Brilliant white wines from traditional red regions

From Rioja to the Rhône, many red wine regions also produce some wonderful whitesDo you ever buy white bordeaux, white rioja or whites from the Rhône? I ask because it’s easy to overlook some real gems by having it fixed in your head that a region is purely a red wine area. Dry white bordeaux is a particular favourite of mine – the blending of semillon with sauvignon transforms the sometimes aggressive edges of the latter into a much smoother, more sophisticated white. The aptly named Forgotten One Entre Deux Mers Sauvignon Blanc 2016 (12% abv) is a great deal at £6.99 from Aldi (and in fact features 45% semillon with a smattering of sauvignon gris and muscadelle), as is the more classically citrussy Château Perrail Sauvignon Blanc/Sauvignon Gris 2016 (£8.50 Booths; 12.5% abv). Continue...

Wine: if you wouldn’t happily drink it, don’t cook with it, either

When choosing a bottle to use in your cooking pot, you need to follow a few simple rulesOne of the questions I’m regularly asked is: what’s the best wine to cook with? As it happens, I’ve been thinking about this a fair bit recently, while researching my, ahem, new book Wine Lover’s Kitchen, which, as the title suggests, is all about cooking with wine. Continue...

Drink: wake up and smell the coffee

I thought I knew a bit about coffee. Then I went on a home barista course and saw the light…Until about a month ago, I thought I knew a fair bit about coffee. I patronised good coffee bars and knew my espresso from my macchiato; I drank decent coffee at home, too, albeit (I blush) from a Nespresso machine. But my appreciation of the stuff was all about the intensity and caffeine hit, and I now look back (with more blushes) at being offered filter coffee in a bar and thinking, “Why on Earth would I want to drink that?”That’s because I’ve seen the light, and it’s as if I’d spent my wine career drinking Napa cabernet sauvignon and never tried a good red burgundy. What I discovered on a fascinating home barista workshop at Extract Coffee in Bristol (£80, and a great Christmas present for coffee-lovers) is that power isn’t everything. To appreciate coffee from different origins, you need temporarily to abandon your espresso habit. The simple piece of kit you need is a V60 drip coffee maker (easier and less messy than a cafetière). Ideally, you also need a grinder, because ground coffee starts to deteriorate the moment you open the packet (within hours, let alone weeks), so it pays to grind your own (a hand grinder is better than a cheap electric one, too). Continue...

Organic wines that won’t upset your wallet or your tastebuds

The problem with a lot of organic wines, especially at the cheaper end of the market, is that they’re so underwhelming it can be hard to find a decent oneI seem to have spent most of this month dithering over whether or not to devote another article to organic wines. It’s been dubbed Organic September, so I know I ought to, but the problem is, so many organic wines, particularly the cheaper ones, are underwhelming. Continue...

Wine: the oldest tricks in the book

Wine producers are employing ever more ingenious marketing tools to make us part with our hard-earned cashLast week, I wrote about wine labels as a source of information. This week, I’m looking at them as a marketing tool, by which I don’t mean a posh name or a gold-embossed script, but how a producer can give the impression that his wine is cooler or more upmarket than it actually is. Continue...