Drinks and food to please the palate
Em Marshall-Luck makes some fine selections
An outstanding rosé, an excellent white, and an easily-quaffable red are this month’s recommendations, along with a few suggestions of top quality food products to match with your wines; including a smokery that one can visit.
Firstly, that superbly impressive rosé – this is an English-produced Pinot noir rosé 2015 from the Oxney Organic Estate, situated by the river Rother on the eastern edge of East Sussex, six miles from the sea. The ethos of the Estate is that of organic principles and minimal intervention. The bottle is smart and gives an impression of tradition and yet progressiveness at the same time; it bears a gold sticker for having won a gold trophy in the UK Vineyards’ Association Wine of the Year Competition.
Unusually, the label gives the full specifications of the grapes – not just what they are but even the rows they are from and the date they were hand-picked, as well as the fact that there was 12 hours skin contact and that fermentation took place in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks; while the back label gives tasting notes as well as information about the vineyard. The wine itself is a very pale pink colour and has a gorgeously fruity nose of strawberries and raspberries – a bright burst of summer. The taste is refreshingly dry and combines those strawberries and raspberries with citrus fruits – a decent dose of lemon and grapefruit, along with dry grass and straw. The texture is immensely smooth and creamy and there is a long, lingering citrusy finish. An extremely elegant and refreshing wine, it is available for £15 from www.oxneyestate.com.
The white is the Léon Beyer Sylvaner 2014 from Alsace – Maison Léon Beyer having been making wines since 1580, making them one of the oldest houses in the region. Alsace is surely my favourite wine region for whites, and this wine is an excellent demonstration of the character, flavour and individuality that pours forth from this region in its wines. A pale yellow colour, the nose is predominantly mineral (another reason why I so love Alsatian wines), but with delicate floral hints as well. The taste is dry, just slightly effervescent on the tongue, and full of those mineral tones – dry flint, crumbly chalk, and the clay and limestone of the soil in which the grapes were grown; yet there is a woodland freshness and a spring-like promise in the resin and the pine needles that also form a major part of the appeal of this wine. The bottle, like the wine, is elegant and beautiful, bearing an etching of a local Alsatian town. Both the font and the logo speak of old-fashioned values, and the upper front label balances the bottle well visually. Overall, this is a superb dry white wine – gloriously refreshing and perfect to cut through the oiliness of smoked salmon. Available from The Wine Society, RRP £8.50.
The bottle image of Sous Le Soleil de Midi Cabernet Merlot 2015 is quite rustic, although the label on closer inspection is more complicated than it appears at first sight, with a texture to the impressionistic painting that appears to depict either flowers or grapes. A blend of 70% Cabernet and 30% Merlot, with grapes grown in clay and limestone soil in the East Aude, the wine has a good strong purple-red colour and a nose of berry fruits. The taste is robust and no-nonsense – very fruity, strong and up-front, with plenty of bold fruit flavours, making it a good choice for barbecues and grilled meats, burgers and stews. A rustic and unsubtle wine, perhaps, but none the worse for this. RRP £5.99 from Waitrose.
I would recommend accompanying this wine with some beef burgers from Devon-based The Black Farmer. These are made with British beef and are gluten free. The plain beef burgers contain a blend of beef and delicious spices such as coriander, ginger, mace, nutmeg and sage, and are slightly dry and crumbly; whilst the Beef and Cheese burgers are beautifully moist and tender – really gloriously succulent, full of flavour, and ever so highly recommended. I would also strongly advocate visiting The Black Farmer’s website as an example of an unusually good site; his commercials as well are eye-catching, innovative, intriguing and thoroughly enjoyable to watch.
For those eschewing alcohol – whether from necessity or choice – lovely drinks can be had from Luscombe, an organic drinks producer also located in Devon. Their Sicilian Lemonade comes in attractive custom-made bottles embossed with company’s name and with clear but attractive and elegant labels. The lemonade has a very light, crisp and refreshing taste – the zingy flavour of lemons is not overly sweet, resulting in a cleansing drink which invigorates and awakens, even on the hottest Indian Summer’s day. The Wild Elderflower Bubbly combines an elderflower petal infusion with Sicilian lemons and is a refreshingly effervescent drink with elegant bouquet and pleasingly graceful flavour of elderflowers. The Damascene Rose Bubbly is possibly my favourite of all, with its delicate pink blush, coolly floral nose and wonderful sense of revivication. It features damascene rose water, along with grape juice, orange blossom water and organic blueberry juice, and the mixture is a special one, with a hint of languid sultry oriental nights from the inclusion of the roses.
Finally – one needs some superlative food products to go with the Oxney Rosé and the Sylvaner, and these can be found from the Black Mountains smokery, in Wales’s Black Mountains. Although their products may be ordered by mail order or via their website, the most enjoyable way of purchasing these is to visit the Smokery itself. Tours run from March to October and include visiting the smokery areas. Here, one can view the curing / brining area (whether dry curing by covering the meat / fish in a layer of salt, or brining by placing in a salt solution – this dehydrates the product, removing all excess fluid), the huge smoking ovens – gleaming steel outside and thick black and tar-like inside (and which are specially designed to achieve consistency of temperature and smokiness) and the preparing and packaging section. The ethos of the Smokery is to employ minimal intervention in the smoking process, to create as natural a product as possible; the whole process is extremely economically run with minimal emissions – no belching chimneys here! I also particularly like the fact that the oak chippings they use to smoke the foods come from two sources – a local cabinet maker, and, more intriguingly, the Cadw (Welsh version of English Heritage) workshops – meaning that chippings come from the off-cuts of historical restorations; thus a natural waste product from highly worthwhile projects is being utilised, again, in a most laudatory manner!
The tour also includes tastings, including giving ideas for canapés and serving the products; here one will try the hot smoked salmon, which is quite delicate, whilst the smoked salmon is very smooth but quite strongly flavoured. The smoked chicken also quite delicate; the duck is particularly lovely (as is the glorious cider jelly and beetroot relish which are used to accompany some of the meats). The shop sells these products and many more, including other local and artisan products, as well as some beautiful wooden serving boards.
Whilst in the area one I would mostly strongly exhort one to make a perfect day of it, by taking the opportunity to visit the Cadw property Tretower Castle and Court, only a few miles away from the Smokery. This site presents the ruins of a twelfth-century motte and bailey castle, with its thirteenth century three-storey cylindrical keep and impressive fireplaces; and the adjacent Court. This is a fourteenth-century fortified Manor House, with gatehouse, ramparts and rooms, around all of which one can wander, and some of which have been reconstructed, such as the kitchens, clerk’s room and Great Hall, laid out as if for a banquet. At the shop one can purchase cool Fentiman and Belvoir drinks – perfect for consuming on a bench in the sun whilst soaking up the beauty of the area and the glorious atmosphere of the buildings.
Em Marshall-Luck is QR’s Food and Wine Critic