Friday, 6 December 2013
This rather glamorous treat was a wedding anniversary gift from my husband last month and it really has been the gift that keeps on giving. The sheer pleasure of simply untwisting the lid and inhaling the powerful fragrance is amazing in itself, yet it lends itself to so many things. Anointing baked potatoes or plain pasta are obvious options or slipping it between the breast and skin of a chicken, but how about frying eggs in truffle butter? Total bliss. It transforms food instantly.
If you're wondering what to give foodie friends for Christmas, look no further. Thank you darling!
Tuesday, 3 December 2013
Last week I got my first proper taste of Christmas when I emerged from Sloane Square tube station and gazed at all the glamorous Christmas decorations. The trees in Sloane Square sport large tasteful twinkly stars and Peter Jones in the background is draped with lights. My short walk up Sloane Street was just as festive as I headed to Le Cercle restaurant as a guest of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne.
Piper has had quite a playful, partying image, however, cellar master Régis Camus recently received the International Wine Challenge Sparkling Winemaker of the Year trophy for the eighth consecutive time. New owners EPI, who bought the house from Rémy Cointreau in 2011, seem keen to place more emphasis on the quality of the wine itself – we were served several with dinner and they stood up beautifully (much better than the simple party pop you might have expected in the past). The wines are Pinot dominant and a generous proportion of reserve wine is included in the blends resulting in richer, complex tasting fizz closer in style to stable mate Charles Heidsieck (also run by Régis Camus).
The dinner ended with the classic French pairing of pink fizz and dessert (in this case white chocolate parfait with frosted strawberries). For me, this never works as the wine isn't sweet enough, but I was really taken by the deeply coloured, bold vinous style of the Piper's Rosé Sauvage. I could imagine it with charcuterie, steak tartare or at a smart picnic. Distinctive stuff.
Piper-Heidsieck have other events planned for the Christmas season including tastings with cheese and charcuterie at Searcy's Champagne Bar at One New Change at 6.30pm on Tuesday 10th and Monday 16th December (£39). For more information mail: email@example.com. Searcy's Champagne Bars will also be serving a broad range of Piper-Heidsieck by the glass.
I attended as a guest of Piper-Heidsieck and First Drinks. For information about future wine dinners at Le Cercle check their website. This tasting dinner cost £49 per head.
Piper-Heidsieck retail stockists
Brut NV Waitrose £31.99
Rare, Vintage 2002 Harrods £175
Vintage 2000 Harrods £64.95
Cuvée Sublime TheDrinksShop.com £38.69
Rosé Sauvage Waitrose £24.99
Thursday, 28 November 2013
Something that recently kept me rather busy was writing a review of the latest edition of The World Atlas of Wine by Hugh Johnson and Jancis Robinson. This seminal book has been comprehensively updated and is also available as an e-book for the iPad. It was fascinating going through the book, comparing it with earlier issues and seeing how the world of wine has evolved.
Read the piece here on Fiona Beckett's Matching Food and Wine website.
Read the piece here on Fiona Beckett's Matching Food and Wine website.
Monday, 25 November 2013
Sorting through my cupboards recently, I came across this sorry sight. It's spiced apple chutney from a couple of years ago which we're still enjoying, although after two years I'm keen to use it up. Two jars were stacked together and, trying to remove the uppermost jar, I found it was stuck to the lower one. Chutney had oozed through the lid because the vinegar had corroded the metal. Yikes! Next time, I'll be using waxed paper disks before securing the lids (and probably won't keep it for as long). Lesson learned.
Now, this wasn't any old duck and burgundy combination as you might have guessed from the heading, this was complex, gamey mallard and a rather cherished mature Volnay. For a number of years I've been the proud owner of a bottle of Domaine de la Pousse d'Or Caillerets Clos des 60 Ouvrées 1996. We've recently moved house, so this autumn seemed a good time to open it to toast our new home. We had an old friend of mine from the wine trade round for supper, so the timing and company seemed ideal.
I've had several red burgundies from this tight, briskly acidic vintage and some of them (especially village wines) are reaching the end of their lives. However, I expected this wine from such a notable site and skilled winemaker to still be very much on song. To my relief (it always feels like Russian Roulette with mature wines), it was in full voice.
There is something quite moving about this wine. It was made by Gérard Potel, one of Burgundy's greatest recent figures, who ran the domaine until his premature death in 1997. You can read more about Domaine de la Pousse d'Or and Gérard Potel here on Clive Coates's website. It reveals that critical changes were taking place at the domaine and how stress may have contributed to Potel's early demise. So, the bottle of Volnay that had lurked in my cellar for so many years has particular poignance as it was from Potel's final vintage.
Amazingly, after 17 years, the wine was full of vigour, with a rounded silky texture, creamy and fleshy – not what I expected from this angular (even gaunt) vintage. Aromatically there was a lot going on – violets, morello cherries, plums, exotic spice, even savoury soy notes, all supported by a refreshing chalky mineral backbone. Expressive, pure, defined and entirely harmonious. Ravishingly beautiful.
Allowing the wine to fully articulate itself, the mallard worked brilliantly. The gamey meat was complex enough in its own right, simply served with potatoes roasted in duck fat and one of my favourite vegetables for fine reds, red cabbage. An autumn treat we won't be forgetting in a hurry.
Saturday, 26 October 2013
It really seems as though the year is racing by and Christmas is now very much on the radar. If you need some ideas for the festive season why not pop along to a Wine Gang Christmas Fair in November. The Wine Gang comprises five engaging and entertaining wine experts – Joanna Simon, Anthony Rose, Tom Cannavan, Jane Parkinson and David Williams – who will all be on hand to help guide you through the hundreds of wines available for tasting. There will be free 20 minute wine walks and bookable masterclasses (priced separately) – the Tokaji and chocolate masterclass at the London event sounds particularly tempting. There will also be a pop up shop with wines available at a discount.
The Fairs are taking place at the Guildhall in Bath (November 2nd), Vinopolis in London (November 9th) and the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh (November 30th).
The Wine Gang has generously offered readers of this blog tickets at a reduced rate: £12 instead of £20 and a 10% discount on tickets for masterclasses. Please use the code BLOG40 when you book tickets on the website. I might see you there!
(To get you in the mood, I've included a couple of pics: the one at the top was taken last year in Covent Garden and the shot below is to remind you to start organising your dry ingredients for stir-up Sunday…)