Category Archives: Seasonal

Muscadet; it’s all the rage, don’t you know?

I wrote an article today on autumnal wines. It was 30 degrees and sweltering outside. Yesterday, I saw a photo of Phillip Schofield on Instagram or Twitter, I forget which, sitting, wearing a Christmas jumper, in front of a full Christmas spread, crackers and all. Let’s just say, my job of ‘getting in the mood’ was probably a little easier than Phil’s.

My Dorset tipple, all that was missing were the fresh mackerel!

My Dorset tipple, all that was missing were the fresh mackerel!

So while I wrote about enjoying a game pie alongside a big, earthy red, all that was really on my mind, and has been most sunny days this summer, is a big cold glass of deliciously refreshing Muscadet. Yep, that’s right folks, good old Muscadet – it’s all the rage, don’t you know and coming back with a vengeance.

To be honest, I don’t really get why it went out of style in the first place. It doesn’t have an offensive bone in its (light) body. It’s crisp, dry, unoaked with a delightful crunch of lemon sherbert fizz. Classically paired with Oysters and seafood, it’s inexpensive and up there with the Picpoul de Pinets and Albarinos of the wine world.

So this summer, I have mainly been drinking, Domaine de la Noe Muscadet Sevre et Maine ‘Sur Lie’ and at under £9, it’s an absolute wine of value. I suppose there in answers the question as to why Muscadet lost its edge. That there isn’t a very snappy, nor sexy title, and I guess once the new world started slapping grape varieties on the labels, the mystery of Muscadet became a bit too much and it disappeared into the vat of complicated French wine labels as we all began to drink overoaked Chardonnay.

Domaine de la Noe MuscadetI will therefore enlighten you about all you need to know about Muscadet and why it should never have been sidelined. First off, it’s from the Loire Valley in France, right out on the western seaboard nearby to Nantes. It’s made from the grape ‘Melon de Bourgogne’, if you’ve ever heard of it, it’s relatively low in alcohol and the better examples, such as this one, state the ‘sur lie’ on the label. This means that the wine has been left to develop for a while on the sediment (dead yeast cells known as ‘lees’ or ‘lie’) that are part of the fallout of fermentation (the other bit being the alcohol), thus giving the wine a little more body and depth, with a creamier, nuttier flavour. Also, importantly, Muscadet is dry, as dry as a bone, and doesn’t have anything to do with the grape variety Muscat, which is synonymous with sweet wine. Lastly, Muscadet is an absolute bargain, so give it a go!

Any other questions? I guess you’ll want to taste it? Lucky for you, I’ll have it open at Emmett’s Farm Shop on Saturday 24th September and of course, the Autumn Wine Tasting on 8th October, so come along and rediscover the retro fabulousness that is Muscadet. Continue reading

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Filed under France, Grape Varieties, Seasonal

If you’re going to buy me a wine gift this Christmas….

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…something like this one…

Dear Santa

At risk of appearing just like my kids, rifling through the Argos catalogue, cutting out the photos of plastic toys and sticking them on to a crumpled piece of paper covered in Pritt Stick a.k.a their Christmas lists, I was wondering if you might accept the following requests of my own …you know, ‘if” you were thinking about buying me any wine gifts this Christmas… after all, I’ve been a good girl this year.

1) A bottle of wine

My stocking is the perfect size and shape, but perhaps your elves worry that they’ll choose something that I won’t like/ think is a bit naff. If you’re reading this, Dear Elves, please don’t be concerned. Continue reading

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Harvest at an English Vineyard

Whereas I just left the sunny Languedoc in full swing, with the majority of their harvest safely in tanks, things are only just starting to get going in the UK on the grape harvest for the 2015 wine vintage.

Grapes need a whole lot of sunshine hours to ripen, and although the UK days are long, as you’ll know, the sunshine can be a little minimal. In the hot and dry regions of the world, grapes have no problem ripening, but in cooler climates like the UK, we’re reliant on a long growing season to maximise the grape ripeness to develop the sugars and flavours in the grape to produce enough alcohol. A long, warm September like we’re experiencing definitely helps to ripen off the grapes and vineyards around the South East of England are now beginning to plan their 2015 harvest.

If fancy getting involved with harvesting at a vineyard, look no further to many of the vineyards here in the UK who are on the look out for volunteers or others selling tickets for those less green fingered amongst you who fancy more of an ‘experience’. Of the 400+ vineyards in the UK, there’s loads of harvesting opportunity to be had, but here are a handful of the ones that I’m familiar with in the South East, all producing excellent wine and guaranteed to show you a great day out however hard you fancy working;

Photo of TIm singlehandedly brining in the 2014 harevest (stolen blatantly from Chafor's Facebook.com/chaforwine page)

Tim singlehandedly bringing in the 2014 harvest (Photo credit: Guy Adams from Chafor’s Facebook.com/chaforwine page)

Chafor Wine Estate,  Gawcott, Buckinghamshire, MK18 4HT

Be part of the CHAFOR Grand Harvest 2015 on 17th and/ or 18th October. Tim Chafor heads up this family owned vineyard set in the midst of the Buckinghamshire countryside, not far from Oxford and Milton Keynes. Their first release of still wines was their 2013 vintage, featuring award winning Bacchus, Chardonnay and Rosé, their sparkling wine is yet to be released.

Perks include lunch (FYI, Tim has a pizza oven and does jolly fine pizzas!), wine to take home and a VIP invitation to the Grand Harvest Supper.

Book your place now: info@chafor.co.uk or call Tim on: 07973 892427

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One of the hottest days this summer in the vineyard back in early July.

Oaken Grove Vineyard, Fawley, Henley-on-Thames, Buckinghamshire (just over the Oxfordshire border).

We helped owner, Phil Rossi, with his bountiful harvest on a beautiful sunny, autumnal day last year, picking his Bacchus grapes. I say we, because it was a family affair and the kids came too and were surprisingly, not too annoying. This year, he hopes that harvesting will start on 17th October for the Bacchus and the following weekend for the Pinot Noir, so drop him a Facebook message or email to get involved. He’ll also be at the Perfect Friday Wine Tasting afternoon in Marlow on 10th October, if you wanted to have a chat before you sign up! [You can buy Oaken Grove Benham Blush here]

Last year, we were fed a well earned hog roast with all the trimmings, tasted newly released wines and got sent home with a bottle. A fabulous day to spend one of those last days of summer around Henley.

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Boutique wines at their finest at Dropmore Vineyard, just to the north of Burnham, Bucks.

Dropmore Vineyard, Littleworth Common, Buckinghamshire, SL1 8NF

Perhaps Maidenhead’s closest vineyard, the Dropmore harvest is a real family affair. With just 3 acres of vines, this is as boutique as they come and the delicious Bacchus White and Pinot Blush have both won awards. Owned by John Petersen, drop him a line if you fancy lending a helping hand. Harvest starts on 11th October and will continue throughout October. Word on the street has it that Dropmore offer the best harvest catering going! [You can buy Dropmore Vineyard Bacchus here]

John will also be at the Perfect Friday Wine Tasting afternoon in Marlow on 10th October, so he can check you out before he lets you near the vines!

Pinot Noir grapes in stage of 'veraison' (colour change) earlier in the summer at Bluebell.

Pinot Noir grapes in stage of ‘veraison’ (colour change) earlier in the summer at Bluebell.

Bluebell Vineyard Estates, Furners Green, East Sussex, TN22 3RU

More of an experience than a horticultural work out, Bluebell are hosting a day in the vines on Saturday 17th October, 10-3pm. Spend the morning hand-harvesting grapes followed by a delicious lunch overlooking the vineyard, then a tutored tasting of their fabulous sparkling wines, made onsite, led by wine maker Kevin Sutherland. Also, taste the grape juice, fresh off the press (which, is sooooo tasty and described to me as ‘the nectar’ by one Saint-Chinian vineyard worker). [You can buy Bluebell Vineyard Estates Brut Rosé and Seyval Blanc here]

Call 01825 791561 or email wineinfo@bluebellvineyard.co.uk to book your tickets at £40 per head (well worth it for being wined and dined in such a beautiful setting). Or come and meet Bluebell Vineyard at the Perfect Friday Wine Tasting afternoon in Marlow on 10th October.

 

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Filed under English Wine, Home Counties, Maidenhead, Seasonal, Seyval Blanc, Sparkling, Wine Tasting, Wine Travel

Food and Wine Pairing: Crumbed Pork and Catalonian Carignan

Crumbed Pork Medallions and Catalonian Cariñena (Carignan from Montsant DO).

Of course, food and wine matching isn’t the be all and end all of culinary enjoyment (a non-red wine drinking friend of mine takes her steak with Sauvignon Blanc, and why not!),  I know how my readers like a good food and wine pairing, so, rather than me suggest vague food to go with the Perfect Friday Wines, I thought I’d spin it around a bit and match my wines to go with some proper recipes.

Although my Spaghetti Bolognese recipe obviously rocks the house, I thought you might like something a bit more exciting than that – plus, the next post, where I make the leftovers into a lasagne, might become a bit samey. Then, I felt a bit mainstream using one of my trusty Jamie Oliver recipes and a bit boring sharing something that I’ve picked up on BBCGoodFood.com, so I thought I’d ask someone who knows what they’re doing to help out.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve met and got to know many interesting local business folk around and about the Maidenhead area – who’d have thought we’d have so many of them! One of the most relevant to my line of work, being THE official food blogger for the Maidenhead Advertiser, Cookham based, Lara Cory (a celebrity!!). Lara also writes her own blog at Feeding Time Blog, and I thought we’d make the perfect pairing, Lara’s summed up both of our passion for eating, drinking and sharing, very well:

We love food and we love wine and we’re going to help you enjoy the best of both.” 

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Lara not only accepted my challenge for a seasonal produce recipe that I could perhaps tie in with English Wine Week, but much to my delight, I shortly got a call from Lara somewhere deep in the Berkshire countryside, sourcing some local free range pork from a nearby Farm Shop (Ferny Grove Farm, which I must visit myself!) – the girl means business!

The next thing I know, quicker than I can prepare a cheese board, Lara’s been in the kitchen and come up with this very delicious recipe for Sage Crumbed Pork Medallions.

Now, originally, I’d had that pork lined up for an English Bacchus,  but the mere suggestion of sage, herbaciousness and ‘spring-like’, 11196221_435271559967974_5154378016674714301_nlead me to mentally open and pour myself a glass of the Cellar El Masroig Sola Fred Tinto, in the time it takes me to unwrap a slab of Manchego.

So why the Sola Fred? Well, not only is it one of my favourite sub-£10 wines at the moment (I am LOVING Spanish wines at the mo), but it is savoury and fresh and fruity (think red cherries), with some bright acidity – spot on with pork. Generally where Pork is concerned, I really like an appley, structured white (Pouilly Fume is my ultimate pork white) or a tasty red that’s not too heavy, so a Pinot Noir or a Carignan are perfect. It was the herbs though that lead me to the Sola Fred, pulling me towards a red wine over white and something more savoury than the Casa Silva Pinot Noir or the Calmel and Joseph Vieux Carignan. There’s also the fact that of course, the spaniards are pork mad, so this softly tannic Carignan (Cariñena or Mazuelo in Spanish) with a splash of juicy Garnacha from Catalonia’s Montsant is bang on. If you haven’t tried it yet and you’re a wine drinker looking for a good deal, I urge you to try (or order as part of a pre-selected mixed case). Montsant is bang smack next to, infact it surrounds, Priorat, famous for producing some of Spain’s best and most illustrious wines. Although the soil is a tad different in Montsant (Priorat has this unique slatey soil called Llicorella) and the climate is evers0-marginally cooler, the yields are still low and the quality of the wines, made from the same grape varieties, remains high, with the added benefit of being a little easier to drink young.

We hope you have a slap up feast between these two! For more food and wine pairings from us Maidenhead duo, you can follow Lara on Twitter @feedingtimeblog (and me, @perfectfriwine) or sign up to receive notifications of either blog. Are there any of your favourite recipes that you’d like wine matched? Or perhaps Lara can recommend a recipe for one of your favourite wines? Just, let us know, we love a challenge!

 

 

 

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Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, Grape Varieties, Seasonal, Spain, Wine and Food Pairing

Mince pies and wine

This is the first year where my daughter seems to have truly grasped the concept of Christmas. She was telling me yesterday how Santa needs to have mince pies and milk left out for him. I’m pretty sure this information hasn’t come from memory, since a year is a long time when it’s more than a quarter of your life. I’m also certain that this advice didn’t come from me, let’s face it, there’s no chance that I’d be suggesting milk as Santa’s ‘one for the road’.

Which brings me on nicely to what exactly would Santa be choosing to wash down his mince pies? Apart from the more traditional suggestions that might spring to mind, such as sherry or port, I’d think that Santa would be looking for something warming and spicy with a touch of sweetness. My Calmel and Joseph Corbieres would certainly do the trick, but it’s a different kind of wine that I’ve been wanting to share with you for a while, partly due to one of my other half’s old rowing buddies obsession with the Italian wine Amarone, but also since I’ve encountered a couple of wines this year that have been made in the same way, resulting in a style of wine which would be the perfect accompaniment to mince pies, chocolate cake and Christmas pudding alike, as well as dark and meaty wintery dinners.

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Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, Grape Varieties, Italy, Seasonal, South Africa, South America, Uncategorized, Wine and Food Pairing

Festi-wine – no glass, quantity over quality: the time and place for a wine box.

I’ve just realised that we’re less than two weeks away from heading off to a UK music festival for 5 days. Whereas last year on the run up (I was on maternity leave) I started preparing months in advance, this year, I’ve only just started to think about what we need to take, particularly what food and drink we might take to keep the cost down when we’re there.

To be honest, I’m not in the habit of drinking wine at a festival. In fact, it’s no place for fine wine or taking along anything that needs to be kept cold – totally unnecessary, unless of course you either have a camper van and therefore a fridge to hand or are too important to erect your own tent (jealous of glampers? Me? Yeah, very much so 😉  ). Festivals are for drinking real ale, lager and cider. Oh, and you won’t hear me say this very often, but they are also the only acceptable time, along with making mulled wine, and place for a…wait for it…yes, a BOX of wine.

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Filed under Australia, Beer and Cider, Eating/ Drinking In, France, Seasonal

Henley Regatta Perfect Wine Pairing

Peace - after the racing, summer in the English countryside.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.

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Filed under Dorset, Eating/ Drinking Out, English Wine, Party Wine, Seasonal, Spain, Sparkling

My quest to find the perfect Rosé

Upd 26Jun14: Prices and suppliers updated.

Upd 14Aug13: In a desperate attempt to be accepted by my fellow wine bloggers, I’d like to re-submit this post that I wrote back in June for the 80th  Wine Blogging Wednesday, the subject being ‘Dry Rosé’. I’ll admit, this is cheating somewhat but after some grovelling, @winecast has humoured me and allowed this as a super-early (21 days earlier than the challenge was even set) submission. Check out twitter #wbw80 and here for more excellent entries.

Some love it, some hate it. I am in the former camp and LOVE a glass of Rosé on a sunny afternoon. I like to think that my husband and I were the sole initiators of the rosé revolution in the UK after being introduced to its merits on a holiday to St Tropez back in 2003. Prior to then, I’d tasted very little and if my memory serves me correctly, anything other than Mateus was rare to be seen on a pink wine list in the UK.

Just like I wouldn’t order just ‘a glass of white wine’ in a pub, I wouldn’t order just any old rosé. I’ve been caught out in the past by the sweet, heavy, dark, cheap rosés that many pubs serve and have been known before now to demand to see the bottle before ordering only to opt for a pint of lager instead. I am always astounded by the looks of astonishment by bar staff across the country – surely rosé is rosé? Not at all and I seriously suspect that the rosé haters amongst you simply haven’t found the right one for you yet! Rosé for me has to be dry, lightish in colour and acidic with an almost sherberty finish and I neither mind whether it’s strawberries or peaches and cream. Needless to say – it must be COLD. Continue reading

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Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, English Wine, France, Seasonal, South Africa, Uncategorized

Jolly Rosé Holidays

The 89 BMW pictured at Sandbanks, UK  - our mode of holiday transport is not such fun these days!

The ’89 BMW. Our mode of holiday transport is not such fun these days!

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!

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Filed under Eating/ Drinking In, Eating/ Drinking Out, France, Seasonal

Summer Dining and Wine Series: Barbecues

Picture this; it’s been sunny since Wednesday and you’ve been cooped up in an air-conditioned office all week. The forecast for the weekend is STEAMY and you awaken to blue skies and glorious sunshine on Saturday morning. First thought? It’s time for a barbecue!

Proud husbandly photograph of 6 hour cooked dinner

Proud husbandly photograph of 6 hour cooked dinner

So, first thing…do we have any charcoal? Yes, I think there’s one last batch that’s been clogging up the shed all winter – just enough for one bbq. Second…food! Cue, a rummage in the freezer. Sausages – check. A couple of chicken thighs, perfect for skewers – check. This is where I, being female, would end, but this is a barbecue, 2 meats in one meal simply won’t suffice! Continue reading

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Filed under Beer and Cider, Dorset, Eating/ Drinking In, Italy, Seasonal, South America, Wine and Food Pairing