Thursday, 5 March 2015

World Book Day

World Book Day - what best therefore to pair with my wonderful Luca Veste 'The Dying Day' ? The equally great Casillero De Diablo 'Devil's Cellar' from Co Operative. Apparently the story is that the winemaker who developed this back 100 years ago wished to protect his grapes and so started a naughty rumour that the Devil inhabited his winery. Thus. 

A fairly deep and dark blackberry taste with tannins on the tongue and a gorgeous lingering aftertaste. Chilean, and perfect with cheeses to nibble while enjoying Luca's juicy tale. Won't go onto details - read it though, it's well written and riveting. From his blurb - having never read him before - Luca grew up reading all the authors I grew up reading -  Stephen (the) King, James Herbert, Dean Koontz, Barker and Mark Billingham. Can't wait to read more from him in due course.

Am about to start re-reading my Stephen Kings, just finished Bag of Bones - one I struggled with years ago, excellent on second go. Also Everything's Eventual - lots of snippy shorts there to enjoy and read in between other novels on the go. Then I just had to pop into the attic too to get Needful Things - there was a quote I wanted - and to my chagrin, the book is not there. . . . . not stocked in my local library either. (Have reread Insomnia so many times as was my favourite for a long time.) 

Then - lucky me - found a special treat, through one of Stephen's latest tweets. I follow him - wished he followed me. Have you read @StephenKing 's new story "A DEATH"? >>> … via @newyorker @scribner damn good. A Fair Trade - talking of Fair Trade (I should be on the radio with all these links . . .) Sainsburys FT Carmenere is a super, warm, smooth delicious 'book-reading' treat.

There really is nothing better than a good book and a good wine. Two of my favourite things - Needful or otherwise.

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Opera and Wine

you know how it is when you come out of the Royal Opera House and you fancy a light canapé and some excellent wine? well, last week I spent a most enjoyable evening with a beautiful (half) bottle of Decenio Rioja Reserva, Bodega Las Orcas, Spain. Surroundings were most inductive to a relaxing half hour after a brilliant evening, they have a very good wine list too in the Amphitheatre, well worth a visit.

With a developed nose of black fruits, tobacco and leather, on the palate this is beautifully elegant and light on its feet. It's wonderfully balanced and super-smooth.
you can also buy it from Roberson Wines in Kensington High Street 

As regulars to my musings are aware I do love a good Rioja  and have enjoyed some good supermarket offerings these past couple of weeks too. Gone are the days when ordering a Spanish wine meant grimacing at the tartness while you wondered if you should have just plumped for the Sangria and be done with it.
Worth a mention is Tesco's El Pinsapo Rioja, great value for money and a super slurp.

Aromas of red berries underscored by liquorice and vanilla notes, complemented by soft spice and red cherry flavours. Made from Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes from Spain's famous Rioja region. An ideal partner to pasta, tapas and most cheeses

Co Operative's Marques de Valido Rioja Reserva 2009 enjoyed over valentine's weekend. Forget flowers and chocolates . . . .

Sainsbury's Campo Viejo Rioja Tempranillo - another great wine - smooth and highly drinkable, getting that for my Mother on Mothering Sunday - she doesn't drink, but I love it.

Looking forward also to my next wine review on London's Best Smooth Jazz, listen in for my 'wine of the week' while we enjoy some smooth soulful grooves. You'll notice host Rod has a new particularly nice wine glass for the small sample I allow him. Check us out.

Monday, 9 February 2015

Co Op ethically correct 2015

The Co-operativeFood has been named the UK’s top Ethical Drinks Retailer for the second year running at the Drinks Retailing Awards 2015.

They were awarded this prestigious accolade for its market-leading commitment to responsible retailing of beers, wines and spirits in the UK and I think well deserved.

Since launching the first own-label Fairtrade mark wine in the UK more than 10 years ago, the retailer has led the way in the development of Fairtrade and is the UK’s largest retailer of Fairtrade wine, selling 52.5% of all Fairtrade wine sold in the UK. The profits have helped to fund invaluable resources in poverty-stricken communities across the world including running water, healthcare and education.

Furthermore, the retailer has reduced its carbon footprint by more than 36% in the last year by increasing the volume of wine bottled in the UK as well as switching to a lighter weight glass bottle for many selected lines. The move has saved 4,222 tonnes of CO2 emissions – the equivalent to the electricity needs of 18,759 households for a year.

In 1996, The Co-operative led the industry by putting sensible drinking advice on our wines and spirits, which was in addition to alcohol units. In 1999, they were the first retailer to label the ingredients in wine. In 2002, the first retailers to include calorie labelling on alcoholic drinks. We take all this information for granted now I guess with many brands including the details we need to be aware of. I'll therefore drink to that.

Rudolfo Griguol, one of Argentina’s most respected winemakers, produces The Co Operative's flagship Fairtrade Malbec from high altitude vineyards growing on sandy alluvial soils in the remote, picturesque Famatina Valley in North West Argentina. Made from 100% Malbec, the fruit was hand harvested and gently crushed. Purple red – almost black in colour – and bursting with plum, cherry and jam aromas, this full bodied wine has sweet but firm tannins with bursts of chocolate, tobacco and vanilla. Pair with red meat, especially steak, a good stew this time of year or roast meats.


Rather enjoyed Sainsburys Era Costana Crianza at a family gathering last week. Deep but fruity enough to savour with all types of food - we had homemade sausage rolls, hand crafted scotch eggs  (slight variation - had horseradish and beetroot within) - and honey cinnamon biscuits. Do so love a Rioja and this one didn't disappoint. Also paired particularly well with own Hummus, basil pasta and charred chicken salad.

Valentine Day fast approaches, quick - have a couple of samples to try before the Day itself, perhaps a nice pink rose, Barefoot maybe or a Da Luca Italia, actually think it might just have to be Aldi's Della Italia Prosecco - watch this space . . .

Wednesday, 4 February 2015

Wee Drammie anyone?

I so enjoy Burns Night - so looking intensely at single malts and it occurred to me that a more affordable scotch must be around somewhere. Mustn't it? Suitably armed with drammie glass, pen and paper I set myself the task of sampling supermarket own brands. Not all in one day and absolutely not all in one sitting but still pretty deliciously dangerous.

The results however were extremely pleasing. Co Operative's 12 year old Highland Single Malt - a mere snip - at 21.99 was as good as - dare I say it - Glenmorangie, my all time very favourite single malt which is never a mere snip, currently retailing at £35.99. You still get that super smooth, well rounded, mellow taste, hold it in your mouth for 5 seconds and even more flavoursome notes are released on that swallow. Terrific. Definitely crushed almonds and some marzipan, hmm maybe not quite as much honey as 'The Great G' but there's warmth and exotic spices in there. Sometimes it's difficult to vocalise 'tastes' - I do hope my descriptions give an inkling of what I'm trying to say. On my regular Best Smooth Wines slot at London's Best Smooth Jazz I often end up babbling on about 'notes' and 'body' much to host Rod's amusement or confusion. Thing is you can't just say 'Yummy' or 'hmmmn' all the time.

Tesco's own brand 12 year old single malt also gives the higher price range a good run for it's money - literally. Aberlour has real competition with the bright pure clear offering from this supermarket. There remain purists among us who would never compromise their favourite scotch whisky but at least we have a decent choice. Thanks guys, I for one appreciate it.

Back to wines, the best in malbecs at the moment have to come from Argentina and Chile, haven't sampled one single dud recently, that pretty much goes for the merlots too. Affordable and widely available in most supermarkets - Famatina Valley Malbec is one great example - it's wholesome, full bodiedly delicious and bursting with cherry/plums. 


Thursday, 27 March 2014

Pinot Noir Week

Don't you just adore a Pinot Noir? I do, and am currently on a most enjoyable quest to decide which one I like the very most.

Pinot noir is a red wine grape variety of the species Vitis vinifera. The name is derived from the French words for pine and black; the pine alluding to the grape variety having tightly clustered, pine cone-shaped bunches of fruit.
Pinot noir grapes are grown around the world, mostly in the cooler regions, but the grape is chiefly associated with the Burgundy region of France. Other regions that have gained a reputation for Pinot noir include the Willamette Valley of Oregon, the Carneros, Central Coast and Russian River AVAs of California. Talking of Russian River Valley, I am soon to be talking about and reviewing in more depth John Jacaman Wines. Since the first vintage in 2002, J Jacaman Wines has produced premium Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs.

They produce a high-quality wine that anyone on any budget could drink any day, the wines are extremely exclusive – limited quantities are available for courier delivery exclusively in the United Kingdom. J

Russian River Valley Pinot Noir 2005 - elegant and feminine
A ruby red deepness, think cherries and espresso. Visualise a ripe berry on your tongue, soft and silky, then melting - slowly, exquisitely.

Another Pinot Noir well worth a mention is Sainsbury's Villa Maria Cellar Selection Pinot Noir 2010, super depth and a quality warm taste, more plummy and red fruits, perfect for a cheery pasta lunch with friends. 

Also Co Operative's Trapiche Pinot Noir 2010 from Argentina, bit lighter and of a higher 'note' still lovely to share over supper with some warm bread and mature cheese.

glassware by Bunce

Tuesday, 11 March 2014

Fair Trade Wines

How time flies, just wanted to talk a bit about Fair Trade - whenever I hear the words I immediately think of The Co-Operative but other major markets and retailers also offer FairTrade, namely Sainsburys for one. I thought it my mission to taste wine from both these supermarkets and give you the low down.

Not being an avid lover of white wines in general, preferring to focus my attentions on red only because I usually like them better and remember there's only a certain amount of hours in the day one can spend on this particular pastime/job/vocation - BUT, having said that - The Co-Operative's Fairtrade Pinot Grigio was indeed excellent. Couldn't fault it. Fresh, hints of citrus, splash of vanilla, soft on the tongue, totally delicious. Served really cold.

The Co-operative Food is celebrating 10 years of  FAIRTRADE Mark wines this year, and, to mark the occasion, the retailer is encouraging shoppers to take the “Fairtrade Wine Challenge” by trying one of the wines from its delicious, market-leading Fairtrade wine range.

The Co-operative, which has led the way in the development of Fairtrade, is the UK’s largest retailer of Fairtrade wine, selling 52.5% of all Fairtrade wine sold in the UK.  It has also been recognised as the world’s largest retailer of Fairtrade wine by The Fairtrade Foundation - accounting for 28% of global Fairtrade wine sales. Over the last 10 years, The Co-operative has sold a staggering 35 million bottles of Fairtrade wine.

The good news is that the quality of Fairtrade wines in general has improved massively over the years, and I think they are now at the point where they represent excellent quality and value for money in their own right. 

Taste the Difference Fairtrade Cabernet Merlot from Sainsburys was beautifully rounded and mellow, quite robust and a very enjoyable experience. Plummy on the palate and tasting ripe and fruity, it made for a most relaxing evening. Coupled with a few choice bix and some mature, hard cheese, it reminded me of why I do what I do.

The other Fairtrade offerings from The Co-Operative were just as good. In fact I rejoiced over the Argentinian Cabernet Sauvigon on one of my Saturday Night Best Smooth Jazz Reviews

Follow me on Twitter as I muse and tweet @bestsmoothwines

Glassware by 'Bunce'

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Asda's Black Tower Pink and Bubbly Lovely

Thanks Asda for supplying me with Black Tower's Pink and Bubbly! Who would've believed it? I thought Black Tower - that fine upstanding icon of the 80's from Germany - was long forgotten and then they go and pop up with a great fun wine. Only 9% which makes it a super choice for parties and celebrations, good price too so you can share with friends and it looks lovely. beautiful bottle design (with bubbles floating up through the pinkness) and it tastes . . . .

. . . .well, actually it tastes like strawberry 'pop' which is lovely. It is effervescent and non subtle. I think ladies will love love love it for Valentine's day and as an accompaniment to the box of chocs (and obligatory bouquet) from their nearest and dearest.

Also from Asda and staying with pink and frothy - Lovely Louvel Fontaine Martel Rose - a fine bubbly to celebrate the loveliness of Valentines Day. I liked it - although I'm not generally a particularly pink and frothy person - and would recommend it as an affordable option. Very cold (almost icey) dry and not sweet. Have I said 'lovely' enough yet?

Valentines Day also merits the wonders of Champagne Monsigny Brut No.3. 'My No.1' which is from Aldi at an excellent price and with an excellent taste. Dry and again, icey, with an aftertaste of lemony zip!

Although 'Red January' is well and truly finished for another year - phew - It doesn't have to be a 'Frothy February' let's move swiftly onto some red. Going all domesticated and trying hard to make authentic Italian dishes, I've tried some really great Italian wines lately. With my homemade ravioli (now there's a time consuming delicacy) I served a brilliant Ricasoli Rocca Guicciarda Riserva Chiant Classico DOCG 2010 from Sainsburys. Am sure Simply Italian (tweetable @XsimplyitalianX ) make ravioli  much better than I, wonder if they serve Ricasoli Rocca Guicciarda Riserva Chiant Classico though? at room temperature or slightly above . . . mmmmmm

Also the excellent Casa Planeta which I can't get enough of -  definitely recommended - from the Cooperative - well warm rounded and deep yet not too heavy and highly drinkable with pastas and tomato spiced dishes.