Friday, 25 June 2010

Any wine for tennis?

“You cannot be serious”  John McEnroe

Rain may stop play, British hopefuls may disappoint, but the fun that surrounds Wimbledon fortnight carries on regardless. All this seasonal sporting showmanship plus a surfeit of strawberries and cream accompanied by pints of Pimm's might seem to present a challenge to any wine-loving tennis fan. Actually Heather Aitken thinks she copes with it very well! For those of a more delicate constitution, fear not, we two Heathers of Red White & Rosé will guide you through the tennis trials and tribulations to come.

There's one wine that well and truly fits the short but sweet grass court tennis season: sauvignon blanc. This wine gives you a grand slam shot of one of the top ten evocative scents in the world - freshly mown grass. Add the subtle backhand sting of nettles, and the oh- so- English gooseberry tartness and this perfectly encapsulates the sporting summer “Season”. Try the ever-reliable Errazuriz Sauvignon Blanc from Chile – down to £4.99 if you buy two bottles at Majestic.

If you'd like to watch your favourite player's game with a suitable tipple, then wine offers some apposite choices. When Nadal is mesmerizing with his matadorial elegance and brawn you could join in the drama with a dash of Domaine de Fondrèche Nadal – a powerhouse blend of meaty Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre from the Ventoux in the southern Rhône. A bottle can be yours for £12.50 from H2Vin of Epsom.

“I play each point like my life depends on it”   Rafael Nadal

Rafa hails from the island of Mallorca, famous for sun, sea and some other things, but not wine. However, we were both impressed earlier this year with an intriguingly named wine from Mallorca – 12 volts, made by 4 kilos winery. (If you want to know why that name, email us ). It's a full-bodied but sophisticated blend of the native callet variety, along with cabernet, merlot and syrah. TodoVino of London has it for £14.36, or Winedirect in East Sussex for £16.95.

If mercurial maestro Roger Federer overcomes his recent loss of form and comes good at Wimbledon, then there are plenty of suave Swiss wines to cheer him on with – though you will be unsurprised to learn that they don't come cuckoo-clock cheap. Nick Dobson Wines, based in Wokingham, is probably home to the widest selection of Swiss wines outside the canton, and you can order online.

“Victory is fleeting. Losing is forever.”  Billie Jean King

Ardeonaig Hotel, on the banks of Loch Tay in Scotland, will be commercially harvesting its grapes for the first time ever this year to produce a crisp Riesling. They have a philosophical outlook which could also apply to Scots tennis ace Andy Murray: if it’s not good enough (he/it) will be turned into vinegar. On a positive and patriotic note they also say of things Scottish, “somebody has got to be first”.

Strawberries and cream don't appear to be natural partners for wine and many tennis fans pair it instead with a glass of Pimm's. This can be fun in the sun, but it's easy to overdo it with spirits-based drinks that taste dangerously only of the lemonade you mix them with. A safe and more adventurous bet would be a light, frothy and fun Moscato d'Asti from Italy. Made from aromatic muscat grapes, lightly sparkling and just 5% alcohol, this is a naughty-but-nice lunchtime treat. The Wine Society list Perrone Elio Moscato d'Asti for £6.50 a bottle. More readily available is the less refined and fashionably retro Asti Martini NV, £6.99 from Waitrose.

Once you've savoured the guilty pleasure of something sweet and fizzy, there's nothing to stop you experimenting further, so pick up a bottle of Brachetto d'Acqui while you're at it. A light red sparkling wine, sweet and light in alcohol, its intense red fruit flavours are a wonderful foil for strawberries. Taurus Wines of Bramley have Alasia Brachetto d'Acqui for £7.99.

If you want to have more serious fun with your strawberries, there is no more heavenly match than Sauternes. Heather Dougherty reveals, “For years I pooh-poohed the idea of a lusciously sweet, unctuous and complex dessert wine with strawberries and cream, thinking that no-one who had actually tried the two together could seriously think they make a good match. Reader, I was wrong. Given the opportunity to try this classic combination a few years back, I was forced to eat my words”. Taurus Wines' Domaine du Haut Montlong 2006 is a bargain at £11.99. From neighbouring Monbazillac rather than Sauternes proper, it nevertheless has all the barley sugared charm you could wish for. The same amount of money gets you a half bottle of Castelnau de Suduiraut 2003 from Majestic. The second label of renowned Sauternes estate Chateau Suduiraut, the full-flavoured, sweet style is great for desserts.

“Whoever said ‘It’s not whether you win or lose that counts.’ probably lost”   Martina Navratilova

The winners of Wimbledon this year will undoubtedly celebrate with a bottle or two of Dom Pérignon or Krug. If you can stretch to those prices – please get in touch, we'd love to come along to the party! If you're on more of a tight budget, then look no further than Lindauer Special Select Blanc de Blancs NV. A mouthful of a name, but this light and elegant, 100% chardonnay sparkler from New Zealand is no effort to drink. And at £7.49 a bottle from Majestic currently, it's easy on the wallet too.

Enjoy the soporific rhythmic clunk of balls against rackets and remember that “Tennis begins with love”.

Saturday, 12 June 2010

World Cup wines

The first 90 minutes are the most important.”  Sir Bobby Robson

As you read this, excitement will be at fever’s ok we are not deluding ourselves that our SA (Surrey Advertiser) articles are the generators of such intense passion. Another SA will be creating a huge amount of heat on 11thJune 2010 with the kick-off of the FIFA world cup in South Africa.

Some people believe football is a matter of life and death. I’m very disappointed with that attitude. I can assure you it is much, much more important than that.”  Bill Shankley

This summer there are really only two choices and, for those who, like us, are not the biggest footie fans, the pressure to support “our boys” will be hard to resist. So our advice is to go with the flow, avoid arguments and relinquish the TV for the duration. Do not fret that you have no idea how offside works, or what the sweeper system is - there are other compensations. Admiring the physique and prowess of the players has its own rewards and instead of whingeing, we are going to get wine-ing and demonstrate our enthusiasm by drinking delicious South African wine!

Our goal is to find something a little different that you can appreciate come rain or shine and that reflects the spicy heat of the SA proving grounds. South Africa's gift to the world of wine is its unique grape, Pinotage – the result of a crossing of the southern French Cinsault and the noble Pinot Noir. It's a Marmite of a wine grape and some people wish that South Africa had kept this particular gift to itself. Others lap up its lush, black fruit with smoky notes and beefy undertones. A feel-good and taste-good option is Tukulu Pinotage 2007, £8.99 from Oddbins. This wine amply demonstrates the South African term “Wamkekile”, a local Xhosa word meaning “we welcome you”, which we're sure we'll be hearing more of over the coming weeks.

The bookies' favourite to win this summer's beautiful game is Spain, followed by Brazil, England, Argentina and Netherlands. Is that a cue for a country-based wine and food matching dinner we hear?

I felt a lump in my mouth as the ball went in” Terry Venables

Spain - land of conquistadores, matadors, rhythmic clicking castanets and the provocative rustle and swirl of a flamenco skirt. Old Moorish, intense and darkly brooding Spain, as opposed to the flashy Marbella Pina Colada portside pueblos, is what you are drinking deeply of when you senses first encounter Marques de Caceres Rioja Crianza, £8.99 from Guildford Wine Company (and Majestic, as long as you buy 2 bottles ); £9.99 from Oddbins.  A whiff of horseflesh and tack room tannins, with the backbone of the steely rapier of the corrida emanate from this lean, garnet red classic wine. Eat meaty tapas and chorizo. Olé!

Brazil - samba and sensuality, bronzed bikini-clad (at most) bodies on Ipanema beach, the shocking contrast of the über-rich and the gangster-riddled ghetto fraternities of the favelas. The food has to be Dobrada, a bean stew with everything in it, including pigs' intestines if you are up to it!  Brazil is a big wine producer (third behind Argentina and Chile in South America) including, perhaps surprisingly, huge quantities of fizz. So Brazilians will be hoping to toast their team's success with home-produced sparkling wines. Not much of it makes it way to Europe though, so we'll have to settle for something to match that hearty bean stew. Guigal's Côtes du Rhône is a benchmark for the region, with plenty of rustic-tinged fruit and a hint of the warm south - £9.99 a bottle from Taurus Wines of Bramley. Beleza!

England, ah England – our battling colonial spirit has taken us worldwide, so we won't confine ourselves to an English wine.  As an historically seafaring nation our strength is honed by the mixing of our races from Vikings, Normans, Celts and, more recently, from Caribbean and Asian erstwhile colonies. Our men of England possess, as in the times of our national hero Horatio Nelson, strong “Hearts of Oak”. In this vein we recommend for our heroes a lightly oaked Chardonnay from New Zealand, still part of the Commonwealth: Wither Hills Marlborough Chardonnay is £8.99 from Waitrose and shows plenty of backbone and a strong finish. This would be perfect with roast chicken and all the trimmings – though if we do manage some real summer weather, it would be equally at home around the barbecue. Cheers! Bottoms up! Mud in your eye!

Argentina - the heat and dust of the pampas, the macho cigar-smoking gauchos and the thrilling tempos of twanging guitars and tango in Buenos Aires bars. Big haunches of tender steak feed late night revellers, washed down with a strong, spicy and intense deeply purple Malbec. Argentina may not be the original home of this grape, which started out in France, but it has certainly made it its own. Majestic stocks Ben Marco Malbec from the Dominio del Plata winery at £10.99 if you buy 2 bottles.  This wine has got “cojones” and a whiff of the cigar box alongside the ripe and lively black fruit. In spring it is the practice of the gauchos (cowboys) to castrate the cattle in order for them to grow bigger and fatter. The testicles are eaten as a relished delicacy cooked over burning coals.....ouch....don’t cry for me Argentina. Salud!

Netherlands - the easygoing Dutch have obviously got “on their bikes” and out of their windmills to be rated amongst the top Cup contenders. As a quiet, tolerant bunch of tulip-growing cloggies they may appear quite tame to the gambler and to have far less of a chance than their flamboyant Latino counterparts. Yet Dutch adventurers have been in South Africa as settlers since 1652, and of course their un-compromising Afrikaaner stock is renowned for tough, ruthless survival tactics.  Across the other side of the globe, the Dutch invented “Rijsttafel” or Rice Table, a lavish Indonesian feast of rice served with from six to sixty side dishes of seafood, vegetables, coconut and all manner of attractively presented meats. Such a substantial and spicy meal needs a ripe, limey Riesling with some sweetness to stand up to the spice. Vidal Riesling 2009 from New Zealand fits the bill perfectly and is £8.99 at Oddbins. Let’s hope they don’t do a Van Gogh if they miss out on the top spot. Prosit!

Sometimes in football you have to score goals” Thierry Henry

Now we are all exhausted from running round the Heathers’ football philosophy it is time to open a bottle of something from the host country that will set you off in anticipatory dribbling. Iona Sauvignon Blanc, £9.99 at Waitrose, £12.49 at Majestic is a classy combination of cool-climate acidity, combined with mouthwatering gooseberry and tropical fruit.

Enjoy the beautiful games and we hope to indulge in many a celebratory tipple.