Friday, 30 August 2013

Friday Cocktail: Blackberry & Apple Crumble Bramble

It's coming to the end of the summer and the fruit is calling out to be picked on these last sunny days. Yesterday, I picked apples from the garden, and today I popped to the park to pick some blackberries. There were MILLIONS.

I got a bit carried away and as soon as I got home I wanted to start eating them. I was too impatient for a crumble, so I thought I'd make a cocktail version instead. This recipe is sweet and tart all at once, with refreshing fruitiness from the blackberries and apples and lots of warming luxury from the cinnamon sugar and vanilla. The creme de cassis may be blackcurrant as opposed to blackberry, but its sharpness works well with the brambly blackberries.

I've got to be honest, it's my favourite cocktail to date.

Blackberry and Apple Crumble Bramble cocktail recipe (serves one)

  • 8-12 blackberries (depending on the size: wild ones may be smaller than supermarket ones)
  • 1.5 shots gin
  • 3 shots cloudy apple juice
  • 0.5 shot lemon juice
  • 2 dashes vanilla syrup
  • 1 tsp creme de cassis

For the cinnamon sugar:
  • 2 tsp brown sugar
  • 0.25 tsp ground cinnamon

Shake it!

1. Muddle the blackberries in a jug (or use a pestle and mortar) until they are a fine pulp with plenty of juice
2. Put the gin, apple juice, lemon juice and vanilla syrup in a cocktail shaker along with a couple of ice cubes.
3. Sieve the blackberries (or spoon them in if you don't mind the bits!) into the shaker too.
4. Give it all a good hard shake.
5. Blend the sugar and cinnamon together on a plate (taste-test to check it's cinnamon-y enough for you). Coat the rim of the glass with lemon juice to moisten it and then roll it in the sugar so it coats the rim.
6. Pour the cocktail into the glass, and top up with a teaspoon of creme de cassis.

Will you be pouring yourself one of these tonight? Let us know your weekend drinking plans in the comments, or on our fabulous Twitter and Facebook pages.

Drunk History - Wine Makes Us AWESOME At Telling Stories

So those of you who are familiar with the comedy website will no doubt have heard about the GENIOUS drunk history videos. However I am well aware that there are still poor people out there who may not know about this.

Funny or Die is a sort of 'comedy youtube', that offers lots of lolz and roflz. Comedians such as Will Ferrell and Zack Galafeelmyknackers (I'm pretty sure that's not how you spell it) feature heavily.

Being the fun folks that we are at Vinspire, I thought it only appropriate that I spread the joy of Drunk History with you all. You may even learn something...

In a nutshell, the way drunk history works is a comedian drinks a shed load of booze and then is asked to tell a story from history. The clever folks at Funny or Die then get non-drunk comedians to act the thing out.
In this particular video, American comedienne Jen Kirkman tells a story about Frederick Douglass. After having drunk two bottles of wine.

It's incredible. Please watch:

You see!? Wine is awesome, it makes us all amazing historians and story-tellers!

There are loads more Drunk History videos. Just go onto and search 'Drunk History'.

Thursday, 29 August 2013

Vinspiring Venues: Bubbledogs

I first heard of Bubbledogs at the start of the year, and instantly knew it would be a huge hit. A brainchild of James Knappett & Sandia Chang, it is a quirky little restaurant that simply sells a range of gourmet hot dogs and grower champagne. I know, right? Amazing.

'But Matthew, what if I don't like gorgeous looking hot dogs and quality champagne?' Thought you might ask that! Well, don't go to Bubbledogs..... Go to their intimate adjoining restaurant The Kitchen Table next door, which has a wider ranged menu AND the chefs cook right before your eyes, Tepanyaki style! Right, now that you're sorted, can I continue with my appraisal of Bubbledogs? I can? Cheers.

So, before I was rudely interrupted I had just mentioned their range of gourmet hot dogs. From the simple to the sublime, Bubbledogs make sure that quality and taste is at its peak. Prices range from £6.50 to £8 and with this you can get classics such as The Naked Dog, or The New Yorker with sauerkraut, to slightly more inspired creations like the Ploughman's Dog or even the Horny Dog! Entertaining food and fantastic prices. 

Yes, the food is odd and fun, but lets get down to business shall we? Bubbles! Bubbledogs only sell Grower Champagne from smaller producers which, although providing you with a fantastic range of treats, does come with a few problems.

Despite the list being mouthwateringly long, varied and - arguably - one of the best in London, the prices will leave you watering from the eyes, not the mouth. By the bottle, you're looking at £32 for their most basic, and the 'by the glass' list is, understandably, limited.

However, prices aside, the Bubbledog team have clearly gone to great lengths to source these wines and find those that will go with their style of food. It would be nice however to see something as reasonably priced as their dogs on the list. Even if this meant breaking the trend of independent grower's Champers and bringing in something a bit more 'commercial', albeit still good quality.

All in all, I think Bubbledogs is a brilliantly fun and inventive idea that simply aims to have fun with food and drink, supply top quality produce and put a smile on people's faces. And that can't be bad, can it?

What do you think of Bubbledogs? Let us know in the comments!

Hotdog photo taken from Matthew Hine's photostream under the Creative Commons License.

Try Sparkling Red or You're Dead! (not really)

Threats aside, let's call this an attempt to get your attention and encourage you to try at least one sparkling red wine before the summer fades into a distant memory and the autumn leaves begin to fall. Who's ready to get sparkly and inject a bit of fun into their wine routine? Yes, you, I know you want to.

Granted, it may be new to some to hear the words 'sparkling' and 'red' side by side, but if you're a true wine geek, like us here at Vinspire, then it's likely you've at least tried one. Sure, it'll probably divide the room, a little bit like Marmite - love it or hate it - but over the last few years some great quality red bubbles have jumped out of the cupboard to take us by surprise in the UK market. Without a doubt, I love it, and I've been witness to many who have converted to the dark side, but even the fussiest of wine critics have been singing red sparklers' praises.

You could say that sparkling red is probably best associated with cheap Lambrusco-style fizz - the stuff you drink before you go to Whetherspoons, the bottle you used to take to a dinner party....when you were 18 and you didn't really know what wine was all about.

But fear not, last week, I tried THE most delicious Lambrusco at a cheeky mid-week Italian wine tasting at my local, The Wine Society. The Lambrusco Ottocentonero (Albinea Canali) is a joyous reminder that Lambrusco frizzante can be a delightful drink when properly made. Whilst it's colour is a glorious, deep red, the journey really begins with the abundant perfume of sweet red fruits. Fizzy and full in the mouth, this is just perfect drunk chilled as an aperitif, and at just £7.95 per bottle, you may as well stock up with a few. I've got a bottle in my cellar (okay, garage) which I think I might try with a rich Bolognese dish, just as The Society suggests. 

Whilst European countries like Italy, France and Portugal have long been making lighter style sparkling reds, perhaps the country most synonymous with its fashionable return to the wine culture, is Australia. The hot summers and lazy BBQ days lend themselves to chilled, easy-drinking wines, and a sparkling red can be spied in many an Aussie's fridge. On moving to the UK, I was surprised how few friends (even in the wine trade) had never even tried red bubbles - as an Aussie, this is unheard of!

The most common varietal used to make Australian fizzy reds is Shiraz and the wines show the fruity, spicy character and depth of flavour of the grape. Sparkling Shiraz newbies are often surprised to find that Aussie sparkling red is quite dry, and not at all like the sickly sweet, almost alcoholic grape juice, which will come to mind. If you want a safe bet, try the Jacob's Creek Sparkling Shiraz. At £10.99 from Tesco, it's not cheap but it's certainly cheerful and a staple label in many Aussie households. If the reviews and ratings are anything to go by, this fun and charming wine from Australian wine maestros Jacob's Creek, is a hit with supermarket shoppers. The intro is positively engaging - "a cacophony of blackberry and raspberry flavours" - and I'm intrigued by their suggestions to try with a spicy meat curry.

For just a few pennies more, the Bleasdale Sparkling Shiraz (pictured above) is my all-time favourite Aussie red sparkler. After a visit to the historic Bleasdale winery in the tiny town of Langhorne Creek in South Australia, I am more in love than ever, and it's the first wine to pop into my head if someone asks me to recommend something 'a little bit different'. At £12.95, also from The Wine Society (you do need to be a member, £40 one-off fee) it's deeply coloured, rich-tasting and thoroughly robust without being sickly or cloying. It would stand up to a serious chocolate cake or fruity summer pudding, but is equally happy to be the centre of attention as an aperitif. I've even served it with Christmas dinner - any excuse to pop open another bottle.

So I urge you, my Vinspirees, love it, hate it, but don't deny yourself a glass of perfectly chilled sparkling red wine.

Cheers mate!

Wednesday, 28 August 2013

Wine and Whisky, the Perfect Match- Glenmorangie Nectar D'or

Whilst whisky is truly the drink of the gods, we must all admit that wine is very much up there. The variety and complexity of wine is something that is completely staggering to me and is what fuels my love for the grapey stuff. I have an unhealthy liking for sweet wines, with Tokaij, moscato d'asti, Samos Anthemis, the sweet rieslings and most of all Sauternes.

Nectar D'or (golden nectar) is a wood finished single malt from Glenmorangie whereby their standard 10yr malt is finished for 2 years in old Sauterne casks. This, like all wood finishes imparts some qualities that were present in the barrel's last resident.

On the nose this whisky chucks out citrus fruit, honey, raisins and desert wine in abundance with perhaps some sweeter spices sneaking in. The Nectar D'or is supremely perfumed, wonderfully layered and complex, but being bottled at 48%, if you stick your nose in too far you'll get a big whiff of the alcohol. 

On the palate it gets even better, thick and creamy due to the lack of chill-filtration and is stuffed with vanilla, spice and honey, with fruit coming through on the finish. It is a little hot and so the tiniest touch of water is advised, but not too much or you'll lose those gorgeous flavours.

The Nectar D'or for me is truly fitting of the gods, it screams out for enjoyment after dinner in winter, perhaps with some cheese. If you don't fancy getting some now (because you are clearly a fool) I suggest picking some up before Christmas when this would especially shine.

Glenmorangie Nectar D'or is currently available at  Sainsbury's for £40 or Waitrose for £41.

Food Matching: Wine & Curry

Curries (in fact spicy foods in general) are notoriously hard to match with wine.
So often people make the mistake of pairing a curry with a heavy red, which just doesn't work at all.

The fact that most Indian Restaurants don't particularly cater for food and wine matching doesn't really help matters but to be fair, it is far from being an Indian tradition.

No, I can't remember ever going to an Indian restaurant that has a list of wines that in any way suit the food that they are serving. This however doesn't mean that there aren't great matches to be made and if you are like me and lucky enough to have a stunning curry-house near by, you can have a great time finding good wines to go with your takeaways.

The key with spicy foods that are full of flavour is to choose a wine that is also full of flavour and aromatic to match the dish. A heavy red wont be too good because it will overpower the delicate spices in the food, however a really gentle white wine will have completely the opposite problem and just wont be enough.

It is at this point that we turn to our trusty friends: the aromatic grapes.

Wines like Riesling, Gewurztraminer and even Viognier are gems for matching with spicier foods. Anything off-dry with a medium body is perfect because they carry just enough weight to hold up against curry. Just think of how delicious it is to have a dollop of mango chutney in your curry: sweet, tangy, aromatic and fruity - exactly what you're looking for in a wine match. You see, it aint rocket science.

If you are a fan or a lightly spiced, creamy curry, such as a Korma or Tikka Masala then you should try this Viognier from the trusty Cono Sur, which is available at Waitrose for £8.29.
This wine is perfect for creamier dishes due to it's medium-dry style and rich flavours. The refreshing acidity is there to hold it all in nicely and keep a balanced structure.

For the slightly more daring, Riesling is great with slightly spicier dishes, such as Rogan Josh or Jalfrezi. These curries are more tomato-based (a fiend when it comes to wine) so a Riesling that is tangy and with plenty of zest is required. Loosen Brothers' "Dr L" Riesling is a perfect match, available at Majestic for £8.49, so it's not too expensive either. Nicely chilled, this will have enough acidity to cut through oily food, enough body to hold up against the powerful curry flavours and enough flavour to be damn delicious!

If you are more of and aromatic Thai Curry fan, Gewurztraminer is the one for you. This is the perfect match for the complexly and deliciously flavoured foods. Gewurztraminer is smooth, delicate and interesting (like me *cough cough*) and the intense, often floral nose on any good glass of Gewurz is like no other wine.

Hugel et fils is a legendary producer in the Alsace region of France and their Gewurztraminer Tradition 2009 is perfect with the most flavoursome and lightly spiced of foods. This one is available at Yorkshire Vintners for £18.60 - the most expensive of my recommendations but it really is good.
Pinot Gris can also work nicely here, as Jo discussed in her post back in May - well worth a read.

If you are into seriously spicy curries - the show off in front of your friends and then spend 2 days on the loo kind - then drink Cobra. And then milk. And probably call an ambulance, you're not looking so good...

What are your favourite wines to drink with Curry? we would love to know. Tell us by commenting below or on our Twitter and Facebook pages.

Header image taken from mttsndrs photostream, under the creative commons license.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Wine Etiquette: A Simple Guide to Gifting Wine

I know we’ve gone into some detail about wine etiquette here on Vinspire in previous posts but today I would like to venture into the etiquette of giving wine as a gift.

It is doubtful that I’m the only person who has had a terrible experience of taking a bottle of something delicious to someone else’s house. I’ve seen my wine gifts disappear into cupboards, remain unopened on the side board or (and this is the worst) a lovely white wine is uncorked and tipped all over the carpet to get rid of a red wine stain – I still feel upset about that.

So here are three simple rules to gifting wine which, if followed will ensure you never become bitter and twisted about offering wine as a token gift and can continue to take pleasure in the joy of giving.

Rule 1: Don't be presumptuous

Don't splash out in the hope you'll get to try some of the bottle you gift, or you'll just end up disappointed and wishing you'd spent the money on yourself. Either give something special but buy a bottle for yourself too, or give something that is good value but tasting: as a ballpark, I normally try to make sure the wine is around the £7.00 mark.

This could be seen as a tad on the cheap side, but if the bottle does get whisked off into a cupboard and you stand no chance of trying it on this occasion, at least it won’t take too long to save up again and buy another bottle to savour (and your recipient will have a decent everyday bottle to try at a later date).

Rule 2: Chill the bottle

If it is a particularly nice bottle of white you’re giving, and you really want your recipient to share it with the present company, consider taking it chilled. This is the ultimate hint that it has been selected for drinking then-and-there, and there's nothing more tempting than a chilled bottle of white just screaming to be opened.

(You could even think about telling the recipient of the gift that wine is never the same if it’s chilled, warmed up and chilled again...utter codswallop but no one will question you if they feel blinded by science.)

Rule 3: Unfussy budget wines needn't be embarrassing

If you're gifting wine on a real budget (we're talking Aldi-cheap), my advice is to stock up on something you think no one will have seen before but that is tasty enough to pass as something quaffable.

You might not want anyone to ask how much you spent: in which case, make sure the bottle isn't memorable for being either horrendous or amazing: the former suggests that you know nothing about wine and are a terrible guest, and the latter means that they will ask you where you got it from and then discover that you didn’t exactly splash out. Sometimes, a decent but uncomplicated bottle is all that's needed, and there'll be no great expectations about how much you spent.

With these three simple rules in mind, I hope you are now equipped to have positive wine present giving experiences every time!

Let us know how you get on and whether you too have had any horrendous wine gifting experiences at @VinspireUK or on our Facebook page!

Image taken from Spine's photostream under the Creative Commons License

Top Guilt-Free Healthy Drinking Resources

Well, what a bank holiday that was. We drank, we sang, we fell over - and had a jolly good time indeed. But some of us may have finished three days of heavy boozing wondering whether we should cut down a bit (and that might not just be the hangover talking).

Maybe you're sick of feeling sick? Maybe you're worried about the calories and your ever-evolving beer belly? Maybe you're concerned you don't actually know how much alcohol makes you over the driving limit? Maybe you're just skint.

Well, never fear. We've compiled a handy list of tools that can help you drink responsibly but still have a jolly good time.

Drink Aware's Unit and Calorie Calculator

This calculator is one of our favourite tools of the lot. Not only is it super user-friendly and provides lots of options so you get an accurate result (so instead of saying you had 'a glass of wine', you have to specify whether it's 125ml or 250ml, and also what the alcohol percentage is) it also tells you how many calories you consumed, and what that equates to. It can be quite scary to see how many cheeseburgers worth of calories you might consume each night.

Unfortunately this is a web-only tool, but you can also download an alcohol tracker app from NHS Choices (iPhone only) or the Change4Life Drink Tracker (iPhone and Android).

BBC Radio 1's booze calculator

Quite similar to drink aware, but this fun flash calculator involves you dragging your various drinks to the bar. It also tells you roughly how many hours it would take for the booze to leave your system.

WCRF's alcohol calorie counter

This tool is a really clever way of finding out exactly how many calories you had last night. The cool slider-bars means you can be much more precise than the other calculators, and there's a much greater variety of options to choose from.

The 'Am I Over The Limit?' Calculator

This beauty was concocted by Staffordshire Police. Although it's actually a tool for 'morning after' driving - sometimes you're still drunk without knowing it the next morning - it does give you a rough guide to how many hours it will take for the booze you've drunk to leave your system. Obviously, this isn't a legal tool, but it can help you think about whether you're taking more of a risk with your driving than you thought.

The Cost of Drinking Calculator

Diabetes UK have put together a little calculator to help you work out how much you're spending on booze each week and each year. It's actually quite scary - even drinking one or two small glasses of wine a night will easily go into the thousands.
I found it quite handy to use it to work out how much I'd save each month if I cut out a couple of days' drinking a week - about £35, as it happens, which I'd much rather spend on a meal out or treating myself to something gorgeous.

The Alcohol Self-Assessment

With probing questions like 'How often do members of your family and friends advise you to drink less?' and 'How often do you feel unable to do your duties because you've had too much to drink?', this NHS tool does make you think a bit.

Now, I don't want you to be concerned. We at Vinspire are by no means going tee-total on you, and we still believe that alcohol can be enjoyed responsibly several times throughout the week. But if, like us, you want to make sure you keep healthy whilst getting on the sauce, these resources really can make a difference.

What do you do to help keep your drinking habits healthy? Let us know in the comments!

Photos taken from Bayhaus, StopAlcoholDeaths and Images of Money's photostreams respectively, under the Creative Commons License.

Friday, 23 August 2013

A Travel Exclusive: Highland Park Einar

It's almost September, we're meant to be at the height of summer and everyone is on holiday, what do you associate with this other than Vikings? Akin to their rampaging and pillaging around Europe I'm sure many of you are off on "holidays" to plunder far away lands. So, whilst travelling, why not pop into the duty free and pick up a bottle of travel exclusive whisky as Leif Eriksson would have done summer 1000AD? (Details of how you can pre-order a bottle to be ready for collection from your airport of choice are below!)

Highland Park is the most northern distillery in the UK and is increasing in popularity since a recent re-branding and has now overtaken Lagavulin for sales. The Einar whisky is named after a viking and former ruler of Orkney, its flavours are supposed to mirror those of the fierce and relentless norseman.

The nose is driven by smoke and spice, with cinnamon, orange peel becoming apparent in the middle and then caramel starting to come through towards the tail. The nose is very quite different to most peated whiskies in it's sweetness, without the medicinal qualities.

On the palate it is apparent the Einar most have had a smoky temprament with smoke absolutley dominating. Some citrus peel does develop however, along with burnt popcorn and caramel notes that come out on the finish.

This is a really interesting whisky and showcases another style that can be made whilst utilising peat flavours. If you are going through a Duty Free I really recommend picking up a bottle of Highland Einar, which you can pre-order for £46.99 and have it delivered to the relevant airport. Also, if you know someone who collects whisky this would be a fantastic gift, being something they wouldn't normally come across. Now I just need another holiday...

Wine for Beginners: Getting the Correct Temperature

Red wine should be served at room temperature right? And white wine über chilled?

No. The answer is no. See me after class.

It's a common misconception that red wine should be served at room temperature. This was probably true at some point in history but our homes are hotter now than they ever have been. Especially in lighter reds, being served too warm can hide the acidity and generally throw everything out of balance. This means that you are spending your hard-earned cash/dole money on something and then fucking it up. No one wants that.

The same goes for whites too. Serving white wine too cold can just hide all the flavour. If you have bought something ridiculously cheap, then by all means freeze the hell out of it because it's probably better that it doesn't taste of anything at all rather than anti-freeze. With anything else though, chilling it too much might be refreshing on a hot day but you really won't be getting your money's worth out of the bottle.

Here is a handy guide to what should be served at which temperature in order for it to taste as damn good as it possibly can.

17 - 18oC
Full bodied reds such as Bordeaux, Shiraz, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon

14 - 16oC
Medium Bodied reds; your Merlots, Chiantis, Zinfandels and Riojas for example

12 - 13oC
Light and fruity reds like Pinot Noir, Beaujolais etc.

Fuller bodied whites - if you like creamy, oaked whites 11oC is the one for you

9 - 10oC
The Majority of other whites should be served at this temperature; chilled but not ice cold.

6 - 8oC
Sparkling wine and Dessert wine is the coldest, so cold it will use you and never call you again. THAT is how cold sparkling wines and Dessert wines should be.

Although there are bound to be one or two that vary, that is a pretty sturdy guide. My top tip would be to take your white wine out of the fridge a little bit sooner than normal and put your reds in the fridge a little bit before you are going to drink them.

Don't believe me? Here is a man with a gorgeous accent (therefore he probably seriously knows his stuff) who will confirm it all in one handy little video.

Give this a go next time you are planning on opening a bottle. It will make a hell of a difference I promise.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Vinspire Venues: The London Cocktail Club

I may well work in the wine industry, but there is little I love better than a few cheeky cocktails. In fact, whenever I go to London and spend a night out with Friends and Family, right at the top of  my lists for fun, exciting and quality places to drink is The London Cocktail Club.

I first went a few years ago to the Club located on Goodge Street, just up from Tottenham Court Road on the Northern Line. An unassuming building, you stroll down the stairs to the basement where you're greeted with noise, laughs and some of the most amazingly inventive cocktail creations I have ever seen.

The style is very much vintage chic/tattoo parlour (if it didn't exist it does now), with leather sofas, skulls, book cases and a large chequered, steam punk esq bar. Once sat down, amongst the trendy Londoner night dwellers, we popped open the cocktail menu to see what would take our fancy.

We were pleasantly suprised to say the least. The range spanned from our simple pleasures such as: Bellini's, Martini's, Old Fashioned's and Long Island Iced Tea's to the more extravagant, and some times, sublime. The bar staff are engaging and exciting, with their expanse of knowledge and bottle spinning skills they keep you entertained during your time at the bar and the interior is a feast for the eyes.
Giles, myself and my sister enjoying a Volcano

So after we had indulged in a few simple delights, and our judgement had lapsed slightly, we decided to try our hand at some of the more 'extroverted' cocktails. These included the 'Flaming Zombie' which comes in a Stein glass and The Volcano........Yes, it comes in a volcano and yes, you should probably share it..... (ask at bar for both). But this is only a small selection, others include: The Spicy Noodle served in a pot noodle cup, the Red Snapper in a Baked Bean tin and the Hot Tuca Apple served in a Victorian tea cup!

Even though the cocktails are fantastic, the sense of occasion and the feel of the place is what makes The London Cocktail Club a real night to remember. They also have a Cocktail School, yes, you heard me correctly, where you can get behind the bar, learn the basics and create your own perfect cocktail. The Goodge Street branch also do fun foodie treats like: Sliders, Delhi Boards and Pints of Chips with Bloody Mary Mayo just to keep you on your feet!

There are other branches located in Shoreditch, Shaftesbury Avenue & Oxford Circus which if they are easier for you to get to are well worth a look in! But for me, Goodge Street is the best! Cocktail prices are on average £8-£10 which for Central London, in that environment, really isn't bad at all.

If you are thinking of going and planning on taking a largish group, booking a table will be necessary, unless you will be standing at the bar/bar area all evening, especially at the Shaftsbury Avenue site, which has recently been voted one of the World's Best Bars! But this will hardly put a dent in your evenings plans; you might just have to hold onto something after a few drinkies.

So if you fancy a fun night out, some fantastic cocktails and a great environment, rock on down to the London Cocktail Club and get Zombied!

Wine for Beginners: Clueless About Corks?

Let’s talk about cork... but not about the relative merits of different closures for bottles of wine. From the ancient world to the present day, no one can agree on the best way to stopper a bottle of wine so I will disregard the arguments and focus on the wine bottle sealing approach favoured since the 17th century – cork.

Why is cork used for wine?

So, why is cork such a craze? Well, it has all the properties needed to ensure the wine remains un-tainted by outside elements. It is flexible, light and impermeable. Three desirable qualities in a wine bottle stopper:

Flexible: A cork can be squeezed through the narrow opening of a bottle and then expand back into shape making sure that despite any irregularities in the glass, the bottle remains sealed.

Light: This means that it won’t eventually fall victim to gravity and drop down into the wine.

Impermeable: This means that nothing nasty can get into the wine, including air. Oxygen can be very damaging to wine – if air gets in, the wine will very quickly start tasting fairly lifeless although in very tiny doses it can make the best wines age beautifully.

Different types of cork for wine

There are lots of different types of corks but generally speaking, they fall into two camps. They are either:

1. Corks made from one whole piece taken straight from the bark of a cork tree, cut into shape, cleaned, sterilized and boom: it’s ready. This type of cork, a “natural cork”, suits wine intended for ageing. They can last decades so long as the wine is stored at the correct temperature and humidity levels.

2. The other choice is a “technical cork”. This is essentially lots of little pieces mushed together to form one whole cork. Technical corks can be fabricated from the cork of younger cork trees as the depth of the bark doesn’t have to be consistent. They are used almost 100% percent of the time in Champagne. Technical corks are cheap to make and suit wine that is not intended to age more than about five years.

How do they get the cork into the bottle?!
A very squeezed Champagne cork

I know the question on everybody’s lips is how the devil do they get them in?! Well, it’s easy! Cork is, as solid as it seems – a compressible substance. All you need is a machine strong enough to force it into the neck of the bottle.

In the case of Champagne and sparkling wine, things are slightly more awkward. A cork for fizzy wine is larger in diameter – it needs to be in order to withstand the pressure. The metal cage surrounding the cork is holding it in place. Without it, the cork would explode from the bottle – remember kids, more people are killed by champagne corks than poisonous spiders in the UK so only release the cage when the bottle is pointing away from your face (or the faces of loved ones).

What does “Corked Wine” mean?

Corks come with drawbacks. As it is a natural product, coming from all sorts of different trees from all different parts of the world, there will occasionally be a few which don’t make the grade. “Corked” wine essentially means the wine has gone off, and not that it has bits of cork floating around in it. It’s all to do with a chemical compound known as TCA which can infect corks. It makes the wine taste pretty dull in a sort of wet cardboard way. Don’t worry: however offensive to your taste buds, a cork-tainted wine won’t hurt you.

So hopefully you’re all experts now and can fight the corner for cork in any cork vs screwcap argument. Personally, I’m still on the fence...maybe I need more experience of aged Bordeaux under natural cork. Anyone want to send me some? A girl can hope.

Images taken from and Steve Hankin and Iwan Gabovitch's photostreams respectively in accordance with the Creative Commons License.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

True Blood Cocktail Special: Lumière Sparklers & Redhead Refreshers

We're all of us pretty geeky around here, and so we love a good novelty product when we find one. We've already covered Game of Thrones goblets, and Doctor Who ice cube trays, but the guys at True Blood HQ have taken this blending of geeks and eats to a whole new level.

True Blood: Drinks and Bites is a recipe book released last month featuring food and drink ideas based on this steamy vampire US show with a huge cult following. The recipes also have a distinctly Southern feel to them as a nod to the show's Louisiana setting.

The book's range of cocktails is impressive, with a selection of hardcore booze-filled treats (with names like True Death, Faerie Blood, and Stake House Special) as well as a nice section for lighter and non-alcoholic ideas.

This week we're bringing you not one but two cocktails, both of which are actually more like mocktails (but not quite, in the first instance!) - we think it's important to feature some less liver-bashing alternatives for those of us that don't always want to hit the bottle - and the True Blood guys at HBO have very kindly allowed us to recreate a couple of the recipes.

To get your hands on these and all the other amazing recipes, pick up a copy of True Blood: Drinks and Bites for £9.59 at the The Book People.

Lumière Sparklers recipe (serves 6)


  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 6-8 slices peeled fresh ginger, 1 inch thick, crushed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 6 small sprigs of rosemary, for garnish
  • 6 tbsp chilled unsweetened pomegranate juice
  • 1 750ml bottle chilled sparkling apple cider

Shake it!

1. In a small saucepan, bring the water, sugar, and ginger to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally
to help the sugar dissolve. Add the chopped rosemary and swirl the pan. Turn off the heat, cover, and let the flavors infuse for 30 minutes.

2. Pour the infused sugar syrup through a fine-mesh strainer into a small bowl. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, at least 30 minutes. Throw out the stuff in the strainer.

3. When you’re ready to serve, measure a scant 1 tablespoon of sugar syrup into each of six chilled champagne flutes or cocktail glasses, followed by 1 tablespoon of pomegranate juice. Pour ½ cup of sparkling cider into each glass. 

4. Drop a rosemary sprig into each drink and serve right away.

* The 'cup' measures are American. If you're unfamiliar with these, just make sure you use equal parts sugar and water - 1/3 cup of sugar is about 75g, so pour that into a jug, make a note of how far up the jug it reaches (e.g up to the 100ml line), and then use the identical amount of water.
For any other cup measurements, see this handy guide to cup conversions or buy what I call my lifesavers: a cup measuring set, £10 from House of Fraser.

Redhead Refresher recipe (serves 6-8)


  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 cup dried hibiscus flowers
  • 1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, torn, plus some mint sprigs for garnish
  • 1/4 cup sugar, plus 2 tbsp for later
  • Ice cubes

Shake it!

1. In a small saucepan, bring three cups of water to the boil over a high heat.
2. Add the hibiscus and mint leaves, and then shut off the heat. Give the mixture a stir, cover the pan, and set a timer for 20 minutes.
3. When the timer goes off, pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer (or sieve) into a heat-proof pitcher. Dump out all the scary-looking junk in the strainer.
4. Add the sugar to the pitcher and stir until it dissolves. Pour in three cups of cold water to bring down the temperature, cover the pitcher, and refrigerate until nice and chilled (at least an hour.)
5. Fill each glass with ice, then pour over the refresher. Garnish each glass with a mint sprig and serve.

Nyetimber's Tillington Single Vineyard 2009 - The Next Step for English Fizz

It's been in the pipeline for quite some time now but Nyetimber's single vineyard sparkling wine is set to become available next month through Liberty wines.

In an ode to the 'Clos' of Champagne, Nyetimber's Tillington Single Vineyard 2009 sparkling wine is definitely unique - they claim it is the first ever single vineyard English sparkler.

The idea for the wine came about when Cherie Spriggs, the winemaker at Nyetimber, was blown away with the quality of the Pinot Noir grapes grown in the vineyard. Although, surprisingly for a SV wine, the blend is 79% Pinot Noir and 21% Chardonnay.

Judging by the quality of the rest of the Nyetimber range, there is no doubt that the Tillington will be spectacular, but at £75 a bottle, you would hope so.

Of the 2,900 bottles produced, just 2,500 will be made available on the market. If you are lucky enough to come across one, I would buy it straight away and run home, like you found the ticket to Willy Wonka's place in a chocolate bar. This wine will disappear quickly!

I personally think this is a great move for English wine generally: it is a natural progression and a wine that will go down in history. Nyetimber are a favourite of mine anyway, as the quality is always top notch, so if I manage to get my hands on a bottle I will be a very happy chappy!

Tillington is set to be released on 10th September at the Liberty Wines portfolio tasting.
To get your taste-buds geared up for it, why not get yourself a bottle of the Nyetimber Classic Cuvée which is currently on special offer at £23.99 at Majestic (in fact, get several. One is NEVER enough). Well worth a try if you haven't had it before!

The Demi-Sec is pretty special too, it was one of my English Sparkling Wine 3 Homegrown Favourites...

Basically, they're all pretty good. Buy them all. Thank me later.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Glasses with Class: Geeky Novelty Shot Glasses

Well, it goes without saying if you're young and have got tipsy more than once in your life, you'll have done the occasional shot. Although I much prefer some more classy drinking, I have to admit that at a certain point in the night there's nothing better than knocking back something disgusting.

We've already featured some beautiful loveheart shot glasses from Toasted Glass (see picture, above). If, like me, you're a little apprehensive about shots, there's nothing better than a novelty shot glass to convince you to go hard as opposed to going home. Here are some of my favourites:

Let's start with something epic: pokemon shot glasses. Hand-painted, too! They're £14.41 (plus £3.93 delivery) from Leicester-based Etsy shop Zen Creations.

Geeky for a whole other reason, these test tube shot glasses are a classic and a must. Look at the colours! They're £8.99 from FindMeAGift.

Equally geeky, and possibly even more epic are these chemistry lab shot glasses. I KNOW. After a few shots out of these, I'm sure you'll be able to construct all sorts of experiments with the bodily fluids that'll be sloshing around. Nice image, eh? Sorry. Anyway,  they're £12.99 from Amazon.

Shotgun shot glasses. Yes. They're £7.99 from Find Me A Gift.

Or fist-shaped slammer shot glasses? Perfect for raucous post-shot slamming on the table. They're £7.99 for four from iWoot.

If you're feeling a bit creepy (or, let's be honest, IF IT'S HALLOWEEN) you'll love the skull shot glasses from Drinkstuff. Snap them up now: they're on offer at £9.99 for four.

Firebox always come up trumps when it comes to drinking in style, and these mason jar shot glasses are no different. How adorable! They're £9.99.

Super Mario shot glasses! Oh, the geekery is stepping back up a notch. They're from Canvey Island-based Etsy store Girls Night In, and they're £12. They also do these pretty epic avengers shot glasses. Oh, halp, I'm going to spend all my money on shot glasses.

Lastly, we're going full-blown 110% epic with the Space Invaders GLOW IN THE DARK shot glasses. I can't even... They're £5.95 from Amazon.

The Goon Sack - Aussie Legend

Bag-in-a-box wine, as it's known in the UK, is wine packaged in a plastic bladder, protected by a box usually made of cardboard, with a little plastic tap which lets the glorious wine cascade into your glass.
Aliases include 'boxed wine', 'goon', 'goon bag', 'goon sack' and 'cask wine'. 'Goon' is the unofficial and informal Aussie term though usually used in a fashion which does not reflect favourably on the quality of the wine itself;
"Wow Jessie looks smashed! Yeah he's been hitting the goon sack pretty hard today."
"What you drinking this Friday night? Goon sack mate..."

"Hey, you want to get and get a goon sack and get

BUT, my friends, I would like to educate you on the finer points of enjoying, and learning to accept, this Aussie legend. Cask wine was invented by Thomas Angove of Angove's, a winemaker from South Australia and patented in 1965. In the original design the consumer cut the corner off the bladder to pour out the wine and then resealed it with a special peg. In 1967, Penfolds Wines patented a plastic, air-tight tap welded to a metallised bladder, which is now on most box wine and is exposed by tearing away a perforated panel on the box. This packaging was first successful in its home land, Australia, and has since established a steady market across Europe and South Africa.
In the following paragraph I will attempt to assure you that the postives of these unfashionable packaging are twice that of the negatives. Of course, this is subjective, but I am willing to argue my point in the goon corner, for anyone willing to take me on!
  1. Boxed wine is less expensive, lighter and more environmentally friendly than bottled wine - recycle the cardboard and re-use the plastic bladder (see point 7). The bag allows a content of 2–10 litres, so that far less packaging mass is required.
  2. Easier to handle and transport - good for taking to picnics, festivals and BBQs.
  3. Usually cheaper than bottled wines, you'll pay around GBP£10, US$15, A$15 for 4/5 litres.
  4. Prevents oxidisation during dispensing - wine in a bag is not touched by air as it is when a bottle is opened and exposed.
  5. No chance of cork taint or spoilage as there isn't a cork.
  6. Stays fresh for weeks (if it lasts that long!).
  7. The best part? After you've finished you can blow it up and use it as a pillow! This has been tried and tested (by me) on a number of occasions and works a treat!
  8. You can play an awesome drinking game called Goon of Fortune (aka Wheel of Goon). Also incorporating another Aussie icon - the Hills Hoist - this game is popular with Australian teenagers beginning their responsible alcohol journeys...bah! I'll let you research this one yourselves...

  1. Best to drink within 12 months - it's not pretty after that long and definitely not a wine to 'lay-down'. Do not, I repeat do not, buy goon as a gift for someone. Ever.
  2. It's a cheap means for alcoholics to become inebriated - with a low price and high alcohol content it's not encouraging responsible drinking and this is of some concern to the Australian government.
  3. There is no cork. This does, I admit, take away the satisfaction of opening a bottle of wine - though is this not also the argument against the screw cap closure?
  4. You can play an awesome drinking game called Goon of Fortune (aka Wheel of Goon). Also incorporating another Aussie icon - the Hills Hoist - this game is popular with Australian teenagers beginning their responsible alcohol journeys...Yes, I know I've repeated this one, but if you've ever played this game, it can leave you worse for wear and regretting you ever knew what Goon of Fortune was...

Unfortunately us Brits (I say us, I am on the fence between here and Aussie!) have not embraced this environmentally friendly, mutli-purpose boxed beauty with quite as much compassion as the Aussies. Being close to the heartland of wine making in France, Spain and Italy, perhaps we are clouded and restrained by the traditional methods in production and packaging.

What's not to say that we could have good quality wine, contained in a more environmentally friendly and practical manner? Apart from the fact it's a cardboard box, and very unfashionable in this part of the world...

Well fear not, friends. Let me introduce the Wine Handbag...
Swedish company Vernissage, released this trio of on-the-go boxed wines, shaped to look like designer handbags, to take boxed wine from practical to stylish (unless you still call it 'goon' and it will never sound stylish!). The 'Bag-in-Bag' wine is made at the Nordic Sea Winery in Sweden from French grapes and has won awards for innovation and loved by the press and wine-lovers alike. If friends are not impressed when you rock up to a barbeque with one of these, at least it's a point of conversation!
The red is a Syrah Cabernet Sauvignon, the white is a Chardonnay Viognier and the Syrah Rose is a lively and fresh rose wine from the Pays d'Oc in Southern France.
The concept has also been adopted by other producers, such as Gallo, and you should be able to find these wine purses at supermarkets or wine stores across the UK.
So, in conclusion, I think boxed wine has a lot to offer and I am not ashamed to admit that I, wine lover and partial wine snob, am not afraid to be seen purchasing goon from time to time.
Au revoir - I'm off to the shops to pick me up a wine purse!
Goon quotes from Urban Dictionary under 'goon sack' search!
Images from Dani P.L.'s photostream and goldberg's photostream on Flickr under the Creative Commons.

Monday, 19 August 2013

Wines Under £7 Challenge: Picks From Adnams

Is there anything better in this world than great wine? How about puppies? Kittens?  The majesty of the Universe? Well those things do come very close, but what tops them, is when great wine is darn cheap!
Upon my recent Norfolk visit, I found myself perusing the shelves of the Adnams Cellar and Kitchen store. It is a magical place full of wonder and mystery. The wonder: all of the amazing things on their shelves. The mystery: why I can't own them all (not really a mystery, I just don't have that much cash).

What I could afford however, were 3 amazing finds that set me back a total of £20. Yep, £20 for 3 magnificent bottles. Each of these bottles represent amazing value for the quality of what's beneath the cork.

First up, we have a Spanish triumph. The Cruz de Piedra Garnacha. On the nose there are wonderfully jammy black fruit flavours and a hint of pepper. The palate is a salsa dance of liquorice and cherry with a nice lick of vanilla on the finish. Truly a Spanish gem at only £6.99 a bottle.

Next up from a more up and coming country, the Paparuda Pinot Noir. Usually to get a decent Pinot you would spend upwards of a tenner on something from the like of New Zealand or, if you've got the wonga, Burgundy. But for this Eastern European lovely? £5.89. I kid you not. This is a wonderful, good value example of one the worlds best grapes. The nose has the usual suspects of black cherry but the palate explodes with flavours of juicy red fruits and black cherries. Quite honestly one of the best wines I've had for the price.

Lastly, we go to the other side of the Atlantic, to Argentina. Argentina is one the worlds biggest wine producing countries, even boasting one of their own indigenous varieties in the form of Torrontes. The Escondido Torrontes from Mendoza, produces beautifully floral notes on the nose, and follows up on the palate with sweet stone fruits like peaches and apricots. The finish is dry but surprisingly rich, resulting in a moreish wine that will leave you wondering why you didn't buy a whole case! You can get a bottle for £6.99.

The Adnams Cellar and Kitchen Store is such a nice place to visit. With a massive collection of wines, all their own beers (and there are some crackers) and a good range of their own spirits, you will definitely find something for your tastes. And they do loads of cool kitchen gadgets too!
They have stores in London, Norfolk, Suffolk, Essex and Lincolnshire so pop in grab something, you won't be disappointed.

What's On: Prohibition London.

We here at Vinspire love all things a little bit retro. Like this covert beauty. But what we love more is anything so retro it's nearly 100 years old! (Just as a pre-cursor, we don't like the actual law, but what it spawned was pretty darn nifty).

Step back in time, to the era of Fedora hats, chorus lines and spats. To a world of illegal gambling, the sound of a rattling Tommy gun and the raucous noise of The Speakeasy. This, my friends, is the time of Prohibition. From 1919 to 1933 alcohol was banned in the US as a way to combat the wave of depravity and loose morals. However things didn't quite go to plan. If anything, it just made things even harder for the police: with an entire country crying out for Sweet Lady Liquor, organised crime units began shifting bootleg hooch into bars disguised as bookshops and disused warehouses. It was a simpler time, it was a better time: but imagine if you could experience it for yourself.

Well now you can! The aptly named, Prohibition, have been bringing the sound of rasping trumpets and gin in tea cups to secret locations across the UK since 2009.

Now, a night with Prohibition isn't just your standard secret location party. For one thing, they insist on fancy dress. And no…this doesn't mean come dressed as Batman. They require all party goers to dust off their best suspenders, spit-shine those spats and get those flapper dresses at the ready, because (and I quote): ‘…denim was the uniform of prisoners, not the attire of suave gentlemen, and trainers are totally inappropriate footwear for dancing the Charleston’. Disobey this and you’ll find yourself looking down the barrel of a Thompson. (You won’t really, though you might look a bit funny when you’re inside).

Ok, now that you’re suitably dressed its time to step through the time portal that is the front door. Upon arrival, guests are confronted with live bands, a swinging dance floor and a sea of fancy hats. Don’t fancy getting sweaty in your vintage outfit? Then grab a cocktail and try your luck on one of the roulette or blackjack tables.

Or maybe you fancy just kicking back with some chilled out music and a good chat with some friends. Then by all means visit the piano room, where you can sit and relax in comfy chairs while Razzmatazz gently tickles the ivories. On top of all this, there’s a silent cinema, DJ’s using gramophones, cabaret acts, burlesque and many more to keep your historical partying interest peaked.

It seems every little detail has been considered, and the utmost care taken to adhere to tradition. Even down to the range of hooch on offer: anything you desire to quench a thirst (that was available in the 1920's) is available to you. There's all manner of gins, bourbons, whiskies and several fancy cocktails, all of which are served IN A TEA CUP! I know right?! Nothing like drinking a Martini from fine bone china.

With the next event set to take place on September the 14th (in a secret location so no one goes squealing to the cops...ok, it's Bloomsbury Ballroom), it’s sure to be a swell night and a perfect way to kick off the autumn party season.

This is a ticket only event, so make sure to get yours here

Images taken from komissarov_a and macc_flick photostreams respectively under the creative commons license.

Friday, 16 August 2013

Friday Cocktail: Juniper Rhuby

This week's cocktail relies greatly on my new favourite ever find: Mr. Fitzpatrick's Rhubarb and Rosehip Cordial. I found it when shopping at the Adnam's store in Holkham, North Norfolk last week, but if you go to the Mr Fitzpatrick's website you can find a local stockist, or order it direct from them for £4 (with £6.50 postage, so it's probably worth ordering a few!)

I can't stress how delicious these flavours are. Sweet, tangy, floral, and fruity, they really are the perfect match for gin. I do prefer using fresh lime in this recipe, but Tesco's Low Calorie Soda Water with Lime is only 39p a litre and does the job and is a good store-cupboard failsafe.

Juniper Rhuby cocktail recipe
(serves one - we prefer making up a batch for a pitcher though - so just multiply as necessary!)

  • 1 shot gin
  • 1 shot Mr. Fitzpatrick's Rhubarb and Rosehip Cordial
  • A good squeeze of lime juice 
  • 1 1/2 shots sparkling wine (we use inexpensive Prosecco or Cava - Tesco do some good ones!)
  • Soda water, to top up the glass (tonic or sparkling water work too)

Shake it!

1. Put the cordial, gin, and lime in a cocktail shaker and give it a good shake over ice.
2. Pour in the champagne and gently stir it together with the rest of the mixture.
3. Pour into a tumbler or champagne saucer, and top up with soda water or tonic.

* For an extra boozy treat, use half a shot of Chase Rhubarb Liqueur too!

A Video Guide To Wine Tasting (ft. Borat)

As Jo touched on not so long ago in her Wine Etiquette article, there are certain things that winos feel they need to do in order to fit in at a wine tasting. If you are invited along to a tasting, it's not easy to get the information to guide you through without looking and sounding like a total novice.

So as you have probably worked out by now, I like to try and be helpful in the least helpful ways possible. I thought the best way to learn about how to properly taste wine would be to show an example of what you should and definitely shouldn't do.

One of the below videos is a useful tutorial on wine tasting courtesy of Mr Oz Clarke, the other is a faux Kazak wreaking havoc upon some Americans. In my usual fashion, I will let you decide which one you think would be most fun. (the answer is the second one)


Do Not

So now that we all know that a grape is neither like a peanut nor a small egg, we can be much more confident in our wine tasting...

No need to thank me.

Thursday, 15 August 2013

Wine for Beginners: Guide to Rioja

- By Rosie Simpson

I am on a mission to learn about the vino of Spain. In terms of quantity, they take bronze after France and Italy, having somewhere around 3 million hectares under vine.

Spain is a big old place and wine is produced… well, basically everywhere. The trouble is, we certainly get the quantity of Spanish wine here in the UK but what we don’t get is the variety – too many of Spain’s gems remain practically undiscovered in this country (check out Jo’s Spanish whites post for a couple of suggestions.)

If it is Rioja you’re after however, there is absolutely no problem. In fact, last year, in Britain we bought a whopping 3,168,000,000 bottles of the stuff. The problem is knowing which bloody Rioja to choose, as there are hundreds of examples on sale here, (and no, they don’t all taste the same.)

Despite my eagerness to sample the weirder and more wonderful wines of Spain, I realise that Rioja is a good place to start. So in order to help others, I’ve decided to decode the information overload on Rioja labels. (This is only marginally less James Bond than it sounds...)

Rioja Facts:

The name: Rioja is the name of the region the wine comes from, not the grape.
Grape: Generally a blend of a few indigenous Spanish varieties, but the majority of the blend will be Tempranillo
The region: The region is landlocked in the northwest of Spain along the River Ebro. 
Colour: Also worthy of note is that Rioja can be red, white or rosé.

The Label

Now, onto the more confusing elements. On the label you will always have the name of the ageing process, which really only denotes how long a Rioja has been aged for. Knowledge is power, so I’ve tapped out a little description of each below. 

Increasingly, you may also find the name of the sub-region within Rioja being mentioned on the label. There’s three main ones, but don’t worry too much: the majority of Rioja is a blend of grapes from various parts of the Rioja region.

Armed with this information hopefully you can head off to the shops and feel less terrified by the vast choice of Rioja on offer.


Joven – Spends less than a year in oak, is bottled, sold and drunk. Fruity, simple, easy-as-pie to drink. Mostly consumed in Spain but exports are picking up.

Crianza – Released for consumption after two years of ageing. The reds have at least one year in oak and the whites and rosés have 6 months, the rest of the time it is in bottle in the cellar. These wines use a good quality base wine so the oak and fruit balance well. Robust enough to stand up to food – often a very successful crowd pleaser.

Reserva – Produced in the best vintages. Released after three years of ageing. Reds have one year in oak and whites and rosés have 6 months. Rest of the time in the bottle. The fruit is mellow and turning into more complex rich and sophisticated wine.

Gran Reserva – Produced in exceptionally good vintages. Released after five years ageing. Two years in oak and the rest of the time in bottle. Highest levels of tannin mean this can age the longest of all the Riojas. Can have oxidative aromas and powerful oak influence with incredible complexity and length.


Rioja Alta – Situated to the west, mostly south bank of River Ebro. Cooler and wetter. Delicate wines. Arguably best Riojas come from here.

Rioja Alavesa – Smallest area, situated northwest, north side of River Ebro. Cooler and wetter. More delicate wines.

Rioja Bassa – Largest area, situated southeast, mostly south bank of River Ebro. Drier and hotter. Bolder wines with higher alcohol content.

Images taken from malias and Fareham Wine's photostreams respectively, under the Creative Commons License

My Festival Drinking Essentials!

As a number of major Summer Music Festivals are about to kick off all across the UK and seeing as I am off to one (Greenman Festival) this weekend, I thought I would do a post on a number of (personal) essentials ranging from the trampishly cheap to the darn right affordable to take to a weekend long festival! Lets have some boozy fun!

Still a West Country boy at heart, I find I can barely enter a field without some naughty apple juice in my hand. Here are a some from each end of the spectrum for you!

Crofters Apple Cider- Available in all Tesco stores, this SUPER CHEAP cider (around 53p a can) is pretty much perfect for those wanting to spend as little as possible. Although not packed with the flavour you would expect from a ‘proper’ cider, it has good acidity and sweetness, lightly sparkling and with decent apple bite. When it comes down to it, a bit of a bargain.
Henry Weston’s Apple Cider- Available in most major supermarkets, this slightly dearer cider also comes in a range of styles, from medium sweet, medium dry to the 8.2% Vintage cider. The Vintage cider is aged in 200 year old oak barrels and gives this cider a deep, smoky, full bodied flavour. Although strong, the developing flavours oak, sour apples and acidity in this cider make it very gluggable and mouth-wateringly tasty. Although Henry’s whole range is great, the Vintage cider really stands out, especially as it stops you from standing up.Available at Tesco for £10 per six half-litre bottles.

Baron Riesling d’Alsace- Yes, okay, I am a Riesling junkie! If there was a Breaking Bad for Riesling, I would be a prominent character, before disappearing in a bath full of acid. ANYWAY! This wine's deliciously aromatic, lemony, dry taste makes it great when sat out in the sun, listening to your favourite bands. The higher sugar levels also make this wine very drinkable, and will go well with pretty much anything on sale throughout the food tents. 

Cono Sur Pinot Noir- For the eagle eyed Vinspire followers out there you may have noticed that I have reviewed this before. Lazy? Or just a tribute to how bloody good this wine is! I can’t think of any better red to chill out with on a warm (hopefully) summers evening, or after a dance crazed night at 2am around a fire. To read the full review, follow this link. And it's on offer again at £5.99 from £7.49!

Gin gin ginny ginny gin gin. I'm sorry, what were you saying? Oh right, sorry about that. But seriously now, gin. 

Oliver Cromwell Aldi Own Brand- I know what you're thinking. HOW BLOODY DARE YOU! But bear with me!

What if I said that this beat a number of other much higher priced gins at the International Spirits Challenge blind tasting? Gins such as Bombay Sapphire and Hendricks? Well it did!

Crisp with citrus, spice and a backing track of juniper berry, this really is a fantastic bargain gin! Perfect with tonic, cranberry and pretty much whatever you choose to mix it with. Even just more gin. 

So I have let you into the treasures of my festival essential drinks kit! If you're off to a festival soon/have been to one recently, let us know what tipples you swear on and where you enjoyed them most! Pip pip.