Friday, 28 June 2013

Friday Cocktail: Turkish Delight Martini

Last week, I enjoyed a wonderful night of cocktails and tasty food at The Croft, my local town of Hitchin's unsung hero of a restaurant and bar.

After some tipsy pleading, they very kindly gave me the recipe for the cocktail I couldn't get enough of: the Turkish delight martini. It's a stunningly gorgeous cocktail, with a pretty orange-pink colour and layer upon layer of flavour. And one of its best features is it can be adapted to suit your tastes, whether you can't get enough of turkish delight or would rather have a subtle hint, and whether you like your cocktails as a sweet dessert-alternativer or something dryer you can sip throughout the evening.

Turkish Delight Martini (serves one)


  • 2 shots your gin of choice (we used Gordon's because the more flavoursome gins might well get lost in this, but we recommend the floral Blackwoods Vintage Gin too)
  • 1/2 shot creme de cacao (the brown version is best)
  • 1 capful vanilla syrup
  • A few drops of rosewater (add more if you prefer things more Turkishly Delightful)
  • A splash or two of red grenadine
  • Sugar syrup - add a tiny splash at a time to your desired sweetness (we used about 2-3 splashes, which ends up medium-sweet)
  • Icing sugar to decorate

Shake it!

  • Sprinkle the rim of your martini glass with icing sugar
  • Pour all the ingredients into a cocktail shaker with a couple of ice cubes and shake for 5-10 seconds.
  • Have a quick sip, to check it suits your personal taste - add more sugar syrup or rosewater if required
  • Strain into the martini glass, and be prepared to make another batch sooner rather than later.

If you're local, we really do recommend a trip to The Croft in Hitchin to try the rest of their cocktail list - a little bird tells us all cocktails are a fiver on Wednesdays and Thursdays...

RIP Peter Lehmann, The Baron of the Barossa

We're abandoning our scheduled posts this morning to bid a fond farewell to Peter Lehmann, arguably one of the greatest legends in Australian wine, and indeed throughout the world, who sadly died today aged 82.

I don't think there's anyone in the industry that doesn't know Peter Lehmann wines, and many were also fortunate enough to meet the man himself: this morning, I have been regaled with tales of his wicked sense of humour, larger-than-life character, tremendous wisdom and passion for wine, and hilariously cheeky jokes.

He was born in a town in the Barossa Valley, the son of a local pastor, and began his winemaking journey aged just 17 at the iconic Yalumba. There, he learned the craft, even working with Yalumba legend Wyndham Hill Smith, who Peter said "taught me the value of a man's honour."

This lesson set him in good stead. Some 30 years later in the mid-1970s - after having gone on to work for Saltram Wines for 20 years - he stood up for local growers when directors at Saltram wanted him to stop buying their fruit, breaking the deals Peter had made with them and effectively ruining their livelihoods. Peter refused to let this happen, instead launching his own firm - at the time called Masterson - which was run by his wife Margaret.

At first his bosses allowed him to use this as a 'side project', still buying the local growers' fruit and processing it at Saltram, then selling it to other wineries, but when this was disallowed too he chosen to resign from his own job instead of costing the local growers' theirs.

This rescue mission was a huge gamble, but he decided to collaborate with others and build his own winery for the 60 families of local growers he was supporting. He took with him from Saltram some incredible winemakers, including Andrew Wigan and Charles Melton.

They continued processing the fruit and then selling it to big companies, but Peter could see the bulk wine market was crashing, and he and his team decided to embark upon creating their own range of wines instead. Therefore, in 1982, Masterson was renamed Peter Lehmann Wines. More than three decades later, with over 140 families of Barossa growers now part of the company, this is now one of the most respected wine brands in the world.

Today, their range is magnificent, ranging from the superb value fruity, food-friendly Weighbridge Chardonnay (£6.76 at The Drink Shop) to his legendary, intensely-flavoured, rich, complex Stonewell Shiraz (£32.99 at Ocado) which is a benchmark of Australian wine excellence. He has been a man for all people throughout his life, and his wines shall remain a truly outstanding legacy of a man that cemented Australian wine's ever-fond place in wine lovers hearts and cellars.

Our thoughts are with his family at this time, but we hope that his wife, children, and several grandchildren can take some comfort from the incredible affection the entire wine industry has for Peter Lehmann, who was truly a wonderful man.

You can see more about his incredible story here in this video created by the Peter Lehmann Wines team last year:

If you'd like to purchase any Peter Lehmann wines, there is an excellent selection from The Drink Shop. Here's a selection of our favourites in addition to the ones mentioned above:

Peter Lehmann Weighbridge Shiraz - £6.76. Fruit-driven, soft, easy-drinking red
Peter Lehmann Weighbridge Cabernet-Merlot - £6.76. Firm black fruits, excellent cheese wine.
Peter Lehmann Layers White - £8.86. Gorgeous blend of semillon, muscat, gewurztraminer and pinot gris.
Peter Lehmann Botrytis Semillon - £9.38 per half. Luscious dessert wine.
Peter Lehmann Art Series Semillon - £9.52. Soft, clean, fruity white, perfect with fish.
Peter Lehmann Art Series Shiraz-Grenache - £9.52. Fresh, fruity, with soft spice.
Peter Lehmann Eden Valley Chardonnay - £10.97. Rich, barrel-fermented, wonderfully pure Chardonnay.
Peter Lehmann Masters Wigan Riesling - £11.83. Zesty, honeyed Riesling showing just what Andrew Wigan can do.
Peter Lehmann Mentor - £16.89. A rich, dark blend of cabernet and shiraz, with a hint of spicy malbec.
Peter Lehmann VSV 1885 - £25.32. Truly special old-vine shiraz, with deep, chocolatey flavour and delicious long length.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Grape Expectations: 7 Summer Must-Try White Wines

Photo: Wicker Paradise (CCL)

- By Sam Green

It seems as though summer is trying it's best at the moment. So with this in mind, I thought we should all try our best with our summer drinking. It's easy to choose the obvious old favourites (New Zealand Sauvignon, Aussie Chardonnay, a nice chilled glass of Alsace and all those others we've tried billions of times before) but there are so many more exciting grapes out there. I know it's tough when you read an obscure-looking label and think "Huh?", but that's what we're here for. Whether you're a seasoned wine lover or just want something different to try,  all of these under-appreciated grapes are screaming out for summer drinking.

1. Torrontes
Argentina's chief white grape, it produces lively perfumed aromas and beautiful ripe fruit flavours. Of everything I've had the pleasure I've trying, I have to recommend the Faldeos Nevados Torrontes at £7.95 a bottle from The Wine Society. It has a nose of citrus blossoms and apricots and on the palate is a wonderful combination of stone fruits and subtle citrus notes. Superb value and really quite special.

2. Fiano
Italy produces some absolute crackers when it comes to whites but sadly, most only see as far as Pinot Grigio. A perfect example of an Italian unsung summer hero is Fiano. More specifically, Tesco Finest Fiano. It's beautifully soft and full of peachy fruit with a lovely dry but not bone dry finish. Excellent balance in the acidity, it's not only pleasant to drink, but pleasant to buy - it's only £5.99 from Tesco (until 1st July 2014! Then it's £7.99)

3. Falanghina
Staying in Italy (why wouldn't you? It's beautiful this time of year) my next summer white to try is Falanghina Terredora. With 3 months lees ageing, it has a complex depth of flavour including green apples, citrus fruit and a satisfying nutty finish. With no use of oak, this wine retains it's crispness making it one of the most versatile whites available. £11.99, or just £8.99 when you buy 2 or more bottles from Majestic.

4. Godello
Now we make our way out of Italy and touch down in sunny Spain. While Spain is mostly noted for it's fine Riojas, a gorgeous Godello is definitely one to try sitting in the garden on a sunny evening. Mara Martin Godello de Monterrei 2011 at £9.10 from The Drink Shop boasts bold apple and pear flavours with hints of citrus and crisp finish.

5. Gruner Veltliner
Gruner Veltliner is an Austrian beauty, and one that's finally getting some recognition. Due to the location of the vines, Gruner wines are packed with minerality. For a really good example, try The Societys Exhibtion Gruner Veltliner for £12.95 from The Wine Society. Waxy citrus notes and hints of white pepper make for an ultimate sunny day white.

6. Bacchus
As well as being the Roman God of wine (what a cool job), Bacchus is one of England's best grape varieties. I know of none better than Chapel Down Bacchus, a tropical fruit bomb with great acidity that's crying out for a goats cheese salad. It's available direct from the vineyard for £83.94 per six, or The Wine Society sells Chapel Down Bacchus for £11.50 a bottle or £12.99 from Waitrose.

7. Picpoul
This may be one of the better-known of the seven listed here, but it's absolutely key you get your chops around some pronto if you haven't already. A southern French variety, it's become as fashionable as the likes of Sancerre, with lovely green fruit and citrussy character. A bottle of Tesco Finest Picpoul de Pinet is a great place to start, and is only £7.99  from Tesco Wines plus you get 20% off if you're buying 2 or more cases of 6 Finest wines!

So there you have it folks! 7 white grapes that are perfect for summer and ready to be explored. No excuses now!

Single Malt Savings: Laphroaig 10yr

This week it's another great deal from Waitrose - those guys are really looking out for all the malt heads out there. Laphroaig 10yr (that's laff-royg) is a fiver off at £28.50 at Waitrose and well worth a go at that price.

I've honestly never tried any of the big peated whiskies before, but it's not everyday that you are able to drink something by royal appointment to the Prince of Wales and this is the only whisky to be conferred such an honour.

Laphroaig describe this whisky as the most distinct out of all the scotch whiskies and many drinkers seem to agree. Funnily enough, during prohibition this whisky was actually sold in pharmacies in the US as a medicinal tonic
with authorities believing it was too foul for anyone to want to drink. Nowadays this whisky is available the world over and if you join up on Laphroaig's website you will be allocated a 1 foot plot at the distillery that pays out 1 dram a year in rent!

The nose on this whisky is big - as in huge, I'm talking "your mama" territory. I poured this whisky and could smell it half way across the room - Laphroaig really has a big old schnoz.

This whisky is full of smoke and the sea conjuring up images for me of wintry beach bonfires down in Cornwall. There is also a sizeable medicinal quality to it which is common with the peatier drams. The Laphroaig is a whisky that at first stings the nostrils, but it really is glorious in its complexity and the pictures it drags into your mind's eye.

The marine notes dominate at first on the palate with a nice amount of spice in there as well. The main drive behind this is the smoke, salt and medicinal qualities, but some fruity sweetness does come through. This has a wonderful mouth-fill, coating the tongue nicely, lasting an age and with a huge depth of flavour that it will take many winter evenings to get a hold of.

This is a legendary whisky, one that truly stands out and is a must-try. I would say that this is likely more of a masculine whisky and is not one for beginners, but it leaves a real impression. Adding a touch of water will really bring different notes out in this whisky, it's almost 2 for 1.

Pick up a bottle for £28.50 from Waitrose

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Celebrities and Wine: Red Carpets, Shin Pads & Bling.

It seems increasing popular these days for celebrities to be getting involved with wine production. Brangelina (yeah, I said it) have their feet rooted firmly in Provence in partnership with the Perrin family at Chateau Miraval. The Hollywood couple have been heavily involved in the blending and design of their product, making sure that it not only looks good, but tastes good too. Chateau Miraval is available from Berry Bros & Rudd for the not so Hollywood price of £18.95.

From Hollywood, to the streets! Many in the Hip Hop game are becoming more involved in the promotion of wine with Moscato fast becoming the new Cristal. Nicki Minaj, Kanye West and Drake pay tribute to the elegantly floral and spritzy beverage in various tracks. Moscato, remarkably, is the only wine that actually tastes like what it was made from...grapes! It's floral, sappy, elegant, and comes in a range of prices that start from pleasingly low.

It seems strange that these icons of frivolity and superfluous cash have gone from the highest end of the price range to a drink that is for all intents and purposes, a very cheap and simple wine. I suppose in the current financial situation, even the flyest gotta save those dolla dolla bills y'all! Fo' Sheezy.
My Moscato recommendation has to be Perrone Elio Moscato d'Asti from The Wine Society for the true Italian style. However, keep an eye out for Brazilian Moscato in the next year or so. Brazil is going to be HUGE!

Then there's Ron Jeremy with his face on a rum bottle. Thank God it's just his face!

Now here's one that really get's my taste buds tingling. A coming together of two of my most favourite things in this world.

What do footballers usually do after they retire from the beautiful game? Most will take up a coaching role or go into TV punditry with varying results (good move Gary Neville; Mark Lawrenson, please get off my screen). One man in Italy however, sees himself taking a rather different route. Andrea Pirlo, a man who has left many a England fan sullen and deflated, will be hoping to transfer his skills of visionary passing, into precision oenology.

His vineyard lies in Brescia, in the northern Lombardy region of Italy. Pratum Coller, which is a family owned business, currently produces a white made from Trebbiano, a rose and two reds made from a whole host of different grape varieties and are currently producing between 15,000 and 20,000 bottles a year. Though not currently available in the UK, L'Archietto hopes to expand production and bring his familys wines much more attention when he finally takes off his boots.

Pirlo truly is one of footballs modern greats, having hoisted a number of trophies including the UEFA Champions League, Serie A and The World Cup. Let's hope he'll soon be lifting an IWC trophy in years to come!

Dyeing For It: Adorable Colourful Glasses

I know, I know - as a wine fan, I should restrict my entire glassware collection to the most transparent, most breathable glasses known to man so I can fully appreciate the aesthetic value of the wine I'm drinking.

The problem is I'm a sucker for a pretty coloured glass, so I've been on the lookout for some dyed glassware to add to my ever-expanding collection.

The tattoo coloured brandy glasses, pictured above, are amazing aren't they? They're from RE, a super homeware website that I keep forgetting about. They've got the eye and the horseshoe design left, and I want them both. They're £25 each.

At the opposite end of the scale, you may want to go plastic fantastic (perfect for picnics and festivals, and you're probably not drinking your best wine at boozy outdoor events anyway) - if so, I'd highly recommend Rockett St. George's very pretty multi-coloured plastic glasses for £12.99 for a set of 3.

And if, like me, subtle isn't your middle name, I'd highly recommend M&S's cool blue swirl glasses for £2.50 each. (Is it wrong that I actually really like these? I just do.)

You can go even cheaper than that there's always Ikea: they sell very cute colourful wine glasses and bright champagne flutes in packs of 4 for £4!

If you'd rather keep your receptacles along more glassy-lines, there are options out there.

You can always trust LSA to get it right, and they do with these LSA pastel coloured wine glasses. A set if £31.99 from Amazon, and you can also get some very pretty pastel LSA tall tumblers for £23.99 too!

If you're after champagne flutes too, John Lewis has an absolute blinder of an offer on four almost matching pastel champagne flutes for just a tenner! I'm snapping those up pronto.

For slightly sexier, understated tones I'd opt for these four mixed lustre Pied a Terre wine glasses in the sale at House of Fraser for a not too shabby £20. They, too, do pretty coloured hi-ball glasses for the same price (£20, keep up.)

Other sweeter options include the wonderfully-named "Spring Meadow Etched Wineglass" from Marks and Spencer. They're £7.50 each (not bad for such pretty glasses) and they come in blue too.

In fact M&S have some of the prettiest tumblers I've seen. The tree coloured tumblers are £22.50 each, and are just gorgeously finished. I want to sip an Old-Fashioned from one of these in the garden.

Cheaper but not as pretty (frankly) are these Zak Tinted dots tumblers from House of Fraser, although they are only £12.60 in the sale.

Lastly, I don't think I've seen glasses as pretty as this in a long time. This set of 7 Liqueur/Cordial glasses is £28 from John Lewis and worth every penny.

Which of these take your fancy? Let us know in the comments!

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

A Downton Abbey Wine Range Is Happening. Yes.

There have been plenty of showbiz wine ranges launched, (most notably recently was a range of Star Trek wines) but I fear none will cause as much excitement as a Downton Abbey range of wine!

Based in the US, brilliant novelty-wine producer Wines That Rock is collaborating with Dulong Grands Vins de Bordeaux (we all know the Crawleys love their fine French vino) to make both a red and white blend.

Although novelty wines like this are always more about the branding than what's in the bottle, Wines That Rock does have a passionate winemaking team so I'm sure they'll be pleasant enough, although clearly I'd be paying more for the label than anything else. Still, we as a wine drinking community seem perfectly happy to do that with some of the more gimmicky/hyped up brands, so I'm not going to judge people too much for hankering after some Downton plonk.

While I'd love to curl up in front of the new series with a glass of Downton wine in my hand, it looks like the range is only going to be distributed across the US and Canada, however I'm sure we'll be able to grab a bottle if we're very lucky. Anyway, this is even more exciting for me than discovering Paul Giamatti is joining the cast for Downton's next series.

I'm definitely going to need a bottle of this by my side when I come to terms with the tragic loss of the wonderful Matthew. OH, MATTHEW! WHY DID YOU LEAVE US?! Ahem, anyway, the range isn't released yet, but keep checking Wines That Rock's site for details.

Let us know which other TV series should have their own wine in the comments...

Food Friendly Fleurie; It's Ham-azing!

Due to the UK's insistence for us not to enjoy a summer this year, it was another Sunday holed up in the kitchen, avoiding the rain. Having acrued a bottle of Louis Jadot, Fleurie, Poncereau,  2010. I made it my mission to cook up a storm and find a Fleurie food match. And I must say, I did a pretty good job!

Fleurie is one of the Beaujolais Crus, the highest category of classification in this region, which accounts for the production within ten villages/areas in the foothills of the Beaujolais mountains;
Brouilly, Chiroubles, Chénas, Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie, Juliénas, Morgon, Moulin à Vent, Régnié and Saint Amour.  Like a lot of confusing things about wine, the word 'Beaujolais', nor the grape variety, does not usually show on the label, so it's handy to know the Crus! They do so in an attempt to separate themselves from mass-produced (and we think a little passé!) Beaujolais Nouveau which is in a league of its own.

Beaujolais is generally made of the Gamay grape - thin skinned and low in tannins - and tends to be light-bodied, with relatively high acidity. Brouilly, Chiroubles and Régnié are the lightest of the ten, and typically meant to be drunk within three years of the vintage - good for summer sipping and perfectly delectable served slightly chilled with or without food.

Côte de Brouilly, Fleurie and Saint Amour are more medium bodied and tend to have a little more structure and character which makes them perfect with food - light enough for summery grilled meats and salads, but big enough to withstand a wintery stew. Generally they need at least a year aging in the bottle and designed to be drunk within four years of the vintage.

Chénas, Juliénas, Morgon and Moulin à Vent are the fullest bodied of the Crus Beaujolais and need the most time aging in the bottle. Usually meant to be consumed between four to ten years after harvest, they benefit from a little patience - which I don't have!

With such a range of style and character, it would be terribly difficult to find a Cru Beaujolais that a) you didn't like, and b) you couldn't match with a seemingly endless list of foods.

The Louis Jadot Poncereau, 2010 (£14.99 from Tesco Wine by the Case) is fruity and floral with a mellow palate and good structure. With full, ripe red fruits I wanted to find something to bring out its sweeter side so I chose a sweet, meaty leg of ham. Fleurie has the fruit to balance the ham's saltiness and the tannins to cut its richness but because it's lighter in body, it doesn't overwhelm the relatively mild flavour. I glazed my ham with honey and mustard and whipped up a beetroot and blackberry chutney to accompany. The mix of sweet, hot and sharp tastes of the spicy mustard, sweet blackberry and acidity in the chutney, suited the Fleurie with its wild-cherry aromas, juicy red fruit and fresh acidity.

Fleurie is not normally at the forefront of my mind as a foodie pairing, but thinking about it now, after the ham-azement (see what I did there?....) of the weekend's pairing, there are a few other Fleurie favourites which have surprised me (category: pleased) in the past and are well worth a try;

Fleurie Flower Label, 2011Georges Dubouef (Majestic) Buy two Beaujolais wines, save 20%, £8.99 per bottle

Tesco Finest Fleurie 2011 (Tesco Wine) £7.79

Fleurie Trenel, 2011 (The Wine Society) £9.75

Cheers Fleurie friends!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Drinking Games: Vintage Port BOARDGAME?

We've brought you whisky and wine top trumps, we've bought you wine-opoly, but never did we expect to find a Port board game.

And yet when perusing the website of Niepoort (who made the fabulous Alice in Wonderland Ports we told you about) I was staggered to stumble across a Vintage Port board game they've created for hardcore Port geeks. The basic idea of the game is to learn how to make Port in Portugal's Douro Valley, and become as legendary (in your own head) as the Niepoorts themselves.

Unlike the silliness of wine-opoly, this is a real learn-as-you-play game: you have to plant vineyards, grow grapes, transport them to your winery, produce and age the port and then sell it. The person with the most VP (Vintage Points!) at the end is crowned the winner.  Perfect for Grandfathers or total nerds like me.

You can't buy the Vintage Port game in this country it seems (boo!) but you can import it from Mesa Games. If you're paying by credit card or Paypal as opposed to bank transfer, it costs just over 55 Euros in total making it a little over £45, but as a gift for the right person I think it's totally worth it.

Is this a step too far into geekery in my booze game quest? Quite possibly. But I feel all the happier for knowing this sort of thing exists.

Shops We Love: WineBase

When I'm not spending money on booze, I'm spending money on stuff I can put booze in, make booze from, or show off my booze with. I should probably get some other hobbies.

Hhhhhanyway, I don't care. Especially not when I find awesome little shops like WineBase. Think of it as Homebase for your drinking needs, but instead of hoes and overpriced barbecues and too many shades of paint, it's barware and wine geekery and gadgets that blew my mind.

Like the Bar10Der 10 in 1 Cocktail Tool, pictured above. Cool number-word-play name aside, it's also ridiculously handy, bearing such fruits as a muddler, corkscrew, zester, channel knife for creating twists and garnishes, and all many of other essential cocktail tools. It's £29.99, comes in four colours, and is the best thing since sliced bread.

The VacuVin Wine Aerator may look a tad nerdy (well, it is) but it is going to save my skin when I forget to open a wine before dinner. Again. It gets a nice slosh of air to the wine before it reaches the glass, and is also a great way to detect sediment before you end up choking on it on your last sip. And £9.95 isn't half bad either.

The Hawthorne Cocktail Strainer is one of those things you really should have but have either lost or haven't got round to getting yet. It's £4.50, you silly billy, so just get one now while you remember (I'm speaking to myself more than anyone here.)

More wine geek heaven: an Original Fish Corkscrew. It's one of those sneakily-easy bottle openers that mean my friends and I always end up drinking one bottle too many. £19.99 might seem expensive for something so small, but it really is ridiculously easy to use.

I'm not normally a fan of novelty wine stoppers but come on: It's a VW Beetle Wine Stopper and it's only just over a fiver. I'm sold.

Lastly, something I wish people would buy me more (HINT! HINTY HINTY HINT!) and the sort of thing that makes a drab Friday night all kinds of awesome: a set of five Monin Syrups for just a tenner. Nothing too unusual flavourwise, but then having Mojito mint, Grenadine, and coconut syrup at my finger tips is going to be very useful indeed.

WineBase is going straight onto my list of Favourites - how about you?

Friday, 21 June 2013

Friday Cocktails: Homegrown Cocktails & The Longest Wine List Ever at The Pig

When visiting The Pig hotel recently, I was expecting to be impressed by the homegrown food from their seriously impressive kitchen garden. What I wasn't expecting, however, was to be blown away by their cocktails and wine list.

The Pig is renowned among my friends for providing a cosy, foodie retreat in the New Forest, with its shabby chic interiors, we've-thought-of-everything bedrooms, and the botanical delights of their grounds in which they rear their own pigs and quails, and have a smoking shed for meat and fish.

The Victorian greenhouse dining room is a magical, A Midsummer Night's Dream-like treat where you can eat and drink fresh home-grown delights while looking out in all directions at the enchanting lands from which they came.

To read more about their food, have a look at my personal blog, but for me the biggest, most brilliant surprise was their five-mile-long wine list and ridiculously refreshing cocktails.

Wine List

How long is too long for a wine list? Well, it all depends on how excited you get about the red, white
and rosé stuff. If you just want to pick the cheapest bottle, you probably don't care. Likewise, if you're only interested in the biggest, most elite names in the wine world then you will find The Pig's list a chore.

But if like me you're genuinely, helplessly excited about exploring new, deliciously different wines from all around the world, you'll find The Pig's wine list as heavenly as I did. It's two huge, double-sided A3 cards, one each for red and white/sparkling, with about fifty wines listed on each side.

Their list is so extensive it naturally changes regularly, but as well as all the names you'd want to find they also have intriguing offerings from Armenia, Turkey, England, Uruguay and Hungary, among others.

One thing that pleased me (in a nerdy way) was that they list the grape variety first. Not only does this mean that the geeks can enjoy looking through a pleasingly varied list of names, it means the less-experienced can pick out a few familiar faces and learn a thing or two as well.

They have the uber-fashionable picpoul and gruner veltliner, but they also have grapes people simply should drink more of (or at least be aware they're drinking) like single-varietal cabernet franc, plus tannat, torrontes and viura.


As well as a pleasing array of old favourites (cosmo, negroni, and a bloomin' marvellous Bloody Mary) they also have a seasonal list of specials using ingredients they've grown themselves: from fresh mint to homemade quince and cranberry puree and fruit syrups.

A favourite of mine was The Farmer's Chase: vodka, elderflower, apple juice, fresh lemon and cloudy bitter lemonade. I also loved the slightly spritzy Lady Marmalade, and the gingery, zesty The Pig's Tail, but there wasn't a cocktail on the list I didn't enjoy.

It's left me committed to building up a cupboard/garden of staple homemade goodies I can use to make my own cocktails hopefully taste even half as fresh as The Pig's.

Freddy's Under £6 Wine Picks

Since I seem to have mainly written about rather expensive wines so far for Vinspire; Saskia, Fierce Allure and three very pricey Champagnes, I thought I best return to the real world and write about some wines that real life, every day, normal folk can afford. Sorry Prince Harry if you are reading, this one's not for you.

Nine times out of ten, when you go to the supermarket to buy a bottle of wine, you're not wanting to spend a great amount of money, something around the £6 mark seems to be the favourite. However, you are only human, so you are obviously wanting the best bottle of wine in the world. For £6.

My top tip for value is usually to head to either the Chilean section of the wine isle, or the south of France, as both these regions offer amazing value for money, especially at a lower price.
It's pretty much fact that you aren't going to find anything truly outstanding at this level but thats not to say you can't find some really nice, easy drinking wines. Perfect for drinking with friends or just because you have nothing else to do...

so here are my sub £6 picks:

Cuvée Richard 2012 Blanc, France
This is a blend of Ugni Blanc & Columbard,
fvaourite grapes of budget white wine producers,
along with a bit of Sauvignon Blanc. at 11.5%

this is anything but heavy. A delicious, zesty,
medium-dry white with a good amount of fruit
flavours thrown in for good measure.
Available from Majestic for £5.49

Trusty Chardonnay; hated by most buyers
of budget wine, although this is a real shame
as the variety has so much to offer. Don't let
the fact that you puked at your friends 16th 
birthday-party after necking a bottle of dirty
Chardonnay put you off, as doesn't all taste
the same.   Chile's Central Valley, where
this Chardonnay comes from, is famous for
producing great wines for next to nothing,
so you can't go far wrong. Available for
£5.99 from Adnams

M&S have come up trumps on this one;
a relatively low alcohol (10%) rosé from
South Africa. This is an off-dry style and
very fruit driven. No oak has been used
in this at all so it is a lovely clean style
which would be perfect for enjoying with
friends in the sunshine.
This vibrant pink rosé is available from
Marks & Spencer for £5.99

Waitrose has a great selection of wines as it is,
so if you are stuck with what to buy, head to
Waitrose as you won't be able to go too far wrong.
With more Masters of Wine on board than any
other supermarket, you can bet that even the cheapest
of their wines will be excellent value for money. This
red from the Marche region of italy is full of juicy red fruit
flavours and is (dangerously) easy drinking.
Moncaro Rosso is available from Waitrose for £5.59

This is a real bargain to be found in Asda at
the moment. Jo has already written about the
wines from Cono Sur before, so we know
that it's decent stuff! Although easily distracted
by sunglasses, Jo knows her onions. Carmenere
is a grape variety that originated from the Medoc
area of Bordeaux but has really found its fame in
Chile, where it makes delicious full bodied reds.
This is something for your Malbec and Shiraz
drinkers but I think its one that is really hard for
anyone to dislike. The Cono Sur Carmenere is
available from Asda for just £5.00 so grab a bottle
before it all disappears.

Have you got a favourite sub £6 bottle? We would love to know about it either here, or on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Thursday, 20 June 2013

A Rum With Length (ahem!) - Ron de Jeremy Rum

In this modern age we are constantly bombarded with celebrity endorsements, Beyonce's new depilatory cream or a Lady Gaga branded fat reducing, seaweed, DIY enema. In the past this has usually only been possible for pop and Hollywood stars with the odd soap actor chucked in. However, now it seems that anyone can stick their name and face to something, with the legendary (erm...) artistic-erotica movie star Ron Jeremy getting in on the act.

Now, I recognise that we may not all want the taste of Ron Jeremy in our mouth (you may pause to vomit here if you wish), but I was very intrigued by this rum - firstly for the novelty value, secondly as I have never had a Panamanian (is that right? Of Panama, Panamanian?) rum and finally, because it has received some whip-cracking reviews.

On the nose Ron performs well, with a basket  of tropical fruit pouring from the bottle. Spice comes through after that first money-shot of fruit - it's a really sweet and alluring scent. I think the last pun was a bit much so I'll dial it back. Basically, the nose is very nice: not too complex, but very pleasant.

In your mouth it's very big and powerful, but also nicely rounded. There is a lot of spice and sugar cane with the fruit taking on a more dried fruit quality.  There is a decent finish with wood developing, but there is a little burn at the back of the throat. It can be definitely be drunk straight, but having tried it with some fizzy tropical concoction, it's fantastic as a mixer.

All in all this is a very nice rum, being above most of the more common supermarket options. It's good, but not mind-blowing, however to be fair I expected much less from such a "celebrity" endorsement. If you can get your head around its less savoury associations, this would make a great gift, and once the novelty has worn off you don't have to worry about the rum in the bottle.

So why not pick yourself up a bottle of Ron de Jeremy Rum for £32.55 from The Whisky Exchange.

English Wine, Epic Name: Breaky Bottom

A few summers ago whilst on Holiday my family and I decided to go on an adventure to the Breaky Bottom Winery in Sussex.  Having tried their sparkler and read about the winery we knew it was an opportunity not to miss.

In a fold in the South Downs about 5 miles outside of Lewes where my father grew up, lies a quaint farm house and winery surrounded by stunning rolling hills and a few acres of beautifully tended vines. In fact, Breaky Bottom is not only known as one of the finest wineries in the country, but also widely regarded as the most picturesque.

Owner and grower Peter Hall first planted at Breaky Bottom in 1974 after realising the potential for grape growing in the UK, especially for the making of sparkling wine. The predominant grape grown there is the seyval blanc grape, making clean and acidic Loire-like wines, flavours which come across brilliantly in some of his older wines once this fairly neutral grape starts to gain complexity.

So after a fantastic tour and Breaky Bottom history lesson by Peter himself it was time to get serious and work our way through a few bottles! So sat in Peter’s cosy living room we were able to try some truly brilliant wines, two of which really stood out:

Sparking Brut 2006- £24.50
A really tight and fresh 100% Seyval Blanc sparkle that has developed beautiful clean fruit with just a touch of toastiness that brings this wine a lovely dry complexity. Not only does it taste fantastic, but this wine is also a multi international award winner! In 2010 it won a Silver Medal in the Decanter World Wine Awards, and if that isn’t enough, it then went on to win a Silver Medal and ‘Best in Class’ at the 2010 International Wine & Spirits Competition. Impressive stuff! This wine can still be purchased via order form from the Breaky Bottom Webpage.

The new 2008 Breaky Bottom vintage is also available in most Waitrose stores and is just as good! 

Kir Royale NV- £25.99 from Quaff Wine
Made in exactly the same fashion as the 2006 Brut but at time of disgorgement a measured dosage of home made cassis is added to the bottle. This gives the wine a lovely rose tinted complexion and adds a hint of blackcurrent to give a more fun, soft, fruity taste making it a perfect wine for summer.

On the whole, Breaky Bottom is a fantastic winery with great history and stunning wines. Although not the household name of Nyetimber or Ridgeview, Breaky Bottom has real charm and taste integrated by the passion and hard work of the Breaky Bottom team. And if you ever find yourself in the area, make sure to visit (booking is necessary) as Peter is utterly fascinating, welcoming and willing to spend hours taking you through all the wine making processes and Breaky Bottom lifestyle. 

Breaky Bottom is now a regular in the Horsley household and is loved by the dashing Oz Clarke himself and featured on his brilliant 'Drink to Britain' TV programme with petrolhead James May.

Have you ever tried some Breaky Bottom? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

JAMAICAN ME CRAZY! Appleton Estate VX Rum

Yummy Rummy. Rum is a relatively new pleasure of mine, not really having drunk much of it until recent years but it's now a favourite spirit (alongside gin). This week, I was sent a little taster bottle of Appleton Estate VX Jamaica Rum and a ginger beer to go with it, so as I aint no mule (cocktail people laugh now. Other people just smile and nod. Thanks) I thought I'd give them a try.

For the last 260 years, the Appleton Estate distillery has been in the Nassau Valley, part of the famous 'Cockpit Country' of Jamaica. Just like wine producers, the folks at Appleton are obsessed with terroir and they insist that the limestone soils which make up their 11,000 acre estate play a massive part in the flavour of the rum. I decided it would be very foolish and possibly even stupid of me not to test out this rum, totally not for my sake but for YOU. I wouldn't want you drinking bad rum now...

Although I had a can of cold ginger beer next to me, not wanting to make an ASS (another mule joke there) of myself, I tried the rum straight in the awesome rum cup i got given.
The rum has a really attractive nose that isn't super strong, like some other rums that make your nose hairs feel like they are going to set alight and fall out. It is nicely refined. Although a hardened rum drinker (Pirate is the technical term) might want a little more intricacy on the nose, there is no doubt that this is a very good start.
It is much the same on the palate; nice and smooth, with a bit of spice, without too much of a burn, followed with a nice hint of vanilla. This is a great starting place for anyone wanting to get into proper rum, as it is easy to get your head around. There isn't the depth of flavour that the very best rums have but this is delicious none-the-less.

Appleton Estate really comes into it's own in cocktails, such as the Jamaican Mule (aahhh you see now!?), so I added a bit of the Old Jamaica Ginger Beer and a squeeze of lime.
I'm not usually a fan of ginger at all, so ginger beer on it's own is something I generally avoid, however the rum goes really nicely with the Old Jamaica, making something really refreshing and easy drinking, perfect for a hot summers day.

Appleton Estate VX Rum is available from The Whisky Exchange for £19.35 a bottle (70cl) - it's well worth a try, whether you are an avid cocktail nut or if you have to buy a present for a friend.

Have you tried any of the Appleton Estate rums? Tell us your favourite below, or on our twitter or facebook page.

Midweek Tipple; Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc

It's one of the most synonymous wines of its region, and one of the UK's favourite Sauvignon Blancs, year after year. And it just so happens I have a bottle chilling in my fridge for when I get home tonight so Wednesday, hump day, just became that little bit better thanks to this much loved beaut!

Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc is an international benchmark wine loved for its vibrant aromatics and lively expression of the Marlborough region in the North East of the South Island of New Zealand. Established in 1985, Cloudy Bay takes is name for the bay at the edge of  the Wairau Valley, which was named Cloudy Bay by Captain Cook on his voyage to New Zealand in 1770.

Whilst their portfolio also consists of  a Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Riesling (including a late harvest), Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and the famed Pelorus sparkling (Brut, Rose & Vintage), their Sauvignon Blanc is their most acclaimed success.

Crisp, fresh and vibrant with tropical aromas of lime, elderflower and stone fruits, the palate is zippy, zesty, zingy and fruity with a mineral finish. Superbly refreshing, this is the ultimate summer wine which works on its own, or with food - grilled fish, chicken salad or stuffed green peppers.

Why not pick up a bottle of the 2012 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc from Majestic Wines for £20.00 (currently 20% off when you purchase two or more bottles of New Zealand Wines) on your way home from work tonight (most are open until 8pm thank goodness!). For best results served chilled, sit in the garden on a sunny day and enjoy with your closest friends!

Or, if you fancy making it a bit more of an occasion, why not head to the Cloudy Bay Wine Bar at the Royal Albert Hall in London town. Open before each show, this bespoke bar was opened by the estate in 2011, and serves seafood, cheese platters and desserts complimented by the stunning Cloudy Bay range. If anyone fancies treating me, I'll have the Compressed Melon and Feta Salad with Chilli Lime Dressing and a (large!) glass of the 2012 Cloudy Bay Sauvignon please!

Have you tried Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc? Do you think it lives up to the hype? Let us know in the comments, or on our Twitter and Facebook pages.