Wednesday, 19 March 2014

The Scent of Saint Emilion

Saint Emilion has its own scent . . . literally. Alienor de Malet Roquefort has created Eau de Saint Emilion a delicate perfume that is said to capture the soul of Saint Emilion – its rich history, the aroma of roses, the purity of the ancient limestone and its ancient wine making heritage. Alienor comes from the great wine making dynasty that own First Growth Chateau La Gaffeliere, Chapelle d'Alienor and Chateau Armens. The Malet Roqueforts are one of the oldest families in Saint Emilion, having lived there since the 16th century.

Alienor was inspired to create her perfume in 2005. She says that she has always been sensitive to smells; wine has its own bouquet, as does perfume. Creating a perfume follows similar principles to that of wine making. Both wine and perfume making use a process of transformation – from grape to wine and from flower petal to essence and both rely on the oenologist and their 'nose'.

Eau de Saint Emilion was developed in close collaboration with an expert perfumier in Grasse (which is famous for its perfume industry). The perfume is bottled in Saint Emilion itself. The Eau de Saint Emilion perfume range consists of 4 fragrances: Vert Frais, Fleuri, Fruité and Boisé; Arômes de Saint Emilion for men, and also includes scented soaps room sprays and candles.

There are other perfumes that are made by chateaux owners, notably Mathilde and Bertrand Thomas of Chateau Smith Haut Lafitte founded Caudalie, which has a range of perfumes inspired by the fragrance of the grape flowers and vines: Fleur de Vigne, Zeste de Vigne, Thé de Vigne and Figue de Vigne. Ginestet, part of the Taillan Group that own several well known chateaux across Bordeaux (Citran, Gruaud Larose, Broustet, Haut Bages Liberal, Chasse Speen) have 3 perfumes inspired by wines: Sauvignonne, Botrytis and Le Boisé.

However Eau de Saint Emilion is unique in that its intent is to express the spirit of Saint Emilion itself. It's a lovely concept and if you'd like to try it for yourself Alienor's range is available at and also at the Tourist Office in Saint Emilion

Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Irish Cuisine, Cheltenham Festival Week, Ardglass Potted Herring and Sparkling Wine from Alsace

There is a decidedly Irish theme around here at the moment; its Cheltenham Festival Week and Irish horseracing fans have flocked to the town en masse. The Festival has always been popular with the Irish, St Patrick's Thursday is the racing day before the famous Cheltenham Gold Cup. What's more Saint Patrick's Day falls on the 17th March so shamrocks and guinness are the flavour of the month. I have been looking for an Irish recipe to try and now Spring has a firm foothold with the weather turning warmer I thought a lighter dish would suit.

There is an old recipe that has really caught my attention. It's a traditional Irish dish called Ardglass Potted Herring. Ardglass sits on the east coast of County Down and a hundred years ago it was a booming centre of the herring fishing industry. The fishing fleet has long gone but Ardglass Potted Herring was still sold locally until a few years ago. Today the dish is kept alive by restaurants and countless family homes with each one having their own variant, handed down over the generations.

Potting – the sealing of meat, cheese and fish with fat or butter – has been used for centuries in the UK and it has delicious results. It has seen a bit of a revival recently with top chefs championing the method, such as Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Nigel Slater and (in particular) James MacKenzie, to name a few. I have enjoyed Potted Shrimps in the past but the Ardglass Potted Herring is more like a Soused Herring as it is cooked in a mild vinegar marinade. I think the dish must have acquired the name 'Potted' as in the old days they were baked in a fireproof pot. I have a secret passion for Rollmops (pickled raw herring wrapped round slices of onion or gherkin) – which, incidentally are also seeing a revival thanks to the recent interest in Scandinavian cuisine. So I can recreate an old dish and yet be at the height of fashion!

Ardglass Potted Herrings

8 herrings, fileted and heads removed
2 bay leaves
allspice (or ground cloves)
malt vinegar

Lie the herrings flat and dust with salt. Roll them from the tail up and place in a greased baking tray. Pack them in tightly so that they support one another and don't unroll. Pour in a 50/50 mix of malt vinegar and water to just cover the herrings. Add the bay leaves and sprinkle the allspice over the herrings. You can vary the recipe by scattering breadcrumbs or brown sugar over the herrings – or by drizzling honey. Bake in the oven for about 25 – 35 minutes until the herrings have browned. Serve with crusty bread.
Wine Pairing

Sparkling wine from Alsace pairs very well with this dish. Cremant d'AlsaceBrut from Jean Baptiste Adam is very aromatic and enhances spicy cuisine with its flavours of baked apple, brioche and spice. It has floral and fruity notes of apricot and acacia blossom and a dense and fine mousse of bubbles.