Winter Pimm’s

There are many British traditions I adore after living here for 3,5 years and one of them is drinking Pimm’s all through the summer. Now I have tried the winter version as well, and I must say I really liked it. It doesn’t taste like Pimm’s No. 1 Cup, but there is something there for you to remember sunshine, cucumber and jug after jug of Pimm’s.

We served the Winter Pimm’s warm, with apple juice and orange slices, as suggested on the back. Delicious!

Champagne tasting at Harrod’s

Last week Christopher and I joined another 300 people at Harrod’s champagne tasting. We have been to two more wine tastings there; one with Tuscan wines and one with wines from Bordeaux, and both took place in Harrod’s wine cellar. This was a bigger event however, and was therefore hosted in one of the restaurants.

I definitely had high expectations for this event, as there would be 80 champagnes to try and a few of the rarer and expensive kund.

Just like at the other wine tastings we each got a glass, a brochure about the wines, a list for notes and a pencil. Since I don’t know that much about wines I find it difficult to take notes, but I still note which ones I really liked.

Plenty of well known champagnes were represented as well as a quite a few unknown to me. The big names included Krug, Lanson, Veuve Clicquot, Perrier Jouet, Mumm, Moët & Chandon, and we defintely wanted to try a few of those, although a few we had no interest in as we have tried them before and were not very impressed.

We started the evening at the Taittinger table and tasted us through all four champagnes they had to offer. Already at this point I could feel the bubbles, because the men and women pouring the champagne were very generous! There were baguettes and water at every table though, which helped, and trays of canapées came frequently from the kitchen.

I will not bore you with which order we tried the champagnes and describe them all, to be honest, I don’t even remember them all, but I will tell you which ones we really enjoyed as well as a few that disappointed.

The champagne house that made most of an impression on us was definitely Philipponnat, a small champagne house but one of the older ones. All of their four champagnes were amazing, although the non dosé (=without added sugar) was too dry as an aperitif but would work well with food. Their Royal Réserve NV actually tasted a bit like a vintage champagne and had the butteryness of older champagnes. Uttley beautiful and great value for money.

Another favourite was Ruinart‘s Blanc de Blanc, the champagne Ruinart is most famous for, and also the only one I really liked out of their champagne.

We also tried Gosset, which was completely new to me, but I learned it was one of the absolute oldest champagne houses and they have a great reputation. And after tasting their champagnes I definitely see why.

Goutorbe-Bouillot, Jospeh Perrier och Dampierre were other brans we really enjoyed and that I would happily by. The latter is served at the French embassys around the world and the former we got recommended by one of the staff at Harrod’s who definitely knew his wines.

One of the highlights of the evening was of course to try the more expensive champagnes. It felt a bit surreal to be able to enjoy Dom Perignon, Cristal, Krug och Pol Roger Cuvéé Sir Winston Churchill in one single evening. Out of these the Dom Perignon and the Cristal were a bit to young to be at their best, but still very enjoyable. Pol Roger Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill however was quite disappointing, especially since I really enjoy the Pol Roger NV. As expected though, Krug var delicious.

We had planned to skip most of the mainstream brands as we have tried them before and also because we knew we would be disappointed. But with twenty minutes left towards the end we still tried a few. Veuve Clicquot and Moët & Chandon were really disappointing after having tried all the others, and we expected that. Even the Moët & Chandon 2002 was not up to scratch. The best out of the mainstream brands would have to be Perrier Jouet, even though I am not really a fan. It lacks flavour and feels quite watery.

Out of the big names we would not buy any of the above but instead focus on  Laurent Perrier, Louis Roederer and Pol Roger (only the Brut NV), and after this tasting I could just not settle for anything less after seeing what is out there, even to similar prices.

Another champagne that I would like to mention, now that it is Christman soon, is the Leroy-Duval Paris Brut, which to me qualifies as the perfect gift. The bottle is wonderful with its Paris decor and the champagne itself is lovely, and not what you expect from a pretty bottle. It is however what you expect from the brand, which is good.

What to do with limoncello

Our Italian evening we pulled out all the stops (at least we think so) and used Christopher’s homemade limoncello for both the pre-dinner cocktail and the palate cleanser. The limoncello recipe is from the lovely cookbook Bringing Italy Home by Urusla Ferrigno.

The pre-dinner cocktail is so easy, but so so good. Add about a tablespoon of limoncello in a champagne flute. Fill up with prosecco and enjoy!

I would like to call the palate cleanser a sorbet, but because of the alcohol, it is somewhere in between a sorbet and a granita. Either way it really did cleanse the palate.

Limoncello sorbet, serves 4 as a palate cleanser

285 ml water

200 g caster sugar

100 ml limoncello

1/2 lemon, the juice

Bring sugar and water to the boil and let it boil for 5 minutes. Leave to cool. Mix in the limoncello, taste nad pour into a tupperware box with a lid. Place it in the freezer a day before you need it, so it can set as much as possible. Spoon into bowls or little glasses and squirt with lemon juice. Serve straight away.

Tuscan wine tasting at Harrod’s

I don’t think Harrod’s needs an introduction, and I am a big fan of their food halls, and of course the Laduree cafée. But this time we were there for a Tuscan wine tasting in their wine store in the basement.

I guess 100-150 attended this sold out event and we mingled around with our glasses trying 50 Tuscan wines. Most were red, but there were also a few whites and some vin santo.

But first, as a treat, we got to try four types of Bollinger champagne. It was two non-vintage; Special Cuvée NV and Bollinger rosé as well as La Grande Année 2002 and La Grande Année Rosé 2002. A few weeks back I got to try a Dom Perignon 2000 which was lovely, and actually a bit nicer than this Bollinger vintage. Don’t get me wrong, the Bollinger was nice too, and a lot cheaper if you want a vintage champagne, so I still recommend it.

Most wines at this tasting were, as I mentioned earlier, reds. Chianti and Brunello are the most common wines, and the most gommon grape is Sangiovese. Most reds had the main grape as Sangiovese but also had other grapes blended in.

We also got to try a wonderful rosé, that tasted Provence and a white vermentino that was absolutely fabulous. But the best memory from this evening was when we tried a beautiful vin santo. I have had several vin santo before, and other dessert wines, but this was something extraordinary. It was amazing and just blew us away. It was of course sweet, but had a deeper undertone that was just phenomenal. It is called Vin Santo di Carmignano Riserva 2005.

There were also canapées (much needed when trying that many wines!) and they were really good. They had arancini (being true to the theme), crisp salmon fishcakes, mini mini quiches with melt-in-the-mouth pastry and rare roast beef in a shortcrust crustade with horseradish, and a sweet lemon cheesecake to finish.

This was just a fabulous evening, and I learned so much about wine in general and Tuscan wines in particular from talking to all the vendors, but we also met lovely people mingling just like us, and I have a sneaky feeling we will see some of them at the next event.

Nice bubbles

The drinking culture is quite I mean vast in difference between Sweden and England. To generalise: in Sweden you drink at special occasions, mainly Friday and Saturday night. In England you drink to socialise and it doesn’t matter what day of the week it is.

So my relationship to alcohol has definitely chaged since I moved here, it is more relaxed here, and the main purpose is to socialise and have a great time. To make something a special occasion or just to indulge, champagne always adds the oh la la. In Sweden that is reserved to very  special occasions, and just opening the bottle the two of you is rarely done.

But since I moved here and started working with mainly French people I have learned that there is always something to celebrate and you can drink champagen when someone is leaving the company, or starting, or just because you feel like it.

I love this approach and my English friends have the same approach. We love to start a dinner party with some bubbly, and sometimes we just share a bottle at home because we feel like it. Be it a Wednesday or a Saturday, it doesn’t matter.

Among the larger brands NV champagne I now have a favourite – Pol Roger. This brand was also Winston Churchill’s bubbles of choice and that is why one of their champagnes are named after him.

What I liked about Pol Roger Brut NV was that it is dry, which I prefer, and lovely little pillars of bubbles. It feels and tastes luxurious and I suppose the design of the bottle add to that experience too. Cheers!