Riesling: The Queen of Grapes

Citrus aromas and a refreshing acidity make riesling a great accompaniment to food, and the latest offerings, ranging from bone dry to lusciously sweet, are nothing short of regal. Written for The Guardian, print May 2017 Riesling is a polarising wine, but once you get the riesling bug it’s hard to shake. Originating in Germany, this white grape took the fancy of the clergy folk … Continue reading Riesling: The Queen of Grapes

Pinot Noir: The Beauty & The Beast

Written for The Guardian, published print 12 May 2017 Pinot noir is, notoriously, the world’s most fickle grape. So why have vintners been on a mission to make good pinot noir for thousands of years? Because when you get it right, it can be one of the finest wines in the world. Resplendent with red fruit aromas, such as cherries, cranberries and raspberries, and with … Continue reading Pinot Noir: The Beauty & The Beast

Viognier: One Lucky Grape

Written for The Guardian, 5 May 2017 Always a tricky one to pronounce (ignore the g, it’s pronounced vee-on-nay), viognier has a long and interesting history. While most consider viognier a Rhône variety, it actually originated in Croatia. Legend has it that Roman Emperor Probus was so enamoured with the wine – and its characteristic peach, apricot and blossom aromas – that he ordered the … Continue reading Viognier: One Lucky Grape

10 Surprising Wine Pairings: from Pizza & Prosecco to Breakfast & Bordeaux

Written for The Guardian Popcorn and champagne This Lady and the Tramp-style pairing might seem strange, but the toasty, buttery goodness of lightly salted popcorn with a well-aged champagne is pure delight. Add truffle butter to pimp your popcorn. Macaroni cheese and chardonnay Macaroni cheese is a child’s proud favourite, and an adult’s guilty pleasure. Ramp up the guilt by pairing your mac and cheese … Continue reading 10 Surprising Wine Pairings: from Pizza & Prosecco to Breakfast & Bordeaux

Empanada and Wine Pairing

Written for Grape Collective

If there’s one dish that you’ll find in every country in South America, it’s the mighty empanada. It may be fluffy and moist, or crisp and crunchy, bite sized or head sized, baked or fried… whatever texture and filling variation comes your way, these pockets of pastry are a perfect, unpretentious appetizer that pair wonderfully with the region’s wines.

One of my favorite dinner parties to throw is an empanada party – you only need to make one batch of empanada dough (a basic pie pastry) and you can let your imagination run wild with playful pairings, and you almost always find they work with South American wines. Here are some typical, and not-so-typical, South American empanadas to try pairing with the region’s wines.

Chile & Peru: Seafood Empanadas, Pisco and Sauvignon Blanc

These neighboring countries have a lot in common: stunning Pacific coastlines, high altitude winemaking and both claim to be the creator of Pisco! It’s not strictly a wine, but Pisco is grape-derived and, besides, a punchy Pisco Sour cocktail is a perfect way to kick off a South America tasting. Pisco (you can side with Peru or Chile) combined with lime juice, egg whites, powdered sugar (or syrup) and a dash of bitters makes a light and frothy, sweet and sour cocktail predestined to get everyone in the mood.

The best pair for Pisco Sour is traditional ceviche for a tongue twisting lime-citrus punch, fresh seafood flavors and aromatic cilantro. While I am the first to say that nothing beats a traditional ceviche, my unorthodox suggestion is an empanada twist on the national dish (let’s hope no Chilean or Peruvian great-grandmothers are turning in their graves at the thought!) 

Leave the mixed seafood (cooked) and fish (raw, in cubes — try sea bass, grouper, sole, snapper or salmon) marinating with lime juice, finely chopped onion (salad onions or regular), red chilies, yellow pepper and cilantro for between 10 and 20 minutes, then stuff a couple spoonfuls of ceviche into your empanada skins, seal them well and deep fry until golden. The result is an empanada with warm, crispy pastry that contrasts wonderfully with the cool Pisco Sour but both harmonize in citrus, spice, sweetness and freshness. That should get everyone’s tongue tingling for the next course.

Another unmissable South American seafood empanada combo is the Chilean-inspired scallop and cheese empanada. Chile has a beautiful coastline and all along the seafront (especially towards the north) you’ll find empanada kiosks serving these freshly fried or baked empanadas that are just impeccable with coastal Chilean Sauvignon Blanc. I recommend wines from Casablanca, San Antonio, Leyda and Limari regions, and look for wineries like Amaral, Casas del Bosque, Leyda, Matetic and Tabali. The crisp, herbaceous and zesty Sauvignon Blanc pairs wonderfully with the sweet scallops and warm, saline melted cheese for a salty freshness and salivating snack that gives you a little taste of the ocean. Prawn and cheese empanadas also work well with Chilean Sauvignon Blanc, and if you really want to impress your friends try and get hold of some Chilean King Crab which goes a bit better with the rounder and creamier Chilean coastal Chardonnay.

Argentina & Uruguay: Meat Empanadas, Malbec, Torrontes, and Tannat

In Argentina and Uruguay, carne is king. Every dinner plate is dominated by steak, street corners are evocatively fragranced with a waft of asado (BBQ) in the air, and empanadas are almost always stuffed with their beloved cow.

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Chilean wines to take you through the Festive Season

With Christmas and New Year right around the corner, it can be a bit bewildering picking the right bottle for the right time. Help is at hand though, and Chile can be your answer for the whole festive season! Here are five top tips for picking the right bottle of Chilean wine for the holidays:

glass-of-sparkling-wine-valvona-crolla-vincaffeA bit of Chilean Sparkle

Popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly is essential! There’s nothing quite like the click of glasses and the excited flow of sparkling wine to celebrate the end of a year, and ring in the new year. You don’t have to stick with Champagne or Prosecco though, Chile has perfect sparkling alternatives for both.
If you fancy a fruitier, lighter bubbly (the style of Prosecco or perhaps Cava) there are many sparkling wines in Chile made with the charmat method which offer a bit of fizz, a lot of fruit and a lighter finish making them a perfect party popper. If you want a more structured and richer Champagne-style sparkling, try one of the traditional method sparkling wines that have rested on the lees for a long time.
If you want to try some fizz that is uniquely Chilean though, try the pretty pink sparkling Pais. This variety was almost abandoned in the south of Chile up until the last few years when winemakers brought it back into fashion by making lighter, easy drinking red wines. The experiments with sparking rose have resulted in a delicate sparkling rosé with lots fruit and a dry finish, ideal for pairing with canapes.


50 shades of Pinot

When it comes to Christmas and New Year food, whether you are celebrating in the Southern Hemisphere’s summer or you are trying to keep warm in the Northern Hemisphere’s winter, there’s always a myriad of dishes on the table to pair with a wine. If you want to pick one wine that will pair with most dishes, pick Pinot Noir.
A classic choice, Pinot Noir works well with fish dishes like fatty salmon or festive-favourite gravlax; poultry dishes like a roast chicken or turkey; lighter meat dishes; and even nut and mushroom roasts for vegetarians. Chilean Pinot Noir has lots of red and dark fruit on the nose and a good acidity making it a flavourful but fresh wine that combines excellently with many dishes.
Chile is naturally blessed with cool climates and marine influences, making conditions ideal for this variety. Try the expressive and intense wines from coastal regions like Limari, Casablanca, San Antonio and Aconcagua Coast; the juicier wines from cooler southern regions like Bio Bio and Malleco; or try a Pinot Noir from the Elqui Valley for something a bit different. There are so many excellent Chilean Pinot Noirs to explore this festive season!


Dare to be different

If you want to surprise your guests at the dinner table this season, give some of Chile’s more unusual wines a whirl.
In the south there are many old vines that are being rediscovered and brought back to the limelight. Pais is making a comeback across the country, and there are some great Cinsault and Mouvedre to discover too. Fruit forward and often made with lighter vinification techniques like carbonic maceration or without oak, these are expressive and juicy wines that are easy-drinking for festive lunch times too. Try producers from Maule, Bio Bio, Curico and Itata.
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Perfect Pairings for Thanksgiving

Written for Grape Collective Picking a wine for Thanksgiving is no easy feat. One of the most anticipated events of the year, you’ve got a long day of drinking and eating ahead, a large family to please, and the inevitable competition coming from beer drinkers — this is a tough holiday for the noble bottle of wine! Hit it right though, and you’ll get everyone in … Continue reading Perfect Pairings for Thanksgiving