Monday, 25 January 2010

Eiswein anyone?

Written in the white-out!

NASA Terra satellite pictures show the UK blanketed in snow from head to toe, the heaviest snowfall in fifty years apparently. All of the media suggest we stay inside, and here in the provinces the silence is palpable from the lack of traffic. The Scandinavians call it “hyggelig” which translates to being cosy, snug, friendly and home. Most of us, especially children and dogs, love the adventure of gambolling in the snow, discovering wild animal tracks, and the myriad games to play with the unaccustomed white ingredient.

If, like HA, you live in a village blessed with a plethora of pubs, wine bars and restaurants, the atmosphere is virtually après- ski. Brightly adorned jolly snow revellers can be seen trudging to the local watering holes to regale their cohorts with tales of their snowboard and tobogganing prowess on the local golf course. Suddenly we are transported back to times when just being local was the norm, with it being a rarity and a brave soul who travelled outside the village environs. Community spirit seems to have been awakened in these adverse weather conditions and bonhomie is blooming. Long may it last after the snow is but a memory.

While we frolic, in Germany and Austria as the first light of day dawns, intrepid pickers snip frozen grapes from the vine for the small, expensive and renowned harvest which makes Eiswein. The grapes are crushed whilst still frozen to produce this very sweet, highly acidic and much prized wine. This same process is carried out in Canada and other seasonally chilled climes where the result is termed Icewine. We think this would be an unusual and rather appropriate gift to take to a party this month. Waitrose lists Weingut Heribert Boch, Trittenheimer Apotheke Riesling Eiswein 2004 – a mouthful in more ways than one. Its luscious sweetness and lipsmacking acidity are great for lemon roulade or fruit pavlovas. The price is eyewatering too, at £29.99 for a half bottle.

It will be interesting to see if our English vineyards are able to take advantage of the freeze, minimise wastage and tap into the Icewine practice. Keep your eyes peeled for the English version later this year. ....What could it be called....”Frozen wastes” or perhaps “Surrey Cold”!

Both Heathers agree that a good big red helps keep the cold at bay, and in fact it seems the natural beverage to imbibe at this time of year. HA was given a wonderful selection of South African reds as a Christmas gift – Galpin Peak 2008, a pinot noir from Walker Bay near Hermanus, produced by the Bouchard Finlayson Winery on this sunny Western Cape is an accomplished reflection of the fertile terroir. Something different is Whole Berry Cabernet Sauvignon 2007, grown, made and bottled on the Springfield Estate “by 9th generation Huguenots”. This wine claims to be harvested and developed by the ancestral (ie by hand) method, and developed using a gravity flow system with no pumps or crushers involved. This traditional method of production, using only the natural yeasts, and which is unfiltered and unfined, results in softer tannins and complex characteristics. Shipped by Bibendum and selling for £10.73 a bottle, this is definitely worthy of your palate.

Alternative, economic, invigorating, unusual (any more vowels?): this describes some of the wines we have tasted recently and from which we have selected some delicious examples to offer you. These non-supermarket wines represent real value and interest to the most discerning connoisseur. A six bottle around the world case for just £49.99. A real January re-juvenator.
We are delighted to get your feedback on the above and almost any vinous subject. Next we will be looking at restaurants and wine bars and would be delighted to receive your views on local hotspots, heroes and villains. We will be giving you our unbiased, un-pc views in the next edition of our Surrey Advertiser column. Trinny and Susannah have got nothing on us!!!

Monday, 11 January 2010

Wine doesn't make you fat.... makes you lean
....against tables, chairs, floors and walls!

It’s the time for New Year’s resolutions and for many this will include the wish to lose a few pounds in weight and improve their fitness. Wonderful and well done, but such a bore. January is dreary enough anyway without any depressing dieting regimes. The good news is that you can shed the pounds and be happy too - the advice is to drink red wine to burn off the fat!

The English have obesity rates which were recently calculated to be in excess of one in five adults, whilst conversely our neighbours the French seem to stay enviably slim even though they eat delicious calorie laden meals. Why is this? The secret is known as The French Paradox. Professor Roger Corder in his book “The Wine Diet”, talks of harnessing the power of red wine which contains procyanidins and other polyphenol-rich substances to help the slimming process. We think that “polyphenol” will become the new fashion buzz word in 2010 and will be used in conjunction with all things desirably healthy of which red wine is professed to be one.......mark my words!

It has also been found that high levels of a chemical substance called resveratrol found in red wine could help in the process of losing weight and perhaps even more excitingly has an effect on the decline of heart function associated with ageing. Get that bottle open!

As we are not writing a scientific manuscript we are happy for you to do your own research, but would just add from the wine lover’s point of view that judicious use of the red beverage will help if nothing else to lift your spirits, surely an important aid in the fight against flab.

At the start of a new year it is interesting to look back at past events and passing fashions and as in all things alcohol has been presented to the public in some memorable ways. Does anyone remember Paris Hilton advertising “Prosecco in a can”? Bet you didn’t buy any of it though.

Just a few days ago (back in 2009), HA saw in Guildford one of the big chain of coffee houses advertising “egg-nog flavoured latte” ..Yuk! This was a reminder of childhood when at Christmas maiden aunts would venture away from the customary thimble-full of Sherry and go wild on a drink inexplicably called “snowball”. This weird runny omelette tipple was the egg-nog Dutch Advocaat, topped up with lemonade - remember the TV advert: “Eveninks and morninks, I drink Warninks”? A drink with kitsch appeal has now been reborn as a coffee additive! Now you can enjoy all the sickly and slimy appeal of Advocaat, but without any pesky alcohol to make the experience even mildly enjoyable.

The best coffee is (to our taste), Brazilian, and served in cups a quarter the size of the high street vast, American exports.(but we digress.) So if Advocaat is back, what’s next? Equally horrid concoctions spring to mind: HD remembers fond hours working behind the student union bar at University dishing out pints of Guinness and black(currant), or Guinness snakebite and black (Guinness, cider and blackcurrant) – ever popular with the Goth crowd, who always went for colour over taste.

These nostalgic ramblings are not going to be any help whatsoever in choosing your next bottle of vino, but we feel that a bit of time taken in retrospective thought can sometimes clarify the mind for the present. So, here is your horoscope prediction for 2010: “There will be a continuing trend of converts to decent wines, and a growing fan club for the 2 Heathers wine columns”! We would add that perhaps due to the fact that more people are choosing to buy wine to enjoy at home rather than just to sip in restaurants, interest and discernment will be enhanced.

We think that particularly in the cold winter evenings a glass of room temperature red, sipped ideally by a roaring fire can wonderfully waft your imagination away to warmer climes. Try a Rioja, vibrant garnet-red Spanish sunshine in a glass with a hint of the tack room, leather, chestnuts and a lean fruitiness. Think Hemmingway, passion, and plan your get-away. Rioja Urbina Crianza 2004 at £10.50 a bottle, (but you will want to buy the case of six), does the trick. Similarly Rioja Bodega Navajas 2008 at £7 a bottle will help you save for the holiday fund.

As always we have your best interests dear reader at heart (where did we get that phrase), and will be presenting you with our wonderful winter wine offer in our next article to help keep the cold at bay and a song in your soul. If you just can’t wait, call us 01483892678 or look online and we will do our best to oblige. Otherwise we look forward with you in anticipation of the pleasures supplied by us to come your way.

We wish you a wonderful wine-time in 2010 and don’t forget the polyphenols, vitamins, minerals, sunshine and health you will be conferring upon your stressed out winter body by giving it what it craves.
Health and Happiness
In vino veritas
Heather and Heather