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A New World Evening of Wine & Food

My thanks to everyone for making  29th June 2018 such a memorable one! A great fun group, Tony on fire in the kitchen and  our brilliant guest speaker none other than my lovely sister-in-law Julie Maitland. Check out the line-up of wines and  T`s matching menu:

Guest speaker: Julie Maitland

Host: Anthony Borges – Chef: Tony Bell

Bird in Hand Rosé Sparkling Pinot Noir, Adelaide Hills, Australia 2017, £16.99

A light, delicate sparkling Pinot Noir, salmon-pink in colour, with floral notes and hints of strawberry and cherry on the nose. Its lively palate evokes flavours of fresh strawberries with a delicate bead, leading to a crisp, clean finish. The perfect pre-dinner aperitif or celebratory drink.

Forrest `The Doctor’s` Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough New Zealand (9.5%), 2017, £11.99

A classic Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc that leaps from the glass with green capsicum, passionfruit and fresh herbs; it’s full and satisfying to taste with that crisp refreshing Marlborough finish, and all at only 9.5% alcohol. Perfect for your modern lifestyle.

Bouchard Finlayson `Missionvale` Chardonnay, Walker Bay, South Africa 2015, £24.99

A robust, creamy Hemel-En-Aarde Valley Chardonnay. Subtle peach and melon flavours follow a zesty citrus watermark. The after-taste conveys further nuances, notably of fig and quince. This bottling has excellent potential for ageing and further development.

Escarpment `The Edge` Pinot Noir, Martinborough, New Zealand 2016, £15.99

A full-bodied style with backbone and a long lingering finish. An immediately accessible wine, which will improve over the next two years. Enjoy with this cumin-scented duck roll, alternatively with vegetarian plates, full-flavoured fish dishes and any red meats.

Catherine Marshall `Amatra` Merlot, Elgin, South Africa 2015, £15.99

French clone (348) Merlot exudes bright, fresh black plums. Core of opulent black fruit flavours are supported by a vibrant thread of fresh acidity from the addition of a small splash of Cabernet Franc to harmoniously balance the textured mid core palate weight.

Rustenberg John X Merriman, Stellenbosch, South Africa (magnum) 2015, £37.00

The John X Merriman is a powerful wine that rewards aging. In its youth the wine is worth decanting and expresses cassis, black currant and dark fruits complemented with cigar tobacco and sour cherry notes. As the wine ages and its fine-grained tannins soften a softer more savoury palate develops revealing, wonderful drinkability and tertiary complexity.

Bremerton Batonnage Chardonnay, Langhorne Creek, Australia 2014, £24.99

Bâtonnage Chardonnay draws its name from the French term for stirring the lees during the aging and maturation of wine. On the nose this wine shows lifted lemon-curd with hints of stone-fruit and spice. The palate is expressive and complemented by restrained oak and a creamy mouthfeel. The palate is tempered by a fine acid structure and textural finish giving the wine great length and persistence.

Trentham Estate, The Family Nebbiolo, Murray Darling, Australia 2015, £13.99

Trentham Estate’s ‘The Family’ range of wines are from estate-grown Italian varieties and celebrate their Italian heritage’s influence on grape-growing and winemaking. A lighter red with complex aromas of spice, rose petal and berry fruits. On the palate fruit flavours of blackberry and plum blend with complex spice and earthy characters. Ripe tannins provide great length and balance. In the vineyard Nebbiolo has variable crops with fruit colour ranging from light to deeply-coloured red. The fruit matures late in the season with low sugar and high acid levels which makes it well suited for warmer climates.

Hooiwijn Donkiesbaai, Piekenierskloof, South Africa 2016 (half-bottle), £22.99

Hooiwijn, literally ‘straw wine’ in Afrikaans, where bunches of Steen (Chenin Blanc) grapes are placed on racks covered by straw and twice a week turned by hand. A complex sweet wine with notes of apricot, peach, pineapple, honeysuckle and caramel. The wine shows excellent balance between sweetness and acidity, with a long, lingering, fresh finish.



Asparagus and walnut crusted goats cheese

Cod, saffron prawn

Cumin-scented duck ‘roll’, sweet potato & almond skordalia

Risotto al sarno

Daube of beef

Cheese platters

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A thought for the seasons

One thing I have always loved about our country is its seasons. What better way of celebrating them, then with the thrill of eating the season`s fresh fruit and vegetables. The first Asparagus, the first strawberries, the first broad beans. Even better, growing and eating your own. Furthermore, since most of us are carnivores, there`s the seasonal meats. At Easter we look forward to the tender Spring Lamb.  During the summer months we get to enjoy gorgeous pork pies and barbecued spare ribs. A favourite of mine in the summer is Grandfather sausages supplied by our local butcher. It`s the time of year for fresh lettuce salads, Caesar and Niçoise our staples; while our go-to salad with barbecues is Tomato-Avocado-Mozzarella. Red peppers and aubergines also appear on our table during the summer months, as do new potatoes, Beetroot and Cucumber, to name a few.   There`s also seasonal local fish – the “catch of the day”, be that Cod, Mackerel or Bass.   Colchester`s famous Mersea oysters remain a highlight of the year in season. Less known but highly sought after among food aficionados are Colchester`s native lobsters, Langoustine and eels.   Come Autumn and Winter there`s a sea-change and we look to the warming seasonal comfort food – apples for apple pie, root vegetables for hearty casseroles, game-birds, venison and so on.   And with each changing season we have our matching wines, and that, readers, is where I come in. With every seasonal delight there will be wines in our shop which will bring your seasonal dish to life and make the occasion even more special. With Asparagus, try our Domaine Girault Sancerre – it`s perfect. With strawberries, Italy`s Moncucco Moscato d`Asti – served in a flute glass it is sublime. With fresh broad beans (in- season right now) enjoy our Chateau de Fontenille, Entre-Deux-Mers. Any member of our team will be happy to recommend a wine with your seasonal dish, just drop into The Wine Centre or telephone 01206 271 236.

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Cork versus Screw Cap

Not so very long ago, screw cap was used as a stopper for cheap plonk, while cork was the preserve of the finer bottles. Not so any more.  The past ten years has seen a sea-change toward use of screw cap, with an increasing number of fine wine producers rejecting cork.  The cost of “corked” wine to the industry has proven too high for many.  I can vouch for this:  I used to log my returned faultybottles in a book, now the number would barely fill two sides of a post note in a year because over two-thirds of my stock is screw cap. There`s also the personal tragedies of corked bottles:  the long years of cellaring a special bottle only to discover the wine is completely spoiled! And worse still, from my point of view as a merchant, is the slightly corked wines.  In these the wine simply tastes dull and without expression, as though a Death Eater has sucked the life out of it, appearing like a poor wine, not a faulty wine, with my reputation at stake!!  Furthermore:   wine itself at stake!  I blame the cork producers for the cork demise, for not grappling with the problems of cork infection sooner. Some say as much as 10% of all wines stoppered with cork is wasted due to cork taint.  Meantime, there has been this past decade a significant improvement in the screw cap, now with permeable lining.  It`s been with some considerable enthusiasm I have noted wines mature gracefully under screw cap, something the avid proponent of cork always said wouldn’t happen.      Truthfully, screw cap is not perfect, either. There are some  reductive wines, which can be a bit stinky – but these are few by comparison and can often be  remedied by decanting.   There`s also still the jury out on long-term maturation of wines under screw cap. But until I am dissuaded, my mind is made up, in favour of screw cap over cork. What do you think?

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Mentzendorff Wines

Guest speaker: Antony Davis – Host: Anthony Borges –

Chef: Tony Bell

A fabulous evening. Thanks everyone for your ongoing support. Wines and matching menu:

The Crossings Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough 2017, £13.99

A full flavoured Sauvignon with pure fruit characters of gooseberry and nectarine, underpinned by citrus tones leading to a crisp mineral finish. 100% Sauvignon Blanc.

 La Gitana Manzanilla, Jerez, Spain, £12.99

This sherry is produced using only free run juice and the natural yeast that is left on the skins of the grapes. Dry and refreshing, with apple, straw and nutty flavours all underscored with salty tanginess. 100% Palomino Fino.

Langlois-Chateau Muscadet de Sevre et Maine Sur Lie, Loire, France 2016, £13.99,

With its distinctiv yellow colour, delicate aromas of stone and citrus fruit and a palate of everything you would want from a Muscadet of this quality, fresh, fruity with a lasting finish. 100% Melon de Bourgogne.

Langlois-Chateau Pouilly-Fume, Loire, France 2017, £24.99

Pale yellow with greenish hues. A fresh and intense nose of citrus, fruits and almonds. The palate is wonderfully fruity with a note of gunflint on the finish.

100% Sauvignon Blanc.

Chateau des Ferrages  “Roumery”, Cotes de Provence Rose, France 2016, £14.99

Elegant, bright and subtle rosé with a very pale rose petal hue. shows a fresh and fruity aromatic character with aromas of strawberry, grapefruit, citrus and peach. Cinsault, Grenache, Rolle and Clairette.

Langlois-Chateau Saumur-Champigny, France 2015, £18.99

The Cabernet Franc grapes are taken from the vineyards in Dampierre sur Loire, where the soil is sand and chalk. Cherry-red colour with intense aromas of red fruit and notes of violet in the nose. Medium-bodied with a round and fruity palate.

100% Cabernet Franc

Chanson Fleurie, Beaujolais, France, £18.99

Typical fresh attack of red fruits, raspberries, strawberries and cherries, mixed with violets and spices. Well balanced, elegant body. A vibrant, savoury quality and an attractive light touch. 100% Gamay

Killerman`s Run Cabernet Sauvignon, Clare Valley, Australia 2015, £18.99

Aromas, well supported by cedary and spicy oak notes. Richly flavoured and textured the palate packs dark fruits, hints of fresh leaf, tobacco and subtle French oak toast in perfect synchronicity with the fine grained tannins and balanced natural acidity. 100% Cabernet Sauvignon.

Henrique & Henrique 20 Year Old Malvasia Madeira, Portuga, £69.99

Dark in colour with golden hints. Complex aromas of dried fruit, caramel and honey with some subtle wood. Sweet and velvety taste of dried fruit, especially raisins, along with flavours of honey and vanilla. 100% Malvasia


Anchovy Palmiers, almonds and olives

Moules Mariniere

English asparagus, beetroot and walnut crumbed goats cheese

Prawn and crayfish ‘croquetas’

Free range, Anjou raised, Guinea Fowl, tarragon jus

Cheeses from The Wine Centre’s Deli

Sticky toffee pudding




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Independent wine merchants doing well

According to the drinks industry press there are now 855 independent wine merchants in the UK, an increase of 31 on 2017.  Graham Holter, editor of The Wine Merchant (arguably UK`s most influential trade magazine for the independent sector) says this is encouraging news for an industry feeling the effects of the weaker pound. I say it is BRILLIANT news – performing well in difficult times against a tsunami of much bigger drinks specialists and the supermarket chains, with their much greater buying power and resources, is the story of David and Goliath in our time.  We are proud to count ourselves among the 855, and it is   particularly gratifying that in 2016 an industry panel of over 100 judges voted us in the UK`s top 50. It`s been a long journey for us, now nearly nineteen years for me personally, and this was a great moment. We were at the awards event in London when we heard the announcement and I practically fell off my stall! I mention this now to give hope to all independents out there, and to youngsters thinking about “giving it a go”. “Small” is flexible. Out of necessity we play to our strengths and it is dynamic and creative. We work hard and with passion and people buy into the enthusiasm because it`s genuine and honest.  In the past ten years, for us, it has also been about change. Standing still wasn’t an option. If we had been in town we would have become a hybrid: part wine shop, part wine bar. But in Great Horkesley we simply don`t have the footfall, so we started our ticketed events. Our wine-tasting dinners have been especially successful, often sold six months ahead.  We invested in the premises to incorporate our fledgling deli. Then we knocked through into our adjacent house and built The Gift Room, a great move for us. In a nut shell, we diversified. But with wine still at the heart of everything we do.  Still a wine merchant.  And moreover, a great community life. We count ourselves lucky.

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Climate Change Effects on Wine

Our world is getting warmer and our weather more extreme and unpredictable. The adverse effects of Climate Change are wide reaching, and well known. But how many of us have thought about its effect on wine? Many of you may have noticed how alcohol levels in wine have increased. Finding a 12% Vol wine is certainly a lot harder than it used to be; the average now days being 13.5%-14%. What will it be in 20 years, I wonder? And what are the implications? Imagine being a burgundy vineyard owner. You are already noticing the grapes are ripening earlier. Naturally there has always been vintage variation, it`s one of the things which makes wine interesting. Just take 2014 Chablis over 2015 as an example: the former 2014, pale, lean, fresh and minerally; the latter 2015, rounder, richer, more yellow. The extended sunshine days in 2015 changed the wine unrecognisably, in my mind losing its distinctive Chablis character – the flinty-mineral edge which goes so well with oysters. Still perfectly lovely, but not the same. Now add another degree or two to the land mass of the area – Global Warming – will it taste like Chablis at all? As burgundy vineyard owner you can mitigate the warming effects to a degree with pruning and canopy change, and by picking the fruit early; in the winery you might even be able to add acidity to the fermenting juice, to compensate for the acidity which was burnt off in the vineyard. But just how much tinkering can you do? Is it possible even that someday the temperatures will be too high for the successful production of burgundy as we know it, the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes having lost their cool-climate finesse? No doubt by then replaced by new grape varieties better suited to warmer climates? Why, Climate Change could potentially turn the wine world on its head! One possible winner in the medium-term is England. As burgundy vineyard owner you might well be wise to up sticks and grow your Chardonnay and Pinot Noir grapes there instead!

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Chile Emiliana

An evening dedicated to Emiliana, Chile`s leading organic and biodynamic wine producer, turned out to be an evening of fun and entertainment! George was in great form, as was Tony, but it was our lovely customers who provided most of the entertainment. A fantastic group – thanks everyone!

Guest speaker: George Randall – Host: Anthony Borges –
Chef: Tony Bell

Ellisons Solicitors Wine-tasting Dinner
4th May 2018

The Organic Wines of Chile`s Emiliana

Emiliana Brut, Casablanca Valley NV, £16.99, £15.29 – aperitif

Pale yellow with persistent effervescence. Fruity aromas of papaya, pineapple and cherries with underlying yeast and toast. Balanced and fresh on the palate.
76% Chardonnay, 24% Pinot Noir.

Emiliana Adobe Reserva Chardonnay, Casablanca Valley 2017, £9.99, £8.99

Unoaked, sun-kissed Chardonnay. Pale mustard-yellow. Aromas of citrus and tropical fruits with some herbal notes. Grapefruit, lime, pineapple. The palate is fresh and juicy with creamy cashew mid-palate. 100% Chardonnay

Novas Gran Reserva Viognier, Casablanca Valley 2016, £12.99, £11.69

Delightful Viognier. Golden yellow. Wonderful fragrance of apricot, honey, blossom and white peach. On the palate fresh, rounded and unctuous. 100% Viognier

Signos de Origen La Vinilla Estate, Casablanca Valley 2016, £16.99, £15.29

Golden yellow. Peach and apricot aromas and savoury notes of freshly cut walnuts. Smooth, fresh and creamy on the palate with depth of flavour. 72% Chardonnay, 12% Viognier, 10% Marsanne, 6% Roussanne.

Novas Gran Reserva Pinot Noir, Casablanca Valley 2016, £12.99, £11.69

Bright translucent cherry red. Fragrant nose of cherries, blackcurrants, rose petals and toast.
Aromas carry through to an elegant, finely tuned supple structure on the palate.
100% Pinot Noir

Coyam Los Robles Estate, Colchagua Valley 2013, £22.99, £20.69

Named after the oak forests which surround Emiliana’s magical and spiritual Colchagua home, Los Robles. Coyam is the ultimate expression of this estate – their flagship wine – a blend of their best grapes: 48% Syrah, 24% Carmenere, 11% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, 3% Mourvedre, 3% Malbec, 1% Petit Verdot

Signos de Origen Los Morros Cabernet Sauvignon, Maipo 2015, £18.99, £17.09

Fabulous Cabernet. Deep ruby-red. Bright, ripe blackcurrant and cherry fruit with underlying liquorice, cedar, anise, truffle, chocolate and pencil lead. Pure Maipo!
100% Cabernet Sauvignon

Signos de Origen Los Robles Carmenère, Colchagua Valley 2015, £18.99, £17.09

Rising star. Purplish ruby-red. Aromas of cherries, strawberries, balsamic, vanilla, leather and spices. Elegant, lush, velvety red. 100% Carmenère.

Emiliana Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc, Casablanca 2015 (37.5cl), £9.99, £8.99
Emiliana`s sweet wine. Lustrous golden yellow. Complex aromas of quince, papaya, apple and ginger. Fresh and sweet on the palate with a touch of caramel.
85% Sauvignon Blanc, 15% Gewurztraminer.


Prawns, avocado and tomato ‘ceviche’

Red peanut glazed chicken, mango & lime

Hake, fennel and saffron broth

Duck, pear and walnut salad

Dry-rubbed spiced beef, salsa verde


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What is biodynamic wne?

Quite a few people ask me this. Well there`s a short and long answer, with quite a lot of gobbledegook between. In truth I`m still grappling with it, but here goes: Biodynamic wine is organic wine PLUS, PLUS – a wine produced from organically grown grapes according to a lunar calendar devised by Maria Thun (1922-2012 ) based on an holistic, homeopathic method of farming originally conceived by philosopher Rudolph Steiner (1861-1925). In fact, Steiner`s biodynamic farming predated organic farming by several decades. He was essentially anti-chemical as well, but his big idea was that everything in the universe is interconnected and the influence of the moon on earth was a useable force. Steiner claimed that plants on earth are affected by the pull of the moon and furthermore by the position of the planets and stars. He believed plants grew at differing rates with the passing of the moon into different constellations of the zodiac. Thun studied his work and spent a lifetime monitoring the growth of plants setting the movement of the moon against the ancient astronomical elements of Earth, Fire, Air and Water. She created a best practices farming calendar and divided it into Root days, ideal for pruning, Fruit days, best harvesting days, Flower days, suitable rest days, and Leaf days, for irrigation. Root days are when the moon is in any of the Earth signs (Capricorn, Taurus, Virgo). Fruit days are when the moon is in the Fire signs (Aires, Leo, Sagittarius). Flower days, in the Air signs (Gemini, Libra, Aquarius). Leaf days, in the Water signs (Cancer, Scorpio, Pisces). Still following? Anyway – whether you think this is all hocus-pocus or not, Steiner`s and Thun`s biodynamic farming has been widely adopted and is big business today. Wine guru Michel Chapoutier himself is an avid proponent! “It permits the only true expression of a wine`s terroir”, he claims. And we only need think back to ancient history. Hasn’t man looked to the celestial skies for guidance of one kind or another since we first inhabited our earth?

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Emiliana Vineyards, an organic triumph

Organic wines – wines produced from organically grown grapes – have a lot less sulphur preservative than non-organic wines, which is why our health-conscious sulphur-sensitive customers love Emiliana. Our vegetarian and vegan customers can`t get enough of Emiliana, either; and our conscientious customers buy into the Emiliana brand because 100% of their wines are produced sustainably, since some of them are really into healthy nutrition and follow diets you can find at sites like I am therefore delighted to introduce ECS readers to Emiliana Vineyards, Chile`s 2015 winery of the year and one of the largest organic wineries in the world. They own around 1000 hectares of organic certified vineyard the length and breadth of Chile, with wineries in the Colchagua and Maipo valleys. Emiliana is also well known for the biodynamic vineyard management it undertakes at their Los Robles Estate in Colchagua, which produces their flagship wine, Coyam. They prune according to the moon cycles there, so as not to waste valuable sap. In summer its grassy vineyards are famed for attracting rare species of butterflies, birds and a high populace of bees. They use horse and plough, together with grass-grazing lamas and burrito-munching chickens. When I was there in 2014 we had a picnic in the vineyard, the place high with the scent of flowers and manure! But the best of Emiliana is its award-winning wines. If you would like to drop into the shop we`ll have some on taste today and tomorrow. This wine is also really healthy to keep in a healthy diet, you can check this detailed overview diet. Their fabulous Adobe Rosé, fresh, fruity and balanced, their Chardonnay, with subtle tropical notes and creamy mouthfeel, and their Carmenère red wine with standout plum and redcurrant aromas. Incidentally, in May we will be introducing Emiliana`s new sparkling wine to our range as well. Viva Emiliana, and viva Chile!

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Think of Portugal

Think of Portuguese wines and Vinho Verde might spring to mind, the slightly fizzy acid wines of the north which go so well with the local olive oil and salt cod dishes. Or Alvarinho – if you have been to the Algarve you will no doubt have tried the local sardines and swallowed them down with dry white wine made from the fresh and aromatic Alvarinho grape (in Spain Albarino). Or you might think of Lancers or Mateus Rosé, the slightly carbonated pink wines which happily go down so well in England with our curries. There`s just a chance, if you have wined and dined with the Portuguese in their homes, you will even think of their rustic red wines which accompany the basic, traditional cuisine. There`s also Madeira – fortified wines produced on Portugual`s eponymous Atlantic island, ranging from dry to sweet: Sercial, Verdelho, Bual, Terrantez and Malmsey. However, think of Portugal and surely we all think first of Port. After all, it is as English a Portuguese wine as you can get. Fortified with spirit and sweet, vintage port is the Englishman`s traditional nip after dinner with the stilton, just as claret is his red with roast lamb. The decanting process required to remove the wine`s sediment is all part of the ritual, showing off the wine`s deep ruby colour. Sweet and velvet, the ruby style is also popular in less costly versions which don`t require decanting, such as Late Bottled Vintage. These are pleasantly sweet and fruity without the intensity or finesse of a vintage. However, it`s the white ports and amber-coloured, nutty style of wood-matured tawny ports which the locals in Portugal like to drink – chilled as aperitif wines or famously with creamy cow`s cheese and quince jam. Here we tend to ignore white port (a great shame, it makes a wonderful aperitif) and we might just sip a Tawny by the fireside. Thinking of Portugal now, what springs to your mind?