Grapevine Archive for Wine Champions 2015
Several Society members already use Twitter to swap their thoughts on wines purchased from The Society. Last year we explored this idea a little further and hosted an online tasting of New Zealand wines, which proved very enjoyable; we hope this edition will be even more so.
Join us for an online guided tasting of two of the 2015 Wine Champions on Thursday 2nd July from 7.30pm-8.30pm UK time.
Members who use Twitter are cordially invited to crack open either or both of these wines – both of which triumphed in our extensive blind-tasting sessions to find the best of our best for drinking now – and taste along with our resident tweeters Ewan Murray and myself. This tasting is an opportunity to add your comments about the wines as we all taste together online from the comfort of our own sofas!
To take part, simply…
1) Order the wines
The two wines we will be tasting (in order), both of which can be found in our 2015 Wine Champions offer, are as follows:
Puglia Bianco, A Mano 2014 (£7.50 per bottle)
This delicious, spot-hitting crisp dry white from Italy shone in the tasting room for its modern, summery style; coupled with its friendly price tag, we therefore thought it the perfect candidate for this tasting.
3C Cariñena 2014 (£5.25 per bottle)
The cheapest of our Champions, this red bowled our tasters over with its succulent, tangy and berry-laden charms. Try for yourself and let us know what you think on the day!
To ensure delivery before we taste, please order by noon on Monday 29th June.
In advance of the tasting we suggest Twitter users follow @TheWineSociety so that you will easily see when the tasting gets going.
During the tasting feel free to add your thoughts and comments, and do let us know if you’re enjoying a particular dish with the wines too – food and wine matching tips are always welcome!
We look forward to talking to you on 2nd July.
Janet Wynne Evans wishes she’d had this, instead of porridge, to start the day during this year’s Wine Champions blind-tasting campaign.
While even I would stop short of claiming that a recipe could be life-changing, the discovery of a particularly useful one does make me wonder how I ever got along without it.
Step forward sformata, a kind of soufflé of the most unthreatening and indolent kind. Despite my love of all things Italian, from beautiful cars to bel canto, I hadn’t come across this one until I spotted it earlier this year in the Saturday Guardian (yes, I know, Evans the Champagne socialist is well and truly out of the closet).
Its author, Thomasina Miers, I associate mainly with innovative Mexican recipes, but she’s a lady of many facets and I thank her for the idea below. I give it verbatim, hopefully not only with her blessing but also with her indulgence: as you’ll readily see, it’s a fine template for umpteen variations.
The ingredients are very likely to be found in most fridges: nothing complicated, just eggs, Parmesan cheese, a tub of cream and some green vegetables. I used some leftover braised leeks, and couldn’t resist crumbling in a corner of Stilton that needed rehoming, to very pleasing effect.Then evolved my favourite brunch version, replacing the Romanesco broccoli below with a couple of vines of baby plum tomatoes, halved and roasted (to get as much water out of them as possible) and a large bag of spinach, wilted with a scrap of butter, lemon juice and white pepper, and brutally squeezed with your bare hands, again to extract the water that will inhibit a good set. I line and top the dish with Parmesan, but inside I use heartier English cheese like Gloucester or Poacher. I‘m sure that by this point it has long since officially ceased to be a sformata, but there it is.
Like many straightforward recipes, this one does create a fair bit of washing up, but the half-hour cooking time is just long enough for you to stack your dishy, or significant other plongeur with the dirties and clear the decks before it’s time to tuck in.
I’d serve my breakfast of Champions with a Champion glass of something elegant, focused and white . This year’s winners offer up some terrific options, including riesling, which is always comfortable with anything eggy. The terrifically multi-tasking and well-priced Zarcillo Bío-Bío Riesling 2014 (£6.50) would be a my choice for every day or, for a special brunch, a cracker from Annegret von Kesselstatt which won all our tasters’ hearts but was too limited in stock to include in the offer: Ockfener Bockstein Riesling Kabinett 2013 (£12.95 – but be quick!).
Thomasina Miers’ Romanesco Broccoli and Pecorino Sformata
(Guardian Weekend, 14th March 2015 )
• A knob of butter
• 120g pecorino or Parmesan (or a mix of both), plus extra for sprinkling
• 1 small romanesco (about 600g); or normal broccoli or cauliflower, core removed and broken into florets
• 4 eggs, separated
• 300ml double cream
• ¼ nutmeg, finely grated
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 200 degrees C (390F, gas mark 6) and rub the butter around a one-litre baking dish*. Scatter over a tablespoon of the grated cheese and shake around the dish to coat.
Bring a pan of salter water to the boil and blanch the romanesco for four to five minutes, until just tender, and then drain and leave to steam dry for five minutes. Once dry, finely chop and transfer to a bowl.
Beat the egg yolks and cream in another bowl until slightly thickened, then stir in the remaining cheese, nutmeg and chopped romanesco, and season well.
In a third bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Stir two tablespoons of the egg whites into the romanesco mix and, once incorporated, carefully fold in the rest, taking care not to over-mix and knock out most of the air.
Tip into the baking dish so the mix comes right up to the rim, dust with a little extra cheese and bake for 30-35 minutes (but check after 25 or so minutes in case you don’t want it to take on too much colour) – when cooked, the sformata should have a slight wobble in the centre and a golden top.
I like to eat this with a crisp green salad dressed in a sharp vinaigrette.
Sformata is surprisingly good warmed through the next day and will turn your colleagues green with envy about your packed lunch: any spare romanesco can be baked as cauliflower cheese.
Janet Wynne Evans
Fine Wine Editor
For a full list of wines that triumphed in our blind tastings to find the best of our best for drinking now, visit our Wine Champions 2015 offer.
* Cook’s note: I usually make this in two half-litre gratin dishes (one for now, one for later). Go for shallow rather than deep . Mine have a base measurement of 7 x 5 inches (18 x 13 cm) and are about 1½ inches (4cm) deep. Reduce the cooking time to 25 minutes and check after 20 – these little beauties brown fast.
When I arrived at The Wine Society in March 2014 ‘Champs’ had just finished and was whispered of in hushed tones with knowing looks – I knew then that this was going to be quite some offer…
In October we were e-mailed the timetable for the 2015 campaign – 21 tastings over 16 days, over 3 months covering some 693 wines. These sorts of e-mails are why I lie to my dentist!
All wines were to be tasted blind in sensible broad categories.
I have to admit at this point being pretty pleased at the prospect.
I only ended up buying wine for a living because of a chance blind tasting at university that had me hooked from the first gewürztraminer. Since then I have always held blind tasting on a pedestal – I keep a great group of friends from university to continue this hobby over long lunches on weekends. I jumped into the MW studies mainly to gain the opportunities to taste blind many times a week with like-minded students, and I can still often be found bagging wines up when tasting for an offer to ensure objectivity.
The blind tastings themselves, given the number of wines were something of a marathon, but incredibly interesting. The full Buying Team is involved – we all taste round the wines individually and then score out loud.
This is where we either found ourselves, in total agreement about great wines, or having to justify our outlying high and low marks, retasting as we go. Debates ensue, still all blind, and Champs are selected.
Then the ‘eureka’ moment – the unveiling. What were you fighting for? What didn’t you like? And, most importantly, what are you going to buy for your own enjoyment on the opening day of the offer?
As a judge for various national wine awards, I found the comparatively savage ‘cut rate’ for this offer at the pointy end – of the 693 wines tasted, we ‘champed’ just 80 and then cut this in a final blind taste off to the 43 wines in this year’s main offer. (A selection of Fine Wine Champions will also follow in August.)
No compromises are made – wines low in stock or esoteric in style were successful regardless of the logistical issues their selection can create. I believe in the past this has also lead to offers without a single sauvignon blanc, or offers like this where three of the whites are vinho verde.
This is, to put it simply, the point.
I hope you enjoy the spoils of the 2015 offer.