Thursday, 15 March 2018

A Variety at Home

Can you every have too many bottles of wine .... not drink too many but own too many? Hubby and I seem to be collecting, and it's not such a bad hobby to have until it's time to decide which one to enjoy.

We've been out and about this last week and our current purchases have been from both small wine stores and large supermarkets, as well as too additions being gifts. Our first purchases were from Slurp in Leamington Spa. I've been popping into this wine shop for many years when visiting the South Warwickshire town; previously S H Jones. 

It was at one of their Wine Tasting Events we first met Matthew Jukes in 2013. A very good evening it was too, a tasting of his top 100 Australian Wines. 

It's name may have changed but the shop is still full of wines you rarely find in the supermarkets but are still at reasonable prices. Laid out by country I try to avoid the pull of the French shelves: it doesn't work, I love looking at which wines and producers are available. 

This visit however I was firmly drawn to the Australia reds and in particular Little Yering Shiraz. This is a wine we have only seen in All Bar One where it is a real treat as it's quite pricey.

I was almost jumping up and down in delight to find it retail; I cannot actually find it online any more. It isn't in All Bar One's wine library and isn't in Slurp's online shop, in fact it doesn't seem to exist anywhere but my wine rack!

If my memory serves me well it is a deep dark red wine, with a nose full of dark fruits, a hint of spice and an abundant mouth of sour cherries - tastings notes will be made when the cork is popped! 

A great red at great price - £9.95

Our other purchase from Slurp was a Spanish red Hubby had seen in Penarth but thought the price a little high. With Cien Y Pico being on offer at £10.50 it seemed a shame to leave it behind and certainly worth a tasting. 

This is Hubby's review posted on Cuvée Reserve Wine Forum

From hundred and something year old Garnacha Tintorera vines, grown in hot South Eastern La Mancha region of  Spain, this is a beauty. Deep red violet colour, huge dollops of fruit and intense grenache spicey nose. Taste is intense and multilayered too, lovely oakiness, smooth and silky, lots of blackberries damsons, concentrated flavours that seem to go on giving for ages. Might not be too all tastes but very nice in my opinion, worth every penny. 

Not my style of wine but I did enjoy the small glass I had, it wasn't too oaky or tannic. I'm sure if we see it again Hubby will be tempted, especially if around £10.

It's always nice to receive wine as a gift and it doesn't have to be an expensive bottle. I know friends have said they shy away from buying us wine in case 'it isn't right' but whatever the gift it is a chance to enjoy and discover more. 

The two wines we received this week were old favourites - firstly our son gave me a bottle of Picpoul de Pinet as part of my Mothers Day gift.

Picpoul de Pinet is one of my favourite wines from South France, last year we were actually staying in the area of Pinet and enjoyed discovering more about this superb wine. 

We have been drinking it for many years, especially if having mussels for dinner but previously we had to bring it home from our holidays in France. Over recent years it has been discovered by the UK wine buyers and is now available in most supermarkets. 

A great value white from Asda at under £7.00

Les Dauphins is one of our favourite red wines from the Cotes du Rhone region, again we have visited the region and in 2016 enjoyed a private tasting with  the producers, Cellier des Dauphins.

So imagine our delight when the other gift received this week was a Les Dauphins Cotes du Rhone Reserve. 

This Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre wine is a delight on it's own, superb with a rich meat dish and fabulous with cheese - in other words anytime !!

It's full of fruit with peppery highlights, a smooth medium/full bodied wine that always delivers a 'mmmmm' moment.

Over the last few years Les Dauphins wine has become easier to find with their white,red and rose being available in most supermarkets. Waitrose also stock Les Dauphins Blanc de Blanc a superb sparkling wine for the summer. 

The final two wines to be added to our rack are both previously unknown to us. The first was spotted in Lidl on offer at under £6 - always draws the eye. 

I have not tried many Greek wines and certainly not a Moschofilero so I am looking forward to trying this. 

The other 'new' wine is this month's tasting recommendation on Cuvée Reserve - Terre di Faiano Organic Primivito. A Waitrose wine currently on offer at £7.49 that I am also looking forward to as Primivito is one of my favourite Italian grapes.

Each month one of our members nominates a wine that is under £10 and available from a main supermarket. It is great fun each month to try something new and read other's opinions on the same wine; reviews are posted after the 20th of each month. 

I'm not sure which of the above wines will be opened over the weekend but whichever it is will bring enjoyment; either an old favourite or a new discovery. 

The following weekend we will be discovering more about wine as we are staying in Guildford for a mini break and we have tickets for Love Wine Festival on Saturday 24th March. 

I am very much looking forward to this event, especially after such a good time at their event in Birmingham last year.

I'm sure with our recent additons and a great weekend to enjoy we are quite safe from this awful condition - I sincerely hope you are too, cheers !

Friday, 9 March 2018

At a location near us ....

Hurrah we now have a Miller and Carter Steakhouse nearby. We discovered this great restaurant chain in Cardiff with our daughter; The Hayes is one of their top restaurants and a must for us each time we are in Wales' capital city. The food is excellent, as is the service and restaurant atmosphere.

We've had many superb meals there; special occassions, lunch times and most importantly before the rugby.

There is a Miller and Carter Steakhouse in Leicester and Coventry but both are a little distance for us so we were delighted when a previous Harvester Restaurant just a few miles away was refurbished as a steakhouse ...

They opened on Tuesday so Hubby and I decided to book for Wednesday lunchtime - what a treat. The decor is beautiful, very relaxing ambiance giving the feel of being amongst others but not disturbed by their conversations. Very comfortable seating and great lighting with plenty of fittings without any glaring right at you.

All the staff were great from the greeting, our waitress, the barman bringing our drinks - a few nerves but hey it was only the second day. We certainly felt looked after throughout our meal which wasn't rushed and without long waits between courses.

We decided to have Mediterranean Mezze sharing starter - the chorizo sausage was delicious but my favourite was the camembert and pinot grigio fondue. It was a great sharing dish although it would have been superb with a little bread too.

We both love the steak experience; Hubby's choice was a T-bone, whilst I opted for the Bistro Rump which was quite a thick piece of beef. Both cooked to our order and served with onion loaf, chips or salad, a lettuce wedge (we both opted for blue cheese dressing) and a steak sauce of our choice - mine was Rich Bordelaise, superb.

Lobster Mac and Cheese is my must have side order when visiting Miller and Carter, I do wish it was a main meal option as it is absolutely delicious.

No meal is complete without a pud although we were quite full already, however as mentioned before we were neither rushed nor left waiting and the pud arrived at a perfect 'make a little room' time.

The Creme Brulee was so yummy I almost forgot to take a photo, hence the strategically placed spoon hee hee

Usually for me it's wine with a meal but being lunch time and having such a variety of food to match to one glass I opted for a softail - Citrus Beets. It's a refreshing drink of beetroot juice with cloudy apple and lemon, it was citrusy enough to compliment the Mezze and the kick of beetroot complimented without overpowering the rich sauce on my steak.

A superb Wednesday lunch - thank you Miller and Carter - we'll certainly be back soon. 

Sunday, 4 March 2018

A little bit of warmth

Like many this week we've had the white stuff cover our world - slowly adding a little each day to make quite a covering.

At times like this our resilience and human goodness is shown at its best, so many have helped so many with transport, errands and cups of tea - what a Great Britain we are!

Thursday was St David's Day and although I have no Welsh blood as far as I know I have always had connections to Wales -

- holidaying in the north when young 
- enjoying a mobile home on the west coast for over 10 years
- our daughter going to Uni in the south and now living in Cardiff
- and of course supporting Welsh rugby. 

Every year I make the house Welsh for the day and cook a Welsh themed dinner; lamb steak this year followed by home made Bara Brith and a glass of Merlyn.

Wales is a land of mystery, legend, nature and belonging, exactly my feelings towards this fabulous cream liqueur from Penderyn Distillery.

Merlyn is a blend of Welsh spirit and rich cream giving a beautiful smoothness full of vanilla and toffee. This liqueur holds your attention, encourages another sip and wraps you in comfort, perfect on a snowy St David's Day.

This kind of weather certainly sways me towards red wine: we did take a stroll to our local pub earlier in the week as the first flurries began to arrive. A pub lunch with a bottle of house Merlot whilst on snow watch is highly recommended.

And safely back home it's been a couple of favourites that have kept me cosy.

Majestic's Puglia is one of my favourite Italian wines. Natale Verga Primivito has a light nose, it's quite dry in the mouth with a touch of sourness and a burst of berry fruits.

Cellier de Dauphins' Prestige Cotes du Rhone is a favourite from holiday. With the weather so cold this wine is not only a favourite to drink but also brings memories of sunnier times in the South of France.

This coming week leads up to Mother's Day and this year I'm doing Afternoon Tea at home for both our Mum's so my next post with be full of bubbles and cake!!

Sunday, 25 February 2018

Two red, two white

A real mix this week, two red wines and two white: non opened for any celebration but all chosen for a reason.

The first being this month's tasting on Cuvée Reserve, the online wine forum I happily host. This month it was my Hubby's turn to choose our wine for reviewing: it must be available from a mainstream supermarkets and under £10.

Nick's choice was Asda Extra Special Carménére; originally this French grape was grown in the Bordeaux region and mainly used in blending.

Its name derives from carmin (crimson in French) and refers to the colour of the vine leaves in autumn. Carménére is now one of the most popular grapes grown in Chile and is used to produce single grape wines as opposed to just blending.

We both enjoyed this deep claret coloured wine with its oaky, faintly vanilla nose. There was a hint of liquorice too on the nose which was also evident in its flavour. A very smooth wine, full of sour cherries, spice and subtle tannins from being in American oak barrels.

It was a very drinkable wine and great value, certainly one we'll buy again although not all members of Cuvée Reserve agreed. Wine is such a complex subject and we all have such varied tastes - the monthly tastings are a superb chance to try wines we would perhaps not of chosen ourselves.

I wonder what March's will be.

The second red we tried this month was also Hubby's, this time a gift on his recent retirement.

We really enjoy Aldi Wines (the focus of our latest great wine tasting based on Quirky Bottles) but had not tried their Exquisite Collection Malbec: another from South America this 2017 Argentinian wine was a little surprising.

Initially we were unsure, very little fruit on the nose or the palate although a great deep red in the glass.

However after an hour or so it suddenly sprang to life - plenty of dark fruit, quite jammy with a smoothness of chocolate.

Its finished lengthened the longer it rested in the glass, certainly a wine that needs decanting and time to develop. It's a great price and allowing it breathing time puts it another on our to buy again list.

And so to the two whites - both from Majestic and as with the reds both new wines.

Tu Meke Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favourite wines from Majestic but I have not tried their Chardonnay. It is currently on offer at an unbelievable price, an ideal time to add one to our basket on a recent trip.

Chardonnay is such a different wine to my favoured Sauvignon Blanc in many ways, the first being the colour in the glass. A much deeper yellow, giving a thicker impression but still having sparkling highlights.

Nicely chilled its nose was quite peachy with a hint of citrus. This was echoed in its flavour; plenty of peaches, nectarines and white stone fruit it had a lovely creaminess to its body. It's finish was dry with some length and was a perfect match for my chicken stir fry meal.

Another beautiful wine from Tu Meke - their Pinot Grigio is another I have yet to try.

My second white and final of the four is another from Majestic - Carrro de Santa Maria. I'm not particularly fond of Spanish wine, especially red, but as this was also on offer it seemed rude not to try .... and I'm glad I did.

It was specially produced for Majestic with some input from their Head Buyer. I've tasted Verdejo grape before but not Viura so I was quite keen to try this wine.

A lovely golden yellow in colour with a mineral nose that I found quite inviting. Plenty of apple, plenty of citrus with a bright acidity this wasn't too dissimilar to Sauvignon Blanc, I really enjoyed it.

Two reds and two whites all different, all enjoyed. As I said before there is a world of wines and so many I have yet to discover, helped by attending Wine Shows - our next is Love Wine at Guildford on 24th March where I am sure we'll find many treasures!

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Quirky Bottles

It was Wine Tasting night last Saturday at our Scout Group - yes just for the adults. Regular visitors to my blog will know that these evenings started in 2014 as part of our 100th year celebrations but are so popular I now host about three or four a year.

There seems to be a trend appearing to have unusual wine labels instead of classic style labels - last year Majestic introduced a new range 'Majestic Loves' with great art work on the labels. Our friends came over to try a few last spring, you can read about our discoveries in my 'Duo of Quatre wines' post.

That said I decided to focus on unusual or quirky labels for this tasting and doing a little research discovered quite an extensive range at Aldi - Wonderful World of Wine. It was great fun choosing which wines to include, especially as some were new, either the grape or the country the wine was from.
Our first selection
Our second selection

Our two selections are separated by our buffet, a great chance to chat about the wines we tasted from the first section and enjoy a glass of our favourite. Everyone brings a plate or two of food which we put on a large table to make a sharing buffet, there's always cheese, bread, pork pie and other delicious nibbles.

To start our evening we had a little celebration. Hubby donated a bottle of Heidsieck Gold Top for us all to toast his retirement. It's a great bottle of bubbles, dry but not overly so with an abundance of small bubbles and a lovely biscuity flavour.

Our first wine was Pardon my French 'Gastonomy', a peachy tropical white wine made from Colombard grapes.

Everyone enjoyed this wine finding it very refreshing and evoking thoughts of warm summer days in the garden, although no-one wanted a garden of snails!

Our second was also Pardon my French - Ventoux a Grenache, Carignan, Syrah. Ventoux is the highest mountain in Provence and often part of the Tour de France cycle race hence the cyclist label.

This wine had plenty of dark red fruits with a hint of liquorice, although nice it could have had a little more depth.

Our third and fourth wines were new grapes for everyone to try. Isola Zibibbo from Italy was another 'summer garden' wine.

Lovely and light in colour, quite a floral nose and a mouth full of apricots with a subtle hint of mineral to give an edge to its finish.

Animus Douro was made from three grapes; Tinto Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca. As with our first red it was full of dark red fruits but with cedar notes and soft tannins. This Portuguese wine was certainly one of the evenings's favourite wines.

Our final white before our buffet had everyone laughing ... not at the wine but at me. For some reason I thought the label was a frog (I have just finished reading Wind in the Willows) but realised it is a Great White Shark hence the name 'The Grape White'.

Unusually from South Africa this Pinot Grigio was full of peaches and nectarines. A smooth wine with citrus notes and a long finish, I found it very enjoyable and easy drinking.

This final red before our break was the only wine of the evening I had tasted before as a member of Aldi's 17th Tasting Panel. Estevez Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenére and Syrah is a deep red, full of fruit with peppery notes.

It has a hint of coffee and is slightly oaked, it was a great wine to go with the mixed meats on our buffet and was also good with the stronger cheeses.

The labels on our first six bottles were certainly unusual and the reverse labels had changed too. There was very little information about the actual flavours in the wine, more of a general note and information about the wine's origins. I find it very interesting to watch wine trends; grapes that come in and out of favour, label styles, providence information being important and tasting notes less so. I wonder where wine and labeling will go next?

France was our next country as we started our second section with The Forgotten One with a label featuring penguins!

This white Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc was as expected full of tropical fruits, grapefruit and citrus. It  was a great palate cleanser after all our nibbles, one I'll be buying again for sure.

Chile next for a bottle of Malbec which is often from neighbouring South American countries. Quite a bold font on this Quisco label with a spikey cactus, which mirrored it's bold fruit flavour and hit of dark chocolate.

Our penultimate white was from Romania, Noctilio a Transylvanian Chardonnay. Such and impressive red label, quite dazzling.

The wine itself was surprisingly smooth; lemon, apple, vanilla and oak combining together leaving a long finish in the mouth.

Down the Lane is a Shiraz Tempranillo from Australia although it's label is quite Spanish/Mexican looking. It has all the characteristics of a Spanish Tempranillo and although a little lighter it had a good spice to its finish.

Our final white was from Germany. In my late teens/early twenties German wine was the main wine available but I don't remember having a Pinot Blanc which was the grape in Lot 18 from Baden.

Quite a crisp wine with pears and nectarines being the dominant flavour this was a lovely wine. This white would be perfect for a roast chicken dinner.

Our final red was Odd Lot, a Petit Syrah, Petit Verdot wine from California. It was jam packed with fruit, very rich with a touch of sweetness.

Initially it provokes a 'oohhh mmmm' amongst our tasters but everyone soon agreed that one glass was enough as it was a bit too jammy and overpowering.

Thanks Aldi for a great selection of wine, all our wines brought a quirkiness to the evening - the labels, the new grapes and plenty of new flavours. To finish our evening I took along Maynard's Pink Port I had opened at Christmas. In fact it was the tasting wine for Cuvée Reserve in December - you can read the reviews here.

Thanks to everyone who came along to our Quirky tasting - these events are always great fun. I wonder what theme we'll have for our next one in a few month's time.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Just a few more bottles

Our wine rack in the house is always full (it holds about 50 bottles) and we have a 'few' bottles the garage too. I'm beginning to think we collect wine rather than drink wine !!

Hubby had some lovely gifts for his retirement including quite a few vouchers for Majestic Wine - as if we need and excuse to pop by !!

So pop by we did and picked up a few absolute bargains along with a few we've had our eyes on for a while. 

I don't always include prices in my blog as they can change especially with offers and promotions but this time I will as some were certainly not to be missed.

Bricchetto Trebbiano £2.99    -    Carro Santa Maria Blanco £3.74    -    Tu Meke Chardonnay £3.74

Tu Meke Pinot Grigio £3.99    -    Pieter's Keep Cinsault  £4.49    -    La Baume Malbec  £6.49

La Baume Chenin Blanc  £6.49    -    Primitivo Natale Verga  £6.99    -    Fina Carelio  £7.99

Tarmina Monastrell  £7.99     -    Jim Barry Cover Drive  £10.99

The Tarmina Monastrell is a wine Hubby has been wanting to try for a while. The opportunity came to open this last Friday when friends joined us for dinner. 

A Spanish wine from Alicante had plenty of ripe blackcurrants and cherries, this unoaked red was enjoyed by everyone. 

Jim Barry Cover Drive is a wine we've been meaning to add to our order but always forget as Australian Cabernet Sauvignon is not a regular purchase for us. The history behind a wine is always good to know, this particular wine has a cricketing theme because prior to being a vineyard it was a cricket ground.  

A wine of blackcurrants, liquorice and cherries with tannins, it was a good wine but I think would have developed more with time. 

I have enjoyed La Baume Chenin Blanc many times so it was a must to include that in our order and to my delight there was a La Baume Malbec on the shelf too - perfect as our dinner with friends was to be steak. 

Both wines were perfect; the white crisp, lemony and clean; just right with our antipasti starter and soft cheeses at the end of the meal. The Malbec was really smooth, not as heavy as an Argentinian wine but weighty enough for our succulent steak - I would just add that these two wines were mainly enjoyed by myself and my female friends. 

After 10 months of an upturned life it was a real pleasure to prepare, cook and serve a meal again. I love entertaining - here's to more occasions in 2018 !

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Time's they are a changing!

Hubby has retired - and our new lifestyle begins !

No more getting up at 4.45am, and we can stay up on a week night !

To celebrate I booked a Winter Escape overnight stay at Kilworth House Hotel - a stunning location that is surprisingly not that old. The original house was built at the end of the 1800s for John Entwisle who was the High Sheriff of Leicestershire, with design and decoration perfect for entertaining.

Our stay included hot chocolate with shortbread served on arrival in the lounge which overlooked the beautiful grounds; a bottle of Prosecco which we requested served with dinner in the Orangery rather than in our  room; lovely ensuite room with dressing gowns; and a full breakfast again served in the Orangery.

Kilworth House Hotel
The Orangery
Beautiful grounds
The Lounge
The Staircase
The corridor outside our room
Our room
Breakfast in the Orangery
 It was lovely to chill out in opulent surroundings - a great way to start our freedom!

Hubby enjoys Spanish wine, he quite likes Majestic's Matsu range with their distinctive photographic labels of young, not so young, and old men. He's tried El Picaro (rascal) and El Recio (mature) but not El Viejo (old) - paired with an engraved glass it made the perfect gift.

Nick's glass (paper is just to show engraving)
Mr H and the 'Old Man'

To celebrate Hubby's last day we treated ourselves to a rib steak from our local butcher, Steve Mellor and daughter (Paige). I'm related to Steve as our fathers were cousins, Mellor is my maiden name.

Our superb steak
It was a superb piece of steak and although we have plenty of red wines we paired it with a special bottle of Cotes du Rhone Puymeras given to us in 2016 when we were privileged to private tasting with Cellier des Dauphins (Les Dauphins).  We did of course enjoy a bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte too, our favourite bubbles!
Our favourite bubbles
On our way to Kilworth House Hotel we had a stroll around Market Harborough, a lovely little town with a great cookshop where we found these two beauties ....

Ladies' and Gentlemen's Gin
.... perfect for our gin and tonics in our  room.  Roll on summer - I can imagine these full of ice, G&T whilst relaxing on the deck. Perfect for my Warner Edward's Rhubarb gin too!

Yesterday we had lunch at ours with Hubby's mum, I prepared a nicoise salad but instead of fish we had pork and leek sausage (cut into pieces and de-skinned) followed by walnut and lemon meringue cake.

Perfect accompaniment for our Visan white Gran Reserve Cotes du Rhone - another from our holiday collection made from White Grenache, Clairette and Viognier

Colour - rich yellow with hints of green

Nose - floral notes with white peaches

Taste - medium bodied, good velocity, some minerality, citrus notes with pear and peaches, good length to its finish

No wine today as we're off to watch Wasps v Tigers - a pint of Guinness is a must when watching a game of rugby!

Fantastic win yesterday for the Welsh boys, getting the 6 Nations off to a superb start.

I love rugby - Tigers are my first English team, Wasps my second, Ospreys my favourite Welsh team, and Wales my International favourites - had to include Rhys Webb in my photo being as he's injured at the moment so isn't on the pitch.