Author Archives: The Editor

What to drink with pork

He [Jack Aubrey] said, ‘What do you say to a glass of Madeira before we go to the gun-room? I believe they have killed their younger pig for us, and Madeira is a capital foundation for pork.’

Madeira did very well as a foundation, burgundy as an accompaniment, and port as a settler; though all would have been better if they had been a little under blood-heat. ‘How long the human frame can withstand this abuse,’ thought Stephen, looking round the table, ‘remains to be seen.’ He was eating biscuit rubbed with garlic himself, and he had drunk thin cold, black coffee, on grounds both of theory and personal practice; but as he looked round the table he was obliged to admit that so far the frames were supporting it tolerably well.

From “HMS Surprise” by Patrick O’Brian

Dinner at Rawlinson End

SIR HENRY: “Help yourself to another glass of Chateau Cholostemy. You know, if I had all the money I’ve spent on drink I’d spend it on drink.”
NARRATOR: “Henry picked his teeth with a fingernail that would not have disgraced a flamenco guitarist. Lady Philippa, herself nicely irrigated with horizontal lubricant, leered appreciatively across at her host.”
PHILIPPA: “Could I have another whisky-and-soda?”
SIR HENRY: “Soda? Never trust anything without a cork in it.”
TARQUIN: “I say, old man, what about good old H2O, then?”
FLORRIE: “Tarquin, dear, Henry detests water: why, he even cleans his teeth in rum!”
NARRATOR: “Faced with the unwanted mockery of a wife, Henry sought instant consolation in the intimate proximity of his one true love – his goblet.”

From the 1980 movie “Sir Henry at Rawlinson End”, screenplay by Vivian Stanshall and Steve Roberts

BUDGET: Osborne again

Well, it could have been a lot worse … essentially the budget has added 5p to the price of a bottle of wine, and that is the difference that will be applied to Manor Wines’ prices from Monday 24th March.

Sparkling wines will have 6p added, and fortified wines 7p. No change on spirits.

The great news is that the duty escalator was not applied: this would have roughly doubled these increases. Phew.

There is a certain amount of confusion over exactly how much the duty increases are (for instance, HMRCs website says the increase for still wine is 6p a bottle). Our own calculations show the increases amount to a little less and, to give our customers the best deal possible, that is what we have gone with.

It’s worth emphasising that even with the lighter touch of this budget, duty is now £2.05 on a 75cl bottle of still wine. And the VAT on the duty (oh yes) brings that to £2.46 before you’ve even thought of shipping, bottle, label, cork – let alone actual wine!

Take one cow …

Syllabub – even the name is delicious – is a delectable mousse made by vigorously mixing wine with milk, traditionally straight from the cow, and it’s been popular for centuries.

If there’s no cow handy the milk can be whipped with birch twigs, aerated with a special bellows apparatus – or simply whisked with an electric blender. These days it’s usually made with plenty of cream and there are endless variations with brandy, cider, herbs etc.

Rather than give more detail and recipes I don’t think I can do better than point you to an excellent blog and website by Ivan Day, food historian, and a great recipe from Nigel Slater.

(And by the way, we reckon Late Harvest dessert wine as a great wine for this dish).

What is it about Pinot Noir?

Miles: Uh, I don’t know, I don’t know. Um, it’s a hard grape to grow, as you know. Right? It’s uh, it’s thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It’s, you know, it’s not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and uh, thrive even when it’s neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot’s potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they’re just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and … ancient on the planet.

From the 2004 movie “Sideways”, writing credits: Rex Pickett (novel); Alexander Payne & Jim Taylor (screenplay)

Mulled Wine

Every year, from about now, you’ll probably find you heart sinking as your host ladles out a turbid concoction referred to as “glue fine” or “van show”. It contrives to be cloyingly sweet, yet somehow bitter, mouth-puckeringly sour and much nastier than the sum of its ingredients. It will, at first, be scaldingly hot, searing you through its thin, plastic cup, quite possibly causing a painful spillage, then become quite suddenly uninvitingly tepid, and it will have bits in it. Don’t do this to people you like; here’s how to serve up a genuine treat.

Take 1 bottle of Manor Wines‘ (look, it is our blog) Vicuña Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot. It’s the perfect wine for mulling, with plenty of big, fruity flavours. Whatever you do, don’t use wine you wouldn’t drink un-mulled.

6 cloves
1 bay leaf
1 stick of cinnamon (avoid ground spices if possible or the result will be cloudy: it should be a wonderful deep, clear, glossy red!)
1 lemon, sliced
1 orange, sliced
Sugar to taste; less not more, this is meant to be for grown-ups

1 small glass of brandy (Spanish is good here, inexpensive with a great toffee flavour that works well). It’ll be delicious without, but this does give extra depth and pungency.

Put the wine, brandy and sugar in a covered pan (mix it in so it doesn’t catch on the bottom) with the cloves, bay leaf, cinnammon, lemon and orange. Heat and simmer gently for a minute then remove from the stove and allow to steep for half an hour or so (still with the lid on). Don’t let it sit much longer than this or you’ll get bitter flavours from the citrus fruits. If you are mulling the wine in advance, take the orange and lemon out and cover the pan.

Strain, adjust the sweetness and re-heat if necessary, just up to a simmer. There’s nothing to gain by boiling it and you’ll just drive off the alcohol and the more delicate flavours.

Serve it in something with a handle, preferably thick enough to keep the drink warm.

Enjoy it while you can …

O’Brien took the decanter by the neck and filled up the glasses with a dark-red liquid. […] Seen from the top the stuff looked almost black, but in the decanter it gleamed like a ruby. It had a sour-sweet smell. He saw Julia pick up her glass and sniff at it with frank curiosity.

‘It is called wine,’ said O’Brien with a faint smile. ‘You will have read about it in books, no doubt. Not much of it gets to the Outer Party, I am afraid.’ […]

Winston took up his glass with a certain eagerness. Wine was a thing he had read and dreamed about. […] it belonged to the vanished, romantic past, the olden time as he liked to call it in his secret thoughts. For some reason he had always thought of wine as having an intensely sweet taste, like that of blackberry jam and an immediate intoxicating effect. Actually, when he came to swallow it, the stuff was distinctly disappointing. The truth was that after years of gin-drinking he could barely taste it. He set down the empty glass.

From “1984” by George Orwell

In praise of fortified wines

He [Dr Johnson] rang the bell violently and, when the landlord was fetched, entered upon a learned disquisition on wines, with the well-thumbed cellar-book of the inn as his text. “Claret we shall not drink, though our host recommends his binns and it is the favourite drink of gentlemen in your country, sir. In winter weather it is too thin, and, even when well warmed, too cold. Nay, at its best it is but a liquor for boys.”

“And for men?” Alastair asked.

“For men port, and for heroes brandy.”

“Then brandy be it.”

“Nay, sir,” he said solemnly. “Brandy on the unheroic, such as I confess myself to be, produces too soon and certainly the effect of drunkenness. Drunkenness I love not, for I am a man accustomed to self-examination, and I am conscious when I am drunk, and that consciousness is painful. Others know not when they are drunk or sober. I know a man, a very worthy bookseller, who is so habitually and equally drunk that even his intimates cannot perceive that he is more sober at one time than another. Besides, my dear lady may summon us to a hand at cartes or to drink tea with her.”

Eventually he ordered a bottle of port, one of old madeira and one of brown sherry, that he might try all three before deciding by which he should abide. Presently Edom was summoned, and on his heels came dinner. It proved to be an excellent meal to which Mr Johnson applied himself with a serious resolution. There was thick hare soup, with all the woods and pastures in its fragrance, and a big dressed pike, caught that morning in the inn stew-pond. This the two Scots did not touch, but Mr Johnson ate of it largely, using his fingers, because, as he said, he was short-sighted and afraid of bones. Then came roast hill mutton, which he highly commended. “Yesterday,” he declared, “we also dined upon mutton – mutton ill-fed, ill-killed, ill-kept and ill-dressed. This is as nutty as venison.” But he reserved his highest commendations for a veal pie, made with plums, which he averred was his favourite delicacy. With the cheese and wheaten cakes which followed he sampled the three bottles and decided for the port. Alastair and Edom were by comparison spare eaters, and had watched with admiration the gallant trencher-work of their companion. For liquor they drank a light rum punch of Alastair’s compounding, while Mr Johnson consumed, in addition to divers glasses of sherry and Madeira, two bottles of rich dark port, dropping a lump of sugar into each glass and stirring it with the butt of a fork.

And all the while he talked, wisely, shrewdly, truculently, and with a gusto comparable to that which he displayed in the business of eating.

From “Midwinter” by John Buchan

Bargains are hard

1189A genuine steal is a rarity in the wine trade, despite what supermarkets would have us believe.

Those ‘half price’ deals are actually almost always wines being sold at their true value – the offer price is what they’re actually worth. They are sold at double price for the requisite period before the ‘price cut’ and then offered at ‘half price’ with all the appearance of a stunning deal. Check out the blog “Devious Dealings” for some more some more insights into the dubious practices of our leading retailers.

Enough of that cynicism, because Chateau Constantin-Chase Pétale de Rosé 2012 is a genuine bargain: a really delicious rosé from the Luberon – essentially a provencal rosé – for £5.95 inc VAT. That, of course, requires a little explanation to be credible: what’s happened is that one of our producers has branched out and bought a new vineyard from which he wants to produce red wine but In the cellars is a quantity of rosé wine. He simply wants to clear the cellar as neatly as possible, and so we have access to a small parcel of wine at a genuine bargain price.

The wine is excellent (we should know, we’ve sampled it enough), absolutely comparable to wine we have to sell at twice the price, and there isn’t much of it. So, for once, grab a real half-price bargain.

Prosecco – mouthful of the moment

Prosecco’s an Italian sparkling* wine, relatively low in alcohol (around 11%), named for the region it’s made in – Prosecco, just North of Venice – and it’s got to be made there, otherwise it can’t be called Prosecco. It’s made from at least 85% Glera grapes (which, confusingly, were also known as Prosecco).

It’s produced by the Charmat method: first, make a still wine, then put it in a tank with sugar and yeast to ferment again under pressure, dissolving CO2 and making bubbly. Bottle and drink within 3 years. Prosecco can be Spumante (fully sparkling) or Frizzante (lightly so).

Although it was once similar to the sometimes cloying sweetness of neighbouring Asti (which we think can be fantastic with cakes and puddings but not much else), the modern Prosecco is much more grown-up and adaptable. For many it’s the perfect aperitif, half the price of champagne, a good level of fruit that makes it interesting and easy to drink but remaining elegantly dry and refreshing.

* Like all things vinous, nothing’s absolute: there is still Prosecco, but not much is made and hardly any of that gets out of Italy.