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Drink of the week

Berry Bros & Rudd Reserve Red

Berry Bros & Rudd Reserve Red

Only a merchant with a pedigree like Berry Bros & Rudd could consider an £8.45 bottle a ‘house wine’ but if your usual fare is classed growth claret I guess it is.

And they’ve managed to come up with three very appealing wines in their new ‘Reserve’ range. The wines come from their existing supplier, Jean-Luc Terrier who is based in the Limoux area of the Languedoc.

I particularly like the deliciously warm, juicy Rhone-ish red which is based on Merlot with a dash of Syrah and Grenache (the Syrah particularly comes through). It’s hard to think of a type of food with which it wouldn’t appeal but it would be especially good with roasts, grills, pies, sausages and robust pasta dishes.

The Reserve White, a blessed relief from pure Sauvignon, is based on the excellent chardonnay of the Limoux region given an intriguingly musky spin with some Sauvignon Blanc, Mauzac and Vermentino. I immediately thought 'fish pie' when I tasted it.

And the pale, salmon pink Reserve Rosé, mainly Cinsault and Syrah with a smattering of Grenache and Mourvèdre is refreshingly dry with far more 'bite' than the typical Provencal rosé. The ideal wine to drink with seared salmon or tuna.

I also approve of the 13% ABV of all the wines - enough to give them character without being over-alcoholic.

These are reliable, crowd-pleasing but far from bland wines that really show off what the Languedoc has to offer. Given that BBR has the royal warrant I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the Queen didn’t have some in her cellar.

* Although all the wines, as I’ve mentioned, are £8.45 you pay only £7.60 if you buy an unsplit case of 12. Which is a bit of no-brainer.

Mutiny on the Beagle IPA

Mutiny on the Beagle IPA

With its own university brewing department (at Heriot Watt) Edinburgh is very much a beer-drinking city so it seems appropriate after spending a few days there this week that my drink of the week should be a beer

It’s actually made by 5 MSc students who collaborate each year with Stewart brewing to design, create, market, and launch a new beer. You can read about the project here.

This year’s brew is an IPA called Mutiny on the Beagle brewed with three British hops - Pilgrim, First Gold and Admiral including whole leaf hops from last year’s harvest.

It has a slightly different flavour profile from many modern craft beers - more restrained, more herbal, less citrussy. The label talks of marmalade and lime but I don’t get either strongly - maybe a whiff of Rose’s lime marmalade. It’s a very British - or rather Scottish - beer with a crisp, clean bitter finish and despite its 5.8% ABV, a refreshing session beer.

And the name? It apparently refers to Charles Darwin’s home voyage on the Beagle where he bemoans Fitroy’s obsession with hops. “I abhor the sea and all the ships which sail on it. The only thing which provokes a deeper loathing is Captain Fitzroy and his incessant quest for hops.”

At the launch the beer was apparently served with pulled pork sandwiches and mac’n’cheese which seem a couple of good pairings.

You can buy it for £3.40 from Edinburgh wine merchants like the Bon Vivant’s Companion, a really excellent bottle shop (pictured above) or £3.29 online from the Scottish Beer Shop. It also seems to be available in Edinburgh branches of Oddbins.

RinQuinQuin à la pêche

RinQuinQuin à la pêche

I love old-fashioned French aperitifs but the name of this Provençal one makes it doubly irresistible. And the peach flavour makes it perfect for this time of year.

RinQuinQuin - pronounced ran can can - is named after the Occitan verb requinquilhar - to cheer up or invigorate. It’s a 15% white wine based aperitif aromatised with three different kinds of peaches, peach stones and leaves which gives it a really intense natural peachy flavour (so not like Archer’s)

The classic way to drink it would be chilled on its own or on the rocks but it also makes a delicous low alcohol drink topped up with tonic.

Gordon Ramsay’s Bread Street Kitchen is using it for a cocktail called the French Lieutenant’s Woman along with another lovely French aperitif called Lillet Blanc: pour 5ml RinQuinQuin and 35ml Lillet Blanc into a champagne flute, top with tonic and garnish with a lemon twist. (All ingredients should be chilled, obviously.) Or use it to boost the peach flavour of a bellini.

I also like the producer's idea of drinking it with fruit salad though perhaps not with foie gras as the French (of course) suggest. You could also add it to a peach compote or jam (I love adding a little booze to jams).

It would be a great bottle to take to the hosts who have everything. You can buy it from thedrinkshop.com for £17.22, The Whisky Exchange for £17.95 and, I’m sure, from smart department stores and off-licences.

Clos Michet 2009, Domaine de la Taille aux Loups, Montlouis

Clos Michet 2009, Domaine de la Taille aux Loups, Montlouis

This week has been all about dipping into bottles in the cellar in our house in France. Well, not strictly the cellar - more like the cupboard under the stairs. It’s not ideal wine storage - it’s a bit too warm in the Languedoc - but it stays cooler than the rest of the house.

We’ve had a few under performing bottles, overlooked and kept too long, but the outstanding wine of the week has been this one: Jacky Blot’s 2009 Clos Michet from Montlouis, a sumptuous chenin blanc that one could easily mistake for a top white burgundy.

Although not certified organic (so far as I can make out*) Blot avoids the use of chemical fertilisers and is meticulously careful in his grape selection, discarding bunches if they’re in any way damaged. (We saw him do this one year.)

2009 was, of course, a hot year so this is riper than you’d expect but not blowsy at all. We drank it mainly on its own as an aperitif and the remainder with a chard and ham gratin with a creamy sauce with which it went quite perfectly.

It’s a great reminder of the virtues of hanging on to Chenin, especially from the Loire - and good to find that you can buy the 2012 vintage in the UK from Laithwaite’s albeit at a rather pricier figure (£21) than we paid for ours. Worth it though particularly as the 2013 harvest was badly affected by hail.

* there's an interesting piece on his approach to winemaking on his website if you read French. (The Google translation is pretty incomprehensible.)

Republika Pilsner: possibly the best lager in Britain?

Republika Pilsner: possibly the best lager in Britain?

The idea of a Czech-style lager made by a very traditional-sounding British brewery may sound bizarre but this is one of the best lagers - if not the best - I’ve tasted in the UK.

It’s a collaboration between Windsor & Eton brewery and Tomas Mikulica, Head Brewer at Pivovarsky Dvur which is just outside Prague. They used Saaz hops and Czech yeast which Mikulica brought over with him and the resulting brew was lagered for six weeks. It’s quite simply delicious - really fresh and full-flavoured. I was sorry I was tasting and couldn’t have a full glass.

You can buy it from the brewery website for £29 for 12 x 330ml bottles, from beermerchants.com (who seem to have run out of stock currently) and from the brewery shop in Windsor. Oh, and it's 4.8% if you're wondering.

As a footnote Windsor & Eton has also brewed a Brazilian blonde beer flavoured with guava called Maracana for the world cup in collaboration with a new Brazilian brewery Container who are brewing the same beer in Blumenau (rather hilariously called Wembley). Given both England and Brazil’s ignominious exit from the World Cup I imagine they may well still have stock. It too is available online and in pubs in the Windsor area. If you're a local have one tonight for Brazil!

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