What does boysenberry smell like? Malbec with lunch

Last week I was touring the vineyards of Burgenland in Austria as part of the EWBC and at one point we were tasting the wines of Eisenburg, eastern Austria.  One of the producers described his wine as having boysenberry fruit characteristics. At which point, one of the fellows in my group wondered aloud, “What does a boysenberry taste and/or smell like?” I had to laugh, as growing up in California, boysenberry syrup was one of my favourite toppings to pour over my pancakes. So what if it was grossly artificial, at least we knew what boysenberries were and we could pick them up from the local farmers market if we were so inclined. Much like I had no idea what a gooseberry was until I moved to England, so goes my friend boysenberry to my English counterparts. I only mention that story because I am now in Buenos Aires sampling all the wonderful wines that this country produces. I often say that I don’t really care for New World wines but Argentina really is stingy with their wines and keeps the best for themselves. Well, as to be expected from a country that consumes something like 80% of it’s production, why give it to the gringos? After landing, I went straight to my hotel in Palermo Viejo, the Craft Hotel, where one of best friends,Monika, was waiting for me to go to lunch. I should mention that I lived in Buenos Aires for couple of years last decade so I know it quite well. A lot has changed and a lot hasn’t. It was nice to take a walk down memory lane on the drive into town. Monika asked me what I wanted for lunch and I unhesitantly shouted – “Parrilla!” For the uninitiated, a parrilla (pronounced in the “Porteno” way,  as the citizens of Buenos Aires are called, pa-REE-sha) is a restaurant with a very large grill. Everything is grilled right before your eyes. The smell is fantastic and you can smell parrillas...

read more

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...

read more

Steaky steak steak…Chapters in Blackheath

Some time ago I went along to Chapter One in the wilds of Kent to have a Nyetimber paired dinner. That went down so well that when Chapters of Blackheath contacted me to try out their josper grilled steaks, how could I resist. Chapters is one of only 9 restaurants in the capital to use the famed Josper grill, a combination of grill and bbq. It is manufactured using an insulating material that allows the temperatures to reach up to a 1000 degrees C, phew! This sears the meat and seals in the juices. I wouldn’t want to be that piece of meat. Chapters uses only the best beef: prime USDA, Australian 40 day dry aged Hereford. Black Angus and English hangar steak. Our meal was paired with a variety of wines but my favourite was the Cedre Heritage 2007 Cahors. All too often people think that malbec comes from Argentina, but au contraire mon ami, it’s original home is the southwestern part of France below and to the right of Bordeaux. In France, malbec is also known as cot and has been produced there since the Middle Ages. As a matter of fact, Cahors was making their ‘black wine’ long before the Bordelais and used to export their product through the region of Bordeaux. The 2007 Cedre Heritage was a classic malbec, inky black in colour, there’s no way you could mistake this wine for anything but a malbec. On the nose there was plenty of meaty spicy notes, these wines are brawny and savoury, there is no mistaking this for a fru-fru South American malbec – fruit? Bah! Cahors says to that. While having quite good structure, the wine did display black fruits on the palate but these were mixed in with spicebox and licorice flavours. I found the wine went perfectly with the seared meat, working with the juicy steaks to produce a match made in heaven. I found that with the Josper grilled steaks, I needed a wine that would ...

read more

Argentine/Kiwi cuisine at the same time? Lola&Simon, a restaurant in Hammersmith

I lived in Buenos Aires for 3 years back in the day so I know a bit about Argentine cuisine, even if I was a vegetarian for 2 of those 3  years. Yes, I know, how could I, was I mad, etc… One thing I can say is that I’m a pretty good judge of Argentine cuisine. I can also tell you that when I visited Gaucho at the O2, I was deeply disappointed. The food bearing only a passing resemblence to anything I’d ever eaten in BA. So, it was with some trepidation that I went to Lola & Simon, an Argentine/New Zealand (?, yes, I’ll get round to that in a second) restaurant in Hammersmith for the launch of their food and wine tasting menu. Lola & Simon is run by a charming Argentine/Kiwi couple, Nico and Kirstin – that’s where the NZ connection comes from. Their idea was to serve the best of these two Southern Hemisphere countries from the lamb and mussles of NZ to the steak and emapandas of Argentina. The wine list is also a mix of the two countries with over 50 wines currently on the list and they are set to add another 15 wines in the next few weeks. The specialize in the flagship varietals of each country, malbec from Argentina and pinot noir and sauvignon blanc from NZ. They are taking every step to ensure their customers can enjoy the wine at it’s best, even installing wine preservations machines behind the bar. Last week was the launch of the food and wine matching flights and platters. They’ve started with the malbecs and are offering 2 flights of 3 wines (50ml each) each paired with an Argentine ‘tapa’ (for lack of a better word). They’re calling it, Mad about Malbec. The first flight consisted of Picada 15, 2007 Malbec, Luigi Bosca 2006 Reserve Malbec and Rupestre 2004 Malbec/merlot/tannat blend. The Picada 15 malbec was paired with tasty grilled veg in a basalmic reduction. Full on...

read more

Millton Vineyards, pioneering biodynamic NZ wines

The Winesleuth has finally gotten a new job!! Yay!!!  I’m so glad to be moving on and my new job is with the natural  (and local) wine bar, Artisan and Vine. I met Kathryn (first post here) back in February and was so impressed by her enthusiasm and passion (see video here) for natural and local (read English) wines that I started hanging around A&V, even taking a trip with Kathryn to Davenport Vineyards (video here) this past March. And now I’ve joined A&V to be able to work with all those amazing, interesting natural wines.   Trafalgar roundabout from on high So earlier this week, I found myself at the top of New Zealand House on Haymarket, enjoying the views of London – London Eye on one side, Buck House on the other with  Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament in between. It really makes you realize how closely packed everything is in London. Now you might be wondering, what the hell was the Winesleuth doing up in the penthouse of NZ House? Why, at a winetasting of course, deciding what new wines to add to the A&V list. They were of course natural and biodynamic wines, this batch from New Zealand with winemaker, James Millton of Millton Vineyards, Gisbourne, NZ, in attendance and hosted by the good folks of Vintage Roots, one of the UK’s leading organic wine specialists. Bio certified James and Annie Millton were one of the pioneers of natural, biodynamic wine production in the Southern Hemisphere, establishing their vineyard on the banks of the Te Arai River near Gisbourne on the North Island of New Zealand. The Millton philosophy is to produce wine traditionally using biodynamic techniques. They adhere to the original biodynmic principles as laid out by Dr Rudolf Stiener in 1924 and all the wines are certified biodynamic and have the “Bio-gro”organic trademark and grower number on the back of the bottle. What does this mean? In a nut shell it encompasses “…growing the grapes without the use of herbicides, insecticides, systemic fungicides or soluble fertilisers. It also...

read more
%d bloggers like this: