Monday, October 27, 2008

Latest from UJ

ShelfTalk tackles Malbec, Cuff it like Bond in BoozeBluff and a wine/Indian cuisine dinner at Benares features in WineMate.

Sherry Interview with Heston Blumenthal

A recent interview with Heston Blumenthal for More Intelligent Life reveals the ground-breaking chemistry underpinning his revolutionary pairing of sherries with dishes on a molecular level, with examples from a specially-created menu revealed last month. Also discussed are; the perfect wine for that trickiest of foods – artichokes; turtle-fishing; and turning water in to wine:

Monday, October 20, 2008

More Intelligent Life Article

Notes from the Bottom of A Bottle...
Whilst I'm at it... WineChap has a new column for the Economist's online cultural platform, More Intelligent Life, which is a spuriously topical and barely-informed piece written after drinking a bottle of Grand Cru Burgundy (alone) whilst reading the FT. First one (see link below) - came out last month, should be another (interview with Heston Blumenthal) soon...

Urban Junkies Archive

WineChap articles on Urban Junkies
Below is a link to the archive of monthly WineChaps WineTips columns from 2008 including most recently a review of El Bulli, and how to Drink Like a Man.
Each time a new article is posted, I'll make more of an effort to inform this blog-thingy that there is new stuff to read elsewhere...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Whisky Dinner - Galvin at Windows, 24th January

Hosted by Roger Mallindine MW (Master of Whisky), Keeper of the Quaich

Preceding Burns Night by an evening, this was an intimate affair around the private table at newly-refurbed G @ W on 28th floor at The Hilton. In a light brogue as smooth and mellifluous as an Isle of Dewar Malt, Roger led us an an anecdotal tour of the Highland and Islands, as a specially-prepared menu from Head Chef Andre Garrett was paired to a selection of whiskies from the Reserve Brands Group:

We sank several Johnnie Walker Black & Ginger Ales, a very superior Rye & Dry, with canapes and then, with smoked lobster, potato risotto and herb butter moved on to Clynelish 14 y/o, which was mellow and creamy, (a Meursault substitute?) with a touch of iodene and a whiff of the sea, picking out the smoky/salty (if anything slightly too much the latter) flavours of the dish.
Braised venison shoulder w/ macaroni gratin and turnip choucroute followed, paired to another North Highland Malt, Glen Ord 12 y/o. This was more powerful, a burly, four-square malt with a darker, peatier, more structured character. Elements of ichor and molasses were present and worked well in terms of flavour with the venison but it was noted that game's natural leanness and whisky's tendency to dry the palate (unlike the lubricating effect of wine) left some guests reaching for the water or wishing for a richer jus.
Lagavulin Distiller's Edition (finished in Pedro Ximenez Sherry Casks) was a treat of a whisky. One of the classiest, most balanced Malts from Islay, it yields the island's distinctive character but a finesse and purity that others, like the more singular and strapping Laphroaig, can lack. It should have been a a superb match with the Lanark Blue and confit quince but in this case I found the cheese so acrid that it engulfed all but the most forward flavours and aromas, the pervasive tang of saltpetre in the air made the experience akin to the latter stages of Waterloo, as the grog ration goes round in a lull in fighting.
Orange marmalade souffle & bitter chocolate sauce (a dreamteam of flavours for whisky) was good, but the ball of citrus sorbet dropped into it unnecessary, the chilled Johnnie Walker Gold Label 18 y/o offering sufficient temperature contrast on its own. I must confess by this stage my notes were becoming less assured and more erratic, hence concentrating on the temperature differential between dessert and drink rather than discerning the character of what I'm sure was an excellently nuanced whisky. (In my defence, two other guests, Italian sommeliers both, had excused themselves from the party by this stage, staggering as discretely as possible to the lifts.)
Finally, Roger treated us to a bottle of Talisker 25 y/o from his personal cabinet, as a digestif. This King among Malts was a generous conclusion to a convivial and very interesting evening but sad to say, much like myself, it was rather wasted.

Thanks again to our host and also to restaurant manager Michele Caggianese and his team, whose disappointment at missing out being starred by Michelin this year seems justified given the quality of the food and attentive service.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Urban Junkies December Wine Tips

This article was meant to be printed last month on Urban Junkies but got lost in the post but for those needing a pick-me-up for January the emphasis on bubbles should still be relevent...

1. ShelfTalk: Festive Fizz.
It’s the holiday season (unless you work in the food, drink, or events industries, in which case festive cheer comes through gritted teeth) and thus time to get fizzical. With such variety on offer why not try something different from standard brand Chamapgnes? Prosecco is increasingly popular, even Cava is making a comeback (with Martin Scorsese directing an advert for Friexenet), and the phenomenal success of our homegrown sparklers - from Ridgeview Estate in Sussex to Cornwall’s Camel Valley Vineyard should not be ignored. If you do want stick to tradition however, Ruinart’s Blanc des Blancs (one of the very few non-vintage examples produced by a Grand Marque) comes highly recommended by WineChap as the perfect canape accompaniment.

2. BoozeBluff: 'Well of course Cristal IS an excellent Champagne and worth the money - its just released and consumed painfully young: - Whilst Krug are on their '95, Roederer have almost run dry of the '00. Perhaps being dropped by Jay-Z and the rest of the Gangster Rap fraternity will ease demand a little and vintages will stay on the shelf a little longer. The 1990 was excellent as I recall' etc etc.
With ‘Cristal-bashing’ being increasingly popular among so called-sophisticated wine lovers, the above nonsense will show your more informed prejudices transcend such bourgeois snobbery.

3. WineMate: Fowl meets Fizz.
Unless you are being French about things (which in other circumstances may be laudable) and preferring to pair it with beef, Pinot Noir, with its red fruits character and lick of tannin is a very good partner to turkey, as is ripe but well-structured structured Chardonnay for those who prefer white. So why not mix it up at Christmas and take your Pinot and Chardonnay sparkling in the form of a good grower’s Rosé Champagne or English equivalent. Too often in life bubbles get left behind after an aperitif glass or the oysters are finished, but for only a little more than a good white or red Burgundy, you can keep drinking bubbles throughout the main course…

4. DrinkOut: Waterloo Brasserie
Sister to Cheyne Walk Brasserie, the Southwark outpost, with its chocolate orange inspired décor and classic French/Mediterranean influenced menu, offers an impressive (250 bins, rising to 300 in the New Year) predominantly European wine list. Put together by charming and knowlegable head sommelier Csaba Adamy from Hungary, the carte emphasises both classic and more unusual wines from France, Italy and Spain to complement the restaurant’s style of cuisine. We took recommendations from the interesting sommelier’s selection pages of the list and were not disappointed. An atypically memorable Albariňo (Seňorío De Cruces 2005, Adegas Castrobray, Rias Baixas) offered notes of salted licqorice and Manzanilla sherry on the nose with hints of fresh cream – like the wholesome tang of a healthy female jogger passing, and married up crisply with my oysters. A full-throttle Minervois (Cuvèe Arthur 2004, Château Cabezac) followed and its succulent, almost indecently ripe mulberry fruit and spicy Christmas Pudding character sufficiently impressed the party that we didn’t bother moving on to the Madiran I had thought to try next. Desserts were accompanied by a young Coteaux de Layon, (2006 Domaine Ogereau), one of my favourite sweet wine regions, Chenin Blanc’s naturally racy acidity making for a more lively pudding pairing than some heavier stickies. The ambience, proper slightly cheesy farmhouse butter and big round tables for larger parties were all plus points alongside the well-tailored wine list. If the French Onion Soup and the Mussels were not highlights on the night and my Cote de Beouf should have stood for longer (opening week teething troubles I’m sure), the Brasserie’s position opposite The Old Vic, with its option to conclude a sub-£15 pre-theatre menu AFTER the show means I am looking forward to a return visit next week at least as much as the panto inbetween.

Waterloo Brasserie
119 Waterloo Road
Tel:020 7960 0202

5. GrapeVine: Champagne prices on the up in ‘08…
With prices of both red and white varietals rising in the region and an insatiable demand both from by large Champagne houses for more grapes to fuel their dreams of brand dominance and thirsty consumers for more of the good stuff, industry experts are suggesting hikes of up to 10% on retail prices of many Grande Marques in the new year. WineChap suggests taking advantage of those Christmas Champagne offers to buy in your stocks for next year, or is now the time to beat the drum for our own English sparklers (see ShelfTalk above) and support our homegrown fizz?