The closest link between the people that make wine and the people that drink it
The shop team picked up the gauntlet to find the best wine matches for great British beef and fine artisan cheeses and tasting tables and master classes were laid on to help customers discover the best matches.
Sarah Purdon made a welcome return to the shop with her mouth-watering Belted Galloway Beef. She’d specially made some delicious meatballs which customers could try plain or with a choice of two sauces. The beef match of the day was the plain meatballs with 2009 St Joseph Rouge, Domaine Michel et Stéphane Ogier Although Finca Allende’s 2006 Rioja Tinto and meatballs with Armenian Jajig was an excellent match too. Recipe cards to takeaway were available on the day and were snapped up by customers eager to try them out for themselves.
Nick Page, our enthusiastic shop manager – who is renowned for his food and wine matching expertise – and Graham Goodall of The Cheese Stall conducted the cheese and wine master classes. After a whirlwind tour of the fascinating similarities between wine and cheese – yes, familiarities such as how terroir affects the flavour, quality and ripeness of both cheese and wine; and like grape juice, milk can be fermented into an alcoholic drink – the ‘class’ was treated to a lesson in matching wine with cheese. Nick had done a great job of selecting the wines and cheeses and all the combinations worked well, but the stand out pairings were:
Crottin de Chavignol and 2011 Sancerre Blanc, André Dezat
Mimolette and 2009 Ch. de Pressac, St Emilion
Stichelton and 1997 Smith Woodhouse Vintage Port
This Saturday, 20th April, there’s another event in the Bin End Shop. The theme this weekend is ‘Whisky’. Two master classes will be conducted:
11.30am Battle of the Bottlers – Adrian Lancer (Rocky) will be comparing our Berrys’ Own Selection bottlings with distillery bottlings – will you be able to taste the difference amongst the line-up of superb Whiskies?
2.00pm Lost Distilleries – our very own canny Scot, Alex Ross, will show you a selection of irreplaceable Whiskies from some now closed distilleries, which will offer an opportunity to taste some rare Whiskes that will soon be lost to the world forever.
Plus, as is always the case on these special days, there’ll be some superb spirits heavily discounted which you can peruse on the day.
Leon Reilly, Berrys’ Bin-End Shop
The following morning, Jason and I headed to Ch. Léoville-Las Cases where he was taken round the vineyard by the vineyard manager while I tasted the range of 2012s from all their estates (Nenin in Pomerol, Potensac, Clos du Marquis and Las Cases in St Julien). Geordie joined us and we then headed to Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou. I have spent quite a bit of time in wineries in my career and, after a while, I have to admit that they all look the same – but I am always in admiration of the people behind the wines. Despite modern technology, vineyard workers whose families have been working in the same place for generations use the same old skills, such as racking with a candle and fining with egg whites.
There was an older man there half my size who was lifting empty barrels above his head and stacking them up, whilst another younger chap, who was the second generation, was racking and making a seal made of Jonc (rush) for the ‘bonde’. This is the kind of stuff I really like and admire and we rarely take time to watch. After a lot of watching, Bruno Borie (who is one of the Bordeaux grands hommes, and someone for whom I have a lot of respect) took us into his kitchen for a bite to eat. Bruno loves food and cooking; his kitchen is not any ordinary kitchen, it has all the toys you could ever wish for. We sat down at the table and had some lovely white asparagus (I still do not know why we eat green asparagus in the UK) with sauce hollandaise, followed by a simple but most delicious omelette with spring garlic, finished off with a just-released 24-month matured Comté.
All this with some 2001 Riesling, Cuvée Frédéric Emile by Trimbach (I love this wine) and a bottle of both the 2004 and the delicious 2000 Ch. Ducru-Beaucaillou. We could have stayed there all day but we had our last encounter of the trip with Jean-Charles Cazes at Ch. Lynch Bages to taste his 2011s (2012 is not to be showed until the official date) and a quick tour of the winery. We spent a bit of time in the smaller white wine cellar looking at the different bâtonnage techniques. Blanc de Lynch Bages, like the majority of white Bordeaux, is not talked about much but over the last few years has turned from a quite oaky and heavy style to a great, fresh, yet still very Bordeaux style of wine which I very much enjoy. We said our goodbyes to Lynch Bages and headed for the airport.
Although, I have yet to go round the 57 chateaux that we will visit during the week of the 8th of April, I have now been to Bordeaux twice during the harvest and have tasted a few of the 2012s in their infancy, and my opinion is starting to emerge of the vintage. For what I have seen and tasted so far, I think we might have a better vintage in 2012 than 2011: a better but very different vintage.
When I was there during the harvest, all the vines and bunches looked very healthy and, despite a few problems at flowering and véraison in the summer, the very hot end of August readjusted the imbalance and the vintage looked like it would be saved. Until, that is, just after I left in October, when the heavens opened and never closed. For those who had harvested their Merlot (the majority) all was good but the Cabernets needed a few more days/weeks to ripen to their full potential and, unfortunately, with the dormant rot ready to deploy, they then had to be rushed to the winery. For those with technology this should not be too much of a problem but for others, in the Médoc in particular, the lack of ripeness may come through in the wines. The Merlot-dominant wines will have done well. The same will apply for the domaines which have the best terroirs and where the Cabernets are well-exposed and on higher ground. The work in the winery will no doubt contribute more to success this year than many others, and we will have to be aware of the ‘make-up’ applied to some of the wines.
From Monday, 8th April, we will be reporting fully on the 2012 Bordeaux’s, from vineyard to vineyard. So, for in-depth coverage and understanding of this complicated vintage, follow us on Twitter or look out for our daily blog posts.
I have just returned from a three-day trip to Bordeaux for a quick peek at the 2012 vintage. With me were Geordie Willis, our Brand Director, and one of the leading UK gastronomy photographers, Jason Lowe, who had come along to take some new imagery of the region for us.
As we arrived in Bordeaux, we were disappointed to see that the weather wasn’t ‘au rendez vous’ and was going to be as grim as in the UK for the length of our stay. Not deterred, and hoping that the blue sky would eventually percolate through the clouds, we headed to my favourite boutique hotel, La Maison Bord’eaux. Our bags dropped, we went straight into Bordeaux for a photo-shoot of the old part of town. As the daylight waned, it was time to sit down, do a bit of people-watching and decide where we should eat. In France on a Sunday evening the number of options is very small but there is one that always whets my appetite: L’Entrecôte. This is fast food the French way. It is also the only restaurant I know that has 100 customers queuing outside pretty much every night; they sell the best steak frites you will ever have. The only questions the waitress asks are about how your steak is cooked and the colour of the wine.
The following morning we drove to Margaux in the north-west of Bordeaux. The perceived handicap of the weather very quickly turned to Jason’s advantage as the most dramatic scenery unfolded before us with intensely dark clouds, hail storms and side winds… the lot. In terms of photography, this added the extra dimension and drama that Jason required for some spectacular shots of the otherwise over-photographed, postcard-like château fronts.
We finally arrived at Ch. Palmer where Thomas Duroux, the man in charge, opened the doors for us to take cover. We visited the new, very understated but well-performing winery and were the first outsiders to have the privilege to taste the 2012 vintage. We then sat down for lunch and tasted the (not-quite-secret-anymore), Palmer Blanc, which I must say is rather good and getting better with every vintage, followed by the main course and some 1991 Ch. Palmer. 1991 is one of those forgotten vintages that always surprises me; the frost decimated most of the vineyards that year but for the reminder of the growing season all was well and, although there was little produced, the majority of top 1991s are very good, if you can find them.
From Palmer we drove all the way back across to the other side of the river in Pomerol (a good one-hour journey) to Ch. la Conseillante, where we had a tour of the brand new cuvier. The tour over, we went straight to the new, rather clinical, upstairs tasting room with views over most of Pomerol. We tasted the Duo de Conseillante and the 2012 Ch. la Conseillante while we were there.
In order to maximize my trips to Bordeaux, I sometimes invite a group of bon vivant château owners/managers for dinner in town to avoid having to drive to all the properties. This also allows us to see them in a less formal environment and to share a very open and convivial evening. The closure of my favourite Bordeaux restaurant a year ago was dramatic for me but, fortunately, it reopened a couple of months ago in a new setting in rue Le Coq. L’Univerre is not, gastronomically, the best place to eat in Bordeaux but it is my favourite restaurant because it has excellent, comforting food and the best list of non-Bordeaux wines in Bordeaux. Fabrice, the man in charge, has an encyclopaedic knowledge of wine which would put a lot of merchants to shame. As my guests sat down, I quickly picked up the wine list and set out to choose the wines to serve blind, which included the delicious 2004 Donnhof Spätlese to go with the dessert. The atmosphere was very good and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
To hear about more Left Bank visits and to find out Max’s views so far on the 2012 vintage, read the second part of his blog here.
Last week I was lucky enough to attend the Fine and Rare Dinner in our Napoleon Cellar, cooked by guest chef Michel Roux Jr. I caught up with him before the dinner to talk though his menu and our wine matches, which you can view in this video, and below I share my detailed food and wine matching notes from the outstanding dinner.
As a grape variety, Chardonnay in its most natural state can be quite simple and basic but its plainness has a wonderful affinity with terroir and soils, particularly limestone. What makes Chardonnay intriguing, despite its fairly neutral character is how that influence of soils, climate, winemaking and wood can change this grape from something somewhat ‘beige’ into one of the greatest grape varieties in the world. Needless to say, its ability to pair with many dishes makes it all the more appealing.
Chardonnay’s fame is long established in sparkling wine production, particularly Champagne, as a vital ingredient for acidity, crispness, elegance and wonderfully balanced sparkle, even without the need for the other two permitted red grape varieties in Champagne production. We were treated to an example of this purely white Champagne known as Blanc de Blancs, from the Taittinger Champagne house as our event aperitif. Taittinger’s Comtes de Champagne Blanc de Blanc was first produced in 1952 as a finely aromatic, rich and creamy expression of the Chardonnay grape. The 2000 vintage accompanied by a selection of fine canapés including Blinis au Caviar, Choux au Comte and Tartelette de Volaille whetted ones appetite on the sloped floors of the St James’s Street store whilst the busy chef’s two floors below us prepared our feast.
After a brief introduction to the event from Mark Pardoe MW and opening words from Michel Roux Jr, we descended the cellar stairs to the long awaited dinner.
A themed dinner party is a great way to explore food and wine matching. Arguably the most classic route is to pair wines from a certain region with dishes from the same area. After all, these combinations have evolved over centuries so work very effectively and give a neat focus to the evening.
Hosting a dinner for 10 guests with a multi course menu is a daunting task to some but not Wine Club members Neil and Mary. Having decided on an Italian menu, Neil got in touch with me to ask for some suggestions of wines to share the spotlight. Armed with Mary’s delicious menu I recommended some wines to treat the Turfitts’ guests to on the evening of their elaborate festicciola.
I would normally suggest Champagne to start but Prosecco felt like a more appropriate choice, being both Italian and incredibly fashionable at the moment. It’s the perfect way to kick off an evening in style because it offers a frothy, fruity punch of bubbles and gets everyone in the mood with its fresh simplicity.
The menu started as all good Italian menus should: with antipasti followed by a pasta course. Next in line was a rich venison stew and the menu closed with that most Italian of all dishes, Tiramisu.
Following the fizz, a glass of Gavi di Gavi was suggested to match to the antipasti. Combining fresh apple fruit and a softly textured waxy lemon finish, I thought it would stand up well to the myriad of flavours from the antipasti which featured cured meats, delicious olives and sundried tomatoes from a small local deli. As an alternative, Fiano di Avellino offered a breath of Southern air, providing a richer contrast to the Piedmonte Gavi, with its minerally, pear fruited notes.
Pasta was next, coated in a creamy Gorgonzola sauce cooked at the last minute, and I thought a Malvasia from the South would work well; it has a lovely minerality and is good with lighter pasta dishes. Some guests will always prefer red wine with pasta so I also offered a Barbera D’Asti . Its peppery, crunchy red fruit provided a little more intensity of flavour than the white.
The main course was a rich hunter’s style venison stew – in lieu of veal – and Langhe Nebbiolo the suggestion. Made from the same grape variety as fêted Barolos and Barbarescos, this gives a flavour of those great wines at a fraction of the price which is a handy trick when catering for a large number. As the sauce was tomato based, I thought the acidity of the wine would match well.
Vin Santo had to be the pudding wine- this deliciously sweet wine, which is a Tuscan speciality, is made from grapes dried out on straw mats. Delivering a hit of orange peel freshness and honeyed richness, this is a treat not only with rich puddings like the Tiramisu served but also hard Italian cheeses.
If you would like me to recommend you recipes to match your wines please email me at email@example.com
For those who think of February as a dull month of fading memories of New Year festivities and of a winter that seems to never end, I have to disagree. For the past few years, this month has always been enlivened by two important dates in my calendar. The Berrys’ Rosé Champagne tasting that I host and the Champagne Academy AGM and vintage champagne tasting. Usually they’re separated by at least a week, but this year occurred in the same week that I was also co-hosting another champagne event here. A veritable feast of bubbles.
The week kicked off in grand style with the Champagne Academy tasting at the Law Society in Chancery Lane, London. The Academy, now over 50-years-old, was set up to promote good relations and champagne education in the UK wine trade. Each of the 16 Champagne grande marques of the Academy sponsors a member of the UK wine trade (they don’t know which House has sponsored them) for a week-long trip to Champagne experiencing each of the Houses through tastings, lectures, vineyard and winery visits, and food and champage matching. Knowledge, I might add, which is tested each morning by a short exam culminating in a blind tasting! I was lucky enough to be selected for one of these trips in 2010 and now serve on the UK committee which coordinates things this side of La Manche, as well as raising money for charities through champagne events around the country (this years charity is Kids Company- a charity that Berry Bros. & Rudd, coincidentally, also support). After the formalities of the AGM and election of a new Chairman (no, not me…) the tasting commenced, and a great range was on show, a reflection of the quality of recent vintages which Champagne has enjoyed. Not enough space to rhapsodise on all, but highglights included (in no particular order) Charles Heidsieck 2000- one of the best of this vintage, with for me a characteristic “2000 toast” with underlying Chardonnay citrus which so often typifies this house; Bollinger 2004- an almost surprising softness (in counterpoint to the previously released majesterial 2002), but a kernel of concentration suggesting that weight will come with time; Krug 2000 almost inscrutable, as all Krug vintages are for me in their few years after release, but like the Charles had that toasty note which broadened in time. As I said, 13 others but not enough space and two more tastings beckon (but just enough space to mention a pitstop at a Nyetimber event on Tuesday- delicious as always as per my previous blog and which kept my bubbles level on an even keel until Thursday).
Valentine’s Day saw our Rosé-themed Champagne Tutored Tasting. This category has boomed in the past decade as quality has improved. The opportunity to try a bakers’ dozen of rosés from non-vintage (NV) back to 1996 is something I look forward to every year, and for me always interesting to see what our customers at these events think of them. Berrys’ Own rosé by the grower Benoît Marguet proved a popular aperitif to launch proceedings. My soft spot for Billecart-Salmon was rewarded in both its NV and Elisabeth Salmon (1996 vintage) guises, the latter especially displayed an appealing pale salmon-copper colour and Burgundian-like qualities of sousbois and dried fruit that mature vintage rosé champagne develop with time. Also from 1996 was Dom Ruinart, which like the Billecart-Salmon we were able to compare with its NV counterpart. This surprised many by how youthful it still appeared, with only subtle yeasty notes supporting the mineral, elegant Chardonnay which dominates this cuvée, presaging at least another decade of drinking.
The last event of my week was a leisurely champagne and canapés evening reception in the Napoleon cellars here at No. 3. With just three champagnes, this was designed as an informal evening, with less emphasis on teaching (aside from a vignette on each from yours truly) and more of an opportunity to enjoy some stunning wines in atmospheric surroundings. And what champagnes! The coolly elegant blanc de blancs Dom Ruinart 1998 followed by a muscular Krug Grande Cuvée and to finish, the first of the luxury cuvées, the suavely sophisticated Dom Pérignon 2003, named after Father Champagne himself. After some lively discussion, a straw poll was taken and to both surprise and delight, Dom Ruinart was favoured by the gathering, but with vociferous support, and really not that far behind, near equal marks for the others.
I love teaching about French wines. France makes the world’s most famous and widely-emulated wine styles, yet it can be complicated to get to grips with, since the grape variety is rarely mentioned on the label. You need a bit of background knowledge to know what style of wine you’re going to be getting. So tonight’s session was a big undertaking: all the classic wine regions of France in just two hours.
Nearly everyone attending the event was new to Berrys’ Wine School. Many had been bought the tasting as a Christmas gift, by a friend or relative who knew that they adored drinking wine and would like to improve their ability to navigate restaurant wine lists.
In order to fit everything in, we literally whizzed around the country in true whistlestop style, covering the bare essentials. Champagne featured first, followed by the popular Loire classic, Sancerre. After a crisply dry Alsace Riesling, an exquisite Puligny-Montrachet and a classy red Bordeaux to name but a few, we ended the evening on a sweet note with a sumptuous glass of Sauternes. Grape varieties, labelling terms, tastes to look out for – all were demystified this evening, with significant contribution from class members, lively debate and interesting questions thrown into the mix. A gorgeous line-up of cheeses as well as canapés prepared by our Head Chef Stewart Turner completed the evening and prompted some discussion on food and wine matching.
If you love drinking wine and have always meant to get round to learning a bit more, don’t miss out on the chance to do so in the company of fellow wine-lovers in the unique atmosphere of our historic cellars.
Can a wine achieve perfection? Can anything? The idea of assigning a perfect score to something so subjective is a highly controversial one. Yet nearly 300 of the world’s top wines have been granted this accolade by none other than the globally influential palate of renowned wine critic Robert Parker.
At our Fine & Rare Dinner on 15th March, with the talented and warm-hearted Michel Roux Jr as our very special Guest Chef, we will be serving an intriguing pair of ‘100 pointers’ from the same vintage. 1989 La Mission Haut Brion was granted 100 points by Parker just last year, and was described by him as ‘a remarkable tour de force in winemaking’, whilst ‘modern-day legend’ 1989 Ch. Haut Brion achieved the honour in 1998. With heady language such as ‘opulent’, ‘multi-dimensional’, ‘seamless’, ‘pure’ and ‘elixir’, Parker certainly makes these two sound enticing.
Yet what makes the difference between 99 points and 100 points (apart from the price!)? Can you taste it? Can you feel it? Is it to do with the surroundings, the company, the food, even the emotions that you happen to be experiencing? On 15th March, alongside Michel’s heavenly menu, we will be exploring just that.
To view the incredible wine list and Michel’s menu please visit our website.
The game season is one of the real joys of the food calendar, and although farmed venison is available all year round, it’s the wild animals that have such a fantastic flavour. Venison with chocolate sauce has become a bit of a classic; it’s a combination that works really well although it does have its pitfalls. Make sure you only use dark chocolate with a high cocoa content and remember you only need a small amount to have the desired effect. The cabbage and sauce can be made the day before and reheated when required.
300g venison loin trimmed- reserve any bones and trimming for the sauce
2tsp black peppercorns
1tsp star anise
Preheat the oven to 180°C. Place the spices in the oven for 5 minutes to toast and then blend in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar into a coarse powder. Cut venison into two pieces. Dust each part well and season with salt.
Heat a frying fan over a medium heat. Add a splash of olive oil and seal the venison well on all sides. Once you have a nice colour add the butter and as it starts to foam baste the venison well then place in the oven and cook for 10-12 minutes, turning and basting frequently. Remove from the pan and set aside to rest. Keep warm.
To serve, place a pile of braised red cabbage in the centre of each plate and carve the venison on top. Pour the sauce over and around; this is great with some roasted parsnips and brussel sprouts.
200g venison bones, chopped
½ onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, roughly chopped
1 stick celery, roughly chopped
½ head garlic
6 juniper berries
1 sprig thyme
1 bay leaf
200ml red wine
200ml veal stock
200ml chicken stock
10g plain chocolate, minimum 70% cocoa solid
To make the venison jus, roast any venison bones in the oven until nicely browned. Heat a heavy-bottomed pan, add 2tbsp olive oil, fry the vegetables, garlic and herbs until well browned. Add the juniper and wine and reduce to about 50ml.
Next, add the veal jus and chicken stock, bring to the boil and skim and simmer for 35-40 minutes. For the last 25 minutes of cooking, add the roasted venison bones to impart some venison flavour. When finished, pass through a fine sieve and reduce to the correct consistency. Season to taste and just before serving bring the sauce back to the boil and grate in a little of the chocolate, taste and add more chocolate if necessary.
Braised Red Cabbage
½ small red cabbage, shredded
1/2 red onion, shredded
1/2 orange, zest and juice
5 black peppercorns
1 whole star anise
1 cinnamon stick
50g demerara sugar
50g redcurrant jelly
50ml red wine vinegar
187ml red wine
Preheat the oven to 150°C. Combine the peppercorns, cloves and star anise in a piece of muslin and secure with string. In a large casserole dish that can go in the oven, heat a splash of olive oil and sweat the onion and red cabbage then add the sugar and vinegar. Boil until they start to go syrupy then add the wine, orange juice, zest, cinnamon and muslin bags of spices. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and braise in the oven for 2-3 hours, or until the cabbage is soft. Discard the muslin bag, cinnamon stick and orange zest. If at this point the cabbage is a bit wet, drain the liquid off and reduce to a coating consistency. Stir back in and add the redcurrant jelly, keep warm or chill if making in advance.
For more recipes like this, join Berrys’ Wine Club and you’ll have access to a bank of Stewart’s delicious recipes with accompanying wines to match.
Emma Brown, our resident foodie in the Basingstoke office, didn’t take much convincing when I asked her to put together a couple of easy haggis recipes for Burns’ Night. Emma loves creating her own recipes using seasonal ingredients, so for this ‘Burns’ Night Challenge’ I asked her to come up with two easy recipes using haggis which would be a great match for malt whisky. Below Emma shares her recipes for Haggis Scotch Eggs and Haggis and Pork Sausage Rolls.
Haggis and Pork Sausage Rolls
500g Homemade or readymade puff pastry
250g Good Quality Haggis
250g Good Quality Sausage meat (at least 85% Pork)
1 egg plus 1 extra egg yolk beaten (for pastry egg wash)
Haggis Scotch Eggs (Makes 6)
250g Good Quality Haggis
250g Good Quality Sausage meat
1 tbsp. Scotch whisky
Salt and Ground Pepper
Vegetable oil for frying
Our whisky expert Rob Whitehead has narrowed down our extensive selection of whiskies to a selection of five which he thinks are perfectly suited to haggis dishes, and great accompaniments to any Burns’ Night celebration. View his selections on our website.
You know the New Year is is off to a good start when one of the first things to land in your inbox is an invitation to a Nyetimber sparkling wine tasting (including the soon to be launched 2007 Blanc de Blancs)- just when you thouht the excuse to taste bubbles was over. Even better was the twist- preceded as it was by a fashion show as part of London Collections: Men week at the Hospital Club, Covent Garden. Thankfully it looked nothing like the hospital laboratories I worked in during my previous working incarnation. The link wasn’t stretched too much during the tasting, although the presence of wool in a number of catwalk items did bring to mind the latest recruits to Nyetimber’s workforce. They being a herd of sheep that will work the vineyards by keeping grass and weeds down.
But to the tasting, which was also a chance for me to finally meet their winemaker, Cherie Spriggs. I have long been a fan of the Nyetimber style, which balances long ageing with freshness so that even venerable vintages such as 1996 taste much younger. They have most definitely been leaders, rather than followers, of the English sparkling wine world since 1988. A single estate using only its own grapes, it has garnered fans and medals the world over.
On the sparkling vinous catwalk were current and new releases. First up was 2008 Classic Cuvée, of interest for several reasons. It was Cherie’s first vintage under her total control as the winemaker, made with 79% Chardonnay and the balance the two Pinot grapes. And if I can get technical for a moment, it also utilised malolactic fermentation. Basically, this process softens the often hard acidity found in some cool climate wines (such as England), but which was felt unnecessary for many of the previous vintages at Nyetimber. However, Cherie felt that the cooler 2008 vintage would benefit from such treatment. The nose had the (dare I say “classic”?), Nyetimber aromas of rich brioche allied with lemon notes following through on the palate where the red fuits (Pinot Noir especially was very expressive in this vintage) came to the fore adding weight to the palate.
Next was the 2008 rosé. This engendered much discussion, not only from the fact that it is delicious (think red and dark forest berry fruits, lavender floral aromas, fresh acidity- nothing confected about this rosé!), but also how it is made and rosés in general. Restraining my not so innner sparkling geek, main points: the blend is specifically created, unlike most which simply add red wine to their standard brut blend; Cherie tastes the still wines in dark glasses when deciding on the blend so that the colour does not dictate the wine she feels is the best she can make; they bottle in dark glass to prevent light damage to the wine, rather than the vogueish clear bottles. Once again, fashion leaders, not simply followers of fashion.
The newly launched 100% Chardonnay Blanc de Blancs from 2007, we were the first outside of Nyetimber to taste it, was supremely elegant. A rapier-like minerality on nose and palate at first, (in part due to no malolactic done in this vintage) with green apple, lemon and grapefruit lending a purity to the whole ensemble. As those who have attended any of the sparkling events I host will know, I’m a bit of a sucker for blanc de blancs and this was no exception. This, like the other cuvées, is ready to drink now but all could easily be cellared for several years, and this in particular for at least five years, probably longer. Even the rosé, which Cherie professed to preferring young, I would happily cellar for at least a few years to see what happens (I suspect hints of sousbois and almost cognac-like rancio).
The final treat was a blanc de blancs demi-sec which they initially developed for used on the estate for tatsing dinners but have now commercially released. Despite the 45g/l residual sugar (their bruts are 12g/l) it doesn’t feel at all cloyingly sweet despite hints of caramel on both nose and palate wrapped around the citrus. A delicately sweet end to a lovely little tasting- oh that all Monday mornings could start like this.
Oh, and for the fashion-minded, wear black, grey or green, and a short length cut to trousers are the order of the day, as seen through the eyes of Lou Dalton whose show we observed. Certainly less extreme than the pink mouse outfit (I think it was supposed to be an anorak of sorts) I espied on a male fashionista in the audience!
Here in the Bin End Shop we are all fully immersed in the festive spirit. The Christmas lights are on, the decorations are up and there’s a smattering of frost on the ground. So what better way to celebrate the season of good will than with a Dickensian style Spirit of Christmas Saturday, which we held on 1st December.
As well as an extra flourish of bin end bargains, we also laid on a couple of Master Classes. These fun, educational events have grown in such popularity over the past year that this time we moved the venue from the back of the Bin End Shop to our state-of-the-art tasting room in our brand new building next door. This impressive facility also provides additional space for our fast-growing Customers’ Private Reserves.
For years I’d been told how the Japanese really ‘got’ Italian wines, gastronomy, fashion and culture generally. Indeed for many fine wine producers over the past 20 years Japan has become one of their top export markets. This was my first visit, proudly leading a group of Berrys’ suppliers: the Langhe’s Manuel Marinacci, Gianluca Viberti (Casina Bric 460), Mario Fontana, Davide Rosso, Lena Oddero (Vigneti Luigi Oddero), Veneto’s Luca and Giuli Ferraro (Bele Casel), Sara Carbone of Basilicata and Puglia’s Paolo Benegiamo (L’Astore Masseria) to what is evidently a very special country, with its deeply ingrained culture, where rich, ancient traditions are respected and valued. It was a humbling and enriching experience that challenged the (conceited?) preconception that West knows best.
With the festive period almost upon us, November was the perfect time for our Bin End Shop to host their second Fine Wine and Beef Saturday of 2012; but this time we added something a little different to the day’s usual events by inviting back Graham Goodman of The Cheese Stall, who is a regular presence at the Winchester, Romsey and Alton markets selling, talking and advising on his fine imported European cheeses. What more could you want to get you into the festive cheer than fine wines, beef and fine cheeses? I know it certainly provides me a with a certain buzz, that’s for sure!
Sarah Purdon was once again on hand with her fabulous Belted Galloway beef and was joined by our Bin End Shop’s very own food and wine matching expert, Nick Page (who’s also the shop manager). Nick, with his usual flair, gave impromptu beef and wine matching lessons and demonstrated some winter wines that matched Sarah’s sumptuous samples. She’d cooked up a storm with her Cowboy Chilli, which was paired with 2011 Boekenhoutskloof The Chocolate Block from South Africa and Penfold’s 2009 Bin 28 Kalimna Shiraz. Both worked equally well with the beef – Penfolds complementing the chilli heat with its abundant fruitiness and adding complexity to the pairing with its. The Chocolate Block brought intense, powerful dark fruit, perfect for these cold winter months, which married well with the full flavours of the dish. On top of that, Nick also paired Sarah’s scrumptious Beef, Ginger and Leek Sausages with a Southern Rhône classic, in the form of a 2008 Gigondas, La Bastide St Vincent.
On Monday evening in the Pickering Cellar we set ourselves a challenge: to find out which wine goes best with the UK’s favourite cheese: Cheddar.
A staple of the British cheeseboard, Cheddar is made worldwide, but the tastiest examples come from the West Country, where Cheddar has a ‘Protected Designation of Origin’: West Country Farmhouse Cheddar. For our ‘taste-off’ we chose the King of Cheddar, Montgomery’s, for its dense, smooth but slightly crumbly texture and deliciously rich, nutty and complex flavours.
Most people at the beginning of the event said that they like to drink red wine with their Cheddar, but since the evening was all about experimentation, we chose a wide range of styles to sample: whites, rosé, lighter-bodied reds, full-bodied reds and some sweeties in the form of Sauternes, Madeira and Port. The wines were served in flights of three, with a vote at the end of each flight. At the end participants were asked to vote for their top two matches. Results were very interesting and are summarised below…
In the past 20 years or so, we have broken more new ground, it seems, than ever before. Shops in Heathrow (now sadly departed), businesses in Asia, forays into the world of hospitality, new products, two new warehouses, not to mention astonishing innovations online – in a world most of us hardly knew existed in 1992.
We have been supplying the Royal Albert Hall with its wine for 18 months or so, and a few of our spirits, including No.3 Gin and the King’s Ginger Liqueur, had also been selected to go into their 14 bars and restaurants. The relationship seemed to fit very well. However we were not really expecting to be invited by the management of the Hall to open a bar. Not only a bar, but one of the iconic ‘Arena’ bars, curving around the stage and the stalls (as they would be known in any other venue) – famous as the stamping ground of the “Promenaders” at the annual concerts named after them.
These informal, fun events give customers the perfect opportunity to hone their food and wine skills through the discovery of some wonderful pairings. Guided by our enthusiastic shop manager, Nick Page, and his famous food and wine matching skills, the three 30-minute classes take place throughout the afternoon and guest speakers are invited.
On hand for this event was the expertise of Graham Goodman of The Cheese Stall, an importer and supplier of fine European cheeses. Graham spoke about his top quality products, offered tasters and had a plethora of fine artisan cheeses available for customers to buy. The Cheese Stall is a regular at Winchester, Alton and Romsey Markets.
For any company, it is always interesting venturing to new geographical areas because you are never quite sure of response. Cardiff was one of these such places, Berry Bros. & Rudd having only ventured into the Welsh fold for tastings with our spirits business in years gone by. So the opportunity to explore the Welsh capital’s vinous preferences with Three Wine Men, a venture between Olly Smith, Tim Atkin and Oz Clarke, was one not to be missed.
A love of wine is built so much on friendliness and sociability, with most memorable wines being those you share with others. This was a great opportunity for Berrys to meet the local crowd, understand preferences, build presence and have the pleasure of showcasing products we love. It was really encouraging to see genuine interest and how many people were familiar with Berrys’ history.
The second Friday in July saw the 7th annual Wine Club Dinner for members and their guests. Our host, David Berry Green, was flying into Heathrow on an afternoon flight from Italy so I had everything crossed that the inauspicious date wouldn’t ruin the evening! I didn’t need to succumb to superstition though as David’s plane landed on time and we were ready and waiting in the shop, glass of Champagne in hand, when the first guests arrived just before 6.30pm.
We were delighted that the event had sold out so it wasn’t long before the shop filled up with guests and we sipped our way through a few bottles of the deliciously appley Champagne Lahaye.
Stewart Turner is the Head Chef in our cellars at No. 3 St James’s Street, and with his passion for food and wine and experience in some top London establishments including Michel Roux’s Waterside Inn, this is his perfect job. Since joining Berrys in 2008, Stewart has made some fantastic changes to the food served at events in our cellars and townhouse – ensuring the dishes served keep up with current food trends. Here we share one of Stewart’s summer barbeque recipes – perfect for those willing to brave the unpredictable British summer weather!
Stewart’s Barbecued Leg of Lamb with Yoghurt Dressing
This is great teamed with some grilled Provencal vegetables that can also be cooked on the barbecue, or a spiced cous cous salad.