Posts Tagged ‘white wine’

Temperature Control  »

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

We Brits do love our wine but why must we serve our whites too cold and our reds too warm?

Whatever the weather this August, and if our English summer is true to form it will probably be tipping down, we do ourselves a disservice in this country by drinking most of our wine at the wrong temperature. Although post-war Britain has been quick to adopt many of the benefits of Continental Europe, from lattés to lingerie, we still insist on serving our white wines too cold and our red wines too warm.

‘Gastropubs’ (formerly known as ‘pubs’) are partially responsible for this phenomenon as they are under enormous pressure to maximise their returns on their house wines. A typical mark-up on ‘by the glass’ wines in a pub or bistro is about 300%, so if a wine is selling for £12 a bottle the chances are its ‘cost in’ was around £4. With duty accounting for £1.81 of that and transport, labelling, bottling and marketing to be taken into account it doesn’t leave much of a budget for the actual wine.  Little wonder therefore that they are often of an inferior quality. With white and rosé wines this can be masked to quite a high degree by over chilling, as the colder a wine is served the less well one is able to smell and taste it.

wine temperature

I think the problem with red wines being served too warm is really a complicated combination of modern living, ignorance and laziness. While still white wine should ideally be served between 8˚ and 14˚ (sweet and sparkling wines may fair well a fraction cooler) red wines should be served between 12˚ and 16˚. As a general rule of thumb lighter, fruitier red wines like Beaujolais or Saumur Champigny can be served at cooler temperatures than big, tannic red wines especially during the warmer summer months. Personally I much prefer wines warming up from cellar temperature (10˚- 15˚) rather than being served at ambient room temperature – which is nearly always too hot. ‘Room temperature’ for red wines is fine if you are talking about a draughty castle in Scotland but not if you are in a centrally-heated semi in Surbiton.

The problem is compounded by the fact that few of us (me included more’s the pity) actually have proper cellars at home these days so it is an up-hill battle to get them to the right temperature in the first place. There is a lot to be said for playing against tradition and decanting white wines from the fridge to warm them up and oxygenate them a little and plonking reds into an ice bucket (or a nice bucket) for a minute or too just to tauten them up a tad.

Is it acceptable to actually add ice to the wine itself? I would say officially ‘no’ but provided you don’t tell anyone else and it is off the record, then ‘yes’. Especially if you have just got in from a hard day at the office and the fridge is empty. I have often seen respected wine makers add an ice cube to a glass of wine and in these days of rising alcohol levels a little dilution is no bad thing.

We need to stop being so British and give our licensed victuallers free and frank feedback about the quality of their wines and the temperatures at which they are serving them only then can we hope to emancipate ourselves from a world of tooth shatteringly cold Pinot Grigio and blood-warm Cabernet Sauvignon!

(This article first appeared in Country Calling, 27/07/2011)

Holiday Packing  »

Wednesday, August 3rd, 2011

Today is my last day in the office before I head off for the habitual family two weeks away up in the wilds of North Wales, so last night I started to scribble down my list of holiday essentials.

Times have certainly changed, my children are now a little older (as we all are) and whereas a few years ago I’d have been jotting down the likes of baby bottles, baby food and travel cot I found myself still noting that I’d need bottles but we’ve moved on from the 8oz (standard baby size) to the 75cl (standard adult size – wine).

My list started with children’s bikes at #1 but at #2 wine has made the cut this time round. I’ve learnt over my time at Yapp HQ a few things along the way and I’m happy with my plans for this summer.

I’ve asked the Shop Manager to pack my wine in 6 packs – this seems to fit better in the back of the car boot and fills the space well behind the 2 children’s bikes. It has the added bonus that I can keep 6 bottles separate for my own personal consumption and proffer other wines to folk that appear on our campsite over the next 2 weeks. I’ve got a pack of well priced and road tested crowd pleasers (a couple from Saint Pourçain – the white Cuvée Printanière 2009, the great decently dry and quaffable rosé La Chinière 2010 and the ever popular red, Côtes de Thongue: Tradition 2010).

The campsite is very small and most of the regulars there, like myself, went there as children and now repeat the process with our own children. So Jeremy and family, Oliver and co. – you may want to brush up on the above as that’s what you may well be drinking over the next few weeks.

The ‘hidden’ 6 pack (currently packed behind the beach BBQ and firelighters) is the ‘special’ pack – so Jeremy, if you see any of these being broached, you know we’ve worked our way through the others. Keep an eye out for the simply wonderful Sancerre Blanc: Les Perriers 2010, my favourite summer red (Chinon,  l’Arpenty 2009) or a bottle of the rather splendid Champagne: Dumangin Fils. Premium Blanc de Blancs.
Hamish holiday packing

Well, that’s the essentials covered – with a bottle opener at #3 on the list. Let’s hope the trek through the black mountains and brecons takes us safely to the wilds of the Llyn peninsula with these bottles ready to be opened – very possibly on arrival.

Ask the Expert – Wines to Accompany Asparagus  »

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

I was fortunate enough to spend last Thursday lunchtime at Le Gavroche selecting the wines for our forthcoming Spring lunch. I took the opportunity to buttonhole the head sommelier David Galetti, who presides over a list of biblical proportions, about his personal recommendations of wines to accompany asparagus.

David Galetti - Le Gavroche

David Galetti - Le Gavroche

When English asparagus is in season, as it is now, it can’t be beaten and my personal philosophy is to enjoy it as frequently as possible so I was keen to hear David’s recommendations. His first observation was that if asparagus is properly cooked it should still have a little bit of a ‘croquant’ bite and that you must therefore select a wine that is ‘fresh’ and isn’t heavily marked with oak. Although Sauvignon Blanc is widely acknowledged as being the classic accompaniment  (and they list our Pouilly Fumé ‘Les Loges’ from Dominique Guyot in bottles and halves at Le Gavroche – which would be  a good match) David said that it probably wouldn’t be his first choice. He looks for a wine with ‘a hint of citrus’ and averred that it is important to have some savoury herb notes too. Pinot Blanc and dry Chenin  Blanc ‘can work very well’ apparently – so I look forward to experimenting with some of those forthwith. David dis-recommended Chardonnay as a general rule “you don’t want anything too heavy, oaky or buttery” and surprised me with the revelation that his personal preference is for a Corsican Vermentino!

So what are you waiting for? Get the green spears of goodness on the stove and start experimenting with some fresh, clean Spring whites in the newly shipped 2010 vintage.

Chabrot – Bistro d’Amis  »

Wednesday, February 9th, 2011

As I mentioned back in November I’m a sucker for a ‘soft’ restaurant opening because there is a wonderful feeling of dining before the critics descend and pronounce the received view of an establishment, of virgin piste if you like, and, even better, you tend to get a benign bill when it’s time to call in l’addition. I was delighted therefore to visit ‘Chabrot – Bistro d’Amis’ on Knightsbridge Green, SW1 which is a bijou but blithe French eating house in an expensive part of town.

Chabrot - Bistro d'Amis

Chabrot - Bistro d'Amis

As ever with me it was the wine list that lured me there in the first place. It has been compiled with care by my old chum Philippe Messy, who is one of the co-patrons, and features over 140 bins focusing mainly on France but with a smattering of other references. Again I should declare a vested interest but it is an interesting list and considering the location a good-value one too. It alone would probably draw me back but there’s more to Chabrot’ than good wines. The food is great too.

Head chef Thierry Laborde trained under Albert Roux at Le Gavroche and you can tell – in a good way. The menu kicks off with a great selection of Hors d’œuvres or ‘small eats served as ready’ as they were endearingly translated when I went but won’t be by the time you visit. These are sub-divided into ‘Chauds’ such as: Snails in parsley butter, fried baby squid with piments or griddled duck liver with gougères, and ‘Froids’ which include some good Basque charcuterie, cured fish and inventive salads. The ‘Chauds’ carried the day for me, especially the duck – which merits a visit in its own right. In a momentary attempt at modesty we drank a carafe of the house Bourgogne Blanc ‘Les Champlains’ Domaine Bize 2007 which was blameless and decent value at £25.50.
The main courses were terrific too. The cabbage stuffed with veal and chestnuts deserves particular commendation but Tom rated his grilled veal with sage and rosemary highly too. Service was enthusiastic and pretty good considering it was early days and that this isn’t a roomy establishment. It would be immodest to say that the Cornas ‘Renaissance’ 2007 from Domaine Auguste Clape was the high point of the evening and if anything the most memorable part of our visit was the ambience which segued from jovial to demi-raucous over the course of the dinner. We ended up joining up with 2 other tables and splitting several more bottles. Which given ones proximity to fellow diners is perhaps inevitable.

Chabrot - Bistro d'Amis Table
The look, feel, food, and wine are emphatically retro-French but there is nothing wrong with that whatsoever.
‘Chabrot’ by the way is the old paysan tradition of adding a splash of red wine to the dregs of your soup. Not something you’ll see every day in Knightsbridge but you may well here.

Chabrot - Bistro d'Amis Bar

En Conversion!  »

Monday, February 7th, 2011

The final leg of our buying trip begins in Faugères, an up and coming AOC that sits atop an impressive bedrock of schist, north of Beziers.  Château des Estanilles is an estate that has recently changed hands and the good news is that the pioneering work of Michel Louison is being augmented by Julien Seydoux, an enthusiastic and independent-thinking young chap whose family have substantial vine-holdings in Costières de Nîmes.  Julien is motivated to make the best possible Faugères and has invested blood, sweat, tears and a fait bit of dosh to make this happen.  His 2010 vintage which we will ship in May will be certified organic, a rapidly growing phenomenon among ‘Yapp’ producers.
Faugeres Shadow - Chateau des Estanilles

Our next visit of the day entailed a 3 hour drive across the Languedoc to the pretty Provençal village of Lambesc where Sebastien  Ambrosio Collomb gave us a tour of Domaine Oullières and we tasted through his very good white and rosé 2010′s, along with his ‘house’ red 2009 (a Cabernet Sauvignon, Grenache, Syrah blend) – all three will feature in our forthcoming 2011 wine list.  This estate is also ‘en conversion’ to organic and will gain certification in 2012.

Sebastien Ambrosio Collomb - Domaine Oullières

Sebastien Ambrosio Collomb - Domaine Oullières

Finally, and after a further 3 hours schleping across Provence and negotiating the Nice rush hour, we arrived at our final tasting of the trip.  Domaine de la Source in AOC Bellet, the smallest domaine with which we work, is now run by energetic brother and sister team Eric and Carine Dalmasso.  They have doubled the size of the area under vine in the past five years to a whopping 5 hectacres!  Somehow, from this tiny patch of vines perched between the Cote d’Azur and Southern Alps, they successfully manage to produce a red, white and rose – total production 15,000 bottles.  95% of the wine is consumed by well-heeled Niçois chez eux or in the fashionable restaurants of Vieux Nice, but the remaining pallet finds its way to Mere (we are their sole export customer).  We would encourage anyone that hasn’t sampled these fascinating wines to give them a try – preferably sur terrasse with porchetta nicoise, grillade au fenouil or wood-oven roasted rabbit with thyme.  Oh, by the way, did we tell you that next year Domaine de la Source will be certified organic?!

Bellet Sign and view

Autumnal Traditions  »

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010

We’ve been hosting Autumn wine tastings for the Oxford and Cambridge colleges for many moons.  On my very first venture to Oxford 10 years ago with Robin (Yapp), no sooner had we set up the tasting in preparation for the arrival of the dons than he rushed me off to the Covered Market to seek out the excellent gamebutchers, Hedges.  Our business there concluded, we hot-footed it back towards Wadham for 11.30 with a brief detour via The White Horse in Broad Street for a couple of pre-tasting pints of Greene King IPA.  As an introduction in how to approach a wine tasting at this fine seat of learning, it took some beating.Oxford Covered Market - Hedges Butchers

So as the temperature dropped at the end of September and our green and pleasant land exploded in vivid russet and orange, my thoughts invariably turned to Messrs Hedges and the Covered Market.  This year, I plumped for a couple of grouse, a brace of pheasants and multiple partridge.  “You like game, then?” Hedges Junior enquired, unnecessarily I have to say.  Back at the tasting, via a coffee shop rather than The White Horse (in case my wife reads this), I had my eye on several bottles that I thought might not get consumed during the duration. This is a discreet perk of all wine tastings, how else can one afford to drink on the wages of this industry?  So my grouse was preceded by white Chateauneuf-du-Pape Vieux Donjon 2008 and perfectly accompanied by Cornas Clape 2006.

Wadham College, Oxford

Wadham College, Oxford