An English Attempt

English wine. As I’ve said before, I’m not usually a big fan. Given the choice bHush Heathetween an English bottle or a French, I’m afraid my patriotism goes out of the window and I’d pick the French every time. In most areas of the UK, our climate simply isn’t conducive to producing the grapes suitable for making lovely, high quality wine.

But there are a number of vineyards dotting the south coast of England, trying valiantly to convert sceptical people like me.

Hush Heath Estate is one such vineyard. When we moved into our new flat recently, a pack of 3 bottles from here had been left for us. One was a tasty cider which disappeared very quickly indeed! I needed more convincing about the other two though – an English chardonnay and an English pinot noir.

The pinot, as you can see, was a very light ruby red, and at only 11% alcohol content, tasted pretty light too. On their website, Hush Heath suggest this wine is a good accompaniment to game – I’d disagree. There wan’t really much to it at all – no fruity flavours to roll around your tastebuds, nor oaky depth to savour as you drink. You could almost say it was more like ribena than red wine.

Although Pinot Noir is typically a lighter red, good bottles have complex flavours and depth to them that I’m afraid this English offering was lacking. On the positive side, if you wanted a red to go with meaty fish like swordfish, or salmon and not overpower it, this could work well.

I’m still to be convinced that us Brits can produce good wine that can truly rival more traditional producers. Sorry Hush Heath, at £22 a bottle this Pinot Noir just didn’t do enough.

Interested in English wine? Read more here: English sparkling wine / English wine growing in sophistication

Mistletoe and Wine (The Reds)

As you can see here, I had a lovely Christmas enjoying some very nice wine. Here are the reds that I was lucky enough to kick back and enjoy by the fire.

This 2013 Wine Society Cotes du Rhone was opened on Christmas Day evening, but to be honest I wasn’t that impressed. It seemed a bit flat and unflavoursome. But after being decanted the next day and left to breathe, it really improved and those big, bold flavours that I was expecting were much more prevalent. I’d still probably pick something different next time, but it was an easy-drinking red (in the end). For a hopefully more reliable option, this bottle from Sainsbury’s would be a good option.

 

 

In contrast, big, full-bodied flavours practically punched you in the face from this really special Châteauneuf-du-Pape from Naked Wines. It was bold, tasty with big tannins and lovely smoky flavours. 2010 was a particularly good vintage – this bottle would easily have kept for another 5+ years and matured nicely, but the temptation to enjoy it was just too much! It worked brilliantly with a lovely baked ham with cloves, and the 15.5% alcohol content speaks for itself. High street offerings include this bottle from Ocado, or this from Majestic.

 

And finally a really special wine, courtesy of my Dad. This 1962 Pauillac was bought for the significance of the year it was made (ahem, same age as Dad). Now it was a touch-and-go experience. The cork had disintegrated quite a lot, and the amount of sediment in the bottle was unbelievable. But after being strained, decanted, strained again and left to breathe, this 52-year-old wine was ready. And boy was it worth the wait. The colour had transformed to a really pale red, and it was one of the smoothest red wines I have ever drunk. The flavour was very different to anything I would normally drink, but the balance between oak and fruit flavours was perfect. No high street equivalent I’m afraid, but hey, you could always choose a good quality, full-bodied red from a supermarket and lay it down for 50 years yourself!

Go-To, Fail Safe, Always a Winner

20141115_195040_2You’re out of inspiration, in need of a bottle for yourself or a friend, and there seems to be just too much choice. So what do you pick? Here is my guide to your fail safe, go-to wines …

Reds

St-Emilion. Merlot is the dominant grape, with Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon in there too. Beautiful deep colour, fruity, woody and with some flavour of spices. Always a popular choice! Also look out for the St-Emilion “satellites” such as Lussac-St-Emilion – nearby vineyards using the same grapes, offering great value.

Chateauneuf-du-Pape. High alcohol content, fruity and hearty red. The name carries a bit of a premium though, so expect to pay around £15 a bottle. But it is a sure one to impress if that is your aim!

Shiraz Viognier. A nice mix of grapes. I like this one from Naked Wines, with the hearty Shiraz being nicely balanced by the lighter flavours from the Viognier grape.

A Cabernet Sauvignon, such as the Wolf Blass yellow label. Goes well with most food or on its own, and is usually easy to locate in most supermarkets.

Pinot Noir, preferably from Burgandy in France, or from New Zealand. A lighter red, that is best served slightly colder than other reds. Goes brilliantly with goats cheese or lamb, or meaty fish like swordfish.

Pomerol. A real winner from the Bordeaux region of France. Similar mix of grapes to St-Emilion, with Merlot being the dominant one in the mix. Deep flavours, dark colours – think red fruit mixed with faint tobacco and liquorice. Ages well, try to decant before drinking. Worth the bigger price tag.

Whites

NZ Sauvignon Blanc. Always a favourite! See my post on Oyster Bay to find out why.

Sancerre. A classic white from the Loire Valley in France. Sauvignon Blanc grape, full of flavour and a nice balance between fruity and sharp, crisp citrus flavours which tend to dominate in the New Zealand Sauvignons.

Petit Chablis. Dry white, a better value option than Chablis, but with most of the flavours and enjoyment! A really nice Chardonnay.

Viognier. Usually from France, but I recently tried a very nice Californian variety, and Hardy’s do a reliable bottle from Australia. Viognier is a superb white wine, pale yellow / amber in colour, with a nice mix of floral and fruity flavours. Fresh, tasty and a nice change from Sauvignon.

 

What are your fail safe wines? Tweet us @WineBlag or comment below.

A Vivacious Viognier

Having very nearly cracked and opened a gorgeous (and yes, rather expensive) bottle of Pomerol on Friday night, I came to my senses just in time and decided that actually a Californian Viognier was much more appropriate for the evening.

 

France

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I love Viognier – have first tried it on a family holiday a couple of years ago in France, it always reminds me of long, warm and lazy evenings by the Canal du Midi

ViognierBut it is worthy of praise in its own right, wistful memories of holiday aside, This particular bottle came from Naked Wines (more about them in another post), and is from a vineyard in California. Think smooth, fruity and tasty white. Different from a crisp Sauvignon Blanc, more fruity than a French Chardonnay.

I was being treated to a home-cooked dinner of pork loin steaks with mash and veg, and this was the perfect match. It almost has an apple  flavour – a great match for the pork.

Whereas a New Zealand Sauvignon might taste quite sharp, and even make your mouth tingle and water, this is much more rounded and smooth.

A good equivalent in the shops at the moment is this bottle from Ocado – a steal at £5.99, half-price. Give it a try with pork or chicken, and savour the tasty flavours and golden colour.

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!