Thursday, 24 September 2020
Wednesday, 23 September 2020
In our house, we divide evening meals into "wine food" and "beer food". Wine food is fish, steak, casserole and roast meats; beer food is spicy, oily, studenty foods like chilis, curries and burgers.
On a Sunday evening, with some previous-days' leftover bottles all finished off, I felt in need of a glass of something to go with my main of burgers in buns.
With no beer in the fridge and reluctant to open a bottle of wine just for the odd, unlikely-to-match glass, I looked in the cupboard at bottles-on-the-go to assess my options - gin, whisky, PX or Cream Sherry.
Gin might have worked but would also likely have earned me a disapproving look: "Moving onto spirits already, dear?"; peaty whisky and PX were definitely out, so I plumped for a glass of Lustau M&S Rare Cream Sherry - we have around half-a-dozen bottles after it was marked down in-store to something less than cost-price, so I felt under no obligation to keep it back "for best".
And the strange thing was - it worked. From the initial "Yeah, that's not actually terrible", I went through "Hmmm, OK actually" to "Yes, this is a match that works" and then "Why has no-one thought of this before" to "But why is this actually a good match?".
The reasons it works, I think, are this:
- the dish is quite sweet (ketchup, gherkins and brioche) and food-matching requires that the wine always be sweeter than the food
- burgers are quite salty and sweet wines work well with salty foods
- the burgers are strongly flavoured with a slight char that goes well with the fragrant cooked fruit, roasted spices and general savouriness of the sherry
- the high acidity cuts through the richness; the intensity stands up to the strong flavours of beef, cheese and garnishes
Put like that, there is no level on which Cream Sherry does not work with burgers; it ticks every box.
If we think of more obvious, natural partners to burgers, it's beer or Coke; beer is sharp and hoppy-fragrant with a moderately high sugar content - like sherry.
Coke is sharp, sweet and spicy - also like sherry.
The only significant difference is that where beer and Coke finish dry (that is, despite having a fairly high sugar content, they feel acidic on the finish), the sherry remains distinctly sweet on the finish which may take a little getting used to.
If that's the case, and you find you can't get over it, then look for a slightly less-sweet style, such as Oloroso.
But next time you have a burgers, a barbecue or a fry up, forget the beers and try a dark sherry instead. You might be pleasantly surprised.
Saturday, 19 September 2020
One of the very first wine facts I learnt is that Bordeaux is all about blending; that is, Bordeaux is (mostly) a blend of grape varieties and / or vineyards.
Wednesday, 16 September 2020
Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne NV
Think Chablis and it's all about still white wines made from Chardonnay; so this sparkling Blanc de Noirs made from 100% Pinot Noir is intriguing for its bragging rights alone.
It is not, of course, a Chablis - or, at least, cannot be labelled as such - even though the grapes are grown in Chablis.
If we think of Chablis as more akin to a southerly district of Champagne than a northerly sub-region of Burgundy, then this fizz falls into place: a slightly warmer-climate, giving a slightly fuller wine with a little more fruit.
It is aged on the lees for 24 months, so is truly a Champagne-style wine without the price tag; it is my go-to "proper fizz" when it needs to be good and I don't want to pay for the label.
Simonnet-Febvre Crémant de Bourgogne (Private Cellar, £18.85) golden colour, fine mousse; grapefruit, orchard and citrus fruits with some creamy brioche; fine linear acidity and minerality; harmonious and elegant.
Good and Good Value (within its category).
Drinking nicely now and can also be aged.
Drink as an aperitif or match with light starters.
If this wine piques your interest, Frankie Cook reviews another Simonnet-Febvre here.
Sunday, 6 September 2020
Montes Reserve Chardonnay, Chile
I kind of miss the 80s and 90s - to be honest, I rather miss 2019.
Anyway, the era of the Terminator, yuppies, Ladettes and Girl Power also gave us Big Oaky Chardonnay.
Yes, like all things, it eventually got a bit out of hand, but in its heyday, it was great.
Good Oaky Chardonnay is full of ripe fruit, butterscotch and spice; it's as easy to enjoy as one of Arnie's catchphrases.
Montes Reserve Chardonnay, Chile, (£8, The Co-op) ripe tropical pineapple and melon fruit, toasty vanilla oak and creamy brazil-nut savoury leesiness. Fresh and mineral; supple, harmonious and well-made.
Good and Good Value.
A versatile food wine, match with herby sausages, roast chicken or wiener schnitzel.
Saturday, 5 September 2020
Durup Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume
First things first - at just about two years from harvest date, drinking a Premier Cru Chablis feels like oenological infanticide. It's little more than a barrel sample at this stage and, despite drinking very nicely, a long way from being the wine it has the potential to become.
It's like seeing Daniel Radcliffe's screen test for Harry Potter or being in the crowd at a Quarrymen gig; you might well be in the presence of greatness, but you may not necessarily realise it at the time.
Chablis is one of the great wines of the world; there really is nothing else quite like it, due to its combination of soil type, climate, aspect and winemaking. If you were looking for somewhere to make wine now, you wouldn't choose Chablis. It's too high risk and too much hard work.
But the best wine is often made in the most marginal areas and the challenges of Chablis are also its greatness.
I love Chablis - for both its incomparable style and its taut, linear focus. Yes, it's completely illogical, but the difficulty in making it is also part of what makes it so great.
And as you move up the quality scale to Premier Cru and Grand Cru, the lifespan and years to maturity also increase.
Durup Chablis Premier Cru Fourchaume 2018 (£26.50, Tanners, Palmers Wine Store) golden green with a restrained nose of white flowers and honeysuckle; fresh orchard and white stone fruits, lime marmalade, honey, white pepper and minerality; supple, concentrated and long. Very elegant and poised.
Improves with aeration and, whilst drinking very nicely now, will continue to improve with cellaring.
Match with young white cheese, smoked mackerel pâté or pork rilettes.
Some further Chablis food matches from Fiona Beckett.
Friday, 4 September 2020
My local Lidl is proving to be a plentiful source of inexpensive easy-drinking wines; and if that were not enough, they also score well for typicity. That is to say, they taste how they should, given where they come from. In other words, they have a sense of place, which is what wine is really all about.
Barossa Shiraz is something of a benchmark style; thick, stewed sweet dark fruits with chocolate, leather and minty, porty eucalyptus, subtle it is not. It is, however, easy to understand and enjoy.
It's the equivalent of Bruce Willis in a blood-soaked, sweat-stained muscle vest, toting an Uzi in a truck - or Jason Statham if you are British.
Yes, there are expensive Barossa Shirazes, hot-climate Aussie wines with aspirations; but given their expressive, exuberant nature, to me they have always made more sense as easy-drinking quaffers.
Winemaker's Selection Barossa Valley Shiraz, 2017 (£5.99, Lidl) baked dark fruits, cassis, black olives, spice, leather and minty eucalyptus; fresh, full, supple and long.
Thoroughly enjoyable - improves with aeration and will age further.
Match with barbecue food - burgers in brioche or posh dogs in buns.
Thursday, 3 September 2020
Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage Le Chevalier De Stérimberg White, 2005
The northern Rhône's Hermitage is Syrah's spiritual home and produces almost entirely red wines; a small amount, up to 15%, of white grapes are allowed in the blend and, very occasionally, they are made into white wines in their own right.
This rich, savoury Marsanne-Roussanne would not be out of place in a line-up of white Burgundies.
Paul Jaboulet Aîné Hermitage Le Chevalier De Stérimberg White, 2005, Chateauneuf du Pape golden topaz with honeysuckle and acacia, spice and citrus; savouriness with tangerine oil, pineapple marmalade, zesty lime with quince, apple and pear fruit; minerality and pencil shavings; rich, full and waxy yet fresh.
Match with lighter game, such as guinea fowl or partridge.
Wednesday, 2 September 2020
There once was a boy from Saint Just
Who ate apple pie 'til he bust
It wasn't the fru-it
That caused him to do it
What finished him off was the crust
If you wanted to demonstrate the greatness and versatility of Chenin, this could be the wine to pour. It is rich, savoury, full and complex - and at 10 years old, it still has plenty of life ahead.
With high acidity and flavours of flowers, damp straw and honey, this aged dry Loire Chenin is not exactly an easy-drinking crowd-pleaser; but its savoury freshness is fascinating and compelling. It has the richness and botrytised flavours of a sweet wine, yet is completely dry.
Domaine de Saint-Just, La Coulee de Saint-Cyr Blanc, Saumur 2010 topaz colour with cidery, bruised apple, leesy acacia blossom and a sherry-esque tang; toasted almonds and savoury beeswax with dried apricots, sultanas and yellow apple; fresh with a sharp backbone and saline minerality; complex, supple and very elegant.
Match with snails, mackerel pâté or lighter game, such as guinea fowl.
Tuesday, 1 September 2020
G.B. Burlotto Dolcetto d'Alba
North West Italy is home to many of the country's great reds; with forested hills, truffles and game, it is Italy's answer to Burgundy.
If Nebbiolo is Italy's Pinot Noir, hedonistic and gamey, Dolcetto is its Beaujolais; cherry-fruited and juicy.
G.B. Burlotto Dolcetto D.O.C. 2018 (£15.99, Cambridge Wine Merchants) red berries, cherry fruit and violet aromas; red and black cherry fruit with spice and savoury underpinnings; fresh and lively with fine, rounded and well-integrated tannins. Very elegant, well-made and harmonious.
Match with red meats, such as steak, or pizza.