Gin – Is It Really Mother’s Ruin?

Gin has made a bit of a comeback as of late. In the old days (i.e. when I was young) there was only one gin we’d drink and that was Gordon’s. This would be with an “ice and a slice” I used to drink it during my early college days in the days of Hooch (what did become of Hooch?)

I then moved onto vodka and would only drink one brand as I and many others knew no different. This was Smirnoff Red. It was the obligatory drink to bring to a party and we’d enjoy it with cranberry juice.

In the last 5 years or so vodka has now moved into the flavoured category: we have vodka with many different flavours such as raspberry, lime, and blueberry – a whole plethora of flavours tickling our taste buds. I’ve actually moved away from vodka as to be frank got bored of it. It actually has no flavour and I can’t see the point.

Somehow gin is moving into its own new category and some new gins are so light you could almost describe them as flavoured vodka. You can even drink gin straight and that’s not just coming from me who works for a spirit company but you really can and it’s quite nice.

So what is gin? Essentially gins are made with ethyl alcohol flavoured with juniper berries. There are different types of gin and the most popular choice is London Dry Gin. In order to be called a London Dry gin the Master distiller must follow certain EU guidelines. London Dry gin must contain some level of juniper berries –the predominant flavour must be juniper, it must not be coloured, of an ABV of at least 37.5% and at the time of distillation all the ingredients must be present. The ingredients refer to the botanicals that are added to the copper pot still where it heats up and all the magic comes together. Water is the only permitted ingredient and this must be demineralised water and never regular tap water.

Juniper berries have always been recognised from ancient times as possessing medicinal properties. As early as the 11th century, Italian monks were already crudely distilling their own. The Dutch physician Franciscus Sylvius is credited with having invented gin. During the mid 17th century gin was very popular in Holland and Belgium and was known as Genever which we still have today. During the 80 years war thanks to the Dutch the English troops were already sipping some gin before battle and this was known as “Dutch Courage” a term we still use to this day.

Gin became very popular during the Restoration during the reign of William of Orange – and gin was then produced illegally in crude, inferior forms sometimes flavoured with turpentine and unregulated water.

Gin Lane

 

Gin became even more popular in England after the government allowed unlicensed gin production and also imposed a heavy duty on all imported spirits. This lead to people distilling their own at home with poor quality grain and thousands of gin shops sprang up also known as bathtub gin. Gin was also blamed for various social and medical problems which led to the famous Gin Lane painting by Hogarth – unregulated gin production and the term Mother’s ruin – a term we still hear to this day. There were various gin acts such as the Gin Act of 1736 which imposed high taxes on retailers and led to riots in the streets.

The London Dry gin was developed in the late 18th century using pot stills and in British Colonies gin was used to mask the bitter flavour of quinine. Quinine was also used to combat malaria so that is where the gin and tonic derived from. To this day tonic can put people off gin as it does have a particular bitter taste.

Essentially vodka is unfinished gin. Gin is much more complex and we are seeing a real turn to more interesting cocktails using gin such as the Gin Martini (shaken or stirred), Negronis containing campari and gin – lovely refreshing cocktail, Gimlets just with lemon juice and even Gin mojitos. All very exciting stuff.

Gin Martini

So that’s just the nuts and bolts stuff: it does get quite complicated with the distillation process and all the individual botanicals but we can discuss that another time.

So I have the pleasure of working for a spirits company. We make and manufacture gin and vodka for the moment. It is very interesting. I’ve been here for just over a year. Very different to my previous career in media and dating! However combines many of my key skills such as those all important people skills, putting events together and sales / marketing.

Last week I had an event at a lovely boutique Hotel the Pelham Hotel in South Kensington. It was an early Christmas party entitled “Christmas comes early” and it certainly did on one of the hottest evenings of the year! Our gin brand which is distinctly floral was chosen to be the sponsor combined with canapés and food pairings.

The Pelham is a beautiful quaint boutique style Hotel. It has been described as London’s “finest Town House Hotel” and what a fine Hotel it is. It feels like a mini stately home but without all the pomp and circumstance. It is probably the most chilled out boutique Hotel I have been to. I love to escape from the hustle and bustle of London life and use it as my retreat.

We were in one of the main function rooms overlooking the hustle and bustle outside. It is directly opposite South Kensington station. The Hotel’s main objective to allow new potential guests to try the Christmas menu for parties or functions.

The canapés were delicious from glazed pork belly with an apple compote, ricotta cheese and butternut squash arancini, confit duck and terragon croustade, poached pear and goat cheese tartlet, smoked salmon, dill scone and crème fraiche.

The sweets included old fashioned whisky jelly shot, mulled wine ice cream and mini baileys fondant.

On the gin side with the gin being so floral we had a special bellini with the gin, fresh berries plus prosecco, another take on a Christmas cocktail with cinnamon liquor, gin, apple and prosecco.

It was paired up beautifully. So who was there – a mixture of local businesses, journalists, some drinks people, local Hotels, and general potential clients who may well book and enjoy their Christmas party there.

There was a lovely ambiance – Christmas but a warm feeling, great people, food and cocktails. A perfect evening to round off a hot Summer’s evening (in October!)

I regularly get invited to events and functions either with the spirit as a sponsor or as a guest. I am lucky to try out new bars and restaurants in London so happy to report back on my findings.

Until the next time…

Image reproduced from Wikipedia Commons

Editor’s Choice – Healthy Drinks

After the ever changing health drinks craze, we at City Connect decided to try a few to give our personal opinions on what works for us.

Alan drew the short straw and was designated the beautifully coloured but not so appetising Beetroot Juice. He has suggested by mixing it with carrot juice, this nitrate-rich scarlet coloured juice drink begins to taste far more palatable. The University of Exeter has shown that the juice potentially boosts exercise stamina by up to 16%, with further research from the US stating that it improves brain function and in later life can even reduce the effects or onset of dementia. Alan’s overall opinion was that his energy level increased, that he was hesitant to comment on brain function but that he also lost a few pounds as an added bonus. Alan recommends vegetable juices in general as a good source of antioxidants without the need for an added intake of sugar as with the fruit juices.

Sloan was faced with a far sexier sounding drink in the form of Acai Juice pronounced Ah-sigh-ee. She recommends this Brazilian berry for both its taste and antioxidant properties. The University of Florida, USA has suggested this berry is a cancer fighting product and although Sloan couldn’t comment on its long term effects on that front she did say her skin felt and looked healthy with a radiant glow after her trial week. The US Department of Agriculture has also suggested this juice to combat mental decline. Sloan also noted an improvement in fatigue levels and an increase in efficiency at work after only one week so reports are good. She added she was glad she got the Acai drink over the Beetroot and thinks that it is a good alternative if sugar is not a factor.

Paul who is a lover of teas in general anyway chose Green Tea as his drink of choice to rival any juice. It contains EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) which also is rated high on the list for high anti-oxidant levels and dementia prevention properties. In addition it has been found to lower blood pressure and cholesterol all the while fighting disorders such as glaucoma and even protecting joint cartilage. Paul a keen gym goer did report that Green Tea was an amazing drink that helped increase his energy levels and more importantly improve cognition. He suggests it is indeed the best of the three especially in winter. See Paul’s article on Green Tea versus Coffee for more information.

Other suggestions from our Editors include

-Cocount Water
-Soya Milk
-Pomegranate Juice
-Aloe Vera Juice
-Concentrated Cherry Juice

If you have any other juices/drinks you would like to comment on, please do so below. We would be interested to hear your comments.

Image reproduced from: http://www.telegraph.co.uk

UK RumFest 2013: World’s Largest Rum Festival

rum03Returning to the UK’s capital this October, the world famous UK RumFest will take place on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 October 2013 taking each visitor on a voyage of rum discovery at London’s ExCeL Exhibition Centre. The seventh annual UK RumFest showcases over 400 of the rarest and most exquisite rums from across the globe, as well as cocktail demonstrations, intimate seminars and masterclasses hosted by industry aficionados. The delectable Tropical Food Market will feature mouthwatering food from all over the world, plus live music and main stage presentations creating an incredible two days of rum infused fun. This year UK RumFest presents for the first time the Connoisseur’s Cove area giving the discerning drinker the opportunity to delve further into rum’s rich culture and sip, savour and discover some of the rarest rums on the market. Limited tickets are available with standard tickets priced at £25 plus booking fee or the Connoisseur’s Cove tickets priced at £45 plus booking fee, all available with more information from the UK RumFest website.

rum01Rum’s popularity has soared in recent years, becoming the UK’s fastest growing spirit and the drink of choice for millions across the globe. The Rum Experience, founders of the UK RumFest are thrilled to invite rum lovers to join them at the world’s largest celebration of rum culture, the seventh annual UK RumFest. After 2012’s sell out success, this year’s UK RumFest will feature a series of innovations to the programme designed to deliver an excellent experience for UK RumFest visitors wanting to enjoy some rum-fuelled fun and entertainment. This year’s event will feature a mixture of rum bars, providing the opportunity to sample the best known brands on the market, either as a 1 centilitre free sample in exchange for a token or as a professionally mixed cocktail, alongside a series of stands from carefully selected rum brands.

rum02RumFest knows good rum and featured top rum brands from around the world including the likes of Lambs, Mount Gay, Havana, El Dorado and Zacapa, plus a live cocktail competition presented by Angostura inviting the public to submit their cocktail recipes now by entering here. The six finalists will be invited to RumFest on Saturday 12th October to compete live on the Main Stage to win a bottle of Limited Edition Angostura No.1 Cask Collection. Bringing together the industry’s top blenders, distillers and mixologists, visitors are invited on a journey of rum discovery with a vast array of masterclasses, talks and seminars available to all ticket holders. For those who have a passion for cocktail sampling, creating or spectating, worldclass mixologists will be showcasing their skills through cocktail battles and demonstrations. The Carnival atmosphere as always will be electric and will be heightened by a bill of live music that will reverberate throughout the weekend featuring a heady mix of reggae beats, samba rhythms and traditional souk dancers. There really is no other show quite like it.

TROPICAL FOOD MARKET

Taste buds will be tantalised at this year’s extended Tropical Food Market hosting an abundance of street food outlets on hand to help soak up the rum drenched day. Embracing cuisines from across the rum regions, where the sweet sugar cane grows in abundance, traders have been invited to bring their flavours from the Caribbean, South America and Africa. Generous samples will be available and for those enticed by the cuisine on offer will be able to purchase meals from each of the food outlets. For those interested in discovering more, celebrity TV Chef Hasan De Four will be hosting the live presentations on the Demo Kitchen Stage showcasing exclusive one-off masterclasses including rum & food pairing, cooking with rum and much more to be announced very soon.

CONNOISSEUR’S COVE

For the first time, UK RumFest introduces the brand new Connoisseur’s Cove area inviting the discerning drinker to an exclusive rum haven. Visitors can sip, savour and discover some of the rarest, most exquisite premium rums from across the globe. This exclusive area is perfectly designed to take the connoisseur on an extensive rum discovery, set away from the lively Carnival crowds and creating an incredible journey. Expect some very special rums of distinctions to sample whilst educating palates like never before.

SEMINARS & MASTERCLASSES

Over 20 seminars will take place across the weekend, including a delicious Caymanas rum cake seminar hosted by Jonathan McCulloch, who will let audiences into the secret of how to make his popular rum cake. Brands such as Havana Club will be bringing their Mojito Embassy to the festival, teaching fans how to make the perfect, authentic Cuban Mojito using only the finest natural ingredients – a surefire hit for this popular drink! Diplomatico tasting will take place on Saturday 12th with Master Blender Tito Cordero, which will be offered on a first-come-first-served basis on the day. The Rum Experience University Masterclasses conducted by industry experts and master blenders top off a diverse and extensive rum program. As well as an afternoon of luxurious rum and cigar pairing courtesy of Amathus Drinks and C-Gars Ltd, aficionados can learn and create the perfect rum and chocolate match hosted by Havana Club and Rococo Chocolatiers.

Ian Burrell, Global Rum Ambassador and founder of The Rum Experience comments, “UK RumFest is the destination event for rum lovers and we promise two days that will take each and every visitor on a journey of rum discovery. With the brand new ticketing options we aim to cater for the discerning drinker and the casual enthusiast creating a one-off experience for all. We look forward to seeing you in October!”

UK RumFest is presented by The Rum Experience and takes place on Saturday 12th & Sunday 13th October 2013 at London’s ExCeL Exhibition Centre. Standard tickets for this year’s RumFest are now on sale from £25 and includes access to central zone featuring Rum Bars and selected Rum brands, the Tropical Food Market, seminar rooms and the Main Stage presentation area in association with Pusser’s Rum & Coco Re’al. The Connoisseur’s Cove tickets priced at £45 allowing an additional exclusive access to the most exquisite rum brands available at the moment where visitors are invited to take their journey of rum discovery to the next level. Weekend tickets are priced at £80 and include access to the Connoisseur’s Cove.

GingerLove – From Belgium With Love

At City Connect, we’re always looking for new and interesting food and drink from the UK and further afield which will tickle your tastebuds and please your palate. So when we heard about GingerLove drink from Belgium, we just had to share it with you. After all, if GingerLove is enjoyed by the likes of Sting and Jamie Cullum, then we think our City Connect readers in Belgium, France & Luxembourg should try it too. And for everyone else, watch this space… GingerLove deserves to go global!

Read the Press Release below for more information on the gorgeous GingerLove drink…

Next time someone asks you to name five famous Belgians, make sure to add spice to your list. Make sure to mention the coolest hot shot in town: a newcomer that is stirring quite a commotion among aficionados of good taste that gather from all corners of the world to savour its heartwarming sensations.

But guess what: this golden boy is a beverage. No, actually, it’s an experience. No, it’s what people who know what’s good for them are craving for in Antwerp these days. And in Paris, and soon, in the rest of the world. It’s called GingerLove and the only way to find out just how delightful it is, is by allowing your taste buds to soak in its golden aroma and indulging in its soothing playfulness.

Already awarded as MOST INNOVATIVE DRINK, GingerLove is “The New Hot Drink” never tasted before. Based on ginger & fruit juices, GingerLove revives you with the extra health kick to keep you going. This warm frothy drink is caffeine free.

GingerLove took its first zesty taste in Lombardia, the organic & vegetarian restaurant since 1972 in Antwerp. Lombardia’s food creator Alain Indria is the founder of GingerLove and has excited the world many times with his creative food & drink inventions.

Rock stars like Sting, Moby and Jamie Cullum adore GingerLove and even Sting says it’s good for your voice!

GingerLove is a way of living and has a strong marketing backbone. The concept exists out of extended marketing material for the food service and retail industry.

To enjoy the lively aroma of GingerLove, we’ve even designed the perfect cup. The only thing you need is a sachet of GingerLove, to which you add boiling water. Stir or shake, and your own GingerLove is ready to drink!

GingerLove is as comforting as it is enticing, as exhilarating as it is sexy. So be warned: when drunk hot, it is known to go straight to the heart. Lovingly made by a connoisseur of soulfood (Alain Indria of bio store Lombardia) and now ready to take on the world. Prepare yourself for a taste of what the future has in store for you!

For more information about GingerLove and where you can buy it in Belgium, France & Luxembourg, please check out their website: http://www.gingerlove.be/

Text taken from GingerLove 2012 Press Release
Images courtesy of GingerLove

Wine Buying in Cambridgeshire

City Connect’s wine critic – Tom Lewis, the Cambridge Wine Blogger – shares his thoughts and recommendations on wine buying in Cambridge and the surrounding area.

For the enthusiastic wine aficionado, the most enjoyable way to buy wine can be to get in the car and go to one or more of France’s wine regions and buy direct from the producer. However, the reality for many people seems to be the local supermarket and, faced with rows of wines to choose from, the easiest option is often to pick what’s on special offer.

Is there a middle way? Some way of picking out more interesting and enjoyable wines without having to travel too far? Search the internet and you will find specialists such as Laithwaite’s (who also supply the wines for the Sunday Times Wine Club), who provide lots of glossy photos of beautiful hillside vineyards which can feel almost as good as being there yourself.

However, for those who prefer the personal touch and want to support local businesses, Cambridge and the surrounding areas have many independent wine merchants, educators and even its own Master of Wine and vineyard owners.

Stand opposite Kings College or take a look down the river on Bridge Street and you will be next to a branch of Cambridge Wine Merchants – founded 17 years ago by Cambridge graduate Hal Wilson with business partner Brett Turner, together they now run 4 shops in Cambridge itself, with several franchises beyond the city, and have recently won Independent Drinks Retailer of the year. If that is not enough, they also supply a number of the University’s May Balls, offer professionally-recognised wine courses and have opened a tapas bar in their Cherry Hinton Road branch.

With branches on either side of the river, Bacchanalia was set up in 1997 by Paul Bowles with the philosophy of sourcing the very best drinks the staff could find and selling them at a fair price. Regularly voted amongst the top ten shops in Cambridge, it’s clear that this approach has proved very popular indeed.

South of the city in Trumpington, Noel Young Wines has been in business since 1991 and won many awards over the years and also has a vineyard in Australia.

Outside of Cambridge, Hector Scicluna of HS Fine Wines in Impington, specialises in importing fine Italian wines from small estates, whilst Steve Vincent from Histon runs the Cambridge Food and Wine Society. Slightly further afield, The Old Bridge in Huntingdon is run by Master of Wine John Hoskins, whilst Neil Courtier of GrapeSense in Bury runs a wine education business. Finally, let us not forget that Cambridge has its own vineyard at Chilford Hall in Linton.

All of these offer wine-tastings of one sort or another which is a good way to get introduced to wines of different types and see what you like; the Cambridge Food and Wine Society, a not-for-profit organisation, uses a mixture of outside experts (both specialist educators and vineyard owners) and committee members (who are all experts in different areas from Spain and Austria to the International Wine Challenge) to present its monthly events.

Tickets for a wine tasting usually cost around the same price as two good bottles of wine and for that you should get to sample around 8 wines, pose questions and discuss opinions, possibly with some accompanying food.

Lola Lo Opens in Cambridge

The once famous venue trinity of Cambridge – Soul Tree, La Raza and Ta Bouche – a few months ago was disbanded with the closing of Soul Tree. Gone are the crowds that lined up past Carluccio’s for this former nightclub’s exclusive nights from video shoots from local bands, flashback to 70s disco era (Secret Discotheque), fabulous student nights and three floors of vibrant R&B beats to commercial dance. We have been waiting with baited breath as Soul Tree’s former spot has been lying dormant and seemingly untouched for many months. However on the last weekend in May, Cambridge’s latest nightclub has finally been unveiled.

The question on everyone’s lips – is this venue that the Cambridge public have been waiting for going to be a hit or miss?

In the same vein as Soul Tree, Lola Lo is set over three floors each with their own bar and entertaining and complimentary bar staff to boot. The top floor, akin to Revolution, has a rooftop terrace which if Cambridge can hold on to the summer sun is bound to be popular with regulars and tourists alike.

It is rumoured that Lola Lo had a £750,000 upgrade changing the once dingy nightclub into a Polynesian paradise fitted with authentic decor, hand carved woods, bamboo lined walls, sultry lighting, private booths and a dancefloor to die for.

The club can currently handle a maximum capacity of 520 and will be open all week. So far it has been suggested that Cambridge’s international student community will be catered for by the club nights “Mi Casa, Su Casa” and “Kitsch”. Branching out and slightly diversifying on the weekend Lola Lo will include “Zombie Nation” and “Tiki Beats” which have performed very well at the club’s other sites in Oxford, Brighton and Norwich.

Some of our editors went down to take a look and agree that the mixologists who served us are a dab hand at flaring an on-the-spot cocktail of your choice – however unorthodox the ingredients are. One of our editors was particularly pleased, having spent much time in the Caribbean, to see a fine array of speciality rums to complement any palate. The drinks on offer include a good range of champagnes and the staple of one of our other editors diets – Grey Goose Vodka.

Lola Lo’s General Manager Mark Whitmore says “We know that Lola Lo will be a wonderful addition to Cambridge’s vibrant nightlife. We are expecting a huge summer and are really excited about it”.

Our editors wish everyone at Lola Lo the best however have unanimously voted that they would rather spend their evening at 12a where the cocktails surpass those that Lola Lo produces.

We would be interested in your view as to which club you prefer.

Quote reproduced from Explorer Magazine June 2011 edition

Images reproduced from varsity.co.uk

Six Summer Picnic Wines from Naked Wines

Cambridge is a great place to be in the summer – we get some of the driest weather in Europe’s northern half and we have lots of green spaces.

I can think of no other city where you are likely to see cows grazing in the centre – and that it is against the backdrop of King’s College and the river just makes it even more special.

After a couple of years of wash-outs, we are also shaping up for that much-promised and equally derided barbecue summer of a while ago.

There are plenty of spots to choose from, but my own favourites in Cambridge include sitting at the top of Cambridge castle with a view of the city’s skyline, lounging by the river bank at Trinity College watching tourists struggling to steer their punts (answer: use the pole) or, further afield, in Grantchester Meadows.

The energetically inclined could take in all three of these, via a walk through the city’s historical centre which retains its quirky medieval layout and either a punt or a stroll to Grantchester.

Naked Wines, one of the most exciting wine retailers in the internet-only space, recently sent me a case of their six best picnic wines for review; the company’s “house-style” is well-made, fruit-driven wines that impress straight out of the bottle – just what you need for a picnic – and you could do a lot worse than packing one of these, pre-chilled, into your hamper. Most are sealed under screwcap, which is another handy feature.

Best for lazy lounging – Benjamin Darnault Picpoul de Pinet, £9.99

Picpoul is a somewhat unusual grape from southern France’s Languedoc region; it makes refreshing, crisp wines with a hint of seashell and sandiness – in a good way. This one is sandy coloured in the glass with aromas of ripe, thick-skinned grapes and a refreshing cox’s apple and pears acidity, with hints of varietal sand and seashells; a good, light quaffer with just 12.5% alcohol, despite its warm-climate origins.

Best with light foods – Arabella Viognier 2011, £7.99

I like Arabella’s wines a lot – this one is lemony, with lots of ripe tropical fruit, some typical varietal peachiness, elderflower, rounded acidity and a touch of mid-palate sweetness. There is some ripe toastiness and a good, balanced finish. An easy quaffer with the acidity and body to stand up to picnic foods like quiche, chicken drumsticks and salad leaves with cherry tomatoes.

The most perfumed – Classic South Pinot Gris 2010, £10.49

Golden in the glass, this is very very floral and perfumey on the nose, almost Gewurz-like with aromas of lychees and beeswax; there is good, tropical acidity with passionfruit and guava and some honeyed weight.

The best rosé – Castillo de Tafalla Rosado 2010, £6.99

As something of a recent convert to food-rosé, I thoroughly enjoyed this ripe and juicy more-ish Spanish rosé.  With raspberry aromas, rounded acidity and a pleasing hint of spice it has a good, savoury finish. Instantly appealing and more-ish, it also feels very well-made and is excellent value.

The most celebratory – Sacchetto Rosé Brut NV, £10.49

If you are looking to make a statement, nothing says it better than fizz and for the wow factor, a bottle of pink fizz takes some beating. The added body of a rosé also makes this a little more food-friendly. With aromas of redcurrants and raspberries on the nose and an easy-drinking feel, it’s a sure-fire crowd-pleaser.

The best with hearty food – Benjamin Darnault Minervois 2010, £9.49

If your picnic food is a little more hearty – pork pies and sliced ham, rather than mixed leaves and salad – then the Darnault Minervois is what you need. It has ripe bramble fruit and plums on the nose, some soft vanilla-y tannins, gentle hints of cloves and spice with good, balanced acidity and tannic grip on the finish.

Recommended wine

The fizz makes the biggest statement here, but for all-round appeal – and value too – I recommend Castillo de Tafalla Rosado.

All wines are available from Naked Wines, with up to 33% cash back for Naked Angels.

Copyright Tom Lewis 2011

Images reproduced from nakedwines.com

Wine of the Month: June‏

The three inaugural offerings from Cambridge’s “Big Three” independent wine merchants for this first Wine of the Month column have set the bar pretty high.

The brief for them was simply to select their best wine for the current month, June, within a sensible price range – from an everyday £6, to a special-occasion-but-still-affordable £12.

And they have come up with three wines of very different styles.

Domaine de La Rablais Sauvignon Blanc Touraine 2010, £8.99 from Cambridge Wine Merchants

The first is a Touraine from Cambridge Wine Merchants – this cool-climate stretch of the Loire in northern France produces steely, aromatic, flinty wines from Sauvignon Blanc which can be as good as, and much better value than, next-door Sancerre.

This 2010 is still quite young and benefited greatly from an hour or so’s aeration in the decanter. Pale in the glass, but bright with a hint of gold, it is initially intense and steely, but opens up into a haughty, classic beauty with greengage, cut grass and nettles on the nose and a hint of flint-smokiness.

On the palate, there are more herbaceous aromas, white peach and elderflower, zesty hints and a touch of verbena with focused yet rounded, mouthfilling acidity balanced out by good minerality on the finish.

With its restrained elegance and sophisticated, classy finesse, it is understated coolness personified.

The ideal food match would be the classic Loire goat’s cheese, but it will also work either as an aperitif or with shellfish.

Raimat ‘Abadia’ Blanc de Blancs, Costers Del Segre, 2010, £7.75 from Noel Young Wines

Next up was another white; from Noel Young, this was a Chardonnay Albarino blend from Costers del Segre in Spain.

Sealed under screwcap, this is a much more contemporary, crowd-pleasing style. Straight out of the bottle, it is fruit-driven with aromas of stone fruit, peach and floral citrus blossom. On the palate it feels full and fleshy with some mid-palate complex sweetness of tropical fruit. Supple, mediumweight and rounded, it has a long, persistent finish.

What elevates this above the level of a mere quaffer, however, is a hint of thick-skinned intensity and phenolic ripeness from late harvested grapes, picked at night to retain freshness.

This is easily the most versatile of the three wines here – an easy quaffer with a hint of seriousness, its ripeness, body and acidity mean it would match with a wide range of foods such as white meat, mushrooms or pretty much anything in a creamy or buttery sauce, or a plate of farmhouse cheeses.

Ready for drinking now, it is not a wine that needs to be aged.

Villa Giada “Suri” Barbera d’Asti, £9.69 from Bacchanalia

The final wine, an Italian Barbera d’Asti from Bacchanalia has all the exuberance of an over-excited pup.

Red wines from Piedmont in Italy are traditionally chewy, beetle-browed and rather challenging, but there is none of that here.

It has a rich, diverse, multi-faceted nose with aromas of bramble fruit, plums, cherries and vanilla as well as liquorice and eucalyptus; it feels exotic, hedonistic and welcoming.

Initially, it seems almost too fruit-driven and frivolous on the nose, but underneath, it’s still a grown-up wine and delivers rounded, ripe fruit acidity and a superbly soft and smooth texture with just a hint of grip on the finish.

Moreover, once the overt, slightly baked fruit aromas start to die down (admittedly after being put back in the bottle overnight), more complex and sophisticated secondary aromas of sour cherries, forest floor, toasty oak and prunes start to become more prominent and the acidity and mouthfeel improve further, so this clearly has significant aging potential should you wish to wait.

Food matches should be kept local such as pasta with Bolognese or pomodoro with lots of fresh basil. For meat, slow roast lamb with garlic and rosemary, wild boar or meatloaf wrapped in prosciutto would also work well.

Wine of the Month – Villa Giada “Suri” Barbera d’Asti – Bacchanalia

You could, with the right number of guests, serve all three wines with different courses of a meal – the Touraine with a starter, the Barbera with the main and the Spanish white with cheeses – and be impressed by them all.

However, my overall wine of the month for June is the Barbera for its sheer exuberance and end-of-term fun factor.

Links

Cambridge Wine Merchants – http://www.cambridgewine.com/

Noel Young Wines – http://www.nywines.co.uk/

Bacchanalia – http://www.winegod.co.uk/

Copyright Tom Lewis 2011

Matthew Jukes 100 Best Australian Wines Roadshow

The Matthew Jukes 100 Best Australian Wines Roadshow rolled into Cambridge on 31 March as Noel Young Wines held a tasting at John de Bruyne’s Anstey Hall. Tom Lewis, the Cambridge Wine Blogger, was there and shares his recommendations from the roadshow with City Connect.

Described by award-winning Daily Mail writer Jukes as “a legend in the wine industry”, Noel had selected 40 of Matthew’s 100 wines to present that evening and anyone wishing to get a sense of what Australia has to offer could do much worse than turn up at one of these roadshows.

Arriving half-way through the event, I speed-tasted my way through the wines and then had a chat with Matthew to find out more about how he chose his top 100.

Tasting 30,000 to 40,000 wines a year – that’s an average of 100 wines every single day – Matthew keeps a note of all those which he scores 18.5 or over and then whittles them down to 100 by focusing on what is available for the UK market.

He does not moderate his list in any way; that is, he does not put in wines he feels “ought” to be included or add in a few worthy, but underachieving, wines to round out the list of grape varieties.

Rather, he just lists his top 100, noting that each year there ends up being a small number of fizzes and stickies, with an approximate 50:50 split for the remaining reds and whites that simply represent his personal preferences and assessment.

There is not room here to record all the wines I tried and in any case you can find the full 100 list here, but after all the tasting what struck me was that it was the varieties for which Oz is known best that generally stood out – Chardonnay, Cab and Shiraz.

I asked Matthew about his thoughts on where Australian wine is, and should be, going.

Explaining that what he admires most about Australians is their open frankness and ability not only to take criticism on the chin but also to act on it, he told me he had been invited to talk at a marketing conference on Aussie wines not for any in-depth subject knowledge, but for his own plain-speaking no-nonsense approach.

His view is that Australia needs to continue turning away from the volume-driven supermarket turf war area and focus on its terroir and wines in the mid-range where it has huge potential – three-for-a-tenner wines, he explained, are now the preserve of South Africa, not Oz.

In short, then, Australia needs to grow up and become more serious, more European even – and whilst certain retailers’ shelves may currently be awash with cheap, overly fruity and sweet Aussie plonk, this could be a final hurrah before exchange rates and rises in duty make this cease to be an attractive area for business.

He also believes that Oz’s future lies in its most well-known, international varieties – he is not a fan of Spanish or Italian varieties being grown in Oz and says they usually end up being not as good as, but more expensive than, the styles they try to emulate.

However, he does believe Australian Pinot Noir is getting better all the time and is one to watch.

The full list of the wines on show that evening is here, but what follows is my condensed summary of the ones I liked.

Fizz

NV Jacob’s Creek, Blanc de Blancs, Australia – this was light, crisp and fresh with a good finish. Price not available as, bizarrely, Jacob’s Creek refuses to tell Noel Young the trade price.

Semillon and Sauvignon Blanc

These wines were lean and crisp in a cool-climate sort of way; not typically Australian at all.

2010 Shaw and Smith Sauvignon Blanc, Adelaide Hills, SA (£12.99) had a smokey, flinty nose, crisp acidity, a full palate and good length on the finish.

2005 Tyrrell’s Belford Single Vineyard Semillon, Hunter Valley NSW had a complex but restrained nose with hints of diesel and a ripe, linear and balanced acidity.

Riesling

There were a number of quite good ones here, but the 2009 Pikes Riesling, Clare Valley, SA (£15.99) showed perhaps the best overall complexity and balance between fullness, acidity and minerality.

Chardonnay

There were two very good Chardonnays on show – but neither cheap. Both were quite pale in the glass with great complexity and structure, toasty oak and impressive finishes; 2008 Yabby Lake Vineyard, Chardonnay, Mornington Peninsula, Vic (£24.99) and 2008 Xanadu Reserve Chardonnay, Margaret River, WA (£38.95).

Pinot Noir

The two Pinots on show were pale, almost rose-like, mushroomy and pleasant enough, but I’m not sure I quite share Matthew’s enthusiasm for them at this stage.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot

Unlike the cool-climate feel of the whites, the style here is still mainly New World – soft, smooth and full of blackcurrant fruit, with the odd more seriously-textured wine thrown in at the upper end of the price range.

The 2008 Wirra Wirra Church Block, McLaren Vale, SA (£16.99) was good, but the 2009 Mitolo Jester Cabernet Sauvignon, McLaren Vale, SA (£12.99) made partially in the amarone style was ripe, mouth-filling and smooth with minty eucalyptus.

Also very impressive for its texture and tannic structure was a 2007 Petaluma Coonawarra, SA (£30.75).

The “weird and wonderful reds”, all lighter and more fruit-driven, were an enjoyable diversion into more affordable, everyday-drinking wines before the hedonistic delight that was the final run of Shirazes.

Shiraz, Grenache, Mourvèdre

2009 Glaetzer, Wallace Shiraz / Grenache, Barossa Valley, SA (£17.50) had sweet prune fruit and minty eucalyptus.

2007 Plantaganet Shiraz, Great Southern, WA (£24.99) had ripe prunes and plums, a soft-but-full texture and a toasty finish.

2007 Mitolo Savitar Shiraz, McLaren Vale, SA (£29.99) had a complex mix of mouthwatering fruit, dense texture, minty blackcurrant, a toastiness and good grippy finish.

Image reproduced from cambridgewineblogger.blogspot.com