Thursday, 4 August 2016

New wines for Scouts

Last Saturday Hubby and I hosted another wine tasting for the leaders at Scouts - it's a small but popular event. The wines this time were all (but one) from Asda with a budget of around £4.50 - £6.00.

All the wines this time had an element of newness about them, either the grape or the country. As always some wines were preferred to others and some wines had a limited appreciation but it was another great night.

We started the evening with a Spanish aperitif wine - La Gitana Manzanilla, a crisp dry fresh wine best served chilled. We did pop it in the freezer as it seemed to need to be ice cold - a little like dry sherry and was best when paired with olives and cured ham. This was on offer in Sainsbury's at £4.50, it's usual price is around £10.

Staying in Spain our next wine was a new experience for everyone - Espatero Rioja Rose.

I'm not a fan of either Rioja wine or rose wine so I approached this with caution. The label did not give detail of the actual grapes but I did not pick up on any tempranillo, the usual Rioja grape and as it was full of cherries and strawberries it could have been granacha based.

It was quite a pleasant wine which would be great in the summer in the garden - good price too at £4.48 (Asda)

Our first two white wines were from opposite sides of the world - Germany and Australia. The first being Winemakers Choice Piesporter Michelsberg and the second Wolf Blass Chardonnay Semillon.

Those of a certain age will remember drinking German wine in the 1980s as that was the mainly all that was available. It did bring back a few memories and laughs with it's slightly sweet apricot taste. A good light wine at a great price £4.20 (Asda).

Wolf Blass has German connections as it was Wolfgang Blass that took his German vines to Australia in 1966. The chardonnay semillon blend was the new element of this wine as most had previously tried just chardonnay. A lovely fresh  wine with a slight creaminess, a palate of citrus and peach with a lovely smooth finish- £5.00 at Asda.

Back to Spain and a white wine I did enjoy when we holidayed there a few years ago - Palacio de Vivero Rueda. A nice crisp citrusy wine that is comparable with sauvignon blanc with it's touch of acidity and dry finish. This was a great priced wine £4.25 (Asda)

A complete new experience for all next with Asda's Wine Atlas Feteasca Regala from Romania (£4.00). This wine was full of tropical fruit and whilst a little light on it's own it matched perfectly with Castello pineapple halo cheese - an amazing pairing.

Our last two whites were again from opposite sides of the world: Asda's Wine Atlas Cotes de Thau (£4.97) and Kiwi Cove Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand.

The Cotes de Thau is an inland lake in southern France, separated from the Mediterranean by a thin strip of land and is where mussels and oysters are farmed. This wine with it's crisp zestiness it perfect with any seafood dish.

The New Zealand sauvignon blanc was donated by two of our members in celebration of the arrival of their second grand-daughter Daisy.

In the higher price band (£7.50 Asda) this was noticeable a better wine than the other whites tasted. It had the usual strong nose of kiwi and gooseberry which continued on the palate.

It's finish could have been a little longer but all told a good wine from the New World.

Our buffet was mainly cheese and biscuits: blue cheese, soft cheese, brie, cheddar all good with any of our whites. I made a potato pie to which I'm pleased to say turned out ok - I used to bake this years ago and couldn't find my recipe so I guessed it !!

After our buffet it was time for our red wines starting with one I took the tiniest sip of as it was Don Pelayo Tempranillo Garnacha which although not from Rioja was a Spanish tempranillo; try as I do I cannot get on with this grape.

A good price at £4.37 (Asda) this medium bodied wine was full of blackberries with a touch of liquorice and vanilla. Hubby quite enjoyed this as he is finding a liking for Spanish wine.

Sangiovese is usually from Italy but this bottle was from Chile. Mayu Sangiovese was a lighter wine than our first red with lovely dark cherries and a hint of vanilla.

This actually improved as the evening progressed and I think maybe a wine that is best opened a day before drinking. A little expensive in relation to the others £5.38 (Asda).

Moving to Italy our next wine was a blend of two grapes we all know quite well; Shiraz (or syrah) and Cabernet. Its new element was being from Italy. The nose of this wine was lovely, full of dark fruit and a peppery note but not really one I enjoyed and it definitely needed a food pairing. Not a bad price at £4.00 (Asda) and would be great with a rich Sunday roast dinner.

Back to Asda's Wine Atlas range for our fourth red; Carmenere. I really like this grape and this wine from Chile was full bodied with plenty of dark fruit and spice. At £4.97 I would add this to my rack but again let it breathe for a good few hours before drinking and accompany it with a hearty meat dinner.

Last two reds - in fact last two wines of the evening - Asda's Wine Atlas Cotes de Rousillon (£5.47).

Another wine from the south of France with plenty of rich fruits, this wine had a really smooth finish with its full bodiness giving a great length. This, and our final red, were the two favourites of the evening with our red wine drinkers.

Our final wine was donated by Hubby and me and was a bottle from our holiday in France this June.

We were so close to Mont Ventoux on the edge of the Cotes de Rhone region, but not near enough to visit. Mont Ventoux seemed to be towering above the skyline everywhere we travelled and even at home it played a part, making an appearance in the Tour de France. We'll definitely be visiting this great mountain next year but I will not be cycling or running up it (great work Chris Frome).

So the wine - Expert Club Ventoux purchased for around 4 euros. Very dark in colour, full of fruit, hints of spice, smooth yet full bodied with a great finish - my favourite red.

With the last three reds we tried chorizo, dark chocolate and strong cheddar cheese. Quite a mixed reaction but general opinion was the chocolate went really well with the Cotes de Rousillon, the cheddar with all three but the chorizo with the Carmenere just made us breathe like dragons - so firey. It's always fun to try a variety of foods with the wines.

It was another great night, lots of new wines for us to try. Our next wine tasting evening will be at the end of November and as with previous years will be slightly more expensive wines with the coming festivities in mind. That said we've decided to do a sharing buffet so I can spend the whole ticket price on wine !!

Monday, 1 August 2016

Avignon and Chartres

As part of our French holiday we had two city breaks - one mid way at Avignon and the other as a stop over on the way home at Chartres. Both cities were amazing with so much to see, very historic.

Avignon is in the Vaucluse are of southern France, sitting on the left bank of the Rhone, a popular stop for river cruise ships. In the 1300s it became the residency of seven successive Popes; it remained a papal state until the French Revolution when it was returned to France.

The beautiful city of Avignon and my lovely Hubby 
The Palais des Papes is the dominant building but Avignon has much more to see - the nicest way to see it all is on Avignon's Petit Train (I just love these road trains). Our 40 minute tour was full of famous sights, narrow streets and fantastic views. and a great way to see the city without walking.

Avignon Petit Train
Being tourists 
'sur la Pont d'Avignon' - looking at it anyway  
Breathe in - such narrow streets but the train got through
Street entertainment on a different level
After the Petit Train we climbed the steps up to the Palais des Papes - what an impressive building which has had many additions, removals, more additions and more removals over the time of the seven Popes. There were many stairs and twisting corridors but I would not have missed seeing inside this incredible place.
Such vast rooms with amazingly high ceilings
Previous floor markings on the walls,
a sign of all the alterations
Some of the surviving statues
Intricate carvings
Great art work 
It's vastness was incredible 
The view from the Palais looking south down the Rhone to the Mediterranean 
Avignon is a great city, perfect for a weekend break. I'm sure there was more to do/see than we had time for but I'm glad we visited the Palais des Papes, especially after visiting Chateauneuf du Pape the day before. 

The other city we visited was Chartres, this was a stop over on our way home. We have traveled through Chartres many times and been amazed at it's Cathedral standing tall across the city and countryside.  

Again we took the Petit Train to see as much of the city as we could in the time we had - a great ride if bumpy as most of the streets were cobbled !!

Petit Train
It's those tourists again !
Chartres old timbered houses going out as they go up
Beautiful scenery along the river  
Such a mix of architecture
Painted houses
After our tour on the train we went into the Cathedral - it was filled with singing which surprised us.Just inside the church was being restored so we couldn't see the centre of altar to begin with. The singing and chanting continued and to our amazement when we turned into the main part of the church there was a service taking place.

Not just an ordinary Sunday service but the ordination of a priest - such a privileged to be allowed to witness this sacred service. Although a Roman Catholic service and some sung in Latin it was quite moving, especially when the priest filed past the new priest and laid their hands on his head - there must have been over 100 in the line.

Unlike most churches and Cathedrals I know here in England Chartres was still open for visitors to wander round, although we didn't take many photos so as not to disturb the service - it really was an amazing event.
Chartres Cathedral
Beautiful rose window and carved figures above
So many carvings and statues. 
We enjoyed our visits to both Avignon and Chartres, both places we'd visit again with a little more time.

Our second week of the holiday was in Provence in the lower Alps by a man made lake. I'll blog about our adventures at Les Salles de Verdon next time, I hope you've enjoyed the cultural part of our French holiday.