Thursday, 13 December 2018

Yule Booze

So while PK speculates on the perfect Xmas wine gift, I've decided to dream big about what drink I am actually going to consume over the festive period. It's not pretty, but it is seasonal. Therefore:

- Begin Christmas Day with a White Christmas Martini, made of vanilla vodka, white chocolate liqueur, half-and-half milk and cream, coarse sanding sugar, whatever that is, and some other things. Accompany it with a fried egg and I've got my starches, fats and proteins all dealt with in one dazzling white and yellow cataclysm of breakfast sweetness. Now I'm ready for the fray. Apparently this drink is not Christmas specific, which makes it even more huggable.

- Mid-morning, once the presents have been unwrapped and the Yule log lit, allowed to go out, re-lit and keep alight with spent wrapping paper, I set the turkey to C160° and fortify myself with a Cinnamon Candy Apple festive fun shot, comprising apple schapps, tequila and red food colouring. It's that simple, as long as you have the food colouring. Poster paint might do if you're stuck. It's non-toxic, right?

- Which then gives me time and energy to check my supplies of Asda Prosecco Extra Dry, brought in at a genuinely festive £5.00 a bottle; as well as my stash of Three Mills Reserve Red - a British wine made from imported grape juice and only offering 10.5%, but at £3.18 a unit, I can afford to layer the entire floor with generous deep-hued bottles and still have change for a North Pole Cocktail: vodka, Kahlua, chocolate syrup, molasses, regular cream and whipped cream. And vanilla extract. After that, I'm going to baste the turkey with Prosecco and boil the sprouts in vanilla vodka because, frankly, isn't that what this Holiday Season's all about?

- The Xmas dinner is consumed with gusto. Bulging audibly with a mixture of turkey, cream, vodka, sprouts, Prosecco, Kahlua, sugar, cheap red white, mince pies, molasses, more cream, roast potatoes, more vodka, tequila, bread sauce and red food colouring, I now reckon it's time to ease back a little as the shadows lengthen and the Queen's Speech dissolves into unintelligibility. What better, at this juncture, than a Blackberry Ombre Sparkler - a drink for Valentine's Day, but equally suited for Christmas Day, or, apparently, any other time of the year? Versatility is what it's all about and I'm feeling alarmingly versatile. For a Blackberry Ombre, all you need are fresh blackberries - in December? Seriously? - champagne, sugar and some rosemary sprigs to garnish, because rosemary is definitely on-trend as something to stick into a drink. It looks super-festive, is all I can say, the rosemary acting as a visible pointer to the sheer playfulness of such a cocktail. Do I take the rosemary out before drinking? Or do I just let it stick itself it in my eye, quite negligently, as if that's what I meant to do all along? Decisions!

- But if I'm all cocktailed out - and there's no shame in that - how about a raid on the heavy materials? I'm talking bramble & berry rum, marzipan brandy, mince pie vodka, spiced clementine gin - anything basically fruity and annihilating, accompanied by a solemn vow of thanks to whichever presiding deity saw fit to give us such astonishing choice, provided we can be bothered to get the ingredients together beforehand. Mince pie vodka sounds unmissable; and if I've left it too late to mix the bits and pieces together and allow them to infuse for a week, what's wrong with simply dropping a pie into a glass of neat vodka and letting nature take care of the rest?

- It's getting late. The Yule Log has gone out again, the last of the tinsel has been eaten, the turkey drumsticks are hung festively around the smoke alarm, the hall carpet is full of presents and crushed sanding sugar, the family has gathered round the harmonium to sing old German drinking songs. Now's the time to bring out my secret stash of Londis whites, just a little something to wind the day down. They're all Australian because who doesn't like Australia at this time of year? After all, Christmas Day dawns a whole day later in Australia, thanks to the rotation of the earth, which is tough if you live in Adelaide, so let's toast our friends down under with a glass of delicious Aussie sauvignon blanc. A whole day later or a whole day earlier, one or the other. Goodnight, everybody.


Thursday, 6 December 2018

Xmas Wine Gifts – you cannot be serious…

Want to give the wine lover in your life a rubbish gift instead of an actual bottle of wine? Why on earth do that? But if you must, we’ve done the searching for you. Yes, it’s the Sediment Xmas Wine Gift Mart. And hurry – these wine gifts may be like sediment itself – left behind when everything else has gone…

Time to redress that rocky relationship between drink and driving, with these gearstick bottle stoppers. Ideal for the designated driver in your family. Available in vintage white, classic rosewood, racing chrome and breath test crystal.

Here’s a bright idea – literally! These rechargeable lights fit into the neck of any empty wine bottle, and magically transform it, into an empty wine bottle with a rechargeable light in the neck. Say goodbye to flaming torches and impress your guests instead with a garden or patio glittering with old wine bottles.

Ding-a-ling! It’s time for wine! Ding-a-ling! Just tinkle this amusing little “ring for wine” bell whenever you fancy a glass. Ding-a-ling! Also a keyring, so your front door key will be conveniently at hand when your spouse throws you out.

What a handy way for cyclists to carry their wine! Now they can keep both hands free for gesticulating at close-passing motorists. Fits all bicycles (with a male crossbar). Warning: the bike wine holder is not recommended for sparkling wines.

Well, you said you only wanted half a glass!! Be prepared for the next sanctimonious guest with this precision-made half glass. Also suitable for guests who are half cut.

This “happy man” corkscrew and bottle stopper set will add a touch of class to your dining table. Carefully designed to suit all Premier Grand Cru Classé clarets.

Well, you said you only wanted “green” wine! Be prepared for the next sanctimonious guest with a wine that’s clearly “greener” than the rest. Warning: not a natural wine.

If you’ve watched the winelover in your life struggling with stubborn corks, then here’s the ideal gift. There isn’t a cork around which this Bosch IXO with corkscrew attachment won’t remove, or shred. Accessories available separately for screwdriving, sanding, drilling and anglegrinding. Ideal for sommeliers. 

No more confusion over whose glass is whose! These attractive “mr and mrs” wineglasses mean you can say goodbye to those nightly mix-ups and arguments. Now there’ll be no more rows – you’ve finished yours, this one’s mine! Not suitable for same-sex couples.

You won’t need to spell out the quality of your wine to your guests, when you serve it with these practical and stylish alphabet bottle stoppers. Letters not available: D, R, C.

You know the precise temperature at which your wine ought to be served, don’t you? Of course you do! So simply strap this stylish wine thermometer to your bottle and it will tell you the temperature of the wine. Or, possibly, the temperature of the bottle. Not suitable for Mateus Rosé.

Start with these grape vines – one red, one white – and it surely can’t be long before you have your own mini-vineyard producing quantities of your own wine. It could even be better than the stuff you buy in the shops! You only need around 600 grapes to make a bottle – so let’s get started! Does not include yeast, fermentation vessel, filter, finings, tank, barrel, bottle or cork.

It’s back! It wouldn’t be Christmas without Wine Monkey, this woolly wine bottle caddy thing which supposedly looks like a monkey. Invaluable for warming up bottles of red – or white for that matter –  and hiding embarrassing own-brand labels. You can see how it incomprehensibly continues to amuse and entertain these guests! They’re still not arguing about Brexit!!

Finally, the ideal gift for anyone who doesn’t have an old man or two around this Christmas to complain about the price, look, taste, quantity, order, and nationality of the wine they’re serving. Warning: this SEDIMENT book may cause readers to choke on their cornflakes (Julian Barnes). Click here to order now in time for Xmas. 


Thursday, 29 November 2018

Bolney Dark Harvest: Unexpected

So, a few weeks ago, some pals come round with a bottle of this Bolney Dark Harvest stuff. I instantly place it somewhere no-one can get at it, unnerved both by its high-tone demeanour and by its Englishness - specifically, its red Englishness. Yes, I think we're all solid with the idea that English vineyards can do white, but English red still has the capacity to give me a funny turn, despite the fact that in this case it comes with a slinky good-taste label and a little badge from some bunch of international back-slappers, just like a proper red wine. So it vanishes.

Some time later, I rediscover it and knock it off over a couple of nights and what do I find? It seems okay, is what I find. I can't remember what year was on the bottle and I have never heard of the rondo grape, but at the time it just goes down, quite assertively, but telling a good story on the way. It also stays down, not always a given. I am reduced to holding the bottle away from me and squinting mirthfully at it, like an Edwardian with a pet monkey, scarcely able to believe that such a thing can be, but quaintly gratified that it does.

Then I'm stirred by a long-buried memory: doesn't PK have something to say about this, somewhere in Sediment? And what do you know? He does, but over seven years ago, which distresses the hell out of me, I mean, have we really been doing it for that long? Anyway, he thinks it's garbage: bordering on the urinal, rotting, like biro ink, very unpleasant. There you go. He's talking about the 2008, of course, not whatever it is I've drunk, a 2014? 2016? Maybe the 2008 is their outright catastrophe, the one they never mention, their first, cacked-handed attempt. There are some comments beneath PK's rant which back him up: most unpleasant is the shock; I have never tasted such a hideous 'wine' in my life; and so on. It looks bad.

And leaves me where? Well, I'm still quite enjoying it, retroactively. It probably is a bit of a yob as reds go, but in comparison with my usual idea of a red it's got depth, for sure, plus an element of structural integrity I don't get in, say, Waitrose's own label Rich and Intense Italian Red, £4.99. In fact, far from writing the encounter off PK-style by wheeling out that old Dr. Johnson Christmas cracker motto about dogs on their hind legs, I feel like enlarging my love for all English wines, not that I've got much of a relationship with them, but for those that I have, which pretty much amounts to:

Bolney Dark Harvest (see above).

Nyetimber, whose award-winning sparklings I have hit once or twice and which I have slightly liked in a dutiful sort of way, as if they were doing me good, especially in the sense of rinsing my gums thoroughly.

Denbies, where I went, not that long ago, to a birthday party held in the winery's larger-than-life event zone. It was very grand and we wanted for nothing (I was seated next to an Italian Jungian, that's how far out it was) and the booze - the wines, at least - were Denbies all through: red, white, sparkling and rosé. And I have a quasi-memory of being pleasantly surprised - slightly in the manner of the Dark Harvest - by, I'm thinking, the rosé, although it might have been the white. Either way, it was no hardship to drink the stuff and I can remember staring with fuddled benignity at my glass and thinking how clever they must be at Denbies to make something drinkable right next to Dorking.

In other words: given a broad-scale complication of Brexit, climate change, a collapsed pound and some half-way okay wines, the English option doesn't start to look so ludicrous. It would be nice if they adopted some sexier names - I'm thinking Saint-Didier l'Inconnu, Eternal Crossrail, Balthazar's Lost Weekend, Gutbucket Hampton, more like the stuff that comes out of the beer breweries or anywhere in New Zealand - but apart from that, I think we have go. We have the full English. Time for PK to take another run at the thicket of his prejudices.