valley, Argentina 12.5%,
Where Out: Bel and The Dragon, Cookham, Berkshire £5.00 175ml glass/ £21 a bottle
Where In: Corney and Barrow, online, £8.50
Who: A date (A.K.A. my husband – someone I hadn’t spoken to for a number of weeks a) in a civilised setting b) using eye contact due to some kind of multi-tasking activity e.g. wiping tomato sauce from a small person’s face c) without referring to him directly but via one of the same small people as ‘Daddy’).
When: Last minute flogging of Kaiser Chief’s tickets, in favour of a quiet, local, Friday night out, drinking wine and eating curry (without regret – boring, I know, but soooo much easier).
Food match: Had I been eating and not heading down the road to the Spice Merchant Cookham Tandoori, the mussels would’ve gone down a treat.
Conclusion: A dry and soapy, citrus wine with a perfect acidity softened by the buttery creaminess reminiscent of popcorn flavoured Jelly Belly jelly beans. Bel and The Dragon doesn’t have the cheapest wine list in the vicinity but it’s very comprehensive and I look forward to heading back to trying more. Plus, if this wine was anything to go by, the quality of wine seems to fairly reflect the price (I tested some of their competitors just to be on the safe side).
Bonus point: For an ‘everyday’ drinker to take home or for any of your wine buying needs, pop next door to the lovely Old Butcher’s Wine Cellar (website currently under development) for a bottle of Paul Mas Chardonnay.
What: Riva Leone, Barbera, Piedmont, Italy
Where Out: The Bull Hotel, East Street, Bridport, Dorset £5.20 175ml glass/ £19.50 a bottle
Where In: Spirited Wines, Marlow, £7.83 a bottle
Who: 1 ‘On-the-wagon-for-January’ Husband, 1 ice cream eating child
When: Post lunch coffee/ cake/ wine stop sheltering from the rain.
Food match: I drank it with a Victoria Sponge (just a slice, not a whole one) but would think it would be better matched to either the Venison or the Burger from The Bull’s menu (next time perhaps!!).
Conclusion: Spicy, eucalyptus, medium bodied with some deep redcurrant and raspberry fruit. Very easy drinking even on its own.
Bonus point: The Bull Hotel; Stylish, chilled, welcoming. Log fires in winter, sunny courtyard in the summer, great wine list…and they seem to like kids!!
Links: Riva Leone
What: Alameda Oloroso Abocado, Bodegas Hidalgo
Where Out: Casa Brindisa, Exhibition Road, South Kensington, London £4.95 glass/ £34 a 50cl bottle
Where In: Highbury Vintners £10.50 50cl
Who: Husband plus 2 tired and hungry toddlers
When: Christmas family day out to the big smoke
Food match: Smoked spanish cheese Idiazabal with walnuts and quince jelly
Conclusion: Luscious, leggy medium sweet sherry, copper in colour, figgy undertones. Made a favourable alternative to a Rioja with tapas.
Bonus point: Numbed the pain of the eldest child refusing all but toasted corn and bread sticks for lunch in protest at the 90 minute queue for the Natural History Museum.
Links: BBR Oloroso Summary, Oloroso Sherry
What: Vega Douro Tinto 2009, Douro, Portugal
Where Out: The Two Brewers, Park Street, Windsor £15
Where In: The Wine Reserve £8.49
Who: Old bestest girl-chums
When: School night
Food match: Pork belly
Conclusion: Super value for a full bodied, savoury wine with dark cherry fruits.
Bonus point: It’s all in the location for my first flash recommendation; Chocolate labradors round our ankles and open fires in perhaps the cosiest pub in Berkshire.
Links: Wines of Portugal
So, I haven’t been able to blog as much as I would like to over the last couple of weeks, partly due to being extra-specially knackered but also because I’ve cancelled the cleaners so have been doing the housework when I want to be blogging! What this does mean however is that the money that I am saving on the cleaners can be spent on more/ better wine. The opportunity to do so presented itself to me when an old wine associate of mine, Tony Hill, one-half of Bordeaux and Beyond, kindly let me help out on his stand at a local wine fair back in November to give me a taste of the wine trade. Continue reading “Making me work for my wine”
My usual ritual of decorating the Christmas tree this year was a little different to the past few years as I swapped my usual companions, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley and the rest of the Love Actually cast, for 2 little baby helpers. More of a hindrance than a help to my obsessive-compulsive bauble placement, my 2 year old was tasked with hanging some non-breakable wooden decorations on the lowest branches (averaging 3 on the same branch), whilst my 14 month old removed said decorations and tried to eat the fairy lights.
In past tradition however, I was still able to enjoy a glass or 2 of mulled wine brewed from my own recipe, the perfect accompaniment to help get into the Christmas spirit.