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Wine Talk

Our pick for some back to school September wines

September has arrived, the holidays are finished, the new uniforms for school have been purchased. Is there enough left in the piggy bank for some decent wine to help us through the coming month?

 

Well, we’ve been looking at what’s going to be good to eat this month and have come up with a couple of offers for you that really fit in with September eating.

 

The first is Verdejo from Rueda made by Pedro Escudero at Valdelainos. Before he allowed fermentation to start, he left the pressed juice in with the skins for a few hours to extract more fruity aromas.

 

The result is evident when you drink it. It’s got notes of tropical fruit mixed in with some hints of fennel. On the palate it is fresh, vibrant and really fruity.

 

It’s wonderful to drink by itself but will partner well with the shellfish that’s just back in season and it’s great with white fish too.

 

A red to go alongside this offer is from the Indaba Estate in South Africa. Bruwer Raats is well known as a genius with white wines especially Chenin Blanc but he’s terrific at making reds too.

 

This Mosaic Red is a blend of 5 different red varieties but Cabernet Sauvignon is dominant. It’s almost a Bordeaux but with more sunshine to give riper flavours.

 

Both the aromas and flavours are dominated by blackcurrant but there are other dark fruit notes there too and let’s not forget some spice and chocolate in the mix.

 

It’s got some structure yet the tannins are fine and ripe and don’t interfere with the enjoyment of drinking. Put it with some lamb which is now more mature than when first available and it will work superbly.

 

It’s good with many other red meats too and if you want to hold a few bottles back until game is more plentiful, it will be lots of fun to drink with some duck or pheasant as well.

 

Plenty of amazing choice and value to make September a month to remember for more than just the return of the school routine.

Recipe: Butternut squash and chicken soup (Spain)

 

A real central heater for the colder months – autumnal, earthy veg, succulent chicken and warming spice.

Great as a starter or hearty enough to make a meal on its own – enjoy with a glass or two of organic Parés Baltà Blanc De Pacs. 

Butternut squash and chicken soup

 

INGREDIENTS

1 x medium sized butternut squash (peeled, seeded and cubed)

4 x free-range chicken thighs

1 x small onion (finely chopped)

2 x tbsp olive oil

1 x litre of chicken or vegetable stock

1 x large pinch of ground cumin

1 x large pinch of ground coriander

1/4-1/2 tsp of chilli flakes (to taste)

1-2 x tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice to taste

Salt and pepper

METHOD

  1. Pre- heat oven to 220°C and toss chicken thighs, squash, onion and oil together in a roasting dish to ensure an evenly coated layer.
  2. Put in oven for about 30 minutes or until chicken and squash are cooked through.
  3. Remove chicken and set aside to cool and add remaining roasted ingredients to a large pan with stock, cumin and coriander, then bring to a simmer.
  4. Using the back of a spoon break up veg to make a thick and chunky soup.
  5. Skin and de-bone chicken, chop and add to soup along with salt, pepper and lemon juice to taste.

That's it – all you need to make it perfect is good quality crusty bread and a bottle or two oParés Baltà Blanc De Pacs. 

Vegan recipe: Spanish style garlic mushrooms (Spain)

 

This simple meat-free starter or supper showcases earthy autumnal mushrooms with a touch of Spanish heat.

Simple, tasty and a superb match with a beautiful bottle of vegan certified Parés Baltà Blanc De Pacs. 

Vegan garlic mushrooms

 

INGREDIENTS

10 x large Paris or white mushrooms (cleaned and cut into quarters)

5 x garlic cloves (crushed)

3 x tbsp olive oil

2 x tbsp dry sherry

1 x tbsp lemon juice

1 x tsp pimenton picante or hot paprika

1/4-1/2 tsp of chilli flakes (to taste)

Salt and pepper

1 x tbsp fresh flat leaf parsley (to garnish)

METHOD

  1. Heat oil in a heavy bottomed frying pan over a moderate heat until hot but not smoking.
  2. Add mushrooms and stir for a few minutes to ensure the oil has coated them completely.
  3. Add all other ingredients except parsley, cook for five minutes and taste to check seasoning and spice – adjust accordingly as desired.
  4. Remove from heat, stir through parsley and serve.

Enjoy in the knowledge that your wine is as clean as your food, with a bottle oParés Baltà Blanc De Pacs. 

Five of the best – exclusive online discounts on selected bottles

 

End of Summer?

Start of the football season?

Back to school shopping?

We don't really need a reason to discount five of our favourite bottles for the next few days.

But here are some reasons why you should snap them up before the end of the week!

Domaine Du P'tit Paradis Chénas – was £12.95, NOW £9.75

Domaine Du P'tit Paradis Chénas

Most people believe Beaujolais is for young drinking but several of the Cru wines (in the hands of good growers) can age superbly.

In time, they drink like good Burgundy at a fraction of the cost – this is one such example.

On a recent tasting for some of our private consumers, this was without doubt the star of the show and by far the most ordered wine.

It has a nose that has developed and beyond the cherry fruit there is a complexity showing savoury nuances.

Full on the palate and lingering for an age in the finish – there would be nothing finer to accompany a wild duck or pheasant casserole.

 

Chateau de la Ragotiere Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie "Les Schistes" – was £10.25, NOW £7.95

Chateau de la Ragotiere Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie "Les Schistes"

We've sold this wine for donkey’s years – a great favourite among restaurants and private consumers alike.

Fresh as a daisy with good mineral backbone, it is just the ticket for seafood and shellfish.

Try it with some pan-fried scallops with a beurre blanc, it’s an eye opener!

 

Henye Tokaji Furmint – was £8.95, NOW £6.95

 Henye Tokaji Furmint

For years, Furmint Dry was used as the basis for making the lusciously sweet Aszu wines but has recently become available in its own right.

Rightly so in our opinion – this is a great aperitif or food wine at a very affordable price.

It works well with fish, poultry and even spicier foods, really making the palate come alive.

With pork being a great staple of the Hungarian diet, this is the perfect drink to pair with a Sunday roast.

 

Bodegas Osca Tinto Joven – was £8.25, NOW £6.50

Bodegas Osca Tinto Joven

While the barbecue season is still just about with us, this delicious red from Somontano in Spain makes for great glugging.

It’s light-ish with a core of red fruits, some darker notes behind and unobtrusive tannins.

And if you're lucky to open it on a fairly hot day, you can even try it slightly chilled as they do in Spain.

 

Chateau Trimoulet 2009 Grand Cru St Emilion – was £19.75, NOW £15.25

Chateau Trimoulet 2009 Grand Cru St Emilion

This was a lucky find for us – a private client asked us to source wine for a party and the price seemed so good we snapped some up ourselves.

And as soon as we'd tasted it, we were back for more.

Some Bordeaux wines can lack fruit and seem a bit austere but there's no danger of that here.

This one is ripe and bold with plenty of sweet fruit, hints of tobacco and pencil shavings, a lush palate and a long, vibrant finish.

It's ideal for drinking now but if you have space and patience, you'll be rewarded for keeping off the corkscrew for a couple more years.

Those are our five favourite discounts available until the end of the week – we hope you agree with our selections!

Recipe: Rabbit or chicken with basil and parsley (New Zealand)

 

We know lots of people don't like the idea of eating rabbit, so don't worry – this dish works just as well with chicken (it just needs cooking a little longer).

So simple to make but requires some quick preparation the day before – well worth the effort though.

Try this with a bottle or two of Waipara Springs Pinot Gris – perfectly balanced acidity to complement the food.

TIP: Ask your butcher to joint the meat into eight pieces to save you the work and mess at home.

 Chicken with basil and parsley

INGREDIENTS (Serves 8)

1 x rabbit or chicken (around 1.5kg), jointed into 8 pieces

4 x garlic cloves

1 x handful of fresh basil

1 x small bunch of fresh parsley

3 x tbsp olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

METHOD (prepare day before eating)

  1. Wash and dry the meat, then add to a large casserole dish with a lid and cook dry over a medium heat for 10 minutes, turning once, until sealed.
  2. Remove from heat, allow to cool and discard any liquid that comes out.
  3. Finely chop garlic, basil and parsley and combine with salt, pepper and oil.
  4. Mix and coat the cooled meat with the oil and herbs, then cover and refrigerate, ideally for 24 hours or overnight.
  5. Pre-heat oven to 180 degrees and cook for around half an hour for rabbit (or until chicken is cooked through).
  6. Serve with boiled new potatoes and green veg.

Enjoy with Waipara Springs Pinot Gris, a rich and complex bottle with vibrant floral undertones.

Recipe: Asparagus and mint risotto (New Zealand)

 

A delicious and satisfying dish doesn't have to mean meat or fish.

This fresh and flavoursome risotto, with tender asparagus and fragrant mint would fuel even the heartiest eater weighing on them.

That includes the tropical Tin Cottage Sauvignon Blanc we used to flavour the food (we drank the rest) – try it yourself, even better with 10 percent off selected sauvignon blancs currently!

 Asparagus and mint risotto recipe

INGREDIENTS (Serves 4)

175g asparagus (trimmed and sliced into 1.5cm lengths)

1.5 litres chicken stock

4 x mint sprigs

2 x tbsp chopped mint leaves

2 x tsp fennel seeds

2 x tbsp olive oil

1 x small onion (finely chopped)

1 x stick of celery (finely chopped)

500g risotto rice (carnaroli if possible)

125ml Sauvignon Blanc

30g unsalted butter

90g freshly grated parmesan

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

METHOD

  1. Put chicken stock, asparagus ends and mint sprigs into a saucepan and bring to boil, before reducing heat to low, covering and keeping hot.
  2. In a large saucepan, toast the fennel seeds over a high heat, stirring for around one minute or until fragrant.
  3. Transfer seeds to a mortar and pestle or spice grinder, then – once cool – roughly grind.
  4. In the same saucepan, heat the olive oil then add the onion and the celery and cook over moderate heat for around five minutes until softened.
  5. Add rice and fennel seeds and stir until coated with oil, then add wine.
  6. Stir for a couple of minutes until absorbed, then add enough hot stock to just cover the rice.
  7. Cook and stir until stock is absorbed, then continue to add stock one ladle at a time, stirring constantly until rice is just tender – this should take about 20 minutes.
  8. Stir in the sliced asparagus and cook, adding more broth as necessary, until the asparagus is almost tender and the rice is al dente and bound in a creamy sauce.
  9. Stir in the butter, parmesan and chopped mint, then season with salt and pepper.
  10. Serve in warmed bowls, with more parmesan if desired.

Enjoy with the rest of your Tin Cottage Sauvignon Blanc while your veggie friends beg you for the recipe.

Great value alternatives to Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc

 

Without doubt, Sauvignon Blanc has become New Zealand’s flagship grape variety, mainly making its home in the South Island’s Marlborough region.

For years, the iconic ‘Cloudy Bay’ brand has commanded high prices – but for me, the quality level is not what it was and other labels now offer greater value.

To get the most enjoyment out of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, it can help to get a better understanding of this iconic grape.

New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

Why is Sauvignon Blanc such a superstar in NZ?

Since it was first planted there in 1973 – and in the 40-odd years since – it has accounted for the lion’s share of New Zealand’s wine exports.

New Zealand growers have never tried to bastardise quality in favour of a fast buck – the general quality produced throughout the country is high.

A part of Sauvignon Blanc’s mass appeal is an abundance of aromatics and fruit flavours on the palate – essential for a variety with such powerful acidity.

Working with restaurants on a daily basis, we’re constantly reminded that most ‘by the glass’ offerings are driven by price alone.

That’s not true of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, where quality is the driving factor in the majority of cases.

It’s not the easiest of food partners – shellfish and seafood certainly work, as does asparagus – but the high acidity levels make it a great aperitif wine.

New Zealand wines have the gooseberry fruit and pepper (bell pepper) found in Sauvignon worldwide.

But they also tend to have more tropical characters too, making them so much more drinkable in volume.

Plus, Sauvignon is very much an aromatic variety, with bold fragrance and flavour components.

And when these are grown to New Zealand quality levels, they really hit you between the eyes, giving the impression of more bang for your buck.

What to look for when buying Sauvignon Blanc

Firstly, as with any cooler climate wines, vintage can make a big difference.

Happily, both 2015 and 2016 have been kind to Kiwi Sauvignon – although 2015 was lower in yield.

These wines will never be the cheapest and it’s always worth spending that little bit more to ensure quality.

But there are some great value alternatives to Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc – here are three that are just as good in our eyes (and less expensive).

Bladen Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Bladen Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc

Dave and Cristine MacDonald’s Bladen Estate is one of the founding ones of the Marlborough region.

You’ll have to go a long way to beat the quality and style of their generous Sauvignon Blanc, with its gooseberry, grapefruit, nettle and floral hints.

These give way to a plentifully fruited palate with minerals, grapefruit zest and herbal notes and a long clean finish.

It’s perfectly balanced and – at under £13 a bottle – offers great value.

The Doctors' Sauvignon Blanc

The Doctor’s Sauvignon Blanc

Marlborough’s Forrest Wines have created a range of lower alcohol wines that lack nothing in terms of flavour and enjoyment.

They won’t tell us the special techniques they use in both the vineyard and the winery but have admitted that special clones have been chosen for the project.

Their classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc leaps from the glass with red capsicum, passionfruit and fresh herb aromas.

It’s full and satisfying to taste, with that crisp and refreshing tropical Marlborough finish – all at a modest 9.5 percent alcohol.

Waipara Springs Sauvignon Blanc

Waipara Springs Sauvignon Blanc

If you’d like to try something that’s not from Marlborough you can’t go far wrong with the wines of the Waipara Valley.

Although more famous for Pinot Noir and Riesling grapes, Sauvignon Blanc fares really well there – this example from Waipara Springs winery won’t disappoint.

Aromas of passionfruit, nettle and capsicum dominate the nose and these in turn flow through onto a bright palate.

Salivating acidity couples with chalky minerality to bring depth – mouthwatering at little more than £10 a bottle.

You either love it or you soon will…

If you’re already a devotee of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, enjoy the quality of these Cloudy Bay alternatives and let us know what you think.

And if you’ve not tried it yet, give a bottle a go and you’ll likely become a convert before it’s empty.

Recipe: Coq au Riesling (France)

This delicious and simple-to-make dish is the Alsatian version of the French classic 'Coq au Vin' – no dogs involved, it's still chicken. Try it yourself!

Recipe: Toasted goats cheese salad (France)

This simple starter is just the thing with a cool glass of Sancerre – it pairs particularly well with Domaine Hubert Brochard Sancerre, try it yourself!

Recipe: Monkfish with mushrooms in cream sauce (South Africa)

We last enjoyed this delicious fish dish in restaurant overlooking the ocean in beautiful Jacob's Bay in the Western Cape, with a bottle of Bouchard Finlayson Blanc de Mer.

And with 12.5% off all South African wines, you should select a similarly fragrant fruity white to cut through the luxurious indulgence of this seafood feast.

South African monkfish with mushrooms in cream sauce

INGREDIENTS 

800g monkfish fillet

125ml dry white wine

250ml water

1 x bay leaf

Small handful of parsley

Half a small onion

6 x peppercorns

Half a teaspoon of salt

200g mushrooms (sliced)

25ml softened butter

25ml sherry

50ml double cream

1.5 x dessertspoon French mustard

2 x medium potatoes (mashed and creamed)

Grated parmesan or gruyere cheese

FOR THE SAUCE

3 x level tablespoons of softened butter

60g flour

250ml warm milk

375ml fish stock

METHOD (serves 6)

1. Pre-heat oven to 160°C/320°F.

2. Put monkfish, wine, water, bay leaf, parsley, onion, peppercorns and salt in saucepan and poach until the fish is just just cooked through.

3. Remove and drain the fish, cube and set aside.

4. Fry mushrooms lightly in butter and drain on a paper towel.

5. Make the white sauce by heating the butter and flour together, stirring to make a 'roux'.

6. Whisk in the milk and stock to complete the sauce, taking care not to burn.

7. Season to taste, then add the fish, mushrooms, sherry, cream and mustard.

8. Spoon into individual dishes and surround the top with a border of creamed potato.

9. Sprinkle with cheese and bake in the oven for 25 minutes.

Despite the number of strong flavours, the monkfish is tough enough to stand up for itself and really shines when complemented with a few glasses of Blanc de Mer.

Top tip: For added wow factor at the table, serve in individual scallop shells (available from most fishmongers) instead of dishes.