Cheese and wine matching is endless and that’s why I love it

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I genuinely think that a cheese (and meat, bread, pickles etc etc) board is my favourite food thing of all time. The combinations are endless for the food and that’s exactly the same for the wine. Yes, you can try and match an indidvial cheese to an individual wine who really only has one cheese? A fool I tell you. A FOOL. 

I’m a grazer so finding different wines to match different cheeses is like a quest. There are so many, so many different opinions and variables. For this cheese board though we had a bit of a showstopper – the Waitrose 1 Camembert. Had my eyes on this beaut after going through a slight obsession with baked Camembert. This beast was stinky. No, there wasn’t something rotting at the back of the fridge. It was my cheese. Hell yeah.


Ara Vineyard Single Vineyard 2014: Waitrose £11.99

The wine was a complete blind choice. I knew a pinot from New Zealand would be a fair match and this wine did not disappoint. I’m pretty sure it was down to £8.99 when I picked it up which, I’m bloody glad I did because it was an absolute bargain for that price. It was full of rich fruity raspberry and cherry flavours but not too heavy on the palate. Exactly what I wanted for pairing with this hot, baked and pungent cheese. The slightly spicy notes too give it the right amount of balance so it’s not overly fruity. All that wrapped together makes it such easy drinker. This is a wine I will absolutely be buying again. 

A port in a storm for chilly spring evenings 

Port

The weather hasn’t really kicked in to spring yet, has it? We had that one weekend of warm weather which feels like an absolute age away and now we’re back to wind, rain and grey weekends. As I type I’m watching the river Thames violently throw itself against the pier. 

The other problem with this weather that makes me want to wrap up in a blanket and  read a book by a fire is that I’m put off by drinking crisp chilled whites and rosés. Naturally, I’ve gone full circle and turned to Port! 

The great thing about Port – apart from the fact that IT’S ABSOUTELY DELICIOUS – is that once opened, it lasts forever. Or maybe a week or two at mine. It’s also like a a warm hug in a glass, cheaper and way more fun than turning the heating on. 

I have a serious love affair with Niepoort thanks to Mr Ben Straw who introduced it to me over 9 years ago. I’m especially fond of the entry level Ruby Dum which for a 75cl usually retails around £9-12 online. 

As soon as you open it you can smell how fruity it is. It’s a classic, rich dark fruit style with a generous balance of warming spices. I prefer it over things like Taylor’s and Grahams standard Ruby Ports because it if its almost red currant jammy taste. I am more of a savoury person really so it’s the spice and alcohol that stops it from being sickly. 

If you really want to go up a notch then go for the Niepoort Late Bottle Vintage. This is the aged older brother of the Ruby and it’s a noticeably richer, reduced and complex. I love that I get more sweet chutney notes from it like rich, sugary figs. It’s the sort of port you can sit down and really think about and I t’s a great addition to a cheese board because it goes with practically anything. 

Now sitting snuggled up with a blanket, and old film and a glass of Ruby port doesn’t feel so bad. But I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for some warmer weather. 

Toasting a run in with a pigeon, really.

Rose

The first few days of actual warm sunshine mean not wearing a thick winter coat, finally getting to wear sandals and obviously, a well chilled glass of Rosé. The first glass of the year is always an opportunity to raise a glass to surviving the dark cold winter months. However, I had a bit of a grim morning. A pigeon decided to dump its gut on my shoulder just before I walked in to work.

Horrified, I took off my jacket as quick as I could and ran to the nearest toilet to clean it off. When I got there I realised it was all in my hair too. In my absolutely mortified state I flung my head in to the sink under the awkward taps to try and wash my air. At which point I gagged and threw up. I washed my hair with soap and then had to get it out of jacket too, at which point I noticed that the poo had ricocheted across my jacket.

I think it is apt to say it was a shit start to the day.

I also know that people say it’s good luck. I don’t know why, maybe someone made it up to try and make themselves feel better about the fact that they have been literally crapped on. But I’m not going to dwell on it. I’m raising a glass of Rosé to finding it hilarious and hopefully to being lucky with the lottery ticket I’ve picked up. Every cloud!

Two rosés worth checking out:

Taste the Difference Côtes De Provence Rosé £8: I absolutely LOVE this wine. It is a beautiful pale pink colour and in a really fancy bottle. I love it because it is gentle, it has really delicate red berry flavours but it’s still dry. Perfectly chilled, this is an ideal match to go with some alfresco meats and cheeses. Don’t go too strong on the cheese though.


Taste the Difference Rioja Rosado Rosé £7: Too many people associate Rioja with red wine but if you can find the whites and rosés around, try them! This mix of Tempranillo, Garnacha and Viura has brilliant balance between the fruit and acidity. It’s fruitier than the Provence so if you prefer something with a few more strawberries in it, go for this.

Making impulse decisions and not regretting them

Red Wine

I’ve never been particularly great at making quick decisions. Why? I’ll have to think about that….

No seriously. I’ve got to stop this. 2017 is the year of me making decisions and I’m trying my best to make them quicker and not regret them. It started with reading the first few pages of The Life Changing Magic of Not Giving a F**k by Sarah Knight. I say the first few pages because I had to go and buy and read Marie Kondo, The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up to understand some of what’s the fucks she’s wasn’t giving a fuck in the first place we’re all about.

Not many self help books genuinely change my life, but learning to give up things that don’t spark joy has made me less cluttered and much happier. Why? Because I’m not faffing around deciding about things I shouldn’t waste my time on. It started with clothes and the feeling of getting rid of stuffing know I will never wear again is so liberating.

Browsing for wine has always been a great love of mine but when I’m just picking up something to drink at home, I don’t need to spend too much time looking for something perfect. I want to take more risks with wine and surprise myself.

Last weekend I picked up a bottle of Chianti from the local village Co-op. There wasn’t a huge amount of choice but the label caught my eye. So I picked it up, paid and left before I saw something else that would leave me deliberating.

I’ve not had a Chianti since Christmas and I wasn’t expecting too much from this bottle at just £5.99, although I can confirm it sparked plenty of joy when I opened it. It’s a young’un, the 2015 vintage so you do get that classic burst of ripe, red fruit flavours and some peppery notes. I did find it tad dry to start off with. I suggest opening it for an hour or so before you drink it and decanting it if you can. Or just tip in in a jug and back in the bottle, it does need a bit of air to soften it up.

Champagne lifestyle on a budget? Go for Cava

Sparkling

It feels like everyone is talking about ways to find value in the sparkling wine market at the moment. From cheap Champagne, to Prosecco alternatives like Progrigio (I won’t be going there now, wait for a review in a later post), it feels like we all want to live a Champagne lifestyle without paying for it.

The biggest problem with sparkling wine is that it is usually lumped in to one category when in fact, most sparkling wines are made in very different ways. Prosecco for example, is not made in the same way and should never be considered as the ‘cheap alternative’ to Champagne. This is why I think people don’t want to pay a premium or over the price of a bottle of Champagne for it. That shouldn’t be the case.

So is there really value elsewhere? Of course there is! And the place I’m finding the most value is in Cava. Ok, I know it isn’t being hailed as the trendiest drink at the moment but that is starting to change with ever-growing trend for Spanish food. The magic of Cava is that it is produced in exactly the same way of Champagne, albeit not always with the lengthy time left to mature.

Here are three I’ve tried recently and are worth giving a go:

Tesco Cava £5: I was hesitant to picking this up after all, it’s so cheap it’s almost scary. But I was surprised at how clean and fresh tasting it is. It’s very pale due to the lack of ageing but it’s surprisingly fresh. It packs more citrus and apple flavours than anything else and I’ve used it countless time as a base for sparkling cocktails, or over a home-made fruit compote.

Waitrose Cava £6.99: Tasting this against the Tesco Cava is a bit mean but you can really taste what spending an extra £1.99 gets you. This has more depth of flavour to it and punches you first with a clean and citrus burst of flavours. Then you get greeted by some deep, nutty and yeasty flavours that this fizz gets from being aged on lees. This is a serious bargain for its price and it’s made by the popular (and dominant) Cava house, Cordinou.

Clos Monistrol Extra Brut Vintage Cava £7.50, Sainsbury’s: I still remember trying this for the first time at a tasting and being completely bowled over. It’s a vintage blend so you can instantly smell it is toasty on the nose. To taste, it’s slightly floral and has more of a grapefruit taste than the lemon/apple styles for the two Cava’s above. But that’s what I like about this, it is different. Each vintage has been different too, I really enjoyed the 2013 if you can get your hands on that. One thing with this particular Cava is that the price has jumped all over the place. If Cava is a hard sell in the UK then vintage Cava is even harder. Grab a bottle when it is at this price.

Welcome back, taste buds!

White wine

A few weeks ago I got a cold. And a chest infection. And a whole host of other gross things that you get when you share germs with people trains. I have been a coughing, snotty mess for way too long.

The worst part of getting anything cold or flu related is losing the ability to taste ANYTHING. If at any point in the future I ever feel the need to do some sort of chilli eating competition or fancy eating a Scotch Bonnet, I’m getting a cold first.

I couldn’t drink given the amount of stuff I was taking to combat said crap illness so naturally, as soon as I can’t have something I want it. I want it even more than I would have done before and then some. BUT I’M OUT ON THE OTHER SIDE. So I don’t care if winter is coming, I’m having a glass of white.

Marques de Alarcon Blanco 2014 – Marks and Spencer, on offer at £5.99

I picked this up because Spanish wine still offers such good value for money and I really fancied something that wasn’t oaked. It’s a blend of the popular Macabeo grape and Verdejo. It’s pretty fresh, packed full of slightly waxy lemon and lime flavours and a balanced but dry finish. If you are looking for something to go with grilled fish or as a slightly different white for a mid-week treat, this is it.

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Drink to the Queen!

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Seems pretty fitting that on Her Majesty’s Birthday I raise a glass to the Queen. According to reports (and urban myths), the Queen is a fan of a cheeky  G&T – who could blame her? It’s such a mesmerising spirit and luckily its still riding the wave of a rise in popularity.

Tonight we’ll be toasting the monarch with a glass or two of the Opihr Oriental Spiced London Dry Gin. It was bought as a gift for my boyfriends 30th a few weeks ago but I have a suspicion it was picked up for the beautiful label.

It’s a real belter of a Gin, as soon as we opened the bottle the aromas of cardamom and cumin hit our noses. That’s all twisted with hints of citrus, especially burnt orange peel. Although it’s a real feast for the nose its totally balanced on the palate. It’s a little smoky, full of spice and really smooth. We had a good quality tonic to pair with it and it’s worth it. I wouldn’t even suggest a slice of lemon or lime with it as it’s packing enough flavour. I highly recommended if your looking to show another Gin fan a real taste explosion.

Here’s to the Queen!

Why I picked up a right Wrong ‘un

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Wine labels create debate. In theory it should be about what is inside the bottle (aww) but packaging does matter when your making snap decisions on what to buy. Especially if your sharing it with someone or putting it on the table for dinner with friends.

First impressions count and so gimmicky wine labels have always annoyed me. Not because I think making a joke out of wine drinking is bad but because because it has sod all to do with the actual wine. What does an Elegant Frog have to do with Viognier? Sod all but some people are drawn to that kind of stuff.

It’s safe to say I was a bit distracted when I picked up a bottle of The Wrong ‘un at Sourced a few weeks ago. I was panic buying thinking we were having people over and I have shared enough of my secret stash so I had to grab something quick. I’m glad I did and they didn’t come over.

Apparently the One Chain has something to do with cricket but being a football fan I haven’t got a blooming clue what any of it means. Safe to say the contents were outstanding.

It’s 80% Shiraz and 20 Cabernet Sauvignon so it’s a pretty bold wine with lots of dark fruit flavours and that classic touch of spice. It’s also oaked so there are plenty of layers but the finish reminds me of the black wine gums. I like a rich heavy red but if you think you’ll need some food with something like this then get yourself some red meats or tomato based pasta dishes.

That teaches me not to judge a book by its cover.

 

It’s time for some rosé!

Rose

What is that big yellow-orange thing in the sky?! Could it be? I think it might be… it’s sunshine! Ok it’s still freezing cold and not quite pint-of-cider-in-the-pub time but who cares. The sun has popped itself out and that means its time for the first rosé wine of the year.

Rosé wines are not my forte so when I decided to break out of my comfort zone to try new wines I totally threw caution to the wind and picked this up. I think the reason that I don’t drink much of the pink stuff is mainly from bad experiences. Some people might argue with me on this one but I think when it comes to bad wine, rosé is the bracket that is most saturated with utter crap. Overly sweet and pumped with sugar are the worst of the bunch so finding a good one is always a pleasure.

What really drew me to this Cinsault Vielles Vignes (£7) was the colour. It’s not a lurid hot pink but a dusty pale hue with a slight touch of rust. I’m glad I picked it up because if anything can restore my faith in what a good rose can taste like, it’s this.

I admittedly over chilled it, but when it was a little less closer to frozen it was a complex mix of sharp gooseberry notes underpinned by some red fruit. The label suggested blackcurrants but I found it a bit lighter than that. If it lasted longer it would have been a brilliant accomplishment to some barbecued prawns.

A rosé I’ll be returning to in the Summer!  

 

Finding time to take time

bars, White wine

Some people go to Yoga. Some meditate. Others play computer games or listen to music. I go for a glass of wine and people watch. 

Whatever you do in life it’s important to always take five, ten or however long you need to sit back and claim some time for yourself. As a commuter I’ve been through so many waves of pain waiting for and on trains, feeling frustrated and running between A and C that B doesn’t even get a look in. But B is important and without it you will go stir crazy. Same goes with working at a busy job and after an early, stressful start I just need a bit of time to stop and reset. 

I’m currently sat in Sourced in St Pancras International. It’s easily the best station in London and for the last few months I’ve run in and out, completely missing that this place has had an overhaul. And it’s SO much better. More seating, a better bar area and the new staff are so super friendly it’s almost unnerving. Plus the deli has had a revamp – but still be prepared to pay an absolute fortune. I recommend the black pudding quail scotch egg. It’s small but mighty and well worth the price. I promise. 

For £6 I’ve got a delicious LARGE glass of Picpoul de Pinet that’s super fresh, zesty with really tasty lemon notes and just a cheeky hint sweetness to balance it. That’s all wrapped up in with a hug of green floral aromas around it. De-lic-ious. 
I’m watching everyone do what I’ve stopped to take a break from and it’s making me calm. Plus there are the odd moments of lovely greetings Love Actually style that make me smile. Reset achieved.