Wine Journey under the streets of St. James

Apr 15, 15 Wine Journey under the streets of St. James

Posted by in All

It’s possible to take a vinous journey around the world underneath the streets of St. James, Central London. I was recently invited to join one of these journeys that the Stafford Hotel has now begun hosting in it’s 380 year old wine cellars. The Stafford Hotel is a gorgeous 17th century townhouse that has now been converted into a luxury hotel. Over the centuries, it had a variety of illustrious owners but in 1912 is was sold and turned into a hotel. During WWII, the hotel was used to billet American and Canadian soldiers. There is even a small corner of WWII memorabilia deep in the recesses of the wine cellar. The Stafford has now decided to show off it’s cellars and wine collection by hosting a series of tastings there. Twice a month, the Master Sommelier, Gino Nardella, who has been with the hotel since the 1980’s, will lead visitors on a unique wine tasting experience below the streets of St James. The cellars have always been open to the public, all you have to do is ask, but here is the opportunity to spend a few hours amongst those aged bottles of wine, enjoying a selection as well as learning a bit and doing some food and wine matching. Gino has created a variety of bespoke evenings for wine lovers of all levels. He’ll take you on a journey through the vineyards, via the wine glass. The evening I attended we had a tasting of  wines from around the world. We tried emblematic wines from England, South Africa, Burgundy, Italy, Chile, Australia and Spain. Let me tell you, they don’t skimp on the wines, they were all from excellent  vintages, most from the mid to late 2000’s. Gino was also a great host, charming and informative. The hotel is offering a series of these Wine Journeys starting on 24th April with a Chardonnay Wine Journey. The price is £69 per person and includes food and wine tasting in the cellar with Gino. For...

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Mother’s Day Food, Drink and Travel

Feb 27, 15 Mother’s Day Food, Drink and Travel

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I’ve been turning my attention to Mother’s Day lately. Thinking about where I would go and what I would do in an ideal world. There would have to be plenty of wine or champagne involved of course. Feel free to leave a comment with your suggestions. It would be interesting to hear your thoughts on how you would pair some delicious wines with food, drink and travel. Here are a few of the ideas I’ve come up with so far. Mother’s Day in Brussels. A little bit of luxury is a wonderful thing. Booking a holiday with a reputable company like Venere could be a good option to begin with. Finding somewhere that looks luxurious and suits your budget is the perfect starting point. Brussels is the perfect place for a relaxing getaway. You could even head to Paris from there and sample some fantastic food and wine from the many local restaurants. A Home-Cooked Meal Cooking a meal and spending some quality time with your mum could be the perfect way to spend Mother’s Day. I’m a big fan of traditional, hearty food. A roast dinner is the perfect choice. Get your hands dirty and get in the kitchen yourself. Cooking up a storm on Mother’s Day and giving mum the day off is a fantastic way to spoil busy mum’s who don’t get much time to themselves. If your mum prefers fish, then serve up delicious poached cod with new potatoes and a cool and crisp Chardonnay. Sweets and chocolates There are lots of ways to spoil your mum with a sweet treat. One perfect way is to take her to a chocolate masterclass. This is a great opportunity to get out and do something fun together. Getting hands-on and creating something together is a good bonding experience. Chocolate can also go well with wine if it’s done correctly. Come home and cook her a meal. Desert can be paired with a good quality red wine or for those who prefer something...

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Tasting Vin Clair at Veuve Clicquot, Future Champagne in the Making

Feb 17, 15 Tasting Vin Clair at Veuve Clicquot, Future Champagne in the Making

Posted by in Champagne

I like to think that vin clair tasting is similar to Bordeaux en primeur in that it’s a tasting where you are given a glimpse of the wine to come. With vin clair though you have to use your imagination a lot more to envision how the final blend will turn out. Bear in mind also that it’s not 2 or even 10 vin clair that have to be tasted, it can run into the hundreds. The process often takes weeks before the final assessment of each wine is done and the blend selected. Vin clair is the wine that is produced after the first fermentation of the grapes. Just a reminder, to make champagne, the wine goes through 2 fermentations. Vin clair or base wines are blended together and then put in bottle for the second fermentation which produces all those lovely tiny bubbles. If you like champagne, you’ll hate vin clair but then again, it’s not made for consumption now but in 3 years time, at the very least. These are wines that are very young, they are usually tasted 6 months or so after harvest to access their potential. The aim is to have wines with lots of acidity as well as showing the typicity of the 3 grapes – chardonnay, pinot noir, meunier. This is where the winemakers vision comes in, he or she must imagine how the blend will taste after a minimum of 3 years in bottle and often the wine stays in the bottle for much, much longer. As I’m here in champagne at the moment, I was invited to taste a few vin clair with the Chef de Cave of Veuve Clicquot, Dominique Demarville. He had a few samples of pinot noir, chardonnay and meunier to taste with each wine coming from a different parcel of grapes and a different village. Dominique wanted to take us on a journey of the region with grapes from the north to the south and east to west. We had our...

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Dive Bouteille – wine tasting under the hills of Saumur

Feb 08, 15 Dive Bouteille – wine tasting under the hills of Saumur

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I was on Day 2 of my natural, biodynamic and organic wine tasting trip in the Loire and today we were in the town of Saumur for the 16th annual Dive Bouteille tasting. The Dive tasting is the oldest and most important natural wine tasting around. It was originally started by producers who wanted to showcase their wines outside of the annual Loire Valley Salon de Vins and has expanded to include wines from all over the world. The tasting took place under the hills of Saumur in the caves of Loire valley producer Ackerman wines. Ackerman are not organic, natural or biodynamic but the caves are amazing, with very high ceilings. The troglodyte caves are carved out of the tuffeau rock of the region and are used for art installations and exhibitions. The caves are strategically lit with coloured lights all of which make it a funky venue for a natural wine tasting. The lions share of producers were from France but there were also producers from Italy, Spain, Georgia, Serbia, The US, Argentina, Chile, Australia, South Africa and even sake from Japan. The Loire Valley was well represented but some of the most intriguing producers were from the US and Australia. Granted, they were not heavily represented but the few that I found had provocative wines. La Garagista’s wine maker Deirdre Heekin aims to put Vermont wines on the map. Deirdre is definitely of the no-intervention school of winemaking. Her vines are organic and she uses hybrids that are bred to thrive in cold climates. Cybele, La Crescent, Marquette and Frontenac  are the main grapes she uses. I first tried her sparkling wine made from the Cybele grape. It was relatively dry with good acidity. I didn’t know what to expect so this made for a pleasant surprise. I next tried the Frontenac. I was a bit dubious about red wine from such a cool climate but the Frontenac  had weight and body to it was well as a black fruit profile. Deirdre and her...

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Kosher wine making a splash in London

Mar 14, 14 Kosher wine making a splash in London

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If someone had offered me kosher wine not too long ago I would have politely passed. To me, kosher wine meant sickly sweet and more akin to grape juice then wine. However, after the recent Kosher Food and Wine Experience I attended here in Central London, I have a definitely changed my tune. Kosher wine is technically ‘grape wine produced according to Judaism’s religious law, specifically, Jewish dietary laws (kashrut).’ I think for many years quality was not thought to be a necessary component of the finished product but that is quickly changing in the kosher wine scene. Many of the winemakers are from the New World or the wineries have connections with traditional wineries in wine regions around the world. That influence can be found in the increasing quality of the wine. Just because it’s a kosher wine, doesn’t mean that quality has to be sacrificed. In order to be kosher, the winemaker has to be a sabbath observing Jew and the production has to be overseen under strict rabbinical supervision. There were wineries from all over the world at the tasting. I thought that all kosher wine came from Israel but silly me, there are Jewish people all over the world so it stands to reason that there would be kosher wine from many different wine growing regions. Italy, France, Argentina, Spain, the US, New Zealand and even Poland were all represented at the tasting. I was very surprised at the quality of the wines.  As Joseph Herzog of California winery, Herzog Wine Cellars said, just because it’s kosher doesn’t mean it’s not a quality wine. As well as Herzog some of the other standouts included; Israeli wineries, Flam, Montefiore, Tulip and Lueria, Italian producer Bartenura and Argentine producer Flecha de los Andes. Definitely an eye opening tasting and if I need to pick up a kosher wine for Jewish friends in the future, I know that I can feel confident giving them a kosher wine they’ll enjoy.   Share this:TwitterFacebookLinkedInPocketRedditGoogleTumblrEmailPrintPinterestLike this:Like...

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