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The Wine Blog

Summer Drinking With Philglas & Swiggot: The Pairing of Wine and Cheese

With the beginning of summer upon us, it's time to kick back and enjoy time in the sunshine with family and friends. At Philglas & Swiggot we embrace the laid-back approach to summer entertaining: a rustic table in the garden with simple natural linens, vases of fragrant herbs and, in the evening, a cluster of beautiful beeswax candles. 

What to serve? If you are rushed for time (or inspiration), a selection of cheese* is an easy yet sophisticated way to start or finish a relaxed gathering with friends. A chunk of crumbly cheddar, a ripe, gooey soft-rind cheese, a wodge of salty Manchego** or a robust blue - all are satisfying on their own or paired with one or two other cheeses, crusty bread, a sliver of quince paste and a pile of oatcakes. Complimenting cheese with wine can be a tricky, so we have put together a few suggestions:

Domaine de L'Ile Porquerolles Rose 2015 + Taleggio La Baita DOP

Isle de Porquerolles is just off the coast of Provence near Toulon, and is a famed French National Park and tourist destination. Domaine d'Ille is the only winery on the island and its vineyards are organically farmed. This is a nearly equal blend of Grenache, Cinsault, Mourvedre and Tibouren - its lush, exotic and rounded styling characteristic of a gently powerful Provence rosé.

Pair with a salty Taleggio La Baita from Lombardy to match the maritime dreaminess of the Porquerolles.

Bodegas Rafael Palacios 'Louro' Godello 2015 + Manchego

Rafael Palacios is arguably Spain’s most gifted white winemaker, the result of his singular focus on one grape variety – Godello. He is based in the beautiful region of Valdeorras, deep in the Galician hinterland in northwestern Spain. The vineyards here are at high altitude, planted in sandy soils and often untrellised and low yielding.

Godello has a gorgeous white peach fleshiness, but in Rafael’s hands it also shows citrus undertones, chestnut flowers and his careful elevage in the winery lends his wines the most gorgeous, silky textures.

Pair with a youthful Manchego, where the subtle but dry texture acts as an elegant complement to the perfection of the Louro.

Vicentini Agostino Il Casale Soave 2014 + Ossau-Iraty Istara (sheep's milk cheese)

The Agostini wines are grown on volcanic soils and are consequently delicate, crystalline and fragrant. This is a subtly feminine style of Soave laced with elderflower, ginger and lemony fruit characters. Charming and very refined.

Pair with an Ossau-Iraty Istara from Basque country. The subtle flavours of the Il Casale Soave are an ideal match for the sheep's milk cheese, the characteristics of which begin shyly but build depth with time on the palate.

Cascina Feipu dei Massaretti Pigato Albenga 2014 + Pouligny Saint-Pierre (goat's milk cheese) 

A delicious and rare variety from Liguria, this Pigato is floral and aromatic but deceptively virile on the palate with a wonderful oily texture and phenolic grip that lasers through food. The steep terrain and humid maritime climate need hard work in the vineyard to keep low yields and mildew at bay, meaning these wines are often tiny production and most often only locally available.

Pair with a Pouligny Saint-Pierre from the Loire Valley. The liveliness of the Pigato and focused flavour is a good foil for the creamy softness of this natural-rind goat's milk cheese.

Suertes del Marques 7 Fuentes + Montgomery Cheddar

The Canary Islands have centuries of winemaking experience thanks to their historic location as a staging post for Atlantic voyages to the New World, but they drifted out of modern winemaking radar – until now. Listan Negro is the grape variety, one known for its workhorse role as a bulk wine provider in South America (where its known as Pais or Criolla) and the USA (where its known as Mission).

Grown on active volcanic slopes this is fragrant, transparent, light-bodied and imbued with the fiery freshness of brimstone. Made from 50+ year old vines in a landscape more akin to the moon, this is an astonishing, interesting and delicious summer red.

 Pair boldly with a powerful Montgomery Cheddar.

 *We love Neal's Yard Dairy, Hamish Johnston, and Rippon Cheese - all have a great selection of cheeses and knowledgeable, helpful staff.

**Best when squeezed into a suitcase on return from a fabulous holiday in Spain. After vintage in a vineyard in La Mancha, our own Justin Knock once stashed a couple of large Manchego rounds into his suitcase...along with an entire leg of Jamon!

California: Visiting Napa Valley

Napa. It's a big name but a very small place. Outside of Europe there is no more recognisable wine region, and outside of Disneyland there is no more visited destination in California, with some 3.5 million visitors per year.

In the past decade its become almost completely synonymous with top quality Cabernet Sauvignon, the quality of which really rivals the best of Bordeaux albeit in a richer, rounder style. And while Cabernet now represents more than half of all plantings, there are a whole range of wines to find there from more than 500 producing wineries. Keep an eye out for Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Sauvignon Blanc, Petite Sirah, and even things like Riesling and Charbono. 

Otherwise there is not much development in Napa thanks to the 1968 Agricultural Preserve, which is one of the reasons its so pretty to visit. The AP is a law that protects the valley from overdevelopment. Land can only be sold in 40 acre parcels and any development must be linked to agriculture - hence why there are no strip malls, car parks, petrol stations or gauche encroachments on what is a both a beautiful, natural and manicured landscape.

Famous tower at Silver Oak at sunset

Despite its high profile and cache, Napa only produces around 4% of California's wine, and the valley itself can be driven from one end to the other in about an hour (on a good day), and en route you can see everything from east to west in your field of vision. As the epicentre of fine wine in North America, you can rest assured that the quality of accommodation and food in Napa more than matches the greatness of the wines. It's not a cheap destination to visit, but for the charm, quality and hospitality that's on display it can be surprisingly good value. Here are some of our favourite places to stay, taste and eat in wonderful Napa.

Most of the accommodation is in the town of Napa itself, at the southern end of the valley, only around 45 minutes from San Francisco. There is also some accommodation at the top around St Helena and Calistoga, but less of it. And the beautiful little town of Yountville, near the middle, has some good hotels. We have stayed in the Andaz in downtown Napa, and its perfectly decent. I've also stayed by the river in the slightly more expansive Napa River Inn. There are plenty of dining options in Napa but we recently really enjoyed Miminashi for completely original food with a Japanese/Californian theme, including great salads and phenomenal ice-cream. There are a bunch of wine bars in Napa to choose from, but we like Cadet and look forward to the about-to-open Compline, a venture by top US Sommelier Matt Stamp MS. If you would rather hang out with the locals and play some stick then there is plenty of space and atmosphere at the down-to-earth Bilco's, and the list of craft beers is extensive.

In the morning skip the hotel coffee and enjoy walking to the Oxbrow market and grab a flattie from Ritual Coffee Roasters. Or try the iconic Hog Island Oyster bar later in the day for pristine oysters brought in daily from the nearby Sonoma Coast.

Crisp white wines with oysters at Hog Island in Oxbow Market, Napa

The Napa Valley Lodge is our pick in Yountville, getting you a little deeper into the valley. If you fancied a splash out you have the world famous The French Laundry just a short walk from there, or for something less ambitious but still very good there is the Bouchon Bistro (another Thomas Keller kitchen) a little further downtown.

For the best wine list in Napa you would love eating at Press in Rutherford (take an Uber to get there and home). The food is good solid, high quality home-style food but the wine list is deep on Napa history.

View from Ovid, Prichard Hill, Eastern Napa Valley (Vaca Mountains)

A great option for lunch is the iconically casual Gott's Roadsidein St Helena, for terrific burgers or tacos in an old-school style American outdoor diner. I've never stayed in St Helena but we had a fun evening tasting wine and eating a home-cooked meal with the guys at the Long Meadow Ranch Farmstead.

Classic Americana at Gott's Roadside

Bear in mind that Summer, and August in particular, in Napa is peak tourist season so expect a lot of traffic getting up there from San Francisco (unless you can go late at night or early morning) and especially on Highway 29 (the main road in Napa) during the day. If you're going to visit wineries then the Silverado Trail is often a better road for getting up and down the valley.

Winery visits - too many to list! There are more than 500 wineries/producers in Napa. The iconic places are Opus One and Inglenook (both on the Oakville/Rutherford border), Chateau Montelena (Calistoga, right up in the north), Silver Oak and Dominus (Yountville). Some of these require advance bookings to taste. We've been hosted well and enjoyed visiting at TrefethenBlack Stallion (both in the south near Napa and both make great value wines), Groth (near Opus One in Oakville, making more opulent wines)Raymond vineyards (its like no winery you've ever seen or will ever visit again!), Frog's Leap (classical elegance at work and a really beautiful, peaceful place with its own biodynamic farm), Corison (right on the Rutherford Bench and making some of the most highly regarded, polished wines in the valley), Schramsberg (for some of California's finest sparkling wines), and Larkmead (up near Calistoga, who make some seriously gravelly Cabernet that's well priced). At most places expect to pay to taste, unless you can drop our names and blag your way in! Often times a tasting fee will be credited against a purchase of wine.

Off the valley floor you have the more secretive, mountains wineries like Diamond Creek (Cabernet only and appointment only, but prodigiously long-lived wines), Smith Madrone (powerful Cabernet and the valley's finest Riesling) and Mayacamas (who make spectacularly rich Chardonnay). The wines up in the mountains are more aloof, structured and evolve with deeper complexities.

A trip of 2 or 3 nights is generally enough to see everything you want to see in Napa the first time round, leaving plenty to return to in future. From May to October Napa is famously hot and dry, with temperatures in the high 20s and into the mid 30s, followed by very cool nights and foggy mornings that burn off by 10-11am. Always pack a jumper regardless how warm the day time temperatures. It makes wonderful sleeping weather after a big day of tasting and eating California's finest.

Next month we will publish Part 2 of our Travel Guide to Napa and Sonoma, featuring the wild and beautiful valley of Sonoma.

Decanter Magazine: Justin Knock MW Chooses His Top London Wine Bars

As part of the recent Decanter World Wine Awards where our own Justin Knock MW sat on the judging panel, Decanter asked Justin for recommendations on his favourite London wine bars. 

Justin's top picks? Sager + Wilde, Donostia and José Tapas Bar

Sager + Wilde: "I love Michael’s massively engaged enthusiasm at Sager + Wilde, the range is full of wines that I am always interested in drinking, with a common theme of elegance tying them all together. They are so reasonably priced that I always end up spending 3-4 bottles there rather than one, with friends of course. Sager + Wilde brought some much needed fun to wine drinking in London – it reminds me of drinking in great wine bars in Melbourne. It’s almost impossible to go there and not run into someone from the wine trade. Get there early and prepare for a long evening"

Donostia: "Donostia in Seymour St is becoming our convenient lunchtime meeting restaurant of choice in Marylebone. It was here that I first had the aged Galician beef that Donostia and sister restaurant Lurra are now championing to great effect. The wine list is neat and tidy with both classic names and delicious value wines out of Catalonia and Basque country too"

José Tapas Bar: "José on Bermondsey St – it’s busy, crowded but it all happens super-fast in José. Even when they’re flat out, it’s often possible to walk in, squeeze in on a counter and grab a chilled half bottle of fresh Manzanilla while you wait for the wonderful tapas. They do the basics so well – Tortilla, Jamon Iberico and Croquetas are amongst the best in London. It’s the ideal place for a 30 minute refuelling stop"

Read the full article on Decanter here

Top image courtesy of Sager + Wilde

Bottom image courtesy of Donostia

March 2016 South Africa Visit

March was an extremely busy month for us here at Philglas & Swiggot with the 100 Best Australian Wines Roadshow event hosted by Matthew Jukes, our very popular monthly Steak & Red Wine Club dinner, the last in our winter Intro To Wine series as well as private tasting events. I did however manage to slip away to South Africa for a week, primarily to sit on the selection panel at the prestigious Nederburg Auction but also to visit some of our South African producers.

The Nederburg Auction panel brings together eight local and international wine experts to judge the wines put forward for the Auction in September. These include many older wines from the 90s, 80s, 70s and 60s with a rare bottle of 1800 Muscadel a real highlight. Harvest season is a great time in South Africa, the weather is ideal, the new vintage wines still fermenting in tank and barrel, and winemakers are happy to talk about their current vintage wines and those which are due to be released in the coming year.

South African wine is definitely on a roll at the moment with so many new producers making great and interesting wines from old classic European style blends through to completely unique wines based around old vine Chenin Blanc and Cinsault. Traditional producers are lifting their efforts and making better wines too, creating a tremendous sense of excitement and diversity about the wines of South Africa.

A short road trip followed to the stunning Penhill Manor in the Nuy Valley to Conradie Penhill Artisanal Wines. I had the opportunity to taste the 2016 whites in tank as well as the reds still maturing in oak with winemaker CP Conradie. The white wines in 2016 are richer than they were in 2015, no doubt as a result of the very hot summer conditions leading up to harvest. The 2015 reds were looking good, softer than previous vintages. These are traditional, full-bodied wines well suited to oak ageing.

A visit to Klein Constantia Estate followed with a fantastic tasting hosted by chief winemaker Matt Day. Held in the vineyard at the top of the estate, Matt led us through a horizontal tasting of the 2015 Sauvignon Blancs and the 2012 Vin de Constance while the local vineyard workers kept a large troop of baboons at bay who were most interested in our lunch. Keep an eye out for a fantastic feature on Klein Constantia on ITV's forthcoming wine show airing in April starring Matthew Rhys and Matthew Goode.

The wines were looking fantastic with a number of exciting stand outs including:

Klein Constantia Metis Sauvignon Blanc – The joint-venture wine with Pascal Jolivet in Sancerre. Incredibly silky and textured following 12 months on lees. Touch of reduction with fresh garlic flower, mint and sage but great spiciness and length. Beautiful.

Klein Constantia Vin de Constance 2012 – The best young Vin de Constance I have tasted. This is Matt’s first VdC to which he can claim complete ownership. The colour is glowing green/gold and full of life, notable for the absence of the amber and garnet edges more typical in young VdC. The palate is creamy and powerful, laden with floral characters, elderberry and peach and it has prodigious length. This is the most complete and wonderfully balanced Vin de Constance I've tasted, a truly great wine and we are looking forward to the release in April.

If you're ever in South Africa you must visit the Klein Constantia estate, one of the Cape's many beautiful properties. Look out for the cellar door only Single Block and Perdeblokke Sauvignon Blancs.

During the week I visited Peter Walser of Blank Bottle in Somerset West. Peter makes a host of wines and we have sold his Professor Kukorowitz, 15+1 and Moment of Silence wines. He's making some of the most interesting wines in the Cape - keep an eye out this year for his fascinating dual release of Limbic and Frontal Orbital Cortex.

Good friend Richard Kershaw MW of Kershaw Wines is making, in my opinion, the best South African Chardonnay in Elgin. It's complex, layered and powerful and balances the richness of California against the mineral elegance of Australia. 

I checked out Restless River in the Hemel-en-Arde, where Craig and Anne Wessels make a very stylish and elegant Chardonnay and a textbook Cabernet with superb balance. I'm looking forward to getting the latter wine into our stores.

Keermont in Stellenbosch (based in the gorgeous and slightly cooler Heldeburg valley) are making some fabulous wines too and we are fortunate to have their single vineyard Chenin Blanc on our shelves. Its depth and power is a wonderful contrast to the early picked wines coming out of Swartland and elsewhere.

I rounded off my trip with a terrific end-of-harvest party at one of South Africa’s most exciting wine producers – and one of Philglas & Swiggot’s favourite winemakers - A.A. Badenhorst. Set in a stunning eucalyptus forest on the Badenhorst estate in the company of dynamic winemakers - including Adi Badenhorst, Eben Sadie, Andrea and Chris Mullineux - we were treated to lamb on the spit, free-flowing Badenhorst wines and the delicious Caperitif (and gin from a golden cherub fountain!) as the sun set over the Swartland landscape. Not even the generator catching fire could dampen the celebratory spirit of another harvest done and dusted. Brilliant stuff!


Mid Winter Warmers: A Hearty Bolognese + Langhe Nebbiolo

Despite it being an unseasonably warm winter in London, there is nothing more enjoyable than coming home on a wet and windy January evening to a bowl of spaghetti bolognese. Rich, dark and comforting (January is a trying month in the UK without adding food and wine deprivation to the list!), it is an easy dish to prepare on a Sunday afternoon - glass of wine in hand - for a weeknight supper.
One of our favorite recipes is Nigel Slater's "A Really Good Spaghetti Bolognese" from his fantastic Kitchen Diaries book. 
Preparation is easy (if you are in a rush the packets of fresh soffritto from Waitrose/Ocado are a brilliant time-saver), and the long, slow cooking time means you can leave the sauce to putter away on the hob without much intervention. Just an occasional stir to check the flavours and make sure it isn't sticking to the pan.
We generally double (or triple) the recipe if we are expecting guests and like to add a dash of double cream along with the milk which seems to sweeten the sauce slightly and balance the acidity.
When it comes to serving, a good chunk of parmesan, grated, a glug of really good peppery olive oil (we use the excellent River Cafe Extra Virgin Olive Oil which is available at our Battersea store  - please call ahead to check stock availability) and a handful of torn basil leaves. 
The wine? For last night's supper, we paired a bottle of Produttori del Barbaresco Langhe Nebbiolo 2013 with the bolognese, the characteristic tannins working beautifully to counter the meaty richness of the sauce and sharp parmesan.
Two other excellent easy-drinking Langhe Nebbiolo's are the superb G.D. Vajra Langhe Nebbiolo 2013 (one of our favourite wines) and Massolino Langhe Nebbiolo 2013. Essentially "baby Barolos", these Nebbiolos are softer and more approachable than the Barolos, affordable for weeknight drinking, perfect for right now, and most importantly, delicious!
Of course the sensational Massolino Barolo 2011 would also pair terrifically with this dish if you are looking to really chase away the January blues. 
Looking for outstanding wine glasses? Our favourite's are Zalto (these are the Zalto Bordeaux beauties).

It's Not Too Late....

Still searching for a last-minute Christmas gift for a wine-loving family member or friend, or simply something to say thank you for hosting the Christmas or New Year's Eve festivities?

Our Philglas & Swiggot virtual gift cards are the perfect last-minute gift. Our printable gift cards are delivered by email and contain instructions on how to redeem at checkout.

Or if you are after something a little more tangible and are near our Battersea or Marylebone stores on Christmas Eve, we still have stock of our beautiful Zalto glassware (the Letter To Santa in our household has the Zalto No. 75 Carafe highlighted!), and luxury Gift Hampers filled with carefully selected wines, Sipsmith's gin, The River Café Extra Virgin Olive Oil and Amelia Rope chocolate truffles.

A gift sure to impress the Napa wine lover (and weigh down Santa's sack), is Kelli White's monumental book,  Napa Valley: Then & Now.  When we heard that  sommelier Kelli was writing a book on the history and wines of the Napa Valley we were quietly excited. And the finished tome (it is very weighty) is as good as we hoped it would be: the definitive guide to the Napa Valley wine region. A beautiful coffee table book as well as a superb reference guide to America's most famous wine region. We still have copies available at our Battersea and Marylebone stores.

Autumn Tasting Series: Favourite Wines As Selected By Our Customers

Over the course of the Autumn months, we hosted a series of successful in-store wine tastings and events at our Marylebone and Battersea stores.

From our extremely popular Battersea truffle dinner held in partnership with our wonderful neighbour on Northcote Road, Osteria Antica Bologna, where we focused on the impressive wines of Piedmont to complement this season's prized tartufo bianco, to Champagne tastings featuring boutique grower champagnes as well as iconic domaines like Bollinger, Pol Roger and Billecart-Salmon, to the outstanding wines of the Napa Valley to celebrate the launch of Kelli White's fantastic new guide to the Napa Valley wine region: Napa Valley, Then & Now.

We have pulled together a selection of the most popular bottles as evidenced by the cases of these wines that disappeared out the door after each event. 

Billecart Salmon Sous Bois NV 

A new cuvee from Billecart Salmon entirely vinified in oak that at first lends a heaviness to the nose but impresses with its integration on the palate. This beast has more richness and girth than one expects rendering it a superb match with food. Full bodied with notes of toasted brioche, citrus and smoke, it finishes with a light phenolic flick - a great sign for food matching. Made from about 1/3 each of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, the Champagne spends 6 months in old oak casks (with batonnage). 

Bollinger La Grand Année

70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay 13 crus: mainly Aÿ and Verzenay for the Pinot Noir and Avize, Chouilly and Mesnil-sur-Oger for the Chardonnay - 95% Grands crus and 5% Premier crus, fermented entirely in barrels. A powerful and impressive grand marque champagne by any standards.  

 Massolino Barolo 2011 

The Massolino family have been making wine here since 1896 and are inextricably linked with their vineyards. All their vines are in Serralunga d’Alba, the village that produces the greatest Barolo wines. Famed for its high-toned perfume and deep tannic structure, these are both seductive and long-lived wines. 

Chateau Tour Marcillanet Haut-Medoc 2010

A classic Medoc blend of mostly Cabernet Sauvignon with a proportion of Merlot which gives richness and softness.  These 2010's are stunningly lovely for drinking now but what a pleasure they would be if you were to cellar a case and drink it over the next 10 years. Outstanding value.

Klein Constantia Estate Red Blend 2013

Klein Constantia red is an estate wine built around Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec. The cool maritime climate encourages slow ripening resulting in a wine crammed with dark berry aromas (mulberries, blackcurrant and black cherries) married to the very best French oak lending background spice. The depth and quality would impress in many Bordeaux wines at twice the price.

The One Hundred Shiraz 2009

The One Hundred is an incredibly rare project wine with only 30 dozen produced for the UK market. These wines are sold to a private client base in Australia, where shiraz of this quality is greatly sought after (read more of the story HERE).

Scarbolo Pinot Grigio 2013

It is in Italy's North East region, Friuli-Venezia Giulia, that all the really good Pinot Grigios are made, and, yes there are quite a few of them! Scarbolo is a family-operated winery based in the Colli Orientali sub-region. Warm days and chilly nights are the key to quality in Friuli. Fresh white stone fruit and distinct creamy nuttiness in a mouth-watering elegant style!

Consolation Antic Rivesaltes Ambre 1985



Rockford Wines - The quintessential Barossa winery

Rockford Wines on Krondorf Rd in the Barossa Valley is an exemplar of the very best of Australia's fine wine producers.  Since first joining the exclusive Stonewallers Club in 1996, I have always loved being a part of the history of Rockford, and their traditional approach to everything they do.

A genuinely artisanal estate, the wines of Rockford are made with 19th century tech - a belt driven pump, basket presses, slate open fermenters and old oak cask ageing in buildings made from local stone and timber. There is a wonderful step-back-in-time agelessness that brings a calming joy and smile when visiting here.

Rockford have avoided the fashion excesses of high alcohol and oak extract that seduced many Barossa winemakers in the past decade or so, crafting a surprisingly elegant style with freshness and flavour.

We're lucky to have some older vintages of their red wines here at Philglas & Swiggot, but after Justin's recent visit and tasting to their Barossa cellar door, we'll list the gorgeous Semillon (partly aged in old oak vessels) with its texture and lemon curd fleshiness, and may look to add the deeply slurpable Alicante Bouschet rose (9.8% abv) in the coming year too. 

These wines are usually only available from cellar door or via the mailing list and so we're thrilled to be one of the few global retailers of these majestic Australian classics.  If you have not tried them yet, you really must. 

Purchase the selection here. 

Damien and Justin