For the first time tickets for our last dinner of the year were bought outright for a private party, a very special 40th birthday. Thanks Ben for choosing to have your celebration with us. We enjoyed enormously the company of your friends. My thanks to Derek Langton of Moet Hennessey, our guest speaker, and to Tony Bell our chef. What a thoroughly fantastic and memorable evening it was. Not least to meet, at last, Veuve Cliquot`s La Grande Dame…! Tasting notes and menu listed below:
Guest speaker: Derek Langton – Host: Anthony Borges –
Chef: Tony Bell –
Veuve Cliquot Champagne, £45.99 (Magnum: £99.00)
Veuve Clicquot ages their non-vintage for almost twice the required time, resulting in a superb marriage of freshness and power, with rich fruit and a mouth-filling mousse. The result, a distinctive golden-yellow Champagne with a bead of tiny bubbles and a bouquet of white peach, dried fruits, vanilla, toast and brioche; on the palate a symphony of fruit tastes and spices, delicious to the end. Traditionally, the proportion of each grape variety used is 50 to 55% Pinot Noir, 15 to 20% Pinot Meunier and 28 to 33% Chardonnay, with up to 40% being drawn from the Reserve wine.
Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc, Marlborough NZ 2016, £24.99
A pale wine with a vibrant, aromatic mix of orange blossom intermingled with lemon, lime and nectarine fruits. The palate is brimming with ripe citrus and stone fruit flavours that are framed by a sleek and succulent acid architecture.
Newton Unfiltered Chardonnay, Ca USA 2014, £43.99
A truly great Chardonnay with depth to its yellow colour. The nose is intense, focused and complex: pink grapefruit, fresh fig and pear aromas are enhanced by elements of spice and vanilla, contributing additional depth and intrigue. Flavours of lemon curd, marzipan and white peach evolve in the mouth, enlivened by beautifully balanced natural acidity.
Veuve Cliquot La Grande Dame Champagne 2006, £128.00
La Grande Dame 2006 is an exclusive blend of eight classic Grands Crus: Aÿ, Bouzy, Ambonnay, Verzy and Verzenay for the Pinot Noir (53%); Avize, Oger and Le Mesnil-sur-Oger for the Chardonnay (47%). A golden colour with a bead of tiny bubbles, the initial nose reveals a saline, mineral background, then floral notes (acacia), notes of fresh fruit (peach, pear) and finally toasted notes (hazelnut, roasted almonds). When agitated, the bouquet becomes rich and voluptuous, with notes of ginger, brioche, nougat and preserved lemon. In the mouth, it is plump and full of substance. The texture is crisp and silky. The minerality of the chalk resonates brightly with the fleshy structure and contributes to the length of finish. The end note is fresh and generous, hinting at a discreet dosage followed by a long period of post-disgorgement aging, Enjoy now until 2025.
Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir, Marlborough New Zealand 2014, £33.99
This translucent cherry-coloured red has a wondrous bouquet of roses and violets, leading to ripe berry fruit, dark cherry and luscious plum. Structurally, the wine is seamless. The palate is concentrated and framed with ripe silky tannins and complex notes of spicy oak and herbs. A beautiful wine, it is long, fleshy and lithe.
Newton Unfiltered Merlot, California USA 2012, £43.99
A truly lovely red. The aromas of this delectable Merlot are redolent of ripe blueberries and Satsuma plums with hints of violet, mocha and mint. Dark, plush and savory with black fruit
flavors, it is richly textured with a firm structure. The long finish is round and warm
with toasted cedar, mocha and roasted coffee bean flavours.
Terrazas “Las Compuertas” Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina 2011, £48.99
This Single Vineyard reveals a ripe, fresh character. The nose delivers notes of violets, menthol and liquorice combined with dark fruits such as blackberry and dark cherry. On the palate it is dark, spicy and lively with finely-grained silky tannins. 18 – 20 months French oak barrel aging has added complexity.
Newton The Puzzle, California USA 2012, £68.00
The perfume of cedar, juniper, tar and oak mingle with dark fruit, chocolate
and plum aromas on the nose. On the palate this wine is inky with anise, dark mocha, plum and cassis flavours that are supported by fine tannins. Dark fruit flavours linger on the long finish. The Halloween wine of the evening, dark and brooding…
Terrazas Los Andes Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina 2014, £18.99
We felt we couldn`t finish the evening on a dark note on such an evening, so we bring you this super, refreshing Malbec, juicy with violet and cherry characteristics so typical of this elegant, ever popular wine.
Prawn ‘nori’, asparagus and tomato concasse
Cube of wild Keta salmon ‘gravlax’
Portobello mushroom, hazelnut crumble
Autumn palette of game, field and orchard
Dark chocolate & orange pot – served with Ben`s favourite Glen Morangie The Quinta Ruban 12 YO (matured in Bourbon casks, finished in port casks)
Truly, every dish was superb, the palette of game joyous! Brilliant job, Tony
Quick blog by Anthony Borges
I had a `moment` in the shop yesterday. It reminded me of just how food can influence wine, and vice versa….
Of course I know this only too well – we demonstrate this week in and week out at The Wine Centre with our cheeseboards, deli platters, canapés and four-course Friday night dinners. Promoting the enjoyment of wine and food, together, is our raison d`etre. It`s why so many of our customers come to us with recipes, so we can advise on the best wines to match. More of us are entertaining friends at home than ever before, or so it would seem, with more people than ever requiring dish by dish pairings to show both food and wine in the most favourable light. We help them avoid unpleasant clashes but much more than that, we recommend wines which will add significantly to the food experience – where both wine and food brighten noticeably. One of my favourite examples of this is our Golden Cross goat`s cheese with the ever popular Touraine-Oisly from the Loire Valley in France. Both lovely – together, stupendous. Another is a little known but wonderful Loire Valley red, our Saumur “La Cabriole”, with charcuterie. In future blogs I will be making plenty of food and wine recommendations for you to try at home.
But back to where I started. It was in the shop and I hadn`t spotted my wife putting out a new sweet chilli salsa dip (oblivious to my choice of wines and cheeses). Customers were tucking in when one, more loudly than necessary, I felt, emitted a yuck noise (along with exaggerated screwed up face). It wasn`t the hot salsa – it was the golden Chardonnay he had been enjoying with the Epoisses cheese, turned sour suddenly by the hot sauce. An easy mistake….
I`m fond of the expression “Life`s too short to drink cheap wine”, but I`m also a realist. I recognise we all have our price. When it comes to having a party some of you will head off to France to fill your boots, others to Aldi. I get that. While at it you can pick up the BOGOF Stella lager and frozen burgers, what`s not to like? A lot of people think of wine as just another drink and they`ll buy it for the lowest price possible. Serve your fizz cold and what does it matter if it doesn`t have flavour, right? When you are inviting half the village no-one would blame you. Others will buy the cheapest Champagne – no matter if a Cava at half the price is better, so long as it has Champagne on the label. Okay, I get that too – it gives your party kudos to serve Champagne, fair enough. A few thirst-quenching glasses will deliver the same titillating effect as any other. Moreover, most supermarkets will even lend you the glasses for your party nowadays – they will be pretty basic glasses but dish-washer friendly, so a result, right?
OR, you can do better than that. You can give your guests wine and food they will enjoy. You can throw a party with style. You can go to the local butchers and buy real meat; and you can come to us for all your other party requirements! Most important of all, we can get the wines right. We can help you choose what`s right for you and you can bring back what you don`t use. As for beer, we offer the usual, but also specialty beer, and poly pins of real ale which are always a party treat. And you can borrow decent glasses free of charge so drinking feels good and the wines are shown in the best possible light. We work with some great caterers too; and we have some great tips to help your party go with a swing. So we really are a one-stop shop for parties in every sense. If you are local and having a party call us on 01206 271 236, opening hours 10am-6.30pm Monday to Saturday.
My absolute perfect Rosé wine is the glass at 6.45pm after cashing up, with a handful of salted nuts. The accumulated day`s stresses start to ebb away in anticipation of the moment as I pop the cork (or snap the cap). The whiff of the wine is stimulating, my hunger now peaked; then comes the first thirst-quenching mouthful, followed by the salty tang and creamy, crunch of the peanuts. It`s a great moment, and I repeat it immediately. Salt and wine contrast explosively, which is why it`s so delicious. My favourite style of Rosé for the occasion is pale salmon-pink in colour and dry, almost certainly French. Our Pasquier Rosé from Languedoc always hits the spot at £7.99 per bottle; even better, the bone dry, slightly peppery wines of Provence, such as Rimauresque Cru Classé, £14.99, or the legendary Whispering Angel, £18.99.
Another of this ilk, without the peppery quality (which suits some) is Sancerre Rosé, produced with Pinot Noir grapes. I recommend ours, by Fernand Girard, for £15.99. Yet another, produced locally (near Long Melford) is Giffords Hall, a blend of Rondo and Madeleine Angevine grapes – impressive in magnum format at £33.00.
But there are all shades, from pale onion, through various depths of salmon, to deep red cherry and even orange. We have a wondrous display in the shop at the moment.
It would be a mistake to ignore entirely the Rosé wines with deep-colour. We have them, currently, from Chile, Spain, Italy, New Zealand and Lebanon. These wines are fruitier, sometimes emphatically juicy, and they can be truly delicious on a hot summer`s day. The only ones I`m not keen on are the sweeter style Zinfandel Rosé wines. I find them a little confectionery, like boiled sweets. We stock two (I Heart, £6.99, and Beringer, £9.99) because customers demand I do so. Live and let live I say.
My wine of the week, available to taste, is a rare deep-coloured Rosé from Lebanon! Musar Jeune, produced from 100% Cinsault grapes grown in Bekaa Valley, £12.99 per bottle.
In Colchester we have a fantastic range of ethnic restaurants at our disposal: Lebanese, Mexican, Chinese, Thai, Vietnamese, Greek, Indian, Nepalese, Japanese, Turkish… if I have missed one, I`d be glad to learn of it. I consider we are truly blessed – to be in a position to experience such a variety of food cultures, just a walk or a short taxi ride away. We are very, very lucky. Yet – if I may be so bold as to make an observation – too few of these wonderful restaurants sell decent wine. For me (and for a lot of people, I know) this is a huge shame and an untapped opportunity. It`s all the more disappointing for the high quality of food served in these establishments.
Just recently we had a family meal at a Lebanese restaurant in town – a falafels and hummus starter followed by spicy lamb kebab with saffron rice. It was stupendous. All it required was a decent Pinotage and it would have been 10/10. Alas, the wine was poor. Boring. The patron had opted for cheap wine which tasted bland – the complete opposite of their wonderful cuisine. It`s such a crying shame. The quality of wine is important and so is the selection of wine offered. With the diverse, fascinating dishes on offer there is scope for thrilling wine and food pairings which would be a wine and food lover`s dream ticket.
Here`s an idea: a good many of these restaurants offer takeaway. Why not enjoy the food at home with a decent bottle from us! Our last take out was from the Naka Thai in East Hill, a first class choice. We had their set meal with our Paul Cluver Village Pinot Noir (a beauty for £13.99) and it was magic. Go on, treat yourselves…
Ampelography is the study of wine grapes. It takes us way back and like the sprawling defunct royal families of the French middle-ages, there is evidence of peculiar marriages (known as crossings in the grape world) which will make your hair stand on end. It turns out, Chardonnay and Gamay are brothers (that`s white burgundy and Beaujolais for goodness sake! A scandal). Merlot half-brother to Cabernet Sauvignon (okay, half expected that), but Cabernet Sauvignon the illegitimate offspring to Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc! I mean, that`s hideous. I don`t say that because they were black and white – no way, I`m not grape-ist. Nonetheless for the times it was clearly racy stuff and had it been generally known might have caused a stir. But the fact is, it wasn`t known because this particular Pandora`s box wasn`t opened for several hundred years when along came DNA testing, as recently as 1997. Until then the science of ampelography had been applied to identifying grape varieties using an imperfect science: measuring leaf shape and colour, coding grape colour variations and berry size, noting bunch shapes, loose or tight, etc. Observational data, as it were. Famously it got Carmenère terribly wrong, mistaking it for Merlot. The other great embarrassment, in 2011, was Zinfandel – the discovery it wasn`t the Primitivo grape from Italy at all, but Tribidrag – from Croatia! (really?) Groan… I`ve waxed lyrical to customers about the obvious connection, how the Italians emigrated with their famous cuttings which sprung up as Zinfandel..! Our wine of the week is J. Lohr Wildflower, Monterey County, California – thought to be Gamay, turning out to be a grape called Valdiguié. I recall many years ago entering the wine into a tasting competition alongside around thirty different Beaujolais cru like Fleurie and Brouilly (all Gamay), and winning!
The Wine Centre, Great Horkesley Opening hours 10am to 6.30pm Monday to Saturday. Telephone 01206 271 236 , email firstname.lastname@example.org
The steep, vine-terraced slopes overlooking Germany`s Mosel river are a beauty to behold, as are those in Potugal` s Douro Valley and in France`s Cote Rotie, to name three. If you have never meandered your way up a slope of the sort I urge you to hitch a lift at the first opportunity – it`ll be a bumpy ride and if you haven`t a head for heights it might even be dizzyingly surreal, but oh my… how the views will be worth the ride! My last time was in Alsace – visiting Domaines Schlumberger`s grand cru vineyards. The vehicle was a Defender, the vineyard Kitterlé, of volcanic, sandy soil and granite rock; and in the distance the sun was dropping over the Vosges Mountains. I can see it now.. But seriously, to think of the workers who tend the vines on those steep slopes; those who toil the land which can be so steeply inclined it can be hard to get a foot hold. I have worked the vineyard cycle myself: I`ve done the harvest, both summer and winter pruning, tying back the canes, and so on and so on, and I can vouch for this: it`s hard graft. And that was on flat to gentle-sloping land. I bow to the workers of these steep slopes – they are my heroes. With no machine capable of assisting, it`s down to them to do everything by hand. I have seen them move, these workers – their agility and pace quite magnificent. All to one end: to recover the precious drops of juice and make the best possible wine. It`s no wonder these wines are expensive. Moreover, it is often the practise to concentrate the juice (to reduce the volume) by removal of bunches of grapes in the vineyard, thus channelling the vine`s energy to the few remaining, such is the commitment to the quality of these wines. Happily there are people with deep pockets and a love of wine who buy them. Our Kitterlé Gewurztraminer 2003 £38.99 is a fine example, luscious, exotic, with breadth and concentration.
In the past few weeks I have dedicated my bite-size blogs to extreme wines in the context of the new, ground breaking vineyards which are changing the world`s wine map. I pointed out how technology and science in the vineyard has assisted this advancement, how they have facilitated the growing of grapes in the most extraordinary, testing environments. I also alluded to the courage of the risk takers, a new generation of winemakers driven to produce the best wine possible in area. Our world is a richer place for such driven people and I thank the heavens. However, lest we forget – it is also true that every generation has seen such risk takers. The pioneering winemakers of the past had little or nothing to assist them. By gut and by trial and error they carved the foundations of the wine world, establishing the original Old World wine map – the Classics, as we know them today. Perhaps most notably the quality standards were set with the Bordeaux Classification of 1855, when the wines of this region were given ratings. Comparing those wines back then to the vintages of today would be a bit like choosing a favourite football legend such as Pelé over Cristiano Ronaldo. In all honesty the modern athlete, faster, fitter, more technical, is probably the better of the two – but Pelé gets the vote every time. Similarly we hark back to the old wine vintages, but the reality is we have never made better wine than we do today. Even more fabulous, once upon a time you would have to wait a decade to drink many of these wines; the modern Bordeaux of today is more approachable at a younger age – the tannins are ripe and finer, velvety from the beginning, turning to silk with age. A trick, weirdly, they learned from the New World. And as a result they can produce better for less – a decent claret for say £13.99 nowadays. I recommend our Chateau Barrabaque “Cuvée Antoine”, Canon-Fronsac – super claret, at £13.99 a bargain.
Continuing on the theme of extreme vineyards, it`s true the risk takers are usually dynamic wine companies with a track record rather than individuals – certainly this is the case with commercial enterprises because growing vines and making wine is a costly business, not least in the sort of inhospitable and/or inaccessible lands these vines are being planted. So, why do they go to so much trouble, do you think? And where are these extreme vineyards? The answer to the first question is simple: they do it because they see the potential to make great wine in these areas. Finding the ideal land in the first place has always been about local knowledge – known climate, water supply, soil data and so on, but this has been facilitated in recent times with the use of radar mapping which checks the contours of the ground. Choosing the right grape to grow in any particular spot is becoming something of a science as well, and though vineyard management in these extreme conditions can be testing the rewards make these enterprises increasingly viable propositions. The answer to the second question, where are they? Well, they are the world over: in a mixture of terrains, but essentially extreme coastal vineyard, high mountainous vineyard and extreme latitude vineyard. Finding these new lands can take years – a man` s lifetime of work – but the commitment to do so, by so many, is changing the world wine map at record speed. These past ten years have seen an explosion of new vineyards. We have briefly looked at examples from Chile and New Zealand. Today we recommend one from Argentina`s Humberto Canale Estate. A wine produced from Malbec grapes grown in Rio Negro, Patagonia, in Argentina – among the most southerly in the world. The vines have a dry growing season, with extreme hot days and cold nights. The wine has a refined, concentrated style with surprising complexity offering red berries, eucalyptus, spices and black pepper.
Following on from my blog “Breaking Ground” which explores some of the new, extreme wines of Chile, today we look briefly at another extreme wine in New Zealand`s Central Otago, the most southerly vineyard area in the world. Extraordinary that this inhospitable sheep land is so great for growing wine grapes: Clearly a risky business growing grapes there, but with work it is proving to be the land of great opportunity. We were there in 2010 when new vines were being planted by a man named Quintin Quider. We had driven as far as roads would take us before hitting the dirt track, broadly following the Kawarau river, finally watching out for the barbecue smoke we had been told to watch for, in the middle of nowhere.. Quintin explained he would be converting the land to growing his grapes organically, to `bind` the soil. He demonstrated why by pouring a bucket of water into the ground, which, before our eyes, immediately disappeared. Extraordinary that this man should go to the expense and huge effort of growing vines and making wine in these difficult growing conditions; and yet, look now at what this man has achieved. His Wild Earth wines are award winning tributes to his courage. We stock the sumptuous yet savoury Pinot Noir, £23.99 per bottle, but our wine of the week is his racy Riesling, £16.99 – the perfect aperitif or accompaniment to seafood. We often delight in the memories of the trip while sipping Quintin`s Wild Earth wines – why not join us in the shop today or tomorrow to join us? Tasting note: Lifted citrus, floral perfume, marmalade and honey on the nose. The palate offers complex acacia honey, lemon, lime, grapefruit and orange zest, with minerality and length.