Focus on: Bordeaux

Anyone who’s familiar with Ye Olde England’s painful-to-watch-but-oh-so-funny Fawlty Towers might remember Basil Fawlty ranting about the level of ‘sophistication’ (or lack of-) among his hotel guests.

“Wine. Most of the guests who stay here wouldn’t know the difference between Bordeaux and Claret” – Basil Fawlty

Flawless in delivery at all times, John Cleese is somewhat a comic genius, yet for some of us, this line might not have quite so much credence. The joke lies in that a Bordeaux and a Claret are actually exactly the same thing, with ‘Claret’ being the English term for wines from Bordeaux. So who wants focus on this illustrious wine-growing region a little more?

Cabernet Sauvignon

The two major grapes used in a red Bordeaux are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Usually Bordeaux wines are categorised by geographical location with respect to the Gironde River, which runs down through the centre of the region. (It actually forms more of an upside down Y as the river splits, but forget this for simplification purposes).

Wine producers are situated on both sides of the river – the right bank and the left. Due to differences in climate and soil varieties the right bank is more suitable for growing Merlot grapes; the left bank for growing Cabernet Sauvignon.

Bordeaux Vineyard

Names you may have heard in the right bank area include Saint-Émilion, Pomerol, Bourg and Blaye, which all have a higher proportion of Merlot than Cabernet Sauvignon in the wines.

The left bank have more Cabernet Sauvignon and include Medoc wines and Pauillac, Saint Julien, Margaux and Graves; as well as Bordeaux’s first growth or ‘Premier Cru’s (the Mercedes-Benz of the wine world).

No matter which you choose, they are certain to be full-bodied, tannic and perfect for a big meat feast!

Anyway I won’t bore you with any more geeky wine facts (for now), but do read up on Bordeaux’s major white grapes if you get a chance. A large amount of Semillon, some Sauvignon Blanc and a few Muscadelle grapes make some mean dessert wines (Sauternes) as well as other more traditional whites.

I hope you enjoyed our focus on Bordeaux. There is some more information about Bordeaux on our website or you can browse our wines from the region. Which bank is your favourite? Or perhaps there are other regions you would like to learn more about? Just let us know in the comments below.

Felicity, The Perfect Cellar Team

Wondering what to drink over Easter?

Its finally Easter weekend! The perfect opportunity to enjoy some fantastic food and even more fantastic wine.

Wondering what to drink over Easter? Then read on…

Bud break in the Spring vineyardWhether you are enjoying a hearty roast or a hot cross bun in the afternoon, we have chosen the perfect wine accompaniments to complete your day with family and friends. The theme being, spring fresh and crisp clean flavors. Fingers crossed for sunshine to go with these selections.

drink over easter mas amiel plasirs blanc 2012At my home our Easter lunch consists of a whole salmon and lots of fresh salad, we have plenty of mouths to feed and this always goes down a treat. I of course am in charge of the wine selection for the day and one we will be sure to drink is the Mas Amiel Plaisir Blanc. This wine is absolutely fantastic. Fresh, vibrant and refreshing, it is a perfect accompaniment to the delicate flavors of white meats, fish and salads. The winery is a hidden gem of a in the depths of the South of France, situated at the foothills of the Pyrenees mountains, producing wines of extremely high level quality. This wine is one that will always impress and is a proven crowd pleaser, what’s more it won’t break the bank.

drink over easter chateau chantelune
Looking for the perfect special occasion red to accompany a roast? And looking to spoil yourself and your family a little, then you have to try the Chateau Chantelune. This is an incredible wine of impeccable quality and finesse. The wine is as smooth as velvet and as rich as melted dark Belgium chocolate. This wine is produced in very small quantities from old vines which gives it a super-rich concentration of fruit flavors. Chateau Chantelune is an absolute treat and a beautiful match to meat dishes, slow cooked pork, lamb or even cured meats and hard cheese.

drink over Easter juracon moelleux
Last but not least, the most important part to any meal in my opinion is the after’s! The lasting memory of a good meal with good friends and family is another favorite little tipple. Nothing rounds off a meal more perfectly than a beautifully balanced sweet wine. I want to avoid saying this is solely a dessert wine, neither do I want to say that the end of the meal must end with a dessert per se. The wine I have chosen is something that can be enjoyed with or without food. It is the perfect finish: the Jurançon Molleaux. Pure nectar, a rich concentration of apricots and sugared lemon.

Forget the sweet wines that leave you with a thick sugared film on your tongue, this wine is a refreshing and succulent wine suited to a number of puddings or tasty treats.tart. This wine is a must have alternative to rushing onto coffee, this wine stays with you. adding another level of enjoyment to Easter lunch. An excellent match for blue cheese, hot cross buns, fruit based desserts and my all-time favorite the classic lemon tart.

Hopefully, that has given you some ideas about Easter Lunch wine pairings. What are the favourite meal and wine combinations in your family?

Lydia, The Perfect Cellar Team

 

What happens at a wine tasting?

Ever fancied the idea of a wine tasting, but put off by thoughts of slurping and spitting or being tested on your wine knowledge? Then our handy guide on what happens at a wine tasting is for you.

What happens at a Wine TastingFirst off? Relax. Wine tasting events are primarily about sampling wines to see if you like them.

If you don’t that isn’t the end of the world. Most of the time you will, good wine tasting organisers select high quality fine wines for tasting so that you have the highest chance of liking them, but taste is unique. Just as not everyone like yeast based spreads on toast, not everyone likes every style of wine.

Secondly, unless you are tasting lots of wines or driving you don’t have to spit. You can by all means, but you don’t have to. Slurping though does improve the flavour. That’s because the way something tastes is primarily is derived from your nose.

Swilling the wine in the glass releases vapours, which make the aromas more pronounced and the same goes for swilling the wine in your mouth. The idea is to pass air through the wine when it is in your mouth, hence the slurping sound. Take a small amount of wine in your mouth, curl your tongue around it and breathe air back into your throat keeping the wine in place. Then you can swallow. Once you’ve got the technique mastered you are able to discover more layers of flavours in the wines.

The third point covers probably the most common fear. That you are going to be shown up as a wine dunce. Remember, in the ideal tasting you should learn things whatever level you start at. Mostly these will be things about each wine, for example a story of the producer or the techniques they use. In some cases you will learn about general production, for example the differences between cava and champagne production in a sparkling wine tasting. If there is something you don’t know, ask. People who know about wines love to share their knowledge so you are doing them a favour.

What happens at a wine tasting oystersLastly, don’t forget to eat. The dishes served at a wine tasting have been chosen to show off the wines at their best. A lot of wines developed alongside particular dishes as the perfect accompaniment. This means they taste best when eaten with that food. An example is the Loire wine Muscadet Sur Lies and oysters. The wine is made at the Western end of the Loire valley, basically the coastal region, so its no surprise that it matches well with seafood.

It is the addition of the contact with the yeast (the Sur Lies bit on the label indicates this) that gives the wine the right kind of richness to drink with salty, creamy oysters. If you want a match for a flaky white fish you might be better off with another loire valley white: Folle Blanche as it doesnt have yeast contact time and is much lighter and fresher so it won’t drown out the delicate flavours of the fish.

What happens at a wine tasting group

Good wine tastings will take this into account, each wine will be balanced by the food and enhanced by trying it alongside. The best way is to try a little of wine alone, then some of the food and then try a little more wine and see if the taste has changed for you.

 

Most important at a wine tasting is to have fun. As the wine flows so will the conversation. The night will be over before you know it, you’ll just need to book another one!

Did you know we do wine tastings at our private cellar within The Clerkenwell Collection in Central London? From our take on the Afternoon Tea to a Wine Tour de France, there are lots of ideas to get you started on your journey of wine discovery.

In the meantime, there are some other of our blogs on the more technical aspects of wine tasting here, if you have any top tips for getting the most of a wine tasting experience then post them below.

Rebecca, The Perfect Cellar Team.

 

 

An educational guide to rosé part 1 – production

Celebrate the start of rosé season with our educational guide to rosé production

educational guide to rosé syrah grape imageThe daffodils are out, lambs are bleating and every tenth Londoner you see on a Saturday has inappropriately and preemptively, donned a pair of flip-flops. Yes Spring is upon us.

What better way to celebrate the arrival of rosé season than with a summery glass of wine or three? Hopefully learning about how your glass was made will enhance your enjoyment.

Interestingly blending red and white grapes together is not the usual method for making rosé; and indeed this method is frowned upon (read: banned) by all AOC French producers. Rather, two slightly different methods, in which rosé is extracted from red grapes are employed.

[For those that don’t know AOC, or ‘Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée, refers to wines that are produced within strict geographical regions. You’ve probably heard that sparkling wines that aren’t made in the ‘Champagne’ region of France, cannot be called ‘Champagne; well the same goes for other styles of wine too, with each wine production and vineyard management method having to adhere to strict guidelines for their appellation; if the wine-maker is to earn their desired wine title (Champagne, Bordeaux, Burgundy etc...).]

The first rosé production method is the saigée, or ‘bleeding’, technique. After red grapes are harvested, they are crushed and pumped into a temperature-controlled vat for maceration. After a short time, the skins and juice begin to separate; with the skins rising to the top of the vat. At this point in production the winemakers must decide whether they would like to produce a red or a rosé wine.

If they opt for a red wine, the next step is to continually re-submerge the skins into the juice, thereby increasing its colour intensity as the skins release their pigment. However, if it’s a rosé they are making, the winemakers do not re-submerge the skins, rather they ‘bleed off’ the juice from them, retaining that lovely, blush colour.

educational guide to rosé mas amiel rosé image

The colour depth and consequently, taste of the rosé is thus highly dependent on how long the skins and juice are left to macerate, with times usually ranging from 2 – 24 hours. If the skins and juice are left in contact for too long then the tannins from the grape skin will diminish the rosé’s elegance, hence production is a delicately controlled process. From here, the process is more akin to the white wine process than red, with no grape skin contact during the barrel fermentation phase. Retaining more of the red grape’s characteristics, saigée rosés tend to have a lot more structure and back-bone and hence, go exceptionally well with food, like our wonderful Mas Amiel Plaisirs Rosé 2012.

Educational guide to rosé - d'anjou
The other rosé production method involves an immediate pressing of the grapes in a wine pressoir, yielding a much paler coloured wine, due to the relatively short skin-juice contact time. Again the wine is fermented in steel or oak barrels for several weeks. In both cases, the winemaker analyses the wine’s taste, aroma, colour, clarity and fluidity to ensure the rosé is precisely as intended. For a taste of a rosé of this style, try our beautifully delicate, pale Domaine de Landreau Rosé d’Anjou 2012 that is ideal as a Spring-time aperitif.

 

I hope you’ve learnt a little more about rosé wine and what better way to reward your scholarly efforts than with a bottle? Indulge before 16th April and you’ll get 20% off any order of these rosé wines over £75 and free delivery.

TPC_WebBanner_Rose_2 (4)

 Felicity, The Perfect Cellar Team

P.S. Look out for ‘Part 2’ of my educational guide to rosé, in which you’ll learn exactly which shade of pink you should be looking for to get a rosé perfectly suited to your taste (yes it does correlate!).

Matching wine with vegetarian food

How to match wine without meat or fish? 

If you are a vegetarian and you like wine you probably will have noticed how a lot of wine pairing descriptions rely on a ‘major component’ that is usually meat or fish.

This isn’t really surprising given that most of the population structure their meals around such a ‘major component’, but how do you match wines with vegetarian food?

I should say, I’m not a vegetarian. I do however, regularly eat meals without meat or fish. It’s true to say for these meals I sometimes have to work a little harder to find the perfect match, but like all pairings there are a few easy ground rules to get you started.

vegetarian food and wine macon fuisseGo with the primary

The primary taste in the dish is the easiest part to match with.  Got delicate, light, milky, mozzarella? Go with a light, crisp white like the Pinot Grigio Trefili, Cantina San Marziano, Veneto, 2011. Got smokey griddled vegetables? Go with an oaked chardonnay like the Domaine Sophie Cinier Macon Fuisse 2011.

Primary flavour, primary match. Its hard to go wrong here.

Balance your flavours

Vegetarian food and wine family cecchin

Sweet potato or butternut squash risotto or pasta dishes are excellent matches with a heavier red wine like our Cabernet Sauvignon, Bodega Cecchin, Mendoza, Argentina, 2007where the sweet flavours in the food balance out the tannin in the wine and allow the fruit elements to come to the fore.

If you rice or pasta is served with spinach then you want to go for something lighter, easier to drink and altogether more effervescent to cut through the iron the vegetable and the creaminess of the sauce. Our Benedicte Jonchere, Grand Reserve with its lovely apple flavour is perfect here.

Not all cheese is the same

vegetarian food and wine savennieres les vieux

Cheese, now there is a whole series of food matching blogs (to come in the future no doubt). Very simply though, soft-cheese and goats cheese is usually a crisp white, hard full flavour cheese is a medium bodied red like a merlot and blue cheese is best with dessert wine.

However, each cheese has its own best match and some defy the categorisation above. Despite being a soft cheese, a really good brie should be very mushroomy, so will match well with a richer white wine like a chenin blanc. The Savennieres Les Vieux Clos 2010, would be great here. If you are feeling really adventurous, you can match primary with primary here and go for the farmyard characteristics of a good quality Burgundian pinot noir like the Domaine Parigot Pommard ‘Clos de le Chaniere’ 1er Cru 2009.

Hopefully those have given you some ideas for matching wine with vegetarian food, if you have any further matches or recipe ideas then leave them below in the comments.

Rebecca, The Perfect Cellar Team

Cutting through the jargon: Real Wine

With the start of Real Wine Month on Tuesday (see here for more), there is bound to be a lot of talk about organic, biodynamic and lower sulphite wines. All of these fall under the ‘real wine’ banner.

Although we’ve done blogs on this before, I still think there is  some confusion. Partly because there are no standard definitions for a lot of these terms. Let’s go through them one by one and see if things become a little clearer.

Lower sulphite wine

Real wines - benedicte jonechere roseSulphite occurs naturally in all wine to some extent, but sulphite compounds are also used as preservatives and fermentation interrupters in the wine making process. The further the grapes have to travel to the winemaker the more likely they will have use sulpher dioxide to stop them spoiling en route. Wines made at smaller vineyards that produce their own wine or from cooperative wine makers using only locally sourced grapes will therefore contain less sulphites than mass produced wine.

Thus many of our small, artisan wine makers produce lower sulphite wine, but a great example is our champagne maker Bénédicte Jonchère. They are known as a Récoltant-Manipulant, that is a Champagne producer who actually grows their own grapes. The Grand Reserve Rosé is a luxurious treat perfect for any special occasion.

Organic wine
Real Wine Le Petit MarsThis is wine made from grapes grown in accordance with organic principles. Resulting in lower yields due to an absence of commercial fertilizer and lower protection from pests. However, it also means that the grapes will not contain trace of these chemicals and neither will the soil.

The character of the land the vineyard sits on is hugely important in wine. Organic producers believe that the methods preserve more of this character and thus organic wines from artisan producers truly represent their region.

Our Mas Du Soleilla range is the perfect example of this in practice. The winemaker Peter Wildbolz, holds the greatest respect for the terroir of Le Clape. One of the wines, Le Petit Mars, is named after the small butterfly that can be found in the local region.

 

Biodynamic
Chateau Le Puy Barthelemy at RAW
The biodynamic approach to grape growing sees the whole farm as an agro-ecosystem, and aims to get the vineyard into natural balance, with an emphasis on soil health. The resulting wines are organic and low sulphite and often go even further into naturalness by using no cultured yeasts or any added sulpher dioxide.

Chateua Le Puy has been described as the historical precursor of the natural wine movement, because everything here is done naturally, but it is famous because of the quality of the wines they produce. The 2007 Vintage is a merlot and carmènére blend is smooth and would be delicious with a hearty meat dish or just enjoyed on its on.

Best selling wines of 2013

Felicity talks us through some of our best selling wines from last year and investigates why they are so popular.

mas amielFor anyone who hasn’t tried Mas Amiel Vintage Maury you are in for a treat. Having previously never enjoyed fortified wines very much, this sweet red wine has really opened my eyes (and stomach) to how delicious they can be, offering an irresistible alternative to Port, that even the most tremulous drinkers can enjoy. The smells alone are enough to get you salivating, with wonderful aromas of ripe black fruits, coconut, coffee, spices, chocolate and tobacco. Beautifully balanced with plum fruit and spice tastes, this is a treat with any rich desert, cheese and pate course or simply chilled by itself.

As a woman and, ipso facto, a chocolate lover, I can highly recommend drinking the Mas Amiel Vintage Maury with a rich bar of your favourite luxury chocolate. Or better yet lots of luxury chocolates! If you’re keen to try out this truly delicious desert wine and others from the range, come along for our marriage of wine and chocolate truffles on 17th April. After all, why let the kids have all the fun this Easter! For more information and to book click here.

With New World wines on the rise in popularity, it’s no wonder our lovely Finca La Colonia Malbec is our second best-selling wine. Anyone who’s travelled around South America will have heard of Argentina’s famous Mendoza wine region. What people don’t often know is that it’s those high levels of ultra-violet light that produce that lovely distinctive inky red colour and intense fruity flavors with the Argentinian Malbec. I haven’t come across someone who does not like the very drinkable, smooth Finca La Colonia Malbec, so if you are not sure what you like and want to try something new, then give it a go. A true pleasure to drink.

Bestselling wines Petit bourgeois

Who doesn’t like a lovely French Sauvignon Blanc to wash down their supper? Our third most popular wine was the Petit Bourgeois, Domaine Henri Bourgeois. Grown in Sancerre in the appellation of ‘Le Jardin de France’ as it is sweetly known, this wonderful Sauvignon Blanc does not disappoint and perhaps appropriately, has a grassy bouquet aroma redolent of flowers! The Domaine started from humble beginnings with a mere 2 hectares of vines in 1950, but is now one of the most renowned wineries in the area; with Henri Bourgeois truly an expert in wine production. Lively, fresh and pure, this wine is delightfully easy to drink and has a vivaciousness that comes only from grapes harvested at a precise stage in their maturation. A fantastic match for summery salads and sea-food, or a great post-work tipple to enjoy with your friends.

So there you have our top 3 best selling wines from 2013, the nation has spoken; and I have to say it certainly has great taste!

 

Saying yes to International Waffle day

Last Tuesday I realised that I have been missing out on one of the most important days of the year – International Waffle Day

international waffle day I always thought that having two pancake days in a year would be great, but last week I had something else to look forward to. As it appears, 25th of March was International Waffle Day.

Since it was on a Tuesday, I decided to enjoy waffles on the weekend instead. And of course nothing beats a perfect weekend treat of dessert and wine.

Baking has always been my favourite pastime, but it is unfortunately also very time-consuming. On any other occasion I would have made my own waffles, but bearing in mind it has been a busy week filled with many wine tastings and meetings, I have decided to cheat a little bit and buy the waffles. Only this time, or so I say.

There were lots more waffles then I could possibly eat by myself, so I decided to kindly share with my flatmates, which instantly made me popular (I had to use some sort of ‘bribe’ since I was the newbie in the house). Such an occasion as an International Waffle Day calls for experimentation I thought. Hence we tried out a couple of combinations of my favourite wines to accompany the waffles.

Take a lucky guess: yes it was dessert wines. I went for luxury Belgian waffles, gently toasted them and made a couple of tasty combinations:

  •  Stewed apples and cinnamon
  •  Maple syrup and bananas
  • Homemade Blueberry jam

A traditional apple and cinnamon combination with waffles always feels like coming home. Hence I felt obliged matching it with a wine that is the tradition of sweet wines in itself- a Sauternes. Chateau Filhot 2005 is subtle, elegant and sophisticated. Flavours of baked apples and just a hint of sweet spices. Amazing match, worth a try and definitely only minutes to prepare. international waffle day juracon

Although waffles and maple syrup is also considered a traditional match, worth trying this with a banana instead of the American breakfast combination. The richness and syrupy texture of this dessert is begging for a wine with excellent acidity to cut through. Try a rising star from Jurancon in South of France. A wine like you have not tried before, amazing tropical fruit flavours and freshness that will definitely impress you.

mas amiel international waffle day

 

Waffles with blueberry jam tasted absolutely delicious and I could not place it with anything other than my own favourite Mas Amiel Maury 2011. Burst of blueberry jam coming out of the glass, smooth and syrupy but very balanced wine. Perfect match!

After intense tastings and heated discussions it was agreed to disagree, every match was equally well received. Although everybody had their own favourites. I suppose more tasting is in order just to settle that. I can’t wait for International Waffle Day next year.

Milda, The Perfect Cellar Team

Easter with a twist: The Perfect Chocolate and Wine Experience

The Perfect Chocolate and Wine Experience imageWe’ve been busy over the last few weeks planning a new type of wine experience and the result is The Perfect Chocolate and Wine Experience.

If you like chocolate and wine then this is a fantastic event for you. On 17th April you can taste a range of exclusive vin doux naturel wines paired with luxury truffle chocolates. We are partnering with My Chocolate to bring you a luxury pairing experience at our unique venue in The Clerkenwell Collection.

With our wine experts and a chocolatier on hand the experience is bound to be one to remember. Our Mas Amiel range has been carefully matched to the chocolates to make sure we represent both in the best way.

We will help you develop an understanding behind the flavour matches and give you the chance to experiment with the do’s and dont’s of wine matching.

The Perfect Chocolate and Wine Experience takes place at 4:30 pm on 17th April and costs £55 per person. Availability is very limited so book now to ensure you do not miss out.

If you cannot make The Perfect Chocolate and Wine Experience on 17th, we also organise other Wine Experiences all year round. Including The Perfect Afternoon: a wonderful twist on the traditional Afternoon Tea, except there is no Tea, but Fine Wine and Champagne.  All matched with delicious food served in small portions to complete your ‘Perfect Afternoon’. Please contact me for more details of all of our wine experiences.

Lydia
The Perfect Cellar Team

How to match wines in groups

You know the scenario, a group of you go out for a meal, you all order something different. But how do you match wine when there are a variety of foods?

There are a few of easy pointers to help you match wine for groups. Complexity is one, balance is another and the last is versatility.

I’m not saying you are ever going to get the perfect pair this way, but very few people will drink a bottle to themselves over dinner and compromises abound when out with a group of friends. Group matching is about pleasing most of the people, most of the time.

Complexity

petit chablis image This seems counter-intuitive, after all food and wine pairings are often about opposites, so when dealing with complexity of flavour in foods you might expect to match with a simple wine. However, the more complexity, the more likely that within the flavour notes of the wine there will be a match with you and your friends dinner.

Often complex wines are expensive, but that doesn’t have to be the case. Our Petit Chablis Charly Nicolle 2012 is fantastic value for money at £12.99 and is excellent all rounder.


Balance

Domaine Parigot Hautes Cotes de Beaune 'Clos de la Perriere' 2011 Image

No not as in flavour balance, but balance as in the mid point of wine styles. Stay away from light, fresh whites as they will disappear for anyone eating meaty dishes. Also avoid the big heavy reds as they’ll drown any seafood or salads. Take the balanced view and dip into rich whites, or light or smooth easy drinking reds. A great example is our Domaine Parigot Hautes Cotes de Beaune ‘Clos de la Perriere’ 2011, for £21.99. As a pinot noir it is a great match for most savoury dishes that make up the main course.

 

mas amiel 2011 image

Versatility
When you get to dessert you really need something versatile, as there are so many flavours in each dessert and then there is the option of cheese just to throw you off. Our Mas Amiel Vintage Maury, 2011 is a dessert wine with a difference. Rich with concentrated fruit and just enough tanin to be pleasing with saltiness of cheese, it also has a hint of herbs and tobacco to cut through rich dishes like crème brûlée.