Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Grand Cercle de Bordeaux En Primeur 2016 vintage

Bordeaux winemakers, some of the greatest in the world, have united to make a community, Le Grand Cercle de Vins de Bordeaux to help ensure quality, spread the best methods and techniques, and help find wine fans and customers around the world. I was invited to their En Primeur 2016 tasting show to taste last season’s wine, harvested over Autumn/Winter 2016, which is coming onto the market to canny people willing to buy now and get a bargain. Later, when some of these wines have aged, their price will seriously increase and perhaps even multiply.

At London’s Le Meridien Hotel in Piccadilly, the dedicated winemakers and estate owners assembled for this special tasting, designed to give buyers and reviewers a sneaky peek at what will be coming from Bordeaux over the coming months and years. 

The first wine I sampled was the Chateau de Cerons sweet white wine. Based in the same region as Graves (Rive Gauche of Bordeaux), Cerons was, as I was informed by owner Caroline Perromat “a miracle”. She explained that Cerons is a “tiny appellation” of 21 hectares only. The same Semillon grapes are used as the more well-known Graves AOC wine, with the deciding factor being the amount of botrytis on the grapes. 80% Semillon, 18% Sauvignon, 2% Muscadelle is the makeup of this unique wine. The vineyard is only 6km from Sauternes, but the result is a botyritis late harvest wine which is very different from its illustrious famous cousin.

I found a good balance of acidity, a delicate aroma, without over sugaring. Touches of saffron are detectable with slightly mild sweetness and the merest hint of orange. Caroline explained that it is always a challenge to balance the texture with freshness of the fruit, but I would say they have met that challenge with panache. The Chateau de Cerons sweet white wine is made by an extraordinary    natural process, and as a result, they do not produce a wine each year and only 3000 bottles are produced if done at all. Quality and condition of the grapes is the key factor. Quality control and care appear to be the watchwords, as the wine is generally kept for 10 years of aging before being marketed; the 2008 is only now on sale. A gorgeous wine for an indulgent Foie Gras starter or with dessert.

Chateau Fombrage was the producer of my next wine, another white wine, from the same estate as a renowned Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classe. However, despite being produced in Saint Emilion, it cannot be granted AOC status because the region famous for its red wines. The 2016 En Primeur wine is made up of 60% Sauvignon blanc, 20% Sauvignon gris and 20% Semillon, it was a little young at present, but with great potential. The clean fruitiness of the Sauvignon blanc will be balanced by the herby greenery of the Sauvignon gris and the richness of the Semillon.

Pomerol, on the right hand side of the river (Rive Droite), is famous for being excellent and expensive; one of the very best in all of Bordeaux. It’s a deeply rich red wine which is almost fleshy. I met Stephany Lesaint, and sampled the 2016 Chateau Mazeyres Pomerol. The wine is biodynamic, meaning that not only is it organic, but the grapes are tended and looked after depending on the place on the Biodynamic calendar.

Suitable days for pruning, watering and harvesting are identified and acted upon with diligence and strictness to get the best out of the grapes. The wine resulting is smooth and rich, with 73% Merlot, 24.4% Cabernet Franc, 2.6% Petit Verdot. I tried both the 2014 and the 2016 En Primeur to compare the effect of aging. The 2014 had mellow acidity, deep fruit flavours with rounded taste, a velvety feel in the mouth with elegant tannins. The 2016 has fruitiness and the beginnings of those classic Pomerol velvet texture. One to watch, I would say!

Hopping back over the river Garonne to Rive Gauche to the famous Margaux appellation, my next wine was the Chateau Haut Breton Larigaudiere, made by the De Schepper family. This 1550 hectare estate makes its own Margaux from a combination of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot grapes.


The Margaux 2012 won the 2015 gold medal for Vignerons independents (independent winemakers). The estate is situated such that the grapes are grown on gravelly ridges in the Bordeaux landscape, and the “hidden ingredient” is the tiny proportion of those Petit verdot grapes. They are a very small, exceedingly difficult to cultivate grape used for its deep red, luscious colour. Unsurprisingly, the 2012 was excellent and the 2016 a work in progress to be reckoned with.

Staying on the left side of the river, I moved back to white wine to sample the Chateau de Myrat Grand Cru Classe Sauternes 2010. Don’t worry, I changed my glass! Sauternes is made in a small part of the Graves region of Bordeaux. The 2010 had a deep yellow colour with a touch of orange, with a restrained sweet aroma. The taste is everything you would expect from this utterly delightful appellation!

The current 2016 En Primeur has a makeup of Semillon grapes, 88%, Muscadelle 4% and Sauvignon 8%. Care is taken to choose the finest grapes to make the most elegant wine; the aim is to avoid strong, unsubtle sweetness in the final wine. Cultivating some minerality and a slight acidity to achieve balance is the intention. The noble rot or botrytis can occur between mid September and mid November, making planning ahead for harvesting very difficult. The 2016 needs time, but it already has the beginnings of brilliance.

Alain Raynaud is the President of the Grand Cercle des Vins de Bordeaux. A retired doctor and current wine maker, he lives and breathes the wines of Bordeaux. I had a chat to him and asked him which single wine, which single producer would be his pick. Alain recommended Haut Carles and maker Thierry Perdigon. This Rive Droite wine is a Fronsac appellation wine, made directly in the barrel.

It is rare these days for all of the fermentation to happen in the barrel, in these days of high capacity steel tanks. I asked Thierry why, and he informed me that his process enables the soft extractions of all the tannins and flavours from the grapes, which is far better than the harsher process occurring in stainless steel tanks. His bijou 7-hectare estate grows a combination of grapes with 90% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 5% Malbec making it into the smooth and highly enjoyable blend. Alain knows his wines, and this is a one a wine merchant or buyer with savvy will scoop up!

Chateau de la Dauphine was another Fronsac appellation wine which caught my attention. Each year the balance of grapes changes; the 2011 was Merlot 85%, Cabernet Franc 15%, but the 2016 En Primeur is 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. Interestingly, the 2016 already has a deeper colour than the 2011. The 2011 wine is lightly oaked in a tasteful way, so we can expect the same from the aged 2016. I detected mild liquorice, blackberry, hints of eucalyptus and touches of minerality. 

The ground at Chateau de la Dauphine, Lisa Sauniere explained to me is very mineral, so the tannins from the grape skins temper the minerality. The 2016 has a good lingering finish for a very young wine, making it a strong candidate for a fabulous wine in 5 years’ time!

Finally, my last selection is the Entre-Deux-Mers Chateau Sainte-Marie white wine. Owner Stephane Dupuch told me that 2016 had been a great year for white wines, particularly for texture and ripening. The resulting white wine (grown over 21 hectares) is made from 71% Sauvignon Blanc, 22% Semillon, 7% Muscadelle. Stephane told me that slow ripening during 2016’s August and September has preserved the acidity of the grapes. The warm days and cool nights have been most welcome. Warm nights cause the skin to be ruined, losing aromas and flavours.

The 2016 Chateau Sainte-Marie has the crispness of Sauvignon Blanc, good richness from the Semillon. Stephane does not believe in oaking, as the goal is to bring out the grapes. I found the acidity was perfect. 2016 was a good year for both quality and quantity of grapes, a feat which only happens every 2 to three vintages in a decade. A delightful white to be enjoying soon!

Snigdha attended the En Primeurs tasting of Grand Cercle des Vins de Bordeaux as their guest. Snigdha has not received any incentive, whether paid or otherwise, for posting this review. This review represents her genuine opinions of the wines tasted.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Eat Like A Brit, HotJoint event at Roast Restaurant

My friend, the food and travel blogger Kavey, invited me out to enjoy an evening of food, drink and quizzing at London's Roast Restaurant. Hosted by HotJoint, the "Eat Like A Brit" night was a foodie quiz and celebration of great British ingredients and classic British dishes.

Roast restaurant prides itself on buying quality British produce and serving British dishes, so its location, in a beautiful space overlooking London's Borough Market, was highly appropriate. Kavey and I arrived in the evening, after the traders had packed up. But in the day, it would have been a bustling and cheerful hive of activity. To get to Roast, you need to walk through the market to a hidden lift which takes you up to the huge, glass fronted restaurant.

HotJoint celebrates London's going out scene by organising events, pop ups and celebrating the creative in the Capital's exciting food and drink sphere. "Eat Like A Brit" is their inaugural food quiz, with other food themed quizzing in the pipeline.

Before the quizzing got under way, it was time to enjoy a glass of wine and some canapes, brought straight from the Roast kitchen...

First up were some Feta cheese and Olive skewers with cucumber and mint, with their clean, refreshing flavours. 

I was about to help myself to another couple of Feta skewers when I saw the next set of canapes arrive. Do those look like scallops on the half shell?

I had to investigate, before the other hungry food bloggers nabbed them all! Look at them, couldn't you just eat the whole plate full?

The Isle of Man is famous for it's Queen Scallops, or "Manx Queenies". Sustainably fished, these are regarded as the best British scallops that money can buy. They are protected by a Designation of Origin stamp in the same way as Champagne or Melton Mowbray pies.

Our canape was a single Queenie scallop in its shell with a sliver of braised ox cheek and carrot mustard. Juicy scallop, cooked just to the point where the flesh went opaque, meaty stewed beef and the tangy mustard to bring it all together, delicious!

Entertainment was provided, with some classic rock covers given an acoustic spin. Moves Like Jagger and Californication with their funky edge went down particularly well!

Before we could dig back into the food, we had to start on the quizzing. Placed around the restaurant were various questions for us to attempt. All with one unifying theme - they were about the best of British food and produce. Our team consisted of Naomi (Ginger Gourmand), Gary (Big Spud), Kavey and I. 

The question about where Queenie Scallops was easy. We had one in the bag!

Next up were harder questions.... We needed more food!

These cute little seeded flatbreads arrived, bearing delicate and thinly sliced Beef Carpaccio with beetroot and mustard seed yogurt. Beetroot is a divisive vegetable, but one that I love. So I devoured a couple of these before getting back to the quiz...

Which three towns form the Rhubarb Triangle? I told Kavey "I know that's up in Yorkshire, but after that, search me!" Thankfully, she, Gary and Naomi were much more clued up, another answer banked!

The morsel which followed must be the most original and inventive canape I have ever seen! A mini roast dinner! Rare cooked roast beef, horseradish cream and beer pickles, drizzled with gravy served up in a dinky little Yorkshire pudding! A brave and very enjoyable reinvention of the great British classic. 

What leaf is Cornish Yarg wrapped in? Our next devilishly tough question. A spot of team conferring and we got the answer: Nettle.

Time to treat ourselves to pudding!  

What is beeturia? It's to do with beetroot, said Kavey, and possibly urine. All the "uria" things are. 

I giggled. Could it be that your wee goes purple if you eat too much beetroot? Yes! Replied Kavey to my utterly stupid thought. No way, could it really be correct? We would have to find out. 

But it was time for our final treat, a hand selected Neals Yard cheese board. And yes, that grey cheese is Cornish Yarg. I have been converted into an ardent fan! 

It turns out beeturia is purple beetroot scented wee wee. Oh my!

And the quiz was so far a draw. We were in for a nail biting tie break. To the nearest 50, how many species of Allium are there? The opposing team went for 50. We thought we were playing safe going for 250. Turns out it is 750. By sheer luck, we had won!

We were presented our prizes by Charles Howgego, Hotjoint's founder and our Quizmaster. 

Our prize was a goodie bag including the Roast Restaurant cookbook, a gorgeous hardback tome full of classic British recipes, old and new. Something to inspire and influence cooking at home in the weeks and months to come! 

The quiz was difficult but fun, the food fabulous and the wines selected for us paired well with the canapes. A great night out for foodies in a brilliant venue. I had a wonderful time. I hope Hotjoint continue running this original and fun evening out in London. 

Snigdha attended as Kavey's plus one. Snigdha is grateful to HotJoint for letting her tag along. Snigdha has received no incentive, financial or otherwise for posting this review. 

Sunday, 26 February 2017

February 2017 Favourites List

We’ve made it through the cold, grim, grey days. And Storm Doris. Pat yourself on the back!

March is coming, and with it will come Spring flowers, new green shoots and a sense we have turned the corner. Of course, you’ll still need your scarf and gloves… undoubtedly you will need your brolly. But the days are noticeably longer and the colours of Spring will shine through in the coming weeks. 

My students face their assessments – I wish them the very best of luck. Please spare them a good wish or two, if you can. Particularly for Friday’s drafting exam.

My pictures for this month are a few of my homecooking attempts. Nothing particularly cheffy or flash, but all enjoyable and satisfying food. 

And now, onto the stuff you came here for – my collection of links and recommendations…

Garlic laced Corsican Daube of beef with pasta


Persian style lamb meatballs recipe by Sabrina Ghayour:

Pork slow cooked in cider, flavoured with mustard, celery and sage.

Needing to cut your food shopping bill? Here's a savoury bread pudding recipe for leftover bread and some other thrifty eat ideas from Kavey at Kavey Eats blog:

Vegetarian San Choi Bau
I'm always on the lookout for midweek dinner ideas. Here's a tilapia and mango salad, full of colour:

One pot cook out with oozy juices to be mopped up with bread. Homecooking is all about this!

I have been making my own hummus/houmous, made according to this recipe, based on Claudia Roden's:

MiMi Aye’s Spicy Sichuan Noodles, recipe post from Mimi Aye's cookbook "Noodle!" on the excellent food and travel blog Kavey Eats:

Cookwitch blog’s Lisa’s recipe for Rye bread:

Smoked mackerel has fatty acids (omega 3 oils) which are good for the brain. Obviously, you shouldn't eat smoked foods excessively, nor should you overindulge in foods rich in fat. But if you are studying right now or want to give your brain a boost, this is a simple pasta dish for you:

Lancashire Hotpot is a British classic. Although there's no 100% agreed recipe, this looks rather awesome:

Articles/Know How:

The Food Standards Agency sets the record straight after the recent news about possible meat contamination in the UK:
Nutty chicken cool noodle salad

Love white wine? But keep ordering the same old Pinot Grigio, Sauvignon blanc or Chardonnay? Here are some ideas to diversify your palate. Personally, Picpoul de Pinet is a great aperitif wine, Gewurtztraminer is fab with spicy food and Albarino is a superb all rounder with food.

Keralan "Appams" and Sri Lankan "Hoppers" are a rice flour pancake which is a traditional breakfast dish - spotting the latest London food trend!

Valentina Harris' book on Risotto is a fantastic cookbook which has been out of print for too long. I'm very happy to see it is back in a revised and updated edition! (book sampler):

My other writing:

A consideration of the most significant Employment tribunal procedural decisions of the past year: (subscription required)


St Vincent

Moonrise Kingdom

Lamb ouzi with chickpeas and cinnamon


Homeland (Season 1)


Shura – Nothing’s Real

Blur – The Magic Whip

Explosions In The Sky – Take Care Take Care Take Care

Agnes Obel - Philharmonics

Julia Holter – Have You In My Wilderness

Mogwai – Les Revenants Soundtrack

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.

Monday, 30 January 2017

January 2017 Favourites List

After the high of Christmas and New Year’s day, do you find January a bit of a downer? I certainly find January a slog. It’s cold and grey, the days remain short and there isn’t an awful lot to look forward to… 

So to combat the January blues, I’ve been enjoying cooking some deep flavoured, substantial, comforting food to feed the soul and the body. Slow cooking, braising, currying and oven bakes… you get the picture. 

One thing I have definitely not been doing is dieting. Or Dryathlon. Or detoxing. Or “clean eating”. Of course, if you are doing any of those things, I wish you every success. It’s just not for me. I’ve always believed in moderation. And having a little of what you fancy. I have some knowledge of nutrition basics, though I’d never pretend to be an expert, and I try to maintain some form of balance. I have good days and bad days. I don’t beat myself up about having a bad day, I just try to do better the next. 

Life can be demanding. Maintaining a work-life balance can be difficult. What we eat can end up being an afterthought. Skipped a meal? Eat some fast food? Binged on take-away? It’s all right today, just do something different tomorrow. Do your best to do what’s best for you in the time and space that you have.  

If you’re too harsh on yourself, all you do in introduce the guilt monster into your life. There are enough people with a messed up relationship with food as it is. 

Try to look after yourselves, but in a kind and humane way.

This month’s pictures are some recent street art pictures, from Shoreditch.


Wednesday night (25th Jan) is Burns Night. Here's how to make the classic celebratory meal of Haggis, Neeps and Tatties:

Marinaded grilled pork served in lettuce leaves with rice noodles, herbs and dipping sauce:

Cool chorizo recipes... one of my favourite ingredients!

Porridge made not with oats, but leftover rye bread, Scandi style. Soak overnight to have tomorrow morning:

Minestrone soup recipe by award winning chef and cookery school tutor Neven:

Could this be a hug in a bowl? Simon Hopkinson's Coq au Vin, made with red wine:

I've learned two cheeky hacks from Oprah Winfrey's tomato soup recipe. Firstly, to roast the tomatoes in Winter to increase the flavour. Second, using tomato paste (puree) for thickness and intensity. Clever.

Articles/Know How:

New study on the Mediterranean diet and brain health. Lots of veg and olive oil helps preserve brain size/mass as you get older: brain-study-finds-t106694

The latest restaurant scam: if tuna seems too cheap or the source is not stated, it could be dyed to  make it look fresh. Ew!

Since I have been discussing the "Five A Day" guidance on facebook, here's a guide on how to count your five daily portions of fruit and veg:

Further explanation of how the Five a Day system works and what counts:
Is there such a thing as "good" or "bad" food? "Dirty" or "clean" food? Here's an impassioned rant in defence of the current Billy-no-mates of the food world, the humble carbohydrate.

There's nothing wrong with wanting to achieve a more nutritious diet or to lose weight or to cut down on certain things. But don't fall for bad science and false promises:

What food trends, fads and innovations can we expect in 2017? The Telegraph speculates.

What you might have missed at Snig's Kitchen:

Brand new guest post from Linda Poulnott - Pasta casareccia al forno. An authentic Neapolitan (southern Italian) recipe at Snig's Kitchen. Linda's posts are always among my best, well read posts, I am so pleased to host another of her wonderful recipe posts.

My other (non-food) writing:

My review of some of the most significant cases in employment law of 2016:



The Secret Life of Pets

Le Diner Du Cons

David Brent, Life On The Road


Extras, Seasons 1 and 2


Mogwai – Rave Tapes

Leonard Cohen – You Want It Darker

Agnes Obel – Citizen of Glass

Please note: as with every monthly Favourites List, all of these items have been selected by me simply because I love them. I do not receive any money, benefits in kind or other incentive for posting these links or recommendations.