Cigars and red wine, they may not be a classic pairing but…

Nov 07, 12 Cigars and red wine, they may not be a classic pairing but…

Posted by in Argentina, California, Chile, Lifestyle

I recently took part in a cigar and red wine matching exercise with Alvaro Marcos Garcia of Concha y Tora and two lovely fellows, Jimmy and Dan, from Hunters & Frankau, a major cigar importer and distributor here in the UK. Alvaro is an ex-sommelier and he often noticed that diners would often have a cigar after lunch or dinner with the last of their red wine. When one thinks of cigars, it’s usually port or brandy that springs to mind as an accompaniment. However, even though cigar and red wine are not a classic pairing, they are often a common pairing. This got Alvaro to thinking and before you know it, we were sitting in the outdoor cigar lounge of Home House in Mayfair, lighting up some stogies as an experiment to see how well they would match with red wine. Alvaro had brought along 3 robust red wines to go along with the cigars that Dan and Jimmy from Hunters & Frankau had brought along. The wines were the Don Melchor 2008, Trivento Golden Reserve Malbec 2009 and Bonterra’s The Butler 2007. All 3 wines were from the New World and I think that for cigars, you do need big and brash wines, wines with fruit and structure because, let’s face it, cigars are not exactly wallflowers of flavour. Briefly on the wines: Don Melchor is a Chilean caberent sauvignon, a rich and complex wine with loads of fruit flavours. The Trivento is 100% malbec, a silky wine with loads of cherry and plum on the palate.  The Butler from biodynamic producer Bonterra, is an enticing syrah/grenache blend with mouvedre and petit syrah also in the blend. A rich and velvety wine, it had licorice, black cherry and a spicy note to it. There is an art to cigar rolling and Jimmy explained that hand rolled cigars are preferable to machine rolled because hand rolled cigars are whole leaves that are rolled in a particular order which allows the flavour to develop...

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Hallakra Vingard – visiting a Swedish vineyard

Sep 26, 12 Hallakra Vingard – visiting a Swedish vineyard

Posted by in All, Scandinavia, Travel

“They make wine in Sweden?” That was pretty much the standard response when I told friends that I was on my way to Sweden for a few days to visit a Swedish winery. I can now tell you that yes, they do make wine in Sweden, the wines were surprisingly good and what’s more, the wines I tried were reds made from the variety rondo! I was totally expecting cool climate whites to be coming from Sweden. Sweden is probably better known for it’s knit jumpers, tall blondes and the brooding detective Wallander but they are quietly working behind the scenes on becoming recognized quality wine producers. The man behind this stealth move into the wine industry is Hakan Hansson, the owner of Hallakra Vingard, set just outside the lovely town of Malmo, in the southernmost province of Sweden, Skane. After driving through the hay fields of southern Sweden for about half an hour, I was beginning to wonder where the vines were when a wine barrel with the words Hallakra Vingard popped into view. Yup, this had to be it. Going up the winding road, I still didn’t see any vines but thought they had to be here somewhere and the taxi driver assured me that they did make wine there. At the top of the hill we arrived at what looked like a farmhouse and 2 other buildings in the middle of the fields. The driver dropped me off and then…nothing. Hmmm, as I wandered up the path, I entered the first big building on the right. Looking in, I spied a long table with the detritus of a wine tasting (half eaten cheese, empty bottles, used wine glasses) but absolutely no one about, not even a dog, the silence was a little bit eerie. I was beginning to feel like Wallander at a crime scene when suddenly a smiling blonde woman came rambling up the path. It was Hakan’s wife, who explained to me that Hakan was finishing up a vineyard...

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One of the most expensive bottles of wine in the world? Penfold’s Ampoule

Aug 10, 12 One of the most expensive bottles of wine in the world? Penfold’s Ampoule

Posted by in Australia

One of the most expensive bottles of wine in the world will soon be on sale here in London. It’s from Penfold’s Winery and is called the Ampoule (rrp £120,000). Made from the oldest continuously producing cabernet vines in the world from Penfolds Block 42 Kalimna Cabernet Sauvignon, and only produced in the best years, the 2004 has been chosen to be bottled in the Ampoule. According to Penfold’s,  “…the wine is contained in a hand blown glass ampoule that provides an ideal wine environment and a bespoke glass plumb-bob that suspends the ampoule within a wooden Jarrah cabinet – all produced by South Australia’s finest craftsman…” The most eyebrow-raising aspect is that for that £120,000 price tag, “…a senior member of the Penfolds Winemaking team will personally attend a special opening ceremony for the owner (essentially your very own master-class). The winemaker will travel to the destination of choice, where the ampoule will be ceremoniously removed from its glass plumb-bob casing and opened using a specially designed, tungsten-tipped, sterling silver scribe-snap. The winemaker will then prepare the wine using a beautifully crafted sterling silver tastevin…” Sounds a bit over the top but you will be getting your money’s worth (I hope)! There’s only been 12 bottles produced and this will be the first one displayed in Europe. It will be at the new wine shop opening soon in Mayfair, Hedonism. R un by the aptly named Alistair Viner – formerly of Harrod’s wine department, where he spent 16 years including Chief Wine Buyer before leaving to start Hedonism. Who will buy this wine and is it worth it? Stay tuned…. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Pittacum 2007, mencia from Bierzo – a shapshot

Jul 21, 12 Pittacum 2007, mencia from Bierzo – a shapshot

Posted by in Spain

I received a few wines from the Spanish winery Pittacum the other day to taste. The Pittacum project started in 1999 in the Bierzo region of Spain, with an emphasis on the mencia variety. The vineyards are comprised of old vines ranging in age from 50- 80 years old and are farmed as organically as possible. 65% of the winery was acquired by Terras Gaudas in 2002. The mencia grape gives deep and intense wines and the winemakers aim to show the personality of the wines. They vinify in stainless steel but age the wines in French and American oak barrels. I tried the Pittacum 2007 and although it has apparent oak on the palate, it’s well integrated into the wine, a lush and rich wine with a soft round mouthfeel. A deep wine with intense black fruit notes. Even though it has 14.5% alcohol, it’s not apparent on the nose or palate. A good wine to have with a hearty steak or perhaps a grilled chorizo sandwich. Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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Scary fish and Churchill’s port & wines

Apr 11, 12 Scary fish and Churchill’s port & wines

Posted by in Food and Wine, Portugal, Travel

EEEEKKKKKK! That is one scary looking fish. I bet you’re wondering what exactly it has to do with wine. Well, that is what greeted me after my tour of the cellars of Churchill’s Port’s new visitor centre and lodge in Gaia, Portugal. It’s not some mutant fished out of a polluted river in South East Asia, it was actually our dinner. And a very tasty dinner it was. The salmon (yes, that’s what it is) had been smoked for hours in a old port wine barrel before being plated up and left to scare me upon emerging from the cellars. Despite it’s appearance, it was delicious, having an intensely salmon flavour without the oiliness that so often accompanies smoked salmon. The flesh was flaky and dry but not dried out – served with a mustard dill sauce, it was divine and paired with Churchill’s table rosè wine, a perfect way to end a Friday. Churchill’s Port was my last stop on a 4 day trip to the Douro Valley and Porto, Portugal with Discover the Origin. DTO’s mission is to introduce us to the lesser known but still amazing food and wine regions of Europe, the Douro Valley and port wine being one of the areas on their list. The very charming Johnny Graham, founder of Churchill’s, was our host and happily led us through a tasting of not only Churchill’s port wines but also the line of table wines that they are now producing. Churchill’s is a young port house, founded only 30 years ago after Graham’s was bought out by a big conglomeration. Johnny found that he couldn’t use his surname but he could use his wife’s to found his own port wine house. The new visitor centre and tasting room we were visiting is situated overlooking the Douro River in Gaia and is where Churchill’s currently ages their ports. Speaking to Johnny though, he told us that they are currently in the process of building a new winery in the Douro...

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