wine tastings

Reports from wine tastings and wine events - those that we have attended and also some of our Wine Rambler tastings.

Matching ready meals and wine? Dinner with Charlie Bigham and Berry Bros & Rudd

Unless someone else is doing it for me there is almost never a day in my life when you don't find me in the kitchen throwing around pans, pots and knives. I like to cook, I love to eat well, and whenever there is time I work my way through recipes or London restaurants. That I also love wine with my food cannot have been lost on you as you are reading this on the Wine Rambler. So you may think nothing when I tell you that last week I was invited to a food and wine pairing dinner. But how about it was matching wine with supermarket ready meals?

steak and mushroom pie

First of all I should say that Charlie Bigham, who lured me and a group of food and wine bloggers to a secret location near London Bridge, is not too happy having his food called "ready meals". I will do so nonetheless, because it takes me back to one of the darker secrets in my food life.

150 minutes, 74 Rieslings, 1 mouth. Madness? Ravenous for Riesling!

A friend of mine gave me ten little bottles / Of some special stuff that he brewed up his-self / So I took it and hid it down in my basement / But my wife found out about it and she told me to get rid of it or else / And since I didn't like the way she said or else / I went down there and proceeded to carry out her instructions [...] Picked up the first bottle, pulled the cork out of it...

ten little bottles...
ten little bottles...
It did not quite happen like this. Admittedly, there was a basement. And I went down there. Picked up a bottle. Or two. Actually, there were 74. Also, they were not small. And despite the time it will have taken him to put it all together, I am fairly certain host Robert Giorgione did not brew them up by his-self. Even so, he managed to get Riesling from all over the world to London for a blind tasting that I could not miss. And so I went down there and proceeded...

Bibendum's Burgundy 2009 En Primeur Tasting (in pictures)

It is wine tasting season here in London. Events fight for a time slot in the busy schedules of sommeliers, wine writers and other trade folk, and even the humble Wine Rambler had to turn down several invitations. Among the events I decided I had to attend was Bibendum's Burgundy 2009 En Primeur tasting, held 11 January in the impressive rooms of RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects.

en primeur Burgundy shines in the Wine Rambler's hand at RIBA

Burgundy produces some of the world's finest wines, and as they do come at a price a tasting is a fantastic way of learning more about them. Learning about Burgundy is in fact one of our new year's resolutions, so the Bibendum tasting was a great and timely opportunity for me to have a peek into the world of Burgundy.

Wine Rambler autumn tasting 2010: from oaked rosé to Riesling and German Merlot

Every other season I assemble a group of wine loving friends at the Wine Rambler London HQ. The mission is simple: drink some wine and have fun. As that might seem too frivolous in the current times of austerity a little work is also required of my guests - and that is to share their impressions of the wines. For the autumn tasting in November these impressions ranged from 'body shop mandarin lotion' and 'broccoli' to 'tennis balls' and 'cold custard'.

As is the law at Wine Rambler seasonal tastings, all wines have to be tasted blind. This avoids bias and, most importantly, makes it more fun and adventurous. As my wardrobe is mostly stocked with German and some Austrian wines this is what my guests have learned to expect, but I always aim to have at least one surprise in store for them...

torsten Monday, 27/12/2010

Psychedelic carpets and trends in German wine: Tasting Germany's finest at Bayerischer Hof, Munich

A few years ago, when the Wine Ramblers were not yet Wine Ramblers, we attended our first ever wine tasting together. An unhealthy mix of curiosity and the promise of a free tipple had brought us to downtown Munich's venerable Bayerischer Hof. At this hotel, members of the VDP (Verband Deutscher Prädikats- und Qualitätsweingüter), an association of some of Germany's most distinguished wineries, were presenting a range of their wines. It was a memorable evening that began with a lot of awkward swooshing and spitting, and ended with a drunken plan of creating a diversion in order to steal a case of Knipser Syrah that, sadly, never came to fruition. But that is a story for some other year.

The tasting is an annual event, we reported on it last year and we will in the future. This year, we decided to cover in more depth the six wineries that most convinced us - and to point out a few wider trends that we think may be worth noting and discussing.

The Sultans of Sweet. Learning about matching Residual Sugar in Mosel Riesling with food

Sweet wine is evil. Just mentioning it can make people's faces go grumpy bulldog on you. Even the faces of those who haven't tried any yet. Wine with residual sugar is often seen as nasty plonk, suitable for a cheap hangover or perhaps as a wine for the ladies, and that is usually not meant as a compliment either. In the UK, it is particularly associated with Germany 'thanks' to brands such as Liebfraumilch.

So I have to deal with a lot of bulldog faces in my mission to interest people in German wine. The most successful approach, I find, is to get them to taste the wines, especially with food, but that is a slow process if you are just one guy with a wardrobe full of Riesling in a nation of millions of wine drinkers.

So imagine my delight when I was recently invited to a lunch workshop designed to explore how off-dry and sweet Rieslings pair with food: Who is afraid of Residual Sugar? was organised by St. Urbans-Hof, one of the premier Mosel estates. What started as a very exciting and tasty experiment turned into a far-reaching discussion on the world of wine, customer perception, national (wine)stereotypes and wine marketing.

An evening with Riccardo Prosecco at the Secret Larder

No thanks, I am really not that keen on Prosecco. Admittedly, this is an odd sentence to start a post on a Prosecco tasting. However, it describes the attitude I have had towards Prosecco for a long while, and for two reasons. First of all I have a long-standing dislike of sparkling drinks, an antipathy that, at least with regards to sparkling wine, it took several years of drinking Riesling with its high acidity to eventually overcome (have a look at the Wine Rambler's sparkling adventures). Second, I was socialised on alcohol in Munich. This put me off Prosecco because in Munich it is the drink of choice for a certain strata of hoity-toity, would-be posh/jet-set, would-be in-crowd snobs (the German word 'Schickimicki' is so much more precise) who make my toe nails stand up; in addition to that, Prosecco is so popular there that I was often given the cheapest plonk you can imagine because everyone wanted to serve Prosecco, even though they had neither money nor taste. So to sum up, I am definitely not the person you would want to invite to a dinner where only Prosecco is served.

Riccardo Prosecco

Luckily for me, the people from Azienda Agricola Riccardo were brave enough to do so nonetheless. And with surprising effects.

A taste of Chablis

Among wine jokes, the one where someone says they don't like Chardonnay but love Chablis has to be one of the classics. Overused as it may be, I have actually met someone who during the course of an evening of drinking wine told me about how he had had a marvellous Chablis at a restaurant recently and that the only type of wine he really hated and never ever drank was Chardonnay.

Whatever you may think of this joke, you can argue that it reflects a popular perception of Chardonnay as very oaky, often over-oaked in fact, versus Chablis representing a light, elegant style of Chardonnay that is mostly untouched by oak. As this is a style of wine the Wine Rambler is really interested in, I was more than happy when I was recently invited to taste a flight of Chablis - in fact, the nominees of the 24th annual Chablis Wine contest run by the Burgundy Wine Board.

How South Africa stole the World Cup from Italy: Bibendum World Cup of Wine 2010

In 2006, when I was still living in Munich, the World Cup came to Germany. For those of you who know me a little it will not be a surprise to hear that I did not see a single match. In fact, I remember being food shopping when Germany scored a key goal, being just one of two people in the cinema watching 'Hard Candy' when Italy defeated Germany and visiting my co-Rambler for food and wine during the final. This year, however, is different. Yesterday I attended the final of the 2010 World Cup, with the champion Italy playing the host South Africa. The key difference though is that this was the World Cup of Wine, hosted by the lovely people of Bibendum in their North London headquarters, with me being one of the judges.

Wine Rambler German Spring Tasting 2010 - sparkling rosé to cocaine Chardonnay cut with brick dust

The seasonal wine tastings hosted by the London branch of the Wine Rambler are now something like an institution. So much so that this time change was needed ('change you can believe in' - after all it is election time here in the UK). My message for the electorate was quite simple: 'no Riesling'. This does not mean that I have suddenly lost my love for this amazing variety, not at all. However, it is good to every so often remind people that there is so much more to German wine than just Riesling. So what did I choose for that mission: a sparkling vintage rosé, a Silvaner, a Chardonnay, a Pinot Noir and a Bordeaux-style blend of red grapes, including Cabernet Sauvignon.