Show date: Thursday 23rd September
Show time: 20:00 CET (GMT +1)
While most of us enjoy a hearty Rioja or a glass of sangria with tapas, the unique relationship between Spanish sherry and a Scottish whisky offers a more adventurous flavour of the region.
It means that when Jerez sherry casks are used for the maturation stages of some Laphroaig whisky expressions, the intriguing result can be traced back hundreds, and potentially thousands of years.
For while Laphroaig whisky, distilled on Scottish island of Islay, boasts a rich 200-year-old heritage, the Jerez region has been producing wine since 1100BC, and fortified wine - sherry - since at least the 13th century, with many believing production began even earlier.
Located in the south west of Spain, Jerez continues to produce sherry for export around the globe. In all there are more than 10,000 hectares (25,000 acres) of vineyards in the region and sherry is produced in a variety of styles, ranging from dry, light versions such as finos to darker heavier versions known as olorosos, made from the Palomino grape - with sweet dessert wines also being made from Pedro Ximenez or Moscatel grapes.
Tapas enjoys a similarly rich heritage, believed to have evolved as a cuisine in its own right from a more functional origin when food like bread and pieces of ham were used as a 'cover' or 'lid' - the translation of tapa - for wine to keep flies out of the drink.
Luckily, drinkers quickly learnt that the tapas and wine were an ideal combination for consumption, which is why Laphroaig is bringing together some of its expressions, including the 25 year old and Triple Wood matured in sherry casks, for a unique live online tasting session with specially-prepared tapas dishes.
Broadcasting live from the Harvey's bodegas in Jerez, this live and interactive event will offer a further insight into the creation of the sherry cask-matured expressions, by comparing Bourbon cask matured Laphroaig with sherry matured Laphroaig to assess how the flavours of the wooden barrels help contribute to the distinctive taste.
It will also give viewers a behind the scenes tour of the region and introduce experts who will be pairing a selection of whiskies with authentic Spanish tapas that bring out the rich and creamy notes of the whisky whilst complimenting the bold flavours of Spanish cuisine.
John Campbell, Jose Antonio Souto, Diego Sandrin and Simon Brooking join us live online at www.laphroaig.com/live to take part in this live tasting session on Thursday 23rd September 2010 at 20:00 CET (GMT +1)
Click here to submit questions before the show: www.laphroaig.com/live
The introductory video showing the hotels construction is fascinating - there is a version on youtube. Its a free standing structure held up by little more than ice and spit (or something). Each year selected artists are given a room to design and make their own. It all comes down again in the spring.
981 91 Jukkasjärvi
The first was in the Naval Club in London with Riccardo Prosecco and a bring-a-bottle tasting. ARSE 2 was a picnic on the highest point of the Chilterns with stunning views across the Aylesbury Vale. Not that anyone apart from me and some helpers knew this, nor the weather which, after a glorious week, turned to wind and rain for the first half of the day.
So the plan to walk up the hill worked OK despite getting lost in the woods. That WAS my fault. The late arrivals escaped this pre-tasting exercise and were ferried up by car. (Though this came with a price - carrying the final supplies across the hill to our little tasting area).
For some reason plans for a video shoot were forgotten and I hardly took any still photos at all! Nor did I eat much, or even get to try all the wines! Ooops.
Of the wines we began with a selection supplied by Nick of Bordeaux Undiscovered. Two sparklers, two whites, two rosés and two reds - all bar the latter served blind. Food was next - delicious homemade cakes crafted by Tasha Karalsinggam after a selection of salads, meats and so on from Waitrose Entertaining. There were also three cheeses I picked up from my local deli and two pies from my local butcher (Game and Pork and Leek). All this washed down with a Hardy's Pinot Grigio and a bag-in-box Shiraz-Cabernet.
The final wine selection comprised an Australian red from Waitrose and three whites from Oddbins. (Wine specifics saved for another post).
The ARSE concept - in addition to providing a little mystique in not knowing the format or exact location and a little juvenile play with the acronym ("I kiss you on both cheeks") - is to make wine tastings fun, more social and open them up to non-bloggers/non-wine experts/non-tweeters. So, in addition to my friends (many thanks again for helping out), we were joined by husbands and friends to add to the social mix. I hope all enjoyed the day.
Wine Myths and Reality by Benjamin Lewin MW
Available from Amazon.co.uk for £35
Based on years of extensive research, Wine Myths and Reality opens new doors by delving into the reality behind the mystique of wine. Covering all aspects of production and styles of wine worldwide, extending from viticulture to the trade, it explains what really goes into that bottle of wine, whether it's the cheapest plonk or the most expensive cult wine.
The first section asks the basic question: how does viticulture influence the quality of grapes and the style of the wine? Dealing with vinification, the second part asks whether "minimal intervention" winemaking makes better wine or whether wine is really made by the winemaker's decisions. The consequences of the worldwide glut of wine are the subject of the third part. The sections on New World wines and European wines are organized into chapters on individual countries, offering a penetrating analysis of the success or failure of their wine styles.
This magisterial worldwide survey leaves no area of wine production untouched, major trends are analyzed and explained, and the reader gains a unique insight into the reality of modern winemaking.
Quicklook@Wine by Richard Avery
Available as a PDF download from QuickLookBooks for £2.99
If you, like many, love drinking wine but know precious little about it beyond its price in the shop, then Quicklook@Wine provides an instant solution to help you get to grips with this fascinating industry and its products. Wine expert Richard Avery takes you briefly and clearly through the story of wine, exploring the amazing care taken in its production and the marriage of art, science and luck needed for success.
There are many ways of producing different wines. Some, as we know, are much better than others. Learn how and why this is. What is the significance of the use of different grapes? What can you tell about a wine by looking at the bottle in a shop? How should you assess a wine that you have bought? All of these questions and many more are tackled in this intriguing guide to the world of wine.
Inside Burgundy by Jasper Morris MW
Not yet available
Inside Burgundy is a serious book for serious wine lovers. Offering unrivalled insights on the vineyards, the wine and the people, the 656-page book covers 1,000 specific vineyards from grand crus to obscure plots.
Internationally acclaimed wine writer, Steven Spurrier, says in his foreword to Inside Burgundy: "To sum up, Jasper Morris has found a way to illuminate the bafflingly complex relationships between people and place, vigneron and vineyard, which are at the heart of Burgundy. Authors have tried before and superb books have resulted; none, however, has succeeded quite so well in presenting the detail, in making clear the pattern, without drowning the reader in nuance, exception and ambiguity."
The book will be published in October, but a 16-page preview of Inside Burgundy can be viewed at http://www.bbr.com/GB/about/inside-burgundy.
Inside Burgundy is written by an expert who combines three decades of intimate on-the-ground knowledge of Burgundy with the healthy scepticism of an international wine merchant.
Jasper Morris has lived, breathed, bought and sold Burgundy since 1981. He has a home there, he makes his living there. He has built up over 30 years the kind of exact, on-the-ground knowledge that only someone based in the region can acquire.
Alongside his treatment of the vineyards, Jasper brings out the role of the vignerons and today's influence on them, and thus their wines. We learn the histories, their philosophies, their relationships (so many cousins, so many marriages, so many tangled inheritances - as Jasper says, the book really demands the subtitle 'The Sex Life of Burgundy').
The wine maps surpass anything previously published in English. They have been produced to match Jasper's work in breadth of coverage and depth of detail.
Wine lovers crave information and judgement: Inside Burgundy offers unrivalled insights into just why this small slice of France yields the world's most treasured wines.
The book will be available for sale in October priced £50, however customers can pre-register to reserve their limited edition signed copy at: http://www.bbr.com/about/inside-burgundy
I certainly didn't enjoy it last week. Was this down to tiredness and the need for something uncomplicated just to relax with? That the wine clashed with the food and I was too exhausted to notice? Or down to the wine itself, appearing overly tart with a really heavy, noticeable spritz?
Perhaps though it just wasn't showing well at that time, it being a 'leaf' day an' all.
By coincidence the following morning copies of When Wine Tastes Best arrived and showed that the from 11 am of the 12th right through to 1 o'clock in the afternoon the following Sunday is a depressingly long 'leaf' period - along with Root a time to avoid tasting wine. (Fruit days and Flower days are the best times to taste/drink wine).
This bio-dynamic calendar is rather controversial - witness the comments left when I wrote about the 2010 release of the calendar back in September 2009. While I can appreciate that the moon, for example, exerts a huge influence on the rhythm of live here on this little blue-green world the addition of the constellations seems, to me, a little too far. Still if you want to show a wine at its very best ensuring it is tasted on a flower or fruit day can't hurt and, just might, aid its showing!
However and to quote from the pocket guide
"If you find yourself with an open bottle of wine on a root or leaf day don't despair. It has been suggested that some types of wine, particularly older bottles (4-5 years or more) can sometimes be favourably drunk on leaf days".
The 2011 edition of When Wine Tastes Best 2011: A Biodynamic Calendar for Wine Drinkers has just been released and is available from Amazon.co.uk for just £2.99.
For those IPhone addicts a free app is available - Wine Tonight - which tells you whether or not the day is a favourable one for drinking wine.
I see the next wine tasting I am organising (#ARSE 2 - Andrew's Really Secret Event) next Sunday falls on a ---- day. This I assume is worse than a Leaf or a Root day! Not good...
With the looming second edition of Andrew's Really Secret Event and me planning the details (you know, ordering bags of Twiglets, bottle openers, baby wipes) I fondly recalled the first tasting, in the Naval Club in London, and how after I was unexpectedly pulled into a taxi and whisked away to South London somewhere (Blackheath as it transpired) for a meal. I felt rather bad about abandoning those still standing after the tasting mid-street, but off I was dragged to, as it transpired, to a lovely little eatery trading under the name of Chapters. You may of heard of it. It's been positively reviewed and sampled by the food blogging community quite substantially. Interesting then to try first hand.
Thank goodness for the photographic evidence for I wouldn't have a clue what I ate.
Not that the evening wasn't memorable - the company was grand (man-about town Douglas Blyde - pictured - and Mnr. Fish, Patrick Carpenter), the pre-lunch cocktail did its stuff, the atmosphere was cool and the privileged tour of the kitchen and its famed Josper grill was a nice topping - but you know, it's that bad memory thang. In my defence it was back in May...
The starter was really interesting; Terrine of potted ham hock and black pudding, Piccalilli, grilled sour dough. The odd thing though was the honey on the bread. Not a great fan of honey at the best of times and I didn't really enjoy its edition here. But the terrine, presented in an individual Mason Jar was divine. Substantial amounts of terrine but not enough bread.
This poorly focused photo is of the mains. A juicy slice of beef given the once over in the Josper. Perfectly cooked - medium rare according to the adjacent knife - and stonking with a dribble or two of Bergerie de l'Hortus Rouge 2008, Pic Saint Loup, Languedoc, France (£28.00). Pic Saint Loup being a particular favourite of mine.
There was a dessert too apparently but then that memory thing kicks in. if only I was a 'proper' journalist and took copious notes at the time. I'd only forget where I put the notebook though and head off to Asda to buy a new one.
Chapters All Day Dining
43-45 Montpelier Vale
The grapes - organically grown Cabernet Sauvignon - come from this region, and from one of the larger producers in Greece, Tsantali. There website incidentally shows a different label; something not quite so muted, colourful almost,. Perhaps as this wine is from the 2005 vintage they have made some changes since.
But as I am so often reminded its the stuff in the bottle that counts. (But then I brought it simply because it DOES have a three pincered crab on the label, and for the fact it is on offer at Waitrose at the moment).
With a need for something to accompany a plate of Beef Stroganoff (yeh, I know kinda retro but damn quick to cook) using the superlative Pipers Farm Entrecote Steak I was hoping this Cabernet would have a touch of rusticity and power to match the food. I weren't wrong as it happens.
Braced by a decent structure the flavours of blackfruits and blueberries ride high; a great punchy little Cabernet from an unusual source, for Greek wines, despite the efforts of many, are not at the fore-front of the wine-drinkers thoughts.
This bottle would also be a great sample for any Cabernet Day tastings you might be attending. Cabernet Day, September 2nd, is being organised by the Napa based St. Supery Winery. I've had one invite to a tasting meal at Bute Rotissere in London, but I just can't make it... this would have been perfect...
Use the #Cabernet hash tag when posting on Facebook, Foursquare, Gowalla, Twitter, blogs and all the other sites you hang out on. Search the hash tag on social sites to see what other wine drinkers are saying. You'll be able to connect and chat with other Cab drinkers around the world. Cabernet Franc and Cabernet dominated blends are welcome!
We came to a compromise. Being the restaurant head at the Montagu Arms he suggested I sample the Bordeaux and if not to my liking he would open the Italian. Nice chap is Cedric the Belgian.
To start though a bottle of Trimbach's Pinot Blanc 2007 caused no problem and proved a rather fine choice to accompany my starter of "Spiced Diver Caught Scallops with Cauliflower Puree Apple, Coriander and Cumin Velouté" (£18) wasn't bad either with the bloke sitting across the table and his choice of "Chilled Cucumber and Horseradish Velouté with Home Smoked Organic Salmon and Avruga Caviar" (£13). The scallops had an interesting textural addition, rice deep fried... Freshly baked bread and locally churned butter (with 3% sea salt) and we were off...
I should have mentioned the Gourgeres we savoured outside on the terrace beforehand. Oh and the plate of nuts and olives were delicious and made the wine decisions an overly protracted affair.
As it transpired the claret did have a rather nice floral quality to the nose but you know what, I'm just not a fan of claret! The Barbera though was sensational and all the more perfect with the chef's special of the night a perfectly water-bathed steak with home grown beans. And indeed they are home grown as you can wander through the kitchen garden with ease (it's through the terraced gardens to the right a little after the croquet lawn). It was here, betwixt the chicken pens and tomato stuffed poly tunnels that I turned my Canon to the film mode and caught the head chef, Roux Scholar Matthew Tomkinson, chat to my dining companion Douglas Blyde.
"For a unique dining experience, Matthew will create a surprise seven-course tasting menu from the best of the day's seasonal produce. Menus will not be presented at the table. Instead dishes will be described to guests as they are served."
Each course is presented with a wine pairing - giving Cedric a chance to delve into the wine list - for a cost of £110 per person. Next time perhaps...
We abandoned the idea of accompanying the dessert with a suggested wine, coffee sufficed at this stage (blaming those pre-dining double G&T's), but my "Dark Chocolate Delice with Crispy Praline Lavender Ice Cream and Burnt Orange Syrup" (£10) has the recommendation of a glass of Skillgalee Liqueur Muscat from Australia (£6.50) while Dougie-boy's "Warm Pistachio Sponge Cake with Rhubarb Sorbet, Rhubarb Compote and Vanilla Custard" (£10) would have been even better perhaps with a glass of 2007 Höpler Trockenbeerenauslese, from Berganland in Austria (£12.75).
Our new best Belgian friend hasn't been at the Montague Arms for much more than 4 weeks; the wine list by his own admission needs a little tweeking and less reliance on just one supplier but I will have to insist that the Barbera is retained; 'cause it was just gorgeous with that Tomkinson-caressed steak. The claret went 'quite nicely' with the Pigeon.
Simply one of the most joyous and tasty meals I've had the pleasure to consume.
The Montagu Arms Hotel,
Beaulieu, New Forest,
Hampshire. SO42 7ZL
So Conan the Barbera it is; a bottle ordered (from FindWine) simply on its pun-drenched title.
Love the name, love the wine (hate the dirty, tatty look to the label). A damn decent Italian red. A barbera at the richer, robust end of the scale. Still offering a rustic edge, a bright acidic sword-thrust on the finish, something four-legged, gripped between those muscular thighs on the nose; the man's important bits wrapped in an expensive silk cloth.
It is rich, big, rather beefy... oh my; is there a word that implies 'big' enough to encapsulate this bottle? Oh, yeh there is... Conan. More attractive than an Arnold Schwarzenegger incarnation I should add...
The rear label, mucky design apart, is a blast:
"Well done! You picked it up and hey, you're reading the back label. I like you already, you're my type of person - daring, not too conventional... great.
Now can I ask you a personal question? - do you like big, muscly Italians? If that's a no, well it was nice to know you, if just for a short while (sigh)
But if you DO, then I had a go at creating this energetic, bold, single vineyard Barbera from the hills just above Nizza in NW Italy, just for us.
It is a big, sappy, juicy, very focused, deliciously current in the middle and intriguingly minerally around the edges.
It hasn't been fined, filtered or faffed about with, which means it will throw a sediment - so just keep your teeth together when you get to the very last drop of the very last glass! "
Rather than dismissing yet another "wine lifestyle network" - think Snooth, Adegga and another launching soon idea, DrinkPrice - lets see what they say there "absurdly ambitious project" will be offering:
"Some specifics: hundreds of winery websites worldwide, global Wine Dining Guide & Events Calendar, Magazine & Blogs, MyHaidu (a sort of a social network, though the Haidu folks don't like to define it like that) and websites of key players of the wine trade, from event organizers, through wine schools and universities, traders & merchants, wine tourism agencies - the list just doesn't end...
Haidu offers wine lovers around the world relevant, practical information to discover and plan their next wine experience, to expand their wine horizons.
Let's say you think about traveling to Mosel Valley for your vacance. You simply type Mosel Valley in Haidu.net search window (in its clean & elegant homepage) and before your eyes unveils a list of the valley's wineries, 'wine-friendly' restaurants, wine-related events, magazine articles & blog posts about Mosel. You can quickly tag the entities to your liking with vacance 2011 and they are automatically saved to a specified folder in your MyHaidu universe"
Easy to deduce then that Haidu will be offering a heck of a lot more than a wine tasting database. All the Haidu information is drawn from the "players themselves"
"The wineries manage their own websites, the event organizers publish their own events, even the restaurants create their own sites around Haidu's review of them. All this guarantees clean, reliable information, without any middleman distortion"
The social aspects haven't been ignored as you will be able to share, highlight, follow and receive updates from each section. There is of course going to be a Haidu iPhone App.
Just a few days then before we can all explore and engage further...
Desiderio Jeio, rounded, appley, peachy, flowery-fragrant it might be but it is not actually 100% Prosecco! No, I hear you cry! Yes, says I. Along with 90% Prosecco there is 6% Pinot Bianco and 4% Verdiso. Its fresh, light and with bubbles aplenty. Lively and with a dash of sweetness to give a lovely rounded mouth feel and crowd-pleasing drinkability. Great for cocktails in addition to being a canapé accompaniment. Alcohol 11.5%. [Adegga / Snooth]
The Crede, the work-horse Prosecco, is also a blend. Here extra Pinot Bianco (10%) and 5% Verdiso lend a more stylish edge to the wine. Still with that trademark peachy-flowery nose and apply flavours coupled with the vibrant fizz. Alcohol 11.5%. This is the wine for making those quintessential peach Bellinis although its lovely straight with or without food. Alcohol 11.5%. Vintage 2009. [Adegga / Snooth]
The Cartizze hill, the highly expensive slopes of which produce the crème of the Prosecco producers range, supplies the grapes for Bisol's Cartizze botteling (unsurprisingly). This is 100% Prosecco and the sweetest of the three. (25g per litre for the technical minded compared with 9g in the Jeio and 10g in the Crede). You have to be a little judicious when pairing with food - while it has a modicum of sweetness it isn't enough to accommodate really sweet desserts - think lighter fruit-based fare or simple biscuits. The limited production from the Cartizze hill is responsible for the high bottle price but this has to be my favourite Prosecco of the three. This is the 2009 vintage. Alcohol 11.5% [Adegga / Snooth
But this is exactly what Hix and Buck are recommending to accompany a dish of Baked Apple with Melted Goats Cheese, Potato Galette with Walnut Balsamic Dressing; the wine being their its Mas d'Intras Cuvée d'Alphonse 2007 Vin de Pays des Coteaux de l'Ardèche.
The dish was created by Sebastien Gagnbe Head Chef of Perfect Blend the "south London café, bar and restaurant". Hix and co had sent over a bottle so a try-out was in order.
The dish (recipe below) was fine, despite my disaster with getting the 'petals' of the galette to stick together (how do you do that??), resulted in a tasty, if light dinner. (More suited to a starter or lunch dish perhaps). But paired with the wine? And the wine itself, basking in Southern French rusticity was firm, strong and flavoursome in a red fruits and spice manner. But really, matching with sweetened apples and a salad? Not for me I'm afraid. My thoughts move to wild boar sausages or barbequed lamb burgers.
Hix & Buck is an importer of wine. Its aim is to bring good quality wines to the UK from undiscovered vineyards in Europe. In the spirit of discovery, the company's ambition is to surprise and delight the wine lover with unknown wines whilst offering them great value.
The wines are brought to the UK exclusively by Hix & Buck. The founders, Chix Chandaria and Dan Roebuck, are passionate about finding small producers, often with a family history of viniculture going back centuries, and bringing that wine, with its authentic qualities and characteristics, over here.
SPECIAL READER OFFER: All readers of Spittoon are offered 15% off their first 6 bottle case purchase at Hix and Buck an offer not restricted to the Alphonse detailed above. The promotion includes free delivery. Use the voucher code 'undiscovered'.
Do you want to drink good wine, but don't know what to buy? Do you know what you like, but want to explore new horizons?
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