I was recently fortunate enough to pay a flying visit to Bordeaux with Society buyers Tim Sykes, Joanna Locke MW and Sebastian Payne MW to gain some insights into how well the 2014 vintage had turned out in Bordeaux.

View our opening offer of the top wines from Bordeaux 2014

Having made similar trips in previous vintages I knew that tasting the ‘primeurs’, as they call them in Bordeaux, is no picnic. Tasting a hundred or so young, tannic reds before breakfast is not unheard of and not for the faint-hearted! But there is really no substitute for tasting and retasting the wines side by side in situ to form a proper judgement before making our selection for members.

François MitjavilleFrançois Mitjaville of Tertre Rôteboeuf and Roc de Cambes – my personal wines of the vintage.

On this occasion we had an exceptionally early start leaving at 2am on Sunday to catch the first flight to Bordeaux to make a big négociant tasting of more than 200 wines at 9.30am. Four hours later we had a quick lunch followed by another tasting of a similar number of wines with another négociant; our palates and critical faculties were being put to the test, but this is where the experience and professionalism of our buyers comes come into their own.

By now I too had gained a feel for the character of the vintage and there were already proving to be some real highlights among the wines. We had heard producers talk optimistically about the 2014 vintage being saved by a late summer and the wines certainly seem better than any of the last three years and have a real freshness about them; very much in a classic mould.

I confess, after such an early start and packed programme with so many wines to taste, I was a little apprehensive about the schedule for any equally long day on the Monday. But one of the visits planned was to prove the highlight of the trip: a visit to the cellars of François Mitjaville, who owns Tertre Rôteboeuf and Roc de Cambes.

Though I have helped to sell both wines to members for more than 20 years I have never had the opportunity to try them. And what a treat it was, not least because François is such a charming host and very generous with his time, most eloquently and patiently explaining the different character of each of his vineyards as he took us round them, huddled under an umbrella against the pouring rain.

Somewhat relieved to get out of the rain, we made our way to his cellar, a short walk from the vineyard, set up on the slope above Saint-Emilion to taste, straight from barrel, what were, I thought, my wines of the vintage. Both Roc de Cambes and Tertre Rôteboeuf have an ethereal quality about them and I was hugely impressed.

His passion and drive for high quality were inspirational and really left a mark on me, as did the wines, whose memory I shall savour. After tasting more than 400 wines from the 2014 vintage I can say that I am extremely optimistic about this vintage.

Shaun Kiernan
Fine Wine Manager

Our first offer of en primeur 2014 clarets is now available. This is an opportunity to pre-order the top red wines of Bordeaux with prices shown as a guide at this stage.

Find out more about buying wines en primeur (or from opening offers).

Categories : Bordeaux, France
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Mon 20 Apr 2015

A Plea For Help: Wine Glossary

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Do you know your carbonic macerations from your malolatic fermentations? Your dosage from your assemblage or your lees from your flor?

Or are you occasionally forced into the odd bout of head scratching? If you fall into the latter category then not to worry, as we know you’re not alone.

Wine

The Society has a wide and diverse membership, which is one of the joys of working here and yet simultaneously one of the challenges faced when communicating about wine. It’s very difficult to gauge the level of wine knowledge of hundreds of thousands of members.

I know from personal experience of meeting members in The Society’s Cellar Showroom and out and about on tastings that many members are extremely knowledgeable about wine with a depth of understanding that many wine professionals would be proud of.

I also know that there are many members who are much newer to wine and for whom the sheer number of terms and technical descriptions can seem more like coming to grips with a foreign language than understanding something as pleasurable as wine.

The Society’s buyers and our dedicated Copy Team constantly strive to make all our wine notes and descriptions as accessible and thorough as possible (quite a task given space constraints in our printed materials and the vast number of wines stocked) however the one size fits all perfect wine note is something as elusive as the snipe illustrated on the label of The Society’s Red Burgundy.

With this in mind and following on from member feedback last year we have decided to include a glossary of terms in The Society’s next List (an online version is already available here) starting from July. Although we will only be able to feature a small selection of terms in the list it is hoped that we can cover the most common ones and point members to our more comprehensive online glossary.

The stumbling block is selecting which terms to include. The people best placed to choose are of course you, the members!

So let us know which phrases have you reaching for the Oxford companion to wine and which terms are enough to drive you to drink! With your help we can compile a list of the most common culprits and feature them in The Society’s quarterly List and convert head scratching time into more pleasurable drinking time!

Gareth Park
Marketing Campaigns Manager

Categories : Miscellaneous
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Spring in the southern Rhône is not reliably balmy (20 degrees on arrival, eight on departure) but it guarantees a quiet, untouristy Avignon, the joy of a deserted Pope’s Palace to explore, with nothing but a bit of piped plainsong for company, and the space to dance on the remains of the pont.

Alas, my own celebratory twirl, just after the Wales XV’s surely unsurpassable 61- 20 victory over Italy, was scuppered by the rest of Six Nations Super-Saturday. Talk about a bridge not far enough!

It’s also the end of the black truffle season, with generous last hurrahs festooning the chic plates of every restaurant worth rooting out. And should you tire of this embarrassment of black gold, there’s always an old-fashioned daube avignonnaise to warm the cockles (more on that later).

Spring vines in Châteauneuf-du-PapeSpring vines in Châteauneuf-du-Pape

No need for that on a cerulean and blossomy spring day in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, whence we tootled pleasantly in our shirt-sleeves to Vacqueyras and Gigondas. The Dentelles de Montmirail basked prettily in the sun as we continued north to Vinsobres and Valréas, and beyond, almost to the point where the mediterranean south gives way, sometimes abruptly, to the continental northern Rhône. I recall once driving through sleet in Tain l’Hermitage only to start tearing off layers of thermals on arrival at Montélimar.

My target on that occasion was not a nougat-matching workshop, but the Coteaux du Tricastin, some 30km south-east of the town. Originally designated vin délimité de qualité supérieure (VDQS), this region has relaunched itself as AOC Grignan-les Adhémar and in quick succession, has earned its place both in The Society’s current List and in my heart. It’s ridiculously cheap and utterly delicious. A fine 2013 bottling from Delas (£6.95) is currently flying off our shelves. A delightful 2012 from Domaine de Montine is also in stock for £7.95 and shows the appeal of this region’s wines with aplomb.

Château de GrignanChâteau de Grignan
Grignan is a pleasant little town, with a narrow back street that twists charmingly up to the eponymous Château. Cue the Adhémars, its proprietors, a powerful and landed local family, one of whose scions married the only daughter of the Marquise de Sévigné, 17th-century doyenne of witty and elegant letter-writing. Many comic (and tragic) scenarios are based on the notion of a visiting ma-in-law who refuses to go home, but this one liked the place so much that she is buried in the church below.

The real heroine of Château de Grignan, though, was Marie Fontaine, widow of a naval officer whom, with admirable timing, she married just before he inherited a fortune and died, leaving her with the means to restore the place to its former glory in 1912.

The Adhémar family name lives on in a number of places close by, including Montélimar itself (derived from Le Mont de l’Adhémar) and, with the town, these define the 1800ha of grenache,syrah, cinsault, carignan, mourvèdre and viognier laid down by the appellation.

Now, back to that beef stew, and what puts the Avignon in the daube avignonnaise we enjoyed on our return to the city. Our waitress explained that it was, oh, just beef, olives and good red Rhône wine, Madame but a lifetime of trying, repeatedly, to recreate this kind of thing at home has turned me into another kind of griller.

The famous 'galet', or pudding stone, soil of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, pictured at Château Mont-RedonThe famous ‘galet’, or pudding stone, soil of Châteauneuf-du-Pape, pictured at Château Mont-Redon

It emerged that the meat is beef cheeks, which would certainly explain the unctuousness of the sauce. Secondly, the olives are black, local, home-cured, well herbed and stone-in. Thirdly, the wine is set alight, without assistance from the spirit world, at least not the one labelled marc du Châteauneuf.

The view from Château de GrignanThe view from Château de Grignan
This is a new one on me and I can’t wait to try it though I suspect that even in these days of creeping alcohol levels, it may be challenging. I even wondered if I’d been teleported to April 1st, and indeed, having now looked up this dish, I note that it’s traditionally lamb and white wine (uncombusted) that define a daube avignonnaise. The one I ate near the Place de l’Horloge, was nothing of the kind and so tasty that I’m sticking with it, just as it is still sticking with me and my midriff.

So, once browned in olive oil, the meat goes into the casserole with all the other ingredients not mentioned in the first spec, but charmingly and collectively described as ‘tout ce qu’il faut’: the time-honoured rhythm section of chopped celery, carrots and onions, softened in the residual browning fat, a good sprinkling of garlic and a bouquet garni of fresh Provence herbs (bay, rosemary, thyme) with a pinch of the dried variety for intensity. The wine is flamed (good luck!) in the browning pan and that goes in too, with the olives. Three or four hours in a slowish oven work their magic.

The partners of choice are olive-oil mash, and, of course, a goodly glass of Grignan-les-Adhémar which will dance on the palate, if not on the pont.

Janet Wynne Evans
Fine Wine Editor

To read more about Château de Grignan log onto chateaux.ladrome.fr.

Another fine place to visit is Château Suze-La-Rousse, near Bollène, headquarters of the Université du Vin and atmospheric venue for wine education, tastings and food-matching classes.

The Class of 2013 Rhône, our current showcase of the best for drinking this spring and summer, is available until Sunday 26th April while stocks last.

Categories : France, Rhône
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John Kolasa tasting

The picture displays the riches that were on offer at The Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh recently but cannot begin to convey the whole experience shared by forty members and their guests. A re-run of a tasting held in London four years ago (just 10 wines then, 14 this time in Scotland) this event brought John Kolasa ‘home’ to Scotland to share his observations and passions over his 40+ years in Bordeaux, eight of which at the helm of first growth Château Latour, the last twenty presiding over Châteaux Rauzan-Ségla in Margaux and Canon in St-Emilion on behalf of the Wertheimer family of Chanel.

The tasting spanned a range of vintages from 2011 back to 1998 across these two fine properties, including second wines Clos (now Croix) Canon and Ségla.

Quality, predictably, was high – to be expected from two top classed growth properties in such safe and experienced hands and with the backing of one of the world’s great fashion houses. The wines also displayed a sense of place coupled with clear vintage differences. A fascinating and very special event we wish more could have enjoyed, especially given the positive feedback from John’s fellow Scots on the night.

Jo Locke MW
Society Buyer

Wed 08 Apr 2015

An Explorer’s Paradise: New Wines

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The publication of our April List (subtitled ‘An Explorer’s Paradise’) brings a wealth of new wines to our range.

Below we reproduce the introduction to this List, which focuses on some of them. You can take a look at all of the new wines here, and a selection of lesser-known gems (including a mixed case) can be found in our Exploration Wines section. Enjoy!

Whatever floats your boat (and it won’t cost you more)
The Wine Society April ListThe world is a very much smaller place these days. In the twinkling of an eye we can have most of it on a plate or in a glass, and the challenge is to stay head. As one of our trendsetting buying team recently tweeted from the field, ‘this place is crawling with wine buyers!’

Finding gold, especially the liquid variety, is no achievement if there are no takers for it. Here The Society scores highly because our members are firmly on board. Finding something you like and sticking with it, despite the myriad other options available, is not our way.

Consider some of the treasures brought home for this April List: our first red and white from Crete (£8.95 and £9.95 respectively), a new Lebanese red from Château Ksara (£15.50) and a Spanish abillo (£11.50) and Hungarian kékfrankos (£13.95) to add to an already considerable varietal count.

More familiar regions don’t stand still either. For those of us more deeply concerned about the land than the seven seas, you’ll find three organically grown Chiantis from prime estates Fontodi (£17), Frascole (£10.50) and La Leccia (£11.95). Equally agrochemical-free are a new mencia (£9.50) from Portugal’s rugged Beira Interior, a white Chinon (£11.50) and a Bulgarian pinot noir (£9.95) which convinced exacting Burgundy-fancier Sebastian Payne MW.

Finally, let’s not underestimate the fun of rediscovery. A welter of delicious 2014 white Bordeaux for instance (please search the website for a full listing), or a cracking new manzanilla (£7.95) to get the palate racing.

All prices are, again, held in this List. We wish all members a pleasant voyage of discovery.

Categories : Miscellaneous
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Tue 07 Apr 2015

Rolling Out The Barrel in Ribera

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The humble oak barrel has been with us for centuries, peacefully protecting and preserving various liquids.

During my recent visit to Ribera del Duero, I witnessed first hand how ageing in oak barrels can complement the taste of a wine and, by chance, visited a bodega where they had a cooperage on site, allowing an anorak like myself to witness the birth of a 500-litre barrel.

After sourcing the oak, the cut wood is left to its own devices and exposed to the elements for two years to season the wood. During this time the undesirable bitter tannins leech out and dissipate. The wood is then covered for a further year to stabilise, ready to be made into a barrel.

Oak seasoning in the sunOak seasoning in the sun

Oak in Ribera del Duero

As we approached the cooperage I could feel heat emanating out and the aroma drifting from this area had the unmistakable (and rather soothing) sweet smell of smoke.

The planks are then cut to shape to make the 28 staves that make up a barrel. They need to be accurate so they fit together perfectly: no adhesive is used and the barrel needs to be water tight!

Oak in Ribera del Duero

Ready to made into barrelsReady to made into barrels.

Once rings are attached to one end of the barrel, it is then either heated with steam . This softens the wood ahead of bending into shape, or (as is more common in winemaking) toasted to release flavour.

Toasting time!Toasting time!

Old oak chips in burners provide the means for this, the level of toasting dependant on what the winemaker wants for their wine.

Oak in Ribera del Duero

Oak in Ribera del Duero

Oak in Ribera del Duero

Having then been sprayed with the water to soften the wood, the barrel is slowly coaxed into shape and the final ring is persuaded on.

Oak in Ribera del Duero

Time to roll out the barrel… and fill it!

Oak in Ribera del Duero

Conrad Braganza
The Cellar Showroom

Categories : Spain
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For me it is always good putting a face to a name. It can change one’s perception and aid appreciation.

This is also true of wine regions.

RiberaI was fortunate enough to travel with our buyer for Spain, Pierre Mansour, to visit producers in Ribera del Duero, taking in Pérez Pascuas (where Gavilan is produced), Bodegas y Viñedos de Monteabellón (where Avaniel comes from) and the legendary Vega Scilia.

After a two-hour drive, we ascended slowly and emerged at what seemed the top of the world onto the plateau some 800m above sea level where Ribera del Duero sits. The area felt barren and harsh – admittedly it was winter, but it did not have hospitable feel of an area that could grow anything, let alone grapes for wine!

The main variety grown, as in Rioja, is tempranillo (known locally as tinto fino or tinto pais), which, remarkably, does flourish in these conditions and produces better fruit in poor soil. Some cabernet sauvignon, merlot and malbec is also grown and blended in some Riberas. The white grape grown is albillo, but it is its reds for which Ribera is famous.

Given that Ribera only gained its official DO status in 1982, one might be forgiven for thinking that this is a relatively new region, but winemaking goes back to Roman times here, and many bodegas have had generations of the same family at their helm.

Attaining DO status appears to have been the catalyst for an influx of investment since and now state-of-the-art winemaking equipment abounds. The region grew from some 20 producers to now over 200. One winemaker we met said, ‘Before the new winery it was like painting the sky with one blue, now I have a whole palette of blues.’

State-of-the-art winery facilities and attention to detal: at Vega Sicilia even the drains are branded!State-of-the-art winery facilities and attention to detail: at Vega Sicilia even the drains are branded!

Temperature wise, days can be very hot here – up to 40C – but then dropping to cold evenings. Diurnal temperature differences of 30C are not uncommon. The Duero river of course has a role in tempering these conditions, as does growing at this altitude. However, frosts are also a real issue; some occur as late as September, as was the case in 2007. One winemaker commented, ‘2007 wasn’t a wine – it was a miracle!’

But it is these variations in temperature, combined with a typical vine age of over 30 years, that contributes to the character of these wines: they have incredible concentration and tannic structure from the heat of the day, but the coolness of the evenings allow the grapes to compose themselves and preserve acidity, meaning that the wines retain a beautiful seam of freshness.

We found the quality of the fruit to be good and healthy, and the wines we tried shone through and revealed great purity of fruit and fragrance. There was great structure too , and a gamut of flavours from sweet fruits of the forest to dark fruits, taking in herbal notes, a mineral mildness and a subtle savoury quality; all held together with firm to velvety tannins.

Oak contact also defines these wines. The careful toasting of the oak and choice of French or American oak enhanced the body and flavour of these wines imparting an array of spices introducing notes of mocha, tar and coconut, as well as the more common vanilla.

I now have a greater sense of wines from Ribera and their quality – wines that I feel offer an appealing generosity and a character entirely different from Rioja. The wines have their own distinctive style and identity. Take for instance the Avaniel (£7.50), a fresh-tasting, fruit-forward Ribera made without oak; or try the bold Gavilan (£10.95) to get a feel for the dense dark fruit, all backed up with a toasted oak background. To witness its aging potential, try the 2009 Viña Pedrosa Reserva (£26), which has concentration balanced with elegance and poise; it’s starting to drink well now but will also reward those who can be patient. All would suit hearty meals!

For someone in an advisory role, like myself, a foray into a region like this provides better understanding of a region and people, and ultimately the wine. I left with the overriding impression that Ribera del Duero is an area where tradition and technology have married together harmoniously.

Seeing really is believing.

Conrad Braganza
The Cellar Showroom

Categories : Spain
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Wed 01 Apr 2015

History & Innovation

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prom

141 years ago, The Wine Society was founded at the Royal Albert Hall after the last of the International Exhibitions of the Victorian era (the legacy of the Great Exhibition of 1851). The Society has decided to go back to its roots in a wonderfully innovative and tasty way.

Coravin® systemCoravin® system

Work has already started on creating air-conditioned cellars beneath the Hall where bottles of fine wine will be stored (just like during the International Exhibition of 1874). The plan is that all will be ready by the summer of 2016, in time for the BBC Proms season.

Many members had expressed their concern that when attending Prom concerts, as well as other events at this prestigious venue, they were unable to take bottles of their favourite Society wines to their seats. This will very soon be a thing of the past. At the push of a button located in the member’s arm-rest, via the wonders of Coravin® technology linked to a network of capillary tubes, wine can be delivered directly from unopened bottles in the cellars through a tap situated right next to the button into a waiting glass. Those in the audience who are not members can sign up on the night and enjoy this facility too.

The wines available will include sparkling wine from England’s Nyetimber (to toast Land of Hope and Glory), merlot from Israel’s Clos de Gat (to accompany Jerusalem) and the Languedoc’s La Clape (to enjoy during long rounds of applause). It’s a nifty idea that we’re sure all cultured Prom-attending members will appreciate. If he were still around, we’re sure Sir Henry would …

Ewan Murray
PR Manager

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Swiss mountain restaurantApart from making their appearance in the April List, Switzerland and Crete haven’t much in common on the face of it. Coincidentally, though, both are places that I have visited just once in my life. I mean no disrespect to either – so many places, so little time, is my mantra nowadays, and of all the holiday spots I have most enjoyably ticked off, there are just two to which I return again and again, dosh permitting: the Caribbean, for the rapid decompression it delivers and Corsica, for its beauty, individuality, tasty food and transformed wines.

My only proper Swiss foray (I don’t count a quick dash through the St Gothard pass, en route to Italy) was a very upscale works trip in the 1970s, and my life Before Wine. It being January, our hosts kicked off with a soirée de raclette, which was new to me, but an enormous wheel of the eponymous cheese melting before a roaring wood fire, platters of little baked tatties, bowls of crisp salad and bottles of chilled white wine looked  quite promising.

Having been shown the simple etiquette by a smiling, dirndl-clad waitress – (a) spear your spud (b) run it along the surface of the cheese to gather up the melted strings (c) transfer to mouth and (d) wash down with the searingly dry wine – the salad, as ever, was optional and quite possibly for decorative purposes only – I was hooked. Not so much by what might have been described as a bit of an outlandish take on Welsh rabbit, but the combination of mountain cheese and a bracing white wine. Box ticked.

My experience of Crete was a late-summer break in a small, beachside apartment complex. For the first few days, we had the place almost to ourselves, with nothing to distract us but the smell of jasmine and the undivided attention of a bewhiskered barman with a penchant for the Pet Shop Boys, played at deafening volume. We were joined for the last few days by an enormous family party who, every morning, snubbed the yoghurt and honey on offer and took itself off in a fleet of taxis to Chania for the full English breakfast. For all I know they did this every evening too, as dinner was not an option at the ranch, beyond a Greek salad that was emphatically NOT purely for decoration. In fact, it outclassed every one I had ever sampled and I spent some years trying to pinpoint what made it so good. Countless varieties of tomato, different brands of feta cheese, litres of designer oils and a whole colony of Little Gems were sacrificed in the attempt, but the solution was blissfully cheap and easy in the end. See below.

Our preferred dining-spot was a restaurant along the beach that quickly got the royal warrant  for  lamb or swordfish kebabs that managed to stay unfeasibly moist despite the ferocity of the barbecue. The cubes were separated by sweet, ripe tomatoes that managed not to explode, olives and dark, musky bay-leaves.  It came, naturally, with chips.

Which, as everybody knows, can’t be had just the once.

 

Cheese & wine party

You can buy raclette from specialist cheesemongers, and even a raclette kit – an electrical element to melt it on – but I have long since recognised the difficulty of replicating at home that cosy night in an Alpine tavern. Many members may, like me, be itching to get out old fondue set instead, along with the equally dusty bottle of kirsch traditionally used as a final flourish.

Fondue simply means ‘melted’ and it looks simple enough, but it isn’t really. A mountain of grated cheese doesn’t automatically sink effortlessly into a bottle of tart white wine and many of my efforts have turned out to be a bit lumpisch to be honest so I won’t pass on any whizz-bang tips to enhance the recipe book that came with the set.  Just make sure you buy the right kind of cheese (it doesn’t work with Cheddar) and a wine of high natural acidity, and be prepared for a lot of stirring – traditionally, in a figure of eight – to ensure a good liaison between the two.

baked camembertTo those for whom fondue sets are just that bit too retro, I say not ‘hard cheese’  but a whole bloomy or washed-rind one, enlivened by a splash of white wine and a scattering of fresh thyme and baked in its box for 20 minutes in a hot oven, until bubbling volcanically. Camembert or, if you’re feeding a crowd, Brie work well, but my all-time favourite for this is Golden Cenarth, from my home county of Carmarthenshire and increasingly available in good cheese shops on this side of the Severn Bridge. Hand around sourdough or walnut-bread soldiers or even some little boiled potatoes to dunk into the molten cheese and relish the way in which the wine, like a piercing yodel, calls your palate to order.

Serve with one of our new whites from Domaine des Muses  in the heart of Swiss Valais, either the light, dry refreshing Fendant Classique 2013 (£16.50 instead of £19.50 for one bottle until Sunday 3rd May 2015), or the more exotic Petite Arvine Tradition 2013 (£30) with aromas of peach and apricot to the fore.

 

Recipe: Marinated char-grilled swordfish with secret-ingredient Greek salad

I find it easier to keep swordfish moist by char-grilling it in one piece, and a thinnish one at that, rather than cubing it. As with tuna, the point about a thinnish piece of meaty fish is that it cooks very quickly without losing its juiciness.

By all means use powdered bay, but I recommend home-drying fresh leaves (a minute or so in a microwave will do it), storing them in a jar and crushing them to order for maximum punch.

Get marinating the night before, or at least 12 hours in advance.

For the swordfish

4 swordfish steaks, about 150g each
1 lemon
1 tablespoon of fruity olive oil plus a little more for brushing
A shallot,  peeled and thinly sliced
2 dried bay leaves crumbled and pounded (use a spice/coffee mill or a pestle and mortar)
Whole sea-salt crystals

Zest and juice the lemon into a shallow container. Add the oil, powdered bay and shallot. Put in the fish and spoon the marinade over it. Leave for 12 hours, preferably overnight in the fridge.

When ready to cook, heat up a ridged char-pan until very hot – very faintly smoking. Lift the fish from its marinade and brush with a little extra oil.

Place the steaks carefully on the pan (you may need to do this in two pans or two batches) and press down with a fish slice. Resist the temptation to shuffle them about.  After a minute or so gently see if they can be easily lifted. If not, be patient. Once they come quietly, turn the steaks 180C for half a minute if you want to achieve a trendy diamond scorch mark.

Flip over and cook on the other side for no more than two minutes. Season generously with the whole salt and keep warm between two plates in a low oven while you cook the other two and finish the salad, which is the perfect accompaniment.

For the salad 

 I like to make this in individual bowls, but a large platter is appealing too.

2-3 Little Gem lettuces or a large Cos (wrong island, but at least Greek!), rinsed
A vine of the ripest tomatoes you can get, halved or quartered
A cucumber
200g feta cheese, cut into small cubes
A small jar of preferably Greek olives in oil (very  important)
A small bunch of mint, leaves only, washed and dried
A large, juicy lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Greek salad

Firstly, peel the cucumber, halve lengthwise and  scoop out the watery seeds with a spoon. Chop each half into chunky pieces and put in a colander. Give them a good sprinkling of salt and leave for about 20 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and pat dry with kitchen paper. This manoeuvre boosts crunch and flavour in a vegetable famous for neither attribute, but skip it if you’re short of time.

If using Little Gems, trim off the root and peel away the individual leaves. If using Cos, trim off the root , chop or roughly tear the rest and arrange on your plate (s).

Scatter the cucumber, tomatoes and feta on top and give everything a good grinding of black pepper. The olives should provide plenty of salt.

Drain as many olives as you fancy of their oil, but don’t discard the oil. Add them to the salad.

Finally, dress with a good squeeze of lemon juice and – here’s the top tip – some of the oil from the olive jar.

This can now sit patiently while you make a bonfire of Euros or smash a few plates. Chop and add the mint just before serving.  I like to give everyone a slice of lemon and serve of the olive oil in a little jug to that guests can adjust the dressing to suit their palate.

Try with our new Cretan white Vidiano Karavitakis 2014 (£9.95) – Karavitakis is the name of the winery based near Chania, vidiano an indigenous variety which has an aroma of lime and apricot and spicy fresh fruit on the palate.

 

Go to the Wine World & News pages for more recipes

Categories : Other Europe
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By far my most important buying job of the year is putting together the blend of The Society’s Rioja (important because around 11,000 members every year buy it).

In the blending room - The mathematics behind The Society's RiojaIn the blending room – The mathematics behind The Society’s Rioja

Last November at Bodegas Palacio in Laguardia, winemaker Roberto Rodriguez and I spent most of a day mixing, tweaking and tasting various components. Quality this year is excellent, thanks to the concentration of the vintage (2011) and the fact that Roberto gave me access to some of his finest barrels of tempranillo normally destined for reserva-level wines.

Looking closer at the components, it’s clear to see why. Firstly, 2011 saw some of the Bodega’s healthiest tempranillo grapes which meant the wines were able to support extensive ageing. This year we selected from barrels where the wines have aged for a staggering 22 months (that’s 7 months more than the previous vintage).

Incidentally that means the wine does legally qualify to be labelled as a reserva. The barrels chosen were 90% American oak, a significant feature in good traditional-style Rioja, and 10% French oak: this combination endows the wine with a round, smooth texture and a hint of vanilla spice.

Our shipment of the new blend has arrived from Rioja and is available now for £7.50 per bottle. I hope you like it.

Pierre Mansour
Society Buyer

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