Monday, 24 July 2017

New bubbly, new beer and new wine

Over the last few weeks we've had a few new tastings - all very successful and now on our 'to but again' list. 

The first was something I have been very keen to try, Hubby and I are huge fans of Cellier des Dauphins. Last year, whilst on holiday in France, we were delighted to meet Steffen and Philibert - I have a dedicated page at the top of my blog about our private tasting. 

Les Dauphins (the UK brand) have recently launched a bottle of bubbly - Les Dauphins Blanc de Blanc  available from Waitrose. We don't have a store nearby by passed one a few weeks ago so popped in to buy this new release. 

We enjoyed our bottle whilst sitting on our deck in the summer sun, keeping it cool in our ice bucket after it had been chilled for about an hour.

It had an expected light colour, pale gold with a hint of glisten and plenty of bubbles dancing in the glass. 

It's nose was light fruit, white peaches in a soft subtle way accompanied by a light floral high note. 

Although a dry bubbly it was very smooth, easy drinking and quite refreshing in the heat. I did miss the biscuity tone of champagne but as a sparkling wine it was lovely. 

It did seem a little pricey at £12.99 but I noticed it's now on offer at £9.74 which makes it a very good bottle of bubbles for under £10. 

We're off to France again soon, staying again at Visan which is close to Cellier des Dauphins - we'll be calling in at Cave de Prieure their local cave, I have already seen some lovely glasses and an apron, never mind what wines we'll find there. 


New beer - very new beer to me as it was from Ikea - yes really. I always look round their food shop when we visit, this time I also discovered Licorice Chocolate - yummy - but definietly and aquired taste. 

Looking round we noticed two new beers, a lager beer and a dark lager

At £1.75 they are slightly more than other beers but worth trying. The lager beer was a golden lager, good flavour nicely balanced and very refreshing. The dark lager was my favourite (no surprise there) with it's richness and hint of chocolate/coffee. 

I would buy these again if I was in store, especially the dark one - very enjoyable whilst watching the British  F1 from Silverstone. 


And finally new wine - both from Laithwaites in a mixed case we bought via their Sunday Times Wine Club. 

Vina Tarapaca Sauvignon Blanc 2016  - Chile - £8.99

 I quite like the Chilean SB wine that is becoming more available lately, although it quite tropical for a SB. 

Beautiful pale colour with hints of green, it's nose is light gooseberry (in fact there's a slight similarity to Sancerre on the nose) 

Surprisingly it has a little bit of fizz under all the citrus and green flavour - a really nice wine that's not quite what you'd expect from a Sauvignon Blanc. 

Campanula Pinot Grigio 2016 - Hungary - £8.49

It was a very clean wine, in colour, nose and taste, very clear in the glass with a golden hue. 

Its nose for me was not much more other than a clean crispness.Ta ste wise it's full of lemony zest but not acidic and a very clean crisp finish. 

Although very light and clean with nothing dominating I really enjoyed this wine, well chilled on its own - very satisfying. 

I noticed Campanula also do a sparkling Pinot Grigio - one to try next maybe.

It is always good to discover and try new things - that's one thing I like about wine tasting events, vineyard, brewery and distillery tours, and sharing findings with friends. That's the great thing about my wine forum Cuvée Reserve, we all share our latest discoveries and enjoyed wines. 

This coming weekend we've been invited to friends for a red wine evening - I wonder what we will discover this time, I'll let you know. 

Monday, 10 July 2017

Another successful wine tasting

It is nice to start to do normal thing again as my legs mend and I've really enjoyed doing this 'normal' thing - wine tasting ! Well wine tasting hosting actually, Hubby and I arranged another fun evening for the leaders of our Scout Group.

We've been running these events for over 3 years now, always a good evening with good wine, although tastes have changed over time and we're certainly moving up the appreciation scale - definitely at this tasting as each spittoon was empty at the end of the night - a first !

Usually Hubby and I find source wine at good prices from various outlets - these wine tasting evenings are fun events, not intended to raise funds but a chance to get together socially after all the work we do with the youngsters.

The ticket price covers the wine and food pairing and is always below £8 per person. Occasionally (as with this tasting) we manage to find a superb offer - instead of buying individual wines we bought a mixed case from Laithwaites. The offer we had made a cost of £6 each which when you see the wines we tasted is an amazing price.

Unfortunately due to my current immobility (but improving) I didn't get chance to take photos of the wine as we enjoyed each tasting so my images for this blog are labels taken from Laithwaites web pages. I did however take a photo of all the wines as I was writing up the tasting notes.

Laithwaites Classic Dozen Gift 
This was a great mixed case in being twelve different wines, it's hard to use a mixed case if the wines come as pairs. I was also impressed with the selection of countries and producers, a great variety which was interesting when thinking about the tasting order.

I decided to go with the two Sauvignon Blancs first, one from Chile and the other from New Zealand. We tasted the wines one at a time as opposed to in pairs as we have previously, there were no real comparisons in this mixed case so it seemed appropriate to enjoy each wine on its own.

Don Cayetano Sauvignon Blanc - Chile - 2015 - 12.5%

A light nose with citrus and melon aroma and a hint of summer garden borders.

It had a light sauvignon flavour of kiwi and pear, soft in an Old World way but with good acidity, my favourite of the two Sauvignon Blancs.

As this wine suggested a pairing of seafood we tried it with prawn cocktail snacks - a pairing liked by all.

Duck 'n' Pheasant Sauvignon Blanc - New Zealand - 2016 - 12.5%

A much more powerful nose in this New World wine, lots of ripe citrus aromas, very fragrant.

It had plenty of passion fruit in the taste as well as melon and kiwi, a good crisp finish made this the favourite for the chaps, maybe preferred because it was heavier in taste than the first soft  Savignon Blanc.

We had fresh prawns to accompany this wine - they were lost a little due to the more intense wine.

Our next wine was from Three Rivers Chenin Blanc from South Africa. A 2015 vintage of 12.5%.

The light green lime hue in the colour of this wine was very noticeable signalling to it's green apple nose and herby highlights.

It's flavour had a lovely citrus tangy, right on the finish. According to the labeling it is the best vintage in over a century and was certainly a great example of a good South African Chenin Blanc.

A trip to Spain next with Baron de Barbon Rioja Blanco, a 2015 bottle of 13%

A nose full of grapefruit which was quite inviting in a clean crisp way, especially with a touch of lemon and a hint of spice.

It was a creamy wine compared to our previous three but not cloying and well balanced. I found this a very easy drinker which would accompany most light fish or chicken meals.

Angove Bin Ref 256 Chardonnay - Australia - 2015 - 13.5% our strongest white in the selection.

The nose of this chardonnay had a distinctive minerality, bringing to mind hot stones. This was accompanied by aromas of lemon, peaches and tropical fruits.

A lovely smooth flavour with a hint of its oak, a light creaminess with a zingy edge which paired perfectly with Emmental cheese - a very good chardonnay, one of the night's favourites with both the ladies and the chaps.

Our final white was Alessandro Gallici Pinot Grigio from Italy, 2015 vintage with a strength of 12%

Lovely light pear and citrus on the nose, with orchard fruits in the taste. There was a lovely fresh lemony zing to this wine and we all agreed it would be well suited in the garden on a hot summer day.

I paired this with vegetable crisps as it was recommended with roasted Mediterranean roasted vegetables - again perfect in the sun.


So after enjoying our first six wines - and the spittoon being still empty - it was time for our buffet. We now all bring a small selection of food to make a sharing table - leaving myself and Hubby to focus of the wine. 

We had a great selection of cheeses, pork pie, bread, biscuits, crisps, salami and home grown salads - whilst enjoying the buffet everyone also enjoys a top up of their favourite wine from the ones already tasted. On the tasting notes there is space to rate each wine out of 20, this helps when decided a favourite to have with the food. 

The most popular 'top up' was the Angove Chardonnay followed by the Duck 'n' Pheasant Sauvignon Blanc, although the Don Cayetano Sauvignon Blanc was a close third. 

It is always to get a balance when hosting these events as the ladies like the whites and the chaps like the reds. As I try to present these wines in order of palate progression the reds tend to be last, leaving the men waiting but the ladies having finished their preferred wine. Previously we have tasted in pairs, having wine from the same producers and tasting a white and a red at the same time - you can read about it here 'Wine tasting - pairing it up' 

Our first red was a French Cotes du Rhone, La Poulardiere, 2014, 13%.

One of my favouite wine regions I was looking forward to this, however I think the blue cheese and pork pie had slightly tainted by taste buds as my initial tasting surprisingly left my mouth full of tannins. A second glass later in the evening was certainly smoother.

A traditional blend of Grenache, Syrah this red was full of redcurrants, plums and black pepper both on
the nose and in the mouth.

Moving onto Italy with Collezione di Paolo Chianti - 2015 - 13%

We have tasted Sangiovese grape before but not as a Chianti, everyone loved this red with its blackberries, cherries and hint of floral violets.

The fruit in this wine was very elegant, medium bodied giving a comforting enjoyable finish, a classy bottle of Italian red.

Baron de Bardon Rioja - Spain - 2014 - 13.5% our second wine from this Spanish producer.

The nose of this rioja had the traditional blackberries, strawberries and hint of vanilla,

It's flavour was full of the said fruits with a hint of mocha and more sweet vanilla. An oaky brought out the rioja characteristics in this red.

This was paired with a chorizo Hubby and I bought back from a recent trip to France, although good the 'fort' strength was a little hot.

Acaballo Shiraz Carmenere - Chile - 2015 - 13.5% 

I was very pleased to discover Luis Felipe Edwards produce this wine, I'm a huge fan of their Chilean wine especially their Carmenere.

The bramble aroma was super, not just the fruit but the actual leaves and brambles, a real sense of hedgerow.

The wine was full of blackberries, pepper, a hint of spice and leather but with a smooth richness. It did pair well with the 'fort' chorizo which enhanced its spiciness - a lovely wine.

The Waxed Bat is one of my favourite reds from Laithwaites. A Shiraz, Cabenet Sauvignon, Malbec blend from Argentina - 2016 - 14%

The aroma of dark black fruits, licorice and hint of spice draws you into this wine, it's one of those wines that makes you happy to just sit and sniff and savour.

It is full of rich dark fruit in the mouth, with the kick of sweet licorice enhanced with the juxta kick of spice.

With a bold palate that matches it bold nose it is no wonder it is one of their best sellers. Everyone enjoyed this red, especially paired with mature cheddar cheese.

Our final red was the outstanding wine of the evening The Black Stump, Durif Shiraz - Australia - 2016 - 14%

This is my favourite wine, I love the dark fruit aromas with blackberry dominance, very simillar to the Waxed bat but a smoother nose without spice.

It has such a velvety taste, full of fruit and licorice with dark chocolate adding to it velvety smoothness. A lovely full bodied red with a long finish to enjoy - no wonder at all that it was the one most chaps requested as their top up as the evening drew to a close.


To end our evening we served chilled Pineau de Charentes, a blend of wine and cognac from France. Hubby and I brought it back fro our recent trip. It was the perfect end to a great tasting - served with homemade vanilla cake and fresh strawberries.

A great evening and I will certainly be looking at purchasing a mixed case from Laithwaites and other wine suppliers.

It made an interesting evening for Hubby and I as the wines were in majority new to us too - all in all a very successful evening enjoyed by all. 

Monday, 3 July 2017

Chatham and Calais

We had booked to fly to Spain to spend a few days with ours friends at their Spanish home but due to my fall our plans had to be changed so we decided to visit Kent and France.

We've been to Chatham before, taking the children to the Historic Dockyard many years ago but looking at accessible hotel rooms and accessible bars and restaurants we decided it looked suitable for a short stay.

Chatham Maritime Travelodge was perfect, great location, very friendly helpful staff, easy access for my wheelchair all around the hotel and in our room. It was just a short 'push' to Dockside, an outlet centre with shops and bars - diner our first night was at Nandos where again everyone was so helpful.

Before diner we visited Ship and Trades pub for a pre-diner drink, a beautiful location on the old dock which is now a marina. Nick had a pint of  Shepherd Neame ale and I a glass of sauvignon blanc, it was so lovely to sit outside enjoying the view - a big change from being at home the last 11 weeks.
Our pre-diner drinks 

Old boats in the marina
Yachts in the marina 
Sunday we travelled under the Medway river to Upnor to visit the castle. It's a very old village on the river side, the castle dates back to the 16th Century and was a fort to protect the boats in the dockyards. It's had a very varied history and is now owned by English Heritage.

It's been a blessing to now have a Blue Badge for parking and having found the village car park we parked up in the disabled place making it easier to get the wheelchair out. The path to the main road was not so easy, definitely an old place and finding High Street we realised I would not be visiting the castle. Nick however did whilst I stayed at the car studying the map for our route to the Isle of Grain which is where the Medway meets the Thames.

Upnor High Street going down to the castle
Upnor Castle from across the Medway 

Grain Church
Our location 
There are many historic buildings around the dock area giving a hint of their previous use. One such is Pump House No.5 which one housed a huge piece of engineering that could drain a dock in just 4 hours. The building is beautiful, the Victorians must have treasured the pump to build such a building to keep in in. Machinery long gone Pump House No. 5 now houses a different style of equipment - distilleries, three in fact.

Copper Rivet Distillery opened in October 2016 and distills gin, vodka and whisky. Their website shows the history of the building and how they distillery started. As well as having a small bar Copper Rivet also do tours, something Hubby and I really enjoy doing. So 2.30pm found us entering the historic building and gazing in appreciation of the stainless steel vats and copper stills - three stills side by side - a very impressive sight.

After the tour we enjoyed a lovely gin and tonic in the bar chatting some more about the stills. Their gin has just 9 ingredients and the gin still is a patent design as it forms two processes in one. Although they make whisky it is not yet available to by as it must, by law, be stored in wooden barrels for three years. Copper Rivet buy their barrels from Jim Bean (they use new barrels every time so have plenty to sell on) so the whisky will have not only the oak but a hint of bourbon too.

Pump House No 5 - Copper Rivet Distillery
Gin and Tonic at the bar 
Monday was our trip to the seaside - Herne Bay is not actually on the sea but the Thames Estuary. It was lovely to go along the sea front which had an impressive statue of Amy Johnson, have a few goes in the penny arcade and most importantly enjoy fish and chips out of the paper !!

At the end of the Pier
Statue of Amy Johnson
Fish and Chips on the sea front 
We went right to the end of the Pier, as it was out of season and not the weekend the businesses in the small huts were all closed but there was an interesting display of knitted dolls along the Pier railings.

Herne Bay Pier

Knitted railings 
Knitted peacock
After enjoying three lovely days in Kent, all successful in my wheelchair in and out of shops, bars and restaurants, we journeyed on to Folkestone to take Le Shuttle to France. It was the easiest choice as getting out the car on a ferry and up and down floors for just a short crossing seemed too much fuss.

My Blue Badge can be used abroad (maybe this will change after Brexit) which made it easier to park at Auchan. It was great wheeling myself along the isles buying my favourite french goodies: hand wash, olives, vanilla sugar, coffee .... and a few bottles of wine.

We always stay at Ibis Calais Tunnel Sous la Manche as it's a perfect location for Cite de Europe and it's bars and restaurants. As we'd booked an accessible room we were on the ground floor this time, lovely room with plenty of space.

After a long day travelling and shopping it was nice not to have to go far for dinner, there are so many restaurants but as I wanted mussels we went to The Black Bull Pub - very English in style which is not my usual choice of decor in France however their mussels in rocquefort sauce are amazing.

My favourite mussels
Kwak - great glass 
Wednesday was wine shopping day with a trip to Pidou, Calais Wine and Majestic Wine Calais. We have favourites we buy from each but had a extra bonus this trip as Hubby had won a case of Stormhoek 'The Fruit Bomb' Moscato from Calais Wine.

We bought some great wine home - I'll be blogging about them over the next few months as we open and enjoy our purchases. We've already enjoyed a bottle of Hubby's win, it was perfect sitting in the garden yesterday in the sun. A light glass of bubbly full of fruitiness, light in body but with a good depth of flavour, perfect summer fizz.

A selection of our purchases

Nick enjoying his summer fizz 
A huge thank you to my Hubby, without him this mini holiday would not have been possible. I'm so grateful for all the wheelchair lifting in and out the car, the wheelchair pushing, the bag carrying, the patience when I'm so slow on my crutches and all the care and understanding - Nick you are amazing x x