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.
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
January wasn’t a great month for me. For a few different reasons I lost my ‘wine mojo’ and it has really been getting to me. I went from being painfully specifc about what I wanted to just not caring and settling with bottles or styles I knew would be consistant. It’s far too easy to fall in to that trap and become dependent on the brand or bottles you know will taste as you expect.
It’s far to easy to pop to your local and pick up the same wine without even thinking about it. When I worked in the trade I couldn’t understand how people drank the same stuff all the time but I seemed to slip it to it myself. Why? I don’t really know. But I know I don’t like it.
So I am trying my best to get out of the wine funk I’m in and the first part is making the effort to find wines that I haven’t tried before. I popped in to Dickens House on Sunday and avoided all the bottles I was familar with in favour for something I wasn’t. It’s hard not to go for things you know you already enjoy but that’s the risk with wine and I’ve got to get back in to being happy to take that risk.
I picked up three different bottles and the first I’ve tried is the Terras Pegoes Vinho Tinto 2014 (£6.50). What a bargain! Portugal offers such brilliant value for money and this is certainly no exception. It’s made from the Castelão grape which I’m told is widely grown across Portugal but usually found in the south of the country. It’s rich, intense but beautifully fruity and has a really delicate floral hint to it. I’ve been opting for tannin heavy wines recently but this is the complete opposite. It has such a smooth palate that its dangerously easy to swig. The label says raspberry flavours but I am pretty sure I am getting just a little bit of red cherry.
So here’s to getting back on the wagon, sensibly of course 😉
I’d been walking past my local for a few nights wondering why the curtains were closed. I assumed that maybe they were closing midweek to save a few quid and put their effort in to the weekend trade. I was wrong. The curtains had closed and so had the bar.
I was pretty devastated.
Most people have an opinion on why pubs are closing faster than ever. Be that cheaper drinks in the off trade, lack of food or even just lack of trade. It’s a subject that turns us all in to wannabe pub land/lords or ladies to start shouting Peggy Mitchel style: “I COULD RUN A PUB!”. We could all do it right? We could run a pub?
Before it closed down in early September, the Crown and Thistle wasn’t a pub I would have called particularly special. It was only little so as soon as you stepped in it was like walking in to a living room with a bar. The beers focused on local craft lager, ales and ciders and you could pay the cost of a pint to get 3 tasting samples instead. This was a pub with charm. The garden was an utter sun trap but was crowded with too many chairs so half the time the seats sunbathed more than any people. There were no televisions so no football or rugby apart from the furious updates someone would shout as they checked their phone.
All of the above pretty much sums up why The Crown and Thistle didn’t stand a chance against its rivals like The Three Daws and The Rum Puncheon. It’s not off the beaten track by any means but it is a pub on a side road outside of the hub of town which didn’t serve food. It (and by it I mean management) lived in a heady day dream where the locals would flock to the pub just because it was so magical.
It wasn’t magical. In fact in the light of day it was a bit of a dump and could have done with a bloody good clean. The owners let the jack-of-a-few-trades-master-of-pretty-much-nothing son look after it and eventually run it in to the ground. It wasn’t looked after and this is what I find the hardest part. It just wasn’t loved enough even by the people who had the most control to change things.
No word of yet as to what will happen to it but I have seen it being stripped of all its beer mats and miniatures. So sadly I bid my local a fond farewell and hope that if it stays a pub the new owners show it some well-deserved love.
Cocktails are usually a bit of a minefield for me. For a few reasons, best bulleted:
- I don’t like cream
- That means I don’t like Bailey’s
- And I don’t have the sweetest tooth
- Which means that I don’t like Piña coladas
- Or getting caught in the rain for that matter
My new cocktail of choice is the Spiced Sailor Mojito. It’s a warming yet refreshing blend of Sailor Jerry’s Spiced Rum, muddled with plenty of fresh mint, lime juice, poured over a load of crushed ice and topped with apple juice.
Hipster jam jar style glass is optional.
Rumours of a shortage in the Prosecco market didn’t come as much of a huge surprise to me. I knew that Veneto, the region in north-east Italy where the Glera ‘Prosecco’ grapes are grown, had a particularly bad harvest and as a result there would be a lower yield. I also knew that all the stories flying around about Prosecco ‘out-selling’ Champagne meant that a story aimed to worry the British Prosecco drinkers would soon to follow.
Whether or not there is a Prosecco shortage or not (spoiler, there won’t be), I see this as a good thing. There are too many wine drinkers stuck in their ways who buy the same bottle of adult pop each week. Never leaving their comfort zones to try something a bit different.
Escape Prosecco and try these:
Clos Monistrol Vintage Cava: I love a glass of Cava but not that crappy budget £4 a bottle stuff. The Spanish make some truly amazing Cava’s and there are hidden gems out there that are a must try. This is made using a selection of the best Chardonnay, Macabeo, Xarel-lo and Parellada grapes and aged for 36 months. It’s cheap, usually around £7 in Sainsbury’s but there is more depth and flavour to it than you’ll get out of some more budget versions. It’s a good ‘oh I drink good Cava, darrrrling’ dinner party fizz. (Sainsbury’s, £7.50)
Cave de Lugny Crémant de Bourgogne Blanc de Blancs NV: Thanks to the lovely Susie Atkins for recommending this in her column a few years ago because it’s now a firm favourite on my wine shelf. It’s 100% Chardonnay, light in style with crisp apple flavours and has a really beautiful label. I like it with a cheese board or a simple crab linguini. (Waitrose, £13.99)
Luis Pato Maria Gomes Metodo Antigo NV: I picked this up on a whim in an Oddbins somewhere in central London ages ago and I still remember it for it’s golden colour and tropical, almost pineapple flavours. This is also good for a cheese board but also works as barbecue fizz. (Oddbins, £14.50)