Friday, 26 February 2016

Valentine's Wine Tasting

Mid February always brings the day of love and friendship - St Valentine's Day. What better time to have another wine tasting for our scout leaders, an evening we all enjoy.

Being as it was a special weekend we decided to 'go posh' and dress for the occassion ..... don't we all look grand?
In all our finery
As you can see for this tasting we were seated at one large table, my lovely Hubby and Son were our wine waiters (a bit of a busmans holiday for our son as it was his day off from his bar work at Mecure Brandon Hall Hotel

As a little extra touch we even had candles and our Son used his napkin folding skills for each setting. A very different look to our HQ than on a Beaver, Cub or Scout night :) 

Centre candles (the space was soon filled with food and wine)
Our place setting

And so to our tastings, I tried to make the food and wine match the occasion, it is getting more and more difficult to find new wines but most were new grape varieties this time. 

Our first wine was from Aldi - literally from Aldi. I am on their tasting panel and they recently sent this lovely bubbly, perfect to start our evening. 

This Prosecco Superior from Northern Italy is made from Glera grapes, a new variety for us to try.

Lovely bubbles, large and lively with a mouth full of ripe apples. There was a lovely creamy finish to this bubbly although it wasn't a sweet wine. 

Most of us enjoyed this unaccompanied but one of our ladies loves Kir Royale and added just a drop of blackcurrant - 'delicious'. 

Being Valentine's I couldn't not include rosé wine; this time I chose two, one from Sainsbury's and the other from Majestic. In fact this time I only shopped in three stores as sometimes it gets confusing as to where the wines were from. 

Contenda Tempranillo Rose a Spanish wine from Sainsbury's that was full of crisp summer fruits. 

Luis Felipe Edwards 'Mountain View Vineyards' Rose from Majestic this rosé was a little dryer than the Sapnish wine with a little zappy acidic finish 

I served strawberries with these wines; they definitely brought out the sweetness in our first rosé and went well with the second but didn't add anything to the wine flavour itself. 

Before moving onto our six white wines we paused for our starter - pate with French bread. Usually we have a main break for our buffet so it made a change to have pauses throughout the tasting for different elements of our meal. 

Our whites began with a new wine to all of us, including myself and Hubby. Rheinhessen Muller-Thurgau a German wine from Asda this was a light and fruity wine which everyone enjoyed and one that we will be buying again, for me it was one of the best of the evening. 

Sainsbury's Winemakers Gavi was our second white, Gavi (Cortese) is another new grape to our tasting group. A fruity wine that everyone enjoyed although paired against the German wine it appeared a little light. 

All our whites

Asda was the source of our next wine, Isla Negra Sauvignon Blanc Chardonnay

I included this as we haven't tasted these two grapes blended together before, within our group we have a mix of sauvignon blanc lovers and chardonnay lovers so it was interesting to see what everyone thought .... and they liked it. 

No-one chose it as their favourite but everyone thought it a good wine. 

Back to Spain for our next tasting, although I actually bought the wine at Majestic: Lopez de Haro Rioja (Viura). The tasting notes said flavours of dates and bananas - oh what fun this caused. Some of us could smell banana but couldn't taste any and vica versa, there were no dates (a shame with it being Valentine's !)

I served goats cheese on melba toast to accompany our final two wines as both match really well with this. 

Silver Ghost Sauvignon Blanc is a Chilean wine with a citrus nose full gooseberries and a mouth of crisp green apples, beautiful with the cheese. 

As equally as good, in fact my favourite, another wine of two grapes; Picpoul and Sauvignon Blanc from Majestic. It really is a good blend with both wines coming through, the lively cirtus notes with lovely melon and pear. 

All our whites were great - in fact even our red wine drinkers liked them ! And so to our main course - a Valentine's special ..... pizza !!! 

Our selection of red wine

Six reds to follow or extravagant main starting with an Italian wine again from Majestic; 

Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. We have tasted this grape before but it is such a lovely wine it seemed perfect to start our red selection.

Back to Asda for our next red Isla Negra Merlot Carmenere. Merlot is the favourite grape of one of our group so it was good to try a wine with it blended with another grape. A rich red with a very smooth finish. 

Bobal was next on our tasting list, a Spanish wine again from Asda. A wine from the WIne Atlas range which promised hints of chocolate but we all found it a little missing. A good wine for those liking a lighter red but it didn't provide the depth of richness we hoped for, although it did improve with the accompanying slightly spicy falafal.

Sainsbury's Winemaker Petit Verdot was a vast contrast, really rich, very deep with quite a complex range of flavours.  This was a favourite amongst our red drinkers and one of my top wines of the night. 

Our final two reds were both French; a new grape and an old favourite. Mont Saint Jean Corbieres is a full rounded red from Southern France.  A Majestic wine full of blackberries with a touch of spice in its finish.

The old favourite being a Cellier des Dauphins Merlot Grenache from Sainsbury's - Les Dauphins is a wine we've included many times, especially our last tasting but this wine is the original label in the original shaped bottled we love in France and it's now available in Sainsbury's. A wine loved by everyone, it seemed even nicer in the 'proper' bottle. 

And so our Valentine's tasting came to an end - well nearly - you can't have Valentine's without chocolate. I found some chocolate mini cups inthe supermarket and filled each with chocolate mousse, a perfect dessert. 

What goes with the perfect dessert, one of the loveliest dessert wines Brown Brothers Orange Flora and Muscat Available at Majestic this dessert wine is so smooth and sweet, it was perfect with the chocolate. 

Everyone enjoyed it, even those who don't normal like sweet wine and everyone agreed it was the perfect way to end our Valentine's tasting. 

Our next wine tasting will be ................ who knows when or what but it will be another great night. 

Friday, 12 February 2016

Wines at Majestic

Our local Majestic is not so local but is a short train ride away. However the other Sunday (my rest day after completing Route 3 of Clare's Challenge 50 ) we drove over to Leicester for a browse. 

Majestic Leicester is a lovely shop to browse, each country having it's own section, and an inviting tasting bar. Our visit coincided with their bin end offer which I took advantage of for our upcoming tasting at scouts tomorrow night (13th Feb). Those wines will be revealed next time but wine we did buy for ourselves included adding a couple of bottles of Yering Station Shiraz - a rich spicy wine from Australia that we both enjoy. 

Laurent Miguel Faurgéres
As always I headed towards the French section and discovered an inviting bottle of Faugéres, a wine we have had many many years ago on holiday but not since. It was a beautiful wine - reflecting the beautiful Languedoc with it's richness and depth of flavour.

A superb blend of Shiraz Grenache, quite similar to the Australian Shiraz wines we've had but so much smoother. A lovely deep red wine filled with dark red fruit: blackcurrants, plums: and a delicious cocoa background. 

A hint of spice is accompanied by a hint of oak making the fruit jump to the foreground with a long smooth finish.

At £7.99 on mixed case price, this wine gives the impression of being of a far higher price range - one we'll be buying again. 

Another one we picked up from Majestic was Tu Meke Sauvignon Blanc. Not in the French section but the other side of the shop - and world - this wine is from New Zealand. 

Sauvignon Blanc is my favourite grape so I am always drawn to those wines, however it was the quirky label caught my eye with it's plain yet striking text within the dark swirl. 

A wine very similar to Russian Jack featured in my previous post but with a little more depth. 

A lovely Sauvignon Blanc, dry crisp, full of citrus with a lengthy finish, lots of lovely gooseberries and crisp greenness that is great value at it's mixed case price of £5.99 

Our drive over revealed a small bonus - a date for Majestic's next Wine Course. 

We have attended quite a few Majestic wine courses and every time we learn a little more as well as reminding ourselves of wine facts we've forgotten. 

They are very informal and surprisingly not many people book. Majestic host a Wine Course for up to 12 people - Leicester have two more dates available: 10th March and 17th April. They have many events, wine courses and tastings, listed on their web site - Majestic Leicester - the main Majestic site will have links to your local store.

The table was laid ready with three white wines and three red wines - an array of colours to start our minds guessing already. The first white was lovely and crisp, my style of white wine, followed by a smoother creamier white, finishing with a richer white. All from different countries, all with different flavours.

And that is all I will say as part of the course is to discover the tastes for yourself - I will share a photo of the wines but not my tasting notes as to appreciate the variety I would recommend booking on one of the courses and discovering the wines yourself.

Three lovely but very different white wines
Bubbly flowed, yes really, we were treated to a 2008 vintage bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte, our favourite champagne producer so a real treat for us. 

2008 Vintage Nicolas Feuillatte
On so onto our three reds and the first one really surprised me, not a grape I normally like but this was amazing. Greystone is a name on the UK market but this New Zealand producer has won many awards. It's a name I'll be looking out for as I'd love to try more of their range. 

The other two reds were good and grapes I like so although I prefer white wine I enjoyed all three reds presented on our table. 

Our red wine selection
Majestic also introduce food matching on their wine course - we had a variety of food from acidic to sweet, seafood to meat. We tried various food with the various wines, some were superb but others were just awful, a good way to learn what not to pair. Again I'm not going to share exact details but I will say the dessert wine pairing was superb. 

A superb dessert wine
If you are wondering no we didn't drive - Crosscountry trains run from our town to Leicester and it's just a short stroll to Majestic, and and easy stroll back, especially as The Parcelyard (a Steamin' Billy pub) is ideally located next to the station for a late dinner.

Thank you to everyone at Majestic Leicester for another very enjoyable evening - we'll be visiting again soon !!

Monday, 1 February 2016

Quick trip to South Wales

Hubby and I had a quick trip to South Wales to visit our daughter - what blowy weather with a few drops of rain too.

We took the opportunity to have a look around the marina overlooking Cardiff Bay which is a great place, lots of bars and restaurants, boats and activity centres. There is certainly plenty to do and one quick visit is not enough.
All moored up
Great marina
Overlooking Cardiff Bay

Big hat definitely needed in the wind
We did find a lovely little cafe on the Marina - Compass Cafe - the best coffee we've had in ages. A welcome stop in the cold wind.

We had a lovely meal out on Saturday at Miller and Carter, a restaurant we haven't visited before but will be again. There is a new one opening in Coventry so not too far to drive.

Prosecco starter!
Lovely time with lovely Hubby
Bourbon glazed chicken 
Brownie dessert - naughty but yes so nice!
Steakhouse Sour cocktail - a lovely way to end a lovely evening

Another new month begins so before I get absorbed in wine for Valentine's Day and the new tasting announced on Cuvée Reserve I should just say a little about two lovely wines I enjoyed in January; Vina Mayu and Russian Jack.

Both of these wines are from Majestic, the Vina Mayu Dry Pedro Ximenez 2014 was recommended by the manager at Majestic Leicester when I said I was looking for something new but still similar to sauvignon blanc.

It's a lovely wine from Chile, full of citrus, lemon and lime but without the gooseberry/kiwi of a sauvignon blanc. I love Sancerre and I found this quite similar but a little dryer.

I'd recommend this with a fish or chicken dish but actually think it is best suited to drinking well chilled on its own.

The Russian Jack is one I'd tried at a Majestic wine tasting. Both myself and our son thought it was a lovely sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand.

It's full of gooseberry, citrus and passionfruit and is so smooth. All the flavours blend together so well that although you can identify them nothing overpowers the other. There's a lovely light aroma of elderflower with this wine.

This was perfect with my chicken chinese dinner. it isn't one I would drink alone but was perfect with chicken.

February is always a fun month with our daughter's birthday and Valentine's Day - both great opportunities to open something special and celebrate - cheers!!