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Thursday, 31 July 2014

St Lucia Distillers “1931” Second Edition Rum

St Lucia Distillers “1931” Second Edition rum, created to mark over 80 years of distilling on the island of St Lucia, was awarded "Best Rum" at the International Spirits Challenge earlier this year.

The rum is blended each year and the casks for this “1931” Second Edition include a combination of American white oak casks and Port casks from 2004, 2005 and 2006.

Amber mahogany, rich mixed fruit, dried figs and fruitcake with sweet vanilla and roasted spices with some nail polish.
Potent, intense and bitter initially; a roasted vanilla bitter-sweetness with cooked mixed fruit and mocha develops, followed by a very long, savoury, persistent, peppery-spicy finish.

Mellow and harmonious - a soft, supple, aged, rum of depth and complexity. Good.
Match with dark chocolate, espresso and a cigar.
Available retail in 70cl bottles (43% abv) for £52.49 from  www.MasterofMalt.com and  www.timeswhiskyclub.com

Provided for review.

St Lucia Distillers Rums are sold in leading cocktail bars throughout the UK including: Portobello Star, London W11; Hoxton Pony, London EC1; Keko Moku, Manchester; Lockside Lounge, London NW1; Blue Dog, Glasgow; Voodoo Lounge, Edinburgh; Skylon, London SE1; Mahiki, Mayfair, London W1 and many more.

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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Three Wines From Tanners

Three wines from Tanners

The best businesses combine heritage with innovation; Tanners, a family-owned independent wine merchant run by 4th-generation Tanner, James, dates back to 1842, but feels unpretentiously contemporary.

The company specialises in sourcing good value, every-day drinkers from regions like Southern France and is happy to be considered a traditionalist, but in the best sense of the word.

Marketing Manager Hannah Schwarzer explained to me: "We look to be at the forefront of establishing new, dynamic wine regions and led the vanguard in championing the Douro.

We have have also been merrily promoting the joys of sherry for decades, through that category’s boom and bust times (hopefully coming back round to boom!) and we have a great German range which sets us apart from most.

They sent me a case of their wines to review - here are the first three:

Mariscal Manzanilla Sherry (£8.70) gutsy and expressive tangy Manzanilla made by Hidalgo - a textbook Manzanilla with bags of salty personality. Great value.

Match with the usual tapas; jamon, bread and oil, manchego cheese and shellfish.

Tanners Merlot, IGP d'Oc 2013 (£7.50) lifted damson and raspberry fruit, easy-drinking juicy freshness with a gentle lick of oak. Good value.

An easy drinker that does not need food, but will stand up to herby sausages, salamis or even, slightly chilled, picnic food.

Piesporter Goldtröpfchen Riesling Spätlese Nr13 Grey Slate, Hain, Mosel 2011 (£16.70) golden sandy yellow, aromas of roasted peach skins, ripe citrus and some cellar mustiness. Sweet ripe peaches and apricots, baked apples with spice and fresh, zesty acidity; the incense, beeswax and old leather books of a high mass.

Complex and harmonious with the benefit of a few year's age - will improve further. Really lovely indeed - Very Good.
We matched it very successfully with Austrian tafelspitz followed by mature hard cheeses.
So far, it's three out of three for Tanner's - well-made, characterful, inexpensive wines below £10 and a real stunner of a Mosel Riesling; all fairly priced.

Fans of German stickies will be pleased to learn that the current Summer Sale list includes some unusually large discounts on sweeter German Rieslings - full details here: http://www.tanners-wines.co.uk/top-offers/summer-sale.html

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Monday, 28 July 2014

Matching Food And Wine: Greece‏

Matching Greek mezes from Gaea with a Greek wine from Tanner's
- I grew up in Europe, where the history comes from
Eddie Izzard, Dressed to Kill

Europe's general claim as the greatest wine region in the world is not based solely on its grapes, terroir or viticultural practices.

Rather it is the combination of all these things plus centuries of experimentation of grape varieties, growing conditions and local cuisine.

Tuscany's rasping reds cut perfectly through bistecca all fiorentina or meaty ragu; Burgundy's hedonistic Pinot and succulent Chardonnay complement its rich, gamey cuisine.

By contrast, Greek wine is a typically Balkan series of contradictions - ancient, yet modern; historic yet forward-looking; unified, yet diverse.

What we call "Greece" is not an homogenous country at all; a disparate collection of islands plus a mainland whose borders have shifted around over the years, Greece defies easy definition and is more a geopolitical faultline between east and west than a country.

Mezes are no more indicative of the breadth and variety of Greece's national cuisine than pasta is of Italy's or tapas of Spain's. But like pasta and tapas, it is something familiar and as good a place as any to start.

Strongly-flavoured olive-based foods need a relatively neutral wine with plenty of body and acidity to stand up; Assyrtiko is perhaps Greece's ultimate food wine. From the volcanic island of Santorini, it is linear, mineral and sharp-yet-full - the Greek equivalent or fino or Gruener Veltliner.

The mezes
Gaea D.O.P. Kalamata Extra Virgin Olive Oil (£5.49 for 500ml from Waitrose and Ocado) from Kalamata in Southern Peloponnese, made from cold-pressed Koroneiki olives
Gaea Kalamata Olive Tapenade
Gaea Sweet Red Pepper & Goat Cheese Tapenade
Gaea Flame-Roasted Red Peppers
Gaea Garlic-Stuffed Green Olives
Gaea Pitted Kalamata Olives

Gaea speciality foods are available in Waitrose, Ocado and independent retailers.

The wine
Santorini Dry White, Hatzidakis 2013 (£13.20, Tanner's Wines) sandy yellow, orchard fruits on the rose; sweet, ripe cooked peaches, but dry, fresh and mineral. A touch of salinity; long, mineral finish. Good.

Mezes and wine provided for review.

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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Two Sophisticated Summer Rosés

Two sophisticated food rosés from France

Hardly the most serious of wines, rosé can often be the cheapest and cheerfullest option.

However, there is such as thing as serious, ambitious rosé and these two come from areas less associated with the frivolity of pinkness, so if you happen to be looking for an ambitious food rosé, consider these.

Both are similar in nature and profile - with fresh acidity and minerality both are food wines and will cut through picnics of cold cuts, quiches, salad leaves and cheeses.

Jean-Luc Colombo Les Pins Couchés, 2013, IGP Mediterranée (£9.99, Cambridge Wine Merchants, other independents)

Very pale pink, restrained nose with hints of red fruit and muskiness; pure, clean ripe redcurrant fruit, precise linear acidity and insistent minerality.

Focused, long, rounded and mouthfilling with a balanced, persistent finish. Good.

Joseph Mellot Le Rabault Rosé 2013, Sancerre (£16.99, independents)

Hints of pomegranate and beeswax on the nose; redcurrant fruit, lime zest and intense minerality. Precise, focused and long. Very structured. Very Good.

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Monday, 21 July 2014

Italian Wines from Marks and Spencer

Five classic Italian wines from Marks and Spencer
Italy challenges France for quality, diversity and volume of wines produced in any year; a long, thin, mountainous country with an extensive coastline, there is very little of its surface that is not suited to growing vines.
What Italy, lacks, however, is a clear, rigorous classification system; Italians, it seems, are as idiosyncratic and undisciplined in their wine labelling as they are in most other walks of life.
These five wines from M&S are all Italian classics; they are in roughly ascending order of quality. The best is the Barolo, the best value the Valpolicella.
Montepulciano d'Abruzzo 2013  (£7.99) lots of pure black and red cherry and blueberry fruit with a shake of black pepper. Vibrant and juicy; good entry-level example.
Match with a juicy steak, spicy sausages or salami.
Dolcetto d'Asti, 2013 (£7.00) vibrant purple; intense, juicy blueberry and cherry fruit with some savoury roasted spices. Fresh, poised, clean and focused.
A good food wine, match with pasta and meaty sauces.
Chianti Classico Riserva Castello della Paneretta 2011 (£14.00) translucent ruby, cherry fruit and pepperiness; sweet, ripe, cooked red fruits, red and black cherries, dried herbs and a lick of oak; long and savoury with fine tannins.
With 14.5% alcohol, it is a touch alcoholic on the finish.
Match with hearty casseroles or roast red meat, such as lamb with rosemary and garlic.
Valpolicella Ripasso, 2012 (£9.50) translucent ruby garnet, earthy, plummy, eucalyptus nose; sweet, ripe, baked plum, cassis and morello cherry with some spice, liquorice and port-like herbaceous notes from partially-dried grapes.
Fresh, long and savoury; harmonious, balanced finish.
Match with duck breast in cherry sauce.
Barolo Peironte 2009 (£18) pale translucent ruby with some brick red hints; plum, tobacco, cool mint, sweet vanilla and savoury spice with very fine, persistent tannins.
Dense, concentrated, long and harmonious. Very Good.
Match with slow-roasted red meats or a beef ragu.
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Sunday, 20 July 2014

Two Gold Medal Wines from The Co-op

Two (more) award-winning wines from The Co-op

The Co-op has been steadily improving its wine range for some time now - and has won a stackful of medals for their efforts (210 for anyone who's counting)

I am, in general, a strong believer in the value of medals - for sure, they sometimes need taking with a pinch of salt - and some competitions seem to have higher standards than others. But, as a basic indicator of reasonableness, they work.

My rule-of-thumb is that Silvers and above are generally worth seeking out; expect anything below this to be sound but perhaps rather dull - useful if you are buying to a budget, but not for when you want to impress.

These two Co-op wines both have Gold Medals from Decanter and Silvers from the International Wine Challenge.

Peter Yealands Sauvignon Blanc 2013 New Zealand (£9.99) A new winery from New Zealand, I've been impressed with Yealands previously.

Textbook NZ Sauvignon; zesty, aromatic and expressive with nettles, gooseberies, guava, lime marmalade and minerality. Crisp, poised and precise.

Balanced and long; very adept and assured - Good.

Match with Thai curries, fish carpaccio or aromatic salad leaves.

Skillogalee Basket Pessed Shiraz 2010, Australia (£16.99) Shiraz pretty much made its name in Australia - and made Australia's name in the process.

Sweet, ripe dark fruits with sour cherries, black pepper, mocha and bitter roasted spices. Very fine, perfectly ripe tannins and mineral underpinnings. Substantial, complex and savoury.

Mellow, yet still assertive - Very Good.

Match with game in a rich sauce, bistecca alla fiorentina or roast lamb.

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Thursday, 10 July 2014

Two Burgundies from Louis Jadot

A red and white Burgundy from Louis Jadot

Negociant Louis Jadot dates back to 1859 and specialises in producing typical, reliable and well-made if ambitiously-priced Burgundies.

If I've rarely had a bottle from Jadot that disappoints, I've also rarely had one that was truly thrilling - it's the oenological equivalent of a middling public school churning out bank managers, actuaries and low-level civil servants.

It is, of course, no mean feat to produce reliable Burgundy, so the pricing premium is perhaps not unreasonable - and it's as good a way as any for the enthusiastic novice to discover what Burgundy is all about.

Pouilly-Fuissé 2011 (£20.99, independents) Golden sandy yellow; sweet, ripe orchard fruit, citrus fruit and acidity, leesiness and sweet spice with a touch of buttery oak. Harmonious, accomplished and very enjoyable. Good.

A versatile food wine, match with white meat, mushroom dishes or hard cheeses.

Côte de Beaune-Villages 2011 (£16.75, Majestic and independents) Translucent ruby; earthy, mushroomy nose. Ripe red fruits, freshness, oaky spice and savouriness with a persistent, slightly grippy finish. Soft texture, fine tannins. Good.

Match with game, roast lamb or wild salmon.

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