An American Food Journey
When you think of American food, you might immediately be thinking of burgers, deep dish Pizza or one of my personal favourites, the mighty hot dog. After-all, it’s the nation ...
5 Top Tips for The Perfect Dinner Party
Lockdown has been a strange time for everyone. Most of us would’ve taken up a bit of dodgy DIY, becoming an expert sourdough baker or dusted off those forgotten cake tins to make endless batches of banana bread. These are things that haven’t really continued since lockdown ended, but one thing that might become a more regular occurrence is the old-fashioned dinner party. With a large number of restaurants still closed, many of us are hosting friends instead; choosing to shop for better ingredients and becoming a bit more confident in the kitchen. With the revival of the dinner party, we thought we’d share our top tips for being the perfect host, bringing your dining room to life and ways to introduce a bit of that restaurant magic into your own home. Tip 1 – Prepare ahead and keep it simple The old saying goes, ‘fail to prepare, prepare to fail’. And that truly applies here. Prepping as much as you can in advance will save you time and hassle when your guests arrive. From making sure your dishwasher is empty before the dinner party, to setting the table well in advanced so you’re not rushing around at the start. Keeping things simple will help you not only in the preparation, but also at the end of the evening when all your guests have gone, and you’re left with the washing up. Don’t try and do 3 courses on 3 separate plates. Serve from the middle and tell your guests to hang onto the same plate throughout. Keep the food simple too. For example, cold starters mean you can prepare ahead and serve immediately. You don’t want to spend your whole evening in the kitchen while your guests are having all the fun. Tip 2 - Bring the restaurant home We think bringing elements of a fine dining restaurant into the home, will make your guests feel like their having a Michelin star experience. From writing out simple menus, to name place cards, these little touches will go a long way. Here are some suggestions: 1) Writing out the menu’s for each guest. It is a small detail, but instantly makes your dinner party seem like an event. 2) Reuse your old wine bottles as candle holders. We have a great wine bar hack for this, as often the neck of a bottle is too narrow to fit a dinner candle. Simply dunk the end of the candle in some boiling water, for a few seconds. The wax will soften, and the candle will fit in the bottle neck with ease. 3) Reuse your old wine corks as place setting holders. Cut a thin strip off the bottom (to make a flat base) and cut a line across the top. You can then fit a name card in the top cut. 4) Writing your guests names on their wine glass with a chalk pen (available on Amazon, in WH Smiths and most stationary stores). With Covid safety being so important, this is a good way to make sure no one accidentally drinks from another’s glass. It also stops you from spending your whole evening re-washing glasses. Tip 3 - Splash out on nice glassware One simple way to get maximum enjoyment from the wine you’ll be serving, is to drink it in proper wine glasses. And that doesn’t mean spending hundreds of pounds on a set of new Zalto’s. Riedel and Spigleau offer superb, restaurant standard wine glasses at a really good price. Another sure way to impress your guests is to decant your wines. Even if it’s 30 mins before serving, the process of decanting wines will allow your wines to open up fully before drinking and will also make your guests feel part of something special. All wine can be decanted. And it’s super easy! Tip 4 – Be brave with your food and wine pairings Keeping things simple doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice on flavour either. There are some fantastic, easy recipes out there that can be paired with unusual wines. For example, deep, full flavoured reds like Shiraz pair really well with spice, perhaps a lamb or vegetable curry. Merlot is great with slow roasted meats, like a pulled pork taco. White wines can equally bring some interesting conversations to a dinner party, why not try hotdogs with Champagne, or salmon Gravalax with a cold glass of Provence Rose? Desserts are always fun too. Some great pudding wines will elevate a simple dessert to new levels. Try a cold icewine with a peach cobbler. Sweet wines will also pair really well with a well selected cheese board, especially creamy, blue cheeses. Tip 5 – Remember to enjoy yourself Hosting can be stressful, but always remember that it’s just a bit of food and wine. Hospitality comes from the heart, and no matter what you serve, or what inevitably goes wrong (you’re only human), the overall experience will still be wonderful. The simple act of cooking for friends, in your own home, is already so special. Everything else is just a bonus. You are not a professional restaurant, and your friends will love you even if you accidentally burn dessert. Great restaurants like to treat their customers as guests; people they have welcomed into their home to lavish with kindness, generosity and the food they like to serve. Sounds familiar doesn’t it? Relax, go with the flow, and always enjoy yourself. Bonus tip – The Hangover cure One last note from us. Drink well, eat well, and make sure you have a pint of water ready before you go to bed and no concrete plans the next day. Stock up on the berocca for the next morning and have the ultimate greasy breakfast foods ready to fry up. There is no set ‘hangover cure’ but these three tips have seen us through a lot of groggy mornings.
In search of Provencal perfection
Seeking Rosé from Paris to Provence. Provence rosé isn’t just for summer. To be fair, it never has been in my household. Rosé has always been a superb food matching wine, best drunk on the back of a super-yacht with that morning's catch of fresh lobster (so I’m told), as much as it’s an aperitif for those long summer afternoons. So, when we decided to bolster our already award-winning range, I felt I was born for the job. There’s only one place to go and look for Provence rosé, and unfortunately that is Paris. Luckily for me I arrived on a particularly dreary, cold winter's day at the annual Wine Paris trade event. A far, far cry from my imaginary yacht but my focus was clear, find the best possible rosé I could from well over 100 or so producers. Coeur Clémentine stood out from the start, not only because it tasted like pure Provençal pale nectar, but also because I had seen the label before and couldn’t for the life of me remember where. It’s not all miserable trade tastings in conference centres. Sometimes we do get to travel to these regions and taste from the horse’s mouth. A visit to Minuty last year involved a whistle-stop tour of some superb eateries, an excellent opportunity to see what the local sommeliers recommend and wax lyrical about. And just like that, staring down at my iPhone was a picture of Coeur Clémentine ‘Côtes de Provence’ Rosé with a plate of freshly prepared charcuterie in the background. I’ve lost enough tasting booklets over the years to know that snapping a picture of anything worthwhile is the way forward, so I at least knew the fact it was on my phone was a good sign. Fast forward to the summer and I’m incredibly excited to welcome owners Steve Veytia and Pierre Arosteguy to the Roberson family. The dry Côtes du Provence is a heavenly example of what Provence Rosé is all about. Delicate aromas of wild strawberry, almost floral with lovely bone-dry finish. They are also one of the few producers in Provence to make a sparkling rosé. Made from a selection of Grenache vineyards chosen extremely carefully, this is going to be the next big thing, after still Provence rosé that is. We currently have a range of Coeur Clémentine wines in stock now.
Provence Rosé Guide
Enjoy drinking Provence Rosé, but don't know a Côtes de Provence from a Côte De Boeuf? Consumer Buyer Jack Green sets you straight. Provence Rosé - A Beginner's Guide Provence, the spiritual home of rosé, has become a summer staple throughout the gardens of Britain and beyond. Famous today for its characteristically pale, delicate rosé from Cotes de Provence, historically, it was the first region in France to be planted under vine and as the Roman empire made its way north, other wine regions developed into the appellations we know today. The region of Provence extends over nearly 200 km, from Marseille in the west all the way to Nice in the east. The sun-soaked, picture-perfect landscape offers ideal terroir for growing grapes. While the days are long and hot, the Mistral wind that blows down from the Rhône keeps the vineyards cool at night, an integral part of the region’s climate. Tourism has also played a very important part in the rise of Provence; the long summers spent cycling through the rolling vineyards of the Cotes de Provence have bought a thirst for the region's delicate, pale pink rosé back to the UK. Luckily, there is plenty of supply in these parts. The three main appellations, which include Cotes de Provence, have a total of 26,948 hectares under vine - about the same size as Burgundy. These vineyards can make a staggering 155 million bottles per year, 89% of which is rosé. Given this equates to roughly 5% of the world’s entire rosé production, they certainly know a thing or two about making it. Provence Rosé Production Method There are two ways to make rosé. The common misconception is that they blend red wine with white wine to make the rosé, yet the only region this is allowed in France in Champagne, and it is not permitted anywhere else. The two methods used are: Traditional Method, or pre-fermentation cold skin maceration – this is where red grapes are allowed to macerate between 2-20 hours, like a teabag in cold water, gently extracting colour before fermentation. It’s a delicate balancing act, since macerating for too long will result in too much colour and extract, yet most high-quality Provence rosé will be made using this method as it results in a more characterful wine. The ‘Saignee’ method or direct press. This is where red grapes are pressed until they start releasing colour. A small amount of lightly-coloured juice is then ‘bled’ off and fermented, creating a second rosé product and concentrating the colour and tannins of the remaining red wine. Provence Rosé Food Matching For me the beauty of Provence rosé has to be the diversity of ways in which it can be enjoyed and the different food flavours it can stand up to. The laid back seafood restaurants that line the cobbled streets of St-Tropez provide ample inspiration for cooking back home. Roberson’s house favourite M de Minuty Rosé is a perfect match for a creamy shellfish pasta, or ripe melon served with cured ham. Yet don’t discount spicy food, as some of the top rosés with a bit of power to them, like the Château Minuty Rose Et Or, will pair remarkably well with medium spiced curries. The acidity will even cut through the fat of grilled or roasted meats - think BBQs with plenty of fresh tomato salads and Provençal herbs. Bring on summer!
Zero to Hero
Introducing Pierre Zero Alcohol-Free Wine It’s that time of year again. Veganuary, Dry January, or whatever you want to call it. It's the occasion to dig out the running shoes and dust off the spiralizer. What’s becoming clear is, unlike many of those hitting the gym this month, alcohol-free is becoming a drinks choice that is here to stay. I never thought I would be writing this blog post. For so long, low alcohol wines were considered a dark art that only German wine mega-factories could conjure up. You would find the wines lurking on the bottom shelf of a supermarket covered in dust. However, ‘healthification’ has swept the nation, with many people choosing to lower their alcohol consumption and be more aware of what they are drinking. The industry has reacted, and now we have an amazing choice of de-alcoholised beer, booze-free gin and now, expertly made non-alcoholic wines. When looking to bring on a new range of alcohol-free wine to Roberson, we had to taste a lot of non-alcoholic wines, and what became clear was that the variation in quality is enormous. We never list wines we wouldn't drink ourselves, and I wasn’t willing to compromise on quality just to fill a gap. Domaines Pierre Chavin are the market leaders in producing alcohol free wine. They stay completely true to the varietals and take every care to produce the best possible wine they can. They start by growing grapes in the Languedoc using artisanal techniques and take every care to preserve the delicate eco-system within the vineyards. After making wines in the traditional way, alcohol is gently filtered out before bottling. So, if you’re looking to cut back on alcohol consumption, yet miss the satisfaction of a nice cold rosé after work, a warming red with your Sunday lunch, or a crisp white with your midweek fish, look no further.
Mind over Malbec
Our European Buyer Jack Green spots the beginnings of a quality revolution in Cahors Malbec. Love Malbec? Of Cahors we do. On my recent visit to Cahors, a sleepy wine region in Southern France, I visited a new winery named Prieuré de Cénac, which has just been taken over by the renowned ‘Fabre’ family from Argentina. The place is picture perfect; as owner Hervé explained, when he first visited the Château ‘we stood quite still and were both struck by its beauty and overwhelmed with an incredibly good and peaceful feeling’. The principal variety in Cahors is Malbec, which is why this family, pioneers of Argentine Malbec, were so interested in making wine here. You can trace winemaking in Cahors back to the era of Ancient Rome, with some documents showing vineyards being planted around 50BC. That’s an awfully long time to perfect winemaking, and when Malbec vines from Cahors were taken over to Argentina, they discovered its terroir was perfectly suited to this Southern French grape. Argentinian Malbec has since become one of the most recognised wines in the UK and is poured, I imagine, in pretty much any restaurant in the country that has steak on its menu. So, what makes Malbec so popular? That story could start right here at Roberson Wine. Our founder Cliff Roberson cut his teeth in the wine trade many years ago by seeking out wines that supermarkets didn’t list but had huge potential. One of those was Argentinian Malbec. It became so popular for its favourable price and rich, exuberant, velvety palate that soon every wine shop in the country wanted it. For Hervé, having established one of the most successful Argentinian wineries after making his name as a respected wine merchant in Bordeaux, it’s a return to his roots. Cahors is the true birthplace of this magical varietal and it didn’t take him long to decide he had to invest in it. The vines of Prieuré de Cénac are grown on a plateau some 350 meters above sea level. Our favourite from this estate is the Mission de Picpus, recently awarded the Trophy and 95 points at the IWC awards. The wine is beautiful – bursting with dark fruit and soft, earthy flavours. This is a wine destined to be drunk with roasted meats, cassoulets or a lovely wedge of Comté.
Pale and Interesting
Our European buyer Jack Green reflects on the rise of Provence rosé to conquer the world's summer-drinking pleasure. St-Tropez State of Mind In this business we always have one eye on drinking trends, to see if we can spot what the next big thing will be. If you had told me ten years ago that pale rosé from Provence, or indeed anywhere, would be the wine in everyone’s glass, I’d have been surprised and intrigued. I’m sure anyone who has been to the south of France in the summer will say ‘come on, we’ve been drinking it for years’. What’s changing though, is countries outside of France are now cleverly producing rosé wines in the lighter, zippy style commonly associated with Provence. Even our winery London Cru made a rosé last year, which ended up being poured all summer at the Oxo Tower Brasserie in central London. What could be better? For me though, you have to start at the beginning: St Tropez, Provence. It was only when I visited the region for the first time last year, that I realised why Provence and rosé go hand in hand. Those long, hot summers that seem to go on forever, spent wandering the cobbled streets of St Tropez. Those lunches that start at midday and inevitably end up lasting until the evening, watching the sun setting over the Mediterranean. And, if you’re that way inclined, relaxing on your yacht on the calmest, crystal clear water you’ve ever seen. There is only one drink that seems to encapsulate all of this in one glass… a cold, crisp, pale rosé from Provence. Our absolute favourite Château in Provence is Château Minuty, which just happens to be a 20-minute drive from the centre of St Tropez, and one of the first of the 14 Châteaux be crowned Cru Classé along with its rivals Domaine Ott and Chateau Roubine. Our favourite location to enjoy a glass of Château Minuty is at the legendary Club 55. Famous for its fresh, seasonal produce, it’s hard to miss in St Tropez, right on the beach. But what if you can’t make it to St Tropez? Well, we have invited Sebastien Nore of Minuty to join us on the 17th July for a day of everything Provençal. First up, we’ll be enjoying a delicious, typical Provençal lunch, accompanied by our most popular rosé wines, M de Minuty and Rose et Or. Then, in the evening, we’ll be enjoying l’apero - Sebastien from Minuty will be pouring Château Minuty’s entire range, matched with typical snacks from Provence. As well as M de Minuty and Rose et Or, we'll also be tasting Minuty's white Blanc et Or and their exquisite super-cuvée 281. Tickets for both events are on sale now – don’t miss them.
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