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Archive for the ‘9 A Love of Wine & Cheese’ Category

Revolutions don’t normally happen at New Zealand House in London, but a small one happened on a February morning in 1985. British wine writers and merchants gathered to taste wines from a dozen different NZ wineries and were stunned by the range and quality of what they were tasting. Above all, they were astonished at the Sauvignon from Marlborough. It had that powerful gooseberry and fresh cut grass flavour, maybe elderflower and grapefruit, that we now recognise as uniquely Sauvignon. People who don’t like it say it tastes of cat’s pee. The tasters knew the wines from the upper Loire and from Bordeaux – all made with Sauvignon – but until then it had been thought of as a grape without much character, which only made good wine if the terroir contributed the character that the grape lacked. The power of Marlborough Sauvignon was especially surprising when you realise that the first vines were only planted in 1973. The most famous of the Marlborough vineyards, Cloudy Bay, only planted Sauvignon in 1986. Before that they bought their grapes from other vineyards. (more…)

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There’s a lot of rubbish talked about wine and nowhere is there more rubbish than in discussion of the pairing of wine with food. Some have given up the struggle and say drink what you like. Others are still writing ridiculously precise instructions like “serve with butternut risotto”. I’m somewhere in between. You can enjoy most food with most wine; and what you enjoy is conditioned more by custom than by universal truth. But I do discern some principles at work: pair an acid wine with acid food; pair a sweet wine with sweet food; pair a delicate wine with lightly flavoured food; and pair a full-bodied wine with strongly flavoured food. Although, of course, rules are there to be broken. (more…)

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The ‘Miroir d’Eau’ in Bordeaux city

The ‘Miroir d’Eau’ in Bordeaux city

I’m treading on hallowed ground here. I’m going to write about some good and some great Bordeaux châteaux. Some of them are names I’ve known with awe for 50 years. I’ve not tasted many of them till now but I know the orthodox ideas: that Bordeaux wine has a distinctive style which no other wine growing area can successfully imitate; and that the complex hierarchy of names (appellations) within Bordeaux reflects genuine differences of terroir; meaning that a great wine cannot be made in an estate with a low-ranking appellation. For instance, a wine from the Côtes de Bourg can never reach the standard of a Margaux despite the one being just across the river from the other. (more…)

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Seven Cellars has won the Brighton & Hove Independent Judges’ Recognition Award as Retailer of the Year 2016. For those who haven’t spotted it yet, Seven Cellars is the wine and beer shop on Dyke Road, just south of the Seven Dials. I went along to see why it won, and whether we should all be piling in there.

sevencellars_sage-1213 (more…)

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Andrew Polmear writes for the love of wine . . .

muscadetThere was a time when I thought that one of the greatest joys in life was eating Whitstable Royal Native oysters washed down with a glass of Muscadet. I grew up in Whitstable so the oysters weren’t a problem and, back then, nor was Muscadet. It was one of the few French white wines that was everywhere. It didn’t last. My first lecture, as a medical student, on the causes of food poisoning put paid to the oysters and tasting better whites from almost anywhere else showed me that a lot of Muscadet was really pretty ordinary. (more…)

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“Ah oak!” says the wine professional as she sips. Is she complimenting or criticising the wine? It could be either.

At its worst, oak can be used to add flavour to an otherwise insipid wine. Oak chippings in a sack are dipped into the maturing wine like a teabag. The vanilla-like flavour of the oak beefs up the wine which now tastes of something: but it’s oak not grapes. (more…)

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Like many people, I was upset when Blenio Bistro, at the Seven Dials, closed and even more upset to learn it was to be replaced by a burger restaurant. Until I went in, that is, and found that Coggings and Co. doesn’t just make “the best burger in Sussex” but is a complete re-education in how good a burger can be. So now I’m a convert. But the point of this column is the drink, and at Coggings I find myself ordering beer, which seems to suit a burger better than wine. My problem is that I don’t understand the beer list, since normally I drink only Harvey’s bitter, which I believe to be the best beer in the world. Stout I know, but Imperial stout? Espresso stout? Blonde lager I know but that implies that there’s dark lager too which seems a contradiction in terms. And which goes with what sort of food?

So I’ve done my research and now have some basic understanding. Basically, beer is barley (occasionally wheat) that is soaked and cooked, and to which hops and yeast are added. Fermentation takes place to produce alcohol and, in the process, leads to the development of the flavour unique to that beer. Cheap, mass-market beers may be made from corn or rice but they don’t taste of much and you won’t find them at Coggings. All the other variations come from just a few variables:

  • How long you cook the barley. The longer the cooking, the darker the beer. So Newcastle brown is cooked for longer than a bitter.
  • What sort of yeast you add. This is responsible for the big division between ales, which use higher– temperature yeasts, and lagers, which use lower-temperature yeasts and so need storing in the cold for a bit before they are ready to drink. Lager is German for a storeroom and, sure enough, lagers are from the German/Czech tradition of beer-making, while ales are from the British/Belgian tradition. Harvey’s bitter is an ale.
  • What sort of hops you use and how much you add. Traditionally, fewer hops are added to lager, which is why we fans of Harvey’s bitter find lager tasteless. If you do add more hops to lager it’s called pilsner. Amongst ales, more hops would be added to a bitter than to a brown ale or a stout, which rely on the roasting of the malt (barley plus water) for their flavour. Coggings makes a point of offering beers that are made with different varieties of hops. They’ll really be impressed if you ask for a beer with Cascade or Citra hops.

BarrelOnce you understand all that you can figure the rest out. IPA? It stands for Indian Pale Ale. It’s a hoppy pale ale that was shipped to India in the 19th century and kept the Raj afloat. Now they send Kingfisher beer back to us. That’s also a pale ale.

So, what should you have with your burger? I like a pale ale because it’s more hoppy than a lager, but it’s light enough to help the 6oz of beef go down. A dark ale or a stout are so heavy it would be like having an extra course. But if you want a beer to go with dessert then the sweetness of a stout would be fine. Imperial stout? It’s a stout but stouter. Wassail? Oh, just read the label!

Andrew Polmear

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