Wine Card Wonder

dadwine rooms view

 

 

 

 

 

I credit my lovely Dad for introducing me to the wonderful world of wine, so it was a very easy decision to decide where to take him for his birthday. The Fulham Wine Rooms are the sister restaurant to The Kensington Wine Rooms, which I’ve written about before, and boy are they good.

Hwine cardere’s the concept. A great selection of wines – and a cash card you can load up allowing you to taste at your own pace and your own amount. The price for a small 25cl taster of the wines ranges from as little as 70p up to around £2 for the really good ones. £15 on each card got us around 15 wines to taste between us. Each wine has a handy little explainer card below, too, giving you an idea of what you might taste.

The stand-out wines:

tokaji<< Dobogo Furmint Tokaji (2012). This Hungarian white is made in the same region and from the same grapes as traditional dessert wine, but is actually very dry and very, very good. Think honeysuckle, apricots, warm and complexity.

sp68>> SP 68 Bianco, Sicily (2013).  The Wine Rooms had a good selection of natural wines, made with minimum chemical interventions or additives.  This white was incredibly clean and fresh, disappearing from the palate almost instantly. With pleasant fruity flavours and a crisp taste, the lack of sulphates should mean less chance of a hangover too. Winner.

20150602_182057_1<< Puligby-Montrachet ‘Les Enseigneres’ Domaine Chavy-Choet (2013). Simply wow. A stunning white burgundy, it was full and rich and had a beautiful taste of honey.  Expensive, retailing at around £35 a bottle, but I think I’ll be saving up my pennies to treat myself.

ballon

>> Ballon, ROT Wine Rooms Production, Cotes-du-Rhone (2013).  Boo, the only wine that disappointed. I really *wanted* to like this red, blended by the Wine Rooms and another natural wine. But to me it smelt of feet, and tasted a little of vinegar.

rioja reserva

<< Rioja Crianza Bodegas Amezola (2010) / Rioja Reserva Especial, Urbina (1998). Although not a strict comparison, tasting these 2 riojas together was really useful to compare how age changed them. The Crianza was younger and would be perfect in another 5 years or so. The Reserva – aged to perfection – was full bodied, smooth and tasted similar to Port.

pauillac>> Lacoste Borie, Chateau Grand-Puy-Lacoste, Pauillac, Bordeaux (2007). My favourite of the whole evening (and that’s saying something!). This Pauillac was smooth, but with big flavour and an amazing nose. A real treat – at £63 a bottle it’s not normally one I would be able to try!

 

You can see more information about the wines above here.

Don’t forget you can always tweet @wineblag for more information.

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A Thames-side Treat

I love competitions, and resolutely stick to my Mum’s motto that the more you enter, the more likely you are to win.

Unfortunately that hasn’t resulted in any Caribbean holidays yet, but I was lucky enough to win a meal at Zorita’s Kitchen in London, courtesy of Majestic Wine, which I enjoyed with the family last week.

Zorita3 Zorita’s is in a lovely location on the banks of the Thames, opposite the Globe Theatre, with views of the river and Shard. Pretty impressive!

But then the food and wine were pretty impressive, too.  We enjoyed a lovely selection of tapas, which seemed to just keep coming.

Zorita8The real highlight for me was the wine. Having got there early with my boyfriend Tim, we opted to enjoy a glass of white while waiting for the others. This crisp, tasty and fresh wine was perfect enjoyed with some olives and gossip!  I hadn’t tried Verdejo before, and am pretty uneducated in the Spanish-wine department overall, but this was a great introduction.

 

The lovely chaps at Majestic had also arranged for us to enjoy two bottles of Spanish red with our meal

The first, a Crianza Rioja went brilliantly with the first plate of bread, cured ham and cheese that we enjoyed, and I was really impressed with the flavours.  This one, on the left, can be enjoyed in Zorita’s for £18.49 a bottle – a good price for a very nice wine.

Zorita4Zorita5But the undeniable highlight was the Marques de la Concordia Hacienda de Susar (bottle on the right). Retailing in the restaurant at nearly £50 a bottle, this was  really special experience. It was one of the smoothest reds I have ever had. It was predominantly the Tempranillo grape (as is traditional with Rioja), but also has Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in the blend. Aged in barrels for a number of years before being bottled, the wine had really developed and had a lovely blend of flavours.  Decanted and left to breathe while we polished off the other bottle only improved the experience.

The bottle we enjoyed was one of the last 2007s that Zorita’s Kitchen had, but when they get the 2010 vintage in I’ll be one of the first through the doors!

Zorita6     Zorita7

The Best Exotic Indian Wine?

Have we tapped into a new trend? Peter Tomlinson explores the world of Indian wine in WineBlag’s first guest post.

When you think of countries making wine you may think of the ‘greats’ such as France or the more recent arrivals such as Chile … but India? Well, on a recent business trip to Bangalore I’d spent two weeks avoiding drinking the water, unless it had been fermented with hops and yeast and turned into beer. However, on night 12 of a 13 night trip I saw a bottle of wine in the hotel and asked to take a look thinking it would be imported, but no, it was a local wine from India.

First signs were encouraging, recognisable grape varieties of Cabernet and Shiraz. But, could a wine from India really be anything other than well, disappointing?

India1 India2You’ll see there is a Decanter Commendation label – usually a good sign on any bottle of wine in India or elsewhere. The main soil in India is a deep red colour, and there’s no doubt that this does makes its way, even slightly into the wine. For red wine that’s actually alright, adding to the slightly earthy notes and not at all distracting; for white wine (yes, they make white wine as well) it could be more of a problem. All the usual typical Cabernet and Shiraz tastes were there, the blackberries, peppery etc. which when combined with the earthy undertones made for quite a nice drop of red wine.

Intrigued I tried to find out a little more and discovered the Grover winery is only 25km from the impressive Bangalore (now Bengaluru) airport where I happened to be working, so in easy reach for a future trip. Curiously the grapes in India are harvested in February/ March after the monsoon rains of late autumn and a period of ripening in the drier winter months, with some slightly cooler evenings. In Europe the harvest is usually in late August or September which allows for the maximum ripening in the weaker northern climate. Further investigation revealed a Wine Society of India, with an office in Bangalore and even a Bangalore Wine Village event every two years. Travel really does broaden the mind!

Having now returned home I look back and wonder if the wine really was that good or if the two weeks of wine depravation had somehow skewed my senses and dulled my taste buds. I don’t think so, and there’s only one way to find out…..luckily I have another business trip to Bangalore in a couple of months’ time. Maybe I’ll try another bottle, just to be sure, and even a Chardonnay as well, purely for the purposes of research you understand.

Have you tried an unusual wine? Tweet us @WineBlag or comment below.

A Study in Simplicity

As luck would have it, I had the good fortune of winning a gift card from Pizza Express the other week (thank you!)

This provided the perfect opportunity to go and check out their wine menu (as well as their food menu too, of course).

20141115_184651_1Pizza Express is obviously a large chain, which buys its wine in as a company, rather than for individual restaurants. This means a fairly standard selection, but a decent one.

There isn’t much choice, making it much easier than some wine lists which can feel like you are studying a novel.

It’s not always a bad idea to go for the cheapest wine. Especially in certain restaurants, actually the house wine or cheaper bottles can be really good value. But here, none of the four cheapest (all Italian) whites really floated my boat. Cheap Chardonnay can be a really nasty choice (I can’t comment on this one, maybe another time) and the same goes for Pinot Grigio.

Fancying a crisp, tasty white to cut through all that awesome tomato and cheese on our food, the New Zealand Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc was an obvious choice. As I wrote before, this is usually a safe bet in a restaurant.

20141115_185405_1This one, Storm Crossing, was fairly decent. I still balk at paying nearly £21 for a bottle which, in a shop, I would say is probably worth more like £7, but hey, that’s part of what you sign up for when you are eating out. And it did go really nicely with our food.

Incidentally, if I’d been going for red I probably would have plumped for the Italian Ripasso as a full-bodied red that would compliment some of the spicier options on the menu.
Next time I’ll have to try one of the cheaper bottles. Have you had a good wine in a restaurant recently? Do let me know on Twitter: @WineBlag, or comment below.

An unexpected find

It’s always lovely when you find something without meaning to, isn’t it?

On Tuesday I was being treated to a (3-month late) birthday dinner by my Uncle and his partner. Having had a nightmare of a situation last time me and my boyfriend met them for dinner courtesy of a punctured tyre, tube delays and awful weather, we decided to set off ridiculously early for this dinner.

Courtesy of http://www.greatwinesbytheglass.com/kensington/
Courtesy of http://www.greatwinesbytheglass.com/kensington/

But it was totally worth it when we happened to walk past The Kensington Wine Rooms.  Having spotted the word ‘wine’, and then seeing all the lovely bottles inside, of course I couldn’t resist.

So we stopped off for a quick glass of wine, and boy what a gem. I’ll have to pop back soon and do a proper review, with photos for you lovely lot to see how unusual it was inside. But for now, just picture a lovely up-market bar, with horizontal wine fridges around the room.

You could either order by the glass from a menu, or Vinopolis style, put money on a card and choose which wine you wanted from the machine which then dispensed a pre-set amount straight from the bottle. Pretty cool.

But what did we drink? I went for the Bourgogne Vezelay, Domaine La Croiz Montjoi. Burgundy 2012. Sound like a load of gobbledygook? Don’t panic. The menu had great descriptions, which is always helpful. French chardonnay can be a dodgy choice, but in a place like this it is a pretty safe bet they are going to serve good wine.

Burgundy is one of the most well-renowned wine regions in France, so again if you are scanning a menu keep an eye out for this marker. The wine that we enjoyed was crisp, and instead of being citrusy or sharp like you might expect from a Sauvignon Blanc for example, it was more creamy. It didn’t really hit the back of your throat, but instead made for very easy, enjoyable drinking.

Watch this space for a proper review soon, although I really don’t need an excuse to visit again!

The start of a journey

Courtesy of http://tweedlandthegentlemansclub.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/berry-bros-rudd-london.html
Courtesy of http://tweedlandthegentlemansclub.blogspot.co.uk/2012/11/berry-bros-rudd-london.html

I never used to get the idea of wine tasting. Although I’d been brought up by parents who appreciate wine, I essentially just thought that red was red, white was white, and rose somewhere in between. I assumed these people who stood around swilling the wine in the glass, making a show of sniffing it, drinking it noisily and then declaring it to “have flavours of gooseberry and vanilla but with some toasty undertones” were, to be honest, pretentious gits who had no idea what they were talking about.

That was until I was lucky enough to go to a wine-tasting evening at Berry Bros & Rudd in London. My Dad had been invited to a corporate evening of wine-tasting, and decided it was high time I stopped teasing him for thinking there was a difference in the wines he drunk.

Berry Bros opened in 1698, and the tasting was held in the impressive cellars, which just ooze history.

Courtesy of http://globalfinancialrooms.com/venue/the-berry-bros-napoeleon-cellars/
Courtesy of http://globalfinancialrooms.com/venue/the-berry-bros-napoeleon-cellars/

The wines to taste were set out on different tables according to whether they were ‘New World’ or ‘Old World’ (separate post on this to follow). Then, with the help of the professionals, you tasted comparable wines but from different places, to understand how they differed. And boy, did they differ.

For the first time I realised that actually, saying one red wine is like another is pretty much like saying every car is the same, regardless of whether it is a Mini, a Skoda or a Ferrari.

There is a whole world of wine out there, and believe me, it is well-worth taking a bit of time to explore how wines differ from each other, and which ones you like.