Friday, 24 June 2016

Right on Q: Qcumber Sparkling Drink

Okay, so the UK has decided to do a pretty crumby thing, but it is Friday and I think we could all do with a drink.

A couple of months back, in the run up to RHS Chelsea Flower Show, I received an email about The Monty Don Mocktail... A) I'm not overly into gardening (I live in a top floor flat), and B) Mocktails? Seriously? Give me booze. Especially now.

Anyway, this one was slightly different. They kicked off with a pun; "vibrant summer flavours to get your taste buds into a blooming frenzy." Then they went all innuendo; "think juicy strawberry coulis swirled into Qcumber water (dubbed the most fun you can have with a cucumber" - you what?! - "a swipe of torn mint leaves, and a sprinkle of Womersley Strawberry and Mint vinegar for zing."

I was sold. Though, whilst I wasn't too bothered about making the mocktail, I was interested in this Qcumber sparkling drink.

We've briefly mentioned Qcumber on Vinspire before, way back in 2013 when it first launched, later being named the most innovative new product at one of the country’s largest industry events. Who'd have thunk it? Still, we only previously touched the surface; there's much more to this summertime sip!

Qcumber was born out of one of those rare ‘eureka’ moments (aided by alcohol no less). One evening the makers were out in the garden, enjoying a delicious G&T that was garnished with slices of crisp cucumber... DING! "This could be the next flavour!" So after a lot of hard work, Qcumber - a cucumber flavoured sparkling drink - saw the light of day.

Using only a natural, pure cucumber distillate and zero artificial nasties (no sweeteners, colours, preservatives and flavourings), this is a soft drink that you shouldn't feel ashamed to drink. Simply carbonated spring water, cucumber extract, beet sugar and citric acid, coming in at just 26 calories per 100ml; barely anything in comparison to it's rival products!

The makers of Qcumber gone to extra effort to make sure that the water they use is the best quality too. The source of the spring water lies in the old county of Radnorshire in Mid Wales; "in this unspoilt rural area, the water is able to filter naturally through layers of rock to achieve its exceptional taste and purity." I'm no water connoisseur, but I'll gladly accept that.

Qcumber brands itself as being a versatile drink - great on its own but also perfect as a mixer - so having been sent a sample, I thought I'd test out this versatility.

On it's own, it has a fresh and clean taste. Cucumber-y, obvs, but not too "green", and it has a really lovely citrusy tang, which I wasn't expecting. I think that's where similar drinks go wrong; they always make things overly sweet, and your mouth gets bored of that after a while. But lets get to the good stuff… Cocktails!

Qcumber has a number of cocktail recipes listed on their website (I've included some at the bottom of this post),  but it's always nice to experiment, so I've concocted a couple for you… Firstly, Ps & Qs; Poitin (the infamous Irish moonshine) mixed with a splash of lemon juice, sugar syrup and topped with Qcumber. Poitin is punchy (the Teeling one I used is 61.5%!) but it's an interesting, non-dominating flavour. Whilst still being a strong drink, the cucumber seemed to cool down the spirit, making it a good contender for an aperitif.

Secondly, I went straight down the summer route with gin and elderflower. There was no doubt that this wouldn't be heavenly. Summer Retox: a good measure of Dodd's Gin, with it's honey notes, a slug of floral Chase Elderflower Liqueur, a squeeze of lemon and a pour of Qcumber… All that's missing is the sun.

Be cool as a Qcumber and try these out.

Ps & Qs 

35ml Poitin
Juice of half a lemon
15ml sugar syrup
Qcumber to top

Fill a tumbler with ice. Add the Poitin, lemon juice and sugar syrup. Stir, then top with Qcumber. 

Summer Retox

50ml Gin
20ml Elderflower Liqueur (or cordial)
Juice of half a lemon
Qcumber to top

Fill a highball glass with ice. Add gin,elderflower and lemon. Stir and top with Qcumber. Preferably drink with a stripy straw!

Qcumber Mojito

1 lime, quartered
2 sprigs fresh mint leaves
1 tablespoon white sugar
2 slices cucumber 6 cubes ice, or as needed
2 ounces white rum (such as Bacardi)
4 fluid ounces chilled Qcumber

Squeeze the lime quarters into a highball glass, and drop the limes into the glass. Add the mint leaves and sugar. Muddle well with the back of a spoon or with a muddler. Place the cucumber slices into the glass, and fill with ice cubes. Pour in the rum, then top off with Qcumber.


60ml Qcumber Sparkling water
60ml Tanqueray Gin
30ml sake
1/4 cup mint leaves
15ml lime juice

Add mint and lime leaves to a cocktail shaker, and muddle well to release mint flavour.
Fill shaker with ice, followed by gin and sake.
Shake vigorously.
Fill mug with crushed ice.
Finely strain liquid from shaker into mug and over the crushed ice.
Top with Qcumber Sparking Water.

Many thanks to our friends at Food For A King for sending over this recipe! You can check out their blog at:

The Monty Don 
        50ml Strawberry Coulis
 1 tsp of Womersley Strawberry & mint 
25ml sugar syrup 
 6 large mint leaves 
  100ml of Qcumber mint water 
Gently jostle your mint leaves in a tumbler glass then drizzle the strawberry coulis, vinegar and sugar syrup over crushed ice. Stir and serve under a clear blue sky.

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Beating the French at their own game? France Vs The Rest of the World

(courtesy of

There is nothing us brash Brits love doing more than taking on our Gallic friends from over the water in whatever contest we can conjure up. We've got Euro 2016 coming up in France, where a cornucopia of nations will be trying to steal the trophy from under the noses of the host nation; we are throwing out the classic 'French' style of cooking and embracing the modern British cuisine pathway in our Michelin starred restaurants. Hell, our doctors are trying to 'out-strike' the very country who seem to strike every other week about something or other.

Yes, we all like to get 'one up' on the French once in a while.

This pursuit of victory has quite recently been glorified in the English press, when Matthew Jukes, wine critic extraordinaire, organised a one-off tasting of English sparkling wines pitted against French Champagnes. When major tasters in the Paris restaurant and bar scene say that our fizz beats the beret off of the best sparkles that their country has to offer, you have to take it seriously.

You may think that I am on a serious 'anti-French' stomp (and if you take a look at my last article, I would say that maybe, subconsciously, I do), but its quite startling to see how quickly the so-called 'New World', with (in some cases, but not all) a relatively young wine industry, are catching up the 'old guard' of France. So I thought I'd take this as a great opportunity to not only dig out a few lost gems in my wine rack of French origin, but also dig deep into my pockets and buy a few pretenders to the styles which France have pioneered in centuries gone by. I knew when I thought of this idea it would be much more of a relay race than a lone sprint, so I enrolled the help of partner in drink, The Lass, in my efforts.

The first cork to be popped was Chateau Caronne St Gemme 2007, Haut Medoc (available in half bottles at Rosin Fine Wines, priced at £137 for 24). Your atypical Claret with a really gamey and slightly mulled fruit nose, but really hitting you with a developed fruitcake taste, mixed with smoke and leather. Not bad at all, from a relatively shaky vintage. To compare, I saw fit to buy a bottle of Capaia 2008 (priced at £13.99 a bottle from Majestic Wines), made by a guy called Count Stephan von Niepperg. He may sound like a Batman-style bad guy, but he owns 2 massively expensive properties in St Emillion, that make critically applauded wines, so he knows what he's doing when it comes to grapes. This is a completely evolved amalgamation of French know-how and New World sheen. Brilliantly brick coloured and with scents of wet leaves, smoke and baked black fruits, the texture of the wine is awesome. Soft and full, the nose matches the taste, but the experience is much more long lasting, as the length is longer than an EU Referendum campaign. I can't recommend this wine highly enough. 1-0 to the Others.

In the next round, Burgundy stepped up to the plate (or glass, as it should be), where I pulled out a bottle I'd been keeping for a bit, a St Aubin 1er Cru 'Chamois' 2012 from Olivier Leflaive (available for £23.99 a bottle at Majestic Wine). Lean, but creamy nose with a bit of floralness and peachiness to boot. On the palate, I did expect it to be a bit fuller bodied than it actually was, but it still ticked all the boxes for Puligny Montrachet's smaller neighbour. Citrus, mineral and a bit of nuttiness, this is what Chardonnay should be. Classy. For comparison, we had a Wolf Blass 'Presidents Selection' Chardonnay (available from Drinks Direct for £13.79 a bottle). Made by one of the biggest and well-known wine producers in the world, Wolf Blass' Presidents Selection is a step above their normal Yellow Label range and it does take a step away from the over-sweetened Australian Chardonnay of the olden days. Much fruitier and intense than the St Aubin, it has a real tropical fruit and even banana flavour to it. A bit buttery on the taste, shows that it has been beaten with a fair bit of oak and no mistake. No where near as much finesse as the French number, but a decent drop none-the-less. Regardless of that, France has pulled this back to 1-1.

For the deciding round, I've pulled out the big guns. You know a wine geek means business when he de-corks a fine red Burgundy, like Nuits-Saint-Georges 1er Cru 'Les Damodes' 2005, Bouchard Pere et Fils (n/a in the UK). I'd manage to keep my eye of this for a long old while, having first bought it back in 2009, but the need to sacrifice something like this for VinspireUK is greater than my need to keep looking at it and saying "Not yet, young man, not yet..." It has a really light cherry colour, with a distinct tawny rim. However, its the perfume of this which gets you from the outset. Wild strawberry, meat juices, wet wood and farmyard, this is this the wine equivalent of algebra; unbelievably complex, but unbelievably satisfying come the end. To stand toe-to-toe with this giant of a wine is the Primarius Pinot Noir 2011 (available in Tesco for £9 a bottle). Plucked from 'The New Burgundy' of Oregan in the US, I was intrigued to see what it was like for such a reasonable price when compared with other Pinots from across the pond. Much zippier in terms of acidity in comparison to the behemoth of the Burgundy, with real fresh cranberry and raspberry fruit. Slightly tart for my liking, but a good summer slurper, none-the-less. Still, no match for the King of Pinot Noir though.

So, the result has come to pass, and I have discovered that even though these young pretenders are running a strong bend when it comes to the race towards wine perfection, the old masters still win by a nose at the end of the day.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

A trip to the cellars at Sandemans

Last year I was fortunate enough to get an invite to the 225th birthday of Sandeman Port house in the cellar of 'The Sign of the Don' restaurant in London which used to be where they stored their barrels of ports and sherries up until the 20th century. It proved to be an extremely entertaining evening with some memorable wines - in particular trying their special edition 2000 vintage port from magnum (you can read more about this event by following this link).

You can imagine then that when I travelled to Porto last weekend (whose name lends itself to the famous Port wine) for a trip with some friends of mine who are very keen on their wine, that I was very keen for us to visit Sandeman's legendary Visitors' Centre. We were determined to use the opportunity to learn more about this wonderful wine and, of course, try a glass or two!

The Tour

The Visitors' Centre is perched resplendently on the banks of the river Douro and features a picturesque terrace area on the river front where you can sample their finest wares along side some delicious food (something we would do later). We were greeted by our host for the evening, the extremely amiable Inês, who would take us on our tour through the museum. The museum is situated in the building that the original George Sandeman bought in 1811 in order to allow him to store and age barrels of Port wine that had come down from his winery in the Duoro Valley and needed a waterfront location so that they could be easily loaded, once ready, to be shipped off to Sandeman's customers; at first England, later, the world. Nowadays the building does not have sufficient size to hold all of Sandeman's barrels of port and a lot are stored in a location in the hinterland (where presumably land prices are a lot cheaper!)

As we walked around the museum the knowledgeable Inês gave us a fascinating potted history of the Sandeman Port house. For instance, the legendary "Don" bedecked in his black hat and cloak, who is still used today to advertise their products, was the very first registered trademark. One of our group was even able to try to emulate the Don's legendary look - I'm not sure he looked quite so mysterious, however!

Sandeman produces quite a range of different Ports, something that may be a surprise to the uninitiated; their "classic range" features white ports, tawny ports and ruby ports; they produce two "reserve" ports, their Founders' Reserve and their Imperial Reserve; they have a number of aged Tawny ports (ranging from 10 years' ageing upto 40 years'; and, in the very best of years, the holy grail of Port - the Vintage Ports. It really was interesting to learn about the history of this world famous brand stood in its cellars surrounded by barrels of their products.

The Tasting

You can probably imagine that after all the talking about these delicious wines we were very keen to get into trying them out!

We started with a glass of Mateus Rosé (which is owned by the Portuguese Sogrape wine company, who also own Sandemans). A touch of bubbles sat beside the river was just what we were after. The wine featured light strawberry notes and a subtle pétillance. It is not really the most complex of wines, but was a welcome aperitif.

Next up we tried a glass of 2015 "Planalto" from Casa Ferreirinha (Douro, Portugal), which is another wine from the Sogrape portfolio. The wine features a blend of local grapes such as Malvasia, Viosinho and Codega and had a nicely aromatic nose on it that reminded me of apricot and elderflower. We had this with some local mackerel - which went down a treat.

Time for some Port now, but not how you would expect it! We tried a cocktail of theirs which featured their Founders' Reserve port and lemonade, a drink that I'd actually tried before at the aforementioned birthday party. This was like a slightly deeper and richer Sangria, but light enough that it could be sipped in the sun by a river - which was fortunate because that was exactly what we did!

For our last drink we went to the good stuff, trying a glass of Sandeman's Twenty Years Old Tawny Port. This wine was more complex with a pleasing sweetness to it and notably more tackiness in the mouth from the fortification. A lovey way to finish our tour and tasting.


As I hope you can tell from the write up, this was another lovely wine tasting and learning experience. I must say that it was really helped by Inês who was incredibly amiable and made sure that we had a great time. Thank you to her and her team for all their hospitality!

If you find yourself in Porto, I would heartily recommend arranging a tour with Sandeman - they offer a range starting from 6 Euros, depending on the quality of the wines that you want to try. Details can be found by following this link.

Disclaimer: I did not pay for this tour and visited as a guest of Sogrape. Nonetheless the opinions contained within this article are my own.


Thursday, 2 June 2016

Meaty martini madness with Mr Trotter's

How do you like your martini? Shaken, stirred, with a sausalami on the side?

The martini is arguably the most famous of all cocktails, an emblem of sophistication and style, the tipple of choice for James Bond, a classy drinker’s drink. It is also one of the most fiercely debated… Vodka or gin (…gin), ratios of gin to vermouth, variations on ingredients, and of course, garnishes.

For me it’s usually a twist of lemon peel, but I have been known to dabble with an olive or two. One garnish I’d never considered before however, is a pork scratching salt rim and a sausalami on the side.

Well, the geniuses/crazy cats over at Mr Trotter’s (Matthew Fort, Tom Parker Bowles and Rupert Ponsonby), have considered it for us, and planted one (three) in the hand of every guest attending the launch of Mr Trotter's new sausalamis – a fancy, better tasting, better quality, Peperami – in original, cracked black pepper, and jalapeno chilli.

Amidst the breathable cloud of gin at Bompass & Parr's Alcoholic Architecture, Trottatinis were going down fast.

This definitely isn’t one for the vegetarians/martini purists:

Trottatini recipe

50ml gin
13ml vermouth
Mr Trotter's salt (save a few scratchings from a bag of Mr Trotter's pork scratchings and crush/use the salt from the bottom of the bag)
1/3 Mr Trotter's sausalami (your flavour of choice)

Shake it
1. Wet the rim of a martini glass with gin, and dip into the salt spread out on a small plate
2. Add the gin and vermouth to a cocktail shaker filled with plenty of ice
3. Stir
4. Strain into your martini glass
5. Chop your sausalami into three and delicately place a third on the side

The delightful Rupert Ponsonby, sausalami extraordinaire

Friday, 27 May 2016

#VinspirePOTW: Our Fave Boozy Pictures #8

Sound your horns; we've made it to the bank holiday weekend!

I'm not going to beat around the bush this week, neither you nor me have time for waffling. Here it is; our eighth #VinspirePOTW

Let's start with how I'm currently feeling after finishing work… YEAAAH. @theappleciderboat is the perfect place to grab drinks this weekend, if you're in Bristol that is. Cider on a barge in the city centre just screams summer, right? Pray for sunshine. 

It has been London Wine Week this week, which I've been oh-so-desperate to go to after my jaunt last year. Alas, no time to squeeze it in. Still, I've been enjoying (said through gritted teeth) the Instagram snaps that have been filtering through. @forgedinlondon shared these cheeky rosés for #WineWednesday to encourage people to go out and embrace all the amazing wine flights you can get involved in. It's on until the 29th if you're about - see @drinkupldn

Speaking of wine, @auctionagainsthunger happened at @streetfeastldn's Hawker House last night, raising a whopping £218k! All the food and drink Instagrammers were there, and @robersonwine were dishing out Californian Jackhammer wines on tap. Very cool. I do love a beautiful bottle, but taps and wine boxes are the way forward. What do you think?

@antidotewinebar, just off Regent Street in London, were drinking this Austrian Meinklang beer earlier this week. Meinklang are usually known for their wines, but here we have (possibly) the first biodynamic beer! Made from ancient grains, you could say it's better for you... If you buy into all that stuff. Either way, it looks pretty swish.

Islay's Feis Ile 2016 has been in full swing - check out my 2014 roundup of all the whisky festivities I took part in here. Whisky blogger/reviewer @steveprentice captured those dramatic Scottish skies perfectly, as well as the stack of Bruichladdich barrels. I'd go back in an instant... *swoon*

If you fancy something non boozy and, intollerance friendly, dairy free, @fondantfox informed us of @rebel_kitchen's Mylk Chai. I've only ever heard good things about these moo-less milks, and this just sounds like a spiced coconut dream. 

In keeping with the accidental "health" theme I seem to have clutched on to this week (biodynamic ancient grains, dairy free...), @hotbarchick shared @thegermangym's edible orchards and matcha cocktail. I'm guessing it ties in with the Chelsea Flower Show, but floral beauts garnishing a drink? YES PLEASE.

How do we feel about cloudy white wine from Italy? I'm not sure either, but I'm certainly intrigued to try it! Get it at @ducksoupsoho

I've been getting properly into my sherries recently, and I've heard many things about En Rama. En Rama signifies a Sherry that has been bottled almost directly from the barrel, without undergoing the usual processes to prepare a wine for bottling such as filtering or fining. The idea is to taste the Sherry almost as if you had visited the Bodega in Spain and dipped your glass in the barrel! So thank you @sherryfest for reminding me that I need to hunt some down!

Last but not least, we have our Friday Cocktail! This time from @stylistmagazine; a cocktail inspired by a popular perfume. @spitalfieldsbar created this one - A Lilac Day
Mix 50g lilac flowers, 1 sliced green apple, 15ml of cider vinegar, 300ml water and 150g sugar in a pan // bring to the boil and simmer for 20 mins // strain into a jug, then mix 15ml of this with 50ml apple juice and 50ml bourbon // stir over ice and top with 15ml soda. 

Lead image: Heath Cajandig under the CCL

Friday Cocktail: A Berry Mexican Muddle

Photo by Asha Yoganandan

What do you do when you suddenly find yourself with 13 bottles of tequila? I know, a very common situation you’ve all found yourselves in many times before...

While the suggestions for bathing in it (complete with salt – of the bath variety – and lime – flavoured bubbles), or seeing how far I could get past ‘one tequila, two tequila, three tequila, floor’ were a little bit tempting (they weren’t), I thought I would use the opportunity to get jiggery with it, and mix up some tequila cocktails.

We've got the long nights, it's a bit warmer, and flash flooding aside, summer is here! So to toast those summer nights, this cocktail is a little sweet, tangy, and refreshing (and apologies, but it’s really easy to drink). 

A Berry Mexican Muddle recipe (serves one)

50ml tequila blanco (I used Herradura)
25ml lime juice
10ml agave syrup (which you can find in the sugar area of big supermarkets)
4 blackberries
3 raspberries
8 sage leaves
1 small sprig of thyme

Shake it!
1. Muddle the blackberries, raspberries, sage leaves and time in a cocktail shaker.
2. Add a generous handful of ice cubes to the shaker.
3. Pour the tequila, lime juice and agave syrup in.
4. Shake, shake, shake... shake, shake, shake... shake that shaker (and booty if you so wish).
5. Strain into a tumbler filled with crushed ice, and garnish with a blackberry and thyme sprig.

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.

Wednesday, 18 May 2016

Vignobles Foncalieu wines with Indian food at Quilon

Image copyright: Vignobles Foncalieu

There are still a lot of people that wouldn't dream of pairing curry with wine: beer has always been the tipple of choice for curry-loving Brits. The classic pairing of spicy food with a cold, refreshing lager may be hard to move away from, but times they are a'changing. While the wine offering at your local Indian might not be worth putting down the Kingfisher for, restaurants such as Rasoi in Chelsea, and Michelin-starred Quilon in Kensington are trying to alter perceptions.

Image copyright Quilon

I was invited to Quilon to try a range of wines from Vignobles Foncalieu, the oldest wine co-operative spread across the Langeudoc-Roussillon, Gascony, and Rhône Valley regions. It now consists of more than 1,000 vineyards, covering 4,500 hectares. While the Langeudoc may have had a reputation in the past for producing vin de table, that is not the case any more.

Our evening started with the chance to try four wines from the Langeudoc region, with a soya bean chop and pepper shrimp to nibble.

Albariño 2014, vin de France – Les Extraordinaires (100% Albariño): This was my first taste of an Albariño from France! Fresh, light and full of tropical fruit, this would be a lovely wine to enjoy at a summer barbecue before you tuck into the sausages. If the weather isn’t agreeing, I’m sure it would be just as nice indoors. 
Available from Hennings, £9.99

Le Versant Sauvignon Blanc 2015, Pays d'Oc IGP (100% Sauvignon Blanc): While everyone you know might be sticking with their trusty New Zealand sauvignon, this makes a nice change. Clean on the palate and not too heavy on the grapefruit.
Available from Hennings £8.75, The Secret Cellar, £9.50

Le Versant Pinot Noir 2014, Pays d'Oc IGP (100% Pinot Noir): A smooth, well balanced pinot noir. It’s a bit floral, with some dark fruits: a tasty, casual wine
Available from Hennings £8.75, Fine Wines Direct, £9.49

Le Versant Grenache Rosé 2015, Pays d'Oc IGP (100% Grenache Noir): I’m not usually a big rosé drinker but this could definitely change my mind. While it’s big on the fruits, it’s got a nice depth to it too.
Available from The Secret Cellar, £9.50

Coconut cream chicken: Image copyright Quilon

We sat down to a mixed starter of lotus chop, curry leaf and lentil crusted fish, and coconut cream chicken, paired with two more Langeudoc wines.

Le Versant Viognier 2014, Pays d'Oc (100% Viognier): This worked really well with the fish and chicken. While there were plenty of delicate spices in the food to get your head around, the fresh acidity of this wine stood up to it well.
Available from Hennings, Fine Wines Direct, The Secret Cellar, £9.50

Domaine Haut Gléon Gris 2015, Vallée du Paradis IGP (30% Grenache Noir, 25% Merlot, 25% Cabernet France, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon): Lots of spice, a bit of sweetness, and packing a punch with blackberries. 
RRP, £18.00

Mangalorean chicken: Image copyright Quilon
It makes a very pleasant change to have a delicate, refined and light curry, compared to the usual hefty takeaway (not that I don't enjoy that from time to time...). We were served a selection of dishes for the main: prawn masala, mangalorean chicken curry, lamb biryani, malabar paratha (a delicious flaky, fluffy, crisp and soft flatbread), and snow peas with coconut and asparagus. These were paired with four wines:

Château Haut Gléon Blanc 2014, Corbières AOP (60% Roussanne, 40% Grenache Blanc): I am a big fan of this wine, and I thought it was the best match with the food. There’s a lot going on: it’s a big white, with spice and nuttiness. A wine that keeps on giving. 
Available from Fine Wines Direct, £21.99

Take me there! Image copyright: Haut Gleon
Château Haut Gléon Rosé 2015, Corbières AOP (50% Syrah, 50% Grenache Noir)After trying the above with the food, I didn’t think this paired quite as well, but I still really liked the wine. It’s a very pretty pink, and it’s light, fruity, and floral. Another for those occasional, long summer evenings. It would be even better to sip a glass while relaxing at Château Haut Gléon itself, which Foncalieu bought in 2012. I mean, just look at that pool. 
Available from Hennings, £25.00

Atelier Prestige Le Lien 2013, Minervois, AOP (80% Syrah, 20% Grenache Noir): Intense but still soft, if that’s possible? It's floral on the nose but with lots of body and a lingering finish. 
Available from £28.00

Atelier Prestige Les Illustres 2012, Coteaux D’Enserune IGP (60% Syrah, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Malbec): This is the result of 11 winemakers coming together. Despite the saying, ‘too many cooks spoil the broth’, they’ve done a good job with this one. Very fruity, smooth, and elegant. 
Available from The Secret Cellar, £21.00

After all that there was even room for dessert: a sweet and moreish baked yogurt, and a seven-layered Goan celebration cake called bebinca, with two wines.

Griset Gris de Gris 2015, Pays d'Oc – Les Extraordinaires (100% Sauvignon Gris): The evening did well on helping me along with rosé. This is an easy drinking wine that is grapefruit in colour, and grapefruit in flavour. The stripes on the bottle matched nicely with the striped bebinca.
Available from Hennings, £7.50

Syrah/Viognier Rouge 2015, Pays d'Oc – Les Extraordinaires (80% Syrah, 20% Viognier): The fresh and spicy syrah has the edge taken off it by the floral, sweeter richness of the viognier.
Available from Nectar, £5.78

Although there was a lot to try throughout the evening, I was impressed by the variety and quality of the wines on offer. It was a great introduction to Les Vignobles Foncalieu wines, and will certainly make me think twice before reaching for the Kingfisher with my next balti.

Image copyright: Haut Gleon