Since 2008, the champagne house has organised a series of gastronomic dinners to "celebrate the beauty of the world", basically a "once in the lifetime gastronomic experience orchestrated by a Michelin star Chef" all as part of a true and authentic expedition alongside a real adventurer.
The first expedition in July 2008, was to Greenland and an iceberg drifting in the middle of Sermilik Fjord. This featured a gourmet meal orchestrated by two-star Michelin Chef Sylvestre Wahid. The second journey went to Antarctica to the very same spot where Commander Charcot spent the winter in 1904, alongside three-star Michelin Gérard Boyer, while the last visited the Great Barrier Reef where Mauro Colagreco Chef prepared a gastronomic lunch on a pristine sandbank.
Where will the fourth MUMM EXPLORER EXPERIENCE be next? To get a chance to discover it and win a place to this unique expedition, G.H. MUMM is appealing consumer's creativity and photography skills.
To participate, simply log onto www.mumm-the-game.com. Take the best snapshot of what you think is the best set of a "stunning dinner to celebrate the world's beauty", and upload your picture on to the site. To increase your chances of winning, you can even ask your friends to vote for your picture.
The deadline is 7th July. While the image doesn't have to include a bottle of Mumm Champagne is does need to feature a dinner setting; so I am wondering if the image here is too subtle? Either way you can vote for it on the site (when it appears).
The 10 submitted pictures with the highest number of votes will be reviewed by a G.H. MUMM jury panel and Mike Horn. The lucky winners of the competition will be announced on 14 July together with the revealing of the MUMM Explorer Experience destination. Thee eight runners up will be delivered with a bottle of MUMM Cordon Rouge champagne.
That's in my world of course, the reality being a little more humble. The vodka was real enough mind. The chat was with Mr Bob Bob Ricard himself, Leonid Shutov, a most generous and genial host. He, I am assured, is not a member of the Russian mafia, might well be an oligarch, but is certainly a Russian.
It's not often a jaded and life-worn old soul like myself gets a revelatory moment; the vodka and food tasting session was one such incident. We were instructed not to treat the vodka as a wine. No pre-sniff, no little sips, no rolling around the palate but to engage in a shoot and eat. The palate was singularly purified and enlightened.
These ultra vodkas are distilled and filtered to the nth degree. Purity is the key. In comparison a Stolichnaya seemed oily, heavy and disjointed. With the palate enlivened and cleansed by the ice-cold vodka shot the food, little Russian-inspired tapas style bites, took on a level of intensity and purity that was sensational. 'Quite Nice' is my stock in trade saying for a highly enjoyable experience; these were bloody amazing.
Marinaded cucumbers (£2.50) heavy with dill were superbly clean cut and intense, the Beluga Caviar topped belinis were revelatory and the tongue in aspic simply delicious.
There was a different vodka with each dish. The Jellied Ox tongue (£7.50) was served with Kauffman Collection Vintage 2006 (yep, a vintage vodka, distilled 12 times and several different filtrations), the Caviar with Kauffman Luxury Vintage 2003 and some home cured herring (£3.50) an Imperial Vodka (filtered four times, distilled 8 times). And it was insisted that the vodka was chilled down to -18 degrees.
These are standard dishes/vodkas on the Bob Bob Ricard menu. A 25ml shot works out at £4.75 for the Imperia, £7.50 for the Kauffman Collection 2006, and £11.50 for the Kauffman 2003. I won't mention the price of the Beluga Caviar...
There was more to the meal after the excellence of the vodka; (the excellence of the 'Beef Wellington, 28 Day Aged Fillet of Aberdeenshire Scotch Beef
With Truffle Gravy' (£34) has to be experienced!) more Bob Bob Ricard pictures on SpittoonExtra. I have to admit the experience at Bob Bob Ricard was really quite nice indeed.
But this is a red wine, another dividing food stuff though in being made from Pinotage, but a different style of Pinotage, the original 'coffee and chocolate' pinotage. An experiment which began 9 years ago to discover a style of Pinotage that would appeal to younger drinkers has created a unique style, the launch of which each year involves a vineyard party. Gone are the rustic edges, the off-putting rusty/rubber dimension (not that all Pinotage arrives with these characteristics of course) and in comes a toasted coffee and chocolate led palate, all down to toasting the oak in which the wine is aged apparently. There is a ripeness, a soft drinkability, a depth of sumptuousness that doesn't really overpower the pinotage-ness of it all.
I can't say I really picked up on any overly powerful coffee-style flavours being more entranced by the smokey, dark fruits and pepper notes. It's young so expect more pruney edges to develop with age. It also went superbly with my liver dish!
Last year, while in South Africa, I was lucky enough to pick up a recipe collection by famed South African chef Reuben Riffel (Reuben Cooks, which I don't think is available outside South Africa). Each dish comes with a wine recommendation and it just so happens the Pan-Fried Liver with Colcannon and Brown-Onion and Marsala Gravy was paired with Diemersfontein Pinotage! Result!
For those no-liver indulgers (bet you hate Marmite too!) the wine would be equally good with steak, game, and as Fiona Beckett suggests Moroccan spiced quail. For me though its the liver...
ARSE of course stands for Andrew's Really Secret Event, a tight gathering of wine and food bloggers and tweeters, rolling into a tapas bar near Kings Cross before heading off on the Piccadilly Line to Green Park.
The tasting venue itself was the Naval Club in Mayfair. I should take a moment to thank the Club hugely for letting us utilise their grandiose bar on a Sunday afternoon.
We were most fortunate to have Riccardo Tomadin in town to showcase a 'new to the UK' range of Prosecco's. The easy drinking Riccardo Prosecco Brut, the finely bubbled, creamy Riccardo Prosecco Extra Dry and the superb Riccardo Prosecco Cartizze. The latters 28g of sugar appearing little sweeter than the Extra Dry's 18g (per litre) making for a fine rendition of the pinnacle of Prosecco production.
When you ask a disparate group to bring along a bottle of something interesting you can be sure of an equally diverse and unique offering. This motley bunch didn't disappoint. We kicked off with a strident Vin Jaune, dividing all into a large 'dislike' group and a few brave-palated 'likers'. A crisp, lip-tingling Manzanilla sherry, limited production, hardly seen, followed before we slid into the white wines. A Croatian Chardonnay anyone? Distinctive, lightly oaked, delicious. A South African Sauvignon Blanc offering its own take on pungency, un-ripened strawberries and gooseberries all with a refreshing zing. And then quickly into the reds...
Those kind fellows at Bibendum had sent over two reds for us to sample - a full bodied Mexican wine, a first encounter for many at the tasting of Mexican vino and a Cotes du Roussillon Villages. The slightly baked, gravelly tannins of the Mexican, complete with vibrant, delicious fruit is a surprise on so many levels not least is the medley of grapes: Petite Syrah, Cabernet Sauvingon, Barbera and Zinfandel. The Roussillon was equally praised for its balance and ripe flavoursm and dark, brooding fruit. Both highly recommended.
A third red, from Ribera del Duero, more than managed to compete with these two blockbusters with its Spanish credentials rising to the fore. A superb Tempranillo with hints of sweet spice and deep black fruits. A excellant addition to the tasting!
To conclude something 'really interesting'. A red dessert wine from Italy, unavailable in the UK. More rosé in colour and with a lightness of sweetness that had us thinking of dark chocolate or a bowl of raspberries as an accompaniment.
Perhaps those acronym nay-sayers were miffed because they weren't invited? Those that did make it had a ball. How could they not with such a superb, interesting, range of wines!?
A full list of the wines is below complete with links were available. The photo above shows the participants. From left to right we have Riccardo Tomadin, Tara O'Leary [whose report on the tasting is on her Wine Passionista blog), Niamh, Jeanne, Douglas Blyde, Sara Belizaire-Butler, Rupert Taylor and Louis Villard. Thanks all for making the day such fun and playing along with my ARSE.
My love of the medium, photography and blogging, I trust shows; well it must do as I have been nominated for the Wine Blog Awards. Not just once either, but twice! There it is, Spittoon.biz, listed in the voting line up for 'Best Graphics, Photography, Presentation' and 'Best Wine Reviews'. I am well chuffed.
Over the last few years the readership of Spittoon has grown substantially. Where once I was astounded that 1,000, then 5,000 and then 8,000 subscribers read my scribbles though RSS (let alone the number visiting the site direct or subscribing to updates by email) the number now stands a little shy of 28,000 according to Feedburner. Unbelievable. Thank you one and all.
If just one percent of you could just pop over to the Wine Blog Awards voting page and show your appreciation for those years of slog and spitting that I've pummelled into this little drink blog I would be really, really grateful. ;-)
After six years of blogging a little award would mean a lot. I realise I don't stand an earthly when compared with the fine blogs Spittoon is competing against but even one vote would mean plenty to me. Huge thanks if you take the time...
Vote here: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/7CLMSMG
The wines were made by Gerardo Vernazzaro, an Italian from Naples. The wines mostly made from Falanghina, a white variety that I thought delicious and as charming as Gerardo himself. And how do I know he is charming? I've met him!
As myself, CookSister and The Wine Sleuth, scurried around the London International Wine Fair, I spied the distinctively packaged wines on a stand... and there he was Gerardo Vernazzaro himself. He took us through his range, several listed by Naked Wines. A the conclusion Denise the Wine Sleuth took a little video, cooksister holding the camera. I hate to steel her thunder (she does after all still owe me a tenner) but while they were videoing, I too recorded the encounter on my new camera. The video is totally unedited (hey, I was amazed the video came out at all!) but should work.
The wine they are tasting is the Falaghina Strione 2007 listed by Naked Wines (the only UK stockist) for £11.99.
Surprisingly I even recognise the parallels present in the results from Bibendums World Cup of Wine. Having missed the initial play offs I was keen to attend the semi-finals. Each team had two reds and two wines compared against similar bottles from the opposing team. A strident showing from Australia was pitted against a strong South African line up and on the other table the French, fielding a couple of classic styles, was lined up against Italy and being Italy these were rather idiosyncratic wines.
The wines were duly sampled and compared. Quite some discussion resulted. Was this Aussie Chard just a little too oaky? Did the length of the South African Chenin really pull it ahead? The discussions and re-tastings took the place of post match discussions and video replays of near misses and crowd pleasing action. There was a similar amount of spitting too.
Perhaps surprisingly South Africa fought off the strong Australian line-up, particularly the Chenin Blanc (Graham Beck, The Game Reserve Chenin Blanc, 2009, Robertson) which simply knocked everyone's socks off (well in my group anyway). It was a close run thing between two Pinot Noir's though. Was the sweeter, Aussie-sun lashed fruit of the Marchand & Burch Mount Barrow Pinot Noir, 2008 preferable over the more Burgundian, fungi-tipped, Newton Johnson 2009 Pinot Noir from South Africas Walker Bay? A close run thing but price played a part too and pushed South Africa into the lead and winning the match.
A different story over at France v Italy. Were the French a little too complacent and relieing too much on tradition and terroir to see off the Italians stylish showing? The result was a complete trouncing of France and a mammoth victory for Italy. In play two Italian wines really shone and come with a 'must buy' ticket.
On the red bench the Nicolis Valpolicella Classico Superiore Ripasso 2005 is a hard sell apparently (why when it is such a delicious wine?) Deep, rich, wonderfully rich, with power and concentration but at the same time offering pure drinakable pleasure. Stylish in that Italian manner with a nod to elegance and food matching potential. Superb. This was the wine I went back too for a post-match slurp.
On the white bench the choice of a Soave, those easily dismissed, lemony, watery wines made fom dull old Trebbiano, was a pleasant surprise. Until the time came to try it. A whiff of weed, citrus pith and a delicious floral edge. Great acidity, lovely weight. A worthy winning player.
June the 9th, I believe, is the date set for the Bibendum Wine Cup Finals. Should be a tense and fun game!
Rather nicely utilising more of the, overly expensive, rose water purchased for a fruit smoothie the flavours added such an exotic edge that it threw me for a while for which wine to serve with them. A red wine for lamb chops would be the obvious choice but the strident flavours rose water threw this out thinking a clash would result with anything too tannic (Bordeaux or Rhone red would be the first bottles I'd reach for normally) and felt anything new world would be too overpowering.
A panic in the isles of Waitrose?!
Step round the corner to the rosé shelves, whispered that shoulder lounging devil.
The recipe is again taken from Miss Masala by Mallika Basu but involves little more than puréeing various spices (garlic, root ginger, cinnamon stick, a red chilli, nutmeg, coriander and pepper) and mixing with Greek yoghurt, slathering this over the lamb chops and leaving them for a couple of hours. (Thanks to the PR people for KitchenAid for sending me a blender the other day, the puréeing would have taken a while otherwise...)
And the wine choice? A bottle of Marques de Calatrava Tempranillo Rosado 2008, complete with 'man-styled' label and 12.5% alcohol. A hearty coloured rosé from La Mancha. Not expensive, and on offer until 9th June, at £4.99 but punches above this price point brilliantly.
Stock up on a few to accompany those summer barbeques...
Cooking Indian at home doesn't happen often either. The thought of all those ingredients is rather off putting and anything too spice-hot is just going to ruin any decent wine. With interest then thumbing through the recipes in Mallika Basu's new book, Miss Masala, discovering some accessible and wine-friendly (hopefully) dishes.
Page 80 details Murgh Masala - the ultimate simple chicken curry - the key it seems is cooking the chicken on the bone "to enjoy the full flavour of spiced stocked in the curry"; quite surprised too with the number of recipes that utilise yoghurt, Greek yoghurt at that. There is a fine level of spice in this basic recipe, just a teaspoon of chilli powder and half a teaspoon of turmeric, root ginger, garlic, garam masala, onion completes the flavour. Also interesting was the instruction to add a pinch of sugar to the hot oil. This caramelises and lends the dish a "lovely red glow later without the need for food colouring".
The other issue with an 'Indian' is that several different dishes are served at the same time, making it tricky to get a decent wine match. Here, with just this one chicken dish, and some simple rich to accompany the choice was easy - something weighty, full and rounded with a hint of mysticism. Step forward a decent Australian Viognier... leap-frogging over a new-world Chardonnay, which would have been an alternative.
The wine of choice then to accompany Murgh Masala is Yalumba Eden Valley Australian Viognier. The current vintage in Waitrose is 2008 and comes in at £9.99. The wines plumpness and exotic peach and apricot flavours melding very nicely with the dish.
The Cellar Masters bar utilises the 'Enomatic Wine Preservation and Serving System' were you can serve yourself tasting samples, half glasses and a full-on glassful of various wines.
If you haven't encountered the Enomatic system before it 'dispenses wine directly, in a multi-portion fashion, direct from the bottle using inert gas preservation. The flavours and characteristics of the wine remain intact and you can be assured that the wines dispensed are fresh and flavourful, as if the bottle was just opened'.
While you are free to taste and drink which ever wines you like they have linked several into 'destination wine tasting' groups [Cellarmasters Wine Menu pdf]. So you could go for a Drouhin Chablis, Chateau Les Tuileries from the Graves, a Mont-Redon Chateauneuf-du-Pape and a Chateau Coufran from the Haut-Medoc under 'Tour de France' or a 'California Dreaming' selection that gives a Freemark Abbey Chardonnay from the Napa Valley, a Murphy Goode Fumé Blanc from the Alexander Valley, a Sequioa Grove Napa Cabernet and a Foley Vineyards Pinot Noir. The Exploring Down Under selection is good offering a Brancott Reserve Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand, A Leasingham Riesling, a Norman Estates Shiraz and a Grove Mill Pinot Noir. Each of these flights are available at US$15 for a 2oz serving. A nice way to explore new wines before settling on a wine to drink a full glass of...
A couple of interesting (ie not tried before) wines were available during the two-nighter cruise; all twittered of course, although a couple exceeded the 140 character limit...
wine_scribbler: Wild Rock Sauvignon 07 marlborough a sandwich filling of lemon slices & grapefruit skins gently pressed to a smooth paste, pressed until the pips burst
wine_scribbler: Automoto 07 California Chardonnay smooth as a beach heading convertable but note that lemon scratch on the rear fender. Simple to repair.
wine_scribbler: Murphy Goode Cabernet 06 Alexander valley in celebrity eclipse cellar masters bar. Straining blackberries through a used tea strainer, bits of leaf, seldom catch a rouge mushroom ...
Incidentally the stateroom entertainment system includes a graphical location map - we went way passed the Channel Islands I believe - and full room service ordering. I did try and order a bottle of Louis Roederer Cristal 2002 (US$750 if I recall correctly) but the system crashed with an error...
New to the Celebrity Eclipse is the QSine restaurant. It aims to be 'different'. No three set courses, no limit to the dishes you can order, no set method of plating either. As the ipad was whisked away - I had managed to view a red wine with a perfunctory tasting note and a full scan of the label, in addition to the dish description as shown in the photo - a series of sample dishes were thrown our way. Far too quickly really to appreciate their individuality or to take photos of them all.
I'm a little confused as to the roll of the IPad, do you order a dish or a wine directly from it? I'm unsure. There was a full illuminated 'menu', again in a non-standard format (pdf download), that lists all the dishes. I forget all we tried: a meatball trilogy made from Kobe beef was slightly disappointing in texture and flavour (each had a different stuffing), a superbly presented tapas or mezi selection (think different dishes, pots, wraps etc on a giant thimble collection stand), make your own burgers (sliders in American with a brioche bun, miniature Kobe burger, American cheese, onions, tomatoes, three sauces), an illuminated prawn cocktail, Sushi Lollipops (as pictured), delicious spring rolls served in giant springs, decorate your own cupcake, the fun element is exciting, you really have no idea what to expect next...
I think they are missing a trick though. Little attention is paid to the wine. By expanding the innovation and fun to bring in the wine or other drinks would have enhanced the while 'experience' greatly. A different wine sample or cocktail with each dish or even presented different drinks in an equally novel fashion as the food. Something more than a sparkler in cocktail obviously, but with all the attention lavished on the food it was disappointing that little was offered on the drink side of things.
The wine menu has echoes of the quirkiness (pdf download, prices in US$ per bottle), printed off-kilter, with plenty I'd like to try (those at this press presentation were a decent enough Chardonnay and an OK-ish Pinot Noir, exactly the same as served with our other meals in the other restaurants). Although the IPad had wine label scans and a few lines by way of a tasting note wine obviously takes a back seat...
One non-UK based blog is intentionally in the list due to their growing influence and rapport with the UK wine trade, their marvellous work in promoting social media in the wine field and organising the European Wine Bloggers conference.
Just following half of those listed will give an excellent overview of the UK wine scene - what's hot, what's chilling, what's good down the supermarket...
It would be great for a comment or email altering me to any I have missed, as I am certain to have done. The only criteria is that the blog must be predominantly about wine (sorry Douglas) and be based in the UK or write about the UK wine scene. Each authors twitter tag is also listed.
These are personal blogs only. I'll look into compiling a list of retailer blogs and winery blogs if there is enough interest and people send me their details.
The UK's Wine Bloggers:
"Here he goes again - banging on about how grape blends are soooo much more interesting than single varietals... he'll be raving over some South African wines next, I'll bet"
"Yeh, repeating himself again. You wait he'll pick on some wine-maker with 'character' and imply that being a maverick or whatever can only influence the wine in a good way!"
"Better than moaning about a perfume-doused floosy at a tasting out smelling the wines"
"or a cigar-chomping lard-arse hogging the spittoon"
Three quick recommendations sampled at a trade tasting (SITT 2010 held in Vinopolis last February). They are from the A A Badenhorst stable, a project by Adi Badenhorst one of "the Cape's more colourful characters". After a series of vintages at Rustenberg, Adi set up, with a cousin, this new estate building on vineyards and facilities last used in the 1930's. The old vines are unirrigated, farmed and made into wine with as little intervention as possible. Adi was at the tasting, perched on the end of the Swig table, looking hot and tired but mercifully near the open door for some cool air. A wild hair cut, a slight manic gleam to the eye and as you spied his wines he was round the front of the table pouring and enthusing...
Can't say the labelling does anything for me. Bottle pictures from the estates website (which is in need of an update!).
A A Badenhorst Secateurs White, 2009, Swartland, South Africa.
Swig £8.50 [Adegga / Snooth]
Complexity in droves. Chenin Blanc forming 14% of the blend. "coming together nicely, will age beautifully" said Adi.
Andrew BarrowScribblings Rating - 92/100 [4 out of 5]
A A Badenhorst Family White, 2007, Swartland, South Africa
Swig £22 [Adegga / Snooth]
Another stunning mix. Rousanne, Grenache Blanc, Viognier, Sauvignon, Chenin all melding into a delicious intensity. An underlying crispness keeps the rich palate in check. Alcohol 15%
Andrew BarrowScribblings Rating - 90/100 [3.75 out of 5]
A A Badenhorst Secateurs Red, 2007, Swartland, South Africa
Swig £9.50 [Adegga / Snooth]
Nine varieties in this one. "Slightly left field". A delicious softness, quite firm and rounded.
Andrew BarrowScribblings Rating - 88/100 [3.5 out of 5]
"there you see - a character! And a South African too"
"at least he restricted the listed wines to just three. I do find being presented with a long list of wine tasting notes so, so dull. 'Specially on this blog... "
My good friends Niamh and Denise launched another Guerrilla tasting onto London's streets - which Niamh reports "it went really well! We had 3 wines at the Green Onions Supper Club in Hackney. People loved them esp the Douro red" - and in deepest Thames-side Oxfordshire I made a stew, grilled some pork ribs and am about to throw some giant prawns on the barbie. Well, it would be a barbecue if I actually had a garden. And a barbecue. A griddle pan will have to suffice.
Failing to source all the wines involved in the tasting a make do and mend session, with two of the reds and the white, and matching them to the foods mentioned made for a fun weekend.
Of the wines the Vida Nova 2007 from the Algarve (that's a Cliff Richard wine), a blend of Syrah, Aragonez and Alicante Bouschet, and the Tinto da Ânfora 2007 (Aragonez, Touriga Nacional, Trincadeira, Alfrocheiro, Cabernet Sauvignon) were cracked open and sampled against a hearty beef stew and a pile of pork ribs that were marinated overnight in a chilli sauce. The one white in the six bottle line-up, a Quinta de Azevedo Vinho Verde, will be subject to a separate post, is about to be savoured with prawns, simply griddled and served with a little Lingham's Ginger, Garlic and Chilli Sauce mixed with a dollop of mayonnaise.
Price-wise there is little difference between the Vida Nova at £7.99 and the Tinto da Ânfora at £6.99 but the former was the deeper, richer, more classy, intense and more complex wine of the two. The Ânfora, obviously a different grape mix grown in a different region, is a touch more rustic and more hearty. The Vida Nova has a delicious top note of red berries while the Ânfora offers a fruity upfront sweetness before stroking the teeth with soft tannins and ending on a rustic lick of red fruits. Its combination of fruit, sun drenched earth and wafts of herbs and undergrowth is a winner.
Being hungry while the stew and rice bubbled atop the stove a chunk of Parmesan, being the only cheese in the fridge, was sampled with each. Not a great match with the Ânfora. The cheese stamped aggressively across the red berry flavours. The harder hitting Vida Nova had fewer issues. A rather nice combination.
And with the beef stew? Both were fine, its not a dish that many red wines would disagree with, but on balance I preferred the sweetness inherent in the Ânfora, the flavours melding beautifully with the richness of the sauce. The pork ribs - quite spicy from all that chilli sauce - did not disagree with either wine. A preference? The Anfora.
Vida Nova Syrah Aragonez, 2007, Algarve, Portugal [Adegga / Snooth]
Mixed berry throwing contest, who can hit the red tiles at the top of the farm wall? Using those sour cherries is cheating.