This week I picked up three bottles of red for the same price as a Ryanair flight. Each cost £5 or less and all were on special offer. The question is, are they any good? Or has my attempt at being a frugal dougal been a waste of time? I will endeavour to be a good student and do my homework this week.
So the three bottles are:
1) Bodegas Age, Rioja 2008 - Marks & Spencer £4.32
Made from Tempranillo this wine is billed as young and fruity, with a fresh strawberry character.
2) Castillo de Calatrava Reserva 2001 - Sainsburys £3.99
The oldest and cheapest of the bunch, this is also made from the Tempranillo grape. But this time from La Mancha, the hot central Spanish plain, south of Madrid. The environment is harsh here, but this wine is an award winner, having picked up medals at the International Wine & Spirit Competition and the Decanter World Wine Awards. So it promises much.
3) Era Costana, Rioja Crianza 2006 - Sainburys £5.00
Another Rioja, this time a Crianza which means it has spent at least twelve months ageing in oak barrels and a further year in bottle. This too was a medal winner at International Wine & Spirit Competition and is a blend of Tempranillo, Garnacha, Mazuelo (Carignan) and the indigenous grape Graciano (Monastrell).
So three different prices, three different years.
Results later this week!
The lovely Miss SMBW sent me a package of the brilliant Gower Cottage Brownies this morning. They are now on my kitchen table screaming at me to be eaten, but they are packaged so beautifully that I'm delaying cracking them open.
Am about to make a cup of Earl Grey as no wine could possibly do these justice!
As white wine made its appearance at the villa very late this year, I bought a bottle of Spanish white last week from M&S. Despite being a behemoth of a store, the branch at London Colney had a very limited selection. So I plumped for the Cuatro Rayas 2007 Rueda, made from Verdejo for £5.39.
It transported me right back to Olivella. Grapefruit on the nose and lemon rind and gooseberries on the palate (like a new world Sauvignon Blanc without the grass) it was a fantastic partner to the oven-baked cod, basil and parmesan we had that night for dinner. I went back for more this afternoon, but they didn't have it at Muswell Hill! Drink it now people, if you can find it.
Still hankering for more white, I bought a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc from Sainsburys later in the week. I hate to admit it, but I was seduced by the label. First of all it had a picture of a bird - a brightly coloured illustration of the love-child of a puffin, a parrot and a flamingo called the pukeko. Secondly, it had a "carboNZero" icon on the label - and I am a complete sucker for the environmental responsibility of food and wine (though this might seem like an oxymoron for a wine that comes all the way from NZ). So the Sanctuary 2008 Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough couldn't fly into my shopping basket quicker.
I have a poor track record of selecting wines on the basis they have an attractive label. Thankfully on this occasion my selection criteria came good. It has lemon cheesecake on the nose and more lemon, ripe kiwi fruit and golden delicious on the palate. Mr DB and I drank it on Friday night, eating picnic food at Somerset House. Even out of a plastic bottle (no glass allowed, so the wine had to be decanted), chilled, it was the perfect partner to soft cheese, smoked salmon and Twiglets. I will be buying more.
As for its green credentials, I checked. The carboNZero programme is a international certification scheme to help businesses measure, monitor and reduce their carbon footprint. Yay! Now we can drink and help the planet. Just make sure you recycle the bottles.
Another year at Villa Karin in Olivella was enjoyed by all. Despite the humidity and the mosquitoes (who were oddly rarely seen, but frequently felt post feasting) we spent a week eating, drinking, lounging, reading and catching up on the gossip.
With such a hectic timetable of activities, who'd have thought Miss J and Mr P would have time to get engaged. But they did! And little Miss SE got water wings and swam and Miss LM reigned her subjects with an iron paw from her favourite lap, provided by Mr DB.
So what wine did we drink. Well here's a run down of my top 7...
1) Tinto de Verano
So not strictly just wine, because we bought it in 1.5l plastic bottles and it contains La Casera (sort of like a less sweet lemonade). But this was the drink of choice by the pool, on hot, humid days. With loads of ice, slices of lemon and a cheeky slosh of vodka.
2) Estola Gran Reserva, 1999
Mr J bought two bottles of this and it was the most expensive wine of the holiday - a bank breaking €10 a bottle. On the nose it smelt of vinyl, but it tasted smooth, leathery, blackcurranty and it was delicious with the veggie chilli, bean dip and porcupine hummous* on the last night. Worth every penny. Or Euro cent.
3) Arribeño, Cosecha 2008, Tinto
Favoured by Miss SJ for its fruity, jammy character, this young, easy-drinking red from Ribero del Duero was a brilliant to serve before food.
4) Coto de Imaz, Rioja Reserva 2004
One of the staple Riojas of the holiday, oh what fun was had watching Miss SJ's face when she took a mouthful of this one, thinking it was the Arribeño! Although it had coconut on the bouquet (due to ageing in American oak), it was earthy with a hint of fruit on the palate. This one was a winner for most of meals - versatile enough to partner with feta or manchego, burgers or pizza. A bit on the pricey side for us at €7.80!
5) Comportillo, Rioja crianza (red and white)
The red was a bargain at €1.75 and provided us all with another great Rioja. A mix of 90% Tempranillo, 10% Garnacha giving dark fruit with a touch of tobacco. Unfortunately we only discovered the white on Friday as Miss SJ was craving a white instead. So we parted with an extra 10 euro cents for it. Mr P said that if he had a restaurant he would serve it as his house white: light, grassy and tart. Great as an apertif and would be fab with grilled hake.
6) La Guita, Manzanilla
Two bottles of this were greedily drunk by a few of us. At €5.10, it made a brilliant aperitif, lovely with almonds. And salami. And Olives. Yum.
7) Anna de Codoniu, Brut Cava
Mr P says this is only available to the Spanish market. Shame on you Spain! Or should that be, how clever, how artful! We drank this to celebrate Mr P and Miss J's engagement. It was light, citrus-sy and I wish I could have drank more. Only I was driving. Boo!
* not really made of porcupines
Yes it exists! Check out the full story here.
Not sure if the producers have really thought through the implication of marketing this, given that it's a cartoon character aimed at CHILDREN!
I think we missed a trick not tracking some down for pink night. Or maybe not.
Miss SB held a dinner last night as it was her penultimate night in London - she's off to Croatia today, then heads to Spain for a few days at the villa and then back to London before heading home to Australia.
So I offered to be her kitchen bitch for the day!
In the past, this role was performed by Miss J or Miss S, but these days it mostly happens in Spain since we're no longer a group of girls all living in London, congregating weekly for Desperate Housewives Night. But I thought it would be fun to assist Miss SB with her epic Moroccan Feast.
And we had a blast!
Comedy moments with the cold tap, the mystery ingredient in the dessert, the lack of scales or rolling pin (necessary for flatbreads) and two minor floods resulted in some great food. We cooked two enormous legs of lamb in a Moroccan yoghurt marinade, couscous with 7 vegetables (actually 6, because TURNIP has no place in any recipe), houmous, baba ganoush, aubergine and roasted peppers as well as the bread.
And the wine? We had a lovely Anakena viognier and some easy drinking Casa Mia Fiano. But the highlight was a pomegranate bellini, made with Cava, fresh pomegranate and find of the week, a pomegranate dessert wine. The Rimon Pomegranate Wine was probably not intended for such use - it is amazingly fruity with good acidity and would be splendid on its own with dessert or soft squidy cheese.
But mixed with the Cava was phenomenal. Brilliant for a hot day with Moroccan nibbles. And it is apparently stuffed to the gills with vitamins and antioxidants. Yummy and good for the wrinkles! Check it out now at Waitrose.
Miss SMBW's wine night was a resounding success with Mr T sharing his wisdom and guiding us through the many bottles. (Mr T works for Bibendum and is not the one that works for the A-Team).
We drank three bottles of pink fizz, the winner being the Balfour Brut Rosé from Kent. We then moved onto the still wines with some rather lovely shaped bottles appearing from Provence and a dazzling array of pink shades. And finally four dessert wines.
Which brings me onto the best wine with the cupcakes. I brought along the Weltevrede Cape Muscat and it was lovely as I remembered, it wasn't the perfect partner to the cakes. The cupcakes were eaten at every stage of the evening, but they best complemented the Château Jolys Cuvée Jean 2005 Jurançon. Tart enough to cut through the sugary cakes and delicious with the cream cheese frosting.
Pink cupcakes, pink meringues and pink wine. Well done Miss SMBW!
Red velvet cake must have a cream cheese frosting (apologies for the American word there, but it doesn't sound right calling it icing).
And the cream cheese has to be full-fat. None of this skinny, no calorie stuff. If you're going to eat cake, which already has butter in it, then a dollop of full fat cream cheese is not going to make much difference.
I've made the icing, but I'm taking it over to Miss SMBW's to actually turn it pink and ice the cakes... more later.
Icing commences tomorrow. It will be spectacular.
What is the best wine to serve with strawberries?