Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Paso-Vermu Red Vermouth - Try it you might like it!

I'd never tasted red vermouth before I tried Paso-Vermu. I may have had it in a cocktail without realising, but I'd never actually tasted it. It blew me away! Served over ice with a slice of orange, its bitter and sweet, herbaceous and tangy, and a refreshing change after the 'year of gin'. You can cut it with tonic as a sophisticated aperitif.

It's a blend of Paso Primero red and white wines, sweetened with grape caramel, and fortified with grape spirit (brandy), then blended with herbs and spices. It has been made in the traditional style of a Spanish vermu. It's not been over-processed so will develop in the bottle (before opening). Once open it will last a couple of months in the fridge, or a couple of weeks in the cabinet before it starts to oxidise.

It's only available from a few independent stores, but you can try it at our pop up wine bars in Marlow, Twyford, Wooburn Green, and Little Chalfont. CLICK HERE to find out more about our pop up wine bars.

Vermouth comes from Wormwood, which is also the base for many other bottles in your drinks cabinet including Absinthe and Jagermeister. It was originally made for medicinal purposes and evolved into an ingredient for iconic cocktails. A Martini uses dry (white) vermouth, a Manhatten uses sweet (red) vermouth. Negroni is popular in bars at the moment - try equal measures of Sipsmith, Campari and Paso-Vermu, served over one large ice cube and a curl of orange peel. You can substitute Campari for Aperol, if you're bored of Aperol Spritz, or need a use for it over winter months.

CLICK HERE if you'd like to know more about Spanish Vermu and the making of Paso-Vermu.

CLICK HERE if you'd like to read more about the history of Vermouth and 007's favourite tipple.

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Affordable Australian Wines

Australia is one of the biggest wine producers in the world (5th in 2017) and there are a lot of affordable Aussie wines on the shelves, so which ones to choose? These are the wines I served at Charvil Wine Club for Australia Day. Some of these wines feature at my pop up wine bar in Marlow Buckinghamshire. To find out mroe about my pop up wine bars in Bucks and Berks click here.

Image from Italian Wine Central

It's good to start by looking at which wines are typically produced in which region to get a taste for the different styles, then once you find a style you like to explore the same grapes from different regions, or other wines from the same producer.

Image from Wine Folly

Chardonnay and Semillon are Australia's most widely produced white wines. Semillon is the iconic wine of Hunter Valley, which is two hours drive north of Sydney in NSW. Semillon in the Hunter  Valley is harvested early with low sugar levels (resulting in low alcohol) and low acidity. The wines are almost neutral in flavour when first bottled, but then develop honey and toast with bottle age. This Lindemans shows gooseberry and lemon zest aromas, with a subtle honeyed finish. Lindemans Bin 1355, Semillon, Hunter Valley, Australia, 2013, 10.5% Waitrose £9.99.

Over-oaked Aussie Chardonnay is what led to the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) trend. Those days are mostly gone and wineries are now producing elegant Chardonnays like this one. It has light oak in it, detected by the vanilla note, and the lemon and pear aromas balance the wine nicely, with a hazelnut finish. Daydream, De Bortoli, Chardonnay, Yarra Valley, Australia, 2014, 12.5% Waitrose £9.99

Australia is known for its diveristy, so be brave to try something atypical. A full-bodied, aromatic unoaked white wine, with lovely peach, tangerine and honeysuckle flavours. You may notice an oily sensation on your tongue, which is common with this grape. It has quite a high alcohol content because the grapes are left on the vine longer to ensure they achieve their heady aromas. A vegan wine. Yalumba, Organic Viognier, South Australia, 2016, 13.5% Wine Rack £11.99

Eden Valley is known for minerally and dry Rieslings; Clare Valley is known for rich Rieslings, and this certainly is rich. Zingy citrus fruit, lime and a hint of petrol on the finish. Many Rieslings are off-dry like this one. However, its acidity is so high that without doing a sweetness test (dipping the tip of your tongue into the wine) you may not have detected the residual sugar. Baily & Baily, Folio, Riesling, Clare Valley, Australia, 2015, 11.5% Waitrose £8.49
Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are the most planted red grape varieties in Australia. It's a great idea to try wines from different regions and at different price points. For example, if oak is used in the wine-making the wine will be more epxensive, so if you don't like the flavours imparted by oak (vanilla, caramel) then you'll be satsified by a cheaper wine. If you want full-bodied and juicy go for Shiraz from McLaren Vale or Barossa, but if you want something fresher and more like a French Syrah (same grape as Shiraz) then go for one from Victoria.

Dark purple colour. Blueberry, black cherry, and black pepper, with hints of cocoa. The cool climate of the Grampians in Victoria allows this wine to develop more savoury characteristics. Shiraz from the Grampians is known for being peppery, and is often sourced for sparkling red wine production. A great value wine. Mount Langi Ghiran, Hollows Shiraz, Victoria, 2013, 14% Wine Rack £6.99

Black and silky, aged in new American oak with a long velvety finish. Blackcurrant jam, sweet spices, vanilla and coconut. A long finish, which means you are likely to drink it less quickly, and a bottle should last longer. Vegetarian and organic, made with minimal interference. IWC Gold and Decanter Silver medal winner. The Hedonist, Shiraz, McLaren Vale, Australia, 2014, 14% Wine Rack £15.49 THIS IS ONE OF MY FAVOURITE WINES

Cabernet Sauvignon wines from South Australia are fruit-forward, whereas Margaret River in Western Australia has a maritime climate similar to Bordeaux, so produces wines with more earthiness. 

Blackcurrant, cherry, liquorice, a hint of black olive and a savoury earthiness. An easy-drinking wine. The generous addition of Merlot (and a tiny drop of Malbec and of Petit Verdot) has softened the tannic structure of the Cabernet Sauvignon, making it a smoother, more approachable wine than Cab Savs from South Eastern Australia. Vasse Felix, Filius, Cabernet Merlot, Margaret River, Australia, 2015, 13.5% Waitrose £12.99

Coonawarra in South Australia is just about the best region for New World Cab Sav, known for growing grapes on its strip of ‘terra rossa’ soil. The 2014 vintage was rated as the best New World Cab Sav in Decanter magazine April 2017. Cherries and fresh blackberries with firm tannins and a lovely long length. Berton Vineyard, Reserve, Cab Sav, Coonawarra, Australia, 2013, 14.5% £14.75

Once you've tried the typical wines of Australia, try something different, like these wines from RedHeads. RedHeads is a kind of movement in winemaking. This team of dedicated winemakers scour Aussie vineyards to find spectacular parcels of grapes and blend them into outstanding wines.  They work in a small shed in McLaren Vale to make limited releases of wines that are great value for money. They are not tied to their own vineyards so they can make wine from the best grapes each year. If you find a RedHeads wine you like buy it quickly as they may not make it again next year. The Coco Rotie is a take on Cote Rotie, the Vinatus is copying the Rioja blend, and Nobs and Snobs is a Cab Sav / Malbec blend. You can buy RedHeads wines from Laithwaites.


And if you want to try something truly remarkable, go for this Aussie version of a Port (it can't be called a Port because its not from Portugal) by Penfolds, also available from Laithwaites.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Wine for Veganuary

My recent post to help wine drinkers with #DryJanuary doesn't seem enough, as we also have the trend of #Veganuary this year.

As news is released that Co-op is to increase its number of vegan wine SKUs by 30% this year, I thought I'd share some goodies for you to try. Below are a few wines I recommend, but first... WHAT THE HELL IS VEGAN WINE?!

Ha ha, I often get asked this, from customers querying that surely grapes are vegan? Well yes, but there are many processes that go into making wine, and the one where animal products is used is fining. Many wines are filtered (to remove large particles) and fined (to remove small particles). The easiest way I find of describing fining is using the cooking example of making consomme. When chefs make consomme they make a broth, but then want to remove all the fine particles that make the soup cloudy to leave a clear liquid. To achieve this chefs add egg whites to the mixture, stir it up, and then leave it. The small particles cling on to the proteins in the egg white, which then rises to the surface of the liquid. This makes it easy for the chef to remove all the unwanted contents, leaving a clear liquid. It's the same concept with wine, and traditionally winemakers use casein (a milk protein), albumin (egg whites), gelatin (animal protein), or isinglass (fish baldder protein). Therefore, animal products have been in contact with the wine, so it cannot be classed as vegan. To make vegan wine, winemakers use alternative fining products, such as bentonite clay.

Vegan is the biggest growing health trend, with now over 500,000 vegans in the UK, which is more than 3.5 times the number 10 years ago!

So are vegan wines any good? In theory, they shouldn't be any different to other quality wines, and actually if the idea follows organic and biodynamic wines, any winemaker who puts effort into these practices will be making boutique, rather than mass-produced, wines, and will care more about the wine he or she is making. It might increase the price, but that doesn't mean you can't find affordable vegan wines - see my selection below. Some of these you might have tried before without knowing they are vegan. In fact, most of these Waitrose vegan wines have been featured in flights at our pop up wine bars! We will always have at least one vegan wine available by the glass at our pop ups, and we clearly label our wines on the menu if they are vegetarian, vegan, oragnic or biodynamic.

I am only sharing Majestic (36 vegan wines to choose from) and Waitrose (278 vegan wines) vegan wines in this blog as an example, because they have made it easy for you by adding 'vegan' to their search filters online. Many other retailers stock vegan wines, and with this growing trend, staff will increasingly be able to help you find them in store.

  1. Herdade De Gambia Portugal £9.99
  2. The Cup And Rings Albariño Sobre Lias 2013/2014 Valedorras Spain £12.99
  3. Catena Malbec 2015 Mendoza Argentina £13.99
  4. Parcel Series Central Otago Pinot Noir 2015 New Zealand £19.99
  5. Chablis 1er Cru Fourchaume Domaine Chatelain France £27.99

  1. Luis Felipe Edwards Carmènere/Shiraz Chile £5.99
  2. Puklavec & Friends Sauvignon Blanc Pinot Grigio Slovenia £8.79
  3. Les Nivières Saumur Cabernet Franc France £8.99
  4. Fairview Barrel-aged Pinotage South Africa £9.49
  5. Yalumba Organic Viognier Australia £9.99
  6. Vasse Felix Filius Cabernet Merlot Australia £12.99
  7. Rustenberg Chardonnay South Africa £13.99
  8. The Hedonist Shiraz Australia £14.49
  9. Domaine Zind-Humbrecht Zind Chardonnay France £17.99
  10. Chateau Musar Cabernet Sauvignon Lebanon £24.99
Come and try this delicious vegan Viognier at our celebration of Australia Day at our pop up wine bars in Marlow (Friday 26th January 2018) and Wooburn Green (Saturday 27th January 2018). Email to book.

If you would like to find out mroe about Princess and the Pinot pop up wine bars in Marlow, Wooburn Green and Twyford (and across Bucks and Berks), then please CLICK HERE

Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Low Alcohol Wine

Many people start the year with Dry January, and many wine lovers suggest Try January instead, which is an opportunity to try something you might not normally drink. Others prefer the Drink Less Drink Better motto. I think I will carry on drinking as normal, as I do have to taste a lot of wines to curate amazing yet affordable wine lists for my pop up wine bars, but I have taken this opportunity to try some low alcohol wines, and here are my top choices...

By law, low alcohol wine has up to 11% for whites and up to 12% for reds. So I started with Riesling, which often has a lower alcohol content because the sugars in the wine have not been fully fermented, resulting in a sweeter and lower alcohol wine. The great thing about Reisling is it has high acidity, so even though both these wines are off-dry, the acidity balances them well.

Another low alcohol wine, which is a personal favourite of mine, is Oaken Grove Benham Blush at 11%. A great tasting fruity rose. Also available from Waitrose for £11.49, or buy direct for £50 for six bottles.

I also found a fantastic light Sauvignon Blanc from Laithwaites for £12.49 called Stonewall which is only 9.5% (my mum drinks it because she often gets a reaction to wine, but doesn't with this one)

Then I thought I would try a dealcoholised Muscat that was recommended by a wine journalist friend of mine, called Natureo by Torres, which is only 0.5% alcohol and sells for £5.99 at Waitrose. It's not bad tasting, but you can definitely tell its missing the punch from alcohol.

I haven't found any decent red wines that are 12% or less - let me know if you do!

Personally, if I'm going to be drinking wine, I don't want to be restricted by alcohol content, so if I was going to do cut down my alcohol intake, I would go for something completely different, like a savoury soft drink. It's pretty pricey but I love the two Seedlip drinks (Garden or Spice), you mix them with tonic or soda so the gin-looking bottle lasts a long time, and they are delicious savoury soft drinks. Buy from Ocado for £27.99.