Tash Tastes

Tash…tasting.

Discovering Lebanese wine in Beirut

I had such a ball in Beirut that for the first time in my life I missed a return flight. And then I missed another. The city transformed me into the sort of happy-go-lucky human being who, with devil may care attitude, lays back and waves flights bye bye while pondering the joys of Lebanese rosé

The backdrop for this spontaneous outburst was the Saint-George Yacht Club & Marina, which is spread out beneath the gutted remains of the Saint-George Hotel. Frequented by Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Brigitte Bardot during Beirut’s golden age, the hotel was one of the glitzy spots that earned the city it’s reputation as the “Riviera of the Middle East.” This reputation came tumbling down during the 1975-1990 Lebanese Civil War, along with everything else, including the hotel, which was brutally shelled and later became the site of Prime Minister Rafic Hariri’s assassination in 2005. It now bears a vast ‘STOP SOLIDERE’ banner, in reaction to the government-backed development and construction giant that has blocked the hotel’s renovation ever since.

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Saint Georges 50s

Having served as a battleground for the past 60 years, and still the object of ongoing political machinations, it is perhaps a miracle that the Saint-George Yacht Club & Marina still operates daily in such glamorous fashion. While the hotel offers an eery glimpse back into Beirut’s troubled history, the pool club is the perfect place for a spot of rosé. This kind of contrast can be found throughout the city, because although Beirut still bears the scars of its warn-torn past and remains at threat from militia groups and conflict in neighbouring Syria, its tourism and wine trades are once again flourishing.

On my first night in Beirut I visited CRU Wine Bar on Makdessi Street (party central), and had an enlightening discussion with owners Wael Bou Jaoude and Karen Matta, and manager Ali Nassrallah. Their optimism about the Lebanese wine market was palpable; new wineries are opening, wine tourism is on the up, quality is improving in leaps and bounds, and producers are profiting from a burgeoning export market. The UK is the country’s most important market, accounting for 32% of exports, followed by France (17%) and the USA (17%).

Lebanese producers are exploring new terroirs in Batroun, Kfifane, Bhamdoun, Richmaya, Majdel Maouche and Jezzine, as well as the Eastern Bekaa Valley, and the CRU team hopes to see more wines coming from these promising areas. However many of the best Lebanese wines still come from high altitude sites in the Western Bekaa Valley, as the country’s hot, dry Mediterranean climate makes it a struggle to keep wines below a punchy 14 or 15% abv otherwise.

For the same reason (combined with the influence of French winemaking), the majority of the country’s wines are blends, allowing producers to retain freshness by selecting components of varying degrees of ripeness. The CRU team feels that blending is one of Lebanon’s fortes – the producers and natives aren’t slaves to single varietal wines as many UK consumers are. Instead they revel in the possibilities offered by the huge variety of grapes grown here, both international and indigenous. Karen hopes to see producers making more of the latter, commenting “I think the most exciting new development is the success of Obeidy, which is an indigenous grape to Lebanon. Over time we hope there will be a trend to create more wines that are unique to our country.”

The CRU team’s fierce pride in their country’s wines is humbling, and this attitude was shared by almost everybody I met in Beirut, where Lebanese wines unfailingly appear on every restaurant, bar and hotel list in town. “There is a patriotism of the population; people choose local wine over foreign wine to support producers in difficult times”, says Karen. It all made London’s English wine offering look pretty lacklustre by comparison.

Ali honourably offered to drive me bang smack through the red zone and into the vineyards that weekend. I reluctantly declined, but what a hero! I hope I’ll be able to take him up on the invite one day, but until I get there, here are some notes for the top bottles I tasted in Beirut:

Château Kefraya ‘Myst’ Rosé 2013

What a surprise! This fantastically glam looking blend of Cinsault and Syrah is absolutely on par with Provence rosé, and I do not say that lightly. With lifted red berry notes, floral nuances and a creamy touch to the finish, it is full of elegance and charm. We’re all told that rosé should be drunk within a year of its release but this 2013 vintage was perfect; the only pairings you need are sun and sea.

Château Ksara ‘Sunset’ Rosé 2015

This colourful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah is vibrant watermelon pink, but please don’t let that put you off! Be brave and embrace its fruit concentration, which totally lives up to its vivid colour – ripe strawberry and red cherry aromas abound, and combined with juicy acidity and a pleasing grip on the palate, this makes for a rosé with body and spirit. A lip smacking match for calamari. 

Château Ksara Blanc de Blancs 2014

Soft, inviting and pretty, with a light touch of oak, this is a truly lovely blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon. You might expect a combination like this to taste a little muddled, but all the parts sit happily together and it has a pleasing citrus fruit freshness that made it the ideal accompaniment to a Lebanese feast at Café Em Nazih.

Château Ksara Cuveé du Pape Chardonnay 2013

This 100% Chardonnay from Château Ksara has a fresh marine quality to the nose, over ripe citrus and pineapple aromas. Subtle creamy notes and richness from barrel fermentation and lees stirring are balanced by citrussy acidity. I drank this with Lebanese vine leaves and hummus; it was the bomb.

Clos St Thomas Les Emirs 2011

Proof that you shouldn’t judge a wine by the label (which in all honesty is pretty hideous in this case), this is a ripe, juicy blend of Grenache, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cinsault and Carignan. A riot of rich red fruit aromas and flavours, with vanilla softness from a few months in French oak barrels.

Château Belle-Vue La Renaissance 2008

Foisted on me by the highly persuasive and enchanting waiters at Café Enab, this was the best Bordeaux blend I tasted in Beirut. Made with 60% Merlot and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, it has an amazing richness and focus that stood up to Lebanese Frekeh – a mixture of raw, spiced, pounded meat that is, slightly alarmingly, moulded by hand and served with distinct finger imprints. 

For more info on Lebanese wine check out the Union Viticole du Liban website: http://www.lebanonwines.com/

I love Dubai. There, I said it.

Cue looks of horror/distaste/disbelief.

Likely you imagine it to be a nouveau-riche-cultural-desert of a destination, along with everyone else I’ve mentioned it to. People (to be clear, people who have never actually visited), have described it to me as too expensive, hot, blingy or soulless. The fact that it’s perceived to be a strict alcohol free zone has also been of major concern to those who care for my wellbeing…

All of my friends have a fantasy travel list, but Dubai just doesn’t seem to feature, which is bizarre because it attracted over 14.2 million visitors in 2015, a 7.5% increase over 2014. By 2020 that number’s expected to grow to 20 million, which is double that of 2012. In Rome, that many tourists equals a headache at the Trevi Fountain. But Dubai is purpose built for holiday-makers and here it equals one big party. While the rest of the world is flocking here, Brits appear to have an aversion to Dubai…so why the reluctance London-dwellers?

I’m not going to tell you that Dubai has a host of quaint, authentic old town spots to discover, or that you’ll feel like you’re soaking up culture at every turn. You won’t. But I’d like to give you a real flavour of this place and share some of its myriad holiday possibilities with you, starting with a quick questionnaire…

Do you enjoy sun-drenched days spent on spotless beaches? Does a blow-the-lid-off brunch sound enticing? Are you up for catching the rays while floating in an infinity pool, or drinking up golden hour at a rooftop lounge? Do you enjoy eating, sipping, sunbathing, jet skiing, dancing, dressing up and making merry? If you have answered yes to any or all of the above then please come here immediately and join the Dubai dream for a week.

Golden hour in Dubai

The makers of the new Star Trek: Beyond movie must have thought they’d landed in paradise when they discovered the futuristic, sci-fi cityscape of this city. Executive Producer, Jeffery Chernov, stated “We came searching for the future and we found it in Dubai.” The mind-blowing Starbase Yorktown was filmed in locations that I can see from my balcony as I write this, and sitting here I can’t help but marvel at what an otherworldly place it is. Give that CGI guy a day off! This place has got it covered.

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It is a superlative city that has a taste for all things big and blowout, and let me tell you, the boom is infectious. It is home to the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa, which is about to be knocked off its top spot by a new tower in Dubai Creek Harbour that will be 100m higher. The Palm Jumeirah is the largest manmade island in the world and its existence defies all logic; it will be followed by the Palm Jebel Ali which, needless to say, will be bigger. This is all a good metaphor for Dubai and the sort of experience you’ll have here – living it large.

Could this crazy, sparkly, booming city be your next holiday destination? I’d love it if you paid me a visit.

And as for me, I’ve just discovered the Dubai Wine Club, so you can all stop worrying now. I’ve found an oasis in the desert.

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The Burj Khalifa – inexpertly shot by me, sprawled on the ground. It is big.

Jumeirah Lakes Towers – my neck of the woods

1971 Le Haut Lieu Vouvray Demi-Sec

Some wines are capable of connecting you with a time well before your own.

It’s a most odd feeling, a bizarre kind of nostalgia, and I was lucky to experience it afresh when my friend Jess bought a bottle of 1971 Le Haut Lieu Vouvray Demi-Sec for my birthday.

I’m not sure Jess had anticipated such a strong reaction to her gift, but I find it quite magical meeting a bottle of wine that’s lived longer than I have. In 1971 my mother was fourteen. Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was published, David Bowie’s fourth album Hunky Dory and Michael Jackson’s debut solo single Got To Be There were released, and the seventh James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever hit cinemas. Meanwhile in Vouvray they were celebrating an excellent vintage…

Most white wines are made to be drunk within the year they are released, but this one sprang out of the bottle, alive and kicking, after 45 years. It was made by Gaston Huet, Loire Valley legend, war-hero and Chenin Blanc champion. The Chenin Blanc grape has naturally high acidity levels and is suited to producing wines with varying levels of residual sweetness, as is the case with this demi-sec. Both of these things help give a wine longevity, and many believe that Huet’s wines can last a century (me included).

White wines grow darker with age and this one was a beautiful golden colour. Unsurprisingly the first nose was slightly bizarre, but this blew over to reveal baked red apple and honeyed apricot aromas, as well as complex waxy, wet wool and hazelnut notes. While the nose was incredibly layered and intriguing, it was the palate that astounded me – fresh and mineral, but with a real fruitiness that felt like biting into a very ripe, juicy nectarine. As fruit expression tends to diminish in wines over time, I wasn’t expecting this and it was a joy. All of this was followed by a lovely lick of sweetness and a mouth-watering rush of acid. Such an awake and alert wine, even after all this time.

The wine in all its splendour, and held up against another white wine for very scientific colour comparison purposes

I was under strict instructions from Jess to drink the whole bottle by myself, and I must admit I did enjoy the lion’s share, but I just had to make everyone else taste it too.  It’s not every day that you drink a wine like this, and it absolutely has to be shared so you can all rave about it together. Rave we did.

Welcome to my world…

What I do (wine PR) and why I care about it (good wine = good life)

It has emerged that my job is a complete mystery to even my closest friends, with many believing I work at the Pasadena ArtCenter College of Design and wondering how the devil I manage the commute (thanks for that one Facebook). The remainder can’t decide whether I work for a retailer…a winery…an importer…or none of the above.

Turns out I have unwittingly become a mysterious person.

So to set the record straight, I work at Westbury Communications, a specialist wine PR agency in London. Pretty niche, I’ll give you that, but mighty good luck from my point of view because I get to spend my days thinking about (and sometimes drinking) wine.

PRs get a lot of flack and are sometimes even named and shamed on social media, very often deservedly. But I believe ‘Good PR’ can change perceptions, create lasting relationships, have a real impact for clients and even save the day for journalists. At its best it is proactive, responsive, creative, meticulous and sensitive. For ‘Good Wine PR’ add a healthy dose of wine geekery to that list. By contrast, ‘Bad PR’ is formulaic, alienating, indiscreet, scatter-gun, inefficient and from time to time, ridiculous or even rude.

Wine PR has grown into something so much more than simply ‘getting wines on pages’, although this is still an important and hugely satisfying part of the job. Getting a wine or story in print is a thrill. But now it’s about taking a holistic approach to clients and building their reputation not just among wine writers, but also with consumers, buyers, sommeliers and just about anyone else who has a role to play in the world of wine. ‘Thinking outside the box’ is very much the aim of the game, although naturally some clients allow more scope for this than others.

Some things you may find me doing day to day:

  • Developing creative strategies for my clients and guiding any based abroad as to what will work for the UK market.
  • Contacting journalists with wines I think they might enjoy and keeping them up to date with new vintages and client news.
  • Handling sample or info requests as rapidly as possible.
  • Organising tastings, dinners, lunches, press trips and buyers’ trips.
  • Running social media accounts…
  • And sometimes running around like a headless chicken trying to find elusive wines to meet tight deadlines.

It looks like a walk in the park when you put it like that, and it may even seem insignificant or irrelevant to you. So why is it important to me that wines are featured in the press? Why am I passionate about promoting the regions, producers and wines I represent? And why am I always banging on about wine?

Wine is a product that we’re likely to spend a fair sum of money on over the years, and one that I believe can add immense enjoyment to our lives, especially if we have even some knowledge of it. PR is all about communications and contributing to getting this knowledge out there, for people who are baffled by the wine aisles, for wine nuts who want to delve deeper, and for anyone in between. 

My friends, as well as many people I meet at consumer tastings, tell me that they want to learn more about wine but don’t know how to begin and feel intimidated by even trying. One in particular sent me a text recently that read, “We need to talk about how I actually am a total wine ignoramus and I need you to help me with that. Be warned, it’s going to get awkward when you are in shock at really how dumb I am!” I point them to the amazing resources that are at their fingertips, some of which I’ve listed below. I like to think that wine PR feeds these resources and adds interest by bringing regions, producers and wines that might otherwise go ignored, into the mix.

  • The wine columns in the national newspapers; written by experts who have tasted all the rubbish wines so you don’t have to! Increasingly the focus is on affordable wines and doing away with wine snobbery.
  • Wine blogs and websites that include useful pointers about wine (like Jancis Robinson’s website, which is packed full of in depth articles but also has a great ‘Learn’ section – http://www.jancisrobinson.com/learn).
  • Wine magazines with recommendations and reviews (for example Decanter), or foodie magazines with wine pairings (like BBC Good Food, Delicious or Olive).
  • Retailer websites can also be a mine of information, with tasting notes and background info about all the wines they stock.
  • Social media – the wine crowd is amazingly present on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
  • Consumer events and tastings like The Three Wine Men and The Wine Gang, where you can meet passionate producers and learn about wines in the very best way possible – by tasting them.

PR is often described as fulfilling a ‘middleman’ role, and this is true of wine PR, which liaises between everyone in the wine chain, from grape to glass. It’s a means of getting the word out.

I’m happy with that, and can only hope that people will tune in from time to time.

Not a typical working week.

 

 

Home is where the booze is

I’m moving house; a process that always gets me choked up.

There’s the nostalgia, the old notes and letters found, and the fact that I’m covered in parcel tape and typing this from atop a catastrophic heap of detritus in the middle of my sitting room. I’ve had a heroic day of packing but the ‘clutter’ drawer has finally done me in. It’s all too much.

So instead I’m perched here, reminiscing about the parties this house has seen – attempts at sophisticated dinners, all night séances, New Year’s Eve bashes and birthday brunches. And then there are the delicious downtimes, spent lounging in pyjamas, watching bad TV and recovering from a hangover or a hard day’s work. A whole host of drinks has accompanied each moment, and some have become completely entangled with my memories of this place.

All are easy, indulgent and joyful – not made to be pored over, but rather glugged, preferably in the bath…

NEGRONI

Testament to my penchant for the Negroni, I have discovered the following bottles while packing: 2 x Bombay Sapphire, 2 x Martini Rosso, 1 x Tanqueray 10, 1 x Campari and 1 x Aperol. The Negroni is a fantastically easy cocktail to make at home. Simply pour equal parts of gin, Martini Rosso and Campari (or Aperol for a less bitter version) over ice and bung a slice of orange on top. It’s my staple house party cocktail.

M&S CRAFT BEER

If I’ve had a bit of a rough day, I pop into the M&S at Victoria on my way home and grab a ready meal and a bottle of craft beer. This may shatter some illusions you have about me, but it has become a real treat to sit on the sofa in pyjamas, with comfort food, a book and a bottle of beer. It’s significantly cheaper and also more sensible (sigh) than hitting a bottle of wine, but the flavours are so punchy that one 330ml bottle really does hit the spot. Favourites are the Battersea Rye (a rich style that is fab with chilli con carne or shepherd’s pie), the Sorachi Saison (tangy and perfumed and lovely with Thai curry) and the Five Hop Lager or Citra IPA (pair with tikka and Top Gear). You can buy the craft beers for only £1.85 each and the 500ml Citra IPA is £2.40.

RIESLING

All wine enthusiasts love the idea of ‘bringing Riesling back’, but I admit I may have taken this too literally. I took a trip to the Mosel last summer, hugely overestimated how much Riesling I needed in my life and brought back 50 bottles. The one I wish I’d bought even more of is the Weingut Vollenweider Wolfer Riesling 2012. I drank it every night for a week when I got back and I’ll never forget it; crisp and refreshing but with a slight creaminess on the palate that I’d never experienced in this style of wine before. Wine is the best way to recapture a little of the holiday feel at home.

LOUIS LATOUR GRAND ARDÈCHE CHARDONNAY & CUNE RIOJA RESERVA

These have been my ‘house wines.’ There always have to be bottles of them at hand because they are reliable, comforting, pair with pretty much any food and don’t break the bank. They both share a rounded, warming richness that is the vinous equivalent of a cuddle and I’m so familiar with them that they feel like old friends. You can get the Chardonnay at Majestic for £10.99 and the Rioja at Waitrose for £12.99.

WHISKY

I’ve developed a bit of an obsession with Scotland of late, and a trip to Islay last winter inspired a thirst for devilishly smoky whisky (and tartan blankets and scarves). Bruichladdich has featured heavily and I highly recommend snuggling up with a wee dram under a matching blanket. The Bruichladdich Bere Barley proved to me that whisky also has a claim to terroir.

CHAMPAGNE

I practically run to the door when my good friends Bradley and Charlie arrive. I mean I like them a bit, but it’s mainly because I know they’ll be carrying something beautiful and bubbly. Over the past year we’ve enjoyed a masterclass in the main Champagne houses – Pol Roger, Bollinger, Perrier-Jouët, Ruinart, Louis Roederer and Laurent Perrier have all made an appearance in a variety of NV and vintage guises. There are some fabulous sparkling alternatives out there now, but when Champagne comes knocking (aka Bradley and Charlie) you have to answer. It has acted as the starting pistol for many marvellous parties.

Thank you to everyone who has been there to enjoy them, and even more to those who have brought along the bottles that started them.

A Trip Down Under

Dinner at Bradley’s house is not to be missed. My own paltry dinner party efforts have been systematically put to shame by his culinary prowess, visionary pairing abilities and amazing generosity. There was the one with the Crèpe Suzette (served flambé, naturally), the one where he made sorbet from scratch even though his freezer had packed in, and this one, our inaugural wine club Australian Wine Dinner. It has gone straight to the top of the list, so I wanted to share some of my thoughts and notes from the evening…

Australia produces vast quantities of good-value, reliable wine, but the most exciting wines are those doing credit to the country’s diverse terroir. Most of the wines we tasted fell into this camp and I have to admit they were all decidedly on the ‘treat’ end of the price scale. However, in return you get bottles made by trail-blazing, go-getting winemakers like First Drop and Ben Glatezer, who are capturing the terroir of Australia’s sub-regions in a fabulously unstuffy way!

There’s a playfulness about Australian wine that is infectious, and so the evening was also a reminder that drinking 15.0% reds all night is both a highly effective antidote to Dry January, and VERY likely to result in a crashing hangover.

Jansz Vintage Cuvée 2008, Tasmania

This is a seriously impressive fizz from the isolated island of Tasmania, off Australia’s south coast. Tasmania’s unique island climate is moderated by ocean breezes, making it Australia’s coolest wine region and home to some amazingly elegant sparkling wines, like this one. Having spent four and a half years ageing on yeast lees, it is rich, nutty, creamy and developed, with brioche flavours and some stone fruit juiciness. It delivers everything I’d be looking for in a good Champagne, but at a fraction of the cost. In fact it is an absolute steal at around £15! Up with ‘Méthode Tasmanoise’!

Kooyong Single Vineyard Faultline Chardonnay 2012, Mornington Peninsula

Many Australian winemakers have stepped up to the terroir challenge by producing single vineyard wines that aim to manifest the unique characteristics of select sites. The Faultline is a good example, made with grapes from a 0.42 hectare (teeny tiny) block of Chardonnay vines located on the Mornington Peninsula at Tuerong. The grapes underwent spontaneous fermentation in French oak barrels and the wine was then aged on lees for 12 months, before being bottled without fining. The result is an intensely smoky nose with snapped slate and toasty aromas as well as some citrusy top notes. Fruit does not have the first word here – the nose is decidedly mineral and this follows through to a savoury, persistent palate.

First Drop ‘Mother’s Ruin’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, McClaren Vale

“We’re serious about the booze, but we want to have fun while we’re doing it!” say Matt Gant and John Retsas, the dude-tastic duo behind First Drop. Expect awesome branding, deliciously drinkable wines and all-round fun. Mother’s Ruin harnesses all of the blackcurrant goodness and textural richness of McClaren Vale Cabernet Sauvignon. A 10 day maceration and a series of pump-overs and rack-and-returns during fermentation help with extraction, while malolactic fermentation and maturation in a mixture of new and old French oak hogsheads for 15 months adds spice and smoothness. It is a fruit forward, exuberant wine that we enjoyed with terrine de campagne. A winning combo.

First Drop ‘Fat of the Land’ Shiraz 2012, Greenock, Barossa Valley

This is another example of a single vineyard wine made in the name of terroir. First Drop’s ‘Fat of the Land’ series aims to showcase the Greenock, Seppeltsfield and Ebenezer sub-regions of the Barossa Valley and this is the Greenock installation. The grapes come from ‘Shawn’s’ vineyard, which sits at 300m above sea level to the north-east of Greenock in the north-west of the Barossa. The wine is inky purple, with a great thwack of blackcurrant, black plum and dark chocolate on the nose, as well as some intriguing tomato vine top notes which First Drop describes as ‘Bloody Mary aromas.’ Nice. It spends longer in oak than the Mother’s Ruin – 20 months in all – making it a dense, concentrated, mega-rich red.

Ben Glaetzer ‘Anaperenna’ Shiraz/ Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Barossa Valley

Ben Glaetzer is one of Australia’s great winemakers and is based in the Barossa Valley, where he makes top quality wines with grapes grown exclusively in the Ebenezer sub-region. Shiraz dominates the Anaperenna blend, with 82% to Cabernet Sauvignon’s 18%. A small percentage of the wine underwent primary fermentation in oak barrels, and the wine was then matured in 100% new oak for 16 months and bottled unfiltered. The 2012 vintage was outstanding in the Barossa Valley and this was one of the best wines of the night. Miraculously, the punchy 15.2% abv doesn’t stick out, as it’s met by a wealth of sweet natured black fruit flavours, ripe tannins and lifted acid. A wine that is simultaneously powerful and suave.

De Bortoli Old Boys 21-Year-Old Tawny

At this point of the dinner Harrison, who was sitting next to me, said “I’m full of wine.” This is of course ridiculous, because as with food, when you think you’re full you actually still have room for pudding. The same logic applies to sweet wines and this 21-Year-Old Tawny is just such a treat. It is made with a blend of Shiraz, Grenache and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes that are allowed to hang on the vine, concentrating the sugars. They are then crushed, partially fermented to retain sweetness, fortified to 19% abv and matured in oak casks. It is lusciously sweet and full of raisiny, nutty Christmas cake flavours, with refreshing acidity that prevents it from being cloying. Devilishly good with chocolate mousse.

Ben Glaetzer ‘Amon-Ra’ Shiraz 2012, Barossa Valley

Made with 100% dry-grown Shiraz, this wine is also from the outstanding 2012 vintage. The symbol on the bottle is the all-seeing eye of Horus, which is a figure with six parts that represent the six Egyptian senses: touch, taste, hearing, sight, smell and thought. The Amon-Ra is Ben Glaetzer’s flagship wine and he wants it to be a multi-sensory experience. It certainly is that, but one of the most stunning things about this wine is that it manages to be big, solid and bold but also velvety, generous and balanced. Concentrated blackberry flavours run all the way through, with spice, vanilla and chocolate adding interest, and the tannins are mouth filling and supple. All the best of the Barossa in a bottle; a fitting finale for a remarkable evening.

 

 

 

Maginficent restocking of food/booze reserves after long absence

The good Dr has spent the last two months working in Dubai, but tonight he makes his triumphant journey home…to realise that I have still not fixed the lamp or sorted out the tap. I believe he is currently flying over Bucharest, so I shall soon be on my way to Heathrow to meet him…

For his return I decided to organise a magnificent restocking of booze and food reserves, as the oven/hob/fridge/kitchen in general haven’t seen much action in his absence. (Meanwhile, I must admit, wine glass/corkscrew activity has remained very healthy).

God bless Ocado, which ceaselessly leads me astray with enticing offers and reminders of all the personal favourites I have forgotten. Silly me, how could I have omitted a cupboard essential like Antica Formula?!

Shopping list, in chronological order:

  • 2 x Duval-Leroy Fleur De Champagne Premier Cru NV, £29.99
  • 2 x Freshly Squeezed Waitrose Orange Juice, £5.30 (absurd)
  • 1 x Antica Formula Carpano Vermouth, £14.50 for 37.5cl (never enough)
  • 1 x Cawston Press Terrific Tomato, £2.49
  • 2 x Eager Tomato Juice, £3.00 (2 types of tomato juice absolutely necessary for continuing research into which is the best for making Bloody Marys)
  • 1 x Green Celery, £0.80
  • 1 x Tabasco, £1.89
  • 1 x The Hedonist Shiraz 2013, £11.19 down from £13.99 (BARGAIN)

I have been assured that the good Dr is bringing back a giant bottle of vodka from Dubai, and I already have gin and Martini Rosso in abundance, so at this point I have secured excellent ingredients for all desirable brunch cocktails – Mimosa, Bloody Mary and Negroni. The latter not so traditional, it has to be said. Neither The Hedonist Shiraz, but this should always be snapped up when it’s on offer.

Realising I have gone completely overboard and also forgotten entirely about food, I hastily add eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, chorizo, salmon, avocado etc. We shall have a feast to rival The Breakfast Club (I imagine)!

Delivery arrived last night and it appears I have enough food to feed a small family of mice, but enough booze to quench the five thousand. A brilliant Saturday is on the cards…