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Tuesday, 28 June 2022

Big White And Big Red From Tesco

Two summer barbecue reds from Tesco

If your idea of summer drinking is light sippers for the garden, then look away now; these two wines from Tesco are designed to stand up to griddled foods with strong flavours.

With plenty of sun-ripened warmth, they have enough easy-drinking fruit to be crowd-pleasers - in the best sense of the phrase - but they also have the freshness and food-friendly complexity to impress even the most discerning of palates.

The white is a classic oaked Chardonnay from California's Monterey County; like much of the new World, California seems to have found the sweet spot for Chardonnay with a bit more fruit ripeness than Burgundy without the overoaked, monolithic pantechnicon thing.

Lirac in France's southern Rhône sits opposite the rather more famous Châteauneuf-du-Pape appellation, just the other side of the river; it has similar terroir in terms of soil type and sunshine hours, resulting in a bit more of everything in the wines.

Tesco is celebrating summer by adding over 40 new wines to its award-winning selection. These exciting new bottles are the perfect accompaniment to any summer get-together, from hanging out with friends in the sun or splashing out for a special occasion.

Whether you’re sipping on a refreshing white wine in the garden, celebrating with a bottle of rosé in the park, or looking for something special to serve with your Sunday barbecue, there are plenty of new wines at Tesco to explore this summer

Estancia Chardonnay, 13.5% abv, £15.00

From Monterey County in California, this creamy oaked Chardonnay is medium bodied with zesty citrus and grapefruit flavours and aromas of vanilla. 

ripe yellow stone fruits, blossom and honeysuckle with sweet, toasty spices; rich, full and apricotty with citrussy lemon-lime, honeydew melon and creamy-leesy brazil nut underpinnings; savoury, spicy and persistent.

Drinks nicely on first opening; can be cellared.


Match with barbecue herby pork sausages or griddled peppers.

Domaine d’Arbousset Lirac, 14.5% abv, £12.00 This delicious red from the Rhône is made from the highest quality Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvèdre and Syrah grapes. The result is a velvety smooth wine, with ripe dark fruits and spices, making it the perfect pairing for grilled steaks and miso aubergine.

baked red and black fruits, eucalyptus, dried herbs and roasted spices; fresh with baked berry fruits, full, supple and inky with rounded, harmonious and well-integrated tannins; savoury, long and persistent 

Drinks nicely on first pouring and opens up with air; can be cellared for a few years.


Match with lamb skewers or merguez sausages.

Monday, 27 June 2022

Three Journey's End Wines

Three wines from South Africa's Journey's End

I have written about Journey's End previously; they are based in one of the coolest parts of South Africa just 6km from the coast in Stellenbosch where the Indian and Atlantic Oceans meet, bringing moderating breezes.

The winery's name is a reference to owner Roger Gabb who moved there in the 1980s after founding, building and selling two highly successful and profitable businesses in the drinks trade. Whether the name refers a culmination of his aspirations or is a note-to-self that "this it it and no more" is a moot point; the business is now run day-to-day by son Rollo with Roger as Non-Executive Chairman.

A Bit of Tasting History

The first time I tried these wines, I found them quite closed-up when pouring straight from the bottle. 

I'd been sent four wines to choose for a tasting I was running and was able to allow myself time to try them over a number of days to see which I thought would work best. I found that some of them were only just starting to open up by the fifth day and would clearly keep improving with further aeration.

At the tasting itself, winemaker Mike Dawson joined online from South Africa and explained that the wines are made in a very low oxygen environment, which preserves the fruit flavours in the wines; this is done with an eye more on the US and far eastern markets that Europe.

A year later and with an updated vintage, I found this set of wines showed much more expressively on first opening and wondered if the oxygen regime had been tweaked or adjusted in some way.

According to Mike, this is not the case and there has been no change in winemaking style to change the way the wines show on opening; the greater initial expressiveness is just a result of climate, vintage  and other external variations.

There are also a few minor variations to some of the blends, a percentage point here or there, but not enough to make a perceptible difference.

All three wines here were well-made and expressive with food-friendly freshness and complexity.

Haystack Chardonnay 2021 Coastal Region (Noble Green, Single Price: £14.00, Mixed 6 Price: £13.00)

stone fruits, blossom and honeysuckle; crisp and elegant with saline minerality; white stone fruits, some toastiness amnd warming spice, honeydew melon and citrussy lemon-and-lime; good underpinnings with creamy-leesy brazil nut; long and savoury.

Drinks nicely on first pouring; can be cellared.


A versatile food wine, match with white meat dishes, white fish and creamy cheeses.

Wild Child Grenache Rosé 2021 Western Cape, Stellenbosch (Noble Green: Single Price: £13.50, Mixed 6 Price: £12.50)

delicate soft red fruits and fresh green herbs; fresh strawberries and cherries, mintiness and leesy brazil nut with a touch of white pepper

Drinks nicely on first pouring.

Well-made and thoroughly pleasant.

A versatile food wine, match with griddled vegetables, mixed starters of antipasti or mezze or any picnic foods.

The Huntsman Shiraz Mourvedre Grenache 2020 Stellenbosch (Noble Green, £14.00, Mixed 6 Price: £13.00)

ripe dark-berry fruits, roasted spices and fynbos aka Mediterranean herbs; cassis and baked black fruits with black olive; supple and inky with very fine, well-integrated tannins; dark plummy fruit and eucalyptus; warming with grilled notes and some pencil shavings

Drinks nicely on first pouring.


Match with peppery roast beef or spicy barbecued meats.

Sunday, 26 June 2022

Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc

New Zealand's Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc from Tesco

Many years ago, I was a regional director for a large advertising agency; I was relatively young, it was still good times in the industry and regular business travel was something of a perk rather than a chore.

Like colleagues with M&A or Internal Audit responsibilities who also had high-travel roles, I got to rather like travelling Business Class most weeks, staying in comfortable hotels and eating out at high-end restaurants.

Indeed, it was the role that first got me into wine generally; I had progressed from another high-travel job where we had worked in teams for 6-week projects around Europe, so every evening on location had involved going to a bar to eat, drink and goof the night away.

In that context, curry, beers and a combination of Sky Sports and general banter was the order of the day. Roll forward a year or so and as a solo traveller, I decided I wanted something a little more sophisticated, so I switched from beery curry houses to restaurants with wine lists and sommeliers; I never really looked back after that..

Mine was an emerging region; I had joined just after a recession and a series of over-investments, so every year, as we gradually restructured one market after another, the economic climate got a little better and achieving budget a little easier.

Perhaps a result of my own success and a plateauing of the learning curve, I started to spend more time thinking about the perks than about the day job; over time, my focus switched to planning my food-and-drink regime for the trip far more than the negotiations, agreements and decisions that needed to be accomplished.

For some reason, one of the highlights became afternoon tea on British Airways' early evening service, which involved some kind of quiche, salad and a couple of in-flight sized bottles of Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc.

This was the early noughties and Kiwi SB was the hottest new kid on the block; oaky Chardonnay was most definitely passé in the view of no less a figure than Oz Clarke who opined: that's why Sauvignon Blanc is such a runaway success - that in-yer-face tangy citrus assault is thrillingly modern. 

The Nobilo had been selected for BA, my airmiles flag carrier of choice, by Jancis Robinson, so between Oz's encouragement and her recommendation, I felt that zingy white wines didn't really get much better than this.

A couple of decades later and with a more experienced palate, I not only still see what I loved about it back then, but also remain a big fan.

Yes, fashions have changed and Kiwi Sauvignon is not the urgent new thing it used to be, but this is still a really lovely wine.

Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc, 2021, New Zealand (£9, Tesco)

expressive, aromatic and pungent with passionfruit, lemongrass, grapefruit pith and tropical citrus; fresh and citrussy with sherbet, gooseberry fruit and lime marmalade; fresh green herbs, white pepper and good, savoury underpinnings with a touch of salinity; very harmonious and adept.

Drinks nicely on first opening; does not need any cellaring.


Sip in the garden or match with picnic foods such as quiche with a rocket salad.


A more conventional review with actual technical and historical information:

The Nobilo story began in 1943, when Nikola Nobilo moved from his native Croatia to New Zealand. Combining over 300 years of his family’s winemaking tradition, Nikola was an early champion for New Zealand wine, recognising that the pristine landscape, with its expansive sunlit valleys, rolling hills and mineral rich soils, was ideal for Sauvignon Blanc and creating its unique fresh and crisp signature style.

Today, Nobilo Sauvignon Blanc represents the very best of what New Zealand has to offer with classic tasting notes that showcase the diverse qualities of its Marlborough vineyards, year after year. With fruit primarily from Wairau Valley, providing the layers of tropical fruit aromas, combined with grapes from the Awatere Valley, adding balance with bright, citrus-driven notes, this Sauvignon Blanc is not one to miss.

Harvesting at night allows the winemakers to preserve vibrancy, which is aided further by a long, slow fermentation at cool temperatures.

Each vineyard block is kept separate, so that the winemakers can blend grapes from different parcels to create Nobilo’s signature sophisticated style.

Saturday, 25 June 2022

Hyper Japan: Curry Workshop ​with S&B Foods and Kinu Yukawa

A lesson in Japanese curry making with S&B Foods and Kinu Yukawa at Ichiba London

Understanding Japan

It is something of an oversimplification, if not a cliché, to say that Japan spent two centuries looking inwards before venturing out to the world from the 1860s to discover and bring back the best it had to offer.

Any student of Japanese culture will explain to you that the reality is both more complex and less clear-cut than this.

It does, however, give some insight to those unfamiliar with Japan of the country's values and approach; Japan's food and drink culture is not so much a Thing as a Way of Doing. An island nation, historically an empire, Japan imports ideas from the rest of the world and applies a Japanese way of doing them, so that Craftsmanship is refined to the point of becoming almost an Art Form.

For a European, perhaps the nearest parallel as a country is Germany: innovative, artistic and Romantic with a strong sense of self-identity, a striving for excellence in everything and a love of both high art and high kitsch.

Some Food History

Japanese curry is based on British curries imported from India; the flavours and spices will be familiar to anyone who has ever been to a traditional British curry house.

S&B's curry sauces were developed for restaurants in the 1920s and 1930s, becoming popular enough in homes to sell directly to consumers from the 1950s.

This curry recipe combines influences and techniques from all over the world.

Katsu is the breaded and deep-fried element here using panko breadcrumbs, which are are a Japanese take on standard breadcrumbs; the secret is not so much in the bread used as in the grinding process which results in larger, lighter and more elegant crumbs.

The flour-egg-crumb-fry approach of katsu is straight out of central southern Europe, be it Escalope milanaise, Wiener Schnitzel or Smažený sýr.

Wasabi dressing is clearly a take on classic French vinaigrette while the addition of sliced ginger and the bento box-style presentation feel uniquely Japanese.

The Chef

Kinu Yukawa had her first taste of cooking in her hometown of Kobe Japan, where she used to help her grandmother, who also worked as a professional chef Her career led her to Kyoto where studied traditional Japanese cuisine, then Paris where she was enrolled at the Ecole Ritz Escoffier.

Now a cooking instructor, food stylist and private chef with almost a decade of experience teaching at the Japan Centre London, Chef Yukawa is more than ready to tell you everything you need to know about the perfect Japanese dishes.

Ichiba and Hyper Japan 2022

Ichiba is Europe’s largest Japanese Food Hall; located in the new extension of Westfield London in Shepherd’s Bush, near John Lewis, Japan Centre Ichiba is a 5 minute walk from Wood Lane underground station and a 10 minute walk from Shepherd’s Bush underground station.

Hyper Japan is the UK’s largest celebration of all things Japanese.

In 2002, Hyper Japan will once again take over Evolution London, bringing an iconic mix of tradition and innovation to the capital for an experience like no other. Heading into the event’s 10-year milestone, Hyper Japan will celebrate the culture, cuisine and cool of Japan with a party that delivers a true feast for the senses!

The Method

For the curry base, gently fry onions until caramelised, then add cubed root vegetables and stir to coat in the cooking oil as this will prevent them disintegrating later on.

Add plenty of water and a whole block of the S&B curry sauce; the curry is thickened using flour, so simmer for a couple of minutes after adding, then set aside for 15 minutes to thicken.

Line up three separate bowls of plain flour, beaten egg and panko breadcrumbs; coat slices of aubergine in flour, then beaten egg and finally breadcrumbs. Deep fry until golden.

Plate up with rice, curry sauce, katsu aubergines and the salad with wasabi dressing and sliced ginger.

The method here is straightforward enough for any moderately competent chef who can cook a curry; what makes this Japanese is the S&B sauce as well as the combination of katsu, curry and dressed salad.

For a more-thorough recipe with measurements, see here: Japanese Curry | Recipes | S&B Foods Global Site (sbfoods-worldwide.com)

Links: Kinu Yukawa : Sozai Cooking School – HYPER JAPAN

Thursday, 23 June 2022

Serious About Sauvignon with Constantia Wine Route and Oz Clarke

Six Sauvignons from South Africa's Constantia presented by Oz Clarke

The Constantia Wine Route is serious about Sauvignon Blanc. And so is Oz.

For this tasting, Oz presented six of his favourite Constantia Sauvignon Blancs to explain out why these wines are a firm favourite on top wine lists.

Joined on-screen by the winemakers behind each of the wines, they discussed why the unique cool microclimate in the foothills of Table Mountain produces such elegant wines of inimitable structure and finesse that have the ability to bottle-age, developing even further in complexity and truly expressing their terroir.

All the wines in this tasting were complex and elegant with savoury saline-minerality.


The sweet wine of Constantia was historically one of the most highly-regarded in the world, along with Tokaji and Madeira.

It fell out of fashion and eventually disappeared completely, but just as Tokaji has reinvented itself with dry Furmint, so Constantia now makes dry wines, and especially Sauvignon, following the template of New Zealand more than Sancerre.


A small region of less than 10km by 2 km with ancient soils and views of False Bay, cooled by icy Antarctic winds off the coast, it can be 10C cooler than just a few kilometers away.

The focus here is much more on quality than quantity.

Constantia Royale Sauvignon Blanc 2020 – Roger Burton

A smaller, newer winery in the area, growing 100% Sauvignon Blanc; lower altitude, in a valley with two banks, one producing steelier wines, the other lusher.

cidery bruised apple, elderflower and grapefruit; ripe yellow stone fruits with savoury brazil nut and brioche, fresh acidity and saline minerality; very elegant and poised.


Groot Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2021 – Boela Gerber

vineyards at between 40m and 280m altitude; their Sauvignon tends to be from higher locations; they add around 5% Semillon to the blend and use some skin contact to extract more flavour

aromatic and lifted with orchard blossom; tropical citrus fruits with pineapple and passionfruit, lemongrass, lemon pith and lime zest, herbal and leafy, saline mineral. Intense and complex, can be aged.


Klein Constantia Sauvignon Blanc 2021 – Matthew Day

Focused on terroir, they make wine in a slightly oxidative style for greater aging potential using wild yeasts and skin contact; their east-facing vineyards ripen much earlier and producer riper, plusher wines vs south-facing.

ripe leafy green fruits - apple, greengage and figs - with yellow stone fruit, passionfruit, verbena and hedgerow flowers; fresh, flinty, savoury, saline-mineral and complex


Constantia Glen Sauvignon Blanc 2021 – Justin van Wyk

200m - 275m up the hill, 11km from False Bay, historically too difficult to farm and was used for grazing cattle; bought by an Austrian family in 1960, vineyards planted in 2000; a mixture of red Bordeaux varieties plus Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon planted on cooler south-facing sites; cold fermentation to retain aromatics.

aromatic lemon verbena and orchard blossom; greengage plums, zippy lime, graefruit and boiled lemon sweets with a concentrated, persistent salinity.


BuitenverwachtingVineyard Selection Sauvignon Blanc 2021 – Brad Paton

Blended from a selection of slopes with different aspects, all affected by cooling winds from the Atlantic and with significant diurnal temperature variation; between 2% and 4% RS to round out the acidity with around 12 hours' skin contact

herbaceous and leafy with nettles, gooseberry and ripe green fruits; scented, citrussy-minty and textured, savoury and persistent with roasted nut and minerality.


Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc 2021 – Elunda Basson

The estate dates back to 1682, originally settled by Germans; lower lying site, cooled by south-easterly winds; reductive winemaking, aged on the lees.

lemon verbena, spearmint and nettles; grapefruit, brioche, salty roasted nuts with savoury lemon pith complexity and leesiness.


Sunday, 19 June 2022

The CWB Inexpensive Co-op Rioja-Off

An inexpensive red and white Rioja from The Co-op

Asked to name a Spanish table wine, many people's first suggestion might well be Rioja; for a long time it was that country's most well-known oenological product.

These days, Spain produces a dazzling array of different wines of all colours and styles, for reasons I explain here: The Cambridge Wine Blogger: The CWB Spain-Off

Rioja's style of traditional winemaking, with aging in oak barrels, was brought to the region by the Bordelais fleeing the effects of Phylloxera in their homeland in the late 1800s. 

So it make sense to think of Rioja as akin to a warmer-climate Bordeaux, with plenty of fruit but also the structure and complexity to be food-friendly.

Here are two well-made and inexpensive Riojas from the Co-op.

Muriel Tempranillo Rioja, 2019 (£8:50)

From a family owned winery that prides itself on the quality of its Rioja wines. Founded by José Villaverde Murú in 1926 and revived by son Julian Murúa sixty years later.

ripe bramble fruits, roasted spices, dried herbs and woodsy undergrowth; sweet, ripe slightly jammy bramble and plum fruit; spices and herbs with very fine, slightly drying tannins.

Thoroughly pleasant.

Match with roasted red meats or a plate of charcuterie.

CUNE White Rioja (£9:50)

softly oaked, 100% Viura

white flowers, orchard fruits, citrus and grapefruit pith with toasty melonskin; supple, citrussy and fresh with with stone fruits; full and savoury.

Very adept.


A versatile food wine, match with roast white meats or a cheese board.

Monday, 13 June 2022

Recipes To Preserve Seasonal Summer Fruits

Recipes to preserve seasonal summer fruits 

By Toby Geneen, co-founder and co-head chef at Kindling Restaurant 

Here are a couple of recipes to help you preserve the taste of summer:

Strawberry Jam

· 1kg of strawberries, green part removed and cut into quarters
· 1kg caster sugar (or you can use preserving sugar and omit the pectin)
· 15g pectin
· 3 tsp citric acid 

1. Place a small plate in the freezer ready for testing the set of your jam.

2. Mix the caster sugar and pectin together so the pectin is well distributed.

3. Place the strawberries and sugar pectin mix in a large pan over a low heat and stir regularly until the strawberries have released lots of juice and the sugar is dissolved.

4. Stir in the 3 tsp of citric acid then bring the jam mixture up to a simmer, stirring regularly.

5. Hard boil the mixture for about five minutes, stirring to ensure it doesn’t catch on the bottom.

6. Remove from the heat and test the set of the jam by placing a small amount of your freezer chilled plate. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes. If it is set it will crinkle when gently pushed with a fingertip. If it’s not setting, return the mixture to the heat and boil for a few more minutes and test again. Repeat until the setting point is reached.

Fermented Plums

Fermenting fruit in brine is a great way to keep it for use later in the year. Fermented plums add a delicious punch as a sliced or diced garnish, or they can be pureed into a zingy sauce.

You’ll need a large jar suitable for fermenting, such as Kilner jar with a rubber clip top lid.

· 1kg plums
· 1L water
· 50g table salt 

1. Rinse the plums and cut in half, removing the stone.

2. Tightly pack your plum halves into your fermentation jar.

3. Whisk the water and table salt together ensuring all the salt is well dissolved.

4. Pour just enough of the brine over the plums to ensure they are covered.

5. A fermentation weight or a ziplock bag filled with water should be placed on top of the plums to weigh them down and force the brine to cover them.

6. Seal the jar and allow to ferment at room temperature or slightly warmer. Fermentation will take around five to seven days.

7. Burp the jar if necessary to prevent carbon dioxide from building up and creating too much pressure in the jar. At the end of the fermentation period the plums and the brine should taste pleasantly sour and acidic.

8. At the end of fermentation, burp the jar and place it in the fridge to halt or dramatically slow fermentation before using. If you intend to keep the jar in the fridge for a long time its good practice to burp the jar occasionally to release any gases that have built up and avoid explosions. Alternatively, you can drain the brine from the fermented plums and freeze them to use later on.

The benefits of using seasonal ingredients

The Japanese call it shun, the precise moment in the year when any food is at its peak in terms of harvest and flavour. Imagine the snap of spring asparagus, the heady scent of summer raspberries or the crunch of freshly frosted cabbage.

In recent decades innovations in food and transport have created a much more global food market allowing supermarkets to stock exotic foods from all over the world, 365 days a year. While this is fabulous from a consumer choice point of view, we’re missing out on the best produce, spending more money than we need to, and failing to get all the health benefits by overlooking seasonality.

When you choose ingredients that are naturally in season, you will get fresher, sweeter produce that tastes better. The joy of something perfectly ripe is that you have to do very little to it to make it taste amazing. Nothing compares to the taste of tomatoes grown outdoors and ripened in the late August sunshine. Fragrant, sweet, and juicy these tomatoes are a far cry from the red bullets you can buy that are imported in December. They taste of tomato and need nothing more than some salt and pepper to sing on the plate.

Imported produce is generally picked well before it’s ripe to make it easier to transport. This is why avocadoes in the UK will never taste like the ones in Mexico! Imported food is kept refrigerated for long periods of time and doesn’t develop the same levels of nutrients as food that’s allowed to ripen in situ. Seasonal food has a higher nutritional value because it is consumed riper and closer to the time of harvest, while food that’s transported and stored for long periods rapidly loses antioxidants such as vitamin C, diminishing its health benefits.

Seasonal food also supports what your body needs. Summer foods such as tomatoes and stone fruits contain high levels of carotenoids which help protect us against sun damage. When ripened on the vine, tomatoes have plenty of time to develop lots of the red plant chemical lycopene. This has been well documented in safeguarding our skin from damaging UV rays and protecting against skin cancer. Summer vegetables are also naturally lighter and have a higher water content helping us to stay cool and hydrated. Although 80% of your daily water intake usually comes from drinks, the other 20% comes from foods. Cucumbers, lettuce, courgettes, and watercress are all excellent summer vegetable sources of water. By contrast winter veggies tend to be rich in starches. These help to provide the extra energy we need to stay warm in the colder months. What we eat sends signals to our body about the time of year. A warming pumpkin curry in October makes much more sense than a cold leafy salad.

If this isn’t enough, buying food in season can also be kinder to your wallet. When food is at its peak in supply it costs less for farmers and distribution companies to get it to your local supplier, which helps to reduce the cost to you. Local food also avoids any import costs. The more local you buy, the bigger the saving. Farm shops and veg box schemes are a great way to access the best of what’s available and learn about what’s in season throughout the year.

Using produce that is grown or reared in the UK also reduces the number of ‘food miles’ and brings down your carbon footprint. There is less transportation, refrigeration, and fewer hot houses, all of which helps to reduce air pollution. Not only is it environmentally friendly, using seasonal produce supports regional farms and communities, helping to grow the local economy.

Call me romantic but I’ve rather fallen in love with the ebb and flow of British produce. Getting excited to taste the first forced rhubarb and awaiting the moment I can viably put deep fried Brussel’s sprout back on the menu in the winter. At our restaurant Kindling our self-imposed restriction of buying local has become a catalyst for menu development. It has initiated dish changes, inspired new combinations and driven us to learn more about preserving things so we can use them later in the year. When we started the restaurant, we really wanted to live by seasonality and local produce, and we have found it both liberating and exciting.

At first seasonal eating can seem restrictive but it doesn’t have to be. Every item you buy produce that’s grown closer to home some air miles are saved and some flavour gained. You’ll soon discover how much better food tastes and how much easier it is to make a delicious meal when the produce you’re using is at its peak. To keep things interesting have a go at preserving or fermenting gluts of summer produce so you can have those flavours later in the year. We love to make berry jams, tomato chutneys, piccalilli, gherkins, and fermented fruits. Then we can use them for a splash of colour and some zing in the colder months.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR Toby Geneen is co-founder and co-head chef of Kindling Restaurant in Brighton. Kindling is about more than just the delicious food, it is a community of people: staff, customers and suppliers all sharing and celebrating local produce. Nature writes the menu as the seasons inspire the dishes. Kindling is featured in the Michelin Guide and is a member of the Sustainable Restaurants Association. 

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/KindlingBrighton @KindlingBrighton
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/kindlingrestaurant/ @KindlingRestaurant

Sunday, 12 June 2022

Two Supermarket Whites

Two supermarket whites

A slightly random pairing of two whites that I've had in my makeshift cellar for a while and which I felt needed drinking up.

In practice, both showed nicely and, for my palate, were in no rush to be consumed.

The Languedoc Sauvignon from Gerard Bertrand was a gift / leftover from one of #1 child's 6th form friends after we were ushered out of the house for her to have a summer pre-university party.

I'll be honest, I didn't have especially high expectations, but she turns out to have sophisticated friends.

The Soave was from one of Richard Bampfield's Lidl Wine Tour, bought at some point during lockdown; I doubt I paid full list price - but I might have done. It's actually not dissimilar to an entry-level Chablis in a warmer year. Just at a fraction of the price.

Corte Allodola Soave Classico, 2018 (£6.99)

orchard fruits with delicate hints of white flower and brazil nut; greengage and white stone fruits with melon and pear, honeysuckle and citrus; full, broad and supple. Starting to show a little evolution, in a good way. Well made.

Thoroughly pleasant.

Drinks nicely on first opening and can be further aged.

A versatile food wine, match with cheeses, white meats and creamy pasta dishes.

Gerard Bertrand Sauvignon Blanc, 2017 (£8.75, Morrison's)

Neither Loire nor kiwi in style; the best reference point is perhaps Bordeaux. The aromatics are restrained in favour of depth and breadth.

orchard fruits and pineapple with zippy grapefruit and sherbet; adept and well-made.

Thoroughly pleasant.

Does not show its age and improves significantly with aeration.

Match with monkfish in a herby broth, saltimbocca or pork with sage.


Further reviews:

Friday, 3 June 2022

Lessons From A Wine Start-up - Copper Crew Wines

The Co-Founder of a wine start-up gives his insights into launching a wine business

If you ever want to start your own business in wine, then the two things you should do before anything else are read a book about it and speak to someone who has been through it.

Richard Horwell's book 'How to develop and launch a drink brand’ was published on 21st March.

Here, Copper Crew co-founder Oli Purnell talks about his experience of starting up a canned wine business and considers the advice Richard gives in his book.

Will there be a boom in canned wine?

The reality is is yes, there is good growth in this sector but it is coming from a low base.

The most explosive growth within drinks is found in RTDs (ready-to-drink formats) in the UK. Hard Seltzers are over-hyped and there has been significant stock shedding from big producers however the growth still remains rapid.

A lot of thinking in this space from conversations I've had with producers is you've got to just get out there and gain market share then worry about making money.

Convenience is a significant factor in the growth behind canned wine, but we've found the number one  driver to be portion control. Therefore, canned wine has a perhaps unexpected resonance with older age demographics (50-80). Many of these consumers are actually more opened minded than people (younger age demographics) just getting into wine.

Is it difficult to launch a wine business? What do you need to know?

There are many, many issues as a start-up in this space. Here are the big ones from our experience:

- Cashflow in alcohol is a tricky balance and is often the critical thing in keeping the lights on. I think any book on setting up a drinks business must go through the fundamentals of accounting for duty and invoice financing

- Finding suppliers is also really difficult. Simply put, a lot of people don't want to put their wine in cans. Many talk a big sustainability game but when you try and suggest using cans will help them meet sustainability goals they simply aren't interested.

This also applies on the production side; when we looked around the UK in 2019 to set up canning here we were shocked by the cowboy nature of the industry. The quality of contract canning operations generally remains really poor. This is a problem because a canner might go from filling kombucha to filling wine in their next run. There will almost certainly be fermentation pick up on this and that will destroy literally pallets of wine

On a related note, the technicalities of canning wine are very difficult and require an expert. We have a winemaker as part of our business to address this so we have the technical expertise in house - without it you will face significant quality issues on the line

What about sparkling wines in cans?

This is not something we have done, and personally I think it's a big growth opportunity. However the quality issues are amplified further when dealing with sparkling. Getting this right is very difficult

What about competition from bigger players?

This is absolutely an issue. A key advantage bigger players have is not simply marketing spend but also wine costs. Big competitors will be able to get wine at a price which is simply impossible for a start-up to achieve. Many consumers are tight when it comes to spending on wine and because of the impact of duty on overall bottle price, this difference in the ability to buy cheaper wine at the start makes a big difference

What about admin and regulation?

The AWRS (Alcohol Wholesaler Registration Scheme) is a big faff and means you can't hit the ground running. A more general point on alcohol being so tightly regulated is that you can't use guerrilla marketing tactics which are such a clear and proven path in FMCG

And money?

You need a lot of money to keep the lights on, especially because of the duty point made above. Another relevant thing here is the price of literally everything across the supply chain is going up so making the unit economics work is tricky at the moment


This has been made incredibly difficult as a result of Brexit and is seriously time consuming. Being able to export relatively quickly (1-2yrs) was an important aspect of our business plan because of the strong growth of canned wine amongst the Nordics. To get this overline would pretty much require one of us (there are 2 of us who run the business in the UK) to work full time on the export. Losing relatively easy market access to export is a big barrier

It's a chicken-and-egg problem - one of the most common things we face is:

-  retailers: "we think canned wine is a great segment and consumers are warming to it"
- us: "great, would you like to move forward with an order"
- retailer: "no not yet we want to see how the market plays out". 

We believe that without good wine coming out in cans and good availability, the market won't happen (ie consumers won't be interested). Retailers waiting around for the market to 'happen' risks it not happening.

Low-quality offerings flooding the market; if canned wine becomes associated with low-quality wine which is basically functional rather than pleasant, it risks the category being tainted

What about flavoured wines?

I agree there's good potential here but consumers are incredibly brand sensitive in alcohol and I think this is especially the case in something like flavoured wines.

Success in this category I would have thought will come from an existing well known brand doing something innovative.

The Copper Crew Wines

I have been very impressed with the wines from Copper Crew which have won plaudits from across the the press:

Thursday, 2 June 2022

Three Off-Piste Whites From Lidl

Three inexpensive whites from Lidl made from off-piste grapes

With #1 child back from university exams and family visitors staying with us, we have been doing various "wine lessons" to cover off a few of the basics of wine - classic regions, grapes and styles.

The theme of this tasting was off-piste whites; all three grapes here are somewhat unusual, but worthy of exploration.

- Austrian Gruener was more or less the grape that first got me into wine and it remains a personal favourite

- Godello hails from north west Spain's Galicia region; I've had a few over the years and always enjoyed them

- Falanghina was completely new to me; and not completely what I expected. In a good way.

Also unusual is that these wines were all purchases as a result of lockdown when all tastings and events had been summarily cancelled, based on recommendations (see further reviews below).

Sassi del Mare Falanghina Beneventano, 2019 (£7.99)

Dark yellow in the glass and relatively neutral on the nose, I wondered if this had oxidised in the year-plus since I bought it, but a bit of subsequent internet checking revealed that this is what it's supposed to be like.

It is very different from the standard crisp-fresh white and is more of an old school oily-waxy wine.

citrussy with pear and quince, white flowers and ripe, yellow stone fruit and dry straw; oily texture with good underpinnings.

Well made and thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with richer dishes, such as pate.

CEO Godello, Galicia, 2019 (£7.99)

Native to Spain and increasing in popularity, Godello is still relatively uncommon, so don't be surprised if you've never had it before

mint, bay and preserved lemons; fresh and citrussy with ripe stone fruits and zippy lime marmalade, white flowers and salinity with good underpinnings.

Well-made and thoroughly enjoyable.

Match with starters or a main of white meat or grilled oily fish.

Gruener Veltliner, Johann Quest, Niederosterreich 2019 (£6)

Gruener is Austria's signature grape, as well as its mostly widely grown. The Grueners of the Wachau are, I believe, world-class wines that can be considered as in the same league as top white Burgundies and the best German Rieslings.

This is my first Austrian Gruener from Lidl - see here for an unusual Italian Gruener from Suedtirol. It's also my personal favourite wine of the three here.

citrus, florality and white pepper; citrussy-zippy with fresh, linear acidity and slatey minerality, white pepper and classic Gruener celery-and-lentils.

Well-made and thoroughly enjoyable.

Serve as an aperitif; or match the fresh acidity to grilled oily fish or even steak with herb butter.


Further reviews

The Godello was Tom Cannvan's Wine of The Week: From Spain, the Ceo, Godello 2019, wine review - YouTube

His written review here: CEO, Godello 2019 - wine-pages

Also reviewed by Dave Cronin: CEO Godello : Hidden Gem : Lidl : Vinoviews

The Gruener reviewed by A Time For Wine: Grüner Veltliner – Lidl – A Time for Wine