Friday night curry: Wines to go with spicy dishes

Post curry night with work colleagues, I felt inspired to share some tips for matching wines with spicy dishes. I LOVE cooking Asian inspired dishes – Thai particularly – and to find a great wine match is ultra enjoyable. Try these easy-peasy rules next time you’re stuck for choices and just dont fancy a pint (granted this is the standard UK curry match, and even as a wine lover, yes, I did have a pint of Kingfisher with mine !)

1. Match spice for spice. Try a spicy Gewurztraminer or Pinot Gris with a white meat, or veggie dish with a range of spices, or a peppery Zinfandel with a red meat dish to match red chilli spice.

2. Go for bold, not subtle. A subtle wine will be  overpowered by a spicy, often flavoursome dish. Go for complex or aged wines with big flavours, like a  zesty Riesling or a floral, tropical/exotic white.

3. Balance heat with sweet. Residual sugars in off-dry, and indeed some dry white and rose wines, balance the fiery kick in spicy dishes. Try a demi-sec Vouvray, a juicy Loire rose.

4.  Sparkle, sparkle. A dry or even demi-sec sparkling will cut through any grease and chillled bubbles will cool the palate but fire up fantastic flavours.

5. NO tannin! If you do fancy a red, don’t pick one with bold tannin, this will only enhance the spice and chilli-heat and will make a tannic wine taste bitter and ruin both the wine and food. Instead, try a lighter red like a Beaujolais or a powerful flavoured, spicy, robust red like Zinfandel.

To match these top 5 tips, here are my top 5 wine choices from established member’s owned co-operative, The Wine Society. The application is a one-off payment of £40.00 for a lifetime membership, but from now until Christmas, every new member gets £20.00 credit on their account to spend towards their first order!

1. Zarcillo Gewürztraminer, 2011, £6.25 per bottle. 13.5%. The pink-skinned gewürztraminer offers exotic flavours of lychees and superb value for money. Delicious with fresh ginger spiced dishes. One of my absolute favourite buys.

2. Kumeu River Pinot Gris, 2010, Auckland, £12.50 per bottle. 13%. A lovely floral pinot gris which is smooth textured, like good Alsace examples, but with the vibrant fresh fruit so typical of New Zealand. Although dry, the sensation of a little sweetness works well with a spicy Thai green curry.

3. Crémant de Limoux, Cuvée St Laurent, 2010, £9.95 per bottle. 12%. Stylish, rounded sparkler from the Aude Valley in the foothills of the Pyrenees where bubbly has been made for 500 years. The blend is chardonnay, chenin and a little local mauzac. A perfect aperitif. Crisp and fresh, try with a creamy curry to cut through grease, or a fresh, spicy chilli noodle salad.

4. The Society’s California Old Vine Zinfandel, £6.95 per bottle. 13.5%. California’s quintessential red grape, best at producing ripe, full-flavoured dry wines, this Zinfandel is a ripe but serious dry red with the juicy fruit and hint of pepper typical of the variety, with enough structure to last a few years in bottle. It would stand up well to robust, spicy, red meat curries.

5. Bleasdale Sparkling Shiraz, Langhorne Creek, £12.50 per bottle. 13.5%. Deeply coloured, rich-tasting sparkling Aussie shiraz. You may think – how is this going to work?! But it seems to have the sweetness to stand up to the spices and the sparkle cuts through richer curry sauces. Yes, Shiraz generally breaks the rule of avoiding highly-tannic wines, but the effervesence of this wine creates a lighter feel. Best served chilled.


Thai Curry snap from missy & the universe‘s photostream on flickr.


Out and about: Wines and beers at Borough Market

There is nothing greater than a fresh food market on a Saturday morning. Bustling with people, vendors shoutings to sell their goods, aromas of roasting coffee, fresh bread, spices and cooked meats.  Borough Market on Southwark Street, London, never fails to make me smile – and needless to say, spend lots of money! After a huge breakfast roll – bacon, egg and bubble – at Maria’s Market Cafe, we shuffled through every inch of the market sampling cheese, bread, olive oil, cured meats and spices.

All bases are covered at Borough Market, including beverages from specialist teas and world famous coffee to English cider, international beers and hundreds of wines. For a tippling market experience, fill up with a glass of Prosecco from Borough Wines or Cartwright Bros. and get shopping!

In the middle market, New Forest Cider sells by the glass or the bottle and offers dry, medium, sweet, Kingston Black, perry and – in the winter months – hot mulled cider, along with a selection of ciders made to the Normandy and Champagne methods. Apples from their own orchard in Hampshire are pressed in October and November, along with fruit from Somerset and Herefordshire.

Around the corner, Cartwright Bros.  specialises in importing wines sourced from small independent estates, sometimes directly from the growers. Wines are primarily French and Italian, but the range is ever increasing. Try a glass of Prosecco for £3.50 or a glass of mulled wine for £3.00.

Just next door is Utobeer, which stocks beers brewed in their country of origin – whether that be Britain, America, Belgium, Germany, Holland, Scandinavia or Australia, to name just a handful. As a proud South Aussie, I am very pleased to see not only Cooper’s Pale Ale, but also the Cooper’s Sparkling and Cooper’s Stout!

And right next to that? (This shopping malarkey is so simple!) Top up your Prosecco again at Borough Wines – although at £4.50 a glass rather than £3.50, it may be worth a few steps back to Cartwright Bros! Started as a promotional stall for Chateau Ponchapt, Borough Wines still remains amostly French selection, with representation in smaller numbers from Italy, New Zealand, England and other regions. As I was there, Nyetimber Sparkling was available to taste, and was on a special offer price.

If it all just gets too much, head to The Wine Pantry, just on the edge of the Market on Stoney Street – London’s first English wine tasting room. With over 20 wines available to taste or buy by the glass, thanks to automated dispensing machines, owner Julia Stafford is an inspiring ambassador for English wines as well as English cheese and cured meat producers.

A gourmet foodie’s idea of heaven, Borough Market is open for lunch Monday-Wednesday 10am-3pm, Thursdays 11am-5pm, Fridays 12-6pm and Saturdays 8am-5pm.

JoJo’s own photos 15th September 2012

Let’s rally for Camel Valley!

Whilst many producers in England have been making wine for a number of years, it appears now that the palates of us English folk are finally suited to, or seeking,  the crisp, cool varieties which suit our ever changing, unpredictable, cool climate. This means good business for many English winemakers, and indeed there has been a particular rise in the popularity of English sparkling wine.

Whether its the increased patriotism of a nation following the Royal Wedding, Queen’s Jubilee and Olympics, or that awkward episode of The Apprentice last year which has increased our interest in English wine, it’s fantastic news for an otherwise underdog of the wine world.

One producer which has revelled in this success is Camel Valley. Last week I was lucky enough to spend a couple of gloriously sunny days in Cornwall and dropped in to the Camel Valley vineyards tucked away in the gorgeous Cornish countryside. Thanks to the perks of our jobs, my colleague and I were fortunate to meet with winemaker Sam Lindo for a quick chat (and taste!) about Camel Valley and their recent successes.

While they consistently produce fantastic sparkling wines, their range also includes 2011 Camel Valley Bacchus, 2010 Camel Valley Atlantic Dry, a rose and a sparkling red. With  a beautiful spot in Cornwall, sun drenched slopes (when we went anyway!), soil and climate suited to the grape varieties – Bacchus, Reichensteiner, Chardonnay, Rondo to name a few – and simple, modern winemaking techniques (no oak, only sleek, incredibly shiny, stainless steel), Camel Valley has a simple balance which works.

My favourite (and the one I purchased!) was 2010 Camel Valley ‘Cornwall’ Pinot Noir Rose Brut which won Gold at the 2012 International Wine Challenge and was reported by Jane MacQuitty in The Times as ‘My favourite English rosé – and everyone else’s it seems… Gorgeous’.

Pale, salmon-pink in colour with a strawberry and raspberry nose, extending to a fruity, yet delicate palate whilst being effervescent but not aggressive. Serve chilled as an aperitif or with pork or chicken dishes.

Many thanks to Sam Lindo for taking the time from his busy schedule to chat to us.


Wine and Cheese – yes please!

I LOVE cheese – just putting it out there. And I LOVE finding the perfect wine to go with cheese – that moment when you get that it just goes, without even realising why. Recently I came across a fantastic article about cheese and wine matching in Aussie food and wine magazine, Selector, which put the art very simply; The whiter and brighter the cheese, the lighter and crisper the wine. The harder and darker the cheese, the darker and richer the wine. Another key point to note is that regional pairings also work very well, for example a goats cheese from the Loire Valley in Fance will pair well with a Loire Sauvignon Blanc.

If it’s the perfect match you’re looking for, it may be better to keep it simple and have just one cheese with one sensational wine match that your guests will remember – a full cheeseboard with a selection may prove more challenging. If this is the case, whites usually fair better as they go with a wider vareity of textures and flavours without being overbearing. At the end of the day, all palates are different and heavenly match for one guest may not work for another.

Try these classic matches to impress friends with your wine and cheese knowledge!

Sauvignon Blanc Soft goats or sheep’s milk cheeses
Chardonnay (oaked) Creamy Brie or Camembert – fat food, fat wine!
Viognier, Gewurztraminer or Riesling Sweeter cheeses like Swiss Emmental, Gouda or strong washed rind cheeses
Sticky sweet eg. Sauternes Blue cheeses – mouldy cheese with rotted grapes!
Sparkling wine or Champagne Hard cooked cheese like Parmesan or Gruyere
Pinot Noir or Cabernet Lighter pressed cheeses like Gouda, Manchego
Shiraz Mature, sharp, cheddar
Sherry Hard cooked cheese like Parmesan or Gruyere
Port Blue cheeses

As a self proclaimed wine and cheese aficionado (well, it’s great for a Friday night in!), here are a few of my favourite pairings:

Hardys Crest Chardonnay Pinot Noir NV Sparkling, Tesco, on sale at £6.99!! , with a deli Parmesan

 – Les Coteaux Tufiers Demi Sec, Vouvray, £6.95, The Wine Society*, with Lincolnshire Poacher

 – Saintsbury Chardonnay, Carneros, £16.99, Majestic**, with a creamy Brie

 – Cape Nelson Shiraz, South Africa, £8.99, Sainsburys, with a mature vintage cheddar like Davidstow

 – Campbells Rutherglen Muscat, Waitrose, £11.49, with a strong blue cheese like Stilton

For more great cheese and wine pairings – with a patriotic tick of approval – check out this great piece about Perfect Partners, put together by The British Cheese Board and English Wine Producers.

Cheers! Or should that be cheeeeese!

* Note that you do need to be a member to order from The Wine Society! Lifetime membership is a one-off payment of £40

**Note that minimum order is 6 bottles, but delivery is free when you spend £40

Cheese plate photo taken from cwbeucheler’s photostream on flickr.

Heavenly Hip Flasks: Pin-Up Girls by Hair of the Dog on Etsy

Our quest to find the coolest hip flask in town continues.

We know you can technically use hip flasks for all kinds of tipples, virgin or otherwise, but we reckon these ones definitely call for proper booze.

Hair of the Dog are an American seller on Etsy. We don’t normally feature overseas sellers, but their postage charges are so ridiculously reasonable we thought we’d go nuts.

The other thing that tipped it over the edge was the fact that their designs are utterly beautiful. They do plenty of varieties, but our favourites from the range are their delicious vintage pin-up girls.

Sexy without being smutty, and yet delightfully cheeky, they could not be more suited to adorning a hip flask.

We love this gorgeous girl in a yellow dress flashing a bit too much leg.

How about this saucy saluting girl? I know we’re supposed to be fixated on her upper assets but I just really, really like her shoes.

I love this lady of leather. She reveals nothing, and yet there’s something very sexy about her. Let’s face it, we all want to take a photo looking fabulous in that pose.

Okay, I pretty much want to be this woman in a red bathing suit.

These gorgeous flasks are $19 (that’s about £12.27 for you and I) with $8 (£5.17) shipping to the UK. Now you just have to choose which of these fantastic women you want in your pocket.

Heavenly Hip Flasks: Engraved from Berry Red

We love a good old-fashioned looking shiny thing. Especially when that shiny thing holds liquor and has silly writing engraved on it.

We’re still shocked by the sheer number of sexy little hip flasks there are on the market – they’re clearly more sought-after than we thought.

Berry Red have got their hands on these ‘hip’ hip flasks by New York designer Izola. Erring on the kitschier side of kitsch, they are still lots of fun and we love the fat, round design akin to more traditional hip-flasks. Proper pirate-wannabe stuff (we are dead-set on filling them with rum).

They come with three different engravings, but our fave is the cheeky ‘To My Health‘. Not because we find it funny, but because we all know a bloke that will. The flasks range from £21.50 to £23.50 and they come boxed – perfect gift-fodder for the drinkers in our lives.

What do you think? Tell us in the comments, or on our Facebook or Twitter pages.

Spruce up your Champers: Add Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup

Once upon a time only the rich could afford to indulge in some sparkles on a regular basis, but these days you can pick up a decent bottle of fizz (okay, maybe not Champagne) for well under a tenner.

For instance, the highly acclaimed Sumarocca Reserva Cava from The Wine Society goes down a treat at £7.50 per bottle, Aldi do a medal-winning Cremant du Jura for £6.99 and Waitrose currently sell their tasty Prosecco San Leo for a third off at £6.66 – go get ’em, guys.

If you fancy being particularly decadent (or just want to show off a bit like we did) you can pick up some hibiscus flowers in syrup to add to your Champers (or cheaper equivalent).

If you pop a flower into the glass and spoon some syrup over it, then pour over the bubbly, the little bloom will gently blossom into a very pretty flower indeed. The syrup will turn your drink delicately pink, and you can even eat the flower too – apparently, it tastes like raspberry and rhubarb. We like the sound of that very much indeed.

You only get around eleven flowers per jar, so this probably isn’t an every day indulgence, but it’s £8.99 per jar from Lakeland.

You can even go to whole way and get a gift pack from Waitrose Wine: a jar of the flowers plus a bottle of Champers in a purple gift box is £32.