Iago’s Wine Chinuri Skin Contact 2017 (Georgia)

Recently, I happened upon a Twitter thread decrying those who would label orange wine as a “trend”. As Stephen Satterfield of Whetstone Magazine puts it, the style of wine has “been trending in Georgia and Armenia for, like, 8,000 years. We are talking about literally the oldest style of winemaking in the world.”

It’s true that Georgia is home to what’s thought to be the world’s oldest continually active winemaking tradition. It’s also true that orange wines – and Georgian orange wines in particular – have only started appearing on wine shop shelves and restaurant menus relatively recently. For many drinkers, the idea that there’s another vinous option beyond red, white and pink is still somewhat baffling.

It doesn’t help that “orange wine” is a controversial term, not least because many orange wines are closer in colour to gold, copper or coral. As winemaker Iago Bitarishvili notes, the term is particularly misleading in Georgia, as the country also produces orange wines made from, well, oranges. Instead, he prefers “amber wine”, while others might use “skin contact”. What they all describe is a white wine that is made like a red: instead of promptly separating juice from skins, winemakers keep them together during fermentation and into maturation. That period of skin contact can be as a little as days, as long as months. Generally, the results are wines that are deeper in colour than your classic, pale-lemon whites, and richer, often with noticeable tannins and a nutty, oxidated character.

Under his Iago’s Wine label, Bitarishvili produces an organic “orange wine” aged on grape skins, seeds and stems for six months. It undergoes maceration and fermentation in traditional qvevri – amphora-like earthenware vessels that are buried in the ground and cooled by the earth. His vines are some 60 years old and some of the qvevri he employs are a whopping 300 years old.

Chinuri is, in fact, the only grape that Bitarishvili works with on his two-hectare plot. The indigenous varietal (one of 500 unique to Georgia) is commonly found in the Kartli region, where Bitarishvili operates. It is high in acid, late-ripening, a popular candidate for sparkling wines and boasts a distinctive aromatic profile: there is an abundance of pear, a subtle hint of mint leaf and ample minerality. This wine also features a surprising (but not unlikeable) bitterness, akin to orange pith and walnuts.

Serve this wine cool but not excessively chilled – think 13° Celsius or closer to room/cellar temperature than fridge – to flatter its full complexity. Decant it before serving, too: with a little time and oxygen, its elements fuse harmoniously.

Claire’s food pairing: A caramelised pear and goat cheese salad or spiced roast quail

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our beer and food pairing book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, has just won Best Book at the North American Guild of Beer Writers Awards, and is available via our online shop and hopefully at your favourite booksellers.

Wine & Food Killers: Roasted Chicken Thighs with Potatoes, Bell Peppers & Balsamic Tomatoes and Jauma Like Raindrops Grenache 2017

There’s a lot you can say about September, and about its obvious superiority to all the other months. August’s blistering heat has been replaced by a subtle crispness in the air. September telegraphs school and new beginnings, and the ambient aroma of freshly sharpened pencils. After summer’s lackadaisical laze, I feel newly sleek, sharp and full of potential. And, as a side benefit, it becomes socially acceptable to turn on the oven again.

After spending the summer eating chilled, blended soups, salads and sushi, rediscovering the oven feels like a revelation: it does all the hard work for you and produces real greatness. Diana Henry, one of my favourite recipe writers, is fully aware of its powers; her newest book, From the Oven to the Table: Simple Dishes that Look After Themselves, is a celebration of the versatile, homey, unpretentious tray-bake dinner.

With this dish, I took the best parts of two recipes she’s recently teased, both of which use the humble chicken thigh as their base. Add a litany of vegetables – potatoes, bell peppers, onions, garlic – and some Mediterranean thyme and fennel seeds, plus lemons and a bit of heat in the form of red pepper flakes. To top it all off: tomatoes that are roasted until jammy, doused in olive oil and balsamic vinegar and honey. The resulting dish feels like the epitome of home cooking: hearty and homespun and satisfying on a bone-deep level.

Grenache is a grape that’s often paired with lamb, grouse or other game meat; depending on where it’s from, the sun-loving varietal can itself turn thick and stewed, and taste like cooked-down fruits. But Jauma’s exquisite Like Raindrops, made in Australia’s McLaren Vale region, is Grenache handled with lightness. It pours a glittering, gemstone-red, and while it tastes like snappy cherry, it also features subtle spice qualities, and a lovely, floral note.

This Grenache is light enough to be a natural fit with the chicken; little wonder some winemakers label it “the Pinot Noir of the South”. Together, the two have the soul of a rustic feast, though just enough elevation to feel worthy of a special occasion.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Potatoes, Bell Peppers, and Balsamic Tomatoes
Adapted from Diana Henry
Serves 4

For the chicken thighs:
600g new potatoes, scrubbed and quartered or halved, depending on size
6–8 cloves garlic, kept in their peel
1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced into wedges
2 bell peppers, seeded and stemmed and sliced into wedges
10–12 thyme sprigs
2 unwaxed lemons
2–3 tablespoons olive oil, plus additional
2 teaspoons fennel seeds
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus additional
2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus additional
8 large skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs
3–4 tablespoons capers, drained, rinsed, and patted dry

For the balsamic tomatoes:
600g medium tomatoes
2–3 tablespoons olive oil
2–3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2–3 tablespoons honey
Large pinch flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200° Celsius (395° Fahrenheit). Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Scatter the potatoes, garlic, onion wedges, bell pepper wedges and thyme sprigs across the tray. Using a microplane, grate the two lemons over the contents of the tray, before halving and squeezing over the juice. Drizzle over the olive oil.

2. Add the fennel seeds and red pepper flakes, and season with the salt and pepper. Using your hands, toss evenly to coat.

3. Place the chicken thighs evenly across the tray. Brush lightly with oil and season both sides with a generous pinch of sea salt, plus freshly ground pepper.

4. Next, line a separate, medium baking tray with parchment paper for the balsamic tomatoes. Halve the tomatoes and arrange cut-side up. Drizzle over the olive oil, balsamic vinegar and honey, and season the tomatoes with salt and pepper.

5. Add both trays to the oven, and roast for 30 minutes. At the 30-minute mark, remove the tomatoes from the oven (they should be lightly charred and very soft) and set aside. Add the capers to the chicken tray and return to the oven for 10–15 minutes more. The dish is ready when the potatoes are fork-tender, the chicken thighs are cooked through, and their skin is golden and crisp.

6. Leave to cool for a few minutes before dividing the chicken, vegetables, and any accumulated juices between four plates, plus the balsamic tomatoes; be sure to remove the garlic from their peels. Serve with rustic bread and/or a green side salad, if you wish.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, is out now and available via our online shop and hopefully at your favourite booksellers. Pick up a bottle of Jauma Like Raindrops here and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

Wine & Food Killers: Thai-Style Steamed Cod and Weingut Brand Riesling vom Berg 2017

Riesling is tragically misunderstood. Drinkers often avoid ordering it, assuming it is always sweet, though there are many delicious, dry Rieslings on the market. The impenetrability of the German-language terminology also doesn’t help (terms like Prädikatswein and Kabinett are far less understood than Brut, say, or Grand Cru).

It’s a shame because Riesling is a special grape indeed. When grown in cool climates and picked ripe, its bright acidity is steely as a blade but lively as electricity; it tends to taste of lime and flint and green apple. When grown in warmer climates or picked overripe, it takes on notes of tropical fruit and peak-summer peaches. (Sweeter Rieslings, especially those made with noble rot, can also be exceptionally delicious, though that’s a conversation for another time.)

Riesling’s vivid acidity and bountiful fruit character make it a natural when paired with South-East Asian fare and other potent, spice-driven dishes. That’s the direction I decided to go in when seeking a match for Weingut Brand’s Riesling vom Berg, which is produced in southwestern Germany’s Pfalz region. As its label suggests, the wine tastes like green and growing things, with an edge of musky melon and resplendent lime and pepper.

And so I found my way to this recipe. Though it’s common in Thai cuisine to steam entire barramundi fish, I simplified the technique by using fillets of cod instead (though you could use sea bass, monkfish – whatever catches your fancy, really). Instead of steaming the fish in a banana leaf, I also went with the French en papillote approach, in which the fillet is sealed with an array of aromatics (in this case, lime slices and lime leaves, plus shallots, ginger, and lemongrass) and cooked in a parcel of parchment paper. After steaming in the oven, it’s topped with a sweet, funky, and lightly spicy sauce, and served alongside sticky rice.

Together, the two are an equally bright paean to summer: vivid with citrus, light and refreshing, both in perfect harmony.

Thai-Style Steamed Cod
Serves 2

For the fish:
8-10 makrut lime leaves
2 limes, thinly sliced
2 lemongrass stalks (outer layers only)
2 échalion (banana) shallots, peeled and cut into rounds
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and cut into rounds
2 large cod fillets
Flaky sea salt
White pepper

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 échalion (banana) shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
2 lemongrass stalks (tender cores only, minced)
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 thumb-sized piece ginger, minced
1 bird’s eye chilli, minced
Small handful coriander stems, minced
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons palm sugar
60ml freshly squeezed lime juice

To serve:
Sticky rice
Extra lime slices
Fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 200° Celsius (395° Fahrenheit). First, prepare the cod parcels. For each fish fillet, you’ll need one large sheet of baking/parchment paper, at least four or five times the size of the fillet. Place the sheet in front of you with the shortest edge facing you and fold the paper in half from the top. Unfold it so you have a crease running through the middle.

2. Just below the crease, arrange a bed of aromatics for the fillet to sit on, just larger than the fish itself. Arrange half of the lime slices and several lime leaves in a flat layer. Remove the tough outer layers of one piece of lemongrass and add to the limes (mince and reserve the tender inner core, which you’ll need later for the sauce). Add half of the shallot and ginger slices.

3. Season your fillet with a pinch of salt and white pepper on both sides, and place on top of the aromatics. Top with a few more lime leaves before sealing: fold over the top of the sheet and create a parcel by folding the outer layers over each other until tightly sealed. Repeat with the second fillet and remaining aromatics.

4. Place the parcels on a baking sheet and add to the oven. Bake for approximately 12–15 minutes, or until cooked through.

5. Meanwhile, make the sauce. Add the vegetable oil to a small saucepan and place over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the shallots, and cook for 2–3 minutes, or until softened. Add the reserved minced lemongrass as well as the garlic, ginger, chilli and coriander stems. Cook for 2–3 minutes more, or until softened and fragrant.

6. Add the fish sauce and palm sugar, and cook until the sugar is melted and incorporated. Pour in the lime juice and stir for a minute or two more until the sauce is slightly thickened. Remove from the heat and set aside.

7. To serve, scatter a few lime slices across two plates. Remove the fish fillets from the parcels (being careful not to burn yourself when the steam is released) and transfer to the plates with a few shallot rounds; discard the remaining aromatics and parchment paper. Divide the sauce between the two fillets and garnish with the coriander leaves. Serve with sticky rice on the side to help sop up the sauce.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer and wine hound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

WINE & FOOD KILLERS: L’Austral Jolie Brise Blanc 2017 and Strawberries & Meringue with Pistachio Gelato, Olive Oil & Sichuan Pepper

This dessert had two inspirations. One was Instagram – specifically, a photo taken at Paris restaurant Cheval d’Or, which showed a scattering of strawberries on a stoneware plate, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with ground Sichuan pepper. It sounds outlandish, but it actually makes sense that Sichuan pepper works with the fruit; strawberries and black pepper are a tried-and-true combination, and Sichuan peppercorns, both tinglingly electric and fruity in flavour, add just that little extra kick.

The other inspiration was my all-time favourite, desert-island dessert, which I had at London’s P Franco a few years back. It was just a pistachio ice cream, but somehow better than every other pistachio ice cream that has ever came before it. It was also drizzled in fine olive oil and sprinkled with sea salt.

As you have likely gleaned by now, I prefer my desserts with a savoury edge – enough to counterbalance the sweetness and prevent them from being cloying. This dish, with its olive oil and pepper, plus meringue and strawberry and gelato, is the ideal blend of both.

You could very well pair this dessert with a wine with some residual sweetness – in fact, that might be the more popular choice. Me, I quite like this bone-dry pet nat alongside. It has that classic Chenin Blanc nose – mingled notes of pear and apple, honey and lemon – which conjures whispers of sweetness, though on the palate it’s all fizz and zesty acidity. I think this dessert is just savoury enough to support it. Like the pleasingly tart strawberries, this bubbly adds its own refreshing, contrasting piquancy.

Strawberries and Meringue with Pistachio Gelato, Olive Oil & Sichuan Pepper Meringue
Adapted from Delicious
Serves 2

For the meringue:
½ lemon
Three large eggs, room temperature
175g (6oz) caster sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla-bean paste (or vanilla extract)

For the dessert:
½ tub pistachio gelato (available at specialist retailers and good supermarkets)
200g (7oz) strawberries of various sizes (large ones hulled and halved)
3-4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (the best quality you can get)
½ teaspoon ground Sichuan pepper (or black pepper)

1. First, make the meringue. Preheat your oven to 120° Celsius. Ensure your large mixing bowl and electric whisk are completely clean (any traces of grease or fat will prevent the meringue from properly forming). Wipe both the bowl and beaters with a lemon half; the acid helps the meringue form and stabilise.

2. Crack the eggs and separate the whites and the yolks (discard the yolks, or save for another project). Add the whites to the bowl, ensuring there are no traces of yolk or shell. Beat on high speed, using your electric whisk, until the whites form soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat well in between. Beat for a total of 5-6 minutes, or until the meringue is stiff and glossy. Add the vanilla bean paste and beat until just incorporated.

3. Dollop the meringue on a large baking sheet, lined with parchment paper or a silicon mat. Using a spatula, spread the meringue into a thin, even layer; it should be no more than half an inch thick.

4. Bake the meringue for approximately 1 ¼ hours, or until it is completely set and no longer tacky, but has not darkened in colour. Remove from the oven and leave to cool on the tray completely. Once cool, break into jagged, misshapen pieces (you will likely have extra meringue left over; store it in an airtight container and enjoy as a bonus dessert).

5. Arrange the strawberries between two plates or bowls. Add several small scoops of gelato to each serving. Drizzle over the olive oil and sprinkle the berries with the Sichuan pepper. Add several meringue pieces per plate. Serve immediately.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beer hound, wine buff and an all-around lover of tasty things. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table: Seasonal Recipes and Modern Beer Pairings, is out now and available in all good book stores (and at HB&B). Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen.

Wine & Food Killers: Tomato Tarts with Tarragon Pesto and Goat Cheese with Patrick Sullivan Jumpin’ Juice Sunset

If you had synesthesia and tasted your wines as colours, Sauvignon Blanc would be inescapably green. Though the varietal picks up vibrancy and passion fruit characteristics in warmer climates, at its heart it retains a cool herbaceousness. It can be green like gooseberries and limes, like budding blossoms, like puckeringly pre-ripe fruit.

Patrick Sullivan’s Jumpin’ Juice Sunset isn’t green, though it is made from 80% Sauvignon Blanc grapes. Instead, true to name, it’s the beguiling pinky-orange of late summer evenings (Sunset is also made with 20% Cabernet Sauvignon). But it is still unmistakably lush and fecund and almost dewy, likely distinct from any other rosé you’ve ever tried. It smells exactly like your hands after you’ve harvested tomatoes from their vines, and it tastes like a green bell pepper that’s just been washed in cold tap water, plus a zing of sweet, red fruit. Somehow, in the glass, it’s as crunchy as a cucumber.

For a wine this full of just-sprouted life, I wanted a dish that felt similarly fresh and well suited to endless summer days. Sunset’s tomato-vine aroma conjured images of tomato tarts for me – preferably ones that also featured leafy herbs, and perhaps a squeeze of citrus.

And so this recipe came to be. As is appropriate for garden parties and picnics, it takes roughly 20 minutes to prep, and cooks just as quickly. Frozen puff pastry is its secret, and a shameless one; be sure to pick the ripest tomatoes you can, and you’re most of the way there. I finish the sliced tomatoes with big round scoops of goat cheese (roll rather than crumble it, to make moreish dollops that resist full-on melting in the oven), plus a tarragon- and lime-based pesto, which mimics the wine’s brightness. In short, these tarts are worth turning on your oven for, even in the height of summer – and they’re just the right accompaniment to this extraordinary bottle.

Tomato Tarts with Tarragon Pesto and Goat Cheese
Serves 2 as a main and 4 as a starter

For the tarragon pesto:
50g fresh tarragon leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Zest and juice of 1 lime
1 pinch sugar
Flaky sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the tarts:
375g ready-rolled puff pastry (defrosted if frozen)
4 medium tomatoes (preferably heirloom varieties)
125g soft goat cheese
Flaky sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1-2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1-2 tablespoons honey
Small handful basil leaves, torn

1. First, make the tarragon pesto. Add all ingredients to a food processor and blend well. Taste and adjust seasoning. Set aside.

2. Preheat the oven to 210° Celsius. Lightly flour your counter and unroll the puff pastry. Delicately cut the sheet in half, into two rough squares. Using a butter knife, score a 1-inch margin around the edges of each, being careful not to slice all the way through the pastry. Lightly pierce the middle portion of each piece of dough all over with a fork, which will prevent it from rising (don’t pierce the outside edges, as you want those to rise). Carefully transfer both squares of pastry to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet, ensuring they don’t touch; separate across two baking sheets if they don’t fit.

3. Spoon the pesto onto each square, spreading across an even layer within the scored margins. Thinly slice the tomatoes using a serrated knife, and arrange in an overlapping manner within the square. Season with flaky sea salt and black pepper to taste.

4. Using a small spoon, scoop the goat cheese into spheres, and place evenly on top of the tomatoes (rolling the cheese into larger pieces ensures the dollops won’t melt too much in the oven, and will brown appealingly on top). Drizzle the olive oil and honey over the tomatoes, avoiding the edges, if possible.

5. Bake the tarts for approximately 15–20 minutes, rotating tray(s) halfway through. The tarts are done when their edges are fully puffed up and golden-brown on top, when the tomatoes look cooked, and when the cheese is just starting to brown on top. Leave to cool for several minutes. Before serving, garnish with the torn basil leaves.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, is out now and available via our online shop and hopefully at your favourite booksellers. Pick up a bottle of Patrick Sullivan Jumpin’ Juice Sunset here, and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

Natural Wine Killers: Kindeli Tinto 2018 (New Zealand)

New Zealand as a country certainly knows its way around a high-quality beverage. That’s particularly true in and around Nelson, located at the northern tip of the South Island, where many of the country’s grapes and hops are grown. It’s no accident that that’s also where winemaker Alex Craighead has staked his claim.

Alongside his partner Josefina Venturino, Craighead founded two labels – DON Wines and Kindeli Wines – in Martinborough in 2014. Now based in Nelson’s Moutere Valley, most of the fruit used in his Kindeli range is organically and locally grown on parcels of land that he either owns or leases. Craighead has also partnered with Wellington brewery Garage Project on its beer-wine hybrids.

Craighead uses only indigenous yeasts, and every bottle is unfined and unfiltered, and made without added sulphur. Since its founding, Kindeli has become a darling of the international natty-wine scene: its distinctive (and occasionally controversial) labels, complete with topless foxes, are a fixture on Instagram, and industry figures like Marissa Ross are often seen chugging straight from their bottles. (In a recent piece in Bon Appétit, she describes Kindeli’s wines as “incredible blends from New Zealand [that] were the most staggeringly aromatic and cohesive wines I had all year.”)

Kindeli’s Tinto is the kind of red that’s ideal in the summer months, and that could even do with a bit of chill on it, particularly on hot days. Tinto is made primarily with Pinot Noir grapes, and displays classic, moderate-climate characteristics of red cherry and forest floor and a touch of mushroom. Give it a swirl and a few moments in the glass to encourage its fruit to open up. The wine also features a small quantity of Syrah grapes (as well as an even smaller quantity of Pinot Gris). Their thick skins add some tannic structure and a plummy hue to the wine, plus an extra degree of richness.

Tinto is also made using carbonic maceration, during which whole clusters of grapes are allowed to ferment in a sealed, anaerobic environment before being crushed. The technique is particularly associated with the Beaujolais region, and gives the resulting wine a slight candied, juicy-fruit fragrance and character. Altogether, you’ve got a bottle that’s tremendously drinkable but worth thinking about, too.

Claire’s food pairing: Slow-roasted salmon with fresh herbs and lemon, or barbecued quail with a hoisin-based marinade

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, is out now and available via our online shop and hopefully at your favourite booksellers. Pick up a bottle of KIndeli Tinto here, and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

Wine & Food Killers: Popcorn Prawns with Lemon Dipping Sauce and Cantina Furlani Antico 2017

If champagne and fried chicken is an iconic high-low pairing, then it follows that pet nat and popcorn prawns should be, too. Both are crisp and buoyant – albeit in different ways – and, in this case, both zesty and lemon-scented. Both can be gulped without much hesitation; both demolished far quicker than intended. And if you’ve been blessed with a patio or a terrace or a back garden, then both also make brilliant summertime fare.

Cantina Furlani’s exceptional Antico Frizzante is made exclusively from the Nosiola grape, which is native to Italy’s Alpine Trentino region, in the country’s far north – is the kind of wine I’d like to drink on a weekly basis during the warmer months of the year.

It’s bright with acid, amply citrusy, and rounded out with a subtle pear-and-apple richness. That acid, and those perky bubbles (following a spontaneous primary fermentation, the wine ferments again in bottle thanks to the addition of frozen, unsweetened grape juice), make this a perfect foil to anything fried.

Its aromatics also make it a fitting choice alongside a wide range of seafood dishes – you could equally go with ceviche or grilled fish or octopus salad or fried squid – but I particularly like the way this wine flatters the prawns’ natural sweetness.

To complete the dish, the crispy little nuggets of prawn are served alongside a dipping sauce that's tangy with Greek yoghurt and laced with the merest shimmer of cayenne pepper. Lemon zest and lemon juice add their own acidity, and further link with the wine's own zesty personality. Altogether, this pairing is both complementary and contrasting: alike in flavour, though the Antico's carbonation and bite help counteract the fat. (Sure, you might then eat far more prawns than first intended, but who's counting?)

Popcorn Prawns with Lemon Dipping Sauce
Serves 2

For the dipping sauce:
120g Greek yoghurt
120g mayonnaise
Juice and zest of ½ lemon
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

For the prawns:
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons fine sea salt, plus additional
1 teaspoon black pepper
70g all-purpose flour
65g corn flour
2 eggs
3 tablespoons whole milk
330g peeled, deveined prawns
700ml vegetable oil (plus additional, if necessary)

1. First, prepare the dipping sauce. In a small bowl, add all five ingredients and stir or whisk until well combined. Set aside.

2. In a ramekin or small bowl, add the garlic powder, paprika, cayenne pepper, sea salt and black pepper, and mix together. Set aside.

3. In a medium bowl, add the flour and corn flour, and whisk until combined. In a second medium bowl, add the eggs and milk, and whisk until combined.

4. Add the prawns to a large bowl and sprinkle over the spice mixture and ¼ of the flour mixture. Toss until evenly coated.

5. To batter the prawns, transfer each to the bowl with the egg yolk mixture and, using a fork, flip until lightly coated. Let any excess drip off before transferring to the remaining flour mixture. Toss until well coated, and transfer gently to a parchment-paper lined plate or tray. Repeat with the remaining prawns.

6. Meanwhile, add the vegetable oil to a large, cast-iron skillet (it should come up about 2 inches; add extra if needed). Place over high heat and heat until 180° Celsius. If you don’t have a deep-fat frying thermometer, add a tiny bit of flour; if it immediately begins to sizzle rapidly, it should be hot enough.

7. Line a large plate with paper towels and place next to the stove. To fry, add your first addition of prawns, ensuring they’re not overcrowded (you’ll need to cook yours in multiple batches); be careful, as the hot oil could splatter. Cook for approximately 2-4 minutes, flipping and rotating the prawns regularly, until the exterior is deep golden-brown and crisp. Transfer to the paper-towel lined plate and repeat. You may need to adjust the heat to maintain a constant temperature.

8. Sprinkle the prawns with additional salt to taste, and serve immediately, alongside the dipping sauce.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, is out now and available via our online shop and hopefully at your favourite booksellers. Pick up a bottle of Cantina Furlani here, and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

Natural Wine Killers: Bellotti Semplicemente Vino Rosso 2016 (Italy)

Piedmont is probably the most consistently premium wine region in Italy. Spread over rolling hills between Turin and Genoa, it is one of the few regions in Italy where most wines are produced following traditional DOC or DOCG rules and there are no regional IGT wines. Regions like Barolo and Barbaresco are famous for their robust, long-lived wines, which are aged for several years in barrel, requiring time to mellow. Although Barolo and Barbaresco producers may produce more accessible red wines, they tend to be polished, often with plenty of sweet oak. These are serious wines, often with serious prices.

Stefano Bellotti’s Cascina degli Ulivi stands out like a beacon, seeking to produce honest wines, made naturally and entwined in a philosophy of self-sufficient farming. Sadly, Bellotti passed away from cancer last September, aged just 59. He leaves an important legacy though, both with his wonderful wines and the manner in which they were produced.

Bellotti was a pioneer of the “Triple A” movement. Meaning Agricoltori (Farm workers), Artigiani (Artisans) and Artisti (Artists), the certification is an indication of true terroir wines, produced in harmony with nature. Bellotti was an early adopter of organic principles, way back in 1981, and converted to biodynamics in 1984.

There is a memorable scene in Jonathan Nossiter’s 2014 film Natural Resistance where Bellotti demonstrates the difference between the health of his biodynamically cultivated soils and a neighbour’s, where conventional herbicides and pesticides are used. The difference is striking: Bellotti compares it to life vs death.

The Semplicemente Rosso speaks very much of life. Sealed with a crown cap, it demonstrates humility. It is not pretending to be anything it is not. A blend of Barbera and Dolcetto, it is fermented and aged in large oak vats for 11 months. There are no added sulphites, and the wine is not fined or filtered. It is raw and edgy, packed with intense black cherry and cherry kernel aromas. The palate is punchy, with fresh acidity and grippy tannins. There is some volatile acidity in there, but not at the expense of the cherries. In short, it is delicious.

Now the weather is getting warmer, lightly chill this wine to emphasise its freshness. Pour yourself a glass and toast to Signor Bellotti.

Claire Bullen’s food pairing: Duck ragu pappardelle or French-style sausage and lentil casserole

Paul Medder is a freelance wine educator and wine expert. He occasionally tweets @PaulMedder. To sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

Wine & Food Killers: Grilled Pork Banh Mi Sandwiches and Testalonga Baby Bandito Stay Brave 2018

Sometimes one craving begets a fiercer, more trenchant second craving. For instance: earlier this month, I ordered a banh mi from a Vietnamese deli up the road. The sandwich was delicious, but too small, and so for the rest of the week all I could think about was a second banh mi – one filling enough to sate me.

The best banh mi I ever had were in Southern California; there, the sandwiches (which arose out of a fusion of French and Vietnamese cuisines) were made with oven-fresh baguettes at all hours, always light and hot and crisp. It is hard to live up to the ideal I hold in my head, but this interpretation is close enough to do the job. Made with both grilled pork and pâté (head cheese is a common fixture of traditional banh mi), it features quick-pickled carrots and daikons, slices of cucumber and jalapeño, and fresh coriander. Each bite is at once meaty and spicy, crunchy and zesty, chewy and tender.

Founded in Swartland, South Africa in 2008, Testalonga is one of the country’s most ambitious and boundary-pushing wineries. Its Baby Bandito line (whose recognisable labels have become a fixture on natural wine shop shelves) is a good place to start, and Stay Brave – 100% Chenin Blanc, macerated for 11 days and aged in oak foudres – is a pleasing introduction to skin-contact, or orange, wine.

Orange might not quite be the operative word here, however. This wine is closer to a tawny amber, and its zingy flavour profile veers between flowers and peaches and citrus and spice. It punches well above its 10.5% ABV; it’s not merely crushable. I like what the banh mi does to the wine. Because its pickles are so piquant and acidic, and the fish sauce in the marinade and the daikon impart a nose-crinkling pungency, they mollify the wine’s sharper edges. It becomes a little less tongue-prickling, and its own mellow sweetness becomes more pronounced. Chenin Blanc is a grape that is often described as tasting like honey, and the marinade – made with a good drizzle of honey – draws out that winsome side of its personality.

Grilled Pork Banh Mi Sandwiches
Serves 4

For the pork and marinade:
600g pork tenderloin
3 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
2 spring onions (white and light green parts only), roughly chopped
2 stalks lemongrass (thick outer layers removed), roughly chopped
Small handful coriander, stems included
Juice and zest of 1 lime
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 ½ tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper (preferably white)

For the pickled vegetables:
1 large carrot, peeled 1 equivalent-sized daikon, peeled
180ml rice vinegar
80ml warm water
¾ tablespoon fine sea salt
1 ½ tablespoons sugar

For the sandwiches:
2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 mini baguettes
Mayonnaise
Pork pâté (optional, but recommended)
½ cucumber, thinly sliced
2 jalapeños, thinly sliced (deseeded, if preferred)
Large handful coriander

1. Prep the pork several hours before you plan to eat. Using a very sharp knife, slice the tenderloin into thin (approximately ¼-inch-thick) sheets (if your tenderloin is very long, halve it length-wise first). Place in a large, non-reactive bowl.

2. Add all of the remaining marinade ingredients to a food processor or blender. Blend on high for several minutes, until mostly uniform. Pour the marinade over the pork, and flip the pieces to ensure they are all evenly covered. Cover and chill for 2–4 hours.

3. Meanwhile, prepare the pickled vegetables. Using a box grater (or food processor), grate the carrot and daikon and add to a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, add the remaining pickling ingredients and whisk until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour over the grated vegetables and stir to mix. Cover and chill.

4. Once the pork has finished marinating, remove it from the fridge. Place a large, non-stick frying pan over high heat, and add the vegetable oil. Once very hot, add the pork – allowing excess marinade to drip off each piece – in a single layer (you will likely need to cook the pork in 2 or 3 batches). Cook for approximately 3-4 minutes, turning frequently, until the pieces are golden-brown and cooked through. Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining pork.

5. Shortly before serving, halve the baguettes with a bread knife and place cut side up on a foil-lined baking sheet. Place under the grill and toast on high heat for 2-3 minutes, or until just turning golden and crisp. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a minute or two.

6. To construct the sandwiches, divide the halved baguettes between four plates. Spread a thin layer of mayonnaise over the top half of each baguette, and a layer of pâté (if using) on the bottom half. Cover the pâté with a single layer of cucumber slices and a few jalapeño pieces. Divide the pork between all four sandwiches and place the slices on top of the cucumbers.

7. Remove the pickled vegetables from the fridge. Top the pork with a thin layer of the vegetables (drain extra liquid before using) and finish with the coriander. Put the baguette halves together and eat the sandwiches while still warm

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, is out now and available via our online shop and hopefully at your favourite booksellers. Pick up a bottle of Testalonga Baby Bandito Stay Brave here, and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

Natural Wine Killers: Gut Oggau Winifred Rosé 2017 (Austria)

Who is Winifred? What’s her story? She’s not giving much away, staring at us as she does, rather blankly. Not exactly happy, but not sad either. Her firmly parted hair suggests a certain amount of seriousness. Perhaps more serious than you might expect for a rosé.

It’s fair to say the juice within this Instagram-friendly bottle is also more serious than you might expect for a rosé. Quite deep and dense in colour, it’s almost a light red. If Winifred were drawn in colour, she might remind me of Michelle of the Resistance from ‘Allo ‘Allo.

All this may seem a little pretentious. However, Gut Oggau is not aiming for modesty (“a glass of Winifred could change your life” reads the back label). She is one of a series of labels picturing a fictitious family. Winifred is one of the children, younger and full of energy (unlike her stepmother Josephine, who found the love of her life, Timotheus, at an older age). Altogether, they make up a kind of vinous Guess Who?

Gut Oggau is a relatively new project, started by Eduard and Stephanie Tscheppe in 2007. Eduard came from a traditional winemaking family in Styria, while Stephanie’s parents run a Michelin- starred restaurant. They purchased an abandoned 17th century winery in Burgenland, restoring its old screw press, and converting the vineyards to biodynamic, now with Demeter certification.

Burgenland is in southern Austria, close to the banks of the lake Neusiedler See, near the border with Hungary. As it is the warmest wine region in Austria, red wines are much more significant, though the Tscheppes do also make whites. Winifred is a field blend of roughly 60% Zweigelt and 40% Blaufränkisch – both black grape varieties which can produce strikingly coloured, fruit driven red wines, but only medium in body and tannin. In other words, grape varieties that are well suited to making rosé.

The grapes come from low-yielding old vines, giving them extra concentration. They are pressed and then aged in large, old barrels for eight months (uncommon for a rosé). After this maturation, the wine is bottled without fining, filtering or the addition of sulphur, giving it a cloudy appearance.

In the glass, Winifred’s personality comes through strongly. Aromatic and packed with red cherries, but also quite smoky and meaty (think biltong). The palate is equally vibrant, with sour cherry and cranberry – this is one to appeal to lovers of lambic and kriek beers. Served lightly chilled, it’s a wonderful accompaniment to warmer April afternoons.

Paul Medder is a freelance wine educator and works for one of the UK's leading wine distributors. He occasionally tweets @PaulMedder. To sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

Wine & Food Killers: Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme Touraine Sauvignon 2017 and Salmon Crudo

If you ever need a wine to suit all manner of tastes and predilections, this amiable bottle is a born crowd-pleaser. Hailing from the Touraine appellation in the Loire Valley, Pierre-Olivier Bonhomme’s Sauvignon Blanc is farmed organically, fermented with indigenous yeasts, unfined and unfiltered.

That natty-wine cred is all well and good, but purity tests aside, this bottle is simply, lip-smackingly good.

It pours a flaxen gold, brilliant and electric. On the nose, it’s opulent with honey, lushly floral, with a touch of piquant lemon zest and something deeper and more animal: the faintest scent of wool and lanolin, perhaps. On the palate, it tastes sweetly of elderflower and apple, though there’s enough acidity to prevent it from becoming cloying. Here is a wine that feels like languid spring afternoons on the grass, like sunny kisses, like endless Sundays…

It’s best not to over-complicate a wine like this; if you’re eating alongside, go for something simple and quick and made with the best-quality ingredients you can find. I like this salmon crudo as a pairing: the wine has no trouble with the fish’s oiliness, while the dish’s lightly honeyed and citric dressing emphasises the Sauvignon Blanc’s best attributes. Add oregano for herbaceousness, shallots for sharpness, and pine nuts for crunch.

Feel free to riff, too, if you’re feeling creative – swap the salmon for trout or mackerel, use lime juice instead, try mint or tarragon. Crudo is a flexible format, and one that rewards experimentation.

Salmon Crudo
Serves 2

For the dressing:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (as high-quality as you can afford)
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed ruby grapefruit juice
1 ½ teaspoons runny honey
Pinch fine sea salt

For the crudo:
1 medium-sized shallot
Juice of 1 lemon
2-3 tablespoons pine nuts
1 fillet skinless, sushi-grade salmon or trout
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
Fresh oregano leaves, to garnish
Grapefruit zest, to garnish

1. First, prepare the dressing. Add all ingredients to a small bowl and whisk until uniform. Set aside.

2. Peel the shallot and slice into very thin rounds. Separate the layers and add to a small bowl. Squeeze over the lemon juice and leave the shallots to lightly pickle for 15–20 minutes while you prepare the rest of the dish.

3. Add the pine nuts to a small frying pan and place over medium-high heat. Toast, tossing frequently, for approximately 5 minutes, or until the pine nuts are golden-brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.

4. Using your sharpest knife, cut the salmon into very thin slices (be sure to slice against the grain, on a bias). Arrange between two plates, and top each with a light sprinkle of sea salt.

5. Top each slice of salmon with a shallot ring and an oregano leaf. Sprinkle over the pine nuts. Pour the dressing around the fish slices until it forms a very shallow layer on the plate. Grate over the grapefruit zest and serve immediately.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer. Our first book with Claire, The Beer Lover’s Table, is out now and available via our online shop and hopefully at your favourite booksellers. Pick up a bottle of the glorious Bonhomme Touraine Sauvignon here, and to sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

Natural Wine Killers: Jean Christophe Garnier Bezigon Chenin 2017

A mere two editions since our December box, here we are extolling the virtues of Chenin Blanc once again. Where then it was all about the bubbles, with an immensely enjoyable Vouvray Brut, this time the focus is on a dry still wine.

In that column, we waxed lyrical about the versatility of Chenin Blanc from the Loire. Its ability to produce truly invigorating wines from dry to sweet and sparkling is almost unmatched in the world of wine. Within the Loire, there are other white grapes which garner more attention (the Sauvignon Blancs of Sancerre and Poulliy-Fumé are household names), but for me, the chameleon-like nature of Chenin is more likely to set my heart racing.

This wine from Jean-Christophe Garnier is from the Anjou sub-region of the Loire Valley. Although it is a cool climate with maritime influences, the Mauges hills protect the region from the worst of the weather coming in from the Bay of Biscay. This shelter, combined with warmer soils, gives winemakers the confidence to leave their grapes on the vines longer, and seek out greater levels of ripeness.

The western section of Anjou contains the appellations of Savennières (home to some of the greatest dry Chenins) and Coteaux du Layon (a source of some of France’s most underrated sweet wines). Garnier’s plot comes from the small, but acclaimed village of Saint-Lambert-Du-Lattay. Although technically in the zone of Coteaux du Layon, Garnier makes dry wines, following his own rules and using the generic Vin de France denomination.

Garnier’s is a no-frills operation. He uses an old apple press, taking 2-3 days to extract all the juice from his berries, and after fermentation, ages the wine in large oak foudres for one year (hence the oxidative, bruised apple and almond aromas). He starts with organically cultivated grapes picked at maximum maturity, giving the wine a honeyed, baked apple aspect. There’s some volatile acidity there too, giving it a fresh finish, but not at the expense of the fruit. Paired with a fatty, rich plate like Anjou pork rillettes, and you’ve got just the tonic for a dank wintry evening.

Claire Bullen’s pairing: Braised chicken thighs with honey-glazed root vegetables or a mixed charcuterie platter

Paul Medder is a freelance wine educator and works for one of the UK's leading wine distributors. He occasionally tweets @PaulMedder. To sign up for our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box, head here.

Wine & Food Killers: Linguine Bolognese and I Vini di Giovanni Rozzo 2017

There’s nothing like grim weather and Seasonal Affective Disorder to strip you of your tolerance for ostentation. February is the time of year when the rustic prevails, when warm and honest food, like this recipe, really comes into its own.

One caveat: this isn’t your typical Bolognese, though it might be the most classical one you’ve ever made. (Caveat #2: spaghetti may be traditional, but I prefer slightly thicker linguine, which stands up better to hearty sauces.)

The woman behind this timeless recipe is the late grande dame of Italian cooking, Marcella Hazan, who had very strong feelings about how to make Bolognese properly. For instance: do not even think about putting garlic in this Bolognese. Bacon is not needed, rosemary is not invited. And though you might assume red wine would be best in the sauce (it’s best alongside – more on that in a bit), if Marcella says white, you use white.

This Bolognese has no shortcuts: if you want yours to taste like it was made by an Italian nonna, you need to cook like one. This is simmer-all-day sauce, the perfect Sunday project, a study in the art of patience, a fragrant rebuttal to instant-gratification. You’ll need a solid seven hours to make it; in an ideal world, you might even refrigerate it overnight and eat it the next day to allow its flavours to deepen further (this is recommended, though not required).

When it finally comes time to eat, it’s wise to go with a wine that’s similarly humble and enriching. I Vini di Giovanni’s Rozzo – made by an actual Umbrian shepherd named Giovanni Mesina – certainly qualifies. Made with 100% Sangiovese grapes, absent any added sulphur, it is pungently barnyardy when first poured, but after decanting and swirling, notes of cherry and a mellow fruitfulness come to the fore. Its tannins are serious and grippy, which makes it a wine that especially benefits from the companionship of some pasta.

Together, they won’t banish your SAD, but the act of stirring sauce for the better part of the day still has a way of making the world feel less dire.

Linguine Bolognese
Very slightly adapted from Marcella Hazan
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
45g (3 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
350g (¾ lb) beef mince (ground beef), preferably 15-20% fat
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
235ml (1 US cup) whole milk
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg, freshly grated
235ml (1 US cup) dry white wine
1 400g (14oz) can whole Italian plum tomatoes in juice
500g (1.1 lbs) linguine, spaghetti, or similar pasta
Parmigiano Reggiano

1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, add the vegetable oil, butter and onion, and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook the onion gently for roughly 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until it is softened and translucent.

2. Add the carrot and celery, and stir to coat. Cook for roughly 3-4 minutes, or until slightly softened. Add the beef mince and sprinkle over a large pinch of sea salt and several good grinds of black pepper. Using a fork, delicately break up the meat and toss until it is finely crumbled. Cook until it has just lost its raw colour, but not until it is darkened and dried out.

3. Pour in the milk and grate in the nutmeg. Continue to cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the milk is fully evaporated – this process can take up to an hour. (Don’t be tempted to raise the heat and boil it off faster; slow cooking makes the meat incredibly tender.)

4. Next, add in the white wine and repeat the same process, slow cooking over medium- low heat until completely evaporated.

5. While the beef mixture is simmering, prep the tomatoes: remove the whole plum tomatoes from the can, reserving the juice, and roughly chop. When the wine is fully evaporated, add both the chopped tomatoes and their juice, and stir to combine.

6. Turn the heat to low. Cook for a minimum of 3 and up to 5 hours, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thickened and rich. To prevent it from drying out or burning during the cooking process, add water at 125ml (1/2-cup) intervals, if needed. Season to taste, generously, with salt and pepper.

7. When you’re nearly ready to serve, bring a large pot of water to the boil and salt generously. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain, and return to the pot. Add the Bolognese sauce and toss lightly to combine.

8. Divide the linguine Bolognese between plates or bowls, and top generously with freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen and look out for our book together, The Beer Lover’s Table, launching in March 2019. These recipes accompany our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box - sign up to get yours here.

Wine & Food Killers: Indian-Spiced Roasted Lamb Leg and Domaine du Pech Le Pech Abusé

With wintry weather set to stick around for a while, it’s time to hunker down and seek solace in rich wine and food. I originally made this at Christmas time, but it’s just as good for the dark midwinter when we’re all in need of celebrating something…. anything.

This lamb, specifically, which originates - minus a few riffs and adaptations - from Asma’s Indian Kitchen, the exceptional new cookbook written by Darjeeling Express’ Asma Khan. As Khan notes, this leg of lamb, which marinates overnight in a yoghurt mixture before roasting, is a showstopper dish that is traditionally served at weddings or other celebratory occasions. Made with yoghurt and grated green papaya, the marinade tenderises the lamb as it perfumes it.

A dish as rich and intensely flavoured as this lamb deserves a wine of similar boldness, and the exemplary Le Pech Abusé is just the bottle to seek out. Made by Domaine du Pech (located in southwestern France’s Buzet region), it is exactly the kind of wine I like in the winter, which is to say abundant in dark fruit flavours, full-bodied, but edged by a balancing undercurrent of leather and wood and smoke (prior to bottling, it’s aged for 30 months in 200-year-old oak foudres).

A blend of 40% Merlot, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 30% Cabernet Franc, Le Pech Abusé pours an opaque, inky black. It is a wine for celebrations, for fireplaces and cold nights - and for lamb.

Indian-Spiced Roasted Lamb Leg
Adapted from Asma’s Indian Kitchen
Serves 6

150ml vegetable oil or ghee
1 large onion, thinly sliced
10 threads saffron
1 tablespoon milk
100g Greek yoghurt
6 tablespoons clotted cream
4 tablespoons grated green papaya
3 teaspoons fine sea salt
2 teaspoons chilli powder
2 teaspoons garam masala
1½ teaspoons ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1 1.5-kilo (3.3-pound) bone-in lamb leg

1. Prepare your lamb the night before you plan to serve it. First, prep ingredients for the marinade. Add the vegetable oil or ghee to a large frying pan and place over medium- high heat. Once hot, add the onion and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook for approximately 35 minutes, stirring frequently, or until the onion is caramelised and softened. Remove from the heat and leave to cool.

2. Meanwhile, in a ramekin or small bowl, lightly crumble the saffron threads. Pour over the milk and leave to infuse. 3. In a large bowl - large enough to fit your entire lamb leg - add the Greek yoghurt, clotted cream, grated papaya, salt and spices. Mix to combine.

4. Once the onions have cooled, strain and discard the oil and transfer the onions to a food processor. Blend on high until the mixture is a rough paste. Transfer to the yogurt mixture and stir through. Add the milk and saffron and stir to combine.

5. Using a sharp knife, make small slits over the surface of the lamb. Rub the lamb in the marinade, and work the mixture into the slits. Cover and chill overnight.

6. Remove the lamb from the fridge roughly one hour before you plan to cook, and leave to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven to 200°C (400°F). Place a wire rack over a foil-lined baking tray, and transfer the lamb to the rack.

7. Roast the lamb for 20 minutes. Lower the heat to 180°C (350°F). Continue to roast for roughly one hour more, or until the lamb is cooked to your ideal degree of doneness. Insert a thermometer in the thickest part of the lamb; it should be 49°C (120°F) for rare, 52°C (125°F) for medium-rare, 57°C (135°F) for medium, 63°C (145°F) for medium- well, and 66°C (150°F) for well-done. If you prefer your lamb rarer, begin to check its temperature earlier in the cooking process. 8. Remove from the oven and leave to rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen and look out for our book together, The Beer Lover’s Table, launching in March 2019. These recipes accompany our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box - sign up to get yours here.

Natural Wine Killers: Catherine & Pierre Breton ‘La Dilettante’ Vouvray Brut NV

la dilettante.jpeg

This wine features in our December edition of the Natural Wine Killers box - being December, of course we had to bring you some bubbles. It’s the season where casual wine drinkers the length and breadth of the country pop open millions of bottles of Prosecco and Cava, toasting to a bountiful 2019. We like a good glass of fizz too, but have, as you might expect, made a rather less obvious choice…

Vouvray sparkling flies well under the radar in the UK, perhaps because only 10% of these wines make it outside of France. Vouvray also lacks a clear marketing focus. There are few wine regions which can make sparkling wines, along with white wines ranging from dry, to medium and sweet, and do all of these things well. Vouvray is one such appellation, making it a delight for wine lovers.

Vouvray is located in the Loire Valley, in northern, central France, not far from the town of Tours. It has a cool climate, but with a long growing season, allowing growers to pick their Chenin Blanc grapes at varying levels of ripeness. The grapes that go into making sparkling wines will typically be earliest picked - their high acidity being prized when making refreshing bubbly.

Vouvray Brut is made in exactly the same way as Champagne – the Traditional Method, where the second fermentation (which produces the bubbles) happens in the same bottle in which the wine is aged and sold. However, the growers of Vouvray are more interested in selling their wines for fair prices locally than sponsoring fashion catwalks (those Champagne marketing budgets don’t come for free).

By law, Vouvray Brut must be aged for 12 months in contact with its lees in bottle. It’s these decomposing yeast cells which give sparkling wines their biscuity, bready character. The Bretons, being among the most respected producers in Vouvray, age their wine for twice this time, on a par with Champagne. The wine therefore has a richness in character equal to many Champagnes twice its price.

Catherine and Pierre are both from the fourth generation of winemaking families. They are extremely conscientious about their practices, with this wine being certified organic. The wine is also made with indigenous yeast and spends 12 months fermenting in tank before bottling and second fermentation.

The nose is inviting, with aromas of baked apple, brioche, and a typical Vouvray honey note. The palate is fresh, with green apple and lemon pie. The mousse is super creamy, with a long, crisp finish. Make sure you keep this one stashed at the back of the fridge at the Christmas party, and leave the others to their Prosecco.

Claire Bullen’s food pairing: A mixed sashimi platter or splash out with caviar-topped fried chicken

Paul Medder is a freelance wine educator and works for one of the UK's leading wine distributors. He occasionally tweets @PaulMedder.

Natural Wine Killers: 2Naturkinder Bacchus Pet Nat 2017

Wine text books are littered with French terms which somehow have avoided translation, forming an internationally understood vocabulary among wine geeks. From household names like brut or demi-sec to my personal favourite, millerandage (Google it). None of these are quite as en vogue as pétillant naturel.

Pétillant in French simply means lightly sparkling. At some point in recent history, pétillant naturel received a Sam Cam-style truncation to make it more media-friendly, morphing into Pet Nat. It’s a term which is especially popular in the natural wine hotbed that is the Loire, but has spread much further afield (this one coming from the undervalued German wine region of Franken).

Truth be told, there is nothing modern about the Pet Nat. Winemakers though the ages have discovered, sometimes to their dismay, that if you leave a bit of residual sugar in the bottle, the wine may start refermenting and go fizzy. The first sparkling wines were of course made this way. Long before Dom Perignon got hold of a pupitre, the winemakers of Limoux, down in the Pyrenees, were making methode ancestrale – a sparkling wine where sugar is left in the bottle to referment, and create a lightly fizzy, cloudy wine.

Locals of Limoux claim to have been making sparkling wines this way since the 1500s, so like many natural wines, Pet Nat really is taking it back to the old school. Which brings us to 2NaturKinder’s Bacchus Pet Nat 2017. It’s made by Melanie Drese and Michael Völker, two Germans who developed a passion for natural wines in London (sounds familiar) and moved back home to create a revolution in Michael’s parents’ winery. The winery is now certified organic, and the wines are made with minimal intervention – nothing is added or taken away.

This Pet Nat is made by leaving about 15g/l residual sugar in the wine, sealing it to re-ferment and retain the fizz, then roughly disgorging so most of the dead yeasts are removed, but finishing cloudy. According to Mel and Mike, this vintage is a bit more colourful than previous, but benefits from a more intense perlage (no more French wine terms, I promise).

It has a hazy lemon colour and looks and smells a bit like a natural lemonade, with aromas of saucisson, ginger and gooseberry (Bacchus is an aromatic grape, not commonly used in sparkling wines). It’s gently frothy, and has a long, Bramley apple finish. And at only 11% ABV, it goes down dangerously easily.

Claire Bullen’s food pairing: Pair with lemon orzo with prawns and fresh herbs or scallop, grapefruit, and avocado ceviche

Paul Medder is a freelance wine educator and works for one of the UK's leading wine distributors. He occasionally tweets @PaulMedder. This wine featured in our November Natural Wine Killers box. To bet on board, head here.

Wine & Food Killers: Lemongrass Chicken with Sam Vinciullo Warner Glen Sauvignon Blanc 2017

If you’ve got Sauvignon Blanc fatigue, you’re not alone (blame the boatloads of Oyster Bay for making the grape feel cheap and lustreless). But don’t let that dissuade you from this particular bottle. Sam Vinciullo’s skin-contact Warner Glen Sauvignon Blanc is an electrifying reminder of just how good ol’ Sauvy B can be.

Made using organic, hand-harvested grapes in the Margaret River region – located in Western Australia, and one of the most geographically isolated wine regions in the world – it ticks most of the low-intervention boxes. It’s unfined and unfiltered (which gives it a hazy appearance), has no added sulphites and is fermented using wild yeast. That make it about as pure a distillation of the grape, and of Margaret River’s terroir, as is possible to find.

Even with the glass inches away from my nose, the wine’s complex and enticing aroma is apparent: you could almost dab it on your pulse points and call it a perfume. It offers pungent aromas, ripe and juicy gooseberry and passion fruit, plus a subtle herbaceousness (no wonder some describe Sauvignon Blanc as the IPA of wines). On the palate, it’s buoyant, with the slightest prickle of CO2, and brightly acidic.

When thinking up a pairing to go with this peach of a wine, I sought a complementary dish – something that could supply its own fruitiness and subtle funk. I opted for Vietnamese-inspired lemongrass chicken, which, like the wine, is boldly flavourful but still fresh. Additions of lemongrass, fresh herbs and lime juice mimic the wine’s brightness, while a pinch of earthy turmeric and glug of fish sauce match its pungency.

This is a great pairing both for sunnier days and when you can’t quite bear to let the memories of summer go just yet.

Lemongrass Chicken
Loosely adapted from Asian at Home
Serves 4

For the lemongrass chicken:
800g (1 ¾ lbs) boneless, skinless chicken thighs (approximately 8 thigh fillets)
Fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 long stalks lemongrass
4 cloves garlic
1 bird’s-eye chilli
1 echalion (banana) shallot
2 ½ tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground turmeric

To serve:
Steamed jasmine or basmati rice
Coriander leaves
Mint leaves
Lime wedges

1. First, prep the chicken. Chop into roughly 1-inch pieces. Season lightly with salt and pepper and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, prep the aromatics. Remove and discard the hard bulb at the end of each lemongrass stalk. Remove and discard the tough outer layers until you get to the tender core. Mince finely, and transfer to a bowl.

3. Finely mince the garlic and chilli, and add to the lemongrass. Finely dice the shallot, and add to the same bowl.

4. Make the sauce. In a ramekin, add the fish sauce and brown sugar, and stir until uniform. Set aside.

5. Place a large frying pan or wok over high heat, and add the vegetable oil. Once very hot but not smoking, add the chicken pieces. Spread in a uniform layer and cook for approximately 2 minutes, or until starting to brown. Flip and cook for approximately 1-2 minutes on the reverse. Sprinkle over the turmeric, and toss to combine.

6. Once the chicken is just cooked through, add all the aromatics and cook, tossing frequently, for 3-4 minutes, or until they have lost their raw aroma.

7. Pour over the sauce and toss to combine. Turn heat to medium-high, and cook for 5-6 minutes, stirring or tossing frequently, until the sauce has thickened into a glaze. Remove from the heat.

8. Divide steamed rice between bowls and top with the lemongrass chicken. Garnish with coriander and mint, as preferred, and serve with lime wedges on the side.

Claire M. Bullen is a professional food and travel writer, a beerhound and an all-around lover of tasty things. Follow her on Twitter at @clairembullen and look out for our book together, The Beer Lover’s Table, launching in March 2019. These recipes accompany our Natural Wine Killers natural wine subscription box - sign up to get yours here.