Category Archives: Events

Wines for Christmas – 2nd November 2014

When we learned that The Wine Society was hosting a tasting in Swansea, we felt that we had little option but to go along and put in a hard evening’s research. Life can be tough at times…

The tasting was organized into 5 sections:

  • Aperitif Wines
  • Party Wines
  • Christmas Day
  • Boxing Day and Beyond
  • And Relax…..

There were twenty wines in all, and we managed to taste eighteen of them. We have posted our detailed notes on all the wines here, but for those of you who just want to know the good stuff, we have picked out our favourites. Some of our choices surprised us. Angela normally prefers Sauvignon Blanc, but on this occasion we had to give the accolade to a Chenin Blanc. Ian is big on Kiwi Pinot Noir, but found he had to pass over the (very good) example on offer because the Bordeaux was exceptional.

Aperitif Wines

ws_montbourgeau Angela loved the Crémant Du Jura Brut, Domaine De Montbourgeau. Beyond a floral aroma, the chardonnay came through on the palate with a fruity taste and a creamy mouthfeel, while the fine mousse and dry finish helped make this wine a lovely aperitif.

Party Wines

ws_schistWe both fell for  A Fistful Of Schist Reserve Chenin Blanc, Coastal 2014. This wine had far more flavour than would be expected for £5.95 a bottle. On the nose we got ‘a spice shop a long way up the breeze’ and on the palate ‘mellow peach stones’. There was a much better mouthfeel than would be expected from a typical Chenin Blanc. A very impressive wine for the price.

Christmas Day

ws_senejacIf you are looking for a lighter red to go with Turkey, the Seresin Pinot Noir covered in the detailed tasting notes is a pretty decent wine. But Ian chose the Château Sénéjac, Haut-Médoc 2005 to receive our top honours for this tasting. Angela relished in Tayberries on the nose, while Ian found old leather and cedar. On the palate we both agreed on a lovely deep fruitiness (blackberries and blackcurrants) balanced by mellow tannins. The satisfying dry finish completed a wonderful drinking experience. This wine provides everything you would expect from a good claret.

ws_rutherglenOur second pick of the Christmas Day selection was the Stanton And Killeen Rutherglen Muscat, 12 Years Old. On the nose Ian relished in ‘Rum and raisins and all things nice,’ while Angela had ‘Rum, raisins and fruits in brandy.’ Angela describes it on the palate as ‘warm and comforting – gives you a massive hug – delicious.’ And Ian’s take on the finish: ‘long, long, long…’

A great wine for Christmas pudding.

Boxing Day and Beyond

ws_ex_riojaThe stand out favourite in this category has been a big favourite of ours for some time. The Society’s Exhibition Rioja Reserva 2007. This wine is made for the society by La Rioja Alta (if you are not a member you should be able to find a similar wine from the original producer). On the nose we found old dusty leather. While on the palate we detected vanilla and blackberry perfectly balanced with smooth tannins. If you like Rioja in the traditional style, you will find no better example than this.

And relax…..

ws_tawnyAn appropriate category, because by this stage we were so relaxed that we only managed to taste one of the wines. So,  The Society’s Exhibition Tawny Port, 10 Years Old gets our award on account of it being a very nice example of tawny port. And if this seems rather light on detail, perhaps you could bear with us as a certain amount of ‘palate fatigue’ had set in by this time.

We ended the session with a very entertaining conversation with a lady that lectures on prehistoric cooking. As a result, we have a mutton recipe that looks interesting and we hope to feature this in a future blog post.

To finish the evening we gradually meandered up St. Helen’s Road towards the centre of Swansea, hoping to find nourishment. We were fortunate to come across Rose Indienne  an Indian ‘fine dining’ restaurant.

batak_rajaIan ordered the Batak Raja made with duck breast marinated in ground spices. The dish came with a creamy sauce that was not too spicy. Angela had the Chicken Pathia, which was good. There’s not the usual detail here we know. Palate fatigue can be a killer…

But we liked the restaurant and we would definitely like to return again.

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The BBC Good Food Show – 15th November 2014

In order to get an early start at the show we arrived in London on Friday night and dined at the Bel Canto restaurant  on the North side of Hyde Park. Staffed by classically trained singers, the restaurant offers  good, french food accompanied by impromptu scenes from popular operas. We had a very entertaining evening before settling down at The St. Paul’s – a pleasant boutique hotel just a few minutes walk from Olympia – to complete a promising start to a much anticipated weekend.

We arrived at the show early, fortified by a good breakfast at the Hand and Flower pub  just across the road from the venue (Eggs Royale for Ian; Scrambled Eggs with Smoked Salmon on a Bagel for Angela). Our VIP tickets gave us access to a pleasant lounge, complimentary refreshments and dedicated toilet facilities and we both thought it was well worth the additional expense.

M_Roux_S The show boasted a wide variety of products including kitchen equipment, food, wine and spirits. There were many demonstrations, interviews and formal presentation to attend during the day. Our VIP ticket included an early, live-cooking demonstration – Oeuf brouillés Alexandra presented by Michel Roux, given in a more relaxed and humorous style than we normally see on TV. So we set off in good spirits to explore the products on offer.

And ‘good spirits’ turned out to be an apposite description of our first show ‘takeaway’. Sampling a number of whiskies from the Glengoyne, we found the familiar light subtle characters in the12 and 15 year olds, getting gradually richer with age. Then came the ‘no age statement’ Cask Strength edition  – and what a revelation! It was rich, spicy and complex, more in the character of a Glenrothes than a Glengoyne. Our first hit of the day.

By the nature of the event, the products that were most accessible to taste were either ‘finger food’ – such as cheeses, chutneys, biscuits and spreads – or drinks. We did see some very impressive demonstrations of ‘no oil’ non-stick cooking. But we would hesitate to draw attention to a product like this having no idea of its durability in practice.

TodiwalaOf the chutneys and spreads that caught our interest, the product that stood out from the crowd was Cyrus Todiwala’s range of chutneys. The range of flavours comprises Beetroot, Date and Tamarind, Minted Mango and Ginger, Tomato and Garlic, Apple and Mango. We particularly liked the Date and Tamarind and the Minted Mango and Ginger – so much so that we bought a jar of the Minted Mango and Ginger. It is particularly good mixed with olive oil to produce a fresh and tasty salad dressing. Our second hit of the day.

In the afternoon we attended the IWSC world of wine event where a number of interesting producers and industry figures made presentations. We particularly enjoyed the IWSC president elect and CEO of Australian Vintage, Neil Mcguigan. Standing on a table with an outstretched wine glass he bellowed, somewhat disingenuously, ‘We don’t put any alcohol in our wines so you can drink as much as you like!’. You can see Neil McGuigan crafting a wine with John Torode here

WaiparaBut the wine that really caught our imagination was the Waipara West Pinot Noir. After a day of sampling wines and spirits perhaps our palates were not in ‘tip top’ condition, but on the day we really enjoyed this cherry scented pinot with a lovely depth on the palate. These Kiwi winemakers seem to get much richer flavours from the Pinot Noir grape than their French cousins. Our third hit of the day.

Then, quite unexpectedly, the product that stole the show for both of us was a gin. Even more so as the hall seemed to have any number of newbie, ‘me too’ gins and it would have been easy to tar them all with the same brush.

WE_GinBy chance we stopped at the stand for Warner Edwards  and following a quick chat with Tom Warner we decided to attend his private talk in the VIP lounge. What an entertaining and interesting fellow! He admitted straight up that he and his business partner Sion were beer-swilling, rugby fans, and neither had a particular interest in gin (‘We used to drink beer, but we drink Martinis now… because we have to’).

Tom and Sion’s main goal was to get out of the high pressure produce industry and their first thought was to produce essential oils. This needed a still… Alcohol sprung to mind. At first they tried distilling Vodka but the product was not a success.

MartiniAnd so via a circuitous route they became gin distillers. A route, you may think, that would not bode well for the quality of the product. But from this point on they took a fastidious interest in quality, importing a specially made copper still from Germany and taking great care to ensure that all ingredients and processes were of the highest quality possible. The result? A silver medal at the San Francisco World Spirits Competition on their first attempt; followed by a double gold a year later. Angela particularly liked the Rhubarb and Elderflower gins. Ian, as usual, preferred a Martini. And this gin  being subtle, smooth and flavourful is beautifully suited to making Martinis.  So there you have our final hit of the Good Food Show – Warner Edwards gin – and you can see Ian’s recipe for the perfect Dry Martini cocktail here.

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