Thank you to all our customers who shopped with us in 2016, we are taking a short break in early January and will be opening on Thursday 12th January. Hope you have a lovely start to the new year and we will see you back soon.
Are you a fan of Cava or Prosecco? Have you tried English Sparkling wines? Do you save your pennies for real Champagne? Or will you be sipping Sparkling Rose as this year comes to a close? Once there was only the king of bubbles to consider, the almighty Champagne, nowadays sparkling wine is made all over the world, from different grapes, using different production methods. Here's a quick guide to help you pick something for your celebration. Let's pop the cork!
Some people use the word Champagne to mean any sort of fizzy wine, but it is actually only a specific region in France where Champagne is made. Champagne can be made from three grapes: the white chardonnay and the red-skinned pinot noir and pinot meunier. The grapes won't be named on the label, but you may see the terms "blanc de blancs" which means that the wine is made exclusively from white grapes, or "blanc de noirs", indicating that the Champagne is a white wine made from the dark pinot noir and pinot meunier varieties.
The production of these delicate wines is a labour intensive, multi-step process making them pricey but you will have one of the best, most delicious and complex wine experiences. If you're looking for a good value, look for Champagnes from smaller producers who grow their own grapes.
Hure Freres is a close-knit family business. Their work in vineyard has been fine tuned to cater to the needs of each individual parcel of their 10 acres estate. This is still an under-the-radar domaine, but it might not stay that way for long as these amazing wines are going from strength to strength each year.
The Invitation Champagne (as the name might suggest) is their introdutory bottle. A lovely aperitif style of Champagne with clean fruits and plenty of bite.
The Inattendue Blanc de Blancs vinified and aged in oak is fresh and mineral on the nose while the palate is rich and dense, yet balanced by a fresh acidity and lovely length.
Lamiable Champagne Grand Cru comes from family run winery in the Grand Cru village Tours sur Marne, producing majority Pinot Noir blends.
Their Champgne is medium-bodied with great minerality and acidity on the finish. With brioche and toasted almonds flavours with hints of apricot. Enjoyable now; also has the potential to age for a few years. With a delicate mousse, this is a perfect apéritif.
Agrapart & Fils Champagne AC NV Brut comes from a grower's champagne house based in Avize. The seven crus is a blend of seven of the Cote de Blanc's best villages including Avize, Cramant and Ogier. Creamy and buttery with baked apples on the nose, on the palate complex, savoury with an amazingly long palate.
And finally, add some colour to your Champagne glass, with Champagne Rose Brut Chartogne-Taillet AC, a delicate salmon pink makes a very elegant rosé, with nuanced, layered red cherry and redcurrant fruit, underlined by subtle notes from the soil.
Prosecco has earned a reputation as an affordable alternative to Champagne. This Italian bubbly is generally great choice for casual sipping, with larger bubbles and fruity, even sweet flavour.
Our Modi is one of our all time best sellers, organic Prosecco relatively dry in style, with rich, floral notes, fruity, and with subtle almond flavours on the palate.
Spain's contribution to the sparkling wine scene, Cava is a fresh, dry wine from mostly produced in the Catalan region. Using the same production method as Champagne but less manual handeling making it much less expensive. Cava tends to be drier and less fruity that Prosecco.
Pago de Tharsys is a 12-hectare estate based at Requena, some 70 miles inland from Valencia on Spain's eastern coast. This Cava is dry with a vivacious mousse, this makes for a perfect aperitif. Aromatic notes of apricot, apple and pear light and fresh with a cleansing acidity and lingering finish.
ENGLISH SPARKLING WINE
Now is the time to discover some home-grown bottles. Court Garden is a family-run, single-estate vineyard and winery in East Sussex, they grow all their grapes that go into the wine they make. And in recent years this are passion has been rewarded with numerous national and international awards. The Court Garden sparkling wines are all hand-crafted using traditional grape varieties and bottle fermentation, where long ageing on the lees adds to the complexity of the flavour.
Their Ditchling Reserve is a delicious blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from the wonderful 2014 vintage. The wine spent nine months in French Oak Barrel before bottling, just enough time to give a rounder mouthfeel and a hint of vanilla. Straw hue, delicate well-structured mouse, good balance between acidity and dosage, rich flavoured mid palate, clean and round finish.
La Rosita is our take on something out of the ordinary - Pamela Geddes of Lobban Wines comes from Aberdeen in Scotland and mastered the craft of making sparkling reds with 5 years in Australia. She's now based in Catalan region of Penedes. Her traditional method - bottle fermented - and late-disgorged sparkly is fresh with subtle red fruits and tiny lasting bubbles.
In collaboration with our favourite Clapton chef Nico Salzano of Dine with Nico, we put together a great inspirational menu for the Christmas period. Often nothing but the traditional dishes will do for the Christmas Day. But we also knew that many of our customers are keen cooks themselves, always trying new recipes and looking for the perfect wine to match their dishes.
With this in mind, we worked closely with Nico to create a three course menu that we hope will inspire you to try one of these dishes. They were exciting and will certainly impress your guests but also feasible to put together in your home kitchen, using plenty of locally sourced and seasonal ingredients.
Jerusalem artichokes purée, confit duck egg yolk and truffle
Nico poached the peeled Jerusalem Artichokes and added a dash of cream and butter before using a hand blender to create a smooth puree.
To confit basically means to slow-cook an ingredient in fat. The term is often associated with duck confit, but can be employed for a host of ingredients. Confiting egg yolks is a modern technique, great for adding a little cheffy flair to home-cooked dishes. After separating the duck egg yolk from the whites, the yolk gets submerged in an oven-proof saucepan filled halfway with olive oil. When done (keep en eye on this as you don't want the yolk to overcook) remove the yolk with a slotted spoon so that your diners get the pleasure of breaking the yolk themselves.
We have used our local Today sourdough bread to make sourdough croutons that will add a lovely crunchy texture. And the dish was garnished with some micro watercress and shaved summer truffle.
And finally for the wine paring with this delicious starter - Silas picked - Cabernet Franc from Chinon, France by Olga Raffaul. Les Picasses is a medium bodied wine with a lush, juicy texture and bright crisp acidity, red currants and wild strawberries combine with white pepper and savoury notes in an elegant bouquet. It is silky and flavoursome.
Seared sirloin tip, celeriac purée, braised radishes and charred shallots
The sirloin tip (also known as faux hanger or bavette) is one of the inexpensive cuts of beef that's also one of the most versatile. It takes great to fast-cooking methods that was used in this dish. It has a coarse texture that grabs onto marinades and seasonings well.
Our Sirloin tip got pan fried dry on a very high heat. When Nico got a lovely colour all over the tip, he added a bit of butter, thyme and a whole cloves of garlic and braised the meat with the juices as cooking. As this is a cheap cut of meat, it can get tough if over cooked. So it's recommended to be served rare to medium rare.
The celeriac was boiled in milk, it's a great little tip that removes the distinctive pepperiness that some people might find a bit overwhelming. Once the celeriac is cooked, it gets pureed with a hand blender.
The red wine jus reduction was made using our cheaper red Plot 22 Tempranillo, but any cheapish red wine will do. After pan frying shallots until softened, Nico added a splash of port, red wine and beef stock, and simmered it until reduced.
To braise the radishes, they were cut in half, added to a deep pan and covered with water. Butter, olive oil, sugar and salt gets added and everything boiled until liquid gets reduced to a glaze. And finally to chargrill the onions, cut them in half and leave the skin on as it cooks them better. Cook until charred on a dry pan.
The whole dish was served with parley shoots and paired with Domino, expertly crafted blend form lots of native Portuguese grapes. This flavoursome dish just needed a good full-bodied red. It's got super fresh acidity with spicy peppery fruit and cedar, leather and clove.
Poached pear, pear sorbet and speculoos crumble
Nico poached two types of pears for his dessert- firmer one for poaching and second softer one pureed with the jus from poaching. The jus is simple mix of water, sugar & vanilla pod.
To make the crumble, butter and flour gets rubbed with crushed speculoos biscuits simply using your fingertips to make a light breadcrumb texture. The mixture then gets sprinkled over a baking sheet and baked until lightly coloured.
As our final dish, we thought we would make things easier and not go as far as making our own ice-cream, even though you are more than welcome to do so, we picked small tub of salted caramel ice cream. Nico added a lovely orange tones to the dessert using tiny tagetes flowers that add not just great splash of colour to your dessert but also a subtle floral flavour. We paired the dessert with La Rosita sparkling rose, fresh wine with subtle red fruits and tiny lasting bubbles.
Even tjough some of the ingredients we used might sound very fancy, they can all be bought (as we did) from the New Spitalfields market over in Leyton, though you will have to set your alarm nice and early as the market opens at midnight but there's some real bargains and exceptional seasonal produce to be picked up here. You won't need to get up quite so early to pick up any of the matching wines (luckily).
We hope to inspire you for those fair few days off ahead to try one of these dishes and if you are cooking anything else worth sharing, do tag us in #forestwinesdinners to be in with a chance to be picked as one of our featured cooks and win a bottle of wine at the end of the month.
White wines will make an obvious choice for the traditional Christmas lunch - roast turkey and all the trimmings. To balance out all the rich flavours, Chardonnay with its oaky richness and creamy lactic acid will help out with the meat that can sometimes be on the dry side while the minerality and acidity will cleanse the palate and allow you to wade through the trimmings effortlessly.
When it comes to Chardonnay, white Burgundy might sound like an obvious choice, but with a smaller budget and looking further afield, you can find yourself a few gems!
We stayed within the Old World territory with our first Chardonnay - Andreas Tscheppe makes his wines in the southern Styria near the border with Slovenia. Growing his vines on terraced vineyards, that are cultivated biodynamic, each plant has its place here and every living thing is taken into consideration in the belief that the vitality and complexity of the soil are the basis for expressive wines. The vineyards are invigorating places to visit, full of flowers and insects. All the grapes here are harvested by hand, followed by gentle pressing and filled in oak barrels.
The Salamander Chardonnay with its eye-catching label design is youthful, full and rich white wine. Coming across quite smokey on the nose suggesting Andreas' flirtation with the danger of reduction. Reduction well-tamed. Complex and concentrated with green and stone fruits. Plenty of ripeness but with a good strong line of acidity. Balancing out the Christmas lunch food amazingly.
Our second choice of Chardonnay comes from Adelaide Hills, South Australia. Ochota Barrels winery is run by Taras Ochota and his wife Amber. He’s a surf dude with an enology degree and a wealth of experience in winemaking. All of the grapes for this wine are hand harvested at night. Their "Slint Vineyard" Chardonnay is delicate with white flowers and orchard fruit. It has got plenty of tension in the structure and the little oakiness is perfectly lowering the pitch of the citrus with some buttery creaminess on the finish. One quirky thing we must mention, check out the felt-tipped numbers on the back labels - this is a truly artisanal outfit!
Hope you will pick up some ideas for your festive table.
With the shift into winter comes a certain type of craving - I've identified mine to be amidst cinnamon and clove, cedar wood, leather, fire place and lots of cassis. The colour should be ruby or garnet with some translucency or none at all, and the palate generous. The Bordeaux blend.
Now for those unfamiliar, a Bordeaux blend consists of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc with smaller additions Malbec and Petit Verdot and indeed, only these grapes are permitted for blending in Bordeaux. The proportions may change year to year according to vintage and desired type of wine or estate style.
Some producers of Bordeaux blends might use the term “Meritage” (which rhymes with “heritage,” and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise) if they belong to the Meritage Association. There isn’t a Meritage Association police force either, but there are rules. To call a wine “Meritage,” it has to be blended entirely from traditional Bordeaux varieties, with no more than 90 percent of a single grape (Dr. Vinny, Wine Spectator).
The Bordeaux styles:
The Right Bank
Merlot takes the lead here as the climes and soils are favourable. Merlot loves clay rich soils, a good amount of shade and a dip in the temperature earlier in the evening. Merlot, by nature offers more plum fruit and has less notable tannins making it the more approachable type of wine. Approachable, to the point of tepidness. Perhaps we could say, no diversity or challenge makes a complacent drinker and renders the wine/grape flabby and unremarkable? I’d say so, when there’s so much wonder in the each vintage and stories woven to attribute to the wines.
The Left Bank
Cabernet Sauvignon is predominant here and shoulders the other grapes in the blend, usually with Merlot playing second fiddle or the very fragrant Cabernet franc. The signature fruit of Cabernet Sauvignon is of course that intense cassis and the often it comes with pyrazines, an aroma compound the gives you bell pepper or leafy notes. More colour in the skins mean much more tannins and when young, these tannins do appear course and rather grippy, proving much more a challenging drink than the Smooth operators across the water.
Though I'm eternally team Burgundy, I do occasionally stain my lips in delighting my palate with a Bordeaux blend. As much as I love a solo piano piece, I very much enjoy trios and string quartets. Each component flatters each other, harmony is achieved, the picture is complete.
This ideal wine will be long lived, already multi-faceted and will gain even more complexity as it ages.
The very succinct example of a Right Bank Bordeaux is our Chateau Beynat.
Located at Cotes de Castillon, the younger vines - averaging 25 years enjoy clay and limestone rich soils and produce fruity Merlots and Cabernet Francs. For this particular cuvee, maturation was in stainless steel and very little to no oak. The desired wine is a fresh and youthful medium bodied-red for immediate imbibing. Juicy with nice ripe tannins that are cooling to the palate rather than scratchy. That’s not to say it is in anyway a simple wine. I find a nice depth to this wine and a little touch of development through cooked plums and just a hint of mushroom. This is true value Bordeaux for the concentration and depth that it offers.
Modeled on the Left Bank style is our beloved Pech Abuse.
Domaine du Pech lies deep in the heart of south-west France in the Buzet appellation. In the region of Gascony with nearby Toulouse to the east and Bordeaux to the west. Magali Tissot and Ludovic Bonnelle practice biodynamic viticulture, use no pesticides, fungicides or herbicides in the vineyard. A Further no chemical additives in/during vinification process with no addition of sulphur. The grapes are fermented using only the naturally occurring yeasts.
The typical grape varieties here and also typical for Buzet are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc - grape varieties that it shares with Bordeaux. There is also a smidgeon of Sauvignon Blanc for the special white wines that are produced here.
It is quite large by biodynamic standard with 17 hectares given over to vines. The soils are gravels, limestone and clay and the yields are very low being in the range 10-25 hectolitres per hectare.
Now to me, this is one that’s truly in league with the upper echelons of Bordeaux. It offers so much fruit, concentration and complexity. Theres so much going on - the wildness of a dense forest with black cherries, black and blue berries trodden on with their leaves. Pine, cedar, sweet woods and spices. Further on, there’s mushroom and game. So complete.
Another one of our paste options was the Čotar Terra Rossa.
From the west wine country of Slovenia, a town called Karst. The family planted the vines in the 70’s as a direct supply to the restaurant that they own, they also buy in neighbouring fruit from vines that are 100 years more. Due to demand they started bottling not long after in the 80’s. The one we picked up is the Čotar Terra Rossa, the name signifying the local soil and grape. This is loosely modelled on Bordeaux with 40% of their local Refošk or the Italian cousin Refosco. The rest of the blending components - Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot do shout out their presence too. Biodynamically produced and ultra minimal on sulphur addition.
Heres the baffling thing - The vintage is 2005. Yes, you can get excited anticipating all that development splendour and it really delivers. You can sip and witness further evolution in the glass. The strange thing here is that the wine still gives you fresh fruit and plenty of acidity. This is wonderfully strange, elegant, utterly delicious and suggests a long life ahead of it. This core of acidity should see this wine cellaring well up to 10 years or more.