Sunday, 10 August 2014

Life begins at 40.....champagne bottles?

This summer finds yours truly forty and to numb the pain, I am having three birthday parties.
The first was at the beginning of summer for my friends. A hundred people were invited and most came!

My wife had 36 bottles of Champagne, so I was hoping to equal that. As the day slipped into the night and the corks continued to pop, the final tally was 42 bottles of Champagne.

The Champagne used was Antoine de Clevecy, non vintage bought from Sainsbury's for £14.00, down from £22.00. It was a very drinkable fizz,that was not too mousse  in the mouth. The taste was a light citrus and toffee biscuit flavour. Great value for the money and perfect for the occasion.
As my t-shirt advised on the day "Relax".
Here is to the next forty years.Cheers!



Friday, 11 July 2014

Tea-dance

This week I found myself at a 1940's tea-dance, complete with wartime cakes,stew and a wonderful performance of the jitter-bug. It was a time to dress up with costumes ranging from Spivs to land girls, Home Guard to Evacuees. Yours truly put on his Grandfather's uniform, that saw action at Monte-Cassino among others. The medals are made up from badges I had when I was a kid and are just a bit of fun.

It was a terrific evening enjoyed by all and when everything was cleared away, I retreated home, for a glass of wine.

Dusting off a bottle of Argentinian Malbec, I noticed the year and wondered if it had gone over? 2005 may be pushing it a little but there was still life in the bottle.
The colour was a deep dark red all the way to the rim. The nose was not overly smoky as I remember it, last time I drank the wine.
The Malbec grapes were delicious, full of dark berry fruits of blackcurrant and blackberry, mixed with chocolate notes.
The wine has a long finish,dominated by sweet tannins.
But like the wine, after a tea-dance, one can get tired.

Monday, 7 July 2014

Home-made Pizza

Saturday is a busy day in most people's houses. We spend the morning running the kids around to different clubs, on errands or undertaking some DIY with the radio tuned religiously to "Sounds of the Sixties" with Brian Matthews. The third of these is normally my lot.
We do re-group for lunch and this is where the home-made pizza comes in.
The process starts in the early hours of Saturday morning, when I can be found hand mixing the dough.
I know it can be done in a blender, but it can also be bought at shops too.
By the end of the 60's  show, the dough is ready to be knocked down. Two hours later and the dough can be rolled out into trays.
We keep it simple, with just tomato and cheese toppings. Some of the dough is made into small rolls, perfect with garlic butter or Italian virgin olive oil.

It has been know for lunch to be rolled over into supper, on the days when the cricketing pony choir are putting on a show, or the youth Drama and Brass are putting something on in town. Supper means the possibilities of wine, an event that singularly is the only thing to enhance my crafted pizzas.

The bottle chosen was a Cabernet Sauvignon from the McGuigan vineyard in South-East Australia. It came from Tesco, costing £7.99 and is very inoffensive.
The winemaker, Thomas Jung, has worked hard at making single grape wines. The Cabernet is full of red summer fruits and berries, accompanied by plums and woodiness. The blackcurrant comes out centre stage and stays till the curtain call.  Excellent for my home-made pizza.



Taste the difference.

A wine caught my eye this week,that is worth a try.
It is an obvious attempt by Mr Sainsbury to find an alternative to Oyster Bay or the pricey Cloudy Bay.  It is part of the "taste the difference" range.
Maybe it was the strange price they had come up with, who knows? I think the range of "taste the difference" is very apt.
Sainsbury's are laying down their very own Pepsi challenge, to all you Sauvignon drinkers.
Can you pick the wine out of a line-up of other similar looking bottles? I wrote a review some years ago about Oyster Bay .

Firstly, New Zealand are very good at producing Sauvignon. Marlborough is a region on
the north of the Southern island, that is especially good at this grape. Allowing for the slight yearly difference in taste of the grape, this wine is worth a punt. So go on,see if you can taste the difference?

Warwick Castle to Chianti

This week found me in Warwick castle. An unexpected treat, that  turned into a full on day with everything from vulture displays, flaming trebuchets and a bowman that couldn't hit a barn door.
The ticket price does not include all the displays inside, so it became a quest to do all that was included.

I did draw the line at the Princess tower, aimed at five year old princesses, because the pink dress would have clashed with my shoes. There was much to see,with lots of historians/failed actors bringing the subject alive. A timed itinerary helped you keep on track and kept you on you toes.


Lunchtime found me on the banks of the river island, watching as grown men rotated an out sized hamster wheel. This in turn primed a trebuchet bucket, that was ignited, flinging a ball of fire through the air.

The best bit for me was the longbow man, who had all the gear but no idea. His banter was great, but he failed to hit the target dramatically every time. One of the audience said the man needed a new string for his bow. At last, something on target! Another highlight was the birds of prey, heaven know what they are fed, but they were all huge birds and they have been trained to buzz the spectators.

So now the tentative link to wine, well after a full day of climbing towers, zip wires and Horrible History stalls, it felt only right to reach for the cork screw. The tonic of choice was a Chianti coming from the Coop, but originally grown in the mountains south east of Rome. The wine is a blend of three grapes, with 85% Sangiovese, followed by 10% Canaiolo and 5% Cabernet. The wine from memory was in the £7.00 price bracket and is unlikely to offend. It has been stored in oak barrels for 21 months, this comes through but I have to say that the barrels can't be new or there would be greater effect on the wine. The wine is gentle and plummy, going perfectly with the pasta supper.



Saturday, 28 June 2014

Wine from the supermarket, this week the Co-op

It seems like destiny that I should write about this wine. A circle of events, that the Cooperative be the supermarket of the week.
When my day started, I had no clue that I would be going to the local museum with 80 kids.
A museum, I had failed to visit for the past 14 years of me living in town.

A museum, that despite being home-spun, was very interesting. The kids were able to hold the exhibits, look through photos of the past, crank sirens from the war and find out about the towns famous baseball team.I, on the other hand was followed by the curator from exhibit to exhibit. Mercilessly hunted down and regaled with facts. Here is the thing, the Coop was started in this Country in 1844, but what I didn't know was that when in 1866, it came to town, it took over.

Everything was the Coop and conversely the Coop were everything.

The curator, who was called something like Clive, said that until recently, you knew the staff and the manager.It was a local service for local people (sound familiar?).
Clive went on to say that the room we stood in was part of the original shop and how the date was carved in stone on the outside. Sadly our time was up and I didn't have to reach for the pepper spray. The Museum was fascinating and makes you feel proud to  be part of the town. I will be sure not to leave it 14 years before I visit again.

To the wine in hand, this is a Cotes Du Rhone that caught my eye. It is on offer at the moment at £5.99. A cheeky wine from the Rhone valley, it is made up of three main grapes, blended to different percentages year on year,in order to maintain consistency.

The wine is ruby red in colour,with a clear rim showing youth, not surprisingly, having been in the bottle for less than a year.The nose is tricky to pin down. There is floral notes and meaty wafts, marzipan and orange blossom.

Plenty of punchy red wine on the first sip. Load of alcohol which feels like it has yet to blend into the wine. A doughnut jammy-ness follows joined by a well hung meat flavour. There is plenty to chew on, but sadly little on the finish. This wine will improve in the bottle, but why take the risk?

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Bollinger

I opened a bottle of Bolly, on Saturday night. It was a combination of celebrating one of my kids going up a book group and me becoming a "Clean, Lean Warrior".

Having lost half a stone, I thought if I am going to drink anything, I need to drink the best. Bolly is definitely that. When I was working at a famous hotel on Hyde Park Corner, the house Champagne was, and still is Bollinger. The hotel had their name on it, I was told the first time ever, for this Champagne house.


Even better, on my very first day, in my very first hour, while working in the bar, a check came on for a bottle of the stuff. The bar has glass covered tables and cut crystal glasses, it was my first day and I was nervous. I was made even more so, when told to pour the bottle in one hand, with my thumb steadying it, inside the dimple at the bottom.