Wine (and food) on a Brighton getaway

Apr 19, 12 Wine (and food) on a Brighton getaway

Posted by in England, Food and Wine, Lifestyle

I was invited down to Brighton recently to check out the Brighton and Hove food and wine festival. I’ve been to Brighton a few times and it is relatively easy to get there from London. If you can’t be bothered to do all the legwork yourself you can find Brighton Holidays online. The last time I was there for a winemaker’s dinner at the Hotel du Vin Brighton, so I was pleasantly surprised to hear that part of the festival was being held at the hotel and that they would be putting me up for the night there. This isn’t my first time at HdV Brighton, I’ve stayed there in the past and always enjoy walking into the comforting decor of the hotel, alternating between dark and blonde wood, cozy couches and chairs scattered around the main bar and a bustling bistro next to it. From the outside, the building dates back to the 16th-17thth century, complete with timber and whitewalls on certain parts of the hotel.  The interior though has all the mod cons and the suites come with giant bathtubs for a soak after spending the day at the beach, which by the way is literally across the road from the hotel. There’s also a charming courtyard as well as a suntrap of a terrace on the first floor. The hotel was putting on a small wine festival and had local producers and wine shops on hand to show off their wines. There was a large proportion of English wines available, including Ridgeview, Bolney’s and even Plumpton College had their local sparkling on offer. I also tried a fantastic pinot blanc from Stopham Estates. They are located in West Sussex and are the only producers of pinot blanc in the UK. The wine was not at all what I was expecting, not tasting like an English wine. By that I mean it didn’t have the telltale elderflower aromas or flavours nor was it slightly off dry. Bright and chipper, balanced fruit and...

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Celebrity Cruising at Vinopolis

Mar 12, 12 Celebrity Cruising at Vinopolis

Posted by in Food and Wine

“Love. Exiciting and new. Come aboard. We’re expecting youuuuu. The Looooooooove boat….” It’s amazing but I can still remember the words to that cheesy 80’s sitcom set on a cruise ship. And much like the 80’s, cruise ships have always seemed a bit cheesy to me. That is until I was introduced to Celebrity X Cruises the other night at Vinopolis. If, like me, you’ve never bothered to find out more about a cruise experience, prepared to be surprised. Apparently, they are gigantic floating hotels/spas/world class restaurants with lux amenities. Celebrity now features fine wine and dining on all it’s ships and gone are the days of shrimp cocktails and sausage cocktails. The ships are also looking pretty flash nowadays, too. I was invited to a dinner at Vinopolis to learn about Celebrity’s new food and wine cruises that they are introducing in the Autumn. The cruises are going to be co-hosted by Oz Clarke and Vinopolis’s Tom Forrest and will feature stops in various wine regions, including, Portugal, Spain and France. The dinner we had was representative of the kind of food and wine matching meals that would feature on the ship. We started off with an English Sparkling wine, the Ridgeview South Ridge 2008 traditional method, which was really good with the canapes. I was a bit surprised as I’d had it a few days previously and wasn’t all that keen on it but it seems to go well with food. Served up with the starter of goat cheese tart and beetroot, we had a white Bordeaux,  a 2004 Rioja reserva, Pagos de Tahola, was paired with a perfectly grilled steak and a 2007 LBV port with chocolate fondant was heavenly.  Happily a cheese board was served up paired with a white wine from the the south of France, the Grand Reserve de Gassac blanc 2010. An interesting choice to have with the cheeses (Cheshire Blue, Brie de Meaux, Epoisse) and for me, they didn’t match. While some people like the wine...

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Nocturnes at Le Meurice, Paris

Le Meurice in Paris manages to combine understated elegance with quirkiness while at the same time enveloping you in a cocoon of luxury. That is the best way I can think of to describe this de luxe (in the truest sense of the word) luxury hotel. The history of the hotel goes back to 1771 in Calais where the founder of the hotel, Charles-Augustin Meurice took it upon himself to set up a hostelry for tired British travellers on their way to Paris. Charles Augustine owned a coach service and from there the travellers would take his coaches to Paris where – surprise! he set up a second inn for them to check into after the long journey from the coast. From these humble beginnings, Le Meurice was born. In 1835, the hotel moved to its present location, across from the Tuilieries. Due to it’s close proximity to the Louvre Palace, it soon became a favourite of visiting royalty and became known as the Hotel des Rois (Hotel of the Kings). Throughout the years the hotel also served as a refuge for royalty, as well, the Shah of Iran was actually staying at the hotel when he was deposed. Probably one of the most famous guests of the hotel was Salvador Dali. He would stay at the hotel every year for at least a month and was noted for his, shall we say, unusual behaviour. On one occasion he requested a herd of live sheep be delivered to his room and once they arrived began shooting at them with blanks! Ah, artists. Another time he asked the staff to catch flies in the Tuilieries and paid them the equivalent of 1 euro per fly. The legacy of Dali’s visit was the establishment of Prix Meurice for Contemporary Art. Launched in 2008, it’s aim is to support young French artists. As you enter the foyer of the hotel, you are greeted by a pair of almost entwined columns, one of the winners of the Meurice Prize. The...

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Nopi- thinking outside the (winelist) box

Dec 16, 11 Nopi- thinking outside the (winelist) box

Posted by in Chile, Food and Wine, restaurants

“Giro d’Italia” “Going Natural” “And Gamay for All” “Black Gold” “Without Words” “The Outsiders” “Sake” Those are not descriptors one would usually see as headings for a wine list but Nopi’s wine list is not exactly a “by the numbers, tick all the boxes” wine list. The list reflects the diversity of the wine world, the sommeliers searching for wines that reflect a sense of place (terroir)  as well as being little known or off the beaten track. They also have a section of organic and biodynamic wines but that is from the point of view that they are excellent, well made wines, not a gimmick for the list. I was recently invited to a wine and food matching luncheon to see what exactly was going on with the list wine consultant Gal Zohar and Sommelier Honami Matsumoto have put together for Nopi’s Middle-Eastern/Asian cuisine. Gal and Honami had the enviable job of matching the wines with our lunch. As the philosophy behind Nopi is all about small plates, we had 10 plates each matched with one (or sometimes two) corresponding wine(s). The very first dish was a burrata with pink grapefruit paired with a subtle Slovenian riesling, the Verus 2010 was a revelation. Having a similar profile to Australian riesling from the Clare Valley but toning down the acidity, not so much of a palate cleanser but still very fresh and pure. A wonderful discovery. A Garda classico , the 2010 from Selva Capuzza was next. I visited the Garda region in Italy last year and ever since, whenever I see a Garda wine, I know I’m in for a treat and it’s great to see this lighter style of Italian red getting some recognition. The next wine really made me sit up and take notice an 85% white carignan, yes, that’s right, white carignan. Wow! How exciting, a new grape. I could see that this list was made for wine geeks. However, the wine (Domaine Ledogar, Blanc 10, 2010 Corbieres, France) was...

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Lunching at Malmaison

It is now midnight as I write this and I am still full. There used to be this commercial that ran on American TV for Alka-Seltzer, the tagline was, “I can’t believe I ate the whole thing”. Despite the fact we didn’t “eat the whole thing”  as a matter of fact, we both took doggy bags home, we did stuff ourselves silly. We had 4 courses, which is not unreasonable, but there were some generous portions at the Brasserie of Malmaison. Malmaison is a boutique luxury hotel smack dab in the middle of Clerkenwell and their brasserie serves up tasty local produce all presented quite beautifully. The main draw for me and the reason I was there, were the bespoke wine flights that the restaurant sommelier, Stuart Fife matches with your dining choices. Stuart is new to Malmaison but he comes from Hotel du Vin in Glasgow and his matches were very well done indeed. While I was waiting for my lunching partner, Vintage Macaroon to arrive, I had a browse round the wine cellar and found some familiar labels, Spy Valley, Springfield Estate, Dinastia Vivanco, d’Arenberg Stump Jump, and Chapel Down, to name a few.  As I suspected, Bibendum Wines is the main supplier for Malmaison and they had some of their best on the list. We left ourselves in Stuart’s capable hands and didn’t regret it one bit. I had a very elderflowery, light and refreshing 2007 Bacchus from Chapel Down. I often find English wines to be a bit thin but Chapel Down make an excellent bacchus and it had enough body and elderflower/citrus flavours to match the trio of smoked blinis (haddock, salmon and mackerel pate) I had to start. The smoked fish was very tasty but I thought the blinis were a bit too soft for me, maybe blinis made of buckwheat would be better? I like the slight chewiness of them. I almost forgot to mention the pre-entree amuse bouche of intensely flavoured crab bisque, which would have...

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