Eat, drink and sleep: Barossa

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Michael Hall, Barossa. Photograph: Jason Lowe

As England faces a cold snap, Olivia Bodle provides welcome escape, dreaming of warmer climes with her guide to Australia’s Barossa Valley

The hour’s drive north east of Adelaide to Barossa is almost eerily quiet and calm, the empty roads head straight through the parched landscape; arid squares turning suddenly into vineyards just before you reach the valley’s southernmost cluster of houses, Lyndoch. Reaching the centre of Barossa three small towns form a triangle (Tanunda, Nuriootpa and Angaston), each of which vies to be the heart of the region, with locals arguing vociferously over the title.

The region is remarkably unpretentious: the roads are unpaved as soon as you leave the towns; the farmers’ market on a Saturday is busier than any supermarket; and small, garagiste producers and craft breweries abound. A few banners in Tanunda’s town centre hint towards a few of the corporate giants but you’ll be lucky to spot a tank or shed. There is a multitude of cellar doors but when you consider the size of the industry there, the wineries are very well hidden in the rolling hills.

If you are visiting Barossa for a special occasion, The Louise is hands down the place to stay; it is the region’s only truly luxurious hotel and is charmingly located amongst the vines. Just down the road is the unmissable lunch spot Fino at the Seppeltsfield winery. Their menu is sourced locally, and the simple, elegant dishes are accompanied by homemade bread and a Barossa-dominant wine list.

Driving through Tanunda (watch out for the queue outside Darling’s Café, the best coffee in the state) you should stop at The Valley, a great place to rub shoulders with some purple-handed winemakers and have a chat over a schooner of Coopers, the ultimate refreshment at the end of a hot day. This pub is the social hub of Barossa and you’ll be sure to spot a few famous faces down there on a Friday night, when the strange tradition of the weekly raffle of a large platter of raw meat draws crowds to the bar.

Hewitson. Photograph: Jason Lowe

The shining beacon for gastronomic pilgrims is undoubtedly fermentAsianchef Tuoi Do’s exceptional Vietnamese cooking is complemented by her husband Grant’s tome-like, 90-page wine list which is diverse and cerebral, each wine with a beautiful narrative. The spring rolls are life-changing; unbelievably crisp and light, filled with produce from the garden which the family tend to themselves. Then enjoy the Barossa pork belly with “incendiary components” alongside a glass of Michael Hall’s Sang de Pigeon Pinot Noir.

A few essential cellar doors are Hewitson for their Barossa classics, Elderton in Nuriootpa where the Marsanne-Rousanne is well worth a taste (they also have a cosy guest house within staggering distance of town), and Artisans of BarossaThe latter is a cooperative of six boutique producers and it boasts the cellar door with the best view in the valley. Jason Schwarz’s wines are made with minimal intervention and stand out from the selection in their elegance and finesse. If you can track down Damien Tscharke, his winery is most impressive; a subterranean, eco-masterpiece where he works with non-conventional varieties.

A great time of year to visit is April, when vintage is winding down and the valley is buzzing with energy. It isn’t too hot (although a string of 35-degree days is not unheard of) and there are innumerable parties going on – the annual folk music festival at Turkey Flat is a rosé-fuelled knees-up not to miss! Near Angaston is Mengler’s Hill lookout; it is the perfect vantage point to watch the breathtaking Barossa sunsets which stop even the burliest of winemakers in their tracks with their fire-like intensity. Visiting Barossa is a must for anyone looking for an unusual weekend break in Australia or as part of a wine tour around the many beautiful regions surrounding Adelaide.

If a trip isn’t possible, a liquid escape might suffice (best enjoyed with the heating turned up high); browse our Australian range on bbr.com here.

Category: Miscellaneous,New World

Hygge and the rise of Scandimania

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Gunnita, Sweden. Photograph: Jon Flobrant

The trickle of hygge, infiltrating every corner of our lives, seems unstoppable. Here, Tom Van de Pette from our wholesale arm – Fields, Morris & Verdin – explains what Scandimania means for the food on our plates and, most importantly, the bottles we uncork

Hygge (pronounced Hoo-gah), a Danish word with no direct translation, is a tricky little concept to pin down. Perhaps this is part of its appeal. Hygge-mania has been a sweeping trend across the world and London has not been left out. The term is often tied to cosiness, and this is part of it; but it is much broader – encompassing charm, contentedness and simplicity. It is the pleasure one makes for oneself in turning normal, everyday things into something more and the ensuing happiness. It is spending a morning foraging for mushrooms and then preparing them and enjoying them on toast with a little freshly picked parsley. It is spending a few extra minutes making a ritual of creating your morning coffee just how you like it, turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. Perhaps “cosiness of spirit” is a more accurate definition.

This can in turn be attributed to anything from food and wine to interior design, and everything in between. I am guilty of creating hygge-inspired Christmas decorations, creating my own cork wreath and tree decorations with a heavy Scandi influence and I loved it (even if friends were asking if I had commissioned a small child to make them).

Restaurants influenced by this quest for cosiness range from the popular 26 Grains – specialising in varieties of porridge, promoting fresh fruits, nuts and guilt-free comfort food in a pared-back, rustic space – to Michelin-starred powerhouses such as Aquavit and Texture, who focus on simple, beautiful food with razor-edged, sleek interiors.

Contemporary Nordic dining is heavily inspired by the land that birthed it: fantastic fresh seafood from the wild, frigid waters; foraged herbs, fungi, berries; and wild game from mossy pine forests. These big flavours and textures evoke the spirit of rugged, harsh terrain and need to be paired by a gentle and sympathetic hand.

Texture, with their dedicated Champagne bar and a wine list that heavily leans towards Riesling and Pinot Noir, indicates that this is not the place for a big McLaren Vale Shiraz; you won’t be served a slab of meat that is as much a challenge as a meal. This is clean, light food that will leave you sated but not stuffed, requiring a delicate accompaniment to elevate and accentuate, not overpower.  This mirrors the approach of Noma, arguably the driving force behind the global Nordic food movement. Having won the coveted title of “Best Restaurant in the World”, not once but four times, it cannot be ignored. Their list focuses on lighter styles with an emphasis on biodynamic wines, a trend that is also present in Geranium, Denmark’s first and only three-Michelin-starred restaurant.

A chef at work at Aquavit, London

As a general rule of thumb in restaurants, I try to order wine from the same country or region as the food I’m eating; the thought being that these wines were traditionally made to compliment the local food. Italy is a fantastic example of where this works perfectly: very few things in my mind compliment a big bowl of pasta covered in a rich tomato sauce more than a bold Chianti, its acidity able to stand up to the flavours at play. But what to do when the region in question produces little or no wine? Denmark has only been producing wine en mass since 1999, when laws were passed to make production legal, and – much in the same way as England’s burgeoning wine industry – it has benefited from global warming. Denmark is currently producing sparkling wine that is gaining some momentum, with Skærsøgaard Vin winning a silver medal for their 2006 Don’s Cuvée Sec in the 2007 Effervescents du Monde wine competition. The country is also producing some interesting red wines, predominantly with Cabernet Cortis and Cabernet Cantor whose spicy flavour can be paired well with venison and foraged berries.

Let us not forget gin’s northern cousin, Akvavit (or Aquavit, the inspiration for the eponymous restaurant) which graces the tables and bars of any restaurant with even a hint of Nordic influence. Its clean taste and characters of caraway, anise and fennel mirror the flavours in the food and make pairings with gravlax and crab a no-brainer. Whether enjoyed ice cold with the obligatory Snaps-song to help it go down or in a delicate cocktail, I see Akvavit as a trend waiting to happen. Other establishments such as The Harcourt are offering beautiful Swedish single malt whiskies whose light, fragrantly smoky notes can complement without overpowering fish dishes such as their rye-crusted mackerel with cucumber and seaweed.

This may well be a trend, but I do believe it has staying power. Clean living and fresh, quality produce is a refreshing (in more than one way) change of pace from the uber-indulgent fast food that has been sweeping across our tables. Aspects of hygge can be taken to heart to help us get through our dark and dreary autumns and winters, to give us purpose and to help us find joy in the small things. So curl up with a good book, take up knitting, make some porridge and dream Swede dreams.

Category: Miscellaneous

Southwold on Thames: tasting Bordeaux 2013

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Photograph: Jason Lowe

Philip Moulin reports on an annual tasting of the newly bottled Bordeaux vintage, this year focused on 2013; a hard vintage, for both producers and consumers

For the last three years I have been privileged to have taken part in what is arguably the most comprehensive annual tasting of fine wine in the UK – it is generally known as The Southwold Tasting, as for several decades the event has been hosted by Adnams at their headquarters in Suffolk. This year, with The Swan Hotel closed for refurbishment, the tasting was hosted by Farr Vintners in their stunning tasting room overlooking the Thames in Battersea.

The object of the tasting is to assess the relative merits of the most recently bottled Bordeaux vintage – in this case the 2013s. Last week, 16 tasters gathered, representing the UK’s leading wine merchants and wine writers, amongst them no fewer than five Masters of Wine. The wines, this year a modest 160 of them, were tasted blind, by commune and the results are fed back to the Bordeaux proprietors themselves.

Now then… the tricky bit. How to write about the wines? I can’t beat around the bush – with a few worthy exceptions, 2013 was not a good vintage. This is not news. The vintage had been roundly criticised from the very first en primeur tastings in 2014. I don’t think that any of the attendees had been looking forward to a day and a half of solid 2013 tasting, but as I looked up and around the table, halfway through the penultimate flight it was clear that the sum of our fears had been realised. The furrowed brows and, in several cases, grimaces on people’s faces spoke volumes.

Pomerols generally showed well, and it was arguably the strongest commune – intriguing given that Merlot really struggled in this vintage. If you were lucky enough to get a case of Vieux Château Certan, please don’t gloat. St Emilion is perhaps best glossed over. Pessac-Léognan was consistent across the board and there was a strong showing from a Berry Bros. & Rudd stalwart, Domaine de Chevalier. Margaux often struggles in weaker vintages but was, perhaps surprisingly, one of the strongest flights of the tasting. Ch. Margaux showed a lightness of touch and a degree of charm which only it can (Pavillon Rouge too), while Chx Palmer and Giscours also showed real style and breed. In St Julien, the Léovilles all performed well – Las Cases stood out, Poyferré was very polished, and Barton was admirably restrained and detailed. St Estèphe was rather a struggle, with only Montrose really stepping up to the mark.

If Margaux was a pleasant surprise, Pauillac was not. So often this noble commune comes to the aid of the Claret lover in a difficult year, but there were far too many wines here that were lacking in any sort of depth or class. Notable exceptions were Batailley, Grand-Puy-Lacoste (which is really on a roll at the moment,) Pichon-Baron (ditto) and Mouton Rothschild – the wine of the vintage based on this tasting.

Had Bordeaux been faced with similar vintage conditions 25 years ago, it’s a fair bet that many château owners would have had to declassify the larger part of their crop, and very few would have made a Grand Vin at all. As it is, with modern viticulture and vinification techniques, most châteaux were able to make a wine that, at the very least, is recognisably Bordeaux.

I find it impossible to write the vintage off – there are plenty of wines that will make perfectly decent luncheon Claret, but very few that will make old bones. It’s easy, when tasting academically, with the wines all shown in stark relief against their peers, to forget the way in which we usually drink Claret – namely, with food, with friends and with conversation. Bordeaux in a great vintage can be cerebral and complex, demanding the drinker’s attention; but often, it is an even-handed, balanced and unobtrusive accompaniment to food.

So, these wines will have their place. The wines which were left unsold on the European market are selling like hotcakes in Asia even as I type this. They have far fewer vintage hang-ups like us, and are happy to drink the wines young and at discounted prices. If you bought 2013s then you need not panic. Drink them young, and enjoy them for what they are – in a way, a triumph of man versus vintage.

Category: Bordeaux Wine

Introducing Luke Edward Hall

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Luke Edward Hall, the 20-something designer and illustrator, is the man behind our latest Good Ordinary Claret label. Here, Emily Miles talks to him about the collaboration, his influences and where he’s headed next

As Luke Edward Hall pads around his Camden flat in stocking-clad feet, shuffling through stacks of paper to show me his sketches for the Good Ordinary Claret label, it seems hard to believe that this is a 27-year-old with the design world at his feet. He is ridiculously fresh-faced, earnest, stylishly bespectacled and uses the word “fun” more than anyone I’ve ever encountered.

The artist-come-interior decorator, dubbed a “wunderkind” by British Vogue, has just completed his designs for Berry Bros. & Rudd – a project which, he says, was “so exciting; so much fun to do”. Edward Hall follows in the footsteps of Sir Paul Smith, whose sell-out “LOVE” label was released in February last year – making the perennially popular “Good Ordinary” bottles rather less ordinary. His design, our second ever GOC collaboration, will be on the shelves in early 2017.

“I spent ages thinking about it,” Edward Hall says of his label artwork. “It was really exciting, especially as you usually go into wine shops and the labels are boring; but it was much harder than I expected it to be – you’ve only got one shot to make something memorable and fun.” He shakes a sheet of paper free from a slew of other commissions for books, hotels and fashion brands: a startlingly ginger, grape-crowned Bacchus looks out coolly from the page.

“I draw a lot of people; I like drawing faces, so I thought it would be fun to do a face. And I do a lot of ancient Greece and ancient Rome inspired-drawings, so a Bacchus seemed like a fitting idea. He has that mischievous vibe about him,” Edward Hall explains. “What I quite like about it is the colours are quite strong; it looks like it could be a 70s theatre poster. It’s hard to know quite whether it’s the right thing – should it be more graphic; should it be more colourful? But I just thought it was the most ‘me’ design.”

Such self-questioning aside, Luke’s designs are produced with a confident hand and a discerning eye – and for increasingly high-profile clients. A Central St Martin’s graduate, whose CV boasts architect-to-the-stars Ben Pentreath as his first “proper” employer, Edward Hall has been extremely fortunate in his commissions thus far. He recently created a range of hand-made plates and platters depicting Greek hero stories –“Achilles, Theseus and so on – I love all that imagery” – for the David Gill Gallery’s acclaimed annual exhibition Young Bright Things, a showcase for fresh talent.

Most prominently, he recently worked with Burberry for its autumn/winter 2016 campaign, contributing whimsical illustrations to be shown alongside Mario Testino’s photographs of the collection. His latest, and perhaps most unusual brief to date, was to curate a contemporary art auction for Christie’s First Open, selecting and styling books, plants, objets and art to create a “collector’s room set” – “fun but nerve-wracking” says Edward Hall.

To date, he has certainly garnered the right kind of attention; he hasn’t had to knock on doors to find his next project. “I’m just saying yes!” he says. “People, so far, have come to me and usually with things that have been a good fit.” So what would his dream gig be? “A hotel,” he says, without hesitation. “An English Country hotel; it would be fun to do something that’s a bit more ‘out there’.”

One can only imagine that such a hotel would be as eclectic as it would be exciting. Edward Hall’s eye for colour and design is undeniable; so too is his seemingly effortless talent for creating illustration, textiles and ceramics that reflect inspirations such as interior designer David Hicks and avant-garde French artist Jean Cocteau (as much in terms of style as his multidisciplinary approach to creativity). Let’s hope just such a commission comes in soon.

In the meantime, we will have to content ourselves with a smaller-scale slice of Edward Hall’s talents: a limited-edition run of 4,000 bottles of Good Ordinary Claret, featuring his Bacchanalian-inspired label, will be released in February 2017.

Luke Edward Hall’s limited-edition Good Ordinary Claret will be available to buy from 16th February on bbr.com and in both our shops. A version of this article was originally published in No.3.

Category: Bordeaux Wine,Miscellaneous