On more than one occasion, when introducing a Grüner Veltliner, I have been met with the response ‘come again’ or ‘Grüner what?’. I’m yet to have heard ‘gesundheit’, but I’m sure that it’s only a matter of time, and although consistently complicated for folk to get their ears round, Grüner Veltliner is not a grape that has the same effect on their taste buds.
The Eschenhof Holzer Wagram Grüner Veltliner is one of those wines that makes an instant impression and got the ‘OMG’ reaction from me at first taste i.e. I taste a wine and find it significantly more exciting than I am anticipating it to be, causing me to spit (ever the professional) and exclaim exactly that, ‘OMG’. Each time I’ve popped it in to a tasting, it’s flown out the warehouse in subsequent customer orders and it’s a no brainer as to why. This is one fabulous wine. Not only does it look great, miles away from the boringly traditional Germanic/ Alpine labels often synonymous with wines from this part of the world, most importantly, it tastes delicious. It’s white, just to clarify, has a notable body to it but a really spritely acidity and bags of flavour, bringing the taste buds alive. There’s a level of florality to it, with lots of apple and a dash of typically-GV white pepper too.
Eschenhof Holzer is the wine maker, and at just 28 years old and five vintages in, when I consider what I was up to when I was 23, I am a little in awe of him, although he does have the benefit of having the bloodline of 3 generations of wine makers before him. Holzer tends to his 13 hectares of vines in the region of Wagram, alongside the River Danube between Vienna and the very steep, terraced and prestigious wine region of Wachau, where the finest Austrian wines hail from and Riesling reigns. Holzer’s wines are the perfect excellent example of how Wagram and the neighbouring areas of Kamptal, Traisental and Kremstal (Wachau’s no. 2) can produce some excellent quality and great value wines.
So if you’ve ever pooh-poohed the wines of Austria (and it doesn’t just stop at the Grüner, there are plenty of brilliant Rieslings as well as red wines) or fancy tasting something a little different to the usual Sauvignon Blanc, it’s time to change that perception and taste what you’ve been missing.
It’s happening. It’s taken a while, but more and more wine lovers are beginning to have heard of Languedoc-Roussillon’s Picpoul de Pinet. For every Pinot Grigio lover out there that I have introduced to Picpoul de Pinet, I cheer. I have reached my goal. One more wine drinker trying and loving something new. Each time someone says to me, ooh, I love Picpoul de Pinet, I am delighted that they have more than Prosecco or Marlborough Sauvignon in their wine repertoire. Fist pumps and High Fives all round.
Picpoul de Pinet is a curious name for a wine, non? It’s easy really – Picpoul’s the grape, Pinet is one of the Herault towns by which the vines grow. Flanked by the A9 main road between Montpellier and Beziers, and the Etang du Thau lagoon, the vineyards are situated on the flat, salty plains in close proximity to the French Mediterranean coast.
Picpoul in all its gloriousness, is a wine of simplicity. As often is the case, the wine was made to drink with the local food. Unsurprisingly, there is no lack of seafood and shellfish fresh from the local shores and lagoon itself in this part of the world – visitors to the region might be familiar with the picturesque port of Sete. Oysters and mussels this fresh need little preparation and anything more than a fresh, clean and simple white wine, such as the Picpoul de Pinet drunk alongside, would easily trample all over such delicate, natural and delicious flavours.
As I glance out of the window , I’m greeted by a damp and grey Spring afternoon in suburban Berkshire, a far cry from when I first tasted Picpoul de Pinet, sitting on the Grau de Roi quayside, basking in the evening sunlight with a chilled glass and a fresh-out-the-sea platter, although I don’t have a photo to insert <here>, I’ll keep that memory close in my thoughts until I can relive that moment even better, when I open that bottle of Picpoul de Pinet waiting for me in the fridge.
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.”
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’, lead 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!
I started writing this post during the solar eclipse back in March. I’m one of those people that gets a bit excited by natural phenonomens like this. I think that the weirdness that the sun is 400 times bigger than the moon, yet 400 times further away (of something like that) and therefore the moon is the exact right size to cover up the sun is pretty special. However, it was irrelevant as it of course, it was cloudy here in Maidenhead.
I had visions of biodynamic viticulturists literally hopping about filling those cow horns with whatever they put in them to be buried right on the cusp of the solar eclipse but from my very mild research, it appears, for obvious reasons that in fact a solar eclipse is a big boo boo for all things agricultural if you’re cosmic like that.
I’ll fill you in a bit more on biodynamic wines when I have time to explain the nitty gritty but essentially, Biodynamic wine making considers the charts of the moon and its influence on the vines, amongst other peculiar activities. Organic or Natural wines are a bit different in that they don’t worry about that sort of stuff, but have been made with ecological considerations in mind from vine to bottle, using organic grapes grown without (or with limited) pesticides and fungicides as well as using organic wine making practices in the winery. Confusingly, what constitutes a Certified Organic Wine differ from country to country. For instance, the US restricts the addition of sulphur dioxide to 100mg/l (non-organic 200mg/l) whereas in the EU, sulfite limits differ according to red (100mg/l organic to 150mg/l non-organic) and white wines (150mg/l organic compared to 200mg/l** non-organic).*
More on sulfites* below, but the thing is, wine need sulfites to a certain degree to protect the grapes from prematurely oxidising and without additional sulfites (which occur naturally in wine anyway), can result in a pretty funky tasting wine. I’d go as far as saying that a few years ago, I would’ve struggled to find many natural wines that were lacking that ‘funk’. However, as wine production methods are constantly developing and as producers get cleverer, for instance, picking grapes in the cool of night, the need to add nasties to preserve freshness is reduced and I would say, from my latest experience pertaining to natural wine, the taste of these wines, which is what we all (I) really care about, is actually pretty good.
In January, I was fortunate enough to attend the world’s largest natural wine trade fair, Millesime Bio, in Montpellier, bang smack in the middle of my favourite French wine region, Languedoc-Roussillon. If the size of the event or the enthusiasm around following ethical and more ecological methods to produce wine, were anything to go by, I can only imagine that we’re going to see more and more natural wine being made, particularly in those regions where a nice hot and dry climate keeps mini-beasts and rot to the minimum. Moreover, I think we’re going to start seeing more and more organic wines cropping up in our day to day wine offerings, particularly from those regions like Languedoc-Roussillon where winemaking is innovative and forward thinking, not because it’s specifically organic but because it tastes so good – the vast majority of the wines I tasted, tasted like ‘normal’ wines – not a hint of organic funk.
I’m not one to choose a wine just because it has a certain tick in a box, so, so far, I’m yet to stock any Certified Organic wines, but I don’t think it’ll be far away judging by those fabulous wines I came across in Montpellier. I have however recently chosen a new wine that has, incidentally, been made using biodynamic methods, chosen purely because it tastes so flippin’ good, the Laderas de Montejurra Emilio Valerio 2012. A spanish blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Garnacha, made with grapes grown in the cool foothills of Navarra’s Montejurra, about half way between Rioja’s Logrono and Pamplona, famed for its Running of the Bulls Fiesta. This is a powerful but elegant wine aged in old oak for 13 months, so expect some chewy tannins well weighted against lots of ripe blackberrys and eucalyptus. I love it, and at £12.25 (price correct Apr 2015), it represents marvellous value, biodynamic, organic or not.
*I get asked about Sulfites a lot. If you are concerned about sulfite levels in wine, stick to the red as less SO2 is needed due to the naturally high occurring anti-oxidants in the red fruit (beware other food types that have high sulphur levels too such as some fruit juices and dried fruit). In order to be classed as ‘sulfite free’, a wine must contain 10mg/l or less SO2, anymore than that, the label must state that it contains sulfites. Even a wine with no added sulfites will likely contain some naturally occurring S02. Although organic wines are likely to contain lower levels (and certainly fewer of the other additives), this isn’t always the case as not only can Sulphur be sprayed on the vines to combat mildew, interestingly, the EU organic limits of sulfites are not so restrictive when put into context. e.g. The white non-organic Rioja on the PFW list at the moment, Las Orcas Decenio Blanco, contains 120mg/l of SO2, significantly less than the EU organic limit of 150mg/l. Even Australia’s cheap as chips Yellow Tail claims on its website that its white wines contain around 140mg/l of SO2 which is still less than the EU Organic limit (its red wines are around 70mg/l).
** Some sources state 200mg/l others 210mg/l.
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