Thursday, 31 July 2008

Satay – The Kebab of South East Asia

Satay – or sate - as it is spelled in South East Asia originates from Java in Indonesia although it is universally claimed by both Thailand and Malaysia. It developed from kebab recipes brought with them by Muslim traders from both India and the Middle East. Satay sticks were originally bamboo skewers or sticks from the central spine of the banana leaf. In the coastal villages of Indonesia turtle and shrimp are threaded on to the sticks, pork satay is common amongst the Chinese and the Buddhists but in Thailand the most popular satay is chicken. Every little village and town seems to have its own recipe and every chef his favourite.

Satay makes a great barbeque meal – you can offer different dips with it, the most common being a thick peanut based sauce. However you can have satay with soy based sauces and some are even flavoured with turmeric, curry spices and coconut milk.

You can serve satay with platters of fresh exotic fruits like mangoes, papayas, bananas and pineapples. Side bowls of finely sliced cucumber and onion or tomatoes and sweet green peppers are good as well.

Thai Chicken Satay

1 inch piece of fresh ginger root
3 cloves garlic
1 tbsp Thai Curry Paste
1 tbsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp whipping cream flavoured with 4 drops coconut extract
2lb chicken breasts, sliced into thick ribbons

Pound the ginger root and garlic into a paste using a pestle and mortar. Add the Thai Curry Paste, turmeric and whipping cream and stir. Place the chicken pieces on a plate and rub the paste into the chicken. Marinate at room temperature for 2 hours.

Preheat the barbeque! Thread each chicken slice onto a skewer and cook for a couple of minutes on each side. Serve with Thai Peanut Sauce.

Thai Peanut Sauce

1 cup coconut milk
1 tsp Thai Curry Paste
3 tbsp smooth peanut butter
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp South East Asian Fish Sauce
¼ tsp anchovy paste
1 tbsp lime juice

Heat the coconut milk in a pan and bring to the boil. Stir in the Thai Curry Paste and cook for 3 mins. Stir in the remaining ingredients and cook for another 5 mins. Pour the sauce into individual bowls ready to dip the satay in.

Try this dish with one of the rosés from our selection of award winning Bordeaux Rosés and Clairets (£68.99)! These lovely summer wines are all top of their class and are the favourites of well known wine critics. We are releasing them at a saving of £30 off the recommended retail price as a summer treat which will go perfectly with your barbeque. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, 30 July 2008

Flying With Champagne

After the tragedy and trauma of 9/11 air lines were paced with the predicament that bottles of champagne could be used as offensive weapons (imagine a smashed jagged edge).

In 2003 LinkPlas, a New Zealand firm, came up with a plastic 33 cl bottle that looks and behaves just the same as its glass counterpart (apart from being a lethal weapon, that is). It is called the Pettle and weighs just over an ounce and is unbreakable. Given that BA passengers drink over a million bottles of champagne a year and that the average air line cabin is drier than the Sahara on a long haul flight the Pettle seems to be the answer to their prayers.

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Sunday, 27 July 2008

Champagne Launches

Breaking a bottle of champagne over the prow of a ship upon its launching and naming stems from an ancient practice dating back to Viking times when an offering of blood was used. Up until the late 17th century a cup made from precious metal was used – this was thrown over the side of the ship and King William III decreed that this was a wasteful practice and that wine should be used instead. At the time Britain was building its navy and throwing gold and silver cups over the side was getting expensive!

The practice of using Champagne came about in the late 19th century although ships can be launched with other liquids – the HMS Sutherland was launched in 1996 by a bottle of Macallan Single Highland Malt Whisky! Nowadays its customary for a woman to launch the ship but it wasn't always so. The first known instance of a woman sponsoring a United States Navy vessel was Lavinia Fanning Watson, daughter of a prominent Philadelphian. She broke a bottle of wine and water over the bow of the sloop of war Germantown in 1846.

Interestingly if a ship is not launched properly then bad luck is believed to haunt the vessel. The White Star Line had a rather utilitarian view on this matter and subsequently the Titanic didn't get the customary christening when it was launched in 1911 . . .

More recently the P&Os Aurora suffered the same in 2000 and has seemingly been jinxed ever since. Passengers who had booked on a world cruise ended up stranded in Southampton when the ship suffered from engine problems. P&O opened the bar as recompense and offered free drinks to assuage their passengers discomfort. The company ended up picking up the bill for 9,200 bottles of wine and champagne . . . now wouldn't it have been cheaper not to tempt fate and break one measly bottle of champagne over the vessel in the first place?

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Friday, 25 July 2008

Ship Wrecked Champagne

Given that Louis Roederer, one of France's oldest champagne producers is storing its champagne on the seabed off Northern France to see if it tastes better if it is kept in cold sea water and rocked by currents, I wondered what real ship wrecked champagne would taste like.

Champagne discovered on board the Jőngkőping, which was sunk by a German submarine in 1916, was bought at an auction in Toronto. The Jőngkőping was carrying 5000 bottles of Heidsieck's Goût Américain Champagne of the 1907 vintage (the same brand and year that the Titanic was carrying when it went down). The champagne was found at 210 feet where it had been preserved at a constant temperature of 3º – 4ºC. The champagne of this era was sweet rather than dry and once opened there was still a “pop” and a sparkle!

In 2004 Folkestone Diving Club discovered 20,000 half bottles of Champagne in a sunken French cargo ship, somewhere in the English Channel. The ship was heading for England when it sank in a storm on July 16, 1955. The wrecked ship was The Seine which sank after allegedly hitting a Russian freighter in stormy seas.

It is believed the champagne it was carrying was bottled about five years earlier to commemorate the end of the golden guinea coin - which experts could see faintly stamped on foil on some of the corks.

On opening the Champagne it was described as "pongy" – although it wasn't bad or spoiled it had a very slight hint of fish but didn't taste salty.

Check out our Champagnes starting at £16.49 a bottle at the Wine Shop.

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Thursday, 24 July 2008

Champagne Charlie

The original Champagne Charlie was a popular music hall song made famous by George Leybourne in the 19th century:

Champagne Charlie was my name,
Champagne drinking gain'd my fame
So as of old when on the spree
Moet and Chandon's the wine for me.

It later evolved into a play and a film featuring Tommy Trinder and Stanley Holloway. Leybourne made his career by making celebrity endorsements for Champagne and Moet and Chandon commissioned him to write and perform songs extolling the virtues of Champagne, especially as a reflection of taste, affluence, and the good life. He also agreed to drink nothing but Champagne in public.

Leybourne performed Champagne Charlie in top hat and tails, dressed as a "swell" in immaculate evening dress, with gloves, cane, and scarf, waving a bottle of vintage Moet and Chandon and ended up assuming the persona of his famous song. This didn't go down unnoticed by Moet's rivals though and Alfred Vance also introduced a number named Cliquot, starting a fierce competition between the two.

In 1989 Hugh Grant made a movie entitled Champagne Charlie where he played the 19th century French champagne magnate Charles Heidsieck. Unfortunately this was rather a flop despite the story line involving spies, gun running and Southern belles. Maybe the time is ripe for a movie on the original Champagne Charlie and the Champagne Wars that ensued!

Check out our Champagnes starting at £16.49 a bottle at the Wine Shop.

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Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Champagne Prices Going Through The Roof – Or Are They?

I spotted that Decanter has reported that prices of prestige cuvees from top Champagne houses are continuing to rise at an unstoppable rate, despite the current economic downturn. Apparently there has been an increase in value of 27% over the past 12 months. The price hike is said to be down to increased consumption and dwindling stocks as demand for top Champagnes such as Krug, Dom Perignon and Cristal is expanding beyond traditional markets.

The Champagne region has recently agreed to expand its borders to cope with the surge in demand. Forty communes are to receive champagne growing status, chosen because they can prove that they grew grapes in the past and because their geography, and geology, compare closely with the 317 existing champagne villages. If the grape supply doesn't expand, the French champagne houses say, the rising price for French bubbly could produce a consumer backlash affecting the industry for years to come.

However for those in “the know” Champagne doesn't have to break the bank. Nick buys our Champagnes from Philippe Seconde whose vineyards are one of the 17 premier cru vineyards that make top quality Champagnes. When you think that there are some 300 Champagne Houses and over 15,000 vignerons (vine growing producers) in Champagne it is quite an achievement to be one of the top 17. You will also be pleased to know that Philippe is not raising his prices to the percentages the larger brands of champagnes are advocating!

The problem is that people are blinded by brands. Philippe's Champagne is as good as – if not better – than his close neighbours Moet & Chandon and Taittinger. However people tend to opt for the more expensive brand names as everyone knows them. If people are too brand conscious they miss out on potentially better quality wines and champagnes on the market. If you know your subject you can find some superb champagnes and that's where Nick comes in – he makes it his business to discover lesser known wines and champagnes that the UK has not had the advantage of buying.

So if you were feeling disheartened as your favourite tipple looks as if it is going to price itself out of your reach check out the online wine shop and discover some fantastic champagne today!

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Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Grape Ketchup and Summer Barbeques

I have come across something a little different to have with your summer barbeque – Grape Ketchup! It's easy to make and is great with chicken drumsticks and burgers!

Grape Ketchup

3 quarts grapes, stemmed
½ cup water
¾ cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
1 cup apple cider
1 ½ tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
¾ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp ground clove
¼ tsp black pepper

Cook the grapes and water over medium heat in a pan until the grapes release their juice. Strain the juice and discard the skins and seeds. Combine the juice with the remaining ingredients and reduce over medium heat for 30 minutes. Cool and serve.

If you are planning a barbeque then why not choose from the 3 specially selected Summer Barbeque Cases at the Wine Shop? They are crammed with fruity wines with fresh flavours which will bring the scents of summer to your party!

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Sunday, 20 July 2008

Summer Snacks: Grape Crostini and Bruschetta with Red Wine

Crostini are small rounds or squares of bread brushed with olive oil, butter or crushed garlic and then baked in the oven. Crostinii means 'little crusts' in Italian and in France they are called croutons. They make great snacks but if you want something more substantial you can try Bruschetta – which are similar but larger. Bruschetta dates back to 15th century Italy and takes its name from the Roman bruscare meaning “to roast over coals”.

Roasted Garlic, Brie and Grape Crostini

You can marinate grapes in Port with rosemary and combine them with crushed garlic and Brie to make a delicious appetizer.

30 garlic cloves, peeled
½ cup olive oil
fresh thyme, chopped
grapes, halved
1 glass Port
fresh rosemary, chopped
1 baguette, cut diagonally into 24 slices, toasted
Brie, rind removed, room temperature
Fresh rosemary sprigs

Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place the garlic and the oil in a baking tray and roast until the garlic is tender (usually for about 30 minutes). Drain, reserving 3 tablespoons oil. Transfer the garlic to processor. Add the thyme and reserved oil and puree.

Mix the grapes, Port and rosemary in a bowl and let it stand for 15 minutes. Spread each toast slice with 1 teaspoon garlic, add the Brie over this and top with grapes and sprigs of rosemary.

Ricotta Salata, Thyme and Grape Bruschetta

Ricotta Salata is an Italian cheese made from sheep's milk. The milk curds and whey used to make this cheese are pressed and dried even before the cheese is aged, giving this pure white cheese a dense but slightly spongy texture and a salty, milky flavour – rather like a dry Italian feta. In Italian, ricotta simply means "recooked." and refers to the cheese-making process rather than a specific cheese. This ricotta is also a salata, or "salted," cheese. Sicily, because of its abundance of sheep, is justifiably famous for its sheep's milk cheeses.

1 lb red grapes
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
8 slices good white country bread
1 clove garlic, peeled and halved
1 oz ricotta salata
5 fresh thyme sprigs

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Remove the stems from the grapes and arrange on a small baking sheet lined with foil. Toss with plenty of olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. Roast for 20 – 30 minutes until just softened and juicy.

When you’re almost ready to serve, grill or toast the bread on both sides. Cut each slice of bread in half. Immediately rub one side with the cut garlic, drizzle with olive oil, and season with sea salt and pepper. Divide the roasted grapes between the toasts, shave over a few small slivers of ricotta, sprinkle over the thyme leaves and serve immediately.

Bordeaux Rosés and Clairets would pair well with these snacks – the Château Roques Mauriac (£5.49) is really refreshing when served chilled and has mouth watering hints of wild strawberries and the Clairet du Château des Lisennes (£5.99) has gorgeous aromas of raspberries, red currants and blackberries.

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Friday, 18 July 2008

Summer Snacks: White Gazpacho and Sparkling Wine

White Gazpacho isn't actually a Gazpacho at all although it hails from Spain – and is chilled. It is Ajo Blanco Malagueño'' and comes from Málaga and Granada. Ajoblanco literally means "white garlic" and the soup is made principally with almonds, bread, garlic, vinegar and oil with grapes floating on its surface. It's a chique soup and is a beautiful luminous warm white colour.


150g almonds
Garlic – as much as you prefer
100 ml extra virgin olive oil
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
200 g bread, crusts off
saltcold water

Grind the almonds in a food processor, add the garlic, bread, salt, olive oil and a drop of water and pulse til you have a paste. Add iced water and pulse again, and then just add water until you have the consistency you like. Ajoblanco can be thin and drinkable, like gazpacho, but there is a school of thought that favours a more spoonable, slightly thicker version. Add the vinegar and chill thoroughly. Serve in soup bowls, scatter the grapes on the soup's surface and drizzle with olive oil.

I think that Cremant d'Alsace (£8.49) would be great with this chilled soup. It's a sparkling wine from Northern France made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Auxerrois grapes which is light and fresh with a dense, very fine mousse lasting to the very last sip in the glass. It has hints of apricots, plums and lime blossom and is very moreish!

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Thursday, 17 July 2008

Summer Snacks: Chilled Grape Soup and White Wine

Chilled soups like Gazpachco are one of my favourites on a hot summer's day and there is a chilled grape soup that you can make which is refreshingly cool and revitalising.

Chilled Grape Soup

1 cinnamon stick
2 whole cloves
10 black peppercorns
strips fresh lemon zest
strips fresh orange zest
½ tsp unflavoured gelatin
1 ½ cups plus 1 tbsp white grape juice
1 cup dry white wine
½ cup sugar
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
2 cups mixed grapes, sliced

Put cinnamon stick, cloves, peppercorns, and zest strips on cheesecloth and tie it closed. Sprinkle gelatin over 1 tablespoon grape juice in a small cup and let soften about 1 minute.

Bring wine, remaining 1 ½ cups white grape juice, sugar, nutmeg, and cheesecloth bag to a boil in a saucepan, then remove from heat and add gelatin mixture, stirring with a metal spoon until dissolved.
Transfer soup to a bowl and chill, covered, in a larger bowl of ice and cold water in the refrigerator for at least 8 hours. Just before serving, discard cheesecloth bag and add grated zest and grapes to soup.

Try pairing this soup with Montagnac Chardonnay (£4.75) from the Languedoc – which is in one of the most southern parts of France, facing the Mediterranean and east of the Pyrennees.

Montagnac Chardonnay
is an un oaked Chardonnay and is a pale gold in colour, has aromas of summer flowers, crisp apples, citrus, pear and vanilla – with a sherbet bite.

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Wednesday, 16 July 2008

Summer Snacks: Grape Bread and Red Wine

Grape Bread is a traditional festive food both in France and in Italy which is made to celebrate the grape harvest. In the late 1800s people started to use bread dough instead of the more liquid cake dough. The baker would place a layer of bread, fill the form with grapes, add sugar, and then close with another layer of bread. A few grapes placed strategically on top and more sugar the dough is then cooked as normal bread.

Grape Bread

For the Dough
25g dried yeast
350g plain white flour
4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100g sugar

For the Filling
1kg black grapes
Extra virgin olive oil

Dissolve the yeast in a little warm water and add to the flour, oil, two tablespoons sugar and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Mix together rapidly, form into a round ball, cover the bowl with a cloth and leave to rise in a warm place for two hours. Using small, black wine grapes carefully remove the stalks, put in a colander, wash and leave to dry.

Divide the dough in two and roll out into rectangles the same size as the baking tray you are using. Put one piece in the greased tray and top with half of the grapes. Sprinkle with a little sugar and put the second rectangle of dough on top. Cover with the remaining grapes and a little sugar. Warm some oil with rosemary leaves in it and drizzle over the top of the bread. Put in the oven at 180°C. and cook for about 40 minutes.

The grape bread smells delicious and the perfect wine to wash it down with is Clos Bernasse4.75). It's a wine from Bergerac which lies either side of the River Dordogne, east of St. Emilion and Cotes de Castillon. Cotes de Bergerac Reds are well structured with aromas of preserved fruit such as prunes. Clos Bernasse is a lovely red wine to drink in the summer with its superb concentration of ripe black fruits and vanilla. It has a perfumed plum and eucalyptus smell with a hint of figs and is soft and fully mature. Enjoy!

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Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Art Deco Wine Posters

Art Deco Posters fetch large sums of money as they have become popular with their sense of 1920s and 1930s nostalgia for times long gone. The most famous poster artist was Jean Dupas (1882-1964) who created French art deco posters for the 1937 Exhibition promoting his native Bordeaux.

The one instantly recognisable poster is "Son Port' Ses Monuments, Ses Vins" (Our Port, Its Architecture, Its Wines), and is an image of a nude holding a column of grapes supporting a sailing ship with her right hand and a column of buildings supporting a modern ship.

Dupas also collaborated in the décor of famous steam ships during the 1930s and his work has appeared in Vogue and Harper's Bazaar.

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Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Châteaux Wine Lithographs – Charles Mozeley

Charles Mozley's lithographs of châteaux in Bordeaux are ethereally beautiful – the come from a set of 25 originally all published as a limited edition of 150 copies by ‘Christie Wine Publications’ in association with ‘Hedges and Butler Ltd’.

Charles Mozley was born in Sheffield in 1914, and he attended Sheffield School of Art. Subsequently he won a national scholarship and moved to the Royal College of Art in London in 1934. At the outbreak of the Second World War Mozley joined the Army and spent the next six years in uniform. Like many other artists he worked in camouflage; and was in military intelligence.

After the war Mozley achieved modest renown as one of the leading poster book jacket designers from the 1950s through to the 1970s. He did a substantial body of work for the wine trade and in the form of film and theatre posters (such as that for Alexander Korda's film An Ideal Husband in 1947).

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