Having spent the morning preparing the tasting room, the anticipation of the arrival of our special guests was on the rise. Nova of Nu Bride, Lottie of Lace & Love Hearts, Gabi of Sweetpea PR and Charlotte of Fizzy Bunting were coming to The Perfect Cellar at The Clerkenwell Collection for their very own Perfect Afternoon Experience. Working closely with the luxury wedding planners Zouch and Lamare we ensured that The Perfect Afternoon Experience was as perfect as ever and their attention to detail was undeniable.
To help us retain the wedding theme throughout, we were lucky enough to welcome WildAbout Flowers, Krishanthi Photography and Urban Cinematography to The Perfect Cellar. Each contributing to setting the scene in the most professional and elegant way. The flowers were striking and of exquisite quality representing a very clear theme that tied in beautifully with the experience. The photography created by Krishanthi was stylish and captured every moment in a natural way. There is nothing worse than that moment where you wish something had been captured in a photo and it hadn’t. When Krishanthi had sent us the images from the event it was clear that she had not missed a thing, I barely noticed her moving through the room to capture that perfect picture and yet she had managed to without overwhelming us with images at the end.
As ever the tasting was jam packed with fine wines and tasty treats to represent a perfect food and wine match. Moez Seraly, CEO of The Perfect Cellar was all set to home in on each guest’s individual preferences whilst ensuring the tasting was informative yet fun!
Working with Zouch & Lamare we learned a great deal and will continue using all of their top tips. Creating the best experience possible incorporates a number of things, not only does the food, wine and venue have to be perfect but the finer details that capture the imagination and make a guest feel special, igniting every sense is vital. I will never forget Liesl arriving with her bag of tricks ready to transform the room in a few simple steps yet with such a huge impact!
One of the most enjoyable things about running a wine experience is finding wines that everyone loves. Everyone has their own preferences and taste and so when Lotti of Lace of Love Hearts voiced that she generally didn’t like red wine, it was a real pleaseure to find a red wine on the day that she loved. And seeing the joy on everyone’s faces when they discovered new flavour combinations we had introduced them to had really made all of the joint efforts worth while.
To finish the wonderful experience we had a fantastic film created by Urban Cinematography which helped us re-live every magical moment. Pieced together with such fine detail and subtle focus on the lighting to set the mood has had such a high impact. Generally I was blown away with the collaboration of efforts from all of the talents involved in making this experience one to remember! A special thank you to everyone who helped make The Perfect Afternoon Tea such a perfect one.
If you would like to book your own Perfect Afternoon experience, then click here!
As someone who has eaten a lot of cheeses in my lifetime, it’s unusual for me to find a new one, but this weekend I tried Lanark Blue for the first time.
It is so good I had to make it my cheese of the month. Lanark Blue is made from ewes milk and matured for varying amounts of time depending on the season. My wedge was a salty, metallic, oozing piece of cheese. Strong, but not Roquefort, which is a rather more famous ewes milk blue.
One of the things about small production cheese is it will vary from batch to batch so it can be quite difficult to pair consistently. In addition, ewe’s milk cheeses are higher in butterfat than cow’s milk cheeses, which means they tend to be richer and smoother. An example of a really high butterfat cows cheese is the triple cream Delice de Bourgogne, but that is created by adding double cream! Lanark blue isn’t buttery on that scale, but is spreadable on crackers at room temperature. A flavoured style like fig crackers would be perfect here.
What to drink alongside it? Well if you treat Lanark Blue like Roquefort then Sauternes are the classic match and the Chateau Filhot, Sauternes, 2005 would be delicious gently sipped alongside. The flavours of pineapple cutting through the salt and the sweet counterbalancing the acidity in the cheese and bringing out the milky flavour.
If like me, you like the salty flavours of blue cheese, but prefer them rounded out with food, then you could do a lot worse than crumbling some Lanark Blue on a really decent (preferably home made) beef burger. The sweetness of the beef will balance the tang of the cheese and a cabernet sauvignon is the perfect accompainment to this, something like the Les Templiers, Vin de Pays des Côtes de Thonge, 2010, with its blackcurrent flavour and vanilla oak in the background it won’t appear thin and watery alongside the cheese (as long as it is served with the beef).
However you pair it, you should try it soon! It gets aged for more time towards the end of the year so if you want a really strong blue cheese then it might be worth thinking about it on a winter dinner party cheeseboard. You could cater for the whole party with wine with our special Dinner Party Case, which is currently on offer at £129, a saving of over £30 and free delivery.
Let us know your favourite blue cheese and wine matches in the comments below.
You may have wondered why it has been so quiet on The Perfect Cellar blog over the last few weeks!
Well we’ve all been extremely busy with tastings, so I thought I would give you a brief run down of what we’ve been doing and of course drinking.
business and architects based in the area. Our partner and location of our wine cellar, The Clerkenwell Collection was a showroom for the week and delivered many talks and events. You can read their summary here.
The Perfect Cellar took up a unique collaboration with Mark Hix and the Hix Oyster and Chop House to create a pairing menu of food and wine. Four unique tasting dishes, beautifully matched with three fabulous wines.
We ran these mini tastings throughout Clerkenwell Design Week, four times a day. You can read an attendees view on the We Eat We Tweet We Blog site. Personally, my favourite pair was the asparagus and Petit Chablis, since I love the seasonality of it, especially because with
the exceptionally warm spring we’ve had this year means that there is plenty of asparagus in shops to recreate the match at home.
The We Eat guys particularly liked the Venezuelan Chocolate Truffles and 15 year old Mas Amiel, which is the perfect after dinner treat for those who might have eaten a bit too much in the previous courses!
We’re cooking up a few more similar pairing events over the coming months as we speak so keep your eyes peeled for more details soon.
Rebecca, The Perfect Cellar Team
Perhaps the most famous wine-producing region in Spain, Rioja produces remarkable wines year after year. Find out more about some of our range below.
There are now numerous different styles of Rioja for us to enjoy and simply saying “Vino Tinto por favour” to your waiter won’t cut it anymore; well not if you don’t want to miss out on the good stuff, anyway.
Let me tell you a little about our favourite Riojan winery, or ‘bodega’ in Spanish. Bodegas Perica is a wonderful family-run winery, based in the heart of the Rioja Alta sub-region. The chalk-rich soil in Rioja Alta, with the unusual combination of cool winters and hot summers, means that wines produced in this region are rather wonderful, which is great news for us wine enthusiasts. Originally started by Juan Garcia as a small project to quench the thirst of his family and friends, Bodegas Perica initally didn’t even have a name. As it gradually grew and as his son reached adulthood, a fruitful business had been established. The son’s nickname at the time was Perica and hence Bodegas Perica was born. The winery is now in hands of Juan’s grandson and the family still really care about wine production. So much so that his 3 very young children have already decided which positions in the winery they are going to manage when older and have chosen their studies accordingly.
So just what makes the Rioja’s so special?
All of their vines are between 60-100 years old and thus produce wonderfully concentrated flavours and characterful wine. The Garcias also do everything by hand, despite the extra costs and time involved. This ensures grapes of only the highest quality go into their wine and that they reflect ‘terroir’ in their style. Aiming to ‘retain the best of the region’s tradition, but with a distinctly contemporary twist’, Rafel uses French Oak to age his wines. Traditionally Riojas are aged in American oak, which gives an aromatic, smokey wine. French oak gives the wine different characteristics, with hints of vanilla coming through at the finish. Unlike most producers, who choose to replace their oak barrels every 15 years, Rafel replaces his every 5th year. Hence every vintage had those wonderful characteristics from the wood. Using these techniques, Bodegas Perica produces four very different, but equally wonderful, styles of Rioja.
Producing a mere 9000 bottles a year of each variety, the 6cepas6 Riojas are truly special. Marked by their quirky, distinctive branding (perfect for gifts), the red bottles depict Spanish traditions whilst the white has things commonly associated with Spanish holidays. These wines, like their unique packaging, are outstanding and have already been picked up by Michelin-starred restaurants across Europe. The Bodegas Perica 6cepas6 White Rioja 2013 is my all-time favourite wine from our entire portfolio. To taste, it’s very fruity on first sip, with hints of vanilla and perhaps fennel coming through and a wonderful buttery finish from that French oak. The Bodegas Perica 6cepas6 Red Rioja 2011 is (almost!) as good, but more is best paired with food and is excellent with Spanish delights such as cured meats and Manchego cheese. Aged for 6 months, it has great oaky structure giving hints of spice that perfectly balance the black-current and berry goodness.
Un-oaked, i.e. not aged, these Riojas are more simplistic, but very enjoyable to drink. The lovely Bodegas Perica Mi Villa White Rioja 2012 is so crisp, fresh and fruity that it’s particularly easy to drink. The Bodegas Perica Mi Villa Red Rioja 2012 is unusually light with lovely berry and cherry flavours. It might horrify you, but I would even advise trying this slightly chilled on a hot (i.e. not English) summer’s day, it’s refreshing. Or if you cannot face chilling a red. Why not try a Rosado from one of the world’s top rosé producers? 100% Garnacha, the Bodegas Perica Mi Villa Rosé Rioja 2012 is savoury and dry and will go perfectly with garlicy prawns!
These Riojas are smokey, oaky and traditional. Christened the ‘Olagosa’ range, due to a lake, or ‘lago’ in the middle of it’s vineyards, they are classified by how long they are aged, with Crianza, meaning 2 years and at least 6 months in oak, Reserva for 3 years with at least 1 year in oak and Gran Reserva spends 5 years aging, with at least 2 years in oak. Generally speaking, the more the Rioja is aged, the more it will carry the characteristics of the oak. The Bodegas Perica Olagosa Crianza, Rioja 2009 has won best Crianza Rioja in the world 2 years running at the International Wine Rotary club.
The Perica Oro, is made from only the finest of vintages and translates as ‘the family’s gold’. Using only their best vines the Garcias age this wine for 24-28 months in oak and then for a further 18 months in the bottle, with a mouth-watering result. Limited edition this wine is 95% Tempranillo, with a hint of Graciano to add depth. With beautiful aromas of black fruits and herbs, the smell alone is enough to get one salivating. Perfectly balanced, it’s ripe and flesh and has wonderful length in the mouth (after you swallow). Perfect for big meaty dishes that need a big, characterful wine to hold up against their strong flavour. So whichever style you choose do me a favour and drink it with thought, remembering just how much care and work has gone into it; look for interesting flavours and taste the superb Riojan climate. Hasta Pronto! Felicity
We have partnered with the fantastic Hix Oyster and Chop House, a venture by renown chef Mark Hix, for a fine dining tasting menu of food and wine events to run throughout Clerkenwell Design Week, 20-22 May. Come and join us at The Clerkenwell Collection for just £15 (and a £1.55 booking fee).
Working closely with Hix and his team we have partnered some of the classic dishes from Hix Oyster and Chop House with some of our favorite wines. Having worked through numerous tastings, testing the food and wine matches we believe we have come up with a selection that showcases the finest of food and wine matches. It’s a tough job but someone has to do it!
The food and wine matches we have created represent fine British food and French classics. Hix has created a beautiful Smoked salmon dish that matches our Petit Chablis and an Asparagus dish that represents the diversity of the wine. Followed by a delicious beef beauty that work a treat with our Petit Mars. Both succulent and juicy you will find these are a match made in heaven.
Last, but certainly not least, you will experience totally indulgent chocolate truffles and our Mas Amiel 15 year old. This combination has to be my ultimate favorite, it is so rich and decedent, yet refreshing, leaving you wanting more.
It is a real privilege to work with Hix and his team on an event that we feel is what wine and food is all about. Great quality, elegant and simple flavours that just work.
Each tasting will last 45 minutes so you can even squeeze one into your lunch break! Book now by clicking here. Attendees will receive a voucher for a 25% reduction on their food bill at Hix Oyster & Chop House, Clerkenwell valid until May 31st and discounts on the wines.
I look forward to seeing you,
Lydia, The Perfect Cellar Team
Honey. It’s complicated. Which makes it even harder to decide what wine matches with honey desserts?
Over the weekend a friend of mine was discussing how his bees had made 25lbs worth of honey in the last week, which got me thinking about all the delicious desserts I could make with all that honey! Some of my favourite honey based desserts are:
- Walnut baklava
- Honey & vanilla madeleines
- Devonshire honey cake
- Honeyed almond figs
But how do you match wines with these desserts and others? The primary concern is dependent on the honey. Something like thyme honey from Greece is light and herbal and has almost savoury notes. It would be perfect on the figs, and as it isn’t very sweet like honey can be and would be great matched with moscato, but my choice for today is the Mas Amiel Vintage Blanc 2010.
Made in rugged Cathar country in Southern France, with 260 days of sunshine a year, this wine is sweet, fresh and fruity with a richness that blends well the savoury notes in the honey and the acidity of the fruit.
Devonshire honey cake calls for clear honey so something with a lower water content is good. A floral style honey would add to the flavour of the cake (especially the raw honey used for the glaze) and a dollop of cream would really set the whole thing off. If you want to stay away from dessert wine then a fruity chenin blanc might work to cut through the cream, but for me the only match is add some acidity and sweetness in the form of Moscatel Naturalmente Dulce, Finca Antigua Half, 2010 a delightful sweet wine from Spain that has excellent floral notes to complement the same tastes in the honey.
Honey and vanilla madeleines are a twist on a classic. Here, you want a sweet but not too strongly flavoured honey so the vanilla can take centre stage. Vanilla and chocolate is a classic combination and you can call to this with a red vin doux naturel (naturally sweet wine) Banyuls Rimage ‘Les Clos De Paulilles’, Chateau de Jau, Collioure, 2008 which reminds me of Azetc chocolate because it is deep, dark and sexy with hints of mocha on the toungue. Of course if you wanted a more traditional match a white vine doux would be perfect.
Walnut and honey baklava is my favourite dessert. I have to admit I normally buy rather than make, because pastry isnt my strongest point with baking! The normal nut addition is pistachio, but I love it with walnuts which are slightly softened by the honey. A wild flower honey would be perfect here if you are making them yourself. A sauterne is a sweet wine from Bordeaux and is a perfect addition to baklava and a very strong coffee. The Chateau Filhot, Sauternes, 2005 has hints of pineapple and apricots and lots of acidity, despite the sweet taste, to cut through this ultra sticky dessert.
I just need to get my hands on some honey now. What would you do with extra honey and what wines wold you pair?
Rebecca, The Perfect Cellar Team
Whether it is a special date, celebration or just dinner in a restaurant, most of us will sooner or later be presented with the fear of dealing with the sommelier.
We’ve all been there, presented with a wine list and the descriptions all start to jumble together. It might as well be ancient Greek. For the easy way out we select the second wine on the list. There is someone who can help!
These days a restaurant does not need to have 3 Michelin stars in order to employ a sommelier, even a gastropub in the countryside will have one or two sommeliers looking after customer drink needs.
The profession has come a long way in the past ten years or so, sommeliers cannot justify being arrogant or biased anymore, they have to be open-minded and listen to the needs of the customer. Forget about French Sommeliers only trying to make you purchase wines from the region they come from. In fact, there are more and more sommeliers from countries that are not producing wines, Eastern Europe, Scandinavia and Asian countries. One of my previous older customers also commented that he now comes across much more women sommeliers then he used to 30 years ago. The profession is widening.
In fact the last thing that people should do is feel intimidated by the sommelier. Wine knowledge has always been a sensitive subject, however a sommelier is not there to embarrass, but to guide you and help you choose the best wine for your taste, your food and your evening. They are there to help you navigate the complexity of wine and the wine list.
Most sommeliers spend years learning even smallest little details about wine at work and during their free time, as well as attending many training sessions and tastings. Sounds like an enjoyable past time, however imagine having to remember 500+ entries in the winelist, each of it’s taste, food matches and similar style of wines. Majority of the entries are tasted by the sommelier, so it is a good idea to ask as many questions as you can think of! Interestingly, there is a huge difference when a sommelier loves the wine and when they do not think it’s special. You will see the sommelier become very passionate and excited when they adore the wine and you will find them looking for words to describe it when they do not enjoy it themselves.
It is not necessary to describe the wine in a professional matter, you can ask for a match for your food or just use some general descriptive words. Sommeliers are well trained to choose a correct wine using descriptions such as ‘light’, ‘soft’ ‘smooth’ and ‘fruity’. What is more, most sommeliers are not working on commission and customer retention is their priority. Recommending something you will love and enjoy, rather than selling you a ‘past best’ old Bordeaux for a huge amount of money, is what most sommeliers do.
In addition, sommeliers will be pleased and happy if they are able to make you discover and enjoy a wine from a region you have not tried before. Customers are often afraid they will not be able to crack the wine ‘lingo’ when asking for what they want.
Next time going to a restaurant, take your time and use all the help of the sommelier you can get, you may be pleasantly surprised and discover a new wine that will make the evening special, perhaps even your new favourite.
Milda, The Perfect Cellar Team
In part 1 of this guide, I bored you all with extraneous detail on the subject matter of how rosé wine is produced. This time lets talk about the fun stuff. Drinking it.
Hence, hereafter follows a short guide to ‘What to look for in a Rosé to satisfy your predilections’ for the keen wine drinker.
Practically zero-aging potential yet delightfully sympathetic to the Spring-time drinker’s needs, rosé wines offer a broad spectrum of flavours; enough so that even the most macho of men can be satisfied. Previously, I touched on how the depth of colour is indicative of how it tastes, well let’s discuss this further.
To reiterate, rosé production usually involves the process of maceration, specifically where the juice is left in contact with the red grape skins. The greater the maceration time, the darker in colour the wine will be. It therefore makes sense, if you think about it, that the greater the depth of colour of the wine, the more it possesses the characteristics of the red grape. However what effect does this have on the actual flavours? Well have a look at this ‘handy’ chart I’ve knocked up.
You can see how the flavours tasted tend to vary from colour to colour, with lighter wines tending to lean more towards grapefruit and darker more towards rich blackberry jam; but bear in mind that these flavours do not give an indication of sweetness or acidity, both very important taste elements.
For instance, Provencal rosé, is pale or salmon pink, perhaps with a hint of orange; and tastes of strawberries or raspberries. It would be reasonable to deduce therefore that, like it’s fruit counterparts, it will be sweet. This is a common misconception. It is actually refreshingly dry (i.e not sweet), with fresh acidity, like our Coteaux d’Aix en Provence Bellugue Rosé 2012 that is mouth-fillingly fruity, rich and round.
Zestier still, are rose wines from the Loire, but these tend to have grapefruit and mint flavours, like our lovely, delicate but dry Domaine de Landreau Rosé d’Anjou 2012, that’s beautifully fresh and perfect as an aperitif.
If it is something sweeter you are after, then perhaps you’d like a moscato rosé. I usually find it too sugary which, for me, tends to mask the most interesting flavours. Interestingly, sweeter wines tend to be lower percentage as the sugar has not been converted to alcohol.
Anyone who’s been to Spain, ever, will have tried red Rioja wine (or at least I hope so!), but Spain is actually one of the most prominent rosé-producers. Our Bodegas Perica Mi Villa Rosado is also made in Rioja and offers an interesting, lively alternative to the aforementioned French rosés. Made by the saignée method discussed last time, it reflects the red grape, through its savoury elements. See there’s a rosé for everyone. Although at the other end of the colour spectrum, this wine is just as dry as the Loire Rosé d’Anjou, so you can see how depth of colour has no correlation on sweet/dry-ness.
Anyway, I hope you’ve found this helpful. If you have any favourite rosé styles or facts then post them below.
Next week I’m celebrating El Cinquo De Mayo by hosting a Mexican dinner party, so do check back in if you want to see what my friend’s thought of my food-wine pairings…
Felicity, The Perfect Cellar Team
Cheese and wine. It’s is one of the best known pairings of food and wine, and yet the least understood.
It doesn’t have to be like this, cheese, as in wine, offers huge variety. Cheese needs exploring, so as part of a ongoing regular feature, I introduce cheese of the month: morbier.
Morbier is a semi-soft, cows milk cheese from the Franche-Comté region of France. This area borders Burgundy, and although not as famous as its neighbour, it produces some fantastic food and wine. The well known cheeses Comté and Vacherin Mont D’or are also made nearby, depending on what time of the year it is.
The cheese is instantly recognisable as it has a blue line running through it. No, its not mould. It’s ash. Morbier was traditionally made from left over curd from Comté production, but this was not enough to make a complete cheese (cheese is made big in this region as there was often a long delay between making and selling due to the pastures being up in the mountains, so they needed to be large to allow them to keep for longer).
The leftover curd is pressed into a mould, then ash sprinkled on top to protect it overnight, before the process is repeated with the morning’s left over curd. This gives the cheese a unique property. One side of the ash line is creamier than the other! Or at least it is supposed to be in traditionally made cheese. Apparently tired cows give creamier milk so the evening half is softer than the morning.
The cheese itself is washed with salt water during maturation and develops a sticky pink skin. This is really pungent, but because the milk is boiled before making the cheese the flavour is actually quite mild. Many people don’t eat the rind because it will have often not been wrapped and will come with a sticker on it. if you don’t all you will taste are lovely flavours of flowers and citrus and fresh grass. Remember this cheese is delicate and deserves to be tasted. No big, full-bodied red wine to match here please.
There is a slight bitter after taste to the cheese which is normal, but is also a key consideration to wine pairing. My ideal match would be a wine from the region and I always like the fruity characteristics of a Rousette de Savoie, which will help to offset the bitter characteristic, but may be a little too much for some palates. In that case if you want to work with the bitterness, then a Burgundian pinot noir would be fantastic, especially if you are eating the cheese after a meal.
If you are really adventurous and are going to eat the rind on the cheese then a delicate rose will help offset the pungency on the nose and bring out some of the floral characteristics of the cheese, it’s also a great match for a sunny day to nibble on cheese outside with a lovely glass of wine.
Have you tried morbier? What do you like to drink with it?
any requests for cheese or style of cheese would you like me to write about in May then post them below.
Rebecca, The Perfect Cellar Team