It is with great sadness that we learned of the death of Greek winemaker Haridimos Hatzidakis this weekend. Sebastian Payne MW, buyer for Greek wines, had met Haridimos a number of times and pays tribute below.

Haridimos Hatzidakis, who sadly took his own life on 11th August, was one of the most original, engaging and inspirational winemakers I have had the good fortune to know. Each time we met it seemed he had embarked on a new challenge.

Carving his new cellar from tufa out of a Santorini hillside covered in vines, was one of his more ambitious schemes. Exploring all the possibilities of the island’s marvellous native grapes was his passion.

Originally from Crete, he became, because of his talent, winemaker for the major wine producer Boutari, but from 1996 he set up on his own on the island of Santorini, working originally from a tiny cramped cave winery just outside Pyrgos, the highest village in the island.

He had only a few hectares of his own but was able to lease four hectares of land with some amazing century-old vines from the monks of Patmos and also from vineyards owned by a local nunnery of the prophet Elijah.

All his vines were cultivated sustainably, without pesticides, herbicides or irrigation, the humidity from sea breezes providing just enough moisture for the vines trained close to the ground in unique bird’s nest shape.

He never made his life easy, but the popularity of his main estate white assyrtiko, and the reputation he earned for his old-vine Mylos were truly deserved.

Over the last decade he had been achieving increasingly exciting results from mavrotragano, the native red grape, which had almost become extinct till he championed it. His new cellar was home to an exotic range of wines he worked on such as bullseye (voudomato), aidani, and the late-harvested Nykteri and Vin Santo.

All his wines were memorable and exciting to taste and will ensure he will not be forgotten. I shall particularly remember the twinkle in his eye when he stood in his beloved vineyards talking about wine, grapes and the soil. He was at his happiest connecting with the earth.

Our condolences to Haridimos’ family.

Sebastian Payne MW
Society Buyer

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Tue 01 Aug 2017

Staff Choice: A Pink For All Seasons

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As any members who have attended her events will know, Emma Briffett from our Tasting Team is a bastion of good taste, with a superb palate and a wonderful passion for wine.

Her Staff Choice reflects this in style: not only has she managed to find a great-value rosé gutsy enough to stand up to whatever the British summer decides to throw at us, but she has also provided a bonus recipe to get the most out of it!

Find a full archive of Staff Choices on our website here

Brindisi Rosato Vigna Flaminio, Vallone 2016

I know it’s a cliché, but I do seem to drink a lot more rosé over the summer months than at any other time of the year. Maybe it’s because rosé wine is so inherently cheerful, or perhaps because it goes so well with BBQs and makes you feel like you have a little slice of the south of France in your back garden whilst you’re sipping.

Whatever the reason, we’re lucky here as The Wine Society has plentiful supplies of pink, and this one is my current favourite.

This is not your barely blushing pink so favoured in Provence, rather a big gutsy style of rosé from southern Italy made from negroamaro and montepulciano with heaps of red-fruit flavours and hints of spice.

This is a perfect food wine – we had it last week with butterflied lamb cooked on the BBQ and a green salad with an anchovy dressing. See below for the recipe – it’s extremely easy to make, lasts for ages in the fridge and is very tasty.

Recipe for the anchovy dressing…
• Juice of 2 lemons
• 1 small tin of anchovies
• 1 large clove of garlic
• 1 cup of olive oil
• Salt and pepper to taste.
Blitz it all together in a blender and pour sparingly over salad leaves – the more bitter the better!

Emma BriffettEmma Briffett
Tastings & Events Co-Ordinator

£7.75 – Bottle
£46.50 – Case of six
View Wine Details

Categories : Italy
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Fri 07 Jul 2017

The Society’s Big Night Out!

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The annual International Wine Challenge Awards Dinner at London’s Hilton on Park Lane is always a glitzy affair, with the great and the good of the world’s wine trade coming together to celebrate the best in wine and sake.

Society CEO Robin McMillan receiving the IWC Wine Club of the Year award from IWC Co-Chair Peter McCombie MW

We always know how The Society is doing in the eyes of you, the members, because you’re always so generous with your feedback, whether positive or constructive. That’s what drives us and is the very essence of what we are about – The Society is, after all, its members – but it’s always rewarding when we receive third party endorsement, especially from our peers in the trade.

Last night was the night when the IWC gives out its coveted UK Merchant of the Year awards. The Society was shortlisted for six 2017 awards, so it was with anticipation and excitement that six from The Society (CEO Robin McMillan, buyer Marcel Orford Williams, campaign manager Vicki Markham, Member Services co-ordinator Tracy Richardson, buying administrator Sarah MacCormack and PR manager Ewan Murray) joined over 600 wine trade colleagues.

And we weren’t disappointed! Being shortlisted is already an achievement, but winning is the icing on the cake!

We have a proud history of winning Wine Club of the Year and so were very pleased to continue this tradition. Another award we retained was that of Specialist Merchant for Regional France (Alsace, Beaujolais, Corsica, Jura, Provence, Savoie, South West France and other lesser known nooks & crannies). It was also very special to regain the Specialist Merchant for Portugal crown. Congratulations to our buyers Jo Locke (Alsace & Portugal), Toby Morrhall (Beaujolais until May this year) and Marcel Orford Williams (the rest!).

While there is a lot of work behind the scenes all year round from all 220 Society staff to get things right, it’s really all down to you, the members, who keep on drinking , and appreciating the quality and value for money of, the wines we discover for you. There are so many merchants and channels to choose from when buying wine – we thank you for your loyalty, and look forward to continuing the good work together!

Ewan Murray
PR Manager

Edit (21/7/2017): This wine has now sold out after a very enthusiastic response from members. We are sorry for any inconvenience and encourage you to visit the blog at the start of August, when a new Staff Choice will be unveiled.

This month’s Staff Choice was an absolute pleasure to receive: an excellent-value, out-of-the-ordinary Spanish white with a charming story behind it. I confess I’ve already tried a bottle at home on the strength of Georgie’s recommendation and can only echo her sentiments below.

The back-label story, referenced in Georgie’s review, reads:

Memories of childhood, games amongst the vines, I still smell the start of Autumn, aromas of vine that drifted through the narrow streets of the village. The legacy of a grandfather, somebody so important in my life, other ancestors too, that have passed on the pride of the land where I was born. Herència Altés is a homage to my roots. – Nùria Altés

Find a full archive of Staff Choices on our website here

Herència Altés Garnatxa Blanca, Terra Alta 2015

I’m lucky enough to be married to someone passionate about wine who also happens to be our Warehouse and Supply Chain Manager. So quite often I get handed an unknown glass at home on a Friday night. I’m never disappointed but this was a wine that justified an ‘Oooh, what’s this?’

They say you should never judge a book by its cover and never judge a wine by its label, but the romance and story telling that comes from the delicate front label made me love this wine even more. Nothing beats a great-tasting wine with a wonderfully personal story, which the producer Nùria Altés shares on the back of the bottle. I never get tired of hearing about the passion winemakers put into their vineyards and their wines.

Herència Altés Garnatxa Blanca, Terra Alta 2015 is full in the mouth but with plenty of fresh grapefruit acidity to clean the finish. As a sauvignon blanc fan, I feel it offers a richer and more complex alternative. It’s a surprisingly modern Spanish white wine.

Georgie Cleary
Member Services Adviser

£7.95 – Bottle
£47.50 – Case of six
View Wine Details

Categories : Spain
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Mon 03 Jul 2017

Food Without Fuss: Currant Affairs

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This year the crop of cherries from my small tree went for a Burton thanks to spring frosts and a variety of feathered fiends.

In particular, our local wood pigeons have had a right old go at the foliage which is now so shredded that it looks like an innocent bystander at the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre. So I needed to look elsewhere for our homegrown treasure.

What I found is certainly homegrown – just not at our home.

A friend feels that they will have a glut of blackcurrants this year and by handing over of a bottle of The Society’s delicious Falanghina to sweeten the deal I have managed to secure some of that harvest.

My plan for these gorgeously purple beads is to use their piquant sharpness and fruitiness to make a sauce for strong, dark game, such as a seared slab of venison, or some plump pigeon breasts. The idea of the pigeon breasts came to me as I looked out at our lacerated cherry tree and saw one of the fat flying f-f-fellers proudly posing at the scene of the crime. Gratifyingly it seemed to gulp as it blinked back in the face of my steely glare. I think my gaze is pretty steely, though my missus tells me it’s more Paddington-like. Good enough!

Steve Farrow

THE RECIPES

Venison Steaks (or Pigeon Breasts) with Blackcurrant Sauce

Venison Steak with Blackcurrant Sauce

Ingredients:
For four people you will need:
• Four venison steaks (100 -150g each and fairly thick cut is best whatever size you use) or similarly sized portions of loin fillet, or eight pigeon breasts if making a main course.
• 100ml of good brown chicken stock or a light beef stock
• 150ml of a ripe red wine
• A small handful of fresh or frozen blackcurrants
• 2 tablespoons of a high-fruit-content blackcurrant jam or conserve (like St. Dalfour)
• A couple of good knobs of very cold butter
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper

On the hob, heat a skillet or heavy based frying pan until smoking hot, rub the fillet or breasts with a little olive oil and season well.

Sear the fillets for about four minutes a side until caramelised on the outside but still rare inside, or the pigeon breasts for just a couple of minutes or so per side. You really don’t want to have either meat well-done.

Remove them from the pan and set aside to rest. Pour the red wine into the hot pan and reduce by two thirds, scraping to incorporate any of the caramelised bits.

Pour in the stock and reduce it all by half again.

Spoon in the blackcurrant jam/conserve and stir to incorporate.

Add the fresh or frozen blackcurrants and bubble for a few minutes until hot again.

Pour any juices that have come from the resting meat back into the sauce.

Finally, drop in the cold butter, whisking or stirring quickly over the heat so that it thickens the sauce and adds a gloss.

Put the meat on to warm plates, spoon over the sauce and serve.

Wine Matches:
The Concha y Toro Corte Ignacio Casablanca Merlot 2014 (Worldwide Wonders plan) is an ideal match with its blackcurranty fruit, structure and ripeness. Look too to the spicy Saint-Maurice Côtes-du-Rhône Villages, Domaine de l’Echevin 2013 (French Classics), the darkly fruity Biga de Luberri Crianza, Rioja 2014, the brambly Pisano Progreso Tannat 2015 (Lighter Wines or available for £7.95) or the ample, dark-fruited De Morgenzon DMZ Syrah, Stellenbosch 2013 (Discovery or available for £8.50).

Mushroom Pithiviers
My second recipe, pastry parcels golden and puffed from the oven and filled with a creamy mushroom mixture, might not seem that summery but I made these pithiviers recently and they were light but deeply savoury so I thought I’d share them. I use ready rolled all-butter puff pastry for this but by all means make it yourself if you have the time and the inclination.

Mushroom Pithiviers

Ingredients:
For two main-course sized pastries you will need:
• 120 g of shitake mushrooms cut into bitesize pieces
• 150g Portobello mushrooms also in bitesize pieces
• 10g dried porcini mushrooms soaked until soft and finely chopped (retain the soaking liquor)
• 1 finely chopped shallot
• 1 clove of garlic crushed or finely chopped
• 4 tablespoons of Mascarpone cheese
• A handful of chopped parsley
• A pinch of dried thyme or a teaspoon of fresh
• A large knob of butter
• 1 tablespoon of olive oil
• 1 beaten egg
• 1 beaten egg yolk
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 300g of puff pastry

Melt butter in a sauté pan on a medium-high heat. Once it’s sizzling throw in the fresh mushrooms and diced porcini and sauté until the mushrooms are soft and any liquid has evaporated.

Lower the heat and add the chopped shallot and garlic and cook gently for another few minutes until softened. Remove from the heat.

Pour the mushroom mixture into a bowl and add a tablespoonful of the reserved porcini soaking liquor and the Mascarpone cheese while the mushrooms are still warm. Stir until it is well incorporated, making a creamy sauce. Leave it to cool a little.

Add the chopped parsley and stir it through, then taste and season appropriately.

Put the bowl in the fridge for an hour to chill.

Pre-heat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/gas 6.

On a floured surface roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin, and cut two 14 centimetre discs and two 18cm discs.

Remove the mushroom mixture from the fridge. It should have set quite stiff. Divide the mixture between two teacups or two small pudding moulds and then turn them out on to the centre of each of the 12cm discs. You should have a border around each pile to brush with beaten egg.

Place the larger (15cm) discs over each mound of mushrooms, cupping your hands and using the edge of them to push down on the egg-washed edges to seal, squeezing any air out as you go.

Trim neatly round the parcels and use the tines of a fork to press down the edges to make a pattern.

Put the parcels back in the fridge for half an hour to chill, then remove and using the point of a blunt knife make a spiral pattern from the centre of the domes to the patterned edge without cutting through. Poke a small hole in the top so that steam can escape while they bake.

Brush each pithivier with the beaten egg yolk and chill again for half an hour.

Bake the pithiviers on a baking sheet for 25-30 minutes or until puffed and deeply golden-brown.

Use leftover puff pastry to make cheese straws, and if all this messing about with pastry discs is just a pain in the pithivier by all means make turnovers or pasties instead!

Wine Matches:
Delicious with the Terra Rossa, Vina Laguna 2015 (Discovery or available for £7.50), Salice Salentino Riserva, Vallone 2013 (Discovery or available for £7.95), Finca Antigua Crianza Tempranillo 2013 (Wine Rack Essentials or available for £8.50), Domaine Montangeron, Fleurie 2015 (French Classics or available for £10.50), or Three Terraces Marlborough Pinot Noir 2015 (Worldwide Wonders or available for £12.50). Indeed, there is hardly a red in any of the Wine Without Fuss selections that won’t work with this dish!

If you fancy a white, try it with the soft, fruity Côtes-du-Rhône Secret de Famille Blanc, Paul Jaboulet Aîné 2015 (Worldwide Wonders or available for £8.50) or the full-bodied Móri Ezerjó, Kamocsay 2015 (Discovery) from Hungary.

Categories : Wine Without Fuss
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I have been visiting Bordeaux vineyards every year since the early 1980s. Though Tim Sykes, our current Bordeaux buyer, now does all the work, going out there several times a year, I was delighted to join him for the crowded but fascinating week in early April, when all the châteaux first show the new vintage together in organised tastings for the world to judge.

Bordeaux vineyards

We visit all the top châteaux to taste on the spot, and many others too, and double check or triple check samples with merchants at well-organised general tastings.

Because they receive so many visitors, châteaux prepare fresh samples of their final blend so people can taste from sample bottles. I rather miss the opportunity of tasting direct from barrel with maîtres de chai, which was possible when I made several more leisurely visits in the past. So I was delighted to be able to do just that on a couple of occasions during a packed week this year.

Bordeaux

At Château Canon in Saint-Emilion, Nicolas Audebert has recently taken over from John Kolasa, who did such a marvellous job rebuilding the quality of both Canon and Rauzan-Ségla for owners the Wertheimer family, of Chanel fame. Nicolas let us taste Canon 2016 from several barrels (subtle differences because of different barrel makers), before we tasted the final assemblage. The wine looks most promising.

Nicolas Audebert

Tasting with Nicolas Audebert

Next day Tim and I missed a turn (my fault) on the way to Tertre Roteboeuf and stopped to ask a couple of men chatting in a nearby vineyard for directions. One of them turned out to be Nicolas. Another promising sign for the future of Canon. This man does not just sit in an office and tell others what to do. He walks the walk.

Sebastian Payne MW
Society Buyer

Bordeaux has produced an abundance of superb wines in 2016. Our main en primeur offer is available now, including reds, dry whites and sweet whites.

Buckle up, sherry lovers – the next fortnight is Sherry Festival 2017, a two-week celebration of this beloved fortified wine from the Spanish city of Jerez de la Frontera.

Sherry festival

If you’ve yet to discover how much more sherry has to offer than the sickly sweet stuff your gran used to drink, we have some handy beginners’ guides to sherry here and here, but this year we want to shift the focus to sherry’s fantastically food-friendly qualities.

What about pouring a healthy splash of this flavoursome fortified creation into a tasty recipe or two?

We’ve done plenty of that over the years, so here’s ten of our favourite sherry recipes:

1. Artichokes and potatoes with oloroso sherry

Next time you have steak, this is a lip-smacking, flavour-packed side dish to try, and comes from chef-owners and husband and wife team Sam and Sam Clark of the Moro restaurant in London. What to drink with it? Another glass of the oloroso sherry used in the recipe, of course!

1 Artichokes and potatoes

2. Heston Blumenthal’s potted Stilton

This surprisingly easy but impressive dinner party starter is rich, indulgent and perfectly illustrates how well sweet pedro ximénez sherry goes with salty blue cheese. If you’re looking for more ideas from Heston, try his masterful sherry and food matching book, The Perfect Marriage.

Heston potted stilton

3. Fillet of cod with chorizo

A classic Gordon Ramsay recipe that’s packed with Spanish flavour. We recommend using a fino sherry with this one, and The Society’s Fino is an ideal example. Serve with a glass of rosé.

Cod and chorizo

4. Braised pig cheeks with oloroso sherry

Looking to wow your guests with a popular tapas dish or two? This succulent, herby recipe is a classic choice and comes from the tapas experts at Drake’s Tabanco restaurant in London.

braised pig cheek

 
5. Tagliatelle Alfredo

A simple take on the classic pasta dish, combining tried-and-true flavours of ham, mushrooms and cream. The generous glugging of dry sherry in this recipe adds an added dimension of flavour that makes this one of our favourite comfort food recipes.

Tagliatelle Alfredo

6. Grilled wild Atlantic salmon marinated in citrus, coriander & cumin

Fresh herbs, Seville orange and a rich, medium sherry like amontillado or oloroso unite in perfect harmony to bring out the best in a juicy fillet of Atlantic salmon. This is a delicious summer recipe and especially good to eat al fresco in the garden after a long day at the office.

Grilled atlantic salmon

7. Pantry peppers

Hidden away in the archives of our blog is a textbook tasty recipe from Janet Wynne Evans, who spent many a year creating much-loved recipes for our Wine Without Fuss cases until she retired earlier this year. These deceptively simple rice, black pudding, dry sherry and pesto stuffed peppers are an Iberian delight and work brilliantly as a hearty starter or can be served as a main course with crusty bread and a salad.

Stuffed peppers

8. Bob Andrew’s Seville duck

Bob Andrew is a chef at Riverford Organic Farmers and this sweet and smoky duck and baked rice dish has an authentic Andalusian vibe. A refreshing alternative to paella or risotto, and the fino sherry in the recipe gives an extra Spanish kick.

Seville duck

9. Steamy Oriental aubergines

A quick but tasty mid-week supper with a light dressing which marries the aromatic flavours of soy sauce, dry sherry, ginger, sesame and honey. Another fabulous creation from Janet Wynne Evans.

Oriental aubergines

10. Chicken and morels in a creamy sherry sauce

Finally, our most recent sherry recipe, courtesy of our new Wine Without Fuss recipe guru Steve Farrow. The appeal of this dish doesn’t need much explanation: a French classic combining tender chicken, earthy mushroom and a rich, creamy sauce using manzanilla or fino.

Chicken in morel cream and sherry sauce

If you’ve been inspired to knock up a mouthwatering meal using a splash or two of sherry, view our full range of sherries here, or pop into the Showroom during the Sherry Festival from 5th to 17th June as we’ll have plenty of bottles open for you to try.

Categories : Fortified, Sherry, Spain
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Many members will have spoken to Paul Bousfield from our Member Services team over the years. Paul also performs another vital service for Society members as part of a team that assesses the quality of new wine shipments that come into our cellars. This under-£10 Chilean red not only passed with flying colours, but has also become a favourite in his home.

A hearty wine, and a hearty endorsement…

Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Maule Garnacha 2015

Find a full archive of Staff Choices on our website here

Undurraga Cauquenes Estate Maule Garnacha 2015

Keen-eyed readers may note that this is the second garnacha to make an appearance as a Staff Choice since the turn of the year. This one hails from the new world, and shows great fruit-forward character.

I first came across it when part of a team testing new shipments of wines, and was staggered by the quality and the complexity at this price point. Since it came onto our books, we have had this wine at home a number of times and it has never disappointed.

Undurraga are a great Chilean producer. I recommend their Carignan-Mourvèdre blend as well, but feel that this garnacha offers the best value for money, just sneaking in at under the £10 barrier. The wine shows brambly fruit on the nose, and this gives way to lovely sweet fruit on the palate, with touches of blackcurrant, aniseed and vanilla. It is 14.5% but this is not overpowering, just comforting!

It may or may not be sunny outside, but we can all still enjoy hearty food whatever the weather. This wine can work with casseroles and BBQ meats; our favourite match though is to have it with bangers & mash. Enjoy!

paul-bousfieldPaul Bousfield
Member Services Adviser

£9.50 – Bottle
£114 – Case of 12
View Wine Details

Categories : Chile
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Once upon a time, we would have dismissed the idea of pairing spicy food with wine and suggested members opt for a beer or soft drink instead…

…but as David Williams says in his article for Societynews (‘What doesn’t grow together might just go together’), part of the fun of wine is to experiment and find out which foods work well with our latest wine of choice.

Share the passion!
If you find yourself a sure-fire winner, do let us and fellow members know by posting a picture of your winning combo on social media and using the hashtag #wines4spice

Wine writer David Williams believes there's fun to be had 'from the deliciously creative chaos of the contemporary global food scene.'

Wine writer David Williams believes there’s fun to be had ‘from the deliciously creative chaos of the contemporary global food scene.’

As a nation we are notorious for pinching and then adapting other people’s cuisines to call our own and at the moment, our desire for the increasingly eclectic seems to know no bounds. Often these cuisines are from non-wine-producing nations, making the old adage of ‘what grows together, goes together’ a bit redundant. More often than not, what tickles our tastebuds in terms of sensory hits, also spell death to happy wine matches.

So what should we do?

David’s article gives some great pointers for wines that should work with our penchant for global fusion cooking and we’ve put together some suggestions in the Exploration pages of the website too, including a special mixed case.

So, whether you’re a fan of the subtle yet assertive flavours of Japanese sushi, fiery and fermented Korean kimchi, the sweet and sour zing of South East Asian cooking, or the intense vibrancy of Peruvian ceviche; if the perfumed spice of Eastern Mediterranean cooking is on the menu or if you are just pimping up some traditional ‘fast food’, you could do worse than equip yourself with our mixed 12-bottle Spice Box case of wines which should have something for everyone.

Because we want people to explore and enjoy, the case has a special price too – £95 instead of £106.80 – a saving of £11.80.

Korean kimchi - a bridge too far for wine? Not at all, we say! Look to Alsace...

Korean kimchi – a bridge too far for wine? Not at all, we say! Look to Alsace…

Finding the perfect partner
When I asked our buyers for wine suggestions to go with the weird and wonderful-sounding dishes that David name-checked in his article, I wasn’t at all surprised to hear some conflicting views on the subject.

Food and wine-matching is guaranteed to get a few people hot under the collar around here and when it concerns the cuisines in David’s article (and nations which don’t produce wine), you have to rip up the rule book and start riffing on the key ingredients in the dishes and flavours in the wine instead.

As everyone knows, ultimately, what works well is a matter of personal taste, but some common ground was reached and we came up with some additional thoughts on the subject to those espoused by David Williams, which I thought members might be interested to hear.

Adding in my own personal preferences (how dare I?!), we did eventually decide amicably upon the suggestions printed in the News, and the broader selection of wines now appearing in the Exploration pages of the website.

Phew! Who would have thought it could be so difficult?

Oh, and If you don’t have access to a tasty takeaway to get hold of such exotic dishes, by the way, we have corralled a couple of recipes together to recreate your own Friday-night favourites at home.

Here are some of our buyers’ thoughts on the subject of finding the perfect bottle:

Marcel Orford-Williams

Marcel Orford-Williams‘In my opinion, the rule of thumb when it comes to pairing wines with these kinds of cuisines is that you’re best off opting for wines that are not too subtle and certainly not too mature either. With my last Thai take-away we had the Coffeles’ Soave which was thoroughly delicious.

I was once taken to a sushi place in Reims and we were served rosé Champagne from a number of different Champagne houses (I think someone was trying to make a point!), I seem to remember Roederer Champagne Rosé with a piece of Kobé beef was utterly sensational.

‘People talk of riesling working well with these kinds of dishes – they can, but don’t waste too grand a bottle, its delicate subtlety would be lost, in my view. Simple wines work best and something like Louis Guntrum’s Dry Riesling 2015 would be smashing with sushi.

Gewurztraminer is the other go-to grape when it comes to curry (its name actually means ‘spice’), but again, don’t go too grand and go for dryer styles – Trimbach, Beyer or Hugel would be my choice, or even an edelzwicker (Alsace blend) like our Society’s Vin d’Alsace, perhaps. I have very fond memories of a post-tasting dinner in a Bradford curry house with our Alsace winemakers, where we managed to get through practically an entire case of gewurztraminer between us!’

‘Don’t forget to think pink when it comes to eclectic cooking! These wines are incredibly versatile and cope really well with spice.

Pierre Mansour

Pierre Mansour‘For Eastern Mediterranean food, obviously we have a some lovely Lebanese wines that would be a perfect match, but I also would opt for rich Spanish Rioja like Castillo de Viñas, or something based on the monastrell grape such as our Society’s Southern Spanish Red.’

Joanna Locke MW

Joanna Locke MWWhen it comes to pairing wines with sushi I can’t help but feel those whites with the freshness of the nearby sea work bestalvarinho or Vinho Verde from Portugal’s Atlantic coast, or traditional French seafood partners, Muscadet or Picpoul de Pinet.

‘I remember a conversation with Luis Pato, pioneering winemaker of Bairrada wines, when he told me about the culinary and historical connections between Japan and Portugal and how Portuguese wines are becoming increasingly popular because of their ability to pair with global cuisines. “Thai food requires wines that are fruity and lowish in alcohol, and the Japanese are very enthusiastic about our wines. There are a lot of similarities in our cuisine. Both nations eat a lot of fish and pork and though both use spices, the cuisine is essentially quite simple.”

Read more about his thoughts on the subject in our interview with Luis on our website

‘It makes perfect sense and provides some kind of explanation as to why Portuguese whites seem to work with spicy, global cooking. The reds, on the other hand are equally versatile, I think, with riper Dão vintages an excellent choice for Eastern Mediterranean dishes and both reds and whites adaptable to dress up or down for posh fast food!

Another spice tamer, particularly if coconut milk is involved, is chenin blanc. Even quite delicate-seeming wines like the Demi-Sec from Domaine Francis Mabille can hold their own surprisingly well against a bit of chilli. And the Cape’s chenins or chenin-based blends with a bit more oomph to them, can work with Asian spicing or even Caribbean cooking.

Fish and citrus is nothing new for us but in the currently fashionable Peruvian ceviche genre with its blistering lime tang calls for an Aussie dry riesling or Greek assyrtiko

Fish and citrus is not new for us but in the currently fashionable Peruvian ceviche genre, with its blistering lime tang, an Aussie dry riesling or Greek assyrtiko are called for

Sarah Knowles MW

Sarah Knowles MWFusion cooking and global cuisine was big down under long before it hit our restaurants and the up-front zesty, ripe-fruit flavours you get from Aussie dry riesling chime beautifully with sweet-sour and hot nature of many of these dishes.

Full-throttle spicy shiraz, or a GSM blend is a no-brainer for Eastern Mediterranean cooking. But I also like the soft, fruity flavours of Pedroncelli’s Friends Red Sonoma County, which would be a good standby for this style of cooking as well as posh fast food.’

We hope that you have fun finding your own perfect pairings – don’t forget to share! #wines4spice

Joanna Goodman
Communications Editor

Visit our Exploration wines page

Snap up ‘The Spice Box’ Case for £95 (instead of £106.80)

Read David Williams’ article for Societynews

Categories : Miscellaneous
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With English Wine Week beginning on 27th May, Steve Farrow gets us in the mood with some food and wine ideas to try out…

English wines and winemaking have come a long way just in the 25 years that I have known and tasted them. With increased investment in vineyards and wineries, more experienced winemakers and even, it must be said, better temperatures for grape growing, English wine has now firmly earned its place on the world wine map.

Ridgeview in Sussex, the source of our Exhibition English Sparkling Wine

Ridgeview in Sussex, the source of our Exhibition English Sparkling Wine

In terms of grapes, we’re now masters of the mostly Germanic varieties we first started growing in the 1950s, including müller-thurgau, huxelrebe, reichensteiner, scheurebe, seyval blanc and madeleine angevin. But English soils often have similarities to those across the Channel in Champagne, and we’re beginning to triumph with the famous bubbly’s preferred grapes of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier too.

So it seems fitting for me to begin my food and wine matching suggestions with our fine English fizz.

English sparkling wine
Our bubbly is made in the same way as Champagne and is an excellent food match. What with? Well, the short answer is seafood.

English sparkling wine’s zesty, lively character cuts through the crunchy batter and flaky fish of a traditional fish and chips, the acidity and zingy bubbles are like drizzling lemon juice over smoked, oily fish like salmon or trout, and the fruit and bite will be a winning partner for a crab or lobster salad.

Fish and chips

One dish that I can personally vouch for is (although perhaps old-fashioned these days) is a glass of our very own Exhibition English Sparkling Wine (£21 per bottle) with herring roes on toast. The gentle bready character of the wine melded with the hot, buttered toast, while the citrus cut of the acidity lifted every mouthful of the soft, floured and fried roes with their dusting of sea salt and white pepper.

Bacchus
Beyond the bubblies, bacchus is probably the darling of the English wine scene. A cross between müller-thurgau and a sylvaner-riesling cross, it shares aroma and flavour characteristics with sauvignon blanc, and often shares food matches with this grape too.

This fragrant, acidic style is a match for many cheeses – think the fresh sharpness of goat’s cheese, crumbly Lancashire and Wensleydale, as well as saltier cheeses like sheep’s milk Berkeswell or Manchego.

Cheese

The grassy, nettley, elderflower character is a summer food dream, from a herby pea risotto to a seared salmon fillet with green veg like asparagus, mangetout or runner beans.

Smoked salmon with a cucumber salad or gravadlax with a sweet, sharp mustard sauce will also cut the… well, mustard.

Try:
Chapel Down Bacchus 2015 (£11.50) from Kent
Camel Valley Bacchus 2015 (£13.75) from Cornwall

Aromatic English blends
Many English whites are a skilful mix of some of the Germanic grapes I mentioned in the intro, and these gently floral and fruity wines make for excellent summer drinking, especially with light, aromatic foods. Try them with fragrant Eastern Asian dishes like Thai, Szechuan, Vietnamese – perhaps a sea bass fillet steamed with ginger, lemongrass, basil and garlic, or a good old Chinese takeaway.

thai ingredients

Try:
Three Choirs Payford Bridge 2016 (£8.50) from Gloucestershire.

Pinot Blanc
Alsace fans will be pleased to learn the great waves English winemakers are making with pinot blanc, creating crisp, fresh, non-aromatic but vivacious wines that match a range of seafood (see the suggestions for the bubbly above) and also the same cheeses mentioned in my bacchus recommendations.

The fruit and freshness can also cut through the richness of quiche Lorraine, mac and cheese or a fondue.

Quiche

Try:
Stopham Estate Pinot Blanc 2015 (£12.95) from Sussex.

Rosé
Last but by no means least, our Three Choirs Rosé (£8.25) is a crisp, red-fruited winner that will happily stand with a roast chicken or pork dinner, a bowl of pasta in any tomato-based sauce and simply grilled lamb served juicily pink and scattered with rosemary. Rather like a light red, this rosé is also lovely with salmon steaks fresh from the pan or grill, and a couple of thick slices of ham, whether with chips or a major salad, will offer a melodic duet indeed!

As English Wine Week unfolds, I do hope you can give our homegrown wines a chance to shine with some of your spring dinner delights, or even just to sip as a palate awakener or to accompany the view as you look at your handiwork in a sun-blessed garden. They are just so fresh, vibrant and delicious – they really do deserve your attention.

Categories : England
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