I visited a friend over the weekend to share a few glasses of prosecco and put the world to rights. When she told me that when she usually drinks prosecco, she pops a pastry brush in the top of bottle I was fairly horrified. It is apparently just the right size to keep the bubbles in. However, we are not barbarians, so I told her about my new Avina Sparkling Wine Bottle Stopper and which I’d picked up at the UK Wine Hour Live event I went to recently, thankfully I’d brought my new stopper with me to try out.
If you’re anything like me, I often hesitate to open a second bottle of fizz knowing I will only drink one glass and the rest will go flat before I get the chance to finish it off another day. The Avina Sparkling Wine Bottle Stopper keeps the bubbles in the bottle and ensures that your fizz stays fresher for longer.
It has an easy clip and lock mechanism which was a little stiff the first couple of times I locked and unlocked the stopper. Once I’d got the knack it was very easy to use. The stopper has a sleek black and silver matt finish, and once it is locked in place it is completely spill-proof, so you can lie your open bottles down in the fridge if you need to. It also means they are really great for picnics or whatever when your bottle might not always stay upright.
We used it throughout the night, keeping the bottle in the fridge and opening the stopper to pour fresh glasses of prosecco. We were impressed. Our prosecco retained all of its fizz and we tested the stopper was leak proof by turning the bottle upside down. There was a satisfying hissy fizz whenever we opened the bottle and I am incredibly impressed with the Avina Sparkling Wine Bottle Stoppers ability to keep my fizz fresh.
The Avina Sparkling Wine Bottle Stopper costs around £12.99 but I’ve spotted it on Amazon for a few pounds less. If you drink prosecco as much as I do, this is a great investment. It would also make an excellent gift for any wine loving friends you may have.
Over the weekend I went to the Three Wine Men event at Manchester Town Hall. This was a festival of all things wine hosted by the Three Wine Men – Oz Clarke, Olly Smith and Tim Atkin. There were two huge rooms full of wine to taste and to buy. I went along with my friend and fellow wine enthusiast Pippa to discover some new wines. I’ve chosen my favourite wines from the day, some of which will definitely be gracing my festive table this year.
Very good vino
From decent everyday wines, to something special to go with Christmas dinner, there were hundreds of wines to choose from. Here were six of my favourites –
Cantina di Monteforte Soave Superiore Classico (Veneto, Italy) from Rude Wines – £8.99 a bottle. This is a beautifully balanced Soave, well rounded with a splash or citrus. An excellent every day drink and perfect for a warm summer evening.
Irresistible Limestone Rise 2015 (Surrey, England) from the Co-op priced at £7.99. I’m delighted to find such an affordable English wine at the Co-op, I love English wines, generally they are dry and a little flinty which is something I like in a wine. The Limestone Rise is produced in the Surrey hills by award-winning English wine producer, Denbies and is made from a blend of Bacchus and Ortega grapes. At £7.99 it is a good value wine and one I’ll be looking out for.
SPAR Gavi 2014 (Piemonte, Italy) priced at £8. Gavi is one of those names you look out for and they can be on the pricey side. This Gavi from SPAR is very affordable and worth seeking out if you have a SPAR local to you.
Spreitzer “Oestricher Lenchen” Riesling Kabinett 2014 (Rheingau, Germany) this was enthusiastically recommended to us by none other than Oz Clarke, who nigh on evangelised about German wines. This flinty little number is available from GK Winehouse and costs £19 per bottle.
Gran Vista Garnacha 2015 Campo de Borja features in the latest edition of BBC Good Food Magazine. It’s a very easy drinking and wonderfully affordable red which costs just £4.99 from the Co-op. Rich and fruity, it is light on the tannins which makes it easy drinking. This is definitely one to look out for.
The last of my wine picks is this cracking red from the Co-op. The Château Sénéjac 2012 (Haut-Médoc, France) is an excellent wine to have with Christmas dinner. Priced at £16.99, this is a bottle with depth. Packed with blackcurrant, cherry and hints of vanilla, this is a bottle which will please red wine lovers.
Despite trying all the fizz at the festival, I just kept coming back to the same bottle. It’s pink, it’s girlie looking, but it’s an astonishingly good quality fizz from the Co-op. The Borgo Molino Rose NV (Veneto, Italy) is £9.99 a bottle and is available in just 500 Co-op stores.
Crisp, refreshing and the most prefect way to kick off the festivities this Christmas this is top of my shopping list (and perfect for my forthcoming spa break with some friends next weekend). It’s even better than the Co-op prosecco, which was until now my favourite fizz. Track down a bottle and treat yourself. You won’t regret it!
Three Wine Men was mostly wine, but there were some fortified wines and spirits. I love a good gin and the Warner Edwards Victoria’s Rhubarb Gin was a fruity favourite. It would be great with prosecco or in a lovely cocktail. It’s around £35 a bottle (though I have seen it cheaper online) and something a little different for your cocktail cabinet.
No Christmas dinner would be complete without a drop of port and a good cheeseboard. The Co-op have once again come up trumps with this 10 Year Old Tawny Port NV (Douro, Portugal) at £13.99 a bottle. I’m not much of a port drinker, but this tawny port is one which suits me, deep and spicy but not over the top. It had me dreaming about wedges of Stilton on good crackers and a roaring log fire!
Tickets to Three Wine Men were £27.50 which gave you three hours to enjoy the festival and the chance to sample all of the wines and spirits in the building. If you are a wine lover or a wine learner, it’s a fantastic way to spend an afternoon and will leave you rosy cheeked and giggling on the tram home.
We had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon. Three Wine Men introduced me to some new wines and it helped to get me out of my wine buying rut, which is no bad thing.
You can find out more about the Three Wine Men festivals on their website.
What will you be drinking this Christmas?
We were invited guests of The Co-op, but all images and opinions are our own. Each wine mentioned I genuinely loved and will buy again (and again).
One of the boy’s favourite winter meals is a hearty beef in red wine stew, it’s something I’ve been cooking for years now, and since I got a slow cooker (or crock-pot) last year it’s been a regular in our weekly menus, something I can pretty quickly throw together the night before, or first thing in the morning and leave to gently bubble away in the slow cooker for the day. There is nothing better than coming home from a hard days work to find a hot and hearty meal ready to be served.
My recipe for beef in red wine is really flexible and pretty quick to put together. I usually use shin of beef or braising steak, these are both good for really long, slow cooking and are very tender once cooked, and so delicious my five year old makes short work of it.
Slow cooked beef in red wine
A delicious and hearty beef stew, cooked slowly until the beef is tender. A perfect winter warmer!
1 bottle of red wine, I used Eisberg alcohol free wine
1400g Braising steak, in chunks
3 large carrots
2 sticks of celery
1 stock cube
2 bay leaves
1 dessert spoon of tomato puree
1 teaspoon of sugar
2 tablespoons of plain flour
1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil (or similar)
Salt & pepper
Add salt and pepper to the flour and toss the beef chunks in the seasoned flour and fry the beef in the oil (in batches) until browned. Set aside.
While the beef is cooking switch on the slow cooker and put it on high, add the bottle of red wine (less one glass) to the pot.
Chop the carrots, celery and parsnips into bitesize pieces and put into the slow cooker. Peel the shallots and add those to the slow cooker.
Once all the beef is browned put it in the slow cooker with the bay leaves, sugar, tomato puree, stock cube and some more seasoning.
Deglaze the pan with the glass of red wine and add that to the slow cooker too.
Leave the slow cooker on high for two hours, or until you need to leave the house; then turn it down to low. The stew can be eaten after 5 or 6 hours, but if you can cook it for a bit longer then that’s always going to be better.
Towards the end of the cooking I spoon out some of the liquid and mix it with any of the remaining seasoned flour and add that paste back into the pot, this helps to thicken the gravy.
When you’re nearly ready to eat, taste and check the seasoning, adding more if you think it needs it. Serve with buttery mash and vegetables.
You can easily change what vegetables you use, root vegetables are always lovely in this, it’s great with swede if you have some or even new potatoes. You could use large chunks of onion instead of shallot if you’d like. It’s very forgiving and very flexible.
Made with alcohol free Eisberg, this really helps to cut the calories down in this hearty stew. At just 36 calories a (125ml) glass (compared to an average of 158 calories for standard red wine). This wine is a great option for people counting their calories.
Being a helpful, affable type, it’s in my nature to answer pleas for help and to do what I can to help my fellow man (or indeed woman). With this in mind I donned my expert wine tasters cape (yes, I do have one) and toddled off to Didsbury Lounge to help them decide what wines to add to their existing wine list.
Despite the fact I’d miss out on the final of GBBO, I considered it my duty to ride to the rescue, ensuring the good people of Didsbury will have top notch wine to quaff on the run up to Christmas. I’m incredibly selfless; you’re picking up on that aren’t you?
We were guided through a veritable sea of wines by Noel Reid, Wine & Spirits Manager from Robinsons Brewery. I felt in expert hands, Noel is a former international wine judge and an expert wine taster. Noel, (the lucky pup) basically gets to travel the world drinking wine for a living, or as he put it “sourcing exceptional wines”.
We tried a range of wines (listed below), but fear not, I’m not going to get all Jilly Goulden on you and start prattling on about hints of gerbil or that the wine tastes like freshly mown meadows or what not.
Frederico Pinot Grigio Collezione
Finca Los Alijares Viognier
Verdicchio Dei Castello Di Jesi Manciano Bonci
Sancerre Blanc Serge Laloue
Durius Reserve Syrah 2007
Rolling Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot
Tiasta Malbec Reserve
Casarena Single Vineyard Perdriel Malbec
Montelvini Asolo Prosecco Millesimato Extra Dry
They were all good wines, some were great wines and some I wanted to take home and marry. Not everyone agreed on which wines we preferred, so there really was something to please everyone. Not all the wines listed above will make the final cut, but my standout favourites were the Sancerre and the Casarena Malbec. All of the wines I’d happily drink again and again and again though.
Thankfully the good people of Didsbury Lounge were kind enough to reward our wine quaffing generosity by laying on some nibbles from their new menu. We had sticky rice balls, salmon mousse, aubergine dip, hummus, falafel, tzatziki and some still warm bread.
For me a highlight was the falafel, which were crispy and spicy. Falafel can often be bland afterthoughts, but these really hit the spot for me. I also really loved the sticky rice balls which had a warming hint of Thai spice with a crispy, crunchy exterior. I’ll be back for more of them. Possibly for breakfast in the morning. Who knows.
We finished the evening with a glass of Prosecco (this is Didsbury after all). It was a very fine prosecco, just the right level of dryness for me. I believe magnums of this delicious prosecco are available on Saturday nights for a bargain £25. You know where to find me on Saturdays now!
So next time you’re sipping a rather special Sancerre in Didsbury Lounge, spare a thought for this selfless blogger and all the hard work she put in to ensure you, yes you, only get the best. You’re welcome.
Didsbury Lounge can be found at 43 Barlow Moor Road, Didsbury, M20 6TW, Tel: 0161 434 2408 http://www.didsburylounge.co.uk/
Disclaimer: We were invited guests of Didsbury Lounge and were not asked to pay for any of the food or drink we had.