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Tue 02 Jan 2018

Food Without Fuss: Pride of Pide

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This recipe, while hopefully of use and interest to all, was written with the New Year selections of our much-loved Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind.

Friendly, flexible and commitment-free, Wine Without Fuss is now better than ever, with five plans to suit every taste and budget. And you can cancel, change or skip an order at any time!

Why not join the growing band of members who let their Society take the strain, and are regularly glad they do?

I am a bit of a sucker for intrepidly tramping off the beaten track in search of new wine experiences; but I am still only skipping across the tip of an iceberg, because – depending on who you believe – there are up to 10,000 grape varieties around.

10,000! Really? That means that I have tasted less than 3% of wine grape varieties in more than 25 years of a deep, abiding interest in this wonderful drink. Complicating matters is the number of grape varieties with several names used in different places. The Italians, it sometimes seems, call a grape by a different name every 75 yards, and central Europe’s complicated historical upheavals are as nothing to the confusion over the nom de plumes of the Romanian variety babeasca neagra, which Wikipedia tells me has 105 synonyms.

What I am getting at here is that there is a wonderfully wide world of wine out there and a good deal of it is well, well worth a try. Sure, the likes of chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, sauvignon blanc and syrah are familiar, classy and called ‘noble varieties’ for a reason, but there are so many other wonderful and fascinating grapes that will reward you with that something different, new experiences and flavours, and sometimes a real thrill.

Very often these wines have a moment of magic in them when paired with the food of the region from whence they come. The deep fruit framed by tannins and acidity of the saperavi grape of the Caucasus can make a great deal of sense with a Georgian lamb shashlik, for example. Turkey is one place that promises to reveal a feast of previously unknown wine treasures to match their varied regional cuisine, a cuisine that is making more and more inroads into the British restaurant scene, so increasing the exposure of people to Turkey’s ever-improving wines. All to the good, I say.

My recipe this time reflects something of this. A pide is rather like a boat-shaped Turkish pizza and is very versatile. It can be topped with almost anything you fancy and used to match all kinds of red or white wines depending on the version you choose to make, particularly the Turkish wines mentioned below, which are not only from the same part of the world but also showed themselves to be – when I selflessly tested them – absolutely perfect.

Steve Farrow

Minced Beef or Lamb Pide

Please don’t feel you have to limit yourself to the minced meat topping shown here. I have also made them with spinach and feta (or cream cheese or even Cheddar), garlic and cumin, or peppers, tomatoes and salami, or tomatoes, garlic and aubergine, or almost anything that you fancy will make a topping.

For the base:
• 7g sachet fast-action dried yeast
• 1 1/2 tsp caster sugar
• 300g strong bread flour, plus extra for dusting
• 2 tsp salt
• 2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra for oiling the baking sheets and drizzling
• 100ml cold water
• 25g butter, melted

For the topping:
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 350 g minced beef or lamb
• 1 red onion, diced
• 3 cloves garlic, chopped
• 1 tsp tomato purée
• 1 tsp ground
• 1 tsp ground coriander
• 1 tsp turmeric
• 1 pinches ground cinnamon
• 400 g canned chopped tomatoes
• 1 tablespoon clear honey
• 3 tablespoons of sultanas
• salt and black pepper (plenty of the latter)
• picked or chopped coriander leaves
• 1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds, or a handful of toasted pine nuts if preferred.
• plain yogurt

1. Preheat the oven to 220C/gas 7 and lightly oil two baking trays.

2. Put the yeast and sugar in a small bowl and add 2 tbsp of tepid water; give it a quick stir and set aside until the mixture begins to froth after a few minutes.

3. Sift the flour into a mixing bowl. Make a well in the centre and add the salt. Pour in the yeast mixture and olive oil. Start to combine with your hands, then add the water little by little until the dough starts to come together, adding a drop or two more if needed to bind the dough. Tip the dough out onto a floured work surface/board and knead for 5-10 minutes until shiny and elastic. Put the kneaded dough into an oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave somewhere to rise for an hour, until the dough has doubled in size.

4. Once the dough has risen, take it out of the bowl and divide it into four equal pieces and form each into an oval. Dust your work surface or board with flour, and dust the top of dough and roll it thinly into the shape of a flat boat or rugby ball, about the thickness of a 2p piece. Lift the flat ovals onto oiled baking sheets and brush them with melted butter. Set aside.

5. For the topping, over a medium heat fry the minced meat (beef or lamb) in 1 tbsp of oil until brown. Add the onion and cook until softened and then add the garlic for a couple more minutes. Add the tomato puree, ginger, cinnamon, coriander and turmeric, cook for two or three minutes and then add the chopped tomatoes, honey and sultanas, and simmer for 15 more minutes. Allow to cool slightly.

6. Pile the cooked mince mixture onto the dough ovals (we did ours quite thickly piled but you can spread it out a little more thinly, it’s up to you) leaving a centimetre or so clear around the edges, and turn up the edges to create a rim. I bake two pides at a time but if you can fit two onto each baking tray by all means do four at a time. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes, or until the dough is golden brown and the topping is hot through.

7. Once out of the oven, give the edges of the pides another brush with melted butter. Lay on a wooden board or serving platter and scatter with sesame seeds or pine nuts, drizzle with yogurt and olive oil, scatter with coriander leaves and serve.

Wine matches:
Try this or almost any version you like with the soft, fruity and fresh Öküzgözü Vinkara 2014 (£9.25) or the stone-fruit succulence of Narince Vinkara 2016 (2015 vintage available online for £8.50), both from the Wine Without Fuss ‘Discovery’ case.

Also good to match with the fragrant spice of the dish would be plummy but fresh fruit of Fauno Grenache-Shiraz-Monastrell 2015 from Spain (Wine Rack Essentials), the darker berries of the Nero d’Avola La Ferla Sicilia 2016 (Wine Rack Essentials), and the aromatic, spicy in their own right Silbador Rapel Gewürztraminer 2016 (£6.95, Wine Rack Essentials) and Villiera Estate Gewurztraminer, Stellenbosch 2017 (£7.95, Discovery) will meet spice with spice.

The juicy stone-fruits of The Liberator ‘Trample Dance’ Cape White Blend, Western Cape 2016 (£7.95, Wine Rack Essentials), and the scented Nero di Troia, Rasciatano 2015 (£8.95, Lighter Wines) will also stand with the pide very happily, while the Terrenus, Alentejo-Portalegre 2015 (£11.50, Worldwide Wonders) also brings both freshness and Iberian ripeness to the table. Finally with plenty of rich, dark fruit the Côtes-du-Rhône Le Temps est Venu, Stéphane Ogier 2015 (French Classics) will take on all comers if you make a meaty version of the pide.

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This recipe, while hopefully of use and interest to all, was written with the latest selections of our much-loved Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind.

Friendly, flexible and commitment-free, Wine Without Fuss is now better than ever, with five plans to suit every taste and budget. And you can cancel, change or skip an order at any time!

Why not join the growing band of members who let their Society take the strain, and are regularly glad they do?

My significantly better half swears by the 5:2 diet, and to be fair to her it is the one she has stuck to through thick and, ahem, thin. Fundamentally, the diet proposes an element of fasting and the victim – I mean weight watcher – can eat largely what they like for five days out of seven but must stick to no more than 500 calories on each of any two days in the week, ideally not one after the other.

I can’t say that I am a convert for the simple fact that I am, not to put too fine a point on it, a glutton, but even I know that it would be desperately unfair, not to say dastardly, of me to cook myself something sumptuous and hedonistic for supper and sit there scoffing with a glass of wine as she sits across the dining table from me with her evening portion of 300-calorie, low-fat fare and a glass of tap.

Fortunately she has been at the diet long enough that, while we still experiment widely in search of dishes we both find satisfying and interesting but which fall within the calorific strait-jacket of the 5:2, we have now developed a repertoire of recipes which we both enjoy very much and return to regularly.

The recipe I give below is just such a dish. It is a slight adaptation of one by Kate Matharu featured on the Prima magazine website in January 2015, where my obviously svelte and healthy other half tracked it down. It is simplicity itself to put together and well worth the minimal effort. We’ve eaten it more times than you’ve had hot 5:2 dinners. You needn’t have it as it is here in its more saintly form, so accompany it with a bushel of something starchy like rice, cous cous or warm flatbreads of the fluffiest variety.

Steve Farrow

Harissa Lamb Mince (Serves four)

Harissa, for the uninitiated, is something to get initiated into immediately. It is a spicy, probably leaning towards the fiery, paste that glows almost atomically orangey red and is vibrant, fragrant and moreish, not to mention Moorish. A wonderful North African amalgam of peppers, dried red chillies, tomato purée, caraway or fennel seeds, ground cumin and coriander seeds, garlic, salt and olive oil, all ground to a paste (but not in its best form a purée), it will lift almost anything you spread it on or in with its kick and aromatic savour. It is easy to make it yourself but can be just as easily bought in jars and even tubes, though the jars are much better and easily available. If you ever find that you have promised to eat your hat, this is the stuff to spread over it to make it interesting!

Ingredients:
• 250g pack of green beans, sliced into three pieces
• 1 tbsp olive oil
• 1 onion, finely chopped
• 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
• 1 tsp each of cinnamon, allspice, cumin and ground nutmeg
• 400g/14oz lamb mince (you can use any mince you like, including quorn, but lamb is by far and away the best)
• 250g pack cherry tomatoes, halved
• 4 tsp ready-bought harissa (use more if you like it hot)
• Handful of pine nuts, toasted

Add green beans to a pan of boiling, salted water and cook for about 4 mins until just tender. Drain and put to one side.

Heat oil in a frying pan, add onion, season and cook for 1-2 mins until soft, then stir through garlic and dried spices and cook for a further minute. Add mince and stir, and cook for about 6-8 mins until mince is no longer pink and is cooked through.

Stir through the tomatoes and half of the ready-bought harissa, and continue cooking until tomatoes stew down and begin to split. Add the green beans, then taste and season if needed.

Serve in bowls and top with more harissa if you have any, and the pine nuts. I always ensure that I have enough harissa for a good dollop on top of my serving, it’s so good! Serve with crusty bread, rice, cous cous, Lebanese flat breads or toasted pitta… indeed anything else that takes your fancy.

Wine matches:
Wash it down with the deeply fruity and perfectly spicy Billi Billi Grampians Shiraz 2013 (Worldwide Wonders Plan or available online for £9.50) for a lovely marriage.

The Bleasdale HMS Buffalo Shiraz-Cabernet Sauvignon, Langhorne Creek 2015 (Wine Rack Essentials Plan or £7.25) and Domaine de Gournier Cévennes Rouge 2016 (Discovery Plan or £6.75) also have bags of fruit to swim safely with the spice.

Frappato di Sicilia, Nicosia 2016 (Lighter Wines Plan or £9.50) is a Sicilian charmer with an abundance of freshness and fruit to counter the warmth and fragrance of harissa, as does much Sicilian wine, steeped as it is in the spicing and aromas of the North African influence on the island’s cooking. The naturally juicy berry fruit Corbières, Le Hameau des Ollieux Nature Romanis 2016 (Worldwide Wonders or £10.50) is also perfect for the spice to nuzzle up to.

If you prefer white wines you will find a good and refreshing match for the spice in the Gewurztraminer, Cave de Turckheim 2016 (Worldwide Wonders or £9.50).

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These recipes, while hopefully of use and interest to all, were written with the latest selections of our just-revamped Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind.

Friendly, flexible and commitment-free, Wine Without Fuss is now better than ever, with a wider range of options than ever before. If you have trouble selecting from our huge range of amazing wines, this service makes the decision easy, with five plans to suit every taste and budget. And you can cancel, change or skip an order at any time. What’s not to love?!

Why not join the growing band of members who let their Society take the strain, and are regularly glad they do?

I rail at the Met Office’s statistical announcement that autumn’s arrival is at the beginning of September. I just cannot to let summer go so easily and I will only give up my dreams of a last burst or glorious sunshine when the trees are throwing off their leaves, the scent of many bonfires fills the chilly air and my fragrant other half is pointing me towards the shed and the rake therein.

As such, I have still been looking at recipes that will satisfy with a lightness of touch without sacrificing generosity of flavour when the leaves turn and fall, those bonfires stink up the washing and the central heating gets switched on.

Cobnuts is not a watered down exclamation of disappointment at the disappearance of summer but rather a suggestion that you try the humble nut of the same name, aka the filbert, a cultivated form of the hazelnut that come into season around August and go on giving until October, though a well stored nut can last beyond Christmas.

They can be eaten young and deliciously creamy straight from the tree while still in their green papery husk, or later when the shell hardens and the depth of flavour is nuttier they are just as delicious. A light roasting out of the shells will deepen that nuttiness even further. However you serve them they are a homegrown treat.

Two and a half million squirrels can’t be wrong!

Steve Farrow

Recipe 1:
Endive, Bacon, Apple and Cobnut Salad with a Blue Cheese Vinaigrette.

I use cobnuts in a recipe that amalgamates their qualities with the deep bass notes of a good blue cheese and the harvest of an orchard in the form of apples or pears. It is a staple of ours at home because it always satisfies and I’ve been asked for the recipe by friends many times.

If you are not a fan of cobnuts/hazelnuts, pecans or walnuts are lovely in this recipe too!

(Serves four as with crusty bread, as a starter. Double the quantities for a main course serving).

• 4 endives (though 4 gem luttuces will do at a pinch)
• 8 rashers of streaky bacon, smoked or not is up to you.
• 1 large eating apple or a pear, peeled and diced
• 100g shelled, roasted cobnuts (or hazelnuts), chopped but not finely
• 100g good quality blue cheese (Roquefort or Stilton are both terrific) cut into chunks
• 4 tablespoons rapeseed or vegetable oil
• 3 tablespoons cider (or white wine) vinegar
• 1 tablespoon chopped chives
• salt and pepper

Cut the rashers of bacon into lardons and fry until coloured them remove from the pan, retaining the fat. Drain the lardons on kitchen paper. Strip the leaves of the endives from the root, leaving the leaves whole, and put into a bowl. Add the chopped apple or pear, chopped nuts, bacon and seasoning, and toss.

In a small saucepan warm the oil and vinegar together. Add the bacon fat left over from frying the lardons. Add the blue cheese chunks and cook very gently until the cheese has melted. Give the mixture a whisk and pour over the endive in the bowl. Add the chopped chives. Toss everything thoroughly to coat with the vinaigrette and serve with crusty bread.

Wine matches: Try this partnered with generosity and freshness of the Côtes-du-Rhône Blanc, Saint-Cosme 2014 (French Classics), fragrant, lightly spicy but fresh wines like Villiera Estate Jasmine Fragrant White, Stellenbosch 2017 (Discovery) and Seméli Mantinia Nassiakos 2016 (Lighter Wines, or available online for £9.95).

Other delicious options include fruity little numbers like the Vermentino Sicilia, Mandrarossa 2016 (Wine Rack Essentials or £6.50), Viña Istria Malvazija 2016 (Discovery or £7.50), Edelzwicker Special Cuvée, Jacques Cattin 2016 (Lighter Wines or £8.50), or classic Marlborough sauvignon tropicality with cut of the Three Terraces Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (Worldwide Wonders or £9.25).

Recipe 2: Gravadlax
Another lovely dish that is equally good at any time of the year is home-made cured salmon, rather like the Scandinavian gravadlax that is so easily bought in the supermarkets now. Historically made to preserve fish through the winter it is easily and deliciously accomplished at home, without any need to bury it as the Norse did as a preservation method. I certainly don’t inter ours in a section of the lawn.

• 2 sides of carefully pin-boned salmon (your fishmonger will do this for you), about 1 kilo each, skin on. You can use smaller cuts of salmon and adjust the cure mixture that follows accordingly.
• 150g sea salt
• 150g caster sugar
• 75ml vodka (or for a hint of juniper use gin)
• 200g fresh dill, finely chopped (150g for the cure, 50g for a garnish)

First, make the cure by mixing the salt, sugar and peppercorns. Stir in the vodka or gin and the chopped dill and mix well to evenly distribute. Lay out a double layer of cling film, enough to double wrap the sides of salmon, and lay one of the fillets on the film skin-side down.

Spread the salt, sugar, dill and vodka/gin mixture evenly over the salmon you have laid on the cling film. Top with the other fillet, flesh-side down, so that they form a sandwich with the mixture as the filling. Wrap everything tightly in the cling film and put it into ceramic or glass dish only just large that the fish makes a snug fit. Put a flat board, a chopping board is ideal, on top of the cling-film parcel and add some weights like cans of food or kitchen weights.

Put the dish into the fridge for at least 24 hours, though longer (up to 48 hours) will give a deeper, firmer cure. Remember to turn the fish parcel every 12 hours or so and make sure to drain off any liquid that pools the dish.

When you are ready, unwrap the fish, brush off the cure and give the sides a rinse under cold running water to remove the last of it. Pat them dry with kitchen paper. Finely chop the extra dill and sprinkle evenly over the salmon.

If you can resist it, the fish will keep in a fridge for up to a week if wrapped in more cling film. Eat it very thinly sliced with brown bread (rye bread is best) and butter and plenty of lemon juice and some ground black pepper. Mustard and dill sauce is also traditional and can be bought or made for it. I like a horseradish and crème fraiche mix myself but it isn’t everyones cup of tea. Some raosted beetroot too is a favourite of mine but is a Marmite ingredient, I know, so ignore that as you wish.

Wine matches: the salmon is wonderful partnered with Château Martinon, Entre-Deux-Mers 2016 (Lighter Wines) or the zest of Val de Loire Sauvignon Blanc, Famille Bougrier 2016 (Wine Rack Essentials or available online for £6.50), or Rompeolas Godello, Galicia 2016 (Wine Rack Essentials or £8.50).

The vibrancy of the Madfish Great Southern Riesling 2016 (Discovery or £8.95) and the classic The Society’s Exhibition Alsace Riesling 2015 (French Classics or £13.50) will stand shoulder to shoulder with the dish too; as will the classic seafood accompanying facets of Muscadet Sèvre-et-Maine sur Lie, Comte Leloup du Château de Chasseloir, Cuvée des Ceps Centenaires 2013 (Worldwide Wonders or £9.50) to cut the fattiness of the fish.

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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.

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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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Wed 03 May 2017

Food Without Fuss: Recipes For Spring

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These recipes, while hopefully of use and interest to all, were written with the latest selections of our just-revamped Wine Without Fuss subscription scheme particularly in mind.

Friendly, flexible and commitment-free, Wine Without Fuss is now better than ever, with a wider range of options than ever before. If you have trouble selecting from our huge range of amazing wines, this service makes the decision easy, with five plans to suit every taste and budget. And you can cancel, change or skip an order at any time. What’s not to love?!

Why not join the growing band of members who let their Society take the strain, and are regularly glad they do?

Wine Without Fuss

I have decided that spring is my favourite season of the year. You may think that this is a strangely overdue epiphany for someone who has enjoyed more than 50 summers but there it is.

The other day, after many, many years of thinking that summer was without question my favourite season, I finally gave in to what had spent such a long time creeping up on me.

What finally clinched it was twofold. Firstly, while hunching against a particularly knife-like blast from (and up) the nether regions as I strolled across our goods-in yard here at Stevenage, I was enveloped in the scent of blossom from the trees and bushes that have been planted around our HQ. The bosky, almondy scent was an absolute delight and I found myself taking an almost involuntary moment to inhale deep breaths of it. The sun was shining, many a bird was chirruping and I just stopped in my tracks to enjoy it.

The second incident was the arrival of our supermarket delivery driver a few days ago. It was not he who induced the moment, lovely chap though he is, but rather the arrival in our crates of some fairly early Suffolk asparagus and a bag of one of my favourite things, Jersey Royal potatoes. The knowledge that they should, and would, be savoured for their recently picked depth of flavour and sweetness meant I knew that I had to include them in some small way in this blog. Both are very available and very delicious and, while they might share the billing with the chicken with morels recipe below, they really help lift the dish with their own characters.

Lamb gets a look in too because it is spring! ‘Nuff said. The recipe I give here, culled from Raymond Blanc’s Foolproof French Cookery, published by the BBC in 2002, is an oft-repeated pleasure in our house, tweaked for our pleasure and flexible and forgiving enough to accommodate variations on the ingredients as I do here.

The second recipe is another French classic, from the Jura region in the east which abuts Switzerland. A silky sauce of spring-fresh morel mushrooms and fino or manzanilla sherry (which is a good-value alternative to the delicious but considerably more expensive Vin Jaune wine indigenous to the Jura region) coating tender chicken.

Finally, a delicious pork fillet recipe. Apples and pork may not be a spring thing but I hope cider can be forgiven!

Steve Farrow

THE RECIPES

Chicken and Morels in a Sherry and Cream Sauce
Serves 2

Ingredients
• 2 chicken breasts or suprémes, skinned and slightly flattened out, and seasoned with salt and pepper
• 25g unsalted butter
• 250ml Vin Jaune, or dry sherry like fino or manzanilla (or a Jura savagnin, or oaky white wine such as Rioja Blanco if you prefer)
• 250ml double cream
• 100g fresh morel mushrooms or 30g dried morels (or use dried porcini which have a stronger flavour)
• 100g button mushrooms, halved, or chestnut mushrooms sliced

Cream sauce

If using dried morels, soak them in boiling water for half an hour, then drain and reserve the soaking liquid. If using the fresh morels, give them a brush and a shake to ensure that the crinkles, nooks and crannies are free of grit and any creepy crawlies. If the morels are pretty large cut them in half length-ways.

Put a large frying pan over a moderate flame and add the butter and let it froth before laying the chicken breasts in the pan. Sauté over a moderately high heat until they are a deep golden brown and turn over to repeat. This should take about 6 minutes, 3 on each side.

Remove from the pan, leaving the butter, which should be a nutty golden brown, before throwing in the mushrooms, and sautéing for minutes. Pour in the sherry (or wine) and bring up to a boil to evaporate away the alcohol, and then lower the heat and reduce the liquid by about two thirds. Pour in the double cream and bring back to the boil and reduce until the sauce is well combined and reduced to a coating consistency (i.e. the sauce will cling to the back of a spoon).

At this point taste the sauce for seasoning. If using the dried mushrooms you can decide if the sauce is strong enough for your taste and if not you can add some or all of the reserved soaking liquor, suitably strained through some muslin or a sheet of kitchen roll to remove any grit, and reduce a little more to account for the liquor being added. Put the chicken breasts back in to the sauce with any juices they have exuded, and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through, about 7 or 8 minutes.

In France the dish is often served with boiled rice. In the spirit of the season I suggest boiled or steamed Jersey Royal potatoes and asparagus.

Wine matches: serve this with a glass or two of white Rioja like the Bodegas Murua Blanco, Rioja 2014 (part of the Wine Without Fuss Worldwide Wonders case), or Laudun Côtes-du-Rhone Villages Blanc, Château Courac 2015 (French Classics case, and available for £9.50) or a lovely Bulgarian white, the Cuvée Bella Rada, Borovitza 2015 (Discovery case).

Braise of Lamb Neck Fillets with Broad Beans, Bacon and Garlic Sausage

I am very fond of Raymond Blanc and his food. A self-taught chef of immense talent and influence who clearly loves to eat and to cook for those who want to eat. Here I reproduce one of his lamb recipes, tweaked slightly to provide a lighter touch for spring, using broad beans rather than butter beans. These really lift the dish and make it especially attractive as a spring plateful.

Braised lamb

Ingredients
• 4 x 300g lamb neck fillets, trimmed of sinew and some fat
• 25g unsalted butter
• 1 tablespoon olive oil
• 5 ripe tomatoes, cut into quarters and then in half
• 6 peeled, whole garlic cloves
• 1 bouquet garni
• 750ml water
• 250g broad beans squeezed out of their skins
• 100g fresh or frozen garden peas
• 100g smoked streaky bacon cut into lardons or strips
• 200g garlic sausage, skinned and sliced or chopped
• Salt and pepper
• Chopped fresh parsley to garnish

Preheat the oven to 110C/225F/Gas Mark 1/4

Season the lamb fillets on each side with a little salt and pepper. Place a large frying pan over a medium heat and heat the butter and olive oil until the butter begins to foam. Sear the lamb fillets until a deep golden brown, turning regularly to get an even colouring. This should take about 8-10 minutes. Then transfer the meat to a large casserole dish.

Spoon out the fat from the frying pan and, still over the heat, deglaze the pan with 100ml of the water, scraping up any bits and to amalgamate the juices and water. Pour over the lamb in the casserole.

Add the cut tomatoes, garlic, water and bouquet garni to the casserole, season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer on the stove. Once it comes to a simmer cover and put into the pre-heated oven for 1 hour.

After 1 hour, take the casserole out of the oven. The broad beans need not be added until later. As well as fresh beans, add the bacon and chopped garlic sausage, cover the casserole and return it to the oven for a further 1 hour. The skinned broad beans and the peas need not be added until there is only ten minutes left to warm them through but also to preserve their wonderful green colour. The broad beans can also be scattered into the bowl at the very last minute.

After the second hour of cooking is up test the lamb with a fork. If it is not yet tender enough for your taste cook for a further 15 minutes or so and check again.

Once ready serve from the casserole and scatter over the chopped parsley.

Wine matches: The broth from this dish, made without stock, is very savoury and flavoursome but not heavy and a similar red will work well. The Society’s Barbera d’Asti Superiore 2014 (part of our Wine Rack Essentials case, or available to order for £7.50) would be an excellent match, as would young, fruity claret, the cherry-fruited ‘Dirt Track’ Cinsault by Duncan Savage, Swartland 2016 (also in Wine Rack Essentials, and available for £7.50). The Chinon ‘Le Paradis’ 2015 (part of our Lighter Wines case and available for £8.95) will also match their cabernet franc fragrance and fruit with the balanced flavours of this lamb.

Pork Fillet with Black Pudding, Apple and Rosemary Stuffing

Serves 4 generously!

Ingredients
• 3 pork tenderloins (each about 350g), trimmed of sinew and excess fat
• 100g black pudding, skinned and chopped
• 1 small eating apple peeled, cored and finely chopped
• 1 apple and 1 onion very roughly chopped (for a bed in a roasting tin)
• 2 tablespoons finely chopped rosemary
• 12 rashers streaky bacon (can be smoked or unsmoked)
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• A grind of black pepper
• 200ml Madeira
• 50ml double cream
• 100ml pork, chicken or veal stock

Sauté the onions gently in a good knob of butter until soft. Add the chopped apple and the chopped rosemary, mix and continue to cook gently for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the black pepper, mix and take off the heat and allow to cool. I usually transfer it to a bowl to cool it a little quicker. Add the chopped black pudding and mix thoroughly.

Set the oven at 180C fan or Gas Mark 5. Cut the pork tenderloins along their length without cutting all the way through, so that they can be opened out like a book, but not quite flat. Gently stretch the streaky bacon and lay it out on a board so that they touch but don’t overlap.

Lay one of the tenderloins on to the bacon, cut side up. Spoon half the stuffing mix on top of the tenderloin’s cut side (don’t cover it to the edge of the meat and don’t pile it up too high). Shape it with your hand and press it gently so that it holds its shape. Lay the second tenderloin on top, cut side down. Spoon stuffing along the top of this tenderloin and press gently into another low ridge. You may not need all the stuffing and can make small stuffing balls with any remainder if you like. Place the last tenderloin on top, cut side down.
Wrap the bacon around the stacked tenderloins so that they are covered and trim the length of each rasher if necessary so that there is overlap but not lots of overlap. Half an inch or so is enough; otherwise you have a flap of bacon on the ‘joint’ when you carve it.

Put the roughly chopped apple and onion into a roasting pan to make a bed for the ‘joint’. Place the bacon-wrapped tenderloin on top of the chopped apple and onion with the overlapping side of the bacon down so that the overlap is held in place. Cover with a tent of foil and put into the preheated oven for 25 minutes.

After the 25 minutes take the pan out of the oven and remove the foil and then put the pan back into the oven for a further 25 minutes or so, until the bacon colours and crisps a little so that the fat is golden. You don’t want it brittle as it will make it more difficult to carve neatly later.

When the 25 minutes is up and if you are happy with the colour of the bacon take it out of the oven, place the pork ‘joint’ on a carving tray, cover with foil and allow to rest for a further 20-30 minutes or so. If you try to carve it while still piping hot it will fall apart.

While the ‘joint’ is resting, drain the fat and any juices from the roasting pan into a jug. Separate and discard any fat. Pour any remaining juices, the stock and the Madeira into a saucepan, bring to a boil and reduce until the mixture thickens and reduces by about two-thirds. Pour in the cream, bring back to the boil and reduce further to a coating consistency. Strain into a warm jug, cover and keep toasty until ready to carve.

Once rested carve the pork into slices, at least half an inch thick. The slices should be marbled with two layers of stuffing in discs. Any leftover, unsliced ‘joint’ is lovely cold when it can be carved into thinner slices.

Serve with the sauce. I like it with creamy, buttery mash with a dash of white pepper in it, and some buttered tenderstem broccoli. Or try the broccoli with a little pesto stirred through it while hot.

If you like you could serve this very successfully with a cider sauce, made without the cream. Simply make a gravy of the meat juices and the little fat that results from the roasting, whisked with a tablespoon of plain flour until there are no lumps and replacing the Madeira with a similar volume of a very good dry or off-dry cider, like this one!

To be honest, you can use any stuffing of your choice that will hold its shape. I love black pudding however, which makes a wonderful colour contrast between the pale pork and the dark pud. Above all, have fun with it!

Wine matches: This dish offers an indulgent combination of richness and sweetness, and so a wine with similar credentials would work brilliantly. A prime example is the Blind Spot Grenache-Shiraz-Mourvèdre 2015 (Discovery case, or available for £7.95), whose cunning combination of ripe-fruited shiraz and sweet red-berried grenache (plus mourvèdre for structure) sets it apart. For a white option, look to Alsace for inspiration: the Alsace, Cuvée Trimbach 2014 (French Classics case, and available for £9.95) combines the aromatic muscat grape with the freshening influence of sylvaner, and would make an excellent partner.

Categories : Wine Without Fuss
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Tue 10 Mar 2015

Blending The Society’s Claret

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Not long ago I was lucky enough to be able to watch as The Society’s Claret blend was put together by buyers Tim Sykes and Jo Locke while on a short trip to Bordeaux. It was a fascinating insight into the care taken to create a wine that is so much a part of The Society’s fabric that it is sometimes easy to take for granted.

Blending The Society's ClaretThe Society’s Claret is one of those wines which defines the Society range and represents more than just supremely drinkable Bordeaux wine at an excellent price. After The Society’s White Burgundy it is our bestselling wine (and consequently our bestselling red wine), and as such it is an important introduction for many members to the joys of claret drinking.

It has to represent the Bordeaux style, as well as The Society, with aplomb while remaining good value and that is quite a responsibility. So how is it made and who makes it?

At the Quai de Bacalan, on the banks of the River Garonne in Bordeaux itself, sits the HQ of Maison Sichel: growers, négociants and long-time suppliers of The Society’s Claret, as well as a number of other fine Bordeaux wines. It is an unflashy façade that opens up, Tardis-like, onto a network of rooms and corridors that stretches way back from the river.

In a simple, white and bright tasting room in the heart of the complex, we found 12 bottles labelled from 1 to 12, each containing a blend already put together by the Sichel’s vastly experienced technical director Yvan Meyer from properties all over the Bordeaux appellation. The bottles contained varying ratios of merlot, cabernet sauvignon, and cabernet franc with three of the samples coming from the 2013 vintage and the rest from 2014.

Beside them stood a bottle of the current Society version, on sale as we speak, acting as a control and reference point. A sheet listed the samples and the proportions of each grape variety in each sample for Jo and Tim to refer to. Charlie Sichel, who had generously hosted us for dinner the night before, and Leigh Claridge, head of their UK sales team, looked on as the process got under way.

Under the watchful eye of Yvan, Jo and Tim tasted the current bottling followed by each sample individually, assessing merits and weaknesses and making many notes, occasionally revisiting the current bottling to confirm an impression. I followed in their wake, noting the clear difference between the current bottling and the younger samples. The extra time in bottle of the current edition showed clearly against the more primary fruit aromas and flavours and youthful tannins of the samples. The current claret was mellow, rounded and sweet fruited with flavours that were integrated and developed but without losing freshness. I enjoyed the youngsters but could see that they were still a little angular in comparison to the current example.

Jo Locke MW tasting the wines

Jo Locke MW tasting the wines

Having tasted each sample individually, noted their characteristics and considered their merits, Jo and Tim watched as Yvan took up a graduated cylinder and carefully began pouring different amounts of selected samples in to it. These he poured for us and again Tim and Jo weighed it up and made their notes.

This regimen was followed over the next two hours: each time a different amalgam of sample measures was tasted and assessed according to Tim and Jo’s requests and towards the end it came down to tweaks of samples that seemed the obviously best candidates.

Blending The Society's ClaretOne thing that made me stop and think was that it never appeared to be as simple as saying, for example, that it needed a little more acidity and then adding a drop of a sample that exhibited what seemed to be the right amount of acidity when assessed alone. It often seemed, for example, that the acidity displayed by a sample did not necessarily show as expected in the suggested blend and was lost in the mix after all, or stood out like a sore thumb. Therein lay the skill of Jo and Tim, judging the nuances, subtleties and potential of the blends, trying to accurately gauge how these youthful samples might evolve together as they were reassessed time and again until agreement on the final selection was reached after many blends, slurps, swirls, sniffs and scribbles.

There was a quiet satisfaction when the job had been done but no ceremony or celebration and we moved swiftly on to a tasting of a range of petit châteaux represented by Sichel, so there was no time to reflect any more deeply on the new Society’s Claret.

It was a job quietly and well done. Having tasted the final blend in its salad days I am very much looking forward to trying it when it reaches The Society’s list in a slightly more mature form.

Steve Farrow
Wine Information Editor

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Thu 03 Nov 2011

Grabbed By The Boks

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Steve Farrow

Those of you who live within spittoon distance of Stevenage are probably aware of the informal (and, more deliciously still, free) tastings held in The Cellar Showroom every month. Generally these tastings reflect one of the latest Society offers, though occasionally the Showroom team are allowed to let their imagination have free rein with the theme of their choice. My suggestion of ‘Wines To Put Hairs On Your Chest’ has been curiously overlooked thus far but may get a look in as winter closes its icy grip around us all.

Our recent October tasting took our current South Africa offer as its theme, and it proved to be one of the most popular we’ve held. More than 120 members swept in on the night to sup a selection of reds and whites that had people purring like a pride of lions at a help group for lame zebras. The popularity was translated into high sales on the night too as our guests put their money where their mouths had just been.

One of the fun things about pouring the wines at such a tasting is the immediate feedback from the members, good and occasionally bad: sometimes when one is basking in the effulgent glow of repeated praise for a wine on show someone will come along, sniff, slurp and say with gimlet tongue, ‘oh I don’t like that at all!’ before wandering off to another table, hopefully to be placated. Fortunately it is a rarity.

This divergence of opinions and the debates thus engendered are part of the pleasure. Variety really is the spice of life in wine, as in so many things, and our Showroom tastings give members the opportunity to go off-piste if they wish to, and enjoy wines previously unknown to them.

Back to the South Africa tasting, and the clear winner was, unexpectedly, the most expensive of the offerings on show: the deliciously ripe and full Chamonix Greywacke Pinotage, 2007 from Franschhoek (£10.95). Pinotage is almost purely South African, being a crossing bred there in the 1920s from pinot noir and cinsault and rarely grown anywhere else. It makes a real variety of red styles and when treated with proper care, as it has been by Chamonix, it can really shine. This example is made in the ripasso style more familiarly seen in the Veneto of Italy which provides it with real velvety depth and richness. Our tasters bought more of this than any other wine and understandably so.

Pushing the pinotage hard in the popularity stakes was The Liberator’s ‘The Francophile 2’ Viognier, 2008 (£9.95). There is much mystery about this wine. The guy who made it has asked that The Society, for whom this has been exclusively bottled, keeps his identity secret, presumably so that he can fight crime in a mask or something like that – the Cape Crusader, so to speak. I have to say that this and the Greywacke couldn’t be separated in my book for quality and sheer enjoyment. The viognier (with a splash of grenache blanc and roussanne in the mix) exhibited such enticing honeysuckle scents and purity of sweet but zingy peach fruit that pouring it and watching so many delighted expressions was a lot of fun. It is a limited edition so when it has gone it really has gone.

Two more exceedingly honourable mentions must go to the Boschendal pair, a varietal Merlot and the Chardonnay-Pinot Noir blend. Both were snapped up in the sort of quantities that would normally have put them at the top of the leader-board at many Showroom tastings. The Merlot was plush with dark berry fruit and smooth tannins while the Chardonnay-Pinot shone with lovely weight of stone fruits leavened by fresh acidity. Both are great value at £8.50 and £8.95 respectively.

Finally, the Percheron Old Vine Cinsault, 2010 also went down a storm. Fulsome critical acclaim for the wine from Jancis Robinson on her website was borne out as its soft, sweet fruit hit the spot for many, and bottles flew off the shelves. It is remarkable value at £5.95, which undoubtedly helped, but the quality of the wine for the price was obvious.

Other wines garnered praise and sales as well but those mentioned above were the stand outs. I think the tasting really did demonstrate with admirable clarity the quality across the board that South Africa can offer these days. On this occasion there was a very real sense of the tasting having been a success when judged in terms of the enjoyment expressed by those who came along. Which in the end is what it is all about.

Steve Farrow
Cellar Showroom

Categories : South Africa
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