Friday, 20 May 2016

#VinspirePOTW: Our Fave Boozy Pictures #7

Whilst I'm currently snuggled up in bed with a hideous cold that appeared as if by magic late last night, I can't even begin to think about all the weekend antics I should be having. Even if I did treat myself to a nice cold glass of something, I'm 100% sure I wouldn't be able to taste a thing... What a bore.

Still, I can't leave you guys in the lurch. Here's another #VinspirePOTW to get your Friday night going!

It's been a relatively average week in terms of all things booze; I guess everyone is holding out for next week, where the countdown for the bank holiday is ON. It's perhaps a little wine heavy in our top 10 this week - though we are VINspire after all - and I've shamelessly thrown one of my own Instagram snaps in the mix too. Soz.

Let's start with a Friday funny courtesy of @onceuponawine_. Here's the Facebook emoticons matched with the various quantities of a glass of wine. Pretty accurate don't you think?

I'm not sure how I stumbled across this photo from @misskatywick, but it's brilliant! The Ivy Chelsea Garden celebrated their 1st birthday in style... With just a small bottle of wine. 

We featured them back in 2014 (here), but @popspoparazzi have just produced three new boozy popsicles for Fortnum & Mason this summer. Choose between the Blanc de Blancs Champagne, Kir Royale and the Gin & Sherry Summer Cup flavours. Or maybe just buy all three.

@mylittlehongkongkitchen gave us this splash of ice cold vodka, fresh lime and soda. A very cool photo, but don't waste the booze! 

Another pre-English Wine Week post, but this time from Somerset's @dunleavyvineyards. Makers of Pinot Noir rosé wine, they have an open day on Sunday 29th May. It's free, but you'll need to email to book a place.  

On Sunday I (@luciennesimpson) skipped along to the new Deya Brewery and taproom in Cheltenham. "Our beers are designed to be awesome" they say, and from the taste of their American Pale Ale, Steady Rolling Man 5.2%, I'd have to agree. I'm looking forward to seeing more from these guys. 

Anyone needing some wedding or party inspo, here's a snazzy idea for you from @weddinghelperuk. Stripy paper straws and sparkles are totally my jam, and they're a must have for any celebration! 

@peroniuk have opened their House of Peroni residency at Proud East, Haggerston; eat and drink everything Italian in a gorgeous surrounding. The colour of this pistachio cake matches the green of the Peroni bottle perfectly!

London's first urban winery - @ldncru - were showing off their Cabernet Sauvignon grapes earlier this week. It was an alternative #WineWednesday post, yet still managed to make me crave a glass of vino. 

Our Friday Cocktail is slightly different this time. @thefeedfeed.cocktails informed us of a lemongrass and lemon peel infused vodka recipe from Nerds with Knives. Make it your weekend project, and in a couple of weeks you can make this tasty Lemongrass Collins.

  • 1½ oz. Lemongrass infused vodka // ¾ oz. Vanilla liqueur // ½ oz. Lemon juice // 1-2 tbsps Simple syrup (optional, to taste) // 4 oz. Ginger beer (or more, to taste). 
  • Shake lemongrass-infused vodka, vanilla liqueur, lemon juice and simple syrup with ice in a cocktail shaker. Strain into a Collins or highball glass full of crushed ice. Top with ginger beer and garnish with lemon slices and a stick of lemongrass.

Friday, 13 May 2016

#VinspirePOTW: Our Fave Boozy Pictures #6

Come rain or shine, we're here again! We started the week with a #VinspirePOTW, and we're ending it with another.

What have you all been drinking over the past week? I went to a crackin' New Zealand wine tasting at my local, The Grape Escape (you can view my posts on their previous tastings here - look out for one about this at some point in the future). I know our very own Tim has been sipping snazzy cocktails with a view… He's made it into our top 10!

Oh, and incase you'd not seen, it's World Cocktail Day today! Friday 13th clearly ain't always about bad vibes; unleash your inner Taylor Swift and shake it off!

After my attempt to persuade the sun to stay last week - which failed miserably - I've avoided the full on cold beverage/summery snaps this time (bar one or two, but they're from outside the UK, so it doesn't really count). We've got beer, blossom and bitters… Here's to the weekend!

Ok, so let's get the jealousy out of the way. @clerkenwellboyec1 seems to have the life we all wish we had; eating and drinking his was around the best of London's food and drink hotspots. Now he's off to bloody Bordeaux to experience all the French delights, aka ALL THE WINE. 

@ginfoundryuk let us in on a little tonic secret; Thomas Henry Cherry Blossom Tonic Water! Sounds like a delicious way to change up your usual G&T, and you can pick it up from the Gin Kiosk website (another new one to me) for £1.20! 

The BBC Food & Farming Awards happened recently, and this year's winner of the Best Drinks Producer was @halletscider! Produced in Wales at Blaengawney farm, renowned for its altitude and cold weather, Hallets produce real cider from locally grown apples. "Year by year, the weather and seasons change, which produces new flavours and textures that enables [them] to select the blend
that we think is perfect for that particular year." A true small, independent cider maker which makes them very special indeed - congratulations!

Coconut water is so last year (though you could go and check out our Chi post if you're still into it). How about this watermelon water cleverly named 'What A Melon'? I do love a pun, and it has the celebrity approval thanks to @fearnecotton.

Here's Tim with the Thames! Cocktail, check. Snacks, check. View, check. Our @tjmilford does live the life, and he highly recommends the Gong Bar at The Shangri-La Hotel at The Shard. Maybe don't go if you're afraid of heights. 

@three.sheets combine cocktails and cats in a very arty way. There are some serious cocktail recipe ideas in their feed, but here they're showing of Crude Bitters. "I wasn't at all surprised when the founder and owner of Crude, Craig Rudewicz, won the Good Food Award in 2015 for his 'Rizzo' bitters (rosemary, grapefruit, peppercorn). If you haven't had these in a Martini, you should." I've taken note. 

English Wine Week is coming up again from 28th May - 5th June, so here we have @oatleyvineyard in Somerset showing off their al fresco "tasting room". They'll be open every day throughout the week from 11am - 6pm. Looks lovely if you ask me! 

You probably saw Rachael's post on Eurovision beers earlier, and before you ask, YES I am a fan! Sweden are the host country this year, and what better way to celebrate than by having a drop of Sweden's finest whisky? @mackmyrawhisky nestled in the gorgeous Scandinavian blossom might just be my favourite #VinspirePOTW this week!

I came across @thebeershelf on my hunt for more beer accounts to follow, and there was something so humorously crude about their posts. A square wooden box (or shelf) with a bottle/can of beer, a glass containing the poured beer and a little score out of ten scribbled on some paper. Simples. 

@mountgayrum bring us our #FridayCocktail; The Daquiri! "A proper daquiri is a thing of simplicity, and does not emerge from a bar-top machine." Blend 2oz Mount Gay Eclipse, 1oz simple syrup and the juice of one lime. Shake and strain, served up or over ice.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Eurovision 2016 beers

The television event of the year is back on Saturday (May 14): it's Eurovision night! And what's not to love? There's sarcastic commentary from our beloved Graham Norton; an hour and a half of awkward voting with the show hosts desperately trying to find out who got 12 points while some hyped-up Armenian TV host tries to have their ten seconds in the limelight; more key changes than you ever thought you could want from one night; questionable pyrotechnics; the genuine panic as you think the UK may get nil points again; and a half-arsed political statement thrown in for good measure. This year, my money's on Brexit, although if Australia are allowed in for the second year in a row, I doubt we'll be going anywhere whatever the outcome (how many years is it since the UK actually qualified on talent, rather than the amount of pennies we throw at it?).

If you're in it for the whole night (and why wouldn't you be, yay Eurovision), you're going to need supplies. While you're madly waving your French flag and dearly hoping you win the office sweepstakes (hello £20!), consider ordering in a few of these. There's a Beer for That have compiled a list of beers available for the countries that have been given the best odds of winning this year's Eurovision: place your bets and order in six of each!

Bring on the beers

#1 Russia 3:1
Act and song title: Sergey Lazarev - You Are the Only One

Available From: Tesco, Sainsbury's and Asda
RRP: £3.00 (x6)
ABV: 0%

There's a Beer for That says: Baltika is the only one for you if you’re supporting Russia during Eurovision. This light, alcohol-free, aromatic beer has a refined flavour and is served in the finest restaurants and bars of St. Petersburg, Moscow. The beer possesses a unique taste and a subtle aroma.

I say: As this is alcohol free, it might be nice to mix in a few with some of the stronger beers on the list below. But if you can't face the thought of drinking alcohol-free beer, there are another eight varieties of Baltika where the ABV is a little higher than zero.  

#2 – France 4:1
Act and song title: Amir - J'ai Cherché

Bellerose Biere Blonde
Available From:
RRP: £2.19
ABV: 6.5%

Amir is looking strong in second place for the running at this year's contest.  Why not accompany his performance with something a little bit different from France? Bellerose Biere Blonde contains three different hops collected from three continents, making it a mix between the French 'Biere de Garde' style and an IPA.

#3 – Australia 13:1
Act and song title: Dami Im - Sound of Silence

Available From: Tesco, ASDA, Sainsbury's and Morrisons
RRP: £3.50 (x4)
ABV: 5.0%

There's a Beer for That says: Eurovision has officially welcomed Australia for the second time! First brewed in Melbourne by William and Ralph Foster, this Aussie lager is light-coloured, presenting full malt character with balanced clean hop bitterness. Combined with a slightly hoppy, but yeasty/malty nose.

I say: If you're getting on those last minute party plans then you'll certainly be able to get your hands on a few crates of Foster's, but if you can get down to Waitrose, pick up a few bottles of Little Creatures pale ale (currently £1.59 a bottle, bargain). It's got a nice citrus kick, thanks to the addition of hop flowers into the brew, but it's still very drinkable and not too heavy on the hops.

#4 – Sweden 15:1
Act and song title: Frans - If I Were Sorry

Available From:
RRP: £1.79
ABV: 4.60%

You won't be sorry when you try Sweden's Pistonhead beer. Crafted in a self-proclaimed 'brutal brewing workshop' the 'kustom lager' is a smooth, no-nonsense brew. It’s a dry beer with cascade and amarillo hops to offer a spicy citrus edge. Plus the beer is organic, and glows in the dark! 

#5 – Bulgaria 17:1
Act and song title: Poli Genova – If Love was a Crime 

RRP: £1.99
ABV: 5.5%
Easily recognised for its rich flavour, pleasantly bitter taste, and 5% alcoholic content. Thanks to its quality ingredients, Zagorka is a true innovator of the beer market.

#6 – Malta 17:1
Act and song title: Ira Losco – Walk on Water 

Available From:
RRP: £1.59
ABV: 5.0%
Cisk was launched in Malta in 1928. It is a golden-coloured lager with a distinctive and well-balanced character. Its rich hop aroma and pleasant bitterness, combined with a mild astringency, make it an outstanding thirst-quencher.

#7 – Ukraine 21:1
Act and song title: Jamala – 1944 

Obolon Lager
Available From:
RRP: £1.79
ABV: 4.5%
Celebrate Ukraine with its famous Obolon Lager. It's a deeply fermented beer with hoppy bitterness and flavour. Expect grassy aromas and a bittersweet finish, pure gold in colour and has a strong foamy head. 

#8 – Latvia 23:1
Act and song title: Justs – Heartbeat 

Aldaris Porteris
Available From:
RRP: £2.89
ABV: 6.8%
Aldaris Porteris is a strong beer so perfectly matches Latvia's Eurovision entry. It contains a hint of caramel and wine which may also be detected in the aroma.

#9 – Armenia  23:1
Act and song title: Iveta Mukuchyan – Love Wave

RRP: £2.19
ABV: 4.5%
This Armenian beer is light in colour, while providing waves of apple, floral notes and a cookie dough aroma. Its grainy sweetness overpowers the bitter notes while pouring clear and crisp with a bouncy head.

#10 – Serbia 26:1
Act and song title: ZAA Sanja Vučić – Goodbye (Shelter) 

Jelen Pivo
RRP: £1.49
ABV: 5.0%
Jelen Pivo is the leading core lager brand in Serbia-Montenegro. This golden bitter beer will provide fresh grassy notes combined with warm honey tones. A bright and light hoppy lager makes for an easy drinking beer.

...Well, we're not last! It would be rude not to have the UK on the list, or in the competition!

#24 – United Kingdom 101:1
Act and song title: Joe & Jake – You're Not Alone

Meantime IPA
Available From: Ocado and Waitrose
RRP: £5.35
ABV: 6.9%
While our nominated act might not be a top ten contender, Meantime IPA is certainly an excellent consolation prize. Meantime has a slightly roasted malt profile with plenty of sweetness, lots of citrusy hops which lighten the beer and create a lingering bitter finish.

And if those suggestions aren't doing it for you, or if you didn't do so well in the work sweepstakes but still want to remain loyal to your country, tweet #BeerMatch to @BeerforThat, along with a dish from your chosen country i.e. PIZZA, and you'll get a response. They also run a #BeerClub every Wednesday at 8pm with beer experts on hand to answer any question you've ever had about beer.

Enjoy the ridiculous spectacle that is Eurovision this weekend, and let me know what you'll be quaffing!

Monday, 9 May 2016

#VinspirePOTW: Our Fave Boozy Pictures #5

**Apologies for the delayed post** Despite having 10 pictures lined up and ready to go, I was struck down with some crazy illness which left me bed bound for most of Friday and Saturday. What a bore.

Whilst the guys have been keeping you entertained with some good wine posts - Matt's Domaine Sainte Rose & Domaine Begude Showcase and Tim's Languedoc-Roussillon tasting - I didn't want to skip a week on my silly little Instagram round-up!

So here it is in 'Monday Motivation' form. And seeing as the weather was well and truly glorious this weekend, our latest #VinspirePOTW has quite the summery vibe.

Think ice creams, sunshine, cold beers, the great outdoors… Let's try and persuade the sun to stay!

The London Wine Fair took place last week, and from what I could see it was as epic as ever - over 13,000 wines to taste!! Nyetimber brought along their mint green bus to help them showcase their fabulous fizzes (not that they ever need any help). Can I request it pulls up outside my house on Friday night please?

We've all had a cheeky G&T or Pimms in a can before, but I've never seen anything quite like this… Hotdinners showed us this little tin of negroni from the notch_ldn pop-up rooftop bar on Oxford St. Too cute!

If you've had a crappy Monday, listen to Thomas Aquinas c/o the wine Instagram account.

Could this dinner setting be more dreamy? Menuprimeur in London's N5 do small plates, honest european cooking, and interesting low intervention wines. Pair all of that with the sun streaming into the dining room, and I couldn't think of a better place to be!

Bristol's drinkmoorbeer were embracing the good weather at their Tap Room behind Temple Meads Station. Sometimes a crisp and refreshing pint is the only way to salute the sun.

I imagine a lot of you will have been cracking out the first BBQ of the year at the weekend. Beer and burgers all round? If not, bleeckerburger will always have your back (if you're in the London area that is, or if you just fancy perving on burgers like I do).

Clworldtraveler's awesome ice cream snap basically made my jaw hit the floor. This Ice & Vice place in NYC sounds INSANE. A scoop of Coffee & Champagne (almond, champagne marshmallow fluff, coffee chocolate espresso beans) + 9AM (French roast coffee, chicory, saigon cinnamon, condensed milk, doughnut truffle) in a dark chocolate chai cone. Giving Laura's Freakshakes from last week a run for their money. 

Another ice cream treat comes in the form of food52's affogato. Chai flavoured ice cream with an espresso shot. Hells yeah. 

Excellent garden scenes from felicitycloake. Williams Chase Rosé for her, beefy dog beer for that brush in the corner (also known as Wilf). Yep, you heard right. Beer. For. Dogs. Made in Belgium - Snuffle Dog Beer.

Our cocktail of the week had to be a Mexican one due to Cinco de Mayo ocurring on May 5th (a national holiday commemorating the Mexican Army's unlikely victory over French forces at the Battle of Puebla). Casamigos Tequila gives us the Strawberry Smash: 2 Parts Tequila, 1 Part Fresh Lime Juice, 1/2 Part Simple Syrup, 2 Full Strawberries, 4-5 Basil Leaves, 2 Dashes Peychauds Bitters. Add all ingredients into shaker except for tequila. Muddle fruit. Add tequila. Add ice. Shake vigorously for 8-10 seconds. Fine strain into rocks glass. Add fresh ice. Garnish.

The wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon

Are you looking for a wine region that exudes style and class, with producers who are interested in a sense of presence and terroir, but with wines that are priced at the more reasonable end of the spectrum? Of course you are. In that case I would heartily recommend looking to the wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon.

Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited to a prestigious wine tasting hosted by Sud de France, the CIVL (Conseil Interprofessionel des Vins du Languedoc) and Tim Atkin MW, which was attended by a mixture of UK wine professionals and producers from the Languedoc-Roussillon region in southern France. Tim had led a judging of wines from the Languedoc-Roussillon that were being presented at the London Wine Fair and had brought the best 19, as voted by the distinguished panel, to allow the assembled guests to try them.

The Venue

The venue for the tasting was the Goring Hotel, a hotel that epitomises London's traditional style and quintessential class like no other. From the Union Flags draped outside the hotel, the bell-boys and front of house staff bedecked in waistcoats and tails, to the luxuriant and plush soft furnishings inside the hotel, this hotel oozes old-school refinement and elegance.

The Wines

I tasted  my way through the 19 wines that Tim and the team presented and below are a selection of my highlights.

The Whites

On the white front I was particularly impressed with the selection, although they made up only three of the 19 - I found them poised and elegant with plenty of interesting character. My favourites were: 

2014 Cellier des Chartreux "Origine" (IGP Gard, 100% Chardonnay) which had a nice, clean grassy profile to it. Slightly softer and gentler than a Chablis, but nonetheless pleasing, I thought. 

2015 Hecht and Bannier "Languedoc Blanc" (AOP Languedoc, 60% Piquepoul Blanc, 25% Roussanne, 15% Grenache Blanc) which had a very decent mouth-feel to it and was bright and fresh with crunchy green apple and zingy lemons; it was nice with acidity without being overly tart.


The Reds

On the reds front I found more wines that I was very impressed with:

2012 Château Le Bouïs, La Cigale (AOP Corbières, 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache Noir) which was ripe and rich with a slightly plummy feel, there was a little grip from some tannins too.

2013 Domaine Aubaï "La Douzième" (IGP Gard, 95% Syrah and 5% Viognier), this wine had a pleasantly funky nose with a touch of smoky bacon; on the palate it had a nice peppery kick to it.  The Viognier was there to just add a touch of finesse to the wine and smoothing it out. 

Last on the reds front was my favourite wine of the evening, the 2013 Château Beauregard Mirouze "Lauzina Rouge" (AOP Corbières, 70% Syrah and 30% Grenache Noir) which again featured a lovely smoky nose and a pepper bite on the palate.



Both of the last two wines demonstrated why the Languedoc-Roussillon is such an interesting and exciting wine region. They are made in a deliberately northern Rhone, with a focus on poise and elegance and on providing wines that represent great style and artistry; things that wines from the more famous climes of France (Rhone, Burgundy and Bordeaux) are renowned for and, as a result, charge a great deal of money for. I didn't see a price list, but I am certain that these wines would retail for a much lower level than their more famous counterparts.


The Food

As you would expect from a venue like the Goring they put out an incredible four course menu of food. We were split onto four tables, mixed between invited guests (like myself) and the producers of the wine themselves. In between each course the producers would move between the tables in something that resembled a speed-dating event! This was a really good idea as it allowed us to spend some time talking to the producers and finding more about (and try, of course!) their wines.

The dinner started with a Cured Sea Bream served with Fresh Peas, Mint and Preserved Lemon, which was an inspired choice for a starter - the dices of succulent Sea Bream and flavours of the preserved lemons matched very nicely with the Cellier des Chatreux.

Next up was a Beef Wellington with Ceps, Watercress, Roasted Shallots and a Red Wine Jus (see right for obligatory food photo, mmmm!). Although the Beef Wellington has nothing to do with the famous Duke of Wellington of Waterloo fame, I think this was a fantastically humorous choice from our Gallic hosts and demonstrated their wit and humour perfectly. The dish was sublime with the beef cooked perfectly, augmented by the meaty Ceps and the rich, red wine sauce. This was a dish to make every Englishman, woman and anyone of any nation - to be honest - very, very happy; it paired beautifully with the Château Beauregard Mirouze (and all of the red wines to be honest!). 

Interestingly after such a traditionally English main course, we then moved to a cheese course featuring English cheeses. I think this was a nod of the head to our French hosts; the French, of course, always take their cheese before their sweet. They also believe that rather than having port or sweet wines with cheese that you should have red wine (although this does, depend on the type cheese), which was fortunate as we had plenty of red wine!

For dessert we had a Chocolate and Bitter Orange Tart, which was, once more, cooked to perfection. This was a rich, decadent pudding that made you feel good about life when you ate it. In fact, it was so rich and so decadent that I couldn't even finish it - that never normally happens!! The only shame here was that we didn't have a Vin Doux to pair this delicious pudding against.

Thank yous

As you no doubt will be able to tell from this post, this was an exceptionally well organised and enjoyable evening. I am hugely indebted to Sud de France, CIVL, Tim Atkin MW and Su-Lin Ong for organising such a wonderfully creative and pleasurable evening and for opening my eyes up to the wonderful wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon. Now to explore it further...!

Are you already a fan of the wines of the Languedoc-Roussillon? If so, what are your top tips?