Friday, 28 August 2015

Wines to get you all fired up

It’s a Bank Holiday weekend – think barbecues, bangers and bottles.

How to choose the right wine to accompany your burnt offerings? The golden rule is to forget anything delicate, subtle or complex, as these qualities will literally be wafted away on the summer breeze – or at the very least be obliterated by the smoke from the barbecue. What you want is big, bold and beefy (how long can I keep up this b-fest?).

Red wines
The Rhône varieties Syrah and Grenache, alone or together, have flavours that complement smoky barbecue fare. Here are some from the Rhône and beyond.

Château Pesquié Terrasses Ventoux 2012 - £12.75 online or as part of a mixed case of six from The Good Wine Shop (branches in Esher, Kew and Chiswick), £14 from R&B Wines, also at Bordeaux Index
Ventoux, a large wine region in northern Provence, has a low profile compared with nearby Southern Rhône stars like Gigondas and Châteauneuf-du-Pape and, it must be said, quality is mixed. However, there are some really good wines to be found, like this blend of mostly Grenache with some Syrah. Dark, rich berry fruits mingle with liquorice in the mouth. This will stand up to any meat lover’s barbecue.

The Cubist Old Vine Garnacha 2013, Calatayud, spain - £9.99 from Waitrose
Spain is a good source of big, ripe reds with the right kind of profile for outdoor eating. This has plenty of concentrated black fruit, along with a spice-herb-pepper combination on the side.

You could also try Cruz de Piedra Seleccion Especial Garnacha 2013 - £8.25 from The Wine Society.

Falernia Reserva Syrah 2011, Chile - £9.95 from Great Western Wine, £12.95 from, also from independents
Chile makes some lip-smacking Syrahs that combine clean, ripe fruit flavours with a refreshing pepperiness. This is a real crowd-pleaser of a wine with bags of ripe, sweet fruit before the black pepper kicks in on the finish.

In the same vein, but with a bit more elegance is long-time Chilean Syrah superstar Matetic EQ Syrah 2012 - £16.50 from The Wine Society (2013), £17.95 from (2011).  

White wines need to have plenty of personality if they are to stand up to outdoor drinking - this is not the time to uncork your best Pouilly Fumé. Go for wines with plenty of fruit, some weight and, if there’s spice involved, a bit of sweetness too.

A Mano Puglia Bianco 2014, Italy - £7.95 from The Wine Society, £8.95 from and other independent merchants
This refreshingly different white, made from a blend of varieties including the aromatic Fiano, has bags of character and a certain soft weightiness with a food-friendly saline lick.

Cono Sur Reserva Especial Riesling 2012, Chile – on offer at Morrison’s for £5.99 (usually £8.99)

A little sweetness here makes for a good match with chilli, though the balancing acidity and zippy lime fruit mean that you won’t feel like you’re drinking anything sweet. And at this price, you can’t go wrong.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Wines for a game bird

The 12th of August, “the Glorious Twelfth”, marks the official start of the game season in the UK. From now, for a few short weeks, our native red grouse can legally be shot over the grouse moors of the landed gentry of northern England and Scotland.

Birds and Burgundy
Pinot Noir is the natural choice to accompany your feathered game, so there’s no better place to head for than Burgundy. A good rule of thumb is that early season birds will be more tender and delicately flavoured and will match well with younger, fruitier wines.

As the season goes on, the birds develop more flavour as well as becoming more sinewy – and birds will have been hung before sale to help tenderise the meat, resulting in a “gamey” flavour. For these birds it makes sense to choose a more mature wine which will have developed a similar gaminess.

Domaine Maillard Père et Fils 2013 Chorèy-lès-Beaune - £16.99 from Waitrose
Reds from the Côte de Beaune are generally lighter than those from the more northerly Côte de Nuits and this has soft, supple ripe red fruit with a smooth, silky feel.

La Grille Pinot Noir 2013 - £8.99 (or £6.74 as part of their mix and match offer) from selected Majestic stores
OK, not from Burgundy, but game lovers on a budget can get some idea of the fruity, fragrant style of Pinot Noir without breaking the bank.

Game for a white?
Red wine is undoubtedly the natural wine choice for game, but not everyone likes red, so I have been giving the matter some thought.

Pheasant’s Tears Rkatsiteli 2011 - £15.95 from, Hawkshead Wines and other independents

If you can bear the emotion, this would make a great match – and not just because of the name. From Georgia (the country, not the US state), it’s a white wine that is made somewhat like a red wine, the crushed grapes left to macerate with the juice before pressing and fermentation, resulting in a deeply coloured white wine with some of the grip and body of a red. It is richly flavoured but dry, with walnuts, blossom and a hint of honey wafting around.