Friday, 27 May 2011

Wine and Perfume

Hello everyone! I am posting Sue's blog today as Blogger is having a hiccup and Sue can't sign in!

Wine and Perfume have more in common than you might think . . . both uphold the notion of “terroir”; both need careful harvesting at maturity to gain the optimum quality and final aroma, both use a process of transformation – from grape to wine and from flower petal to essence, both undergo olfactory research, both rely on the oenologist and his nose and both are stringently monitored for health – allergens in perfumes and food safety in wine.

There are several perfumiers and wine makers who have made perfumes that have been inspired by wine - Ginestet Wine Merchants in Bordeaux have 3 perfumes made with the expertise of Gilles Toledano, Perfumier of Florescence Perfume in Grâves. The 3 perfumes are inspired by 3 major wines from Bordeaux: a dry white wine, a Sauternes and a red. Samples of these wines were sent to the Bordeaux Oenology facility in order to discover the primary molecules. The results were then sent to the Florescence Perfumery to create the essence. The perfumes are:

Botrytis - “Recalls a great Sauternes in its sparkling, autumnal silk rose. Honey, candied fruits, quince and gingerbread jostle and whisper sweet nothings”

Le Boisé - “Pays homage to the oak and that combination of matter, skill and know-how. The light vanilla touch of the oak delicately melds with the finest of spices.”

Sauvignonne - “Grapefruit, white peach and box tree aromas.”

The perfumes are faithful to Bordeaux wine in that Sauvignonne has light green tints typical of a dry white wine. Botrytis is slightly amber in colour similar to that of a Sauternes and Le Boisé is sold in a tinted bottle.

Across the globe a South African winery has created The Idiom Collection, in partnership with boutique perfumer Tammy Frazer of Frazer Parfum. The bottles are hand-blown by renowned South Africa glass blower, David Reade. Tammy Frazer, is the grandchild of the founder of Oil of Olay. The Bottega family, who own the Idiom Collection, chose to be the first winery to work with the South African born perfumer. The inspiration used for the perfume was particularly the IDIOM Cape Blend, which is a fragrant blend made with South Africa’s own unique varietal, Pinotage.

Alberto Bottega has said that: “The IDIOM Cape Blend is not what one might expect from a Cape Blend, it isn’t like the rough South African veld, rather it is like the gentle slopes of our Stellenbosch vineyards. It is a smooth rich wine made from the Cape’s own grape Pinotage (40%) blended with Cabernet Sauvignon (50%) and Merlot (10%). It is opulent and long lingering, with abundant aromas of deep red cherry fruit, sweet caramel and fragrant cigar smoke.”

There are also perfumes that are influenced by Champagnes (however they are no longer permitted to use the name Champagne as it is protected by the AOC).

Champagne Brut by Demeter

Royal Bain de Caron by Caron (launched in 1941 as Royal Bain de Champagne)

Yvresse by YSL (formerly known as Champagne)

If you can think of any more perfumes inspired by wines please let me know!

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Rosé Port

News has been released that sales of Rosé have dipped here in the UK with sales by volume falling 2% to 12.3 million cases in the past year as compared to this time last year when sales were enjoying a growth of 9% to 12.6 million cases. Considering its rise in fame over the past few years I am pleased that it has a place in the market place at all, even if it seems to be levelling off. Many people discovered new types of Rosé that they otherwise would not have encountered on the shelves – Clairets from Bordeaux, Rosé forms of dessert and sparkling wines . . . as well as a Pink Whisky from Bruichladdich and Pink Beers and Ciders!

One such innovation on the back of the Rosé boom has been Pink Port. Pink or Rosé Port is technically a Ruby Port, but is fermented the way a Rosé Wine would be, with a limited exposure to the grape skins, thus the pink colour. Bearing the hallmarks of a light Ruby with its taste being lighter in style and containing a fruity flavour, it's commonly served cold in various ways. Traditionalists threw their hands up in horror but White Port has been around for many many years . . . so why not a Rosé?

Back in 2009 The Port Wine Institute made Rosé Port an official category following the high profile launch of Croft Pink. Croft claims to be the first Rosé of its kind (though Poças released one in Portugal around the same time) and was a breakthrough for the Port house which traces its origins back to 1588. This Pink Port describes itself as fresh and vibrant but lighter on the palate than traditional port especially when served chilled, over ice or as a cocktail. Uses suggested for the Pink Port have been to charge it with chilli, spritz it with soda and fresh fruit, drizzle it over raspberry sorbet, serve it tall with equal amounts of Jasmine tea, or bring on the gin, orange bitters and ginger beer.

Quevedo is another Rosé Port and comes from a company that was founded in 1991 as a family owned business in the heart of the Douro valley. The estate is comprised of 100 hectares located in the regions of Cima-Corgo and Douro Superior, producing both Red and Port Wines from only the five traditional port grapes Touriga Nacional, Touriga Franca, Tinta Roriz, Tinto Cão and Tinta Barroca.

One of the more well known Rosé Ports is Offley Rosé Port and this is said to have a fine bouquet of tropical fruits and is fresh in the mouth with mango and guava flavours and a long elegant finish. Offley's history goes back to 1737, the year in which the Englishman William Offley founded the company to which he gave his own name. However it was in the 19th century that the company acquired a new dynamism. In 1831, Joseph James Forrester, a nephew of the founder, joined the company. An academic and an artist, James Forrester was the first person to map the River Douro and its region, as well as to draw maps that became works of reference. He also undertook numerous wine-growing studies and left important graphical works – paintings, drawings and sketches. James Forrester’s contribution to the development of the region where Port Wine is made, as well as to its trade, earned him the title of Baron given to him by the King of Portugal!

I am fascinated by new drinks – so often they are reworked inspirations from times long past . . . however Pink Port seems to date from 2008. If anyone knows of any made earlier please let me know!

Thursday, 12 May 2011

Laverbread – the Welshman's Caviar

Despite my many trips to Pembrokeshire over the years I only tasted Laverbread recently and was surprised by its taste. It is a traditional Welsh dish and Laver is an edible seaweed which is gathered around the Pembrokeshire and Gower coastlines (and Scotland too, apparently!). In the early 19th century, Laverbread (bara lawr), bacon, cockles and sausages was a common meal for miners. Laver is highly nutritious because of its high proportions of protein, iron, and especially iodine. It also contains high levels of vitamins B2, A, D and C. The high iodine content gives the Laverbread its distinctive flavour which is similar to olives and oysters.

The name Laverbread came from the “Laver” being the type of seaweed and “bread” because they mixed the seaweed with oats. To make Laverbread, the seaweed is boiled for several hours then minced or puréed. The gelatinous paste that results looks like very dark spinach. Laver is unique among seaweeds because it is only one cell thick so it looks almost transparent when floating in the sea. The main variety is Purple Laver (Porphyra laciniata / Porphyra umbilicalis) and this tends to be a brownish colour, but boils down to a dark green pulp when prepared.

The first mention of Laver as food is in Camden's Britannia in 1607 but it has probably been eaten for centuries. It is described as being harvested from Eglwys Abernon Beach near St Davids in Pembrokeshire and in 1797 it was reported that earthenware jars of pickled porphyra were being exported from Watchet in Somerset. In 1865 George Borrow on his travels through "Wild Wales" mentioned "moor mutton and piping hot laver sauce" as one of South Wales' great dishes – which sounds a great recipe and is one that I will definitely try. After all roast lamb is good with anchovies and rosemary stuffed into the skin so I think Laverbread could be a good option. I'll let you know how I get on with the dish.

Nowadays Welsh chefs use Laverbread in recipes that include lamb with Laver pesto, Laver ravioli, black risotto, Laverbread Dahl, sauces for canapés and fish dishes (crab, monkfish etc) and Laver soup (Cawl Lafwr). Richard Burton has been attributed as describing Laverbread as the "Welshman's Caviar" Laver is also a delicacy in Japan where it is mainly used for sushi meals.

The recipe I tried in Pembrokeshire was Laverbread with cockles and bacon. I used cooked cockles and Laverbread which I stirred into bacon fried in butter. It tasted delicious but the Laverbread is a sticky purée and it did not look as appetising as it tasted! I think that making Laverbread patties would have been better.

Here is a recipe to try:

225g cockles
knob of butter
freshly ground white pepper
225g Laverbread
50g oatmeal
8 rashers of bacon

Mix the Laverbread with the oatmeal and the white pepper. Leave to stand for 20 minutes. Heat a frying pan, add the butter and then sauté until soft. Shape the Laverbread mix into patties and fry until crispy on both sides. Once cooked leave somewhere warm. Fry the bacon in a separate pan and then add the cockles and cook until warmed through. Serve with the Laverbread patties.

Laverbread is difficult to pair with wine but depending on the recipe you are making you can follow some basic ground rules: Champagne or Sparkling Wine will go with practically any Laverbread dish. If you are using Laverbread with lamb I would opt for a Bordeaux Clairet or Rosé for their fruitiness. If you are using Laverbread with fish or as a canapé then a white wine that pairs well with oysters would be a good idea – such as a Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon blend from the Entre Deux Mers.