Tuesday, 9 October 2018

KWV Wines

It was certainly a week of wine for me last week, as well as being chosen to be a judge at People's Choice Wine Awards I was also chosen to be a taster for UK Wine Hour. 

Sorcha Holloway is the founder of #ukwinehour which as you can see from having a hashtag is a Twitter event - every Thursday at 7pm UK time. 

It is such fun each week, although I confess I don't always manage to be there or be there on time but as it's a hash tag it is so easy to read back through everyone's comments. 

Each week there is a focus and last Thursday Sorcha had arranged Marco Ventrella to answer tweeted questions with KWV wines generously sending bottles of their wines to selected tasters, me being one. KWV wines are South African and this year celebrate their 100th anniversary #KWV100

The wines arrived the week before, as I was only expecting a bottle I was very surprised when a large box arrived, even more surprised when inside was a bottle of Laborie Blanc de Blancs, KWH The Mentors Petit Verdot and a bottle of Cruxland Gin with its very stylish leather strap cap cover. 

Wines received for UK Wine Hour 
If someone is kind enough to send me a bottle of wine to taste and review I feel it is only right that I do it justice and so on Thursday I had great fun photographing the three bottles, preparing food pairings and cocktail ingredients. 
Making the most of the sunshine to display the
ingredients ready for my gin cocktails
Just being Hubby and myself for the tasting we decided to make it last all day ..... in other words pacing ourselves! 

It's always interesting to pair food so I put together a cheese and charcuterie platter to enjoy with Laborie Blanc de Blancs - the platter consisted of:

Brie   Stilton   Salami   Chorizo   Dried Ham   Walnuts   

The Blue cheese was good but we both agreed the salami was superb, the fatiness in the meat being cut through by the bubbles..... 

... ah yes the bubbles, great golden colour with a fascinating edge of green. The brioche aroma with hints of butter lead to a mouth of toastiness and a nutty finish. Having recently holidayed in the Champagne region enjoying a variety of fizz I have to say this bottle of Blanc de Blancs from South Africa was superb.

Our selection from Hotel Chocolat and Green & Black's chocolates that we brought home from our Manchester trip made a perfect dessert with the Laborie especially the truffles dusted in cocoa.

Next task was to decant the KWH The Mentors Petit Verdot; this is a grape I really like but have, as far as I know, only had French wine before. Quite a heavy red at over 14% this Stellenbosch Petit Verdot looked so inviting in the decanter.

Breathing nicely
With a couple of hours before UK Wine Time we decided to have some fun experimenting with Cruxland Gin - what a surprise to discover this was made from grapes and 9 great ingredients. It was hard to decide which mixers to use to enhance what looked like being a great gin. 

The magical nine!

I tried a hibiscus mixer from Merchant's Heart and Hubby tried apple, elderflower and a touch of soda. Both drinks were good but did nothing for the gin, certainly didn't add to any flavour from the ingredients. After much thought and discussion we both decided it was best neat with ice so all the nine could be savoured. 

7 o'clock ..... time to tweet!

Oh my goodness what fun, I have no idea how many people were asking Marco questions or tweeting about their tastings but the hour just flew by. Hubby ended up reading the tweets on his iPad whilst I posted the tweets on my laptop, it certainly made for a very jolly evening .... of course we were tasting the Petit Verdot too.

It was so deep in colour, aroma and taste. Plenty of rich fruits, a touch of violets on the nose and a rich, juicy cherry flavour giving a great finish.... we both loved this one. It was similar to the French wines I have had but this had more depth and is a wine I will certainly buy again as would many other Tweeters.

Thank you Sorcha for the opportunity to taste and review these three superb bottles from KWH Wines. Thank you Marco for all your interesting tweets and videos.

It's sherry week this Thursday - log on and follow #ukwinehour for an hour of chatting with fellow wine enthusiasts, it certainly makes a great night!

Thursday, 4 October 2018

People's Choice Wine Awards .... I was a judge .....

..... in Round 1 and Round 2 !
Earlier in the summer a competition was launched to find judges for Round 1 of this special choice award. Why is this award so special? Because it is people from all walks of life choosing which wine is the best in each category.

People who all love wine, from those enjoying a glass at home with friends to those appearing on tv to share their knowledge with us all. With various levels of wine qualifications, mine being zero, the judges all had one thing they equally shared ... their enthusiasm about wine!

Brilliant artwork by cartoonist Tony Husband
I was so surprised when Janet Harrison emailed to say I had been selected as a judge for Round 1. Run by Janet, founder of Cracking Wine and The Fizz Festival, this is the second year these awards have been held, this year having more than double the number of wines entered.

People's Choice Wine Awards is quite active on Twitter, a social media app through which I have chatted and met some lovely people. Being a judge in Round 1 was a chance not only to review wine but also to meet a few of my fellow tweeters; some old friends, some new, all great wine peeps VinoViews, Wine Buffer, Just Perfect Wines and TerriandRex

Over 200 bottles were submitted for judging; submitted by high street supermarkets, independent wine shops, importers, suppliers and producers in the 20 categories listed below. The categories underlined were the wines I tasted and reviewed; Table 3 hosted by Lee Middleton was such fun, everyone having different backgrounds but all enjoying the challenge of scoring each wine.
Cheers !!             Photo @jonshootsthings 
Table 3 with our wines to taste and score
The award categories were:  
Out of the Ordinary       Boxing Clever        Fabulous Fizz - Champagne

     Fabulous Fizz - Sparkling Wine (Rest of the World)       One Man and his BBQ

Party Central        Food Friendly Wines - Red for Lighter Meals     Pizza Night

Girls Night In      Fabulous Fizz - Sparkling Wine (UK)        Heavy Duty

  War of the Rosés      Food Friendly Wines - Red for Easy Weekday Meals     Bargain Buys

Food Friendly Wines - Red for Hearty Meals     Food Friendly Wines - White for Lighter Meals

Sweets for My Sweet       Food Friendly Wines - White for Aromatic & Asian Meals  
Food Friendly Wines - White for Light Meals with Sauces      Blow Out! 

All the wine bottles were covered so we had no idea which country they were from, which grape variety they were, how much they cost, who the producer was ..... everything was unknown.

I thoroughly enjoyed judging the wines for what they were, as they were presented in the glass. Looking at colour, aroma, flavour, whether they fitted the category and mostly importantly would I buy a bottle - hence People's Choice Wine Awards.

It's at this point I must mention the spittoons; those who know me also know that spitting is one of my pet hates, anywhere, be it on a sports field, in the street and at wine events.

I must admit to being very apprehensive about this side of being a judge especially as with the quantity of wines spitting was vital.

So I took along a 'friend' - my love it or hate it Marmite espresso cup - perfect for the job both in Round 1 and Round 2!

Round 2? Yes really....

... at the end of Round 1 Janet chose 4 Supertasters to join wine journalists, experts, tv wine personalities, online event organisers, restaurant owners, so many well known people from the world of wine. I was stunned and humbled to be asked to judge Round 2, huge congratulations to the wine doctor, Dan Doherty  and Tory Locke who were also chosen as Supertasters.

Round 2 judges, the unofficial photo - being tall I'm hiding at the back 
The event was held at Albert Square Chop House in Manchester and it was with added excitement that I arrived at midday on Tuesday. Excitement as not only was I going to be a Judge in Round 2 but I was also going to finally meet people I have followed, liked or chatted with online.

It was a real pleasure to meet Brian Elliott, Peter Ranscombe, Amelia Singer, PleaseBringMeMyWine and Sorcha Holloway . I really had to pinch myself to think that ordinary me from a small Midlands market town was judging wine for a national competition along side wine experts - such an amazing day, thank you.

Round 2 involved judging the top 3 or 4 of each categories - I have italicised in the list above the ones our table judged, starting with ..... Champagne !
Best way to start with Champagne
Out of the Ordinary
Heavy Duty - dessert wines
Sitting round the table, tasting and thinking about wine, chatting and giggling with such lovely people made it such a special day for me. I can honestly say it was an honour to be part of this event and the wine's that win the awards really will be by People's Choice.

You too can be part of these awards by voting for your favourite Independent Wine Supplier and your favourite Supermarket - vote here.

I am really looking forward to seeing who has been awarded the prize for each category especially those I helped judge.

Thank you Janet and everyone that helped with this amazing event.


Sunday, 30 September 2018

September's high notes

Unbelievably September is nearly over, what a lovely month it has been. Our holiday in Portugal with our two grown up children was a great way to begin my birthday month, it was so good to spend time all together.

Next month (I can't believe that's tomorrow) starts with a very special event for me; I have been chosen to be a judge in the People's Choice Wine Awards. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would be asked to judge wine, quite a step up from reviewing which I have been doing for a few years. I have no idea which wines will be there or which I'll be asked to judge - I am so excited and feel quite humbled - thank you People's Choice Wine Awards.

So tomorrow we are off to Manchester for a few days, now Hubby has retired we have time to enjoy the trip rather than rush there and back. Of course I will be blogging about our time away but that's the future, this post is looking back over the wine's I have enjoyed in September.

The first bottle opened at home in September was aptly named 'Congratulations' as it was for my birthday. This bottle of Portuguese sparkling wine is from Adega do Cantor, Cliff Richard's vineyard which we visited whilst on holiday - a superb place with great wines.

Birthday bubbles 
There were plenty of fine bubbles bouncing around its golden colour. I prefer fizz with a biscuity taste - this was perfect, lots of toastiness without being overly dry. A great sparkling wine made in the traditional method, perfect for my celebration.

I do a little wine making myself using a very old paperback book that belonged to my Grandad. The book is in danger of falling apart but I love it and use it for all my wine recipes. My Grandad used to make wine out of anything grown in his allotment, nothing technical, in fact the instructions and ingredients are quite simple based mainly on just fruit/vegetables and sugar, not all wines have yeast added and I don't add any chemicals. It may take longer for the wine to clear and I'm not sure it would win any major awards but I enjoy making it and have received a few compliments from friends who have tried my vintages - Chateau Hearnden Elderflower 2014 is very popular.

Tea wine having its final racking - very technical !
Our bottles of wine come from various places; vineyards we have visited home and abroad, wine events, independent wine shops, nationwide wine shops, supermarkets, online suppliers and wines I am asked to review. We now have a Lidl store within walking distance and have been very impressed with their range of wine. Richard Bampfield is their independent lead wine taster and writes the tasting notes for their Wine Tour range. We enjoyed his wine walk at Love Wine Festival in Guildford.

By pure chance we visited the local store on our way home in the car, I'm so glad we did as they had many wines on discount at just £3.99. We purchased Hungarian sparkling wine, Spanish Priorat, French Picpoul, Austrian St Laurant and a Spanish Tempranillo. From our collection we have opened, and enjoyed the Hungarian sparkling and the Priorat.

Our Lidl collection

Vinya Carles Priorat -Spain 

Crimson in colour with scarlet highlights this red wine was full of dark fruits on the nose with slight oak notes; I was reminded of wooden wine crates filled with sawdust. Plenty of fruit in flavour with a hint of chocolate, some acidity on the finish with the oak providing some tannins. A very enjoyable red which would certainly suit a lamb or beef dinner.

Hungarian Tokaji - sparkling wine

This is a sweet sparkling wine that would be perfect with spicy Asian food, nicely chilled on a hot summer day or as the base for a summer cocktail. Medium sized bubbles danced in its golden colour leading to a peachy nose. The peachiness carried through in its flavour accompanied with other white summer fruits. It's always good to try new wines especially varieties of bubbles.

Priorat and Tokaji from Lidl 
Just out of interest last week the members of Cuveé Reserve wine forum saved their empties - it's easy to say 'oh we've had xxx bottles this week' but is that a true reflection or a bit of a guess? Hubby and I saved our empties and thought we'd had a fairly quiet drinking week - we had five empties which does not sound too many but is still over twice the recommended amount, especially if you add the beer and gin and tonics we may have also had.

Our week's collection 
I'm not sure about all these guidelines and I'm not sure we'll change as the wine we have we really enjoy, but it was very interesting to collect the empties. Our drinking is quite steady too, as in we don't abstain then have a large quantity other days, that said we don't drink everyday either. I have no idea which is best but I do believe deep down we all know how we feel after whatever we've had to drink and honesty to ourselves is the best policy!

Cuveé Reserve has a nominated wine each month for us all to taste and review. One of our members chooses a wine that is available from one of the main supermarkets and is under £10. This month our wine was Montagne St Emilion from Asda which was on offer at the start of September but then slipped up to a little over the £10. I do enjoy French reds, mainly Southern France and as yet have not found a Bordeaux that I really like. My Hubby is the same, we open each Bordeaux with anticipation only to find something missing. Unfortunately the same happened with this tasting, I didn't find any depth of fruit, only a little spice and Hubby, who enjoys oaked wine, did not find any oak or vanilla. oh well we'll keep looking. 

Moving slightly away from wine I'm a huge fan of chocolate beer and on our recent trip to France I discovered Barista Chocolate Quad by Kasteel - delicious but be warned it is 11%. So rich, so deep, great chocolate flavour, plenty of coffee too: I really enjoyed this beer, especially as I was watching Osprey's rugby on tv - it's a great life!

Chocolate Quad
Every Thursday on Twitter is #ukwinehour with Sorcha Holloway - an opportunity to chat real time with fellow enthusiasts, wine producers and suppliers. Next Thursday, 4th October, I have been asked to be one of the reviewers.

It will be Marco Ventrella who will be tweeting and answering questions about KWV Wines who are celebrating their 100th Anniversary. Last year at Love Wine Birmingham we purchased a lovely bottle of their Cape Tawny dessert wine, I remember being quite taken with all their range at the time, I do hope they will be at this year's Love Wine Festival.

KWV wine from Love Wine in Birmingham
It was quite a surprised when three KWV bottles were delivered for UK Wine Hour tasting, I was only expecting one. Petit Verdot is a little known french grape that I really like but as far as I know I have not tried one from South Africa, likewise with the Blanc de Blancs. Gin has always been a spirit on our drinking list, in recent years there have been many many more gins appearing with new flavours too. We both enjoy a gin and tonic especially in our Gin glasses. Thank you Sorcha for this great oppportunity, I'm looking forward to joining everyone on Twitter on Thursday.

KWV tasting bottles 
Gin glasses ready 
So that was my September with it's holiday sun, home wine making fun and wine discoveries. I have a feeling October will be just as exciting with the People's Wine Awards and UK Wine Hour both in the first four days and our river cruise not long after .... it will be a blog post fest!

Monday, 24 September 2018

Charlecote Park

Last week Hubby and I decided to visit another National Trust property, Charlecote Park is the nearest to us and surprisingly somewhere we have not visited before. In the district of Stratford-upon-Avon it lies on the said river next to the village of Hampton Lucy. As well as a 16th century country house Charlecote has 185 acres of parkland with deer freely roaming over land owned by Lucy family since the 1200s.

It was such an interesting house which had a wonderful feeling of peace and comfort. My photos don't really do it justice, it really was a beautiful place.

Beautiful gateway with Tudor towers
What a stunning house 

This porch at the main entrance was built for Queen Elizabth I's visit 
Clock tower
The stain glass panel windows show the development
of the family coat of arms.
I loved this table - such skill to create this stunning design
It was perfectly symmetrical 
Dinner is served - such grandeur
Not everyone's favourite piece and it was quite large
but I was very taken with the carvings depicting
many farming scenes
I have always wanted to play the harp,
this was a beautiful instrument quite unique
with two sets of pedals 
There are volunteer guides in every room in the house, all with snippets of information. The one I loved the most on this visit was in the bedchamber where the bed was so big there was a double step stool for climbing up. The top step of the stool was liftable to reveal a chamber pot. The saying 'put your foot in it' could have originated from someone forgetting to put the lid down and stepping into something most unpleasant ! 

As well as the house we explored the kitchen, scullery, stable block and grounds. All these rooms gave a insight into life days gone by,  especially the kitchen where dressed in period costumes ladies were baking herb cakes from an old recipe. 

Good to see they had their priorities right
Butter pats 
I'm so glad washing is not like this anymore 
Such well laid gardens - very striking
It must have been very bumpy and cold too in the wind 
Even more exposed in this carriage
Charlecote Park was a real surprise and I'm sure we'll visit again if only to take a picnic in it's beautiful parkland with deer running by. William Shakespeare was caught poaching deer, not quite the image we have of the famous playwright

Will caught poaching 
The River Avon and Charlecote Park 

Sunday, 16 September 2018

Portuguese food and wine

Our recent holiday in Portugal was to the Algarve, a rare family holiday with our son and daughter, our first visit to Portugal which was superb in every way. There are a few photos of our villa on my other blog Aimetu's Stitching. We discovered beautiful beaches, rocky cliffs, villages, castles and of course wine and food.

Vinho Verde is a Portuguese white wine most people know as 'green wine' from its literal translation but it actually means young wine as it is only fermented for 3-6 months. Although most Vinho Verde's have a slight green hue which could represent its name it is actually the AOC for that region of Portugal. In the north west of Portugal wine has been produced here for over 2000 years and is Portugal's biggest wine producing region. 

We tried a few Vinho Verde wines whilst on holiday; at our villa, in the local bar and with dinner in Albufeira. There is a lovely crispness to this wine as well as an underlying fizz. Originally this hint of bubbles was due to the fermentation still happening in the bottle and did leave sediment. Over time the wine has become more filtered and now the 'fizz' is added by slight carbonation.  

Round of drinks in our local bar - this was my favourite Vinho Verde 
A very popular brand  - great with our BBQ
Casal Garcia
Having recently visited the Champagne region I was very keen to try Portuguese Sparkling Wine. There was quite a range in the supermarket and in all honesty we chose this one hoping it would not be too dry as our daughter prefers sweeter wine ... it was perfect, not too dry, not too sweet. Made from Bical, Cercial, Arinto and Maria Gomes grape varieties, all new to me, from the Bairrada region, this was very much enjoyed one sunny afternoon on our terrace midst the palms.

Portuguese traditional sparkling wine
Our village, Guia, is known for it's Piri Piri chicken and one restaurant in particular was very popular. It was the first to bring this spicy dish to the village in 1964. A very lively restaurant with fast service. We ordered one whole chicken Piri Piri style and one plain; it sounds a lot for four but Poruguese chickens are much smaller than here in the UK. Accompanied by Sangres beer for the chaps and Vinho Verde for the girls it was a very tasty meal; it's always good to try the locals' favourite.
Famous for bringing Piri Piri chicken to Guia
For our final night in the Algarve we dined at a traditional Portuguese restaurant. From the outside it looked like a plain building but inside was like being welcomed into a family home .... and there was so much food.
Colourful Portuguese restaurant
It was a buffet style starter, of which you could visit twice. So much choice from hot soup, seafood, mini pastries, variety of salads, deep fried vegetables, breads, meats .... such amazing food. 

Buffet selection
All so delicious
For mains I chose octopus, not something I often eat but it was perfectly cooked, delicious; it's so nice to try traditionally cooked food. Our daughter had sea bream; Hubby and our son had venison in red wine with chestnuts. All our mains were large portions and having over indulged on the amazing starters I couldn't manage all my octopus, shame I didn't know the word for 'doggy bag'!

Octopus main
The wine list was very extensive, so much choice, all Portuguese wine which made me realise we have very little choice in our purchases here. I'll certainly be looking into wines from Portugal as every bottle we tried over our week away was superb. I chose a white from Dáo for our fish (the chaps had beer), purely from knowing the region name - both our daughter and I enjoyed it and it matched my octopus really well.

Another lovely Portuguese white wine
The atmosphere, setting, food and hospitality at A Casa Do Avo was wonderful, I wish we had discovered this restaurant earlier as I would have liked to have tried a few other dishes. Complimentary port at the end of our meal made the whole experience a great last night of our Portuguese holiday.
The perfect end to our delicious meal 
A Casa do Avo
During our week a highlight for me was a visit with Hubby to Adega do Cantor which means Wine Cellar of the Singer .... the singer being a favourite of mine, Cliff Richard. I couldn't believe it when I discovered his vineyard was in walking distance of our villa, all be it a fairly long walk along country lanes along side the vines.
Adega do Cantor 
Cliff often visits the vineyard, his land being one third of the wine estate but unfortunately we missed him by a day. However I'm so glad we didn't miss the tour and tasting. Walking up the driveway lined with palm trees gave the impression of something special and maybe something different. The difference was apparent as soon as we started walking amongst the vines; some were brown and still in grape, others were green leaves and had been picked.  Another difference was the height of the vines, grown higher to help when it comes to harvest time, hand picking can be backbreaking work so higher vines are a real bonus.
Vines of many colours 
Succulent red grapes 
As I mentioned this estate is in thirds, three different locations, although close by, giving the opportunity to get the best growing conditions for the seven varieties of grape grown. Sitting under a very large sail canopy Anna gave us a very comprehensive talk about how Cliff started growing grapes, how the company progressed and where it is today .... up for sale for 6.5 million euro!

A tour of the wine making area followed, all outdoor under an extensive wooden roof. Although there was a variety of equipment the actual wine making set up was quite simple, a large press was used to produce the white grape juice and also the rose grape juice. These were then fermented in closed vats. However the red grapes were first put through a sorting machine to remove stalks and pips and although pressed they were fermented with the skins in open topped vats. Whilst fermenting the red grapes were mechanically stirred daily to prevent all the skins rising to the top and forming a crust, the open top vats allowed the carbon dioxide produced from this style of fermentation to escape. Quite a technical process, whilst we were visiting they were emptying the equipment - what a difference between the grapes going in and the waste coming out - this is spread over the vineyards to put the nutrients back into the ground - such a great idea.

Outdoor production
Vat tops ready for the next fermenting
What a lovely place to make wine 
The multi-tasking, hardworking press
Freshly picked
Reduced to this - ready to go back on the vineyard
The final part of any wine tour is of course a tasting, this was no exception and was without doubt the something special hinted at by the palm lined entrance. Held in a cave filled with barrels of maturing wine Anna guided us through four wines starting with Vina Nova Rosé ( Aragonês, Syrah). The other wines we tried were;

Vina Nova Blanco (Viognier, Verdelho,Arinto, Antáo Vaz)
Odna Nova Viognier
Vina Nova (Syrah, Aragonés, Alicante Bouschet)

My favourite was Odna Nova Viognier; a favourite grape of mine this had more depth than I have tasted before due to it being matured with oak shavings in the barrel, such a different taste to an oaked wine. All the wines were so clean and full of flavour, they are available from Well's Wines in the UK and if they have any stock left (they are no longer purchasing any) you may find some in Waitrose.

The four wines we tried 
Maturing barrels
Vida Nova signed tiles 
Every year Adega do Cantor produce a 3Q sparkling wine, the name representing the three estates. Last year's sparkling a white wine but this year a rosé and with only eight bottles left we quickly bought one to try back at our villa. It was perfect enjoyed poolside as an aperitif before our final BBQ, fully of bubbles and summer fruits but without being overly sweet.

3Q rosé
It was such a lovely afternoon in the gorgeous Portuguese sun amongst the vines enjoying great wine. My only disappointment, due to flying home and not in our car, was being unable to bring home a bottle of Cliff Richard's sparkling wine made in the traditional method and aptly named Congratulations.

Imagine my absolute delight to find it in the Duty Free, of course a bottle flew home with us and has subsequently been thoroughly enjoyed at home on my birthday- perfect, just perfect!

Cliff Richard's Congratulations