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Port in a nutshell

When I think of Port, I think of Christmas. I think of cigars and smoking jackets, burning log fires, perhaps accompanied by a delicious cheeseboard or chocolates. But Port isn’t just plain Port. There are LOADS of styles, varying in quality and tastiness.

photo (29)All Ports have the following in common;

– They are from vinyeards in the Douro region in Portugal. Maturation usually is carried out in Porto or Nova de Gaia, towards the mouth of the Douro.

– They are fortified with Brandy, to about 19-22% ABV to stop fermentation of the wine. The wine therefore retains its sweetness.

–  Many producers still practice foot treading the grapes in the traditional ‘lagares’

– Red Ports are all made from indigenous Portuguese grape varieties: Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinto Cao, Tinta Roriz, Tinta Barroca.

– Vines must be at least 5 years old and yield is limited to 55 hl/ha.

 

The most common styles in a nutshell and a nice table to demonstrate the differences:

Styles Ruby Tawny
Characteristics Full and rich, deep red in colour (developing to a tawnier colour with age in the vintage ports). Quality increases through Ruby – LBV – Vintage. Rich Nuttier and lighter in style and colour.
Maturation Aged in bottle. Aged in oak ‘pipes’. Increased oxidation and bottled when ready to drink
Vintage/ NV Wine from a single vintage Non-vintage – Wine from a blend of vintages (with the exception of Colheita)
 Types Ruby – Made to drink young after 2-3 years aging in bulk (steel, cement or wood). Powerful and fruity. (Reserve is better quality)

Late Bottle Vintage (LBV) – 4-6 years aged in oak, then can age further in bottle. Good quality, depth and body.

Vintage – 2-3 years aged in oak, then aged in bottle for 10-50+ years.  Accounts for 1% of Port and is only made in ‘declared’ years of exceptional quality, with grapes harvested from that single year. This century, only 2000, 2003, 2007 and 2011 have been declared as vintage years.

Tannins soften with age, flavours develop to ripe fruit, chocolate and colour loses its ruby red to a browner colour.

Single Quinta Vintage – as above but not necessarily from a declared vintage. All grapes from a single wine estate (quinta).

Tawny – 2 years oak. Drink young.Aged Tawny (10 to 40 years)

Wines are a blend from different years, the age being an average length of time that the wines spent in oak.

Colheita – min 7 years in oak (Tawny from a single year)

Flavours of dried fruit, fig and prunes, spice, vanilla.

Not too much detail, based on my WSET Diploma revision notes, but enough to help understand the difference I hope? There are also other styles, such as Crusted, White and Rosé, but my nutshell didn’t extend to those this time.

My favourite? A nice Tawny 10 with some Comté, in front of the fire of course, will do just nicely 🙂

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Fifty Shades of Wine

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image courtesy of catchmyparty.com

I am always amused at the hype around The Fifty Shades trilogy. Yes, they’re not the best written books ever, but at face value, it’s just a chick-lit story about a screwed up billionaire who just hasn’t met the right girl to fix him. In steps Little Miss Innocent Steel to teach him about how normal people have fun and in return, he teaches her about ‘life’ beyond university, working in a hardware store and, I notice, how to get drunk on more sophisticated booze.

Call me old fashioned, but I think there are easier ways to move on from cheap Aussie Chardonnay-Semillon or Jager-bombs rather than being stalked and whipped, no matter how many helicopter rides and bottles of vintage Bolly are involved. Mr Grey, you might be very eligible on paper, but I’m sure that Edward Lewis (Richard Gere) in Pretty Woman would be much more gallant in helping to improve a girl’s palate.

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image courtesy of youtube

So what, beyond the Red Room, was Christian seducing Anastasia with wine-wise? Now, I would’ve had C.G down as a Burgundy or Northern Rhone kinda guy or why not those excellent wines from his home state of Washington? But it appears that his drinking habits may have been based on those very tastes of the author herself, EL James. Yes, Pouilly Fume is a fabulous place to start for the Sauvignon Blanc fan of any discerning wine taste, but Pinot Grigio? Really? Prosecco? I am surprised. Chablis? Well I suppose so, but surely that a fancy-pants like Christian would be more likely to go for a nice Cotes du Beaune, if not Meursault, perhaps a tasty little Puligny-Montrachet to tickle Ana’s fancy – after all, I doubt the guy is ordering from the Seattle’s version of Bargain Booze. Also, so little red – but I suppose it’s easier to get white wine out of the sheets.

Interestingly, EL James has gone to the trouble of letting us know the precise, albeit a little vague, wines that were drunk throughout the books, which I salute. I note, with fondness, that by the second book, she seems to have done a little bit more homework with the delights of more red wines in the form of a Chateauneuf-du-Pape and a Barossa Shiraz coming in to play (or perhaps they were eating more red meat), but by the third book, it appears that she’d gone to sleep. I imagine by this point, she was a little distracted perhaps putting together the official ‘Fifty Shades Wine‘ online store, selling a couple of  Californian bottles of red and white, which I’d love to know if they are any good or not, proving that EL James really is, quite rightly, making hay while the sun shines might be interested in wine.

Love them or hate the trilogy, if you’re still intrigued and want to woo your new girlfriend/ be seduced in the style of Christian Grey, I don’t sell Bollinger, or Pinot Grigio, or cable ties for that matter, but if I was to put a Mr Grey tasting box together, it would look a little like the following rather marvellous selection of wines (which you can order here quoting ‘Mr Grey’), all for less than £90 and a whole lot less disappointing and plenty more lingering on the finish than the first book/film:

2x Domaine Chauveau Pouilly Fume – a very classic and delicious PF. Perfect to impress the girl and a great match with ‘Chorizo and Scallops’.
2x Chateau Vitallis Macon Fuisse – “It’s been nice knowing you” or if belly button is off the menu, also works with Chicken Caesar Salad.
1x Bluebell Vineyard Estates Brut Rosé – Scrap the first edition Hardy’s, send in the Riedel, tea cups simply won’t do.
1x Alvaro Castro Dao Tinto – not too heavy for the white wine preferrer but hard enough for Beef Wellington.

I never liked Cosmopolitans anyway. 🙂

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February Wine Tasting Dinner, Marlow

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Four Course Dinner and Wine Tasting
Thursday 12th February @8pm £40
The Assembly Room, 1 Market Square, Marlow, SL7 3HH

The first Perfect Friday Wine tasting of 2015 takes us to Marlow’s historic ‘The Assembly Room’ for an evening of tasty food, excellent wine and fun with friends (or your Valentine of course!).

 

While you dine on four glorious courses of fine and sumptuous food prepared by the talented folk at Feast Events, I will be serving and introducing a selection of wines matched perfectly to each and every plate.

Tickets for the evening are £40 and bookings are being taken directly by The Assembly Room, so book now on 01628474718 or email info@theassemblyroom.co.uk

Any questions, email me jo@perfectfridaywine.com. I look forward to seeing you there!

 

 

 

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Burns Night Wine

eathaggisIt’s still January. There are still 2 more Fridays in this long and dreary month !! So I therefore pat my Scottish friends on the back – what a jolly good idea to have a big party for Burns Night at the end of January, to not only celebrate the big man’s birthday, but, from a non-Scot’s point of view, to mark the end of the worst of the winter with a big feast washed down with plenty of booze (albeit Whisky). I may be ENGLISH and not have a Scottish bone in my body, but this is a celebration that I may adopt, after all, I have Scottish friends, I’ve been to Scotland (where may I add, I tasted some of the best food I’ve ever had), oh, and I like haggis (I feel the wrath of all my Scottish friends reading this 🙂 ).

I don’t however, like Whisky (nor Whiskey (for you Irish), nor Bourbon (for you Americans)). So what will I drink alongside my Burn’s Night Supper, English style? You’ve got it…wine (wrath all over again…)….

The times that I’ve been treated to a Burn’s Night Supper, the meal has kicked off with Cullen Skink a.k.a a very delicious and rich fishy stew not unlike a Chowder, just a bit smokier due to the smoked haddock. I’ll therefore be drinking a white wine with a hint of smoke and oak, cue Casa Silva’s Viognier Reserva £10.50 (10% of which has spent some time in oak) or Raphael Sallet’s Macon Uchizy ‘Clos du Ravieres’ £16.50, for you Burgundy and Chardonnay fans (it is my aim to drink more Chardonnay in 2015).

Next, comes the Haggis, Neeps and Tatties, translated as a sheep’s stomach packed full of seasoned offal, oats and suet, mashed turnips/ swede and mashed potatoes. Sounds less than appetising but no different to eating sausages in my book, and it’s a scrumptious combination of savoury herbs and gamey flavours that needs a wine to match. The aforementioned whites would work well with the haggis, or even an oxidatively aged Sherry, such as an Oloroso or Palo Cortado, but a savoury red wine with a spicy or smokey kick to it will work equally as well. I’m think dry and spicy old faithful Calmel and Joseph’s St Chinian,  or perhaps if you like things a little heavier, the classic Domaine Pasquiers Cote du Rhone Villages Sablet would go down a treat.

Thanks to my customer Jon Miller for the inspiration on this one! I myself will be toasting the Haggis on Friday night as Sunday night, Burns Night, takes me to Montpellier as I seek more knowledge and tastings from Languedoc-Roussillon!

 

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What to drink in the alps? PFW goes on the Piste…

My extended festive break was very much welcome after the hectic lead up to Christmas. Forward wind past much cooking, eating and enjoying time with friends and family, to the moment that the New Year celebrations were over; down came the Christmas tree and off we sped to the French Alps for a spot of skiing.

Now, although I improve each time I go, I am far from a good skiier. To be honest, I’m more of an apres skiier and although I love being in the mountains and the exercise, my main motivation to ski is to get to the bar. With two under-5’s in tow, this time, apres ski was a little thin on the ground, but that isn’t to say that I didn’t seek out a wine or few. Continue reading

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Christmas Lunch Food and Wine Pairings

nat_lampThroughout the year, as the seasons change, I am always asked about which wines to drink with different food. As well as pairing the normal summer BBQ and that date-night steak, this year I’ve also been asked to match wine with Israeli food, Catalonian fare and even with a Sri Lankan feast – my tummy rumbles with just the thought.

Christmas time is of course no exception, and I know it’s only mid-November, but I’ve been asked what would be a good bet to pair with a traditional Christmas Lunch since the beginning of October.

Here in the PFW household, we alternate who we impose on for Christmas Day each year across 3 sets of family, and although the wine drinking requirements differ at each home, the feast before us is always glorious and never just stops at the Turkey, as I hope is the same in most homes.

Because of this, it’s not just the turkey that you need to think of when pairing the Christmas lunch with wine. Think of the cranberry sauce, the pigs in blankets, herby stuffing, the sprouts (yuck) and array of roasted root vegetables.

Let’s start with the white. You need something with a bit of cojones or the wine will be lost against all those rich flavours. Look for a wine with a bit of body, a zing of acidity that isn’t overly fruity or herbaceous. A Pinot Grigio is going to fall flat here and the boldness of ‘that’ grass in a NZ Sauvignon will clash.

Viogner_ReservaMaking a comeback, I’d recommend finding something with a little oak and here at PFW, I’ve done the work for you. No, no, I’m not suggesting an over-oaked Aussie Chardonnay, don’t worry, we’ll leave that back in the nineties, but a wine that’s developed some lovely buttery and creamy roundness yet still has that lifted finish that will cut through the heaviness of the meal:

Casa Silva Viognier Reserva 2013 (Colchagua Valley, Chile) 10% of this wine has sat in an oak barrel for 3 months giving an ever-so-subtle smokiness and lively roundness to the palate. Dry with nectarine, honeysuckle and a perky acidity that you’ll welcome against the gungiest of bread sauce. Fabulous value.

ravieresDomaine Sallet Macon-Villages Uchizy ‘Clos des Ravieres’ 2011 (Macon, Burgundy, France). Elegant and luxurious with subtle vanilla and citrus, this is bright and creamy, as you’d expect from a lightly oaked white Burgundy. Such a treat, but if I still can’t convince you of the benefits of oak, the unoaked Chateau Vitallis Macon-Villages Fuisse  (from declassified Pouilly Fuisse grapes) makes a fabulous alternative – think Chablis with a shade more body.

And on to the reds. What we’re looking for here is something not too tannic or overly woody, with a medium body and acidity. Anything too heavy is going to overpower, anything too light will be blown away, so I’d suggest a juicy and glorious Grenache.

Grenache’s most famous home is undoubtedly the Southern Rhone Valley, where there are various tiers of wine quality, from your cheap and cheerful ‘Cotes du Rhone’, all the way up to the ‘Cru Villages’, Chateauneuf-du-Pape being perhaps the most reknowned. Despite there being allowed 13 different grape varieties in Chateauneuf, the most classic Southern Rhone blend is predominantly Grenache, with Syrah and Mourvedre. Look a little way to the West, and we see a throng of Grenache vines also in Languedoc-Roussillon, producing some stonking wines blended mainly with Syrah, Carignan, Cinsault and Mourvedre.

pradasAgain, I’ve already sought out the perfect match – make sure you avoid anything too Mourvedre heavy, so in this instance try my trusty Calmel and Joseph St Chinian 2011 with its subtle smokiness and red berries, it’s perfectly balanced for Christmas Lunch, just 30% Grenache, the harmonious blend with Carignan and Syrah provides the right structure, flavour and body to work with the plethora of flavours and textures on that overloaded plate.

stchinian-360x1335Domaine Pradas Gigondas 2011. If I got you excited at the mere mention of Chateauneuf-du-Pape, look no further than one of its fellow and lesser known Cru Villages for wines that are just as exceptional, but with a kinder price tag. Around 12km to the north east of its famous cousin, Gigondas sits in a more elevated position is becoming better known this side of the channel, along with Vacqueyras, Rasteau to name just 3 of the 18 Crus villages. A classic Grenache (appellation rules state a minimum of 50%), Syrah, Mourvedre blend, this wine has juicy blackberry and grippy tannins to match the richness and complexity of the Christmas feast in hand and although drinking well now, will age further for a couple more years yet.

Wines are available to taste every Saturday between now and Christmas at the pop-up wine stall. Order your Christmas wines now for local delivery or collection from Emmett’s Farm on Saturday 13th or 20th December. Keep an eye on Facebook for festive offers and giveaways and see my CHRISTMAS page for suggested mixed cases and gifts.

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PFW Customer Tasting Autumn 2014

Photo courtesy of photojodie.com

Photos courtesy of photojodie.com

Saturday 11th October 2014 saw the success of the first Perfect Friday Wine Customer Tasting, this year held at the beautiful local vineyard and winery, Stanlake Park.

An invitation only event which not only gave my customers a chance to taste over 20 of the Perfect Friday Wine portfolio of wine (see all here), but also for me to thank all those who have enjoyed my wine and supported me since the start, with a bit of fun on an autumnal afternoon.

Thanks to all of you that came along, it was great to see so many of you there and the day went just as planned! If you fancy a re-cap, big thanks go to not only Stanlake Park for having us, but to local blogger and photographer,  Jodie Humphries for her post on her blog Maidenhead Mum and all of the photographs (see more of Jodie’s handiwork at  ).

Interestingly, the Top 6 wines, that can be purchased as a case of 6 for £75 (£71.25 if paying cash/ BACS. To order, email jo@perfectfridaywine.com), turned out to be:

  • Calmel and Joseph Terrasses du Larzac (R) [Hands down most popular!!!]
  • Domaine Chauveau Pouilly Fumé (W)
  • Anna de Codorniu Blanc de Noirs (Sp)
  • Leiras Albarino (W)
  • Casa Silva Carmenere (R)
  • Chateau Vitallis Macon-Fuissé (W) [new on the day – an unoaked, zingy Burgundy]

Extended thanks and a plug also to Mark Banham who drove all the way up from Dorset Wine School. For any budding wine students out there, the first of Mark’s WSET (Wine and Spirits Education Trust) courses start on Friday 14th November at West Dorset vineyard, Furleigh Estate.

To ensure you don’t miss out next time, sign up to my newsletter from the home page and keep in the loop with all PFW news and events.

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Food and Wine Matching : Middle Eastern Food

I’ve been working with my first supper club ‘Pop-up Dinner Reading’ to help the ladies behind the cooking, Laura and Anu to enrich their guests’ culinary experience even further by recommending and providing the perfect wines to pair with their delicious tasting menus.

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Bordeaux En Primeur; Is it worth it?

moutonA bit of a deviation to normal, but if you’ve ever looked into buying wine to keep for the long term or make a return on some hard earned cash, then it’s likely that you’ve heard of ‘En Primeur’. My recent WSET Diploma (Wines and Spirits Education Trust Level 4) feedback assignment lead me to research the ins and outs of Bordeaux En Primeur and I figured that those amongst you who perhaps have considered buying wine as an investment might be interested in knowing a little bit more.

For me, wine is to be enjoyed and drunk. I am however a sucker for an old, rare bottle of wine every now and again; I shared a bottle of 1981 Mouton-Rothschild on my wedding anniversary this week for instance, and we often buy vintage champagne to age and enjoy at a later date when it will be worth 3 times the price paid and taste absolutely superb. I have also considered in the past buying En Primeur, just for the fun of it, like gambling at the races, so it was interesting to delve a bit deeper into whether the system actually works still. I of course would be talking of spending only hundreds of pounds, not tens of thousands…so, excuse the essay speak, but here’s an abriged version of my assignment for you to mull over if interested as to whether En Primeur is actually a good way to buy top Bordeaux wines at a good price… a hefty post for a hefty subject!

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School’s out…is it wine o’clock yet?

So that’s it, I think all of the kids have now broken up for the summer. In the past, this time of seeming panic and upheaval never had any impact on me whatsoever apart from the office got quieter and I could achieve Maidenhead to Thames Valley Park in approximately 16 minutes. The kids then appeared. Nope, no change, they were in day nursery so kept out of harm’s way for 51 weeks of the year. Even now, when holiday club is less expensive than regular day care, still not much change but I figure I might not be so complacent about the school holidays come September, when my eldest starts school.

For those of you with kids of school age, whatever you choose/ manage/ juggle/ wangle to do with the kids for an entire 6 weeks, I’m pretty sure that by about 5pm, there are a lot of parents out there, even more so than usual, working out just how many hours it is until the kids go to bed and also whether it would be rude to have a glass of wine yet. Just what time is wine o’clock acceptable?

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