Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Quirky Bottles

It was Wine Tasting night last Saturday at our Scout Group - yes just for the adults. Regular visitors to my blog will know that these evenings started in 2014 as part of our 100th year celebrations but are so popular I now host about three or four a year.

There seems to be a trend appearing to have unusual wine labels instead of classic style labels - last year Majestic introduced a new range 'Majestic Loves' with great art work on the labels. Our friends came over to try a few last spring, you can read about our discoveries in my 'Duo of Quatre wines' post.

That said I decided to focus on unusual or quirky labels for this tasting and doing a little research discovered quite an extensive range at Aldi - Wonderful World of Wine. It was great fun choosing which wines to include, especially as some were new, either the grape or the country the wine was from.
Our first selection
Our second selection

Our two selections are separated by our buffet, a great chance to chat about the wines we tasted from the first section and enjoy a glass of our favourite. Everyone brings a plate or two of food which we put on a large table to make a sharing buffet, there's always cheese, bread, pork pie and other delicious nibbles.

To start our evening we had a little celebration. Hubby donated a bottle of Heidsieck Gold Top for us all to toast his retirement. It's a great bottle of bubbles, dry but not overly so with an abundance of small bubbles and a lovely biscuity flavour.

Our first wine was Pardon my French 'Gastonomy', a peachy tropical white wine made from Colombard grapes.

Everyone enjoyed this wine finding it very refreshing and evoking thoughts of warm summer days in the garden, although no-one wanted a garden of snails!

Our second was also Pardon my French - Ventoux a Grenache, Carignan, Syrah. Ventoux is the highest mountain in Provence and often part of the Tour de France cycle race hence the cyclist label.

This wine had plenty of dark red fruits with a hint of liquorice, although nice it could have had a little more depth.

Our third and fourth wines were new grapes for everyone to try. Isola Zibibbo from Italy was another 'summer garden' wine.

Lovely and light in colour, quite a floral nose and a mouth full of apricots with a subtle hint of mineral to give an edge to its finish.

Animus Douro was made from three grapes; Tinto Roriz, Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca. As with our first red it was full of dark red fruits but with cedar notes and soft tannins. This Portuguese wine was certainly one of the evenings's favourite wines.

Our final white before our buffet had everyone laughing ... not at the wine but at me. For some reason I thought the label was a frog (I have just finished reading Wind in the Willows) but realised it is a Great White Shark hence the name 'The Grape White'.

Unusually from South Africa this Pinot Grigio was full of peaches and nectarines. A smooth wine with citrus notes and a long finish, I found it very enjoyable and easy drinking.

This final red before our break was the only wine of the evening I had tasted before as a member of Aldi's 17th Tasting Panel. Estevez Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenére and Syrah is a deep red, full of fruit with peppery notes.

It has a hint of coffee and is slightly oaked, it was a great wine to go with the mixed meats on our buffet and was also good with the stronger cheeses.

The labels on our first six bottles were certainly unusual and the reverse labels had changed too. There was very little information about the actual flavours in the wine, more of a general note and information about the wine's origins. I find it very interesting to watch wine trends; grapes that come in and out of favour, label styles, providence information being important and tasting notes less so. I wonder where wine and labeling will go next?

France was our next country as we started our second section with The Forgotten One with a label featuring penguins!

This white Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc was as expected full of tropical fruits, grapefruit and citrus. It  was a great palate cleanser after all our nibbles, one I'll be buying again for sure.

Chile next for a bottle of Malbec which is often from neighbouring South American countries. Quite a bold font on this Quisco label with a spikey cactus, which mirrored it's bold fruit flavour and hit of dark chocolate.

Our penultimate white was from Romania, Noctilio a Transylvanian Chardonnay. Such and impressive red label, quite dazzling.

The wine itself was surprisingly smooth; lemon, apple, vanilla and oak combining together leaving a long finish in the mouth.

Down the Lane is a Shiraz Tempranillo from Australia although it's label is quite Spanish/Mexican looking. It has all the characteristics of a Spanish Tempranillo and although a little lighter it had a good spice to its finish.

Our final white was from Germany. In my late teens/early twenties German wine was the main wine available but I don't remember having a Pinot Blanc which was the grape in Lot 18 from Baden.

Quite a crisp wine with pears and nectarines being the dominant flavour this was a lovely wine. This white would be perfect for a roast chicken dinner.

Our final red was Odd Lot, a Petit Syrah, Petit Verdot wine from California. It was jam packed with fruit, very rich with a touch of sweetness.

Initially it provokes a 'oohhh mmmm' amongst our tasters but everyone soon agreed that one glass was enough as it was a bit too jammy and overpowering.

Thanks Aldi for a great selection of wine, all our wines brought a quirkiness to the evening - the labels, the new grapes and plenty of new flavours. To finish our evening I took along Maynard's Pink Port I had opened at Christmas. In fact it was the tasting wine for Cuvée Reserve in December - you can read the reviews here.

Thanks to everyone who came along to our Quirky tasting - these events are always great fun. I wonder what theme we'll have for our next one in a few month's time.

Monday, 12 February 2018

Just a few more bottles

Our wine rack in the house is always full (it holds about 50 bottles) and we have a 'few' bottles the garage too. I'm beginning to think we collect wine rather than drink wine !!

Hubby had some lovely gifts for his retirement including quite a few vouchers for Majestic Wine - as if we need and excuse to pop by !!

So pop by we did and picked up a few absolute bargains along with a few we've had our eyes on for a while. 

I don't always include prices in my blog as they can change especially with offers and promotions but this time I will as some were certainly not to be missed.

Bricchetto Trebbiano £2.99    -    Carro Santa Maria Blanco £3.74    -    Tu Meke Chardonnay £3.74

Tu Meke Pinot Grigio £3.99    -    Pieter's Keep Cinsault  £4.49    -    La Baume Malbec  £6.49

La Baume Chenin Blanc  £6.49    -    Primitivo Natale Verga  £6.99    -    Fina Carelio  £7.99

Tarmina Monastrell  £7.99     -    Jim Barry Cover Drive  £10.99

The Tarmina Monastrell is a wine Hubby has been wanting to try for a while. The opportunity came to open this last Friday when friends joined us for dinner. 

A Spanish wine from Alicante had plenty of ripe blackcurrants and cherries, this unoaked red was enjoyed by everyone. 

Jim Barry Cover Drive is a wine we've been meaning to add to our order but always forget as Australian Cabernet Sauvignon is not a regular purchase for us. The history behind a wine is always good to know, this particular wine has a cricketing theme because prior to being a vineyard it was a cricket ground.  

A wine of blackcurrants, liquorice and cherries with tannins, it was a good wine but I think would have developed more with time. 

I have enjoyed La Baume Chenin Blanc many times so it was a must to include that in our order and to my delight there was a La Baume Malbec on the shelf too - perfect as our dinner with friends was to be steak. 

Both wines were perfect; the white crisp, lemony and clean; just right with our antipasti starter and soft cheeses at the end of the meal. The Malbec was really smooth, not as heavy as an Argentinian wine but weighty enough for our succulent steak - I would just add that these two wines were mainly enjoyed by myself and my female friends. 

After 10 months of an upturned life it was a real pleasure to prepare, cook and serve a meal again. I love entertaining - here's to more occasions in 2018 !

Sunday, 4 February 2018

Time's they are a changing!

Hubby has retired - and our new lifestyle begins !

No more getting up at 4.45am, and we can stay up on a week night !

To celebrate I booked a Winter Escape overnight stay at Kilworth House Hotel - a stunning location that is surprisingly not that old. The original house was built at the end of the 1800s for John Entwisle who was the High Sheriff of Leicestershire, with design and decoration perfect for entertaining.

Our stay included hot chocolate with shortbread served on arrival in the lounge which overlooked the beautiful grounds; a bottle of Prosecco which we requested served with dinner in the Orangery rather than in our  room; lovely ensuite room with dressing gowns; and a full breakfast again served in the Orangery.

Kilworth House Hotel
The Orangery
Beautiful grounds
The Lounge
The Staircase
The corridor outside our room
Our room
Breakfast in the Orangery
 It was lovely to chill out in opulent surroundings - a great way to start our freedom!

Hubby enjoys Spanish wine, he quite likes Majestic's Matsu range with their distinctive photographic labels of young, not so young, and old men. He's tried El Picaro (rascal) and El Recio (mature) but not El Viejo (old) - paired with an engraved glass it made the perfect gift.

Nick's glass (paper is just to show engraving)
Mr H and the 'Old Man'

To celebrate Hubby's last day we treated ourselves to a rib steak from our local butcher, Steve Mellor and daughter (Paige). I'm related to Steve as our fathers were cousins, Mellor is my maiden name.

Our superb steak
It was a superb piece of steak and although we have plenty of red wines we paired it with a special bottle of Cotes du Rhone Puymeras given to us in 2016 when we were privileged to private tasting with Cellier des Dauphins (Les Dauphins).  We did of course enjoy a bottle of Nicolas Feuillatte too, our favourite bubbles!
Our favourite bubbles
On our way to Kilworth House Hotel we had a stroll around Market Harborough, a lovely little town with a great cookshop where we found these two beauties ....

Ladies' and Gentlemen's Gin
.... perfect for our gin and tonics in our  room.  Roll on summer - I can imagine these full of ice, G&T whilst relaxing on the deck. Perfect for my Warner Edward's Rhubarb gin too!

Yesterday we had lunch at ours with Hubby's mum, I prepared a nicoise salad but instead of fish we had pork and leek sausage (cut into pieces and de-skinned) followed by walnut and lemon meringue cake.

Perfect accompaniment for our Visan white Gran Reserve Cotes du Rhone - another from our holiday collection made from White Grenache, Clairette and Viognier

Colour - rich yellow with hints of green

Nose - floral notes with white peaches

Taste - medium bodied, good velocity, some minerality, citrus notes with pear and peaches, good length to its finish

No wine today as we're off to watch Wasps v Tigers - a pint of Guinness is a must when watching a game of rugby!

Fantastic win yesterday for the Welsh boys, getting the 6 Nations off to a superb start.

I love rugby - Tigers are my first English team, Wasps my second, Ospreys my favourite Welsh team, and Wales my International favourites - had to include Rhys Webb in my photo being as he's injured at the moment so isn't on the pitch.

Monday, 29 January 2018

As January draws to a close ....

.... another era closes for us; tomorrow is Hubby's last day at work as he is retiring. We've many plans for 2018, home and away, it's an exciting time which we young retirees are looking forward too.

Another close is I opened the last tasting bottle for the Aldi 17th Panel - Leaf Plucker Sauvignon Blanc. This was nothing like I expected, in fact the whole experience gave wine tasting a new dimension.

The label: certainly not a traditional wine design. I loved the pencil cartoon of the sheep being washed in the tub with instructions and of course the wolf in sheep's clothing. Why sheep on a wine label? A flock managed to enter this South African vineyard and started nibbling the leaves, wine maker Thys Louw soon realised they helped expose the grapes to more sun, a great example of nature working in harmony. 

I decided to try this at room temperature and chilled to see which suited this Sauvignon best, so after pouring my initial glass I popped the bottle in the fridge for later; there were some interesting differences.

Room temperature - a very pale olive yellow in colour with tiny bubbles collecting on the bottom surface of the glass. On the nose it was tropical with green apples and a citrus crispness. It had an underlying fizz in the mouth, slightly creamy, appley with a lengthy sharp citrus finish. I enjoyed a small plate of cheddar cheese and biscuits with this which brought our a little minerality. The fizz disappeared as the wine sat in the glass.

Chilled - a much brighter colour, sparkling pale green pear with no bubbles in the glass. It's much lighter nose was green apple with a high note of citrus. In the mouth the wine was much dryer, no evidence of the fizz. It was a sharper wine, more Sauvignon Blanc like with a smoother, less creamy taste, although not so long in the finish.

I did miss the gooseberry, melon, grassy notes I enjoy in Sauvignon Blanc but all told I enjoyed this wine. I found the creaminess in my first glass more like Chardonnay, maybe due to  its fermentation in contact with the skins and 25% of the wine being in oak barrels. 

Thank you Aldi for this and all the other wines I've enjoyed in your Wine Club 17th Tasting Panel.

It was Burns' Night last Thursday, I usually cook a three course dinner for high days and holidays, giving Hubby and I a chance to try food and wine from specific places. We had been out in the day enjoying Afternoon Tea with family so this year we just had Haggis and tatties, although I did make peppercorn sauce to accompany the dish. 

With our Scottish meal we had Diet Coke, not something you expected but every year I make Bobby Burns' cocktails and they are quite strong. Even stronger her this year as instead of ice (which would dilute it slightly) I used our whisky stones. It's a very easy cocktail: equal measures of whisky, vermouth and herbal spirit.

The 20th of each month is review time for the nominated tasting on Cuvée Reserve. I really enjoy hosting this forum, our members write some great reviews, in face we've built up quite a library. There's plenty of buying tips too and heads up regarding events, saying that I was quite disappointed not to make the France Show this weekend just gone.

The January tasting at Cuvée Reserve was Morrison's White Douro chosen by Dave. We really enjoyed this wine: here's Hubby's review.

"Those of you who know me, know that I am not that keen on white wines, but I do make exceptions! Not a big Portuguese wine drinker either, but have previously been surprised by Vino Verdi, the Wine Societies own label VV is lovely, white Porta 6 a disappointment. 

Anyway I liked this delicate white. I found a nose of white back of the nose mineral stones, feint traces of pineapple, tropicality. A light floral mouth, not overly in your face, but thirst quenching if a little short lived and watery but very quaffable. We both liked it and would buy it again which is a good sign. 

One for the summer in the garden for me."

And so to close with two 'last' ones - on separate shops both Hubby and I found the last bottle in these two Lidl promotions: Val de Salis Blanc de Blanc and Tokaji.

Amazingly both reduced to £3.99, an amazing 71% discount on the Tokaji.  I'm sure with our celebrations this week the bubbly will be popped but I'll be saving the Tokaji as I think it deserves a special dessert.

Tuesday, 23 January 2018

104K walk

Not me - unfortunately my ankle is not quite up to that distance just yet. It was our Scout Groups annual relay walk last weekend. This all started in 2014 as part of our centenary celebrations; in relay teams, over one day, our Group members walked a total of 100K.

Every year since we have added on 1K so this year the Group walked 104K. If you are local you'll know the area; the circuit is mainly footpaths from our HQ at the top of Tuttlehill across to Caldecote, then to Hartshill and back along the Mancetter Road. Each team takes our Group Pennant with them so by the end of the day the Pennant has traveled 104K/

Our HQ is at B4114 marker - the circuit is approx 6K
Nick did the 7am start with Rob and Alan, along with their dogs Emmit and Millie. Quite a feat in the dark and with two excited dogs sniffing their way around. The Challenge started at 2am and finished at 10.36pm with 73 people (and a few dogs) taking part - great walking everyone!

It's a great way to start the New Year, lovely to see famillies all coming to walk the circuit. We don't do this as a fundraising activity it is 'just for fun' and looking at the photos taken on the day I think everyone enjoyed themselves even in the rain and snow!! Maybe next year I'll be taking part too :-)

Nick, Rob and Alan handing the Pennant over to the next group of walkers
Walking Crusaders links nicely into my highlight wine of the week - 1136 Commanderie from Cellier des Templiers. Nick and I are very interested in the Knights Templar, especially having been to Rennes le Chateau in Southern France many years ago. We would love to revisit this area to find out more about the Templars.

Whilst on holiday last year in the Cotes du Rhone region we discovered a small village Richerenches which had been a garrison for the Knights Templar. A beautful village with solid walls and towers enclosing its centre, it is one of the best preserved garrisons in France.

Here's my 1136 Commanderie review post on Cuvée Reserve :

"Not surprisingly for a wine from this region it had plenty of blackcurrants and cherries, 
but there was a surprise.....a hint of balsamic which lengthened its finish and enhanced 
its spice notes. There was also a very subtle hint of truffle, something we noticed on its 
nose when trying this in France.  Richerenches hosts the most important truffle market 
in France every Saturday in season as the area is renown for growing the best, 
which explains its presence in this 13.5% wine."

There's great history behind the wine's name too, in 1136 a local lord, Hugh of Bourbouton, gave the land at Richerenches to the Knights Templar.  A few years later he took hi vows as a Templar, gave more land and became the Commander of the Templar garrison at Richerenches which in time became the one of the most important Templar commanderies in Provence.

A great story and a superb wine which I wish we had more of .... yet another reason to go back to France ... on y va !!

Monday, 15 January 2018

That's a good one !

Whilst in France last year we visited BeauVignac, one of the Languedoc's largest producers especially in the Etang du Thau area. When visiting these huge caveau it's hard to take it all in, especially if only a 'calling by' visit.

Everyone is always so helpful, so knowledgeable and ready to pour any (if not all) of their wines: another problem if driving by. You can read more about our visits to the caveau and domaines we visited in my previous post Wines of Languedoc 

One bottle at BeauVignac that caught our eye and was superb on tasting was Moelleux Blanc. It's blue bottle shone out amongst the usual green and white - especially with it's clear glistening contents.

Le Moelleux is a sweet wine but not a dessert wine. a floral nose with sweet citrus notes. It's flavour was full of oranges and lemons, citrusy yet slightly sweet, with floral highlights. A lovely finish that despite its sweetness was neither cloying or syrup. A blend of Picpoul Blanc and Colombard (grapes used in producing Cognac) it's a light wine at 10.5% with a slight watery edge but the finish is soft and long.

All told this was a very enjoyable wine; its look in the bottle and out, its nose, its flavour and its finish. We will be bringing more than the one bottle next time we're near the Etang du Thau.

Another 'good one' we have recently enjoyed is my penultimate tasting for Aldi's 17th Wine Panel. Estevez Chilean Cabernet Carmenére Syrah was a wine I knew I would enjoy settled on the sofa rather than with a meal... and it was!

A deep inviting red that had a great pour and a nose full of fruit with a spicy edge. It was full of dark cherries, plums, dried fruit with such a wonderful warming body. I don't normally enjoy tannins but the tannins in this wine were so soft, developing lightly with the spice, lovely tabacco notes and a smooth long finish.

Its characteristics derive from its three grapes:
Cabernet - its fruitiness
Carmenére - its creamy smoothness
Syrah - its spice

For me this was a bottle to sink into, hence the need to be sofa bound with a few nibbles. It really is a great wine, especially at £4.79 - thank you Aldi.

There are two more wines which I expect to say 'that's a good one' on opening - Canadian Icewine. For Christmas my Hubby gave me a bottle of Lidl Pillitteri Estates Riesling Icewine, as yet unopened as I am waiting to find the deserving dessert and opportunity to enjoy this sweet delight.

Icewine is made from grapes picked in December or January once the temperature has dropped below -8 degrees; Canada's terroir and winters make it ideal. The iced grapes are pressed immediately producing a small amount of highly concenrated juice often referred to as 'The Nectar of the Gods'.

And to our amazement on a visit to Lidl a the weekend it is now reduced to £7.99, as is the Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine - that's an amazing half price. Needless to say I now have both bottles to plan that special dessert/moment for.

I have no idea what wine we'll be opening this week - life is a little strange at the moment with Hubby retiring at the end of the month our plans are as comes just now. However I'm sure whatever it is I'll be letting you know all about it - cheers!

Monday, 8 January 2018

2018 has started well

2018 started with celebrating the New Year with friends, always a good way to bring in the new. It will be new for us this year as at the end of January Hubby is retiring from work - so many plans, so many holidays, so exciting!

We've already started the holiday booking (to be honest a few trips were already booked in 2017) with a long weekend in Guildford. No need to dash home Sunday anymore - why Guildford???

It's the Love Wine Fest at the end of March. We had a great time in Birmingham last year, you can read about it in my previous post here. We're delighted to book for Guildford and being as it's not a straightforward train trip a few nights away seemed the obvious choice.

Two wines have helped us get 2018 off to a good start; a red and a white. The red being Marques de Caceres Gran Reserva 2009 and the white Les Petites Baies 2016.

Marques de Caceres is a Sapnish wine from, Rioja. A blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Graciano it enjoys 2 years in American oak and then some time in the bottle.

Not my preferred wine but Hubby enjoyed its deep crimson colour, black cherry nose and smooth vanilla infused smoky oak tannin flavour.

It's quite a pricey wine at nearly £20 a bottle but if you enjoy a Rioja you can settle into it comes highly recommended.

The white wine was a bottle we picked up on our holiday last year in France. We did think it was from one of the caveau we visited but maybe not. Looking online I did see a reference to Lidl France so maybe it was one of our supermarket buys.

In the glass this had a very shiny colour, lots of glistening highlights. It's tropical nose with the hint of white blossom lead the way to a mouth full of citrus and passion fruit. A lovely well balanced wine with a clean finish.

It is one to grab if we see it again on our travels, a super white wine.

This month brings Burn's Night on the 25th which will be the first of my 2018 themed dinners and of course Hubby's retirement will require the opening of something special so here's to a great January !