Saturday, 28 November 2015

Majestic wine course

Our local Majestic store is not really local being 20 miles away, however we hop on the train fairly often and enjoy a browse along the vast array of inviting bottles. Last Sunday we enjoyed another visit, this time with a group of friends, taking the opportunity to add in lunch too.

Our party of eight included two ladies in wheelchairs and although I was anxious in planning/making the train journey Cross Country trains were very helpful. I popped into the station a few days before to buy our tickets as we had various combinations; Railcard holders, Concessions with the wheelchairs, peak or off -peak - all to be considered.
Image result for cross country trains

Tickets purchased I was advised to contact their Travel Assistance team, where a very helpful chap took all our details including asking if we needed help with getting in and out of a taxis, had luggage or needed help getting to and from each station - he emailed me confirmation details within minutes of my call. Their customer service continued to impress as ramps were ready at each station, on and off, and so our journey to Leicester had begun.

The Parcelyard is a great pub located right next to Leicester Station - almost a secret as it's frontage looks nothing like a pub. Once the sorting office and parcel yard for British Rail it it now serves Steamin' Billy Real Ales as well as a selection of guest beers. They also serve good wine and great cocktails.
Image result for steamin billy

Their Sunday lunch menu at £10 for 2 courses or £12 for 3 had quite a choice. Our choices included garlic mushrooms, chicken pate for starters; roast beef or roast pork Sunday dinners; sticky toffee pudding, vanilla cheesecake, peach melba sundae for dessert. Great food all round.

And so to our main purpose - our wine course at Majestic. Just a short stroll from the pub we arrived to find tables laid with 6 wines poured ready, however before beginning on the first white we all enjoyed a glass of Italian Prosecco.

Prosecco Romeo & Juliet
 A lively bottle of bubbles poured with a fine light mousse settling into an off-dry applely easy drinking wine. Prosecco Romeo & Juliet was a perfect way to start our course, a great idea for pre-dinner drinks.

Our course began with three white wines - very different in the glass ranging from very pale to golden yellow. We had no idea of the wine varieties as all the bottles were hidden away.

I'm a big fan of sauvignon blan, especially from the Loire Valley, more especially Sancerre, but to my amazement I did not get the first wine at all - finding it having a pear drop taste. Others noted green apples and crispness and I wondered if I had a different wine as it was a Tourraine Sauvignon. Maybe my taste bud were still holding the sticky toffee pudding from lunch.

Our three whites 
Two wines to compare next, first a lovely chardonnay from France - Macon-Lugny. Full of apples with a hint of citrusy lemon this chardonnay would be perfect with cheese or a creamy chicken dinner.

Our second was also a chardonnay but this time from Chile, Luis Felipe Edwards Gran Reserva Chardonnay. This is one of my favourite chardonnays with it's added creaminess from being aged in oak for 3 months. It's full of peaches and apricots with a smooth finish.

Next was a real treat - another glass of bubbles - this time champagne and my Hubby knew instantly it was Heidsieck Monopole Gold Top 2009.

Hubby's favourite
We enjoyed a glass of Gold Top on our 25th Wedding Anniversary on our Seine River Cruise and although we both enjoy Nicolas Feuillatte this is a beautiful champagne full of elegant bubbles, biscuity flavour and a subtle dryness giving a soft full finish. Everyone enjoyed this champagne and is perfect for special occassions without being over priced.

Celebrating with Heidsieck Monopole
Moving on to our three reds, quite different in colour ranging from light with scarlet hues to very deep red with crimson highlights. The first was from Chile, Errazuriz Estate Series Pinot Noir. It was full of strawberries and cherries with a hint of smokiness from it's aging. I think for me I would prefer this with food, it would be perfect with the Sunday dinner we had at the Parcelyard.

A french red for our second tasting, a lovely bordeaux from Medoc. Cabernet sauvignon and merlot grapes filled this bottle giving great depth of fruit and long finish. and our third red was a new concept to me, an Australian Malbec. I've enjoyed many malbecs from Argentina my favourite being Trivento Golden Reserve. This was full of cherries and dark fruit with that characteristic hint of spice on the finish - a little pricy but Smooth Operator Malbec Two Hands is a lovely wine.

Majestic Wine Courses always involve a bit of food pairing - and not always to show the good matches. We had great fun tasting tomatoes, smoked salmon, spicy crisps, goats cheese and pate with the various wines, some were amazing others were absolute disasters resulting in some very funny face pulling !

I love baking and often bake Nigella's Chocolate Guinness Cake which is a hit with everyone. I made two to take to Majestic (without the topping), one for our our tasting and the other for the staff to share over the week - I wonder how long it lasted. it's a very rich cake which you could pair with a heavy red but was especially good with our final wine ...... The Noble Wrinkled Riesling,

Amazing dessert wine
This dessert wine is so smooth, full of peaches, candied peel, honey, everything puddingy ! it was a real melting moment to sit and enjoy it's syrupy smoothness with a super finish of barley sugar. I'm very happy to now have one residing at Maison Hearnden ready for the upcoming festivites (if it lasts that long).

After browsing Majestic's vast array of bottles and making our purchases we happily wandered back to the station, caught our train with precise assistance from both station guards and made our way home feeling very satisfied from a day of great company, good food and amazing wine.

Thank you Cross Country, The Parcelyard and huge thanks to Majestic Leicester !

A fantastic range for our wine course at Majestic 

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Tesco Wine Fair 2015

This was our 7th or maybe 8th year of attending the Tesco Wine Fair. It is always a great event and where over the years Hubby and I have learnt so much more about wine. It is probably the catalyst of our very enjoyable hobby; a hobby that is full of discovery, enjoyment, new friends and a glass or two along the way.

This year we chose the London fair, we have previously been to Bristol, Manchester and Birmingham but have always enjoyed the London one the most. A new venue this time, Olympia, but still an easy journey thanks to Virgin Trains and London Underground

Olympia was a lovely venue, a little tricky to find the right hall as there were other shows on too, but once inside everything was on one level with plenty of room between the stands. The cloakroom is a real necessity as it is impossible to balance coats, wine glass, show guide and pen, so after depositing our outdoor attire we began our wine journey 2015. 

Usually we begin our fair with a glass of Nicolas Feuillatte champagne but unfortunately they did not attend this year. Instead we headed for our other French favourite - Les Dauphins. Hubby and I have been buying this wine in France for many many years and a few bottles can always be found in our cellar. It was a real delight for us to find Les Dauphins now available in the UK both red and white. 

Having chatted with Jo online it was great to meet her in person, such a lovely lady. As well as Jo we also met up with two of our online wine friends; Dave & Agnes, who we see quite often, and Keith & Di, our first actual meeting. Dave and Keith are members of my wine forum Cuvée Reserve - a great place for sharing our wine finds. It's always good to meet with wine friends and share our discoveries.
Di, Keith, Nick (Hubby), Me, Agnes & Dave  at Les Dauphns
And so to the wine - 49 stands each with 5/6 wines. We have in the past used various systems; whites then reds, numerical stand order, up and down the rows; but any such plan soon dissolves as the tasting progresses.

This year we did 'just roaming' and wandered around trying whatever caught our eye, some old favourites and some new names. There are far too many wines to mention them all but these were our highlights of 2015, only a few notes as writing is not easy when wine tasting standing up !

Les Dauphins

Simply Cotes du Rhone Villages 2014, a lovely red that reminded me of our holidays.

Tesco finest Cotes du Rhone Villages Plan de Dieu 2014, a nice hint of spice.

Mud House 

The Woolshed Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc 2014, perfect light sauvignon nose with a burst of flavour.

Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2014, one of my favourites at home, I tried the 2015 too and am eagerly awaiting its shelf arrival, a lovely sauvignon blanc.

Jacob's Creek 

Jacob's Creek Sparkling Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV, a lovely glass of bubbles that is produced in the vat rather than the bottle, great value bubbly.

Jacob's Creek Reserve Shiraz 2013, nice and rich with that must have touch of spice.

Jacktone Ranch

Jacktone Ranch Pinot Noir 2014, Hubby preferred this pinot noir after trying a few others at the show.

Jacktone Ranch Viognier 2013, very smooth, peachy notes, a lovely wine.

Borgo Molino Motivo Prosecco NV, so many small light bubbles, a real foamer. 

Trivento, Cono Sur & Concho y Toro

Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2012, an absolute favourite of mine, so rich, full of fruit and a long warming finish.

Marques de Casa Concha Syrah 2012, unexpectedly smooth and almost creamy red, again full of fruit.

Cono Sur Bicicleta Viognier 2015, another that is always in our cellar, crisp and clean, perfect well chilled.

Tesco finest 

Vina del Cura Rioha Reserva 2010, Hubby's favourite in his rioja hunt.

Vina del Cura Rioja Gran Reserva 2008/9,  a little longer in the barrel, more vanilla.

Alsace Gewurztraminer 2013, turkish delight heaven, lovely wine.

Blanquette de Limoux 2012/2013, great bubbles from the South of France.  

North Row Vineyard Sauvignon 2014, full nose,                                                                                       crisp palate, a very good wine.

I did tend to try more reds this show although whites are my favourites. I know much more about white wine and so decided to try a few more reds. Tesco had a great 'What's Your Flavour' stand with 6 whites and 6 reds to try but without seeing the labels. It wasn't a blind tasting (we missed that bit of the show) as each wine had it's grape description. 

A great idea to learn more about the different grape flavours from Crisp and Fresh whites through to Full Bodied and Spicy reds. My favourite was the Tesco finest Cotes de Cascogne 2014, a rich and fresh white full of citrus and green apples. 

And so to my show favourites:

 - my favourite white 

Jackson Estate Stich Sauvignon Blanc 2013, inviting nose full of citrus and gooseberries, intense flavour with a lovely long finish. 

 my favourite red -

Yalumba Y Series Shiraz Viognier 2013, a great blend of red shiraz and 
white viognier with a palate full of blackberries, 
rich finish that lasts and lasts. 

- my favourite bubbles

Heidsieck Monopole Blue Top Champagne Brut NV - a lovely array of crisp bubbles with a biscuity flavour. 

This is our second favourite champagne (our favourite not being at the show), we've enjoyed many glasses but our most memorable was in 2014 on a river cruise of La Seine in Paris on our 25th       Wedding Anniversary. 

It was another great show, thank you Tesco Wines.

We enjoyed some great wines, chatted with very knowledgeable staff - 

lovely lady from Blanquette de Limoux
great chap from Bottle Green
generous lady from Mud House
enthusiastic Hector from Pernod Ricard 
and the 
lovely, lovely Jo from Les Dauphins

and met fellow wine appreciators, including our lovely friends. 

See you all next year and remember ....