Wednesday, 18 November 2015

So. Many. Wines.

I'm in the middle of a week of wine tasting for the International Wine Challenge, a huge wine competition. For the last two days I've tasted around 150 wines a day, mostly two or three times each. At the end of it your teeth hurt, your tongue feels like an Axminster carpet and the very last thing you feel like is a glass of wine. Which is a shame because there are so many really good wines around. Add to that a handful of proper bargains and it's beginning to look at lot like...ok, sorry. I'll stop. But seriously, there are more places to buy the good stuff, too. Aldi (who together with Lidl now account for 10% of the total market, double their share just three years ago) recently announced they'll be selling wine by the case online from next year. And as well as the supermarkets, there are a growing number of brilliant online wine shops like Private Cellar, along with the welcome reappearance of Oddbins and properly good independent wine shops. Also, a quick mention for the Co-op: their wine range is currently pretty fantastic. Most of their 'Truly Irresistible' wine range is just that, despite sounding like a really bad aftershave.

Current white in the fridge: Hautes Cotes de Beaune 2014, £8.99, Lidl
So, this is Chardonnay from the same region as the wines of Puligny Montrachet and Meursault. Obviously from different vineyards but you get the idea. You'll pay way more for those wines but if you want to get a taste of what this region can do with Chardonnay when made well, this is one way to do it. Fresh, crisp and with bright, lemony fruit and an almost creamy character to it, the wine is brilliant value for money. And looks more expensive than it is (always good).

Current red in the rack: Fire Flower Shiraz/Mourvedre 2014, £8.99, Waitrose
As with so many wines, the inspiration comes from France. In this case, it's the Rhone Valley, where it's common practice to throw a little Viognier (a white grape) in with a vat of Syrah (a red grape). This is South Africa's take on a Rhone classic and it works beautifully. Rich and ripe with black fruits and spice, it's best drunk fireside. 

Ps. For anyone who lives near the New Forest/fancies a trip to Lime Wood, I'm hosting a pop-up event there alongside Raw & Cured chef Sheila Hulme on the 14th December. We're talking amazing canapes and gorgeous wines. Limited number of spaces available - come if you can! More details here

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Bloody Buses

You know the old thing Wendy Cope said about men and buses, how you wait for ages and they all appear at once? Well, same goes for TV programmes. Since the end of the last series of Poldark, the only thing that kept me going was Bake Off (along with a few surreptitious episodes of MIC but we'll speak no more about that). But now, I can't stop watching telly. Sunday: Downton, obviously. Monday: London Spy (my friend produced it so am a bit biased, but still - brilliant). Tuesday: River (went a bit strange in the middle but now building to a great finish). And best of all, Wednesday: The Affair. Absolutely one of the most brilliant things on telly for about a year. So well done, telling the story through different eyes. Scenes are repeated with the characters wearing different clothes and saying different things, depending on who's recounting the story. If you haven't seen it, you must - and it'll keep you going until the next series of Poldark.

Current white in the fridge: Louis Delaunay Champagne Brut NV, £9 (normally loads more), Tesco
This is a great deal - which not all champagne deals are, as you know. But this one really does deliver crisp lemons, toast and a whiff of hazelnuts in a glass, together with bubbles that stay the course (or at least until you have time to finish it). Looks the part too - no gopping giveaway label here. It's down to £9 until next Tuesday, so if you've got anything to celebrate between now and then (I'm thinking making it to Friday?), it's worth it. 

Current red in the rack: Orbitali Brunello di Montalcino 2010, £15, Asda
If you like the medium-bodied cherry fruits of a good Chianti, this is similar but with a bit more grip and oomph. Made from the Sangiovese grape (as is Chianti) in the Montalcino region just south of Florence, in Tuscany, it's got a more rustic feel to it. But time has softened everything too, so this one's smooth with a bit of spice. A bit like The Affair, really. 

Chin chin x

Friday, 6 November 2015

Bright Side

Our new early morning start isn't getting any easier: having to get up when it's still dark outside feels all wrong. Add in heavy rain and it's all a bit bleugh. But then there's this jacket. Named by one of my favourite fash writers as the jazzy jacket, I just knew I had to have one in the way that your whole wardrobe seems obsolete until you do. So now it's hanging on the door of my wardrobe, where it's been ever since I bought it in Zara last week. I admire it every morning and plan to wear it as often as possible between now and next Spring. Too much for the school run, perhaps. But on mornings like this, I'm tempted.

Current white in the fridge: Oveja Blanca Muscat 2014, £9, Oddbins
The Muscat grape is rather on the floral side, with a kind of honeysuckle, rosewater and lychee thing going on. This one, from the Ucles region in central Spain, is gorgeous. Fresh, a touch flowery but not so much that it looks out of season. You can't miss the label, it's got a funny looking sheep on the front (oveja blanca means white sheep). Brilliant for brightening up these dark nights and a simple fishcake supper. 

Current red on the side: Deakin Vine Series Merlot 2014, £8.99, Waitrose
Properly velvet soft and juicy, this is a really great Australian Merlot. It's got all the usual flavour suspects in there - plums, cherries, raspberries - with a deft touch of spice from oak too. From the Murray Darling region, darling. Sip whilst wearing a jazzy jacket and you're all set. 

Chin chin x

Ps. If you are anywhere near Birmingham this weekend, I'll be at Love Wine 2015 at the Hotel du Vin all day tomorrow, along with 250 wines available to taste from some brilliant producers. There are a few tickets still available, use the code KnackeredLove at the checkout and you'll get a 10% discount.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Witching Hour

So, I've had a nightmare this half term. The washing machine broke. Honestly, it was terrifying. Piles of washing everywhere. On top of that, there's Saturday's Trickle Treat (as Youngest Girl calls it) outing to think about. Our kids usually bring home enough sweets to open a shop, thanks to us being one of only a few families with young children in the neighbourhood. Eldest Boy isn't dressing up this year ('Mum, I'm eleven', was his response). But Middle Boy and Youngest Girl are going all out. I showed them this picture of me in full Halloween get up, the only time I've ever won a prize in a fancy dress competition. It was actually the middle of summer, but no matter. Behind me is my lovely friend Claudia, dressed, fantastically, as Mickey Mouse (and she says we swept the board). The other thing we'll be doing on Saturday is making spooky food for a post-t&t tea. The Crumbs website alerted me to the icing pen - why did I not know about these? Perfect for making fairy cakes look like mummies. Egyptian ones, obviously.

Current white in the fridge: Graham Norton's Own Sauvignon Blanc 2015, £8.99*, Majestic
I love watching Graham Norton on a Friday night, not least because he always has a HUGE glass of white wine alongside his A-listers on the sofa. I do worry, though, that under all those studio lights the wine never looks cold enough. And the wine he's drinking definitely needs to be nicely chilled. I know that, because it's this one. Made by New Zealand producer Invivo, Norton helped put the blend together, apparently. Nice job: it combines fruit from the Wairau and Awatere Valley regions in Marlborough. It's more ripe tropical fruit than overpoweringly grassy in style. Making it very, very easy to drink. 
*It's £8.99 if you buy six bottles (Majestic now sell single bottles, but you'll have to pay £3 more for this one if you do).

Current red in the rack: Extra Special Pinot Noir 2013, £8, Asda
It's a New Zealand South Island double whammy this week. This second one's from Marlborough but this time, it's red. Made from the Pinot Noir grape, which seems to love this region's warm days and cool nights. Most of Marlborough is covered with Sauvignon Blanc vines, but plantings of Pinot Noir are on the rise. Hurrah to that, because the quality is getting better all the time. Think spicy raspberry fruit, not too heavy but with enough oomph to be taken seriously. Fantastic value. 

Chin chin x