Fish & Fizz with The Wine Trust

Jun 24, 15 Fish & Fizz with The Wine Trust

Posted by in Champagne

I do like to indulge in a glass or three of champagne now and then and it’s even better when it’s paired with something good to eat. Did you know that one of the best foods to pair with sparkling wine is none other than that quintessential British dish, fish & chips. So, I happily accepted an invitation by the Wine Trust to their recent Fish & Fizz dinner at Hook in Camden. The Wine Trust is an online only retailer who have a hand picked selection of wines from exceptional producers. They have a team of Masters of Wine winebuyers headed up by Nick Adams MW. Every week Nick and his team choose their wines from a selection of 100’s for their customers. The range is constantly being refreshed, if they find a better example of a particular variety, they’re not afraid to replace it; and if the latest vintage isn’t the best, they’re not afraid to take it off the site. The dinner took place at Hook in Camden. Hook is an Irish owned company although they first started in Belgium. They are all about sustainability and new style fish and chips. That evening we had a selection of their trademark dishes including,  panko crusted Seabass, champagne tempura Mackeral and ink and tarragon tempura of Plaice. Each dish was paired with a champagne and an English sparkling wine. We started with the Ayala Brut Majeur and then moved onto Charles Heidseick Brut and Brut Rose and the 2010 Nyetimber Brut and 2009 Nyetimber rose. We had one of my favourite cremant de Loire’s made by Langlois-Chateau to start. All of these sparkling wines are available from Wine Trust. I quite enjoyed the matches. The bubbles working so well with the fish and the twice cooked chips. One of the funnest utensils they had was the spray bottle of malt vinegar. I would have taken that bottle home with me if I could have! I think that both teams at The Wine Trust...

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The Gallivant – an English Seaside Hideaway

May 20, 15 The Gallivant – an English Seaside Hideaway

Posted by in All

I’ve always loved to visit the seaside. As a kid growing up in Central California, we would often take road trips to the beach and stay overnight in little seaside hotels. The Gallivant just outside Rye in Sussex aims to capture that easy going California vibe – and I think they are quite successful at doing that. Situated across from sand dunes so big that you can’t see the long sandy beach on the other side, The Gallivant is a little coastal hideaway on a two lane road that runs past the dunes. The single storey building has been around for 25 years and started out as a beach side café. Roughly 5 years ago, Harry Cragoe bought the hotel and has transformed its into the lovely boutique property it is today. They like to refer to it as ‘a restaurant with rooms’ and the restaurant and terrace are a focal point of the hotel. It’s all very cosy, comfy with a sky blue and white colour motif running throughout the hotel. The rooms are a good size with plenty of lovely little touches like old fashioned black telephones, canvas beach bags and very fluffy bathrobes. I especially liked the ‘Larder’, rather then have a mini-bar in every room there is a large pantry at one end of the hallway that is stocked with artisanal snacks, soft drinks and wine. It’s all done on the honour system, you just write down what you’ve taken and hand in the chit at the end of your stay. I think having it at the end of the hallway is genius – less temptation and all that…. The hotel focuses on offering outstanding products in a relaxed but thoughtful atmosphere. One of their main USP’s is that fact that they strive to provide local, seasonal, high quality produce – 95% of all the ingredients used come from within a 10 mile radius. I love the fact that everything is fresh and seasonal. While I was there, I had...

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Part 2 of my visit to Vilarnau – Amphoras, chestnut barrels and tasting the cavas

Dec 11, 14 Part 2 of my visit to Vilarnau – Amphoras, chestnut barrels and tasting the cavas

Posted by in All, Spain, Sparkling Wine

Yesterday I visited cava producer Vilarnau in Penedes, Spain (post here).   After my tour of the grounds and winery, it was time for a tasting of their cavas. As we were walking through the cellar to the tasting room, we passed by a collection of clay vases that were sitting under a set of spotlights. Curious, I asked my guide, Vilarnau winemaker Eva Plazas Torné, if they were some sort of archeology display. With a laugh, she explained that they were actually an experiment that they was currently conducting with the xarello grape. Eva explained to me that she was experimenting with fermentation in amphora made from the various soils of Penedes. I asked her if it she had gotten the idea from the Georgians but she told me that she had gotten the idea from a local potter that she knew, she liked his work and asked him if he could make amphora for her. Her idea is to make amphora from the  different soils of Penedes and ferment the xarello in a distinct amphora to see how the fermentation goes. Already, Eva says that one of the xarello’s (the one in the amphora mostly composed of clay) has almost finished malo while the others have changed to different degrees but not gone through malo. Eva hopes to find the best soil for the amphora and ferment the xarello in it. If things go to plan, she’s hopes to use 300 litre amphora next year. The experimental amphora this year are only 15 litres.  After fermentation in the amphora, she would than do the second ferment in bottle. It will be interesting to see how/if this experiment is successful. As for Eva, she admitted that she’s just as curious as me to see how it will turn out. Almost directly in front of the amphora was another experiment of Vilarnau, chestnut barrels. Eva explained that in the region a hundred years ago,they used to use chestnut instead of oak for barrel aging when...

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What’s the difference between cava and champagne? I found out during a visit to Vilarnau Cavas

Dec 10, 14 What’s the difference between cava and champagne? I found out during a visit to Vilarnau Cavas

Posted by in All, Spain

The world of sparkling wine is many and varied and although I have largely confined myself to the pleasures of champagne, sometimes you have to get out of your comfort zone. So I was game to visit the cava producer Vilarnau whilst I am spending time here in Barcelona. Cava has recently overtaken both champagne and prosecco in the UK marketplace so they must be doing something right. And so, Vilarnau was my first stop in discovering the world of cava. The Vilarnau winery is situated in the heart of Penedes, right outside the town of Sant Sadurni, a short 40 minute train ride from central Barcelona. The winery sits on rolling hills with the mountains of Montserrat as a backdrop to the vines. The day I visited it was a blustery day so we had a clear view of the mountains. Vilarnau was bought by Gonzalez Byass in 1982 and with the considerable resources that GB has, they have completely modernized Vilarnau. The new winery was inaugurated in 2005 and with the help of automation and a robotic ‘helper’ by the name of Manuelito (more on him later) they are able to produce 1.2 million bottles of cava a year with only a staff of 13 and they are considered a medium sized producer. Pretty impressive. One of the two enologists of the winery, Eva Plazas Torné was my guide for the afternoon. Eva first started by telling me about the differences and similarities between cava and champagen. I was keen to know as cava is made in  the traditional methode. Firstly, there are 3 main varieties in cava – xarello, macabeo and parellada. However, they are also allowed to use subirat parent (an old variety that was used in the past and similar to malvasia) chardonnay and pinot noir and for the rosés, they can use indigenous grapes – trapat, monestrell and garnatxa as well as pinot noir. Like champagne,the wine goes through 2 fermentations, the first usually in tank, the second in the...

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Debut of the Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru 2002

Jun 12, 13 Debut of the Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blanc Grand Cru 2002

Posted by in Champagne

More champagne today. As Liberace said, “Too much of a good thing is wonderful…”  (I just saw “Behind the Candelabra” – good movie but didn’t knock my socks off. And that is the end of my film critic career…) ANYWAY, back to the more important stuff…It’s that time of year when the champagne houses release their vintages and Alice  Paillard was in London last week to introduce the Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blanc Grande Cru 2002 and it’s brand new label. Sitting with Alice and listening her speak so passionately about her family’s champagnes is infectious. Describing the champagnes, she really showed the care and detail that goes into all of them, not just the Blanc de Blanc. They age their wines until they feel they are ready, they want to show the style of  the vintages, which helps explain why they are just now releasing the 2002 when most of the other major houses have long ago released theirs. The 2002 Blanc de blanc Grand Cru was a surprise – still very taut and zinging with minerality, it has a floral quality to it. The grapes come the first pressing of 2 Cotes de Blancs Grand Cru – Oger and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger and have spent over 10 years on their lees. Alice said that she and her father, Bruno, differed on this champagne, he thinks it’s pretty and floral and in her opinion, it’s a vertiginous champagne, it has a fine structure -she sees it as a champagne of geometry (I think her father is the romantic in the family and she’s the pragmatist). Drinking it, I could appreciate both their points of view. A very pretty nose, full of floral qualities but totally different on the palate – a champagne that does indeed have structure or better yet, for me, it had many different layers. The more I drank, the more I discovered. We had a starter of cured salmon, avocado, crab and orange slices with the B de B 2002 which...

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