Posted: September 30th, 2010 | Author: Dunc | Filed under: Wine | Tags: About Wine, Andalucia, El Puerto de Santa Maria, Jerez, Sanlúcar de Barrameda, Sherry | 1 Comment »
Sherry's are fortified wines made almost exclusively from the palomino grape. For a wine to be called a sherry it must be from a particular area in southern Spain around the towns of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, El Puerto de Santa María and Jerez de la Frontera. The process of making sherry is pretty unique and is known as the Solera process. The winemaking process is on going and works like this:
In the cellars of a Bodega in the Sherry region you will find row upon row of wooden barrels. These rows known as criadera are the key to the consistency of the wine and also the answer to our question. The criadera are ranked and the last criadera is called the solera. When the sherry is bottled it comes from this last row of barrels. The winemaker won't empty the barels in the solera and will typically only bottle about a third of the sherry within. He then replaces the sherry taken from the solera with the same amount from the previous criadera. This is repeated until the first of the criadera is reached and this is topped up with newly harvested grape juice. Typically the solera is the fifth criadera so the sherry in the bottle will be atleast 4 years old but could be older and the bottling cycle is performed every few months. So this is why you don't get vintage sherry(although occasionally a few winemakers do make sherry from a single vintage of grapes.).
The last thing to note are the different types of sherry that are produced and what makes them such different wines. The first thing to know is that a sherry barrel is a living thing. Floating on top of the sherry in the barrel is an inch thick layer of yeast called the flor and it is the flor that is responsible for the different styles of Sherry.
The main styles are Fino, Manzanilla, Amontilado, Oloroso, Palo Cortado, Cream, Pale Cream and Pedro Ximenez.
Fino – Along with Manzanilla are the driest sherries available and they are also the least alcoholic. These two facts are related and are a consequence of our friend the flor. The flor prevents the sherry from oxidising and taking on the nutty flavours associated with Amontilado and Oloroso. The flor is present in Fino and Manzanilla barrels throughout the whole process and the alcohol level in the wine must be kept at a level that can sustain the yeast. This is why Fino and Manzanilla sherry is usually around 15%.
Manzanilla – Depending on who you speak will depend on what the difference is between Manzanilla and Fino. A Manzanilla has to hail from Sanlúcar de Barrameda where locals will tell you the micro climate induced from sea breezes and the marsh land surrounding the town affects the wine as it ages in the criadera. Asking the same question in Jerez you're likely to be told the micro climate makes little difference. Either way the beautiful old bodegas in Sanlúcar oriented to take advantage of the cooling sea breezes are something to behold.
Amontilado – Starts out life in the same way as Fino and Manzanilla but at some point the sherry is fortified. This action kills the yeast that makes up the flor and allows the wine to oxidise. The colour deepens from the straw coloured Fino towards the caramel tones of an Oloroso. The flavour also moves this way maintaining some dryness while shifting towards the nutty taste of Oloroso.
Oloroso - Fortification at the start takes the wine to about 18% alcohol. This removes the flor and allows the sherry to oxidise. The wine develops a deep nutty and caramel flavour and takes on a lovely brown colour. Oloroso is a great partner to cheese and is a nice change to a glass of port.
Palo Cortado – This is one of lifes great accidents. Palo Cortados are some of the best sherries and are produced by complete luck. During the production of Fino the flor sometimes disappears. This can sometimes be a bad thing and might mean that the wine is faulty but at other times there is nothing wrong. These wines are kept in the Solera system and become Palo Cortado. Due to the lack of flor Palo Cortado takes on some of the characteristics of Amontilado but is a bit drier and lighter in colour.
Cream and Pale Cream – To quote one acclaimed sherry producer: "What is the point of cream sherry? What do you do with them? When do you drink them?" The wines are typically made by sweetening drier sherry(Oloroso for Cream and Fino for Pale Cream) with grape juice. These wines are sickly sweet and uncfortunately are what so many people associate with sherry.
Pedro Ximenez – Finally Pedro Ximenez or PX is a top desert wine. Unlike the other sherries talked about it is made from Pedro Ximenez grapes rather than Palomino. The grapes are dried in the sun turning them into raisins. The wine is made from the raisins which are full of sugar. This leads to a very dark, sweet, syrupy wine.
Posted: September 27th, 2010 | Author: Dunc | Filed under: Wine | Tags: About Wine | No Comments »
So many people myself included can't answer seemingly simple questions about wine:
What makes a Rioja, a Rioja?
What should I expect from a Cote de Rhone, a South African Pinotage, a Chilean Merlot, etc?
Why does a Sancerre taste different to a Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand?
Why don't you get(very often) a vintage sherry?
I frequently find myself asking Becky questions like this and it got me thinking that I should start a series of blogs titled About Wine to share the answers. If you have questions you want answering please post a comment and I'll do my best to find the answer.
Posted: September 27th, 2010 | Author: Dunc | Filed under: Restaurant | Tags: Coffee Shop, Kettering, Northamptonshire | 3 Comments »
This cosy coffee shop hidden away on Montagu Street is a real gem. The premise is straight forward blackboards behind the bar display the available selection of sandwiches, bagels, salads, snacks, cakes, teas, coffees and milkshakes. When in Kettering I invariably treat myself to a bacon and cheese wafflewich (A doorstep granary sandwich containing bacon, cheese and a potato waffle.) accompanied by a banana milkshake served in a milk bottle.
Also look out for their themed dining club events.
Posted: September 25th, 2010 | Author: Dunc | Filed under: Restaurant | Tags: Ludlow, Michelin Stars, Shropshire, Will Holland | 1 Comment »
Saturday night of the Ludlow food festival and there was really only one fitting venue for dinner. La Bécasse has been in Ludlow for the past 3 years and 30 year old head chef Will Holland has managed to win a Michelin Star for the restaurant for the past two years. We arrived at the restaurant situated in an intimate town house a little early and were shown up to the lounge bar for an aperitif. The bar proved to be a beautifully tranquil room decorated in dark warm colours with an abundance of antique furniture. We opted for a glass of sparkling Vouvray and enjoyed this with some sugared peanuts, curried popcorn and olives. The popcorn was fantastic and we ended having to ask for more.
We decided to ignore the various different tasting menus on offer and eat a la Carte. I chose Confit Salmon with cauliflower and apple followed by a taste of suckling pig. Becky also went for the suckling pig and started with a crab dish.
The starters both looked beautiful and I loved the flavours of the salmon with the apple puree and little deep fried cauliflower florets.
A taste of suckling pig consisted of three different cuts of pork served on a bed of greens and what was described as sage gnocchi which was topped with a lemon jelly. Once more the plates were stunning but didn't blow me away on the taste front. This is not to say that it was bad it just wasn't great.
After we'd finished the pig we shared a plate of cheese. The selection of cheese available in the vast cheese trolley was amazing and were accompanied by a selection of homemade biscuits and chutneys.
Finally we finished off with a pistachio soufflé with stewed apricot and a dark chocolate tart with strawberry ice cream and marshmallow. I enjoyed my soufflé but once more wasn't blown away.
La Bécasse is a great restaurant. The atmosphere is very impressive and the food is as pretty as I've seen. I'd love to go back sometime and try the tasting menu.
Posted: September 5th, 2010 | Author: Dunc | Filed under: Ingredients, Restaurant, Travel | Tags: Abergavenny, Crown at Whitebrook, Food Festival, Le Becasse, Ludlow, Restaurants, Shropshire, Wales | No Comments »
We're getting really excited about the next couple of weeks. Starting off on Thursday we are wine tasting with the Bat and Bottle in Oakham. On Friday we are off up to Ludlow for the food festival and are booked in at La Bécasse on Saturday night. The weekend after we are doing more food festivals and more Michelin stars. We will be staying at the fabulous Crown at Whitebrook and enjoying the nearby Abergaveny food festival. Needless to say we will be doing lots of blogging and tweeting about it all.
Posted: September 1st, 2010 | Author: Dunc | Filed under: Restaurant | Tags: Sea Food; Suffolk; Restaurants; Oysters; Fish | No Comments »
This uncomplicated seafood restaurant is set in the idyllic village of Orford. The focus of this unpretentious, no frills restaurant is unashamedly centred on the fish landed in the village that morning. The decor is simple, the tables packed together and the chairs on the cheaper side of comfortable but picking fault in this is missing the point. You are here for the fish.
I started out with a plate of 6 very large oysters. I love oysters and these didn't disappoint.
Following on from the oysters was skate wing in a brown butter with capers. In keeping with the restaurant the dish was simple yet effective and focused on satisfying the taste buds rather than the eyes.
Desert was an excellent homemade sticky toffee pudding and ice cream.
The concise wine list was predominately offered white wines with a handful of red and rose. We enjoyed the Italian rose and the German riesling that we drank.
If you're in Suffolk and are looking for quality seafood with a minimum of fuss then check out the Butley Orford Oysterage.