Chateau Cantenac Brown Margaux dinner at Clos Maggiore, London

Mar 26, 14 Chateau Cantenac Brown Margaux dinner at Clos Maggiore, London

Posted by in Food and Wine, France, restaurants

“The first job of Bordeaux is to be red.” That is a common saying in the region and one that  was repeated to me by Troisièmes Crus Classified Château Cantenac Brown Margaux winemaker Jose Sanfins at dinner the other night. So, why was he making a white wine in Bordeaux? Well, in a nutshell, Jose likes the whites of Sancerre very much and as he was looking around his vineyards, he noticed that the soil was very similar in that it was mostly clay and mineral laden. He decided that he could make a white wine just as well. The result is the Alto de Cantenac Brown, a 90% sauvignon blanc/10% semillon blend. We were at a winemaker’s dinner at Covent Garden restaurant Clos Maggiore and were just about to start on the first course. The Alto was the first wine being highlighted that evening and we were in for a treat as it was the first time the 2012 Alto had been tasted outside the winery. Most Bordeaux blanc is a blend of sauvignon blanc and semillon. The chateau only has 1 hectare planted for the Alto and only produce 8000 bottles a year. It is comprised mostly of sauvignon blanc and aged in used oak barrels which gives it a slightly smokey note. Fresh and balanced with loads of lemon and grapefruit on the nose and palate. It was delicious with the starter of Scottish scallop and salmon tartare. What piqued my interest the most was the double magnum of 1999 Château Cantenac Brown. Who doesn’t like seeing those big bottles on a table. The ’99 was tasting very well with structured tannins,  freshness and a hint of fruit still around with wood/cedar notes. I like savoury wines so this was right up my alley! It was paired with a oven roasted breast of Wood Pigeon from the Royal Windsor Estate (shot on the west side of the estate in case you’re wondering) and this is a wine that really does shine with a well placed...

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Champagne Ayala, An Historic House Coming Alive Again…

Feb 17, 14 Champagne Ayala, An Historic House Coming Alive Again…

Posted by in Champagne, France

Walking up to the House of Champagne Ayala, I was struck by the ornate and grandiose facade of the winery. Built after the 1911 Champagne riots, the winery is where everything happens at Ayala. Ayala can claim that they are one of the few houses where all the production occurs under one roof, from pressing to packaging, it’s all there. At first glance, Ayala doesn’t sound like a French champagne house but it has a long history in the region. The Ayala family were originally from Spain and were sent to South America by the Spanish government in the colonial period to govern in what is now Colombia. The family spent two generations there before returning to Europe in 1830 and settling in Paris, where Edmond, the founder of the House was born. Edmond moved to Champagne in the 1850’s and married the niece of the Vicomte de Mareuil, whose dowry included various vineyards. He created the house in 1860 and set out to build the brand. One of the first things he did was launch a drier style of champagne to the UK market. At the time, champagne made in the mid 19th century had up to 300 grams/litre of sugar so when Ayala introduced a champagne with ‘only’ 21 grams, it was a revelation. So much so that they eventually received a royal warrant from the Royal Family. By the 1920’s Ayala was producing over a million bottles of champagne a year. Unfortunately, the house fell on hard times and from the mid-20th century went into decline. It wasn’t until the house was bought by Bollinger in 2005 that they have now begun to recover their former glory. Bollinger has put in considerable investment to bring the house back from the brink. Although, they are careful to point out that Ayala is not Bollinger’s second wine. The styles are widely divergent, with Ayala making completely unoaked champagnes whereas one of the hallmarks of Bolly is the influence of oak. They’ve also introduced...

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Barber’s 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar and a dry Chenin blanc

Jan 20, 14 Barber’s 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar and a dry Chenin blanc

Posted by in Food and Wine, France

A few years ago I visited the Barber Farmhouse on a press trip as part of a bigger trip to the West Country. I remember being impressed by the combination of modern technology within the traditions of cheesemaking that had been handed down through the generations. You can read about my visit here. I really enjoyed the 1833 Vintage Reserve Cheddar when I visited, so when they asked me if they could send me some cheese and make a dish, I was happy to do it. It also probably helps that I’ve recently changed to a wheat-free and sugar-free diet which means good cheese is a staple in my kitchen. They sent me a small recipe book which has some lovely recipes and a few of them are either wheat free or can be modified to be made without wheat.  They also sent me all the ingredients I would need to make a Spinach and Cheese souffle. Seeing as I didn’t want to use flour in my recipes, I decided to make a crustless Spinach and Cheddar cheese quiche instead. The quiche came out brilliantly, the 1833 Vintage cheddar was perfect in the dish, integrated into every mouthful. I’m not normally a big fan of mature cheddar cheese (the 1833 is aged 24 months) but Barber’s has a nutty, long flavour to it and I enjoyed every mouthful. I paired it with a chenin blanc from the Loire Valley, the Ch. de Fesles 2011 La Chapelle Vielles Vignes. What a stunner of a wine – dry but fresh with intense fruity notes of dried grapefruit, tangerine peel, and lemon zest. Rather weighty on the palate but perfectly balanced and delicious, a very good companion for the quiche. I wasn’t sure if it was going to work with the cheddar but happily, it did! I’ve still got half a block of cheese left so I think I might take a crack at the Croque Monsieur made with my home made gluten free foccacia You can...

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AMEX in Paris, a Sneek Peek at Rungis Market – video

Dec 09, 13 AMEX in Paris, a Sneek Peek at Rungis Market – video

Posted by in All, France

I’ve always wanted to visit Rungis Market and now I can, at least vicariously through this video from AmEx… Amex Travel Insider Alex Zane is taking a sneak peek behind some of Europe’s best known destinations, uncovering the hidden gems that make each place that little bit more interesting. According to research by American Express, amazing local cuisine and delicacies make trips away just that little bit more special. So while in Paris, the gastronomic capital of the world, Alex took a look behind the scenes of the world’s biggest and most respected food wholesaler, the Rungis Market, to see how it helps feed Paris. Larger in size than Monaco and sitting in a little known southern suburb of the city, the Rungis Market caters to the needs of many of the 77 Michelin starred restaurants that Paris is famed for, stocking over 400 varieties of cheese alone! Alex talks to those who visit the market every day, either to trade their produce or to source the finest ingredients for their restaurants, to find out why the Rungis Market is such a mecca for foodies worldwide. To learn more about Alex’s travel adventures visit Or connect with AmericanExpressUK on Facebook or on Twitter @AmexUK   Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Video – How to Read a Wine Label, the Douro Valley and Bourgogne

Sep 19, 13 Video – How to Read a Wine Label, the Douro Valley and Bourgogne

Posted by in All, France, Portugal, Videos

Two of my favourite wine regions in the world  are The Douro Valley in Portugal and Bourgogne in France. I have been invited to visit the region many times by various producers and generic wine bodies and some of my favourite visits have been organised by the Discover the Origin campaign. The aim of DTO is to explain the wines of the region to the uninitiated. The wines of Bourgogne are poorly understood and suffer sometimes from having wine labels that are incomprehensible to the average wine drinker. The wine labels are slowly changing to make it easier for wine drinkers to know what they are buying but it does take time. DTO have created this handy video guide to show you what you’re getting when you pick up a bottle of  Bourgogne. They’ve done the same for the wines of the Douro Valley. I adore the wines of the Douro but too many people I talk to think that only port wines are produced there. In reality, although they make excellent ports, the region also produces some fantastic and wonderful value for money red and white table wines. I hope you find the video informative and if you want to know anything more about these regions, don’t hesitate to drop me a line or visit the Discover the Origin website.     Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Video – Discover the Origin, Bourgogne

Sep 14, 13 Video – Discover the Origin, Bourgogne

Posted by in All, France, Videos

I visited Bourgogne not long ago and feel in love with the region. It’s a beautiful place, the rolling hills, small villages and of course the fabulous wines. My trip was sponsored by Discover the Origin and I recently received a video link from them which introduces the casual wine drinker to the region. I’m reposting it here because I think it’s a nice little ‘taster” of what you can expect when you visit Bourgogne.     Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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