Category: Uncategorized

Wine News 30 June 2016

There’s only one thing on anyone’s mind in Britain at the moment, and I don’t want to ignore the elephant in the room. As the immigrant half of Winetuned, Brexit is more disheartening than I can tell you. Regardless of which way you voted in the referendum, consider wearing a #safetypin to indicate your opposition to attacks on immigrants and demonstrate your solidarity with those people around you feeling vulnerable in the wake of these attacks. It means a lot to me when I see someone wearing one.

And now, here are some links for when you just can’t watch the news anymore.

This week of all weeks, treat yourself to a read of this piece on Romania’s modern day Robin Hood, wine lover Zoltán Szövérdfi-Syép who organizes a wine fair to benefit the cause of rights for Romania’s disabled.

There was a fascinating feature in Punch on Cuba’s role in cocktail history. There’s a lot more than mojitos and Ernest Hemingway to talk about.

So you spilled wine on your laptop. Get some advice here.

This sparkling post by Alder Yarrow will have you itching to visit Hungary, or, failing that, have you scouring the shelves for bottles. Don’t miss “Volcano’s Elixir: The wines of Somló, Hungary.

If you want to deepen your understanding of Spanish wine, you could do worse than start with the Spanish wine exploration map over on Wine Folly.

Food52 is a favourite website of mine for recipes and ogling the fantastic offerings in the shop, but I hadn’t really noticed the articles on wine. Take a look at these 5 wine myths that should be put to rest and another on how to chill any wine in 7 minutes.

Winemakers, take note: Smartphone apps to help you assess berry ripeness and bunch characteristics to identify the optimum picking window to create specific wine styles are almost ready for you.

New research suggests that the sounds you hear while drinking affect how you perceive the taste of your beer. You can even try out the sweet and bitter soundscapes.

Vivino has decided to discontinue support of the Windows version of its app because no one uses it.

I’m not sure I’d call these foods funky, but if you’re looking for some wine suggestions for foods such as samosas, falafel, and Chinese dumplings, you should have a look at some of these “Funky Food Pairings.

Wine Enthusiast put together a guide for how to throw the perfect summer garden party. It includes recipes for food and cocktails as well as a wine list.

Artist Zelda Sydney was interviewed by Forbes about wine labels and expressing the experience of wine visually. Worth a read, particularly if the endless parade of almost identical photos of wine glasses and wine bottles on #WineWednesday leaves you rolling your eyes.

And finally, the Pope says a wedding without wine is an embarrassment, so take heart, wine merchants!

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Wine News 22 June 2016

Welcome to this week’s wine news, where we gather up the news stories that interested us most and share other miscellaneous discoveries.

If you’re headed towards the Languedoc anytime soon, you won’t want to miss Rosemary George’s top 10 wineries to visit in the region.

Want to improve your understanding of Scotch? The Whiskey Wash helps you get to know the Islands.

Vine Pair has put out a list of 7 new wine books you should consider putting on your reading list.

I’m not the target audience for blue wine, so the fact I find this article and the concept itself absurd won’t matter much.

And today in wine crimes, Burgundy merchant Maison Béjot Vins et Terroirs has been raided after suspicions  Burgundy wines were being mixed with wine from elsewhere.

So Screaming Eagle is outside your budget. There are other cult wines from California that are much more affordable.

The German Wine Institute (DWI) is reporting that German winegrowers are planting more white varieties. Riesling lovers need not fear: the new plantings don’t seem to be at the expense of the country’s top grape.

Want a peek at the 2016 Masters of Wine exam?

Wine Enthusiast has released its list of America’s 100 best wine restaurants. See if any of these are in your neck of the woods, or take note if you are planning to travel soon.

Petit manseng thrives in Virginia. Who knew?

I ran across this summer drinks feature and was astonished by the title: “35 things to drink when the rosé runs out — because summer water is sure to be the first to go.” Summer water? Are we calling it that now? Regardless of how you feel about “summer water” as a moniker, you might find something you like in this list, which includes everything from cocktails and alcohol-laced frozen drinks to frozen fruit cocktail stir sticks and boozy ice cubes. A three-ingredient grapefruit tequila slammer, perhaps? A popsicle in your prosecco? A DIY mimosa bar? Lots of inspiration here.

Non-alcoholic wine for cats. I’m not even sure you need to click on this one. I just told you everything you need to know.

And finally, this June and July you can sip 18th-century gin punch reimagined by Sipsmith in the usually members-only House of Barbabas in Soho. Tickets are £15 and proceeds go to charity.

Did we miss your favourite story of the week? Let us know!

 

 

 

Of Mice and Men

I could barely speak the words to tell him what I had found, so I emailed instead. Then found I couldn’t type it either. And so I announced that I had found signs of A Creature in the spare bedroom. Not a spare bedroom anymore as far as I am concerned, of course. It is the Creature’s Lair.

I am morbidly afraid of them. Family legend has it that my mother, who is also morbidly afraid of them, saw one and jumped up on a chair, leaving me as a baby on the floor with it and giving me my lifelong horror of them. Alternatively, it could have been all the stories of the one that ran up my grandfather’s trouser leg and which he was forced to squish in situ. With one in the house, I know I will never sleep again.

I have paced for hours. I have given the cat dirty looks. Honestly, how can this happen five months after adopting a cat? But can I blame her? We adopted a supermodel, not a mouser.

closeup jess sm

Later he investigates and confirms the worst. He sets three traps and we wait, drinking a surprisingly good shiraz in large quantities. It is surely an adventurer who wandered in an open door and, unaware of the cat’s complete disinterest, fled to the spare room when it realized its mistake. By bedtime he has caught it and protected house and home. He’s justly proud of himself and pleased we can have a good night’s sleep. We leave the traps out just in case. I dream of horrible things.

Day Two

Another. I can’t believe it. And whatever he saw in the spare room this time has shaken him. I beg not to be told the details and in my imagination what he caught is huge, or mutated. Maybe wearing a gang tattoo and now the others will come to avenge him. Maybe my dread is contagious. We both jump out of our skins when the cat’s tail brushes us unexpectedly.

We drink a harsh, tannic wine. Inky, bitter and bleak like failure. After three glasses I suggest moving to the seaside. The cat gives me an apologetic smooch.

smooch

Day Three
I am in the kitchen when he comes to say he’s found two more. Then he says they have taken one of the traps away with them. The ashen look on his face means he isn’t kidding. He can’t find one of the traps. I make tea for him with a shaky hand, sure that after a cup of tea he will go back and be able to find it.

And so he does. He announces the whole trap had been knocked or pulled into The Entrance. I open my mouth to ask what he means and then stop. I know what he means. The gateway to hell is in the spare room.

He suggests we move to the seaside. We drink wine right from the bottle.

The cat strikes dramatic poses.

dramatic poses

Day Four

I hear banging. More banging. I imagine first Tom and Jerry, then Quentin Tarentino. Goodfellas. Joe Pesci will appear, blood-splattered, and ask me for my biggest kitchen knife to pry a hoof out of his grill. Then it goes quiet and I don’t expect anyone to reappear at all because they have won.

But he does. He says nothing.

The cat eats two bees and climbs her first tree.

apple tree sm

Day Five

He has surrounded the Hellmouth with a killing field of traps and oats and built a wall of wooden wine boxes around the perimeter. Grimfaced he checks the traps every hour.

To boost my flagging feminist pride I repair the hoover. To bolster his spirits, I make more tea. Egg and cress sandwiches, and scones as well, because he is English and I am weak. Apparently I fill the gaps in my courage with clotted cream and jam.

The cat vomited copiously. Twice. Not scones and clotted cream, mind.

Day Six

Is that five now? Six? Many more and we will be alcoholics.

The tension in the house is palpable. Even the cat is affected, dreaming of ninja attacks.

sleeping ninja sm

Day Seven

There is nothing.

He says he has set up….
He says it’s impossible….
He says there’s a….

I can’t listen to any of it and he doesn’t bother finishing any of his explanations of why he thinks it must be over. He invites me to come into The Room with him, where it is all quite safe. I can’t.

Day Eight

Today there is another. A seventh.

“They keep getting smaller and smaller,” he says with a laugh. Desensitized? Hysterical? I imagine a kind of Russian nesting doll. Then stop myself.

Day Nine

Today nothing. Maybe it will stop at seven. Seven seems a good, round Biblical plague sort of number. A fairy tale number. There’s a completeness to it. I dare to hope.

Day Ten

The cat found a dead squirrel in the garden. That must be today’s dead thing. She sleeps the sleep of the virtuous, sure she saved us from a dangerous undead zombie squirrel.

cream crackered sm

Day Fourteen

He embarks on the job of closing the Hellmouth. He agrees to check everywhere in the house and make sure there are no other ways in. He tries to talk to me about it in greater detail because he believes it is over, but for me, there is not enough gin in the world for that conversation.

We attend a garden party where I can tell he wants to swap stories with other people about our harrowing experience, but he stops short when he sees my eyes go wide. It must be lonely for him, not being to able to discuss it with me at all. I hold his hand as we walk home.

Day Fifteen

The cat is one year old tomorrow. I am preparing to buy treats for her birthday dinner. Ok, so she isn’t a mouser. She’s good company and quite sweet, and no more useless than I am when it comes to pest control.

cuddle

We have reached a pause in our story, with traps still set but no visitors expected. My head tells me it should be over, and so does the hero of the tale, who did his valiant best to protect me. The cat seems convinced we’re safe now too. Of course, a lifetime of horror films has taught me that the villain always gets up again and there is always a sequel, a reboot, an origin film, and probably a poor-quality tv series. We will have to be ready.

Wine News 15 June 2016

Welcome to this week’s wine news, where we gather up the news stories that interested us most and other miscellaneous discoveries.

Did you celebrate the Queen’s 90th over the weekend? There may or may not have been some jelly-making in our Lydia Leith Queen jelly mould (ok, there was), but we can’t hold a candle to Pimm’s jelly replica of Buckingham Palace with oversized jelly corgis.

lydia leith queen jelly mould

The winners of the Decanter World Wine Awards for 2016 have been announced. Did any of your favourites win?

I wonder if Gemischter Satz, the traditional blended wine served all over Vienna, is going to be as appealing if it loses that homey, jug-wine charm and sense of place. There are Viennese winemakers betting that it will.

Vinoteca at King’s Cross is hosting free Tasting Tuesdays throughout June and July from 5:30-7pm. Sometimes winemakers and producers are there to tell you about the wines too. No need to book. Check the Vinoteca website if you want directions or want to subscribe to the newsletter, which is how we heard about these tastings.

Another event we’re excited about in the King’s Cross area is KERB’s Noshville, a music-and-street-food homage to the US South taking place at Granary Square on 24-25 June. As it’s been a while since the American (and Southern) half of Winetuned has been home, we might have to stop in and soak it all up.

Remember last week when we mentioned The Drops of the Gods, the famous, wine-soaked Japanese manga series? It’s popping up everywhere in the wine press lately, as in this feature in the Drinks Business identifying the wines from the series.

Kent wine producer Chapel Down is branching out into brandy-making, which sounds promising to us, given its success with wine and a very tasty Chapel Down offering called Curious Apple Cider that we tried while in Whitstable.

Are you familiar with Maryland’s Orange Crush cocktail? Punch can tell you all about it ahead of your next marathon of John Waters films or episodes of “The Wire.”

Let Jon Bonné tell you about what’s going on in the hallowed vineyards of Burgundy these days and introduce you to ten rising star winemakers.

Here’s an interesting piece on City Winery, a new model of urban winery open currently in New York, Chicago, Nashville, Atlanta and soon also Boston. They are drawing in crowds with food, bars, private events, live music, and wine education and tastings that go that extra mile and allow customers to participate in the winemaking process.

Gin lovers, here’s one for you: Fiona Beckett turns her well-trained palate to matching gin and food. (PS. If you missed World Gin Day on 11 June, we won’t tell anyone. Just celebrate it this weekend instead.)

And finally, you might like this Ultimate Reader’s Guide to Whisky, if you like whisky, books, or infographics.

 

Wine News 8 June 2016

It’s starting to get hot and humid in our neck of the woods, which means we are collecting links to frozen drinks. These 25 frozen wine slushies wouldn’t normally appeal to us all that much, but on a sticky day like today, they look very good.

As part of last week’s English Wine Week celebrations, Decanter put together this list of English wines to try this summer, plus one Welsh wine! We knew the Welsh were making wine, but this may be the first time we’ve seen them pop up in a list of wine recommendations rather than just an article saying, “Someone is actually making wine in Wales.”

Wine merchant Corney & Barrow, bookseller Foyles, and author and drinks critic Damian Barr are teaming up for A Book and a Bottle, a new combination wine and book club. The Drinks Business has the scoop, or head over to the club website for additional details.

This list of 10 affordable wines to accompany polenta with braised beef is worth a read, particularly if you like polenta. We were intrigued by the suggestion of an Austrian Zweigelt.

Italian wine lovers and Italian wine grape nerds, gather round. Punch tastes Liguria’s vermentino and pigato (usually described as the vermentino grape with a few freckles) to see if there really is no difference.

De Halve Maan brewery in Bruges has raised enough money through crowdfunding to build a pipeline under the medieval city to carry beer from its brewery to its bottling plant, so now you should go find In Bruges on Netflix and imagine beer hurtling under the street in every scene.

Sometimes, when you have an interesting bottle of wine, you approach pairing from the opposite direction. Here are some suggestions from Fiona Beckett about what to eat with pinot noir.

We’re fans of carmenere, the French grape largely forgotten in France which later became Chile’s signature variety, so we were fascinated by this Decanter article about marselan potentially becoming China’s go-to grape.

Those were the news items that caught our attention this week. Did we miss your favourite? Let us know!

 

Why Not Colour?

I have taken a stab at one of the colouring pages in the Wine World Colouring Book by artist Zelda Sydney, whose blog The Illustrated Wine is a favourite of ours. It was actually fun, but this experiment isn’t going to go much further unless I get some better tools. I only had some very waxy pencils that were hard to use and left only a shadowy impression of what I intended. Please note: I am completely incapable of colouring in the lines of the elements on the page without adding a few touches of my own. Zelda is in no way responsible for the weirder elements in my masterpiece!

wine colouring book 2

If you want a taste of the book or to try your hand at a page, head over to VinePair, where Zelda shared six pages for your colouring pleasure.

Wine News 24-31 March

Bordeaux en primeur, Easter, Passover . . . You may have a lot on your schedule, but don’t neglect the wine news!

A paper has just been published in the Journal of the American Society for Microbiology suggesting that soil-based bacteria rather than soil type may be responsible for wine styles. Read all about it in the paper itself, or, for a quick non-technical overview, try this article on the Drinks Business.

The backstage rider for Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond is as extravagant and boozy as you’d expect. Take a look at what they insisted on having backstage every time they made a Top Gear appearance.

We only just learned that people are marketing wooden bottles so consumers can increase the oak in wines and hard liquor. I’m not sure this is going on our wishlist, but it’s interesting.

Fiona Beckett gives you 15 great pairings for Easter on her website Matching Food and Wine, from lamb and gammon to hot cross buns and simnel cake.

Wine News 16-23 December

We’ve caught the Christmas lurgy, but as we cough and sputter into our lebkuchen and mince pies, we decided to still attempt the last wine news before Christmas.

You probably have a collection of wine and cheese pairing tools and infographics tucked away, as we do, but take a look at this one from Decanter. You might not have this one yet, and ’tis the season for wine and cheese.

I have mixed feelings about this because some of these pairing suggestions do not sound good to me at all, but I’m going to give VinePair the benefit of the doubt (plus this cold makes most things sound terrible). Here’s VinePair’s guide to pairing wine with Christmas cookies.

And while on the subject of wine pairing, you might find Fiona Beckett’s suggestions for pairing wines with Brussels sprouts illuminating.

And, finally, if you’re missing a gift for a Star Wars lover and have scissors and a few sheets of paper, you can attempt one of Anthony Herrera’s fantastic Star Wars snowflakes. He’s been posting a set of designs for the last few years at Christmas, and you can look back the ones you may have missed. If you’re not in need of Star Wars snowflakes, there are also some Frozen snowflake designs for anyone who wants to snip a snowman.

Until next week!

Wine News 11-18 November

This week’s news is dominated by the sad news that Mike Roberts, co-founder of England’s Ridgeview Wine Estate and chairman of the English Wine Producers, has died. English wine has lost one of its greatest champions, and our thoughts are with his family. Read the tributes from the wine industry in Decanter and on Wine-Searcher.

Wine Spectator has released its top 100 wines of 2014. See the list on Wine Spectator, or read Wine-Searcher’s summary. The short version? Port took top position, and three of the top five spots.

Anthony Hansen MW shared his travel tips for Beaune, a place he’s loved since his student days.

And finally, Fiona Beckett gave her favourite food matches for Carmenère. Some of the matches might surprise you (fish? chillies? asparagus?).

Well, speak of the devil! Is that a bottle of Lascar Carmenère I see before me? To your health!

Late Summer Foraging

This week we had some time free to take long walks, and it was impossible to miss how brimming full of berries the hedgerows are after such a warm, sunny summer. Blackberries are everywhere, and the sloes seem almost ready to pick (although we are hesitating to pick any this early when tradition says they should be gathered after first frost; we have picked them early, but not this early). We even passed a garden fence with grapes growing over and through it. Now we don’t have to envy all those vineyards posting photos on Twitter of their grapes changing colour. We’ve got our own photo of veraison in Hertfordshire.

grapes on garden fence 800

This has fueled all sorts of fantasies of planting our own grapevines, of course. We are trying to resist the urge, but may well fail.

On one of our walks we forgot to bring along our favourite pocket-size guide to foraging, Food for Free by Richard Mabey, which was a piece of bad luck. We passed shrubs and trees covered in mysterious berries, but couldn’t check to see whether they were edible or not. We also found small red fruits that looked something like plums, or cherries, or apples. It seems strange that we couldn’t tell which, so we picked one and a leaf to bring back with us to look up what it might be. We still don’t know. It was purple, like a dark plum, but grew on the ends of stems in groups sort of like cherries do. The flesh was very hard, purple, and not very juicy, and the centre had pips that looked a bit star-shaped, rather like an apple looks if you cut slices around the middle horizontally. They may have been a sort of crabapple, but we never found any photos in books or online of any fruit that resembled it closely enough. I mean, the juice was purple. That’s just not very appley. We’re deeply annoyed to have found a tree full of fruit that we can’t even identify, but if we can’t identify it, we simply can’t risk eating it.

Luckily, there were fruits we could identify, such as these crabapples. Look at the sheer number of them! We picked enough to fill a carrier bag and you would never have known anyone picked any at all.

crabapples x800-1crabapples x800-2

Janet has found a recipe for a spicy crabapple cheese she’s going to make with them. It should be like membrillo, the Spanish quince paste that goes so well with cheese, only in this case it will be appley with bits of chilli in it.

For quite literally years it has annoyed me that I can find hazel trees on our walks, but never any hazelnuts. We occasionally find hazelnuts on the ground, pick them up, and get home to find they are empty or rotten on the inside. But this year, to my great delight, we found a tree with hazelnuts still on the branches, and cracking one open, we could see it had a proper hazelnut inside. We almost couldn’t believe our luck, and actually came home to check to see if it was ok to pick them off the branches or if you really had to wait until they dropped to the ground. Advice was contradictory, but based on our field research, one thing was clear: the hazelnuts we picked up from the ground ended up being rotten and/or with unspeakable bugs and worms in them, while the ones we took straight from the branches had real hazelnuts on the inside. So for once, we have wild hazelnuts we picked ourselves.

Hazelnut 800hazelnut sm1hazelnut crop 2

There wasn’t quite that much free space in the box when we first put them in there. It’s all too easy to crack a handful and munch on them while watching tv.

We also found beech nuts, but most sources agree that they aren’t worth the bother. They’re small, meaning you have a real chore ahead of you if you want to collect enough to do anything with, and once you’ve done all that, they don’t taste like much. Mind you, you could probably grind them up and put them into flour or drop them into stews to add a bit of protein, but that’s cuisine for people with masses of time to spend collecting and no better sources of protein. Anyone else should probably pass on beech nuts.

If we make anything from our foraged bounty this year that turns out special, we’ll share it. Do you ever collect from hedgerows? What are your favourite finds?