A sample of this new South African brandy came my way last week accompanied by a little cocktail recipe. Not expecting much I gave the cocktail a try out - wow! Combined with the glorious summer we are experiencing in the UK this can only be described as a thirst-quenching wonder. Some may say this is even more drinkable than the ubiquitous summer Pimms!
African Mishale is from the KWV operation in the Western Cape. Would your life be improved if you were enlightened that it is blended from double distilled pot still and column still brandies? Probably not. More interesting is the specific that the cocktail recipe, African Spice, was created by London Barman Gerry Calabrese of the Hoxton Pony, EC2.
Its highly drinkable, as the now empty bottle of Mishale indicates, and we did have to substitute the suggested Vanilla Sugar/Vanilla Syrup with plain old sugar syrup but this worked a treat.
African Mishale Brandy is available from the re-emerged Wine Racks 17-store chain. Normally retailing for £13.49 it is currently on offer until the 18th July 2010 at £9.49.
"Named after the word 'spear' in Swahili, Mishale is pronounced mi-sha-lay. Bright and golden it's a proud blend of brave African spirit and the fine tradition of brandy distilling."
African Spice Cocktail
Shake with ice and strain into an ice filled highball glass. Top up with a dash of Ginger Beer. Delicious.
The dorona vineyard is spread out from the restaurant to just beyond the abandoned chapel with tower. The strip of land running from the central pond to the lefter-most corner of Mazzorbo island, with the bridge to Burano, are now bursting with vegetables used by the islanders and of course the restaurant. Towards the jetty on he left are fruit trees used for the same purpose.
A gentle stroll from the hotel, through the vineyard, over the connecting bridge takes you to the island of Burano. Here the tight streets buzz during the day with tourists, but is so attractive and colourful (photos on Spittoon Extra) that it is well worth a wander.
On a hot summer's day there's nothing better than a refreshing beer to cool us down. But do you often find a trip down the pub with your friends leaves you sticking to the same tipple, purely because you have no idea what the difference is between an ale and a larger and don't want to risk a bad pint? Or maybe you dismiss it based on the myths around it being bad for your health? When in fact, when drunk in moderation there are several health benefits.
If so you might be one of the millions of Brits missing out on the truly phenomenal range of beers now on the market. So how do you open your mind and palate to what else is on offer?
Just like wine varieties, there's a staggering array of beer to match anyone's taste. And what about finding the perfect beer to match the perfect meal?
Well, if you want some help in your quest to find the perfect summer ale then log onto our live WebTV Show where beer expert Kamini Dickie and Dr George Philliskirk from the Beer Academy will let you into the secrets of the perfect pint with a live beer tasting class.
Kamini Dickie and Dr George Philliskirk are live online at http://studiotalk.tv/show/beer_appreciation_masterclass on Monday 21st June at 3pm to give you their top tips for finding the perfect beer.
Odd shaped 50cl bottles held what was described as Bisol's first grape squeeze from its resurrected Dorona vineyards, it turned out not to be so. I lent back into a more comfortable posture.
The wine was made from the vanishing Dorona variety but not by Bisol and not from the vineyard spread out in before us. And there was me thinking those few rows of vines were the last remaining plantings of this variety in the world. Bisol initiated the project in 2002 finally replanting the estate with this 15th century variety. (The best over-view image I could find online is this one, tiny but you can just make out the hotel/restaurant complex bottom right, the vineyard with chapel tower bottom centre and the island of Burano behind.)
High walls surround the Scarpa Volo vineyard, an attempt to keep the surrounding lagoon at bay, with Bisol giving over half the land to soft fruit trees, vegetable plots and seating areas. It dominates one end of the island of Mazzorbo. Escape the tourist throngs on Burano with a short walk over the bridge to the vineyard and settle yourself into the restaurant for a long lazy lunch. Ristorante Venissa, is run by famed Italian chef Paola Budel. (Not being up on famed Italian chefs Paola was trained by Michel Roux amongst others).
Did my Englishness display result in such a miniscule sample being dropped into my glass and a subsequent mess of our table not having the correct number of glasses? Pettiness is not a trait I like to honour but still it got a bit annoying...
The meal - pictures of which I'll post over on SpittoonExtra - was very fine, with the dessert 'Crostatina con crema Chantilly e ciliegine' perhaps my favourite dish despite being served with a "strawberry skid-mark" and being a touch too sweet to match with the superb Bisol Cartizze Prosecco.
But the La Dorona was what the fuss was all about; frankly it was a little disappointing. Remember though that this is not from Bisol or the Scarpa Volo vineyard so it will be interesting to see how skilfully they can extract something of interest from their young vines next year.
This sample came in at just 11% alcohol, slightly lacking in acidity but with a decent minerality and weight. Enjoyable, indeed I even leant forward in anticipation (especially under the smiling glare of the PR woman) for my initial sniff and sip. As the forthcoming releases of Bisol's Doroma are unlikely to be cheap and offered by allocation only that might have been my first and last taste of Doroma.
Perhaps the saltiness of the cheese was the main culprit or the raw red onion clashed with the slight tart finish to the wine. Or more likely I just wasn't paying attention; the summer sun and those sultry days of a few weeks back (remember them?) can do that.
Now Rkatsiteli as a grape I am familiar with (much planted in Bulgaria, Romania, Moldova and of course the Ukraine) but Mtsvane? According to the Georgian Wine Society, who supplied this wine, Mtsvane means "new, young, green" (referring to the unusual colour of the fruit when ripe), is often blended with Rkatsiteli adding a fruity, aromatic balance. Here the Mtsvane dominates, comprising 85% of the blend. (Either way its another addition to the Wine Century Club list of tasted varieties)
The wines of Alsace are a particular speciality of mine, they are oft mentioned as the perfect accompniment to the mix of spicy, salty, sweet and sour flavours found in Asian dishes. Beer is the first on the list of drinks people reach for - especially those Friday night curry nights with the lads. If people do think of buying a wine to drink with it, the idea that a wine can compliment a spice seems rather odd, but far from it. In fact the right grape variety can add to a home delivered (or home cooked!) Asian meal.
TV chef Ching He Huang and leading wine journalist and food and wine matching expert Joanna Simon are linking up for a live webchat, where they'll be offering guidance on which wines bring out the best in each Asian dish; from the fruity, floral tastes of the more elegant Alsace wines such as Riesling through to luscious or spicy whites like Pinot Gris or Gewurztraminer.
Ching He Huang and Joanna Simon will be on StudioTalk on Friday 18th June at 13.00 to demonstrate how Alsace wines can compliment Asian food. You can post a question in advance via the same link.
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...