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Posts in Category "Food and Wine Pairing"

Frugal Feast at The Empress

Take your Bottle Apostle wine to The Empress for their Frugal Feast - and don't pay any corkage!


Frugal Feast at The Empress

Tuesday April 25th 2017

£22 for 3 Courses with BYO wine from Bottle Apostle – no corkage


                                   Wild nettle soup, sheep’s ricotta 

Roasted carrots, hazelnuts, sumac

Smoked ham hock, leeks, Esplette



Guinea fowl leg, pressed potatoes, wild garlic

Roast plaice, broccoli, anchovy

Roasted pearl barley, asparagus, peas, feta

Shepherd’s pie, greens (for 2) 



Honey ice cream, caramelised banana

Custard tart, rhubarb jam

Lemon thyme sorbet



To book call 020 8533 5123


3 Rosé Styles to Try this Summer


We love the dry and light style of Rosé from Provence as much as anyone, but there are a whole Dulux colour chart of pinks to choose from - what other Rosé styles are out there in the weird and wild world of wine? 

Nowadays, what you will find is most popular in the UK is light, dry and refreshing rather than sweet and bright red. But it would be a mistake to judge a Rosé solely on its colour.

There can be dark coloured Rosé that are dry, although very few pale Rosés that are sweet. Sometimes slightly sweeter fruit of a dark Rosé is exactly right with a spicy Thai dish or char-grilled meat from the barbecue. At other times, when it is more about relaxing before dinner on a warm summer evening, there's nothing like a pale and dry Rosé.

Here are three basic styles of Rosé - know your Rosé style and find a new favourite. 


Dry and Lean

Other than the classic pale Cotes de Provence Rosé, try a Rosé made with Bordeaux grapes of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot such as Chateau Puynard. For a very elegant wine, Sancerre Rosé made from Pinot Noir. 


Savoury and Powerful

The classic in the genre is the almost-chewy, orange-coloured Bandol Rosé from Provence made with Mourvedre grapes. For something different, try Niepoort Redoma Rosé from the Duoro in Portugal - pale, but not wan, it matches barbecue seafood with gusto. 


Dry and Fruity

"Fruity" does not necessarily equal "sweet".  Austrian Rosé, much like Italian Rosé, is clean and dry with plenty of summer berry flavours. Try the mauve-coloured Umathum Rosa - a delicious berry blend of Zweigelt and other Austrian varieties. Another wine that is fruity and dry hails from the three-Michelin-star restaurant, Arzak in Spain - Chivite Rosado - has an excellent texture, which flexes its fruit with a wide range of dishes. 


Related post: A Guide to Austrian Rosé


How to find your gin style


Once upon a time, it was simple to make a gin and tonic. Today, there are so many new gins on the market, it can be difficult to know where to start. This is before you even get to the tonic water (...that's a whole other post!). 


Without trying all of them first, what is the best way to ask for a new gin you want to try? First, let’s look at the fundamentals, and more specifically, the four flavour groups, to help you find a gin that works for you. 


What is gin?


Technically, gin is vodka flavoured with juniper. Fine gins are distilled with an average of six to ten botanicals, although some boast up to 50 different botanicals. How the gin producer balances the flavours of the botanicals gives each gin its distinct identity. 


The range of botanicals in gin is a gift for cocktail makers who want to experiment with flavour. The combinations are endless. Traditional gins aim to balance the flavours - juniper and citrus, or floral and herbaceous - but smaller gin houses often emphasise one group of flavours for exciting results.


The 4 flavour groups 


Juniper-Led Gin


All gins must be distilled with juniper, but some are distinctly juniper heavy. Traditional styles, such as London Dry gins, Navy Strengths or Plymouth gins, emphasise the juniper. 


Try this: Fifty Pounds Rare and Handcrafted London Gin - a classic London gin as seen through the eyes of Spanish producers (Spain is one of the biggest consumers of London gin). Redolent of the traditional London gin, but softer and elegant on the palate. 


Floral-Led Gin


Enter the “New Wave” styles. Here the emphasis is on floral botanicals. They are often softer and work well with woody characters such as cucumber or herbs, instead of the usual lemon slice. 


Try this: Monkey 47 - a very balanced gin with floral notes of dog rose, elderflower, hibiscus, honeysuckle, and jasmine. 



Citrus-Led Gin


The traditional counter-balance for juniper is citrus. Juniper itself has a citrusy-lemon note to it, which is why a slice of lemon is a classic accompaniment. The traditional London Dry style has the classic Christmas tree flavours - pine needles, citrus and juniper. 


Try this: Death Door Gin - classic citrus notes with spicy coriander and fennel characters



Herbaceous-Led Gin


Whether the gin is more herbaceous or spicy adds another layer of complexity to the gin. Spicy gins can be slightly sweeter and fragrant, while herbaceous gins are more forceful in flavour. Any spice found along the spice route can be included in the distillation: anise, angelica root, liquorice, cinnamon, saffron, nutmeg, cassia bark are just some of the examples. 


Try this: Sacred Gin from Highgate - the signature note is frankincense, and the inspiration for the Sacred Gin name.






Get to know dry Spanish sherry: fino, manzanilla, oloroso, amontillado


Back in 1956 - the last heyday for Sherry - Ruper Croft-Cooke wrote in his guide to Sherry, “There is sherry, and there are all other wines.” 


It’s been a long time coming, but 60 years later, we are now in the midst of another Sherry renaissance. This time around, it’s dry sherry rather than the sweet style you are more likely to find at the back of grandma’s liquor cabinet.


Sherry is now proudly listed on wine lists in the best bars and restaurants around the world. 


Certainly there’s been an improved distribution of smaller, high-quality bottlings to the UK. And bartenders have done their part in showing how versatile sherry is as a cocktail ingredient. We also have a new generation of drinkers increasingly opting for the intensely savoury over the fruity sweet flavours. Umami work so well with the variety of dishes. Think of the tapas bar: sherry is equally comfortable with a spicy chorizo to a hot pimiento de padrón, 


It can also be beautifully simple. All dry fino sherry really needs is to be chilled down on a sunny day, catching up with friends and a simple bowl of Marcona almonds. 


Ready to learn more about dry sherry? Load up your copitas with a fino and read on.



What is Sherry? 


Sherry can only be made in a very specific area of south-west Spain called the “Sherry triangle” in Andalucia: between Jerez de la Frontera, Puerto de Santa Maria and Sanlucar de Barrameda. The magical combination of the unique chalky soil, the torrid sun and what is called the ‘solera system’ - a method of blending the wine from a “back catalogue” of older vintages. This creates food-friendly, complex wines that are more often dry than sweet. 



Types of dry Sherry 




Fino is a pale, light style of Sherry. Made from the relatively neutral Palomino grape, the flavours come from its time spent under a film of yeast called the flor. The layer of flor in the barrel deprives the wine of oxygen and the flor yeast gradually dies over seven to ten years. Usually fino is bottled at four to seven years, to preserve the fresh flavours before the flor dies away (and exposing the wine to oxygen).


Try this: Fino Sherry El Maestro Sierra 




Manzanilla is made the same way as fino, the only difference is that it must be made in the seaside town of Sanlucar de Barrameda where the climate by the sea causes the flor to be thicker. Some people say they can taste the sea in a glass of Manzanilla. It is the driest and most pungent of all sherries.


Try this: La Guita Manzanilla Hijos de Rainera Perez Marin



Amontillado is darker and richer than a fino. When the flor dies, unlike fino, the wine remains in the cask exposing it slowly to oxygen. This gives Amontillado its oxidative character. You will find Amontillado is less citrussy and less fresh than a fino; instead, it has an elegant, rich and complex structure with notes of nuts, butterscotch, caramel and bitter toffee. It can be served a little warmer than fino or manzanilla. 



Try this: Amontillado Sherry 12 Years Old El Maestro Sierra 



Not all Oloroso is sweet. In fact, dry Oloroso - or Oloroso seco - is what sherry lovers find the most thrilling. Unlike Fino and Amontillado, Oloroso are not aged under flor. This is full throttle oxidative wine in action. For naturally dry Oloroso, the higher alcohol strength and fuller body of an Oloroso will give the impression of roundness and even sweetness.



Try this: Villapanes Oloroso Seco Emilio Hidalgo



How to store Sherry

Fino and Manzanilla

Fino and Manzanilla have been protected under a layer of flor for their whole life before they are bottled. That is why they are not meant to be cellared as exposure to oxygen will degenerate the wine. Ideally the bottle should be finished in one sitting, although this is easy to do, it is not always practical! Always keep the bottle well-sealed and in the refrigerator once opened. 


Amontillado and Oloroso

Because Amontillado and Oloroso are already oxidised while developing in the barrel, they do not react as badly to oxygen as fino and manzanilla. Amontillado can be kept open for a month, while Oloroso can be kept for a couple of months. Generally speaking, the older the wine, the longer they can be kept. 


See all Sherry at Bottle Apostle


How to Read a Sake Label: 15 Sake Terms You Need to Know

With so many unfamiliar terms, Sake can seem like an almost impenetrable subject. Don’t let this stop you enjoying this incredibly food-friendly drink. But, where to start? 


In simple terms, what you really need to know is the fragrance and flavour. Understanding a little about some of the styles and a handful of terms can help you find the best sake for you. 


What is sake? 


Before we look at the Sake terms you need to know, let’s start at the basics: what is sake? 


Sake is made from rice, a mould (called koji), water and yeast. There are two broad styles: sake with distilled alcohol added or without distilled alcohol added (junmai). 


Within these two styles, there are varying degrees of rice polishing. The amount of rice polishing affects the aromas and weight of the sake. 


Rice is milled to remove the outer portion of fats, proteins and minerals to leave a starchy centre. Sake rice is polished so that somewhere between 80% (cheaper sake) and 35% (more expensive sake) of the grain remains. This percentage is called the seimaibuai - a word you will see often. 


Many premium sakes have been polished down to at least 70% of the original size of the rice grain.


Two Styles of Sake (with polishing rate)


1. Alcohol Added


Honjozu (70%)


Ginjo (60%)


Daiginjo (50%)



2. No Alcohol Added


Junmai (70%)


Junmai Ginjo (60%)


Junmai Daiginjo (50%)



15 Sake Terms You Need to Know


Ginjo and Daijingo


Ginjo is a highly polished style of sake; Daijingo, even more so. If you see this on the label, you can expect a clean and delicate style, with fruit and floral aromas that is perfect with seafood. They can be served cool. 


Try this: Tedorigawa Yamaha Daiginjo Sake


Kimoto and Yamahai


Yamahai (or you may see Kimoto, its predecessor) is the traditional process of making sake where a starter culture naturally develops over a few weeks (much like sourdough bread). The sakes are fuller-bodied, higher sweetness and acidity, with a rich and deep flavour. Sometimes showing a gamey flavour, they are particularly good with meat dishes. 




Translated as “special” in Japanese and can mean a few things when written on the label - whether it is a special type of brewing or a higher level of rice polishing than usual. 




Junmai is a word you will often hear in sake circles. Translated as “pure rice” where nothing else is added other than rice, water and koji. It is a heavier style of sake that works very well with richer food - although it should not be considered better than other sake rather as a different style. 


Try this: Masumi Okuden Kantsukuri Junmai Sake




A style where a very small amount of alcohol is added to the sake. Alcohol stabilises the sake but also carries the flavour, and some would say, makes it more drinkable. This is a good choice for warming.


Muroka and Nigori


Muroka and Nigori describe the style according to how it is filtered. Muroko is clear but is not charcoal filtered; Nigori is where the sake is not filtered but milky or cloudy - you may seem some remaining rice solids (much like unfiltered wine).


Try this: Tobiroku Sparkling Nigori Sake




Genshu is an undiluted sake (without added water) and is a strong style that suits rich dishes.


Yamada Nishiki


Considered the best rice for making sake.




Namazake is an unpasteurised sake. Sake producers normally pasteurise rather than add preservatives, as winemakers do. Unpasteurised sake is a fresh and lively style that needs to be kept in the refrigerator. It is not a complex sake but a chilled Namazake is perfect with super fresh sushi.




Koshu is aged sake. Unlike wine, there are no regulations for ageing but it is generally agreed that it is over three years old. Aged Koshu is a niche style as most sake is produced to be drunk young.




Umeshu is a plum liqueur made from plums preserved in sake. It is usually sweet and tangy. Drink straight, mixed with Champagne or soda, or simply over ice. 


Try this: Morikawa Tsuyahada Umeshu (50cl) 




This can be translated as “ordinary sake” and most Sake served hot in restaurants is Futsushu. Much like the classification for table wine (such as Vin de France), this can either be low quality or it can allow the Sake producer to break the rules.


Try this: Banryu Futsushu Sake


See our full Sake selection 


A Guide to Austrian Rosé


What is Austrian Rosé?


What’s so good about Austrian Rosé is what it is not.

It’s not this year’s fashion statement. It’s the real thing: refreshing and dry enough to drink without food. And yet also gastronomic enough to keep drinking through dinner. 

It’s is also just a tiny bit interesting; a little more so when the world is awash with pink wines during the summer. 

Where is the best Austrian Rosé from?


Rosé is produced in all of Austria’s main wine regions. And it is the Rosé from the red wine region of Burgenland that have really grabbed our attention here at Bottle Apostle. 

Only one hour’s drive from Vienna, Burgenland is the sunny side of Austria with over 300 days of sun a year. You will find vineyards are planted along the shores, of what appears at first as the sea, but soon find is the large lake of Nieusiedl. The cooling influence of Lake Nieusidl, and the warm sunshine, helps the grapes to ripen beautifully. The wines here are fresh, perfumed and busting with red fruits. 


Austrian Grape Varieties


What makes Austrian wine exciting is their indigenous varieties. You may know their white wine, Gruner Veltliner, or even the red, Blaufrankisch. Most of our premium pinks are made from the red grape Zweigelt that is blended with other Austrian red grapes, such as Blaufrankisch and Sankt Laurent. 

Zweigelt is similar to Gamay or Grenache and is light and juicy in style. When it is made as a Rosé, you have a fine and delicate Rosé that is the colour of long summer sunsets. 

Blaufrankisch has a touch of cherry but with notes of blackberry. Sankt Laurent is similar to Pinot Noir but with dark cherry flavours. All the wines are on the lean side with tart red fruit notes. 


Two Exciting Rosés from Burgenland


Umathum Rosa 

This is not your ordinary Rosé. Unlike most pink wines, the wine is hidden behind the dark glass bottle. Don’t let this discourage you. Open it and you will find a vibrant pink-purple colour, raspberry notes in a savoury, dry style. From one of Austria’s leading producers of Zweigelt, this is a hand-picked, low-yield, biodynamic wine from the sunny shores of Lake Neusiedl. 


Pittnauer Rosé

The Pittnauer Rosé is a perennial favourite here at Bottle Apostle. In 2015, they have further refined their style and continue to rise above most in the region. It has a delicious acidity, a clean and bright tone, with fresh and delicate red summer fruit showing no lack of elegance. You will be happy to have a few of these in the refrigerator on a warm summer weekend. 


Want more Rosé? See our full range here



Summer Essentials (Rain or Shine): Vinho Verde


What is Vinho Verde?


Vinho Verde is a refreshing white wine with a slight spritz, mineral and citrus drenched, often bone-dry and probably the most cooling drink you can have on a humid summer day.  It’s often low in alcohol, and even better, often low in price.

From the northern part of Portugal, where the full brunt of damp and wet Atlantic conditions hit the vineyards, the climate here is damp and mild. Vinho Verde is the name of the wine and also the name of the wine region, which produces white, red and rosé. 

Translated directly from Portuguese, the Verde in Vinho Verde means “green”, which refers to its age rather than the colour. Most are made to be drunk within one year of bottling. Don’t even think of putting it in the wine rack – put it straight in the fridge, ready to pull out at a moment’s notice: the whole point of this wine is to drink it young and beat the humidity.

Rarely seen in the UK, the red Vinho Verde has a slight spritz, too, and is one of the best red wines to keep in the fridge and serve chilled.  

Try this: a crazy good red Vinho Verde - Vinhao 2015


What grape is Vinho Verde?


Traditionally, Vinho Verde is a blend of grapes. It can be made from 25 different grape varieties, but the most common ones are Alvarinho, Loureiro and Trajadura.

Alvarinho contributes refreshing acidity; Loureiro gives exotic bay-leaf aromas, while the Trajadura brings the citrus notes to the party.

Spanish wine drinkers may recognise Alvarinho as the white wine Albariño from Rias Baixas. In fact, the Vinho Verde region has more in common with the humid and damp Atlantic conditions in Galicia than what most associate with Portugal.

If you are not a fan of the slight spritz, there are some excellent Alvarinho-only still wines in Vinho Verde, especially near the Spanish border, where the single variety is allowed to take centre stage. The alcohol can be higher at 11.5% to 14% and is more mineral and less peachy than their Spanish cousins.

Try this: Alvarinho 2015

One of the most famous winemakers in the region, Anselmo Mendes, focuses on single varieties from the region. His single-varietal Alvarinho and Loureiro are more serious than the spritzy stuff but they retain what makes Vinho Verde so perfect for summer: lightness and excellent refreshment. Worth seeking out.

Try this: Loureiro Muros Antigos 2015 by Anselmo Mendes


The Green Light for Spritz


The blended Vinho Verde has a light spritz or a tingle on the tongue. This may be seen as a fault in some other wines, but is exactly what makes Vinho Verde so refreshing and easy to drink.

The traditional spritz of bottle-initiated malolactic (which produces the slight effervescence) is a proud tradition. Many producers today give their wines a dose of slight carbonation to continue this tradition, although technically, Vinho Verde is not considered a sparkling or semi-sparkling wine.   


Vinho Verde Wine Characteristics



Gooseberry, grapefruit, lemon, pear, melon and lime 



Lemonade, chalk (mineral), honeycomb



No oak flavours!



Light with a light spritz






8.5 – 11% alcohol



Ice bucket cold - 8 to 10 ºC    


Try this: Vinho Verde Moncao e Megaco 2015  £8.10 per bottle


Vinho Verde Food Pairings


The northern part of Portugal is well-known for its fish and shellfish. Whether it is a platter of fresh shellfish or just the simple pleasure of opening a chilled bottle while relaxing at home on the weekend (hopefully) catching a few rays of sun. This is the ultimate summer wine - rain or shine. 









Matching Italian Cheese with Wine: Two Killer Pairings


Our Cheese and wine nights at Victoria Park, run with The Deli Downstairs, continue to be very popular. And the more we hold, the more killer matches we find. Here's a couple of belters.

No self-respecting Italian (well not those who attended our last Italian night) would dream of pairing Vin Santo with Taleggio. Geography gets in the way. But they match like a dream: the creme caramel aftertatste of our 2003 Orcia Vin Santo by Siminelli Santi (£32 for 50cl) merges beautifully with the nutty creaminess of the cheese.

Our 2001 Torcolato by Beate Bartolomeo (£24 for 50cl) is a mature sweet wine; not super sweet but with a lovely marmalade character which makes it just right for the more friendly blue cheeses, and some of the gooier nutty creamy cheeses too. We have it with Gorgonzola Dolce and it's pretty much perfect, turning the "blue" all fruity and soft.



The Fear of Oak and Sugar


We’re big on food and wine matching here at Bottle Apostle; not only is it an enjoyable challenege, in addition a large proportion of our customers come in with a particular dish on the menu and ask for a suitable bottle. So we get plenty of practice.

We do notice that two particular types of recommendation can cause looks of fear and trepidation. Firstly we have the scenario in which the customer is cooking something spicy with a bit of chilli heat. It takes some doing to convince people that a wine with a bit of sweetness is the way to go. Something like the Framingham Classic Riesling 2008 from Marlborough (£13.80) is off-dry but for many who taste it it’s the fruitiness rather than the sweetness which jumps out. But there is enough sweetness to dampen down chilli heat, and what’s more the citrusy flavour makes it a great match for not only Thai dishes, but also the legendary Tandoori pork chops from Tayyabs in Whitechapel. By the way, any Kiwi Riesling with the word “Classic” on the label is likely to be off-dry.

The other point of contention is oak. People tend to try oaked wines (most commonly Chardonnay) on their own, without food, and evaluate them as aperitifs. Then they come to one of our tastings or cheese and wine nights and get a really pleasant surprise. I promise you an oaky Chardonnay, such as Mahi Twin Valleys 2009 Marlborough (£16.90 and a belter) is the best cheese all-rounder; very good with hard cheeses such as Manchego or Cheddar, brilliant with something like a Tomme where the nuttiness of the cheese melds with the caramel of the oak, and also superb with Stilton. In fact I recommend having a pork chop with Stilton on top just to try this out. An oaked Sauvignon such as the Reyneke Estate White 2009 from Stellenbosch (£24.00) is just as good. Nuttier, waxy oaked whites such as Minervois and Cotes du Roussillon aren’t quite as flexible with cheese but come into their own when a plate of cold meats and sausage is plonked onto the table. Then there’s fish pie, scallops and pancetta, white meats in creamy sauces...


James Lowe events: Some notes on food & wine matching

Following on from our successful run of dinners with Ben Greeno we have just completed a trio of events with James Lowe, formerly head chef at St John Bread & Wine, Spitalfields. We got very positive feedback on the wines served and how they matched the food, and so thought it would be useful to communicate those pairings to the world at large.

Radishes, Trevise, Fennel & Anchovy
Champagne Gallimard Brut Réserve (£24.50)
Very primary bold, raw nibbles, and so we went for what is effectively our house bubbly. It’s 100% Pinot Noir but not labelled as a Blanc de Noirs, presumably as the style is much more restrained than that designation might imply. Still it has enough rounded fruit for these ingredients; a better bet than a zippy, minerally Chardonnay-based wine.

Razor Clam & Sorrel
Ribeiro 2009 Coto de Gomariz (£15.00)
This Galician wine is a brilliant seafood allrounder and gained several comments of “perfect match”. The sorrel element in this dish was served as a liquefied sauce, and added a strong green leafy element to the flavours. Accordingly I would not serve an Albarino because the emphasis there is on apricot; the Ribeiro being a blend of several grapes has a green element to it (I often use colours to describe aromas) and so pairs more successfully.

Raw Rib, Oyster & Chickweed
Maranges 1er Cru La Fussière 2007 Bruno Colin (£23.00)
James served this dish on all three menus as it got such a strongly positive reaction. The dish consists of shreds of raw beef served with greenleaves; with a wow factor added by an emulsion of oyster, piped onto the meat in small dots. I chose a tangy red Burgundy (Pinot Noir) partly to balance the white/red ratio in the meal. But the acidity and tangy cherry fruit contrasted very well with the fat in the beef, whilst not overpowering the subtle flavours.

Duck Egg, Alliums & Mustard
Türk Erlesenes vom Grünen Veltliner 2008 Niederösterreich (£19.00)
With the Marange being relatively light it meant we could go back to a white for the next course. Alliums are the family containing onions, leeks and garlic. Austria’s Grüner Veltliner is a great match for these; this example is a richer version which helped compliment the egg (low temperature egg yolk).

Old Spot Belly, Cauliflower & Broccoli
Ribera del Duero 2006 Dominio Romano (£29.50)
This Tempranillo is just a rung or two below full bodied with good acidity to cut through the fatty meat. You would not want a totally full bodied wine with this.

Cheesecake, Rhubarb & Ginger Crumb
Moscatel Emelín Dulce, Lustau (£11 half)
Many books suggest heavy with heavy, light with light when it comes to dessert wines. But often a contrast is better. Spanish Moscatel sherry will usually match any dessert that you could imagine pouring caramel sauce over – eg. a vanilla pudding, or fresh fruit. This worked very well, complementing the cheesecake and contrasting the rhubarb.

by Tom at Bottle Apostle

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