Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Paso Primero - Great Spanish Wine!

Yesterday I met a lovely man called Tom who has a wonderful story and he gave me some incredible wines to taste. Paso Primero are wines that are made with love and care, yet are outstanding value for money.


Tom dropped out of uni and started stacking shelves at Tanners Wine Merchants, who were very supportive and encouraged Tom to study wine making at Plumpton in Sussex. With a wine degree under his belt he set off for New Zealand with his then girlfriend (now wife) Emma to make wine in Hawkes Bay. After a couple of years it was time for a change and they moved to Canada to make wines for Flat Rock in Niagara. After three years suffering through the bitter winters they decided to move home and settle in Shrewsbury, where Tom and Emma are able to juggle caring for their baby boy with making delicious wines at an affordable price in partnership with Batan de Salas in Somontano, 2hrs from Barcelona. Sounds idyllic... but obviously hard work as a breakthrough young wine maker in a crowded market where the big guns have the power. I'm hoping I can help Tom and Emma by featuring their wines at my pop up wine bar in Marlow and spreading the word about their wines. So what about the wines?

Paso Primero is the main wine they produce, a red blend of Merlot (72%), Cabernet Sauvignon (14%) and Tempranillo (14%). The bottle we opened was a little tight on the nose, but that's understandable being the 2016 vintage with only a few months in bottle, give it six months and it'll open right up. On the palate the first hit is the Cab Sav with its tannic bite, then the Merlot floods through softening the mouthfeel, finishing on a Tempranillo lift of red fruits - the strawberry and redcurrant finish makes you crave another sip. Very easy drinking, peppery, smooth, without the burn I would expect to receive from a wine so young and with such high alcohol (14.5%). Selling for a mere £8.50 at Tanners, this is a new favourite!


Paso Prima is Tom's vanity project, the opportunity to choose the grapes that are developing to his tastes, and have a little fun. Paso Prima today is 100% Cab Sav, but the next vintage might be 100% Chardonnay, who knows, a little surprise in wait every year. I think Tom should create a members club so we can get pre-release first dibs on the new Prima each year, and the membership should include an invite for a tour of the winery. I'm in! At only £11.30 at Tanners, this is a special wine. I don't think I've tasted a wine so good for less than £12. I do love a good Cab Sav and this certainly delivers, saliva rushes over the tongue on first sip which fades to reveal velvety tannins coating the roof of the mouth. The heat of the Spanish summer days encourage the grapes to become fat and juicy, and the cooler nights allow them to retain their acidity. Big bam blackcurrant fruit, but with soft edges.


Wonderful story, gorgeous wines, and I wish Tom and Emma the best Primero Paso (first step) into the wine world. You should too, and go buy their wines - or come to my pop up wine bar in Marlow to try Paso Primero. Click here to see if I am currently showcasing these wines.


Friday, August 4, 2017

Pop up wine bar FLIGHTS July 2017

CITRUS WHITES
Top tips
These are light-bodied white wines that are dry and refreshingly tart. They are best enjoyed young while they still retain their high acidity and bold fruit flavours. Citrus wines have high acidity, which you can detect if you take a sip then nod your head down (with your mouth closed!) and you will feel the saliva rush forward.
Borgo Magredo, Sauvignon Blanc, Friuli, Italy, 2015, 12.5%
Sauvignon Blanc is a white grape from western France, now successfully grown in wine regions all over the world, including Northern Italy in the foothills of the Alps. This straw yellow wine has greenish reflections. It has intense aromas of elderberry, nettle and blueberry, with apple, pear, lime and quince on the palate. Delicate, dry, balanced acidity and good persistence.
Available from Wine Rack, Henley £9.99
You & Me, Albariño, Rias Baixas, Spain, 2015, 12.5%
Albariño is a green-skinned grape variety native to Galicia on the North Atlantic coast of Spain and Vinho Verde in Portgual where it is known as Alvarinho. This wine comes from the Rias Baixas DOC, which is where the finest Albariño wines are made. Pale yellow colour with hints of green. Intensely aromatic on the nose, and structured and oily on the palate. Floral and with apricot, lime and pear flavour characteristics. A lovely finish with a slightly salty tang at the end, where the salty sea air surrounding the vines influences the flavour profile. A great alternative to Sauvignon Blanc.
Available from Ocado £11.99
Baily & Baily “Folio”, Riesling, Clare Valley, Australia, 2015, 11.5%
A racy Riesling with zingy citrus fruit, lime and a hint of petrol on the finish. Many Rieslings are off-dry, as is this one. However, its acidity is so high that without doing a sweetness test (dipping the tip of your tongue into the wine) you may not detect the residual sugar. This style is common in Clare and Eden Valleys in Australia. Sweeter wines tend to have lower alcohol, because the fermentation has been stopped before all the sugar has been turned into alcohol.
Available from Waitrose, Henley £8.49



BRAVE NEW WORLD
Top tips
There are so many countries where grapes are grown and wine is made, and its fun every once in a while to explore a new grape or new region. Here are three regions that are making their mark on the wine world right now, Greece, Slovenia, and Uruguay. I first tried the Pizzorno at The Sampler in Islington and the Hatzidakis at a private wine tasting with Xavier Rousset MS, both in 2013. Luckily wines from more unusual countries are becoming more widely available and increasingly so in supermarkets. All three wines in this flight are available from Waitrose.
Puklavec & Friends, Sauvignon Blanc / Pinot Grigio, Slovenia, 2016, 12%
Slovenia is home to pure, zingy white varietals and a few up and coming reds. This dry white wine is from a family owned winery in Eastern Slovenia where grapes are handpicked. The wine is lively with aromas of passion fruit, lemon zest and red apple. A refreshing blend of two well-known grape varieties from a region that is not yet fully on the wine map.
Available from Waitrose, Henley £7.99
Hatzidakis, Assyrtiko, Santorini Greece, 2016, 13.5%
The idyllic Greek island of Santorini has been a source of top quality white wine for years. Santorini's volcanic soil adds acidity to the full flavoured Assyrtiko grape, which has been balanced here with Aidani and Athiri grapes which add softness and complexity to the palate. The vines are gown in a circular fashion to create baskets that protect the grapes from the fierce wind and heat on the island. A full-bodied white with jasmine, grapefruit, and pineapple, with great texture.
Available from Waitrose, Henley £13.99
Pizzorno, Merlot / Tannat, Uruguay, 2015, 13.5%
Tannat is Uruguay's flagship grape, which has high tannins and full body. Tannat is also grown in Madiran in South-West France, and is one of my favourite wines, but can be pretty pricey. The Tannat in this wine is softened by Merlot to deliver an affordable well-balanced juicy wine. Raspberry, plums and chocolate on the palate.
 Available from Waitrose, Henley £8.99





CHILEAN REDS
Top tips
Chile is a cool climate region well known for Bordeaux blends (namely Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon) and its native Carmenère. Chile is a good place to look for good value wines for the varietals above, but also for Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc which are building reputation here. The wines in this flight come from Central Valley, which is a large farming area, and produces some fantastic red wines at lower price points.
Cono Sur “Bicicleta”, Pinot Noir, Chile, 2016, 13%
This wine is the UKs best selling Pinot Noir, which you will understand when you taste the rich notes of cherry, blackberries and ripe plums. This wine is named after the vineyard workers who travel around the vineyards by bicycle tending the vines using natural methods. And for those of you who worry about air miles, this company is Carbon Neutral.
Available from Sainsburys, High Wycombe £7.00
Santa Rita, Merlot, Reserva, Central Valley, Chile, 2016, 13%
Santa Rita is the biggest wine producer in Chile and they have partnered with The National Gallery to support the arts, which is why the label is a J.M.W. Turner. Deep red, with plum and sweet spice. Rich and smooth with velvety tannins. A sumptuous, affordable Merlot. If you're having a party this wine will be a great crowd pleaser.
Available from Laithwaites, Beaconsfield £9.99
Carmen, Carmenère, Gran Reserva, Colchagua, Chile, 2014, 14%
Chile's signature Carmenère grape variety, thought to be lost from its native France, was discovered among Carmen's vineyards. It was previously thought to be Merlot and only in 1994 did DNA research confirm Carmenère's true identity. Black plum and vanilla, soft and velvety, with good length. The term Gran Reserva indicates it has been aged in oak, resulting in cedar and tobacco notes.
Available from Ocado £14.99




SOUTH AFRICAN REDS
Top tips
South Africa is a hot climate region known for full bodied reds and rich whites. Pinotage is a native red varietal, with very high tannins that stand up to the heat. Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz are other common red varietals grown in this region. South Africa is branching out with other grape varieties, including Malbec, but if you're going to go off piste I'd recommend you stick to producers you know and love.
Mulberry Bush, Shiraz / Merlot, Robertson, South Africa, 2015, 14%
This is what I like to call a telly wine - soft, easy drinking; you don't have to think too much about it, and a pretty price. This wine celebrates the mulberry flavours typical of Shiraz and Merlot from Robertson in South Africa. A cacophony of mulberries, plums and figs, with a smooth finish, this wine is much softer than the mainstream tannic reds coming out of South Africa.
Available from Laithwaites, Beaconsfield £8.99
Charles Back, Malbec, Paarl, South Africa, 2014, 14%
Malbec was originally known as Cot and grown in South-West France, but the winter of 1956 killed most of the vines, and is now grown prolifically in South America. Mendoza in Argentina has established a name for itself, and other new world countries including South Africa are following suit. The name Charles Back is synonymous with quality, and he is an expert in matching vines to specific soil types. This is a bold and spicy Malbec, with a deep plum red colour, aromas of blackberry and violets, and impressively smooth tannins.
Available from Laithwaites, Beaconsfield £11.99
Fairview, Pinotage, Paarl, South Africa, 2016, 14%
Pinotage is the most planted red grape in South Africa. It is a pretty unique varietal (a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, although the result is quite different to both parents), and if not made with care can taste like tar or nail polish. Look for producers you know (like this one from Charles Back), or go to a store where you can try before you buy. One trick is to look for descriptions of both red and black fruit flavours which would suggest a more balanced wine. Ripe plum, clove and a fresh finish.
Available from Waitrose, Henley £9.49

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com 

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Pairing wine with fish

I don't eat fish very often, and shellfish never, but I do know that many people love it and I get questions asking for best pairings. So here are my recommendations...

Person Holding White Ceramic Plate With Green Slice Vegetable

Fancy pants seafood, such as caviar, lobster and oysters, should be served with Champagne, I mean if you're going to indulge lets go the whole hog! Laurent Perrier Le Grand Siecle is something rather spectacular.

It might not be an obvious thought to pair fish and chips with wine, but sparkling wine matches very well. I'd recommend an English brut, such as Camel Valley NV from Cornwall (£26.99 Waitrose). The acidity and the bubbles cut through the batter, balancing the food-wine experience. #bestofbritish

White fish, such as sea bass, turbot, or Dover sole go well with acidic wines, such as pinot grigio or Sauvignon Blanc. Why not try a delicious blend of Pinot Grigio / Sauvignon Blanc by Puklavec & Friends from Slovenia (£8.79 Waitrose).

Smoked fish, such as haddock or mackerel, needs a full-bodied white wine, such as an oaked Chardonnay. Bisque, chowder and crab also work well with this creamy white wine - try Maggio Chardonnay (£13.00 Wine Discovery).


Sardines, mackerel and other oily fish should be partnered with aromatic white wines, such as Viognier. The aromatic aromas will balance out the strength of the fish. Try Organic Viognier by Yalumba (£9.99 Waitrose).

Spiced fish, such as Indian, Chinese or Thai should be balanced with wines that have a slight sweetness to them, such as Gewurtztraminer or an off-dry riesling. Try this Split Rock Riesling from New Zealand (£11.99 Laithwaites).


Shellfish such as clams, mussles or scallops work really well with citrus whites such as Albarino or Verdelho from Spain, Portugal or Australia/New Zealand. I love You And Me Albarino from Rias Baixas in Spain (£11.99 Ocado).

Tuna, Swordfish and other meaty fish can hold their own with a light red wine, such as Beaujolais or Pinot Noir. My favourite is this Fleurie by Georges Duboeuf, the "King" of Beaujolais (£12.99 Majestic).


BBQ'd seafood goes really well with a rose, something quite punchy, like this Oaken Grove Benham Blush rose from England (£11.49 Waitrose). It's full-bodied to hold up against the charcoal, yet dry enough to allow the seafood flavours to shine.


Seafood pasta deserves to stay true to its roots and be partnered with an Italian wine, a sangiovese will balance any tomato sauce, and Grillo will balance a white or herby sauce. Try this Chianti from Tuscany by Poggio Castagno (£10.79 Waitrose) or this Colomba Bianca Vitese from Sicily (£8.99 Wine Discovery).



I have been informed recently that prawns go well with dry fino sherry! Perhaps its that connection to 1970s prawn cocktails that started it, but apparently any prawn will do - langoustine, prawn stirfry, grilled King prawns... all match this Spanish tipple. I won't be giving it a try, but let me know your thoughts if you do.

Enjoy!

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Fruity Chardonnay Wine Flight

Chardonnay suffers from an image problem that was introduced by the oaky Chardonnays of the 1990s. Many people still label themselves as ABCs (Anything But Chardonnays), but it’s time for that to end. Chardonnay is known as the ‘tart of grapes’ because it can be made in any style you want – varying from earthy to fruity and from light to rich. In Burgundy and Italy Chardonnay wines tend to be earthy, and in the New World they tend to be fruity. I have chosen here to showcase three fruity Chardonnays that are quite different in style yet none have the overpowering over-oaked flavours that you might fear.


Emmanuel Delaille, Sauvignon Blanc / Chardonnay, Cheverny, France, 2015, 12.5%
This wine uses zesty notes of Sauvignon Blanc to balance the Chardonnay. Often blending
Chardonnay with another grape varietal, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Sémillon, or Colombard will
move the focus away from the Chardonnay grape, making it appealing to more people. This light
wine has aromas of gooseberry, cut grass and guava and would partner well with a grilled chicken, spinach and feta salad.
Available from Wine Rack £9.99


Peach Garden, Chardonnay, Thracian Lowlands, Bulgaria, 2015, 12.5%
Chardonnays from newer regions, such as Chile, Bulgaria, and Oregon tend to be made in a fruity style, with light oak. This wine is a crisp Chardonnay with citrus and warm peach and hazelnut notes, subtly oaked to give texture and depth. Partner with roast chicken, baked fish and summer salads.
Available from M&S £7.50


Maggio, Chardonnay, Lodi, USA, 2015, 13.5%
This wine has gone through malolactic fermentation, a process that turns the green/citrus malic
acid into creamy lactic acid flavour compounds to produce a buttery full-bodied Chardonnay. Ripe
tropical fruit aromas combined with hints of vanilla on the nose, with butterscotch flavours and a long
finish. Best served with pumpkin ravioli with toasted pine nuts, or cajun chicken.
Available from Wine Discovery, www.wine-discovery.co.uk £13

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com

English Wine Flight

Top Tips
English wine has come a long way from the tart flabby wines that we used to make, to the 120 awards won at the International Wine Challenge 2016. Now even Taittinger, the French Champagne house, has bought some land in Kent to invest in English Sparkling wine. But it’s not just the sparklers that are outstanding, there are some English still wines that are worth a try, and here are three of them. Marlow (where I have my pop-up wine bar) is lucky to have several vineyards nearby, including Oaken Grove, Harrow & Hope, Chiltern Valley (Old Luxters), and Stanlake Park. Lets support our local producers and buy their wines, some of them are really rather lovely. Be aware that ‘British’ wine is different to ‘English’ wine. English wines are made from grapes that are grown here and then the wine is made here, whereas British wines import the juice to make here.


Chiltern Valley Dry, Reichensteiner, 2015, 11%
The Chiltern Valley Winery is based in Hambleden, between Marlow and Henley-on-Thames. It is open to the public and runs tours of the vineyard. This wine is made with the Reichensteiner grape, which ripens well, so is popular in England. This light and crisp white is refreshing and delicious, particularly if partnered with barbecued fish with a wedge of lime.
Available from Chiltern Valley Winery, Hambleden £11.95


Oaken Grove Benham Blush, Pinot Noir, England, 2014, 12.5%
Oaken Grove is a family-owned vineyard based in Fawley, near Henley-on-Thames. This wine is a
dry rosé made from 100% Pinot Noir. Enticing strawberries and cream on the nose with hints of
apple, peach and cherry cobbler flavour characteristics. Great served with pork chop and green beans.
Available from www.oakengroveyineyard.co.uk or Waitrose £11.49


Litmus, White Pinot Noir, England, 2013, 12.5%
Litmus is produced in the North Downs of Surrey. White Pinot Noir is richer than many white wines
because it’s made with red wine grapes. It has flavours of baked apple and pear, with zesty notes of honey, orange and ginger. A lovely full body with light oak. A great match for prawn tempura or turkey steaks in a creamy sauce.
Available from M&S £22

To find out more about Princess and the Pinot and our pop-up wine bars please visit www.princessandthepinot.com

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Portuguese Wine Tasting

I recently attended another delightful Portuguese wine tasting at Exquisite in Marlow. Paulo and Maria are very generous with their pours and provide home-made canapes at the end of the evening.

We started the evening with a palate cleanser Maria Papiola, a lovely white wine from Vinho Verde in north west Portugal. Bright and crisp with low alcohol level, this wine is a delight. You can almost smell the sea its so fresh, with limes, yellow apple and no oak. Would go well with garlic prawns. It's made with the Loureiro and Alvarinho grapes. If you've tried the Maria Bonita at my pop-up wine bar n Marlow, this is quite different, because the Alvarinho brings a sharpness to the wine like a sword cutting an apple. £11.40.

Next we were served Andreza Codega do Larinho,a full bodied wine with peach and pear characteristics. This is made from the same grape as is used for Madeira, but n the Douro region it is grown in high altitudes giving it a lighter characteristic. Great served with pork loin in a creamy mustard sauce and sauteed potatoes. £11.40.

Album Reserva was the first red wine we tried, and with a Petit Verdot anf Syrah base I was delighted to try such a fruity and spicy red fromPortugal. Grown in the Alantejo region,  these grapesproduce a black fruit and black pepper profile. It has high tannins for a Syrah, making it a good candidate for ageing. Great with hard cheese. Also £11.40.



Leaving the best review until last, I have to say I fell in love with Tyto Alba Red. This wine comes from a very old estate within a conservation area. There are barn owls who nest in the forest surrounding the vines, which are believed to protect the vines. Besides the romanticism,this vineyard makes stunning wines. This is their entry level red, also producing a Merlot and a Touriga Nacional I can't wait to try. Beautiful black fruits and violets,accompanied by vanilla and leather. Would go well with roast duck. Not only are the wine and history a delight, but the presentation box is spectacular, with the owl design peeking out of the hole in the box. After taking the wine out of the box you can fix it to a tree for local birds to nest in it. Wine £13.90, box £5  (£2.50 donated to RSPB by Exquisite). Wine available now, box in store in time for Christmas 2017.


Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Pop-Up Wine Bar in Marlow

Princess and the Pinot runs a pop-up wine bar in Marlow to help local people to explore and enjoy wines in a relaxed environment.

The pop-up opens on occasional Friday and Saturday evenings 19:30-22:30 in The Perch coffee shop, 91 High Street Marlow. Next dates are:
Friday 11 & Saturday 12 August
Friday 18 & Saturday 19 August


It is a pop-up because it is utilising the space of the cafe when it would normally be closed. I bring all my wine and equipment with me and then take it all away again at the end of the evening.

The pop-up is like a wine bar, because you can arrive at a time that suits you, there is no entry fee, wines are served by the glass or bottle, with table service so you can enjoy wine, cheese and charcuterie with your friends. We are different to a wine bar because we serve wines in flights, which are three wines that have been put together to showcase a grape, a region or a style. The flights change each month and previous flights have included:
  • Italian Whites
  • Crisp Whites
  • Sauvignon Blanc
  • Range of Roses
  • Roses and Chocolates
  • French Favourites
  • Brave New World
  • Aussie Shiraz
  • Italian Reds
  • Big Reds
  • New World Cab Sav
If you would like to find out more about these flights and the wines, please visit www.princessandthepinot.com

Flights are available as tasting flights (3x 50ml) and full flights (3x 125ml). The flights come presented in flight trees with information about the flight, the wines, where you can buy them, and for how much. This means if you find a new favourite wine you can buy it locally to drink at home. There is usually a premium flight which presents three of the best wines on the menu for you to enjoy. I am always available to talk about the wines, discuss your preferences, and answer any questions. All of the wines are wine I drink, so they are all good quality and all good value for money

We serve some light food, including cheese boards, charcuterie boards, bread baskets, and chocolates. Probably best not to consider these dinner unless you've had a big lunch.

If you would like to make a reservation please email soma@princessandthepinot.com

If you would like to keep updated with future events please visit www.princessandthepinot.com/events

We look forward to meeting you at our pop-up!