I write about wine mainly (tasting notes, food and wine matching, vineyard visits and so on) and take photographs of the same. There is also the occasional cocktail, beer or bar review and the odd restaurant review.
Calvet, one of Bordeaux’s oldest negociant houses, was sold to Grand Chais de France, owners of the JP Chenet brand back in 2007. The history of Calvet stretches way back however. This year, 2018 is in fact the 200th anniversary of Calvet.
In celebration they are releasing a couple of new wines – for the restaurant world. The 1818 range is the top tier of the range with the Heritage just a step below. I tasted a proto-type of both during a visit late last year; and rather good they are too.
The concept is to make the companies Bordeaux offering more accessible and easier for wine drinkers to understand. Bordeaux is lacking a touch in recognisable ‘names’, when compared say to Australia or Chile. The adoption of some stylish and ‘contemporary’ packaging should go some way to attracting more recognition.
The Cuvee 1818 and the Heritage range (which also offers wines from a variety of French wine regions) are soon to be available.
“The Chief Chocolate Officer and halfwine.com bring you a unique wine and chocolate tasting pack. Chocolates specially designed to partner selected wines (or great on their own) and half bottles of wine selected specifically to match these chocolates (or great on their own)!”
Video: Wine and Chocolate Tasting Packs from HalfWine.com
Chocolate and Wine Tasting Packs - YouTube
“Chief Chocolate Officer have analysed the typical tasting notes of the UK’s six most popular wine grapes and produced a premium range of unique chocolate bars made by a small family-owned business in the UK. These work so well that when paired with a wine made from their chosen grape, they mutually enhance the enjoyment of both.”
This year, 2018, is wine brand Calvet’s 200th anniversary. In the run up to this I was invited down to Bordeaux to visit a few of their properties. Calvet forms part of the GCF Groupe, one of the major French wine producers/exporters. Their size is staggering with a Global Turnover of €990 million which places them about 4th in the global wine turnover league. Calvet itself sells 14 million bottles across 110 countries (2016 figures). To handle such volumes requires some serious resources; hence a visit to the groups largest bottling/packaging/distribution hub just outside St. Emilion in Bordeaux.
In trying to encapsulate the sheer size of the operation here I shot a little video…
Christmas… that unique time of the year when its acceptable to have a drink before 10am. If you ignore New Years which is the only other time. (Its midday for Birthdays in case you were wondering). It simply has to be something bubbly of course. Oh and gin.
For Christmas 2017 Tanqueray No.10 have released a stonkingly attractive caged bottle. The bespoke metal frame has “been expertly crafted to highlight Tanqueray No. 10’s striking geometric design”.
Tanqueray No. Ten Art Deco Cage
With 200 years of distilling passion, the celebrated gin prides itself on authenticity, quality and impeccable flavours of whole fresh citrus fruit. Tanqueray No. TEN is best enjoyed with a slice of pink grapefruit which showcases the spirit’s citrus elements. Highlighting it’s what you put in that really counts, it’s the perfect pairing to sip at a seasonal soiree. From a sophisticated Martini to a classic Tanqueray No. TEN & Tonic, Tanqueray No. TEN also provides a superb base for festive cocktails, great for toasting the party season.
To combine the love of gin with the festive requirement of bubbles only a French 75 cocktail will suffice. You know… until lunch time…
Tanqueray No. Ten French 75 Cocktail
Tanqueray No.10 French 75 Cocktail
30ml Tanqueray No.10 Gin
15ml fresh lemon juice
15ml sugar syrup
15ml champagne or sparkling wine
Combine all ingredients with ice in a shaker. Impart a little shaking action and pour into a decadent glass. Top up with more of the champagne or sparkling wine.
Tanqueray No.10 is available at Waitrose for £32.50 or thereabouts. The highly covetable glass featured in the photo is from a collaboration between the Connaught Bar (voted no.4 in the world) and Tanqueray to offer the perfect Christmas cocktail this season. It’s a bespoke glass created by iconic designer Lee Broom.
Launched in 2010 Drinks by the Dram aimed at offering whisky enthusiasts a simple way to sample new releases of single malts at a fraction of the cost of purchasing a full bottle. THe range has grown over the years to encompass over 6,000 spirits. While whisky forms the backbone there are now rums, gins, tequilas, mescal and so on in the range. The idea of buying small samples to discover and experiment is an attractive one; especially as many limited editions are expensive.
The ‘try before you buy’ concept is replicated in their innovative advent calenders – the one featured here is for rum but gin, whisky and spirits versions are also available. There are 26 options to select from ranging in price from £99 to £150.
“A splendid Advent Calendar filled to the brim with 24 of the finest rums, including white, dark, agricole and spiced, hailing from across the world. Contains 24 different, handmade 30ml wax-sealed drams from across the globe.
Boutique producers and world-renowned distilleries From light and sweet to dark and complex Award-winning rums from famous distilleries RRP £149.95” Drinks by The Dram
Drinks by the Dram Rum Advent Calendar
Drinks by the Dram Rum Advent Calendar
It seemed a shame not to use this marvellous collection as a proper advent calendar – but for review purposes I had to delve in and crack open a few of the samples. The range is impressive suitable for sipping over ice or for mixing into a whole range of rumcocktails.
The Drinks by the Dram Rum Advent Calendar was supplied as a sample but all thoughts are of the author.
Several scenes of the spy-comedy film Kingsman: The Golden Circle were filmed at the premises of Berry Bros. & Rudd. Their historic shop has been in St.James’s Street since the foundation of the company in 1698. In celebration of the films release Berry Bros & Rudd released a limited edition of their No.3 Gin; justifiably called the Kingsman Edition. I gotta say the two trailer videos (below) make the film look damn fun.
Limited to just 5,000 bottles the Kingsman Edition comes with a higher strength (49% ABV) and retails for £42. It makes for a cracking Negroni. But the No 3 Gin and the No 3 Kingsman Edition are superbly versatile in the making of all sorts of gin based cocktails.
“The qualities needed to make a Kingsman are not dissimilar from those required of our London Dry Gin” comments Creative Director Geordie Willis. “Sophistication, integrity and style are paramount.”
To celebrate the release of No.3 London Dry Gin: Kingsman Edition, an exclusive cocktail has been created. Designed for the Kingsman’s tastes, The Golden Circle is created from a sophisticated blend of citrus and vanilla.
The Golden Circle Cocktail made with No.3 Gin Kingsman Edition
The Golden Circle Cocktail
50ml No.3 Gin Kingsman Edition
25ml egg white
25ml lemon juice
10ml sugar syrup
2 dashes angostura bitters
1 drop of vanilla extract
1 tsp lemon curd
Poppy seeds to garnish
Combine all ingredients, except the lemon curd, in a cocktail shaker and dry shake well. Add ice and the curd and shake until cold to the touch. Strain into a martini glass. To garnish, float poppy seeds on the top and add a twist of lemon.
Plum & Chocolate Gin Martini made using the standard No.3 Gin
The standard No.3 Gin also makes for a fine cocktail base. To accentuate some of the botanicals used in the production of the gin I made a Plum and Chocolate Liqueur. A chopped juicy plum and 100g of dark chocolate were steeped in vodka and a little sugar for a few days before being strained and used in this Martini. The plum picks up on the Angelica Root and its citric edge, while the chocolate gives an added edge of bitterness while complementing the orange peel. Adding the freshness of a crushed basil leaf added a freshness and a floral dimension that I think just takes this cocktail to another taste level.
Plum & Chocolate Gin Martini
50ml No.3 London Dry Gin
25ml homemade plum and chocolate liqueur
5ml sugar syrup
1 or 2 large basil leaves
Muddle the basil with the sugar syrup. Add ice and pour in the other ingredients. Give it a shake and double strain in to a martini glass., Garnish with a slice of plum. Alternatively serve over ice with tonic water and garnish with an additional basil leaf.
20th Century Cocktail made using the standard No.3 Gin
In the 20th Century Cocktail the addition of creme de cacao has a similar effect as the chocolate in the Plum & Chocolate Martini. But its the addition of a decent red vermouth that transforms the drink into something totally different.
20th Century Cocktail
50ml No.3 London Dry Gin
30ml creme de cacao
30ml Martini Reserva Speciale Ambrato Vermouth
10ml lemon juice
Shake all ingredeints with ice. Pour and garnish with an orange twist.
No 3 Gin and the No 3 Kingsman Edition are available from Berry Bros. & Rudd £42 for the limited edition £35.85 for the ‘standard‘.
“To mark the release of Kingsman: The Golden Circle, we have created a limited-edition, higher-strength bottling of our supremely British No.3 London Dry Gin. Masterminded in St James’s Street, this exceptional spirit stays true to the classic No.3, with essential botanicals of juniper, sweet orange peel, angelica root, coriander, cardamom and grapefruit peel – but at 49 percent alcohol, packs a more serious, Kingsman-worthy punch.”
Kingsman: The Golden Circle Film Trailers
Kingsman: The Golden Circle | Official Trailer 2 [HD] | 20th Century FOX - YouTube
Kingsman: The Golden Circle | Official Trailer [HD] | 20th Century FOX - YouTube
To be honest Simon doesnt really need my help for his kickstarter campaign – the goal has already been reached! At the time of writing there are still nine days left for the fund raising and I spy Simon has added some ‘stretch’ goals and backer perks to tempt those late arrivals. The campaign is for his book the Amber Revolution.
“Amber Revolution is the first book worldwide to tell the full forgotten story of orange wine (white wine made like a red wine). White grapes are left in contact with their skins for days, weeks or months during fermentation, creating stunning complexity, unusual aromas and intense flavours. The extended skin contact gives these wines bold amber, russet or orange tints. The technique is ancient but the hype is new and fast growing.”
Simon Woolf is a renowned orange wine expert and an award winning writer and has styled Amber Revolution more like a good novel than a dry reference work. In addition to various historical aspects the book is crammed full of all the information you need to find the best orange wines worldwide, and tips for how to buy, enjoy, food-match and age them. Some chap called Ryan Opaz has provided the illustrations with over 100 specially commissioned photos.
Simon Wolf and the Amber Revolution
“Amber Revolution is more than just a good read – it’s also an essential reference work for any wine lover, sommelier, retailer or producer who loves orange wine.”
Simon Woolf and the Amber Revolution
Orange wines - Simon J Woolf interviewed by Mauro Fermariello for WineStories.it - Vimeo
I’ve had some limited exposure to orange wines, chiefly via a fascinating trip to Slovenia back in 2013. Hoping this book will provide further up-to-date info!
From Dorset’s first distillery – Conker Gin. Established in 2014 the distillery also produces a Cold Brew Coffee Liqueur.
Free from the constraints of tradition, our spirits aren’t moulded by antiquated expectations. With oodles of blind optimism and an open mind comes a fresh approach. There’s no ancient family recipe or mythical Master Distiller here, just a dogged pursuit of the new and exciting. So we started from scratch, meticulously tweaking the Dorset Dry, fine-tuning the recipe sip by sip to compose a fresh approach to gin with a ruthless focus on quality. No gimmicks. No fuss. Just top-notch small batch gin distilled in Dorset from British wheat spirit and New Forest Spring Water. That’s the spirit.
I love it when distillers utilise local ingredients in their gins. While based in ‘the backstreets of Bournmouth’ Conker Gin incorporates Dorset notes of elderberries, samphire and handpicked New Forest gorse flowers while still incorporating dry Macedonian juniper at its heart.
Conker Gin The Gin From Dorset
Conker Gin The Gin From Dorset – Cocktail
Conker Gin with Rosemary and Blueberry Syrup
60ml Conker Gin
15ml homemade Rosemary and Blueberry Syrup
Stir the syrup into the COnker Gin, add ice and top up with tonic water. Not so much a cocktail, more a spiked G&T!
To make the Rosemary and Blueberry Syrup just add the chopped leaves off a couple of sprigs of fresh Rosemary and half a punnet of blueberries to a cup of water and a cup of sugar. Bring to a simmer, leave for five minutes or so for all the sugar to dissolve. Allow to cool then strain before using.
I had always dismissed the heal and toe bit of Italy as a backwater, few people, little by way of historical sights or dramatic landscapes and lacking in culinary interest. A few wines popped up on the radar occasionally – Copertino, Salice Salentino and the area being home to Negroamaro and Primitivo.
But slap my buttocks with some artisanal pasta – Pulgia is fantastic. From the historic delights of Lecce and the dramatic port of Otranto on the eastern side through to Porto Cesareo and its wonderful seafood on the east. Pulgia is anything but a backwater. There are enough Cathedrals to cause an overdose and even Megolithic Dolmen if you have a want to stretch back to pre-hiostory.
Having someone show you the highlights assists of course. Step forward Francesco and Angela and their specialised Salento Wine Tours Company. After a period of working in London the couple returned to their home town of Campi Salentina to champion the region, its wines and food. Campi Salentina, with a distinctiveness of its own, is well placed as a touring base.
Street Scene Campi Salentina
To the west is Porto Cesareo. A low rise town blessed with a wide and shallow sandy sea. It is also surrounded by ‘macchia shrubland’ that gives the region a unique character. What could be better than sampling the exquisite seafood from the bay with the water gently lapping around you. L’Aragota da Co restaurant is a must visit.
Here our Puglia Wine Trail began. A bottle of Leverano Rosé was a delight under the warm sun and an array of misto fritto (seafood).
Like elsewhere in Italy Puglia has its own grape and unique wines to discover. Primitivo and Negroamaro I had heard of – perhaps though, not quite aware of how diverse the styles of wine from the latter can be – but Susumaiello and Aleatico? Delights both. Or Verdeca and Francavilla? Whites well worth hunting down. Susumaiello confined to the area around Brindisi has begun escaping its role in rustic blends to stand on its own as a single varietal bottling.
But back On The Puglia Wine Trail. First stop the home of the ‘famous’ Five Roses brand. (Named after the five children of the family.) Leone de Castris is one of the oldest and historically important wineries based in the small town of Salice Salentino – go take a tour of the winery and museum (keep an eye out for the mosaic made from vine wood and the ostentatious chandelier dating from 1700) and eat in their restaurant. And take in one of several vintages of their Salice Salentino Riserva wines.
The original 1860’s Milano-Torino cocktail mixes Campari and red vermouth in equal measures. Its a drink that eventually led to the development of the Negroni and the Americano. At Bar 300 in Lecce, a delightful town right down in the Italian heel, they add a healthy doze of Negroamaro Rose for their Torino-Lecce version. And a super little cocktail it makes too. The bar, outside of Lecce old town, just to the north of Piazza Mazzini has a mighty impressive shelf-upon-shelf of drinks lining the right hand wall as you enter. The back of the bar is lacking and uninspiring in comparison to be honest, so I sat at the bar.
Over 500 gins and 800 whiskies said the head barman through the wonders of google translate. There was possibly a hint of exaggeration there but the bank of gins right behind my stool was fabulously impressive.
My second aperitif was, if memory serves, their version of a Negroni. The barman spent several minutes picking out a few choice gins; being in Italy I asked for an Italian gin and we eventually settled on Riviera to be added to the Campari, red vermouth and soda water. I’ve since learnt this is gin is based on a recipe created back in the 1940s by a British solider stationed in Rimini. It features juniper, sweet orange, bergamot, cinnamon, elderflower, coriander and ginger. It is also £60 a bottle from Master of Malt!
A nearby restaurant I was recommended seemed closed – I received some odd looks so I suspect I was rattling the wrong door – so I wandered across town in the most glorious of evenings and landed at a little wine bar just behind the Duomo. One advantage Quanto Basta has over Bar 300 is the outside seating; a delight in the early summer warmth. I discovered a little YouTube video (below) by Local Traveller that gives a flavour…