Food and Wine

  • Malbec World Day

    Here are the top 3 things you need to know about Malbec!

    1 - Malbec originates from Bordeaux and South-West France but it’s in Argentina that this grape variety has gained global fame. If you are looking for a full-bodied red wine with big tannins then Malbec is for you!

    Malbec grapes in Cahors - Peter Hastings Malbec grapes in Cahors - Photo Peter Hastings

    Whilst it was first grown in South-western France, Malbec is one of those grapes that have gained global fame thanks to their New World version. Today Malbec has clearly become Argentina’s “national variety”. Grown in the high altitude vineyards of the Andean foothills, Mendoza Malbec has a plush texture and velvety tannins together with intense dark fruits and spices aromas.

    In South-western France, especially around the small town of Cahors – where Malbec was traditionally known as Côt or Auxerrois – more and more quality Malbecs are now  being produced, often in a more rustic style than in Argentina.

    Photo Tony Bailey Vineyards in Mendoza - Photo Tony Bailey

    2 -Malbec flavour profile

    • Appearance: deeply coloured wines, deep purple, sometimes almost opaque
    • Nose: blackberry, mullberry, black cherry, black plum, violet, liquorice, often with aromas from oak ageing (vanilla, toast, sweet spices, cinnamon, cloves, etc.)
    • Palate: full-bodied, often with a plush, velvety texture and big tannins

    Malbec flavour profile

    3 - Pairing Malbec with food

    Argentinian-style rib-eye steak
    Problably the most classic pairing in Argentina. Malbec - with its ripe berry aromas, mouth-filling texture and chewy tannins - is exactly what you need to match the pronounced, charred and perhaps peppery flavours of the steak.

    Roasted duck breast
    Roasted duck steak requires a big red wine. A light and delicate wine would be overwhelmed by the texture and the pronounced aromas of the duck breast. However a Malbec – with its velvety texture and high tannins – has sufficient structure to be a very good match. Why to serving it with a sweet cherry sauce that will echo the cherry and dark berries aromas in the wine?

    Traditional French Cassoulet
    Ever heard of Cassoulet? It's a traditional, slow-cooked casserole from South-West France made with duck, pork sausages and white beans. With such a rich and hearty dish, Malbec from South-West France will be a close-to-perfect match.

    Photo Stijn Nieuwendijk Rib-eye steak - Photo Stijn Nieuwendijk

    Happy Malbec Day!

  • Pairing our Pouilly-Fuissé - scallop tartines with red onion compote

    The buttery and nutty aroma of our Chardonnay Pouilly-Fuissé, Les Chevrières, Domaine Cornin will enhance the flavours of the scallops while displaying sufficient acidity to keep the palate fresh even if they are served in a rich sauce.

    On this instance, we have decided to pair it with a fairly simple recipe, adapted from Fumiko Kono's - La cuisine de Fumiko's book.
    This is one of my go-to recipe when I want to prepare a fancy dinner but don't have much time: it will be perfect for a special occasion (Valentines day and anniversaries we are looking at you) or a date night.

    Tartine is the french word for open sandwich. But don't judge it before you try it - it's damn good!

    Scallop tartines with red onion compote and curry

    For 2 people as a main course (or 4 people as a starter)
    About 10 minutes of preparation and 10 minutes of cooking

    You will need:

    • 12 scallops (3 per tartine)
    • 4 slices of French sourdough bread or similar
    • 4 tablespoons of Philadelphia cream cheese
    • 6 red onions
    • half a teaspoon of powdered curry
    • 1 tablespoon of apple cider vinegar
    • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
    • maldon salt and pepper

    Nice to have:

    • a few leaves of fresh coriander
    • 2 or 3 radishes

    Peel and slice thinly the red onions.
    Slice thinly the radishes.
    Soak about half an onion and the radishes in iced water for 10 good minutes.
    This will ensure you don’t ruin your date night by eating raw onions as it will mellow the taste and take away the stinging bite and the lingering after taste.

    Prepare the red onion compote:

    Scallops tar tines with red onion compote

    Heat a frying pan with about 2 teaspoons of olive oil or salted butter and sauté the onions until they are tender and caramelised. Add the tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to deglaze the pan. Turn off the heat and add a bit of salt and pepper.

    Toast the bread and spread the cream cheese on it.

    In a frying pan, add one tablespoon of olive oil and sear the scallops on high heat for 2 minutes each side.

    Cut the scallops in two so they are half as thick.

    Scallops tartines with red onion compote

    Divide the onion compote on the tartines of bread, add the slices of scallops and top them with the raw onions and radishes.

    Sprinkle some curry and add a few leaves of fresh coriander.

    Serve as a starter for 4 or a main course for 2 with a few leaves of salad (preferably with no vinegar).

    ET voila! Enjoy your dinner with our beautiful Pouilly-Fuissé for a perfect pairing! :)

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  • Pairing our Sauvignon blanc - Asparagus, lemon and mint risotto

    This is one of my favourite risotto recipe, it’s easy enough to be made on a week night but elaborated enough to make a great dish for a dinner party with friends.

    The good think with risotto is that even though it's quite hard-work, it is very forgiving: you don't have to be too precise with the quantities. As long as you don't over-cook the risotto, the result should be nice :)

    The creamy texture of risotto and the flavours of this particular recipe will enhance the zesty and grassy character of our Sauvignon blanc. This lemon, mint and asparagus risotto will be a perfect pairing.

    Don’t think you need to add dairy to achieve the creamy texture. If you are trying to avoid dairy or would like to make a vegan version, just replace the butter with olive oil and skip the cheese or replace with vegan parmesan (see recipes below).

    This recipe is perfect as a main dish for 4 adults or makes a side-dish for 6 people.

    It would pair well with chicken breasts (you could marinate them with lemon juice and a bit of mint) or you could simply add roasted almond flakes to give a bit of crunchiness.

    Asparagus, lemon and mint risotto

    You will need:

    • 1.5 liter of vegetable broth (about 6 cups)
    • 3 + 1 tablespoons of butter or olive oil
    • 2 shallots, chopped
    • 1 or 2 bunches of asparagus (12 to 20)
    • 400g of Arborio or Carnaloni rice or other starchy rice (about 2 cups)
    • 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh mint
    • the zest and juice of 1 organic or unwaxed lemon
    • 50gr of parmesan or vegan parmesan
    • 1/4 to 1/2 cup of dry white wine

    Almost any decent quality white wine can be used for the risotto. Here are a few tips that should help avoiding any mistake. Do not use a wine that is too aromatic - such as Gewürztraminer, Muscat, Viognier, Torrontés or Sherry - as it would be likely to add extra flavours that are not necessarily desirable in the risotto. Also avoid using an overly acidic wine as it could result in a risotto that doesn't taste creamy and yummy. Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Muscadet or Pinot Grigio would be perfect.

    Now that you are all ready, let’s get started with the cooking!

    Over medium heat, bring the broth to a simmer in a large pan and reduce to low.

    In the meantime, chop the shallots and remove the ends of the asparagus.
    My favourite way of doing this is to just bend the asparagus at its end until it breaks, it tends to break at the best point so you only keep the soft part.

    Chop the asparagus into small disks but keep the tips whole.

    In a separate large pan, heat 3 tablespoons of butter or olive oil other low heat. Once warm, add the shallots.
    Cook gently until the shallots look soft (after 5 to 10 min). Stir regularly so they don’t colour.

    Turn the heat up, add the rice and stir, it should sizzle.
    Keep stirring so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan and add the white wine.
    Stir until evaporated (about 30 seconds).

    Now the most important part - you might want to pour yourself a glass of sauvignon blanc as you won't be going anywhere more than a meter away form the hob :)
    Turn the heat down (medium) and add about 1 cup of the hot broth and let it simmer until absorbed, stirring frequently.
    Keep adding the broth about 1/2 cup at a time, allowing it to be absorbed before adding more.

    After 15min, add the asparagus and keep stirring for about 10-15 more minutes until the rice starts being creamy and tender and the asparagus are cooked. Make sure you don’t overcook the rice as it should be soft and creamy but still hold its shape (if it looks like rice pudding, you probably over-did it by quite a bit). When you are approaching the end of the cooking, make sure you taste the rice until it reaches the right consistency as you might not need to use all the broth. Once the rice is ready, turn off the heat and add the cheese, the last tablespoon of butter or olive oil, the mint, lemon juice and zest and season with salt and pepper if needed. Cover and let it rest for a minute. You can then add some freshly grated parmesan on the table.

    Vegan parmesan:

    Most parmesan cheese are not vegetarian so if you prefer to avoid it, here are 2 alternatives:

    • a nut version: in a food processor, mix 1 cup of raw unsalted cashew nuts, 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast, a tiny bit of garlic powder if you have some and a pinch or two of salt.
    • a bread version: in a food processor or in a bowl mix 1 cup of breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup of nutritional yeast, salt and pepper (garlic powder if you have some).

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  • The perfect wine for Thanksgiving

    What is the perfect wine to pair with your Thanksgiving turkey? Here are a few tips for our American friends in the UK.

    Photo: Tim Sackton Photo: Tim Sackton

    Pinot Noir

    You do not need a massive wine to pair with the delicate flesh of a freshly roasted turkey. A delicate red wine such as Pinot Noir would probably be a better match. US Pinot Noir – either from California or Oregon – would be the obvious choice here. Alternatively, you can opt for Burgundy Pinot Noir such as Domaine Carré Hautes-Côtes de Beaune. Light and delicate on the palate with bright raspberry and cherry flavours, it will be delicious with your Thanksgiving turkey!

    Gamay (Beaujolais Cru)

    Gamay produces wines which are not too dissimilar to Pinot Noir, generally light-bodied with bright fruit aromas. Beaujolais crus – wines made from grapes grown in one of the top vineyards of the region – can offer incredible value. Paul-Henri Thillardon’s Chénas Les Carrières would be a great choice: fresh dark berries and cherry flavours yet with enough structure and delicate tannins.

    Red Côtes-du-Rhône

    A Grenache-based blend from the Southern Rhone is likely to be significantly fuller-bodied than Pinot Noir or Gamay, but round and not overly tannic. Why not trying a red Côtes-du-Rhône by Clos du Mont-Olivet, one of the top estates in Châteauneuf-du-Pape? This is rich and soft on the palate with plenty of flavours that will remind you of ripe strawberries, plum and chocolate.

    Burgundy Chardonnay

    Yet you do not necessarily need a red wine to drink with turkey. When served with classic pan gravy, a full-bodied white wine could even be a better choice. Domaine Cornin Pouilly-Fuissé Les Chevrières is made from Chardonnay grown in Southern Burgundy. It has intense flavours of white fruit, citrus, nuts and butter, together with a full-body yet with sufficient acidity to balance the rich sauce.

    Photo: Yi Wang Photo: Yi Wang

    Rosé Champagne

    Champagne could also be an option to celebrate with your friends and family. However you need a Champagne that is rich and vinous enough to pair with turkey. Rosé Experience by Champagne André Jacquart – made from 80 % Pinot Noir and aged in barrels – has an unusually deep pink colour and intense aromas of red fruit, biscuit and nuts. On the palate, it is rich and vinous and will be the perfect partner for your Thanksgiving turkey.

    Do not hesitate to contact us (sylvain@sipandlearn.co.uk) if you have any questions regarding food and wine pairing.

    Happy Thanksgiving!

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  • Why you should get yourself a bottle of Beaujolais Nouveau

    Today is Beaujolais Nouveau day, and it has been so every third Thursday of November for more than 60 years now. Yet most wine lovers will simply ignore Beaujolais Nouveau as many consider it as no more than a marketing invention to sell huge quantities of under-par wine. Is Beaujolais Nouveau actually no more than that?

    Beaujolais vineyards - November 2014 Beaujolais vineyards - November 2014 - Photo: Goproo3

    What is Beaujolais Nouveau?

    As any Beaujolais, Beaujolais Nouveau is 100% Gamay, a grape that is too often overlooked. It is made from grapes that were harvested two months ago and made into a light and fruity wine designed to be enjoyed young and fresh. When made with care, Beaujolais Nouveau can be deliciously fruity with intense flavours of fresh raspberry, blackberry and violet. Aromas of banana and nail polish – which have unfortunately been associated with some wines – have no more place in Beaujolais Nouveau than in any other quality wine.

    A new generation of young and talented producers really takes pride in producing excellent quality Beaujolais Nouveau. One of our favourite producers is 28-year-old Paul-Henri Thillardon, one of Beaujolais’ rising stars, whose Beaujolais Nouveau is well worth a try!

    What to pair with Beaujolais?

    As a simple and fruity wine, Beaujolais Nouveau is not made for pairing with complex dishes. It’s probably best enjoyed as an uncomplicated drink to share with your friends. In Lyon – not far from where it is produced – Beaujolais Nouveau is often paired with local sausages cooked in a Beaujolais sauce.

    If you are looking for a more complex wine to pair with food, why not trying a “Beaujolais Cru” – a wine made from grapes grown in one of the top vineyards of the region. The likes of Moulin-à-Vent, Fleurie or Chénas offer more complexity and body while still exhibiting deliciously fruity aromas.

    Cheers!

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