Saturday, 17 December 2016

The best drink subscription boxes

Over the past few years, subscription boxes have sprung up out of nowhere. You can pretty much get anything delivered to your door on a regular basis now, from bacon to mysteries, and moss of the month to cheese toasties.

So it probably comes as no surprise that there are plenty of drinks subscription services out there now too. But which one to choose? Here's our pick of the best.

Drop Secret drinks club – the best of all worlds

If you’re indecisive like me, independent wine merchants The Secret Cellar, based in Tunbridge Wells, have come up with a pretty novel idea for a boozy subscription box… Drop Secret.

They’re combining all the boozy clubs. For £40 (with free delivery), you get either bottles of small production wine, an artisan spirit, craft beers, or anything else that goes. And it remains top secret until it arrives at your door. 

You can choose whether you want deliveries to be monthly, bi-monthly, or quarterly, and start, stop and pause deliveries whenever you choose.

They kindly sent me over the first month’s delivery to see how it all worked. It came with three bottles of wine.

The Flower and the Bee, Treixadura 2015, Galicia, NW Spain
This Treixadura was a first for me. It’s very bright yellow, almost gold, and is a great, full-flavoured white wine. It packs a punch, with a fruity intensity, herbs, and a bit of spice. It’s certainly not heavy though, just really, really fresh.

Sibiliano, Nero d’Avola 2015, Sicily, Italy
This is a lovely deeply-coloured, medium bodied red. There’s plenty of cherry on the nose, and forest fruits and muted spice flavours. A bit savoury on the finish.

Alto de la Ballena, Tannat/Merlot/Cabernet Franc 2009, Maldonado, Uruguay
This is a very successful blend of 40% Merlot, 30% Tannat and 30% Cabernet Franc from Uruguay, so a bit different from the usual Argentina/Chile wines you may be used to. The Tannat is aged in the barrel for nine months to soften the tannins, before being blended. It’s really delicious: big, dark and fruity, and relatively limited too, as only 12,000 bottles have been produced.

Of course, you won’t be getting those if you sign up, that will be kept a mystery, but it’s hopefully given you a taster of the quality of products you’ll be receiving.

Sign me up 

True Tea Club

If the thought of constant booze through the post makes you want to detox, then perhaps True Tea Club is the one for you?

They’re based up in York and specialise in seven loose leaf teas.

In each box you get four different loose leaf teas which change every month, and four empty tea bags, along with a welcome card, business card, and tailor card.

There are three different levels of subscription: Standard gives you 40 teas for £10 per month; Premium will make you 60 cups for £15 per month; or Deluxe makes 80 teas for £20 per month.

Each month’s box is released on the 20th of the month, but the boxes are sent out throughout the month. Delivery is free, and you can get international delivery for £3.75, if you want your tea fix from further afield.

In the box I was sent, I had Vanilla Cupcake rooibos, Earl Grey Rebel black tea, the wonderfully-named Rainbow Chaser herbal blend, and Mighty Mango green tea to try.

Mighty Mango was my absolute favourite. Despite instructions saying to only brew it for 10-20secs, the smell and flavour was quite intense and really delicious. But I am a sucker for a fruit tea. I also really enjoyed the Earl Grey Rebel and Rainbow Chaser, which was as brightly coloured and flavoured as the name would suggest. Vanilla Cupcake was a bit sweet for my liking, but the flavour was of real vanilla, rather than the synthetic taste you often get from vanilla flavoured things.

Sign me up, and get 50% off your first subscription box using code 'LOVE' on checkout.

Craft Gin Club 

Every month you get a small-batch gin, sometimes a rare and exclusive bottling not available anywhere else, and it’s sent out with complementary foodie treats and a copy of the Ginned! magazine. I know several people that have signed up to this one and it always looks like a really exciting bit of post to receive.

£40 a month, including postage (you can also do bi-monthly and quarterly, and you get £10 off your first box)
Sign me up

The Whisky Tasting Club 

You can get tastings as and when you want them, whether that’s a one off, or regular monthly tastings. Most contain five 50ml measures and cost £30, including postage. However if you sign up for the regular tastings, you get a 10% discount, first call on special limited edition sets, and bonus extra samples.

From £30, including postage
Sign me up 

Tipple Box: cocktails in the post

Small-batch spirits and exclusive ingredients sent through the post every month, so you can make your own cocktails at home. You get two recipes, four 50ml spirits, and other exclusive ingredients.

£24 a month, including postage
Sign me up 

My Vitibox: Wine

With My Vitibox, you get one or two bottles of wine, a magazine with tasting cards (and a welcome gift with your first box). The ‘colours and flavours’ package is £20 a month, with the ‘red passion’ box featuring two wines chosen by Alain Gousse (former sommelier at starred restaurant La Tour D'Argent) for £30 a month.

£20/£30 a month
Sign me up

Beer 52

If hops are more your thing, then perhaps Beer 52 is for you? Each month you get eight beers, a magazine, and bonus snacks for £24. All the beers are delivered to you within four-six weeks of being brewed, and you can order more if you run out. You can also send a one off gift box.

£24 a month, including postage
Sign me up

Beer Merchants

Or there’s Beer Merchants. They offer ten seasonal beers a month for £30 (or £28 if you sign up for a year), and mixed cases focusing on countries, breweries and styles. On top of that there’s discounts across the site, and invites to beer events.

£28/£30 a month, including postage.
Sign me up

Orchard Box

Every month you get sent eight craft ciders, two snacks, and various other goodies (you can specify vegan and gluten free too). All the ciders chosen are made with real juice, not from concentrate, and they promise you’ll never find anything in their boxes that you could find in a supermarket. 

£28.99, including postage
Sign me up

Crafty Nectar

Depending on whether you fancy six or 12 bottles of craft cider a month, Crafty Nectar has got you covered. All their ciders are handpicked from around the UK, and again, you won't be finding any of these in supermarkets. The subscription is flexible so you can skip a month, or cancel anytime.

6 bottles, £28.50, including postage / 12 bottles, £41.50, including postage 

Saturday, 10 December 2016

The best gifts for whisky lovers: Stocking fillers and secret santa

Although it seems like the people of Britain just can’t get enough of their gin, believe it or not, whisky (and vodka) still outsell the juniper stuff. In that case, it’s pretty likely that you know a whisky fan or two. If you’re struggling with what to buy them for Christmas, here’s a round up of the best stocking fillers and secret santa gifts for whisky lovers.

Stocking fillers and secret santa gifts for whisky lovers

1. Drink it right: Glencairn whisky glass

Glencairn whisky glass - best gifts for whisky lovers

Recognised as the 'definitive glass for whisky', these are a must for any whisky lover. The glass even won The Queens Award for Innovation. The tapered sides help to enhance the nosing experience, and there's a solid base so it's hard to knock over, even after you've had a few. (£4.95, The Whisky Exchange)

2. Ballin’: Whale ice ball maker

Whale ice baller -  Best whisky gifts for budget Christmas
Image copyright: Kikkerland

Know someone who loves an Old Fashioned, and er, whales? Then it won’t get more perfect than this whale-shaped ice ball maker (£9.99 Amazon).

3. The knowledge: '101 whiskies to try before you die' book

Whisky book -  Best whisky gifts for budget Christmas
Image copyright: Amazon

Author Ian Buxton has been working in the Scotch whisky industry since 1987 and there aren’t many people that know more about it than him. For anyone who really loves their whisky, but wants to try something new, ‘101 whiskies to try before you die’ is the one to get (£9.09, Amazon).

4. Boozy cheese: Amber Mist

Whisky cheese - Best whisky gifts for budget Christmas
Image copyright: Snowdonia Cheese Company

Everyone likes cheese right? Well how about cheese with added booze? The Snowdonia Cheese Company’s ‘Amber Mist’ combines smoky peaty Scotch with mature cheddar. It’s £4.50 for a 200g truckle, or £35 for a whole 2kg wheel if you’re feeling generous/really hungry.

5. Feeling frisky: Whisky condiment kit

If whisky cheese isn’t enough on its own, then it’s time to talk condiments. You can now make your own whisky mustard with this kit. Or if that's too much effort, there’s a huge range of whiskey/bourbon glazes, sauces, and marinades in most supermarkets now.

6. Whisky beer

Whisky beer -  Best whisky gifts for budget Christmas
Image copyright: Tennent's

Can’t decide whether to get a beer related present, or a whisky one. Well, now there’s no need to compromise. You could go for the 1488 premium whisky beer (£1.95, Waitrose), or Tennent’s beer aged with whisky oak (£2.50, The Whisky Shop).

7. Nuts for whisky: Candied whisky nuts

Candied whisky nuts - Best whisky gifts for budget Christmas
Image copyright: Fireball Whisky

If you want to make a homemade gift, you can’t go wrong with candied whisky nuts. All you’ll need is some nuts, water, sugar, and whisky. This recipe suggests Fireball Whisky, but if you’re not a fan of the cinnamon then simply use something else.

8. Alcohol-free aftershave

Whisky aftershave - best gifts for whisky lovers
Image copyright: Nervermore Body Company

When you're looking for a new fragrance, you may not immediately think, 'I definitely want to smell like booze', but the folks at Nevermore Body Company have bottled whisky in a whole different way. The aftershave is alcohol free, so it's unlikely anyone will be wandering around smelling like they had a heavy night the night before. It's apparently their most popular scent. (£9.96, Etsy).

9. Whisky wedge

Whisky wedge - best gifts for whisky lovers
Image copyright: Amazon

We've already seen a wedge of whisky cheese, but now for the whisky wedge (as seen on This Morning!). For friends that love angles, slow melting ice, and drinking whisky in a triangle shape, look no further. (£18, Amazon).

10. A wee dram, or three

If you want your gift receiver to be able to drink some whisky, but you don't quite have the budget to stretch to a whole bottle, this little taster set of Glenfiddich whiskys is the one to go for. (£10, Sainsbury's)

As you've been so thoughtful thinking of lovely gifts to buy all your whisky loving friends, I think you deserve a drink. 

Saturday, 3 December 2016

Weird and wonderful wine racks

Wine racks tend to be at best boring and at worst unsightly. If you're going to go to the trouble to lay your favourite bottles on display, just begging to be picked up and their corks popped, you might at least go to the effort of finding a wine rack with a bit of character.

We've searched high and low for some of the best, prettiest, and downright brilliant wine racks around:

Take, for instance, this completely original, eye-poppingly stunning wooden gnarly tree wine rack from Paul Williams Design on Etsy. It may only hold six bottles (he can make different sizes on request), but it's worth the £140 price tag just on beauty alone.

If you like your design more minimal, Black + Blum have created the metal flow wine rack, which is all swirly but so subtle you hardly notice it's there. It's £30.00.

Okay, so it only holds one bottle, but I heart the Wine for Your Life bottle holder so much. You can pick it up from Bouf for £11.50.

I'm trying really hard to be reasonable and not include this because the shipping it so expensive, but OH MY GOD IT'S A WINEOSAUR BOTTLE HOLDER! It's made from gorgeous birch wood and stained with either walnut or a mixture of beeswax and orange oil. I love it so much I'd happily pay £32.64 for it, but as it's from the States the shipping is an extra £26.75. May just move to the States so I can buy all of The Backpack Shoppe's stuff.

Another silly design which is actually available in the UK is this genius cactus wine rack. Not one for those that like their furnishings subtle, it is still pretty cool in my books. It's available from £123.30 on Amazon.

Red Thumb Print on Not On The High Street do some seriously sexy wooden furnishings, but they don't come cheap. Still, I do adore this whopping 150cm tall oak wine rack for its simple, understated style. It holds an impressive 16 bottles, however it is £160... They do a 6 bottle one that starts at £85.

I love the simplicity of this honeycomb wine rack from Habitat. It's on trend in a gold finish, and simple enough not to offend anyone. Practical and classy, what more could you want? Also, it's £30.

If you're planning to spend a bit more, but still like things relatively simple, then how about this handmade copper wine rack from Proper Copper Design? It's not the cheapest at £240, but it's really rather lovely. 

We have some other epic bottle storage design companies coming your way over the next few weeks, so I'd start saving now.

*This post has been updated for 2016 with new links, prices, and one or two completely new ideas*

Thursday, 24 November 2016

The best drinking events in Liverpool in 2017

We may focus a bit too much on the south here at Vinspire, but fortunately we've got guest blogger Laura Bowery on hand to tell us all the best drinking events in Liverpool.

After a long week in work, everybody looks forward to a drink or two. Make a weekend of your well-deserved tipple and head into Liverpool for one, or all, of these brilliant boozy events. 

This is the perfect family foodie day out, with some fabulous beverages too. Liverpool food and Drink Festival takes place in spring and welcomes vendors from across the UK to beautiful Sefton Park.

There’s both big brands and smaller independent producers, for those who love the finer things in life. And there’s a variety of craft beers, ciders and spirits.

Over the past few years the drinks focus has been on Liverpool’s speciality spirit production with an emphasis on gin, rum, vodka and bourbon.

As well as a spectacular assortment of bars, there are also plenty of events taking place over the weekend, including cocktail competitions and workshops – if you’re not quite a pro with your shaker just yet.

Over the past few years, bars across Liverpool have been upping their gin game.

The humble gin and tonic has had many a makeover at the likes of Arthouse, Jenever and the Botanical Gin Gardens.

So it probably comes as no surprise that Liverpool welcomes the Liverpool Gin Festival twice a year: in winter and summer.

The 2016 winter gin festival will be held next weekend, beneath one of Liverpool’s most iconic landmarks, the Metropolitan Cathedral (or Paddy’s Wigwam as it’s locally known).

Stalls will be set up in the atmospheric Lutyens Crypt and offer eager tasters 100s of different gins.

With live music, ‘Gin Talks’ given by industry experts, and a selection of nibbles, make sure you’ve got 2017’s dates in the diary, if you can't get there next weekend.

If gin isn’t your thing, how about the annual knees-up that is Oktoberfest, held at Liverpool’s Pier Head?

Don your Lederhosen and Dirndl, sit among many a merry man and woman, and enjoy a stein or three of beer, before dancing on the table to the best Oom-pah music outside of Germany.

And if Bavarian beer isn’t your tipple of choice (maybe don't go to Oktoberfest?), there’s some wine and cider on hand too.

You’re going to need to line your stomach for this one, so fill up on Brezel, Bratwurst and Schnitzel. Mmmm schmackhaften!

The end of the weekend is topped off with a family-friendly day including a hearty Sunday roast and live music. 

For more information and ticket details for 2017, check out the official website

Taking place in the sunnier months, Liverpool Craft Beer Expo is a beer drinkers’ heaven.

Nearly all the bars and pubs across Liverpool are now serving much more than your average Fosters, Carling and Stella.

Whatever your tastes, you can be sure to find something you like among 100 tapped kegs spread across the venue, or from any of the ten bars.

Just – so – much – beer.

An ever-growing list of breweries and vendors are invited to serve punters with interesting and unique beers. And as more vendors turn up, so do more people.

Held in a spectacular venue in Liverpool’s creative district, Camp and Furnace, Liverpool Craft Beer Expo also provides great food and entertainment for the duration of the weekend.

Go for a day or try to take on the full weekend.

Thursday, 17 November 2016

Party season is here: Easy cocktail mixers and bases

Photo by Edson Hong

Party season is nearly upon us. It may be too early for most to start mentioning my favourite 'C' word, but I feel it's acceptable once the winter coat goes on – and that has definitely already happened.

With the parties comes the big decision of what to drink. You might want a few options aside from the usual fizz, beer, and wine, but cocktails for more than a few people can be annoyingly time consuming.

You'll usually find me in the kitchen at parties, either getting roped in to rescuing the punch that has seen a few too many spirits thrown in, or attempting to recreate some obscure cocktail someone had in a bar that one time, with a limited selection of whatever's in the house.

But this year has been the year of the pre-mixed and ready-made cocktail. Marks and Spencer have reported that sales of their cocktails in a can have been up a massive 74%. There's been an emergence of many bottle-to-glass drinks (or can-to-mouth), but there are fewer brands of mixers and bases, where you still need to add your booze and do a bit of shaking here and there.

Ice in, spirit in, Funkin – Cocktail mixers

The nice folks at Funkin sent over a few of their mixers to try. Having never used a cocktail mixer like this before, I was intrigued, but perhaps slightly sceptical.

Mojito – I have paid a decent amount of money for many mojitos in bars, made by supposedly professional bartenders, that don’t taste as good as the Funkin option. The mixer is sharp and tangy, bursting with limes, with just an edge of sweetness, and a decent hit of mint. It’s definitely my favourite of the three (but I do prefer mojitos anyway). Throw in a few slices of lime and some mint leaves with lots of crushed ice, and I think you’d struggle to find a mojito lover that doesn’t enjoy this.

Strawberry Daiquiri – This tastes like real strawberry, which is a good start. This is sweet (as you would expect), but it has a zesty lime note so it’s not sickly. Over summer this is the perfect one to enjoy in the garden on a warm evening, and in the colder months it’s perfect for remembering those warm evenings in the garden while you’re getting the party started in front of the fire. 

Pina Colada – If you like Pina Coladas, and easy cocktails you can drink in the rain (or sun), then this is the one for you. I haven't had a Pina Colada for years, and while it won't be jumping to the top of my order list, this mixer was creamy, sweet, and not too heavy. You can define the individual flavours, and I was more than happy drinking this and pretending I was sat on beach somewhere warm, rather than wearing two jumpers and a scarf in my flat. 

One thing I would say is that I don’t feel like the packaging matches the product. Funkin markets its products as the first and only 100% natural fresh fruit cocktail mixers. They have sourced the best fruit from around the world, there’s nothing nasty added, and there’s a ban on artificial colours, preservatives and additives. All that is great, and the mixers taste great and fresh, but the packaging doesn’t convey the ‘natural image, and is instead a bit busy. I think toning the packaging down, and going for a more minimalist design would do wonders to convey the premium-tasting product inside. 

Packaging aside, I was pleasantly surprised by the Funkin mixers. And if I wanted a night off from being found in the kitchen at parties, wielding a jigger in one hand and cocktail shaker in the other, I would definitely pick up a few cartons of Funkin.

Funkin mixers, 750ml, £2.99, Waitrose or their online shop

While there aren’t too many cocktail mixers on the market, especially ones that taste good, there are a few varieties, varying from cheap and cheerful, to small batch and handcrafted. 

Owl's Brew – Tea for cocktails

If you want to jump on all the hipster trends at once (well two of them) – owls and tea cocktails – then Owl’s Brew is the one for you. It’s the first ever tea crafted for cocktails, is ready-to-pour, and can be served on the rocks or shaken. There are a few tasty sounding flavours – the Classic (English breakfast with a tart twist), White and Vine (white tea with watermelon and pomegranate), and Pink and Black (darjeeling with a hint of hibiscus – that can be paired with most types of booze. The tea is brewed in Vermont in large kettles, where it’s handcrafted in small batches, before being sweetened, packed, and bottled.

Owl’s brew, Earl Grey tea mixer, £5.49, Amazon

Little Devil – Bloody Mary spice

This one may be cheating a bit as you need to add vodka and tomato juice, but if you want to add a bit of spice to your life when you’re on the move, or if you desperately need to rustle up a Bloody Mary after a heavy night, Little Devil is the way to go. 

The spice is handmade in small batches with natural ingredients, and combines all the aspects of a classic Bloody Mary, with a few added extras. These make a very tasty Bloody Mary that certainly helped my hangover – very savoury, not too spicy, but with a decent kick. I want to take some on my next flight for all my mile high Bloody Mary needs.

Little Devil spice, 24 servings, £7.99, Little Devil Spices 

White Whale – Bold mixers

These dinky tonic bottles look like they could cure a cough as much as they could help you get a little tipsy. The White Whale mixers are on the premium end of the market – the company only uses herbs and all-natural juices, and organic where possible. They currently come in six flavours – the Filthy Liar (add gin), Day Dreamer (add rum), Skinny Dipper (add tequila), Your Older Brother (add vodka), Aunties Old Fashion (add bourbon), and the Mob Man (add rye) – so you just need your booze and your garnish and you’re good to go. 

White Whale bold mixers, $10.00, Drink White Whale

The Modern Cocktail – Champagne mixers

If I had a nice bottle of champagne, I wouldn’t want to add anything to it, but if I had an ok bottle of fizz then I’d be a bit more tempted by these ‘champagne mixers’. They come in five flavours: raspberry, mandarin, mango, grapefruit, and blood orange, with three servings per bottle. I do feel that with the simple flavours, it would taste better to just add a small amount of fresh juice or puree, rather than a ‘syrup’, but they would make a nice stocking filler.

The Modern Cocktail champagne mixers, pack of five, £10.00, John Lewis

Finest Call – Cocktail mixer

Finest Call have got a large range of products ranging from Appletinis to Old Fashioneds, and are marketed to make a busy bartender’s job easier. They’re made with juice concentrate so aren’t as fresh as some of the other offerings. I can’t say I’m a fan of the packaging: they remind me of the lurid alcopops I unfortunately drank as a teenager... 

Finest Call, 1-litre bottle £6.39, The Drink Shop

Jose Cuervo – Margarita mix

If you like your margarita by the litre, then Jose’s got you covered. While Jose and I had a bit of a falling out at a party when I was 18, I won’t judge if you need a quick and easy way to make an industrial amount of margarita for a party.

Jose Cuervo margarita mix, 1-litre, £9.95, Amazon  

Wednesday, 9 November 2016

Pairing wine with charcuterie: KWV and Cannon&Cannon

I’ve covered pairing wine with vegetarian food, and pairing wine with Indian food, now comes the time to pair wine with charcuterie (well, British cured meats). Christmas is on the way, which means party season. What better way to spend the evening, than with friends, a plate full of delicious meat, and bottles of perfectly-matched wine?

Cannon&Cannon are based in Borough Market. They've been going since 2010 and are leading the British charcuterie revolution (they've also ruined supermarket chorizo and salami for me, forever). They sell produce at a variety of markets in London, through their online shop, and to restaurants and delis, as well as running tastings and their famous Meat School (learn to bone out a pig's head, make bacon, or pair wine and meats, like I did).

KWV is one of South Africa's leading wine co-operatives. It was founded back in 1918 by winemakers in the Western Cape in South Africa. While some of them might be a bit tricky to get your hands on in the UK, they're worth searching out. I was genuinely impressed by the quality of the wines I tried, especially when you consider the price. 

The ever-enthusiastic Sean Cannon, founder of Cannon&Cannon, chose eight British cured meats, and Wim Truter, KWV head winemaker, chose the wines. Let the heated meat match commence.

Round one
Wild fennel salami with Vinecrafter Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (rrp £6.99)

The salami is made in Sussex using Old Spot pork, foraged wild fennel, and plenty of garlic. All that leads to quite a strong aniseed flavour. This was paired with quite a light, herby and tropically fruity Sauvignon Blanc. Off to a good start.

Round two
Veal, lemon and thyme salami with KWV Classic Collection Grenache Blanc 2015 (rrp £7.55)

I'd never tried veal before, but Sean assured me that this veal is as ethical as it comes. The salami is made in Monmouthshire from pork and rose veal, which comes from Bocaddon Farm in Cornwall. The lemon and thyme complements the delicate taste of the veal. 

This paired really well with the KWV Classic Collection Grenache Blanc, which matched the salami on the citrus front. 

Round three
Original longhorn biltong with KWV Classic Collection Petit Verdot 2015 (rrp £7.55)

This was SO far away from the horrible biltong you might pick up in a pub. It's made in Worcestershire from local Longhorn cattle. The full-bodied Petit Verdot Wim chose stood up well to the punchy, spicy biltong, with plenty of dark fruit and dried herb flavour.

Round four
Butchers’ choice biltong with Big Bill Red 2015 (£7.99, Drinks Direct)

More delicious biltong, this one made in west London by a South African butcher. This was one of my favourite pairings of the night. The wine had to stand up to the seriously punchy flavours of the 'party biltong' (as Sean called it), and managed to with ease. Big Bill is full of red berries, a bit of dark chocolate, and peppery spice.

Round five
Beef bresaola with Laborie Shiraz 2015 (£7.99 or 8.95euros, Capreo) and Laborie MCC Sparkling 2010 (£12.95)

Oh my, this beef was incredible. Although bresaola is a classic Italian product, this one is made using Devon Red Ruby beef, and matured for five months. I liked the Laborie sparkling, and think it would be a good, something-different-from-prosecco Christmas party fizz, but didn't feel it paired particularly well with the bresaola. The medium-bodied Shiraz however was a better match. It's well-rounded, with plum and dark berry notes, and a lovely finish.

Round six
Venison salami with green peppercorns, with Roodeberg Red 2014, a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz blend (£8.95, Drinks Direct)

Another favourite of mine, this salami is made from wild Scottish red deer, which is lifted with green peppercorns. This was paired with Roodeberg red, a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Shiraz and Petit Verdot. This is an easy drinking red, with oaky spice on the nose, and plenty of fruit and pepper on the palate.

Round seven
Chilli biltong x2: Limpopo chilli biltong from Yorkshire, and Big Horn chilli biltong from Worcestershire, paired with Mentors Orchestra 2011 (£14.95, SA Wines Online)

Thought all biltong was the same? Oh no. The Limpopo biltong has a slow chilli burn, and the Big Horn biltong was a lot more fiery. The wine had to match up to a serious chilli punch. Mentors Orchestra is a five-blend wine, made with Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Malbec. It's a very elegant and complex wine, with a smooth finish, and was a little lost to the Big Horn.

Round eight
Air dried Dorset mutton with Mentors Cabernet Franc 2013 (£14.95, Ocado)

Mutton has never really taken off in the UK, but this could change your mind. It's made from 30-month old sheep that graze on a hillside looking out on the Jurassic coast in Dorset, munching on wildflowers. How idyllic. The mutton legs are then aged in port and juniper berries. The bold Cabernet Franc combines dark fruits, with chalky tannins, and a long finish, and paired perfectly with the mutton.